#4 Human, All Too Human

Bicameral Ideal as Extension of the Apollonian-Dionysian Distinction – E. English

Writing that ‘a higher culture must give man a double brain, two brain chambers’, Nietzsche draws a distinction between 2 aspects of our experience – science and the so called ‘nonscience’.[1]  The bicameral brain is necessary due to the development of Nietzsche’s thought on becoming and the nature of individuality.

For Nietzsche, becoming is a lack of finality – the constant evolution of a substance.  Because of this, the process of becoming x, for example, is of more value than the final state of being x as the finality of being x becomes a conviction and is unchallenged – it becomes an illusion.  Applied to the scientific, Nietzsche describes the process of becoming more scientific as of more value than the product of any scientific investigation.[2]  Hence, the becoming is more useful than the end (this links nicely to Nietzsche ideas on the value of history in the second Untimely Meditation).  Mulhall makes an interesting comparison between Nietzsche’s approach to becoming and finality, and his aphoristic writing style.[3]  In short, because each aphorism in the text is in itself a complete mini-essay (final), surrounding by other complete mini-essays, it is not final nor self-contained.  This ends the finality of each statement, while allowing them to be grounded and secure in the sense that they are not final.

Moreover, this sense of becoming is also manifest within Nietzsche’s conception of the free individual.  To summarise, in order to be free, as opposed to unfree, one must resist the temptation to be a repetition of others.  The free individual must recognise that who they are now differs to who they might be; that they are essentially different to themselves.  The true self of a constantly changing individual, then, is the capacity to change and to not be limited to habitual decision making.

So, the combination of becoming and individuality leads to the necessity (for a higher culture at least) of the two chambered brain.  In order to prevent a sort of stagnation of interests and achievement of finality, the brain needs to be able to alternate between the scientific and the non-scientific.

The non-scientific chamber of the brain, the source of strength, ‘is the aspect of the self that plunges in […] wholeheartedly inhabits its current world’.[4]  Whereas the scientific part, the regulator, ‘withdraws from any such immersion […] with a productive scepticism’.[5]  Hence, the two aspects of the bicameral brain can be likened to the Apollonian and Dionysian drives outlined in The Birth of Tragedy.

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The non-scientific portion is akin to the Dionysian as it inhabits and accepts the world of illusion; has a desire for finality and is susceptible to the passions.  The scientific, on the other hand, is regulatory; participating in the art of becoming and sceptically assessing the current world.  Therefore, the bicameral ideal of Human, All Too Human is the same combination of opposing urges as the concept of Greek Tragedy.  The two chambers simultaneously interact, whilst remaining separate in order to make life bearable – just like Greek Tragedy offers a justification for existence.

EDIT: It should be noted that the above is based upon a reading of Nietzsche’s work at a specific point in time.  Taking on board Nietzsche’s ideas of constant evolution and change, any analysis of a text is subject to changes within the interpreter and the fact that the author’s views on the subject are likely to have evolved over time. Therefore, based on Nietzsche’s work in 1878, and my interpretation in 2017, the two chambered brain appears to represent concepts outlined as the Apollonian and Dionysian.

What then, is the point of writing on any text if it is inevitable that both the text and the interpretation is open to change over time?  As Nietzsche would say, or at least what he would have said in 1878, the point in doing anything with no solid, unchanging reward is the continuation of ongoing becoming.  Hopefully in time I will read this back and think it crap.  At least I will have learned something – and not be blindly convinced by my own past opinions.


