Nietzsche's Revaluation of All Values

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  • Topic: Morality, Friedrich Nietzsche, God is dead
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Nietzsche's Revaluation of All Values
In the nineteenth century, popular philosophy - particularly the Hegelian dialectic - professed that mankind was developing in an upward direction, becoming more angelic as it were. Man's moral laws were more advanced, as support for democracy and equal rights were beginning to become popular. However, Friedrich Nietzsche believed that mankind was entering a downward spiral towards complete decadence. Modern man, with its "advanced" morality, was, in truth, decaying on the inside. Claims of morality merely masked modern man's decay:

he is veiled behind moral formulas and concepts of decency…. [not] to mask human malice and villainy…. [but] it is precisely as tame animals that we are a shameful sight…. The European disguises himself with morality because he has become a sick, sickly, crippled animal that has good reasons for being "tame". [GS 352] Nietzsche believed this to be a form of nihilism because mankind valued precisely what was halting his advancement. With this in mind, Nietzsche began his bold movement towards the revaluation of all values.\

We need a critique of moral values, the value of these values should itself, for once, be examined…. [What if] morality itself were to blame if man, as a species, never reached his highest potential power and splendour? [GM P 6] In this essay I will first look at several reasons for the necessity of a revaluation of all values. Then I shall look at Nietzsche's conception of the "noble" and how through egoism, they can undertake the revaluation of all values.

Nietzsche's most famous statement is, without a doubt, that "God is dead" (GS 108/125, Z P 2, etc.). Through many years of being quoted, contemporary society seems to have lost the significance of such a profound statement. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this statement is that "we have killed him - you and I. All of us are his murderers" (GS 125). It is important to remember that Nietzsche did not believe this to be a literal event. Instead, he explains "that the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable" (GS 343). Such disbelief has begun to cast morality, indeed mankind's meaning, into doubt. Without God, how can universal moral truths be justified? Where is the meaning of man?

What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? [GS 125] While God's death implies mankind has no external guidance, Nietzsche believed that guidance was still needed. This guidance must be internal, from man himself: "is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?" (ibid.) On an interesting side note, Nietzsche seemed to imply, however, that not all men find God unbelievable. The Saint in Zarathustra who says, "I make songs and sing them, and when I make songs, I laugh, weep, and mutter: thus I praise God" (Z Prologue 2), is spared the news of God's death because he actually believed. The vast majority of mankind, though, is not like this. They are without God and need to become gods themselves in order to restore value and meaning to their actions. This need is a first indication of the necessity to revaluate all values and create new ones.

Strangely enough, a second sign of the need for revaluation of values comes from Nietzsche's doctrine of eternal recurrence. This is best described by the demon of the Gay Science:

this life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every sign and everything unutterably small or great in you life will return to you, all in the same succession and sequence. [GS 341] As Arthur Danto relates, this was Nietzsche's "greatest weight" (ibid.), as Nietzsche...
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