Nietzsche and Uncle Andrew - The Arrogance of the 'Philosopher' and 'Magician'


(SeanO) #1

I recently finished reading Jordan Peteron’s book and was taken aback by how much he respected Nietzsche. When I first read ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ by Nietzsche I was horrified by his arrogance. I believe that C. S. Lewis’ character Uncle Andrew in ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ reflects this profound arrogance and lack of love or humility.

Both Nietzsche and Uncle Andrew separate themselves into an elite class of people called, respectively, ‘philosophers’ or ‘magicians’. And their intent in doing so is to claim, by virtue of superior intellect or ‘will to power’, the right to transgress morality - to live ‘beyond good and evil’.

In the words of Diggory from Lewis’ ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ as he responds to Uncle Andrew, the magician’s, high and lofty words:

“As he said this he sighed and looked so grave and noble and mysterious that for a second Digory really thought he was saying something rather fine. But then he remembered the ugly look he had seen on his Uncle’s face the moment before Polly had vanished: and all at once he saw through Uncle Andrew’s grand words. ‘All it means,’ he said to himself, ‘Is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants.’”

Or, in words from Tolkien:

“There is no curse in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of Men for this treachery.” -Tolkien, The Two Towers

I believe the attitude adopted by Nietzsche led and always is the precursor to terrible deeds - or at least an atmosphere where such terrible things are possible. And I simply wanted to lay it bare for what it is - petty contempt and a disregard for men who are made in God’s image. May the Lord Jesus keep us from such evil thoughts in our own time.

Uncle Andrew Quotes

“But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys—and servants—and women—and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.” -Uncle Andrew, The Magician’s Nephew, C. S. Lewis

"I had forgotten that you are only a common boy. How should you understand reasons of the State? You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny.” -Uncle Andrew, The Magician’s Nephew, C. S. Lewis

“I am the great scholar, the magician, the adept, who is doing the experiment. Of course I need subjects to do it on. Bless my soul, you’ll be telling me next that I ought to have asked the guinea-pigs’ permission before I used them! No great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice.” -Uncle Andrew, The Magician’s Nephew, C. S. Lewis

Nietzsche Quotes

“That which serves the higher class of men for nourishment or refreshment, must be almost poison to an entirely different and lower order of human beings.” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“Signs of nobility: never to think of lowering our duties to the rank of duties for everybody” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“is the business of the very few to be independent; it is a privilege of the strong.” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“And how could there be a “common good”! The expression contradicts itself; that which can be common is always of small value.” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

"men, not sufficiently noble to see the radically different grades of rank and intervals of rank that separate man from man:—SUCH men, with their “equality before God,” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“with commonplace virtues: that is to say, a non-ruling, non-authoritative, and non-self-sufficient type of man; he possesses industry, patient adaptableness to rank and file, equability and moderation” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“He shall be the greatest who can be the most solitary, the most concealed, the most divergent, the man beyond good and evil, the master of his virtues, and of super-abundance of will; precisely this shall be called GREATNESS: as diversified as can be entire, as ample as can be full.” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“People have always to be born to a high station, or, more definitely, they have to be BRED for it: a person has only a right to philosophy—taking the word in its higher significance—in virtue of his descent; the ancestors, the “blood,” decide here also. Many generations must have prepared the way for the coming of the philosopher;” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“namely, what was LACKING in Carlyle—real POWER of intellect, real DEPTH of intellectual perception, in short, philosophy. It is characteristic of such an unphilosophical race to hold on firmly to Christianity—they NEED its discipline for “moralizing” and humanizing.” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“Where the populace eat and drink, and even where they reverence, it is accustomed to stink. One should not go into churches if one wishes to breathe PURE air.” -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

(Jimmy Sellers) #2

I have not read any Nietzsche. As an aside I found what you said about Petersen almost as shocking as what Wright credits Schweitzer as having said about Nietzsche

“There are 3 great moralist Jesus, Kant, Nietzsche.”

(SeanO) #3

@Jimmy_Sellers Yes, that statement is all the more shocking since Nietzsche is an amoralist in the sense that he does not believe in a morality applicable to all mankind, but rather in survival and a will to power.

(Joseph Green) #4

I find it fasinating how often you can point back to the first sin when looking at almost any, maybe any sin. To claim to have trancended good and evil is to say that you are now defining it. The moral law does not apply to you, but instead whatever law you make for yourself. You are allowed to become God because of an attribute or attributes that makes you superior to other men or elements of creation. A gift given by God that is used as a weapon against God and against your fellow man.

Another interesting thing on the connection between Peterson and Nietzsche is in your reply @SeanO. I listened to a discussion between Peterson and Sam Harris and they got in a grid lock over what is truth for about an hour. Jordan’s take was that truth is about what gives us the best chance of survival. I may be mistaking what he was getting at, but even Sam Harris could not believe that is what he thought truth to be.

(SeanO) #5

@jgreen That is a very good point - the first sin in the Garden of Eden had to do with defining good and evil for ourselves rather than trusting God’s character. And Paul makes the same argument in Corinthians regarding our inability to boast because all of our gifts come from God:

I Corinthians 4:7 - For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Peterson is a bit of an anomaly for me - he tries to use evolutionary psychology to arrive at something approximating Biblical ethics (though different in significant ways) that is rooted in a blind leap of faith in the ‘goodness of Being’. I must admit I think Nietzsche was intellectually more rigorous in that regard - he realized that evolutionary naturalism does not lead to Biblical ethics. Peterson, in my opinion, is more humble than Nietzsche based upon what I have read and appears to recognize some of the glory of God in creation, which is what I think is pulling him towards holding onto a belief in the goodness of Being that is not sustainable within his own worldview.

As a psychologist I think Peterson is understandably a pragmatist - his beliefs are oriented around what helps other people work out their issues; what helps them survive and overcome their situation. His experiences as a psychologist have taught him belief in the goodness of Being is critical to human flourishing and yet he is a naturalist, so he is finding a way to bring his beliefs and experience together. Maybe one day he will recognize his experience is more explicable in a worldview rooted in the goodness of God and the hope of the resurrection through His Son Jesus :slight_smile: