Thursday, December 11, 2014

Plato’s Contest: Answering the Challenge of the Parmenides

Abstract: Plato’s contest for the early Academy was to answer Parmenides’ criticisms of the Theory of the Universal Forms through an interpretation of the dialectical exercises presented in the Parmenides (§I).  Plato’s Theory of the Universal Forms and the objections of the Parmenides may now be more precisely formulated in predicate logic using the notational convention developed by Edward Zalta (§II).  The two principal objections to Plato’s Theory of the Universal Forms are the Third Man Argument and the Greatest Difficulty Argument: the Third Man Argument can be answered by Constance Meinwald’s distinction of Self-Predication and Gail Fine’s distinction of Non-Identity (§III); and the Greatest Difficulty Argument implies the inconsistent set of Russell's Paradox, yet may be answered through the construction of a hierarchical set theoretical model that subsumes and restricts the semantic scope of each subordinate hypothesis (§IV).  The rejection of the external predication of the Third Man Argument and the two-world ontology of the Greatest Difficulty Argument suggests a monistic ontology of internal relations in the Concrete Universal form of all forms (§V). 



I. The Challenge of the Parmenides

The Parmenides recounts a dispute between the elderly Parmenides (age 65), the mature Zeno (age 40), and the young Socrates concerning the Theory of the Universal Forms, or Ideas.[1]  After reading a treatise on the absurdity plurality of beings, Zeno is questioned by Socrates as to whether the same argument might also repudiate the universal forms, (127e) and confirms that Socrates has correctly understood that the purpose of his argument is to defend Parmenides by responding to “those who assert plurality” by showing that the assumption “that there is a plurality leads to even more absurd consequences than the hypothesis of the one.” (128d)  Parmenides then joins the controversy with a battery of explosive criticisms to challenge the Theory of the Forms. (130a-134e)   He concludes that “these difficulties and many more besides are inevitably involved in the forms” (135a), and recommends a “severe training” of dialectical exercises by which the theory might yet be saved. (135d) 

No consensus has yet been reached on how to interpret these bewildering exercises.[2]  Thomas K. Seung describes them as “the most obscure and enigmatic pieces Plato ever wrote.”[3]  William F. Lynch, S.J. calls the Parmenides the “supreme puzzle of ancient philosophy.”[4]  Many ancient scholars interpreted the Parmenides as a discourse on theology which described "all things that get their reality from the One."[5]  Some modern scholars have - more modestly – interpreted the dialogue as either a “record of honest perplexity” or as merely a “gymnastic exercise, not a disclosure of supreme divinity.”[6]  Since the criticisms of the Parmenides present Plato’s most explicit examination of the Theory of the Forms, interpretations of this dialogue may establish the place of the universal forms in Plato's mature philosophy: if Parmenides’ criticisms may be answered then Plato could have affirmed, but if not then Plato should have rejected, the Theory of the Universal Forms.[7]  Scholarly disagreement on the interpretation of this dialogue thus pivots on the gigantomachy of Plato’s Academy between the idealist 'gods' who defended the universal forms and the materialist 'giants' who wished to “drag everything down to earth out of heaven.”[8] (246a)  If the Platonic dialogues may be read as a dramatic conflict, in which each unresolved aporia ends in tragedy, then the Parmenides concludes at the height of tragic agony: for not only do the criticisms of Parmenides deal a devastating blow to the central pillar of Plato’s ontology, but neither do the dialectical exercises clearly provide any satisfactory answer.  Plato's contest for the philosophers of the future was to discover a satisfactory interpretation of the dialectical exercises, to save the Theory of the Universal Forms, and to answer the challenge of the Parmenides.

In the celebrated dialogues the Phaedo, the Republic, and the Symposium, Plato expounds his famous Theory of the Universal Forms.  Heraclitean Flux had implied that at every moment any sensible object must possess some contrary opposite properties.[9] (402a)  Plato argues to the contrary (96a) that, if sensible objects must possess contradictory properties F and not-F then nothing can be explained; yet since explanations should be possible, there should be some supersensible universal forms with which to explain all properties in sensible objects.[10] (72c)  The Theory of the Universal Forms is thus the hypothesis that, if we are to ever explain a plurality of sensible objects that each share some common property we should, to avoid contradictions, postulate there to be one unchanging supersensible universal form, which is itself the prior ground of being and necessary condition for knowledge of each property in each particular sensible object.  To explain the transcendental conditions for the possibility of knowledge, Plato's Theory of the Universal Forms thus postulates an indefinite multitude of supersensible universal forms in a transcendent realm beyond the sensible realm of all appearances.[11] 

