Thoughts on Ressentiment

In Nietzsche’s essay “On the Genealogy of Morality,” he describes a state of ressentiment in which a person assigns blame for their frustration or pain. For a reverse reaction to ressentiment, Nietzsche talks about the “stronger, more courageous man” who doesn’t need to place a false and prejudiced interpretation on the object of his attention. This man holds what Nietzsche believes is “the highest form of mastery to be had on earth” because he does not lose his ability to judge and think clearly even in the face of immense personal injury. This form of mastery, which fights against ressentiment, reminded me of the power of forgiveness. For example, when somebody is the victim of a crime, it is common for that victim to publicly (or privately) forgive the person responsible. Through forgiveness, they are able to let go of any ressentiment and come out of the traumatic experience having maintained their “just eye” as Nietzsche would call it. Ressentiment can be a controlling state, but those who are able to fight it, either through forgiveness or some other outlet, will always be the ones walking away with a better conscience on their sides.

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Nietzsche Question Response

Question #3: What does pain have to do with memory and with the individual?

According to Nietzsche, pain and strong memory have an extremely high correlation. Before memory, we had forgetting, which was developed to help humans cope with the constant stimulation of everyday consciousness. But “with the help of memory, forgetfulness can be suspended in certain cases,” often in times of pain and suffering (36). Nietzsche writes that a person is more likely to remember if there was pain involved, but it is also true that a person is more likely to forget if there is pain involved as well. For example: childbirth. Childbirth is an extremely painful experience, yet millions of women do it over and over again, even if they swore, “this time is going to be the last.” This is because the mind is designed to forget or block out pain so we can keep on living without fear; if women were able to remember the pain of childbirth our race would die out. Nietzsche even mentions this concept indirectly by saying, “only something that continues to hurt stays in the memory;” notice how he specifically writes “continues” (38). We are more likely to remember something painful if that pain never fully ceases, always there as a constant reminder of some triggering painful event. A parent who loses their child may never stop feeling that grief – the painful memory of the death is never forgotten because they continue to be reminded of it by their consistent feelings of loss. Another example is a veteran diagnosed with PTSD; the horrors of war were so severe that they stuck with her even after escaping that environment. The soldier is more likely to remember her time at war because she is constantly reminded of it each day by the same painful emotions from war she was unable to shed.

Nietzsche pointed out the origins and involvement of pain in both memory and forgetfulness in human history. Though they are opposites of each other, memory is nothing with out forgetfulness, forgetfulness is nothing without memory, and both are nothing without pain.

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Response to “The Crowd”

You’ve never experienced a real crowd until you’ve had to fight your way through the union square subway station during rush hour. Last week, I found myself in the midst of such a crowd when I took the six train to union square to visit a friend. There were so many people on the platform that I had to wait at least three minutes without moving just to begin climbing the stairs. Any other day and I would have been bursting with frustration and impatience at the situation, but for some reason today I wasn’t bothered. As I waited, I looked around at all the people squished together with me and noticed that none of them appeared at all angry or anxious like I expected – each person held expressions of serenity and calmness. Suddenly, I too felt at ease. The crowd made me feel comfortable and safe; I never wanted to leave it.

In the readings, both Poe and Engels wrote on the feelings of isolation that a crowd produces but my experience counters their points. I did not feel like I was in “solitude from the very denseness of the company around” like Poe said, in fact I experienced totally opposite emotions. This city is ironic in that there are millions of people crammed together on an island yet everybody spends their time trying to get away from people and find solitude. In order to reach that alone time you must go through a crowd. For that brief moment in the union square subway station, every person could enjoy the safety of a crowd just long enough before breaking apart to their own separate paths. I agree with Simmel that “the metropolis creates the sensory foundations of mental life.” The balance of being in a crowd and being in isolation is the same balance we need psychologically of dependability and independence. You can only love being alone after you’ve been in a crowd and vice versa.

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Response to Economist Article

I agree with the position of the economist article to legalize prostitution. Although personally I don’t approve of it, I believe that if others have no problem with it then they should not be kept from making their own choices about their bodies. The article made strong arguments for the benefits of legalizing prostitution – all tying in to the notion that with its legalization, prostitution will basically become a business like any other. With the fear of being caught gone, prostitutes will no longer fear getting healthcare or other help and customers will feel safer reporting any mistreatment they witness. Prostitution organizations will no longer involve brothels or sketchy corner pick-ups – transitioning to online services, the business will be safer and lower the risk of dangerous meetings or theft.

