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Final Section of Preface of Genealogy of Morals (see previous short forms)

Section 8 concludes the preface with a few important points.

If this writing be obscure to any individual, and jar on his ears, I do not think that it is necessarily I who am to blame. It is clear enough, on the hypothesis which I presuppose, namely, that the reader has first read my previous writings and has not grudged them a certain amount of trouble: it is not, indeed, a simple matter to get really at their essence. 

So, I need to read is early book, as he says, but just pointing out that he emphasizes the necessity of understanding the work as a whole, and really grappling with it.

Take, for instance, my Zarathustra; I allow no one to pass muster as knowing that book, unless every single word therein has at some time wrought in him a profound wound, and at some time exercised on him a profound enchantment: then and not till then can he enjoy the privilege of participating reverently in the halcyon element, from which that work is born, in its sunny brilliance, its distance, its spaciousness, its certainty. 

Again, his work is not something to be taken lightly or technically, but really wrestled with, absorbed word by word and found transformative.

In other cases the aphoristic form produces difficulty, but this is only because this form is treated too casually. An aphorism properly coined and cast into its final mould is far from being "deciphered" as soon as it has been read; on the contrary, it is then that it first—requires to be expounded of course for that purpose an art of exposition is necessary. 

Reminder against taking the aphorisms too casually or thinking the meaning is simple or clear at first glance. He must give examples and explain it more fully. 

The third essay in this book provides an example of what is offered, of what in such cases I call exposition: an aphorism is prefixed to that essay, the essay itself is its commentary. Certainly one quality which nowadays has been best forgotten— and that is why it will take some time yet for my writings—to become readable-- is essential in order to practise reading as an art--a quality for the exercise of which it is necessary to be a cow, and under no circumstances a modern man--rumination.

The grammar falls apart here again--or maybe not. Maybe just an awkward sentence structure. My paraphrase would be that he believes it will take some time for people to understanding his readings, because modern people lack a quality essential to practicing reading as an art: rumination. The implication would be they're not supposed to think too hard for too long.

Nietzsche Preface Part 7  (Paraphrase---see previous short-forms)


N concludes the preface by explaining that after this new world of ideas opened up to him, he began to search for "learned, bold, and industrious colleagues (I am doing it even to this very day)."

So he wanted to find others who had the ability and fortitude to explore this world with him, and it as been an ongoing process. This last part seems kind of rambling and confused to me compared to other parts...the tense shifts are weird. Could be a bad translation.

Enough, that after this vista had disclosed itself to me, I myself had reason to search for learned, bold, and industrious colleagues (I am doing it even to this very day). It means traversing with new clamorous questions, and at the same time with new eyes, the immense, distant, and—completely unexplored land of morality of a morality which has actually existed and been actually lived ! and is this not practically equivalent to first discovering that land? If, in this context, I thought, amongst others, of the aforesaid Dr. Ree, I did so because I had no doubt that from the very nature of his questions he would be compelled to have recourse to a truer method, in order to obtain his answers. Have I deceived myself on that score? I wished at all events to give a better direction of vision to an eye of such keenness and such impartiality. I wished to direct him to the real history of morality, and to warn him, while there was yet time, against a world of English theories that culminated in the blue vacuum of heaven.

What stands out to me:

"It means" -- what does this refer to? That's what I mean about the grammar falling apart. What is the "it"? Being his colleague? Exploring the vista? 

So this world of morality is completely unexplored, but also something that people have already lived in accordance with? How does that work? What does he mean by "is this not practically equivalent to first discovering that land?" Something tells me this may be a sloppy translation or something, because it is so all over the place logically, but there are the outlines of a coherent argument. Is he just saying that he rediscovered the thought process of societies with different moral structures that his society had forgotten about?  And so it was a new discovery for him and contemporaries able to explore it, and thus very exciting and significant, but not actually something new and unexplored for humanity in general? That's how I read it, anyway, in order to make any sense of it.

