Belief

“Man can be compelled to do a good many things. There are a good many other things he can do in a halfhearted fashion, as it were, against his will. But belief can never be halfhearted. One can believe only if one wishes to. Perhap the credibility of a given person will be revealed to me so persuasively that I cannot help but think: It is wrong not to believe him; I “must” believe him. But this last step can be taken only in complete freedom, and that means that it can also not be taken. There may be plenty of compelling arguments for a man’s cedibility; but no argument can force us to believe him.

The unanimity of statements on this point is astonishing; and the agreement ranges all the way from Augustine and Thomas to Kierkegaard, Newman and Andre Gide. Augustine’s phrase from the Commentary on John is famous; “Nemo credit nisi volens”: No one believes except of his own free will. Kierkegaard says that one man can do much for another, “but give him belief, he cannot”. Newman is forever stressing, in one guise or another, the one idea that belief is something other than the result of a logical process; it is precisely not “a conclusion from premises”. “For directly you have a conviction that you ought to believe, reason has done its part, and what is wanted for faith is, not proof, but will.” And Andre Gide? In the last jottings he published after his Journals we may read these sentences: “There is more light in Christ’s words than in any other human word. This is not enough, it seems, to be a Christian: in addition, one must believe. Well, I do not believe.” Taken all together, these statements obviously mean the following: It is one thing to regard what someone else has said as interesting, clever, important, magnificent, the product of genius or absolutely “true”. We may feel compelled to to think and say any and all these things in utter sincerity. But it is quite a different matter to accept precisely the same statements in the way of belief. In order for this other matter, belief, to come about, a further step is necessary. A free assent of will must be performed. Belief rests upon volition” (Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love, p 35-36).

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: the 1001 goals

Chapter 15

MANY lands saw Zarathustra, and many peoples: thus he discovered the
good and bad of many peoples. No greater power did Zarathustra find on
earth than good and bad.
No people could live without first valuing; if a people will
maintain itself, however, it must not value as its neighbour valueth.
Much that passed for good with one people was regarded with scorn
and contempt by another: thus I found it. Much found I here called
bad, which was there decked with purple honours.
Never did the one neighbour understand the other: ever did his
soul marvel at his neighbour’s delusion and wickedness.
A table of excellencies hangeth over every people. Lo! it is the
table of their triumphs; lo! it is the voice of their Will to Power.
It is laudable, what they think hard; what is indispensable and hard
they call good; and what relieveth in the direst distress, the
unique and hardest of all,- they extol as holy.
Whatever maketh them rule and conquer and shine, to the dismay and
envy of their neighbours, they regard as the high and foremost
thing, the test and the meaning of all else. Continue reading “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: the 1001 goals”

Jonathan Mills on the idea of Nietzschean “pure will”

A reader of this blog requested my thoughts on what Nietzsche meant by “pure will”. I thought I would ask my old thesis prof for his thoughts because he is far and away more knowledgable in things Nietzsche than I am…

“Pure” vis-a-vis Nietzsche is different from metaphysical-moral concepts of purity, where subjectiveness, particular biases and so on are view’d as intrusions into what ought to be (objective, universal, transpersonal [where the personal is a universal concept thereof]).
Accordingly, my guess is “pure will” would mean willing that is affirmative of one’s own particularities: there could be no universalness in willing that would pertain to both Lars’s willing and Mills’s willing and X‘s willing and so on, except in some existentially unimportant sense (that we’re all willing similarly enough to refer to “willing” in generis).
Nietzscheanly pure willing is free of metaphysically moral criteria whereby in some residual way one still evaluates one’s willing according to e.g. congruence with Christianity or theoretic wisdom-as-such (as-if universal wisdom – wisdom that would apply to all of us, or toward which we all ought to be striving).
Nietzscheanly pure willing is always the willing of someone who wills, a willer. So also is Platonistic or Christian willing – and Buddhistic not-willing! – but this is done supposedly in a person-neutral, situation-neutral, etc way. A pure Nietzschean willer doesn’t hide from behind universal criteria that he claims are necessary and universal and which thus absolve him from responsibility for his willing and the intended consequences of his willing.

