Harry Neumann

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Harry Neumann

Postby Ishmael » Thu Mar 26, 2015 4:47 am

Does anybody know if there is a website for Harry Neumann that has links to his articles or class transcripts? I've got the articles of his that are available from JSTOR and the journal Interpretation, but there are many that seem incredibly hard to get a hold of.

Also, if there are any Neumann readers here who feel like sharing their thoughts on him, please do.
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Re: Harry Neumann

Postby Sauwelios » Mon Mar 30, 2015 11:26 pm

To introduce this exposition of what I think of Neumann, I will start by quoting part of a Facebook discussion I participated in in late 2012.

    Dereck: "I was going to ask you elsewhere, but since you brought him up again, I ask you to clarify: on what grounds does your appreciation of Neumann rest?"

    Dereck: "And while you're at it, why don't you clarify for me your insistence on using Allan Bloom here, whose relationship to Neumann, so far as I can see is not only in that he almost equally lacks the wholly noble features of Nietzsche, but also in that he can help you to feed the public propagation of the 'terribleness' of a world whose moral grounds are questionable, but from which you and I both know Nietzsche himself fully recovered."

    Oliver: "The prefix 're-' in 'recovery' suggests a going back, for example from post-Christian atheism to Christian monotheism. I prefer the term 'convalescence'. Nietzsche convalesced from post-Christian nihilism, but in doing so became what he called a Hyperborean--one beyond the icy northwind of that nihilism. I appreciate Neumann because, in being what one might call a Borean, he is closer to that beyond, and thereby closer to what I regard as true, than almost anyone else. And as for why I used Bloom here: I simply think he has summarised the steps from Christianity into nihilism--and the first step out of it--very well in that passage."

(Dereck is no longer a Facebook friend of mine, so people shouldn't be able to learn his last name. And "hyperborean" literally means "above [that is, to the north of] Boreas, the northwind".)

Now recently, my position has moved even closer to Neumann's. In a way the only way in which I now disagree with him is this: in response to Shadia Drury¹, for example, he says: "how anyone can experience nihilism as pleasurable is beyond me!" That, I think now, is precisely how Nietzsche is a Hyperborean: he is beyond Neumann in that regard, he learned to experience pleasure in nihilism. Thus what Neumann replied to here was:

    "Unlike Neumann, Strauss does not think that life and death, self-preservation and self-annihilation are equal. Neumann fails to recognize the extent of Strauss' hedonism. For Strauss, there is a good by nature accessible to reason. But contrary to what Neumann thinks, this is not a political or communal good. The good in question is pleasure in general and the highest pleasure, the philosophical eros, in particular. Unlike Hobbes, Strauss did not believe that political society could openly serve pleasure as its end, and still manage to maintain itself. This is the reason that he rejected Hobbes' 'political hedonism.' Instead, he joined Nietzsche in thinking that only the few can be privy to the highest pleasure. These are the philosophers who are the makers of myth and illusions necessary for the survival of the herd. The philosophers alone have the fortitude to withstand nihilism or the truth. They alone can love myth and illusion while knowing that they are merely products of art. Unlike Neumann, Strauss' philosophers, like Nietzsche's supermen are free of the compulsion to grovel before the truth. In the face of the nothingness of reality, they are the makers of truth, the interpreters of the non-existent text. No activity could be higher or more pleasurable." (Drury, "Strauss and Nihilism", in: Neumann, Liberalism.)

I will now go off on a little tangent, translating part of an email I sent my best friend and fellow ILP member Fixed Cross, after reflecting on the question whether Strauss's or Nietzsche's political philosophy is wiser at this point. The difference should become clear in the course of it:

    "I think we should risk it and no longer hide philosophy's world-affirmation, as Strauss still thought, but bring it to publicity in its full glory--magnificence, splendour--, even though we thereby risk the most complete wipeout of every trace of there ever having been philosophy on earth--the whole tradition, for example the fragments of Heraclitus. And who knows whether, if we provoke such a cataclysm, there will not afterwards be people who shall embrace the fragments of, for example, Nietzsche's works as sayings, proverbs, folk-lore. I think that, if man is still not ready for the truth regarding philosophy, he may just as well be decimated. But let us initially try not to incite him to envy (invidia) but to jealousy, zealousness--try to incite him to zealously strive for our heights, or at least higher heights than his normal level, and for making such heights possible. In order that mankind may one day, as Nietzsche puts it in I think Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, as a whole look forward to its necessary down-going, just as I now look forward to my down-going."

