Often historical figures are accused of having a “might makes right” attitude. The idea being that the one with superior military might is the one who is morally right. The Romans used the line “vae victus”, or “woe to the vanquished”. In moral philosophy, this is usually deemed a fallacy. Just because one is the stronger does not necessarily mean that one has ethical truth on one’s side. The strong have, throughout history, done many terrible things. However, I have begun to see a modern form of the same argument used in today’s society, and this I find very troubling.
Today I would like to return to a concept I’ve referenced once previously–intellectual hipsters. Intellectual hipsters are people who want other people to believe they are intellectual, philosophical people, but have not put in the work of really considering the ideas they embrace. This results in philosophical fads where a bunch of people jump onto the bandwagon of a facile idea. Often they do not even credit the originators of the idea, but treat it is as if it were some brilliant revelation they stumbled upon in their “reflections”. They assume that anyone who does not express agreement with the position just has never thought of it before, when in actuality usually the idea was considered and dismissed some time ago by people who, you know, actually think about the implications of the philosophical positions they take. Today’s hipster idea? Scepticism.
I have been seeing a lot of casual quoting of Nietzsche lately, and I think I have discovered a new breed of amateur philosopher: the “Nietzsche Hipster”. The Nietzsche hipster loves quoting the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, embracing Nietzsche for the very simple reason that Nietzsche is very different from most other philosophers, both in the content of his ideas and in the style in which he conveys them (he is famously polemical). These Nietzsche hipsters are no different form hipsters in the ordinary sense–they are drawn to Nietzsche not because he has something worthy to say, but because he is different, against the mainstream, and radical. Nietzsche declares that “God is dead” and “Plato is boring”. He declares modern ethics to be a “slave morality” that keeps people down, and makes war on metaphysics (the notion that there is a truth that can be known) as a branch of philosophy more broadly.