The issue of introversion in Nietzsche and in society deserves separate and focused attention. Introverts, in spite of their unique contributions that they are uniquely equipped to make, are among the invisible minorities that it is often still okay to discriminate against in work environments and social settings. Categorized as unpopular, nerdy, book-worms, and other stereotypes and generalizations, introverts frequently go on to earn a higher wage and to exhibit greater levels of ingenuity, innovation, creativity, discipline, and intelligence than the general population. But in recent years, many proud introverts have begun to become advocates and change the perception of this most unnoticed of minorities.
Nietzsche was an early champion of introverts, seeing introversion as an opportunity to excel and as a trait of a certain kind of higher man: the introvert, mythically imagined as a hermit living in a cave, has the potential to become the archetypal sage. Silent, unwilling to waste words, yet rich inside. Noble. Meticulous in his observations. Rigorous in his interpretation. He lives and moves in a habitat that favors philosophy. No wonder Nietzsche–ever the contrarian–favors the introvert and laments his societal devaluation!
But in idealizing the hermit, N raises many questions. How much solitude is good? How much is healthy? This is a question that was raised recently in the Epicurean Philosophy facegroup discussion group, and generated great interest. In the portion on community (Point 5) of the Six Things I Learned after writing my book, I discuss how the Epicureans solve this question by using empirical data on human nature to produce a unique doctrine of philosophical friendship.
In WtP 886, N argues that the solitary and the gregarious must be judged separately, by different moral standards. His defense of the introvert is also a defense of individualism, and of the individual against the collective: he notes that social mores that are based on the herd instinct oftentimes coincide with the objectification of others for the sake of the ideals of the collective.
Along the lines of this, autistic individuals have also in recent years begun to take pride in and conscience of their difference. Dr. Temple Grandin, who has a biographical movie based on her life story, delivered a deeply insightful TED speech titled The World Needs All Kinds of Minds, where she argued that the education system must tend to people with different kinds of brains in order to maximize the unique gifts that these individuals have for society. Some autistic persons have such keen ability to memorize details, to solve math problems, or to sense the world differently from other humans, that they are gold mines in terms of unique accomplishments in certain fields of inquiry. But in order to flourish as themselves, they require a customized educational curriculum from an early age.
Typically, diversity is not framed as neurodiversity, but considering how many geniuses have been diagnosed or suspected autistic throughout history, perhaps rather than the sometimes unfortunate moral and cultural relativism that the diversity discourse has fallen into, it should be reclaimed in favor of forms of diversity that help the progress of human thought and human society.
Nietzsche was very aware of the contradictions and tensions in the human soul. In WtP 778, he argued that passions can create dis-integration and inner conflict unless one passion is master, or unless a few of them are juxtaposed in peace; and that it is healthy, normal and strong to restrain our competing impulses, whereas fear of the senses and passions implies weakness. In these ruminations we note another benefit of introversion: it clears the way for philosophical and therapeutic hygiene, and safeguards a healthy mind.