The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism

The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming NihilismAmong All The Great Thinkers Of The Past Two Hundred Years, Nietzsche Continues To Occupy A Special Place Not Only For A Broad Range Of Academics But Also For Members Of A Wider Public, Who Find Some Of Their Most Pressing Existential Concerns Addressed In His Works Central Among These Concerns Is The Question Of The Meaning Of A Life Characterized By Inescapable Suffering, At A Time When The Traditional Responses Inspired By Christianity Are Increasingly Losing Their Credibility While Most Recent Studies Of Nietzsche S Works Have Lost Sight Of This Fundamental Issue, Bernard Reginster S Book The Affirmation Of Life Brings It Sharply Into Focus.Reginster Identifies Overcoming Nihilism As A Central Objective Of Nietzsche S Philosophical Project, And Shows How This Concern Systematically Animates All Of His Main Ideas In Particular, Reginster S Work Develops An Original And Elegant Interpretation Of The Will To Power, Which Convincingly Explains How Nietzsche Uses This Doctrine To Mount A Critique Of The Dominant Christian Values, To Overcome The Nihilistic Despair They Produce, And To Determine The Conditions Of A New Affirmation Of Life Thus, Reginster Attributes To Nietzsche A Compelling Substantive Ethical Outlook Based On The Notions Of Challenge And Creativity An Outlook That Involves A Radical Reevaluation Of The Role And Significance Of Suffering In Human Existence.Replete With Deeply Original Insights On Many Familiar And Frequently Misunderstood Nietzschean Concepts, Reginster S Book Will Be Essential To Anyone Approaching This Towering Figure Of Western Intellectual History. Have you ever said Yes to a single joy O my friends, then you have said Yes too to all woe All things are entangled, ensnared, enad if ever you wanted one thing twice, if ever you said, You please me, happiness Abide moment then you wanted all back All anew, all eternally, all entangled, ensnared, enad oh then you loved the world Eternal ones, love it eternally and ever and to woe too, you say go, but return For all joy wants eternity Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spake Have you ever said Yes to a single joy O my friends, then you have said Yes too to all woe All things are entangled, ensnared, enad if ever you wanted one thing twice, if ever you said, You please me, happiness Abide moment then you wanted all back All anew, all eternally, all entangled, ensnared, enad oh then you loved the world Eternal ones, love it eternally and ever and to woe too, you say go, but return For all joy wants eternity Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spake Zarathustra A Book for All and None This is the best overall take on Nietzsche I ve seen yet It focuses on the aspect of his work that I was most drawn to when first really getting into it and would continue to exalt above all else to this day a deep affirmation of existence This book is very carefully laid out, well argued, insightful, evenhanded and corrects many extremely common mischaracterizations of Nietzsche s central themes.I wouldn t recommend this to newcomers, unless they have a penchant for reading serious scholarly analysis generally and have at least some primer on Nietzsche under their belt already This isn t to say this book is dry or overly technical, rather it s just extremely thorough in its argumentative rigor and references nearly all of the work which comprises Nietzsche s corpus, including rarely published notes and correspondence So the execution is skillful and thorough beyond a doubt, but the really satisfying element of this book for me is the overarching programme of its focus on Nietzsche s emotionally resonant struggle with and promotion of a clear eyed, intrepid affirmation Yes saying of the mere fact that one is permitted to exist finding a way to embrace the humdrum miracle a phrase of my own that I like of life as much as possible, in the face of pain and under the ubiquitous threat of its loss Nietzsche s esoteric works lend themselves to enough misinterpretation and confusion that one should never turn down a chance to get clarification This is a good book for that purposeBernard Reginster s 290 pages include a useful 20 page introduction and a surprisingly interesting footnote section at the end, also about 20 pages The four chapters, or sections, of the book concentrate on Nietzsche s ethics Reginster emphasizes Nietzsche s two unprecedented contributions to ethics the Will to Nietzsche s esoteric works lend themselves to enough misinterpretation and confusion that one should never turn down a chance to get clarification This is a good book for that purposeBernard Reginster s 290 pages include a useful 20 page introduction and a surprisingly interesting footnote section at the end, also about 20 pages The four chapters, or sections, of the book concentrate on Nietzsche s ethics Reginster emphasizes Nietzsche s two unprecedented contributions to ethics the Will to Power and the Revaluation of Values While referring to the interpretations other philosophers have given to Nietzsche s writings, his own focus is the context in which Nietzsche developed his ethics for example, the importance of understanding Schopenhauer as the wall against which Nietzsche butts his head This context explains a lot the source of modern moral despair, the emergence of nihilism from the ethics of compassion, and other modern ideas that Nietzsche took on It gives meaning to the idea of becoming as aimportant moral concept than being It emphasizes Nietzsche s thought as a mindset rather than a morality, an appeal to the presumed facts of human nature, albeit from a masculine point of view And it explains in detail the vital role of overcoming