Tag Archives: Friedrich Nietzsche

Sunday Terminology: Nihilism


Nihilism: The rejection of objective moral values and structures, literally “nothingism.” The nihilist is a skeptic about moral traditions and obligations and does not regard them as binding. A distinction should be made between the attitude of the reluctant or sorrowing nihilist, who finds nihilism terrifying but true, and the celebrative nihilist, who view nihilism as liberation from oppressive rules. Friedrich Nietzsche sometimes described nihilism as a fate that haunts Western culture. At other times, he seems more celebrative in his calls for the construction of a new morality. For those who believe morality requires a transcendent basis, Nietzsche is seen as a guide pointing beyond nihilism.[1]

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[1] C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 82.

Saturday Quote: Friedrich Nietzsche on Morality


“When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality… Christianity is a system, a consistently thought out and complete view of things. If one breaks out of it a fundamental idea, the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces: one has nothing of any consequence left in one’s hand… Christian morality is a command: its origin is transcendental… it possesses truth only if God is truth – it stands or falls with the belief in God.”

Reference:

Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, Expeditions of an Untimely Man, Section 5.

For more to read, click on Perspectivism.

Nietzsche’s Perspective: Rejection of All Objective Values


As the world is progressing in this millennium, the words of German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche – “God is dead” – are still echoing louder than ever before in the history of our time. This statement has been notably his widely known and esteemed remark on religions, especially organized and rational religion such as Christianity. His blatant pronouncement of the death of God necessarily does not reflect a literal sense of God as a living being once lived and died; however, he meant Christian God to be dead. When God is dead, all the universal ethical moral values of human life and the objective truth of the universe also follow suit which leaves a man to replace God to become a god himself.

In my paper, I am going to argue how the pronouncement of the death of God leads us to Nietzsche’s philosophical perspectivism. What many people have understood Nietzsche’s proclamation is not based on his philosophical investigation. Rather he was merely positing the cultural fact of his time. The assertion came out from the cultural perspective in the great wake of the decline of Western Civilization, so it “must be understood from the viewpoint of his own life and that of the culture at large”.[1] Nevertheless, the statement has an immense impact on the human mind and society and hence has already done enormous damage to the religious conviction of people. So, its influence and impact cannot be simply overlooked whatsoever.

In the meantime, the classical Greek culture and secularization were also dominantly saturating the entire horizon of European Christian society. They were going through a deep spiritual crisis.[2] The essence of the remark, however, has invoked the moral framework of the universe while “killing God”. In the metaphysical sense, the result of this remark cancels the normative description of absolute values and morality intrinsically which is transcendental and also governs the humankind. He challenges Christianity through his derogative observational statement, stating that Christian ideas are far from reality.[3] This marks the end of Metaphysics as the discipline of philosophy in the modern era.

If, as Nietzsche says that “God is dead,” the objective truth and essential values also cease to exist. For Nietzsche, man is liberated from normative constituents, including morality, of religion when God dies. In his words, “Life terminates where the “Kingdom of God” begins.”[4] God has to die if human life with any higher potential has to begin. “The drive for individuality and freedom motivates the “death of God.”[5] It seems that Nietzsche is making all these decisions based on his motivational instinct.

Accordingly, he summons people to believe in themselves as the most capable ones, who are brilliant, can do everything, achieve what they want, and what they do is always good.[6] The notion of humanism is evidentially present in this call. We have seen the consequences of humanism – “self-realization” – idea which sought to make Adam and Eve like God in the Garden of Eden. Fundamentally, they were playing gods and becoming masters of their own which ended up in a tragic story. Their rejection of the ethical-moral law and the lordship of God resulted in a fall that was followed by the murder of one of their sons.

When he is trying to get rid of Christian God explicitly and methodologically by invalidating the metaphysics, Nietzsche himself plays God. He envisions himself as a “madman,” and he clearly states his idea what we become after God’s funeral:

God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knives – who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it?[7]

What is he saying here? The statement is so powerful and the message is clear that we have to take place of God to fill the void after we kill him. We become a god; we deserve to be god, because we are capable of putting God to death, and we have proved that. He is not worth believing when we can kill him. With the death of God, he doggedly condemns the Christian perspective on absolute or objective truth. He urges his readers to see things differently and interpret them accordingly. Nietzsche on the Genealogy of Morals sheds light on his perspectivism:

There is only a seeing from a perspective, only a “knowing” from a perspective, and the more emotions we express over a thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we train on the same thing, the more complete will be our “idea” of that thing, our “objectivity.” But the elimination of the will altogether, the switching off of the emotions all and sundry, granted that we could do so, what! Would not that be called intellectual castration?[8]

He is arguing that our sense perception is the decisive factor to determine what the objectivity is. It denies the objective facts and maintains that no human can establish anything like objective truth or fact in itself. “For Nietzsche, there are no objective personalities and therefore no objective points of view, only subjective persons and person-relative points of view.”[9] Thus, objective or absolute metaphysics is far from real and beyond possible to provide knowledge of the things in itself.

