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Philosophers answer the big question how should we live? – The Sun Herald

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Two books on philosophy give both a theoretical and practical view of where philosophy has taken us, and the direction in which it is leading us today.

The first is A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living, by French philosopher Luc Ferry, Ph.D.

Philosophy, Ferry argues, should be what Epicurus termed it, medicine for the soul.

Its theoretical tasks, he maintains, are to help us gain a sense of the world we are in and to gain instruments for understanding it.

Its practical tasks are to teach us the ethics of living with others and to bring us salvation, or at least wisdom, in preparation for the demise that awaits us all.

All philosophy lies in two words: sustain and abstain, said the ancient philosopher Epictetus.

Ferry traces the paths down which several key philosophers have led us toward finding wisdom and salvation. He first notes how Stoics such as Zeno, Epictetus, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius suggested that we become at peace with the living cosmos and accept everything that happens with serenity; that we limit our attachments to people and things and live ethically, so that death and separation lose their sting.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Jesuss offer of eternal life upon our agreement to give love a chance wrested philosophical supremacy from the Stoics, who offered only a serene end to our existence. But the age of reason, enlightenment and humanism, ushered in by Descartes and Rousseau, declared that man is distinct from nature in that he can change, and that unlike the animals, his existence precedes his essence. Man was then free to set his own destiny based upon reason, not faith. The individual became an end in himself, in search of his own ethical philosophy unbridled by the philosophies and religions of the past.

This, Ferry observes, led to creating godless doctrines of salvation, i.e, Rousseaus French Revolution, the scientific revolution, Democracy, Marxs Socialism and Lenins Communist revolution.

Socrates was the buffoon who got himself heard, said Friedrich Nietzsche.

Ushering in post-modernity with his phrase God is dead, Nietzsche bemoaned the fact that the humanists had simply replaced God with false idols of their own republicanism, Communism and scientific rationalism, just as the Stoics falsely ascribed order to a chaotic universe. Previous philosophers were all reactive, Nietzsche declared, tearing down other philosophies only to erect more absurd constructs in their place, leaving humanity no signposts for the future. Nietzsche posited the true creative genius with his active vital forces the artist, or the creative leader of nations, living their lives intensely as the only ones with a chance to lead us out of the darkness.

His will to power, Ferry explains, was not a will to conquer, but to enjoy a maximum intensity of life, dispensing with guilt, and every morality based on religions and political philosophies that were no longer relevant. His theory of Eternal Recurrence simply meant the virtue of living ones life as if one had to repeat every moment again and again throughout eternity; the virtue of making each moment count.

Then came Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, Ferry notes, leaving a weary humanity enraptured with sciences brainchild- technology.

Todays philosophy, Ferry urges, must retake its place beside technology, and drag itself out of speculative academia, not to restore old questions, but to rethink them afresh, to give humanity more than mere technology offers. To offer them true wisdom to use their technology, and if at all possible, salvation from both the fear of death and a life bereft of ultimate meaning.

Author and history professor Arthur Herman yields another unique perspective on philosophy with his The Cave and the Light: Plato versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization.

His premise: that the Western world has gravitated back and forth between the teachings of Plato and Aristotle in deciding how life should best be lived. And he supports that theory with a wildly interesting approach.

For Plato, knowledge is the prerequisite of virtue, and grasping a standard of perfection, i.e., God, the Good, etc., through the dialectic approach, is how we transform ourselves into virtuous and happy people. Aristotle, the lisping doctors son and father of the scientific method, saw things differently. He trusted the evidence of the senses, not transcendental theories. He placed his faith not in Platos God, moral absolutism, or other abstractions, but in science, ethics and rational politics.

Ancient world scientists such as Strato, Galen, Ptolemy and Archimedes appeared to be taking the world in an Aristotlean direction, but the great Roman stoics, Cicero, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius headed things back on a Platonic course.

All of this was prelude for what would follow throughout Western history.

Jesus Christs arrival, and the subsequent melding of Greco-Roman philosophy with Christianity by Augustine, led to 500 more years of Platonic supremacy in the Western mind.

This changed, Herman notes, at the end of the Dark Ages when those like Abelard (b. 1079) began rediscovering Aristotle logic from Arabic texts. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) attempted a synthesis of the two, arguing that faith and reason supported each other in their joint search for truth.

But the Western world would have none of that, and when the Renaissance (c. 1300) arrived, it grasped tightly to Aristotles reason and didnt let go until the High Renaissance of Michelangelo (b. 1475) Galileo and Leonardo brought the Platonic mystical vision of beauty equals truth back to the fore.

The Reformation brought an Aristotle resurgence that was supported with a vengeance by the rise of science in the age of Newton, and by the philosophers of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire, Locke and Jefferson. The tables turned once more with Rousseau and the Romantics, Wordworth, Blake, Byron and Shelley, et al., mystical visionaries in search of beauty, truth and a higher existence unknown to science and reason.

But the Romantics vision would ultimately fall to the more practical views of Hegel (German Idealism), Marx (Socialism) and John Stuart Mill (Utilitarianism), who saw in the modern state the ultimate salvation of mankind. This was reminiscent of Platos vision in The Republic, where a philosopher king ruled for the greater benefit of all. Nietzsche, of course, raised a new voice against Plato deploring Platos god worship and Hegels state worship in equal measure.

