Nietzsche’s “Strength”: A Defense
Mentor:Victoria Myers, Blanche E. Seaver Chair of English Literature, Blanche E. Seaver Professor in Humanities, Director of English Program, Pepperdine University
Nietzsche’s "Genealogy of Morals: An Attack" explores the nature of true strength. Nietzsche details the character of a strong individual by emphasizing one’s noble temperament: a psychological and intellectual construct. The text defines such key terms as good, noble, moral, and the ascetic ideal. This investigation will isolate the strong individual, illustrate his nature so as to bring his qualities into clearer focus, and demonstrate how such strength actually coincides with the Christian faith. Nietzsche’s conceptualization of strength lends itself to autonomy; only the autonomous are strong. Therefore, individuals who subjugate themselves to a system of values determined by others—be it a moral, religious, or civil system—are inherently weak. The strong individual, autonomous before the world, acts by his own clear conscience—knowing that whatever he does he does by his own instinctive approval. Despite how reasonable this conceptualization is, Nietzsche’s argument—made by an author who did not apologize for or excuse himself with self-doubtful scholarly speech—offends many readers; it is especially challenging for a reader with the very faith Nietzsche challenges: Christianity. But a dialogue between the author and reader reveals that Nietzsche’s conceptualization of strength is both accurate and consistent with the Christian faith.