And that he appealed to others, like Ree (whom he knew quite well), and who seemed like they might be able to get it if he called this to their attention, given their interest and hard work on the topic? Surely they'd be desperate to learn the truth, to satisfy their intellectual curiosity, even if it meant leaving erroneous assumptions behind? If N could just direct him to the actual historical record, Ree would see the error of the English theories that had misled everyone recently? Idk exactly what the blue vacuum of heaven means, but I assume he thinks that is a kind of pleasant delusion that provokes complacency. 

The conclusion continues to be an illogical mess, but I think he's just saying he wanted to reconnect Ree to the obscured connections between ideas that had built up over time---to help him retrace morality's steps, get him to take things seriously rather than in the casual modern way, in which Darwin's discoveries were no big deal and not unsettling to traditional assumptions. He saw a confused philosophy had arisen from trying to fuse incompatible ideas while not thinking hard enough to notice the problem--not taking morality seriously. Similar complaints are made today about the lack of seriousness and taking things for granted among intellectuals, and I think he's getting at the same point: the justifications behind the conclusions aren't solid, and if people don't realize this, the moral conclusions they take for granted will erode over time unexpectedly because no one is explaining them.

He says it is difficult but enjoyable and rewarding to take it seriously and dive into the weeds. But you have to be the type who wants to know, who loves to find truth at all costs, and to do detailed investigations, and only a few people have this capacity. My guess is Ree disappointed him, as did most others. But one day, he says, "we" will realize our current beliefs on this are a joke, and move into a new plot. The grammar here confuses me again--who is the he who both "will use" this new plot and is already "the great ancient eternal dramatist of the comedy of our existence." The timeline doesn't make sense here, and the latter seems to refer to either God or an archetype or the rules of the world, but why would any of those need new material to do this? Is he just saying an opening would arise for certain moral forces or archetypal figures to take the stage again? That's my guess. 

Nietzsche Preface Part 6 (Paraphrase---see previous short-forms)

I realize now that I was referring to N's first two books, and that they were not actually his first two books--for some reason, the preface gave me the impression that this was his second book, after Human, All Too Human. This must have been the second book on this topic, maybe. I can't quite figure it out because many of his books were published long after they were written, or became known long after, and it's hard to disentangle the list. The out of order publication, and of course his later deterioration, inability to clarify or respond, and edits by others all seem pretty significant. It would be good to read them in the order they were written. I started Human, All Too Human, and probably should have done that first, but oh well. I only now realize the preface was 1887.

I also determined he must have read a great deal of Emerson by this time, and that's why his conspicuous lack of commentary on Emerson and America is of interest to me. Emerson was a huge influence, almost certainly N's greatest. Most people are still very skeptical of this, but being an Emerson fan, I can confirm how much of N's work is unquestionably taken from Emerson (due to phrasing and combinations of unique concepts). Privately, he talked about Emerson quite a bit, and his influence, but not publicly. But Emerson pretty much formed the basis of his thought. I'm not sure if he was able to read everything Emerson wrote, but I find it weird he seems to be so down on England, while Emerson raved about England and wrote a whole book about England's moral strength published in 1860. Plus, Emerson had gotten somewhat involved in campaigning for Lincoln in 1864, and I think it is weird that N has apparently little to say on that or Lincoln, as the topic was big in Europe. I'm not being America-centric and fixated on my own interests out of nowhere, but specifically because N was so obsessed with Emerson, especially at age 19, which would have been during the Civil War. Was he just incurious about what Emerson had to say after writing his major works in N's childhood? Didn't he wonder about the comparably lively world Emerson described?

Anyway, Part 6:

This problem of the value of pity and of the pity-morality (I am an opponent of the modern infamous emasculation of our emotions) seems at the first blush a mere isolated problem, a note of interrogation for itself; he, however, who once halts at this problem, and learns how to put questions, will experience what I experienced: —sense of potentiality seizes him like a vertigo, every species of doubt, mistrust, and fear springs up, the belief in — a new and immense vista unfolds itself before him, a morality, nay, in all morality, totters, --finally a new demand voices itself.

