When Nietzsche writes: “There is no truth” (WP #616) that “truth” is in quotation marks must be seen as indicating that “truth” as understood prior to Nietzsche is an “illusion”, but as “illusion” a necessary condition of life. Life itself demands illusions. Is Nietzsche saying that there is no truth? Not at all. What is meant by ‘truth’ is that ‘truth’ is not what is most important or essential to ‘life’, that it is not the ‘highest value’. For Nietzsche, if the true is synonymous with beings/things (nature) or our common concept of “reality”, how Nietzsche understands beings/things becomes most important. If the true cannot be the highest, and if the true is equivalent to beings/things, then beings/things cannot constitute the essence of the world either. The world/”reality”/ actuality cannot consist in some sort of Being.
In the modern world, truth becomes certainty, a holding-to-be-true, and knowledge becomes the question of the what and the how certainty is, of what being certain of oneself consists in, of what “robust” knowledge is based on. The essence of truth is based on the essence of knowledge, what we hold some thing to be in its presence when encountering us. Truth as ‘value’ is a necessary condition to life, a valuation that life brings about for its own sake. But what is the essence of life? In attempting to answer this question we can determine what is meant by “natural selection” and come to question the historicism that gave rise to it.
When “theory of knowledge” is erected as a “knowledge framework”, a self-knowing is already implicit in it. This “knowledge framework” is the way we take the things that are in advance and the way we have determined what is decisive in our relation to them (“knowledge” that is both “personal” and “shared” and how we conceive it). In what way does Nietzsche determine in advance what is encountered as “knowable”; and what is the criterion of the knowing relation (logos and what will come to be determined as the logos) to what is encountered and to human beings’ surroundings?
Nietzsche writes: “Not ‘to know’ but to schematize—to impose upon chaos as much regularity and as many forms as our practical needs require.” (WP #516) This statement needs to be held together with what has already been said about “truth”. The “schema” is connected to the principle of reason and its use of categories and is related to how we experience time and space.
What human beings encounter is, according to Nietzsche, “chaos”, and this “chaos” is to be imposed on with a schema of “regularity”, and this “regularity” is determined by our “practical needs” (survival). The praxis of life, not the theoretical, is the ground of knowing and is determined from “experience”. Knowing as representing, as a bringing a world before us is, basically, “schematizing” chaos in accordance with our practical needs. In today’s academic jargon, this “schematizing” is called the imposition of an algorithm. But, according to the modern biological sciences, this algorithm is not imposed by us; it is imposed by nature or life itself. What is an algorithm?
In a recent popular text called Homo Deus, the writer Yuval Harari defines an algorithm as a “methodical set of steps that can be used to make calculations, resolve problems and reach decisions.” (Deus pg. 97) He goes on to say that “these algorithms undergo constant quality control by natural selection. Only animals that calculate probabilities correctly leave offspring behind.” One can see the last remnants of the principle of reason, first articulated by Leibniz, being used here to explain “life” and its mysteries wherein reason as calculation which controls human beings’ reactions to chaos can now be attributable to “pigs, baboons, otters and chickens” (Deus p. 99). The superiority of the “rationality” of the animale rationale is put in question. For Nietzsche, this is the viewing of ‘the last men’. We will say more on ‘the last men’ and the ‘overman’ at a later time.
Why does “chaos” play such an essential role in and for knowing? The question of “what is knowledge?’ is already a thinking project of the essence of what human beings are and their position within beings/things as well as a projection of these beings/things themselves.
What is “chaos”? In its original Greek sense it means “the gaping that points to the measureless, supportless and groundless” or what we sometimes call “the abyss”. For us, “chaos” means the unordered, the tangled in confusion, something in a shambles. This always implies something in motion. To see things as a “chaos” presupposes a prior order to the things in their relation to one another. Think of your home prior to the arrival of burglars who have turned it into a “chaos”. We must already know this “thing” as our home and how the things within it are supposed to be in relation to each other. We encounter things in our everyday experience as a “chaos” of sense perceptions, that which is constantly and immediately experienced in the knowledge of the living things about us. This fundamental experience of the world as a “chaos” occurs because we are beings in bodies.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche writes: “The apes are too good-natured for man to have originated from them”. The animality of man for Nietzsche has a deeper metaphysical ground than could ever be inferred biologically and scientifically from an existing animal species that appears to be similar to him. What is Nietzsche’s metaphysical ground for the animality of human beings? In our direct statements about an everyday object like our home, “our home” already lies at the very basis as knowledge. What lies in the knowledge of what is given to us and is encountered by us is the “chaos” of sensations through our bodies in “bodily states” through our “living”, what modern biologists call algorithms. This conception of “algorithmic” thinking is founded upon the principle of reason. Modern biology’s “progress” is Nietzschean, not Darwinian; but the consequences of the thinking have not been thoroughly thought through i.e. it is a thinking that is “deadly” in Nietzsche’s words and we will explore what is ‘fatal’ in this thinking at a later time.
For Nietzsche, “chaos” is the “world” as a whole: the inexhaustible, urgent, and unmastered abundance of self-assertion and self-destruction (WP #467) in which law and anarchy are found and dissolve. Our practical needs in this chaos determine our need for a schema through the formation of a horizon and perspective, the dominion of the principle of reason and of the logos understood as reason.
Our next steps will be to determine an understanding of “practical needs”.
“Natural selection” is a unifying theory of the “how” of human beings and determines the viewing of what are called the “life sciences”. Its premise is that human reason is historical and is a product of the modifications which human beings have undergone through time. For Darwin, “life” is the determiner of what “modifications” shall succeed and which shall not through the principles of “natural selection” embodied in the phrase “survival of the fittest”. For Nietzsche, “life” is will to power and it is the principle upon which what exists persists in its existence. “Survival” is a persistence in the presence of beings that exercise their will to power. How is this will to power expressed?
Knowledge is a grasping and retaining of what is true. Truth and the grasping of truth are “conditions of life” and are prior to what we call “experience”. Knowledge takes place when we think and make assertions about things. Such assertions are “judgements”. The thinking that represents beings/things prevails in perception and cognition “in every kind of experience and sensation”. “To perceive” means to take something in advance as being in this or that way or else not, or as differently, being as it is (reality). Conversely, things/beings only “reveal” themselves to such a perceiving in such and such a manner. To be the same means to belong together in essence: beings/things are not in being as beings, not present, without such perceiving i.e. we are incapable of “seeing” them in any other way. As the Greek philosopher Parmenides would say: “Perceiving and Being the same”. (As an aside, this is why we teach Darwinism as a “reality” rather than a theory of reality in our classrooms i.e. as one among many possible ways of perceiving the world.)
One cannot think Parmenides saying in a modern way such as Schopenhauer’s in his World as Will and Representation i.e. “representation and Being are the same” that the world is merely our representation and that it “is” nothing in itself and for itself. Nor can it be thought in Bishop Berkeley’s esse est percipi which denies any reality to beings outside ourselves without our perceiving them or as upheld in the presence through the perceptions of God. Rather, the saying means that Being (Life) is only where perceiving is and perceiving is only where beings/things are. What yokes together being and perceiving is what we conceive as “truth”.
For the Greeks this yoking is called nous: the thinking that we associate with Reason which is the enjoinment of thought to beings/things. This enjoining relation was called logos by the Greeks and it expresses how things are addressed: katagorein (the categories). The schemata of the categories (quality, quantity, relation, etc.) is how beings/things are addressed, the form into which we address something as something. This is what is understood as species: that from which and in return to which beings/things are: what they are made of, how large/small, how they are related to other beings/things. Perceiving things as such unfolds in thinking and thinking expresses itself in the assertion, in the logos.
Western metaphysics determines things/beings in advance as what is conceivable and definable i.e. what is not “imaginary” or “fantastical”. “Common sense” and metaphysical thinking rest on the “trust” that beings/things show themselves in the thinking of reason and its categories: that what is true and truth are grasped and secured in reason. This has been called the principle of reason. Nietzsche states: “Trust in reason and its categories, in dialectic (Hegel), thus the value estimation of logic, proves only their usefulness for life, proved by experience—not their ‘truth’”.
We cannot view the “trust in reason” and the dominance of logos as ratio as one-sidedly rationalism or rationalistic. Irrationalism belongs within the “trust” in reason where irrationalism determines the “world view”: the triumphs of rationalism, the principle of reason, are celebrated within the technological and the adherence to fundamental irrational world views.
