What determines and distinguishes mental health from insanity

Mental health and cultural pathology with Nietzsche

This paper reconstructs Nietzsche’s conception of spiritual illness, especially as exhibited in various forms of the bad conscience, and asks what positive, ennobling potential Nietzsche finds in it. The relevant concept of spirit is arrived at by reconstructing Nietzsche’s conception of life and then considering what reflexive life - life turned back against itself - would look like. It distinguishes four independent features of spiritual illness: the measureless drive to make oneself suffer, self-opacity (or mendaciousness), life-denial, and a self-undermining dynamic in which life exhausts the sources of its own vitality. The paper ends by considering various suggestions as to how these features of spiritual illness might also be preconditions of great spiritual health, including the preconditions for erecting new "ideals."

I still expect that a philosophical doctor in the exceptional sense of the word - someone who has to investigate the problem of the overall health of people, time, race, humanity - will one day have the courage to bring my suspicions to the extreme and to dare to say: in all philosophizing up to now it was not a question of truth at all, but of something else, let's say health, future, growth, power, life ...[1]

It is noteworthy that the idea of ​​disease[2] - especially the mental illness - played a prominent role in the thinking of two of the most important successors of Hegel in the 19th century: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Kierke

gaards Sickness to death understands despair and sin as forms of spiritual pathology, while for Nietzsche the ideal of "great spiritual health" from the beginning to the end of his intellectual path is a central theme. Even if the thinking of both philosophers is mostly interpreted in such a way that their main focus is on the individual and the prerequisites for his development, both pay great attention to the role that culture plays, both positively and negatively, in the mental health of individuals. This goes so far that, especially with Nietzsche, it makes perfect sense to view cultures themselves, and not just individuals, as susceptible to mental illness.[3] Already in Birth of a tragedy,[4] So it can be stated without exaggeration that cultural pathology is a central theme, which Nietzsche also in the most important work of his maturity, On the genealogy of morals,[5] still busy. In this regard, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche stand in a time-honored tradition that goes back to Plato, in which the idea of ​​distinguishing between a sick and a healthy one society moves to the center of social philosophy. In the Politeia At the beginning of the discussion about justice is the famous juxtaposition of the "healthy" and the "bloated" polis,[6] and the metaphor of the sick society finds its way into the work of numerous very different thinkers, including Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, Durkheim and representatives of the Frankfurt School.[7]

Even if the impulse to characterize disturbances in social life with the metaphor of illness seems to spanning time and almost irresistible, it nevertheless raises a persistent philosophical question: With what right do we transfer the idea of ​​illness from its ancestral area, physiology, in the realm of social philosophy, and with what right do we consider human societies - or in Nietzsches

Do whole cultures - and not just individuals - fall prone to disease?[8] Societies are evidently not organic beings. But behind every idea of ​​social pathology hides a version of the idea that human societies are sufficiently similar to such organisms that the concept of disease can meaningfully be applied to them. In the case of thinkers who try to understand social problems on the basis of the model of disease, this thought can take very different forms, and it would lead no further to search for a uniform understanding of the similarity between human societies and organisms, which is common to all theories of social pathology is common. Nevertheless, it is noticeable that almost all important thinkers who can be read as theorists of social pathology - Hegel, Marx, Freud, Durkheim, Dewey and Habermas - use the concept of the Life Assign an important role in their understanding of what human societies are and how they function: Understanding human society means social life to understand and grasp how this life is is working.

The idea of ​​functioning plays such a central role in how theories of social pathology conceive human societies that the idea of Dysfunction is in one way or another the core of all major theories of social pathology. For these theories, life - and this also applies to social life - consists of certain goal-oriented processes that take place with their own, quasi-autonomous dynamics, and a pathological state occurs when such processes are blocked or inhibited and they no longer succeed in systematically achieving the goals towards which they are directed. The term dysfunctionality can also have very different meanings, and in the following I will try less to pursue these different meanings and thus to arrive at a more precise understanding of dysfunctionality than to work out the specific meaning of the term in Nietzsche's critique of the European one Adopts late 19th century culture which he considers to be in a mentally pathological state. As will be shown, at the heart of Nietzsche's understanding of cultural pathology is the thought that certain elements of late nineteenth-century European culture that were inherited from Western Christianity systematically prevent members of that culture from achieving those goals that Nietzsche ascribes to life in general and thus also to spiritual life.

What distinguishes Kierkegaard and Nietzsche most sharply from the other theorists of social pathology mentioned, despite all their similarities, is that the pathologies that both believe they recognize in our collective life are primarily cultural and not socially are. Although it would be wrong to regard both areas as strictly separated from one another, the distinction can roughly be traced back to Hegel's comparison of objective and absolute spirit, with the former, embodied in social institutions such as the family, market economy and state, denoting ways and means in in which the members of a society cooperate with one another in order to materially reproduce themselves and their society, thereby realizing various kinds of practical freedom. The absolute spirit, on the other hand - the realms of art, religion and philosophy - encompasses different ways and means of assigning the world and the place that people occupy in it interpret. Although social life is also impossible without interpretation - without any idea of ​​the purpose of our social activities - culture, understood as absolute spirit, strives for a comprehensive interpretation of existence: nature, society, history and the way in which how these areas come together to form a meaningful whole.

