Friedrick Nietzsche gives us a telling example of the infallibility concept and its inescapability. In Nietzsche we have a denial of the God of Scripture, and of the god of Hegel, the modern deification of history as it incarnates itself in the totalitarian state. Nietzsche is also hostile to all morality: good and evil, good and bad, must be dropped in favor of a life beyond morality. Even more, man and life must be negated, and the Superman is the one who negates all things. As Nietzsche observed, "The sight of man now fatigues - What is present-day Nihilism if it is not that? - We are tired of man."1
All the same, Nietzsche wrote; he spoke, and, however much he denied all other values, he did not deny the validity of his word. Nietzsche waged war against the idea of an objective, created and given world, and against the concomitant idea also of an objective, God-given and absolute moral order. In line with all modern philosophy, after Descartes and especially in terms of Kant, Nietzsche was emphatic in his denial of an objective and real world. The only world is the world of the mind of autonomous man and of the appearances his mind synthesizes. In Nietzsche's words:
It is of cardinal importance that the real world should be suppressed. It is the most formidable inspirer of doubts, and depreciator of values, concerning the world which we are: it was our most dangerous attempt heretofore on the life of Life.No "things-in themselves" exist, only the knowing mind.3
War against all the hypotheses upon which a real world has been imagined. The notion that moral values are the highest values, belongs to this hypothesis.
The superiority of the moral valuation would be refuted, if it could be shown to be the result of an immoral valuation - a specific case of real immorality: it would thus reduce itself to an appearance, and as an appearance it would cease from having any right to condemn appearance.2
It follows, therefore, that since there is no objective framework of reference, and no things-in-themselves, that the only error man can make is to assume that knowledge has an actual correlation with a real world which leads to an accurate understanding thereof. Knowledge is for Nietzsche the freedom of the mind from an objective reality and its ability, even as it is conditioned by things, to condition them in turn.
As a result, the more a man severs himself from God and the world as objective realities, the more clearly he speaks and, in fact, becomes infallible.
In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche wrote of his composition of Thus Spoke Zarathustra in these terms:
Can any one at the end of this nineteenth century possibly have any distinct notion of what poets of a more vigorous period meant by inspiration? If not, I should like to describe it. Provided one has the slightest remnant of superstition left, one can hardly reject completely the idea that one is the mere incarnation or mouthpiece, or medium of some almighty power. The notion of revelation describes the condition quite simply; by which I mean that something profoundly convulsive and disturbing suddenly become visible and audible with indescribably definiteness and exactness. One hears - one does not seek; one takes - one does not ask who gives: a thought flashes out like lightening, inevitably without hesitation - I have never had any choice about it. There is an ecstasy whose terrific tension is sometimes released by a flood of tears, during which one's progress varies from involuntary impetuosity to involuntary slowness. There is the feeling that one is utterly out of hand, with the most distinct consciousness of an infinitude of shuddering thrills that pass through from head to foot; - there is a profound happiness in which the most painful and gloomy feelings are not discordant in effect, but are required as necessary colors in this overflow of light. There is an instinct for rhythmic relations which embraces and entire world of forms (lengths, the need for a widely extended rhythm is almost a measure of the force of inspiration, a sort of counterpart to its pressure and tension). Everything occurs quite without volition, as if in an eruption of freedom, independence, power and divinity. The spontaneity of the image and similes is most remarkable; one loses all perception of what is imagery and simile; everything offers itself as the most immediate, exact, and simple means of expression. If I may recall a phrase of Zarathustra's, it actually seems as if the things themselves come to one, and offered themselves as similes. ("Here do all things come caressingly to thy discourse and ridest here to every truth,. Here fly open before thee all the speech and word shrines of existence, here all existence would become speech, here all Becoming would learn of thee how to speak.") This is my experience with inspiration. I have no doubt that I should have to go back millenniums to find another who could say to me: "It is mine also!" 4For Nietzsche thus, his writing was an expression of divinity, a revelation, and inspiration. Thus Spake Zarathustra apes in style the Bible and ancient epics; it is about as successful as Ossian and Joseph Smith.
As against "the immaculate perception" of those who want a valid scientific knowledge of things-in-themselves, Nietzsche offered the true way as "Dare only to believe in yourselves - in yourselves and in your inward parts! He who does not believe in himself always lieth." 5
In twentieth-century existentialism this means that the only truth is existential truth, the dictates of one's own being as expressed without the influence of God, man, society, morals and mores, or anything external to the biological impulses of the man. Infallibility now means total separation from the external world, and from the past and future. History cannot be allowed to condition the existential moment.
For Sartre this means freedom from personal history. He denied Freud's idea of the unconscious, of the Id, Ego, and Superego, in favor of "a free, translucent consciousness."6 Psychological determinism could not become for Sartre a primary factor in the mind of man. It is the free mind of autonomous man speaking in the existential moment that has true knowledge. In fact, Sartre held, "Knowledge puts us in the presence of the absolute, and there is a truth of knowledge, But this truth, although releasing us to nothing more and nothing less that the absolute, remains strictly human."7
Sartre and Nietzsche did not use the word infallibility, but this is what they were talking about. For Sartre, the goal of man is to become god, and this is attainable only on existential grounds, although a meaningless and futile passion even in attainment. The same is no less true of Nietzsche.
