Zientkowski on human rights in Nietzsche’s philosophy

The Theory of Human Rights and Its Criticism in the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

okładka[Note: Below are the abstract and summary in English of Dr. Przemysław Zientkowski's book, published in Polish in 2013.]

Abstract

The book is devoted to the idea of human rights in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Its main objective is to respond to Nietzsche’s critique of eternal and individual human rights.

Two major theses are advanced. The first is that — despite the fact that Nietzsche consistently rejected the existence of human rights — their elements are present in his philosophy. The second is that Nietzsche’s philosophy cannot in any way be regarded as the substructure of the criminal ideology of Nazism.

The book outlines the historical background from ancient times to the French Revolution, thus proving that the idea of human rights is rooted in the natural law. It also raises issues Nietzschean philosophy of law and politics as well as their social and moral consequences. The book focuses only on fundamental human rights, which are, in the opinion of the author, in accordance with the natural law and consist of the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to equality.

Summary

The twenty-first century can be characterized by a specific kind of fashion for human rights. The idea is present in almost every domain of the human life. It is examined on every possible ground, in theory and in practice. It is present in science, politics, work and even religions. Human rights and, strictly speaking, issues concerning their observance or violation, appear as an international burning issue on all continents. Basically, it is impossible to avoid speaking about them.

Another omnipresent intellectual fashion in the twenty-first century is Friedrich Nietzsche and his works. The works are comprehended both in the strictly philosophical (scientific) categories and more theoretical, culture-and opinion-forming categories. The trend started to appear already in the second half of the twentieth century; however, no sooner than in the second and third generation after World War Two, Nietzsche definitively stopped being connected with the criminal system of the Nazism.

In the light of the above tendencies, it is impossible to avoid an attempt to compare the Nietzschean philosophy with the concept of human rights. It was only a matter of time to try to raise the issue and make an analysis of the available material.

The purpose of this book is an attempt to present a response to the definition of “top-down imposed, eternal, individual human rights” in Nietzschean philosophy. In Nietzsche’s opinion, in his contemporary reality, these rights — instead of supporting, leading and emphasizing brilliant individuals — only eliminated natural disproportions and differences between people, transforming exceptional individuals into a plain, identical mob. These rights were understood by Nietzsche strictly in the context of the natural law doctrine. Through his works he indicated its twilight to finally announce the non-existence of human rights.

The intention of the author is also to present some Nietzschean light-heartedness. We cannot, however, accuse the philosopher of the lack of responsibility for his works. He could not, after all, even suspect what social and moral consequences he would bear for the use of his authority by the Nazis — along with posthumous putting in line with the largest criminals of the twentieth century. In his works, Nietzsche often accuses Jean-Jacques Rousseau of the preparation of revolutionary ideology. He defines him as the initiator of the most bloody farce that affected the mankind and, with all strictness, stigmatizes him. Instead, he turns out to be the victim of an unusual perversity of history, which manifests itself in the fact that it is nobody else but the author of Beyond Good and Evil to have been declared inspirer of a significantly bloodier and far greater “farce”, which broke out 150 years later.

This book, despite the fact that it is an integral whole, consists of three basic parts, conventionally called the introducing, historical and Nietzschean parts. Although they are not clearly separated, they form a comprehensible composition that enables tracking human rights from the oldest times, their beginnings to the interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche. It is extremely important in the context of the foundation of human rights. The Nietzschean philosophy and an attempt to include it in Nazism close, in the opinion of the author, the chapter of natural law of human right understanding.

przemek-nietzsche-cover-150pxChapter One characterizes basic notions, presenting them as mandatory definitions in this book. It seems that without standardization of basic concepts, such as human rights, natural law, dignity or human being, there is no possibility of a reliable formulation and defense of the formulated thesis statements.

Chapter Two outlines those primary human rights the book is devoted to, such as the right to life, equality and freedom.

Chapter Three is devoted to the presentation of historiosophical outline starting with the Hebrew tradition, the thought of ancient Greece, to the concepts of the Middle Ages.