The resulting picture is a two-world ontological dualism in which the being of the supersensible universal forms are located in a transcendent world that is separated beyond the being of all sensible particular instances. (508e)  However, this ontological dualism conflicts with Plato's epistemological monism.  Since every property of a plurality of objects must have some single explanation, there must also be one explanation for these two-worlds of beings; yet since any explanation must postulate the being of one universal form over many particular beings, the consequence is a set of beings that is inconsistently both one and many.[12]  Moreover, since each universal form is itself a particular being when conceived of in relation to other universal forms, and every plurality of particular beings must be explained by some further universal form, this plurality of all universal forms must also be explained by one further universal form over all universal forms.  The many criticisms against the Theory of the Universal Forms in the second part of the Parmenides (130a-134e) each result from Plato’s two-world ontological dualism.[13]  Thus Aristotle thus reports that "it is not possible to acquire knowledge without the universal, but separating is the cause of the difficulty arising." (Metaphysics 1086a32) 

Plato never explicitly answers the challenge of the Parmenides.[14]  Paul Elmer More writes: “We have the whole doctrine of Ideas subjected to a process of destructive logic to which Plato makes no direct answer either here or elsewhere.”[15]  If the dialectical exercises of the third part of the Parmenides fail to answer the challenge of second part of the Parmenides, then the Parmenides must conclude in a tragic aporia that leaves the greatest objections to Plato’s Theory of the Universal Forms unanswered.  Socrates then asks: “What are you going to do about philosophy, then? Where will you turn while the answer to these questions remains unknown?” (135c)  The clearest indication of how Plato intends to answer this challenge is briefly hinted at in the transitional passage when Parmenides speculates: “Only a very gifted man can come to know that for each thing there is some kind, a being by itself; but only a prodigy more remarkable still will discover that and be able to teach someone else who has sifted through all these difficulties thoroughly and critically for himself.”[16] (135a-135b)  For the purpose of this instruction, Parmenides prescribes a "severe training" of dialectical exercises, to explore the semantic implications of supposing that "such and such a thing is" and "is not", so that the truth may not escape us.[17] (135d-136a)

Read the full essay here: http://goo.gl/hXUe7x




[1] Although Plato seems to prefer the term Idea (ἰδέα or εἶδος), this essay will assume the Aristotelian nomenclature of ‘universal forms’ to more clearly distinguish universal forms from particular instances.
[2] Kenneth M. Sayre reports that despite “almost two millennia of documented commentary, however, scholars today are still struggling to make sense of the dialogue. Cf. Parmenides' Lesson, 1996: XI
[3] Seung, Thomas K. Plato Re-Discovered: Human Value and Social Order, 1994: 185
[4] Lynch, William F. An Approach to the Metaphysics of Plato through the Parmenides, 1959: 3
[5] Proclus' Parmenides Commentary 638.18-19; For a summary of Neo-Platonist interpretations of the Parmenides see John Dillon’s introduction to Proclus' Commentary on Plato's Parmenides.
[6] Vlastos, The Third Man Argument in Plato’s Parmenides, The Philosophical Review Vo. 63, No. 3, 1954: 343; Cornford, Francis M. Plato and Parmenides, 1939: 131
[7] Plato scholars can be roughly divided according to their interpretation of the the status of the Theory of the Universal Forms after the Parmenides: Unitarians believe that Plato did not revise his theory, while Revisionists believe he did.  Aristotle’s contemporary testimony (Metaphysics Α987a29 & M1078b9) suggests that Plato neither answered these criticisms nor revised the Theory of the Universal Forms. The result is an apparent interpretive paradox: if Plato recognized the criticisms to be valid then he should have revised his theory, yet there is no explicit evidence for such a revision; while if Plato did not revise his theory then he should not have thought the criticisms to be valid, yet Plato gives no answer to the criticisms. Cf. John Pepple, Plato’s Answer to Speusippus: 18
[8] John N. Findlay plausibly associates this allusion to the gods and giants with idealist friends and materialist enemies of the Theory of Universal Forms. Cf. Plato and Platonism, 1978:12
[9] Aristotle reports Plato responded to Heraclitean Flux: “Plato accepted [Socrates’] approach but was lead by it to think that it must be concerned with things other than the sensible. For it is impossible to formulate a general definition of any sensible thing, since all is in flux.” Cf. The Metaphysics, 987a 29
[10] Gail Fine describes how since “sensibles suffer compresence [of contrary opposite properties], there must be nonsensible forms that escape compresence.” Cf. On Ideas: On Ideas: Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Theory of Forms, 1995: 54-57
[11] Gail Fine observes that both Aristotle and his commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias regarded this argument for the possibility of knowledge as the primary motivation for the Theory of the Universal Forms. Cf. On Ideas: On Ideas: Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Theory of Forms, 1995: 49
[12] Thomas K. Seung observes that set theory continues the ancient Pythagorean priority of being while formal logic continues the ancient Eleatic tradition of pure form. Cf. Plato Re-Discovered, 1994: 215
[13] Giovanni Reale concurs that all of the objections of the Parmenides “turn in their various and complex ways on the conception of the intelligible Ideas as separate from sensible things.” Toward a New Interpretation of Plato, 1996: 226.  For a similar opinion see also More, The Parmenides of Plato, 1916: 135
[14] Harold F. Cherniss claims that Plato suggested an answer to the Third Man Argument at Republic (597c) and the Timaeus (31a). Unfortunately, these texts do not explicitly answer the argument without additional assumptions.
[15] More, Paul Elmer, The Parmenides of Plato, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 25, No. 2, Mar., 1916: 128
[16] This allusion to a great dialectician of the future echoes Socrates' prognostication of a future "great man" who may resolve the aporiae of the Charmides (169a).
[17] Constance Meinwald observes that the third part of the Parmenides contains the longest single stretch of uninterrupted argument in the Platonic corpus (30 Stephanus pages) and concurs that it was meant to resolve the aporiae of the second part. Cf. Goodbye to the Third Man. In The Cambridge Companion to Plato: 366-7

