Hyperian History Of The World (19th Century, Part 4)
The 19th century was the time where we begin to see more clearly the split between philosophy and science. In prior centuries the goal of the two disciplines had been the same, that of explaining and understanding the nature of existence, so they had both been similar and related, with science even having been formerly known as ‘natural philosophy’. Yet the rivalry of Newton and Leibniz had created an irreparable split between them, one which became much more obvious in the 19th century.
The divisive figure for philosophy was, in fact, Hegel. Hegel’s philosophy represented the culmination of German idealism which had begun with Leibniz. Leibniz had actually come the closest to truly explaining reality, yet had begun to mathematicise his philosophy as best he could with the mathematics available to him at the time. Unfortunately, subsequent philosophers had abandoned this project in favour of more complex metaphysics, whilst science did make use of mathematics, although somewhat illegitimately given that science was based on empiricism and mathematics is the purest expression of rationalism. Hegel’s philosophy represented the most complete and complicated system of idealism, yet subsequent philosophers had great trouble with it.
As we have seen, Marx had revered Hegel, yet had misinterpreted him and had developed a materialist version of his philosophy which would nonetheless have huge real world impact. Other philosophers would be less kind to Hegel. The problem was that Hegel’s philosophy seemed so complete, yet was incredibly difficult to understand. It was as if they could tell that Hegel had developed a complete system of explaining reality, yet they couldn’t penetrate through the layers of complex, academic language in order to understand it. Thus they instead rejected it and philosophy has never been the same since.
The next significant philosopher after Hegel was Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer famously utterly rejected Hegel, referring to him as a ‘stupid and clumsy charlatan’ and describing his philosophy as ‘presumptuously scribbled nonsense’. Schopenhauer, therefore, simply ignored Hegel and went back to Kant and developed his philosophy from that starting point.
Schopenhauer’s key assertion was that the universe was simply a single, mental, striving Will to exist. This Will does nothing other than strive for its own continued existence. The Will as it is in itself corresponds to Kant’s noumenal domain and the physical expression of the Will corresponds to Kant’s phenomenal domain, as the subjective experience that the Will has as it continues to strive for its continued existence. Thus was Kant’s philosophy tied to the idea of mind striving for something. However, as Schopenhauer had rejected Hegel, he thought that the Will was one single thing on its own, rather than being individuated into many things as Hegel (and Leibniz) might have said.
Schopenhauer said that the Will strives constantly in such a way as to experience pleasure and avoid pain. However, when the Will does experience pleasure, it quickly becomes dissatisfied with that pleasure and begins to Will pleasure of a different kind. Therefore, the Will is never ever satisfied and simply continues to Will on and on. Thus Schopenhauer’s philosophy presents the ultimate pessimistic view of reality as opposed to Hegel’s very optimistic philosophy which says that the universe will evolve to perfection eventually. Schopenhauer asserts, rather, that the Will is the very source of evil and is itself purely evil because all it does it cause us to experience only fleeting moments of pleasure as small islands in an ocean of pain and suffering.
Schopenhauer saw the similarity between his ideas and those of eastern philosophies, particularly Buddhism. Buddhism also asserts that the striving for pleasure is what ultimately leads to suffering and therefore rejects desire and seeks detachment from the world in order to transcend it. However, Schopenhauer’s philosophy far more rigorously and logically shows how this idea leads to complete and utter pessimism. Anyone who feels attracted to eastern philosophy ought to study Schopenhauer in order to understand the dangers of this way of thinking, leading as it does to pessimism and, eventually, nihilism.
Regardless of the moral implications of Schopenhauer’s Will, his philosophy shows us that physical things have an ‘inside’ from which they are subjectively experienced, for example, our minds subjectively experience our bodies from the inside. It follows that this must be true for all physical objects, thereby proving that there is a fundamental mind that subjectively experiences all matter from the inside. Mind and matter are two sides to the same coin, just as Leibniz had said.
Schopenhauer proved to be very influential, mostly because his works were so much easier to read than Hegel’s had been. Following Schopenhauer, we now arrive at one of the most devastating and explosive philosophers of all time, Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche added a teleological element to Schopenhauer’s Will, turning it from ‘Will to Exist’ into ‘Will to Power’.
Nietzsche realised that Schopenhauer’s Will to Exist was not sufficient, as there are many occasions when one might Will something that actually causes pain rather than pleasure, if this then leads on to some increase in one’s power. Nietzsche realised that the Will wasn’t simply blindly striving to exist, but was rather striving to increase its own power, i.e. it had a teleological purpose.
If existence is all about Will to Power, then stronger Wills will succeed by dominating weaker Wills. For Nietzsche, morality became all about the strength of Wills. Stronger Wills who gain in power are good and weaker Wills who lose power are bad. Nietzsche realised that this gaining of power would eventually lead to the emergence of a new type of human, which Nietzsche called the Übermensch, or Superman, individuals who had gone beyond the traditional concepts of good and evil and who had increased their power to maximum.