“Trust in reason” is a basic constitution of human beings—the animale rationale. The power and the capacity that brings human beings before beings/things and that represents beings/things for human beings is delivered over to reason. Only what represents and secures rational thinking has claim to the assertion of a being that is in being. Reason determines what is in being and what is not. Reason is the most extreme pre-decision as to what Being (Life) means.
“Logic” and the “logical” are calculated on the basis of trust in reasons. When physics thinks beings/things in certain categories (matter, cause, energy, potential) and in its thinking trusts these categories from the start and in its research continually attains new results, such trust in reason in the form of science does not prove that “nature” reveals its essence in anything that is objectively shaped and represented by the categories of physics. Such scientific knowledge only demonstrates that our thinking about nature is “useful” for “life”. (See the blog entry on The Natural Sciences). What generates practical use is true and the truth of what is true is to be estimated only according to its degree of usefulness. Here in TOK we refer to this as “robust knowledge” if that usefulness is great. That something is “useful” pertains to the conditions of “life”. What we think these conditions are, the essential determination of these conditions, the ways of their conditioning, and the character of their conditioning depends upon the way in which life itself is defined in its essence.
That something is useful for life means that scientific knowledge through the principle of reason posits and has posited “nature” as being in a sense that secures modern technological success in advance through the calculations of the schemata adopted. This is the framing that is the technological and why “technology” is referred to as a fate in these writings and why “choice” is placed in quotations marks.
Truth and what is true:
How are we to understand “truth as correctness” or what is called “the correspondence theory of truth” according to Nietzsche? How is “correctness” to be understood?
Truth as a characteristic of reason (and thus knowledge) and that this characteristic is used to assemble and represent beings/things and why it must be used as such must be clarified.
In (WP #507) Nietzsche says: “that a great deal of belief must be present; that judgements may be ventured, that doubt concerning all essential values is lacking that is the pre-condition for every living thing and its life”. What Nietzsche is saying is that truth and what is true are not determined subsequently in terms of practical use merely accruing to life i.e. from experience, but rather that truth must already prevail in order for what is alive to live so life as such can remain alive. Accordingly, what is believed and held to be true can (“in itself”) be a deception and untrue; it suffices for it merely to be believed and, best of all, for it to believed unconditionally and blindly.
Does Nietzsche somehow support or believe the current “alternate facts” and machinations that are so much a part of modern politics and propaganda? Is Nietzsche’s conception of truth quite mad? There is the statement that the truth must exist but that it does not necessarily need to be “true”. For Nietzsche, “truth” is a necessary “value” but it is not the highest value. Our current actual historical conditions and situations are the consequences of the hidden essence of truth, and as consequences they have no control over their ground or origin. Irrationalism and rationalism are bound together.
What is essential is conceived as essential in relation to “value” and to its character as a value. “Survival of the fittest” is a value and as a value is a “condition of life”. The conditions of our preservation are predicates of Being (Life). The necessity of being stable in our beliefs if we are to prosper requires that we a “true” world that is in opposition to a world of change and becoming. The “modification” apparent in Being which is a product of necessity and chance is countered by the “true”, stable world of the principle of reason grounded in Being. Being (nature) chooses which modifications will survive and which will not, and these “surviving” modifications are evidence of “progress” conceived as more “fitter” or “fitted”. This apparent opposition of the worlds of Being (nature) and becoming (modification) is something which has been present in the thinking of the West since its beginnings.
In Platonic philosophy (Platonism, which is to be distinguished from the thinking of Plato himself) the eidos or the outward form/appearance and the idea or the “whatness” of something are enjoined. But in Plato, the things that are: this computer, these letters, this software, are eidola or outward appearances only because they must show their form in sensuous appearance. They are lacking in true “substance”. Yet what is computer-like, software-like still shows itself in its presence here and now, but what makes a computer be a computer and software be software are not in the things themselves but only in the eidos and the ideas of the things.
We say that something is which we always in advance encounter as always at hand: what is always present and has constant stability in this presence. We call this the true world, reality. The “apparent world” is what is not in being, what is inconstant and without stability, what constantly changes and in appearing disappears again. The Christian faith’s distinction between the earthly and the eternal, shaped by faith in redemption and salvation is an example of the distinction between the “true” and “apparent” worlds. Nietzsche states: “Christianity is Platonism for the masses”. Nietzsche’s thought searches for the origin of this distinction between the worlds and he finds this origin in “value relations”. What is constant and stable is of higher value to what is changing and flowing. Why?
Nietzsche understands “value” as a “condition of life”. To “condition”, being a “condition” signifies essence, what something is, what state it is in. Life, both of human beings and of “nature”, stands under certain conditions and it posits and preserves these as its own and in so doing preserves itself. Value-positing does not mean a valuation that someone gives to life from the outside; valuation is the fundamental occurrence of life itself; it is the way life brings its essence to fulfillment. Essence precedes existence. Human life will in advance direct the positing of the conditions securing it preservation (survival) according to how life itself determines its essence to itself for itself. If life is only constantly concerned with maintaining itself and being secured in its constancy, if life means securing the constancy that has come down to it and been taken over by it, then life will make whatever is enough for securing its constancy (preservation) its most proper conditions and these will have the highest value. Only what has the character of maintaining and securing preservation in general can be taken as a condition of life i.e. has a value. Only this is real. Nietzsche says: “We have projected the conditions of our preservation as predicates of Being in general”. Human beings are driven to securing their own permanence (currently manifested in the drive for AI). The only condition is that life instill of itself and in itself a belief in something it can constantly hold in all matters (the reasoning behind the statement made elsewhere that religion is what we bow down to or what we look up to—what we hold to be of “highest value”.)
The taking of something to be true is not some arbitrary activity; it is not like the machinations of the “alternative facts” charlatans who float on a sea of nihilism. It is rather the behaviour necessary for securing the permanence of life itself.
The next steps are to gain insight into the metaphysical connections between life as “preservation”/constancy and the role of value in this determination of what gives this preservation permanence.
Artificial intelligence, “designer babies”, cybernetics are all the flowerings of decisions (“choices”) that have been made to the questions posited and the answers which we have decided regarding the “what” and the “how” of “what” human beings are and “how” human beings will be in modern times. To understand the grounds regarding these decisions, it is necessary to understand what philosophy and science have said about what human beings are, and these statements are to be found in the thinking and writings of Charles Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche. Our decisions or “choices” are ontological/metaphysical decisions; and understanding the answers and the questions which the scientist and the philosopher have given to us will give us answers to what we believe we are and where we believe we are at.
As was said previously, truth is what is essential about knowledge. Nietzsche says: “Truth is the kind of error without which a certain kind of living being could not live” (WP #473).
What are truth and knowledge, knowing and science in Nietzsche? Nietzsche speaks of the “estimation of value” (WP #507), “I believe that such and such is so”, as the essence of truth. This is close to Plato’s definition of truth as “justified true belief” from his Theatetus. In estimations of value are expressed conditions of preservation (survival of the “fittest”) and growth (empowerment) as life-enhancement. All of our Areas of Knowledge and our senses (sense perception as a way of knowing, empiricism) develop only with regard to conditions of preservation and growth. Trust in reason and its categories, in dialectic, the value-estimation of logic, proves only their usefulness for living, proved by experience—not their “truth”, according to Nietzsche. (WP #507) The full section of this passage from Nietzsche (WP #507) should be read. From it, one can understand the grounds for what is called “the pragmatic theory of truth” that is found in the writings of the Americans James, Pierce and Dewey.
Nietzsche constantly writes “truth” in quotation marks. In the history of the West, “truth” is understood as the correctness of representation, and representation means having and bringing before oneself or the bringing to presence of beings/things, a having that perceives and opines, remembers and plans, hopes and rejects. Truth means the assimilation of representing to what things are and how they are. The many positions and definitions of truth that have come to us are all based on this one definition that truth is the correctness of representing. Correctness is being directed toward something, making statements that are ‘fitted’ or ‘suitable’ for the things that are spoken about. In logic the word correctness is “lack of contradiction”, “consistency”. Correctness as consistency means that a statement is deduced from another statement in accordance with the rules of reasoning. Correctness as “free from contradiction” and being “consistent” is called formal “truth”, not related to the content of beings in distinction from the material truth of content. “Correctness” is understood as the translation of the Latin adaequatio and the Greek homoiösis. For Nietzsche, too, truth is understood as correctness.