So he thought it was a relatively minor issue, or not central issue, and then he realized it opened up a real can of worms. All of morality appears suspect o corrupted, and once the disorientation fades, he feels a demand to get to the bottom of the matter an reconstruction the genealogy of morals---how they developed and became distorted. Notes that no one has ever bothered to look into this too deeply. (I'd say that's false, but I get his point, and he probably didn't have easy access to a compendium of existing critiques--still, it seems like quite a few theologians and preachers, at the very least, have dug into this stuff for a while, without just saying "God gave us morals! That's all!"). Also, saying "the modern infamous emasculation" seems to suggest that this was already a much-discussed issue. 

He says no one has really looked into whether a man considered good is of a higher value than one considered bad (by common judgement). He says he means higher value "with regard specifically to human progress, utility, and prosperity generally, not forgetting the future." So, advancement is his standard. "What? Suppose the converse were the truth! What?" It was common at this time to do the double "What?" or, more, often the double "What!" This indicated that the idea would be met disbelief, similar to how we'd say "Really?"

Suppose there lurked in the "good man" a symptom of retrogression, such as a danger, a temptation, a poison, a narcotic, by means of which the present battened on the future! More comfortable and less risky perhaps than its opposite, but also pettier, meaner! So that morality would really be saddled with the guilt, if the maximum potentiality of the power and splendour of the human species were never to be attained?

Pretty straightforward: what if some of the traits we consider good have non-obvious downsides that make them complacent, not sufficiently interested in bettering the future, dragging humanity down from its max potential? 

Part II of paraphrasing Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals, this time focusing on Section 5 of the Preface. I want to record my initial impressions of reading Nietzsche without much knowledge of other people's analysis--mainly for the reason he describes here: trying to get to the underlying commonalities in various theories before getting attached to a theory. Especially because I've found 20c intellectuals made a lot of errors interpreting the 19c, and I like to use 19c primary sources. This part (section 5 of the preface) seems pretty important. 

In reality I had set my heart at that time on something much more important than the nature of the theories of myself or others concerning the origin of morality (or, more precisely, the real function from my view of these theories was to point an end to which they were one among many means). 

Nietzsche (who I will abbreviate as N from now on) makes it clear that he's trying to call attention not to the theories themselves, but what they had in common, to get at what was solid and underlying them. They would be picking up on the same things in different ways where they were valid. The source of these insights was the key, and it could be discovered from different angles. Below, he says this source was "the value" of morality---why do people care so much about defining morality to begin with? That's the key.

The issue for me was the value of morality, and on that subject I had to place myself in a state of abstraction, in which I was almost alone with my great teacher Schopenhauer, 

So being in a state of abstraction was anomalous for him and rare in general. I'm pretty sure what he means in this: he had to dismiss all his assumptions so that the could see past the theories to the essence: what they had in common. He had to discover it from the ground up like someone who never internalized any theories. Fieldwork; investigation. Apparently he learned how to do this mostly from Schopenhauer's example.

to whom that book, with all its passion and inherent contradiction (for that book also was a polemic), turned for present help as though he were still alive.

N makes a point of emphasizing both this book and his first one are polemics. Let's stop and think about this, because this is why I think modern interpretations of N are so off. Modern western thinking doesn't really acknowledge this exact concept, which was central to 19c writing, almost none of which had the tone we now associate with serious or scientific writing--neutral, objective, professional, bureaucratic, etc. It's not that it wasn't serious, but it was inherently playful or engaging, meandering, not technical. That was just considered normal---some were much better than others at it, more interesting or clever, but it wasn't significant that someone wrote this way. There were also a lot of allusions, used as shorthand, instead of jargon like we use today. This is still common in official correspondence in some parts of the world--I've noticed many Americans read statements by the CCP and wonder why it sounds "religious" or "inspirational." This is simply default 19c intellectual language, often referred to with bafflement as "flowery" or "romantic" now (which was often quite combative and blunt by our standards.) It was pretty influenced by religion, specifically Biblical and classical language, and western works translated documents from Asia or the Middle East using the same framework. When I use a term like playful, I don't mean anyone was joking. Just that they aren't making entirely literal or factual statements, like you would find in an instruction manual---that was considered inappropriate outside of very specific circumstances, like giving instructions for a simple process. You can't just stop at face value.

