Statesboro, GA, USA
Littlewing: "Brad and J - eternal recurrance - that sounds like Karma to me?"
Not exactly, though there are some similarities. The concept of Karma at least has a supposed direction ... enlightenment. The more bad karma is worked off, the closer one gets to Nirvana and release from Samsara (the condition of being born and reborn, and having differentiated existence as an individual). However when you learn what Buddhism really teaches about Nirvana, it turns out to be dissolution and nonentity. I personally have a hard time reconciling the idea of "good" and "bad" Karma with a destiny that denies the very concept, and does not provide any standard of judgement. So it seems "direction" is only apparant, not actual, in the doctrine of Karma. In that sense, it is very similar to Nietzsche's idea of eternal recurrence.
Where is his idea different than Karma? I think his thoughts were based upon a strict naturalism where it is reasoned that since time is infinite, and matter and space are finite, the exact same configurations are bound to reoccur. He took this abstract thought to say that History would inevitably repeat itself ... and it seems from the quote of his provided by Brad that he really believed that it would replay itself to the "T". But wouldn't all the slightly different and vastly different histories have to play out as well?
Jim said of Nietzsche's view that, "We are personally responsible for our actions and therefore, should strive to better ourselves, to rise above our circumstances, and to recognize that our present actions are of consequence. Otherwise, we will be doomed to repeat our mediocrity and, worse, failures of previous lives without end"
But if his recurrence is based upon a fatalistic naturalism, how can "betterment" be achieved? He seems to suggest that we are doomed to repeat our lives, whether mediocre or exceptional. If one's mode of life is caused only by unavoidable configurations of matter bound to appear along the infinite stretch of time, then how is "will" or "choice" explained? This seems to me to be no small dilemma for Nietzsche's thought, since his "Will to Power" and "New Morality" ideas are both based upon choice and autonomy. Quite a dialectical tension to overcome.
Another difficulty here is one of meaning. How can Nietzsche speak of two opposite emotional reactions to discovering that the universe is after the nature of eternal recurrence (closed and cyclical)? And upon what basis should one despair, or rejoice? It seems to me that the only solution for Nietzsche was a complete arbitrariness. "There are no universal values, therefore I will invent my own", is what he ended up saying. The hourglass turning over and over was fine for Nietzsche as long as he could think of himself as one of the grains that always ends up on the top of the mass of sand. I think this must be why he saw the "Old morality" as a weak and pitiful slave mentality. Unfortunately this "Old" moral code is what most still generally hold as admirable and good ... things like self-sacrifice, kindess, love, generosity, and benevolence.
Consider what he wrote in "The Gay Science, section 325":
"Who can attain to anything great if he does not feel in himself the force and will to inflict great pain? The ability to suffer is a small matter: in that line, weak women and even slaves often attain masterliness. But not to perish from internal distress and doubt when one inflicts great suffering and hears the cry of it-that is great, that belongs to greatness."
Didn't someone say above that when they first read Nietzsche that they were appalled? I think this reaction is a good indication that you have retained what it means to be human. How frightening it would be for the strong and powerful to take this seriously (actually it would be also a frightening scenario for "plain" people to take this seriously)... and from history, regrettably, it is evident that many have.
Local Parasite: "I like the irony of reading Nietzsche "religiously." Think he'd go for that?"
True. He bashed religious ideas without mercy. And yet, don't his own solutions for the dilemmas of life have religious overtones? He ditches the idea of Eternal life, but embraces "Eternal recurrence" in an attempt to fill the void. He rejects the worship of a God who imposes and defines moral absolutes and values, but ends up urging the Superman morality. He even wrote when God "dies", we end up having to be gods ourselves. To summarize the main thrust of Nietzschian philosophy ... Worship oneself, and do it lustfully and vigorously.
Littlewing: "umm . . . I would toss myself to the ground and curse and moan"
umm . . . Me too. I hope I've explained why.
To end, giving credit where credit is due, I'll say that Nietzsche was indeed brilliant. He was a brilliant writer and thinker. He was richly gifted by the God he pronounced dead under his own pen. But overall, his philosophy is wanting, and his morality is reprehensible. Most people, I feel, are attracted to his great charisma. And sometimes the art of delivery can make us indiscriminate of what was delivered.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (07-16-2003 03:54 AM).]