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Nietzsche, Artistic Intoxication, and the Overcoming of Nihilism: The body As an Ontology of Practice
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By: Mo Mbaye Email Article
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A defining feature of the highest values then is the project to impose on life rational or ethical perspectives that console us: through the intellectual and moral traditions of the Western consciousness we have been trained to believe that there exists an objective set of values to which we can appeal for meaning. Not surprisingly Nietzsche includes among the highest values most of our secular value systems, for they embrace the Platonist-Christian spiritual notion that truth really exists as a presence in a higher spiritual order although such presence must be recovered from behind the empirical realities of becoming, life, or nature. Our scientific pursuits constitute another way in which we manifest the "will to truth" that drove both Platonism and Christianity. All three movements "negate" life because they affect some level of violence not only on nature but also on ourselves, since the search for objective, ultimate truths may cause us to turn life into a means (or a necessary ordeal) to securing these truths, as, for example, when scientists only show interest in the animal-mechanical aspects of life rather than its creative possibilities. Nietzsche sees the emergence of the so-called modern ideologies (classical liberalism, socialism, positivism, historicism, Darwinism, scientism, etc.) of late nineteenth century Europe as manifestations of the "metaphysical faith" that informs modern value making activities. # He warns against "the nihilistic consequences of the ways of thinking in politics and economics, where all Ďprinciplesí are practically histrionic: the air of mediocrity, wretchedness, dishonesty, etc. Nationalism. Anarchism, etc. Punishment" (WP 1). Behind the emotional and spiritual appeal of modern ideological systems, there subsists a will to dissimulate the reality of the collapse of value systems that claim objectivity and that give the modern personality a sense of moral comfort and stability.

Nietzscheís metaphor for the nihilistic individual who makes value a matter of his own will is the "ugliest man," # who operates the "death of God," that is, the collapse of so-called objective metaphysical and secular ideals. We learn that the ugliest man (a figure of the morally self conscious modern subject) has grown tired of Godís pity, that is, Godís ability to transparently see through the horrible character of an existence (that of the ugliest man) that pretends to simulate ideal models. As a result, the ugliest man can no longer "endure" a God that witnessed "unblinking and through and through" his (the ugliest manís) hypocritical, violent, hateful, and irreverent attitude toward life. "Where I have gone," declares the ugliest man, "the way is bad. I tread all roads to death and destruction" (Z, IV, "The Ugliest Man."). So God has to be murdered because His pity is too great and revealing.

The ugliest man tells us that God "looked with eyes that saw everything- he saw the depths and abysses of man, all manís hidden disgrace and ugliness" (Ibid). The ugliest man, being self-conscious of the ugly nature of his life and experiencing a great deal of guilt since the presence of the highest ideals proves to be a mirror that constantly reflects back his life as a great lie, resolves to abandon his own identification with traditional, idealistic systems of values. He proclaims his power to fashion his own ideals. Like the modern compassionate individual whose pity toward the other leads her to affirm her will to power, pity then has a similar effect on the ugliest man. Though he reacts against Godís great pity, the ugliest man perceives such pity as a mirror, for his appreciation of Godís pity causes him to experience a moral disgust against his own life since, like many of us, he was trained by the "religion of pity" to deeply trust in Godís judgment. So the pity of the modern individual and the pity of the ugliest man are similar because in both individuals pity causes a deep reaction against the traditional perspectives on practical life. The ugliest man develops a hatred of values based on the pity of God (or of the ascetic ideologue, for that matter) because pity constantly reminds him of his own impotence, that is, his need to judge himself on the basis of values that subsist outside the scope of his will and that reflect back on his illusory life.

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Name: Mohamed Mbaye; Education: MA Philosophy; Occupation: College instructor; Interests: Philosophy, History, Arts

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