Mod Con Final answers

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  1. Dangerous books
    According to Nietzsche, a dangerous book is one that makes you question your beliefs.  Doing this does not change who you are, what your character is, but rather illuminates aspects of life and philosophy that were shrouded before by religion, tradition, and custom. Such dangerous books are written in blood, written with spirit, purpose, and meaning. These books are not easy to understand- books that are written for the reader make the meaning clear, but they have been watered down. They illuminate nothing. The Nietzsche reader itself could be considered a dangerous book, because its aphorisms, are short and pithy but make you think and question. Nietzsche loves those who question- he stated that he would hate to have a student who only agreed with him; a good student would examine every word he said to see whether or not it was true. He would interpret with blood. This questioning of traditions and ideas leads to the evolution of culture.
  2. The Metaphycial world
    The metaphysical world stands between the worlds on concrete truth and absolute absurdity. It consists of concepts that we know but cannot touch, cannot prove.  Examples of concepts in the metaphysical world are Heaven, Adam Smith’s invisible hand, and most religious concepts.  Nietzsche understands that there is very likely a metaphysical world, a world where unknown forces are controlling.  Man cannot accept this idea though, of not being able to understand this world, and tries to apply truth to it, to give it answers. Truth, is, according to Nietzsche, the feeblest form of knowledge, in existence only because man needed it to make his world more clear. Man tries to apply laws to the metaphysical world because it is the only way he knows how.  This is dangerous, according to Nietzsche. The metaphysical world is inaccessible and incomprehensible, and anyone who claims to have the answers to it should be met with suspicion.  Even if we did understand the world, we would not be able to change its forces, so the knowledge would be useless. It would be like a man who is drowning knowing the chemical composition of water- the knowledge is not applicable to the situation.
  3. Source of Knowledge
    The actual source of knowledge is very unclear. In our society, what we consider to be knowledge is what has endured the longest- knowledge is not judged by its degree of truth but by its age. For example, what is considered to be the knowledge in our society is tradition, because it is what has lasted the longest. The man is the breadwinner. In other societies, the woman is the breadwinner, and this idea is knowledge in their societies because it is the idea that has lasted the longest. Thomas Paine also mentioned a similar idea in Common Sense- what is the most right is what we did not question as wrong for the longest time.  We cannot wholly prove these concepts, but we say they are knowledge because it is easier for us.  It is what has lasted the longest. Now, we cannot imagine a society without the definite ideas of truth and knowledge. Knowledge has become a power with which we can crush the individual- those who do not accept the matters of our thinking are simply called mad. We do have truth, the feeblest form of knowledge, but only use it when things do not have the power of time behind them, like certain math concepts. They have not been around long enough to be knowledge, so we call them true, and eventually they will become knowledge.
  4. Custom and what is in accordance with it
    According to Nietzsche, custom is the traditional way of behaving and evaluating, unquestioned simply for the amount of time it has lasted.  Custom gives us our definitions of good and evil. Good is going with custom, bad is going against it- the individual is evil. All customs have arisen in the name of preservation of a community. While Nietzsche does not deny that we tend to work better in groups, there should be a line not drawn at either extreme end between the community and the individual. There needs to be a compromise. The Bill of Rights was such a compromise. Patrick Henry said in 1789 that “a vote for the Constitution is a vote for a return to tyranny”- it favored the individual too much. The first ten amendments helped to bring this to a middle ground between the community and the individual. Nietzsche also believed that custom should also constantly be questioned so that it can be evolved- for example, the duel used to be a part of American custom, until great minds like Alexander Hamilton began being killed. The duel was banned because great minds were more important than customs.
