SEP: Nietzsche's Moral and Political Philosophy
"Thus, what unifies Nietzsche's seemingly disparate critical remarks — about altruism, happiness, pity, equality, Kantian respect for persons, utilitarianism, etc. — is that he thinks a culture in which such norms prevail as morality will be a culture which eliminates the conditions for the realization of human excellence — the latter requiring, on Nietzsche's view, concern with the self, suffering, a certain stoic indifference, a sense of hierarchy and difference, and the like. [...] "Are we not, with this tremendous objective of obliterating all the sharp edges of life, well on the way to turning mankind into sand? Sand! Small, soft, round, unending sand! Is that your ideal, you heralds of the sympathetic affections?" "
"the puzzle is this: why should one think the general moral prescription to alleviate suffering must stop the suffering of great artists, hence stop them from producing great art? One might think, in fact, that M[orality in the]P[ejorative]S[ense] could perfectly well allow an exception for those individuals whose own suffering is essential to the realization of central life projects. After all, a prescription to alleviate suffering reflects a concern with promoting well-being, under some construal. But if some individuals — nascent Goethes, Nietzsches, and other geniuses — would be better off with a good dose of suffering, then why would MPS recommend otherwise? Why, then, should it be the case that MPS “harms” potentially “higher men”?
This seems the natural philosophical question to ask, yet it also involves an important misunderstanding of Nietzsche's critique, which is not, we might say, about philosophical theory but rather about the real nature of culture. [...] So Nietzsche's response to the Harm Puzzle depends upon an empirical claim about what the real effect of MPS will be. The normative component of MPS is harmful not because its specific prescriptions and proscriptions explicitly require potentially excellent persons to forego that which allows them to flourish (the claim is not that a conscientious application of the “theory” of MPS is incompatible with the flourishing of higher men); rather, the normative component of MPS is harmful because in practice, and especially because of MPS's commitment to the idea that one morality is appropriate for all, potentially higher men will come to adopt such values as applicable to themselves as well. Thus, the normative component of MPS is harmful because, in reality, it will have the effect of leading potentially excellent persons to value what is in fact not conducive to their flourishing and devalue what is in fact essential to it."
"The two leading candidates are that Nietzsche embraces a kind of virtue ethics and that he is a kind of perfectionist. [...] Any account of Nietzsche's “positive ethics” confronts a worry that Nietzsche's naturalistic conception of persons and agency — and, in particular, his conception of persons as constituted by non-conscious type-facts that determine their actions — makes it unclear how Nietzsche could have a philosophical ethics in any conventional sense. If, as Nietzsche, says, we face “a brazen wall of fate; we are in prison, we can only dream ourselves free, not make ourselves free”; if “the single human being is a piece of fatum from the front and from the rear, one law more, one necessity more for all that is yet to come and to be”; if (as he says more hyperbolically in Nachlass material) “the voluntary is absolutely lacking…everything has been directed along certain lines from the beginning”; if (again hyperbolically) “one will become only that which one is (in spite of all: that means education, instruction, milieu, chance, and accident)”; then it is hardly surprising that Nietzsche should also say, “A man as he ought to be: that sounds to us as insipid as ‘a tree as he ought to be’”. [...] he also thinks genuine virtues are specific to individuals, meaning that there will be nothing general for the theorist to say about them [...] [but] there would be no point in undertaking a “revaluation of values” if such a revaluation would not have [causal] consequences for, e.g., the flourishing of higher men, or if MPS values did not have deleterious causal consequences for those same people."
""To that end [of creating ourselves] we must become the best learners and discoverers of everything that is lawful and necessary in the world: we must become physicists in order to be creators in this sense — while hitherto all valuations and ideals have been based on ignorance of physics … . Therefore: long live physics! [...] …our opinions, valuations, and tables of what is good certainly belong among the most powerful levers in the involved mechanism of our actions, but…in any particular case the law of their mechanism is indemonstrable" This observation leads Nietzsche immediately to the suggestion that we should create “our own new tables of what is good,” presumably with an eye to effecting the causal determination of our actions in new ways. However, we need help from science to identify the lawful patterns into which values and actions fall; even if the mechanisms are indemonstrable, science may at least reveal the patterns of value-inputs and action-outputs. So to create one's self, “in this sense,” is to accept Nietzsche's basically deterministic picture of action — as determined by sub-conscious causes (type-facts) that are hard to identify — but to use science to help identify those “values” which figure in the causal determination of action in new, but predictable, ways."
"he assigns great intrinsic value to the flourishing of higher men[...]: the higher type is solitary and deal[s] with others only instrumentally, pursues a “unifying project,” is healthy, is life-affirming, and practices self-reverence."
"[He] constantly contradicts the great majority not through words but through deeds" “A great man…is incommunicable: he finds it tasteless to be familiar…”. More than that, though, the higher type deals with others, when he has to, in a rather distinctive way: “A human being who strives for something great considers everyone he meets on his way either as a means or as a delay and obstacle — or as a temporary resting place”. Thus, “a great man…wants no ‘sympathetic’ heart, but servants, tools; in his intercourse with men, he is always intent on making something out of them”
[...] he is consumed by his work, his responsibilities, his projects. “What is noble? [...] That one instinctively seeks heavy responsibilities” "[the rule of a higher man] prepares single qualities and fitnesses that will one day prove to be indispensable as means toward a whole — one by one, it trains all subservient capacities before giving any hint of the dominant task, “goal,” “aim,” or “meaning.” "
Third, higher types are essentially healthy and resilient. "[...] it was during the years of my lowest vitality that I ceased to be a pessimist; the instinct of self-restoration forbade me a philosophy of poverty and discouragement”
[Fourth:] for only under the color of MPS does life appear to lack value. “the ideal of the most high-spirited, alive, and world-affirming human being who has not only come to terms and learned to get along with whatever was and is, but who wants to have what was and is repeated into all eternity” [...] "what is necessary does not hurt me"
[Fifth:] "The noble soul has reverence for itself” to revere and respect oneself as one might a god, the ability to set his own standard of valuation
the characteristics of the higher type so-described are precisely those that lend themselves to artistic and creative work."