Monday, August 29, 2016

Advaita and Maya in Nietzsche: The Four Errors of Reason

Nietzsche's critical philosophy can be called Advaita. It was his teacher Schopenhauer's writings that  introduced Upanishads and Vedas to him. Yet it couldn't be said that his critical philosophy, mostly outlined in his Beyond Good and Evil, was a result of Advaita. One more point that goes against any claims that Nietzsche's philosophy was inspired from Advaita is that he had contested the unity of the ego, the Atman. Advaita and Upanishads, both argue that there is only one Atman.

However, Advaita philosophy is developed to liberate the human mind from the effects of Maya. Maya veils  the true knowledge and lets the mind to grasp illusion. Maya compels the mind to commit errors, and shows the mind a muddled picture of the reality.

"The errors that Maya led a mind towards are numerous. Nietzsche has also pointed out four basic errors that we humans commit while we attempt to understand the real. These are: (Excerpt from the Twilight of Idols, Nietzsche)

"The error of confusing cause and effect.     There is no more insidious error than mistaking the effect for the cause: I call it the real corruption of reason.  Yet this error is one of the most unchanging habits of mankind: we even worship it under the name of "religion" or "morality."  Every single principle from religion or morality contains it; priests and moral legislators are the originators of this corruption of reason.  Here is an example.  Everybody knows Cornaro's famous book in which he recommends a meager diet for a long and happy life — a virtuous life, too.  Few books have been read so widely; even now thousands of copies are sold in England every year.  I do not doubt that scarcely any book (except the Bible) has done as much harm, has shortened as many lives, as this well intentioned oddity.  Why?  Because Cornaro mistakes the effect for the cause.  The worthy Italian thought his diet was the cause of his long life, whereas the precondition for a long life, the extraordinary slowness of his metabolism, was the cause of his slender diet.  He was not free to eat little or much; his frugality was not a matter of "free will" — he made himself sick when he ate more.  But whoever has a rapid metabolism not only does well to eat properly, but needs to.  A scholar in our time, with his rapid consumption of nervous energy, would simply destroy himself on Cornaro's diet.  Crede experto — believe me, I've tried.  


The most general formula on which every religion and morality is founded is: "Do this and that, refrain from this and that — and then you will be happy!     And if you don't.  ."  Every morality, every religion, is based on this imperative; I call it the original sin of reason, the immortal unreason.  In my mouth, this formula is changed into its opposite — the first example of my "revaluation of all values."  An admirable human being, a "happy one," instinctively must perform certain actions and avoid other actions; he carries these impulses in his body, and they determine his relations with the world and other human beings.  In a formula: his virtue is the effect of his happiness.  A long life, many descendants — these are not the rewards of virtue: instead, virtue itself is that slowing down of the metabolism which leads, among other things, to a long life, many descendants — in short, to Cornaro's virtue.  Religion and morality say: "A people or a society are destroyed by license and luxury."  My revalued reason says: when a people degenerates physiologically, when it approaches destruction, then the result is license and luxury (that is, the craving for ever stronger and more frequent stimulation necessary to arouse an exhausted nature).  This young man easily turns pale and faints; his friends say: that is because of this or that disease.  I say: he became diseased, he could not resist the disease, because of his pre-existing impoverished life or hereditary exhaustion.  The newspaper reader says: this party destroys itself by making such a mistake.  My higher politics says: a party that makes such a mistake has already reached its end; it has lost its sureness of instinct.  Every mistake (in every sense of the word) is the result of a degeneration of instinct, a disintegration of the will: one could almost equate what is bad with whatever is a mistake.  All that is good is instinctive — and hence easy, necessary, uninhibited.  Effort is a failing: the god is typically different from the hero.  (In my language: light feet are the first attribute of divinity.)  


