Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 15, 2014: In his treatise on civic rhetoric, Aristotle discusses three kinds of civic rhetoric: (1) deliberative rhetoric that is used in the legislative assemblies, (2) forensic rhetoric that is used in the law courts, and (3) epideictic rhetoric that is used on ceremonial occasions such as funerals -- for example, Pericles' "Funeral Oration" (as remembered by Thucydides). Sadly, President Barack Obama has been called on to deliver funeral orations on a number of occasions, in which he invokes our collective American values.
Each of three kinds of civic rhetoric involves a certain pair of opposites. For example, in deliberative rhetoric, the pair of opposites involved in the pro-and-con debate about a certain proposed action is expressed by orators when they say "I rise to speak in favor of the motion" and "I rise to speak against the motion." Once a specific possible course of action has been proposed, then the debate about whether or not to pass the proposed motion can be joined.
In a similar way, in a law court, once charges have been made against the defendant, then the pro-and-con debate about the charges can be joined.
But in epideictic rhetoric, there usually is no occasion for the pro-and-con debate to be joined on ceremonial occasions such as funerals. In this respect, epideictic rhetoric appears to be one-sided. However, epideictic rhetoric involves values that are formulated so that the values that are advanced and advocated usually do have identifiable opposites. For this reason, epideictic rhetoric involves praise and blame -- praise of certain values and blame of their opposites.
In our American experiment of governance with a representative democracy, our candidates for elected political office traditionally campaign about values, even when they tell us of certain proposals they plan to make if we elect them. Occasionally, one candidate's planned proposal might become a focus for debate that resembles deliberative debate. However, on the campaign trail, debate about the values involved in the planned proposal is often the focus of the campaign debate -- and that kind of debate involves epideictic rhetoric. (I know, I know, our electoral campaigns usually also include a lot of foolish nonsense.)
Of course year-round we have editorials and op-ed pieces. Many of them involve deliberative rhetoric debating proposed legislative issues. But many of them also involve debates about our collective American values.
Now, as part of his mid-life crisis, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), who was professionally trained in classical philology, decided that he should undertake a revaluation of values for his time. In effect, he decided to engage in the spirit of pro-and-con debate about certain values in Western culture in his time. However, he was not a civic orator. So he did not try to advance his revaluation of values through public oratory as a political candidate -- or even as an orator at public ceremonies such as funerals. Instead, he wrote books. His most famous book is Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which he wrote in the 1880s.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche famously delineates his idea of the Superman to come in the future. In certain respects, Nietzsche's idea of the Superman resembles the spirit of self-reliance that Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) famously advocated. In terms of American politics today, Nietzsche's idea of the Superman can be aligned with our contemporary libertarians -- and with Mitt Romney's remarks about moochers and takers. In short, Nietzsche's Superman represents the spirit of elitism that appeals to many of our contemporary Republicans.
Oddly enough, the American novelist Edward Bellamy (1850-1898) also envisioned a possible future in the 1880s in his utopian novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888). Like Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Bellamy's utopian novel envisioned a revaluation of values in the future. But Bellamy did not coin a term like Superman to characterize the improved human beings that he imagined in the United States in 2000. Unfortunately, Bellamy does not explain exactly how those improved Americans emerged. In any event, there must have been something in the air in the 1880s that both Nietzsche and Bellamy breathed in that inspired each of them to try to envision the future.
Unfortunately, the actual human beings in the United States in 2000 did not quite embody the improved Americans that Bellamy optimistically envisioned as emerging in the future.
By contrast, Republicans today actually do embody the spirit of Nietzsche's Superman, even though many of them have probably not read Nietzsche's book. Their resemblance to Nietzsche's Superman probably comes from the spirit of self-reliance advanced by Emerson.
In any event, C. G. Jung, M.D. (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist and psychological theorist, was talked into undertaking a seminar analyzing and discussing Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Eventually, the results of his seminar were published in two lengthy volumes as Nietzsche's Zarathustra : Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939 by C. G. Jung, edited by James L. Jarrett (Princeton University Press, 1988).
In his psychological theory, Dr. Jung posits four basic psychological functions that he refers to as (1) sensing, (2) intuiting, (3) thinking, and (4) feeling/valuing. In addition, he claims that sensing and intuiting are opposites on one axis of human psychological development and that thinking and feeling/valuing are also opposites but on another axis of development. Moreover, he says that we tend to develop one function in each pair of opposites more than the other function in the same pair. So in general, we tend to have two reasonably well-developed functions but also two relatively under-developed functions. The two under-developed functions tend to be in our shadow material, until we are able to work them out of the shadow and into more conscious functioning. But we can develop one function so strongly that it tends to dominate our personality.
In Jung's view, Nietzsche's intuiting function dominated his personality. This means that sensing was his inferior function on that one axis. Figuratively speaking, he did not have his feet on the ground. On the other axis, Jung says that thinking was his secondary strength, with his feeling/valuing function in his shadow material.
In light of Jung's analysis of Nietzsche's psychological make up, it strikes me as a bit unusual that a fellow whose feeling/valuing function is in his shadow material would undertake to work out a revaluation of values for Western culture in his time. Please don't misunderstand me here. The task of working out a revaluation of values in Western culture is enormously important -- to this day. But Nietzsche was going through the proverbial mid-life crisis at the time when he wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In any event, working out a revaluation of values in Western culture strikes me as a task that should be undertaken by more balanced thinkers (that is, more than just one) after they have worked their way through their mid-life crises. In effect, we Americans periodically engage in the revaluation of our collective American values in our periodic election campaigns.
Not surprisingly, Jung emphasizes that Nietzsche was kind of one-sided -- and so is his idea of the Superman. Nietzsche was an elitist who reviled the people he considered to be inferior. According to Jung's psychological theory, Nietzsche would have to assimilate what Jung terms his shadow in order to achieve psychological wholeness -- which Jung refers to as individuation. In Jung's conceptualization, the spirit of individualism that Nietzsche represents on a conscious level is not compatible with individuation.