University of St Martin - Fall, 2006 - PHIL232

Wednesday, Sept. 20 - Nietzsche (2)

Midterm Essay
Monday, Sept. 4 - What is philosophy?
Wednesday, Sept. 6 - Aristotle (1)
Monday, Sept. 11 - Aristotle (2)
Wednesday, Sept. 13 - Aristotle (3)
Monday, Sept. 18 - Nietzsche (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 20 - Nietzsche (2)
Monday, Sept. 26 - Abortion (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 28 - Abortion (2)
Excursus 1: Historical overview
Excursus 2: Abortion in Judaism and Christianity
Excursus 3: Abortion in Islam
Excursus 4: Pro-choice argument
Monday, Oct. 2 - Suicide (1)
Wednesday, Oct 4 - Revision
Monday, Oct 16 - Suicide (2)
Wednesday, Oct 18 - Paradigm shifts
Monday, Oct 23 - Brave New World (1)
Wednesday, Oct 25 - Philosophical Anthropology (1)
Monday, Oct 30 - Sexual History of the USA
Wednesday, Nov 1 - Philosophical Anthropology (2)
Monday, Nov 6 - Race, death, tragedy, and bad faith
Wednesday, Nov 8 - Race, Biology, and Culture
Monday, Nov 13 - Racism and culture
Wednesday, Nov 15 - Existentialism
Monday, Nov 20 - Political Obligation, Moral Duty, and Punishment
Wednesday, Nov 22 - Kant and Moral Obligation
Monday, Nov 27 - War and Peace
Wednesday, Nov 29 - Non-Western Philosophies (1)
Monday, Dec 4 - Non-Western Philosophies (2)
Wednesday, Dec 6 - The End
Final Paper

4. Nietzsche’s metaphysics


For Nietzsche, the most fundamental mistake of the traditional Western metaphysics, starting with Socrates, is that it invented a “world of rationality” which devalued anything that has not been seen as “rational,” e.g. human passions. By playing down the concrete world around us—which is characterized by movement and change—, philosophers preferred to concentrate on what does not change, such as “the truth” or “human values.” The problem is, according to Nietzsche, that it is change that really exists and not all those eternal abstractions of the philosophers.

Most philosophers consider the world as cosmos (order), rather than as it really is, chaos. We are not surrounded by rationality and logic, but by life trying to perpetuate itself in any possible way. Nietzsche is against Platonism, what he sees as a degeneration since it favours abstract ideals rather than the concrete forms of life.

Our language predisposes us to see reality as being formed of subjects (substances) and predicates (qualities) often joined by the verb to be. For him, the influence of such grammar is linked to the belief in the idols, that is, in the Gods that are no Gods. The truth is, for Nietzsche, that God is dead: the old sun of certainty has vanished for good. We are decentred, with no references other than our own. While Greek philosophy focused on the logos or rationality of things, Nietzsche’s attention goes to the irrational, allegedly, because life itself is irrational or, better still, beyond reason.

What should we do? We humans should become superhumans or overhumans. According to Nietzsche, we must face the fact of our own existence and surmount all limitations, going beyond the old philosophies hostile to life.

The “Parable of the Madman” graphically reflects Nietzsche’s view that the old world of certainties has past.


Friedrich Nietzsche: Parable of the Madman

THE MADMAN----Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!"---As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?---Thus they yelled and laughed

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us---for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars---and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]



Essential concepts:

“Friedrich Nietzsche postulated the existence of "the will to power", which can be found in all types of human behavior and values, including sports.  It is man's basic motivational force characterized by self-control.  A man of power has the creativity to describe himself without letting others determine his being.  This is known as the "overman".  Examples of an overman in sport include Muhammed Ali and Wayne Gretsky - these people excelled and re-defined their sport.  The overman is not conceited but one who drives himself hard, sets difficult goals for himself, and demands more of himself than others.  As an athlete the overman plays to win for himself and not just to beat the opponent.  The overman as athlete is motivated by intrinsic qualities.  According to Nietzsche's theory, your values are presented in your actions; therefore how you play the game suggests what kind of person you are.  Nietzsche's philosophy can be compared to the values of sportsmanship in sports today.  The following web links provide an overview of Nietzsche and his philosophy.”




To think about       

"Any society that values creativity also needs to enable criticism. If we cannot question the way we are doing things and thinking about things at present, it will not occur to us that they could be thought of or done differently. (...) So philosophy is important partly because cultural criticism is so important."

CHRISTENSON, Tom (2001). Wonder and Critical Reflection. An invitation to Philosophy, p. 37. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.


This page was updated on Nov 21, 2006
at 10.00 PM St Martin Time (-4 UT)