  5. Man's actions are always good
    Nietzsche points out an interesting dichotomy in our thinking.  We do not blame a thunderstorm for when it knocks over a tree, but if a man does something bad, we do blame him. The difference is, we assume, that man has a choice in the matter. But, according to Nietzsche, this is a false assumption. Just as a thunderstorm is caused by a combination of winds, temperatures, and other atmospheric forces, so is man’s actions caused by nature, nurture, and other atmospheric forces.  Man only knows how to gain pleasure or avoid displeasure- which is why he will kill a fly simply because the buzzing annoys him. We do not blame a man for going against typical codes of morality if it is a means of self-defense, or self-preservation, such as killing a man who attacked him. But in  a way, all acts, even the killing of the fly, are in some way self-preservation. Man does not go out ever to do bad- he always rationalizes his actions in his head to fit his morality, so, in this way, all of man’s actions are good. He is merely following instinct.  Man also never goes out to be bad- as Socrates and Plato pointed out, man will rationalize anything
  6. Concept of the morality of custom
    By Nietzsche’s definition, morality is to follow custom, are the traditional ways of behaving and evaluating.  This is because custom, the ideas passed from generation to generation, is what holds our community together.  The free human being is immoral because he depends on himself, not others. Even if two people have the same motives for actions, if one goes against the community and the other follows custom, the one who went against custom will be considered evil. Individualism is the greatest evil- for example; Christians were once thought to be evil in ancient Rome. Because they refused to worship pagan gods, some of which were passed emperors, they threatened the stability of society and many were persecuted.  This concept may be less true today than it was in 19th century Europe. Now, individuality is basically a custom in America. This was not the case in Nietzsche’s time, when being gay was considered evil because it went against the custom of love and marriage being between a man and a woman, and thus threatened society.
  7. Slave morality and master morality
    According to Nietzsche, there are two kinds of morality, and how the two clashes together is what propels history. Those who follow slave morality look at good or bad intentions. These people are pessimistic, suspicious of powerful people, and always feel like the victim. They value kindness, humility, and sympathy. They look for freedom they feel they do not have. Those who adhere to master morality judge actions good or bad based on consequences- people like the Greeks. These people are often narcissistic and self-glorifying, and are both noble and despicable. The master morality creates his own ideas of morals, while the slave morality reacts to masters. To the adherent to slave morality, someone who inspires fears is bad, while to the master moralist, someone who inspires fears is good. Although Nietzsche does not specifically state that he favor either morality, it is possible that he prefers master morality. Narcissism involves going against the grain, against the herd, and this is what Nietzsche favored. The person of master morality chose his own destiny.
  8. How appearence becomes being
    Nietzsche was the grandfather of existentialism, which challenged the core western ideas at the time. According to those like Plato and Socrates, essence proceeds being- who you are leads to what you do. Nietzsche believed in the opposite- that what you do creates who you are.  In this way, if someone acts for one way long enough, wears a mask of a persona for long enough, eventually he will become that way, that mask. It becomes hard to act any other way. This means that intrinsic motives are not as important- actions are. We tend to only care about motives when it affects the action, or a proceeding action- such as when we are worried about motive when it comes to what charge or murder we place on a subject, since that motive affects how long, as a society, we will imprison him. A spur-of-the-moment killing and a carefully planned, cold-blooded killing have very different charges under the law for this very reason. But in terms of good actions, we do not care. Everyone defines Mother Theresa for what she is, for the good she di- we do not question her motives for why she did all of her saintly work, because we have defined her for her actions. She is what she did.
  9. The nature of Christianity
    According to Nietzsche, from the beginning, the Christian faith is a sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of pride, confidence, and lots of joy. It should be painful. For example, monks and nuns sacrifice a natural human drive when they undergo a vow of celibacy. The very icon of Christianity is Jesus dying on the cross to forgive people of the original sin.  This justifies a lot of the suffering of the Christians. Christianity also assumes that man is evil from the start, which is why children are baptized so young. It is to cleanse them of sin, sin they have innately. Nietzsche also juxtaposes self-confidence with humanity. Christianity teaches the opposite- it teaches humility. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins.  Everything about Christianity is a sacrifice. Christianity is tyrants of the spirit, making a man feel imprisoned. However, more and more people are beginning to question this slavery, this sacrifice, and such questioning is what has led to all great salve revolts. This inner resentment is what will kill God.