So where does that leave us, according to Herman? He finds the present day Western mind in thrall to American Exceptionalism, an odd mixture of Platonic religious mysticism (Christianity) and Aristotlean worship of science and technology. Both are necessary for the fulfillment of the Western soul, Herman suggests, so long as the worst of Platos and Aristotles legacies (heartless governments and soulless technology) do not ultimately predominate.

But most interesting in Cave is how Herman draws so many of Europes artists, painters, political and religious leaders and scientists into the struggle between Plato and Aristotle.

Whether discussing their influence on Michelangelos paintings, Wordsworths poetry, or Lenins politics, Herman effectively demonstrates that, as with the Chinese and Confucius, we Westerners are never far from the sway these philosophical giants still hold over us today.

The Cave and the Light: Plato versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization

704 pages; Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition, June 3, 2014, English

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living

304 pages; Harper Perennial; Original edition Dec. 27, 2011, English

Philosophers answer the big question how should we live? - The Sun Herald

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August 2nd, 2017 at 9:47 pm

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Urban Dictionary: Ubermensch

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The Ubermensch is Friedrich Nietzsche's answer to the problem of Nihilism. Nietzsche begins his premise with the assumption that God does not exist, and if God does not exist, thus objective morality and inherent value are not possible since there is no ultimate being that exists to create morality and value in the first place.Nietzsche's Ubermensch will act as his own God, giving himself morality and value as he sees fit according to him alone. The Ubermensch is neither slave or master as he does not impose his will upon others. The Ubermensch is an independent individual who has the power to banish herd instincts from his mind and become a master of self discipline.

Above all, the Ubermensch is the next step in human evolution. Every human must deal with the question "What is the meaning of life"- some say God and Heaven, others say ultimate objective virtue, but the Ubermensch will give life value that is not based on superstition or mystical folly. The Ubermensch finds value in his life experience because it cannot be reasoned out through argument and logic. The Ubermensch would say that the meaning of life is that you die, so make it valuable.

The Ubermensch is the ultimate realization of the Will to Power, but no necessarily over others. His most valuable power is over himself. "He cannot rule himself will certainty be ruled by others"- Nietzsche

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Urban Dictionary: Ubermensch

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Gina Barreca: How I Handle Nastygrams – Hartford Courant

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How do other people do it? How do other people deal with the etiquette of hate?

Even as a kid, I've always seen the world as one big potential pen pal. I try to answer letters and emails from readers as swiftly as possible. So grateful am I for a response to my column, I reply even to those written with toothpicks and nail polish (I'm hoping it was nail polish; it was deep red).

Most days, I answer the angriest and most scathing notes immediately. I'm driven neither by virtue nor by discipline. I simply want to get the vitriol out of my head because some of the language my correspondents use makes Anthony Scaramucci sound like Captain Kangaroo.

Despite coming from a background strikingly similar to that of our short-lived White House communications director meaning that I am fluent in profanity I nevertheless try to answer messages from Enraged Readers with as much grace and honesty as possible.

I'm no lady, but I try to write like one when the occasion demands.

What tickles me pink is when Enraged Readers suddenly become Reasonable Adults, which is what often happens once folks realize there's an actual human being behind the column. Even the most passionate antagonists immediately withdraw their fangs (you can hear the clicking noise) and make cogent arguments in meaningful, respectful and compelling ways.

Although their opinions on whatever topic is under discussion women's rights, health care benefits, why major universities still need to have brick-and-mortar libraries and not only hot tubs will not have changed, their demeanor will have shifted.

The change in tone makes my day.

Their replies back to me usually begin with "I never expected to hear from you," followed by an apology for rough language. As my student Julia put it (because Julia is getting a good education at a university with a library), "They're a little bit like Nietzsche, thinking that they're simply shouting into the abyss without ever thinking that the abyss might not only shout back, but even more weirdly, reply immediately and cheerfully."

Very few people have ramped up the rage. Quite the opposite: Several exchanges that began on a harsh note have become, if not harmonious, then at least entertaining. Very often they're illuminating. I've come to enjoy these debates.

But what do you do when you get a note from somebody you've never met, or somebody you knew 35 years ago, or a friend of a friend who more or less demands a favor and then despises you if you dare to decline? That's a different kind of hate.

I'm far happier getting into a fierce argument over why the gender gap in wages is not only real but genuinely bad for all Americans than I am explaining why I can't read somebody's 1,079-page manuscript by the end of the month ("Just print it out and make suggestions in the margin before you mail it back!") or get them six tickets to the women's basketball games ("I haven't exactly read your stuff, but you gotta know coach Geno Auriemma, right?").

If I don't answer in the enthusiastic affirmative, I get replies that make me want to purchase Kevlar vests in a variety of charming colors.

Julia says that she stopped accepting every social media invitation to be "friends" in seventh grade and that I also need to be more discerning.

I did learn one lesson: I no longer let the whole world post stuff on my Facebook page. One actual friend explained that "your Facebook page is like your fridge door: You're the only one who gets to decide what stays up there."

Her analogy gave me the permission I needed to remove comments that are off-topic, annoying or belligerent. If, after repeated warnings, somebody doesn't get the hint, I put them on the list of those who are unwelcome in my virtual kitchen.

I did this last week, only to have one guy fume that I was assaulting his right to free speech by refusing to allow him to call me an idiot on my own Facebook page. I suggested that, as a personal favor, he read the Constitution to grasp more fully the First Amendment.

