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Mike Humphrey wrote:

Hi, guys —

I received the follow e-mail from a stranger.

  • What is he trying to tell me?



Wig wrote:

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

  { What is this guy trying to tell me and who is he quoting? }

Richard replied:

Hi, Mike —

Wlg is quoting Nietzsche, the German philosopher who urged a daring, Promethean individualism. He claimed that truth was unknowable and the idea of the "morally good" was not a criterion for the good life. He was most notorious for saying, "God is dead". Of course, that's an idea which is very popular among some people.

Come to think of it, if truth is unknowable, how would he know that? This doesn't seem quite sound to me.

Anyway, this particular quote exemplifies his individualism and there is a partial value one can recognize here:

people should not just adopt their ideas uncritically from the surrounding culture.

This observation could well be directed against the habit many people have of taking their thoughts from the shallow talk of:

  • hedonistic pop singers
  • media personalities, or
  • from the fashion of the moment in literary circles.

In opposition to a shallow application of Nietzsche, I would note that the popularity or unpopularity of an idea doesn't make it valid or invalid: the idea has to be judged on its own merits. It is a mistake to idolize the man who thinks most differently from others — as if that were an end,
in itself. The most isolated thinker is the madman whose thoughts are incomprehensible to others: I suggest that is not a model to adopt. Come to think of it, though, poor Nietzsche did die insane.

The Catholic Faith, in contrast to some religions, makes a point of declaring reason to be a reliable means of finding truth. The human faculty of reason, even with its imperfections, is a part of the good world made by a rational God. To abandon truth as a criterion of thought is to abandon reason; it is, in effect, to stop thought and leave only willful assertion.

Best wishes to "Wig" , who, no doubt, actually knows something about Nietzsche, I don't really claim to.

Richard Chonak

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