I am the law, or so he keeps saying

Friedrich Nietzsche summarizes the development of Western philosophy, that is to say according to how we think, in ‘How the “True World” Finally Became a Fiction: History of an Error’, as contained in ‘Twilight of the Idols: Or, How to Philosophize with the Hammer’. This is a fascinating … what to call it … a summary, in which you first need to realize that what’s dubbed as the ‘true world’ is not the true world. What’s referred to here as the ‘true world’ is this, supposed, other world that is, somehow, the ‘true world’ and the world that you are dealing with, right here, right now, the ‘apparent world’, as he (25) goes on to refer to it, is thus ‘false world’, a poor copy or an illusion of the ‘true world’.

I think there are two things that are worth making note of, before reading his … summary … of the development of western philosophy. Firstly, the subtitle refers to an error. What error? Well, in short, that error is Plato. Secondly, he is the starting point of that error and no matter what you do, you can’t fix it, because you’ve started from that error. So, spoiler alert, this is not going to end well.

So, in summary, of this … summary, there are six stages to this, of which, I believe, we are largely stuck in the first and the second stages. I mean, come on, no one reads this type of stuff. They probably didn’t back in the day, when Nietzsche was around (nor before, for that matter), and they for sure don’t read this type of stuff now. Okay, okay, there are a lot of academics who do read such, as well as all kinds of enthusiasts who also read such. But, by and large, I’m willing to bet a lot of monopoly money on that most people are stuck on stages one and two, more like on two, personally, but acknowledging one.

What do I mean? Well, so, he (23-24) lists these six stages. Firstly, there’s the ancient Greek stage, marked by Platonism. I think I’ve worn the kid gloves with Plato, so far, despite railing on him, like, in almost every essay I’ve written, considering what Nietzsche (23) has to say about him:

“Oldest form of the idea, relatively clever, simple, convincing. Paraphrase of the assertion, ‘I Plato, am the truth.’”

Yeah, that’s Plato for you, alright. I don’t know if it is even possible to express that in a better way. It is so to the point. I mean, that’s like every priest there is. He (23) doesn’t mention the priest here, even though that’s his concept, but I’d say this is the best definition for it. He (23) also mentions that:

“The true world, attainable for the wise, the devout, the virtuous—they live in it, they are it.”

That’s the priest, alright. I mean, they don’t really know the truth, but it is clever of them to claim that they do. When you think of it, for a moment, what is wise, what is devout, what is virtuous, and, most importantly, according to whom? Who is the judge of that? Well, the priest is. Duh! Obviously! Ultimately, the priest is the truth, you dummy! That’s why the priest knows what’s what and there’s, obviously, no need to question that.

He (89) further comments this in ‘The Will to Power’, noting that not knowing the truth, but claiming to know it, i.e., lying, is just a means to an end for the priest. To be clear, Plato is not the only priest for him (89), but being widely influential, he is a notable priest:

“[P]hilosophers too, as soon as, with priestly ulterior motives, they form the intention of taking in hand the direction of mankind, at once also arrogate to themselves the right to tell lies: Plato before all.”

Ouch! If there’s one thing that’s for sure, he did not have a lot of love for Plato. I guess he could respect Plato, in certain respects, for what he achieved, but, yeah, he didn’t have any love for Plato. It’s the same with me, if you haven’t read my essays. I can recognize his influence on western thinking and be like wow, but, yeah I’m not a fan. I don’t approve.

What’s the deal with priests then? Well, without getting into too much detail, as Nietzsche has a lot to say about them, much more than I want to cover in this, he (87-88) defines them as “the actors of something superhuman which they have to make easily perceptible” and as people who present themselves as role models. He (88) adds to this that they present themselves as irreplaceable. By this he (88) means unlike the sovereign who is occasionally replaced by another sovereign, when, for example, the sovereign falls from a balcony or down the stairs, the priests remain. In my view, they make themselves irreplaceable by limiting the number of people who can be priests, who can then be of use to the sovereign. When the sovereign is replaced by another sovereign, the priests let the new sovereign know that their services are indispensable.

He (88) further comments on what they have, their means, and that that results in, what the consequences are. Firstly, they present themselves as the only people possess knowledge. Secondly, they alone are virtuous, by which he means that they know how to use that knowledge, because they have that connection with a high power, whereas others don’t have that connection. Thirdly, it’s that connection that allows them, and only them, to know the truth. Fourthly, the truth is also what’s good for people. In summary, combining all this, if you want to know what’s what and if you want to live a good life, you must consult the priest.