Another difference between the realms of the objective and the absolute mind lies in the goods which, according to Hegel, are each realized in them: while social life has primarily a practical purpose - the material reproduction of society and the satisfaction of needs of individuals through their own free activity - culture strives for a higher spiritual purpose: the affirmation of existence as a whole (as good), which is expressed in the fact that we are reconciled to the world we inhabit and you are no longer are alienated. As will become clear below, Nietzsche's diagnoses of cultural pathology as well as his conception of great mental health have much in common with Hegel's understanding of the absolute spirit: The twin myths of eternal return and the will to power can be understood as Nietzsche's attempt to reduce the world to one To interpret ways that enable us to affirm not only our own individual lives, but existence as a whole, including the ubiquitous suffering that characterizes it, and thus to reconcile ourselves with it. If the affirmation of existence is central to sanity,[9] and if, in order to arrive at such an affirmation, all human beings, except for exceptional individuals, depend on the interpretive resources provided by the culture to which they belong, then there is a direct link between culture and mental illness or Health, and a cultural life that systematically affects the mental health of those participating in it, can rightly be described as pathological.

That Nietzsche used metaphors of illness and health to make statements about spiritual Making phenomena says something important about one's understanding of human spirituality: it is similar enough to our biological nature that terms that can be used to describe our biological nature can be meaningfully used to understand and evaluate it. In other words, we can reconstruct Nietzsche's conception of sanity by first asking what constitutes biological health for him, and then expanding that understanding to include the ways in which spirits are more than mere living things.[10] In so far as the spirit never completely leaves its essence as life behind for Nietzsche, it is necessary to understand what biological health consists of in order to grasp Nietzsche's more complex conception of mental health. I will therefore proceed in my presentation of mental illness and cultural pathology in three steps, to which the first part of this article is dedicated: First, I will look at how Nietzsche understands biological life - its characteristic processes and purposes - and according to the ideas questions of sickness and health included in this understanding. In a second step it should be clarified to what extent spiritual phenomena differ for Nietzsche from mere biological processes and to what extent they are more complex than these. Third and last, the biological understanding of illness should be expanded to include an understanding of mental illness by including the extent to which (as Hegel might have put it) the mind is identical and at the same time non-identical with biological life.

The second part of this article is devoted to an aspect of Nietzsche's understanding of great mental health that has no equivalent in the characteristic of mental illness outlined in the first part: the ability to deal with - and enjoy - the "contradiction", which lies in the fact that the human being participates in life is simultaneously more than this participation. Here it becomes clear that mental illness and health are more closely related than it may appear at first glance: the great mental health, which Nietzsche says was in principle within our grasp at the end of the 19th century, is only becoming itself made possible by the most disturbing form of mental illness that has ever afflicted human existence: the bad conscience in its specifically late Christian form. This explains Nietzsche's deep ambivalence towards mental illness,[11] for he is of the opinion - and here, too, he agrees with Kierkegaard - that the strongest forms of mental health can only arise from the most severe forms of mental illness. In this respect, a seriously ill culture carries resources that can be used - by great "interpreters" like Nietzsche - to lead a pathological culture on the way to new and stronger forms of mental health.

1 Health and sickness in the realm of life

The question of how crucial suffering or pain are in order to define illness or to provide information about whether someone is sick is answered very differently by the theorists of illness. This question is relevant to Nietzsche's understanding of pathology insofar as he describes suffering as part of a bad conscience - his central example of a cultural pathology: "a [...] feeling of misery, a [...] leaden discomfort" (II.16) . Nietzsche, however, takes a clear position on the relationship between suffering and illness: Since different types of suffering are central to all life processes - both healthy and sick - the mere presence of suffering, even large amounts of suffering, says very little about the health of the suffering animal. It stands to reason that for Nietzsche, too, most illnesses are associated with a certain amount of suffering, but suffering is far too omnipresent to be particularly meaningful when determining or diagnosing illness in living beings. Instead, as already noted, Nietzsche's understanding of pathology fits seamlessly into the tradition that disease as functional impairment understanding, assuming a clear understanding of the characteristic activities or functions of the living being in question, including the purposes (e.g., self-preservation and reproduction) that those activities serve. That Nietzsche stands in this tradition is confirmed when he speaks of the "basic functions" of life (II.11) and these functions characteristic Purposes ascribes. As is well known, Nietzsche characterizes life - the one Will to live is based - as a series of activities, the purpose of which is not primarily self-preservation or reproduction, but power - the creation of ever larger "power units" - and which pursues this purpose through various forms of violent, unfortunate acts: "hurtful, rape , exploiting, destroying ”(II.11). At the most basic level, then, illness means a disruption or blockage of the characteristic activity of life to bring about ever more powerful configurations of life. While such disorders are usually associated with suffering, suffering is not the defining characteristic of illness.

The third treatise of the genealogy offers a more precise description of the activity characteristic of life as a striving not merely for ever greater power-units - understood as abilities - but, more fundamentally, according to “an optimum of favorable conditions under which it can let out its strength completely and achieve its maximum sense of power” (III.7). That is, what well-functioning forms of life strive for are conditions under which they become increasingly larger feeling of power, which includes that feeling of pleasure that living beings feel when they release that force through their activity that has built up in them and demands to discharge itself. But although Nietzsche gives the subjective experience of the release of force an important place in his portrayal of the goal of life, it would be wrong to reduce this goal to a mere "feeling of power", as if that which the living organism strives for is simple would be a pleasurable subjective state. Rather, the goal of its striving is the entire process carried out in the world, through which it creates the conditions for a release of strength and then, through its activity, expends the strength it has gained. Even if the accompanying lustful subjective state could persist (which is impossible), a singular feeling of power was not enough to satisfy the living being. Instead, it strives to repeat the entire process of building and discharging energy that is taking place in the world over and over again and at ever higher levels. When Nietzsche says that life strives for always bigger Units of power, this indicates that the life processes cannot be understood in Hegelian terms of perfection and satisfaction and that these processes are infinitely open and indefinite in ways, such as the process in which an acorn becomes a Oak grows, doesn't it.

