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New Kindle Book: “Values and the Future (Revaluation of Values)”

Values and the Future (Revaluation of Values) is now available at the Kindle Store

Nietzsche said revaluation of values is the supreme task of the philosopher. Nietzsche called philosophers lawgivers. And yet the world continues to operate as though values were not something we are called to revise, develop, enunciate. The position of these recent reflections is allied with Nietzsche. The values suggested are vastly different from the usual, traditional pantheon.

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theology

Nietzsche + Jesus + Values

Nietzsche + Jesus + Values

All quotations below are from From “The Antichrist” by F. W. Nietsche Translated by H. L. Mencken. References are to sections. I have bolded each direct quotation.

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This page will seek to build over time a general thesis regarding Nietzsche, Jesus and values. These three words belong together. Let me say why.

1. Nietzsche clearly and unequivocally placed Christianity at the center of the things that had to be criticized if we were to have, if I may intrude an ironical phrase, change we can believe in.

2. Nietzsche correctly understood that the center of the change involved what he called the revaluation of values. His last work prior to his final years of withdrawal was the first of four efforts to move toward this revaluation.

My thesis is that Nietzsche’s madness relates to some extent to the contradiction that exists between his understanding of the “decadent” Jesus in “The Antichrist” and his bias toward values are hardly redolent of a change that he, or anyone else, might see as a real revaluation. See also. And also.

I think Nietzsche saw in the values he attributed to Jesus a truth that went against his own instincts. But they were values he might have embraced in a genuine revaluation. But he could not bring himself to this leap. Nonetheless, Nietzsche’s beloved amor fati may not be that far from the state of mind he finds in his declension of the Redeemer. Nietzsche’s life work makes him, I suggest, the actual father of religionless Christianity.

If there is any text for this within “The Antichrist”, it’s the following

This “bearer of glad tidings” died as he lived and _taught_–_not_ to “save mankind,” but to show mankind how to live. It was a _way of life_ that he bequeathed to man: his demeanour before the judges, before the officers, before his accusers–his demeanour on the _cross_. He does not resist; he does not defend his rights; he makes no effort to ward off the most extreme penalty–more, _he invites it_…. And he prays, suffers and loves _with_ those, _in_ those, who do him evil…. _Not_ to defend one’s self, _not_ to show anger, _not_ to lay blames…. On the contrary, to submit even to the Evil One–to _love_ him…. [Section 35]

Nietzsche goes on:

–We free spirits–we are the first to have the necessary prerequisite to understanding what nineteen centuries have misunderstood–that instinct and passion for integrity which makes war upon the “holy lie” even more than upon all other lies…. Mankind was unspeakably far from our benevolent and cautious neutrality, from that discipline of the spirit which alone makes possible the solution of such strange and subtle things: what men always sought, with shameless egoism, was their _own_ advantage therein; they created the _church_ out of denial of the Gospels….

Whoever sought for signs of an ironical divinity’s hand in the great drama of existence would find no small indication thereof in the _stupendous question-mark_ that is called Christianity. That mankind should be on its knees before the very antithesis of what was the origin, the meaning and the _law_ of the Gospels–that in the concept of the “church” the very things should be pronounced holy that the “bearer of glad tidings” regards as _beneath_ him and _behind_ him–it would be impossible to surpass this as a grand example of _world-historical irony_– [Section 37]

Nietszche tends to make the “Gospels” synonymous with his sense of Jesus or the Redeemer who is antithetical to what the churches have generally made of him. Here he suggests that the very heart of the gospels is precisely what the churches have avoided for 2000 years. Perhaps that can change?

What the Gospels make instinctive is precisely the reverse of all heroic struggle, of all taste for conflict: the very incapacity for resistance is here converted into something moral: (“resist not evil!”–the most profound sentence in the Gospels, perhaps the true key to them), to wit, the blessedness of peace, of gentleness, the _inability_ to be an enemy. [section 29]

What Nietzsche does is also to make immanence fully tangible. This accords with the place he gives to science, That is to say, it opens the door to an understanding that is closer to experience than propositions regarding the beyond. Indeed he locates the true life in us, not outside. And even in a few words his description of this reality is evocative. And, of course, this enables us to see the fissure between Nietzsche’s stated values, which drive a wedge between herd and aristocracy, and the principles which he attributes to Jesus. This fissure is, I believe, a source of Nietzsche’s final retreat from his project, of which “The Antichrist” as the first (and only) salvo.

