Nietzsche on Consciousness

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Nietzsche on Mind

In The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche refutes the dogmatic concept of spiritual consciousness and instead insists that “consciousness has developed only under the pressure of the need for communication” (367). Through denying consciousness the status of essential to existence and providing proof of the universal utilization of language for conscious thought formation, Nietzsche is successful in asserting social needs as the driving force in the ongoing development of a consciousness which has no definite magnitude. Nietzsche’s claims garner support from three premises. To give legitimacy to this theory of consciousness, Nietzsche first attacks the atomized human soul model, and establishs the consciousness as non-essential and non-central. Having proved that consciousness is not the divine, perfect, essence of human beings, Nietzsche only has to provide a viable means by which of consciousness had social origins. In the second premise, Nietzsche claims that, because conscious thought is conducted through the medium of words, conscious thought’s function was initially communicative (367). Thirdly, the continued growth of the conscious is substantiated by the fact that conscious is imperfect and becoming progressively more instinctive to humans (211). Nietzsche contends that consciousness is “in the main superfluous” (367). Consciousness is not necessary for life as evidenced by the plethora of evolutionarily-successful living organisms that do not show signs of consciousness. He also states that most of life is not engaged consciously as humans, like animals, can think and receive sensory data without being self-aware. Conscious thought is not the primary means of cognition, as sparse conscious thought is interjected between (or upon) spans of “self-unawareness”. The atomism of the soul that Nietzsche censures so harshly (211) is made irrelevant by this truth. Consciousness cannot be the permeating, central embodiment of the soul if it is...
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