Let's see if he writes back.

Gina Barreca is an English professor at UConn and author of "If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?" and eight other books. She can be reached at

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Gina Barreca: How I Handle Nastygrams - Hartford Courant

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August 2nd, 2017 at 9:47 pm

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Eternity after Nietzsche – First Things (blog)

Posted: August 1, 2017 at 9:44 pm

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Eternity after Nietzsche | Peter J. Leithart | First Things

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A decade ago, self-proclaimed born-again pagan and New Yorker-proclaimed Sage of Yale Law Anthony Kronman responded to critics in Comment with this:

In short, Nietzsche's doctrine of the eternal return is an attempt to put time and eternity back together again, after their long Abrahamic separation. This is a promising possibility, more attractive to me than either resignation or revival.

This represents a thin, thoroughly Nietzchean distortion of Christianity. Perhaps the Christianity Nietzsche encountered had connected the separate realms of eternity and time with a Savior and a church, but that's hardly characteristic of the Christian tradition as a whole.It certainly doesn't reflect the biblical Abrahamic faith, which is trust in a promise of land and seed, a promise that Abraham will be, inPaul's phrase, heir of the world. Christianity insists that the eternal kingdom is preciselythisworld transfigured into the kingdom of God (to quote Schmemann, the anti-Nietzschean).

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Eternity after Nietzsche - First Things (blog)

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August 1st, 2017 at 9:44 pm

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T.J. Miller is the worst kind of grad-school bro. – Slate Magazine – Slate Magazine (blog)

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That Guy.

Getty Images for the Critics' Choice Awards

Erlich, the name of the popular character T.J. Miller played on Silicon Valley until last monthwhen he departed the show in a blaze of whatever the opposite of glory isis a variation on ehrlich, the German word for honest that is also used as a stand-alone expressionEhrlich?meaning, Really?

This is, coincidentally, how much of humanity felt when we beheld this astounding profile of Miller by Vultures David Marchese, a profile worth reading in its entirety but whose deadpan brilliance is well-distilled into the following sentence:

The Mucinex seems to have no role other than satisfying the strange terms of his sponsorship deal; the facial mist he uses to punctuate the staggering stream of (possibly Aurelius-inspired) word salad to which he subjects Marchese and the world at large.

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This particular sort of pontificationname-dropping the Stoic philosophers and persuasion theory, issuing proclamations such as In the American Zeitgeist, you have to recognize that there is no Zeitgeist (yes, that is a direct quote)is a phenomenon you dont have to be a Heideggerian to encounter. Indeed, anyone who has been within 10 miles of a graduate school has met That Guy, a dude exactly like T.J. Miller: the first- or second-year Ph.D. student in comp lit or whatever whos just started reading Deleuze and thinks hes blown the universe wide open.

Of course, it doesnt take a Ph.D. to see that T.J. Miller is definitively The Worst and almost certainly full of horsenuggets, but I just happen to have a largely unused doctorate sitting around and can thus explain exactly, and to what extent, his particular brand of horsenuggets resembles the seminar-room stylings of every graduate programs That Guy since time immemorial.

Take, for example, his claim that Nietzschean moral relativism is frustrating, because its so dangerous. The only thing first-year grad students love more than Two-Buck Chuck is being so over Nietzsche whilst having read a negligible amount of him. Assuming that Miller is referring here to select snippets from Genealogy of Morals, I think hes talking about Nietzsches explanation of Judeo-Christian morality as a societal construct that came out of the slave culture of ancient Greece. While the masters had lives full of pleasure, the slaves had to invent a system of morality that honored sacrifice and suffering, whose rewards came in the afterlife instead of this one. This is all very controversial if you are a seminary teacher in 1887, but when I think of the current dangers to the world, Nietzschean perspectivalism probably falls somewhere beneath I think my roommate gave my parents HBO Go password to her shifty boyfriend.

Anyone who has been within 10 miles of a graduate school has met That Guy.

Then theres the part where Miller explains that his words have no teleological destination. Ah, yes. Teleological is pretty much grad students favorite word. It comes from telos, the Greek for end. In my own first year of grad school, I insisted to a guy I was dating that he neednt worry about me pushing for a serious relationship too quickly, because I viewed romance in, I quote, a phenomenological rather than teleological sense, meaning, in the most insufferable way possible, that I was more concerned with what I was experiencing in the moment than what might happen in the future. 1) I ended up marrying that guy. 2)Teleological destination means end-based end, a piece of actual gibberish that means nothing.

Later, when asked why he doesnt quit Hollywood, Miller rolls his eyes and proclaims: Contradiction is something to pursue rather than avoid. I lied: There is one thing That Guys love more than being over Nietzsche, and thats the gleeful embrace of contradictions. Toward the end of Kafkas The Trial, a priest all but rolls his eyes and informs Josef K., Understanding something correctly and misunderstanding the same thing are not mutually exclusive. I spent a good 40 pages of my dissertation yammering about that line, and Im not proud of it. Josef K. dies.

Speaking of bad Kafka parody, Miller probably hits Peak Grad Student when he tells Marchese, If nothing means anything, then anything can mean everything. This is, alas, Nietzsche again, straight out of On Truth and Lying in the Extra-Moral Sense, founding document (more or less) of language skepticism and what some people (me) might identify as the first tremulous step onto the slippery slope of poststructuralism. Language, Nietzsche insists, only works insofar as its users insist on believing it does. I suppose the designation full of shit is, itself, just a moving army of metaphor, a coin whose face has worn off but stays in circulation, but to be sure Id need to consult the dude in my narrative theory seminar whose thing is that he doesnt wear shoes.

