After dealing with the concept of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch in the first blog on this topic, we are now left to examine his concept of Perspectivism, and the wider umbrella term of Relativism under which it falls. Many have come to view our “postmodern” society as an opaque dystopia. Politics are heavily polarized and scandalous, the people are growing more divided along race and gender lines, popular culture is marginalizing the individual thinker into the lunatic fringe, and the impression left on us by the mainstream media is that we live in a mean, mean world along with our fellow psychotics. This is all the result of the divorce of society from the concept of universal truth, and the rejection of the notion that the individual has the ability to hold an objective thought. By doing away with the truth, the search for truth is done away with as well. So what happened? Where did it all go wrong? A more appropriate question to ask is “How did it all go wrong again?” as humanity has already observed and dealt with this issue in the past. It was Nietzsche who sent us back into the Bronze Age.
Before Nietzsche, there were the Sophists. These were ancient Greek teachers who peddled their lessons to the progeny of wealthy clients, claiming to be able to pass on their own virtues and wisdom to their lucky students. Rather than teaching actual knowledge (this was a time before modern science) they taught their own experiences and philosophy, and their teachings were often at odds with each other. Socrates noticed all of this, and saw how focusing on truth would often be compromised by touting popular belief to garner more students and collect more fees. Rather than collaborating to discover reality, the Sophists were competing against each other and the knowledge, and their students, suffered for it. Through his protege, Plato, the two would go on to condemn the Sophists and point out the first recorded instance of their expounding of Relativism. This is the concept that individual viewpoints are devoid of any type of objective, absolute truth, and the only value said viewpoints have is relative to the thought process and perspective of the individual. As the Sophists needed a means to defend their corrupted industry, they used Relativism to obscure the issue. Rather than having to answer the dichotomy of true and false, teaching knowledge or being a fraud, the entire search for truth was sidestepped, and their businesses could continue as “it’s all relative” and all viewpoints had value. Plato and Socrates were completely opposed to this thinking, and Plato would later use math and geometry to develop Platonic Realism and the concept of universal forms. By offering logic, reasoning, and math rather than pure rhetoric, Plato and Socrates would form the foundations of Western philosophy while the Sophists were later relegated to teaching speech craft in the Roman Empire.
Nietzsche was well-read and well aware of Plato’s criticisms of the Sophists, yet he considered Plato to be “boring” and claimed that the championing of reason would kill the passion needed for creativity and art. Nietzsche saw the decline of religious faith and the”death of God” as the primary factor for a coming fracture of society. Without one biblical narrative for all to believe in, he was convinced that the Western world would descend into nihilism and chaos. Nietzsche’s proposed remedy for this was his Perspectivism, which is essentially the same as Relativism but excludes the notion that all other viewpoints (and Sophists) are valued equally. By making this very small tweak to Relativism, Nietzsche gave himself sufficient leeway to suggest that scientists and science, intellectuals, and the political class be the new source for society’s values in his Ubermensch concept. God was on His way out, scientists and politicians were in. With one fell swoop, science and its thrall, pop culture, supplanted God and stood in opposition to the religious worldview.
So by Perspectivism and Relativism, we are cursed with the abandonment of the search for truth, the rejection of the ability to hold an objective thought, the leveling of value for all perspectives, and the modern science vs. religion culture war. Rather than encouraging the individual to discover the truth, we are now expected to listen to “experts,” refer to an authority, and seek a consensus among our peers to validate what is merely a perspective. We live in an age of “popular truth.”
The hideous fruit borne from the twisted tree that Nietzsche and the Sophists planted and nurtured is plain to see for all. The postmodern world has its own contemporary form of the Sophists in the form of the mass media, talking heads, and pundits. Instead of investigating and reporting the truth, yellow journalism, gossip, and two-party kool aid is pushed for ratings and the mantra of “if it bleeds, it leads.” Just like their ancient Greek counterparts, these sophists have corrupted themselves and their product for the sake of greed and short term gain. The audience on the receiving end of this dribble becomes polarized and begins to pick and choose their own reality in the absence of the possibility of truth. Identity politics is intensified, rhetoric becomes more divisive and blunt, and the echo chambers and circle jerks of the internet are filled with those who have given into group think and group values.
Society and culture itself is the primary victim of this Bronze age charlatanism. When the individual is incapable of holding an objective thought, only the result of a collaborative effort between many is deemed to be based in reality and truth. Queue the rise of rule by committee, political correctness, and so-called microaggressions, where everybody’s sensibilities must be catered to. The devaluing of the individual gives pop culture and popular belief more gravitas, allowing it to lord over the individual. The leveling of value for all perspectives is the groundwork for multiculturalism, and the delusional apologists for Islam. Group-thinkers like Ben Affleck ignore the scholarship from actual Muslims and researchers who have, for centuries, denounced certain precepts such as the outlawing of criticism and free speech and an aversion for innovation. Criticizing those apologists is met with accusations of racism, and further shaming for disagreeing. When an edict is passed down from our Ubermensch, the troops snap to and await their marching orders. The Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, and the stress on gender equality, was the societal value that was given to the people. The result is a militant movement of Social Justice Warriors and the third wave Feminist Supremacists who, eerily similar to the Maoist Red Guards, began to vociferously and viciously attack, silence, and demand the exile of teachers and fellow students who question or fail to toe the Title IX line. Even false accusations and staged events are not below these unfortunately brainwashed people.
The only benefactor in this postmodern misery seems to be our dear leaders, the Ubermensch. As they establish our values and are above morality, who are we to question their political scandals and criminal conduct? With the deep divisions in the two party system, one only needs to discredit and dismiss their opponents as lacking virtue and playing political games in order to free themselves of accountability. This process repeated on both sides has degraded the legitimacy of the democratic system as a whole. Endless warmongering is enabled by the ambiguous, broadly-defined term of “terrorist.” The Ubermensch will decide who is a terrorist and who is a “moderate Syrian rebel” or freedom fighter, and the American people are not excluded from being classified a boogeyman enemy of the state. When Western leaders need to make their case, they have the option of doctoring up a study or some statistics and presenting a junk science argument to the public. Even science, when it is divorced from natural philosophy, cause and correlation, will be politicized and spun to build a consensus from supporters or intellectually bully an opposing perspective with academic pettifogging and appeals to their own qualifications. Nothing has been left untouched.
This is the current, sad state of affairs in our society. Group-thinking, polarization, and the disenfranchisement and devaluing of individual thought and creativity have reverted us back into the Bronze age with all of its mob mentality barbarism and sophism. I suppose 2,500 years ago, one could excuse the Sophists since Socrates, Plato, logic and science were still embryonic. But today, the kaleidoscopic refraction of reality, culture, and societal values must be recognized and shown as a wholly unnecessary evil that serves only to divide and weaken. The shaming, accusations of racism, and puppeteering of science and popular culture has made a mockery of Western civilization, and has condemned its citizens to a vile, discordant purgatory.
But that’s just my perspective.