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Apples From a Tree

"It is precisely in times of ‘laxness’ that tragedy runs through the houses and streets, that great love and great hatred are born and the flame of knowledge blazes up into the sky." —Nietzsche

In our age of great corruption, we do not despair.

We rejoice!

The most corrupt epochs are the best epochs for strong individuals.

As Nietzsche once wrote:

"Times of corruption are those in which the apples fall from the tree: I mean the individuals, the seed-bearers of the future, the spiritual colonizers and shapers of new states and communities. Corruption is just a rude word for the autumn of a people."

But many today are worried. Perhaps you are among them. People are saddened by the degeneration of Western institutions.

Nietzsche's insight is not obvious, so let's distill this potent aphorism on corruption, excerpted above, no. 23 from Book 1 of The Gay Science.

After all, do you not wish to shape new states?

Let us dry your tears, dear reader!


The times of greatest corruption are marked first of all by superstition.

"As soon as corruption sets in anywhere, a colorful superstition takes over, and the previous common faith of a people becomes pale and powerless against it: for supersitition is free-spiritedness of the second rank–whoever succumbs to it selects certain forms and formulas that appeal to him and allows himself some freedom of choice."

Digital media have fanned the flames of superstition more than Nietzsche ever could have anticipated. From astrology to "thermodynamic gods" to conspiracy theories (the name we give to enemy superstitions), it is easy to see that superstition is now everywhere.

Nietzsche's first critical insight, however, is that superstition is only a way-station, an intermediate stage between naive conformism and personal sovereignty. When it seems that everyone has lost their head, do not despair: they are rather beginning to find it.

After superstition takes over, people grow soft: slothful, unscrupulous, gluttonous, and worse. Yet even widespread ethical degeneracy is a positive development, for it is a proof of great passion and potential. The only problem is that it's temporarily misdirected:

"A society in which corruption spreads is accused of laxity; and it is obvious that the esteem of war and the pleasure in war diminish, while the comforts of life are now desired just as ardently as were warlike and athletic honors formerly. What is usually overlooked, however, is that the ancient civil energy and passion, which received a magnificent visibility through war and competitive games, has now transformed itself into countless private passions and has merely become less visible; indeed, in times of ‘corruption’ the power and force of a people’s expended energies are probably greater than ever, and the individual spends them on a lavish scale which he could not previously have afforded—when he was not yet rich enough! And thus it is precisely in times of ‘laxness’ that tragedy runs through the houses and streets, that great love and great hatred are born and the flame of knowledge blazes up into the sky."

Are you growing cheerful yet, dear reader?


Nietzsche reminds us that our present degeneracy—extreme as it is—requires only a vigorous redirection back toward that "ancient civil energy."

Although "war" is not what it used to be, we note that "competitive games" take on new meaning in our cybernetic age.

A blockchain is quite technically a redirection of selfish energy into a stable system of civil energy through competitive games. Anyone selfishly seeking value is invited to attack the system with all of the computational might they can muster; the system then pays them in proportion to their energy expended. But there's one catch...

The system is designed so that one only gets paid if one plugs into the true history of the system. In this way, collective value and consensus accrue through nothing but "countless private passions," thanks to a technological redirection.

Rejoice, dear reader!

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