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Monstrosity of Materialism in the Alien Film Series


The Monstrosity of Materialism in the Alien Film Series  

Abstract:  In the Alien Film Series, the cosmos is dominated by the personification Materialism in the interstellar corporation. Materialism understands matter to be both intrinsically self-enclosed and extrinsically other-caused. This dual relation results in the paradox of Materialism, in which matter is both enclosed within itself and caused by what is other than itself. The paradox of Materialism is concretely embodied in the alien monster, which is the monstrosity of Materialism. The greatest of all monsters is that which profanes the sacred order of the cosmos by threatening to disintegrate its absolute self-identity. The disclosure of the monstrosity of Materialism causes consciousness to become alienated from and opposed to itself. The violent battle with the alien is thus a spiritual conflict for the absolute identity of self-conscious mind. The alien terrifies audiences because it threatens to negate, falsify, and annul this idea of an essential identity between man and God.

Self-Alienated Horror
The most acute horror that penetrates into the hidden vaults of our psyches is the disquieting sense of the uncanny before a power which may disintegrate, annul, and radically profane that which we hold sacred in the cosmos.[1]  In horror films, the uncanny is often externalized and concretized in a monster which may destroy ourselves and even annihilate all things.[2]  Since a guilty conscience is more dreadful than an injured body, the most terrible of all monsters must be an abomination which evinces our greatest guilt by threatening the innermost sanctum and self-identity of our conscious minds.[3]  The Alien film series terrifies audiences in this way by the alienation of the mind from itself and from the Absolute, so that mortal fear of the alien becomes an immortal theological horror.
In Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien, the crew of the commercial salvage ship the Nostromo is directed by the Weyland Corporation to investigate a distress signal on an uninhabited world whereupon they discover a mysterious derelict craft of extraterrestrial origin.  The cargo chamber of the wreckage contains thousands of mysterious leathery eggs.  Each egg appears to hatch a spidery-limbed "face-hugger" that envelopes human faces, penetrates their oral cavities, and implants an alien zygote which, after a brief period of natal gestation, violently bursts forth from within the bodies of their unwilling hosts.  The infant alien which emerges from within a human host rapidly matures into a murderous beast which indiscriminately assails, assimilates, and annihilates all advanced living organisms within its surrounding biosphere.
In James Cameron's 1986 sequel Aliens, the aliens are collectively shown to operate from and within insectile hives commanded by an alien queen.  The alien queen is the mistress of the hive through whose matriarchal governance the aliens are gendered as a horrific representation of the monstrous-feminine.[4]  Alien hives are organized into castes of workers, warriors and queens: queens lay the eggs; workers retrieve the living bodies of human hosts to be sacrificed to produce new aliens; and warriors kill all enemies of the hive.  The 'life-cycle' of alien un-life towards the annihilation of all life vitally depends upon the sacrificial death of a host.  It is a viral parasitical contaminant upon life without any essential limit upon its potential for expansion. 
In David Fincher's 1992 film Alien³, the alien is smuggled by the survivors of the events of Aliens aboard an escape pod to crash-land upon on the isolated penal colony Fiorina 161. The meteoric arrival of the alien within their midst leads them, in faith and ignorance, to understand the beast as an omen of the forthcoming apocalypse.  Through the collective activity of the alien hive, the alien monstrosity assumes the overriding purpose to exponentially expand to contaminate, corrupt, and consume all life in an endless entropy of self-annihilation. 
The alien monster assimilates the appearance of man without his essential reason: it shares a human figure yet expresses neither pity nor remorse.  In the alien man's physiology and technology become indiscriminately conjoined.  The alien appears as a vicarious embodiment of the technical constructed-ness of human nature.  Through this indissoluble fusion of man’s naturality and artificiality, the violent exterior battle with the alien dramatizes an interior conflict over the essential nature of man between the opposed notions of necessarily inherited naturality with contingently produced artificiality.  Yet the conclusion of the Alien film series appears to leave this conflict unresolved in a dramatic aporia.  Neither the nature of man, nor the alien, nor even the relation of man and alien are conclusively elucidated.  The alien thus haunts our essential self-understanding as a monstrous living paradox that symbolically dismembers the integral coherency of life, nature, and the human spirit. 
In Ridley Scott’s 2012 prequel film Prometheus, the science-vessel Prometheus is dispatched by the company to a distant world to investigate the signs of extra-terrestrial visitations to Earth that have been uncovered in ancient archaeological remains.  The crew of the Prometheus discovers that the aliens have been created as genocidal weapons by an extraterrestrial race of humanoid Engineers - "a superior species no doubt."  This discovery situates human self-understanding within a hierarchy of creatures halfway between superhuman engineers and the subhuman aliens.  The Engineers are thus established, within this hierarchy of species, as the Lovecraftian "lesser gods" and proximate creators of mankind. [5]  Like the benevolent titan Prometheus, the Engineers have stolen the fire of creation and gifted it to man by seeding the primordial Earth with human DNA prior to the earliest origins of the human race.  Sir Peter Weyland, the founder of the Weyland Corporation, recounts:

