Nietzsche on Religion: Rhetorical Devices
In Twilight of the Idols Nietzsche discusses his views on Christianity, other philosophers, and authors of his time. Nietzsches main focus, however, is on Christianity and how its actions and views are means to an end. He uses eloquent diction that sometimes loses the reader (he makes up for his articulate word usage with elementary sentences which describe his views very efficiently) along with syntax which is very informal – for the time – to describe his views on subjects quite exquisitely. His logic is the logic which is always right; he never contradicts himself or makes a statement without support. Nietzsches use of rhetorical strategies i.e. diction, syntax, and figures of speech helps him to make his points and support them in a style which help him attain his underlying goal: to make the reader think. Nietzsche uses an elevated level of diction to help him achieve his purpose, he uses Latin in many passages to make the reader look to the bottom of the page and thus think about what he is proposing. His combination of elevated diction along with deductive reasoning can sometimes lose the reader, but just as fast as the reader is lost Nietzsche offers forth a formula which helps the reader follow his thinking. Nietzsche believes that a persons “virtue is the consequence of happiness,” or that a persons emotions are the product of their beliefs. Nietzsches uses consequence to mean something more like cause than effect. He interchanges monosyllabic and polysyllabic – in the form of metaphors – words in connotation to sometimes differ the reader from the beaten track of thinking. He believes in a set course “that he became ill, that he failed to resist the illness,” for humans and that they cannot deter from it (this is very far left in a time of conservative Europeans, late 19th century). Even in his “formulas” Nietzsches meaning is not as straight forward as it seems. It seems that he believes that individuals genetically are means to an end, but this is more of a metaphor for humanity, or that humanity is their own means to an end. Nietzsche use interesting syntax to evoke thought from his reader. His dependent clauses (in this excerpt, but not in others) relate back to the main clauses causing the reader to re-read the sentence or begin to formulate their own ideas (based upon what they just read). “Everything good” relates perfectly to his previously mentioned view that the church and morality are forcing people to think and react in a certain way. He writes in a deductive, repetitious way that helps the reader to slowly understand what he is saying. He starts with a general statement “The most general formula” which goes into his idea that the church and religion kills instinct and ends the piece with “Everything good is instinct” which shows Nietzsche repeating his beginning formula although there is one more sentence after this beginning with “Effort is an objection,” the sentence is foreshadowing the next section about what people can do to retain their individuality). He uses repetition only to build emphasis that he sees the losing of instinct as the evil religion has done to humanity and that humanity without religion would be instinctual. Nietzsche also uses parallel structure, in the form of italics, to make his point ring clear. He believes himself to be the only German with intelligence and proves himself with “My restored reason:” which shows he is arrogant and self righteous. The fact that he was arrogant doesnt do much to defer from his point, although it does add some irony to his words. Nietzsche uses antithesis as his basis for writing. He heavily contrasts any point he makes with the flaws of Christianity. He makes points that refute the divinity of Christianity by pointing out “The Church and morality say:” and then “My restored reason:” which heavily shows contrast between his reasoning and the churchs. Nietzsche further uses non-traditional figures of speech to get his reader to formulate ideas based on his writing. Nietzsche employs analogies, which are sometimes hard to follow, to help his views to impress the reader over his opposition. Such is the case in “His friends say:” and “I say:” which is an analogy about human existence. He means that the church is killing mankind because it is taking away mans instinct and because of that man wont survive. In the passage Nietzsche equally states his opponents views with his own which has an effect of making the reader think that he is trying to be “equal.” For every view he presents he offers the churchs version then offers his view and why he think that way. “Every morality” comes after a statement of what religions paradigm is (he refutes with equal exposure for both his position and the opposition). Nietzsche uses oxymoron to show how religion is actually hurting the people it thinks is doing good. He points out that the church isnt necessarily suppressing its members, but moreover it is slowly weakening its members instinct. Nietzsche points out that “the party will ruin itself” and means that is religions paradigm of the atheist. Nietzsche doesnt necessarily try to make the reader think that his way is right, as pointed out in the introduction. His goal is to make the reader think, even if its against his views. Nietzsche is successful in making his reader think, any reader would agree. He meets his goal most successfully because he was an outstanding author who could make his points in a very effective way.
Intro to Philosophy, 1999
Nietzsche on Religion: Rhetorical Devices