Compare:

    "With Nietzsche's new moral postulate, 'Be what you are, be eternally what you are,' with this unbounded Yes to everything that was and is [i.e. the affirmation of eternal return], philosophy itself comes into the open. The ugly caterpillar metamorphoses; the butterfly spreads its glorious wings. With 'pride, daring, courage, self-confidence,' with a 'will to responsibility' (GM 3.10), the philosophic spirit points to itself, points to its own nobility as a primary ground for gratitude for the goodness of the world." (Lampert, Leo Strauss and Nietzsche, pp.108-09.)

Thus far my little tangent.

So I agree with Neumann on the following:

    "There is as little nonarbitrary reason to communicate as to do anything. All striving to do or be anything arises from a nihilist will to overpower nihilism, the will of nothing to be more than nothing. Like everything else that will is nothing." (Neumann, Liberalism, "Nihilism Challenged and Defended".)

Neumann can say this because he makes "the simple realization that whatever is experienced--a self, a world, the law of contradiction, a god or anything else--is nothing apart from its being experienced." (Neumann, op.cit., "Politics or Nothing!") Note the central item of the five listed; you may want to compare my "Logic as self-value" thread. A couple of days ago, I wrote:

    "[We philosophers] value existence precisely as what, in our view, it most probably is: valuation, the valuing of being over non-being, the valuing of it precisely because to be is to value. To be is to rise up in Satanic defiance of God, of non-being: the rising up out of non-being, the asserting of oneself as a being, is pleasurable to those who do it; otherwise they would cease doing it, or not have started doing it in the first place." (http://ilovephilosophy.com/viewtopic.php?p=2533581#p2533581)

Neumann, too, mentions Satan, saying:

    "The malice springing from truth, from a genuinely liberal education, triggers the hopeless fury of illiberalism but only when illiberals are willing to be honest with themselves, that is, when they become alive to their annihilation by liberalism. Unable to endure that Hell, illiberalism, now aware of its bankruptcy, commands only satanic (pseudo-liberal) weapons. Satan's honesty precludes disguising this hate, spite and vindictiveness with pseudo-liberal nonsense about 'diversity awareness,' 'consciousness raising' and, in general, defense of mankind ('personkind') against the bigotry of 'special interests.'" (Neumann, op.cit., "Responsible and Irresponsible Liberalism".)

And elsewhere, he says:

    "The superman's will to save the common sense universe (by willing everything's eternal return) springs from repugnance to nihilism. If reality is nihilistic--and Nietzsche never denied this of all conscious life--that repugnance is directed against reality itself. It is a desire for vengeance against reality, a need to conquer nature." (Neumann, op.cit.,"Nietzsche".)

Now in a sense he is right about this. Every will is a will to change the world and thereby ill will toward the world as it is. The will to the eternal return of the-world-as-will-to-power is actually a sublimation or sublation (Aufhebung) in the triple sense of being the will's cancellation, preservation, and elevation: it does not seek to change the world (cancellation), but wants it to be eternally what it is (preservation), and in doing so is the highest will which most exalts the world (elevation). Unlike the Baconian-Cartesian technological conquest of nature, it is not an attempt to conquer the nature of nature, which is conquest; to the contrary. Still, it can be viewed as a slave revolt against oppressive nothingness. But like Daniel Conway, who suggests that "[o]nly in his resentment of modernity, and of Christianity, does he [Nietzsche] express the overflowing vitality that he regularly attributes to himself" (Nietzsche & the Political, p.98), I will suggest that such ressentiment is--pleasurable!... I am a proponent, not of the will to pleasure, but of the will as pleasure. Thus in my "The Meaning of Philosophy" thread, I wrote:

    "[F]or you, life evidently has meaning. What, then, is the meaning of philosophy? Philosophy does not need to establish that life has meaning. What, then, does it need to establish?--The exact nature of that meaning. Apparently, the knowledge regarding that nature is subconscious. Therefore, it must be called up: it's lying dormant within yourself. To make this knowledge conscious is the meaning of philosophy."

In my view philosophy's world-affirmation is nothing else than the conscious experience of that knowledge. Thus I recently wrote:

    "I'm a philosophical supremacist. This means I consider philosophers to be the supreme beings. Why? Because I don't believe in revelation, that is, human reason's being aided by some higher intelligence. I think the highest achievements of unaided reason are the highest achievements, period. They certainly are the highest I know of. And which do I consider the very highest? Philosophy, as the valuing of valuing. Philosophy is the love of wisdom or, in other words, the valuing of wisdom. But the closest unaided reason can approach wisdom, or the highest wisdom it can attain, is to know, nay to experience, that that love, that valuing, is pleasurable in itself; nay more, that all valuing, all positing values or attaching value, all insisting on the value of something, all struggling to actualise and preserve values, indeed all struggle, period--for what is struggle other than a struggle to actualise or preserve values?--is pleasurable in itself. But most beings are not fully aware of that, to say the least. They feel that only achieving their aim will bring pleasure, whereas their struggling to achieve it is merely a necessary evil. But if the struggle is only unconsciously pleasurable, is it really pleasurable? This, in my view, is the meaning of Socrates' famous assertion that the unexamined life is not worth living. Indeed, in my view it is only the philosopher who makes all life, all Being worth it, by experiencing the positive counterpart of the logical necessity that it's impossible to disvalue valuation..."

