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Nietzsche on Conservatism

180 words

Czech translation of this post: here

Editor’s Note:

The following is section no. 43 of “Skirmishes of an Untimely Man” from Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Twilight of the Idols.

43. Whispered to the conservatives. — What was not known formerly, what is known, or might be known, today: a reversion, a return in any sense or degree is simply not possible. We physiologists know that. Yet all priests and moralists have believed the opposite — they wanted to take mankind back, to screw it back, to a former measure of virtue. Morality was always a bed of Procrustes. Even the politicians have aped the preachers of virtue at this point: today too there are still parties whose dream it is that all things might walk backwards like crabs. But no one is free to be a crab. Nothing avails: one must go forward — step by step further into decadence (that is my definition of modern “progress”). One can check this development and thus dam up degeneration, gather it and make it more vehement and sudden: one can do no more.



  1. Posted July 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    One can do both, keep the past and the future. Conservatism taught me how difficult or impossible it is to achieve something radically new. Better to take the past with you as you move forward, although perhaps you will move forward somewhat slower than radicalism prefers. At least you have far less chance of total self destruction. And often what has been preserved over great time is worth preserving. Did Nietzsche understand this, or was he so authority hung-up that nothing in power could please him? I think you can take both Christianity (or any of the Revealed Religions) forward along with evolution, especially if your goal is to evolve to Godhood. But you may have to put the past in its place, included, but following in the rear. This is radical enough for reality.

  2. Posted July 20, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    a reversion, a return in any sense or degree is simply not possible.

    That might be true, but I want to see the calculations behind the claim.

    We physiologists know that.

    I’ll accept that Nietzsche was a physiologist when I see his diploma and transcript.

    I think Nietzsche knew a lot less about science than he thought he knew.

    Yet all priests and moralists have believed the opposite — they wanted to take mankind back, to screw it back, to a former measure of virtue. Morality was always a bed of Procrustes.

    Well, there was at least one moralist who wanted to take humanity “forward” – I’m thinking of August Comte.

    Now, if I were conventionally religious, I could content myself with posting a screed about how Comte is currently rotting in Hell. Since I am not conventionally religious, I find myself with the more burdensome task of addressing Comte’s philosophy, and its shortcomings. I really need to go back to using a systematic project list. There are so many issues to write about that I need a “action management system,” probably modeled on the fashionable “Getting Things Done” books by David Allen, just to remember what I am supposed to write about.

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