What is the meaning of “glad tidings”?–The true life, the life eternal has been found–it is not merely promised, it is here, it is in _you_; it is the life that lies in love free from all retreats and exclusions, from all keeping of distances. Every one is the child of God–Jesus claims nothing for himself alone–as the child of God each man is the equal of every other man…. [Section 29]

For Nietzsche Jesus has a specific character that leads him to the conclusion that there may have been only one real Christian — Jesus himself. As he notes in a section above, however, he believes that free spirits today can also be as he was. Clearly this avenue leads us far from the precincts of creedal religion. Indeed it is characterized by

a flight into the “intangible,” into the “incomprehensible”; a distaste for all formulae, for all conceptions of time and space, for everything established–customs, institutions, the church–; a feeling of being at home in a world in which no sort of reality survives, a merely “inner” world, a “true” world, an “eternal” world…. “The Kingdom of God is within _you_”…. [Section 29]

APPENDIX (The following raw quotations from “The Antichrist” will be integrated into this thesis as time permits.):

Here are other quotations from “The Antichrist” relevant to the subject:

32.

With a little freedom in the use of words, one might actually call Jesus a “free spirit”[9]–he cares nothing for what is established: the word _killeth_,[10] whatever is established _killeth_. The idea of “life” as an _experience_, as he alone conceives it, stands opposed to his mind to every sort of word, formula, law, belief and dogma. He speaks only of inner things: “life” or “truth” or “light” is his word for the innermost–in his sight everything else, the whole of reality, all nature, even language, has significance only as sign, as allegory.–Here it is of paramount importance to be led into no error by the temptations lying in Christian, or rather _ecclesiastical_ prejudices: such a symbolism _par excellence_ stands outside all religion, all notions of worship, all history, all natural science, all worldly experience, all knowledge, all politics, all psychology, all books, all art–his “wisdom” is precisely a _pure ignorance_[11] of all such things. He has never heard of _culture_; he doesn’t have to make war on it–he doesn’t even deny it…. The same thing may be said of the _state_, of the whole bourgeoise social order, of labour, of war–he has no ground for denying “the world,” for he knows nothing of the ecclesiastical concept of “the world”…. _Denial_ is precisely the thing that is impossible to him.–In the same way he lacks argumentative capacity, and has no belief that an article of faith, a “truth,” may be established by proofs (–_his_ proofs are inner “lights,” subjective sensations of happiness and self-approval, simple “proofs of power”–). Such a doctrine _cannot_ contradict: it doesn’t know that other doctrines exist, or _can_ exist, and is wholly incapable of imagining anything opposed to it…. If anything of the sort is ever encountered, it laments the “blindness” with sincere sympathy–for it alone has “light”–but it does not offer objections….

40.

On the other hand, the savage veneration of these completely unbalanced souls could no longer endure the Gospel doctrine, taught by Jesus, of the equal right of all men to be children of God:

Obviously, the little community had _not_ understood what was precisely the most important thing of all: the example offered by this way of dying, the freedom from and superiority to every feeling of _ressentiment_–a plain indication of how little he was understood at all!

41.

Jesus himself had done away with the very concept of “guilt,” he denied that there was any gulf fixed between God and man; he _lived_ this unity between God and man, and that was precisely _his_ “glad tidings”…. And _not_ as a mere privilege!–From this time forward the type of the Saviour was corrupted, bit by bit, by the doctrine of judgment and of the second coming, the doctrine of death as a sacrifice, the doctrine of the _resurrection_, by means of which the entire concept of “blessedness,” the whole and only reality of the gospels, is juggled away–in favour of a state of existence _after_ death!… St. Paul, with that rabbinical impudence which shows itself in all his doings, gave a logical quality to that conception, that _indecent_ conception, in this way: “_If_ Christ did not rise from the dead, then all our faith is in vain!”–And at once there sprang from the Gospels the most contemptible of all unfulfillable promises, the _shameless_ doctrine of personal immortality…. Paul even preached it as a _reward_….

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pattern language, politics

Another Everything Post (Architects, Architecture, Design, Values)

It seems we are in a sort of dog days situation. Everything moves on but a lot of the news is warmed over mishmash, much of it distraction or irrelevant. For example, I have decided not to Tweet, or give any notice otherwise, to the antics around certain book promotions and similar distractions.

Here is one thing I feel is important that I wish became news.

The need to come up with a revaluation of both design and architecture.