Obviously will in this sense is different from “willpower”: a given Platonist or Christian might have more thumotic energy to devote to exertions of will, resoluteness and so on) than does a given Nietzschean: only the Nietzschean decides that he ought to will for the enhancement of his own self’s potentiality, whereas the Christian decides that he ought to will toward his integration into the Kingdom of God that pertains to everyone in essentially the same way.

More subtly, will in this sense is different from “will to power,” reveal’d by Nietzsche: this is Heidegger’s “Gelassenheit” – letting go or “releasement,” which doesn’t tyrannize against nature (naturing) (cf BGE ¶188) but accentuates, intensifies, coherences every nature. And woe to whomever’s naturing can’t withstand intensification imposed by the will-to-power guy, or the will-to-power posse (LS: “planetary aristocracy”)!!

Yours in unintelligent laughter, jpnill

P.S. Did you mean your question psychologically in a certain way? I mean, what is Nietzsche’s concept of will in the psyche as distinguish’d from appetite, libido, eros, thumos, itching, etc? Such psychology is necessary and can be beneficial, although seems so far that such distinctions can’t be made with clear boundaries.
Classically, we can see how Plato shows thumos or spiritedness to emerge (frustration of desire or appetite provokes a drive that is different from the desire or appetite), but then Plato also shows thumos integral to some desires, some eros, and maybe even to all descriptions and hence to all logos (which must impose a verbal or conceptual distinction upon a reality that doesn’t match the concepts, unless one chooses a word so inclusive and universal (e.g., “reality” “everything” etc) as to lack descriptive power. Compare “spirituality” (Hitlerism, materialism, Jim Houstonism, Jesuitism, Augustinianism, etc are all “spirituality”).

Nietzsche — “obedience over a long period of time in a single direction”

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Beyond Good and Evil

188

Every morality is, as opposed to laisser aller [letting things go], a bit of tyranny against “nature”; also against “reason”; but this in itself is no objection, as long as we do not have some other morality which permits us to decree that every kind of tyranny and unreason is impermissible. What is essential and inestimable in every morality is that it constitutes a long compulsion: to understand Stoicism or Port-Royal or Puritanism, one should recall the compulsion under which every language so far has achieved strength and freedom—the coercion of meter, the tyranny of rhyme and rhythm. How much trouble the poets and orators of all peoples have taken—not excepting a few prose writers today in whose ear there dwells an inexorable conscience—“for the sake of some foolishness,” as utilitarian dolts say, feeling smart—“submitting abjectly to capricious laws,” as anarchists say, feeling “free,” even “free-spirited.” But the curious fact is that all there is or has been on earth of freedom, subtlety, boldness, dance, and masterly sureness, whether in thought itself or in government, or in rhetoric and persuasion, in the arts just as in ethics, has developed only owing to the “tyranny of such capricious laws”; and in all seriousness, the probability is by no means small that precisely this is “nature” and “natural”—and not that laisser aller! Continue reading “Nietzsche — “obedience over a long period of time in a single direction””

To be a “pilgrim” (status viatoris)

“Viator means wanderer, walker, wayfarer, pilgrim. The last term has acquired a special meaning and became a familiar part of religious parlance. We speak of the “pilgrimage” of this earthly life. This is a perfectly honorable and legitimate use of the word, to which no serous objections can be raised. However, certain rather melodramatic overtones have become associated with this usage, overtones which may blur the precise meaning of this important term, or even cause us to brush it aside. In reality the concept of status viatoris involves nothing sentimental, nor even anything distinctively religious or theological. What is meant, rather, is that man, as long as he exists in this world, is characterized by an inward, as it were ontological quality of being on-the-way to somewhere else. The life of historical man is structured as becoming, “not-yet,” hope. Granted, we have countless choices on our “life’s journey.” We can make detours and take byways; we can stand still; perhaps also we can, in a certain sense, go backward. Above all we can progress in the true direction. Only one alternative is barred to us, that of not being en route at all, of not being “on the way.” This quality of man’s “being as becoming” has been treated extensively in modern philosophical anthropology, especially in the existential camp–starting with Pascal (“We are not, we hope to be”) and going on to Gabriel Marcel, Ernst Bloch and Jean-Paul Sartre. Marcel’s philosophical and dramatic works present a multitude of variations on the fundamental insight that hope is the stuff of which our soul is made. And Sartre strikes precisely the same note when he says that our life is “made up not only of waitings but of waitings which themselves wait for waiting.” As for Ernst Blosh’s fascinating though rather perplexing philosophy of hope and the future, it certainly makes one point with complete clarity: “The real thing, in man as in the world, is impending, waiting”; man is something “not yet at all present, and for that very reason his has history.”

