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.


Download and read the Revised Third Draft here at Academia.eduhttp://goo.gl/zyRE2b



[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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Five Paradoxes of Nietzschean Philosophy

Nietzscheanism is a faith for all and none
[The following is an excerpt from an essay on a Christian theological interpretation of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The (3,000 word) essay is divided into five sections that address what I consider to be the five central paradoxes of Nietzscheanism. Each section is subdivided into three sub-sections (i.e. a, b, & c) which (a) present the explicit contradiction of Nietzsche's doctrine, (b) present the Christian answer to this contradictory doctrine, and (c) present how these doctrines must be interpreted in light of their (a) evident self-contradictions. The subsequent development of the essay will intend to demonstrate how the mutual inconsistency of these five central paradoxes can only be resolved in a Christian theology.]

1.      God is Dead – We have killed Him

(a)   Propositional Self-Contradiction: God is defined, in Classical Theism (cf. Plato, Philo, Augustine etc.) as eternal, immutable and immortal, yet Nietzsche’s proclamation that “God is dead” (The Gay Science, § 125) predicates mortality of an immortal God, as though “God is immortal” and “God is mortal”.  The subject ‘God’ contradicts the predicate “is dead”. Thus “God is dead” is a self-contradictory proposition. Thus, the deity that Nietzsche’s madman proclaims to be dead must either be dead but not the eternal and immutable God of Classical Theism, or, if it is the God of Classical theism, must not be dead.

(b)   Christian Theological Interpretation: For the proclamation that “God is dead” to be true, God must be mortal and capable of death. Christianity concurs that God became a mortal man; was crucified by Pontius Pilate; and rose from death to ascend into Heaven. Hence, Christians may join Nietzsche in echoing the Lutheran hymn that “God himself is dead.” (cf. Eckhart, Pascal, Boehme and Silesius) This Christian notion of the death of God does not, however, mean that the eternal God the Father has died with Jesus Christ (i.e. Patripassianism); or even that the infinitude of God’s being has, in the history of later times become extinguished in the hearts of mankind (i.e. Secularization).  Rather, it means that the historical death Jesus Christ in the fullness of his divinity.

(c)     Sociological Interpretation: The proclamation that “God is dead” is generally interpreted, neither as a definite proposition (1.a) nor as the theological doctrine on the transcendent God of Classical Theism (1.b), but rather as a historicist description of the decline of belief in God throughout Western society. Nietzsche writes, for instance, that “the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable” (The Gay Science, § 343). This description of the sociological ‘Death of God’ does not describe the necessary non-existence or essential absurdity of the God of Christian Theology.  Rather, it is merely a contingent observation of our society’s diminished collective faith in God. 

2.      Perspectivalism - There is no Truth

(a)   The truth that there is no Truth:  Nietzsche identifies the transcendent God of Platonism, Judaism, and Christianity with the absolutivity of truth. Thus Nietzsche writes “God is the truth, that the truth is divine” (The Gay Science, § 344). The truth of the ‘Death of God’ is consequently the truth that there is no truth.  The truth that there is no truth, however, contradictorily affirms what it denies and denies what it affirms: for if it were true that there were no truth then it would not be true that there were no truth; but if it were not true that there were no truth, then it would also not be true that there is no truth; and hence, in neither case, can it be true that there is no truth. The assumption that it is true that there is no truth results in the paradox, like the Epimenides Liar’s Paradox (e.g. the Cretan says that he is lying) in which the truth of the statement denies the truth of the statement, and is therefore self-contradictory.

