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Nietzsche ≠ philosopher

I have a disagreement with Ulysee Carrière—as usual, I’m right and he’s wrong. I say Nietzsche is not a philosopher, he says he is. You can tell Nietzsche is not a philosopher because he esteems Napoleon—and Napoleon was a man of action, not philosophy. Napoleon had “a philosophy”, true, but it was philosophy in the sense that you might hear a man down the pub say, with reference to the local amateur football team, “You see, our Neville has his own philosophy when it comes to refereeing.”

It’s what most people mean by “a philosophy”: they mean a set of maxims, derived from experience, that guide an activity—whether software development or brick-laying. It’s like what Nietzsche wrote—a selection of aphorisms or maxims about a topic.

It’s derived from experience—so this “practical philosophy” is often contradictory, paradoxical, and irrational. I’ve taken Yockey apart recently, but Yockey was correct to note that life as lived is not rational—and if you live your life as if it is rational you will kill it dead. Nietzsche and Napoleon understood that too—and that’s why Napoleon’s thoughts on life, love, and war were eventually distilled into a little “quotable Napoleon” for Frenchmen (and other would-be geniuses) to carry about with them.

Actual philosophy attempts to develop a coherent and logical account for what we are (ontology), how we know (epistemology), and how we should act (ethics). You don’t get that in Nietzsche or Napoleon. Indeed, both men are closer to religion because it’s in religion you find their characteristic attitude, particularly in mysticism.

It’s the attitude of the seer, of a man like Rajneesh (Osho). It’s a factual world in the sense it deals in “brute facts”, like the fact the cup of tea is on the table—but it doesn’t deal with facts in the sense that the tea has a particular chemical composition, nor is it interested in whether or not the tea is “really there” or just “in my mind”.

That’s why Nietzsche isn’t really a philosopher. He’s a man who extols the practical wisdom of life, as collected by Napoleon or La Rochefoucauld—he’s nothing like Kant or Russell, men where you find a very dry and very intellectual account that tries to tie together what lies behind mathematics and physics into a general theory of knowledge. You don’t get that in Nietzsche—you get tit-bits, insights, poetry, themes (like a musical theme repeated).

As with Napoleon, he’s interested in effects, not causes—it’s not scientific. It delights in mastery—it’s like a pick-up line: “I don’t care how it works, it worked”. That is sufficient. Nietzsche would, in fact, ridicule the man who asked “why did it work?” as being filled with resentment; he can’t do it, so, as a substitute, he asks “why?” (often there is no answer as to “why?” something is—for Nietzsche it turns into religious obscurantism). Perhaps the why-man can’t do it, as Napoleon does, because he lacks courage and audacity and so plays a game on the side—that game would be more like philosophy, more like what Kant and Russell do; and, in our age, more like what the nerd or pedant does.

Nietzsche is about savoir faire—“know-how”. He’s like a fencing master—or a dancing master (there’s no difference, really).


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