Nietzsche claims we must say "yes" to life, and be healthy and strong that way.

But he also makes scathing remarks both in Zarathustra and in his late notebooks, about the Biblical maxim "thou shalt not kill".

Is there anyway of reconciling the will to life with the first commandment?

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    This seems to be basically asking whether life is considered "sacred" for Nietzsche; which seems at some point to be basically asking whether he is vitalist. I guess I just wonder if this couldn't be approached a bit more straightforwardly.
    – Joseph Weissman
    Aug 27 '14 at 1:21
  • ethical vitalism?
    – user6917
    Aug 27 '14 at 1:40
  • Does he mention Ecclesiastes:"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven/A time to kill, and a time to heal/A time to break down and a time to build up". Aug 27 '14 at 2:25
  • there are some mentions of Ecclesiastes and N. on google - though I am not trying to find biblical passages that undermine the 1st commandment, but N. passages that support it in some sense
    – user6917
    Aug 27 '14 at 2:48
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    Just to add my 2 cents: "you shall not kill" is only the 6th commandment. The first one is "You shall not have any other gods before me", which is a lot more important i guess ;-)
    – yamm
    Dec 4 '14 at 9:20

It is highly dubious that Neitsche would approve of a notion of 'will to life'. He explicitly rejects Schopenhauer's choice to start from that principle. What he proposes in a lot of places instead is a will to power, leaving the 'herd' who do not seek power or who cannot reasonably be expected to attain it, to natural law.

Many of the people he considers 'creators' surely killed. His history of morality favors a revival of motivations that 'slave morality' has degraded, restoring some aspects of 'warrior' morality. Clearly 'warrior' morality would not be directly opposed to killing, but would see it as something to be done carefully, with honor, but also with pride. Basically, effective warriors (perhaps unfortunately) end up as masters, and we overdid 'master' ethics and got trapped in the backlash, but it was not outright wrong, just excessive. The resulting reversal was even more excessive, and needs to wind down.


You asked, "In Nietzsche is there any way of reconciling the 'will to life' with the first commandment?" Actually, the first four commandments (Exodus 20:1-11) refer to our duty toward God; the next six commandments (Exodus 20:12-17) outline our duty toward mankind. Your question regards the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13): "Thou shalt not murder." In Nietzsche, you must understand, there is no way toward "reconciliation" of religion in any form, other than raw humanism, with the philosophy. The philosophy of the 'antichrist" (the philosophy) stands alone in its defiance to anything Christian. In Nietzsche, Christianity is the very definition of weakness. This is the most important thing to remember. Real strength (in Nietzsche) is to overcome all religious impulses (right brain stuff), including what I fondly call "Christian Truth and Knowing." However bleak this may seem (at first reading) in a post-modern world you cannot get by not knowing your Nietzsche. The "thou shalt not kill" reference seems more an irony than a meaning. The maxim, "Say yes to life" is not an irony. It is meaning. Say "yes" to the necessary remaking of the world by whatever means are available. Say "yes" because the greater tragedy is: "God has failed to show up." After the failure of Christianity (if there is such a failure), the final philosophy is Nietzsche. Beyond Nietzsche, consider who said this: "To man as man, we readily say good riddance..." and, "We have not yet seen what man can make of man." Certainly, Nietzsche opened the way, that is to say, he is the precedent for B.F. Skinner (behavioristic determinism), J. Derrida (antiphilosophy), with R. Dawkins, C. Hitchens and the aspiring world atheism movement; and perhaps, more significantly, the sociobiology of E.O. Wilson (directly inspired by James Watson) and its successor--evolutionary psychology.

Excellent secondary sources on Nietzsche include:

Walter Kaufmann: Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Anti-Christ (1950; 1974) B3317.K29 1974

Harold Alderman: Nietzsche's Gift (1977) B3317 .A397

Janet I. Porter: The Invention of Dionysus: Nietzsche and the Philology of the Future (2000) B3313 G43 P67 2000

