Reading Friedrich Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idol and Smoking a Cigar

Thoughts On Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols, Some Personal Notes, and Other Less Important Notes

A Strange Conversation

“God is dead,” said Friedrich Nietzsche whose father and grandfathers were clergymen. When the psychologist I met at a bar on Hamra Street learned about this, he said, “Aha! We can say that here, too, Freud was right.” Nietzsche was only four years old when his father died. Therefore, the only way for him to re-enact the story of Oedipus was to kill what his father believed in — God, or, as the Germans call him, Gott. That was, at least, what the drunken psychologist hypothesized before ordering another drink.

It is also known that Nietzsche disliked women. That will be clear to anyone who reads his works. “But who can blame him?” The psychologist said. “He grew up with a lot of women around, you said, no?” Mother, sister, grandmother, aunts. My Gott! The list is long. “But let’s not justify sexism here. Let’s pay the bill and leave this bar.”

On Twilight of the Idols

They say that Nietzsche wrote Twilight of the Idols in less than 10 days. When I read that, I was like, “That man really had nothing more entertaining to do than to sit and write.” But, at the same time, I was impressed. In fact, I envied him a little. I’ve been wanting to write a book for years, and I have nothing to show for it.

I also read that, with Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche’s goal was to write a short introduction to his philosophy. But, after reading most of his works, in my humble opinion, I can say that he has failed to do so. Human, All Too Human is likely a better introduction to his philosophy. When someone who has never read Nietzsche asks me what to start with, I always suggest Human, All Too Human, and, in some cases, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Otherwise, they will not grasp what Nietzsche is all about.

Now, surely you have come across the dictum that says, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Have you ever wondered where that came from? If you did, then now you have an answer. You have found the book where that quote — the one that Instagram influencers use so frequently — came from! The book is called Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer.

“How to philosophize with a hammer.” How wonderful.

On Scholars

The worst mistake you can do in life is to study philosophy. I wouldn’t suggest you major in philosophy unless you want to live a lousy life. Philosophy is dead to everyone except philosophers. “Philosophy and necrophilia,” the drunken psychologist once told me, “have a lot in common.” He didn’t elucidate though. In philosophy, the best you can be is Slavoj Žižek; the worst you can be is also Slavoj Žižek. In the end, it’s up to you. Be who you want to be.

Besides, I advise you not to take my advice.

How many bottles of wine have I had writing this? I didn’t count.

But I guess all I wanted to say is this: Scholars are fetishists. They don’t read philosophy like an average human being ought to. When you read philosophy, read like a human. Remember that.

Thoughts on Twilight of the Idols

“Apophthegms and Darts,” which is the first section of Twilight of the Idols, is filled with maxims covering numerous topics, many of which are more ridiculous than they are shocking or thought provoking. So I am not going to spend a lot time on them. However, I will quote a few of them below for you to read with your own eyes.

How is it? Is man only a mistake of God? Or God only a mistake of man? —

From the military school of life. — What does not kill me, strengthens me.

To live alone, one must be an animal or a God — says Aristotle. The third case is wanting: one must be both — a philosopher.

As you can see, there’s not much to talk about there. But we can say a few words about the subsequent section called “The Problem of Socrates.” Actually, I find it very funny. To defeat Socrates, Nietzsche calls the Greek philosopher “ugly.” He first turns Socrates into a joke, and then adds that “ugliness is often enough the expression of a thwarted development checked by cross breeding.” But he doesn’t stop there. No. Nietzsche keeps swinging his hammer like a lousy internet troll who just wants to make people feel bad about themselves. He adds that criminologists and anthropologists (of his time, of course) have found that “the typical criminal is ugly.” And so Nietzsche expects us to conclude something like this: Socrates is an ugly criminal.

If Nietzsche were on Twitter he would have been “cancelled.”

“Socrates wanted to die,” he writes. “Athens did not give him the poison cup; he gave it to himself; he compelled Athens to give it to him.”

I don’t know about you, but I laughed so hard when I read this.