Nietzsche’s saying that “truth is an illusion” is truth as the correctness of representing. But for Nietzsche truth is an “estimation of value”. The phrase means to appraise something as a value and to posit it as such. “Value” is a perspectival condition for life-enhancement, the “growth” that enables “quality of life”. Value-estimation is accomplished by life itself, and by human beings in particular. Truth as value-estimation is something that “life” or human being brings about and, thus, belongs to human being. Value-estimation is in the words “I believe that such and such is so”. Values are in the belief.
Knowledge as “justified true belief” means to hold such and such as being this and this. “Belief” does not mean assenting to or accepting something that one oneself has not seen explicitly as a being or can never grasp as in being with one’s own eyes. “To believe” means to hold something that representation encounters as being in such and such a way. Believing is holding for something, holding it as in being. Believing, for Nietzsche, does not mean assent to an incomprehensible doctrine inaccessible to reason but proclaimed as true by an authority, particularly a religious authority, nor does it mean trust in a covenant or prophecy. Truth as value-estimation, as a holding for something as being in this or that way, stands in an essential connection with things as such. What is true is what is held in being as what is taken to be in being. What is true is being.
Truth is synonymous with holding to be true: it is synonymous with judgement. The judgement, an assertion about something, is the essence of knowledge; to it belongs the being-true in the history of Western metaphysics. To hold something for what it is, to represent it as thus and thus in being, to assimilate oneself in representing whatever emerges and is encountered as presence, is the essence of truth as correctness. Nietzsche thinks truth as correctness. Nietzsche appears to be in agreement with Kant who instigated a Copernican revolution in his doctrine of the essence of knowledge in which knowledge is not supposed to conform to objects but the other way around—objects are supposed to conform to knowledge. But how does Nietzsche think the essence of truth differently?
Nietzsche’s insight is that truth as correspondence, correctness is really a “value estimation”. This means that the essence of correctness will not be able to finds its explanation and basis by saying how human being, with representations occurring in his subjective consciousness, can conform to objects that are at hand outside his soul, how the gap between the subject and object can be bridged so that something like a “conforming to” becomes possible.
With truth defined as “estimations of value”, the essential definition of truth is turned in a completely different direction: “In estimations of value are expressed conditions of preservation (survival) and growth.” Here, value is defined 1) as a “condition” for life; 2) that in “life” not only is “preservation” but also and above all “growth” (quality of life) is essential. “Growth” is another name for “enhancement” or “quality of life”. “Growth” is understood as the autonomous development and unfolding of a living being through “empowerment”. “All our organs of knowledge and our senses are developed only with regard to conditions of preservation and growth.” (WP #507) Truth and the grasping of truth are not merely in the service of “life” according to their use and application; their essence, the way in which they are organized and their activity are driven and directed by “life”. Nietzsche is very closely related to Darwin in this thinking. How is this life to be understood?
We can see with our discussion of knowledge and truth that our journey has found its way back to Darwin, the scientist. In our classrooms, Darwinism is not taught as theory but as fact. Nietzsche, like Darwin, equates the basic words “world” and “life” both of which name beings as a whole. Life, the process of life and its course is called bios in Greek: “Bios” as in the word “biography” corresponds to the Greek meaning. “Biology”, on the other hand, means the study of life in the sense of plants and animals. In Nietzsche’s section of The Will to Power entitled “Discipline and Breeding” is the conscious regulation of life; its direction and “quality of life” are a strictly arranged life-plan as a goal and a requirement. The “discipline and breeding” of Nietzsche is similar to Darwin’s analogy of artificial selection in the way farmers choose livestock to the way that nature selects wildlife, including human beings. “Mutation” is seen as “modification”, the random choices of nature. The essential difference between animals and human beings is that human beings have a concept of “world” which they attempt to commandeer and control in order to secure the “self-preservation” and life-enhancement striving to eliminate the element of chance that rules in “natural selection” or “modification”. Now, most “modifications” in nature are done by human beings.
“Survival of the fittest” is not a reference to physical strength which is but one possible element, but refers to what a species is “fitted for” given its modifications and the environment in which it finds itself. This “fittedness” defines what a species is at any given time.
Nietzsche said: “Only that which has no history can be defined”. By this he means that beings/things undergoing “modifications” through the process of Being (life) cannot be considered to “live’ within “horizons” which would delimit their being and make them definable. The essential realm in which biology moves as an Area of Knowledge can never itself be posited and grounded by biology as a science but can only be presupposed, adopted and confirmed through research and experimentation. This is true of every science. Every science rests upon propositions about the area of beings/things with which it operates. These pro-positions about what things are define the things beforehand. This is what is being called metaphysics here. The metaphysics of the sciences are already assumed beforehand. Darwin’s propositions of evolution, modification and natural selection are metaphysical propositions: they are ontological propositions and statements about the “what” and the “how” of beings. Nietzsche’s notorious definition of human being as a “blond beast of prey” which through discipline and breeding comes to secure and dominate its “world” is a next step in the ideas first put forward by Darwin.
The point being made here is that science and reflection in the Areas of Knowledge which the science investigates are historically grounded on the dominance of a particular interpretation of Being (life) and they move within a particular conception of the essence of truth. Nietzsche’s “blond beast of prey” is a metaphysical not a biological conception of human being. From where does this conception of human being arise?
Religious Knowledge Systems: Christianity: Thoughts on The Lord’s Prayer
It is appropriate for old men to try to reconcile their thoughts on the most important matters in the short time remaining to them. The following entry is a very inadequate attempt to do so on my part. It is left to the greater minds and souls to achieve greater clarity about these matters.
The Roman Catholic Church’s Pope Francis recently provoked some discussion by suggesting that the Lord’s Prayer should be re-translated and re-worded in order to reflect his belief that it is Satan and not God that leads to temptation, presumably in the belief that God, being all-Good, is not capable of leading to temptation and evil. In this writing I hope to discuss the implications of this thinking and their consequences by examining the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 12 ) in light of the three temptations of Christ that occur earlier in Matthew’s gospel of Christ’s ministry on Earth (Matthew 4: 1-11).
To understand the metaphysics of Christianity, its grounds, one needs to recognize that there are three realms: the realm of Necessity in which beings dwell (including human beings) and are given over to its laws (such as gravity), the realm of Being wherein lie those things that do not change (our principle of reason and the mathematics that result from it, for instance) and the realm of the Good which is beyond both Being and Necessity and is the realm of God. The existence of and dominion over these three realms corresponds to the existence of the Triune God or Trinity: the Father (God), the Son (the Father’s Creation, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth, the Word made flesh), and the Holy Spirit (Grace, the Word). The Father is the Good, the Son is His creation and is the Word made flesh, and the Holy Spirit is the mediator between the two.
This is a Platonic interpretation of Christianity. Plato insists that there is a great gulf separating the Necessary from the Good and yet, paradoxically, they are related to each other.
In His creation of the world, God withdraws from His creation, the realm of Necessity, in order to allow it to be. He is, in a way, the great Artist who must also withdraw from his creation in order to allow it to be. The true act of creation is a denial of the Self; it is allowing something to be other than one’s self and is a recognition of “otherness” itself. God’s withdrawal is the example that He gives to us in our relation to ourselves and to the world: we must deny our Selves in order that we may be united with Him.
Because creation is from God, it must be Good for He is all Good and the good is one. Those artists who create from themselves and do not withdraw from their art do not create great art, and this is the foundation of one of our mistaken approaches to appreciating the works of art created where we focus on the biographical, historical and social contexts, and the techniques of artists, thus turning the art into an object over which we stand. Without this withdrawal of Self from that which is created, there can be no creation and certainly no great creation. There is only a “making”.
When God interacts within the web of Necessity and its physical laws, He Himself is subject to these laws and He submits to these laws. Without such submission on the part of God, a great injustice would occur since only human beings would suffer God’s creation and not God Himself. But God does suffer His creation and has chosen to do so. The most prominent and important example of this is the crucifixion of Christ where God Himself accepts the death of His Son without intervening to prevent it from happening even though Christ requests that God intervene on His behalf. God’s presence is His absence and silence in the crucifixion. The Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world (creation) (Rev 13: 8) and is the creation itself.