Who can then be a priest? Well, to be clear, as I’ve mentioned in some of my previous essays, anyone can be a priest, in the sense they act in that way, claiming the exclusive right to the truth and acting as if they are irreplaceable. You can have priests who are priests, but that’s beside the point.

I’ve mentioned this before, but academics are also often priests. There’s certainly no shortage of people who taken it upon themselves to explain how people should live, according to science, of course, which is really just them telling others how others should live like they do. They also like to point out how they have an academic title, how they are professor this or doctor that, just to remind you that while anyone can become like they are, if they make their way through the academic system, living like they do, they know the truth. Oh, and don’t you dare challenge them, their authority, because that is just a heathen talking or, worse, a heretic talking from within the academia. Now, of course, not all academics are priests. What I’m saying is that you’d be surprised how many of them are priests and how many of them strive to be come priests.

Not all philosophers are priests, but, as he (89) points out, they can be priests. He (89) notes that they are ” further development of the priestly type” and that they have “the heritage of the priest in [their] blood”. He (89) adds that they share the same playing field, rivaling one another and use the same means, the ones I just covered, in order to do gain “supreme authority”, which has those consequences, as I already mentioned.

Now, you might be wondering how on earth they manage to pull this off? Well, as he (89) points out, they certainly lack physical power, so they can’t just make people do their bidding with brute force, you know, like a sovereign could. But, as he (89) goes on to add, they have an ace up the sleeve. They have recourse to a higher power, a higher authority, that they, supposedly, only have access to. A sovereign’s authority is based on physical power. The sovereign can, of course, attribute that to a higher power, but it is the priest who has that connection with the higher power and therefore the priest act as indispensable mediator, serving both the higher power and everyone else, as he (89) points out. In contemporary terms, they are the middlemen (sexism intended, because something tells me that they are, typically, men): good for nothing, on their own, but supposedly indispensable when it comes to connecting this to that, whatever that may be. What’s particularly clever about this (as if what’s been covered so far isn’t pretty clever, you gotta give them that) is that they double up reality, creating this higher authority, to which everyone else must believe in and submit to, followed by mainting that they, and only they, have exclusive access to it, as he (89) points out. He (89) doesn’t explain this in this way, but, if you ask me, if you challenge this arrangement, the system they’ve created for themselves, to have that supreme authority, you are branded either as a heathen, an unbeliever, someone who threatens the system from the outside (not that great a concern), or, worse, as a heretic, someone who appears to believe, but in a wrong or unorthodox way, someone who threatens the system from the system from the inside (is a major concern, which is clear from how heresies are typically deal with very heavy handedly).

What about the second stage? Well, I’d say it’s more of the same, but with a twist. We could say that if Plato was a priest, he was, at best, an amateur. Why? Well, the twist here is to not claim that you are the truth, the embodiment of it, or the like, just because, as that’s a bit … questionable, but rather that it is something that can be attained by not only the priests, but by anyone. That may seem like democratizing it, but, well, I don’t think it is. It has this sense of duty attached to it that Plato didn’t have. Plato doesn’t really hide it, how highly he thinks of himself. In Nietzsche’s (23) words in ‘How the “True World” Finally Became a Fiction: History of an Error’:

“The progress of the idea: it becomes more refined, more devious, more mystifying—it becomes woman, it becomes Christian…”

To be clear, I have no idea what he means by it becoming a woman. If that’s some sort of sexism, don’t look at me. What interests me, here, is how Christianity piggybacks on Plato. If Plato was clever, or, “relatively clever”, it is simplicity, which then makes it convincing. This is Plato 2.0. Plato might not approve, as I think he’d think it’s silly that just about anyone could be like him, that is to say to be the truth, but it’s not like he gets a say here. Nietzsche (23) further elaborates this:

“The true world, unattainable for now, but promised to the wise, the devout, the virtuous (‘to the sinner who does penance’).”

This promise that is mentioned here makes me think of Aristotle. To be more specific, I think it’s Christianity that takes cues from him (and other Platonists). What I mean is that it’s no longer Plato, the one who knows the truth just by being Plato, the wise guy, but rather the promise of being a wise guy, like Plato. It’s now what you could be, inasmuch as you strive to be wise, devout and virtuous. Conversely, if you fail at that, if it remains unattainable, it’s because you haven’t embodied the life of a devout Christian. That’s on you. The upside is, of course, that you could do that. It’s never too late, or so it is claimed. All you got to do is to accept the judgment, to do your penance. Oh, and keep doing that, until you’re dead!

