In this installment, Feinmann further discusses the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), particularly his famous concept of the death of God.
Feinmann explains that he takes the concept of the will to power being the "central concept" of Nietzsche's philosophy. As he explains it, Nietzsche's notion of life is that life seeks to conserve itself by expanding its own life force. Because if it merely conserves its life energy, it will die.
He expresses his agreement with Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) on this point about the centrality of the will to power in Nietzsche's thought. He goes on to say that he views Nietzsche as a proto-National Socialist philosopher, and Heidegger as a straight-up Nazi philosopher.
But the genius of both philosophers makes this question very difficult, as he says. Because they are both extremely important in the recent history of philosophy, however they may have contributed to Nazi ideology.
I wouldn't express it the way Feinmann does. I don't think it's meaningful to describe Nietzsche as a proto-Nazi philosopher. The explicit anti-Semitic boosters of the so-called "Aryan race" were around in Nietzsche's time. And he was a bitter critic of them. His friendship with the composer Richard Wagner broke up primarily over Wagner's outspoken anti-Semitism.
There is plenty in Nietzsche's work that could be easily taken out of context and used as support of aspects of Nazi propaganda: his analyses of both Judaism and Christianity; his oblique references to the "blond beast"; his praise for notions of strength and war; his polemics against democracy and socialism. There's no question that in politics, Nietzsche ideas were reactionary. But there is little to argue that Nietzsche's actual philosophy contributed in a meaningful way to what passed for Nazi philosophy. Which, in any case, mostly amounted to ideas promoting the "Aryan race" by promoting hatred against Jews.
Heidegger's allegiance to National Socialism and membership in the Nazi Party until the end of the war is well-documented. Jürgen Habermas, Karl Löwith and Herbert Marcuse all believed that there were aspects of Heidegger's philosophy that contributed to his support for the Nazis. Feinmann himself has written a philosophical novel about Heidegger that deals in a substantive way with these issues, La sombra de Heidegger (2005).
Feinmann also explains the "death of God" idea. Very oversimplified, it has to do with Nietzsche's idea that Christianity and other contemporary religions have been historically superceded. But Nietzsche did have a sort of religious idea that a superior spiritual value could be found in ancient Greek thought. Nietzsche's famous Zarathustra persona appears to have been modeled in significant part on the 6th-century BCE pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus.
This affection for the pre-Socratics is one point of commonality between Nietzsche and Heidegger.
Feinmann also brings Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007), Michel Foucault (1926–1984), Hegel (1770–1831) and Karl Marx (1818–1883) into the discussion in this episode.