This preamble is to prepare us for an interpretation that will lead to an understanding of the three temptations of Christ; and from these to an understanding of the wording of the Lord’s Prayer and to see how they are interconnected. Fyodor Dostoevsky has written on the three temptations of Christ in his masterpiece “The Grand Inquisitor” from his great novel The Brothers Karamazov. One may find a link to this text here: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~freeman/courses/phil100/11.%20Dostoevsky.pdf
The three temptations or “tests” of Christ focus on “bread” or food for the body and its relation to grace or the “food for the soul”, “gravity” and the web of Necessity’s relation to the body and to the Self, and power, or the Self and its relation to the living of human beings in communities. They speak of our needs, or perceived needs, as human beings.
The Greek word that presents the difficulties for us (and for Pope Francis) is “πειρασθῆναι (peirasthēnai)” in the three temptations of Christ and “πειρασμόν (peirasmon)” in the Lord’s Prayer. It is translated as “to be tempted”, but it could also be understood as “to be tested” in the way that we test something to ensure its genuineness, its trueness. We might say that the three temptations of Christ are “tests” of Christ in order to ensure His genuineness prior to His Ministry on Earth.
The text from Matthew is as follows:
Matthew: 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After he fasted forty days and forty nights he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘Mandoes not liveby bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Once again it is written: ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. 9And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and began ministering to his needs.
The text of the three temptations suggests that it is the “Spirit” (the Holy Spirit) that leads Christ into the “wilderness” to be tested by the devil. The “wilderness” as the place of temptation or the test is present in many of our fairy tales, such as “Little Red Cap” (“Little Red Riding Hood”). It is sometimes metaphorically presented as “the dark woods” or “the belly of the Beast” and so on, and it is the place where the tests occur. Our stories and our cinema continue this tradition of the place of tests in multivarious forms and guises. Plato’s Cave in Republic is the “belly of the Great Beast” (the social) and the test is whether to recognize the light of truth coming from the Sun (the Good) and to begin one’s journey toward the Good, or to return to the world of the “shadows” and its pleasures and rewards (but this relates more to the third temptation).
“Every word that comes from the mouth of God” is the Holy Spirit and it is His grace that is given to us at every moment of our lives. This “spiritual bread” is as necessary as the bread that is the staple food required of our bodies if we are “to live”. If we are famished we could very well wish that the stones before us would become bread, but they will not do so (the miracles of manna from heaven, the loaves and the fishes, etc. aside) for our hunger, the stones and the lack of bread are of the realm of Necessity, the realm of time and space.
To insist that the stones before us become bread is to deny the will of God and to attribute evil to God: why does He feed others and not me? It is very easy for us to feel that we are favoured by God when we are well fed. But this, too, is a failure to pass the test: God’s justice is to visit rain upon the just and unjust, the fed and the unfed, in equal amounts. We fail the test in not being able to distinguish the realm of Necessity from the realm of the Good. The “spiritual bread” is omnipresent and available to anyone who asks. God is quite capable of turning stones to bread, but to turn stones to bread requires that God cross the vast distance that separates Himself from the Necessity of His creation and He must submit to Necessity’s laws when He does so.
This separation of the realm of Necessity from the realm of the Good and the crossing of the gap between the two realms is highlighted in the second temptation. It is the temptation or test of suicide, an act that we have within our capability but which is denied us because we are not our own.
The belief that we are our own, both body and soul (if we still believe in such a thing) is one that dominates our thinking and actions in the modern age. “To be or not to be” (and this speech of Hamlet’s encapsulates much that is trying to be said here and is Hamlet’s error, that which makes him a tragic hero) is a temptation or test of God to intervene on our behalf and to deny the law of gravity or the laws of Necessity that separate God from us. When the devil takes Christ to the top of the temple of Jerusalem and asks Him to throw Himself down, Christ’s response is that such an act is a “temptation” of God, and we are denied putting God to the test. To test God is a sin. Our submission to Necessity is our submission to the will of God, and this submission on our part is one of our greatest tests and the denial of the will of God for our own desires is one of our greatest temptations.
The third temptation is that temptation or test given to us regarding our living in communities. The kingdoms of the world and their grandeur belong to Satan, and they, too, are products of Necessity and subject to the same laws that rule over all material things (gravity, for instance). Satan’s temptation is to “test” us in our desire to serve him or to serve God. Satan can give to us the kingdoms of this world because they are his to give. He cannot give us the Good. He will give us these kingdoms if we are loyal to him. Money, fame, rewards, recognition, “social contacts” are all in his realm. The sin here is our deceiving ourselves that we have the power to achieve the Good: “the good end justifies any means”, a sin that has resulted in the deaths of countless millions of human beings throughout history for it is a sin that comes about through the worship of false gods, the pledging of loyalty to Satan. It is the placing of “interests” before “values” (to use a common phrase nowadays) of those who choose to fall prey to this third temptation which is thinking that they have it in their power to bring about the Good themselves. It is the sin that results from the deception that one is in possession of the sole truth, the highest light. It is to place oneself higher than Christ Himself who during His crucifixion utters the cry: “My God, my God why have you forgotten (forsaken) me?”
To recapitulate: the three temptations of Christ involve the three realms of Necessity, Being, and the Good which correspond to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. The temptations or tests occur because we are beings in bodies who must decide to serve God’s will or our own. To overcome the temptations or tests which the Spirit gives us, we are given the Lord’s Prayer, the Word.
This text on the three temptations of Christ can be compared with the text of the Lord’s Prayer. The text of the Lord’s Prayer follows. First the Greek, then the English:
Our Father, who is in heaven; holy be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses (debts), as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors); and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
As pointed out in the beginning, Pope Francis has called for a re-translation of the Lord’s Prayer in order for it to read: “and do not let us fall into temptation”. From the three temptations above, we can see that we are already “fallen into temptation”. It is our human condition and temptation or the test is a constant presence or reality for us, just as the Holy Spirit Who is our guide in our moments of being tested is a constant presence for us if we choose to look in the right direction (“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” Matthew 7: 7). The Holy Spirit is that Grace which can either lead or not lead us into the tests. God is not to be tempted, but we are to see whether or not we are genuine in our service to His Will.
The Lord’s Prayer is directed to God the Father and is our statement about our service to His Will, but it is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity that leads to temptation, that leads us to our “tests” as was shown in the three temptations passage. I am quite certain that Pope Francis isn’t asking us to deny the Trinity of God in order to remove the confusion present in the wording of the translation of the Lord’s Prayer. Since both the Lord’s Prayer and the Three Temptations come from Matthew, we can assume that the meanings or intentions of the words are to be taken as the same.
Our praying to God is to be done in secret; it is not a communal activity just as the temptations are ours alone as well as those of the communities of which we are a part. But our prayer is a claim for all other human beings, the children of God, when it is spoken. Let us examine the Prayer phrase by phrase.
Our Father who is in heaven: He is our Father and He is in heaven. “Heaven” is not a place in time and space. It is not a place “above” the Earth where the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin could have possibly seen God (although, paradoxically, Gagarin might have been able to see God had he been looking in the right direction with the right eyes!) God is infinitely distant from us as His realm is beyond Being and Necessity. Through the Holy Spirit we, or rather that infinitesimally small part of us that is God and made in His image, are yoked to God and this yoke is the principle of true Life. Since He is the Good Shepherd, His task is to seek for us, not for us to seek for Him. He seeks that infinitely small part of ourselves that is Him and that belongs to Him and Him alone. The infinitely small part is subject to the vicissitudes of Chance because we are beings in bodies and our only choice is the choosing of to whom we shall dedicate this infinite part of ourselves. It is this infinitely small part of us that allows us to see the light as light.
Holy be Your name: It is through our naming that things come to presence for us. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once spoke about “the god that sometimes wishes, and sometimes does not wish to go by the name of Zeus”. It is only God who can choose to name Himself; it is beyond our human capacity to do so. The Name is the eternal Life that is always present in the beauty of the world and its order and in that infinitely small part of ourselves that is His. We petition His Presence for us and to us; and in our petitioning He is present to us.
Your Kingdom come: In this part of the Prayer, the Kingdom of the Father is in the future, not in the past or the present. His kingdom where His will reigns is in contrast to the kingdoms of this Earth which, as indicated in the passage from Matthew 4, belong to Satan and where his rule reigns. The third temptation of Christ is the devil offering power in the political realm, and this may be the strongest of the temptations or tests that are devised for us for we believe that we may be able to potentially effect outcomes in the course of events that we believe are in conformity with the Will of God. In the course of human history, this belief in false “goods” and “false gods” has resulted in terrible human suffering and it carries on even today.