(b)   God and Truth: For Christian theology, all positive properties of truth and goodness coincide in God. God’s infinity extends, without finite limit, to encompass every positive property. Since everything that is composed of finite parts must itself be a finite complex of finite parts, infinity can have no finite parts.  Thus the infinitude of God is not merely a complex of finite parts but is rather absolutely simple. Therefore God is, in virtue of his infinitude, both absolute and simple, in whom there is a simple identity of the absolutivity of all goodness, being, and truth. Christians may, in the confidence of their faith, believe themselves to be potentially capable of knowing this absolutivity of Truth, not merely because the Truth is eternally apprehended by God, but moreover because the nature of man is revealed to be made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26), and to coincide with the nature and self-knowledge of divine truth in the person of the God-man Jesus Christ (e.g. “the way the truth and the light” Jn. 14:6).

(c)    Perspectivism and Idealism: The (1) “Death of God” entails the falsity of all truth, i.e. the truth that there is no Truth, only if (2.b) God is identified with the absolutivity of Truth. However if this identity of God and Truth (2.b) is affirmed then it is also denied when Nietzsche’s madman proclaims the ‘Death of God’.  The identity of God and Truth cannot be affirmed as a true premise from which to deduce the conclusion that God is thought to be dead, unbelievable, and false, simply because the premise, that ‘God is Truth’, contradicts the conclusion that ‘God is dead’, false, and it is false that ‘God is Truth’. To circumvent these contradictions, Nietzsche is forced to alter the meaning of the terms ‘truth’ and ‘God’ to mean that ‘truth’ which is relative to a certain perspective, and that idea of ‘God’ which is created by the mind. Thus Nietzsche writes “There is only perspectival seeing, only perspectival ‘knowing’” (Genealogy of Morals, III 12). Such perspectivism about truth and idealism about God is evidently neither the absolute Truth of Platonism and Classical Theism nor the God of Christian. Rather, it is merely a particular perspective on Truth, or perspectivism, and an idea of God , or idealism, that has been imagined by the human mind. (For more information on Nietzsche’s perspectivism and idealism see Lacewing, Nietzsche’s Perspectivism, and Green, Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition)
 
3.      Overcoming Nihlism – Something from Nothing

(a)   Nihilism: If the idea of God contained absolutely all being, truth, and value (2.b), then the 'Death of God' (1) results in the condition in which there is absolutely no being, truth, or value; in which there is nothing – nihil – or the belief in nothingness. (cf. Rosen, 1968 and Cunningham, 2002) Thus Nietzsche writes “Every belief is a considering-something-true… is necessarily false because there is simply no true world.” (The Will to Power, I.15) Nietzsche proposes an ethic of the overcoming of nihilism, in which this belief in nothing is, first acknowledged, and then (5) surpassed through the free creation of new values. Thus Nietzsche writes “Valuing is creating: hear it, you creating ones! Valuation itself is the treasure and jewel of the valued things.” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra I.15)  However, no new values can be created from the nothingness of values, for nothing comes from nothing - Ex nihilo, nihil. As a consequence of the ‘Death of God’, there is absolutely nothing, and this absolute nothingness eliminates any possibility of the creation of something from nothing.  Any purported creation of something from nothing would violate Parmenides' prohibition: “For never shall this prevail, that the things that are, not are”; the Principle of Proportionate Causality: that every effect must have a cause that is as great as the effect; and the Principle of Sufficient Reason: that nothing happens without a reason; for every act of creation must be conditioned by some prior being, cause, and reason.  Therefore the ‘Death of God’ results in the nothingness of all being, truth, and value, from whence nothing at all may be created, and nihilism may never be overcome.