As an atheist, Nietzsche saw the Superman as the highest level of humanity, however, if we tie in Nietzsche’s ideas with those of Leibniz and Hegel, we can say that the Superman is a human who has become God, or a monad which has dialectically solved and balanced its own internal mathematical operations. However, Nietzsche described the Superman in a more subjective way, in terms of morality and, in particular, Will.
Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman is immensely important to Hyperianism, for as Hyperians we intend to become that very higher form of humanity of which Nietzsche wrote. To pave the way for the rise of the Supermen, Nietzsche produced works which attacked pretty much every established mode of thinking in the western world, in particular its most influential religion, christianity. Nietzsche considered christianity to be the ultimate expression of a ‘slave morality’ as opposed to the ‘master morality’ of the ancient Romans for example. For the Romans, power was good, and individuals strove to make themselves better, to attain to higher levels of power. Christians, on the other hand, were encouraged to be weak and submissive, to accept the laws of christ and even to submit to their earthly masters, to ‘turn the other cheek’ and to ‘render unto Caesar’.
Nietzsche utterly rejected this kind of slave morality and advocated, not merely a return to the master morality of the Romans, but actually to reject morality entirely and to move ‘beyond good and evil’, to ‘revalue all values’ and produce a higher humanity. As Hyperians, we agree with this totally. Nietzsche summed this up in his famous statement ‘God is dead’. Nietzsche kills the idea of god as being the moral authority of the universe. Nietzsche then realised the true implications of this, that if there is no moral authority, then we are all forced to create our own systems of morality.
Nietzsche’s greatest strength was his ability as a writer. Perhaps in response to the dry, academic style of other philosophers, Nietzsche adopted a brilliantly creative style of writing, more akin to that of great poets and novelists than philosophers. Nietzsche’s books are thrilling, exciting and passionate, allowing the reader to identify with Nietzsche’s point of view and to understand how Nietzsche has arrived at his way of thinking. There is no greater antidote to dry academia than reading Nietzsche.
In his book, ‘The Antichrist’, Nietzsche provides the most devastating critique of christianity, revealing the terrible effect it has had on humanity and utterly destroying it. It is astonishing that this religion is still so widespread more than a century after the publication of this book, in which Nietzsche writes, “I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are venomous enough, or secret, subterranean and small enough, – I call it the one immortal blemish upon the human race….”
What the philosophies of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche do is describe the subjective experience of the evolution of the monads described by Leibniz and Hegel. Leibniz’s mathematical description of monads and Hegel’s description of the Dialectic provide the objective analysis of what is happening in the universe, as if one was looking in from the outside. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche then provide the description of what this is like from the inner point of view of an individual monad, the subjective experience of an individual within the universe. Therefore, Schopenhauer and particularly Nietzsche added a moral dimension to the explanation of existence.
With Nietzsche, it is clear that philosophy has become something very different to what it once was. Whereas Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant and Hegel were all ‘system builders’, who each aimed to explain reality in terms of a philosophical system, Nietzsche, on the other hand, was more of a ‘system destroyer’ who attacked every system there was, savagely cutting to the core of them and revealing their flaws. As such, Nietzsche’s philosophy is exemplary when it comes to destroying the old world, but less so when it comes to creating a new world, his concept of the Superman notwithstanding. Nietzsche was, unfortunately, too much of an empiricist to create a system which could accurately explain reality, yet Nietzsche wasn’t really in that game. Perhaps Nietzsche realised that one must first destroy the old world before the new can be created, one must tear down everything one believes in, in order to understand the truth of reality.
Perhaps Nietzsche was some kind of a prophet, one who, with his concept of the Superman, foresaw the rise of Hyperianism. As a Hyperian, it is difficult to read the preface to The Antichrist and not think that Nietzsche was writing for us:
“This book belongs to the most rare of men. Perhaps not one of them is yet alive. It is possible that they may be among those who understand my ‘Zarathustra’: how could I confound myself with those who are now sprouting ears? – First the day after tomorrow must come for me. Some men are born posthumously.
“The conditions under which any one understands me, and necessarily understands me – I know them only too well. Even to endure my seriousness, my passion, he must carry intellectual integrity to the verge of hardness. He must be accustomed to living on mountain tops – and to looking upon the wretched gabble of politics and nationalism as beneath him. He must have become indifferent; he must never ask of the truth whether it brings profit to him or a fatality to him…. He must have an inclination, born of strength, for questions that no one has the courage for; the courage for the forbidden; predestination for the labyrinth. The experience of seven solitudes. New ears for new music. New eyes for what is most distant. A new conscience for truths that have hitherto remained unheard. And the will to economize in the grand manner – to hold together his strength, his enthusiasm…. Reverence for self; love of self; absolute freedom of self….
“Very well, then! of that sort only are my readers, my true readers, my readers foreordained: of what account are the rest? – The rest are merely humanity. – One must make one’s self superior to humanity, in power, in loftiness of soul, – in contempt.”
– Brice Merci – hyperian