He (90) further comments on this in ‘The Will to Power’, noting that it’s all these promises that makes this second stage like that first stage but on steroids. If you think Plato was clever, you are in for a treat, as he (90) points out:

“”[S]ince they are clever and thoughtful people[,] they are able to promise a host of effects, conditioned, of course, by prayers or the strict observance of their laws.”

So, as I already pointed out, the priests cling to their indispensable role as the intermediaries, but, at the same time, they fool people into thinking that they could also be like them. Also, as he (88, 90) points, it’s exactly like that, you need to be like them and definitely not have any own ideas that you’ve come up with through “experience or empiricism”.

What’s the point then? Well, in summary, the priest comes up with something, whatever that may be, and claims that it’s what’s good, by simply being that way, and everything else, whatever that may be, is evil, as indicated by him (90). That means that anything that’s considered “‘useful’, ‘harmful,’ ‘life-promoting,’ ‘life-retarding'” is set aside as unimportant, as clarified by (90). In other words, instead of thinking that’s good or bad for you, or for someone else, you must submit to taking their word, to think something is always good or always bad, i.e., evil, because … it is just that way, somehow. You are then judged accordingly and you are also expected to judge yourself accordingly, to have a conscience (a moral compass) that directs you to the given good and prevents you from straying to the given bad, i.e., the evil, as he (90) goes on to add. He (90) also puts this another way, noting that when we examine something, we no longer think in terms of the consequences, what’s good and/or bad, and to whom it’s good and/or bad, but in terms of what the intention was and to what defree it conformed to what is held as the law, what’s simply taken as the good and the evil.

You may now wonder how that works. Well, that’s the bizarre thing: it’s all topsy-turvy, upside-down. As he (90-91) goes on to explain this, the priest is the one who claims to have that connection to a higher power that judges you and punishes you accordigly if you don’t live the way the priest tells you. He (90-91) is more elaborate about this, but the gist is that the priest comes up with the laws according to which you should live, dupes you into believing it, promises that you’ll be rewarded, later on, but, the point being, not now, of course (as that’d be too convenient, and costly really, as it’s not like they want to share the privileges that they still get to have, now, not later on), and guilt trips you to live according to those laws. So, if you’ve ever wondered why I keep objecting to priests, there you go. He (91) nails it:

“[It is about a] dependence upon a priestly guardianship, upon pedantic formalities which claim to express a divine will; the implanting of a ‘conscience’ which sets a false knowing in place of testing and experiment; as if what should be done and what left undone had already been determined—a kind of castration of the seeking and forward-striving spirit[.]”

Note how he points out that there are all the strict formalities. Just think of the academic style of writing, with its pedantic formality. Sure you can write that way, but it is so, so mind numbing. It’s really just self-serving. It’s something that you need to be able to pull off, just to be accepted. Now add to that how it’s not just about style, formatily vs. informality, but also about grammar. You need to write in proper standard English (or whatever language it is), because, well, that’s the law, that’s what the priests say that some higher power expects of us. Anyway, he (91) continues:

[I]in summa; the worst mutilation of [hu]man that can be imagined presented as the ‘good [hu]man.'”

So, in other words, anything that’s lively or vital, is reduced to an adherence to whatever the priests came up with: a standard, a norm or a law. Any kind of inadherence to it is then viewed as non-standard, abnormal or against the law. Simply put, the priest seeks to control you in a way that makes you do all the work, as he (91) points out:

“[C]onformity with the law itself counts as an end, as the highest end, life no longer has any problems[.]”

Remember that the priest doesn’t have any physical power to back up its authority, so it must dupe you with this higher power. Now, of course, that higher power is just the priest all along. It’s a ruse in which everything is turned upside down, as he (91) goes on to add:

“[T]he whole conception of the world is polluted by the idea of punishment; with the object of representing the priestly life as the non plus ultra of perfection, life itself is transformed into a defamation and pollution of life[.]”

It probably simplifies life, yes, no need to think for yourself, but you are thus living according to what someone else, some priest, thinks is good for you, without any consideration whether that is good for you or not, because, well, the priest really only cares about retaining its status. As I’ve pointed out numerous times already, they do what they do and say what they say because it’s a sweet gig. I think he (91) nails it with this one:

“[T]he concept ‘God’ [that higher power] represents a turning away from life, a critique of life, even a contempt for it; truth is transformed into the priestly lie, the
striving for truth into study of the scriptures, into a means of becoming a theologian[.]”