Another thing that made me laugh comes under the section called “Morality as Antinaturalness.” There he says, “We no longer admire the dentist who pulls out the teeth, that they may no longer cause pain.” When I read this, I suddenly remembered that I haven’t been brushing my teeth. So I immediately put down the book and went to brush my teeth. Boy, was I drunk! I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror…

In the final pages of the book, I came across something that made me very happy. I read the sentence: “Dostoiewsky, the only psychologist, let it be said, from whom I had anything to learn…”

This made me smile like an idiot. And I caught myself nodding as if I discovered something epic. “Well,” I said, “I hope this Dostoiewsky is the Dostoevsky I know. Nietzsche calling Dostoevsky the only true psychologist he knows is amazing! It all makes sense now. I will share this with all my friends.”

Then I passed out for some time.

But here I am again, now, and I will end this entry with the best quote from Twilight of the Idols.

The individual, in his antecedents and in his consequents, is a piece of fate, an additional law, an additional necessity for all that now takes place and will take place in the future. To say to him, “Alter thyself,” is to require everything to alter itself, even backward also.

Chris Khatschadourian Reading Thoreau's Civil Disobedience

Quotes from Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”

I read Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” (1849) wholeheartedly for the first time a little before I started participating in the Lebanese protests of 2015. That was the year I became aware that I am a political animal.

Then I reread it in 2017 (I know this because I posted a picture of the book on my Instagram page with a description that says, “Getting ready for #revolution on Monday morning.”), and I read it once more today, a week after the Beirut Explosion which took place on August 4, 2020.

“Civil Disobedience” unintentionally turned me into some sort of an anarchist — “That government is best which governs not at all.”

But most importantly, Thoreau made me realize that when a government is corrupt, incompetent, or simply inefficient, one must not remain silent. You must fight for what’s right, even if the majority is against you. “For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done for ever.”

Quotes from Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”

I heartily accept the motto, — “That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience” (1849)

Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse.

Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience” (1849)

All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to and to resist the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now.

Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience” (1849)

All voting is a sort of gaming, like chequers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority.

Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience” (1849)

There is but little virtue in the action of the masses of men.

Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience” (1849)

Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.

Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience” (1849)
The Cockroach by Ian McEwan Book Review

The Cockroach by Ian McEwan (Review)

After reading the opening lines of Ian McEwan’s The Cockroach, I was immediately, and expectedly, reminded of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.” The initial pages of the book are, broadly put, “Metamorphosis” inverted. However, even though Kafka readers will positively be entertained reading McEwan’s work, the story itself is not Kafkaesque — we do not really feel that we are in one of Kafka’s nightmares. Jim Sams, the main character of The Cockroach, is not ‘struck by the absurd,’ as Albert Camus would have put it. Moreover, the story’s aim is not to answer, “What would happen if a cockroach turns into a man?”  That’s merely the first 15 or so pages of the book. After that, The Cockroach crosses the perimeters of “The Metamorphosis” to become something else — a political satire.

There are significant differences between Jim Sams of The Cockroach and Gregor Samsa of “Metamorphosis,” but one of the differences is much more significant than the rest. When Gregor Samsa is metamorphosed into an insect, he is still the same person. He does not adopt the insect’s character, its mind, or its memories. On the other hand, when Jim Sams becomes human, he remembers who he was as a cockroach — he is still himself — but he also has access to the mind and memories of the human body he now pilots. But that’s not all. The story becomes more interesting (and frightening) when we discover that the cockroach who now controls the human body of Britain’s prime minister has a political agenda.

Jim Sams wants to transform Britain into a ‘Reversalist’ country. We are introduced to the concept of ‘Reversalism’ in the second chapter of the book. Concisely, it means reversing the money flow. “At the end of a working week, an employee hands over money to the company for all the hours that she has toiled. But when she goes to the shops, she is generously compensated at retail rates for every item she carries away.” And Jim Sams does everything in his power to achieve that.

Overall, McEwan’s The Cockroach is a good book to read, whether you have read Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” or not.  However, I think that the people who will enjoy this book most are the ones who are familiar with things like Donald Trump and his Twitter account, Brexit, the Me Too movement, et cetera.