nietzsche & decadence

what exactly did nietzsche mean by "decedant"? i'm reading the anti-christ right now & it would be helpful.


i know he's not using it in the usual sense, most people wouldn't refer to buddhist monks as decadent.

In section 6 "The Anti-Christ" N. states that for him, the "depravity of man" is decadence. And he calls "an animal, a species, an individual depraved when it loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers what is harmful to it." "I consider life itself instinct for growth, for continuance, for accumulation of forces, for power: where the will to power is lacking there is decline...nihilistic values hold sway under the holiest of names."

I think a reading of "On the Genealogy of Morals" does a very good job of explaining N's understanding of decadence, and of his understanding of the evolution of the will to power, especially in regards to holy men like monks. In the third essay he goes into Ascetic ideals, and the power and depravity of the ascetic priest. (Which would include monks.)

It is important to understand N's view of history as the evolution of the will to power. First there where the masters, the heroes that lived in the time of Homer, They like animals had no will to power they, lived off instinct. They were ruled by their emotions and desires. They were destroyed by the slaves, who not having the power to live with the freedom of the masters where filled with resentment. They, lead by the Ascetic priests willed for nothing, however a willing for nothing, for lessing, is still a willing, and a greater willing than the masters were capable. They, the slaves and their priests created morals, good and evil. It was this culture that N thought we still lived in, and to which he opposed in his works, as he hoped we were on the brink of the new evolution in the will to power.

Decadence is nihilism. N would argue that a monk of chirstian or buddhist extraction is at a higher level of will than most of us, however it is a willing for nothingness.

very helpful randmcnally, thanks.

I understand Nietzsche to mean decadence ultimately reflects a weakness of will, a lack of courage. It's the product of (a perhaps unconscious) realization of the lack of absolute, knowable rules for appropriate belief and action, and/or at the least of an absence of credible authority to enforce such rules (whatever their ultimate credibility). I would add totalitarianism and relativism to nihilism in this regard.

For Nietzsche, these forms of decadence, combined with the "slave morality" of those who have thoughtlessly capitulated to dogma, represented the foil to his own vision: a being whose realization of subjectivity results not in totalitarian fantasies, nihilist despair, relativist indifference, or slavist torpor, but rather in a humility that affectionately embraces the vast possibilities of life in pursuit of a kind of developing artistic vision (the questions hovering around the origins of any such vision are a whole different discussion).

Read the Twightlight of the Idols, he spells it out pretty clearly there. Decadence is the preservation of unnecessary elements at the expense of the necessary elements required for a society to flourish. It's the sunset of the golden age.