Since Nietzsche’s perspectivism cannot define a thing from a universal perspective, it also rejects the establishing coherent objective values. Objective facts or truth, to Nietzsche, does not exist. “Everything is subjective … it is our needs that interpret the world; our instincts and their impulses for and against. Every instinct is a sort of thirst for power; each has its point of view, which it would fain impose upon all the other instincts as their norm.”[10] Definition of truth, according to Nietzsche, is merely a hypothesis that injects satisfaction.[11] Therefore, the truth becomes what we perceive in our everyday life and truth can be made for and by any individual, since there is no such thing as innate ideas. In the end, we hold on to diverse perspectives because we have only multiple interpretations of particular things. As time goes by, our perception also changes and they become more confusing and unstable.

The death of God reduces Christian understanding of objective truth and values and the universal moral law into plain natural law. We identify God as a Transcendent Moral Being. Contrarily, Nietzsche despises the Christian concept of God as the most corrupt concepts ever attained on earth where “nonentity is deified in God, and the will to nonentity is declared holy”.[12] Interestingly, God turns out to be a mere product of human fantasy. Thus, the elimination of the absolute universal moral law frees us from our moral responsibility. This leads us to nihilism.

The very definition of nihilism comes from the heart of his rejection of Christian faith by discrediting objective morality. According to Nietzsche, nihilism is a state of losing the values of the highest values.[13] In other words, nihilism is a state of nothingness. It is a rejection of all beliefs in all existing values.

Moreover, nihilism is a philosophy of despair. It begins with a denial of a metaphysical world and forbidding itself believing in the real world.[14] There is no meaning and purpose of human existence in this world. No truth claims and fixed values can be justified. Robert Solomon states that “nihilism is not only the collapse of traditional values, but it is also the demand for freedom from imposed values.”[15] The normative values have no meaning and purpose other than suppressing the human will. “We have not the smallest right to assume the existence of transcendental objects or things in themselves, which would be either divine or morality incarnate.”[16] Once any kind of transcendental object, values, or morality is eliminated from Christianity, we have barely any metaphysical vantage point for reference to claim the “truth” as objective and transcendental.

Now, Nietzsche’s intention of wanting to get rid of the transcendental ideas of God and morality is clear that unless he denies the objective of moral values, he cannot get into nihilism. He was by far a moral pluralist.[17] He maintains his consistency in his argument by embracing perspectivism. So, he realizes Christian morality stands starkly against his practical and theoretical nihilism; thus he argues that belief in morality dooms our existence.[18] To exist in the domain of his nihilism, one has to embrace this sort of nihilistic philosophy.

In his book, Twilight of Idols, we can see why he irks his venom against Christian God and his morality. He knows very well why he was striking moral ethics. His leading doctrine is this: there are no moral phenomena, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena. The origin of this interpretation itself lies beyond the pale of morality.[19] In other words, there is no absolute morality or facts but what one senses is only his perception of a particular thing and his interpretation that serves him better.

While he was doing so, he was also aware of a path that takes him to establish his version of morality by ditching the established universal moral laws, values, and ethics. “Christian morality is a command, its origin is transcendental. It is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it is true only on the condition that God is the truth – it stands or falls with the belief in God.”[20] We see how Nietzsche is purpose-driven to put God to death first and make men gods soon afterward.

After rejecting all notions of metaphysics, what remains with us now is only this world as truth and nothing beyond that. The consequence of the death of God brings a moral vacuum in humanity that cannot be filled apart from God himself. Human society without God that Nietzsche longed for will be chaotic since there is no one to tell you what is right and wrong. Only our inborn instincts define values of human life for us.

But he has his backdoor to get out of moral ethics, as other atheistic writers have done, by revaluing everything from his perspectivism and divide them into his two categorical moral components: master-morality and slave-morality. In his opinion, master-morality emerges from the noble type of men. They are the ruling class or caste who has influence and authority over people in society. They determine what “good” is and also establish values. The opposite idea of good is always harmful. They are judgmental and do not require any approval.[21] Therefore, they are the creator of values that govern human life and society. This also indicates that they are free from boundaries to determine what to impose and what not to impose rules or mores as values.

On the other hand, slave-morality represents the weaker and underprivileged society. “Slave-morality is essentially the morality of utility.” [22] They are downtrodden, beaten, abused, sufferers, persecuted, and weary who, as Nietzsche labeled them, have an “unfavorable eye for the virtues of the powerful.”[23] The slave-morality comes out of master-morality as a rebellion against the nobles when they have resentment against them. Nietzsche defines the slave-morality as:

The revolt of the salves in morals begins in the very principle of resentment becoming creative and giving birth to values – a resentment experienced by creatures who, deprived as they are of the proper outlet of action, are forced to find their compensation in an imaginary revenge.[24]

His understanding of Christian piety, love, forgiveness, salvation, life after death, God, etc. fall into this category. He has distorted the biblical teaching of humility, forgiveness, devotion to God as the signs of slave-morality.