It doesnt take a Ph.D. to see that T.J. Miller is definitively The Worst and almost certainly full of horsenuggets.

I realize my particular antipathy toward Millers posturing comes from the discomfiting specularity of self-recognitionor, in human language, because I, too, was once an early-career graduate student and probably this insufferably confident in my own intelligence. Luckily, I grew out of it, as do most other grad studentsbeaten down as we are by the realities of an employment future of $28,000 program-director jobs, not to mention the funny thing that happens where the more you actually learn about something, the less confident you get about how much you know (#Socrates).*

The trouble with T.J. Miller, of course, is that instead of languishing in obscurity in some doctoral program, spending his teeny stipend on flip-flops and Trader Joes frozen quiche, hes a rich-ass Hollywood actor with a massive platform, surrounded by sycophants (and one long-suffering publicist).

Miller will never see his precious unifying epistemology obliterated thanks to the equalizing misery of comprehensive exams. He will never come to the lonely, sobering realization that successfully finishing a dissertation is about 97 percent tolerance for drudgery and only 3 percent successful quotation of Rabelais and correct deployment of facial misting spray. Ehrlich, T.J. Miller is probably stuck this way, a teleological destination of his own making.

*Correction, July 26: This post originally misspelled the name of Socrates.

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T.J. Miller is the worst kind of grad-school bro. - Slate Magazine - Slate Magazine (blog)

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August 1st, 2017 at 9:44 pm

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‘Troilus and Cressida’ at Pa. Shakespeare Festival: Energetic attempt to breathe life into a flawed play –

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The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival ends its 26th season with an energetic revival ofTroilus and Cressida.In itstraditional end-of-summer romp, the festival strives to recreate the spontaneity of Elizabethan theater by staging a play after only four days of rehearsal, scrounging set, props, and costumes from other shows.

Shakespeares play is an unwieldy blend of HomersIliadand ChaucersTroilus and Cressida, a platform for lampooningthe values of love and heroism. Its a flawed work, and directors Patrick Mulcahy and Dennis Razze give the actors lots of freedom in trying to rescue this problem play from its cardboard characters and nihilism.

Especially in the first act, the actors move the show in a cabaret direction. You laugh at the antics of Ajax (Andrew Goebel), a blockheaded man of valor. Pandarus (Carl N. Wallnau) is in the spotlight, comical as the go-between whose very name suggests pimp. Later, Troilus (Brandon J. Pierce) and Cressida (Mairin Lee) are exposed as false lovers, and revered Ulysses (Greg Wood) is reduced to the role of vicious, scheming courtier.

Almost every character is an object of ridicule. Only Hector (Luigi Sottile) invites sympathy, but hes mainly a foil for revealing the treachery of heroicAchilles (Justin Adams). Thersites (Susan Riley Stevens) may be the voice of Shakespeare, a limping slave who keeps popping up to cuss everyone out, like a Greek chorus gone crazy.

In Elizabethan England,Troilus and Cressidamay have been performed only for the Queen, perhaps full of inside jokes only those in the monarchy understood. With the pessimism that followed World War I, there was renewed interest in the play, but it never became mainstream. Its too troubled, with scenes that dont climax, and two story lines that never meld.

At his best, no writer can match Shakespeares marriage of psychological insight and poetry. Over and over, his characters deliver lines at climactic moments that buckle your knees. But there are no such moments here.Troilus and Cressidamay hold up as poetry to read, but as live theater, the orations of its burlesque, one-dimensional characters are unaffecting.

Its interesting to compareTroilus and Cressidawith the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, 300 years later. He, too, liked to examine the soft underbelly of stated beliefs and values. But Nietzsches revaluation ofallvalues includes biting criticism of the kind of cynicism that underlies Shakespeares play, and Nietzsche resonates with the larger goal of overcoming nihilism.

The same instinct motivates this revival. Isnt overcoming nihilism the goal of cabaret? Actors improve the plays climax, rushing on and off stage to create a brilliant, choreographed image that unifies confusion of values with the chaos of war. But, short of rewriting the script, the show cannot escape the burdens this play imposes suffering without meaning, ridicule for the sake of ridicule, and undramatic poetry.

Troilus and Cressida. Through Aug. 6 at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Labuda Center, DeSales University, 2755 Station Ave., Center Valley. Tickets: $25-$75. Information:610-282-9455,

Published: July 31, 2017 3:01 AM EDT | Updated: July 31, 2017 3:36 PM EDT

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'Troilus and Cressida' at Pa. Shakespeare Festival: Energetic attempt to breathe life into a flawed play -

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August 1st, 2017 at 9:44 pm

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Pakistan needs its Rousseaus and Voltaires – DunyaNews Pakistan (blog)

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Pakistani society lacks philosophical synthesis. Today the nations that we see as global leaders, all of them have a long history of philosophical evolution and background. It was Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau who contributed to the French Enlightenment and were instrumental figures in the French revolution. The works of Voltaire and Rousseau influenced the modern Western educational and political thought to this day. Today France is among the most powerful states on the planet. Bertrand Russell, an English philosopher, opposed the wars, primarily the Second World War (WW2). He highlighted the problems of the world and set the direction for Britains political and social governance. Bertrand Russell in his book Fact and Fiction writes that the world is facing three dangers rapid population growth, the threat of a nuclear war and climate change. It is surprising to see what Bertrand Russell predicted and analysed decades ago is still relevant today. Russell denounced fears based on superstitions and said that overcoming fear is the beginning of wisdom. He was of the view that world can only attain peace if it is led by a single government.

