How Nietzsche Presents and Critiques Western Myth of Progress: faith and self ideology


Question: Present & Critique a Western Myth of Progress

Is what matters that we are more rational, more educated, more organized, more free?.. or that we have more stuff (and thus better quality of life), are more civilized, more class-conscious, more economically and politically advanced, etc? As we entered the 20th Century, our texts reconsidered the idea of progress and, for the first time, to critique some of its core premises.

As the western countries continue to progress ahead of other countries of the world, various myths have been developed to explain this kind of progress. Nietzsche presents and critiques the western myth of progress which relies on faith and self ideology. Using Nietzsche’s ideas on the origin of knowledge, the origin of the logic, herd instinct, the herd’s sting of conscience, benevolence and the Madman, this essay will explain how the philosopher has managed to present and critique the aspect of faith and self ideology in Western mythology of progress. The essay argues that Nietzsche sees the western myth of progress as erroneous, and the concept of knowledge as free and self-originating is false.

Nietzsche presented the western myth of progress in form of impersonality and unchanging permanence of knowledge and faith. According to Nietzsche, the intellects of the Western world had lied about the origin of knowledge. According to this myth, errors are natural and useful for the preservation of species. The chapter on the origin of knowledge suggests that the western myth of progress is based on the endurance of things. The open sentence reads, “Throughout immense stretches of time the intellect produced nothing but errors” (Nietzsche, n.d.). The west contends that there is an equality of things and a free will, and “what is good for me is good absolutely” (Backman, 2013). Nietzsche expresses the western myth of progress through the ideology that the west has progressed out of its own self-originating free will, absolute faith and absolute endurance.

Nietzsche critiques this myth by suggesting that knowledge is a portion of life, and so are fundamental errors. This shows that human beings are all subject to errors and all men have the power of knowledge. There is no single man, not even the intellects of the western world can claim that they have absolute knowledge and power. This self-originating ideology is considered by Nietzsche as faith, and such faith can be counteracted with the truth. Through faith, the western world believes that its progress depends on their endurance and absolute good or knowledge. Nietzsche says, “The thinker is now the being in whom the impulse to truth and those life-preserving errors wage their first conflict” (Backman, 2013). The truth made people to understand that all our senses are embodied with fundamental errors, so it was wrong to purport that people can have absolute faith, free will and endurance.

Apart from truth, the concepts of antiquity, embodiment and character are also seen as fundamental conditions of life. These factors are also fundamental sources of knowledge because they enable people to discern between what is true and what is false. As conditions of life, these factors worked together with knowledge to produce a good life. Therefore, absoluteness is not possible as people face cognitive impulses, judgments, sincerity and skepticism. The issues of skepticism, doubts, and judgments are contrary to the western myths of progress. The myths based on faith suggest that the west progressed out of absolute faith, and there was no room for skepticism, doubt or judgment. Nietzsche critiques this perspective by suggesting that humans have other components of life such as character, antiquity and truth (Backman, 2013). These components make people doubtful and skeptic. Therefore, there is no absolute faith pr free will.

Based on the origin of the logical, Nietzsche opposes the concept of unchanging substance by suggesting that our logical reasoning originates from the illogical. In this regard, Nietzsche suggests that human logical reasoning is a result of rapid and secret struggle of impulses which are singly illogical. Therefore, logical reasoning is not an absolute power of the intellects or substance, but a result of skepticism, doubt and judgment. Furthermore, Nietzsche suggests that things are changing. Nietzsche suggests, “For a long period the changing process in things had to be overlooked, and remain unperceived” (Backman, 2013). In opposition to the western myth of faith and unchanging nature of substance, Nietzsche argued that human beings would not have been preserved if judgment had not been affirmed and decisions had been made rather than being on the right.

Nietzsche also critiques the western myth of progress by using the concept of cause and effect. He argues that many effects occur abruptly, resulting in several errors. Therefore, understanding its causes is difficult. The problem of the concept of cause and effect is that everything originates from our conception. When we see things first as our conception, then we may not actually know the exact cause of something. Therefore, the myth that the western progress was caused by the will and power of the western people is erroneous because will and power is a conception of some people, and its origin is uncertain. Nietzsche says, “We have perfected the conception of becoming, but have not got a knowledge of what is above and behind the conception” (Backman, 2013).

Using the concept of morality, Nietzsche argued that the communities have different moralities which determine their ways of living. Various communities, societies and states are transformed by their moralities. According to Nietzsche, morality is a herd instinct of an individual within a community. If this view is taken as a criticism of the western myth of progress, then it may be argued that the western society has been transformed by the herd-instinct which determines the morality and way of thinking in the society. Morality ranks the valuation and order of human activities and impulses” (Backman, 2013). If the western society suggests that its progress is out of their faith, endurance and free will, then that ideology is taken to be a morality that ranks the impulses of the western society above those of other societies. Morality sets conditions of maintaining the western society differently from the conditions of other communities. In this regard, the western society has set its moral conditions towards progress as other communities set theirs towards other values in life. Therefore, the herd instinct is responsible for the western myth of progress.

Similar to the concept of herd instinct is the herd’s sting of conscience which was proposed by Nietzsche to critique the aspect of faith and free will in western myth of progress. In this case, if a person does something to injure the herd he feels a sting of conscience (Backman, 2013). Therefore, the entire community changes its mode of thinking to be in line with the herd. Therefore, the concept of free will is not true in the achievement of progress for the western world.

Indeed, the western myth of progress is widely challenged. Nietzsche is one of those people who have criticized the ideology quite widely. Nietzsche focused on the aspect of faith, free will and endurance of substances as the primary explanation of the western myth of progress. He used the concept of origin of knowledge to critique the myth of western progress. He argued that knowledge is not obtained out of free will and faith, but through doubts, judgment and skepticism. Human beings are characterised by fundamental errors that raise questions, impulses, judgment and doubts. The origin of logic also suggests that logical reasoning comes from the struggle of illogical impulses. Herd instinct can also be used to critique western myth of progress. The herd develops moral conditions that differentiate one community from another. Therefore, the Western society developed a morality that makes them progressive.

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