I will conclude this probably already too long post by saying this: would Neumann have lived to the age he reached if he had not felt, deep down, that his life was pleasurable? I think not.

::

¹ I find Drury's The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss mostly excellent (the exception being Nietzsche, if not modern philosophers in general). I read it, though, in "its infernal or diabolical sense"--that is, "embracing the flame of fire" in which the "Devil" Strauss appeared to her (all quotes from Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). Compare: "Drury's book contains many fine skeptical readings of Strauss's texts and acute insights into Strauss's real intentions. Still, Drury's work is less effective than it might have been because of its own missionary tone, for Drury never seems to have recovered from the shock of discovering a diabolical teaching." (Lampert, Leo Strauss and Nietzsche, p.132n.5.)
"Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process which has led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated. But would such a repetition of the process--a new lease of life for man's humanity--not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again?" (Leo Strauss, "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero".)
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Re: Harry Neumann

Postby Sauwelios » Tue Mar 31, 2015 2:35 pm

Sauwelios wrote:A couple of days ago, I wrote:

    "[We philosophers] value existence precisely as what, in our view, it most probably is: valuation, the valuing of being over non-being, the valuing of it precisely because to be is to value. To be is to rise up in Satanic defiance of God, of non-being: the rising up out of non-being, the asserting of oneself as a being, is pleasurable to those who do it; otherwise they would cease doing it, or not have started doing it in the first place." (http://ilovephilosophy.com/viewtopic.php?p=2533581#p2533581)

Neumann, too, mentions Satan, saying:

    "The malice springing from truth, from a genuinely liberal education, triggers the hopeless fury of illiberalism but only when illiberals are willing to be honest with themselves, that is, when they become alive to their annihilation by liberalism. Unable to endure that Hell, illiberalism, now aware of its bankruptcy, commands only satanic (pseudo-liberal) weapons. Satan's honesty precludes disguising this hate, spite and vindictiveness with pseudo-liberal nonsense about 'diversity awareness,' 'consciousness raising' and, in general, defense of mankind ('personkind') against the bigotry of 'special interests.'" (Neumann, op.cit., "Responsible and Irresponsible Liberalism".)


I think I should 1) explain Neumann and 2) qualify myself here.

1.

I only quoted this passage of Neumann's because it mentions Satan. However, it was very hard to understand even for me, who have been reading Neumann for years. So here's my interpretation.

A genuinely liberal education educates to seeing the truth, that is, nihilism. This triggers the hopeless fury of illiberalism. Normally, illiberalism is not hopelessly furious, because the illiberal still believes in common sense. Only when the illiberal is fully educated to liberalism, only when he sees the nihilistic truth, does his illiberalism become a hopeless fury. It's a hopeless fury because at this point illiberalism no longer has illiberal weapons at its disposal, but only pseudo-liberal weapons; the angel, now fallen, cannot be restored to his original glory, to his former vanity (a reference to Blake's Satan in His Original Glory); he can no longer be truly illiberal, but at best pseudo-liberal, politicisedly liberal, that is, illiberalisedly liberal. Most pseudo-liberals are not honest enough to not disguise their hatred and fear of liberalism. Thus the jacket of Neumann's book says:

    "As promulgated by America's colleges and universities and applied by its legislators and judges, liberalism is, in reality, radical atheism, nihilism, disguised as public spirited crusades against the unholy trinity of racism, sexism and homophobia. This propaganda is pseudoliberalism's hallmark, intended to obfuscate liberalism's moral void by presenting it as morally uplifting, politically desirable. Opposing this politically effective swindle, genuine liberalism means honest, open acknowledgment of liberalism's immorality or amorality, its atheism or nihilism. But such intellectual honesty is rare. The least likely place to find it is in contemporary higher education!"

