Socrates and Nietzsche: A Dialogue (part 1)
July 15, 2013
Nietzsche- I say, my good man, I haven’t the slightest idea where we are, or how we came to be here. But it appears here that we have a note of some sort, which purports to inform us. Shall I read it, or shall you?
Socrates- I suppose it shouldn’t matter at all which of us reads it.
Nietzsche- Well, I couldn’t disagree more. Nevertheless, here it is. Ahem,
Socrates and Nietzsche, (it knows who we are, my god) You’ve been brought back to life by incredible feats of technology. Two of the best minds of all time, to discuss and come to a conclusion regarding the worth of being born. You have as much time as you like, but keep in mind that your re-animated flesh will, of course, rot sooner or later. Good luck.
Socrates- Well, fuck me. Why don’t they make up their fucking minds.
Nietzsche- Not happy to be back, I see? Well I tell you, I couldn’t be happier to see my hopes proven exactly right. Here we are, eternally recurring, and, I hasten to add, I lived my previous life in anticipation of just this moment– metaphorically speaking of course.
Socrates- Hemlock. Give me hemlock.
Nietzsche- I see you also speak in metaphors. Don’t you see complaining won’t do? It will take more than hemlock to prevent us from coming back again. I suppose that my only regret– oh, no, not a regret– my only displeasure IS being here with you. I capitalize whenever I want to, by the way. Anyway, they should’ve known, whoever THEY are, that I’d rather be stuck with anyone other than you: the ultimate cyclopean logician, reifier of life, killer of the Dionysian spirit.
Socrates- Well, I don’t need to know who YOU are, to borrow your capitalization trick. You are a madman, and all madmen are the same. I was once a madman, you know.
Nietzsche- Oh, I know, with your demon. Perhaps if you had listened to that…
Socrates- I would’ve ended up thinking I was Dionysus, and lived grandly as a delusional god-to-himself, instead of dying peacefully in my bed, by reasonable suicide?
Nietzsche- What, how did you know?
Socrates- I read this brief, right here. It brought me up to speed on everything.
Nietzsche- Well, those bastards. I thought I was only one who got the brief. Well, I suppose we should get on with it.
Socrates- Alright. I suppose you know which position I’ll be taking. Better to have never been born than to suffer through this.
Nietzsche- I don’t recall you taking this position before?
Socrates- I’ve been placed here to emphasize the revolutionary Socratic element in this idea.
Nietzsche- And me?
Socrates- To emphasize, I presume, how what appears to be revolutionary is not, because you, sir, are a natalist. And natalism is the default. It is lived out by millions upon millions upon milliards. The willful love of giving birth is nothing if not a slave morality, a crass defeatism before our sovereign rulers: pain and pleasure.
Nietzsche- Hah! A slave morality. I’ve never heard such a slur directed at me before. Well, if I must speak for the zeitgeist, which I will admit is pro-birth, I suppose I won’t complain, since I did help create it.
Socrates- Good, take responsibility for your bastard child.
Nietzsche- But the first thing I shall do is take issue with your terminology.
Socrates- All right, let’s hear it.
Nietzsche- You say we, meaning all of us who are sane, should willingly submit to being called natalists, and having our philosophy (if it indeed it is a philosophy), labelled as “natalism”. I am aware of your Jedi mind tricks, and I won’t have it. If you label me, you negate me. That is the first rule of thinking metaphorico-liguistically, and that is how we all think these days.
Socrates- Labeling you negates you? Very well, what about calling ourselves cat people and dog people, just so there’s a distinction?
Nietzsche- A penumbra of associations prevents those from being objective.
Socrates- Position A and position B?
Nietzsche- Who gets to go first?
Socrates- We must call ourselves something, or we can’t proceed.
Nietzsche- The issue is nothing less than this: why must that which is most natural, most universal, and most unquestioned everywhere in the world and at all times in history, be referred to as an –ism at all? One might as well call the positive view of birth humanism, since it is by definition what humans practice. But perhaps I can settle for group A, seeing as we surely have the largest and most historically precedent contingent.