As we have said, this is precisely the meaning of the traditional phrase status viatoris; it denotes the dynamic state of not-yet-being, of still unfulfilled and incomplete being that is, however, pointed towards fulfillment, completion and final realization. Incidentally, one can come to this perception without overmuch philosophical speculation. It is accessible to everyone on the basis of ordinary empirical knowledge, on the basis of experience with himself. No man has ever said: I have already completed the draft which I myself am; I already posses all that was truly intended for me; I am not still “on the way” towards the real thing; fulfillment does not lie in the future for me. No man would ever be capable of saying that, not if he lived to be a hundred and were already standing on the threshold of death” (Josef Pieper, Death and Immortality, p. 75, 76).

Nietzsche — One must Learn to Love

“This is our experience in music: we must first learn in general to hear, to hear fully, and to distinguish a theme for a melody, we have to isolate and limit it as a life by itself; then we need to exercise effort and good-will in order to endure it in spite of its strangeness, we need patience towards its aspect and expression, and indulgence towards what is odd in it: –in the end there comes a moment when we are accustomed to it, when we expect it, when it dawns upon us that we should miss it if it were lacking; and then it goes on to exercise its spell and charm more and more, and does not cease until we have become its humble and enraptured lovers, who want it, and want it again, and ask for nothing better from the world.–It is thus with us, however, not only in music: it is precisely thus that we have learned to love all things that we now love.  We are always finally recompensed for our good-will, our patience, reasonableness and gentleness towards what is unfamiliar, by the unfamiliar slowly throwing off its veil and presenting itself to us as a new, ineffable beauty:–that is its thanks for our hospitality.  He also who loves himself must have learned it in this way: there is no other way.  Love also has to be learned” (Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom).

Dostoevsky — Sonia’s reading of the raising of Lazarus in Crime and Punishment

“So you pray to God a great deal, Sonia?” he asked her.

Sonia did not speak; he stood beside her waiting for an answer.

“What should I be without God?” she whispered rapidly, forcibly, glancing at him with suddenly flashing eyes, and squeezing his hand.

“Ah, so that is it!” he thought.

“And what does God do for you?” he asked, probing her further.

Sonia was silent a long while, as though she could not answer. Her weak chest kept heaving with emotion.

“Be silent! Don’t ask! You don’t deserve!” she cried suddenly, looking sternly and wrathfully at him.

“That’s it, that’s it,” he repeated to himself.

“He does everything,” she whispered quickly, looking down again.

“That’s the way out! That’s the explanation,” he decided, scrutinising her with eager curiosity, with a new, strange, almost morbid feeling. He gazed at that pale, thin, irregular, angular little face, those soft blue eyes, which could flash with such fire, such stern energy, that little body still shaking with indignation and anger–and it all seemed to him more and more strange, almost impossible. “She is a religious maniac!” he repeated to himself.

There was a book lying on the chest of drawers. He had noticed it every time he paced up and down the room. Now he took it up and looked at it. It was the New Testament in the Russian translation. It was bound in leather, old and worn.

“Where did you get that?” he called to her across the room.

She was still standing in the same place, three steps from the table.

“It was brought me,” she answered, as it were unwillingly, not looking at him.

“Who brought it?”

“Lizaveta, I asked her for it.”

“Lizaveta! strange!” he thought.

