The words sacred
were merely intellectual exercise to Friedrich Nietzsche
. His transvaluation of values
values - Platonic
notions of "good" and "truth" - have withstood lo these millennia
. Until Nietzsche chose Zarathustra
as his prophet
, the moral interpretation
of history was one of a battle of cosmic principles
and virtually all of Nietzsche
pitted "good" and "evil" against one another, with the onus
upon each human soul
to "choose" which of these two paths
to follow. The liberation
lies in his transvaluation
of these values. Using Zarathustra
as his sounding-board
critiques existing systems of value assignation
and asks not "is this good, is this bad?", but what
do we mean when we say bad? Who
does this truth serve
, and who serves
it? How did this virtue become good, and that virtue become bad? While all of Nietzsche's work , particularly The Genealogy of Morals
, addresses these questions, Thus Spake Zarathustra
is unique in its use of metaphor
to hammer away at Plato's antiquated dualist philosophy
Nietzsche uses new oppositions instead of simple "good/bad" dichotomies to reassign value. In his analysis of morals, different metaphors invite a differing perception of morality. Zarathustra's descent from the mountaintop to the valley, his "going under", does not only imply his re-joining of the teeming masses in the City of the Colourful Cow but also remind us that "high" and "low" are spatial distinctions, oppositions reflective of natural hierarchies that occur everywhere, even in topography. Nietzsche's selection here also refers back to Classical Greek ideas about ethics, particularly Heraclitus's "As Above, So Below". Similarly, Nietzsche twists the images of adversaries who may find his treatments of good and evil, weak and strong, as attacking Christian morality. One may find in his metaphor of how the eagle may eat, also but loves and needs the lamb, a pot-shot at the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
Nietzsche employs masks and metaphors to escape the philosophy of identity: that an abstract, eternal good exists that one and all must attempt to conform to. The transvaluation of values exposes the abstract system of rationality proposed by Kant and Hegal as a system of control. It is the ordering of politics, a levelling implicit in the established order.
Nietzsche declares his disdain in "On the Despisers of the Body" for a soul/body split and the consequent colonization of pleasure and pain by rational philosophy. "There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom" (Z 146). Thus the transvaluation of values overturns another opposition. "...the awakened and knowing say: body am I entirely, and nothing else; and soul is only a word for something about the body" (Z 146).
Returning again to the hierarchies in organic life we return to the spirit of Nietzsche. We can use his transvaluation of values not just to discern opposites, but similarities too. What would happen to a bowl of goldfish if you dropped a piranha into it? What would happen to a kitten if you threw it in a lions' den? What about a beagle in a wolf-pack? They may not be opposites, but they are predator and prey, as are the warring creators of value.
To assume the right to new values--that is the most terrifying assumption for a reverent spirit that would bear much. Verily, to him it is preying, and a matter for a beast of prey. (Z 139)