The book is broadly divided into 3 sections. The first section goes through a bunch of western philosophers starting from ancient Greece until Zarathustra gets to Nietzche. I wasn’t expecting it to go in this direction but the book basically goes through the conception of the soul as something separate from the body and how this supposed initial error resulted in nihilism which Nietzche sought to cure.
The second part goes over Nietzche’s intellectual journey and evolution. Zarathustra tries to explain how the definition of certain the definitions of certain terms like “will'' and “Dionysian” in Nietzche’s thought changes over time and how those who miss this development might see Nietzche as incoherent, as merely a psychologist or a poet. I honestly hadn’t heard of the Greek god Dionysius anywhere other than in Nietzche, he doesn’t seem to be such a popular god.
The final part of the book, the shortest and hardest to follow for a non-philosopher like me, was a series of short rebuttals to a few notable interpreters of Nietzche, people like Foucault, Kaufman, Heidegger and Deleuze.
The book is just over 230 pages but it is very dense with content and I noticed that if I didn’t pay attention I quickly lost myself, also sometimes while trying to understand the point that was currently being made I would forget how exactly it is that we got to that point in the first place because each step in the explanation is built on the previous one very meticulously but it’s a bit like those staircases in hogwarts which might take you in unexpected directions, so you might not exactly remember how you got to your destination but you will be too curious about while lies to bother tracing back your steps.
Having that said the book was perfectly intelligible to someone like me who doesn’t know much about Nietzche. Many years ago I once tried to read Thus Spake Zarathustra because I was told it was his best work but I couldn’t understand what was going on so I gave up and instead read the first thing in the publishing order, The Birth of Tragedy which was fun and a lot clearer to understand. Luckily for me Zarathustra is making a series of videos going through Thus Spake Zarathustra bit by bit. I have also watched a bunch of longer videos about Nietzche by Zarathustra’s Serpent and I can’t exactly recollect what he said in the book totally apart from what he said in the videos so I might inevitably be responding to both rather than just the book in particular.
Anyway you can watch his videos for free on youtube to get a taste of the book but I felt like his Nietzche videos were a bit more focused than the book because obviously each video does not have to be a complete overview of Nietzche. I mean I have seen people like Jordan Peterson make multiple hour videos from a single Nietzche quote but I wonder how much of that is original thought, head canon, rather than anything Nietzche himself would say.
Is there head canon here? I couldn’t say since I haven’t read much Nietzche myself but in some cases like when Zarathustra speaks of liberal democracy in positive terms that seems to be Zarathustra speaking rather than Nietzche, to be fair he doesn’t do this a lot in the book so I must be thinking of his latest video on his Nietzschean Liberalism. The book basically lives up to being “a guide to Nietzche’s world.”
I guess some critics of Nietzche might say that if people are able to derive such different interpretations of Nietzche contradict each other then it must be incoherent but then again given that both people on the far right and the far left want to claim Nietzche as their own there must be something fertile about his writing. Zarathustra implies that Nietzche is basically leftwing, or at any rate Nietzche’s philosophy which embraces change over tradition must be leftwing. That is, Nietzche may have been a man of his time but his method is leftwing, a bit like some things which Karl Marx have said may not exactly be politically correct but few would argue that Marx wasn’t leftwing. It isn’t as clear cut here but that’s the vibe I got.
Zarathustra seems to stress that Nietzche’s views allowed for benevolence over compassion and pity but this seemed to me like an attempt to retain compassion and pity despite Nietzche’s trashing of these Christian values as cringing backhanded selfishness borne out of resentment. Didn’t Nietzche call Christianity, hatred tarted up as love? Or was that somebody else?
Also I am not sure if Nietzche makes a clear cut difference between power over others and power over yourself as Zarathustra seems to imply. Maybe he does but I am not sure it is there. Naturally if you have more power you will influence others and bend them to your will.
In principle Nietzche’s ethics are not dogmatically against coercion and the use of force if it produces more power and stronger people.
In my personal view it is best if you can impose discipline over yourself but if you can’t, and many seem unable to, then it is better if discipline is forced on you by others because if you don’t have any discipline then you will have no strength and become even more pliable to the will of others, in many cases the ill will of others who only care for their profit and not for you.
Zarathustra also takes Nietzche’s idea of the “will to power” being the foundation of the universe seriously. Zarathustra claims that this adequately explains all the known facts of the world.