And it is not an utter surprise as he employs life-instinct as the ultimate explanation for rejecting all values and morality. By and large, he was only signifying how morality and values are developed within the society and how they operate. They are cultural entities that are largely based on the given social context. Besides, his formulation of a principle affirms that life-instinct rules every moral in the naturalism, and any sort of antagonistic morality that is hostile to naturalism and against life-instinct must be condemned.[25] Anything against life-instinct is the enemy of naturalism.

That is why; he says that he never thought if he was a sinner. He writes, “I have no experience. I have never known what it is to feel sinful” because his inborn life-instinct never instilled a sense of depravity and fall in his mind.[26] In this manner, he succeeds to eliminate the concept of “original sin” from his philosophy. What matters most, for him, is action but not faith. His inborn instincts judge the action as per its demonstration, and so will it be determined morally right or wrong.

After considering all the arguments of Nietzsche, on my account, I do not see any new claims coming from him. The pronouncement of God’s death is nothing new concept. Long before he came to the scene, some other atheistic philosophers like David Strauss and Schopenhauer have made similar statements. Although they rejected the notion of God, they had borrowed Christian moral values, which they thought to be necessary if you make life meaningful. But Nietzsche is adamant in his reasoning because he believes that you lose all right to Christian morality instantly when you relinquish Christian faith.[27] He shows his consistency, in terms of not borrowing Christian moralities while rejecting God.

Assessing his position on perspectivism and nihilism, I think, he can get nowhere from his principle of master-slave morality. Every theme we discussed is interconnected with each other and proceeds, therefore. Without killing God, he cannot have the freedom to posit his philosophical perspectivism. This opens the gate for nihilism. And this is very true, when God is removed from the picture, you lose the right of operating yourself in the moral framework of God.

In the mathematical equation, his perspectivism might not have that much impact because the perceived object is not sensible. What if someone perceives Nietzsche as a strange creature in a human form after reading his abhorrent atheistic philosophical writing? Indeed, perspective is changed but objectivity is not. There is a problem with Nietzsche’s perspectivism. Therefore, his perspective on God changed in the course of his life but the fact is; that does not change the truth of and about God.

It is known that he neither believes human beings as image-bearer of God, nor the sinful nature of man. Mores of cultures, for him, is the doctrine of morality. Morality is subjective and every culture and society determines their morality. Also, the inborn instinct is the measuring stick to validate any human action as right or wrong. He commits a serious violation while implying his instinct as the moral-law determiner.

How does he decide whether killing innocent people in the Kwakiutl Indian tribe in the Pacific Northwest coast is morally permissible or not? Among Kwakiutls, it is culturally acceptable to kill another person to insult death. Once they killed seven men and two children asleep, “Then they felt good when they arrived at Sebaa in the evening.”[28] Nietzsche himself looking this particular case from his perspectivism and nihilism lens, how will he explain it from his inborn life-instinct?

Therefore, Bruce Ellis Benson carefully synthesizes Nietzsche’s perspective on the metaphysical understanding of God and Heidegger’s comment on Nietzsche:

Even though Nietzsche sees himself as finally having overcome the philosophical failing known as metaphysics, Heidegger argues that Nietzsche gives us yet another instance of metaphysics. In fact, on Heidegger’s read, Nietzsche’s metaphysics proves to be a particularly spectacular example of metaphysics, one that reduces everything to the basic category of will to power.[29]

Nietzsche’s perspectivism cannot explain why certain people maintain values of something that they have. He limits everything to the nothingness that cannot explain why anybody who did not even have a hint of his perspectivism and nihilism never intended to harm him. They do not harm others because they have a sense of right and wrongness in their hearts. When God is detached from the moral universal law, men are more prone to immorality. Making moral judgments is not like distinguishing red from white by using instinct. God has established his universal moral law.  Crossing this boundary has cost dearly throughout human history.

Work Cited

  1. Benson, Bruce Ellis. Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida & Marion on Modern Idolatry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002. Print.
  2. Naugle, David K. Worldview: the History of a Concept. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2002. Print.
  3. Nietzsche, Friedrich. A Nietzsche Compendium Beyond Good and Evil, on the Genealogy of Morals, Twilight of the Idols, the Antichrist, and Ecce Homo. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008. Print.
  4. Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Trans. Thomas Common. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008. Print.
  5. Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power. Trans. Anthony M. Ludovici. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006. Print.
  6. Pojman, Louis P., and Lewis Vaughn. Philosophy: the Quest for Truth. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
  7. Solomon, Robert C. Nietzsche: a Collection of Critical Essays. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1980. Print.
  8. Westphal, Merold. Suspicion and Faith: the Religious Uses of Modern Atheism. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1993. Print.
  9. Wicks, Robert. Nietzsche. Oxford: One-world Publications, 2007. Print.