Similarly, John Locke, another great English philosopher and the father of modern democracy, gave the concept of modern government structure based on checks and balances. He was a staunch promoter of political freedom. Today Britain is well known for its democratic values and freedom of speech. Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher and a staunch critic of the Catholic Church, is famous for his remarkable works in the form of Beyond good and evil and Thus spokes Zarathustra. For Nietzsche, good and evil are just words and it has been used by powerful to justify their atrocities against their adversary by terming them as evil. Nietzsche along with Machiavelli is considered as the father of modern Realism, a prominent thought in international relations according to which every nation state tries to maximise her power. Today, realism along with liberalism is the base of the discipline of international relations. Many people do not recommend reading Nietzsche because he went insane and attribute him with the thought of depressive nihilism. But it was the superhuman of Nietzsche which he called Ubermensch that is full of love for life. Simone de Beauvoir, a leading proponent of Feminism, in her book The Second Sex wrote about the oppression faced by women in the society. Furthermore, her works also contributed to the rise of the second wave of feminism in which the women from around the world demanded equal property and voting rights. Though, Simone de Beauvoir never called herself a philosopher, her works are of vital importance in existentialist and feminist philosophy.

Pakistan today is facing the same problems once faced by Western nations. Democracy in Pakistan is facing many dangers and its youth is struggling in understanding the benefits of democracy because political leaders lack philosophical and political thought. The origin of our problem lies in the educational institutes. The curriculum of schools does not allow students to think beyond the artificial barriers made by society resulting in the decline of Philosophical thought. Furthermore, the other major hurdle to rational Philosophy is the believing in superstitions and dogmas. Moreover, violence against women is rampant in our society since decades and many feminists are active in promoting women rights through their respective platforms. But there is difference between feminists and feminist philosophy. It is due to the lack of feminist philosophy that Pakistani women lack clarity of thought. On other hand, it is the lack of realist philosophy that is creating hurdles in pursuing our national interests.

Similarly, just like European Renaissance which takes all its roots and inputs from Muslim demise, the importance of Western philosophy needs to be highlighted as West is home to those enlightenment philosophers who laid the foundation of the modern European political thought and were also responsible for European Renaissance and all reformist and revolutionary movements. Pakistan and specially its young generation badly need a philosophical synthesis for its unity to develop a worldview for its progress and national direction. Philosopher kings and leaders are missing from national discourse and narrative.

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Pakistan needs its Rousseaus and Voltaires - DunyaNews Pakistan (blog)

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Nietzsche’s Philosophy – Carroll College

Posted: July 18, 2016 at 6:48 pm

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*see note under Schopenhauer's philosophy 1. THE AFFIRMATION OF LIFE

The two key insights (in my opinion) to all Nietzsche

(A) Life is terrible and tragic [just like Schopenhauer said]

(B) The superior person realizes this and has the strength to say "yes" to life [unlike Schopenhauer, who advocated the resistance and the denial of life ("eluding" Being by retreating into our non-being). Schopenhauer was decadent and weak-willed!].

In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche maintains that the Greeks knew well that life is terrible, inexplicable and dangerous yet didnt surrender to pessimism by turning their backs on it. Instead, they "transmuted" the world and human life through art. Their culture [Culture itself!] is a unity of two "attitudes"the forces of life (Dionysian) and the love of form and beauty (Apollonian).

Dionysian (stronger one): "stream of life itself", breaks all barriers and ignores all restraints. Affirms and embraces existence in all its darkness and horror, producing tragedy and music.

Apollonian: light, measure, restraint, the principle of individuation. Creates an ideal world of form and beauty, producing the Olympian mythology, epic and plastic arts.

Nietzsche believed that the German culture characterized by domination of knowledge and science had exposed itself to the revenge of the Dionysian or vital forces.


In his decadence, Schopenhauer saw the world as meaningless and purposeless Will to Existence or Will to live. He had failed to see the sense of joy and vitality that is achieve when the superior person faces the meaningless world and clear-sightedly imposes his own values on it. The superior person neither shrinks from the struggle of life, nor struggles blindly, but wills to live deliberately and consciously. Nietzsche calls this sense of joy and vitality accompanying the imposition of values on a meaningless world tragic optimism. It is belies the "reality" that the world is not Will to Existence, but Will to Power.

"This world is the Will to Powerand nothing else! And you yourselves too are this Will to Powerand nothing else!"

The world is not illusion (see below, #6), so the Will to Power is not some underlying, transcendent metaphysical unity [like Schopenhauers Infinite Will] but the actual process of becoming in the world. Will to Power is the intelligible character of this processhowever it is not the "truth" about the world. Will to Power must be understood not as new metaphysical doctrine about reality but a way of looking at the world, perhaps a "hypothesis."

In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche notes that logical method compels the look for a principle of explanation: "A living thing desires above all to vent its strengthlife as such is will to power: self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of it" (13).

