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Post Was Nietzsche Depressing?
Created by John Eipper on 01/26/19 3:57 PM

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Was Nietzsche Depressing? (Nigel Jones, UK, 01/26/19 3:57 pm)

John Eipper is wrong when he brackets Nietzsche with Schopenhauer and Kafka as "depressing."

Schopenhauer certainly was the uber-pessimist and so was Kafka (who was of course a novelist rather than a philosopher). Nietzsche, however, was a life-affirmer, however sad the conditions of his own life may have been.

Schopenhauer was close to a Buddhist philosophy of renunciation. Since life is suffering, and our pursuit of happiness often brings disappointment, our best bet is pacific quietism and acceptance of our insignificance in the universe.

Nietzsche is almost the polar opposite. His work is a call for Man--or rather some supermen--to replace a dead God as masters of the universe and make our own lives according to our own rules. That is probably why Nietzsche appeals strongly to young people. (Myself included when I was a kid.)

His reputation as a proto-Nazi is unjust, and as Tor Guimaraes rightly says, was down to his sister Elisabeth who posthumously edited her dead brother's works to fit them in with her racist views. In fact Nietzsche was an enemy of German nationalism and anti-Semitism: One reason for his famous quarrel with his friend Wagner.

The real Nazi philosopher was of course Martin Heidegger, but that's another story...

JE comments:  Absolutely, but many acts committed in Nietzsche's name were depressing.  Killing off God is also a downer for many.

Nigel, tell us about your youthful encounters with Nietzsche.  In the American heartland, we didn't do much philosophy (if you can call it that) beyond Catcher in the Rye.


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  • A Philosophers' Riddle; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 01/27/19 7:39 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:



    WAISworld's philosopher discussion brings up a side-riddle, unphilosophical as it might sound:


    Who are the disparate famous people in history who died sitting straight up?
    In other words, the landlady sees the guy sitting as usual at the breakfast table,
    but not moving, and so finally she gives him a poke. His act would seem to involve
    a singular act of will. Does the suddenly afflicted brain, recognizing the heart attack,
    say to itself: "Okay, this is it. But I'm not going to fall. I'm not going to gasp. Why should I?
    Dignity to the last."


    An iconic fictional example was in the Billy Crystal movie City Slickers,
    where the hero figure, an aging but still-gigantic Jack Palance, takes precisely the pivotal
    moment to take leave of his clumsy and naive acolytes, providing the crisis for them
    to grow up. The hero, named Curly in the script, is found sitting as usual at the
    breakfast campfire of a cattle drive. But he's not moving. Unconquerable to the end.


    A similar such figure in real life has been named in the discussion by Nigel Jones and Tor Guimaraes.
    I used to have a list of others. Any takers on this riddle?


    JE comments:  Sorry Gary, I cheated, but will keep mum.  Anyone in WAISworld know the answer sans Googling?


    A related riddle:  why the cowboy stigma of dying with your boots on?

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    • Sit Down and Die: One More for the List (Enrique Torner, USA 01/28/19 3:42 AM)
      Ha! Gary Moore's riddle (January 27th) is an easy one, and I bet nobody knows, but I'll be giving away the end to an upcoming story of mine.

      Not only did he die sitting up (well, just about), but he passed away with his glasses on, holding onto some papers that had a list of people he was planning to fire. That's why somebody probably murdered him. He died with his pants on, though it's disputed whether he actually died that way, or somebody put them on him after he died. He was probably poisoned. He was, however, sitting (technically, reclining high up, with pillows behind him), with his eyes open, and smiling. Who was he? Pope John Paul I!


      More details coming soon, hopefully within a month, God willing! (Sorry, Tor, not the Universe willing!)


      And I apologize for my long absence from WAIS: many things have prevented me from participating.


      JE comments:  Happy New Year, Enrique!  And welcome back.  I hope the things keeping you away from WAIS have all been joyful and productive.


      This is a bizarre topic, but I must add another twist.  In ancient Peru, you were buried in a sitting position.  This better prepared you to spring into the afterlife.


      Any guessers for Gary Moore's original riddle?  And finally, do popes wear pants?

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      • More on Sitting and Dying; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 01/29/19 6:05 AM)

        Gary Moore writes:



        Congratulations to Enrique Torner (January 28) for his addition to the pantheon
        of died-sitting-straight-up.


        I confess, however, that Pope John Paul I was not the
        example I was cryptically citing (that example was perhaps also the one JE found
        independently, without giving away the name). Wow, I never knew the phenomenon
        could extend, as Enrique described, to eyes open and smiling.


        So now we know of two. How many others?


        JE comments: I Googled "people who died while sitting" and came up with this scatological result--those who expired on the toilet.  We all know about Elvis, but add Judy Garland, Evelyn Waugh, Lenny Bruce, and at least two monarchs.  I squeamishly offer the following:


        https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-people-who-died-on-the-toilet/carly-silver


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        • When Google Comes Up Empty: The Dying-While-Sitting Riddle (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 01/31/19 4:35 AM)

          Gary Moore writes:



          John E finds that Google, when asked the Who-Died-Sitting-Straight-Up riddle,
          can offer only an unseemly asterisk, in what might be called the Elvis direction,
          arguably the opposite of what I was talking about, since the sitting-straight-up
          phenomenon implies an act of will to preserve dignity.


          As another corollary,
          Houdini was said to use an act of will to choose his death date, prolonging the
          burst appendix until Halloween. An example from fiction goes the other way:
          the wise old Cheyenne chief in Little Big Man says, "It is a good day to die,"
          then lays himself down in a magnificent mountain setting, only to open his eyes
          quizzically a few minutes later, having found he couldn't command himself to
          pass away.


          Still, JE's journey with Google-Charon on the cyber-Styx reveals something else:
          The Sitting-Straight-Up riddle may be one of those rare historical gems that can't
          be teased out by Googling. There are individual historians who know the cases that
          could be added to the list, but where or how would such knowledge be indexed?
          Is this a tiny preserve of folkloric mystery, surrounded by the roar of the Information
          Superhighway?


          (...aber, Herr Schopenhauer, wollen Sie nicht frühstücken?)


          JE comments:  So ol' Arthur will skip breakfast today.  But Gary, you've let the cat out of the bag.  My inquisitive Assistant Editor (a cat) asks, what kind of sick mind would put a cat in a bag?


          Dying in a seated position is an interesting topic, but how about dying in Detroit?  Harry Houdini (October 31st, 1926) belongs to that elite club.


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