Amen! Truth was never truth in the first place. Truth was always what the priest said it was, which is why it’s a lie. Now, I think it really needs to be emphasized that this is not really just about religion, at least not in the sense that we think of religion. It’s really about claiming to know the truth, like Plato, and then weaseling your way to make people buy into it, so that you can keep your sweet gig, from which you cannot be removed as you cannot be replaced, because you say so. It’s as simple as telling yourself that you are the law and followed by making others believe in that it is just the way it is, that you aren’t the law, even though you are, that the law is some higher power that they must obey or they’ll be punished.

Right, this ties nicely with ‘How the “True World” Finally Became a Fiction: History of an Error’ as what’s particularly clever about the second stage is that it’s no longer about being the truth, like it is with Plato, but about the promise of it. What I mean is that failing at it can then be used against you. The priests no longer have the problem of having explain how it is that they, instead of some other people, are in that position, how only they can know the truth. They can now state that anyone could attain the truth, if only they act accordingly, living the wise, devout and virtuous life. This gives them license to judge others. So, yeah, it’s pretty clever, alright, because it has this false promise that allows them to control others.

The third stage that Nietzsche (23) lists doesn’t really change things. I’d say that it’s more of a development that in which the priests, once challenged, bobble and weave to retain the privileged position in the society. This second twist is attributable to Immanuel Kant, according to whom there is the ‘true world’, the world of noumena, of the things-in-themselves, but we are stuck in the apparent one, in the world of phenomena. While you’d think that this would make people think, to question whether there is or ever was a ‘true world’, to consider that maybe, just maybe, Plato just claimed there was because it served his interests, the exact opposite happens. You could say that now it’s properly religious, properly devout, because it’s no longer something that is attainable, to be known, but something that is unattainable or unprovable, as he (23) points out. Now it’s clearly a matter of belief.

Now, I’d say that the fourth stage is more of a byproduct of the third stage. How so? Well, Kant is trying to have his cake and eat it too by claiming that there is this ‘true world’, but we just can’t get to it. It’s like, we can’t ever get to it, but we must believe in it, because we know it’s there. The problem with this is that this is not very helpful, because it’s hard to imagine something that we can’t know to be something that would obligate us to believe in it, which is exactly what Nietzsche (23) picks up. It is at this point that people finally start thinking for themselves, as he (23) points out.

Have we managed to get rid of the ‘true world’? Well, yes, but also no. Yes, in the sense that Kant plants the seeds of undoing it, but also no, in the sense that people still tend to think in these terms, clinging to something as either ‘true’ or ‘false’ or judging it to ‘true’ or ‘false’ to this or that extent, which results in this doubling, in which the idea of something is posited as ‘true’ and what we are dealing with is then judged as conforming to that idea to this or that extent. In other words, there is not ‘true world’, but most people still evaluate something in terms of how well it represents something else. In other words, if I take a typical landscape photo and mess with the colors, for example, to provoke them, they are likely to respond to it by stating that it’s a poor photo because it’s not realistic, because it’s not ‘true’ to what they consider to be the ‘true world’. I don’t think people willingly think in such transcendent terms, but it’s still there. We just call it representation. Only the label has changed.

I think it’s actually quite bizarre how that is, how people rely on representational thinking, considering that Kant basically undoes that. What I mean is that if we can’t know how something really is, how the world really is, why would you think that you can examine this or that, whatever it may be, as representing this or that, and judge it accordingly? I mean, that just doesn’t make a lot of sense, which is what I think Nietzsche (23) points out here. Now, if you ask me, that doesn’t mean that just because there is, no longer, an imperative that a landscape photo should represent the landscape, doesn’t mean the opposite either, that it shouldn’t represent it, that it shouldn’t look similar to it, if we, for example, hold the photo in front of us and then compare it to what is depicted in the photo. I’m not against representation in that sense. A lot of the photos I’ve taken are, arguably, very, very realistic, very similar to the real deal, and I wouldn’t argue against that, and I honestly don’t mind that. I am against representation in the sense that it is the be all and end all when it comes to it, by which I mean that whatever I’m dealing with, let’s say those photos, does not have to represent the real deal. I do mind when people act that way, when they, for example, say that some photo has a filter, by which they mean that it is then not ‘true’, even though there are no photos that could be considered filterless, as I pointed out in an essay not long ago. There is no other reason for that being the case, that it has to represent something, except that old habits die hard, that people are still largely stuck in stages one and two.

