The Problem of Socrates and the Rise of Reason

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Please choose one of the two questions and respond by either explaining the concept or by explaining the concept and applying the concept to a contemporary situation, film, or literature to further expand your discussion.  This is not an opinion paper. You must respond to your question by drawing from the text and using quotations.

When writing do not assume the reader (me) is familiar with what you are discussing. Define and describe each concept you use as if you are writing for a first grader whom you wish to explain your ideas to. Organize your writing and structure your thoughts. In your introduction present a clear statement explaining what you will be discussing and how you will approach your discussion.  This assignment is meant to help develop critical thinking and analytical thinking skills.

Choose one of the below questions or pose a question of your own and write 7-10 pages:

1.Why does Nietzsche think that Socratic reason says no to life and what does it mean to say yes to life?

Links:

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/52263/52263-h/52263-h.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AGnJWzsMkc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiIn_oQQRJk

The Problem of Socrates and the Rise of Reason

Nietzsche argues that Plato and Socrates replaced Ancient Greek tragedy and its emphasis on passion and instinct with reason. He interprets Socrates’ discovery of reason and argument through dialectic, the famous Socratic method, as one that arises out of ressentiment and revenge at all that is noble by someone of lower class, a member of the rabble, to which Nietzsche claims Socrates belongs. For those familiar with Socrates, he is known to put those he speaks with on the defensive by asking them to support their statements with evidence. Often those with whom he speaks are unable to support their opinions thereby showing they do not really know what they claim to know. “The dialectician leaves it to his opponent to demonstrate he is not an idiot: he enrages, he at the same time makes helpless.” (Twilight of the Idols, I 7, pg 42)

As stated in a previous lecture, Nietzsche admired the Greeks for engaging with the chaos and darkness of the Dionysian and making art by giving form to the formless out of the Apollonian instinct. He thought by engaging with the Dionysian the Greeks prior to Socrates were driven by healthy instincts and the ability to look at the horrors of the world without fear. Through the Dionysian these Greek lovers of Tragedy engaged with change and chaos. Having turned against instinct Nietzsche thinks the Greeks became sick and turned to reason as their life raft. No longer able to endure life and its great mysteries they wished to expose all that was magical to the light of reason. Unable to endure ambiguity, the Greeks substitute instinct for reason.

“The fanaticism with which the whole of Greek thought plunges into reason, betrays a critical condition of things: men were in danger; there were only two alternatives: either perish or else be absurdly rational. The moral bias of Greek philosophy from Plato onward, is the outcome of a pathological condition, as is also its appreciation of dialectics. Reason = Virtue = Happiness, simply means: we must imitate Socrates, and confront the dark passions permanently with the light of day—the light of reason. We must at all costs be clever, precise, clear: all yielding to the instincts, to the unconscious, leads downwards.” (TI, The problem of Socrates, 11)

Socrates too acts out of instinct, but for Nietzsche these instincts are diseased. Socrates was driven by the instinct for clarity and definition and developed strong rational and argumentative powers. By acting on these powers, he introduces reason and dialectic and at the same time maximizes his power. The popularity of Socrates’ method arises from “his personal art of self-preservation” and lies in its agonistic stance. (Twilight of the Idols, I 9, 42)

With the dialectic, Socrates owns his power and gathers the admiration of the aristocratic youth’s desire for competition, contest and mastery. Nietzsche calls him the “first fencing master” whose allure for the Athenian youth verges on the erotic. (TI 8, pg 42) . Again, as Nietzsche interprets people’s actions based on a physiological model, he believes Socrates engages in the art of argumentation because that is what he is master at and that is where his power lies. He creates for himself a style that is deemed beautiful.

Nietzsche thinks that Socrates made a tyrant of reason and imprisoned life by reducing mystery and the state of the world’s perpetual becoming to the powers of reason and its desire to measure and know things. The enhancement of the drive for calculation creates a cold, circumspect world devoid of tolerance to change, becoming and the unknown. Anything that could not be captured conceptually or marked by moral categories through reason was cast away in the dark and placed on the borders of everyday life. Through the dominance of reason, Socrates created “ a permanent daylight—the daylight of reason. One must be prudent, clear, bright at any cost: every yielding to the instincts, to the unconscious, leads downwards…” (TI 10, pg 43) “The most blinding light of day: reason at any price; life made clear, cold, cautious, conscious, without instincts, opposed to the instincts, was in itself only a disease, another kind of disease—and by no means a return to “virtue,” to “health,” and to happiness. To be obliged to fight the instincts—this is the formula of degeneration: as long as life is in the ascending line, happiness is the same as instinct.”

According to Nietzsche it is simply in bad taste to have to give reasons and justifications for everything. To want to expose everything to the daylight of reason is simply bad manners. It leads to a denial of instincts.

To act out of good taste and strength, Nietzsche thinks, does not require any justification by reason or excuses for action. “What has first to have itself proved is of little value.” (TI 5, pg 41)

Read the section THE PROBLEM OF SOCRATES in Twilight of the Idols:

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/52263/52263-h/52263-h.htm

 

 

 

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