Zarathustra makes a point I have not seen made elsewhere, that the Superman was not Nietzche’s final ideal because the eternal return nullified it. Rather than some utopian goal like the Superman which is outside of your reach instead - those magnificent moments in your life when your understanding of the world, your worldview, is overturned (and “overcome”) might repeat themselves over and over again (if the eternal return is real) and so will serve as the justification for your life, restoring meaning to life.
The explanation for why the eternal return is real is that there is only amount of matter, energy, or will to power in the universe, and so with an infinite amount of time,these forces will rearrange themselves as they once were over and over again, thus if you can will your current life then this will be tantamount to eternal salvation and redemption.
Zarathustra hints that if Nietzche had lived for longer then he would have overcome even with this justification, and created a worldview that he made even stronger and so on and so forth. Or in other words it doesn’t matter if this world view becomes untenable at some point, you would just create another one which accounts for the previous one’s faults and this would make you stronger.
As far as I can piece out a vision from this Zarathustra’s book, it is a world where the strong do not impose their will on the weak but rather impose it on themselves, reach the limit of their self-imposed rules and then recreate themselves in an even stronger form with a new set of better self-imposed rules, and the weak in turn copy the strong, a world where the strong shower the weak with gifts not out of compassion or pity but out of a spirit of overabundance. However in reality I fear that if the strong do not impose their will on the weak then the weak will impose their will on the weak, as seems to be the case in the current situation. Spandrell’s Essay on Biolenism [text ver] shows this better than I could.
This is a condensed summary of Nietzche’s work so there are many points made with a lot of build up but if I had to jump to the conclusion in the simplest words possible it would be, embrace change. Amor Fati, love of fate, not just some passive stoic passive acceptance of fate, not just a pathetic escapist looking away from fate like Buddhism after looking at the abyss for too long, but an active rewriting/reinterpretation of history in your favour.
If I were to be cynical about this, I would say this was an attempt to pretend that you willed an outcome or a change that was out of your control by claiming that you are just a figment of the imagination of your body, of your will [to power].
Zarathustra described the experience of overcoming your worldview in glowing terms, but in actuality changing your mind, having your truth shattered, isn’t always a pleasant experience, and there is no guarantee that there will be a better worldview waiting for you on the other side of that pain. Furthermore changing your mind isn’t often something that you can will or stop when it has started. Your instincts may still be calibrated towards your previous worldview and will fight against your reason.
There are many who have fallen into despair and cynicism when their faith in God, Liberalism, Marxism, Themselves, collapsed.
I guess, given that change is something that you can’t escape from Zarathustra is implying you should welcome it, embrace it, and so “own it,” by pretending that the change out of our control is something that we willed and wanted after all.
To aid in this a self-serving (as in the opposite of self-sabotaging) metaphysics, which can account for all the facts we know about the world currently, is necessary. These psycho-philoso-phical copes needn’t be 100% scientific as long as they don’t have so many holes in their logic and factuality that they are unbelievable, it’s okay if you can’t know if they are true or not.
For example there is no way of knowing (directly) whether this world is made of will to power or if it was created by God (though the latter seems a simpler explanation) or if it was made by God out of will to power, but there is no way to know whether any of these are false either. Therefore it is a choice made beyond truth and falsity, a choice made based on convenience, usefulness, utility, which for Nietzche is power because he believed that being strong leads to happiness, the strong will inherit the earth (or at least ought to because they will be happy and great) and being weak leads to sadness. Might makes happiness (like they say Might makes Right, except he is speaking beyond right and evil). Presumably you would choose your beliefs based on what makes you stronger and what doesn’t directly contradict any scientific AND historical facts.
On the question of Free Will, Nietzche seems to say you have free will but not really you dummy. “You,” as in your consciousness, is just a figment of the imagination of your body (which is made of will to power), and your will to power is subject to other bodies with more powerful wills to power than “yours.” Basically you are the subject of your will (but you can try to affect your will by changing your worldview) and your will is subject to the wills of others stronger than yours. You belong to your will, more than your will belongs to you.
As I said at the start, I am not a philosopher or anything, I just like to watch anime, so I probably butchered a lot of Nietzche’s and Zarathustra’s concepts, nevertheless it was a lot of fun reading this book, I wanted to see the next step and though I can’t say I understood every step it kept my interest throughout. A 5/5.
By Otaking, or The Good Student