This purely quantitative description of the highest goal of life must be supplemented by what Nietzsche says about how living beings strive to achieve this goal, namely by presenting events that are initially random, unconnected, “meaningless”, such as a “succession […] More or less independent […] processes ”act, impose a form (II.12). Nietzsche thus ascribes an order-creating function to living beings, the ability to “interpret” events by imposing an order on them that they do not inherently possess. That is the reason why Nietzsche describes life as a striving not only for a quantitative increase in power, but also for increasing "perfection" (II.12), which he understands as a hierarchical organization in which higher (or "more noble") Functions rule over the lower functions (or “rule” them) (II.1) and make an appropriately ordered whole out of the living being - in other words: an organism in which specialized functions work together to advance the essential purposes of the whole. What distinguishes this aspect of Nietzsche's understanding of life from our more familiar conceptions is that he does not regard teleological organization as something that a living being is given in any form, but as something that a living being must actively produce and that once it has been produced is, has to be reproduced again and again and in ever more powerful forms.

Why Nietzsche regards the organizing function of life as a process of interpretation becomes clear in the following sentence: “Everything that happens in the organic world [is] a Overpower, master and [...] overcoming everything and becoming master [is again] a new interpretation, a preparation [...] in which the previous 'sense' and 'purpose' must necessarily be darkened or completely erased ”(II.12, emphasis added . in orig.). Thus, life processes are acts of overpowering, in which the exercise of power consists in changing the meaning or purpose of what is being overpowered. To change the meaning or purpose of something means to reinterpret it, which in the broadest sense means that “something that exists, something that has somehow come about” is classified in a “system of purposes” (II.12).

It is again noteworthy that Nietzsche came from a system speaks of purposes which the living being strives to establish, a system in which its instincts and purposes are organized organically and hierarchically. To interpret something - to give it meaning - thus means to give something that is simply “there” at first with a function by integrating it into a system of purposeful activities so that it can serve a goal that the organism as whole pursued (II.12). Life is interpretation because it gives meaning to what is meaningless in itself in relation to the whole. It is obvious why, according to Darwin, one comes to regard life as a process of interpretation: If evolution is an essential function of life, then living beings must be able to integrate random variations into their constitution and use them for their own vital purposes by assigning new functions to these variations within a now "adapted" organic unit.

When we turn our gaze to evolution as an essential life activity, we become aware of another element of Nietzsche's understanding of life that goes back to Darwin and that is relevant to the thesis that whole cultures, not just individuals, can be disease carriers: Both for Darwin as for Nietzsche, the species, and not the individual living being, represents the fundamental unity of life, insofar as certain vital functions can only be understood as processes taking place in the species as a whole and not solely as processes taking place in individual individuals.[12]

For Darwin, strictly speaking, it is the species that goes through a developmental process, not individual organisms. Even if evolution depends on the type of changes that can only take place in individual organisms, these changes nevertheless remain a process that essentially spans generations and, unlike processes such as digestion or respiration, cannot be carried out by a single living being. That species is the fundamental unit of life for Nietzsche, too, is shown in his conception of (individual) death as a constitutive and thus normal part of the life process. If the death of individuals “belongs to the conditions of the real progressus” of life (II.12), then the essential purpose which this death serves must be associated with a living entity that is more comprehensive than those individuals.

We are now in a position to describe from the “biological point of view” (II.11) what health consists of, namely in the undisturbed execution of the life process: The animal continuously imposes an organic order on itself around ever larger units of power to produce, for the purpose of releasing ever greater amounts of force through its own activity (which ultimately contributes to an analogous process on the level of the species). Biological health thus means vitality - a "blooming, rich, self-effervescent health" - which manifests itself in a "mighty corporeality" (I.7) and in an activity that results from "abundance, strength, [the] will of life ”(Preface.3). Accordingly, the disease is a disruption of the life process, whereby a disorder is understood to be mere repetitions of this process, in which strength is expended and renewed, but haltingly and at a more or less constant level. The characteristics of illness are the opposite of health: impotence, passivity, reacting, clumsiness, and, perhaps most significantly, the inability to give order or meaning to the realities experienced.

2 How the Spirit is More Than Pure Life

A purely biological understanding of illness, it has already become apparent, is insufficient to grasp the specifically human or mental illnesses in which Nietzsche is primarily interested, including primarily those associated with a guilty conscience.[13] To understand them, we need to take a perspective that extends beyond pure life and allows us to grasp mental, not just organic, phenomena. “Beyond life” does not mean that we give up the point of view of life and take a completely different point of view - that of the spirit. Rather, it is necessary to supplement the point of view of life in such a way that the differences between spiritual and merely animal creatures are taken into account. For Nietzsche the most important difference is the possession of a human “soul” (II.16), which is characterized by what Hegel subjectivity would call: a kind of reflexivity or inner division, which is based on the ability to take "sides against oneself" (II.16), and which enables the subject to make himself the object of his own mental activity. We arrive at the idea of ​​spirit - again following Hegel - by thinking together the concepts of life and reflexivity. In other words, we ask: What would an internally divided life look like - a life that is "turned against itself" (II, 16) - and to what extent would such a life be more than pure life?

