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Thursday, August 22, 2013

G. K. Chesterton on Nietzsche


"Other vague modern people take refuge in material metaphors; in fact, this is the chief mark of vague modern people. Not daring to define their doctrine of what is good, they use physical figures of speech without stint or shame, and , what is worst of all, seem to think these cheap analogies are exquisitely spiritual and superior to the old morality. Thus they think it intellectual to talk about things being 'high.' It is at least the reverse of intellectual; it is a mere phrase from a steeple or a weathercock. 'Tommy was a good boy' is a pure philosophical statement, worthy of Plato or Aquinas. 'Tommy lived the higher life' is a gross metaphor from a ten-foot rule.

This, incidentally, is almost the whole weakness of Nietzsche, whom some are representing as a bold and strong thinker. No one will deny that he was a poetical and suggestive thinker; but he was quite the reverse of strong. He was not at all bold. He never put his own meaning before himself in bald abstract words: as did Aristotle and Calvin, and even Karl Marx, the hard, fearless men of thought. Nietzsche always escaped a question by a physical metaphor, like a cheery minor poet. He said, 'beyond good and evil,' because he had not the courage to say, 'more good than good and evil,' or, 'more evil than good and evil.' Had he faced his thought without metaphors, he would have seen that it was nonsense. So, when he describes his hero, he does not dare to say, 'the purer man,' or 'the happier man,' or 'the sadder man,' for all these are ideas; and ideas are alarming. He says 'the upper man.' or 'over man,' a physical metaphor from acrobats or alpine climbers. Nietzsche is truly a very timid thinker. He does not really know in the least what sort of man he wants evolution to produce."-- excerpt from The Eternal Revolution, Chapter 7 of Orthodoxy

3 comments:

  1. thank you for this excerpt! in-explicit language is obscuring and cowardly, we must be perceptive!

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    1. I agree. That is exactly why poorly informed people who cannot address the substance of an argument must resort to in-explicit language and obscurantism.

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  2. If anything Nietzsche is by its own essence in-explicit, he attacks an idea or value element without compromising himself to one; he attacked David Strauss of the same fallacy, while he stilled committed the same sort of fallacies all through his works but in a more in-explicit fashion.

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