Nietzsche’s Abyss: A Deep Gaze

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Friedrich Nietzsche: “Be careful when you fight with monsters, lest you become one. When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into to you.” For many, this concept seeps in immediately. For others, they need time to think about it’s meaning. Nietzsche is talking about Asceticism, but this post will be focusing on the universal meaning and how it can be applied to our modern age.

Philosophers since the days of Socrates have pushed for objectiveness. That is to say, a great analysis of principles should occur before adopting them. In essence, philosophers since Socrates have promoted critical thinking; they want people to analyze all possibilities and test inviting concepts for fallacies and validity. This is not exactly what Nietzsche is talking about, but keep this in mind. Imagine an Agnostic says something like “I don’t believe in Catholicism. Although I never looked into it, I still refuse to believe it.” Most philosophers (agnostic or not) would be abhorred by such an ignorant statement. For many Christians, a principle like Islam, Buddhism, or Deism is incorrect before they begin their investigation.

So what is Nietzsche talking about? He is talking about the opposite problem. People who are susceptible to anything they investigate, particularly those who attempt to disprove a position. In order to fight a monster, one must know the monster. One must bring himself to the same level as the monster and understand how he thinks. People should not let themselves be swayed.

It’s ironic how this quote has become so famous. The good news for Nietzsche, is he is praised for his originality. However, Nietzsche’s works encouraged fascism in the twentieth century. The most notable admirer of the philosopher was Adolf Hitler. Hmm. Perhaps Hitler can be regarded as an individual who “gazed long into the abyss.” Work, dream, love,

-Ian

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