"The Titan Prometheus wanted to give man equal footing with the gods.  For this purpose he was cast out of Olympus. Well, my friends, the time has finally come for his return."
  
The expedition of the eponymously named space-ship Prometheus embodies this same mythic quest to wrest forbidden knowledge from what is absolutely other-than mankind.  The events which transpire prior to human history have important consequences for the relationship between man and aliens, as the seeding of the Earth by the Engineers announces a wholly new relation between this alien race of supermen and man that, once discovered, transforms our collective idea of human nature, the essence of life on Earth, and the ultimate purpose of human life. 
In our space-faring future, we discover a sub-human alien contagion that attaches to a human host, assimilates the essence of man, and is birthed with the cancerous potential to destroy all life.  In the pre-historical past, the natures of man and alien have been designed by the superhuman Engineers.  The continuity and coherence of human nature is thus doubly threatened by negation at both its original beginning and its final end: the essence of man is designed as a monstrous material artifact, just as man's future purpose is consumed by material monsters.  The beginning and end of man is thus altogether enveloped in matter and determined by Materialism.  Materialism suppresses form within matter, and then negatively individuates material atoms from one another and within themselves.  The consequence is the paradox of Materialism in which all beings are thought to be negated, divided, and annulled.  The furthermost negativity of this paradox terminates in the absolute annihilation of being and the logic of nihilism.  The horror of the alien is the result of this furthermost alienation of the human nature from itself through the absolute negation of its original nature and final purpose. 

Read the Full Essay at Academia.edu



[1] "The Uncanny is the name for everything that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light." Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Von. and Victor C. Hayes. Schelling's Philosophy of Mythology and Revelation: Three of Seven Books. 28th Lesson, SW II, 2, 649.
[2] "[Horror films allow us to] participate in the fantasy of living one's own death and more the death of cities, the destruction of humanity itself." Sontag, Susan. “Imagination of Disaster”, in Against Interpretation, and Other Essays. New York, N.Y.: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966: 212.
[3] Cf. Socrates’ characterization of the pitiful tyrant in Plato’s Gorgias, 475e.
[4] Creed, Barbara. “Alien and the Monstrous-Feminine,” Screen, Vol. 27, No. 1, 1986.
[5] "Though Prometheus’ title and central metaphor points towards Greek myth, it also parallels, perhaps even more strongly, the work of Lovecraft." The Engineer Mythos." Strange Shapes. Accessed September 15, 2014. http://alienseries.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/the-engineer-mythos/comment-page-1/

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why is Hegel not a Dialetheist? A Reply to Graham Priest


