Nietzsche As Free Spirit And New Philosopher

1890 words - 8 pages

Nietzsche as Free Spirit and New Philosopher

     In the second chapter of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche develops a fragmented portrait of a character type to which he refers as the "free spirit." Throughout the rest of Beyond Good and Evil, he expands on this portrait and connects it with another type, the "new philosopher," which he connects with the type of the free spirit in a specific (although complex) way. Nietzsche conceptualizes himself, as I will show, as both a "free spirit" and as a "new philosopher."


Nietzsche spends a great deal of time describing the characteristics of both of these types. The central characteristic of the complex characterization of the free spirit is freedom - although Nietzsche conceptualizes this freedom in a non-traditional manner: it is not a political freedom, and it is certainly not democratic. In fact, this freedom "is for the very few" and for the "very strong" (Nietzsche 29). Independence is something for which one has to test oneself, argues Nietzsche, and if one "comes to grief, this happens so far from the comprehension of men that they neither feel it nor sympathize" (Nietzsche 40, 29). The characteristics of the free spirit described by Nietzsche throughout the book are characteristics that are uncommon among humanity: the free spirits are subtle and have "the art of nuances"; they are "extra-moral" and "immoralists" - that is, they do not bind themselves to the conventional beliefs about morality in which most people place their faith (Nietzsche 31, 32).


The primary characteristics of the free spirit, however, elucidate this type in a specific way that denies that the free spirit is merely a rare person. Nietzsche's characterization of free spirits defines them as a type that is primarily critical of and cautious toward all beliefs, and many of his descriptions of the characteristics of the free spirit are characteristics that are required for insightful and meaningful criticism. For instance, he links Stendhal's comment that the good philosopher is "dry, clear, without illusion" to the free spirit (Nietzsche 39). Nietzsche describes the free spirit as one who believes that many commonly accepted beliefs, such as the morality of altruism preached by Christianity and other religions, "must be questioned mercilessly and taken to court." The free spirit, he argues, resists the "seductions" of feelings that are attractive (Nietzsche 33). And the free spirit is precise, an attribute that is required for penetrating criticism: Nietzsche says that free spirits experience "disgust with what is clumsy and approximate" (Nietzsche 227).


All of these characteristics allow the reader to make an attempt to understand what Nietzsche means by "freedom" in the context of the free spirit. The free spirit is, first and foremost (although with certain qualifications that I will describe later), one who has liberated himself from the necessity of fidelity to a particular...

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