Nietzsche's answer to this question is complex, and I cannot fully do it justice at this point. For the moment, we refer to three ways in which the interpretive activity of reflective beings endowed with human souls differs from the activity of purely animal beings: First, reflective, animated beings are reflective, animated beings in their interpretive activity aware of themselves (at least potentially); second, this activity is through Terms (and thus linguistically) conveyed; and thirdly, it is judgmental insofar as it ascribes values ​​to objects and compares and measures these values,[14] while resorting, at least implicitly, to some version of the pair of terms “good” and “bad”. Let us consider Nietzsche's most important example of mental illness from this point of view: The guilty conscience is made possible by the instinct of cruelty which turns against itself - this is the origin of all reflexivity - but the two phenomena are not identical.[15] The main difference between them is that inward cruelty is a mere instinct, a physiological disposition to unleash force of a certain type (cruelty) in a certain direction (against oneself), while the guilty conscience, in its proper sense, comprises an interpretive apparatus who “hooks” himself into this purely physiological disposition, charges it with a meaning that it originally did not have, and thereby enables activity on the basis of this disposition. The simplest example of an interpretation that combines the disposition to be cruel towards oneself in order to induce guilty conscience is when that "backward" instinct combines with a pre-existing term - guilt - and uses it to an action that expresses this disposition and releases its pent-up power to give a specific meaning.

3 Illness in spiritually gifted beings

I now come back to the thesis that what sets people apart from other forms of life are susceptible to mental illnesses that other animals do not, and that this susceptibility is due to our ability to consciously reflect, which we acquire, as soon as we become subjects with “souls”. If we go back to what has already been said about beings endowed with a (human) soul, we can get a rough idea of ​​mental illness: it is a state in which interpretation and reflexivity, which is made possible by a divided soul to come together to produce effects that run counter to the purpose characteristic of life (to gain ever greater power by bringing what is originally formless and inactive into an organic form) instead of promoting it . A mentally ill individual has a split soul, one part of which, by using interpretive and judgmental terms, “takes sides” against the other in a way that hinders rather than promotes the release of ever greater quantities of instinctive force through activity. A particularly salient form of mental illness is made possible by the fact that spiritual beings can adopt values ​​that run counter to the fundamental purpose of life, the creation and expression of ever greater configurations of power.

In my opinion, there are four pathological aspects of the guilty conscience in its most extreme (Christian) form, the occurrence of which is made possible by animal beings becoming spiritually gifted beings. The first is an immoderate urge to inflict suffering on oneself, as manifested in the Christian phenomenon of guilt before God: This kind of guilty conscience drives "self-torture to its most gruesome severity and severity [...] This is a kind of will- Madness in spiritual cruelty, which has absolutely no equal: the will of man to find himself guilty and reprehensible to the point of atonement ”(II.22). It is more difficult than it seems at first glance to state why an incessant, insatiable desire for suffering is considered pathological for Nietzsche, since suffering - even self-inflicted suffering - is a natural part of life and also the individual in a state of great spirituality Health can seek its own suffering.[16] It is important to realize that the self-inflicted suffering these passages are about, as with all manifestations of guilty conscience, is interpreted Suffering acts. This suggests that the extent to which a desire for suffering can be considered a disease depends on how suffering is interpreted, that is, what function in the sufferer's life the suffering is made available to and how that function relates to the sufferer Purposes of life. A sane being will presumably ascribe purposes to his suffering that provide him with an implicit measure of his suffering: not just an interpretation that answers the question of its meaning, but also a criterion for its reasonable limits.

A second pathological element of the Christian guilty conscience is “mendacity” (III.14; III.19): a kind of self-imposed intransparency for oneself - a motivated ignorance achieved through repression of the instinctive motives of one's own actions and attitudes.[17] This aspect emerges when Nietzsche refers to the origin of the guilty conscience on a “violently latent” Instinct of freedom“Of the human animal, which can ultimately only discharge and let go“ on itself ”(II.17, emphasis in the orig.), While the functions of consciousness that accompany these processes have no knowledge of the instincts on which they are based and last but not least, about the instinctive purposes they serve. Nietzsche's largely unspoken assumption here is that an instinct that cannot find a direct, outwardly directed discharge and is forced to turn inward is necessarily subject to a process of distortion that makes it practically impossible for the bearer of this instinct to Purpose that instinct really strives to consciously recognize as such. It follows from this that the conditions under which the human soul develops and first assumes a dimension of depth lead more or less inevitably to the fact that people are largely in the dark as far as the content of their own souls is concerned. This basic element of the unfavorable conditions under which human subjectivity arises is responsible for part of what makes guilty conscience disease, and it makes the notion that man is inevitably alien to himself a leitmotif of the genealogy become (VR.1).

