Dostoevsky VS Nietzsche | Underground Man and Ressentiment | Psychology // Philosophy

It is reported that Nietzsche did read some of Dostoyevsky’s books, what is believed to be of certainty is that he read Crime & Punishment and Notes from Underground in the later periods of his life, with this being of knowledge is it possible that we can associate the philosophical works of Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche together? That they both wrote about very similar psychological ideas and concepts, well, yes, and this can be seen in nietzschean concepts of ressentiment from the genealogy of morality and the primary recluse individual within dostevsky’s book being: the underground man

So hi! My name is Spencer & welcome back to thoughts on thinking. Let’s outline Nietzsche core concept of Ressentiment from his book The Genealogy of Morality and then we can make the associations from there.

So resentment is a feeling, an emotion response of spite which acts as a cause of frustration for someone, it may be out of jealousy or a feeling which culminates out of an inferiority complex so that the individual can feel superior about themselves when compared to others, this is no different than the ego being hurt, it creates this fake inferiority which it then can condoan as pathetic, minimal and weak, when really, instead of internalising and acknowledging such personal discrepancies the ego projects it onto someone else by seeing it through their actions and personality, a scapegoat if you will that can be blamed, not themselves, because a ressentiful, spiteful person does not want to hurt their ego but only protect it from reality.

So, what does Nietzsche when trying to understand the morality of the herd in relation to ressentiment say, he writes in the genealogy of morality the following:

“The beginning of the slaves’ revolt in morality occurs when ressentiment itself turns creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of those beings who, denied the proper response of action, compensate for it only with imaginary revenge. Whereas all noble morality grows out of a triumphant saying ‘yes’ to itself, slave morality says ‘no’ on principle to everything that is ‘outside’, ‘other’, ‘non-self ’: and this ‘no’ is its creative deed. This reversal of the evaluating glance – this essential orientation to the outside instead of back onto itself – is a feature of ressentiment: in order to come about, slave morality first has to have an opposing, external world, it needs, physiologically speaking, external stimuli in order to act at all, – its action is basically a reaction.”

What Nietzsche is saying here is that ressentiment is a form of imaginary revenge for the slave, why? Because ressentiment as I have said is only carried out by creating an imaginary enemy, external from the personal ego itself, away from that which needs to be evaluated and rectified, because as nietzsche says: all noble, true morality grows out from a triumphant yes to itself, a yes that I say and you say, whereby I say yes to analysing myself, my actions and deficiencies, not to create an imaginary revenge on an imaginary enemy but to revenge oneslef by correcting myself internally and externally. Very much the reason why Jordan Peterson is so popular for one of his many motivational quotes where he says: “lets you deficiencies burn of like dead wood”

Nietzsche gives a theoretical example of ressentiment in a predator vs prey format, he brings up the problem of what is to be seen to as morally “good” in the eyes of the slave, he writes the following:

“The problem with the other origin of the “good,” of the good man, as the person of ressentiment has thought it out for himself, demands some conclusion. It is not surprising that the lambs should bear a grudge against the great birds of prey, but that is no reason for blaming the great birds of prey for taking the little lambs. And when the lambs say among themselves, “These birds of prey are evil, and he who least resembles a bird of prey, who is rather its opposite, a lamb,—should he not be good?” then there is nothing to carp with in this ideal’s establishment, though the birds of prey may regard it a little mockingly, and maybe say to themselves, “We bear no grudge against them, these good lambs, we even love them: nothing is tastier than a tender lamb.”

“It is just as absurd to ask strength not to express itself as strength, not to be a desire to overthrow, crush, become master, to be a thirst for enemies, resistance and triumphs, as it is to ask weakness to express itself as strength.”

So here I see him referring to action, again, to be true; to say yes to oneself is for the lambs to maybe try and rectify the problem but instead they use the actions of the birds of prey (in this example) as an excuse to grant them as evil and immoral and that anything that doesn’t resemble the actions of the lamb is good, like a lamb the resentment in this example is in the fact that the lambs DON’T take action to take care of their own because they know that they are themselves inferior, but what is done is that they use the fact of the matter and the resentment that they hold towards the great birds of prey to perpetuate their view of morality, their morality of inferiority of what is good and bad, thus what is morally good for the lambs is kindness, empathy, generosity and being humble which opposes the morality of what is good for the birds of prey, therefore, the slave morality of the lamb is wrong because, as nietzsches says: “to ask strength not to express itself as strength” it makes no sense, let’s all act weak for the sake of the other who also is and wants to be weak and see how far we get, this brings about creative ressentiment.

Know how does this relate to dostevesky, the underground man in particular, well it is very obvious from the get go, to be precise that in the first paragraph of notes from underground that the underground man is nietzsche’s man of ressentiment.

