NIETZSCHE: The Dignity of Work

Comment to NIETZSCHE: The Dignity of Work

[ 20/September/22 ]

Several errors on Nietzsche’s part – quite understandable given the very simplistic state of science generally and biology in particular in his day.

He did not understand that beauty is a set of biases in our neural networks instilled by evolution over very long periods, and is thus a product of survival.

He did not appreciate that all values rely upon existence (whatever existence actually is), and thus the maintenance of existence must of necessity be the highest value. How we then each choose to balance that against whatever other values we accumulate, is a matter with some significant degrees of choice and variability.

Work can be painful, or joyful, depending largely on the attitude we bring to it.

The historical reality of some degree of slavery/servitude was largely true in Nietzsche’s day, but with the advent of advanced automation, is no longer true today. Today, all people can have the option to devote the majority of their lives to the pursuit of their highest choices, and there will eternally remain some degree to which the explorations of the necessities of responsibility will consume some degree of our time.

Too much freedom (freedom without responsibility) is necessarily destructive of the sets of constraints necessary in reality for the emergence and survival of that level of complexity/freedom. Too many rules create rigid boundaries that necessarily break in the face of the unknown unknowns. There is an eternal need for balance between freedom and responsibility at all levels of complexity and it will vary from context to context – involving eternal novelty and uncertainty.

“Nietzsche claims that work detracts from our ability to produce art. Those 40 hours spent at work could have been spent producing art.” If there is no water to drink, no food to eat, no shelter from the elements, then before very many 40 hours have past there will be no art produced. The necessities of life, of existence, must be catered for, for there to be any significant amount of art, or anything else. In modern complex society that gets deeply complex very quickly.

So again, Nietzsche is in error, through over simplification, and ignoring the complexities of reality.

One can now make a strong argument that 40 hours is not required, and it seems likely to me that something of the order of 20 hours or more doing something to educate ourselves or create something for the betterment of all, is required of each of us, each to the best of our limited and fallible abilities; and will likely eternally remain so. And some of us do much more than that – by choice, and by long term necessity.

I disagree entirely with the use of “Shameful” in “Work, whether it is performed by humans or machines, is a shameful necessity of culture.” It is a necessity of existence, demanded by thermo-dynamics. There is an old adage – “reality to be commanded must first be obeyed” – if we wish to survive, as individuals or a species, then we must accept the responsibilities demanded by reality for survival. Anything less than that is delusional, self indulgent, hubris. Evolution instilled a useful approximation to that in our neural networks a long time ago – hence the “dignity of work”.

So while I very much enjoyed some of Nietzsche’s thinking, on this particular subject he was fundamentally in error – so deeply in error as to pose existential level threat to our species if not clearly seen as such.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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