Ressentiment and Our Time

A reader writes:

You are correct in saying that the Muslim mind set is that of Nietzsche's ressentiment. However, you err in saying "but with God re-attached." We all know that Nietzsche had his Zarathustra declare that god is dead (god was dead, at least in those days). But the Nietzsche death of god followed the advent of ressentiment by many centuries. In fact, god was historically and conceptually attached to the concept of ressentiment from the beginning. Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment was meant to describe historical circumstances that preceded the "death of god" by around two thousand years. For Nietzsche ressentiment was the emotional sensibility that motivated the rise and triumph of Christianity. In Nietzsche's moral philosophy "moral values" and rules are simply interpretations of deep emotional and aesthetic sensibilities, not transcendent objects.

Behind this pedantic little point of mine lies a very important insight, however, that can throw a much deeper light into this historical juncture. The concept of ressentiment is not only very apt to describe the Muslim pathos, but also the Christian pathos of which you partake, Mr. Sullivan. It describes the entire geopolitical ethos we are living through. It asks the inquiring mind to search for the root forces, the root emotions, that constitute the fundamental conflicts that define our times.

Even more importantly, Mr. Sullivan, is that if you take the concept of ressentiment seriously, you also have to buy into the theoretical frame in which it is embedded. That theoretical frame is a theory about the nature of values and its roots in perception. That understanding of values, if properly understood and disseminated, would transform civilization as we know it. Nietzsche understood this, and he predicted the "overman" - the man who lives after historical man as we know it. Nietzsche developed a truly non-platonic (thus also non-Kantian) moral philosophy of revolutionary potential - potential for good. In gaining acceptance this perspective would ground values within our very natures, our bodies and sensibilities. Eventually this would diminish the appeal of moralities that rely on subjection to a heteronomous power.

I know you are a Christian, and you might cringe at the thought. No one is talking about coercion. I am talking about the obsolescence of god, not the outlawing of god.