Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Occasional Nietzsche Quote

The intellectual conscience.--I keep having the same experience and keep resisting it every time. I do not want to believe it although it is palpable: the great majority of people lacks an intellectual conscience. Indeed, it has often seemed to me as if anyone calling for an intellectual conscience were as lonely in the most densely populated cities as if he were in a desert. Everybody looks at you with strange eyes and goes right on handling his scales, calling this good and that evil. Nobody even blushes when you intimate that their wieghts are under-weight; nor do people feel outraged; they merel y laugh at your doubts. I mean: the great majority of people does not consider it contemptible to believe this or that and to live accordingly, without first having given themselves an account of the final and most certain reasons pro and con, and without even troubling themselves about such reasons afterward: the most gifted men and the noblest women still belong to this "great majority." But what is goodheartedness, refinement, or genius to me, when the person who has these virtues tolerates slack feelings in his faith and judgments and when he does not account the desire for certainty as his inmost craving and deepest distress--as that which separates the higher human beings from the lower.

--The Gay Science, section 2


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Interesting timing of this Nietzsche quote, WS. If it was this correspondent who inspired you, so be it.

It's very close to Plato's parable of the cave, where the occasional philosopher {?} exits the cave that his people live in, takes a look around at the real world, then goes back down. Meanwhile, his people have been looking at the shadows on the cave walls, and have been constructing an account of reality based on the shadows.

What is the philosopher to do? We learn by what they did to Socrates that he's invited to go kindly kill himself.

I've had the same thought as what I think you're getting at here, but that those who depend on their information of the world from the NYT, Washington Post, Reuters, the AP, and various and sundry leftist blogs are looking at shadows. Based on these shadows, I can hardly condemn them for their opinions---they're doing the best they can. But there is more, the rightosphere. And if I posit a thought that comes from there, well, I can hardly be surprised that the cognitive dissonance it produces strikes back at me as person.

Disappointed, certainly. Surprised, no.

Now, I'll confess here that my job has led me lately to network with many folks on the right. As a result, I largely like the right less, not more, as I've sen the depths of their cave, too. Surprised, yes, but disappointed no, because we're all God's chillun, and each of us in our own way, suck. And my eyes are more open to the left's revulsion at the right, especially the worst of them.

So there. I took a trip outside the cave, or down into it, I make it. Ecch.

I do try to offer original thoughts in my comments on this blog; I don't always succeed: I'm human, too. I reckon Nietzsche was one of the rare original thinkers who lives outside the cave, but of course his own life was shit, and he was impotent in his time and for all times.

They wouldn't even have wasted a bowl of hemlock on him. Where we go from here, WS, I do not know. But not in Nietzsche's direction.

2:05 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Actually, Tom, this wasn't directed at you, though I can understand how you might take it that way.

One thing, though:
Aren't you just a little worried that, on your view, all the most prestigious news sources somehow turn out to be bad sources of news? I mean, I have moments--many, many, many moments--in which I worry that my whole view of everydamnthing is completely distorted... And I do think that there's a certain not exactly liberal but at least sort of anti-conservative inclination at e.g. NYT and the WaPo.

But, speaking for myself, if I were in your position, I'd be pretty worried...most scientists and academics--politically biased! The major national newspapers--biased! The major broadcast media (except for the station that obviously and intentionally exists precisely to be biased to the right--biased!

Anyway, you could be right of course...but if I had to choose between being in your shoes in this regard and being in mine...well, I'd be more epistemically comfortable in mine.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm less concerned about what they put in than what they leave out.

I had an email exchange with a reporter from a major paper recently. He'd written an article about the Pentagon setting up an outreach program to the press about what they felt were distortions and omissions about the reporting on Iraq.

What specifically were they complaining about, I asked the reporter. I'd like to make up my own mind.

He replied, "we wanted to keep the story short so as not to blow it out of proportion."

Huh? What could be more important than us all trying to figure out what the hell's going on over there???

I replied that I don't expect them to parrot the Pentagon, but at least I'd like to hear what they have to say. Proportion, my eye.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I think this might be less of a problem if the government hadn't lied so much going into this war. Now people like me basically trust nothing they say about it.

Could be a parable or something.

9:43 AM  

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