Thank you Ben and Javi.
Look, I have to be honest. I've been selective with my reading of Nietzsche. I know thinkers like Betrand Russell (a precise analytical mind, no doubt!) had criticised Nietzsche and dismissed his writings, saying something to the effect that they are literary works passing off as philosophy. I don't think it is a fair assessment, even though it is true that his writings do not conform to the norms of the Western philosophical canon. But I think that's precisely the point, he was agitating for a radical rethink of Western philosophy, drawing attention to its hubris and pretensions. Ok... maybe he did over-indulged himself, what, with titles like "Why I Am So Wise", "Why I Am So Clever", "Why I Write Such Good Books" and "Why I Am a Destiny'. But to give an analogy.... I imagine a bona fide motorcycle mechanic would be somewhat disappointed that a book like, say, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
does not outline a systematic system or processes for maintaining motorcycles.
Anyway, with regard to the common misperception that he was a nihilist... he did use the term 'nihilism', and even advocated it. But he also carefully distinguished between an incapacitating kind of nihilism and a more affirmative kind. I don't have the means to explain them competently here. As with before, for the purpose of exploring a common ethos, I'll just quote the following to illustrate how he actually articulated a hopeful outlook:
The discipline of suffering, of great suffering – do you not know that only this discipline
has created all enhancements of man so far? That tension of the soul in unhappiness
which cultivates its strength, its shudders face to face with great ruin, its inventiveness and
courage in enduring, persevering, interpreting, and exploiting suffering, and whatever has
been granted to it of profundity, secret, mask, spirit, cunning, greatness -- was it not granted
to it through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering? (Beyond Good and Evil, § 225, p. 344)
Indeed, we philosophers and “free spirits” feel, when we hear the news that “the old god
is dead,” as if a new dawn shone on us; our heart over-flows with gratitude, amazement,
premonition, expectation. At long last the horizon appears free to us again, even if it should
not be bright; at long last our ships may venture out again, venture out to face any danger;
all the daring of a lover of knowledge is permitted again; the sea, our sea, lies open again;
perhaps there has never yet been such an “open sea. (The Gay Science, § 343, p. 280)
Saying Yes to life even in its strangest and hardest problems, the will to life rejoicing over
its own inexhaustibility even in the very sacrifice of its highest types – that is what I called
Dionysian, that is what I guessed to be the bridge to the psychology of the tragic poet. Not
in order to be liberated from terror and pity, not in order to purge oneself of a dangerous
affect by its vehement discharge – Aristotle understood it that way – but in order to be
oneself the eternal joy of becoming, beyond all terror and pity – that joy which included
even joy in destroying. (Twilight of the Idols in The Portable Nietzsche, “What I Owe to the Ancients,” pp. 562-563)
To “give style” to one’s character – a great and rare art! It is practiced by those who survey
all the strengths and weaknesses of their nature and then fit them into an artistic plan until
every one of them appears as art and reason and even weaknesses delight the eye. Here a
large mass of second nature has been added; there a piece of the original nature has been
removed – both times through long practice and daily work at it. …. In the end, when
the work is finished, it becomes evident how the constraint of a single taste governed and
formed everything large and small. Whether this taste was good or bad is less important
than one might suppose, if only it was a single taste! (The Gay Science, § 290, p. 232)
Now, obviously there are several allusions here which could be misleading if not read in relation to his other writings. I think I ought to flag this. Also, we could see here that where he talks about 'the eternal joy of becoming', Buddhism would speak of unbecoming
. This is a key difference that should noted. Though, I would say that there is room to extrapolate from what he suggests. I am thinking of, for example, Thanissaro Bhikkhu's The Paradox of Becoming
. In any event, reading the above reminds me of:
And furthermore, just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma & Vinaya has a single taste: that of release... This is the sixth amazing & astounding quality of this Dhamma & Vinaya because of which, as they see it again & again, the monks take great joy in this Dhamma & Vinaya. ~ Uposatha Sutta
What wealth here is best for man?
What well practiced will happiness bring?
What taste excels all other tastes?
How lived is the life they say is best?
Faith is the wealth here best for man;
Dhamma well practiced shall happiness bring;
Truth indeed all other tastes excels;
Life wisely lived they say is best
~ Alavaka Sutta