I think both these fields are dens of narcissism where adulation of designers and architects takes the place of serious analysis of how wretchedly these sectors tend to serve the rest of us.

There is first the issue of costs.

Architects and designers who are venerated ordinarily work not for the people but for the rich and their products are rationalized as being useful some way or another.

But far more serious is the underlying idiocy of the current concentrations.

Architects (I should include planners, urbanologists and other related “specialties”) are so wed to the past that all they can do is variations on it. These are worse and worse, not because they do not have the requisite frills and improvements, but because they do not break out of the box they are in.

The box has to do with the shape of a green urbanized ecumenopolis-type world in which the primacy of the pedestrian becomes normative. Christopher Alexander and his concept of democratic participation in building settlements and dwellings needs to be more accepted. The ascendancy of the automobile must be understood to be a terminal state.

Much more of this thinking is stated in my pattern language posts.

Some years back, there was a lot of reimagining going on. I think the notion of reimagining is a box in itself. Nietzsche correctly understands that the true creative revolution lies in the revaluation of values. Not in reimagining things.

When we talk of such things as design and architecture we are challenging the underlying values of these worthy enterprises. Values of nonidolatry, tolerance, democracy and helpfulness are typically given lip service while other more traditional values remain operative. In the case of design and architecture these values include, in no particular order:

place,

prominence,

height,

monetary value,

size

and so forth.

This is the traditional and still dominant culture that gave us the twin towers (which may be venerated now but not for their original structure), metrosprawl and, I would argue, the context for our economic meltdown.

By simply misunderstanding the purpose of their fields, design and architecture help foster massive unsustainability, depersonalization and destruction of community values (gemeinschaft — Tonnies).

Basta.

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Uncategorized

Individuals, Values & History

Individuals is easy enough. Each person, each set of eyes and ears, is one unit of the whole kahuna of our world.

Values is easy enough. A value is whatever you take it to be. To be a value you need to  love  it, espouse it, admire it, endorse it, etc. There are no transcendent values thoough we could argue till we are blue in the face that one thing is more to be admired or endorsed than another.

History is easy enough. It is the record of the past seen through the prism of  two forces, the aggregate acts of individuals and their aggregate basing of their actions on values.

The theory here is easy enough. It is not that people proceed by mimesis or by challenge and response or by some external designation of people via diagnosos or categorization. All external designations of indivituals are faulty. Ultimately they are in conflict with the person. It is the person who decides in every case what he or she will accept.

The theory is that history proceeds by the individual’s perceptions. This is the control tower of a life. This is where the equipment that is that person, whatever it is, gets expressed. Take away the ability of a person not to respond and you have committed a murder.

When the individual encounters the world he or she is unundated with information and upon this information he or she places a  a — a — value. That value may be seen as intellectual, instinctive, whatever. But its essential character is that an individual is committed to it and willing to act on it.

The sum total of history is based on agreements about values. When Hitler ran rampant he did so because a whole bunch of people were willing to go with the sum total of agreed values that they possessed and it led to Holocaust.

When a whole bunch of Americans said yes we can this past November, history was made because enough people agreed on it to make the possibility real.

But let me not be deterred. The way people know things is related to values. Conformity is hardly a bad thing if one conforms to good values.

All individuals make history all the time. All values are affirmed or denied all the time. All history is nothing more than the sum of value after value being affirmed, even if is the value of the guillotine.

Why is this all so? Because we have no verifiable way to know what is true other than the ascription of values by multitudes of individuals. And even then the individual only knows that others have commended this or that.

Why do we agree that a table is a table? Because countless individuals have accepted this name for this construction. The reality of a table is affirmed by its continuing to function as a table is said to function.

I am saying that the individual is the ultimate arbiter of value. The reason is that this is the only knower that we know, unless we wish to attribute consciousness to moths and minnows.

Agreements on values is a threatening notion if true. And if our philosophers were to concede that this is a good way to understand how things work, it might be a way of grasping that history is within our control. There is no fate out there that determines how we must or will act. There really is a freedom made up not of an abstract set of principles, but of the simple reality of people, their differences and their unity, their commonality and their need to set out on new paths. The reality of seemingly immutable and unchanging things such as boulders or the sunken Titanic is only “real” because we agree that they conform to the value reality. Even when we accord a reality to something it becomes real in myriad ways according to the perspective of the knower.

