"The Anti-Christ" by Friedrich Nietzsche: A Review
This book contains one of the strongest and most powerful attacks which Nietzsche ever made on the Christianity of his age and the moral values held by society at that time. It is still important today because many the points he make still have validity, and they illustrate a way of thinking that is violently antithetic to the idea of a caring society with respect for "human rights".
He opens his attack by condemning Christianity for devaluing reason by "teaching men to feel the supreme values of intellectuality as sinful, as misleading, as temptations". As an example, he cites Pascal. Pascal wrote a treatise on conic sections at 16, and invented the theory of probability and the hydraulic press. In 1654, he underwent a "mystical" conversion to Christianity and thereafter gave up his scientific endeavours; Nietzsche considers him to be "the most instructive of all sacrifices to Christianity." Nietzsche's comments are still of value today, as forms of Christianity such as Roman Catholicism sometimes still demand "obedience of the intellect", as do many of the varied religious cults which have sprung up.
Aside from this, Nietzsche also attacks Christian belief for being manifestly unreal; he observes that it consists of: "nothing but imaginary causes ('God', 'soul', 'ego', 'spirit', 'freewill'): nothing but imaginary effects ('sin', 'redemption', 'grace', 'punishment', 'forgiveness of sins')." It can be seen here that Nietzsche is arguing from the standpoint of absolute empiricism. This position is coherent, even if it means jettisoning much "traditional morality" as well. But what does he suggest should take its place?
In place of moral considerations, which Nietzsche considers rooted in Christianity and "decadence", he puts a philosophy of power. "What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is bad? All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power increases - that resistance is overcome." It can be seen that there are close affinities between this and the ideology of Nazi Germany. What could better sum up its spirit than this: "Not contentment, but more power; not peace at all, but war." But this poses a problem for the materialist. If you discard "traditional morality" because it has no empirical base, what is to stop the idea that "might is right"? If you take the first step, the second follows as a matter of course, and Nietzsche scorns the cowardice of those who fear to take it.
This ties up with Nietzsche's criticism of those Christian values which have led to "active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak..". He sees one result of this in "the poison of the doctrine 'equal rights for all'". Why does he so vehemently attack this? He argues that such an idea brings everyone down to the same level, and will not permit high ideals. As always, he takes this to its conclusion, and does not hesitate to say that "no one any longer possesses today the courage to claim special privileges or the right to rule." We may be opposed to such a position, but it must be admitted that it has a certain strength in its empiricism which the idea of 'equal rights' does not (especially when it is taken as "natural" rather than a moral demand).
This is an a thought provoking book. Nietzsche is a thinker who so often describes the rationale of "men of power" in the many dictatorships of the world today, particularly those of Africa and South America. In this way, it is still most pertinent for us today.
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