Everything about Sonia seemed to him stranger and more wonderful every moment. He carried the book to the candle and began to turn over the pages.

“Where is the story of Lazarus?” he asked suddenly.

Sonia looked obstinately at the ground and would not answer. She was standing sideways to the table.

“Where is the raising of Lazarus? Find it for me, Sonia.”

She stole a glance at him.

“You are not looking in the right place. . . . It’s in the fourth gospel,” she whispered sternly, without looking at him.

“Find it and read it to me,” he said. He sat down with his elbow on the table, leaned his head on his hand and looked away sullenly, prepared to listen.

“In three weeks’ time they’ll welcome me in the madhouse! I shall be there if I am not in a worse place,” he muttered to himself.

Sonia heard Raskolnikov’s request distrustfully and moved hesitatingly to the table. She took the book however.

“Haven’t you read it?” she asked, looking up at him across the table.

Her voice became sterner and sterner.

“Long ago. . . . When I was at school. Read!”

“And haven’t you heard it in church?”

“I . . . haven’t been. Do you often go?”

“N-no,” whispered Sonia.

Raskolnikov smiled.

“I understand. . . . And you won’t go to your father’s funeral to-morrow?”

“Yes, I shall. I was at church last week, too . . . I had a requiem service.”

“For whom?”

“For Lizaveta. She was killed with an axe.”

His nerves were more and more strained. His head began to go round.

“Were you friends with Lizaveta?”

“Yes. . . . She was good . . . she used to come . . . not often . . . she couldn’t. . . . We used to read together and . . . talk. She will see God.”

The last phrase sounded strange in his ears. And here was something new again: the mysterious meetings with Lizaveta and both of them– religious maniacs.

“I shall be a religious maniac myself soon! It’s infectious!”

“Read!” he cried irritably and insistently.

Sonia still hesitated. Her heart was throbbing. She hardly dared to read to him. He looked almost with exasperation at the “unhappy lunatic.”

“What for? You don’t believe? . . .” she whispered softly and as it were breathlessly. Continue reading “Dostoevsky — Sonia’s reading of the raising of Lazarus in Crime and Punishment”

Barth

“Karl Barth (1886-1968) reacted against the liberal theological trend that started with Schleiermacher, because in reducing religion to feeling it also tended to reduce Christianity back into the meanings and values of the secular culture. He tried to bring theology back to the principles of the Reformation and the prophetic message of the Bible. Heavily influenced by Kierkegaard, he interpreted the Christian message to mean that God is so supremely transcendent and superior to all human aspirations that human reason and ‘natural theology’ (philosophy of God which does not accept the teachings of revelations) are worthless; and religion grounded in mere human experience (as in Schleiermacher) is impossible. His Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans rejected all merely historical interpretation of Scripture as incapable of doing justice to the text as the inspired Word of God. His ability to distinguish so sharply Christianity from human culture enabled Barth to resist Hitler’s attempts to enlist the German Lutheran State Church in the Nazi cause, saying, “We have no Fuehrer (leader) but Jesus Christ!” In the Humanity of God he still affirmed that God’s sole revelation is in Jesus Christ, who in becoming human, uttered the only really significant Yes! of the transcendent God to poor sinful humanity in need of redemption through grace” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).

Nietzsche

“Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), like Kierkegaard and Marx, was opposed to the pretensions of any kind of rationalist approach such as Hegel’s. But he was also a radical critic of Plato, of Christianity, and of the kind of person produced by liberal democracy (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau), or communism (Marx). He called this kind of person “the Last Man” who, in his concern for bodily health, relaxation, entertainment, and feeling good about himself, thinks he is greater and smarter than anyone before in history; and yet who has lost all the deepest aspirations and desires that really make people human. Liberal democracy’s and communism’s preoccupation with comfortable self-preservation—the joyless quest for joy—ends up making us universal, homogeneous, and trivial. Nietzsche teaches that throughout history human beings have needed to create horizons of serious values by which to live and give meaning to their everyday existences. But they have to hide from themselves that these horizons or values have been created by their own will-to-power. Continue reading “Nietzsche”