I try my best not to even use the word, represent, and its derivatives, representation, representational, representative, and the like, not because they aren’t useful, not because they don’t serve a purpose, here and there, as they most certainly do, as I can most certainly make sense of things by taking the context into account, but because they are tied to that way of thinking where something is then, somehow, judged and treated according to what it is not. In other words, I don’t like those words, and I try to avoid using them, as much as I can, because they lend themselves to normativity and people may end up thinking that I’m for that, even though I’m not. Simply put, I don’t like how it’s this be all and end all thing, that it is essential that we judge something according to some fixed idea, form, or essence, because then we are stuck in stages one and two of this great error discussed by Nietzsche (23).

I’d say that I’m anti-Platonist and thus anti-representationalist, but I’ve also come to like Hayden Lorimer’s take on that, calling such stance more-than-representational. Well, he might not agree with me on this one, considering he (84) is mere suggesting it as a more productive alternative to non-representational in his article ‘Cultural geography: the busyness of being ‘more than representational’’, but I think that term is actually quite neat. Why? Well, because it acknowledges representation, that something can indeed appear to us as similar to something else, as a matter of apparition, as a lot of things actually do appear to be very similar other things, sharing a very similar appearance, but without saying that they all represent the same thing, some fixed idea, form or essence. It is this more that I like in Lorimer’s formulation, because if something is always more, as in more than this just representing something else, it can no longer simply be judged how well it represent that something else.

Gilles Deleuze helps us to understand this more, when he (1) mentions in ‘Difference and Repetition’ that you can’t “substitute real twins for one another”, not even if they are identical, as I’ve pointed out in a previous essay. We may certainly think that they are identical, because they look identical, but they are not. Just by looking at them we know that there’s this one and then there’s that one. Even if we reverse the order and call that one this one and this one that one, they are still not the same. If they were identical, they’d be the same, in the strict sense, not just kind of the same, which is what people often say, me included, when something is close enough, like more of the same, which isn’t strictly speaking the same, just very close to it, like virtually the same, but not actually the same. In any case, to keep it simple, we know that twins, especially identical twins, are typically very similar to one another in terms of their appearance, i.e., what they look like, but there’s always more to them, to each one of them. When you think of it, it’s actually quite nonsensical to think of twins in that way, one representing the other, because which one is the original and which one is copy that, supposedly, represents the original? Even if you end up confusing them with one another, which certainly happens, they are not the same, no matter how close their resemblance is. There’s always that more to them.

I’m still staunchly against representation, because of the baggage that comes with it, but once you are able to think otherwise, that is to say non-representationally, perhaps by realizing that there is, indeed, this more, this excess or remainder, that cannot be explained by representational thinking, it doesn’t even matter anymore. As I pointed out, it doesn’t matter if something looks alike, if, let’s say, a landscape photo appears to us as similar as a landscape photo, because that’s only one way of going about things, saying that this one appears to us as similar to that one or the other way around. At that point it doesn’t matter because, strictly speaking, there are no copies of originals because everything is original, in its own right, even if they are remarkably similar to what else is there.

For Nietzsche (23), this lands us at the fifth stage. How so? Well, because once we allows ourselves to abandon the idea of the original, that ‘true world’, we also abandon the idea of the copies, those representations. So, in practical terms, it’s like appreciating things for what they are, or, rather, for what they appear to be, on their own terms. I think the twin example is great because while we may confuse one with the other, because of that similarity, it’s not like we treat them as if they were the same person.

Now, if you can pull this off, to make your way from the first or the second stage all the way to fifth stage, you are among a handful of people in the world, me included, who’ve managed to change their way of thinking. Feels pretty great, doesn’t it. I bet it does. I know it does. The problem is, however, how to get the vast majority to think that way too. I’m not able to change much anything, on my own, and neither are you, neither is anyone of us who managed to change their way of thinking, be at this fifth stage Nietzsche (23) mentions. I can’t do that, you can’t do that, nor can anyone else. Even if we teamed up, we still couldn’t make others think the way we do. Why? Because the whole point of getting to this stage is that you have can’t force people think in a certain way. If you try that, we are back to stage one and two, acting like any other priest.