  10. God is Dead
    Perhaps the most famous statement ever made by Nietzsche had him labeled as an atheist- “God is dead”. Yet what most forgets is the second part of that statement- “we have killed Him”. Christianity is so oppressive; it causes people to become fearful, to move more toward logic and reason. Churches are now but the tombs of God, where we sing softly and mournfully, pay our respects, then go on our merry way. This is not a statement of atheism- Nietzsche was a believer in God, but he thought man and the Christian faith ruined him, by being too restrictive, and harsh, too much of a tyrant of the spirit.  Nietzsche desired an active, vibrant god or gods, like those in Greek polytheism. Those gods are personable, and constantly interact with the people, as seen in myth. According to the ‘madman’ through whom Nietzsche tells the story, the word of God’s death has not yet reached the ears of men- it is simply too difficult a concept to accept and will take time. The fact that God is dead leaves a void that needs to be filled. Because Christianity is the basis on the majority of our customs, and following customs constitutes our morality, if God is dead and nothing fills His place, we will have no morals. This is where Nietzsche’s superman, the philosophically strong, well read, intelligent, thought-provoking end product of the evolution of man will take the place.  
  11. The Tyrants of the spirit
    Nietzsche is very firm in his ideas that man should be active and vibrant in life- his spirit should shine through.  The word spirit itself has an enthusiastic connotation.  The tyrants of the spirit, however, try to restrict man, by saying that only truth and knowledge must reign. Nietzsche says that “only where the radiance of myth falls is the life of the Greeks bright”- everywhere else, truth dampens the spirit; philosophers impose laws, order, suffocating freedom. they did not mean to do this- they were merely trying to make the world better. A similar idea is seen in Nietzsche’s “birth of tragedy”, about the Greek theater.  The theater started out in the spirit of Dionysus, the god of wine and sensuality, with a vibrant chorus and great choreographed movements. However, the theater then it moved into the Apollonian form. The chorus was deemphasized (and thus the people deemphasized) and the characters became fewer and more intellectualized.  This shift was the tyrant of the theatric spirit according to Nietzsche, crushing it, making it much less free. Absolute truths and laws are restricting.  Even Christianity can act as a tyrant, smothering religious faith with rules, creating an absolute good and bad, forced suffering, and harshness- this is one of the reasons why God is dead. The Christian is a herd animal, the lowest form of man with the least amount of spirit.
  12. The Striving for Distinction
    According to Nietzsche, man desires dominance- that is why the lottery is called the “power”ball.  What we are best at is gaining power over others. The great goal is to impress oneself on others in order to have distinction. The history of the degrees of secretly desired dominance reads essentially as a history of culture.  Man wants to inflict his opinion upon others- even Nietzsche himself said what he loves of others is what he sees of himself in them. He has a constant eye on the next man. And not only does man desire power, he desires to see the pain he has caused in his drive for dominance.  This further encourages him to continue to gain power.  Man also likes to feel pain that he knows is associated with his rise to dominance. The drive is a circular process, where pain causes pain. A monk has that pleasure of distinction, that pleasure over pain. They hurt one another in order to triumph over oneself, over one’s pity (according to Nietzsche, pity is the greatest danger). The greatest threat to striving to distinction, however, is Christianity. It says that we are all supposed to be equal under God and teaches humility, altruism, and weakness- all qualities that are harmful to a striving for power.