"Granted finally that one succeeded in explaining our entire instinctual life as the development and ramification of one basic form of willas the will to power, as my theory; granted that one could trace all organic functions back to this will to power and could also find in it the solution to the problem of procreation and nourishmentthey are one problemone would have acquired the right to define all efficient force unequivocally as: will to power. The world seen from within, the world described and defined according to its `intelligible characterit would be `will to power and nothing else." (36)


There are two "moralities" Master-morality or aristocratic morality: good/bad = noble/despicable. Applied to men, not actions. Values are created out of the "abundance" of the noble human beings life and strength and imposed upon the world by will to power.

Slave-morality or herd-morality: Good/evil = what is useful to the society of the weak/what threatens or harms the herd. Born of resentment "becoming creative."

From the point of view of the higher human being, co-existence is possible, if the herd was content to keep its values to itself. But it isntit tries to impose its values universally, and succeeded in Christianity.

For Neitzsche, the universal, absolute moral system should be rejected and replaced with graduation of rank among different types of morality. In Beyond Good and Evil he advocates rising above the herd-morality which favors mediocrity and prevents higher development. Nietzsche does not advocate immorality [even though he referred to himself as an "immoralist"people who reject morality will destroy themselves. The higher individual respects values and needs self-restraint. This individual goes beyond good and evil as these terms are understood in the morality of resentment. The higher individual integrates human nature in all its aspects as an expression of strength.


The concept of God is hostile to life (remember we are supposed to affirm life, see #1)

For Nietzsche, some great men have been believers. But now, when the existence of God is no longer taken for granted by most people, freedom, strength and independence demand aethism. Nietzsches own rejection of God proved his inner strength to himself. He was able to live without God.

Implications of the Death of God according to Nietzsche:


Ubermensch or superman [Zarathustra] is not superior in breeding or endowment, but in power and strength. The superman confronts all the possible terrors and wretchedness of life and still joyously affirms it. In Thus Spake Zarathustra Nietzsche proclaims, "Not `humanity but Superman is the goal." "Man is something that must be surpassed; man is a bridge and not a goal."

Superman is not inevitable, the result of some determined process. It is more a myth, a goal for the will: "Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: Superman is to be the meaning of the earth." Superman cannot come unless superior individuals have the courage to transvalue all values.

Nietzsche never gives a clear description of Supermanhow could he, he does not exist! He describes him as "the Roman Caesar with Christs soul," as Goethe and Napoleon in one, the Epicurean god appearing on earth. Superman or Zarathustra would be the highest possible development and integration of intellectual power, strength of character and will, independence, passion, taste, and physique. He would be highly-cultured, skilful in all bodily accomplishments, tolerant out of strength, regarding nothing as forbidden unless it is weakness ("virtue" or "vice"). He is the man who has become fully free and independent and affirms life and the universe. [Perhaps he would be everything that the ever sick and torment Nietszche wanted to be? And could a woman be a superman?]


There is no deep reality, no underlying objective and unchanging reality. According to Nietzsche, this is a lie because life is meaningless, and what you see is what you get. We must rely on sense and common sense as most useful means to understand the world. This doesn't give a "correct" view, however, because there is no such thingeven the view that life is really meaningless isnt true, if this is understood as a metaphysical account of reality! So common sense merely supplies the perspective by which we live. "The apparant world is the only one: the "real world" is merely a lie." Twilight Ch 3 Ap2

A problem. In the words of Arthur C. Danto: "How are we to understand a theory when the structure of our understanding itself is called in question by that theory? And when we have succeeded in understanding it, in our terms, it would automatically follow that we had misunderstood it, for our own terms are the wrong ones" ("Nietzsche" in A Critical History of Western Philosophy, Edited by D.J. OConnor).

A kind of resolution: "Even if on his own view of truth, his theories necessarily assume the character of myth, these myths were intimately associated with value-judgments which Nietzsche asserted with passion. And it is perhaps these value-judgments more than anything else which have been the source of his great influence." Frederick Coppleston, History of Philosophy: Fichte to Nietzsche

It fits with Nietzsches emphasis on strength that philosophy itself is another test for the superior man; like belief in God, he must test himself to see if he is strong enough to live without it.


In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche asserts that the point of Thus Spake Zarathustra was not Superman, but the doctrine of "eternal recurrence." Eternal recurrence is the highest form of "yea-saying" that can be attained. (See #1). The idea is that life, even in its smallest details, will recur innumerable times. This dismaying and oppressive notion is a (guess!) a further test of strength for the Ubermensch. The world-approving man is the one who wishes to have life in all its misery and terribleness play over again and again, and who will cry "Encore" each time. This would be the ultimate liberation. "Oh, how should I not be ardent for eternity and for the marriage-ring of ringsthe ring of the return?"

But this is more than a test of strength for Nietzsche. In the worlds of Frederick Coppleston, the doctrine of eternal recurrence "fills a gap in his philosophy. It confers on the flux of Becoming the semblance of Being, and it does so without introducing any Being which transcends the universe." According to Nietzsche, if you say that the universe never repeats itself but constantly creates new forms, this displays a yearning after the idea of God. The world must be enclosed upon itself if transcendence is to be banished.