for Nietzsche s world view Nietzsche could easily be the philosopher of professional sports in the capitalist world if the people in sports cared one whit about philosophy in the first place But the author takes time to explain many of thecruel epigrams Nietzsche wrote the ones about the weak not to explain them away, but to give them an interesting and plausible context that doesn t come across in Nietzsche s own writing The picture of Nietzsche that evolves in this book is that of a thinkerconcerned with man s salvation right here on earth, not in some beyond a philosopher trying single handedly to reverse the damage inflicted on the human mind by what he saw as his century s bad philosophy added to two millenia of awful moral capitulation.Reginster corrects much of what he considers the common misconstrual of Nietzsche s concepts and propositions The author is clear and he makes the subject interesting But however much Nietzsche may have been misunderstood, there can be no doubt as to the soil in which his philosophy found fertile ground It s nice of Reginster to try to fix that I don t know why, for such a radical thinker who surged with creative energy and was resolutely opposed to any sort of philosophical methodology, Nietzsche attracts the most boring of interpreters The book is dense and filled with jargon I don t mind this if the jargon is due to legitimate complexity of the concepts But this book just bears the hallmark of bad and obscure writing There is too much waffling and unnecessary repetition A few of the points were interesting but I would not re I don t know why, for such a radical thinker who surged with creative energy and was resolutely opposed to any sort of philosophical methodology, Nietzsche attracts the most boring of interpreters The book is dense and filled with jargon I don t mind this if the jargon is due to legitimate complexity of the concepts But this book just bears the hallmark of bad and obscure writing There is too much waffling and unnecessary repetition A few of the points were interesting but I would not recommend it As suggested by the title of the book, Reginster considers Nitzsche s biggest crisis as nihilism And the way to overcome it is by affirming life, regardless of any absolute and objective meaning of life, which, according to Reginster, is Nietzsche s biggest philosophical achievement.Reginster takes a systematic approach to Nietzsche s works and the book brings out two major theses 1 a systematic view of Nietzsche s account on affirming life, and 2 a project of a revaluation of values, whic As suggested by the title of the book, Reginster considers Nitzsche s biggest crisis as nihilism And the way to overcome it is by affirming life, regardless of any absolute and objective meaning of life, which, according to Reginster, is Nietzsche s biggest philosophical achievement.Reginster takes a systematic approach to Nietzsche s works and the book brings out two major theses 1 a systematic view of Nietzsche s account on affirming life, and 2 a project of a revaluation of values, which is a positive account of ethics.Chapter One NihilismFirst, one must ask the question on whether life does have meaning, if life is worth living at all Second, to have a life worth living is to have goals Goals are meant to realize state of affairs values are meant to give a reason on why a state of affairs is worthy to bring about Achieving certain goals is a necessary condition of the realization of values Thus, if something is an unattainable goals, then it is also an unrealizable value Third, goals should inspire an agent to go on continue living This all depends on how the agent sees the value of the goal and whether the goal is realizable.So how does nihilism fit in It is when the values of those goals become devalued, or when those goals are unrealizable Reginster brings up two types of nihilism The first is nihilistic disorientation we can never have access to objective facts about value, and this is a major loss In this, it may be better that the world did not exist, since we cannot realize these values This can lead to the second type of nihilism nihilistic despair, which is that our highest values cannot be realized, and therefore our values are unattainable Since this is a limitation for everyone, life in general is meaningless Thus, the world we live in cannot give us a route toward the highest values, no matter how we change the world or ourselves Through this, life can have meaning only if the agent can see that the goal has value, and that the goal is realizable.So what are some possibilities for nihilism One is the death of God This is saying that the belief in God has been discredited the belief in God is no longer taken seriously The metaphysical belief in God is discredited.Discussion Question could this still be considered some type of agnosticism After all, the entity God could still exist, but one no longer needs to believe in it.If having God out of the picture leads to nihilism, then the presence of God at least represents a necessary condition for the possible realization of our highest values However, Nietzsche imagines that the death of God could give one a kind of light, happiness, relief, exhilaration, encouragement, dawn Thus, the death of God is not a logical necessity to bring about the highest values, but only a psychological necessity There is another worry about life negating value in that they intend to condemn life Nietzsche considers all of morality life negating Reginster puts it morality was invented in order to condemn life in this world 46 If life needs growth and power, then any sort of values that gets us away from that such as meekness and compassion into virtues is life negating because they not only undermine life, but they bring life down Two of these ideas is