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Wow, this is great—I've been blogging now for only 160+ years, and I already have hundreds of thousands of readers! Who would have thought so many people would want to hear little old me rant about morality, religion, and music? Wait, don't answer that: allow me to quote myself:
One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous—a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience, a decision that was conjured up against everything that had been believed, demanded, hallowed so far. (Source.)
You're welcome, world.
P.S. For the record, my book Ecce Homo—that's where I got that quote—has nothing at all to do with that other Ecce Homo.
I was strolling through the Alps again this morning, when it dawned on me: I have forgotten my umbrella. But then I was like, "whatevs," and just kept walking. #oops #YOLO
(Jacques Derrida was tagged in this post.)
You can tell a lot about the values of a culture simply by looking at how its words have evolved. Take ancient Greek, for instance: back in the day, the word "esthlos" meant "good" or "brave." But did you know that way back in the day, it simply meant "one who is," or one who "is true?" In other words, when people used the word "esthlos," it didn't mean much more than that something exists.
Along the way, however, it came to acquire a slightly different meaning: one who is truthful. It's at that point when the nobility started using it to refer to themselves, as opposed to the common man, who was a "lying" sort of man. Because the nobility liked to use the word to describe themselves, it soon came to mean, unsurprisingly, "nobility." But when the nobility declined, and the common man rose up, the word came to mean "nobility of soul."
Why did it start to mean that? Simple: the common man wasn't noble by blood or body (which is what the word used to mean) but still wanted to describe himself with this word. Hence, therefore, and forthwith, the meaning had to be twisted a bit so that so it could be used to describe the common man.
And there you have it: the story of how the lower class hijacked the values of the nobility, captured in a single word. Maybe now you can see why I chose to become a philologist, MOM.
Every philosopher knows that Nietzsche suffered a mental collapse on January 3rd, 1889. What few people knew until recently is that the day before, he gave his last coherent interview at Shmoop's remote office in Turin. This interview, recorded with the world's first video camera—67 pounds, coal-powered, and very smoky—has long been considered a myth, and anyone who brought it up was doomed to be ridiculed for the rest of their uneventful lives… until now…
Shmoop: So, Fred—may we call you Fred?—we heard that you've just put the finishing touches on your latest book, Ecce Homo, which is an overview of your entire career. For those of us who can't read, why don't you tell us about your work on morality?
Nietzsche: Please, I beg of you, don't call me "Fred." Morality? Ah, well, I've always been concerned with the health of a culture—I'm what you might call a "cultural physician." You see, a culture's moral values always reflect the health (or lack thereof) of a culture. For that matter, I also believe that an individual's moral values will reflect that individual's health.
For instance, a frail and weak person will usually have frail and weak values: values that are based on a desire for revenge against those who are strong. Our modern European society has become infected with these sorts of values through the spread of Christianity. But Christianity will soon pass on, and it's up to us to decide where we go from there…
Shmoop: [coughs] Sorry, it's this [coughs again] blasted video camera… but yes, you are famous for declaring that "God is dead." Care to tell us what you mean by that?
Nietzsche: I was just about to do that. Christianity contains within itself a desire for truth, you see, and this has helped make it so successful. What is still to be understood, however, is that this same desire for truth will also be its own undoing.
Science has already shown us, in its search for truth, that God is not necessary to explain what we see in the world. Then there's philosophy, which, in its own search for truth, has revealed that one cannot believe in God without accepting a great many contradictions.
But of course, this is 1889, and only scholars and educated men (not women, thank you very much) have the privilege of being atheists. Most people don't have access to the latest scientific and philosophical findings. But what about 100, 200, or 300 years from now, when the news of God's death will have reached even the common man? What then?
Shmoop: [anxiously munching on popcorn] Yes, what happens next? Go on, we're listening.
Nietzsche: That's the question I'm asking. When we find out that the entire edifice of Christianity is nothing but a simple human construct, all the values that Western civilization has been built on will go out the window with it. How will we react? Will we sink into nihilism and despair? Or will we use this realization—the realization that God is dead and that we have killed him with our unquenchable thirst for truth—to become creators of new values? [coughs] Can you turn this motion camera thing off?
Shmoop: No. [coughs] Now, tell us more.
Nietzsche: I would, but I have to see a man about buying a horse. [passes out from oxygen deprivation]
Shmoop: Somebody get a medic!