I was recently re-introduced to Nietzschean thought by Henri de Lubac’s book The Drama of Atheist Humanism, which I discussed in my last post. The German thinker is at once incredibly perceptive and remarkably blinkered. I think this paradox results from trying to explain the crisis of society from a position that is anti-theological (as has been happening since the so-called Enlightenment). You have a series of reactions and counter-reactions with dwindling positive results and end up with a culture dominated by criticism.
This is not the healthy dialectic of Socrates, who asked questions aimed at truth and clarity – a criticism based on humility. Rather this is the captious denigration motivated by hubris and anger. The irony is that in some respects the critics of the last three centuries are more insightful and enduring than the “post-Christian” optimists. There are some exceptions. Karl Marx, sad to say, is one of them. But it is generally easier to tear down than to build up and the muscular criticism of Nietzsche is far more memorable than the dry (and flimsy) systematizing of Auguste Comte, who sought to invent an atheist church which seems laughable today even by our irreligious standards.