Some definitions, for clarity:

  • A polemic is an aggressive, uncompromisingly critical verbal assault.
  • Polemical is the adjective form of the noun polemic, which itself comes from the Greek word, polemos, meaning "war."
  • A polemic is something that stirs up controversy by having a negative opinion, usually aimed at a particular group.
  • polemic (/pəˈlɛmɪk/) is contentious rhetoric that is intended to support a specific position by forthright claims and undermining of the opposing position.

So N was explicitly assuming a stance, which was common at the time, to tear apart a specific target, not merely offering his ideas spontaneously. He was responding. I realize this is obvious to many, but I've noticed this understanding is absent in a lot of later analysis of 19c stuff. A polemic is consciously an attack and is shaped as such, but modern critics will say a polemicist was biased as though this is significant and makes the work less credible. N's first two books, at least, can only be understood in this context: in light of what he was specifically opposing and reacting to, which necessarily set the terms of the debate. This would explain focus and emphasis. He also notes the first book was full of inherent contradiction. 

I haven't read much Schopenhauer, but will make a mental note to do so. I can tell from reading most of the available summaries that the general understanding of him is confused, because they're all contradictory in predictable ways. He was used in service of a variety of competing philosophies later on, and various fields, resulting in essentially many alleged versions of Schopenhauer. What I take from it is that he believed that appearance and reality were different things, and that some sort of Buddhist-like detachment was advisable, rather than the romanticism of his time, which assumed people could know and do more than they could. So, life is full of suffering, so resign oneself to that instead of trying to control everything and torturing oneself with desire and being overly rational. But he was more empirical than mystical, demanding evidence for beliefs, and atheistic. I'm sure that is an extreme simplification and at least partly wrong, but that's the only thing that seems solidly supported by all the sources. And he wrote a lot of polemics, especially towards Hegel's positions, which of course modern sources fail to appreciate, and therefore spend a lot of time complaining that Schopenhauer was pushy and biased and personally fixated---which was the entire point. He was trying to take down contemporaries he thought were wrong. They all also imply that he "coincidentally" generated ideas similar to  Buddhism, as though he could not have been aware of its existence and been informed by it, o commented on the similarities and differences--philosophers at this time knew what Buddhism was, and many studied it. Anyway.

As N notes, Schopenhauer (S from now on) was an outlier at this time, especially in the German intellectual world, and he found his style attractive. But not the content. S had idealized the instincts of pity, self-denial, and self-sacrifice, making them sound inherently valuable by building such a vivid case for them. He sincerely believed in these ideals, "on the strength of which he uttered both to Life and to himself his own negation," N says. 

But against these very instincts there voiced itself in my soul a more and more fundamental mistrust, a scepticism that dug ever deeper and deeper: and in this very instinct I saw the great danger of mankind, its most sublime temptation and seduction seduction to what? to nothingness? in these very instincts I saw the beginning of the end, stability, the exhaustion that gazes backwards, the will turning against Life, the last illness announcing itself with its own mincing melancholy: I realised that the morality of pity which spread wider and wider, and whose grip infected even philosophers with its disease, was the most sinister symptom of our modern European civilisation; I realised that it was the route along which that civilisation slid on its way to a new Buddhism? a European Buddhism?—Nihilism? This exaggerated estimation in which modern philosophers have held pity, is quite a new phenomenon: up to that time philosophers were absolutely unanimous as to the worthlessness of pity. I need only mention Plato, Spinoza, La Rochefoucauld, and Kant—four minds as mutually different as is possible, but united on one point; their contempt of pity.

