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Fragment 186, word count: 340.

tags: empathy, embodiment, culture, individuality, voice, Nietzsche, Plato, Kant.

Nietzsche’s thinking did not have a lot in common with Plato’s. In fact, Nietzsche had the thought that overcoming Plato’s way of conceiving reality was the most important thing that western civilization could accomplish to improve itself. The thing Nietzsche didn’t like about Platonism was its heavenly focus, obsession with a remote world that could be thought but not lived with the richness of embodiment, a world of eternal perfection which put worldly normality in a dismissing and frightening light. However, there is a point of contact between Nietzsche and Plato.

Nietzsche judged that individuals are normally conditioned uncritically into a cultish herd mind, a collective set of values and judgments. He presented personal creativity as the elevating human power, a power that can be the portal out of human herd banality and into a particularizing individuality of spirit. On Nietzsche’s view, the distinctness and individuality of the felt human body, awash with personally specific sickness, pain, and fatigue, kinetic power and sexual arousal, are made spiritual by being taken up by creative impulses which construct expressions in a unique voice. Nietzsche’s conception of this process of self-created individuality, separating from cult minds which are always ambient for social beings, is reminiscent of Plato’s metaphor of the cave. In Plato’s cave narrative we are shown a map of where philosophical curiosity, cultivated as a personal mission, leads in relation to immersion in the collective orientation of some cultural community at a given moment. From an initial placement within culturally stipulated forms of experience and dramas, the person devoted to philosophical thinking begins a process of questioning the assumptions, categories, and values of this moment of culture, and in doing so is relocated to individuality. Between Plato and Nietzsche, historically, Kant had already taken a crucial step further. In his balletically formalized way, he observed that people consistently exercising inherent rationality don’t need any external sovereign to proclaim laws because inherent rationality coupled with universal empathy, applied to all sentient beings, enables them to be self legislating in all situations.

Embedded links:

Fragment 104, April 6, 2017, In Plato’s Cave (word count: 926)

Fragment 157, December 11, 2019, Philosophy in the Dystopian Context (word count: 552)

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.