What is “right” and what is “wrong”?
Part 2 of 2
“There is no such thing as moral phenomena, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena.”
Nietzsche accused philosophers of the past of lacking original thought and simply propagating dogma. He asserted that good and evil, right and wrong were merely metaphysical constructs born more out of instinct than conscious thought. Good and evil deeds arise out of our natural impulses and are not opposites.
“that the certain is worth more than the uncertain, that illusion is less valuable than “truth” such valuations, in spite of their regulative importance for us, might notwithstanding be only superficial valuations, special kinds of niaiserie, such as may be necessary for the maintenance of beings such as ourselves.”
A fixed set of moral codes gives us a sense of certainty and we cling to them for comfort rather than attempting to understand reality. Nietzsche suggested if we abandon these artificial restraints we can do more and be more.
Nietzsche did not see survival or self- preservation as the strongest instinct in living things. Our greatest motivation is to assert our strength. The Will to Power is what drives us and we live to express that strength. Everyone and everything strives to master and exert its will on its surroundings. This will can be expressed through ‘good’ or ‘evil’ which are not absolute concepts. If our will finds expression in destructive behavior it is because, according to Nietzsche, that is our nature. The will could find expression in constructive behavior as well.
The goal of each man should be to become the Ubermensch, to rise above being just human-all-too-human. The Ubermensch is someone that establishes his own values and is not a slave to society’s moral definitions. The Ubermensch would risk all to elevate humanity and hurt people if required, understanding and accepting that suffering is a necessary evil. To Nietzsche, the overman was about overcoming not overpowering.
Nietzsche‘s work is however easy to misinterpret and can be used to promote delusions of superiority and given its ambiguous nature, it lacks purpose. It was exploited by the Nazis and the French fascists (who conveniently ignored Nietzsche’s anti-socialism and anti-nationalism). Ayn Rand too seemed to have adopted part of Nietzsche’s work to create her version of the Ubermensch, with this strong undercurrent of high-handed superiority wherein lesser humans bow down to “objectivism” championed by superior beings. More recently, Richard Spencer, a white nationalist leader spoke of having been “red-pilled” (in a sense “awakened”) by Nietzsche. As Scott Galupo of The Week put it “bad Nietzsche is back”.
Morality may be endlessly debatable but what it all boils down to is the sovereignty of the individual. As some of us debate genetic engineering, robotics, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence and weigh their benefits and pitfalls, these 21st-century technologies continue to progress without input from the general public. I have expressed concern before for how some will come in contact with and utilize these benefits sooner than most. Never mind the threat of artificial intelligence (which I perceive as very real), how would genetically and technologically superior Posthumans view the rest of humanity?
Nietzsche doesn’t explain how the Ubermensch works within a system (he probably doesn’t) and without limits, the boundary between freedom and anarchy is ambiguous.
Would the Ubermensch lead the world to create a brighter future for all humanity as perceived by him? What about those who disagree? Do we just leave them behind?
“we might just be a self-sustaining pattern without clear borders that gained self-awareness at some point and now has the ability to think about itself through time and space but really only exists in this exact very moment”.
That seems like a good definition for what we are but that also sounds like self-aware AI. Perhaps that is our future.