Chapter Four discusses the modern theories of human rights from the doctrines of the Renaissance, to the Enlightenment and revolutionary legal-human initiatives.

In both historical chapters the context of explaining natural rights and human rights being, their consequence remains meaningful. It is important insofar because it had a real impact on shaping the views of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Chapter Five of the book briefly presents the life and views of Friedrich Nietzsche and indicates inspirations of social thought of the author of The Gay Science.

Chapter Six introduces the socio-political thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, and strictly speaking the Nietzschean interpretation of the major doctrines having an effect on formation of his visions of human rights.

Chapter Seven presents the human’s dependence on the state instruments.

Chapter Eight contains the Nietzschean vision of rights — mostly in the perspective of subjective rights, as the sphere of abilities of individuals to act limited by instructions of legal norms, and also as the spheres of freedom of behaviors, namely certain activities or omissions resulting from broadly understood nature.

The last chapter, Chapter Nine, presents the social and moral consequences of the thoughts of the German philosopher, mainly through heresy, namely the selection of certain behaviors in the context of law and morality, the author of The Gay Science created a background that his philosophy was used to crush the natural and inviolable rights of every human.

The impact of Friedrich Nietzsche’s thoughts was and has been multi-directional. In the context of human rights, to recognize a person as a biological being with a suggestion that he is the creator of culture, knowledge and the legislator of the systems of values remains meaningful.

A broad bibliography on the subject includes biographies of the author of Beyond Good and Evil, reasons and comments to the works of Nietzsche from all the areas of philosophy, from aesthetics to metaphysics inclusively, in addition, it touches the issues related to philology, theology, psychology and sociology. When analyzing nearly the whole scope of social life, the interpreters of the Nietzschean thought very often ignore the categories of law and politics. It clearly indicates a deeper need to analyze that issue.

The purpose of the author was to write a book of interdisciplinary nature. Although it is firmly based on the philosophical ground, in its essence it touches the issues related to law and political sciences.

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[For more information, please contact Dr. Zientkowski at przemyslawzientkowski [at] op.pl.]

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Who Really Wants to Solve the Problem of Poverty? [new The Good Life column]

The opening of my latest column at EveryJoe: “Let me share with you the most impressive number of our generation: 600 million.

“That is how many people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in the last 25 years. Never before in history have so many raised themselves to a minimum level of comfort.

“The poverty line is a matter of controversy …” [Read more here.]

the-good-life-poverty

Last week’s column: Taking Modern Artists at Their Word.

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Mill on government capture

John Stuart Mill uses his crystal ball to predict our circumstance — and/or he learned from history:

mill-js-150“When nobody, or only some small fraction, feels the degree of interest in the general affairs of the State necessary to the formation of public opinion, the electors seldom make any use of the right of suffrage but to serve their private interest, or the interest of their locality, or of some one with whom they are connected as adherents or dependents. The small class who, in this state of public feeling, gain the command of the representative body, for the most part use it solely as a means of seeking their fortune.”

Source: “Under What Social Conditions Representative Government is Inapplicable” [1861], Chapter 4 of Essays on Politics and Society, edited by J. M. Robson, University of Toronto Press, 1977, p. 414.

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Four recommended books on postmodernism

Four books that I learned from and that focus on the postmodern challenge in specific intellectual areas:

Koertge-House* Literature: John Ellis, Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities.

* History: Keith Windschuttle, The Killing of History.

* Science: Noretta Koertge, editor, A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science.

* Law: Daniel Farber and Suzanna Sherry, Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on Truth in American Law.

Related: My other posts and publications on postmodernism.

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Taking Modern Artists at Their Word [new The Good Life column]

The opening of my latest column at EveryJoe: “You may have noticed that things in the art world are a little, well, off these days.

“The artists we hear most about are those like vomit girl, also known as Millie Brown, who drinks colored milk and then makes herself throw up on the canvas. Or Jeff Koons, who gets millions for intentionally-banal objects, such as a porcelain statue of singer Michael Jackson cuddling his beloved chimp Bubbles. And there’s the famous Portrait of the Artist as a Young Boy Buggering a Goat. Actually, that’s my made-up name for Paul McCarthy’s very serious Cultural Gothic, which does, in fact, show a young boy buggering a goat while receiving dad’s paternal blessing.