Your will be done: Our most difficult test is our submission to the will of God. The temptation not to do so is the reality for us in every waking moment of our lives. We are unable to reconcile the love of God with the suffering of the innocent as being His Will for we do not see Justice in it. We do not have answers for Ivan Karamazov and his “Grand Inquisitor”. We know that what has happened in time, past events, are in accord with the will of God, but we cannot know what this Will is: God’s will is inscrutable to us, and we commit the sin of blasphemy in thinking that it is, in thinking that past events will show us what God’s will is for the future. For the saints and the great human beings, they are capable of an amor fati, a love of fate, which is simply beyond us. We must submit to the fact that what has happened is good because it is the will of God, but it is a Will that passes all understanding. Many have rejected God precisely here, as does Ivan Karamazov; but we notice that as Ivan leaves Alyosha, his novice brother, “He (Alyosha) suddenly noticed that Ivan swayed as he walked and that his right shoulder looked lower than his left. He had never noticed it before.” The image is of Ivan bearing his cross, and it is the cross that all of us, if we are thoughtful human beings, must bear while we are here upon this earth and subject to “Necessity’s sharp pinch” (King Lear).
On Earth as it is in Heaven: The will of God rules in all realms whether of the Good, Being or Becoming, Space, time and the contingency of future events are the limits, the boundaries of creation; and as beings in bodies we are subject to these limits. The existence of these limits are the will of God. Satan’s three temptations involve these limits and our attempts to overcome them in one form or another: the absence of our daily bread for our bodies, the constant presence of the universe and its physical laws, and the realm of human communities and their machinations. When, for example, Kent in King Lear tells Lear that his “good intentions” of dividing his kingdom to ‘prevent future strife’ is “evil”, he is not referring to a bad political decision on Lear’s part (though his decision is bad politically), but to Lear’s ignoring of the laws that are placed on human actions which are just as stringent as the laws placed upon the physical universe. At the beginning of the play, Lear mistakenly sees his will as the will of the gods. He is like most of us who think that our “good intentions” are choices that we can make in this realm because we, presumably, know the will of the gods. In the play Lear, through his great suffering which decreates his ego and his Self, is brought into the true relation of humility that should exist between human beings and God. When in this true relation, Lear shows us that we become “God’s spies” for God is able to see His creation through our eyes which have become His eyes because our selves, our most precious possession, no longer stand between God and His creation. But in this position we are nothing more than mere prisoners.
The first part of the Lord’s Prayer is our submission to God’s will. The second part is our petitioning of the Lord to minister to our needs.
Give us this day our daily bread: The first part of the Lord’s Prayer recognizes that the will of God prevails in the past, present and the future. As human beings we are only able to see the past and to be aware of the present. The good of the future is not within our capacity.
Bread is a need of our bodies. As human beings we are the “needing” beings for our energy comes to us from outside. In order for us to live some other living being/thing must be consumed in this realm of Necessity. As shown in the three temptations of Christ, only the “spiritual bread” which comes from the Holy Spirit in the form of Grace is that energy which is ever present for us and we have only to ask, seek and knock. By our asking, the “spiritual bread” is given to us and it is this spiritual bread that allows us to overcome the temptations that are ever-present and ubiquitous in our daily lives. We are led to evil by our being created bodies, and it is only through the pure energy of grace that we are able to overcome the evils that are ever-present for us. Our need for grace in overcoming the temptations is also ever-present. This is captured in the use of the obscure word epiousios which indicates that the bread is ousia or ever-present and yet it is epi which means “above” or “upon”. We could also translate this as the “supernatural bread”.
And forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (those who are our debtors): A debt is an obligation that we have to others, promises we have made, something arising from our past. Our greatest debt to others is the recognition of their “otherness” and our taking care of their physical and spiritual needs through our attention to them. We are obligated to be attentive to the needs of others.
We are obligated to other human beings; when we do not meet these obligations, we “sin”. As we are obligated to others, so they are obligated to us (or at least we feel they are obligated to us from some action in the past). The saints tell us that they are the greatest sinners and we have trouble believing them. But the saints have a greater awareness of the “otherness” of human beings and of their obligation to this otherness. St. Francis’ ministrations to the lepers is an example of this. We are obligated to be charitable; and when we deny this obligation, we sin. How we judge the obligations of others to ourselves is how we will be judged. It is our reparation for our sins. King Lear is the most powerful play in the English language which illustrates this.
To “trespass” is to go beyond the limits or the boundaries that have been set for us as human beings. These limits or boundaries are those which are set by God in all three realms spoken of here and not those which we think we establish through imaginary lines drawn on maps. We are not our own. It is not our wills that we should wish to be recognized, and we should desire no recognition of our “ego” whatsoever. To do so is to “trespass”. We require Grace daily to help us meet our obligations to others and to prevent us from being led by the desires of others. In meeting these obligations, we fulfill the will of God. Our difficulty is that in living in communities with other human beings, we are constantly driven to “where we would not go” by their desires as they impinge on our wishes and we are constantly in danger of doing evil when we consider our actions as a “duty” to others whether it be god, country, or others in our communities.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: This is the phrase from the Prayer that has given rise to, provoked this writing. Pope Francis wishes it to be re-translated since it creates the confusion that it is God who leads us to temptation. From the Three Temptations passage it is clear that the Holy Spirit leads Christ, in a moment of deepest necessity, into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we contemplate the name, the kingdom, and the will of God, and submit to this Will. From this submission we receive the supernatural bread of Grace which purifies us from evil. Having been purified from evil, the soul is ready for that true humility which crowns all virtues. Humility consists of knowing that in this world the whole soul, not only what we term the ego in its totality, but also the supernatural part of the soul, which is God present in us, is subject to time and to the vicissitudes of change (Weil) whether through Nature or through the actions of human beings. There must be absolute acceptance that these are in accord with the will of God.
But how difficult this is for us! For Lear, Cordelia is hung through the machinations of Edmund and this, finally, breaks his heart. His “Howl, howl, howl, howl” is the suffering the passes all words and thus our understanding of such suffering. One thing is certain: the redemption from temptation and sin and our submission to the will of God is not to be cheaply bought.
The doxology “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” is a later addition to the original text and is redundant given the interpretation of the first part of the Lord’s Prayer given here. We we speak the words of the first part of the Prayer, our submission to the will of God is already given and does not need the repetition here, though its alignment with the third temptation of Christ illustrates how difficult it is for us to submit to His will.
“To stamp becoming with the character of Being–that is the supreme will to power.” — Nietzsche, Will to Power # 617
“The apes are too good-natured for man to have originated from them.” — Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Knowledge: what is it? What are we really asking about when we ask about the “essence of knowledge”? These questions are questions that relate to the essence of Western human beings, what we think we ourselves are. How was this question understood by both Darwin and Nietzsche?
In the 19th century, the question of knowledge focused on scientific inquiry: it becomes a psychological and a biological investigation due to the progress made in these sciences, the foremost being the discoveries of Charles Darwin. “Theory of Knowledge” becomes focused on “theory formation”, how we form theories and why we form theories. In Western history, knowledge is taken to be that behaviour and that attitude of representing by which what is true is grasped and preserved as a “possession”, an “owning”. The correspondence, coherence and pragmatic theories of truth are caught up in this grasping, possessing behaviour through representation. What is representation?
To “represent” is ‘to place something, make it stand’ ‘before, in front of’, ‘to bring, move forward; to put something in front of something else’, hence ‘to represent, mean, signify’ and ‘to introduce, present a person’, etc. Other meanings are ‘to represent to oneself, imagine, conceive’ – in a ‘performance, presentation, introduction’ and ‘idea, conception, imagination’. These many meanings are interrelated. We will try to understand how ‘representation’ relates to what Kant called “transcendental imagination” later in these writings.
Representation occurs, but it is ‘letting something be seen’, not something that is itself seen, like a picture. Seeing a picture, and seeing something in a picture, are quite different from seeing things in the flesh. Seeing does not involve a mental picture: ‘Nothing of that sort is to be found; in the simple sense of perception: I see the house itself. Seeing is permeated by language and categories: ‘We do not so much primarily and originally see objects and things; at first we speak about them; more precisely we do not express what we see, rather we see what one says about the matter’. In this quote from Heidegger’s Being and Time we have the introduction of the primacy of the logos when it comes to understanding and representing things to ourselves so that we may be able to perceive them as what they are. The French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, also asserts the primacy of the logos in the understanding of Being. There is a close affinity between the representational theory of perception and the correspondence theory of truth: both involve ‘representations in the soul copying beings outside’.