Read more:
Nietzsche's Philosophy - Carroll College

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God is dead – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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"God is dead" (German: "Gott ist tot"(helpinfo); also known as the death of God) is a widely quoted statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It first appears in Nietzsche's 1882 collection The Gay Science (also translated as "The science of joy" German: Die frhliche Wissenschaft)[1] However, It is most famously associated with Nietzsche's classic work Thus Spoke Zarathustra (German: Also sprach Zarathustra), which is most responsible for popularizing the phrase. The idea is stated in "The Madman"[1] as follows:

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?

But the best known passage is at the end of part 2 of Zarathustra's Prolog, where after beginning his allegorical journey Zarathustra encounters an aged ascetic who expresses misanthropy and love of God:

When Zarathustra heard these words, he saluted the saint and said 'What should I have to give you! But let me go quickly that I take nothing from you! And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing as two boys laugh.

But when Zarathustra was alone, he spoke thus to his heart: 'Could it be possible! This old saint has not heard in his forest that God is dead!'

Although the statement and its meaning is attributed to Nietzsche it is important to note that this was not a unique position as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel pondered the death of God, first in his Phenomenology of Spirit where he considers the death of God to 'not [be] seen as anything but an easily recognized part of the usual Christian cycle of redemption'.[4] Later on Hegel writes about the great pain of knowing that God is dead 'The pure concept, however, or infinity, as the abyss of nothingness in which all being sinks, must characterize the infinite pain, which previously was only in culture historically and as the feeling on which rests modern religion, the feeling that God Himself is dead, (the feeling which was uttered by Pascal, though only empirically, in his saying: Nature is such that it marks everywhere, both in and outside of man, a lost God), purely as a phase, but also as no more than just a phase, of the highest idea.'[5] Of course the spirit in which it is intended is a verily Nietzsche manifestation, however it is important to consider the material that gave rise to this idea.

The phrase "God is dead" does not mean that Nietzsche believed in an actual God who first existed and then died in a literal sense. Rather, it conveys his view that the Christian God is no longer a credible source of absolute moral principles. Nietzsche recognizes the crisis that the death of God represents for existing moral assumptions: "When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident... By breaking one main concept out of Christianity, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one's hands."[6] This is why in "The Madman", a passage which primarily addresses nontheists (especially atheists), the problem is to retain any system of values in the absence of a divine order.

The death of God is a way of saying that humans are no longer able to believe in any such cosmic order since they themselves no longer recognize it. The death of God will lead, Nietzsche says, not only to the rejection of a belief of cosmic or physical order but also to a rejection of absolute values themselves to the rejection of belief in an objective and universal moral law, binding upon all individuals. In this manner, the loss of an absolute basis for morality leads to nihilism. This nihilism is that for which Nietzsche worked to find a solution by re-evaluating the foundations of human values. This meant, to Nietzsche, looking for foundations that went deeper than Christian values. He would find a basis in the "will to power" that he described as "the essence of reality."

Nietzsche believed that the majority of people did not recognize this death out of the deepest-seated fear or angst. Therefore, when the death did begin to become widely acknowledged, people would despair and nihilism would become rampant. This is partly why Nietzsche saw Christianity as nihilistic.

When first being introduced to Nietzsche, a person can infer the death of God as literal. To Nietzsche, the concept of God only exists in the minds of his followers; therefore, the believers would ultimately be accountable for his life and death. Holub goes on to state that God has been the victim of murder, and we, as human beings, are the murderers.[7]

Another purpose of Nietzsches death of God is to unmask the hypocrisies and illusion of outworn value systems.[8] People do not fully comprehend that they killed God through their hypocrisy and lack of morality. Due to hypocrisy God has lost whatever function he once had because of the actions taken by those who believe in him.[9] A god is merely a mirrored reflection of its people and the Christian God is so ridiculous a God that even were he to have existed, he would have no right to exist.[10] Religious people start going against their beliefs and start coinciding with the beliefs of mainstream society. [Moral thinking] is debased and poisoned by the influence of societys weakest and most ignoble elements, the herd.[11]

Humanity depreciates traditional ethics and beliefs and this leads to another misunderstanding of the death of God. During the era of Nietzsche, traditional beliefs within Christianity became almost nonexistent due to the vast expansion of education and the rise of modern science. Belief in God is no longer possible due to such nineteenth-century factors as the dominance of the historical-critical method of reading Scripture, the rise of incredulity toward anything miraculous ... and the idea that God is the creation of wish projection (Benson 31). Nietzsche believed that man was useless without a God and no longer possesses ideals and absolute goals toward which to strive. He has lost all direction and purpose.[12] Nietzsche believes that in order to overcome our current state of depreciated values that a strong classic pessimism like that of the Greeks is needed to overcome the dilemmas and anxieties of modern man.[13]

Either we died because of our religion or our religion dies because of us.[14] This quote summarizes what Nietzsche was trying to say in his concept of the death of God- that the God of Christianity has died off because of its people and their beliefs. Far too often do people translate the death of God into a literal sense, and depreciate the value of traditional Christian beliefs - all leading to the misunderstandings of Nietzsches philosophy of Gods death. Now in a world where God is dead we can only hope that technology and science does not take control and be treated as the new religion, serving as a basis for retaining the same damaging psychological habit that the Christian religion developed.[15]

Martin Heidegger understood this part of Nietzsche's philosophy by looking at it as death of metaphysics. In his view, Nietzsche's words can only be understood as referring not to a particular theological or anthropological view but rather to the end of philosophy itself. Philosophy has, in Heidegger's words, reached its maximum potential as metaphysics and Nietzsche's words warn of its demise and that of any metaphysical world view. If metaphysics is dead, Heidegger warns, that is because from its inception that was its fate.[16]