Conversely, if mendacity is an aspect of mental illness, then some degree of self-transparency should be an element of mental health.[18] However, it is important to clearly state the status of this element. Self-intransparency is not the most important factor that turns the different manifestations of the guilty conscience into disease states. Nevertheless, ceteris paribus'Self-transparency for a spiritual being better than self-intransparency: Self-knowledge - an undistorted awareness of who you are and what you want - is more appropriate to a self-aware being than being-self-unknown, Nietzsche in the first place Section of the preface to Genealogy of Morals diagnosed in the “knowers” ​​(“we are unknown to each other, we knowers”).

With this thought we encounter an aspect of mental health that has no parallel in the realm of the purely animal, which raises the question of how the value of self-transparency is related to the biological ideal of health. It is tempting to assume that the value of self-transparency for Nietzsche depends entirely on the extent to which it contributes to an increase in vitality. However, I consider this to be a mistake, not least because it would then be difficult to explain why Nietzsche seems to ascribe an independent value to truthfulness, namely the attitude to live his life energetically and cheerfully and at the same time the truth about himself and himself To see the world in the face.I suspect Nietzsche takes the view that as soon as spiritual creatures take the stage, new values ​​become possible - values ​​that are independent of those of pure life - and there is something more appropriate or noble for a self-conscious being, itself Seeing yourself for what it really is instead of resorting to lying to yourself in order to cope with life. In other words: For Nietzsche, the value of self-transparency does not seem to be exhausted in the instrumental value it has for achieving the purposes of animal life.

The third pathological aspect of the Christian guilty conscience also concerns a reflective phenomenon: self-affirmation. A mentally ill person in this regard says "no" to themselves (and to life on a more general level)[19] (II.22; III.11), with which he expresses a “disgust for life”, which results from a “shame of man in front of man“Grows, therefore a shame in view of the (animal) instincts of humans (II.7, emphasis in the orig.). Self-negation is thus based on the inability to look at oneself as one is and without the distorting perspective of what is generated by repression lying Look to be proud. Self-negation - just like its opposite, self-affirmation, which is part of great health - is only possible for a reflective being who can take an outside perspective on himself and make himself the object of his own judgmental gaze. To step out of your own practical entanglement into the world for a moment in order to look at yourself and your own actions from this perspective, and what you see as Well to be evaluated - these are the constitutive moments of a spiritual affirmation of one's own being.

That affirmation plays a key role in Nietzsche's understanding of the reflexivity that is the hallmark of higher spirituality may at first glance come as a surprise. Because the genealogy first of all describes examples of people - the “noblemen” of the first treatise - who spontaneously (I.10) and thus apparently without the reflexivity associated with spirituality say “yes” to themselves. Nietzsche makes it clear that affirmation in all its forms is a judgmental activity that works, even if only implicitly, with judgmental terms such as “good” and “bad”. In order for affirmation to be really reflexive (and such a mark of higher spirituality), it must take place from a position in which the immediate, spontaneous self-affirmation is somehow disturbed, and the illness, especially the mental one, presents itself as a possible origin of such Fault on. Reflexive self-affirmation includes distancing oneself from one's own immediate standpoint in order to make oneself the object of one's own "value-setting gaze" (I.10), whereby the term "value setting" seems to indicate that in reflexive self-affirmation the values, by which one judges oneself, in a certain way the product of one's own activity. At least in reflexive evaluation a space opens up between the subject and his values, which makes the subject responsible for them (or at least enables them to be responsible for them) in a way that is the case with the directly self-affirming “undertakings” “Was not given.[20]

The fourth and final pathological aspect of guilty conscience in its most extreme form is linked to what Nietzsche calls its greatest danger, a danger that takes shape in the self-destructive dynamic on which the ascetic ideal draws. About in the middle of the third treatise of the genealogy Nietzsche writes that the ascetic ideal has an "unsaturated instinct and will to power" inherent,

the Lord wants to become lord, not about something alive, but about life itself [...]; here an attempt is made to use the power to clog the sources of power […] [W] e are faced with a dichotomy here, which is conflicting itself wantshowing himself in this suffering enjoy and to the extent that it becomes more and more self-assured and triumphant than its own presupposition, the physiological viability, decreases (III.11, emphasis in the original).

In other words: even where the bad conscience, in conjunction with the ascetic ideal, acts as an incentive to act, this action inevitably amounts to drying up the sources of one's own vitality. In this form, the ascetic ideal is an expression of vitality which, by translating this ideal into action, undermines the prerequisites of any vitality. The dynamic of self-subversion is the greatest danger that the ascetic ideal harbors and at the same time a decisive factor that turns the Christian guilty conscience into a spiritual sickness. In addition, the danger described indicates the possibility of an even worse condition, closer to annihilation than disease, which threatens when the self-destructive dynamic of the ascetic ideal reaches its consummation and succeeds in exhausting the sources of its own energy . European culture has not yet reached this extreme form of mental illness - nihilism in its most dangerous form - but Nietzsche senses that it is lurking on the horizon, as a possible, if not strictly necessary, consequence of God's death. Because such a post-Christian after-effect of the ascetic ideal, in which the will ceases to want at all, is an even worse violation of life than the paradoxical but still vital will, which, driven by the ascetic ideal, wants nothing.