Representation goes with a view of the self as a subject: in Kant ‘the “I” was forced back again to an isolated subject, which accompanies representations in an ontologically quite indefinite way’ (Heidegger, Being and Time, 321). This view of representation is a misrepresentation of our being-in-the world, but it adequately represents our human-centred attitude to the world. Two features of representation help to put human beings at the centre. First, ‘to represent something’ in the sense of ‘to count, stand for something’, that is calculability. Second: ‘Every human representing is by an easily misinterpreted figure of speech a “self-representing”’. This converges with Descartes’ view that whenever I think about anything I also think that I think. In representation the representing and the representer are always co-represented as well. In defining a thing/being we are also defining ourselves as human beings.
In our ‘visible thinking’, our efforts are ‘to make something stand (fast) in advance/ before us’ and to ‘produce’ or ‘bring forth’ the results of our efforts. Thus, it expresses Nietzsche’s view that, in what we call ‘truth’, we bring chaotic becoming to a standstill, converting it into a ‘static constancy’, our stamping becoming with the character of Being. Representation can also mean ‘to bring before’ a court. Then it suggests that Human Being is a judge who decides what being is and what qualify as beings, who lays down the law and applies it to beings. To be is then to-be-represented. This is Descartes’ main achievement, that he equated being with being-represented by a subject. It does not matter whether the subject is a pure ego or, as Nietzsche believes, an embodied self. What matters is that everything comes to human beings for judgement. The two central features of modernity are that human beings are the centre of beings as a whole, the subject to which the beings/things are all referred, and that ‘the beingness of beings as a whole is conceived as the being-represented of the producible and explainable’. ‘To produce’ or ‘bring forth’ indicates the relationship of Cartesianism and technology and how it is rooted in what has come to be called “humanism”.
Representation gives a new sense to the understanding of being as presence. For the Greeks being was ‘presence’, ousia or parousia. Greek presence concerns the ‘presencing’ of beings into the realm of the unhidden. The closest Greek counterpart to what we understand as representation is noein, ‘to think, intelligibility, intelligence, etc.’ It was ‘dwelling in the unhidden’, receptive, contemplative rather than intrusive, and concerned the whole, unhiddenness as such, and not only individual entities/things. Representation as it is understood in the modern sense is the human autocratic interrogation of and jurisdiction over entities/things, whose presence is now understood as correctness and correspondence rather than ‘presence’ as the Greeks understood it. It is the domineering, commanding stance of human beings over beings/things.
In the question of what is knowledge we are really asking about truth and its essence. In the TOK guide (2015), it is recommended that the question of truth be avoided altogether! This is one of the reasons why an alternative approach is required and made necessary. Knowledge and truth are intimately related to each other and cannot be discussed separately. Without questioning our understanding of what truth is we are simply left with a pre-determined “system” that has pre-determined “robust” answers.
In the question of what knowledge is we are basically asking about truth and its essence (its “whatness”). What is true means what is. This is sometimes confused with the notion of facts. To grasp what is true means to take beings/things in representation and assertion (judgement) and to repeat, pass on and retain them as they are. What is truth and true stand in intimate relation to beings/things. The question of knowledge, about its essence, is a question about beings/things—what they are as such. As has been asserted many times in this blog, the question of what is knowledge is a metaphysical question and is prior to the questioning of knowledge as an epistemological question.
In Nietzsche, the essence of truth must be defined in terms of “will to power”. Truth grants beings to human beings in such a way that human beings relate to beings. This relation we have called logos. Truth is what human beings strive for in all their doings and thinking. It is what is “valued”. But Nietzsche in Will to Power (#602; hereafter referred to as WP) says that truth is “the consequence of an illusion”. Yet if a will to truth is vital for our “life”, and if life is enhancement of life, the ever higher realization of life and the vitalizing or giving life to what is real (“quality of life”), and if truth is only “illusion”, “imagination”, thus something unreal, truth then becomes a de-realization, a hindrance to and destructive of life. Truth then becomes an “unvalue”.
But modern science tells us that all “values” are of equal value i.e. valueless, and therefore the appropriate response in action is “tolerance” of all values. What is this but nothing more than the nihilism that Nietzsche points out? It is Nietzsche’s desire to overcome nihilism since will to truth belongs to life and life enhancement, and nihilism is ultimately “deadly”, that Darwinism is, at bottom, nihilistic. But, as Nietzsche fully realized, since will to truth belongs to life then truth, since its essence is “illusion”, cannot be the highest value. There must be a “value”, a condition of perspectival life-enhancement (quality of life) that is of greater value than truth. Nietzsche says “that art is worth more than truth”. (WP #857)
Art arouses the quality of life through its vitality in the possibilities of life’s enhancement against the power of truth: “We have art in order not to perish from the truth”. (WP #822, 1888) For Nietzsche, art is considered as a condition of beings/things not merely as aesthetically pleasurable, not merely a biologically/anthropologically expression of life and humanity (culture), and not merely politically as proof of a position of power (possession). Nietzsche’s notion of art goes back to Aristotle’s Poetics as in a metaphysical opposition to truth as illusion. But is this not saying that art and truth are both….illusions? Shall we not say that if Nietzsche is to be “consistent” his statement about truth is also an illusion and we needn’t bother about him any longer (as, in fact, was said by many Harvard and Oxford “philosophers” following WW2)? This circular argument is not a refutation of Nietzsche.
How is truth connected with illusion? A refutation of Nietzsche’s statement cannot be based on its incorrectness. Nietzsche’s statement is prior to conceptions of truth as correctness of representations. For the ancient Greeks, what “shows itself” is taken as what is. To be “in being” means to “grow”, “phyein”. The rise to presencing, what comes to a stand as present, is physis—what we call Nature. Plato’s “Idea” is what is most in Being of all beings: to be in Being is the self-showing that arises to presence: presenting an outward appearance (eidos) which makes up the appearance (idea) that something has. This appearance or image is not a fabrication. By image the Greeks meant what “comes to the fore”, what comes to presence. Truth was imaging for the Greeks.
When Nietzsche says that truth is an “illusion”, he is speaking about what is still happening in the history of the West: in the past, in the present, and what is to come. This event is the essence of truth. Beings/things show themselves and are grasped as this self-representing in representation. Representation is what we understand as thinking. When Nietzsche says that “truth is illusion”, the initial fundamental decisions concerning thought are transformed in this definition; but also, the dominion of this thinking in the modern age is established. One need not look far to see the spurious sophistry that has entangled Nietzsche’s original thinking. We shall make an attempt to clear some of this intentional obfuscation so that we shall see the praxis, the “doing”, that is the making the techne and the logos that is the “knowing” of the techne logos that is technology.
Many of the ideas expressed here will be further developed in later writings in this blog.
In approaching a discussion of the thinking of Nietzsche and Darwin, we must first establish the basic terms that ground the thinking of the scientist, Darwin, and the philosopher, Nietzsche and show what distinguishes them. Nietzsche once wrote that Darwinism is “true, but deadly”. What did he mean by that?
From our earlier writings we can see that the essential distinction between the ancients and the moderns is the understanding of nature and eternity (beings and Being) and of nature and history (beings and Time). Both Darwin and Nietzsche are 19th century thinkers and both are responsible for much of the thinking that grounds what we have called the modern. What students study in the Areas of Knowledge and how these beings/things are understood through the Ways of Knowing will help us to understand the origins of the language that we use everyday unthinkingly.
In what manner are beings understood (knowledge) and what is the ‘what’ of beings in both the “essentia” of beings, and ‘how’ these beings ‘are’ (the “existentia” of beings) in both these thinkers?
For Nietzsche three terms: 1) “will to power” as the “what” of beings and 2) “eternal recurrence of the same” as the “how” of beings will be described. Among those human beings who have understood the what and the how of beings are, according to Nietzsche, the 3) “overman”. From within these three terms the grounds of the thinking of Nietzsche will be shown, what Nietzsche called “knowledge”, and we will attempt to understand the concepts “values”, “empowerment” and “quality of life” or “enhancement of life” that arise from this understanding/knowledge of beings as “will to power”. How these beings are in their being as the “eternal recurrence of the same” will also be explicated. From these we can make some preliminary statements about the fact-value distinction that rules today in the methodologies of the human and natural sciences as well as come to some conclusions about John Dewey’s idea of “growth” as “empowerment” and the role that the principle of reason (technology) plays in this “growth” and in the establishment of the “values” that are realized through the improvement of “quality of life”. These are essential assumptions that are made in the thinking that one is exposed to today and it is essential to clarify what they mean. We will attempt to explore the roots of these concepts.
