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God Is Dead - Nietzsche

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By bbishop2656
Words 3019
Pages 13
Phil 1010 – 930a
Prof. Michele C. Evans
Final Exam Essay
Barry Bishop II

Nietzsche's assertion that 'God is dead' is not simply a theological statement. Nietzsche hasn't come up with the definitive argument to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that God could not possibly exist-except in the minds of men. This statement, although it certainly does have its theological aspect, is essentially a statement proclaiming the plight of modern Western culture. Succinctly stated, the 'Death of God' refers to the complete loss of belief in the accepted religious and metaphysical world-view along with the system of values it upholds, in particular its moral values. The 'Death of God' announces the advent of the age of nihilism, an age of cultural barrenness arising from this loss of belief, and which may well end in catastrophe as far as any truly human existence is concerned.
Yet, to Nietzsche, this demise of God, this loss of belief in all that we esteemed as the highest and most valuable, is simply the natural and logical outcome, within the history of Western culture, of the accepted religious and metaphysical world-view. It all begins with the original premise of the framework of Platonism, which, according to Nietzsche, became the ground of all subsequent metaphysical, religious, moral, historical and political views on man and his place in the universe. Broadly, that original Platonic or Socratic premise claimed that existence is bifurcated into two separate asymmetrical realms, one transitory, mundane and of the nature of an “appearance”, the other the eternally divine and “True Reality”. It was the latter, this “True Reality”, that gave life its meaning and value and man his orientation within it, as well as the capacity, through the intellect which is the pilot of the soul, to discern it. The former, the natural world, was, by contrast, valueless and without any inherent meaning except, perhaps, as a means of weakly reflecting that “True Reality” and reminding the philosopher of its presence. Within this two-world view, the only truly human life was one lived in pursuit of that eternal reality, was one whose goal was to gain knowledge of, to commune with and even enter, at death, that “True Reality”. Our 'true home' was in that other divine realm. Within this two-world framework, the highest human values, whether religious, moral, aesthetic or otherwise, those which give life meaning and value, had their source not in this natural world but in that other realm or being that transcends this natural world. In comparison with that eternal, transcendent realm or being, the source of all that is called “good”, this transitory and mundane world is valueless and meaningless, even evil. As a consequence of this two-world view, all passions, aspirations and goals whose objects and ends are in this natural world are also, by definition, valueless and meaningless-even evil. As such, they are to be resisted and conquered by the good man. In the West, this Platonic world-view provided the theological framework for Christianity. As Augustine tells us, “Christianity is Platonism for the people”. Plato's “True World” becomes Christianized as the “Kingdom of God”, which is now accessible to more than philosophers as one can enter it by faith alone. However, the object of faith can only be verified at death-what is called “eschatological verification”.
Then Socrates, speaking through Plato, is therefore seen by Nietzsche as “the one turning point and vortex of so-called world history”, because, in spite of the fact that Christianity claims that one can now enter the “Kingdom of God” through faith alone, it is this pursuit of knowledge that became the real task for every person of higher gifts down through the ages. As a result, it is this pursuit of knowledge that became the formative force in determining the way Western culture has evolved down to the present day. Yet, ironically, it is this very pursuit of knowledge and truth that is undermining this whole Platonic world-view, that is killing off' belief in God, and giving rise to the age of nihilism: the pursuit of Truth has led to the truth that there is no Truth; the pursuit of knowledge has finally led to the knowledge that there is no “True Reality” in the Platonic sense, no “Kingdom of God” or even a God without a kingdom. The “Death of God” means the death of a whole world-view, of a whole interpretation of existence and a whole set of values, moral and otherwise, that were inherent in that world-view.
