Friday, December 21, 2018

Russell’s Tirade Against Nietzsche

Russell; Nietzsche
In his A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell gives Friedrich Nietzsche an extremely cruel treatment. He makes fun of not only Nietzsche’s philosophy but also of Nietzsche’s frail health and reclusive lifestyle. On page 767, Russell suggests that Nietzsche was a sickly recluse who would be deprived of his whip by nine out of ten women. Here’s the passage:
Speaking of Spinoza he [Nietzsche] says: "How much of personal timidity and vulnerability does this masquerade of a sickly recluse betray!" Exactly the same may be said of him, with the less reluctance since he has not hesitated to say it of Spinoza. It is obvious that in his day-dreams he is a warrior, not a professor; all the men he admires were military. His opinion of women, like every man's, is an objectification of his own emotion towards them, which is obviously one of fear. "Forget not thy whip"--but nine women out of ten would get the whip away from him, and he knew it, so he kept away from women, and soothed his wounded vanity with unkind remarks.
On page 764, Russell says that Nietzsche’s book Thus Spake Zarathustra is pseudo-prophetical and full of unnecessary rants against women:
He [Nietzsche] is never tired of inveighing against women. In his pseudo-prophetical book, Thus Spake Zarathustra, he says that women are not, as yet, capable of friendship; they are still cats, or birds, or at best cows. "Man shall be trained for war and woman for the recreation of the warrior. All else is folly." The recreation of the warrior is to be of a peculiar sort if one may trust his most emphatic aphorism on this subject: "Thou goest to woman? Do not forget thy whip." 
On page 767, he questions Nietzsche’s sense of life and is disapproving of Nietzsche’s philosophy:
It does not occur to Nietzsche as possible that a man should genuinely feel universal love, obviously because he himself feels almost universal hatred and fear, which he would fain disguise as lordly indifference. His "noble" man—who is himself in day-dreams—is a being wholly devoid of sympathy, ruthless, cunning, cruel, concerned only with his own power. King Lear, on the verge of madness, says: “I will do such things—What they are yet I know not—but they shall be the terror of the earth.” This is Nietzsche's philosophy in a nutshell.
He goes on to note that Nietzsche’s superman lusts for power because he is full of fear:
It never occurred to Nietzsche that the lust for power, with which he endows his superman, is itself an outcome of fear. Those who do not fear their neighbours see no necessity to tyrannize over them. Men who have conquered fear have not the frantic quality of Nietzsche's "artist-tyrant" Neros, who try to enjoy music and massacre while their hearts are filled with dread of the inevitable palace revolution. I will not deny that, partly as a result of his teaching, the real world has become very like his nightmare, but that does not make it any the less horrible.  
So is it possible to make sense out of Russell’s tirade against Nietzsche? I think Russell’s tirade must be seen in light of the fact that A History of Western Philosophy was published immediately after the Second World War, in 1945. In those days most intellectuals saw Nietzsche as the philosophical godfather of Nazism. In my opinion there is no intellectual connection between Nietzsche and the Nazis—but Russell, when he writing his book in the 1940s, was convinced that Nietzsche spawned the Nazis, and therefore he had to rant against Nietzsche.

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