Nietzsche, Life, and Nihilism

This will be a far shorter reflection, or exposition, than is usually the case for me here.  However, I want to address one of the paradoxical problems when examining the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.  Nietzsche, as most know, was a famous philosopher for his awkward humanism and relational ties to Nazism (wrongly appropriate but not without understanding).

The core of Nietzsche’s philosophy is self-overcoming.  But the relationship of Nietzsche to the philosophy of life and nihilism are equally perplexing for many.  That is, for a philosopher who gave a radical affirmation to life and confronted nihilism head on, why was it that his own philosophy ended up exuding nihilism in so many respects?

The answer to this is I think obvious.  The metaphysical beginning for Nietzsche, his axiom, is not an affirmation but an affirmation of conflictual struggle.  Thus, struggle is at the foundation of Nietzsche.  Life is something off in the distance.  It is the struggle for life.  But in the struggle for life there is a radical denial of life—because life is situated at the teleological end that is, by the logic of self-overcoming, never to be ascertained and embodied.  For, as Nietzsche notes, to become content with any embodiment or encounter is to cease self-overcoming.  That is, to cease the struggle.

To embody and affirm life is to cease the struggle for life.  As such, Nietzsche’s rejection of nihilism and affirmation of humanism exhausts itself, ironically, in nihilism and the destruction of humanism.  This best seen in the cyclical reality of Nietzsche’s metaphysical thought.  Self-overcoming is a constant cyclical struggle.  As the origins of reality lay in struggle, and all life cycles back to struggle—as the real Übermensch is the man who is constantly engaged in struggle—there is no teleological arrival, affirmation, of life in the sense of the appreciation of life as in the Christian tradition.  Instead, man is locked in a perpetual struggle for life which is to say man never has, or embodies, life as it is something that man is striving to reach but never reaches.

Given this reality it is understandable how Nietzsche’s philosophy of self-overcoming, this self-overcoming of nihilism, just ends up in nihilism.  For struggle is dialectically tied to nihilism.  The struggle for life is the confrontation with nihilism.  Nietzsche, in this sense, is a unitive dualist or dialectician.  The metaphysic of self-overcoming only is possible with a dialectical opposite to overcome.  The very definition of overcoming leads us to ask the question: Overcome what?  The answer is nihilism.  Nihilism, then, not life, also stands at the center of Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Nietzsche, who influenced Heidegger, thought that the only meaningful existence could be found in the “courageous” confrontation with nihilism.  Man cannot show compassion because that is a sign of weakness that threatens to upend self-overcoming.  Man cannot appreciate beauty because that is a sign of weakness that threatens to upend self-overcoming.  Man cannot accept the salvific Son of God—per Christianity—because this means that the struggle against sin, which is the struggle against death (nihilism), is ended and ends self-overcoming.  So on and so forth.  Nietzsche’s radical affirmation of life is, paradoxically, a rejection of life because his axiomatic foundation has no room for life.  Life is illusive, something that we cannot attain.  We can never attain more life just like we can never attain more being.  We are what we are.  Since we are not life, but struggle, we return to the metaphysic of struggle—self-overcoming—as the axiom of our existence.

5 thoughts on “Nietzsche, Life, and Nihilism

  1. I feel like you Nailed it and yet somehow missed it. 😄

    one of the problems that I see everywhere is the insistence that everyone be included in the possibility of thought, as I say, the common humanity.

    So I think the issue that I notice in many places is exactly where, and your small posterior, you transfer from the Nietzsche “I” , his thoughts the analysis of the contradiction involved in his life affirming philosophy which never reaches life itself, to the “we”.

    I don’t think there is the “we”. I think the idea that he is a philosopher and that perhaps he thinks he is talking about the common humanity is valid. But once you remove him from the category of philosopher and you actually place him in the humanity that is indeed common, then it’s really easy to understand that he is really not talking about a common humanity but he is actually talking about a particular psychology.

    I find it difficult to believe that his philosophy is including your exit stencil position, you Hesiod, The actual way that you go about your life in the world. Personally I think that, as you have I think told me yourself, you think upon authors and their ideas. This particular way of yourself I think is not the way that N was coming up on things. And in fact I think his psychology is so particular that it manifests only in certain human beings. But, this does not mean that every human being cannot draw creative interpretations of what he saying, but it does I think say that what he’s talking about is not about “us”.

    And I think that’s where a lot of philosophy goes wrong in the approach for example that you take -and I don’t mean this as an insult. But I do mean it in the sense of being able to discern the truth of the situation as opposed to the ability to create definitel but I do mean in the sense of being able to discern the truth of a situation as opposed to the ability to Creatively develop meaning.

    I think there is a difference that should be put into a disclaimer with inanti-philosophical proposal. .

    It’s like reading nonfiction and then reading fiction’s that are based upon nonfiction. . it’s like the difference between reading, I don’t know I’m gonna show my age now, Books by David Grissom and then the actual situations that he drew his inspiration from .

    Personally I don’t really like the trend of philosophy of the past 50 6070 years that says because we can be creative about how we think then it must necessarily have to do with reality.

    This doesn’t mean that we can’t be creative with things, but I think if we are going to be responsible and philosophy and that people need to start to be able to discern the truth of things.

    Because if we start to do that then we will have a better grasp on what is actually occurring within this human paradigm that we sow loosely in general he call philosophy, even as we segregate and ostracize certain discourse is that call themselves philosophy as to be not included in “this particular kind“ of philosophy that to the Academy recognizes for some reason that we don’t know why. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, your memory serves you correctly. Most of the stuff here is less “practical” and more “educational.” How to understand and how to know why we got where we did with certain thinkers and their thoughts. Guilty Hegelian I am I guess! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But I think we can go far if we recognize that Nietzsche was reflecting indeed a certain type of view, a certain type of experience that does not necessarily translate into everyone’s experience.

        I think one of the problems that philosophy has gone it self into in certain areas, so far is we can generalize and say oh we live in a nihilistic society or something like that, Is because the assumption was that Nietzsche was indeed talking about everyone and so everyone, —by extension, which is to say through the 20th century for example if we can generalize into say that there was this running narrative, so to speak— began the process of identifying with Nietzsche or the idea that he indeed was saying something about “all of existence” or “all of humanity”. I think he was saying something about all of humanity in a particular cents, say for example like I can talk about computer science. I am not a computer scientist so no matter what a computer scientist says about the nature of programming computers it says something about me also but I don’t know what the hell was talking about. Of course I can extrapolate and come to all sorts of analogies how I might apply it to my life in creative thinking like that…

        But it doesn’t mean that I’m talking about computer science or computer scientists and how they perceive the world. Hi say the same with philosophy: Lake philosophers should qualify themselves as to what they’re talking about. How their philosophical take on whatever issue is been qualified within this larger sense — that I’m trying to indicate here — me as in this comment thread here. Lol.

        I think we did do a disservice to philosophy and tea humanity in general when we speak of just this common category of philosophy that everyone is involved with whatever way they decide they want to be involved with it. I think that approach is what leads to nihilism because then we have just a bunch of people screaming out into the nothingness.

        But when we recognize hey, there is a difference that doesn’t have to say anything about me, that I don’t have to take personally, for example that computer scientist can have all the knowledge of computer science he wants to and it doesn’t offend me one single bit but it does actually contribute to my life in my experience

        it seems to me that we bring up the word philosophy and all the sudden everyone Hass to have access to everything everyone else says. It’s as if no one can say philosophy and then exclude themselves in one particular kind of philosophy without offending everyone else who considers themselves a philosopher.

        Does that make sense to you? Honestly I don’t really know if I’m making sense? Lol


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