I lunched today with our Great Leader Perry, and one of the things he mentioned was how he doesn’t care for ploughing through the collected works of the Great Philosophers (something to do with preferring simply to find out “the truth”), and prefers instead to read … and I can’t remember the exact phrase he used, but the one I use in such circumstances is ‘Bluffers Guide’. I share Perry’s tastes in this matter. However, like him, I do want to know approximately what these people did say.
I was thus particularly pleased to encounter this posting, by Friedrich Blowhard. It is number three in a series of postings he has done about Friedrich Nietzsche. (Something tells me that there may not be many more in this series of potted guides.) But since Friedrich B starts Nietzsche posting number three with a brief summary of postings number one and two, I reckon that means we can skip postings one and two and just read three.
There is a definite air of challenge in what Friedrich B says to the likes of us, especially in these paragraphs:
But by his example in putting forward the Over-man as the ‘meaning of the earth’ (whether you agree with him or find this ludicrous) Nietzsche makes it clear how intellectually flaccid it is to argue for or against, say, a social policy on the basis of abstractions like ‘liberty,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘fairness.’ I have nothing against such concepts, but clearly they are pretty vague and toothless in the absence of an explicit goal or a stated purpose. I mean, who really thinks they are here on earth to pursue perfect liberty, perfect justice or perfect fairness as ends in themselves? Aren’t liberty, justice and fairness valuable only as means to some end? But can we really be surprised that the average American ends up living a life of ‘mindless consumerism’ when he or she can’t state a social goal more profound than ‘eliminating injustice’?
But I share Nietzsche’s skepticism about how long an era that remains agnostic about any higher or supreme goal can stave off the hunger pangs of meaning. As evidence of this, I would point to the rise of movements like sociobiology, and perhaps the aesthetic theories like those of Christopher Alexander. Although Sociobiology, for example, is too shy to come right out and admit that it nurtures such an ur-goal in its bosom, I think it is clearly implied: that we should live so as to maximize the odds that our descendants will survive and thrive. And since our biological ‘nature’ is the only possible basis for profound human ‘meaning,’ we must come to terms with it, if only in order to survive long enough to accomplish our goal.
These philosophies seem to me to the first signs of what I would term the emergence of post-nihilistic ‘meaning,’ but I doubt they will be the last. I look forward to seeing others arise as well. Let me announce my formula: Nihilism is dead.
Heh. Nice little joke that. But after that laugh dies away, I am left with the definite feeling that I am being got at.
My problem is that I think that the Nietzsche described by Friedrich (Blowhard), who identifies the twentieth century as the time when God died and the God gap got filled by a succession of philosophical/political catastrophes, is pretty much correct. However, I am also part of the God is Dead tendency myself. In the words of Michael Caine in The Last Valley (a movie which, it so happens, Perry and I share a taste for): “There is no God! It’s a legend!” My sentiments exactly. And if you combine that with “You can’t get an ought from an is!”, you get that pretty much all ‘meanings’ you get nowadays are actually meaningless, other than the ones I make for myself.
Okay, well that’s something for you all to think about. If your tastes are more in the direction of cool gadgets, Perry also allowed me to take a photograph of this.