Platonism and Christianity because they condemn life by denying life on earth, but also bringing our current life to a declination.Thus, nihilism comes about because of two premises the death of God our highest values cannot be realized , and the negation of life by endorsing life negating values Since Nietzsche adheres to the first premise, he questions the second.Chapter Two Overcoming DisorientationThe point of this chapter is to consider the metaethical form of devaluation Reginster examines four claims to do so first, the authority of the highest values depends on a special kind of standing second, these values are found to lack special standing third, because of this, our existence seems meaningless because we no longer have values by the light of which we can evaluate it and fourth, this type of nihilism is only a transitional stage.Values have an external origin when they are metaphysically independent of the contingent aspects of the agent s will If the value is objective, then any rational agent is bound by it The nihilist has a huge assumption then, that there are values from the outside, by some superhuman authority This is what Reginster calls normative objectivism the normative authority of a value depends upon its objective standing 58 Descriptive objectivism, on the other hand, is the view that there actually are objective values Normative objectivism and rejecting descriptive objectivism entails nihilism Reginster regards Nietzsche as rejecting of descriptive objectivism The way to do this is to show how one can evaluate, in which there are two versions.The first is normative subjectivism This position holds that there are no objective normative facts in the world In order to appeal to the nihilist, one cannot use any argumentation or demonstrations because these are objective normative facts Thus, one must use a type of seduction to win over the nihilist Reginster suggests that Nietzsche uses such a method to win over the nihilist.To evaluate life is to always take on a perspective and these perspectives are shaped by affects reflecting a certain physiological condition Thus, all evaluation necessarily takes place from the perspective of life By doing so, one cannot look from the outside and try to evaluate life itself The normative objectivist would find this quite disorienting because it cannot give him an objective point of view to establish the meaning of one s life Yet, Nietzsche rejects this picture of disorientation because this presupposes our self as a rational, deliberate agent that transcends our contingent perspectives On the contrary, we cannot escape our contingent moral evaluations because they in fact shape our identities.Another account is what Reginster calls normative fictionalism pretend that objective values do exist It is close to an error theory of value We do not need value judgments to be true we only need to take them as being true But why In a narrow sense, weak individuals need their values to be objective They need this to convince others, mainly the strong, to take on these values such as benevolence This will not convince the strong unless the weak can present some authoritative meaning behind the value that should override the feelings of the strong In a broad sense, everyone needs to take on some sort of objective values if they are to be useful Discussion Question wouldn t normative fictionalism be a form of bad faith, or some type of self deception We can avert disorientation by asking what the meaning is behind evaluation itself Reginster states that Nietzsche mainly got this from Schopenhauer where Schopenhauer argued that something is good if it favors the satisfaction of our desires and bad if it impedes it 99 This may solve the problem of disorientation, but we still have the problem of despair For that, we need a different kind of revaluation that is not metaethical, but substantive where it critically engages with the actual content of the life negating values Thus, the remainder of the book to devoted to the substantive ethical thought of Nietzsche And the basis of this is going to be the will to power To persuade the audience either through normative or seductive force.Chapter Three The Will to PowerHow do we interpret the will to power One interpretation is that Nietzsche remarks that the world is nothing but the will to power Reginster disregards this by saying that it is just another instance of the wild eye speculation not untypical in nineteenth century German metaphysics, which simply does not merit serious attention 104 Another interpretation is that it is a form of domination or control Yet this leads to disturbing conclusions Another interpretation is to say that it is meant for self control, or to control particular drives, or a way to develop a certain capacity Reginster argues that all of these previous interpretations are in error because t hey take a common, indeed perhaps inevitable, by product or consequence of the pursuit of the will to power to be what the will to power consists of 105 HERE, REGINSTER OFFERS AN INTERESTING ACCOUNT OF SCHOPENHAUER WHICH I M GOING TO SKIP.Reginster looks at five various theories arguing that they all fail and offers his own view on what is the will to power The first view of the will to power is that power is reduced to drives This fails because this makes the will to power indistinguishable to other drives, but Nietzsche does distinguish it from other drives.The second view is that the will to power is a drive among many drives This fails because Nietzsche emphasizes this drive to a privileged position Why focus on this particular drive if it is just one drive among many The third view, developed by Clark, is that the will to power as a second order desire capability to satisfy either another second order desire or a first