In discussing Darwin, we will attempt to understand two terms: 1) “evolution” or the progressive development of the species through time by chance, or the “what” of beings; and 2) “modification” as the “how” of beings in time will attempt to be clarified. The essential question for Darwin the scientist was an “ontological” question: the what and the how of beings; it was not a scientific question. We will show this to be the case and how analytical philosophy enjoins Darwinism to give us the substance of what is taken to be knowledge in the Western world today.
Nietzsche: Will to Power as Knowledge
Nietzsche is the most comprehensive modern thinker. By “comprehensive” is meant that he thought through the explicit and implicit assumptions of modernity and their consequences.
What is “knowledge” for Nietzsche? Knowledge is “will to power”. His last writing is entitled Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is? In the book Nietzsche writes about the destiny of the West, not merely about himself as an individual for he sees his thinking as the destiny of the West. It is in this book that the understanding of “personal knowledge” as “empowerment” and “will to power” is made clear.
In TOK, you inquire in order to reach useful reasons, responses and approaches to problems and questions that can be placed in oral presentations and essays. Your “thinking” is driven by a “scientific methodology” (research, if you like) that always operates on a ground or foundation of what has already been decided: the fact that nature, history, art are beings/things that have been defined and are made Areas of Knowledge. Real thinking questions the surety of this knowledge framework approach because it tries to understand the horizons of how these things/beings have come to be determined. It inquires into the “de-fin-ition” of these things: that which is responsible for the establishment of the “limits” or horizons of the things/beings that are being examined.
Nietzsche is the transition from the preparatory phase of the modern age—1600-1900—to the beginning of its consummation, the revealing of its essence. We do not know the time span of this consummation. It will either be very brief and catastrophic or else very long and experienced as the self-perpetuating novelty of what has already been attained through the discoveries of the modern age. These possible outcomes are based on what we have defined beings/things as being.
The history of the West is to be understood as “metaphysics” – “physics” in the Greek sense means the “physical” or “beings that as such subsist and come to presence of themselves”. “Meta” means “over and away from, beyond” to the things/beings Being. From the beings/things, we think of their Being as their most universal definition, as their ground and cause. So, for example, the Christian idea of creation from a First Cause is metaphysical. The Enlightenment idea of a governance of all beings/things under the principle of reason or a cosmic reason is metaphysical. Beings/things are that which lays claim to an explanation: “reasons” for the “why” and the “how” of beings.
Nietzsche is the consummation of Western metaphysical thinking. By this is meant that in his thinking one finds the end of the tradition, the essence, of Western metaphysics in the same way that one finds the end of the acorn in the oak. For those of us from the English-speaking West, what Nietzsche’s thinking had to think will rule (though his being a German, many in the West have determined that since he was one of the “losers” of history, because of the Great Wars of the 20th century, he was not in touch with the evolving truth of things). This perception has delayed Nietzsche’s arrival on the English-speaking scene, and his thoughts and ideas have been given to us through lesser minds and, in many cases, other language than that in which they were originally thought. The idea of the “superman” (although the original idea from Nietzsche is best translated as “overman”) is just one, although extreme, example of what occurred to Nietzsche’s thought in the North American setting.
Nietzsche’s fundamental thoughts of “will to power” and “eternal recurrence of the same” say the same and think the same about the “how” and the “why” of beings/things.
Values and Valuation:
The word “values” is a relatively new, and frequently used, term though it is a word used in an unthinking manner. Nietzsche did not coin the term, but it is through his thinking that it has come to common parlance in Western English. Even recent Popes of the Roman Catholic Church have spoken of “values” when talking about morals, cultures, aesthetics and religious topics. Nietzsche used the word “values” to indicate a “condition of life”, a condition of life’s being “alive”, what has come to us in the phrase “quality of life”. “Life”, for Nietzsche, refers to what is and for beings/things as a whole as well as our own lives.
Nietzsche does not see the essence of life in “self-preservation”, the struggle for existence, as suggested in Darwinism, but rather as self-transcending enhancement—what we understand as “empowerment” or “will to power”. “Values” are that which supports, furthers and awakens the enhancement of life, “quality of life”. Only what enhances life, and beings as a whole, has value, is a value. “Values” as conditions make “life” dependent on them; the essence of what conditions (“values”) is determined by the essence of that which it is supposed to condition (Life). Enhancement of the kind that is achieved through life is an “over beyond itself” (metaphysics). In enhancement, life projects higher possibilities of itself before itself and moves itself forward into something not yet attained, something first to be achieved, what we call invention, creativity. In these writings we have called this enhancing projecting the technological.
Enhancement as the looking ahead to something higher is called by Nietzsche “perspectivism” and finds its grounding in art. “Values” condition and determine “perspectively” the fundamental conditions of life.
“Valuation” in Nietzsche means that we determine and ascertain the “perspectival” conditions of life that make life what it is i.e. assure its essential enhancement. Nietzsche reverses or inverts the ancient, longstanding human being-in-the-world that is the Platonic-Christian one because it “de-values” the beings at hand in the here and now as what “ought not to be” because they represent a falling away from what “truly” is; the falling away from the Ideas and from God’s will and the divine order of Being. One finds this inversion of Nietzsche’s in his use of Biblical language in his great work Thus Spake Zarathustra. Nietzsche places consequences (what we call social/cultural “contexts”) before deeds as grounds, the perspectival conditions for “life”. While this notion is now commonplace in our thinking, it originates in the thinking of Nietzsche.
But this is not the whole of it. For Nietzsche, we must re-determine the essence of life itself, and the perspectival conditions for this new essence. The conditions that seek for self-preservation (Darwinism) are downgraded to those that basically hinder or even negate life and life’s perspectival enhancement.
If life is merely understood as “self-preservation” in the service of other, later things then life as “life-enhancement” is not provided the ground for the “essence” from which life comes forth and remains rooted: its principles. Life understood as “self-preservation” floats upon a great sea of nihilism, which is “deadly”. Nietzsche’s contrary assertion is that life is “will to power”. The Greeks began Western philosophy and metaphysics by saying “being as a whole is physis” understood as Nature. Nietzsche completes Western metaphysics by stating that “being as a whole is will to power”.
Therefore for Nietzsche, science in general, knowledge in general, is a configuration of will to power. But what is science? What is knowledge? To further explore these questions will help us to understand what it is that Nietzsche means by “will to power”.
Knowledge and knowing were conceived as techne by the Greeks. Will to power is the final dominance of Being “over” beings as a whole, but in the veiled, shadowy form of Being’s abandonment of beings (to use Platonic/Heideggerian terminology).
In other sections of this blog it is written that religion is “what we bow down to or what we look up to”. It is written that the world religion moving forward is and will be technology as it is technology that determines and will determine our way of being in the world in a global context and this will determine who and what we are as human beings within this technological future. It is a fate to which we have chosen to consign ourselves as human beings. The grounding of this technological world-view is the metaphysics that arose in the West and found its flowering in Western European sciences. It was and is through the application of those mastering sciences that the current political powers of the world achieve their positions of power: communism, fascism and capitalism are predicates of the subject technology. Their world-pictures are embraced within and by the technological world-view that has come to be our fate for those who are from the West, and it will soon become the world’s fate.
As someone who grew up in North America, learning the techniques that were made possible through the application of those mastering European sciences dominated the educational system. Though the façade of the North American education is different, the essence of the education is much the same in the IB Diploma program. The flavour of the month in terms of a philosophy of education in my youth came from the American philosopher John Dewey, and the movement of the thinking that established the paradigm for what education was thought to be was Deweyism. Through Dewey it was believed that technology, science and democracy could come together in an ever-widening horizon of progress thought within the evolutionary principles of Darwinism. It rests in the belief that all modification is progress toward the better. Two questions are whether technology and democracy are compatible? Is Darwinism and democracy compatible?
My personal education was an attempt to overcome the paradigm of education given to me in Deweyism having been brought up under the principles that were presented to me in Roman Catholicism: but, as the Spanish proverb says, a scavenging mongrel in a famine claims no merit in scenting food (if any food has, in fact, been scented here). I will attempt to make some points about what occurs when the curriculum in education is based on a false metaphysics and will do so under the rubric of religious knowledge systems for both are ‘religions’ as understood in these writings.
