Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nietzsche Daybreak Book IV Aphorism: 210

Jim Nichols Daybreak Book IV Aphorism 210.docx Download this file

Rough Draft version 2.  Doesn't it suck when you have to turn a rough draft in for a grade.      #time is a valuable commodity the 1% steal from us... #WorkingClassIntellectual #fail
Jim Nichols
Daybreak Book IV Aphorism: 210

                Friedrich Nietzsche wrote his second book, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, to his “patient friends” in order to help set the ground work resolve tensions blocking intellectuals as they struggle towards the, “days that have not yet broken,” as the Rig Veda epigraph to Daybreak notes will be plentiful in the days ahead.  Nietzsche wants us to recognize that an individual’s redemption--one’s own daybreak--is a solitary affair, but one worth the endeavor if one is able to sustain the solitude and perils along the way:

For he who proceeds on his own path in this fashion encounters no one: that is inherent in ‘proceeding on one’s own path.’  No one comes along to help him: all the perils, accidents, malice, and bad weather which assail him he has to tackle by himself. (pg. 1 Daybreak Cambridge University Press 1997 Ed. Clark and Leiter)

In book IV, aphorism 210 stands out as pivotal and worth spending a great deal of time with because it can give form to what is going on throughout book IV as Nietzsche flows through a spectrum of seemingly disparate issues, topics, and subjects.  This paper will argue that aphorism 210 is a thread that can give structure to book IV and place the book clearly within the project of Daybreak—which is to undermine our faith in morality.

Human beings are animals, and we are not even very special animals.[1]  One of the challenges we must overcome, in Nietzsche’s eyes, is to not see and infuse our actions and behaviors with greater motives of grandeur and meaning than they actually deserve.  Such misplaced egoism on our part leads us on a path where we are bound to take wrong turns, creating misinterpretations which churn out sloppy diagnoses of the challenge and problems we face.  As Clarke and Leiter note in their introduction to Daybreak, “[i]n Human, All Too Human… Nietzsche began a long effort to free morality from the metaphysical world to which Kant and Schopenhauer had connected it,”  with Daybreak Nietzsche continues this effort, “to explain ‘higher’ things in terms of the ‘lower,” the merely human” (p.xx).

Aphorism 210 is a perfect example of this pursuit to have us reframe our approach in a ways that highlight the lower--rather than get us caught up in confusions of grandeur about “good” or “evil” motives we have which coming from “higher” questions; he does so in this aphorism by way of looking at the question of laughter.  “Formerly,” Nietzsche notes, ‘we asked: what is the laughable? As though there were things external to us to which the laughable adhered as a quality, and we exhausted ourselves in suggestions… Now we ask: what is laughter? How does laugher originate?”  Why did we change our question? Because it solves an issue of clarity saving us the headache of wrong turns and detours which, Nietzsche often points out Kant and Schopenhauer quite often led us on:

[T]here is nothing good , nothing beautiful, nothing sublime, nothing evil in itself, but that there are states of soul in which we impose such words upon things external to and within us.  We have again taken back the predicates of things, or at least remembered that it was we who lent them to them:--let us take care that this insight does not deprive us of the capacity to lend, and that we have not become at the same time richer and greedier(p133).

            Nietzsche is just using laughter here as his example of how we can misconstrue the “in itself” and that our questions can lead us to answer questions other than the ones we are truly trying to grasp and flesh out.  As a philologist, Nietzsche is by training always working to parse our language and framing of such language usage to cut through and highlight confusions.  I would even claim that Nietzsche is working dialectically[2] (at least in a naturalistic way that does not get us lost in Hegelian Idealism) starting with ancient Greek ethics as his thesis, taking Martin Luther and the reformation as his antithesis to work out a synthesis which for the free spirit culminates personally and emotionally as a psychological “daybreak.”      


[1] I have stolen this line from Prof. Jessica Berry Nietzsche lectures Spring of 2012 Georgia State University

[2] I am using the term dialectic here as purely a method of argument and am not intending to bring in any references or nuances that Hegelians and others use--which I still and quite frankly utterly clueless about.  I simple mean that Nietzsche starts with Greek Rationalism, directs us to look at the ideas of Martin Luther/Reformation/modernism and the tensions which are created.  “Daybreak” arrives for free spirits when they reach the other end of the tensions created by paralleling and thinking through these approaches.

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