  13. Will a self
    In one of the shortest sections of the Nietzsche reader, Nietzsche urges people to will a self, to will who you want to be. Nietzsche was the grandfather of existentialism, which challenged the core western ideas at the time. According to those like Plato and Socrates, essence proceeds being- who you are leads to what you do. Nietzsche believed in the opposite- that what you do creates who you are. Instead of knowing thyself, man should strive to become a self- if there is not real self, then it should be easy to will one. Some scientific research backs this idea.  For example, studies of the brain show that the more you use a certain skill, the stronger those connections become, and the easier and more fluid they become.  In addition, aversion therapy is helpful in changing bad habits like smoking. So a smoker, by taking a puff every 4 to 6 seconds until he or she is ill, can train themselves to associate bad feelings with smoking and thus become a nonsmoker. That is not to say that everyone has agreed with this theory- women’s rights conscious events thought that one had to talk about your relationship with your mother to define who you are. Others create you. This goes against Nietzsche’s willing a self.
  14. Superman
    According to Nietzsche, man as we know him today is a bridge, not a goal. He is a bridge to get to the ultimate end product of the evolution of man: the superman. The superman is philosophically strong, reads and writes and thinks in blood, and is strong enough to break from tradition and the tyrants of the spirit to become a free thinker. Man is ape to this superman, and many men will have to be sacrificed through evolution to get to the superman.  Nietzsche’s evolution, however, is different than Darwin’s. Nietzsche’s is more mental, Darwin’s more physical. Darwin believes in staying with the herd, as this increases chances for survival, whereas the superman will have to break from the herd and its suffocating traditions to have a chance at survival. Darwin believes in adapting to the environment, but Nietzsche’s superman will create his own environment. In Nietzsche’s evolution, you will a self. To get to this point, Nietzsche suggests eugenics- breeding men.
  15. Evil
    According to Nietzsche, Evil is going against what is customary. Ever custom was made in the name of preservation of a community, which means that it is the individual that is evil.  However, evil is needed. For one, evil helps us to define good. This is why police in Stonewall were able to get away with beating up the gay men in the bar for years- because it was clear that the police were good (preserving custom) compared to the gay men (who were going against custom by engaging in homosexuality). Without something to compare it to, we would not know what good is.  Also, evil helps to make the good better. As Nietzsche wrote, a tree cannot grow strong if it did not have to fight against strong winds.  Evil thus acts as a tool to weed out the worst of the “good” and make the good stronger. Evil also helps members of the good band together. For example, in the novel Cloud Atlas, in the part of the story set in futuristic Korea, the dominant race, the “purebloods” set up a member of the servant class, the “fabricants” to become a subservient. This way, they can arrest her, try he, and publicly villanize her. It makes all purebloods so suspicious of fabricants that a revolt like this could never truly happen. The purebloods understood how to use evil to make their good stronger.
  16. A panegyric upon Abraham
    There is, according to Kierkegaard, an eternal mindfulness in man- if there was not such a thread that connected all men, life would be meaningless. All men strive to make themselves better, and all great men will be remembered. And Abraham will be remembered as the greatest of all. Abraham was, according to Kierkegaard, the greatest man to ever live. We look back on his story with hindsight and are impressed, but what we tend to forget is that Abraham did not know a ram would come to take Isaac’s place. He was so faithful to his God that he was willing to take his beloved son’s life for him. Abraham is the great example of Kierkegaard’s concept of a knight of faith. According to Kierkegaard, a man cannot reconcile faith and reason- he must choose one or the other. Abraham chose faith. He is aware that God wants him to suspend all earthly ethics. He left all understanding and ethics behind him when he climbed Mount Morai. He and Sarah were child-like in their faith, never questioning God, never having eaten the apple that made them see the faults in God’s creation. Even when it seemed physically impossible that they could ever have a child, the pair believed that the could because God said they would- and, lo and behold, Sarah gave birth to Isaac at age ninety- Abraham fought with time and preserved his faith. Even when Abraham had his arm raised to stab his son, he still believed that God would protect him in all.  