Whatever else may be said about “religious knowledge systems”, they may be defined as the search by human beings for their being-in-the-world as “a good soul”. What is the height for being human? Plato in Book IX of his Republic describes the decline of the society and of the soul in a democracy. Prior to Book IX he had described the good society and the good soul; in Book IX he describes the despot and despotism as the bad soul and the bad society. Neither the ideally good nor the ideally bad society are possible in this world: for Plato, these ideally bad and good politeia are ethical principles of attraction and repulsion: they are matters of choice from which, in our freedom, our actions may be chosen. Just as Macbeth has a choice in determining the manner in which he will become the king he appears to be fated to be, the choices that individuals appear to have seem to rest in the virtues of the individual soul. In the scale of ranking societies and of the individuals within those societies, Plato places democratic society and the democratic soul very low, next to despotism, in fact. Now why does he do this?
Much silly ink has been spilt criticizing Plato’s low view of democracy, not the least of which are Karl Popper’s comments on Plato in The Open Society and Its Enemies. To claim, as Popper does, that Plato does not hold freedom very highly is not to have read Republic very carefully. Why does Plato view the democratic society as just a few steps before despotism? Plato describes democracy as that state in which the lowest common denominator of desire (the appetites) rules and every institution is dominated by this lowest common denominator. By lowest common denominator Plato means that the desires arising from the appetites have taken over the person and have become the ruling principle within the person. Reason is dethroned (to use a Shakespearean analogy that, in one way or another, involves all of his tragic characters), or reason is used simply to simply achieve personal ends. Because of this, according to Plato, democracy must destroy itself because it will degenerate into chaos; people will give themselves over to the immediate claims of appetite; democracy’s full realization is in the culture of mass consumerism. Such consumerism is shown in its flowering in many of the advanced industrial economies of our present age.
The criticisms of Plato with regard to democracy have been based on a misunderstanding/misreading of his understanding of the relation of freedom to liberation. Education and schools have become the servants of expanding economies understood as progress in production and consumption. These expanding economies are dominated by the institution that is called ‘the corporation’. The schools are the places where the young go to be taught techniques that will allow them to enter or remain in the more prosperous parts of their societies, to become what we have viewed in Plato’s cave as ‘the keepers of the fire’. Science only has value in so far as it can be applied and “useful” in its service to human beings. The educational institutions are largely servants of that appetite which is dominant among the clever in that part of our society—namely, greed. This observation is as ubiquitous as to be viewed as common sense.
The future of democracy under the ‘technology of the helmsmen’ brings to light a knowledge problem for thought and action that is difficult to reconcile: how does one reconcile a deep loyalty to the traditions of democracy with the debasement of education that occurs within democracy? Why do I use the negative word ‘debasement’ here?
John Dewey’s philosophy of education received an enthusiastic reception in North America. The society that accepts a very low view of human nature, of what human beings are and their destiny, or that accepts the view of human existence and the purpose of education as the worship of the appetites which Plato describes cannot, or will choose not to, provide the environment in which a true education can flourish. I have seen this in my lifetime through the evolution of the schools of which I have been a member.
A similar environment to North America’s flourished in Britain through the influences of logical positivism and its evolution on British educational systems; Oxford, for example, is the home and birthplace of analytical philosophy, a philosophy grounded in the principle of reason which we have come to understand as the essence of technology. This past influence continues to this day: Britain has recognized and understood its place in the Western empire as handmaid to the master, the USA. This has occurred because North Americans speak (for the most part) English.
Not to recognize this paradox of democracy and true education is simply not to know where one is at, both on the political level (social) and in relation to one’s own self. A solution to the paradox is to eliminate one of its difficulties: one can ignore the tendencies towards debasement or this attention to the appetites and embrace the religion of progress and this is what most of us have chosen to do. We jump on the bandwagon of vulgarity and ride it with varying degrees of success i.e. we become the keepers of the fire in Plato’s analogy of the Cave. One can, possibly, discard all faith in a democratic education: for those of us within the “traditional” religious traditions this is wrong in principle because it commits us to practical action that eliminates the mystery of our religions and ultimately finds expression in will to power (empowerment) and a retreat from the modern world. Of this retreat (and I can speak of this with some confidence at my age), I can only say that we may dislike the world and the human beings in it, but it’s the only one we’ve got—and it is the world in which we are called to act. The only alternative, it seems to me, is that to escape the paradox we must learn to live within its tension.
One can view this tension when one looks at the curriculum and the Learner Profile of the IB. One of the questions that arises when viewing the IB Curriculum and its ordering (hierarchy) along with the Learner Profile as the outcomes of the core learning is that the Learner Profile or the student learner outcomes are divorced from reality. I have tried to show this in the sections on Emotion as a way of knowing. One simply has to listen to the young and their parents to realize what they think education is for and what studies should be undertaken.
It is a sad, miserable sight to look into the eyes of parents when they realize that Johnny is not going to become a doctor because Johnny cannot handle Higher Level Math or Biology. The irony, of course, is that our educational systems, for the most part, are producing the very kind of doctors that we do not want. In the schools where the grounding of the teaching or the ultimate reality is that human beings can be totally understood as animals, where theory is not taught as theory, an hypothesis, a possibility, we are appalled when one of our students cheat in order to meet the standards we require of our doctors; and we stridently try to push the morality or ‘values’ inherent in the Learner Profile. Or we become offended when in our societies we see old medical ethics break down before the growing love of money among our doctors. But should we be? If human beings are simply animals and morality is merely an illusion (the grounds of the metaphysics of Deweyism), then why shouldn’t students cheat; why shouldn’t one try to become an alpha squirrel and amass more nuts than the other squirrels? Why be moral at all? (These are general statements and are not directed at those wonderful human beings involved in Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, many of whom are former IB graduates).
Within Deweyism, the purpose of education is successful living in this world, the Lockean principle of comfortable self-preservation; there is no transcendent end to education (I am not attacking the principle of comfortable self-preservation: there is much to be said for it!). This grounding of the purpose of education does not seem to change much (it appears to me) when ‘successful living’ becomes the ‘empowerment of the self’; this self-empowerment is simply ensuring that one is holding the ‘pointy end of the stick’, and that one is able to fulfill the desires that arise from the appetites and enhance one’s ‘quality of life’. These terms all had their first appearance as concepts in the thinking of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Here I am speaking of those societies where capitalism has reached the advanced stage: those states that see themselves as the ‘mental health states’. I have come to realize that in schools where the best teachers understand that the real is the world of a materialism that is apprehended in space and time, it is foolish to try to impose a set of values which come from a different view of reality. All you do is produce chaos: the clever children see the inconsistency and the stupid are meanly tricked.
The IB Learner Profile says that ‘brotherhood’ matters in the world; we have updated this antiquated term to ‘international-mindedness’. But when the young go out into the world, they learn that ‘brotherhood’ does not bring success in worldly terms (‘networking’ might, but networking is the use of people as means, not ends; and it is certainly not brotherhood/sisterhood, but it could be ‘international mindedness’ in the new glossary) and that if they attempt to put the IB Learner Profile attributes into practice they just get ‘hosed’ (to go back to the David Foster Wallace speech that began these writings). The Learner Profile is quietly understood as just pious nonsense that IB schools put forward, but which no one takes seriously as the grounding for practical action in the world. This is the tension which is spoken of here.
Within the framework of religious knowledge systems, the tsunami that is the new world religion (technology) moves inexorably to cover the world in a profound irrationalism. How is this so? How can something which is based on the principle of reason be irrational at its core? The understanding is that the natural and human sciences are the way we find out what is real (science, after all, is “the theory of the real”) while religion and ‘values’ are concerned with subjective preferences arising largely from emotions. Religion is thought of as a kind of emotional certainty; and faith as a way of knowing is seen as a commitment of the will, or resolute decision. Values are thought of as the right emotional attitudes the democratic society wants to inculcate and these are captured in a recent catch-phrase “emotional intelligence”. Reality is seen as the sensuous world of space and time and truth is the accumulation of “facts” that are transformed into data which become information through the application of the sciences. Historically, reason, both practical and theoretical, was seen as that which apprehends ultimate reality or that reality beyond the merely sensible. Today, the assumption throughout is that values and religion are matters of opinion based on personal preferences and taste and not matters where truth can be discovered by the proper use of the mind. But this begs the question: what is the proper use of the mind?