23 February 2013

Natural law and Friedrich Nietzsche's discovery of the individual

Or how it is not the madness of the prophet that is the problem, but his godforsaken self-righteousness and disrespect of the natural law. 

- by the emperor, always carrying his pocket-knife in his pocket 

In another post I have already related Koenraad Elst's short history of the prophet's madness, which to some extent was based on facts taken from a book by Herman Somers, "Een andere Mohammed" (1993), but was otherwise simply based on facts from scripture. I haven't done any work at all to verify these facts, I only have done some more reflective reasoning on it. Which means that if these facts aren't accurately described here, but similar facts can well be established, so that the reasoning is not invalidated by my carelesssness with the facts, then this carelessness is totally irrelevant for my result.

In truth, it would even be better to say from the beginning that the facts of the prophet's madness do not matter at all, because he is in any case free to be mad; as long as he respects other people's right to make another choice and not to follow him in his madness. Because that's what the natural law says, we already know that, even before wrapping our head around the prophet's madness.

First step: the prophet has experienced his first visual and auditory hallucinations and reflects upon them in his mind; he comes to the conclusion that he is in danger of becoming a madman, because he cannot very well reconcile his experience of the hallucinations with his idea of a healthy state of mind as he had experienced it before the hallucinations started. He may have made additional reflections to himself, such as: it's not healthy, but these hallucinations are transitory events, they go away again and then I feel quite OK; so if I just lock myself up in my house during these unhealthy phases, I will be fine and nobody will notice.

Rational conclusion of the first step: the prophet appears to be a soundly reasoning man (i.e. fully using his capacity for reason).

Second step: as is already clear in the first step, he must of course worry about what his fellow men will think of him once they start to notice that he is regularly the victim of transitory hallucinations. In this second step he starts to worry that his fellow men will not be very tolerant of the transitory derangement of his otherwise healthy mind, and will not just let him lock himself up in his house for a while and continue to take him seriously as their fellow man when he comes out of his unhealthy state of mind again; he finally convinces himself that his fellow men will definitely not be tolerant and simply condemn him as a madman when they find out about his hallucinations. That's a prospect of life he finds so despairing that he seriously contemplates suicide.

Rational conclusion of the second step: the prophet still appears to be a soundly reasoning man, but he has started to include projections into his reasoning instead of facts, projections mainly about what other people will think of him and of how that will affect his future life in the society of his fellow men.

Third step: he has a wife and he goes to inform her of his state of mind and to find out what she thinks of his suicide plans. I do not know what his wife thinks, but she submits him to her feminine test ("let's fuck"), and when that helps to make the visions go away, she probably concludes that he is not really dangerous to herself. So his wife does not conclude that he is simply becoming mad, she tells him that he should go on living with his transitory hallucinations and that everything will be fine.  She may have made other suggestions to him about the meaning of the hallucinations, but I do not really think that they matter all that much. What matters is what the prophet thinks. And the feedback he gets from his wife completely changes his mind: that is the important point to grasp. He completely changes his mind although there is not much new evidence contained in the exchange with his wife. He already knew that the hallucinations were transitory before having the more precise experience that he could make them go away by pleasuring his wife. In fact, the only new insight he can draw from the exchange with his wife he doesn't seem to realise: that his initial idea of transitory hiding periods from his fellow men can be abandoned in exchange for the far more pleasant idea of transitory love-making sessions with his wife in order to bring the hallucinations under control and to actually make them go away by his own and his wife's initiative. So he doesn't chose this new pleasant option available to his thinking. He choses instead to completely change his mind about the hallucinations themselves, and rather than understand them as hallucinations, as he has done so far, to understand them as messages coming from God.

Rational conclusion of the third step: the prophet still appears to be a soundly reasoning man, but on top of the non-factual elements in his thinking coming from the second step (the fear of his fellow men's misunderstandings), he has now started to discard factual new elements (his wife's healthy sexual influence on him) that he could have used very logically for his initial purpose, in a way that is moreover naturally positive, namely to decide whether to go on with his life as a transitory madman or not: yes, I can go on with my life, the trouble with the hallucinations can be kept under control with my wife's help far better than I thought initially, and there is no need to be all that afraid of my fellow men misunderstanding me, because they'll just think that I have fallen in love again with my wife. One cannot say that he has simply become unsound and illogical in his reasoning. But one can say that he has made a surprising and individualistic choice among the various options available to him. He has chosen to let himself be encouraged by the fact that his wife is not afraid of him becoming a madman to start to like his hallucinations and to see them in another light than he was doing initially. He has started to see himself not as a victim of unhealthy transitory hallucinations, but as a prophet receiving God's regular messages.

Fourth step: his more or less sound individualistic reasoning during the first three steps is transformed into a paranoid and dominant wish not only to prevent his fellow men's misunderstandings of his hallucinations, but to impose on his fellow men his own understanding of his hallucinations as God's messages. From now on, he wants his fellow men not just to accept him as their fellow man, he wants his fellow men to accept him as God's prophet and to accept the messages he receives from God as divine revelations.

Rational conclusion of the fourth step: he may still be a soundly reasoning man, but in his practical dealings with his fellow men he has clearly veered off towards a mythomaniacal or simply opportunistic manipulation of his fellow men's thoughts and actions, which is a clear case of disrespect of their natural right to make up their own minds and lead their lives accordingly.

What has all this to do with Friedrich Nietzsche and natural law? It shows how natural law ('to each his own') is the underlying logic by which an individual's thinking is constructed in exchanges with other people who are different from him and make their own choices. And how an individual's reasoning in these exchanges with other people can be at the same time logical and individualistic, i.e. an expression of his freedom to make up his mind in a logically sound manner no matter what other people do or think. This was Friedrich Nietzsche's discovery of the individual, of the individual's freedom to make his own choices in a rationally sound manner. It is the insight that human reason is certainly constraining, but it is never constraining in a way that reduces the degree of rational freedom available to the individual to zero. There is no 'single solution' that imposes itself rationally on all men in the natural order of human conviviality. There are only individualistic solutions as chosen by each man for himself.

Where it all gets out of hand is when the individualistic choice made by the prophet to become a prophet in his own mind translates into disrespect of other people's right to make their own individualistic choices. That is a clear disrespect of the natural law.

The same individualistic choice to believe in the prophet is of course available to Muslims, but for them as well as for their prophet, that individualistic choice cannot translate into disrespect of the natural law, i.e. disrespect of other people's right to make a different individualistic choice.

People are indeed individualistically free to make up their own minds. But in order for all of them to be equally free, the natural law must be respected in all cases. Not a single instance of disrespect of the natural law can be tolerated if individual freedom is to survive for all.

"It is needful to kill the enemy, whether a wild or creeping thing or a human being." - Democritus 

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