All this comes about, because, realizing that the values we saw in the world were put there by ourselves-were our own creation-when we pull those values out again then the world looks valueless. One interpretation has collapsed, but because it was considered the interpretation it now seems as if there was no meaning at all in existence, as if everything were in vain. We are left feeling as if one had deceived oneself all too long and, as a consequence, feel a certain despair and hopelessness concerning the future. The world now looks valueless and meaningless. However, as it only looks valueless and meaningless because of this sense of loss, its true status is still as yet unknown to us. Consequently, for all we know, the world might be far more valuable than we used to think. Nietzsche thought it was and saw as his next task the creation a new world-view and set of values to replace the old ones, values that would take us through the on-coming stage of nihilism and out the other end. The “Death of God” simply puts the question as to the value of life and man's place in it back in our laps, which is where it belongs. The question as to the value and meaning of life is once again an open one. As Nietzsche puts it in the Gay Science:
“At long last the horizon appears free to us again, even if it should not be bright; at long last our ships may venture out again, venture out to face any danger; all the daring of the lover of knowledge is permitted again; the sea, our sea, lies open again; perhaps there has never yet been such an open sea.”
Individual human beings have an unknown potential, and that potential may yet reveal to us that our lives can become far more valuable, meaningful and satisfying than we ever imagined. Just because one false avenue has been shown to be a kind of evolutionary cul-de-sac, this doesn't mean that there are no more avenues, even though that is how it may seem. Nietzsche, of course, did venture out onto that open sea but, unfortunately, he did not travel very far. His proposed answer to nihilism, his projected revaluation of all values, was cut short by his death. Nevertheless, he did leave us with a few hints as to its general outline. However, at this point, before moving on to have a look at Nietzsche's general outline, I must say something about one fear Nietzsche had, and this was that many of his contemporaries, in their despair at having lost all that they had held in esteem, might actually turn to Buddhism as a means of seeking solace in the now nihilistic world.
To me all this leads to a certain irony. Here we have Nietzsche seeking for an answer to the on-coming nihilism, searching for some new spiritual quest to replace the old theistic one and, but did he realize it, it is only in Buddhism that he could have found fully worked out methods to achieve the kind of ends he was searching for. Buddhism, rather than being the nihilistic religion he thought it to be, is in fact something more akin to kind of the spiritual path he sought as an answer to nihilism. This is not to say that Nietzsche would have accepted Buddhism unconditionally, but as a method of spiritual development he would certainly have found much that would have helped him in his task.
As Buddhism is essentially a spiritual path addressed to the individual, its primary concern, as the sutras make clear, is to aid the individual in his or her spiritual quest. As such, it has nothing to say about the constitution of the natural world, except that it is, like everything else, governed by the law of pratiitya-samutpaada (conditioned co-production). In other words, whatever comes to be does so in dependence upon other conditions and is, therefore, characterized by impermanence and lack of any substantial, autonomous or unchanging essence or soul? The very same law applies to all phenomena, whether spiritual, psychological, biological or inorganic. As Buddhism has nothing to say about the scientific constitution of the natural world, except that it is also governed by the law of pratiitya-samutpaada, there is no point in trying to find any affinity between Nietzsche's notion of the natural world characterized as will to power and some Buddhist notion of the world. However, when we turn to man, one can see such an affinity. Nietzsche's general conception of man as “will to power” has an affinity with Buddhism's dynamic conception of man.
In Buddhism, the most basic trait in any unenlightened being is t.r.snaa or (thirst), a term found mainly in poetic literature. Although not clearly stated in the Buddhist texts, this 'thirst' can be understood as the affective ground out of which all unenlightened action springs, the ground out of which all our instincts, drives, passions, emotions, aspirations, etc.- what I will call, after Nietzsche, our affects - evolve. In the A'nguttara Nik1ya the Buddha is reported as saying that the first beginning of t.r.s.naa cannot be known , implying that thirst is no ordinary affect, but is rather, in the language Nietzsche uses to describe the “will to power”, the most primitive form of affect from which all other affects are only developments.