Paraconsistent logic rejects the necessity of the principle of explosion, that renders all inferences from contradictory antecedents trivially true (i.e. ex falso quodlibet), and conversely affirms that there may be some non-trivially true inconsistent inferences. Dialetheism further affirms that there are some true contradictions, or true paradoxes (e.g. Zeno's paradoxes of motion).  Hegelian dialectics, to the contrary, does not reject the principle of explosion (i.e. ex falso quodlibet), but rather affirms that some contradictions are merely apparent contradictions, which may be resolved into a concept that preserves the difference of the contrary elements within the identity of the concept, as the self-identity of its differences.  The principle of explosion is not rejected by Hegel because his primary concern is, not the Philolian conditional of fixed propositions, but rather the concrete universal of speculative reason that subsumes within its self-identity the differentia of particular concepts.  The bearer of truth for Dialetheism is the true paradox of contradictory propositions, while the bearer of truth for Hegelian dialectics is the identity of difference of the concept.  The contrariness of the true paradox is the contradiction of the propositions, while the contrariness of the concept is the difference of the subordinate concepts nested within the self-identity of the superior concept.  Concepts are, for Hegel, not strictly contradictory because contradictions only obtain between propositions that affirm and deny one and the same thing in the same way.  Concepts are not reducible to propositions and thus do not affirm or deny one and the same thing in the same way because they are neither bivalent (i.e. either true or false) nor extrinsically referential (i.e. referring to some fact beyond themselves). Rather, concepts refer only to themselves and may be considered true only according to their own self-determined essence and purpose.  Since concepts are not contradictory, the contrariness of concepts cannot result in a contradiction that is true, or a true paradox. Thus, since the Hegelian dialectic of concepts cannot be contradictory, but merely the identity of differentia in the unity of opposites, Hegelian dialectic is essentially irreducible to the Dialetheist logic of true paradoxes.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Baptizing Nietzsche: the Paradoxes of Nietzscheanism Resolved into Christian Nietzscheanism


"Where could I go from Thy spirit,
where could I flee from Thy face?"
- Psalms, 139

Abstract: The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is riddled by at least five minor paradoxes, in which mutually contradictory beliefs are affirmed and denied: (1) God is Dead; (2) Eternity in an Instant; (3) The Truth that there is no Truth; (4) Something from Nothing; and (5) infinite Self-Overcoming. These five minor paradoxes are mutually contradictory. The fundamental contradiction is between Nietzschean epistemology of error theory and the ethic of the overcoming of nihilism. This contradiction is mythically expressed in the paradox of Eternal Recurrence and the Overman. Resolving this paradox requires the rejection of Nietzsche’s epistemology and the re-conception of Eternal Recurrence according to Christian theology. This rejection and reconceptualization of the core concepts of the philosophy of Nietzsche opens the possibility for the dialectical sublation of Nietszcheanism by Christian theology as Christian Nietzscheanism.


I. Nietzschean Ontology and Epistemology

The greatest mystery of theism and atheism is how these absolute judgments, of the absolute being (i.e. ontotheology) and non-being (i.e. meontotheology) of God, may emerge from their opposite: how might absolute being emerge from absolute non-being in the genesis of theism; and, conversely, how might absolute non-being emerge from absolute being in the genesis of atheism?  This ontotheological mystery of theism and atheism recapitulates the classical ontological mystery of being itself: how can being emerge from non-being and non-being emerge from being?  Parmenides answered that only being could be thought to be, and non-being could never be thought[1]; Heraclitus answered, to the contrary, that being could not be thought except as the “ever-living fire” of becoming[2]; and Plato answered, contrary to both, that non-being is different from being, even as it exists relative to being, as relative non-being.[3]  These answers are further expressed through the historical development of Western Theology: Philo of Alexandria, under the influence of Middle Platonism[4], identified the God of Israel with the Parmenidean being in-itself; and, to the contrary, Friedrich Nietzsche, under the influence of the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant[5], denied any possibility of thinking being in-itself.[6]   The many paradoxes that have resulted from Nietzsche’s rejection of being itself continue to await a Platonic answer.

Friedrich Nietzsche described himself as the “most terrible opponent of Christianity”[7], who cursed Christianity[8], and “slew all gods... for the sake of morality.”[9]  Nietzsche seems to have imagined himself as the heroic and prophetic opponent of Saint Paul the Apostle, whom he described as “the greatest of all apostles of revenge” and as a “genius of hatred.”[10] Fr. Henri de Lubac writes:

“It must be agreed, then, that never, before Nietzsche, had so mighty an adversary arisen, one who had so clear, broad and explicit a conception of his destiny and who pursued it in all domains with such systematic and deliberate zeal. Nietzsche was thoroughly imbued with a sense of his prophetic mission.”[11]