So, I guess as he read S for help with his strategy, he became deeply disturbed by the implications---again, his inner self detected something very wrong. If one started thinking this way--and I think this is related to concerns about the dangers of intellectually-minded people getting into the habit of mainly abstract thought and building air castles, since he seems to think the state of abstraction somewhat odd and associates with S--all that is solid dissolves into abstractions; there's no life, nothing seems wort it; one can see that everything is futile, that nothing can be known enough to justify the confidence to act. And it appears also a complacency ("stability"?), where all you can do is look back because there's no future imaginable.  And then depression and moralization and nihilism. He could see how easy it was to fall down this path, and even if it seemed logical, the results were clearly abnormal historically and bad in their overall outcome. Obviously, N is familiar with Buddhism and makes the connection easily. (It isn't clear that he opposes Buddhism itself, but a bastardized version of it alien to Europe.) Then he connects this with the larger, less intellectual/abstract problem of the "morality of pity" that was spreading through people throughout "our modern European civilisation" (wonder what he thought about America at this point in comparison?) and "even philosophers." He is noting an ongoing change, a stark break with the past, specifically in modern Europe. It is "quite new," a problem of modern philosophy. And it is a sharp reversal--something people should be very suspicious of when we're talking about the fundamentals of life--what does it mean when humanity changes its mind about such a thing? It's at the very least calling out for closer analysis. 

Also important is that he keeps returning to the significance of different theorists having commonalities, and the value one would expect to find in the commonalities, which likely correspond to something real they are all picking up on. And N considers them all very different. And they all think pity is useless (as in, not helpful or admirable, not something to encourage).

Just for reference, Plato lived in ancient Greece, much earlier than the rest. Kant lived in the 1700s, the other two in the 1600s. So we're probably talking about a shift that happened, at earliest, in the late 1700s, and most likely in N's own century, the 1800s.

Thanks--glad you found it somewhat useful!

Found a brief summary of Ree's book---guess they knew each other! 

he Origin of the Moral Sensations was largely written in the autumn of 1877 in Sorrento, where Rée and Nietzsche both worked by invitation of Malwida von Meysenbug. The book sought to answer two questions. First, Rée attempted to explain the occurrence of altruistic feelings in human beings. Second, Rée tried to explain the interpretive process which denoted altruistic feelings as moral. Reiterating the conclusions of Psychological Observations, Rée claimed altruism was an innate human drive that over the course of centuries has been strengthened by selection.

Main point: Ree was interested in altruism, and believed it was an evolutionary selected for instinct. 

Published in 1877, The Origin of the Moral Sensations was Rée's second book. Its standpoint, Rée announced in the foreword, was inductive. Rée first observed the empirical phenomena he thought constituted man's moral nature and then looked into their origin. Rée proceeded from the premise that we feel that some actions to be good and others to be evil. From the latter came the guilty conscience. Rée also followed many philosophers in rejecting free will. The error of free will, Rée claims, lies behind the development of the feeling of justice:

Main point: I can see why Nietzsche reacted badly to these arguments, but wasn't offended by them. Ree worked backwards from categories of morals he'd made up, so that was kind of an issue, in his searching for an explanation to back up his assumptions. If you don't have good judgment on these things, like Niezsche did, this can get ridiculous very quickly. He also seems to think our sense of morality is something we emotionally feel about actions, which seems not the best assumption, and that the guilty conscience comes after these intuitions instead of being intertwined? It was probably more sophisticated than that in the book. But we're unable to control these feelings, and shouldn't feel guilty, because we can't choose anyway, but we feel we choose the wrong thing, and that when this happens, it has to be remedied--so we crave justice. It's not clear if these are reasoning errors or more like evolutionary intuitive/emotional errors.

"The feeling of justice thus arises out of two errors, namely, because the punishments inflicted by authorities and educators appear as acts of retribution, and because people believe in the freedom of the will."

