A Life Worth Living
Many would agree that a life is only worth living if it is lived to the fullest. To live more fully, people take trips to exotic locations, or buy expensive luxury cars, or even splurge a bit on TWO pieces of cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. Now imagine that instead of two WHOLE pieces of cheesecake, you “lived more fully” by sitting at home alone watching jeopardy while eating low calorie iceberg lettuce with no dressing because you are watching your weight. The later doesn’t sound nearly as appealing, right? Fredrick Nietzsche didn’t think so either. Nietzsche believed that the only life worth living is one where we don’t bridle our passions but rather lived to our fullest potential. This potential was one he felt was being bogged down with rational thought and objective truths. People were living their entire lives searching for “truth” that he claims don’t exist. His claims are based off three major thoughts namely that everything in the universe are composed of wills, all knowledge is based on perception with no objective truth in existence, and a strong belief that we need to reevaluate our values. By exploring these three claims we can come to better know, and live, a more full life.
Our universe is one of complications. The birth of stars are caused by a combination of atomic reactions and gravity all pushing and crushing each other until said star is formed. These atoms and elements are exerting will and power as they heat up, contract and expand, and act as the foundations of the brightest points in the heavens. Just as everything in nature is composed of matter, Nietzsche believes that all matter is composed of wills. These wills are the foundation of every thought, action, or even inaction. There are no facts in existence but rather there are these nominal wills that make everything tick. In people they are called “will to power” and they are the cause for all instinct and motivation we have as people. The “will to power” is the force that is constantly being exerted at a primal level in humans and animals which causes us to seek gain over those around us and to live in a more natural, less rational state. Our entire existence is dependent on these wills. The “I” that we experience is, in all seriousness, a massive jumble of wills all competing for dominance inside us. This “will to power” is the engine of change in our thoughts, and in truth, religion, and science. It is precisely because of this constant state of change initiated by the wills that if any philosophy (whether it be science, religion, or politics) has a view that reality is in a fixed state, they are deemed life denying philosophies.
Due to these wills that we experience, all of reality is in a constant state of fluctuation. Depending on the current state of our instincts, we determine what is, in fact, reality. This aspect of the will to power can best be observed in the animal kingdom and in a personal experience of mine. Dogs are some of the most gentle and loving animals that we know of, in so much that they have become human’s closest companions. They are loyal and are often reported in the media for saving the lives of their human counterparts. My grandmother was on her way late one night some twenty years ago to visit a friend. She had been to her home many a times and had befriended her friend’s dog as well. On that late night in July, she approached the gate of the house and was welcomed by the dog. As she knelt down to pet the animal, a firework went off randomly, as is common in July. This unannounced firework startled the dog into a frenzy of instinct and emotion to the point that it latched onto my grandmother’s face and bit off her entire bottom lip. What was in reality a very kind dog, changed in a moment under the will to survive by way of instincts to a dog who had viciously attacked an elderly woman. The “reality” of this story is that no aspect of reality has any constant other than change. The Will to Power is always changing. Each moment of our perceived reality is just one moment of a certain will being dominate. There is no such thing as a constant reality when change is the only thing that exists. To have an absolute reality would go against the nature and definition of change. A truly life affirming philosophy affirms change as the only constant in the world.
Due to the nature of reality as always changing, claims about absolute knowledge and truth are false. The idea of truth would make necessary absoluteness and objectivism. This definition is inflexible and unyielding to change or perspective. Will to power, by its nature, is in a constant state of flux and change and is never stationary. Therefore the idea of an absolute truth, or truth of any kind cannot exist when composed of changing wills. Our will to power causes all truth to be subjective to our perspectives, which are also always changing.
The goal of philosophy in many cases is built upon the questions “How do I know?” and “What can I know?”. To the relativist those answers are simple ones. You’re right. No matter what opinion you hold you are right. Anything we claim to know is simply a perspective in our mind. We see these perspectives through something like a lens. These lenses are a combination of our experiences, biases, fears, religions, politics, and emotions. They are what give us perspective on everything. The thought process is that no matter what “truth” you seek, you will always see it through a subjective view. This makes finding objective truth very difficult. Pretend that objective truth is a white cup. Now pretend that you are wearing rose colored glasses. You see a cup in front of you and you think that this could be the white cup. You would think that taking off the rose glasses would confirm if it was a white cup so you take them off. Sadly you have rose contacts in so the cup remains a pink color. Reality is sorta like this. We can never find objective truth, ie the white cup, because our vision or perspective does not allow us to. Everything that we perceive internally or empirically is seen through the lenses of perception. No objective truth of any kind can exist. Rationalists and Empiricists would say that if we were to step outside ourselves then we could see this white cup without the limits of our cloudy reality. This is not so, as even when we step outside ourselves we still are perceiving the cup and that perception can never see without the lenses we have. Truth is simply a personal perspective one has. How can anyone argue that your truth, or perspective is wrong when you have it? How can you tell them their truth is wrong when they obviously perceive it too? Just as no two people are the same, no two perceptions can ever be the same; making no two truths the same. What rationalists and empiricists call “truth” is simply a name given to the point of view of the people who have power to enforce said point of view.