Socrates- You drive a hard bargain. But alright. Position A is the belief that giving birth is a good thing, and position B is the belief it is a bad thing. Since it is the position favoring birth, we will call position A natalism, and position B, anti-natalism.
Nietzsche- You treacherous ass. I have not conceded it is a position.
Socrates- Then how, pray tell, do you intend to argue what is not a position?
Nietzsche- Ah, now you come to it. Don’t you see, it is not difficult at all! The instinct for life does not exist in Pierceian thirdness, but upon discussing it, if one must defend the instinct, it has been elevated to the platform of thirdness. Then, and only then, will I pretend it is actually a concept at all.
Socrates- Pierceian thirdness! Dear God! Now I see why you position A’ers always think you are so successful– you don’t think you are defending a position! And this is how you actually feel?
Nietzsche- Indeed it is how I feel. Consequently, how I think. And it does not bode well for you logico-consistency methodology of argument. I would suppose it is something like this. Having never considered the issue of whether giving birth is good or bad, we find ourselves, when reflecting upon it, thinking of it as an abstract proposition. But it is not really an abstraction to begin with. The defense of birth arises from a general sentiment, and becomes abstract. But, if, for instance, the abstraction is refuted in one way, I feel that it dissipates, or returns to that fountain of life-affirmation from whence it came, and from whence it can again draw another argument, which might be refuted again, as in some endless game of whack-a-mole. And the process may go on and on forever, for there is really no end to arguments in favor of life, for their basis can never be refuted. It is simply not a position.
Socrates- Astonishing! The entire future of sentient life, and all the ethical considerations that it entails, depends upon what is essentially a game of whack-a-mole! So it is your belief that no logical argument can refute life?
Nietzsche- No. And that is why I do not wish to be called a natalist, for it is simply not a position that can be refuted. Nor is it an axiom.
Socrates- It seems you have conceded the argument.
Nietzsche- How so?
Socrates- Well, without reason on your side, you merely admit defeat. You can make no lasting arguments, but only pseudo-arguments.
Nietzsche- Not so. Reason is on my side, for life has long ago conquered reason. Rather, I have not conceded that logical argument AT ALL holds the power over life. It has not the compelling force, and no one can give that force to it. And this is what you can see by looking around you. I may compare it again to a child who wants to go swimming. I may dip my toes in the water of reason, and if I like, perhaps I can swim. But if I don’t like it I can retreat. The outcome doesn’t matter.
Socrates- Nevertheless, you have to pretend to be invested in reasonableness to have a discussion at all, yes?
Nietzsche- Certainly, I can pretend to. I definitely intend to call you unreasonable, for various reasons that have nothing to do with reason. But perhaps I have mischaracterized myself, my “view”, as you call it. Perhaps it is not an instinct. Or perhaps it is part of some greater instinct. Who can say? All I can say with certainty, is that there is no logical argument that will persuade me that logic has any power whatsoever over life.
Socrates- It has no power, I may concede, but should it have no power?
Nietzsche- The is-ought fallacy? Hah! I haven’t conceded that the concept of “fallacy” would matter or apply to the validity of life. Life is its own validity.
Socrates- But in other cases, surely you would point to fallacies.
Nietzsche- In other cases I may employ tactics of rhetoric to prevail against my opponent, but in this case, I will not concede that reason is final. That is my choice.
Socrates- I knew you were mad, but now I see that you have no honor. Oh well, better to know now than discover later. Nevertheless, we must continue, as we’ve been assigned to, and must do so within the scope of logical discussion. Now surely, since you must play this logical “game”, as you would term it, we are entitled to find the next best move to make. I would suggest then, that perhaps this irrefutability of life, which you hold to be self-evident— excuse me, you do not hold it, but it holds you, self-evidently– is to be found in a confusion of concepts, or is at basis conceptual, rather than a mere instinct, or that, alternatively, your life-affirmation has a single conceptual basis which, perhaps whacking, I might whack all the derivatives.
Nietzsche- Good luck with that. All people have found life to be a burden, and all people have kept going. Not to mention if you whack the core concept, you will only find I have been angered, and grow resentful, and the instinct remains and cannot be changed. At which point I may simply kill you.
Socrates- We can only hope.