Nietzsche’s anti-Christianity was expressed in a “persistent desire to articulate an ontology of absolute becoming”[12] in absolute opposition to the traditional Christian ontotheology of absolute being.  Nietzsche believed that Christianity has absorbed absolutely all being, goodness, and truth into the imagined idea of God who is nothing. When all being, goodness, and truth is predicated of an idea that is nothing, all value and truth become absolutely annihilated.  Nietzsche thus viewed Christianity as complicit in the absolutization of nothing and the genesis of modern nihilism.[13]
Christianity views Nietzscheanism as complicit in the ‘Death of God’ and the consequent annihilation of all being, goodness, and truth; while Nietzscheanism views Christianity as the author of modern nihilism, through the absorption of all prior values and truths into an imaginary idea of God that is nothing.  It must then appear tantamount to an absolute contradiction to conjoin together in the concept of Christian Nietzscheanism the concepts of Christianity with Nietzschianism - Christ with the Antichrist.  Socrates warns against this kind of sophistical use of dialectic to forcibly unite unmediated and contradictory ideas: “You must not immediately turn your eyes to the one, but must discern this or that number embracing the multitude.”[14]  Since, every conjunction of distinct concepts and terms requires some copula (e.g. S is P) to mediate between the distincta, and there appears to be no mediating copula between the absolutely opposite terms of theism and atheism, it would appear that Christianity may never be predicated of Nietzscheanism in Christian Nietzscheanism, and any such conjunction of these concept must be “an impossible and monstrous idea.”[15]  The apparent monstrosity of Christian Nietzscheanism results from a forced copulation of contradictory elements which seem to retain the full negativity of their contradictoriness, so that even the ecstasy of divine grace and the freedom of the Will-to-Power is turned upside down into a hideous chimera. 

While Christianity and Nietzscheanism contradict one another in many respects, they remain essentially conjoined in common awe before the ‘Death of God’ and terror before the social proliferation of modern nihilism: both affirm that “God himself is dead”[16]; and both purport to answer the pervasive belief in the nothingness of all being, goodness, and truth through a philosophic ontology.[17]  Hence, the difference between Christianity and Nietzscheanism rests principally in their respective ontological answers to the apparent nihilism of the ‘Death of God’.  If we admit the difference between being and non-being; ontotheology and meontotheology; Christianity and Nietzscheanism to be relative rather than absolute, then Christianity and Nietzscheanism may be related to one another through their very ontological difference.  If the distinct concepts of Christianity and Nietzscheanism are related through the copula of ontological difference, then it may be possible to speculatively mediate, conjoin, and predicate Christianity of Nietzscheanism in Christian Nietzscheanism.  Through the relativity of non-being Nietzsche’s ontology of absolute becoming may be dialectically sublated within Christian theology.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel described sublation (aufheben) as the operation of speculative reason through which an abstract concept is successively elevated, negated, and preserved. [18]  Sublation requires the subsumed concept to be negated and contradicted by itself; for it is only in virtue of the contradiction between what the concept is determined to be and what the concept has determined for itself as its purpose to become, that the concept may open itself to be incorporated into a superior concept to fulfill its self-determined purpose.[19]  Nietzscheanism may, in this way, only be sublated within Christian theology if it is determined by itself to be self-contradictory; and may only fulfill its self-determined purpose through the rejection of one of its contradictory elements under the determination of Christian theology.

The essential self-determined purpose of the philosophy of Nietzsche is the overcoming of the condition of modern nihilism.[20] Nietzsche writes:

“This man of the future will redeem us not just from the ideal held up till now, but also from the things which will have to arise from it, the great nausea, the will to nothingness, from nihilism, that stroke of midday and the great decision which makes the will free again, which gives earth its purpose and man his hope again, this Antichrist and anti-nihilist, this conqueror of God and nothingness – he must come one day.”[21]