The error of a false causality.     Humans have always believed that they knew what a cause was; but how did we get this knowledge — or more precisely, our faith that we had this knowledge?  From the realm of the famous "inner facts," of which not a single one has so far turned out to be true.  We believe that we are the cause of our own will: we think that here at least we can see a cause at work.  Nor did we doubt that all the antecedents of our will, its causes, were to be found in our own consciousness or in our personal "motives."  Otherwise, we would not be responsible for what we choose to do.  Who would deny that his thoughts have a cause, and that his own mind caused the thoughts?  Of these "inward facts" that seem to demonstrate causality, the primary and most persuasive one is that of the will as cause.  The idea of consciousness ("spirit") or, later, that of the ego (the "subject") as a cause are only afterbirths: first the causality of the will was firmly accepted as proved, as a fact, and these other concepts followed from it.  But we have reservations about these concepts.  Today we no longer believe any of this is true.  The "inner world" is full of phantoms and illusions: the will being one of them.  The will no longer moves anything, hence it does not explain anything — it merely accompanies events; it can also be completely absent.  The so-called motives: another error.  Merely a surface phenomenon of consciousness, something shadowing the deed that is more likely to hide the causes of our actions than to reveal them.  And as for the ego .  that has become a fable, a fiction, a play on words!  It has altogether ceased to think, feel, or will!  What follows from this?  There are no mental causes at all.  The whole of the allegedly empirical evidence for mental causes has gone out the window.  That is what follows!  And what a nice delusion we had perpetrated with this "empirical evidence;" we interpreted the real world as a world of causes, a world of wills, a world of spirits.  The most ancient and enduring psychology was at work here: it simply interpreted everything that happened in the world as an act, as the effect of a will; the world was inhabited with a multiplicity of wills; an agent (a "subject") was slipped under the surface of events.  It was out of himself that man projected his three most unquestioned "inner facts" — the will, the spirit, the ego.  He even took the concept of being from the concept of the ego; he interpreted "things" as "being" in accordance with his concept of the ego as a cause.  Small wonder that later he always found in things what he had already put into them.  The thing itself, the concept of thing is a mere extension of the faith in the ego as cause.  And even your atom, my dear materialists and physicists — how much error, how much rudimentary psychology still resides in your atom!  Not to mention the "thing-in-itself," the horrendum pudendum of metaphysicians!  The "spirit as cause" mistaken for reality!  And made the very measure of reality!  And called God!  


The error of imaginary causes.     To begin with dreams: a cause is slipped after the fact under a particular sensation (for example, the sensation following a far-off cannon shot) — often a whole little novel is fabricated in which the dreamer appears as the protagonist who experiences the stimulus.  The sensation endures meanwhile as a kind of resonance: it waits, so to speak, until the causal interpretation permits it to step into the foreground — not as a random occurrence but as a "meaningful event."  The cannon shot appears in a causal mode, in an apparent reversal of time.  What is really later (the causal interpretation) is experienced first — often with a hundred details that pass like lightning before the shot is heard.  What has happened?  The representations which were produced in reaction to certain stimulus have been misinterpreted as its causes.  In fact, we do the same thing when awake.  Most of our general feelings — every kind of inhibition, pressure, tension, and impulsion in the ebb and flow of our physiology, and particularly in the state of the nervous system — excites our causal instinct: we want to have a reason for feeling this way or that — for feeling bad or good.  We are never satisfied merely to state the fact that we feel this way or that: we admit this fact only — become conscious of it only — when we have fabricated some kind of explanation for it.  Memory, which swings into action in such cases without our awareness, brings up earlier states of the same kind, together with the causal interpretations associated with them — not their actual causes.  Of course, the faith that such representations or accompanying conscious processes are the causes is also brought forth by memory.  Thus originates a habitual acceptance of a particular causal interpretation, which, as a matter of fact, inhibits any investigation into the real cause — it even excludes it.  


The psychological explanation: to extract something familiar from something unknown relieves, comforts, and satisfies us, besides giving us a feeling of power.     With the unknown, one is confronted with danger, discomfort, and care; the first instinct is to abolish these painful states.  First principle: any explanation is better than none.  Because it is fundamentally just our desire to be rid of an unpleasant uncertainty, we are not very particular about how we get rid of it: the first interpretation that explains the unknown in familiar terms feels so good that one "accepts it as true."  We use the feeling of pleasure ("of strength") as our criterion for truth.  A causal explanation is thus contingent on (and aroused by) a feeling of fear.  The "why?"  shall, if at all possible, result not in identifying the cause for its own sake, but in identifying a cause that is comforting, liberating, and relieving.  A second consequence of this need is that we identify as a cause something already familiar or experienced, something already inscribed in memory.  Whatever is novel or strange or never before experienced is excluded.  Thus one searches not just for any explanation to serve as a cause, but for a specific and preferred type of explanation: that which has most quickly and most frequently abolished the feeling of the strange, new, and hitherto unexperienced in the past — our most habitual explanations.  Result: one type of causal explanation predominates more and more, is concentrated into a system and finally emerges as dominant — that is, as simply precluding other causes and explanations.  The banker immediately thinks of "business," the Christian of "sin," and the girl of her love.  


