In several of my articles I’ve talked about how our understanding of “good” and “evil” seems to be tied to Christianity. I am now going to explore the relation between our metaphysics and Christianity.
One of the philosophers that I’ve had the hardest time understanding is Nietzsche. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort reading Heidegger, Hegel, Plato, and other ancient philosophers, but eventually I came to some kind of understanding. It is only in the past few weeks though that I feel I’ve begun to understand Nietzsche.
In one of his most famous lines, Nietzsche has a madman declare that “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” (It has its own wiki, if you want to read the rest of the quote: link). When I first read this line, I took it at mostly face value. I thought that Nietzsche was declaring that in our pursuit of science and understanding the world that we’d driven out the space required to believe in god and just hadn’t realized it yet. I also feel fairly safe in saying that this is how I think much of the non-philosophical world understands the quote. However, in light of some recent conversations, I have begun to re-evaluate my understanding of the scope of Nietzsche’s attack.
Nietzsche is an advocate of a philosophical view called perspectivism. The core of perspectivism, as I understand it, is the idea that we all know the world from a certain point of view. Moreover, and this is where we get into the scope of Nietzsche’s attack, objectivity is impossible. This idea ran counter to most philosophical thinking up to Nietzsche. When Nietzsche declares that “god is dead”, he is not just declaring the death of god but also the death of objective metaphysics. Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Descartes, theologians, they had different philosophies but they all believed that there was a real world to have knowledge about, and that that we should strive to understand this objective reality. Nietzsche rejects the idea of a real world, of a single truth. He rejects what was the then-standard grounding of reason.
Reason and perception are tricky issues, because we have nothing to validate them with but themselves. Most metaphysics before Nietzsche assumed that reason and perceptions were of something. In a recent conversation one person put it like this “Nietzsche went out into the desert (looking at reason) and declared “there is nothing.”” It is interesting to compare Nietzsche to Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard’s philosophy, despite extolling the virtue of believing in god, has some remarkable similarities to Nietzsche. Kierkegaard went into the same desert as Nietzsche by recognizing the unfounded nature of our beliefs. Kierkegaard then basically declares that God exists because otherwise life is not worth living. He is not, however, making this claim in any rational kind of way, he is not appealing to a universal truth. His claim is actually extremely Nietzschian, he believes in god because that is what makes his life better (will to power).
Nietzsche was not an existentialist, but he was one of the most important philosophers for informing existentialist thinking. Nietzsche killed God, the existentialists figured out what do in a post-god world.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, oppositions, or praise, please leave a comment.