But what about the sixth stage? Well, that’s a tricky one, alright. For Nietzsche (24), this is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s all good. We no longer have this duality. Hooray! There is no ‘true’ vs. ‘false’, no split between the ‘true world’ and then ‘apparent world’. There’s just the ‘apparent world’, which we might as well just call the ‘world’. On the other hand, dealing with that can be difficult, because, well, by doing away with the ‘true world’, one also does away with the ‘apparent world’, as I just did there, erasing the ‘apparent’, turning it just to ‘world’. Why is it difficult then? Well, I this is just my take, but I reckon it has to do with having to deal with it all, now, on your own, without having recourse to how things supposedly are, to that ‘true world’, to explain how things should be, in the ‘apparent world’. That’s a lot of responsibility. It’s all on you now.

So, to combine the two, the fifth and the sixth stage, as it’s difficult to untangle them, just as it is difficult to untangle the third and the fourth stage and the first and the second stage, as one gives rise to the next one, the one following it, if you’ve reached stage five, like I have, you have to also deal with stage six. The problem with stage six is that you need to come to terms with what’s introduced in stage five or, I’d say, you’ll lapse back into stages one and two, thus reintroducing transcendence, the division to the ‘true world’ and the ‘apparent world’. Now, as I pointed out earlier, this is not about religion, as such, although it could be about and although it largely was about it back in the day. It’s about that way of thinking where you set up a higher plane, something that thus transcends us, in order to explain a lower plane, our existence. It helps you to make sense of the world, to control it, if you will, which is why it’s so appealing. It’s like a shortcut. No need to think beyond that. The thing is, however, that it also allows you to control others, inasmuch as the others believe in your higher plane that functions to explain the lower plane.

The difficulty that one encounters in the sixth stage, moving from stage five, is to keep at it, without lapsing into the first two stages. It can be pretty daunting; I’ll give you that. It’s now all up to you. No conform in that. Plus, if you understand how this error works, you may be tempted to be like Plato, and the priests that took cues from him, in order to make other serve your own interests.

I don’t know why you’d really want that, to find yourself back in stages one and two, inasmuch as you’ve really understood what Nietzsche (23) says about the fifth stage. If you get it, you get it and you’ll enjoy it, which is the point he (23) makes. If you don’t really get it, you just need to let yourself get it. Don’t stress it too much. Let it happen.

By the end, he (24) mentions Zarathustra, which is indicated in the notes as being in reference to two of his books ‘The Gay Science’ and ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’. In the former, he (274-275) mentions Zarathustra who leaves society to be a hermit, to be left at his own devices, only to return a decade later, all gay (this is gay science, after all!), full of joy, bursting with life. In the added preface to the second edition, he (32) further comments this, his gay science, noting that it’s this, how to put it, dare I say it, art of letting go and enjoying life, as opposed to your regular science, which is then, by all logic, about seeking to know it all and holding on to it, to whatever certainties that you think you have. In his (32) words:

“[It’s] a bit of merry-making after long privation and powerlessness, the rejoicing of strength that is returning. of a reawakened faith in a tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. of a sudden sense and anticipation of a future, of impending adventures, of seas that are open again, of goals that are permitted again, believed again.”

To put this in other words, he wants people to experiment, to see what happens, instead of trying to uncover the truth and know it all, you know, like Plato did. He (33) also further comments on Zarathustra’s retreat from society, pointing out that it was a mistake. I think he (32-33) trying to say that even though you’ll encounter a lot unsavory characters, people to whom he refers to as having turned into “pathologically clairvoyant”, by which I believe he means priests, you shouldn’t “retreat into solitude”. Why? Well, if you aren’t willing to deal with it, you’ll have to remain in that solitude forever. In more contemporary parlance, you gotta live a little! Don’t let others tell you how you should live. Just do your thing. If they give you tips on how you might live, take them into consideration and then do as you see fit.

As a side note, I quite like the dated language, how gay is synonymous with merriment here. I love how the point he (32-33) is making makes sense even if you take it to mean homosexuality. I mean come on, how fitting it is that he (32-33) advices his reader to be a bit gay and ignore the priests of your time. Hallelujah! Haha! I think he’d be quite amused by that development of in what sense that word is commonly understood, considering how apt it is here and how he was a philologist. That’s just perfect!

