I was reading Russell's History of Western Philosophy today, on the philosophers from Hegel to Nietzsche (which includes Byron for some reason). I have to admit that the book really isn't that good as a history, or at least not for quite a few of the philosophers in it. A good indicator of how worthy a philosopher's work is is how Russell treats it in this book. Some authors he barely mentions, and some he spends more time saying how he despises their views and finds them a despicable person. Nietzsche is a good example of this. Nietzsche said of Mill that:
"I abhor the man's vulgarity when he says 'What is right for one man is right for another'; 'Do not to others that which you would not that they should do unto you.' Such principles would fain establish the whole of human traffic upon mutual services, so that every action would appear to be a cash payment for something done to us. The hypothesis here is ignoble to the last degree: it is taken for granted that there is some sort of equivalence in value between my actions and thine."
Mill was Russell's godfather but it is clear that Nietzsche and Russell disagree on a lot, and that the basis for their disagreement is not simply Nietzsche's slights on Mill.
Russell describes Nietzsche as a man of empty words with no real substance. He talks of great men, "ubermenschen", yet he was pathetic and weak. "Goest thou to woman? Forget not they whip." He tells us. Russell adding that, "nine women out of ten would get the whip away from him, and he knew it, so he kept away from women, and soothed his wounded vanity with unkind remarks." Then warriors that he talks about are nothing more than daydreams about how he wishes he really had been. (It occurs to me that there is a lot of Nietzsche in the character of Arnold J. Rimmer)
Russell argues that Nietzsche fails to understand the concept of Christian love, and instead thinks that it is a cause of fear. Russell thinks that Nietzsche fails to understand how a man can feel universal love because Nietzsche was filled with universal hate for everybody. My favourite jibe of Russell's is the following:
'King Lear, on the verge of madness, says:
"I will do such things -
What they are yet I know not - but they shall be
The terror of the earth."
This is Nietzsche's philosophy in a nutshell.'
Russell contends that Nietzsche's own Supermen are motivated by fear themselves, for who would try to hurt and suppress his neighbour who was not already afraid of his neighbour?
"I will not deny that, partly as a result of his teaching, the real world has become very like his nightmare, but that does not make it any the less horrible."
Nietzsche sympathisers recently have argued that Hitler took a lot of his works out of context, giving him a bad name in the 20th century. But there really are a lot of similarities between the two. The idea of a "master race" must fall straight from the text of Nietzsche (Hegel is also responsible), and I don't think Nietzsche would have resented the Holocaust by any means, thinking that the suffering of many inferiors is worth the pleasure of a few superiors. Nietzsche thought that the superior few were probably just those who enjoyed the most success in battle and hence subjugated their enemies and bred new generations of suppressors. He idolised Napoleon for this reason, but perhaps the British would have been better candidates for their consistency. There is really no chance at all that the Germans could be candidates for a master-race because they had not enjoyed success in battle since bringing darkness to Europe by bringing down the already-imploding Rome.
Russell imagines a debate between Buddha and Nietzsche in the presence of God as to how he should construct the world and what ends it should be designed to satisfy.
Nietzsche: No, if the Lord should decide for your world, I fear we should all die of boredom.
Buddha: You might, because you love pain, and your love of life is a sham. But those who really love life would be happy as no one can be happy in the world as it is.
Russell doesn't have any arguments against Nietzsche's position (although he does point out some inconsistencies of the finer points). In the end he retreats to emotion. Nietzsche desires suffering on a global level, and it is the duty of the Good to reject such a position as being Pure Evil, a position that Nietzsche happily adopts. There's an analogy between how Russell deals with Nietzsche's negative world-view, and how he deals with Solipsism in Epistemology. He just dismisses it out-of-hand as being unconstructive and undesirable: a paradigm he does not wish to discuss or consider. Russell began lecturing on the History of Western Philosophy in 1941 and it was published in 1945. Unlike Solipsism, he had a good idea where the philosophy of Nietzsche had led in the course of history. The best strategy against the solipsist is to ignore him, but the best strategy against the Nietzschean is to destroy him. Even Russell, a life-long pacifist, finally agreed that the only option for the West was to destroy those who practice Nietzsche's theories. Writing in 1945 he says:
"His followers have had their innings, but we may hope that it is coming rapidly to an end."