4 Mental health as the mediation of opposites

Let me now turn to an aspect of mental health that does not appear to have a counterpart in the picture of mental illness outlined so far. This aspect is accessible to us in the late modern era, to an even greater extent than the others dealt with here, because of a specific pathological development in Christian culture, which is highly contingent and just as easily could never have happened. The closest we have come to this phenomenon so far is when we understood how the Christian guilty conscience infected by the ascetic ideal turns into a self-destructive dynamic in which the activity triggered by this configuration of will ultimately exhausts its own sources of strength. The phenomenon at issue takes shape in Nietzsche's description of the ascetic priest, with whom we are “faced with a dichotomy”, “which is conflicting itself wantshowing himself in this suffering enjoy and to the extent that it becomes more and more self-assured and triumphant than […] physiological viability decreases“(III.11, emphasis in the original). However, instead of the self-subverting nature of this configuration of will, let us turn our attention to the phenomenon of being divided into two (and the fact that this dichotomy of the self is willed and enjoyed). In it we clearly have before us another, extreme manifestation of the reflexivity that characterizes spiritual beings. A more precise picture of what it means to strive for and enjoy a state of inner division can be found in the description of the “most terrible” form of guilty conscience in the second treatise genealogy from where Nietzsche in a language that cannot deny its origins from Luther and at the same time recalls Feuerbach's vision of religious alienation and Hegel's portrayal of the unhappy consciousness that Christians portrayed as driven by the desire “in 'God' the ultimate opposites, which he is able to find his real and indissoluble animal instincts ”and reinterpret them as“ guilt against God ”:“ He strains himself into the contradiction of 'God' and 'devil' ”and assures himself“ of himself absolute unworthiness ”. "Here is illness, it is no doubt the most terrible disease that has ravaged man up to now ”(II.22). Much can be said about the way in which Nietzsche uses the verb "span" in this passage. One can think of the fact that the human being literally “tensions himself under torture”, but also of the tension that precedes a discharge of force, such as when one draws a bowstring before shooting an arrow.

The first thing that strikes you about the ambivalence we are talking about is that it is a self-imposed one - in Hegelian terms self-set - dichotomy is about. The antithesis inherent in the Christian subject is neither natural nor eternal nor simply present. It is a spiritual phenomenon and thus a creation of the subject who experiences it. Or more precisely: it is a cultural product which, as Hegel would say, belongs to the realm of the absolute spirit. What is more, the positing of dichotomy is one Selfpositing, an act of interpretation that produces or constitutes a certain kind of self (as well as a certain idea of ​​oneself). Yes, in true Hegelian manner, this self-positing only takes place insofar as something else is posited, in this case God, a being that is thought through negation, as the embodiment of the opposite of all human properties. Although it is tempting to see in God and man the two poles of Christian dichotomy,[21] it is more accurate to locate the contrast between God and the devil, as Nietzsche does. According to his self-understanding - according to his understanding of what it means to be a human being - the Christian is stretched between these two poles, whereby the devil stands for the animal instincts of human beings, but not for everything that it means to be human be. In other words, this Christian form of subjectivity contains a unity of two opposing poles in which man identifies with both, a thought that finds its expression in Nietzsche's formulation that the Christian “yourself in the contradiction between 'God' and 'Devil' ”(emphasis placed on F. N.). What is described here is thus an internal split, which requires that whoever posits this dichotomy understand himself in a certain sense both as God and as the other of God, as the "unworthy", "reprehensible" bearer of animal species Instincts. The specific sense in which the Christian identifies with God is that his conception of God serves him as a yardstick or "criterion" by which he measures his own worth or disqualification.

The ambiguity described is also spiritual insofar as it is not the work of a single individual, but a collective (cultural) achievement, in which individual subjects are undoubtedly involved, but only insofar as they use interpretative resources that are theirs Culture provides: In the present case the conceptual apparatus of guilt, original sin and the entire Christian theology. In all these respects Nietzsche understands the Christian ambivalence as a spiritual phenomenon in a sense that Hegel would also approve. The main difference between Nietzsche and Hegel seems to me to be that Nietzsche emphasizes the contingency of the cultural developments that determine our current situation. For Nietzsche, the human mind is not predestined to split in such extreme ways as it has happened in Christianity, but once it has split, new possibilities open up to human life, including a possibility of great sanity that would otherwise not be available.

That the Christian dichotomy is produced by the Spirit itself means that it is a motivated Self-positing is an act that is directed towards a purpose and, paradoxically, finds a certain satisfaction in tensing oneself - like on a torture rack - between God and the devil. In contrast to Feuerbach's portrayal of religious alienation, Nietzsche sees the Christian as someone who actively strives for, enjoys and sees himself confirmed in it (“becomes more self-confident "). Even if Nietzsche does not use the term in this context, a trait related to self-affirmation lies in the self-torture and self-hatred of Christians, insofar as these make them “self-confident” and “triumphant”.[22] The fact that Nietzsche uses the same term - certainty of himself - that Hegel used in the also speaks for an element of affirmation phenomenology used in conjunction with desire and recognition where the subject's determinative pursuit is to be affirmed (in its status as a being of value) by the outside world. Whatever form of self-affirmation this may be, it is - it should be added - always an affirmation of the self under the auspices of a, to use Nietzsche's term, mendacious (and ultimately inhibiting the striving for power) self-image.