History has shown that the “right” answer has always been the one that doesn’t kill you. During the inquisition, the correct answer could always be found between the pages of the bible, or in recounting any statement or belief deemed heretical- no matter how much you can prove it with one look through a telescope. Relativism shows that any force that denies life is evil. Under that definition Rationalism and Christianity fall. First of the great life denying forces on this earth is Christianity. This religion is fundamentally opposed to life as known through the will of power. Morality is the attempt to deny all traits that are associated with living a healthy life. The concept of Sin shames us away from the natural inclinations of our sexuality, while Faith discourages natural curiosity and skepticism. The thing that really makes Nietzsche angry is the Christian idea of an afterlife. This view of a life and world hereafter devalues life on earth. Christianity is resentment for living life and the people who live life fully.
Morality has long been the single subject through history that was thought to be universal, or as some call it, “innate”. Many will say that our values are fixed and unchanging. That morality is not relative but is absolute. This is simply not true. Morality contains no truth but is part of the greater lens that Christianity has used to cover our eyes with. Due to western culture and religion being so wide spread, it is not hard to find how far extended this lens of perception has permeated. Acts are always seen as either moral or immoral, meaning everything fits into one of these absolutes. The problem exists when we forget the nature of reality as always changing. How can morality be consistent when the reality that contains it isn’t? Morality, then, is always in a state of becoming, and never being. Even in cases where morality would usually stand absolute we have adapted our lenses to change to fit the need. This justification is seen in the following example: Killing is wrong. We can all agree that killing is wrong. Its an absolute moral principle that killing is always wrong. But lets say that your mother is about to be killed, and you intercept the murderer, and in turn, kill him. Does that not constitute killing? Aren’t you as bad as the man attacking your mother? No? We don’t think that killing in self defense is wrong. We have justified our action against this moral absolute in saying that we did good. The lenses we perceive with allow us to take this absolutely immoral thing, killing, and make it moral. Killing, therefore, is not wrong when in self defense. Or in war, or when the government does it, or when its against bad people, or when they deserved it, or when its for the greater good… Sounds like a lot of exceptions to the ABSOLUTE moral truth and Judea-Christian commandment. This example concludes that even in cases of morality all “truth” is determined by the perception we have. This flux we see is our will to power changing. What we held as truth has changed to fit our circumstance and is not a subjective truth rather than an objective one. Knowing that our morals are not objective absolute truths, we can better come to terms with what our real drives and motives are.
Someone with a belief in objective truth might make that argument that through sincere rational reasoning, empirical evidence or the Socratic method, we can come to know objective truth in this reality. While each method of epistemology has its roots in some correct principles, the only way to living a full life is by forgoing rationality and accepting a relative view of the world. Imagine a world similar to our own where everyone is happy. The image you see would contain people in magnificent colored apparel all dancing, singing, painting, putting on shows, eating, and having a fun time. Now imagine a single man dressed in grey appears. He begins asking people questions, distracting them from their merriment. As he speaks to these people they begin to lose all color. After a while, most of the people have stopped enjoying themselves and are wearing grey. They are all very subdued, very conscious of thinking about every action before continuing with it. These people don’t seem as happy as they were, do they? The people in color are those living their lives to the fullest without a care in the world. They make art and music and are happy. The people in grey are the people bound by rational thought. Always afraid to act, these people have had their passions bridled. A relativist would say that the man in grey was Socrates. He ended a golden age in Greece where art and music were beautiful and caused that people should become rational. That people should hide away their passions and instead of seeking life they should search to know “truth”.
The reason that Relativism is the most correct of the epistemological methods is because it is not leading people to look for a millennia for wisps of truth, but confronts the soul and reminds it of the natural passion it once had. To deny life in search of truth is to deny oneself the happiness that comes with the frenzy of unbridled passion which happens by allowing the will of power to dominate a world turned grey by reason. To reason is to ponder the rain falling. To be relative is to live life; it’s to dance in the rain.