Understanding t.r.s.naa in this way, we can see an affinity between this Buddhist notion of thirst and Nietzsche's notion of man as “will to power”: both are characterized by a primitive and innate striving, a striving from what is perceived to be a less satisfactory to a more satisfactory state, from a less powerful to a more powerful state. The “will to power” in its crude and basic human form is concerned with conquering others, cruelty, tyranny, enmity, revenge, sex, crude selfishness, etc. However, it can be transformed into expressions of love, justice, gratitude, forgiveness, generosity, independence of spirit, etc., all of which Nietzsche considers as manifesting a greater quantum of power than the cruder aspects. Therefore, in Nietzsche's terms, and this is an important point for what follows even though it needs to be qualified, love, relative to hate, manifests more power; self-restraint rather than laissez-aller manifests more power. Traditionally, in Buddhism, thirst is practically always negative as it is seen as the subjective ground for the arising of mental states colored by greedy self-centeredness, aversion and animosity, and mental confusion with regard to what life can become. As such it is detrimental to one's spiritual development. However, one can look at it in a more neutral light through the lens of pratiitya-samutpaada. Putting what is a very detailed argument into a short formula, we can say that without t.r.s.naa there would be no beings; without beings there would be no Buddha’s. If we view t.r.s.naa in an evolutionary context, see it as the basic drive that gives rise to the desire to find security, happiness and fulfillment, we could say that what is wrong is not so much t.r.s.naa itself, but, as in Nietzsche's “will to power”, its crudeness and spiritual blindness: it seeks happiness and fulfillment in ways that are inextricably linked to pain and frustration, which, in turn, create such secondary affects as cruelty and violence, despair, etc. In this way one thereby ends up in an eventual self-frustrating loop, what in Buddhism is called sa.msaara (continual round) of unsatisfactory and unenlightened existence? We have moved from a glance at Nietzsche's notion of man as “will to power” as compared with the Buddhist notion of man governed by the most basic characteristic of thirst, from Nietzsche's notion of the sublimation of 'will to power' as 'self-overcoming' to the Buddhist notion of the sublimation or overcoming of t.r.s.naa, which is dharma-chanda.
In Buddhism, the “psycho-physical continuum” that we analyze, for pragmatic purposes, into what are called the five skandhas (five collections). What we call a person can be divided into five types of process. Firstly, there is ruupa (form), which is all that is other than our subjectivity, i.e., our bodily form. Then there are the other four groups which constitute our subjectivity: firstly, vedanaa (sensation or overall feeling tone), which is either pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent; secondly, sa.mjñaa (apperception), in the sense of the process by which our present experience is assimilated and formed on the basis of our past experience; thirdly, the sa.mskaaras (affective and volitional dispositions) both determined and determining; and, lastly, vijñaana (consciousness), which in this set-up simply lights up the rest, or makes the rest its object. But, as in Buddhism it is our past sa.mskaara-skandha, our past affective and determining dispositions as our past willing have determined what we now are. It’s our present action, our present willing, that will determine what our future being will be. As it follows that the methodologically cardinal skandha is our present sa.mskaara-skandha, in other words our present volitions, our present willing, our present actions. It is here, therefore, that we will find Hesiod's good and bad Eris-goddesses, it is here that we will stumble upon Nietzsche's garden and find the various weeds and flowers and dormant seeds; find what is to be nourished and cultivated and planted; find what is to be weeded out and thrown on the psychic rubbish-heap. The good Buddhist is, in Nietzsche's analogy, the good gardener. But this Buddhist gardener has a much better idea of what it is he or she is trying to achieve: they have the advice of previous gardeners who have gone before and who, according to the Buddhist tradition, have created the most beautiful gardens the world has ever seen by re-creating themselves in the light of a vision of what is it possible for a human being to become.