And in the middle of the book, it says:

    "The death of god means the destruction of mankind, of any community, whether within one's own self or country or mankind or the universe. It isolates the nihilist in the nothingness revealed by radical atheism. Horror of this isolation usually prevents more than half-hearted atheism [that is, pseudo-liberalism], driving men to revere mere jackasses, shadows of the now dead god. The politically loudest form of contemporary jackass worship is the democratic-socialistic effort to embrace the christian morality while destroying the last vestiges of the traditional Christian faith responsible for that morality.
    Contemporary democratic 'liberation' movements generally despise traditional Christian orthodoxy while asserting the supreme goodness of its compassion for suffering, impoverished humanity. They insist that men have a right to live, freedom and equality. Had they been tough enough to experience uncompromising atheism, they would see no compelling reason for these rights or for any morality. Like the Pale Criminal, they need their morality in order not to appear insane to a reason informed by common sense." (Neumann, op.cit., "Nietzsche".)

Thus in my Why I'm not a feminist thread's OP, I say:

    "[S]trong feminism appeals, consciously or not, and openly or not, to some kind of divine revelation. Someone who claims that feminism is really right implies that that has been revealed to him, by an authority which is beyond question. Whoever claims such revelation, however, is in my view probably a madman or a liar or both. This is because I have, as far as I know, not experienced any such revelations whatsoever."

Pseudoliberals usually appeal to the authority of "the heart", "innate conscience", etc.--that is, to something wholly irrational. Consider the imaginary dialogue from my Nietzsche Contra Wilders (A and B do not necessarily represent Nietzsche and Wilders):

    A: "Why should we value X and Y the most highly?"
    B: "Because all healthy human beings [sic] instinctively value them."
    A: "But why should we value this fact so much?"
    B: "Because all healthy human beings instinctively value it."
    A: "That's an infinite regress."
    B: "No wait, we should value it so much because we have good reasons for doing so, to wit..."
    A: "Instinct is irrational. We can therefore also have good reasons for acting against our instincts."

2.

To be is only to rise up in defiance of non-being in a sense; it really is to assert oneself against other beings, other wannabeings. Non-being is not some kind of vacuum that sucks beings back into it; the only force that pushes beings back into non-being is the force exerted on them by other beings, for beings can only emerge and persist at the expense of other beings.
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Re: Harry Neumann

Postby Sauwelios » Tue Mar 31, 2015 4:57 pm

Sauwelios wrote:Now recently, my position has moved even closer to Neumann's.


Maybe I should also explain what changed. Around 2008, I discovered Lampert. I had known his name for about ten years, but had dismissed him based on what I read about him in Berkowitz's Nietzsche. Berkowitz however basically agrees with Heidegger about Nietzsche, which is also a problem I have with Neumann, who considered Heidegger Nietzsche's greatest student. Lampert started out as a student of Heidegger but came to see that Heidegger was wrong about Nietzsche and that Nietzsche was right (source: Lampert interview by Daniel Blue). Anyway, I was immediately struck by how good my first Lampert book, Leo Strauss and Nietzsche, was, but the first major insight I got from it was in (Lampert's explanation of) a passage from Strauss:

    "'If all views of the world are interpretations,' Strauss says, 'i.e. acts of the will to power, the doctrine of the will to power is at the same time an interpretation and the most fundamental fact.' Being both, it is superior to any other interpretation: 'it is the necessary and sufficient condition of the possibility of any "categories."' In this way the will to power teaching can account for itself and for all other interpretations without losing its character as interpretation, without falling into dogmatism. Its character as interpretation enables it to claim precedence or to say 'so much the better' to all who retort 'this too is only interpretation.' It remains a claim; it never ascends to certainty. But it has an arguable and plausible superiority as an interpretation, and it is able as well to account for both the world of concern to us and the world in itself." (Lampert, op.cit., p.43. Cf. Strauss, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, p.178.)

Now since then--or rather after I'd established for myself why interpretations are acts of the will to power, i.e. why the interpretation of interpretation as an act of the will to power has an arguable and plausible superiority as an interpretation--, I have basically thought and spoken of the will to power teaching as in the first place the most fundamental fact and only in the second place an interpretation. Only my reading of the Picht passage quoted in the OP of my "Logic as self-value" thread has turned that around for me. Upon my reading of this passage, I became a Value Philosopher--that is, I now acknowledge, and in fact insist, that my worldview is in the first place a value and only in the second place a fact. It is my will that the world be will to power and nothing besides. But because I still think that the world probably is will to power and nothing besides, I cannot just will that to be the case: for that would mean that my will does not impose upon the world at all. My solution for this is precisely in the insight that the will to the eternal return of the-world-as-will-to-power is a sublation of the will to power. I also think now that the will to the eternal recurrence is actually a sublation of sublimation, an Aufhebung of Sublimierung: "flown-away" will to power, which beats "against eternal walls with its wings", is led "back to the earth--yea, back to body and life" by it (all quotes from Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, "The Bestowing Virtue" 2, Common translation. Cf. my "The Dialectics of Repression" thread).
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