On Nietzsche and the shortness of gratitude...


I have a confession, I have been reading Beyond Good and Evil (BG&E) for the past 8 months. Slowly reading and decoding his philosophy, passage by passage, week by week. With all of the perks of an armchair philosopher, my reading group and I have managed to sift through two-thirds of the book. BG&E, an extension of Friedrich Nietzsche previous work Thus Spoke Zarathustra, is a book that centers around the sneaky terms of morality. Specifically, it criticizes past philosophers for accepting traditional and dogmatic conditions of morality and offers instead, "an affirmative approach that fearlessly confronts the perspectival nature of knowledge and the perilous condition of the modern individual." [1] The book offers themes of will to power, subjective morality, master-slave moralities, and humanistic beliefs. Though intrinsic to the processes of these themes, the account of gratitude is never considered. 

Gratitude can manifest itself in many forms. It can be an acknowledgment of growth or change, a meaningful expression of one's current state of affairs, or it can be a simple 'Thank You'.   For my scholars, I will define gratitude as an affirmation of goodness, the acknowledgement that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.

One facet of Nietzsche's Will to Power involves a dialectical process that lends itself to the evolution of the primal will. It's an inner struggle of leaving your "baggage" behind and manifesting your core strength "In the child, the spirit now wills its own will". The apex of which you evolve into the ubermensch.  The ubermensch, "Overman", is "the one who is willing to risk all for the sake of enhancement of humanity...someone who can establish his own values as the world in which others live their lives, often unaware that they are not pregiven...someone who has a life which is not merely to live each day with no meanings when nothing in the past and future is more important than the present, or more precisely, the pleasure and happiness in the present, but with the purpose for humanity." [2] This lead me to wonder about the role gratitude plays in the dialectical process of Will to Power and the subjective values of the Overman.

 At first glance, I believed gratitude could be taken, in Nietzschean framework, to be a subjective morality, obscured in dogmatism. But, I now think that gratitude is a necessary component to the moral compass and experience of the Overman. To affirm pleasure and happiness is to deny its negation, unpleasantness and unhappiness. The values of the Overman are necessarily correlated with the act of gratitude. Basically, if you come to a decision and/ or process where you are no longer a cog in a machine, you're probably going to be pretty happy you've made it over the fence. I don't know of much literature where Plato's friends are trying to get back in the cave. Ha!

This is aligned with the research coming out of the Greater Good Science Center  at the University of California, Berkeley. A growing handful of scientist and scholars have studied the psychological effects of gratitude on prosocial behavior, relationships, self-awareness and much more. There was even a specific study that found that "people become more grateful for what they have in life when they recognize that none of it was inevitable and all of it is temporary—in other words, when they recognize their own mortality. Visualizing their own deaths “in a vivid and specific way” boosted people’s levels of gratitude significantly."  Dr. Robert Emmons has noted that the cognitive processes of gratitude are directly beneficial to overcoming adversity. Personally, I can attest that, since actively, practicing gratitude I've been more productive, successful and fulfilled than last year. The cognitive process of evaluating prevailing over the adversity of a task or event,  became easier as I continued to practice gratitude. The correlation still puzzles me.

Nietzsche is very wary of the 'herd', those who are 'human all too human' and remain static. He's very concerned with the constant inner struggle/process to become the Overman. When I presented this topic to my reading group, I got the feeling that my peers were on a slippery slope correlating gratitude with the idea stagnation. As if being thankful for one's present state of affairs does not inherently involve the drive for more. I don't believe this too be true.  Speaking phenomenologically, the experience of the Overman and the establishment of subjective morality with regards to humanity, involves the intentionality towards gratitude because it is the positing of good.


That said, a big thank you to all the Cafe Girls readers and fans!