But how then is Nietzsche's assertion to be understood that Christians - or at least their ascetic priests - enjoy their own ambivalence and draw self-assurance from it? As for pleasure, this seems obvious to me: it is, at least in part, the pleasure that creatures like us naturally find in harming someone, even if the victim of that cruelty is oneself. The self-affirmation gained is explained by the term that follows the word “self-assured” in the passage quoted above: “triumphant”.[23] The ambivalence of the ascetic priest brings with it self-assurance, precisely because it is a source of great power and vitality that ultimately enables him, in his struggle to “become master [...], not of something but of life about life itself ”(III. 11), to feel victorious in the same struggle that Nietzsche describes two sections later as a struggle“ with animals, nature and gods ”- even with death - for“ the last reign ” . The Christian ascetic priest suffers (from disgust, exhaustion, loathing of himself), but all of this "emerges so mightily on him" that it is precisely this self-inflicted wound that "compels him to to live … “, And - as Nietzsche put it in one of the most beautiful formulations of the genealogy Expresses: "His no, which he speaks to life, brings an abundance of tender yess to light as if by magic" (III.13, emphasis in the original).

Again the question arises what makes this phenomenon pathological, especially since Nietzsche emphasizes that under the right circumstances it can function as a powerful “vital stimulus”, as “an artifice in the conservation of life ”(III.13, emphasis in the orig.). The aspects considered so far already give indications of an at least partial answer: Christian ambivalence includes excessive suffering, mendacity, a denial of life (which paradoxically also gives impulses to life), and a self-destructive dynamic that ultimately threatens vitality of the will to soak up. After what was said above about Christian ambivalence, it makes sense to add the "ambiguity" to this enumeration of the elements that make the Christian guilty conscience pathological, especially since it was in the German philosophical tradition before Nietzsche The concept of division - a close relative of dichotomy - is counted among the phenomena understood as alienation. In Nietzsche's case (and also in Hegel), however, it would be a mistake to view “being in two minds” as inevitably pathological. For neither of the two thinkers is the ideal of a harmonious “beautiful soul”, in which the different parts of the soul are fused into an inseparable unit, the model of mental health[24].

That Nietzsche rejects this ideal becomes clear in numerous passages, of which I would like to mention only two here: In the first treatise of the genealogy he makes an at first glance surprising remark about “the two of them opposite Value 'good' and 'bad', 'good' and 'bad' ", namely that" today there may not be a more decisive badge of the 'Higher nature'who gives a more spiritual nature than to be ambivalent in that sense and really still a battleground for those opposites ”(I.16).The second passage, found in a discussion of the different meanings that the ascetic ideal can assume, follows the statement that the “opposition between chastity and sensuality” need not be tragic:

This should at least apply to all more well-positioned, more cheerful mortals who are far from counting their unstable equilibrium between "animals and angels" without further ado as the counter-reasons of existence - the finest and brightest [...] even have a vital stimulus in it more seen. Such "contradictions" lead to existence ... (III.2, emphasis in the orig.)

From these passages it becomes clear that an internal split is by no means inevitably pathological, but can rather be central to that great mental health, which Nietzsche believes is the result of the almost two thousand year educational process that Europe went through under the rule of Christianity, is reachable for us. On the other hand, his distinction between tragic and non-tragic versions of the antithesis of "beast and angel" (and the fact that he obviously prefers the latter) makes it clear that no form of internal division is a sign of mental health either. In order to distinguish between healthy and pathological forms of dichotomy, it seems, one must differentiate between the different ways in which a divided subject can relate or bring together the two poles of its split state. One aspect of mental illness, so my thesis, is for Nietzsche the inability to withstand contradictions, to “contain” opposites in the right way, while a central element of great mental health is not only to successfully convey internal contradictions , but also to constantly re-create such tensions.

Even for Hegel, high spirituality manifested itself in the fact that a subject splits itself into two poles and then mediates the contrast that it has itself created - a view that he, for his part, had adopted from the conception of the fall and redemption developed by Christian theology - even if Hegel and Nietzsche have different views on what constitutes a spiritually successful “synthesis” of opposites. It is difficult to say exactly how Nietzsche envisions this aspect of mental health, but it seems to me beyond doubt that he takes such a view. One of the central theses of the genealogy is that the exaggerated forms of ambivalence that Christianity brings into human subjectivity create the possibility of great sanity. This sanity includes an affirmation of the self and the world which arises from a pleasure in splitting the self and which, far from being a "natural" part of animal life, comes into the world only through disease, theirs Severity corresponds to the size of the health that allows it. Last but not least, it seems to be this train of thought behind Nietzsche's remark at the beginning of the third treatise of genealogy it says that one of the possible meanings of the ascetic ideal is to create “the most favorable preconditions for high spirituality” (III.1).[25] Once you have become aware of the spiritual significance that the mediation of opposites has for Nietzsche, you come across this topic almost everywhere in his texts. In addition to the two passages cited, it is found in his deeply ambivalent attitude towards Christianity and towards the ascetic ideal in general;[26] in the in humanly, all-to-humanly attempted to bring together the opposing fields of science and non-science; in his in the Cheerful science Believed that a healthy culture had the resources to mediate the contrast between comic and tragic interpretations of life;[27] and not least in his “contradicting” attitude to the value of truth, which runs through his entire work.

Again it is difficult to say exactly what Nietzsche means by a healthy mediation of opposites. Undoubtedly, one of his arguments is that the tension created by an internal dichotomy has the potential to promote vitality, in so far as it builds up amounts of force in the subject, which then push for discharge through powerful activity. It is worth doing the preface here Beyond Good and Evil to remember, where Nietzsche counts himself as one of the “heirs of all the strength that the struggle against […] the Christian-ecclesiastical pressure [bred] over thousands of years”, a struggle that “created a splendid tension of the spirit [ has], as it was not there on earth: with such a drawn bow one can now shoot at the most distant targets [...] we still have them, all the distress of the spirit and all the tension of his bow! "[28] But this does not answer our question, it only concretises: What kind of holding together opposites is such a powerful and productive mental tension possible?