Oh. Okay. So basically since kids are yelled at and told they are responsible for doing bad things, they assume this is true and they deserve what they have coming. This seems kind of all over the place. Authority figures feel some actions are bad, and treat kids as thought that is the case and they can choose not to do them, and this is credible to the kids because they also innately feel these actions are bad and that they have choice. Therefore they see the punishment as necessary and logical.

Rée rejected metaphysical explanations of good and evil; he thought that the best explanations were those of offered by Darwin and Lamarck, who had traced moral phenomena back to their natural causes. Rée argued that our moral sentiments were the result of changes that had occurred over the course of many generations. Like Lamarck and Darwin, Rée argued that acquired habits could be passed to later generations as innate characteristics. As an acquired habit, altruistic behavior eventually became an innate characteristic. Altruistic behavior was so beneficial, Rée claimed, that it came to be praised unconditionally, as something good in itself, apart from its outcomes.

This sounds like it would be "moral foundations theory" or something, but this really doesn't seem to have developed reasoning about which traits would evolve from certain natural causes. Maybe the summary just doesn't bother to say. But he doesn't seem able to come up with the idea that altruism would have evolutionary benefits, although it doesn't seem like this idea would have been hard to generate even at the time, as animals cooperate. Actually, I think I misunderstood, and he did make some evolutionary argument. But basically we found altruistic people so attractive that even when unnecessary, it was selected for--overly altruistic people were selected for, even if it led to bad outcomes, because it is itself an impressive virtue. I can see why Nietzsche would freak out about this.

Attempt to understand Nietzsche and paraphrase him, since it seems a lot of people are interpreting him various ways that strike me as incorrect and even absurd. I may be the one who is wrong, but I want to sketch it out. (Some academics likely have it right, but their stuff isn't easily accessible.) 

Genealogy of Morals


People don't reflect enough on what it is they're doing in life--this part strikes me as weirdly vague in its phrasing. I'm not quite sure if he's saying they don't know what they really want, or what their purpose is, or what it is they are supposed to be understanding. I gather from what he says about the hive that he believes something like the purpose of human life is to acquire knowledge that provides meaningful satisfaction to the human spirit. But this is clearly a brief intro which will be expanded upon.

He then talks about how he has been exploring where morality came from for years at this point, and writing about it, and he's happy to see his ideas cohering--they fit together, which means he is on to something real. This strikes me as very important and a generally underappreciated aspect of Nietzsche and philosophy in general---way too many people think they can pick and choose individual sentences and understand what is going on, but these things are part of a coherent value system connected to a larger truth. You really have to absorb and marinate in this type of writing, not take it at face value. They can be extremely dysfunctional or just useless if used out of context. They're "of a piece." Extremely important passage:

That is the only state of affairs that is proper in the case of a philosopher. We have no right to be "disconnected"; we must neither err "disconnectedly" nor strike the truth "disconnectedly." Rather with the necessity with which a tree bears its fruit, so do our thoughts, our values, our Yes's and No's and If's and Whether's, grow connected and interrelated, mutual witnesses of one will,


The next part was slightly confusing to me, but basically he says that from a very young age, he was obsessed with why something was considered right or wrong, and what made it so. He felt he had to question things, in a way so at odds with the behavior of people around him that he thought he was somehow unique or unprecedented (a priori). His personality/nature would cause him to freeze and analyze any inconsistency until he reconciled it or could explain the concept, pretty much. I am the same way; Lincoln said something similar. He explored philosophical problems that were commonly presented to students at that time, and sounds quite similar to Emerson here in saying he decided to argue God created evil and thought he was quite clear. Emerson told his schoolmaster that he trusted his instincts, and was asked what if they came from the devil. He then said "well, I guess I'm a creature of the devil, then, and have to follow my nature." Note that Emerson was from a long line of preachers and in a New England Christian community in the early 1800s, so that was risky. Nietzsche seems more neurotic, and so wonders what in his nature caused him to make that argument, which was "immoral" or "at least amoral." What about his constitution resisted simply accepting that evil came from the Devil, not God? Was it just being clever, or was that what he really believed deep down at age 13? He notes his inner self spoke to him in categorical imperatives, insisting on one consistent rule, no inconsistency. Took me a minute to figure out the "Kantian article" reference. Info here: Still not sure exactly the point---simply that his own argument wasn't so insistent on doing the morally good thing? That it was freaky to consider that God created evil, and all its implications? Yeah, it appears he was stressed about violating Christian teachings, but soon learned how to take a secular approach, and seems to imply he became an atheist. No longer thought supernatural origins were in play.

