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Nietzsche’s philosophy, our Reality and The Matrix.

‘Everyone being allowed to learn to read, ruineth in the long run not only writing but also thinking.’ (Nietzsche, Zarathustra 36)

Throughout my adult life Friedrich Nietzsche is one of those names, those giants not only of philosophy but of the history of thought in general, which has always loomed large in my consciousness, and consequently my reading. I have, however, never formally studied his works and so have largely attempted to navigate his philosophy under my own steam. Further, while glancing at the three thin volumes that have made their way onto my shelves over the years, Beyond Good and Evil, Thus Spoke Zarathustra and A Nietzsche Reader, I can safely say while I may have snatched glimpses of what Nietzsche was attempting to say I never really formed any complete sense of his central theories. I suspected that wasn’t going to change.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached his essay ‘On the Use and Disadvantages of History for Life’, when it appeared on the reading list for the MA in Modernities. Once again I felt I would simply be throwing myself into the obtuse text only to emerge the other side more intrigued, more confused and none the wiser. However, something different happened this time. On this occasion I found myself, not unlike Archimedes in his bathtub, suddenly faced with a moment of revelation, of some understanding, but this, of course, ushered in a whole other set of problems.

In short, I found Nietzsche’s writing in this essay, with its forceful spirit and skilful use of allusion, both invigorating and persuasive. How does one proceed however when you find yourself agreeing with ideas and sentiments which many modern scholars find repugnant? As always with his work it is difficult to be completely sure you have understood anything correctly and while it is anti-democratic, individualistic and can indeed be accused of being nihilistic, I can’t help but find it both ennobling and freeing, placing the responsibilities for personal advancement firmly in the hands of the individual. A passage such as;

…one giant calls to another across the desert intervals of time and, undisturbed
by the excited chattering dwarves who creep about beneath them, the exalted spirit-dialogue goes on. (Meditations 111)

to be blunt, simply set my spine tingling.

Maybe the fault is with my own personal makeup, be it my formative years spent in the military or my love of Tolkien and Game of Thrones, which leaves me with a wish to ceaselessly move forward towards the almost mythical Übermensch, or at least to have the opportunity to be ruled over by one, to serve such a leader. Equally it could be a result of having grown tired of the present state of Irish society, where every weekday afternoon the nation lines up to air their woes on the Joe Duffy Radio Show. Their dire situation is always the fault of the banks, the government, the county council. They themselves never bear any responsibility for their predicament. Or could it be that in much of his writing Friedrich Nietzsche is simply right, or as close to right as it is possible for any man to come. All men are not equal, some are destined to be slaves and others masters, the strong will rule the weak and God is really dead. I will have to continue reading to see and maybe discover my own little truth along the way.

Work Citied

Nietzsche, Friedrich. A Nietzsche Reader. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale. London: Penguin Classics. 1979. Print.

—. Beyond Good and Evil. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale. London: Penguin Classics. 1990. Print.

—. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Trans. Thomas Common. Herefordshire: Wordsworth Editions. 1997. Print.

—. “On the Use and Disadvantages of History for Life.” Untimely Meditations. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1997. 57-123. Print.

Nietzsche’s philosophy, our Reality and The Matrix. Youtube.com. 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 5 Oct. 2012.

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