Paul Tillich as well as Richard Schacht were influenced by the writings of Nietzsche and especially of his phrase "God is dead."[17]

William Hamilton wrote the following about Nietzsche's view:

For the most part Altizer prefers mystical to ethical language in solving the problem of the death of God, or, as he puts it, in mapping out the way from the profane to the sacred. This combination of Kierkegaard and Eliade makes rather rough reading, but his position at the end is a relatively simple one. Here is an important summary statement of his views: If theology must now accept a dialectical vocation, it must learn the full meaning of Yes-saying and No-saying; it must sense the possibility of a Yes which can become a No, and of a No which can become a Yes; in short, it must look forward to a dialectical coincidentia oppositorum. Let theology rejoice that faith is once again a "scandal," and not simply a moral scandal, an offense to mans pride and righteousness, but, far more deeply, an ontological scandal; for eschatological faith is directed against the deepest reality of what we know as history and the cosmos. Through Nietzsches vision of Eternal Recurrence we can sense the ecstatic liberation that can be occasioned by the collapse of the transcendence of Being, by the death of God . . . and, from Nietzsches portrait of Jesus, theology must learn of the power of an eschatological faith that can liberate the believer from what to the contemporary sensibility is the inescapable reality of history. But liberation must finally be effected by affirmation. . . . .( See "Theology and the Death of God," in this volume, pp. 95-111.[18]

Nietzsche believed there could be positive possibilities for humans without God. Relinquishing the belief in God opens the way for human creative abilities to fully develop. The Christian God, he wrote, would no longer stand in the way, so human beings might stop turning their eyes toward a supernatural realm and begin to acknowledge the value of this world.

Nietzsche uses the metaphor of an open sea, which can be both exhilarating and terrifying. The people who eventually learn to create their lives anew will represent a new stage in human existence, the bermensch i.e. the personal archetype who, through the conquest of their own nihilism, themselves become a sort of mythical hero. The 'death of God' is the motivation for Nietzsche's last (uncompleted) philosophical project, the 'revaluation of all values'.

Although Nietzsche puts the statement "God is Dead" into the mouth of a "madman"[19] in The Gay Science, he also uses the phrase in his own voice in sections 108 and 343 of the same book. In the madman's passage, the man is described as running through a marketplace shouting, "I seek God! I seek God!" He arouses some amusement; no one takes him seriously. Maybe he took an ocean voyage? Lost his way like a little child? Maybe he's afraid of us (non-believers) and is hiding?-- much laughter. Frustrated, the madman smashes his lantern on the ground, crying out that "God is dead, and we have killed him, you and I!" "But I have come too soon," he immediately realizes, as his detractors of a minute before stare in astonishment: people cannot yet see that they have killed God. He goes on to say:

This prodigious 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 the most distant stars and yet they have done it themselves.

trans. Walter Kaufmann, The Gay Science, sect. 125

Earlier in the book (section 108), Nietzsche wrote "God is Dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we we still have to vanquish his shadow, too." The protagonist in Thus Spoke Zarathustra also speaks the words, commenting to himself after visiting a hermit who, every day, sings songs and lives to glorify his god as noted above.

What is more, Zarathustra later refers not only to the death of God, but states: 'Dead are all the Gods'. It is not just one morality that has died, but all of them, to be replaced by the life of the bermensch, the new man:


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God is dead - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Quotes About Nietzsche (146 quotes)

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You desire to LIVE "according to Nature"? Oh, you noble Stoics, what fraud of words! Imagine to yourselves a being like Nature, boundlessly extravagant, boundlessly indifferent, without purpose or consideration, without pity or justice, at once fruitful and barren and uncertain: imagine to yourselves INDIFFERENCE as a powerhow COULD you live in accordance with such indifference? To liveis not that just endeavouring to be otherwise than this Nature? Is not living valuing, preferring, being unjust, being limited, endeavouring to be different? And granted that your imperative, "living according to Nature," means actually the same as "living according to life"how could you do DIFFERENTLY? Why should you make a principle out of what you yourselves are, and must be? In reality, however, it is quite otherwise with you: while you pretend to read with rapture the canon of your law in Nature, you want something quite the contrary, you extraordinary stage-players and self-deluders! In your pride you wish to dictate your morals and ideals to Nature, to Nature herself, and to incorporate them therein; you insist that it shall be Nature "according to the Stoa," and would like everything to be made after your own image, as a vast, eternal glorification and generalism of Stoicism! With all your love for truth, you have forced yourselves so long, so persistently, and with such hypnotic rigidity to see Nature FALSELY, that is to say, Stoically, that you are no longer able to see it otherwiseand to crown all, some unfathomable superciliousness gives you the Bedlamite hope that BECAUSE you are able to tyrannize over yourselvesStoicism is self-tyrannyNature will also allow herself to be tyrannized over: is not the Stoic a PART of Nature?... But this is an old and everlasting story: what happened in old times with the Stoics still happens today, as soon as ever a philosophy begins to believe in itself. It always creates the world in its own image; it cannot do otherwise; philosophy is this tyrannical impulse itself, the most spiritual Will to Power, the will to "creation of the world," the will to the causa prima. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

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Quotes About Nietzsche (146 quotes)

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