Nietzsche defines nihilism epistemologically as the belief that “[e]very belief is a considering-something-true… is necessarily false because there is simply no true world.”[22]  Nihilism is thus, for Nietzsche, primarily the result of the necessary epistemic falsity of every judgment, which contemporary epistemologists describe as error-theory. Error theory is the belief that every judgment is erroneous or false because all judgments fail to correspond to the facts of the world.  Michael Steven Green argues that Nietzsche believed in an error theory of judgment from his earliest philosophical works.[23]  Green shows, in Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, how Nietzsche’s epistemology was decisively shaped by his reading of the transcendental philosophy of Afrikan Spir (1837-1890).[24]  Under the influence of Afrikan Spir’s reconceptualization of the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant, Nietzsche had come to believe that all purported knowledge of mental objects consist in a contradictory mixture of the one unconditioned self-identity and the many conditioned aspects.[25]  Since Nietzsche tended to identify Kant’s noumenal realm of thing-in-themselves with the static being in-itself of Parmenides that he rejected,[26] Nietzsche consequently rejected the possibility of objectively valid judgments for all objects of cognition.[27]  The rejection of the truth and validity of all judgments renders all judgments invalid, erroneous and false.[28]
The philosophy of Immanuel Kant had perilously balanced the two opposed tendencies of transcendental idealism and empirical realism: transcendental idealism sought to establish the transcendental logical possibility of cognition, while empirical realism sought to demonstrate the reality of empirical scientific discoveries in nature.  The tradition of German Idealism split over this opposed legacy of Kant: Johann Gottlieb Fichte rejected the empirical realism of the noumenal thing-in-itself, while Arthur Schopenhauer retained this duality of the phenomenal representations and the noumenal reality of empirical nature.  Under the influence of Afrikan Spir, Nietzsche radicalized Schopenhauer’s natural realism into a “hypernaturalism” that reduced even the conceptual self-identity of empirical objects to the flux of absolute becoming.[29]  Despite pretenses to empirical realism, Nietzsche's hypernaturalistic ontology of absolute becoming remains within the tradition of transcendental idealism because he continues to conceive of nature according to the Kantian antinomies of aesthetic judgment: natural objects are the composite mixture of conceptual self-identity and intuited multiplicity.[30]  For this reason, Nietzsche's naturalism is a species of transcendental idealism and Nietzsche's Heraclitean ontology of absolute becoming is totally subsumed under Nietzsche's Kantian idealist epistemology.

The central theoretical contradiction of Nietzsche's idealist epistemology is the simultaneous denial that judgments may be universally valid for all (i.e. no judgment is valid) together with the affirmation of particularly valid judgments for oneself (i.e. some judgment is valid). This belief in an error-theory of judgment, in which no judgment can be valid and true, contradicts the affirmation of the truth of any particular judgment (e.g. (No S is P) & (Some S is P)). Nietzsche affirmed the ontology of absolute becoming and the error-theory of judgment in order to avoid the theological implications of Parmenidean self-identical being in-itself.  However, Nietzsche’s error-theory of judgment contradicts his fundamental commitment to naturalism: if no objective judgments can be true, then no judgments about nature can be true, and any judgment that affirms naturalism to be true must also be false.  Hence, Nietzsche’s naturalistic ontology of absolute becoming motivates the very epistemology that inadvertently contradicts his naturalism.  Nietzsche is, for this reason, compelled to paradoxically affirm the truth of a belief in naturalism that also denies all true judgments of naturalism.[31]  Moreover, since Nietzsche affirms the truth of an idealist epistemology, which also denies and falsifies this epistemology, Nietzsche is compelled to admit the paradox of affirming and denying his epistemology.  This theoretical paradox of Nietzschean epistemology is recapitulated on the mythic plane in the contradiction of Eternal Recurrence and the Overman: Eternal Recurrence renders every action necessary, while the Overman is self-determining agent of alternative contingency.  Karl Löwith has famously argued that Nietzsche’s “fundamental contradiction” was that between his doctrines of the Overman and the Eternal Recurrence.[32]  Since Nietzsche's idealist epistemology denies the possibility of objectively valid judgments of universal and necessary truths, Nietzsche vitiates his own doctrine of the Eternal Recurrence that could alone motivate Nietzsche's ethic of the overcoming of nihilism in the Overman.  This contradiction between Nietzschean epistemology and Nietzschean ethics is the fundamental paradox of Nietzschean philosophy.  To consistently realize his aim of overcoming nihilism, Nietzscheanism must reject the idealist epistemology that entails Nietzsche’s error theory.  The rejection of Nietzsche’s idealist epistemology opens the portal of salvation for Nietzsche to restore a robustly Christian theological, rather than merely socio-historical, understanding of the ‘Death of God’, which preserves the reality, necessity, and truth of the Incarnation, Cruxifixion, and Resurrection of Christ that alone ensures the possibility of a Christian Nietzschean ethic of the overcoming of modern nihilism.


