Nietzsche an Interpretation, Criticism and Response.

I sold a copy of my book to my friend Alex, who is unsympathetic to Nietzsche,
and something of a Hegelian. Here is what he said in criticism and my replies.

A A few thoughts on reading Nietzsche An Interpretation.
First a few minor points typos style etc.
48) “few —-would presumably deny”.
JM Presumably….few would deny
A 78) “much conscious”
JM stet
A 83) “too mach stress”
JM much

A 96) “mediocre stock it”

JM delete “it”
A 129) far from to deny
JM stet
A These are thoughts I had in so far as I understood “An Interpretation”.
8) “if we accept etc.” A lot hangs on the “IF”. Seems to literally beg the question.
JM Here is what I wrote:-
A If we accept that Nietzsche’s main point about universal will to power has been made, it can be hard to see how it could be rationally rejected. Anything incompatible with it would come across as dogmatism or superstition. When any point of view or idea is upheld alternatives are suppressed. We may say there is always at least an implicit will to do this. Once stated this is an obvious but far from a trivial point.
JM With the thought I am trying to express here I do not mean to beg any questions. I state explicitly what I consider the will to power idea to be about. This is what I say about alternatives being suppressed. I see Nietzsche’s point as to present a way of looking that sees every assertion as involving the suppression of other possibilities. It is a perspective or an “as if”. What would it mean to say that such suppression is not a feature of every assertion? If this point has been made, it seems it could only be contradicted by saying that there is some thought which does not involve the suppression of other possibilities. If that is not dogmatic assertion, what is it? Or is it the idea of an implicit will which is denied?
So what question do you think I have begged? I could understand if you thought this trivial. Another line of argument would be that his point cannot be properly made, that it is incoherent. Perhaps that is what you mean by saying a lot hangs on the ‘if’. You yourself read it as something else.
A 24) “compatible with fascism” But the leader e.g. Hitler could believe in the will to power and be a fascist. You are only undermining the followers right to subscribe to the will to power.
JM Yes that is all I pretend to do. Hitler himself would not be a believer in fascism in this sense.
A Similarly Nietzsche’s followers.
JM If he has that sort of follower, possibly.
A 37) One person’s idea e.g. will to power is another’s faith or dogmatic assertion.
JM I don’t accept it is as simple as this. I allow that Nietzsche himself has been accused of dogmatism. Your statement would seem to undermine any pretence at objectivity. Different philosophers define these terms differently. I try to explain how Nietzsche’s ideas differed from those of his opponents.
A 39) “progress is to ensue” we need some criteria if we are to make any head way here.
JM I don’t agree that is important here. Nietzsche is not at this point pushing a controversial idea of progress.
A As you say p77 they are not “necessarily better”
40) “A Darwinian--the consolation is” I am not aware that Darwin (or e.g. Dawkins) was in the business of consolation.
JM There is an optimistic tone to much of Darwin’s writing.
A 44) What if N’s position becomes orthodox?
JM Then a whole new set of questions would arise.
A “N’s whole philosophy- defence of his right.” What of the right’s of others?
JM That is for those other people to defend. If his own right has been established a very great deal has been achieved. The right of one does not depend on the right of all.
A 45) The whole of nature motivated by a will to power.
JM Those are not my exact words.
A The comparison here with Darwin is specious. Struggle and survival are reasonably unproblematic. Not so motivation, will and power. This is even more problematic than Marx’s “all history is a history of class struggle”.
JM Not really. In Darwin this is metaphorical too. I am putting Nietzsche’s theory on the same level as Darwin’s. You assuming that I am reifying when I am not. Motivation and struggle are all metaphorical terms in both Nietzsche and Darwin.
A 48) Ad hominem attack on Freud.
JM Mentioning that he was a coke fiend? Do you think the objective basis of his thought stands up so well that that is irrelevant?
A 67) “as long as life is ascending” As Marx wrote to Engels Darwin Darwin had effectively put an end to teleology. Not so it seems. On p76 you realize this.
JM It doesn’t have to have anything to do with teleology. Any particular concept of progress or decadence can be defined.
A 69) “wrong people in charge” Criteria.
JM Nietzsche’s judgement. There is no need to demand criteria at every point.
A “weak and mediocre to mould” How strong are the strong to allow this to happen?
JM It’s a problematic concept. Collectively the strong are weak; this is a fundamental point with Nietzsche. You may not like his concept of individual strength but he has one, and reading him will clarify what it is.
A “destined to die will do so” What does this mean?
JM A tautology. What I am trying to say is that decadence doesn’t matter that much under the normal conditions that have prevailed throughout history.
A 71) Paragraph “It is hard to believe etc”. An element of protesting too much. Reminds me of the Life of Brian sketch United Front of Judea etc.
JM I’m not speaking directly of Freud here, only of this version of psychoanalysis put forward by Daniel Pick. His ideas are nothing to do with me, they are completely antagonistic, neither Nietzschean nor anything like it. Do you really think I think these ideas have much of future?
A 72) “struggle of all against all” I’m not sure who is supposed to be proposing this but is sounds very Hobbesian to me.
JM It is Hobbesian, but Nietzsche gives it a new twist.
A 73) “progress of the species” Darwin surely didn’t subscribe to this?
JM Yes he did.
A 74 “select specimens” Criteria.
JM This is to be gathered from the whole context. Such a Hegelian as you should hardly insist on this. All you have to do is to get what he means and decide whether or not you agree with it.
A 77) “elitist assumptions” Does success in the struggle for power not have elitist connotations?
JM How?
A “invisible hand” Smith used this metaphorically, He wrote “as if”.
JM I would not mean to give the metaphor any more meaning than that.
A To Smith his economics was an appendage to his Moral Philosophy. He was scathing of industrialists who conspired to raise prices. He was acutely aware that the “free market” needed to be controlled by Government.
JM That’s as may be. “Get certain basics” right I said. The invisible hand concept has some meaning though.
A It is ironic that the excesses of globalization and the banking sector are presumably to be seen as resulting from people exercising their will to power.
JM The will to power is so wide as to include everybody doing everything. That includes people who want to curb the banks too.
A 83) “to a modern mind-shocking Even if true so what .
JM It’s just an observation. This distinguished Nietzschean is at his most shocking when he diverges from Nietzsche.
A Philosophy should not be in the business of not shocking people. Dawkins “disagreeable overtones p. 82, falls into the same trap.
JM What trap? I’m discussing other people’s objections to Darwinism, not my own.
A Similarly p. 85 “one most wants”. Why?
JM I suppose one might not want to . At this point I am treating Nietzsche’s tastes sympathetically. -
We have to address our readership as it is.
A 84) “Talk about struggle, will etc” Struggle and will are not at the same level of explanation.
JM How not? Both are metaphorical. Will for Nietzsche is not an inner experience.
A N was looking for objective backing. Darwin provided a wealth of backing for his theory and was able to because it was a good explanation for the natural world. If N’s theory is to have the same status it needs a similar backing. This is slow in coming. I wonder why.
JM Reactionary religious prejudice?
A Huxley is supposed to have said “how stupid of me not to have thought of that”. Has anyone ever thought the same thing about will to power?
JM Funny then that Huxley didn’t make all that much of in his exposition of Darwin.
A Darwin’s theory was simply the best explanation of a whole wealth of empirical data.
89) “strength by mediocrity” Criteria. It’s difficult to justify this without teleology creeping in.
JM ?
A 90) “one should begin” Why? This is the question begging base on which the whole flimsy structure is raised.
JM Because this is the perspective that uncovers the undeniable facts.
A 92) “sexual instinct” Does this argument apply to flowers, plants etc?
JM Its application to flowers would not be very illuminating. Nietzsche is thinking of humans.
A “I have will etc” do flowers etc? Cf p93 on anthropomorphic metaphor.
JM Depends if we want to extend the metaphor.
A “The idea of a will etc level of the individual” but p. 93 a gene with will to power. But “a gene can have no purpose”
JM It’s all metaphor.
A 95) “more compelling” If they are the case, yes.
JM Why?
A “superior specimens” Criteria.
“Perhaps there is no etc” Strike out the perhaps.