In fact, basic to the drive of modern philosophy is this goal of philosophers to become gods. As a result, modern philosophers, like the Greek thinkers, and Aristotle's pupil, Alexander the Great, have hated or avoided women as a a drag on their divinity. This was emphatically true of Nietzsche, who despised marriage, and no less true of his follower, Adolph Hitler, whose life and works are echoes of Nietzsche. Nietzsche wrote:
It is an accepted and indisputable fact, so long as there are philosophers in the world, and wherever philosophers have existed (from India to England, to take the opposite pole of philosophic ability), that there exists a real irritation and rancor on the part of philosophers toward sensuality... There similarly exists a real philosophic bias and affection for the whole ascetic ideal; there should be no illusions on this score. Both these feelings, as has been said, belong to the type; if a philosopher lacks both of them, then he is - you may be certain of it - never anything but a "pseudo"... Every animal, including la bete philosophe, strives instinctively after an optimum of favorable conditions, under which he can let his whole strength have play, and achieves his maximum consciousness of power; with equal instinctiveness, and with a fine perceptive flair which is superior to any reason, every animal shudders mortally at every kind of disturbance and hindrance which obstructs or could obstruct his way to that optimum (it is not his way to happiness of which I am talking, but his way to power, to action, the most powerful action, and in point of fact in many cases his way to unhappiness.) Similarly, the philosopher shudders mortally at marriage, together with all that could persuade him to it - marriage as a fatal hindrance on the way to the optimum. up to the present what great philosophers have married? Heracleitus, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Kant, Schopenhauer - they were not married, and, further, one cannot imagine them as married. A married philosopher belongs to comedy, that is my rule; as for that exception of a Socrates - the malicious Socrates married himself, it seems, ironice, just to prove this very rule... So many bridges to independence are shown in the ascetic ideal, that the philosopher cannot refrain from exultation and clapping of hands when he hears the history of all those resolute ones, who on one day uttered a nay to all servitude and went into some desert; even granting that they were only strong asses, and the absolute opposite of strong minds. What, then, does the ascetic ideal mean in a philosopher? This is my answer - it will have been guessed long ago: when he sees this ideal the philosopher smiles because he sees therein an optimum of the conditions of the highest and boldest intellectuality; he does not thereby deny "existence," he rather affirms thereby his existence and only his existence, and this perhaps to the point of not being far off the blasphemous wish, pereat mundus, fiat philosophia, fiat philosophus fiam!...8In the above passage, Nietzsche also cites Buddha favorably with Buddha's contempt for life. Nietzsche is emphatically the great yea sayer to death and destruction, not to life.
Nietzsche's savage hatred of women, because the pull of sex is a reminder of humanity and of dependence, a difficult things for a would-be god to admit to, is apparent in work after work after work. In Thus Spake Zarathustra, he gave as women's only use "recreation" for the warrior's play: "all else is folly." However, Warrior-man, or Superman, should go in to a woman only with care: "Thou goest to women? Do not forget thy whip!"9
This latter remark was apparently commonly used by Nietzsche before he wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra, because a year earlier a woman he loved intensely, but who did not return his love, Lou Salome, had Nietzsche and Paul Ree assume the place of animals in harness to a cart, while she sat in the cart with a whip!10 Moreover, Nietzsche's contempt for marriage was in part dishonest; women had repeatedly refused his marriage offer.11 usually this means, however, that a man has asked where he is sure of refusal, so that he can cherish a resentment against women.
The existentialist faith, however, stresses this goal of independence for men and women, and the result is not only a studied immoralism but a sense of infallibility and a radical self-righteousness. The modern mood is the ultimate in phariseeism as a consequence. In the various men's magazines which stress nudes, the brief interviews with the nude models almost always stress existential humanism with all its self-righteousness. As one such girl of 21, describing her deliverance into the new faith, declared:
I'm discovering my own integrity in L.A., discovering that I'm really a very honest person. And I like that. I like almost everything... In fact, I love everything! I have no hang-ups about sex. With the right man and with the right, relaxed attitude, sex is the most exciting thing I know. There's got to be more to a man, of course, than just a nice body: I've been to bed with men who were incredibly good-looking and said goodbye to them the next morning not ever wanting to see them again. When you're just horny and want to get laid, you find the best-looking, most virile man you can. But to get it all together, you need the body and the mind.13For Nietzsche, the fear of involvement with woman was very great. For contemporary existentialism, sex, for man and woman alike, is depersonalized; it is a form of masturbation with another being, and some have held solitary masturbation to be the highest form of existential sex. Betty Dodson has praised masturbation, writing, "Socially institutionalized dependent sex is depersonalizing... Masturbation can help return sex to its proper place - to the individual." A professor, Dr. Joseph Lo Piccolo, has "written a nine-step masturbation program."14 For many others, fornication and group sex are best without emotional involvement, i.e., when impersonal and physical in the main. However, in using and depersonalizing others, such people have only depersonalized themselves. Their pure fountain of existential infallibility is the old fountain of sin and self-righteousness. The end of Nietzsche was madness, but, as Lou Salome saw very early, his philosophy was always madness.
The dependent creature can speak only a dependent and fallible word.
- F. Nietzsche: The Genealogy of Morals, First Essay
- F. Nietzsche: The Will to Power
- F. Nietzsche: Ecce Homo
- F. Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra, Part II, XXXVII
- Hazel E. Barnes, in "Translator's Introduction" to Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness
- Nietzsche: The Genealogy of Morals, Third Essay
- Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra, Part I, XVIII
- H.F. Peters: My Sister, My Spouse [See photograph]
- Theophile Gautier: Mademoiselle De Maupin
- "Georgia Girl," in Penthouse, vol. 5, no. 10, June, 1974, p. 86
- Linda Wolfe, "Take Two Aspirins and Masturbate," in Playboy, vol. 21, no. 6, June, 1974, p. 164