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[1] Parmenides, On Nature, trans. John Burnet (1892), II:3-5 : “It is, and that it is impossible for anything not to be, is the way of conviction… For you cannot know what is not –that is impossible –nor utter it.”
[2] Heraclitus, On Nature, trans. William Harris, Fragment 30
[3] Plato, The Sophist 256-258, trans. F.M. Cornford: “[T]he nature of the different is to be ranked among the things that exist... [with] as much reality as existence itself: it does not mean what is contrary to ‘existent’ but only what is different from that existent.” (258a-b) 
[4] Middle Platonism can be roughly dated beginning with Antiochus of Ascalon (130-68BC) and ending with Plotinus (~78/9BC-200AD). 
[5] Green, Michael Steven, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002 p.7: “Kant argues that the antinomies show that empirical reality is transcendentally ideal. In contrast, Nietzsche, under the influence of Spir, argues that the antinomies show that these descriptions of the world are necessarily false."
[6] Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power, p. 517: “The character of the world in a state of becoming as incapable of formulation, as ‘false’ as ‘self-contradictory’. Knowledge and becoming exclude one another. Consequently, ‘knowledge’ must be something else: there must first of all be a will to make knowledgeable, a kind of becoming must itself create the deception of being.”
[7] Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Letter to Peter Gast 1883, Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche, Trans. Anthony M. Ludovici: “I am the most terrible opponent of Christianity, and have discovered a mode of attack of which even Voltaire had not an inkling.”
[8] Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Anti-Christ, p.62  “I condemn Christianity; bring against the Christian Church the most terrible charge any prosecutor has ever uttered.”
[9] Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science, § 153
[10] Nietzsche, Friedrich.The Antichrist, pp. 45, 42: “On the heels of the ‘glad tidings’, came the worst of all: those of Paul. In Paul was embodied the antithetical type to the ‘bringer of glad tidings’, the genius of hatred, the vision of hatred, of the inexorable logic of hatred”
[11] De Lubac, Henri, The Drama of Atheist Humanism, 1949 p.118
[12] Michael Steven Green, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002 p.93
[13] Nietzsche, Friedrich.The Antichrist, p. 18: “[In Christianity]nothingness [is] deified, the will to nothingness sanctified.”
[14] Plato, Philebus, 18b
[15] Fraser, Giles, Redeeming Nietzsche, 2002 p.3
[16] Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science, § 125; Cf. Eckhart, Pascal, Boehme and Silesius
[17] Cf. Heidegger, Martin. The Word of Nietzsche 'God is Dead', p.61: "Nietzsche's countermovement against metaphysics is, as the mere turning upside down of metaphysics, also an inextricable entanglement in metaphysics..."
[18] Innwood Michael, Hegel Dictionary, Sublation pp. 283-285
[19] Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. The Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences, §96
[20] Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power, Preface: “What I am recounting is the history of the two centuries that are going to come, the advent of nihilism.”
[21] Nietzsche, Friedrich. Genealogy of Morals, II.24
[22] Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power, I.15
[23] Green, Michael Steven, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002 p.9: “I argue that Nietzsche’s error theory is present thoughout his early period of philosophical activity, both in his Nachlaß and his published works, from the early 1870s to the final works of 1888.”
[24] Green, Michael Steven, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002 p.10: “The missing link between the two [Kant and Nietzsche] is Afrikan Spir, whose book Denken und Wirklichkeit exerted a strong influence on Nietzsche’s epistemology.”
[25] Green, Michael Steven, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002 p.7: “Kant argues that the antinomies show that empirical reality is transcendentally ideal. In contrast, Nietzsche, under the influence of Spir, argues that the antinomies show that these descriptions of the world are necessarily false."
[26] Heidegger, Martin. The Word of Nietzsche ‘God is Dead’, p. 61: “[T]he terms ‘God’ and ‘Christian God’ in Nietzsche’s thinking are used to designate the supersensory world in general. God is the name for the realm of Ideas and ideals. This realm of the suprasensory has been considered since Plato…  the suprasensory world is the metaphysical world.”
[27] Green, Michael Steven, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002 p. 68: "Nietzsche agrees with Spir that all empirical knowledge is contradictory and therefore false. But he disagrees with Spir about the true nature of reality. Instead of claiming that reality is in its essence simple and unitary, as Spir does, Nietzsche argues that reality is becoming...Therefore the truth nature of reality cannot be correctly described."
[28] Green, Michael Steven, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002, p.10:“The way of being is the way of Parmenides… Nietzsche takes the path of becoming [i.e. Heraclitus]. It is for this reason that we find him vacillating between the error theory and a noncognitivist approach.”
[29] Green , Michael Steven, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002 p. 163: “The first and abiding principle standing behind Nietzsche’s epistemologies and his philosophy in general is naturalism. Nietzsche is concerned with the philosophical consequences of situating man within nature, which means seeing man as finite temporal and causally conditioned being."
[30] Green , Michael Steven, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002 p. 163: "Nietzsche offers absolute becoming as an alternative to standard naturalistic descriptions of the world because he believes that the latter surreptitiously posit antinaturalistic entities. Therefore Nietzsche’s theory of absolute becoming is not an a priori alternative to naturalism. It is instead a radically empirical theory – a type of hypernaturalism that attempts to get at what is presented to us by the senses without the application of the concepts of being.”
[31] Green, Michael Steven, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, 2002 p.7: “The position that Nietzsche is inclined toward is, paradoxically, a form of naturalism in which naturalism cannot be thought.”
[32] Löwith, Karl. Nietzsche’s philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same, Forward to the Second Edition, 1955