Instead, values were created by men--not God or the Devil--and the question is on what basis did they generate them, are they actually valuable, and do they help or hinder humanity? The "helping" view would mean "is it in them that is manifested the fulness, the strength, and the will of Life, its courage, its self-confidence, its future?" This is what Nietzsche considers valuable. 

He basically then says he dove into the problem and constructed an elaborate intellectual framework over some period of time, and relished the satisfaction of playing around with his discoveries, but kept it mostly quiet, until inspired to publish by an interesting book on morals, that expressed the polar opposite of his own views and thus fascinated him. Despite disagreement on everything, he read it without getting worked up--I assume he means the approach of the author was "fair" and well-reasoned, so he could respect it intellectually and really grasp it. It was the first time he'd encountered this value system clearly and coherently--he makes a point of saying this was the English kind, which he finds alien. That book inspired him to write his later books--to refute its arguments and discuss the origin of morality. Note to self: read the book described as follows:

I owe to a clear, well-written, and even precocious little book, in which a perverse and vicious kind of moral philosophy (your real English kind) was definitely presented to me for the first time; and this attracted me—with that magnetic attraction, inherent in that which is diametrically opposed and antithetical to one's own ideas. The title of the book was The Origin of the Moral Emotions; its author, Dr. Paul Ree; the year of its appearance, 1877.

Note on timeline: Nietzsche mentions he spent a lot of time thinking this stuff over in the 1870s, especially mid-late. Have to look at what was going on, but I believe Bismarck was doing his thing. Emerson was alive but failing. The U.S. was just starting to become modern, at a rapid pace, in terms of big business especially, then sliding into imperialism and government-by-expert. I think Europe was reasonably stable (excepting Russia?), but I'll probably turn out to be very wrong on that.

I referred accordingly both in season and out of season in the previous works, at which I was then working, to the arguments of that book,—
not to refute them for what have I got to do with mere—
refutations but substituting, as is natural to a positive mind, for an improbable theory one which is more probable, and occasionally no doubt for one philosophic error another. In that early period I gave, as I have said, the first public expression to those theories of origin to which these essays are devoted, but with a clumsiness which I was the last to conceal from myself, for I was as yet cramped, being still without a special language for these special subjects,

Nietzsche makes a point of noting he takes a positive approach--meaning he wants to build a case for the correct system, not negate others'. So where he thought something made an unlikely assumption relative to his own, he spelled that out, admitting he was wrong at times and that his ideas took a while to express effectively, but have stayed consistent. Interesting that he thinks he needed jargon--not sure which special subjects/language he means, but I could see how certain things would be useful shorthand. Also, this must have been translated into German, which may have made things a little weird when talking about certain concepts and technical terms.

Will continue with Part 5. 

There's definitely truth in that, but I think it's below 80 on both counts, at least in 2020. Going about one's business even in an ordinary way requires an understanding of a lot of higher meanings. Very little directly corresponds to reality.

I think it is correct that "please pass the potatoes" is Stage 1, but it's not the best example for describing what this article is talking about. It's more about the hearer than the speaker, in some ways, and what broader context they bring to a straightforward statement.

