Nietzsche and Platonism

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In Twilight of the Idols Nietzsche writes, "My objection against the whole of sociology in England and France remains that it knows from experience only the forms of decay, and with perfect innocence accepts its instincts of decay as the norm of sociological value-judgments. The decline of life, the decrease in the power to organize, that is to tear open clefts, subordinate and super-ordinate -- all this has been formulated as the ideal in contemporary sociology." (p 541). The culture of Europe at the time of Nietzsche's writing was experiencing a general decline in vitality which was exemplified in Christianity (Platonism) and anarchy or nihilism. Nietzsche saw himself as a kind of philosophical doctor, capable of diagnosing the sickness of man. These two types of decline made it especially apparent what was wrong with mankind, and in this decadence Nietzsche detected symptoms of nihilism, one of his biggest worries for the culture as a whole.

To Nietzsche, Christianity is objectionable because it is a symptom of mankind's world weariness. In rejecting the realm of the here and now in favor of a transcendent, heavenly afterlife, the Christian reveals his weakness. This weakness was first observed in Plato, whose logic is eventually carried out into the development of Christianity. Plato created the idea that this world is meaningless, and that people do not get rewarded for their actions until after death, and that worldly reality is not worth anything. Nietzsche has a problem with a philosophy which is so life denying, which seeks to strip us of our most basic instincts, of the core of our humanity.

The Christian, Nietzsche claims, is similar to the nihilist. He denies the natural rank order of the world in favor of an unrealistic vision of the equality of all souls. This rejection of super- and subordination is a symptom of resentment against reality. It is the dissatisfied cry of the weak who, instead of acting in accord with their own...
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