The whole realm of morality and religion belongs in this category of imaginary causes or "explanations" for disagreeable feelings.     These feelings are produced by beings that are hostile to us (evil spirits: the most famous being the labeling of hysterical women as witches).  They are aroused by unacceptable acts (the feeling of "sin" or "sinfulness" is slipped under a physiological discomfort; one always finds reasons for feeling dissatisfied with oneself).  They are produced as punishments, as payment for something we should not have done, for something we should not have desired (impudently generalized by Schopenhauer into a principle in which morality appears as what it really is — as the very poisoner and slanderer of life: "Every great pain, whether physical or spiritual, declares what we deserve; for it could not come to us if we did not deserve it."  World as Will and Representation II, 666).  They are the effects of ill-considered actions that turn out badly.  (Here the affects, the senses, are posited as causes, as "guilty"; and physiological calamities are interpreted with the help of other calamities as "deserved.")  We explain agreeable general feelings as produced by our trust in God, and by our consciousness of good deeds (the so-called "good conscience" — a physiological state which at times looks so much like good digestion that it is hard to tell them apart).  They are produced by the successful termination of some enterprise (a naive fallacy: the successful termination of some enterprise does not by any means give a hypochondriac or a Pascal agreeable general feelings).  They are produced by faith, charity, and hope — the Christian virtues.  In fact, all these supposed causes are actually effects, and as it were, translate pleasant or unpleasant feelings into a misleading terminology.  One is in a state of hope because the basic physiological feeling is once again strong and rich; one trusts in God because the feeling of fullness and strength gives a sense of rest.  Morality and religion belong entirely to the psychology of error: in every single case, cause and effect are confused; or truth is confused with the effects of believing something to be true; or a state of consciousness is confused with its physiological origins.  


The error of free will.     Today we no longer have any tolerance for the idea of "free will": we see it only too clearly for what it really is — the foulest of all theological fictions, intended to make mankind "responsible" in a religious sense — that is, dependent upon priests.  Here I simply analyze the psychological assumptions behind any attempt at "making responsible."  Whenever responsibility is assigned, it is usually so that judgment and punishment may follow.  Becoming has been deprived of its innocence when any acting-the-way-you-did is traced back to will, to motives, to responsible choices: the doctrine of the will has been invented essentially to justify punishment through the pretext of assigning guilt.  All primitive psychology, the psychology of will, arises from the fact that its interpreters, the priests at the head of ancient communities, wanted to create for themselves the right to punish — or wanted to create this right for their God.  Men were considered "free" only so that they might be considered guilty — could be judged and punished: consequently, every act had to be considered as willed, and the origin of every act had to be considered as lying within the consciousness (and thus the most fundamental psychological deception was made the principle of psychology itself).  Today, we immoralists have embarked on a counter movement and are trying with all our strength to take the concepts of guilt and punishment out of the world — to cleanse psychology, history, nature, and social institutions and sanctions of these ideas.  And there is in our eyes no more radical opposition than that of the theologians, who continue to infect the innocence of becoming by means of the concepts of a "moral world-order," "guilt," and "punishment."  Christianity is religion for the executioner.  


What alone can be our doctrine?     That no one gives a man his qualities — neither God, nor society, nor his parents and ancestors, nor he himself.  (The nonsense of the last idea was taught as "intelligible freedom" by Kant — and perhaps by Plato.)  No one is responsible for a man's being here at all, for his being such-and-such, or for his being in these circumstances or in this environment.  The fatality of his existence is not to be disentangled from the fatality of all that has been and will be.  Human beings are not the effect of some special purpose, or will, or end; nor are they a medium through which society can realize an "ideal of humanity" or an "ideal of happiness" or an "ideal of morality."  It is absurd to wish to devolve one's essence on some end or other.  We have invented the concept of "end": in reality there is no end.  A man is necessary, a man is a piece of fatefulness, a man belongs to the whole, a man is in the whole; there is nothing that could judge, measure, compare, or sentence his being, for that would mean judging, measuring, comparing, or sentencing the whole.  But there is nothing besides the whole.  That nobody is held responsible any longer, that the mode of being may not be traced back to a primary cause, that the world does not form a unity either as a sensorium or as "spirit" — that alone is the great liberation.  With that idea alone we absolve our becoming of any guilt.  The concept of "God" was until now the greatest objection to existence.  We deny God, we deny the responsibility that originates from God: and thereby we redeem the world.  " Nietzsche, The Twilight of Idols, Four Errors: 

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