order desire This fails because Nietzsche insists that the will to power is an indefinite striving, or some perpetual growth Clarks account, on the other hand could, in principle, entail one to reach that point where our will to power is completely fulfilled Also, this does not specifically give us a new ethics.The fourth view is that power is an end of each drive So power is not a means to achieve a specific end rather, it is the end of each drive whereby achievement is merely a means This fails because it becomes difficult to see how power could be characterized if it is not referenced by another drive and their specific ends If all ends aim toward power, then power is a condition whose determinate content must be describable, but without any reference to it It is difficult to see what power consists of, or what the recipient of power is.Finally, the fifth view from John Richardson is that the will to power designates something about the manner in which it pursues its specific end 129 A drive can will power as the development of that end, in which the drive consists mastery over other drives In other words, each drive wills power and each drive has its own specific end The mastering drives integrates other mastered drives to pursue an end This fails because Nietzsche explicitly states that the will to power actually seeks resistance If each drive is striving to become the master drive, then any pursuit of desire means that one should be prepared to overcome any resistance, but not deliberately seeking resistance Any resistance, on Richardson s view, is an instrumental requirement.Thus, Reginster s view is that the will to power is the will to the overcoming of resistance 131 132 With this definition, power is in and of itself devoid of any determinate content It can only gain a determinate content from its relation to some determinate desire or drive Reginster considers the will to power as unsatisfiable unless the agent has a desire for something else besides power It has a structure of a second order desire in which the object is a first order desire Specifically, it is a desire for the overcoming of resistance in the pursuit of some determinate first order desire Ultimately, his answer is that the will to power is the will to overcoming resistance.Discussion Question this sounds very similar to Frankfurt s position How is this any different Is the Last Man what Frankfurt considers a wonton This is not will to happiness, meaning that one wills to come to a state where resistance has been overcome where the desires have been satisfied This would belike a Schopenhauerian view This also does not mean a will to resistance because there is no growth unless this striving was successful The will to power is fully an activity of overcoming resistance There is an interesting paradox about the will to power Nietzsche remarks that humans do not really seek pleasure What they really want is power meaning that they seek resistance Thus, the will to power, which is what Reginster has cashed out as the will to the overcoming of resistance, must necessarily also will the resistance to overcome Since the will to power is the will to overcoming resistance, the agent must also desire some determinate end However, through willing power, the agent must also desire resistance The paradox is that the agent who wills power must want both the determinate end and resistance to their realization Reginster gives an example of an athlete who wants to win the game, but also wants resistance to win the game by having strong opponents challenging the athlete Thus, the will is not satisfied unless it is dissatisfied by having opponents and resistance And yet, there is an overcoming aspect The will to power is not satisfied unless one, there is a first order desire for a determinate end two, there is resistance to the realization of this determinate end and three, there is actual success in overcoming this resistance Thus, if we value the overcoming of resistance, then we must also value the resistance that is an ingredient of it Since suffering is defined by resistance, we must also value suffering 177.This also means to not be completely satisfied with achieving that determinate end The pursuit of power is a cycle of creation and destruction meaning that one does not destroy what one has created or loved, but to overcome what one has loved or created Since this is an activity, pursuing power is not about achievements, buton achieving The challenges need to be greater, fresh, and newer This produces a growth, a self overcoming, where the individual can outdo oneself without any permanent satisfaction.Chapter Four Overcoming DespairIf overcoming resistance is valuable, then the difficulty of achievement contributes to its value Anything considered easy has lesser value simply because of it being easily accessible The ethics of power suggests that challenges, resistance, and overcoming the resistance is what gives somethingvalue.In revaluating all values then, Reginster claims that Nietzsche argues against compassion, suggesting that it is not good for the agent and for the object which is another agent But why To be clear, Nietzsche is not against all compassion, but just the type that are based on altruistic grounds Thus, it can be good for the agent and is valuable, but this is dependent upon the character of the agent So what kind of compassion is Nietzsche against It is the type that sees suffering as an evil, a defect, where one cannot achieve greatness.Discussion Question can one be compassionate without resorting to some sort of alleviation of suffering Would this still be called compassion For Reginster, correct compassion is where there is not the elimination of suffering, but it is the enhancement of man brought on by creative power and an artistic