J.A. Bernstein: Nietzsche's Moral Philosophy (1987) B3318 E9 B47 1987

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    It is hard to see the author of 'The Gay Science' as implying you should be rid of all the 'right brain stuff'. Nietsche was an colorful and emotional man, and he wrote 'Zarathustra' in a mythological form for a reason. The closest authors I find to him are generally religious (whether that religion is Witchcraft of Starhawk, the Satanism of Crowley, or the Christianity of Matthew Fox)
    – user9166
    Nov 13 '14 at 22:45
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    Nietzsche was afflicted with gonorrhoea, a terrible venereal disease that if left untreated causes severe brain damage including eventual insanity. This affliction, in Nietzsche, occurred before the discovery of penicillin. He wrote Zarathustra in his late 30s after evidencing his first bouts with the disease. His opus magnum, Zarathustra, made use of the middle-eastern myth hovering over the Zoroastrians. He made use of the myth because he felt this was the best way to 'sell' his philosophy, the "will to power." Myth to Nietzsche is exactly that, a "sales device." Nov 17 '14 at 19:56
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    That still does not address The Gay Science, or prove he meant all the 'right brain stuff', if he thought he could attract meaningful interest with a mythological form. I think you are construing anti-Christian as anti-religious, and ignoring all developments in alternative framings of Christianity since Nietsche's own time. Anyone with a will to power is not going to dismiss half of his own processing power out of hand. Some who take him seriously keep the religious impulse, but analyze it, and frame it as a means to power. Jesus and Moses were, after all, listed among the 'creators'.
    – user9166
    Nov 17 '14 at 20:12
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    The whole idea is to extend Nietzsche and to do away with both 'myth' and 'religion' and to replace these with a firm foundation in mathematics and logic (left-brain stuff). This is the "will to power." Right brain must submit to left brain and not the other way around. Yes, in modernism, post-modernism, or world atheism (the next new thing), you might study religion and myth purely for their history, poetry, or language, but not necessarily for any moral direction. As an example, we might learn about Christian-creation science exclusively as a 'language' or a philosophy. Nov 17 '14 at 20:55
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    The original question concerned Zarathustra not The Gay Science. You are taking something rather straight forward and making something else of my original answer in violation of Philosophers Stake Exchange rules regarding debate and discussion. I have given my answer with comments to meet your requests. I think that's enough. Next time avoid your obsessions by posting one comment. Wait for an answer. After the secondary, cease comment. Today, you are commenting on your own comments (this indicates obsession). Your life doesn't need to be that complicated. Nov 19 '14 at 20:08

Under Mosaic Law it is either the fifth, sixth, or seventh commandment (depending on the numbering scheme) of the Decalogue that relates to unlawful killing. These are listed in Exodus and again in Deueteronomy (which means "Second reading of the Law").

Is there any chance you could quote your sources? I think this would be good practise in general. It is something I must learn discipline in myself.

Your 'yes to life' seems to come from Twilight of the Idols:

Goethe excluded as a matter of principle any orgiastic feelings from his concept of the Greek spirit. Consequently Goethe did not understand the Greeks. For it is only in the Dionysian mysteries, in the psychology of the Dionysian state, that the basic fact of the Hellenic instinct finds expression — its "will to life." What was it that the Hellene guaranteed himself by means of these mysteries? Eternal life, the eternal return of life, the future promised and hallowed in the past; the triumphant Yes to life beyond all death and change; true life as the continuation of life through procreation, through the mysteries of sex.

And your seemingly contradictory 'shall not kill' comes from Zarathustra (as you said), The Apostates:

"You shall not steal! You shall not kill! Such words were once called holy; before them people bowed their knees and heads, and removed their shoes. But I ask you: where have there ever been better thieves and killers in the world than such holy words have been? Is there not in all of life itself - robbing and killing? And when such words were called holy, was not truth itself thereby - killed?

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide for themselves if Nietzsche's setting up of the notion of eternal return is incompatible with his observation that people are hypocrites and that murder is commonplace.


So it is "will to power" and not "will to life". To me the best way to avoid putting these directly at odds is to look at what "power" actually means from a perspective like post-Marxist-Feminism of Starhawk or some other position that deeply undercuts the power of both kings and martyrs.

This is a vast oversimplification, stripped of all the feminism. (It is a little punchy, because Nietsche and Starhawk both seem to really like bad jokes.)

The power to kill is a dumb power. Once you use it, the person you used it on is not going to do much for you. It is only power until you use it. Ultimately what you are really using is not the power of death, but the fear of death. This is the cocaine of power -- it makes you very effective, but then it is gone, and you immediately need more. It goes away not just when you kill people, but a little bit every time you use it as leverage. (So you never know exactly when you are running out.) It is a very contingent power. It depends on the target wanting life, which depends on the quality of their life, which you are actively degrading by threatening to kill them. At some point, they can face death to be rid of you.

This is most tractable if they have already given up their life. But that is what martyr-religions do -- you give up your life to God, so that someone else cannot take it away from you. This is the heroin of power, it makes everything alright. But the downside of heroin is captured in the joke behind the name of the band 'Sublime', it feels heavenly, which is sublime the adjective. Sublime the verb means for something solid to basically disappear (untraceably into gas), which is what your life does ("All this love that I've found makes it hard to keep my soul on the ground" -- too hard. He did not succeed for very long.)... Nietsche's argument was that this was what is happening historically to the vitality of Europe, under the force of equality-based moralities, and what happens to the real soul of any good Christian, it evaporates, unnoticed.

OK, well cocaine and heroin are stupid. They convey certain abilities and experiences to you, but they are likely to change who you are. Their corresponding versions of power are equally stupid, in the long run, in the ways that they overpower and degrade their wielder. If your own power overpowers you, who then has the power? -- The power has itself, and the holder loses. This explains why these forms of power are so persistent. Not that they are 'more real', but that they are addictive.

It would be better if your menu of power looked less like the inside of Hunter S. Thompson's trunk, and more like the top of Martha Stewart's table. To remain vital, an individual, and a culture needs to develop a reflexive refusal to buy into the strong stuff and find subtler, more sustaining joys.

So don't kill, in general. Not because someone said so, and definitely not because "everyone deserves to live", but because it is not sustainable. You don't want to be the master whose head got cut off by his slaves, or share even a part of his mindset -- he lost. But don't check out of material reality into some better place, either, or you will just evaporate. Instead, figure out what parts of power you can enjoy exceptionally well, that are unlikely to degrade your ability to continue to enjoy them for the long haul.

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