The first thing that the Buddhist has to do is to look at their various drives, passions and emotions-one could even say, 'look at their souls', using that term in a strictly poetic sense-and learn to discriminate between the weeds and the flowers. We then learn to tell the difference between what are traditionally called the ku'sala-karmans or (skillful-volitions or skillful-willing) and aku'sala-karmans (unskillful-volitions). Skillful-volitions are those which express those aspects of our nature that are worth cultivating and developing; unskillful-volitions are those which spring from aspects of our nature that, being a hindrance to our efforts to spiritually develop, are to be overcome and even rooted out. So how do we tell one from the other? The general guideline that Buddhism gives us is that any activity, whether of body, speech or mind, that is, to some degree, motivated by unconditional generosity, unconditional friendliness and mental clarity, is to be cultivated and developed as that is where one's spiritual future lies. And any action, whether of body, speech or mind, that is motivated by acquisitive greed, animosity and ill-will, or mental muddle and confusion, is deemed detrimental to one's development as a human being. In conclusion we can say that the Buddhist path can be regarded, in Nietzsche's terms, as a path of self-overcoming. It is a path on which one attempts to overcome one's relatively limited and restricted ways of being with their corresponding limited perspectives on life and the world, limited perspectives on the possibilities of human development. Generally speaking, we are restricted and limited by being all too often governed by mental states expressive of greedy acquisitiveness, ill-will and aversion, or simply lack of mental clarity. This being the case, Buddhism wholeheartedly agrees with Nietzsche when he says that the first primary schooling in spirituality for the spiritual aspirant is to become master over his wrath, his choler and revengefulness, and his lusts. But, unlike Nietzsche, Buddhism does give us various well-tried methods to help free us from these restricting and debilitating ways of being, methods such as the maitrii-bhaavanaa practice, which help us break down these barriers and release deeper levels of our humanity. It does seem slightly paradoxical that it is through developing such theory regarding affects such as maitrii, compassion' and delight in the well-being of others that we find our own lives more deeply satisfying and meaningful. However, on the other hand, Buddhism does have practices that are more self-regarding such as the mindfulness of breathing meditation practice and various visualization practices that help us break down emotional and mental barriers by going deeper into one's own mind, thereby releasing energy from deep within the psyche, energy that we did not know we had. At each stage on this Buddhist path, there is a corresponding perspective on the world-one begins to see differently-the cognitive and affective aspects of our being are inextricably interlinked. According to Buddhism, this process of enhanced seeing and willing can carry on, in a dialectical fashion, until there is such a radical shift in one's state of being, with a corresponding transformation in the way one sees, such that we can never be the same again-we can never again become what we were, we are completely free from any possibility of falling back into our old ways and habits, our old ways of being.

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...Nietzsche: His philosophy and “Beyond Good and Evil” And Marxists vs. Mill’s view of socialism 1- Describe Nietzsche’s basic philosophy and his “New Morality” as revealed in his “Gay Science”, “Twilight of the Idol’s” books. Then choose one of his writings in his book “Beyond Good and Evil” and describe the philosophy he attempts to reveal. Conclude with your opinion on his philosophy of religion and his view of the Cosmos. Born on October 15, 1844 in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German poet and philosopher, a classical philologist and a professor of Greek at the University of Basle. He was the author of many works that talked about religion, morality, culture, philosophy, science using a unique style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth. In his writings, Nietzsche called for revision of all values; he rejected organized religion attacking Christianity and other religious institutions as contributors to what he called “slave morality”. He was, also, equally critical of democratic institutions whose singular vision and courage, according to him, produce a “master morality” and he called the rule by mass mediocrity. Nietzsche also believed that European materialism have led to decadence and decline. He died on August 25, 1900. In his works, he voiced the sentiments of radical moralists. He was deeply critical of his own times and he called for a revision of all values. The......

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Chapter24 Notes

...people certainty -Changes peoples ideas (New Physics) -“Matter is made up of solid particles called atoms” -Discovered radion – radiation – Eurys -It came from within the atoms -Max Planck – understands the atom deeply -Heat causes energy -Its not steady, its given off in packets called quanta -Einstein – Thermodynamics – space and time are absolute – they are relative to the observer -The 1920s is called the “Heroic Age of Physics” -Towards a new understanding of the irrational -Nietzsche – believed that there was no cultural creativity -Because reason was so important people forgot about emotion, passion, and instincts -Humans were at the mercy of irrational forces -He was against Christianity “God is Dead” -There were superior intellectuals that could free themselves from the conforms of thinking and therefore lead – “Superman” -He was anti-democracy, social reform and universal suffrage Neutrality: -Soreell combines Burgson’s ideas and Nietzsche to create a revolutionary reform led by an elite ruling body -Sigmund Freud – psychoanalysis -Human behavior was influenced by unconsciousness of previous experiences, repressed, and will come out in later behavior Social Darwinism: -Because of the struggle with the environment we've made progress and that is why it is the survival of the fittest -Social Darwinism is the driving force of extreme nationalism and racism -The Volk is a people, nation, or force -"The......

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