  17. Knight of Faith
    According to Solen Kierkegaard, reason and faith cannot exist together- man must choose one or the other.  Those who choose to put all reason behind them and follow faith are Knights of faith. These people do not question God, but simply do as He tells them without a second thought. An example of this is with Abraham- he did not question that God when He told him to take his beloved and only son, Isaac, to Mount Morai to sacrifice him. We cannot look at this story with hindsight- Abraham did not know that God was going to send a ram in Isaac’s place. He fully trusted in his God to do as He said. This is why some of the versions of Abraham’s story that Kierkegaard imagines make him not a knight of faith- for example, in the first version, Abraham tries to improve upon God’s plan by telling Isaac it is he, not God, that wants him dead, so Isaac will not lose his faith. This is not what a true knight of faith would do. Another knight of faith was Mary, who did not question God when she learned that she was carrying His child; she simply followed her God and her faith and gave birth to Jesus, the Savior of the Christians.
  18. Rebellion
    In the story of the Karamazov brothers, D discusses a very important idea- that of rebellion. According to religious ideas, for there to be peace and harmony in the world, man must be forgiving. This is what nelson Mandela did when he was released from a prison in South Africa after nearly 30 years. He forgave his captors, and peace came to South Africa because of it. But some transgressions cannot be forgiven- this is the rebellion. Ivan, the realistic brother, tells the story of an estate owner who killed a little serf boy after the boy accidently injured one of his prized hounds. Aloysha, a monk, cannot forgive this man.. Ivan is taking the idea that one must be sacrificed for the good of all to its logical conclusion- and Aloysha is rebelling against it, even though it goes against his religious nature.  Ivan agrees with him; This is his rebellion. Ivan cannot forgive either- he accepts God, but not the world created by Him. Ivan does not think that this is rebellion, but how the world should work- people should be punished by their actions. The rebellion is only for the religious. This goes against all ideas of religion, for if God is perfect, He must have created a perfect world. This rebellion is along the same lines of Copernicus discovering that God’s universe was not in perfect circles.
  19. The Grand Inquisitor
    The most famous story-within-a-story of all time, in the book The Brothers Karamazov, the Grand Inquisitor tells the story of a man, the Inquisitor himself, who believes that Jesus did the Christians wrong. As seen in Luke chapter 4, Jesus denied three temptations of the devil- he did not turn stone to bread, take over the city, or tempt God by jumping off of a cliff. He denied mystery, miracle, and authority. The Grand Inquisitor tells Jesus that this was a big mistake, because he gave the people freedom, and they do not want that. Freedom is terrifying- most people crave authority, or they will become lost. Someone given completely free reign over what to read in an English class will panic over the millions of choices he has, and will probably eventually go to the teacher for guidance, to ensure that he chooses the “right book”.  People also like authority because it gives them something to blame when things go wrong- man does not want to be in charge of himself. As Volaitiare wrote, if there is a God, he would have had to be invented by man. Mystery and miracle also make a religion more compelling. Instead, Jesus set up the people to deny miracles, to deny mystery. Even today this is an important topic- many people believe that ending the tradition of giving the Catholic Mass in Latin in the 1960s took away from the mystery and thus authority of the church. In the end, the Inquisitor wants Jesus to leave, so He does not give back the people the power that the church worked so hard to break down. 
  20. Dimension of Depth
    According to the Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, man has lost his desire to answer deeper question. People today live in the horizontal, skimming across the surface of life, rather than more deeply exploring the vertical.  Flying along the top, simply getting ahead, man thinks he is happy, but he is not. He turns everything into a tool for getting ahead, so much so that he himself becomes a tool. On the surface, man finds superficial religion (as in, being Christian in name only), a simple nature he tries to control, and no meaning of life. On the vertical, if man chooses to explore this dimension, man finds a complex, wonderful natural world, religion that shadows his moral compass, truly guiding him through life, and the meaning of why he is here. A major issue is that the church pushes religious stories as literal, rather than symbols, so man’s reason causes him to deny it. If Tillich used the term Knight of faith, his would be the one that is always questioning. This theory was written about forty years ago, before the advent of cellphones, Facebook, Twitter…. now, with that technology, the words are truer than ever. People use texting to avoid deeper social interactions, and turn technology into the religion that controls their life.
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Mod Con Final answers
2012-12-16 16:29:25
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