Objectivity in Language – E. Burt

‘The human intellect allowed appearance to appear, and projected its mistaken conceptions onto the things’

In Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche seems to develop the idea seen in On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense: that of a lack of an objective world independent of human experience of it. My previous discussion of Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense noted the way in which he analyses the existence of an objective world of truth outside human formulation of the concept, or lack thereof. This idea is somewhat reiterated in this later work, where Nietzsche discusses how the world as it is now came to be. To do this he uses the metaphor of ‘a painting that has been revealed once and for all, depicting with unchanging constancy the same event’[1], as a comparison to the way in which philosophers approach the world of appearance, life and human experience. It is assumed that this event must be interpreted in order to discover something about the essence of the thing-in-itself; yet we do not realise that this painting, or life and experience, is constantly evolving, therefore this cannot be the basis for discussions about its creator. However, Nietzsche claims that it is our errors in interpretation of life and experience which contribute to the way the world works; that it has become ‘strangely colourful’[2] but, to continue the metaphor of the painting, ‘we have been the painters’[3]. Although our judgements of the world may be mistaken, it is in these errors that conceptions of the world are projected. These constitute ‘that which we now call the world’[4] and the ‘collected treasure of our entire past’[5] on which the value of humanity rests. The notion of the non-existence of an objective world separate from human experience is demonstrated here as our errors in judgement do not simply influence how we view the world, but Nietzsche goes so far as to claim it is this that constitutes the very nature of the world. Just as On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense in which Nietzsche claims that truth is completely dependent on the language humans have formulated, here he seems to suggest that the world itself is dependent on human interpretation of it.

This notion also serves to demonstrate the nuanced stance Nietzsche takes on metaphysics, the application of our metaphysics has the nonetheless positive outcome of adding colour to our world. This exemplifies Nietzsche’s attitude towards any superstition or religion as he claims we must ‘understand both the historical and the psychological justification in metaphysical ideas’[6]. It is not our duty to forget the importance of metaphysics in forming our greatest achievements in history or to completely rid ourselves of all positive metaphysics.

This idea of human’s mistaken metaphysical analysis of the world can therefore be seen to epitomise two looming thoughts of Nietzsche’s: that there is not an objective idea of the world, the world is how it is due to human understanding of it, and that despite any criticism levelled at metaphysics, even by Nietzsche himself, we cannot forget the importance of it in having shaped our history and world in general.

 

Read the last post in the Nietzsche series here> #3 The Birth of Tragedy…


References

E. English

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Human, All Too Human’ in The Nietzsche Reader edited by K. Ansell Pearson and D. Large (Blackwell, 2006) p. 182

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Human, All Too Human’ in The Nietzsche Reader edited by K. Ansell Pearson and D. Large (Blackwell, 2006) p. 182

[3] Stephen Mulhall, The Self and its Shadows: A Book of Essays on Individuality as Negation in Philosophy and the Arts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) pp. 156-157

[4] Stephen Mulhall, The Self and its Shadows: A Book of Essays on Individuality as Negation in Philosophy and the Arts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) p. 163

[5] Stephen Mulhall, The Self and its Shadows: A Book of Essays on Individuality as Negation in Philosophy and the Arts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) p. 163

E. Burt

[1] Nietzsche, Friedrich.‘Human, All Too Human’  in The Nietzsche Reader edited by K. Ansell Pearson and D. Large (Blackwell, 2006) pp. 165

[2] Nietzsche, Friedrich. ‘Human, All Too Human’  in The Nietzsche Reader edited by K. Ansell Pearson and D. Large (Blackwell, 2006) pp. 165

[3] Nietzsche, Friedrich. ‘Human, All Too Human’ in The Nietzsche Reader edited by K. Ansell Pearson and D. Large (Blackwell, 2006) pp. 165

[4] Nietzsche, Friedrich. ‘Human, All Too Human’ in The Nietzsche Reader edited by K. Ansell Pearson and D. Large (Blackwell, 2006) pp. 165

[5] Nietzsche, Friedrich. ‘Human, All Too Human’ in The Nietzsche Reader edited by K. Ansell Pearson and D. Large (Blackwell, 2006) pp. 165

[6] Nietzsche, Friedrich. ‘Human, All Too Human’ in The Nietzsche Reader edited by K. Ansell Pearson and D. Large (Blackwell, 2006) pp. 167

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