Gauging European temperatures

Discuss, if you like, to what extent the following quote is still applicable today. To what extent is success policy-driven, if there is any success at all, and not the accidental consequence of the actions of a few exceptionalist individuals? Where does Europe stand right now? Should we still count our blessings? Please keep the discussion civil 🙂

Mankind surely does not represent an evolution toward a better or stronger or higher level, as progress is now understood. This “progress” is merely a modern idea, which is to say, a false idea. The European of today, in his essential worth, falls far below the European of the Renaissance; the process of evolution does not necessarily mean elevation, enhancement, strengthening.

True enough, it succeeds in isolated and individual cases in various parts of the earth and under the most widely different cultures, and in these cases a higher type certainly manifests itself; something which, compared to mankind in the mass, appears as a sort of superman. Such happy strokes of high success have always been possible, and will remain possible, perhaps, for all time to come. Even whole races, tribes and nations may occasionally represent such lucky accidents.

From The Antichrist by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1895

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About Guy La Roche

Dutch translator and subtitler living in Brittany with his three cats. Has also lived in the Flemish part of Belgium. Speaks English rather fluently and in a former life used to have a decent command of Spanish. Knows swear words in German and Russian. Not quite francophone yet, but slowly getting there. Vaguely centrist observer of the world around him, extremely naive and, sometimes, rather proud of it. Writes Venale Pecus.

11 thoughts on “Gauging European temperatures

  1. Nietzsche doesn’t define “worth” there, to my knowledge; if he had, the whole thing would have been a lot more interesting. As it is, I choose to define a person’s worth as being their skill in reading and understanding quickly and in writing clearly, in surviving in foreign languages, in critical thinking and assimilation of new information, since those sorts of skills have been the root of economic development for centuries. Given that, it’s clear that the mean European’s worth is more than that of the European of the Renaissance, since illiteracy and credulousness were even more so the normal run of things back then.

  2. Aidan, I am not an expert on this, but I believe Nietzsche implicitly refers to his concept of “will to power”:The problem that I set here is not what shall replace mankind in the order of living creatures (–man is an end–): but what type of man must be bred, must be willed, as being the most valuable, the most worthy of life, the most secure guarantee of the future.I am sure more readers will expand on this. I just hope to God none of them will invoke Godwin’s law, which is all too easy with Nietzsche.

  3. Ach, it’s years since I’ve read any Nietzsche, and I had forgotten why. Fritz, du alter Junge, if man is at an end, breeding or willing into existence any type of man is surely pointless.

  4. It’s my view that the notion that we are now far declined from the people of the Renaissance/Enlightenment/Athenian democracy/whatever is just as flawed as that of “progress”. In fact it’s progress for extreme conservatives.

  5. 1895, yeah, this is insane Nietzsche. Perhaps even his sister? I must say that I have a very ambivalent relationship to Nietzsche. I know from painful experience that he never is straight with you: always hyperbole, metaphor and aphorism. But this is atavistic nonsense.

  6. The ambiguity in this particular quote is only superficial. The point is that in the history of time, elevation/progress has been unrelated to advancement of mankind as a whole. In other words, man can change whenever he’s capable, driven and opportunity is there. The timeframe in which this man lives is irrelevant in the abstract sense, neither a bonus nor a malus. Therefore -getting close to the text- our self-perceived progress is not a bonus. There’s only the man and his opportunity. For example, an ape considering the use of a club of wood is probably making more progress than any of today’s political leaders.

  7. Well, not sure what the quote means, but answering the question above it, huge advances like the invention of writing or the industrial revolution are not policy driven but the constant refinement of ideas and knowledge and skills surely is. A society where industry is rewarded will have more industrous people (sovjet plan economy vs. market economy).

  8. Everything Aidan said in the first post.

    All Europeans today are better fed, better educated, have better healthcare, and above all they don’t fight with each other – not EU members, anyway.

    So unless I’ve completely missed the point, I’m not sure why you’re asking this, Guy.

  9. “So unless I’ve completely missed the point, I’m not sure why you’re asking this, Guy.”

    It is obvious that we have progressed from a materialistic point of view. And, yes, we are not waging war. At least not in the EU.

    As to the materialistic point of view, I am asking if that progress is still structurally strong enough. Are our internal dynamics still capable of progressing further or are we simply living off past accomplishments. Do we still have the spirit to move forward or are we desperately clinging on to a status quo.

    Since my question is really two-tiered, there is also the idea of strength (in Nietzsche’s sense) and will. This ties into many debates about values and, for instance, the concept of “Old Europe”.

    So, to summarize. Is there still, in most EU countries, a strong will to progress and are we seeing the results of that? I am talking, of course, structurally.

    Or, even shorter, should/could we still aspire to the Lisbon agenda?

  10. Yes, we can still aspire to it, but the envisaged time frame isn’t realistic.

    In the end we must believe each member is doing its best, or at least attempting to, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be ambitious, even though the bar is set very high.

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