Oh, and Nietzsche being Nietzsche, I love how he exemplifies what he (33) means by this when approves of “a poet [who] makes fun of all poets in a way that may be hard to forgive.” If you ask me, the way he explain his (32-33) gay science, it’s all about taking the piss, mocking people who take pride in themselves, including oneself. I think that makes sense. It’s only fair that you laugh at yourself, your own blunders, and your own stupidity, if you laugh at others, their blunders and stupidity. I don’t know about you, but the number of times I’ve messed up something is pretty high and, as highly as I like to think of myself, I sometimes marvel at my own stupidity. Then again, that’s part of life, the fun of it. Experiments may fail. Nothing may come out of them. But if you are afraid of that, laughing at yourself or being laughed at by others, for example by some malicious peer reviewers, you might as well do what Zarathustra did and go live isolation. This is not to say that isolation can’t be good, but rather that you probably shouldn’t retreat to it. It’s easy to be a nay-sayer, to simply criticize others without acknowledging that you might be wrong or providing anything of use to those who you criticize. There’s no shortage of this kind of people, as I’m sure anyone who has ever submitted a manuscript, a funding application or a job application for review can vouch for. You gotta stay positive. Deal with the constructive criticism, take cues from people who suggest what you might want to consider, and ignore the nay-sayers, people who just want to drag you down.

To be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ve judged people in the past. That means that I’ve acted like a priest, even though, to my defense, I’ve never really held a position where I’d be a priest. I’ve never liked that kind of role. I’ve always been too gay, too whatever, do as you like, kind of person. I might have objected to something and still may object to something, but, ultimately, I realize that what’s not up to me is not up to me. It’s none of my business and I must let them do things their way. It’s their life that they are living, so, yeah, whatever.

As an academic, I never really have had the luxury to turn in to a priest. I never had priests as my supervisors, so that kind of thinking never rubbed on to me. This may appall a lot of academics, but, yeah, I was kind of left on to my own devices. I got some inital reading advice and I went on from there, on my own. Again, this may appall a lot of academics, but I didn’t ask for permission to do this or that, nor did I ask for feedback for almost anything. I might have shown some manuscript to someone, at some point, but by the the time they had read it, I had already change it substantially, because that’s the way I work. I really don’t have the time, nor the patience, to wait for others, if I can do it myself. So, yeah, you can credit my former supervisors for not turning me into a priest by not interfering with my work, by letting me do what I did, the way I saw fit. Plus, I never got any proper funding. That never worked out for me, so I didn’t feel like I had to live up to someone else’s expectations. I just kept doing what I did, the way I saw fit. The mad thing is that it worked! And it’s still working. Heresy!

Also, I think it’s worth noting here that his (33) mockery, the parody and sarcasm that he mentions, don’t seem to be directed to this and/or that person. I think it’s rather that when you do that, when you mock others, it’s about the kind of person that you are dealing with, not that specific person you are dealing with. So, for example, when I’ve taken issue with anonymous reviewers, be it for articles, funding or salaried positions, when I’ve even mocked them, I’ve made sure not to mock the person in question (not that I could, because it’s all anonymous). Why? Well, because it’s not about that person, but rather what that person is all about: a priest. If we were to ask Nietzsche, he’d point out that they are the kind of people who are at stage one and two. I think they could easily understand Kant’s criticism, thus make their way through stages three and four, all the way to stage five, which is where things get tough, where’s make it or break it, but the thing is that if you are a priest, there’s very little incentive to do that. If the system works for you, you don’t the system to change. You don’t want people like me (or perhaps you?) to rock the boat. Heresy mustn’t spread!

You find Nietzsche covering this also in the latter book, ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’, but I think I’ve done enough (damage!) in this essay. This was something, a little fun, if you will, that came out of browsing Nietzsche’s books. I laughed out loud when I read what he thinks of Plato, in one sentence, so I knew I had to write on this. What a treat! What a ride! What a pleasure!


  • Deleuze, G. ([1968] 1994). Difference and Repetition (P. Patton, Trans.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  • Lorimer, H. (2005). Cultural geography: the busyness of being ‘more-than-representational’. Progress in Human Geography, 29 (1), 83–94.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1901] 1968). The Will to Power (W. Kauffman and R. J. Hollingdale, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1887] 1974). The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs (W. Kaufmann, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1889] 1997). Twilight of the Idols: Or, How to Philosophize with the Hammer (R. Polt, Trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1883–1885] 2006). Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (A. Del Caro and R. B. Pippin, Eds., A. Del Caro, Trans.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.