This potential transition of prostitution from illegal to legal reflects a similar transition represented in the painting “Olympia.” Manet threatens the class division of the time by depicting the prostitute at a higher level and with a confident and condescending look in her eyes. Before this painting, prostitution was something that was extremely frowned upon and hidden, relegated to only the very low class citizens. But with modernization came a shift in how societal structure was set up, and suddenly prostitution wasn’t only for the poor (it is still frowned upon however). Today, the prostitution being legalized is another kind of societal change that Baudelaire would have most likely supported. I think that if it is legalized, prostitution will become just like any other business in the future – doctor, lawyer, artist, prostitute – that is Baudelaire’s vision of modernity.

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Response to Paris Spleen Poem

The poem that stuck out to me the most in Paris Spleen was actually the very first one, “The Stranger.” In it, Baudelaire is questioning an anonymous about his life, but the man shoots down each question. He has no family, friends or country, and he detests the concepts of beauty and money. The man Baudelaire is talking to is his idea of the “modern man.” He is not tied down to a family or any time of home allowing him to roam wherever he wants. Because the modern world is much more fast paced and chaotic, the best person to master this new environment will have nothing holding him back on the path forward, constantly moving.

At the time Baudelaire wrote this his book of poetry, the world was going through a huge change and many people began to question their own existence. At the end of the poem when the man finally expresses some emotional response, he says that he loves the clouds. This is because the man could also be pondering his purpose or groundings in life and the only thing that is constant are the clouds. It could also be the case that the stranger relates the clouds because they are free to drift and shape themselves however they want.

One interesting line is when, after Baudelaire asks him what he thinks of money, the stranger says, “I despise, as you despise God.” First of all, the words “despise God” surprised me right away because at the time period this poem was written, not many would dare say anything against God especially in a public work. Second, I thought that the comparison between God and money was genius on Baudelaire’s part. Money is universally loved because of its ability to buy things we want or get out us of trouble but at the same time, it also has the power to cause a great deal of problems like debt and greed. In this way, the good and evil of money is similar to that of God’s own powers. The modern man despises money as the traditional man despises God – you love it despite the evil it is capable of.

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Response to Schiller/Rousseau

According to Rousseau, the value of aesthetic education is equal to “spreading garlands of flowers over the iron chains that weigh men down” (1). Because of the rise in society’s interest in the arts and sciences, “aesthetic” is no longer something that a person can treat independently, the idea of what is beautiful and pleasing has generalized to an entire class’ opinion. As a result, a person educated in the arts and sciences is transformed into a robot that only thinks and acts in the way they were taught is “smart” and “classy”. People become artificial with knowledge and less authentic; everybody is a performer. Rousseau witnessed that the very social fabric of a community is damaged because people are no longer able to connect in an honest and sincere way – their façade of knowledge holds them back.

In his essay, Schiller relays the reverse argument to Rousseau on the importance of an “aesthetic” education. Art should not be treated as such a frivolous matter because the values that pertain to art, specifically the value of taste, can be applied to much larger societal matters. Everyone has the power of taste, or rather the power to pick and choose what he or she finds to be aesthetically pleasing. According to Schiller, the freedom of taste in the art world can be applied to what real freedom should be in society as a whole. The way that an individual can be aesthetically educated to freely decide what they like or dislike in the study of art should be the way that a person expresses their taste in government, economy, and other institutions.

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Response to Schiller and Rousseau

According to Rousseau, the value of aesthetic education is equal to “spreading garlands of flowers over the iron chains that weigh men down” (1). Because of the rise in society’s interest in the arts and sciences, “aesthetic” is no longer something that a person can treat independently, the idea of what is beautiful and pleasing has generalized to an entire class’ opinion. As a result, a person educated in the arts and sciences is transformed into a robot that only thinks and acts in the way they were taught is “smart” and “classy”. People become artificial with knowledge and less authentic; everybody is a performer. Rousseau witnessed that the very social fabric of a community is damaged because people are no longer able to connect in an honest and sincere way – their façade of knowledge holds them back.

In his essay, Schiller relays the reverse argument to Rousseau on the importance of an “aesthetic” education. Art should not be treated as such a frivolous matter because the values that pertain to art, specifically the value of taste, can be applied to much larger societal matters. Everyone has the power of taste, or rather the power to pick and choose what he or she finds to be aesthetically pleasing. According to Schiller, the freedom of taste in the art world can be applied to what real freedom should be in society as a whole. The way that an individual can be aesthetically educated to freely decide what they like or dislike in the study of art should be the way that a person expresses their taste in government, economy, and other institutions.

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