“The artists who are nominated for the big prizes are …” [Read more here.]

the-good-life-bad-art

Last week’s column: The Revival of Nazism in Europe — It’s Not Just Racism.

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Plato on games and educating for rule-following

The Laws is Plato’s last book. Its dialogue is set in Crete and led by an Athenian who is never identified. He converses with a citizen from Sparta and a politician from Crete. The politician has been given the authority to create laws for a new colony, so he asks the Athenian for advice, and the long dialogue is an exploration of religion, philosophy, and the education of children as they bear upon politics.

Here is an excerpt from Book 7 on why the State should regulate the games children play in order to train them to become adults who will follow the laws consistently and without introducing changes.plato-raphael The Athenian Stranger says to Clinias the Cretan:

“I assert that there exists in every State a complete ignorance about children’s games — how that they are of decisive importance for legislation, as determining whether the laws enacted are to be permanent or not. For when the program of games is prescribed and secures that the same children always play the same games and delight in the same toys in the same way and under the same conditions, it allows the real and serious laws also to remain undisturbed.”

The Stranger continues:

“But when these games vary and suffer innovations, amongst other constant alterations the children are always shifting their fancy from one game to another, so that neither in respect of their own bodily gestures nor in respect of their equipment have they any fixed and acknowledged standard of propriety and impropriety; but the man they hold in special honor is he who is always innovating or introducing some novel device in the matter of form or color or something of the sort; whereas it would be perfectly true to say that a State can have no worse pest than a man of that description, since he privily alters the characters of the young, and causes them to contemn what is old and esteem what is new. And I repeat again that there is no greater mischief a State can suffer than such a dictum and doctrine: just listen while I tell you how great an evil it is.”

Beware the innovator and the experimenter. He is the State’s worst enemy.

To the extent that the Stranger speaks for Plato, we get a model of education that endorses these top goals: Children must learn (1) rule-following, (2) to follow rules made by others and (3) made by others in the past, and (4) not to think of trying to change things.

Source: Plato, Laws, 797a-d.

Related: “Plato on Education,” including his famous Myth of the Cave. From my fifteen-lecture Philosophy of Education video course.apple-176x100

My “Educating for Entrepreneurship,” in which I compare traditional and entrepreneurial education: “If we contrast much of traditional and current schooling, what do we see? We do not see much uniqueness, activity, or experimentalism. Instead, students sit in straight rows of desks. Students do what the teacher and textbook say. Every student does the same thing at the same time in the same way and takes the same standardized tests.”

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Spanish edition cover — Explaining Postmodernism

The Spanish translation has been published in Buenos Aires by Barbarroja Ediciones with the title Explicando el Pósmodernismo, la crisis del socialismo. The official release will be in November 2014, to coincide with my trip to Argentina to give some lectures and seminars.

Here’s a sneak preview of the lively front and back covers (click to enlarge):

posmodernismo3d-crop

postmodernismo-front

postmodernismo-back

(The original English volume is Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Please go here for information about other editions and translations)

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The Revival of Nazism in Europe — It’s Not Just Racism [new The Good Life column]

The opening of my latest column at EveryJoe: “An old specter is again haunting Europe — neo-fascist and neo-Nazi movements and political parties are returning to prominence.

This feature in Britain’s The Guardian notes an increase in attacks on Jews in France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Further east and south Nazi-like parties are surging in the polls in countries like Hungary and Greece, as this New York Times piece reports, accompanied by their supporters’ many verbal assaults and physical beatings on immigrants from Asia and Africa.

“It is all disgusting and disheartening. But there are serious forces at work that those of us who advocate freedom, individualism, and tolerance must grasp in order to be able to respond accurately and decisively. … ” [Read more here.]

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Last week’s column: Is Life Unfair? My Challenge to the Best Tennis Player in the World.

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