JM That would make it rather categorical.
A Dawkins “smugness” ad hominem.
JM 'In ultimate matters the argumetnum ad hominem is the only argument possible and indeed the only one in which anyone much believes' ( Frederic B Fitch, quoting WM Urban, quoting Lowes Dickinson).
A 96) “dominate strength” One could argue that if something is dominant then it is stronger than the thing it dominates. This is the argument of a pathetic individual trying to create an ideal world where he is recognised as king.
JM Sometimes. It may also be an accurate observation of certain features pf reality.
A 97) “trusting in nature”. Trusting it to do what.
JM Medium term stability. We do not need to worry too much about degeneration
A Tell that to the dinosaurs.
JM That’s long term.
A 98) Smith wrote “as if an invisible hand”. He didn’t reify it.
JM Same applies here.
A 103) “instinctual basis of life” What are instincts is an empirical question. You don’t want to go down there. Since the C19 biology, psychology neuro science etc have left N etc far behind. This relevant to the claim on p147 “look for confirmation etc”.
JM How have they left him far behind? I don’t accept they have refuted him. If these perspectives these sciences start out from are different from Nietzsche’s values may be involved. If they used it they might be expected to uncover some more relevant facts.
Whether it is hedonism, pessimism, utilitarianism, or eudaemonism - all these ways of thinking which measure the value of things according to pleasure and pain, i.e. according to subsidiary circumstances and secondary considerations, are superficial ways of thinking. (Beyond Good and Evil §225)

