Nietzsche was Wrong About Plato (I think)

Plato’s ends.

Nietzsche famously called Plato ‘boring’. The reasoning for this is that Nietzsche believed that Socrates and the introduction of ‘idealism’, the notion that the fact that the only perfect circle exists as a function of mathematics implies the existence of a world of perfect ideas beyond materials, marked the beginning of the downfall of western civilisation due to a ‘cowardice’ inherent in the turning of man’s attention away from the material world as it’s presented to us (as the pre-socratic philosophers prefered) in favour of reasoning about the world of ideas and ideals to reach (ideally) more accurate conclusions.

In Nietzsche’s critique, one should philosophise upon the world itself, as it’s presented to us, rather than performing similar intellectual acrobatics with mere ideas, at least if you’re to earn his scarce respect, that is. I’d like to turn your attention to that word: should.

If Nietzsche argues that we should do x instead of y, he is presumably doing so under the persuasion that x is better than y. However, as Plato said in his dialogue ‘Republic’:

‘That, then,’ I said,
‘if perhaps you understand me now, is
what I’d like you to take me as having wanted to say when I
was claiming that with things that are such as to be related to something, if they’re taken alone by themselves their correlates
are also just themselves alone, whereas if they’re qualified in
some way so too are their correlates. I’m not at all saying that
they’ll be of the same sort as whatever their correlates are
that would make the knowledge of things healthy and unhealthy
itself healthy and unhealthy, and the knowledge of bad things
and good things itself bad and good; rather, my point was that
as soon as knowledge becomes knowledge of something of a
certain sort, for example of the healthy and unhealthy, and not
just of something, unqualified, then it turns out itself to be
knowledge of a certain sort, with the result that it’s no longer
called “knowledge”, simply, but its particular object is added
in, and it’s called “medical knowledge”.’

Since all statements of universal preferability between two options are also proclamations of individual knowledge, Nietzsche’s statement smuggles a ‘true idealism’ of which the implied requisite knowledge of his critique used as the criterion of ‘better’ and ‘worse’ is constituent, and of which he is the assumedly the sole possessor while also failing to acknowledge his use of ideals in the most fundamental axiom of his argument: some things are better than others.

When we proclaim the tallness of buildings, we don’t measure their height against the existence of some ultimately tall building, instead, we measure their height against the idea of tallness itself. This ‘tallness’ idea exists in the world of ideals that Nietzsche so despised, and it also shares its occupancy with the idea of ‘betterness’ that he used in his statement of the non-preferability of platonism.

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