Unfortunately for Nietzsche, in expanding on his polemic he also provides the soundest arguments against his line of thinking, of which we will now deal with three. The first concerns his views of truth as a farce and reason as all-too-fallible for ultimate understanding. The paradox of such an epistemology is that if his conclusions are correct, he is just as influenced by his instincts, not capable of independent thought, and therefore not to be trusted, as any one of us. And herein lies the chief fallacy of his new philosophy, the free spirits, and the arrogance of his thoroughgoing post-modernism.
The second concerns his treatment of religion in general (as a pious fraud that can at times be an effective control over the masses) and Christianity in particular. Here again, Nietzsche provides his own best refutation. In seeking to displace theistic narratives of Creation, Fall and Redemption, he finds that success means creating his own. His story “has its roots in the Jewish and Christian slave rebellion in morals” and far from rejoicing with his precious pagans “in the face of nature, Christians are suspicious of nature, seeing it as deceptive, tempting, and infected with sin” (Hibbs). Men have fallen, then, by accepting the Fall, and redemption is found in the denial of redemption. Thus as Stephen Mulhall points out, Nietzsche “turns out to reproduce rather than transcend a paradoxical structure of Christian thought” (in Hibbs). His views are therefore a kind of unintentional parody of a Christianity without a resurrection.
The third criticism concerns his stated object of seeking to go “beyond good and evil” and to establish a new framework for ethical thought in which, strictly speaking, there is no longer anything to call by those terms. Yet Nietzsche’s ideal of nobility as seen in both the historical narrative discussed above and its implications for the future of humanity, would seem to argue to the contrary. “At the very least, it seems obvious that despite Nietzsche’s incessant denial of any possible foundation for a higher good in the order of things, he could not help but presuppose that such a good exists and that it has been violated by the rise of social and political equality” (Linker). It is quite possible, then, that Nietzsche too fell prey to the very neo-Platonism that he found so distasteful in other thinkers, and therefore it is hard to take seriously one who so hastily criticizes others while being blind when he makes the same mistakes himself. “One cannot help but conclude that Nietzsche—the man who gleefully proclaimed in a book titled Beyond Good and Evil that it was his goal to ‘sail right over morality’—was himself a perverse kind of moralist concerned above all about the injustice of shallowness and mediocrity” (Linker). So while he sought to transcend morality and referred to “We immoralists” (226), he was in fact, nothing of the sort.
When Nietzsche’s work arrived on the scene, he wanted to make a statement that others would remember, and he “was indeed explosive” (Linker). Unfortunately, however, even today, we are still suffering the consequences of his thinking. “Western culture has yet to come to terms with the fallout produced by the detonation of his most volatile ideas” (Linker). And thus as Wiker points out throughout his chapter on Beyond Good and Evil, our author falls within a steady continuum that leads from bad to worse, through Rousseau, Mill and Darwin and continuing through Hitler, Sanger and only God knows who else. There is something of the last century that tells us that things are not as they should be, nor should we seek to fulfill Nietzsche’s dreary vision for the future. We have witnessed the horrors of two world wars, a cold war that at certain times and in certain places was anything but cold, the worst kinds of tyranny and genocide, and the calculating cowardliness of terrorism. And yet throughout these experiences we have also seen heroes rise to the occasion, some from prominence and others from obscurity, and demonstrate that there is not only something worth fighting for, but something within man that still points to a sort of sacrificial greatness that Nietzsche could never understand. It is something that at times seems even beyond human capacity, and gives us an impression of something perhaps divine. “Yet, being something godlike, we are not, as Nietzsche would have it, gods ourselves, but something far less, a faint but glowing resemblance to Someone else infinitely more resplendent” (Wiker 231). The possibility yet remains, then, that Nietzsche was correct, but only partly so. That “God did indeed die, but rose again, an übermensch of a very different kind, one that can save us from the madness of our own making” (Wiker 231). And so we are faced with the choice between Nietzsche’s darkness, chaos, and “might makes right” morality, or we can trust these natural inclinations toward sacrifice and honor, “allowing the good that is reflected in common opinion and experience to serve as an indication—however tentative, ambiguous, or elusive—of what is likely to be true” (Linker). So while Nietzsche sought to overcome the traditional and modern conceptions of truth and morality through a post-modern pragmatism, he instead points us back to our heads, and our hearts.