[Marxism] thoughts on Nietzsche

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 6 17:20:04 MST 2014


I am currently reading through Mervyn Harwig's series of interviews with
Roy Bhaskar (The Formation of Critical Realism: A personal Perspective,
Routledge, 2010).  It is I believe the ideal introduction to Bhaskar's
thought and I recommend it highly.  I was though particularly impressed by
Bhaskar and Hartwig's positioning of critical realism as anti-Nietzschean.

I have been meaning for some time to do a proper study of Nietzschean
thought, but it is such a huge undertaking and the more I read Nietzsche,
the more disgust I feel for him. But still, his influence persists and
every generation throws up its Nietzscheans.  I have just completed going
through Lukacs' polemic against Nietzsche and I recommend it highly.  It is
an oasis of sanity and political clarity, and helps locate and explain
Nietzsche's appeal.  I especially like his comments on the faux radicalism
of Nietzsche and how his stance on morality appealed to a layer of isolated
intellectuals.

Lukacs reads Nietzsche as the forerunner of imperialism and I am sure he is
correct in that. The heroic water boarder, Maya of *Zero Dark Thirty*, is a
classical Nietzschean figure.  We are meant to see her as beyond good and
evil in a frightening magnificent way. The truth is closer if we regard her
as the purveyor of tawdry and banal perversions.

Yesterday, I picked up a second hand copy of Dusan Zarac's little pamphlet
On Nietzsche - which is based on a series of lectures he gave in Western
Australia.  Zarac's a Croatian Australian philosopher. His book is
remarkable for its emphasis on the dangers to one's health of reading
Nietzsche.  What is the meaning of this?  Personally I think Nietzsche
appeals to the isolated intellectual, someone who is vulnerable to mental
stresses in any case. But it is also meant to convey an element of danger
and excitement to Nietzschean thought.  It is meant to give the impression
to the reader of Nietzsche that he or she is boldly going.

But what is there when one finally reaches the destination?  The attack on
Christianity that so excites Dusan is aimed at that element which justifies
Christianity -its intermittent championing of social justice. The will to
power is of course at the heart of Nietzschean thought and perhaps is its
most harmful legacy.  Unless we move dramatically in the opposite
direction, we will not survive as a species.

Then there is what Lukacs' terms Nietzsche's epistemology which so
undergirds poststructuralist thought.  Yet as Bkaskar pointed out in 1994,
Nietzsche here confuses truth and meaning when he says "truth is a mobile
army of metaphors".  It was Foucault's great mistake to take up this
confusion, weld it to the will to power and come up with "truth regimes".
If he had thought instead of meaning regimes, then we might have gotten
somewhere.

Finally in one of my last lectures, I told my students that if they ever
heard a lecturer say "There is no such thing as the truth" or "There is no
absolute truth", they should know that they were in the presence of the
intellectually inferior and they should immediately ask "Is that true?", or
"Is that absolutely true?"



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