Here are a couple of good examples of what Nietzsche, at times, I think was speaking to. This writer I think gets it; but this one -probably not. Neither talks of Nietzsche, but they don’t need to, they serve to make his points. Both these pieces give us a glimpse into the depth of Nietzsche’s critique, or at least, its reach.
The first writer knows one cannot simply use language that is categorized as “moral”; there has to be something to which the language points and it can’t simply point back to the person making the claim. If it does, then there is no need for moral language, we could simply say, “because I say so.” In fact, this is what Nietzsche really thought we were always doing when making ethical claims; the appeals to God, Reason, or science were psychological cover, our nod to cultural form and decorum lest we embarrass ourselves. He looked for the day when the “overman” could shamelessly appeal to his appetite and will-to-power and nothing else, because there was nothing else to appeal to. And the writer sees that one cannot reduce everything to “economics” or the material if one wants to then make ethical or moral appeals.
“But liberals and progressives are religio-phobic, believe that talk of love and caring is mere psycho-babble, and hence cede to the Right the values issues rather than providing an alternative set of values in which love and generosity and caring for the Earth would take center place.”
He goes on to talk about the spiritual. He knows there has to be something to appeal to beyond power, which is all one is left with if there is only the physical/material.
This is something that secular, liberal, progressives still do not understand. They think Nietzsche’s critique only went to “religious” or “spiritual” ethical or moral teachings and practices. That he simply took the source of morality and ethics (God) and placed it back upon us, with humans. That is true, but it doesn’t go far enough. In placing it back with us, he then made the logical step that in doing such, it made morality and ethics disappear with the only thing remaining to be power backed by law (sometimes, sometimes not). And thus the law becomes whatever the powerful say it is. The second writer, in my view, makes the very error Nietzsche was speaking to.
I’m not commenting on the issues either writer is addressing but clearly both fall on the Left, liberal, progressive side of the spectrum. We need to see that Nietzsche is also addressing someone like the second writer when she notes:
“That’s the problem. Just because someone, somewhere has said something is legal, that doesn’t make it right.”
But to what can she appeal to as to what is “right”? Reason? No, the people on the complete opposite side of this issue are reasonable people, educated, and who can make reasonable arguments for their side and do all the time. Besides, whose reason (as Macintyre famously asked)? Who gets to decide what “reason” means—and to what do they appeal to, to then tell us what reason means, without begging the very question? Keep pealing back the onion and you finally get to the core of…nothing…only power, pure assertion. Can she appeal to science? No, science is silent as to this issue. Can she appeal to the Constitution? She can appeal to a certain reading of it, but if the court disagrees with her, what then? She throws the word “right” out there like we all should know what it is. She seems to be appealing to some objective measure or standard, out there, somewhere. But where? If there is no God, no spirit, no transcendence, then the appeal can only be to law, not some ethereal something called “right”. And here, the law is against her. What now?
Here is the modern dilemma. Here is where Nietzsche was a prophet—he saw this day coming. He knew that once God is dead, only power is operative making terms like “good” “right” “evil” “wrong” “fair” and “justice” empty and meaningless arrangements of letters on a page or sounds we form and utter, but might as well be yawns or unintelligible mutterings—there is no content or referent beyond our own subjective appetite or neuronal firings. Whether this is happening individually or collectively doesn’t matter. Beyond scale, there is no real difference between one bully or twelve, between a judge operating out of this understanding or a mass of rioters. How do we now appeal to anything beyond saying, “Because I say so, and I have more power than you do”? Imagine: the narrative of the world is now one of an eternal cycle of violence, not that there hasn’t always been violence, but now it is seen (provided by the Enlightenment lens, see Hobbs) as the norm, the very fabric and eternal logic of existence.
So, if one wants to know how we have come to a world controlled by corporations, the military/industrial complex, money/resources, the supposed pure logic of economics, and media (not churches, synagogues, or mosques—which isn’t to say they should be in control—but let’s put the spotlight on those entities actually in control) one need look no further than Nietzsche.