[1] Bruce Ellis Benson, “God had to Die,” Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida and Marion on Modern Idolatry, (Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 70.

[2] Robert Wicks, “God’s Death,” Nietzsche (Oxford: Oneworld-Publications, 2007), 52.

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Antichrist,” A Nietzsche Compendium, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 39.

[4] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols: Morality as Enemy of Nature,” A Nietzsche Compendium, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 4.

[5] Ibid, 58.

[6] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science: Book IV, trans. Thomas Common (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 284.

[7] Friedrich Nietzsche, Gay Science, trans. Thomas Common (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 125.

[8] Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Genealogy of Morals: What is the Meaning of Ascetic Ideals?” A Nietzsche Compendium, trans. Horace B. Samuel (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 12.

[9] David K. Naugle, Wordview: The History of Concept (Grand Rapids: WB Eerdmans Publishing, 2002), 102.

[10] Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Principles of a New Valuation: Will to Power in Science,” Will to Power, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006), § 481.

[11] Ibid, § 537.

[12] Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Antichrist,” A Nietzsche Compendium, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 18.

[13] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Nihilism,” Will to Power, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006), § 2.

[14] Ibid, § 12A.

[15] Robert C. Solomon, “Nietzsche, Nihilism, and Morality,” Nietzsche: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Robert C. Solomon (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980), 202.

[16] Ibid, § 3.

[17] Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism, (Grand Rapids: WM. B Eerdmans, 1993), 232.

[18] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Nihilism,” Will to Power, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006), § 4, 6. He labels Morality as the great antidote to his philosophical ideas of nihilism. He presents the antinomy of morality as opposing to Christian view of Morality. He believes that once Christian morality comes to play in the scene, it condemns him. He will not be a free creature to do what he wants to do as his perspective on particular thing might contradict with Objective Morality.

[19] Ibid, § 258.

[20] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols: Skirmishes in a War with the Age,” A Nietzsche Compendium, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 5.

[21] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Beyond Good and Evil: What is Noble,” A Nietzsche Compendium, trans. Helen Zimmern (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 260. Here, he talks about the distinguished features of rulers, the noble caste rule and suppress the ruled class, the slaves and dependents.

[22] Ibid, § 260.

[23] Ibid, § 260. He

[24] Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Genealogy of Morals: Good and Evil, Good and Bad” A Nietzsche Compendium, trans. Horace B. Samuel (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 10.

[25] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols: Morality as the Enemy of Nature,” A Nietzsche Compendium, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 4.

[26] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Ecce Homo: Why I am So Clever,” A Nietzsche Compendium, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008), § 1.

[27] Twilight of Idol: Skirmish in a War with Age , § 5.

[28] Ruth Benedict. “Morality is Relative,” Ed. Louis P. Pojman, Lewis Vaughn. Philosophy: The Quest for Truth. 7th ed.(New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 446-51.

[29] Bruce Ellis Benson, “God had to Die,” Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida and Marion on Modern Idolatry, (Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 89.

Shaping Apologetics in a Skeptical Age


Zarathustra Shrugged – What Apologetics should Look Like in a Skeptical Age

Andy Crouch’s essay entitled “Zarathustra Shrugged: What Apologetics should look like in a skeptical age” is a section of his book, “Engaging Unbelief” was originally published in Christianity Today, September 3, 2001 (vol. 45, no.11), p. 101. This is my summarization and critique on his essay.

In the present day of secularism and humanism, Andy Crouch says in his essay, Zarathustra Shrugged that today’s skeptic young generation poses the challenging question to the postmodern era’s apologists. The author Crouch tells us how his friend ended his one-on-one conversation with the young skeptic without any fruition. Despite a hard-fought and well-presented intellectual argument, Crouch’s friend could not win the soul of young man. His skepticism remains firm as it was. His reaction toward the logical argument is the explicit example for shaping the apologetics in a skeptic age.

The main point of the essay is the reflection question of the present skeptical age that if Christianity is worth believing and how apologetics should look like. In his own words, Crouch says that “many people do not ask ‘Is Christianity true?’ but ‘Is it worth believing?’” In the past centuries, evangelicals made every effort to give the reason for the hope they have in Christ Jesus. Every reason of the evangelicals counter-attacked the modern atheist, Bertrand Russell who authored celebrated book ‘Why I am not Christian?’ The counterarguments from Christian apologetics of his time weakened the position of postmodernism and atheism. Continue reading Shaping Apologetics in a Skeptical Age