conscience, which require the discipline of suffering 187 This suggests that happiness is some type of enhancement Thus, the proper response of compassion is not toward those who are suffering, but to those who are not suffering, mainly because they are not achieving greatness they are leading comfortable lives The lack of suffering implies the lack of true happiness 187 Now if suffering is the key to greatness, and this deals with the revaluation of values, then any creative moment must involve suffering If creativity is a paradigmatic instance of the will to power, then suffering, in the form of resistance, proves to be an essential ingredient of creativity 194 Interestingly, this form of ethics requires suffering and not an evil, but part of the good Happiness requires a constant overcoming of resistance, and not a stable satisfaction Happiness is essentially an activity, a feeling of power, and not a state.Chapter Five The Eternal RecurrenceThe purpose of the eternal recurrence is a thought experiment to see if one is life affirming or life negating Reginster makes a distinction between the theoretical role being aware that one s life will occur again and the practical role which is the attitude of affirmation Reginster s position is that the eternal recurrence is a practical role But first, he wants to look at other interpretations and show they they are flawed.The first view is that this is taken literally as a cosmological account Reginster discounts this saying that it is flawed, and that Nietzsche only presented this cosmological account in his unpublished notes Butthan that, Nietzsche considers this idea to be radically new But this idea is not new It has been advocated by other philosophers that had influenced Nietzsche Thus, the newness that Nietzsche proclaimed must not be a cosmological account.The second view is that the eternal recurrence suggests the futility of choice, which is championed by L with L with views this as a way to renounce one s will because we are fated to live our life in the same way To affirm our life is to not have any regrets about it, which essentially means to not realize new goals because one is fated not to , but it is to renounce these goals This position assumes metaphysical fatalism However, Nietzsche s revaluation of values is to take on new values It may be pointless to pursue certain goals and projects if this account is correct, but it is not groundless nor does this entail to be indifferent about the goals and projects themselves Thus, Reginster argues that the eternal recurrence does not imply any metaphysical fatalism Indeed, it may still be up to me which life I live But the affirmation of life is to love it, to say yes to life not renouncing life, which includes the suffering that comes with it.The third view is that the eternal recurrence suggests the importance of choice, which is championed by Soll Soll argues that this is meant to see how our choices have huge significance If the world is to return again and again for eternity, the decisions I make now will have the greatest weight because I will have to re live with the consequences for eternity Making a good choice is beneficial since one will have good consequences Regrettable choices leads to despair since one will have bad consequences Reginster, however, argues that the new iteration of coming back would not be the same person This new individual in the next cycles is a twin, a Doppleg nger, but not the same individual.To read the rest, go to This book is an excellent work of scholarship on Nietzsche It argues, correctly in my view, against over hyped claims that Nietzsche is purposely anti systematic thinker to show that the problem of nihilism is the central issue in his philosophy and that he presents a systematic response to it Register displays a command of Nietzsche s writings to develop and defend his view Along the way the discusses a variety of key themes in Nietzsche s philosophy including nihilism, self overcoming self This book is an excellent work of scholarship on Nietzsche It argues, correctly in my view, against over hyped claims that Nietzsche is purposely anti systematic thinker to show that the problem of nihilism is the central issue in his philosophy and that he presents a systematic response to it Register displays a command of Nietzsche s writings to develop and defend his view Along the way the discusses a variety of key themes in Nietzsche s philosophy including nihilism, self overcoming self creation, the will to power, willing, and the re evaluation of values The book will be of interest not only to academics and non specialists alike Reginster is a rich and subtle reader of Nietzsche I particularly appreciate his passages on Nietzsche s concept of happiness as being active creativity s overcoming of resistance rather than a state of contentment There s much to ponder there for a society massing luxuries while gobbling anti depressants. A good amount to engage and disagree with here, especially on the issue of Nietzsche s meta ethics Nevertheless, anyone interested in Nietzsche should read Reginster s chapter on the will to power. I m almost finished this All of my concerns about Nihilism and Nietzsche are laid out bare in this work. Incredible analysis of Nietzsche s philosophy Renders most difficult concepts clearly and argues his own positions methodically Good introduction to anyone who is unsure about key ideas in Nietzsche and a great tool for anyone already exposed to his works but who desires further elucidation. Extremely well written by an acclaimed university philosophy professor

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  • Hardcover
  • 312 pages
  • The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism
  • Bernard Reginster
  • English
  • 20 May 2017
  • 0674021991