Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nietzsche and Rand

Provoked again by Wolfgang, I have dipped a bit more into Nietzsche, including the rather nice Wikipedia article, which among many other things discusses his unconvincing claims of descent from Polish Noblemen of the name Nitsky and variants of the spelling of the family name, none of which seem to include my default.

Rand was an early fan of Nietzsche, but later denied his influence on her thinking. The central notions she borrowed from him were those of the Superman as articulated in Beyond Good and Evil and Toward a Genealogy of Morals. Rand, like Nietzsche rejected Christianity and its "Slave Morality" which they thought sought to drag the "superior man" down to the level of the crowd, and worshipped an ideal man who was untouched by the opinions of others - who lacked, if I may borrow from Jefferson, "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." Ayn Rand probably went rather further in modeling her hero for The Fountainhead on a psychopathic murderer who cut up a child and delivered the pieces to her father in return for the ransom he had demanded.

Regular readers of this space may recall or recognize that their ideal morality was essentially a rejection of the morality developed by early humans in favor of the morality (or immorality) of chimpanzee society.

Of course Nietzsche was a subtle and frequently paradoxical writer, so attributing any particular view to him is likely to risk being contradicted by something else he wrote. Moreover, his legacy is a bit confused by editions of his work put out by his anti-semitic sister after his insanity.

One of his tragedies as a thinker, I believe, was his failure to understand or accept Darwin - a failure that was probably more moral than intellectual.

Rand's misfortune as a thinker was that she was a dishonest idiot.