There is no such thing as the achievement of the world’s happiness through self-reliance. Self-reliance is the default. It is the coalescing of selves that make the engine of humankind work.  There is no such thing as a theological superstructure beyond or outside of what people are willing to concede on the basis of values, including values on tradition. Or on particular thinkers for that matter.

When someone insists that such things as atonement are true for all or for some elect, it is as true as if the reference was to a boulder. The only thing that can be said is that some ascriptions of value make more sense than others. Philosophy is made difficult as is theology. But then again values like time change.

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politics

Tough Times for Conservative Think Tanks

It’s about time.

I remember when several bright liberal sorts jumped ship following the 1960s and rose high in the ranks of the conservative think tank crowd. There was money to be had, prestige to be won. I don’t think we — people who were repelled by the desertion and open-mouthed at the success of these renegades — ever even thought there was a scintilla of gravitas in their thinking. It was part of the mesmerizing reaction to the trauma of the 1960s. Advantages were taken via old routes like prodigal military spending, deregulation in the name of free enterprise and lingering anti-Soviet posturing even after anyone with a brain could see the Cold War melting down.

I saw these sorts as a sorry specimen of humanity, unworthy of honor or respect. When a movement has success, as this one did, and you are not even tempted, you know you are confronting dross.

Now the house of cards is beginning to fall.

READ ABOUT THE BELT TIGHTENING AT CONSERVATIVE THINK TANKS AND MORE

The truth is that so-called conservative values belong to liberals and have not in the last century been the property of so-called conservatives. Conservatives inverted tolerance into intolerance, helpfulness into caving in to the poor — who are still with us BTW — and democracy into a reliance on courts to overturn elections.

We have a think tank now. It is called the White House.

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pattern language, politics

How To Get The Jobs Back

I have more than once insisted that things are working reasonably well considering. I assume the untold story now is the number of entrepreneurial and visionary sorts who are completely content with the fact that the jobs that are vanishing need not come back.

The first things they think about are values. What in god’s name will people pay for these days? People will pay for comfort and health but these are no longer to be identified with houses and cars. They are identified with new forms of dwelling and new forms of transportation. It will be hit or miss for a while but a transition from ownership to renting is a hint in the right direction.

Values — what people want is a chance to enjoy public space without being placed in an interminable line, subject to mayhem and hassling and feeling lost in a crowd. Where are the visionaries and entrepreneurs who will put this value into practice by advocating for and creating decent new public spaces where people can sit in some security and enjoy the passing scene?

I have pattern language posts here with tons of specific ideas that suggest new products and economies, but all I am hearing is restarting so we can have more of the same — cars and single homes scattered from here to the far reaches of Mongolia. We are not in a credit crisis. We are in an idea crisis.

THE ONLINE PATTERN LANGUAGE SUMMARY

We get the jobs back by letting go and putting our minds to work. We acknowledge that there are already people working to create a new way of living. We give up cautious capitalism for adventurous investment in real things that are on the ground. We acknowledge that the market is working fine. When we say no, it means that we want something else. People cannot spend for what is not being offered. Where there is no vision people perish.

We give up on the idea that we just need to get credit flowing. What we need to get flowing is ideas and visions. Let’s stop living on credit and live on new values that raise us from lemming status to something a trifle more dignified.

Please read Our Crisis Is Not Economic for context.

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politics

Hero Pilot Gets 40% Pay Cut, Loses Pension

OK, it is a little sensationalistic but this guy has a long name, he IS a hero and he has had a 40 percent pay cut because that is what is happening to pilots.

Let me make my point and wrap this up. My point is that we are at a juncture in our development as a world that we need to distinguish what is more valuable, someone who can ditch a plane in the Hudson without killing everyone or the creation of a few pieces of fabric to be sold for a few thousand dollars. Wait, you say, the fashion thing generates tons of money for models, designers, photographers and knock off artists.

Well, I will stick to my Veblenian guns. We are moving to a value system that places more emphasis on common sense comforts and smart survival and much less on the frilly stuff that essentially supports a hierarchical economy where the rich make 100 times or more what the poor get.

Look at this:

US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger says his pay has been cut 40 percent in recent years and his pension has been terminated. Sullenberger says cuts that followed airline bankruptcies after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks coupled with the current recession have placed pilots and their families in an untenable financial situation.

SOURCE

When you add in the ineptitude of our response to 9/11 I do think a revaluation of values is due, past due, urgent, happening right now. That is what this election was about.

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