On the remaining pages I would like to outline three preliminary points that could help provide an answer. First of all, it is noticeable that when Nietzsche speaks of the opposing values ​​“good – bad” and “good – bad”, he describes their healthy relationship as a struggle between opposites, in which there is presumably no complete winner. As for the relationship between “animals and angels”, which is characteristic of “all well-to-do […] mortals”, Nietzsche describes it not as a struggle, but as an “unstable equilibrium”. On the one hand it is not a “tragic contradiction”, but on the other hand it is less stable (and less immediately harmonious) than those relationships - “every good marriage, every real love of the heart” that are “beyond this contradiction” (III.2).

Obviously consistent identity is not what Nietzsche is looking for, neither is "tragic" struggles between opposites (in which, as I understand him, one of the protagonists "goes under" instead of emerging stronger and stronger from the competition). A characteristic of the non-tragic fight is that it acts as “one more vital stimulus” than an additional “seduction to exist”: the ideal case of a rivalry between two football teams - which lasts for years and allows both teams to become better athletically Is characterized by the right mix of aggression and mutual respect - seems to meet the conditions for a non-tragic fight. But what would this soccer analogy mean if it were transferred intrapersonally to opposing instincts such as chastity and sensuality? Nietzsche says that the successful mediation of such opposites is reserved for the “finest and brightest”, but one can ask, what specific forms of sensitivity and cleverness are required for this? Perhaps there can be no one-size-fits-all, equally applicable answer to this question, which suggests that we have come to a point where philosophy must turn to art in order to move forward (and this may also be Nietzsche's approach, because at the point in question it is differentiated from Wagner's artistic design of the contrast).

A second element of the sane communication of opposites emerges when Nietzsche writes about a specific unhealthy way of relating opposites to one another. In the third treatise of the genealogy Nietzsche describes the Christian ascetic priest as only then able to affirm life if he at the same time posits a "very different existence" - an imaginary world that is presented as the complete opposite of our world - to that of life only forms a “bridge” for him, that is, a mere means to an end outside of himself, to a world that has a value in itself and at the same time is that which alone can give value to our world (III.11). To oppose the world of our experience with another world is a spiritual act of the greatest depth, but in Christianity this act takes on a pathological form because the world thus posited is "contrary and exclusive" to our world. This means that a contradiction in which the opposing poles are understood as mutually exclusive indicates that the contradiction has not been mediated spiritually successfully. This thought also sounds in Beyond Good and Evil and can help to better understand a prominent topic of this work, in which Nietzsche first identified the "belief in opposites" - in opposing values ​​and in the different origins of apparent opposites - as the "basic belief of the metaphysicians",[29] whereupon he sets out to address a number of pairs of opposites that philosophy has traditionally treated as mutually exclusive: instinct and consciousness, the “drive to knowledge” and the will to power; good and bad people and, most importantly, the values ​​of true and false[30].

It is impossible not to think of Hegel here, especially of his fundamental thought that the mind only finds satisfaction and reconciliation - only becomes complete - when one of its poles understands itself as simultaneously identical and non-identical with that which is he originally posited as his exclusive opposite and in contradiction to which he defined himself. It becomes even more difficult to overlook the connection between Hegel and Nietzsche when one realizes that for Hegel too the most fundamental contrast for the spirit is that between a self-conscious subjectivity and animal life. I would go so far as to say that for both Hegel and Nietzsche the most noble task of sane beings is to (truthfully) themselves (truthfully) in all aspects of their being as part of life and as something that is more than life to recognize. This is the most important challenge facing "self-confidence" in the phenomenology of the Spirit poses, as emerges in the discussion of desire and the presentation of the dialectic of master and servant. In both configurations of self-confidence, the protagonists are harmed because they adopt an understanding of life and subjective freedom that forces them into an exclusive opposition: to stand in life means to be unfree, and to be free means to negate all constraints of life. This is the reason why, for example, desire cannot “contain” the opposition between subjectivity and life in itself: the desiring self-consciousness is unable to interact with what it considers to be the opposite without constantly losing its identity ; its life activity entangles it in a constant back and forth between states in which it is itself and those in which it is its opposite. This is a mentally pathological form of dichotomy, which in the field of psychology has its counterpart in the defense mechanism that psychoanalysis calls "split".

All of this indicates that chastity and sensuality, the pursuit of truth and the drive to falsify cease to be mutually exclusive opposites if we consider them to have arisen from one and the same drive - for example, the will to power - and see them as capable to ultimately serve the same purpose. Isn't that the strategy that Nietzsche uses in the genealogy pursued in order to understand the opposing evaluations “good – bad” and “good – bad” as not mutually exclusive and to show - against “the metaphysicians” - that something can have its origin in its opposite? To show that opposites are (or can be) connected by a more fundamental identity - by being integrated into a system of purposes - both Nietzsche and Hegel need the interpretation, in the broader as in the narrower sense, which Nietzsche ascribes to the term. Thus, in the life of the healthy individual, chastity must be assigned a function by which it serves a vital purpose and given a meaning (an interpretation in the strictest sense) consistent with that purpose. The same duality of interpretation is also in Hegel phenomenology