As I quote:

“I’m a sick man… I’m a spiteful man. I’m an unattractive man. I think there’s something wrong with my liver. But I understand damn all about my illness and I can’t say for certain which part of me is affected. I’m not receiving treatment for it and never have, although I do respect medicine and doctors. What more, I’m still extremely superstitious – well, sufficiently to respect medicine. Oh no, i’m refusing treatment out of spite. That’s something you probably can’t bring yourselves to understand.”

So straight from the first lines of the book we can see he calls himself a man of spite, how he doesn’t want to find or search for any treatment to improve his life, he says he has respect for doctors and medicine but then contradicts himself by saying he is suspicious to ever respect medicine and that he refuses medicine out of spite! This is all because he himself is ressentiful in the fact the medicine heals but he cannot in the slightest heal himself, his own pathological nihilism, his slave morality. Then, what really makes this all the more obvious is how he says I quote: “that’s something you probably can’t bring yourselves to understand” we as readers, can’t understand his bitterness, his spite and resentment, why? Simply because he is living in a world where he is against all others, this relates to Nietzsche’s concept of ressentiment because the underground man replaces true action with imaginary revenge, revenge against all others in the world, the underground man only performs action which blames others, condemns them, everyone is an imaginary enemy because of his ressentiment for them, everyone is insignificant in being able to understand the underground man’s self made turmoil.

This is further explained in the underground man’s conception of being more intelligent than everybody else, he thinks he is more intelligent than everyone else because he participates in what he calls: “conscious inertia” but at the same time he paradoxically refers to himself as a mouse, an insect, this is because he knows he is insignificant which is the result of believing to be more superior than everyone else because he views that doing anything is pointless his belief of being beyond everyone else automatically puts him in the underground away from any kind of social discourse or interaction, he is constantly faced by contradiction everywhere the underground man goes, his own pathos is fueled by his resentment and continuous spite towards the world.

“The hapless mouse has this time managed to accumulate so much additional nastiness in the form of questions and doubts; it has piled up so many other unresolved questions in addition to the original problem that it has involuntarily surrounded itself with a lethal brew, a stinking bog consisting of doubts and emotions, and finally of the spittle showered on it by all the spontaneous men of action solemnly gathered around in the guise of judges and dictators who are laughing their heads off at him.”

“All that remains of him to dois wave his little paw dismissively and creep ignominiously back into his little hole with a smile of simulated contempt in which he doesn’t even believe himself”

Nietzsche writes:

“The ‘well-born’ felt they were ‘the happy’; they did not need first of all to construct their happiness artificially by looking at their enemies, or in some cases by talking themselves into it, lying themselves into it… and also, as complete men bursting with strength and therefore necessarily active, they knew they must not separate happiness from action, – being active is by necessity counted as part of happiness… all very much the opposite of ‘happiness’ at the level of the powerless, the oppressed, and those rankled with poisonous and hostile feelings, for whom it manifests itself as essentially a narcotic, an anaesthetic, rest, peace, ‘sabbath’, relaxation of the mind and stretching of the limbs, in short as something passive. While the noble man is confident and frank with himself, the man of ressentiment is neither upright nor naïve, nor honest and straight with himself. His soul squints; his mind loves dark corners, secret paths and back-doors, everything secretive appeals to him as being his world, his security, his comfort; he knows all about keeping quiet, not forgetting, waiting, temporarily humbling and abasing himself.”

Now what Nietzsche says here about the ressentiment man is identical to the underground man illustrated by Dostoyevsky, the fact that I quote the underground man only concludes his life with “Soup bubbles and inertia” shows how passive this man is, sitting in his bath stretching out his limbs as Nietzsche how he finds his happiness in the opposite oh how the noble man finds his happiness through action, drenching himself into mere nothingness, again, with relation to happiness the underground man truly makes his happiness by looking at his enemies or what he calls “men of action” as stupid, this gives him happiness ridiculing the active individual, the nobleman or that which Nietzsche regards as those who hold master morality.

Now with this short overview of some sections from notes from underground and Nietzsches gemology of morality we can see how Dostoevsky writes wonderfully the dreaded world  which an underground man of slave morality and ressentiment lives in while Nietzsche very much provided the thorough analysis of what the psychological blueprint is for a person who lives in such a condition. 

I personally only just started reading notes from underground a week ago and it is probably one of my favourite books, Dostoevsky I think writes beautifully even when describing the most negative conditions of consciousness, the way he uses words and the methods in which he uses to put across philosophical topics on Justice, Egoism, Action, Free Will from the perspective of the underground man is done wonderfully. So I will probably do some more videos on this book, I could make ten minute videos on single paragraphs that’s how dense and deep it is so yeah, expect some more videos surrounding different concepts from this book.

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