I think the idea is more like that at level 2, the child no longer passes the potatoes just because it's the moral and practical thing to do, but sees it as an imposition and wants to know why he has to. The parent may be using the phrase exactly the same, but has failed to teach the child to appreciate his wider social obligations and what needs to be done to keep the community going. At level 3, the child thinks "better do what mom says and pass the potatoes or get yelled at/grounded," but again sees it as a hassle rather than healthy interaction. This is because whenever she asks why, she gets told "because I said so." Even though the reason her mom would ask is common sense, if you're used to getting that answer, you often stop observing your own surroundings and think of things in a self-absorbed rather than common sense manner. At level 4, you may to get a point where a child casually passes a platter with one potato left, not thinking to get more or warn they are gone, because they don't get that the request implies you want to eat the potatoes, not just possess a plate with scraps. Or they might get embarrassed by not knowing what to do and asked to be excused.

Forgot to add that I think there is a lot of overlap between stage 2 and 3, such that they may not necessarily be different levels of progress so much as different personality types who exist on the same level, which is nihilistic in character. Or, maybe, that a minority of 2 and 3 types exist at every stage---the former is the string-pullers of any age, and the latter is the abstract intellectual type. These people generally make up the elite class, and their behavior will differ depending on the stage of society. Most people never hit this level of cynicism or abstraction, but regular people borrow random 2 and 3 behaviors/concepts that appeal to their needs. I suspect the way it works is that the general public stays rooted for a long period at 1, but when their selectively collected 2/3 ideas reach a certain level of salience, the discrepancies shift them rapidly to stage 4, and the elites find they can't influence things the way they used to.

Brilliant! Agree the story is getting at the same concept as simulacra levels, which can be far more "low-tech" than people realize. The increased abstraction or speed of change are not the drivers, but both a causes and effects of knowledge decay, which is the real driver. I believe the phenomenon is cyclical, and correlates broadly with generational change.

You may not agree with this, but I've been desperately trying to explain to people older than me that a critical mass of (mostly young) people have hit level 5, and it is our responsibility to get things back on track, because they literally cannot do so. This can only be done by re-anchoring ourselves in object-level reality, as expressed in a concept of natural order and a sincere commitment to wisdom and truth. If we don't do it, society will eventually crash into reality and be forced to rediscover it for themselves, but starting from scratch would be tragic given all the past experience we have to guide us. We already know what works--the details don't matter as much as we think they do.

I'm 31. This is an extremely low-resolution generalization, but the way I see it, my parents were born and raised in a stage 3-4 transition, and I was born and raised in a stage 4-5 transition. As you suggest, stage 4 people don't pass anything on to their kids, but they're oblivious to the problem, because already in a pretty oblivious state, but with enough of a sense of earlier stages to keep this from impairing their functioning in immediately obvious ways. Caught somewhat in the middle, I can get into the minds of both and see the disconnect. I was also able to recover an understanding of stages 1 and 2, and get a general sense of what we're missing and why. But I'm not sure where to go from here. My sense is that this stage is usually exited when people turn in desperation to the minority of with a Stage 1 mindset for leadership, because they've crashed into reality and can no longer focus on punishing the wise. But in a complex, highly mediated and interrelated society, it's much harder for this sort of thing to get going. And most American adults are extremely averse to the idea of a natural order outside of delineated areas convenient to them, because of the limits or choices it imposes. I think there are ways to reconcile things into a transcendent order that is not nearly as extreme, impractical, or unfamiliar as they suppose, but that's hard to convey in a society where everyone has a linear idea of progress. In the last few years, I've become convinced that is a highly mistaken concept.

I'm interested in the length of the stages, which don't seem to be exactly the same. 4-5 is a rapid transition, and 3-4 is probably pretty quick. My grandparents seemed to be in stage 3. It seems like stage 1 and 2 last much longer, and that the boundaries between stages are pretty diffuse until stage 4, when it rapidly goes to hell, for reasons you did an excellent job articulating.

Sorry for the long response, but I'm so excited to see someone else who gets this, and can communicate it so well!

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