A 105) Ad hominem attack of Socrates.

JM Nietzsche’s.

A He might still be right.
JM What does it or would it mean to be right here?
A We can all play that game some might say that N’s philosophy is based on the ravings of a mad man.
JM I dealt with that in my Nordau chapter.
A 108) “vice common etc. “Could this apply to the will to power?
JM No.
A 125) “original argument, his claim” A claim is not an argument.
JM It is associated with it.
A 126) “In a healthy state” Tautology. Define healthy.

JM One in which there is no opposition between desire and interest. Tautology as you say. An illuminating tautology though, because it suggests how we should use the word “healthy”.
A 128) “Hence there are no gods” I like the hence.

JM It’s a famous argument.

A “People dispute etc” Or both.

JM ok
A 130) “Every Greek etc” Really.

JM Slight exaggeration. Nietzsche’s.
A 133)”N is hopeful etc” Hope on.
JM You’re not then?
A 134) “N’s argument etc” This may be his attraction to many.
JM That I concede.

A 148)”not to be overthrown etc.” If not single examples how many? See Popper.

JM Poellner came up with a supposed one. Any plausible counterexample could be easily explained away.
A All theories require a degree of rhetorical plausibility. N’s theory is plausible to those determined to be persuaded. On p92 you strain at the gnat of Dawkin’s metaphor but are happy to swallow the camel of a will to power lurking, presumably, in the Big Bang which expresses itself in everything.
JM That is not really what I swallow.
As I understand it will to power is not a metaphysical thesis but a perspective, or an ‘as if’. It is not a thesis to be proved. It is a way of looking that reveals facts that other perspectives deny or conceal. Once they have been clearly revealed they remain facts whatever perspective you adopt. It doesn’t matter whether or not you accept it, the only point is whether it can help you to see these realities.
As for extending the perspective to the whole of nature, will to power is neither a metaphysical dogma nor an attempt to personify nature. As with human psychology the object is to reveal facts that might otherwise be denied or concealed. Any serious argument would be around these, not Nietzsche’s method for discovering them. I think it can be illuminating to see everything as will to power in that this includes all the assumptions behind our claims to knowledge.
A 49) Demoralising to whom?
JM Understand what N means by morality of the weak and you will understand how, when and in what respect it demoralises. To him and those who think like him of course.
A 151) “We have to be selective etc” This suggests to me that what we have is a farrago out of which various commentators can create, with equal justification, whatever fits in with their preconceptions.
JM But is what is found in his original coherent and creative? Is there any powerful original idea here? Recall what Schopenhauer said about Hegel.
A 163) “The collectivist v the individualist etc” This is pre Hegel . Why must it be one or the other?
JM Because, pace Hegel, they are in contradiction with each other. Hegel does not reconcile the two, he asserts collectivism over individualism, but he claims that individualism is allowed for. Hegel’s position is detestable to what I would call the individualist.
A 189) Dogmatism of will to power.
JM See comment on p 8. If you claim it is dogmatic, you would need to say what alternative view you would put in its place, and how it is wrong.
A 229) “political correctness” See p83 on “shocking”.
JM Political correctness of the typical modern academic is surely an uncontroversial fact. I give just a simple description. Same with “shocking” on p83.
Always you have taken me as having a much cruder position than I have. I don’t know how much this is to with my failure to communicate properly. I do not reify in the way you assume I do. I hope your comments can help me m

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