(b)   The Dark Night of the Soul: Contrary to the classical doctrine of the eternity of matter, Christians affirm that God created world from nothing - creatio ex nihilo. This gift of created being from nothing is recapitulated, as a human drama, in the incarnation of the Jesus Christ, in whom the creator enters into the created world. For the Christian religious imagination, the death of Christ on the cross is tantamount to the annihilation of this prior principle and original source of all created being, truth, and value. The esoteric meaning of “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" or "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt. 27:46) is that the sympathetic reader should feel within their hearts the infinite despair of hurtling headlong, along with every hope of man’s salvation in the person of Christ, into inescapable annihilation. This abyss of god-forsakenness is the scriptural paradigm of Christian nihilism, the Dark Night of the Soul, in which the totality of objective existence is annihilated for subjective consciousness (cf. G.W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, §785). It is the contemplative eclipse of all hope and future value, in imitation of the ‘Death of God’ on the Calvary. However, for Christian faith this eclipse is destined to be overcome in the good news of the resurrection, in which all hope that was lost is restored, and all that was annihilated is resolved into new life in Christ. Thus, Saint Paul of Tarsus writes: “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." (Rm. 6:8)

(c)    Speculative Good Friday: Nihilism may only be overcome if it describes a relative rather than an absolute nothingness.  This relative nihilism that Nietzsche seeks to overcome is the perspective (2.c) on the nothingness of being, truth, and values, resulting from the sociological 'Death of God' (1.c): a perspective is relative to the perceiving subject just as the sociological 'Death of God' is relative to the society which loses faith in God. The relativity of nihilsm results in the partial, rather than the complete, annihilation of being, truth, and values. While some beings, truths, and values are annihilated, some others are also preserved. Thus, the preservation of some old beings, truths and values allows for some new beings, truths, and values to be created from the old ones. Nietzsche specifically intends to annihilate the beings, truths, and values of Christian theology, along with its epigone of modern Liberalism. Nietzsche's philosophical annihilation of Christianity for the purpose of emancipating the will from reason recalls Hegel’s Speculative Good Friday for the purpose of emancipating the intellect; in which "the pure concept" of philosophy negates the "ungrounded idiosyncrasies of the dogmatic philosophies and of natural religion" to "recreate for philosophy the Idea of absolute freedom and along with it the absolute passion, the speculative Good Friday in the place of the historic Good Friday, and in the whole truth and harshness of its God-forsakenness." (Faith and Knowledge, p. 191)

4.      Eternal Return – Every Instant Burdened with Eternity

(a)   Eternity in an Instant and an Instant in Eternity: The motivation of for the overcoming of nihilism (3) is the Eternal Return, in which every instant is thought to recur infinitely many times for all eternity. Nietzsche writes: “Your whole life, like a sandglass, will always be reversed and will ever run out again…” (The Gay Science, § 341) Eternity is the infinite duration of all time, while an instant is a finite moment in time. The Eternal Return is the infinite recurrence each finite instant of time so that it may perdure for all eternity. However, since eternity is infinite and an instant of time is finite, and nothing infinite may be composed of finite parts (2.b), the Eternal Return must be either eternity in an instant or an instant burdened with eternity. If the infinitude of time is conceived in a finite instant, then it is finite rather than infinite and not eternal; but if the finite instant is to infinitely recur, then it remains a composite of finite instants and is not eternal. Therefore, regardless of whether the Eternal Return is eternity in an instant or an instant in eternity, a finite instant cannot become an infinite eternity.
 
(b)   Eternalism and Presentism: For Classical Theism (cf. Philo, Augustine, and Boethius), God is both infinite in eternal duration (i.e. eternalism) and yet present to know each finite instant (i.e. presentism). God is eternal because he transcends all temporal duration, yet God is present for each instant because God knows every act in time. Thus, Saint Augustine of Hippo writes: “But the present, should it always be present and never pass into time past, verily it should not be time, but eternity.” (Confessions, Bk. XI) While eternity in an instant and an instant is eternity is contradictory for human understanding (4.a), it is nonetheless possible for God because God is the prior creator of both the logical categories of finitude and infinitude, as well as the predication of finitude in each finite instant and of infinitude in the infinite eternity of time. God’s eternalism and presentism transcends the world, yet, for Christian soteriology (i.e. the doctrine of salvation), divine eternality-temporality is immanent in the world of our moral practice. Every deed is, not only presently judged by our conscience to be good or evil, but is, moreover, judged to be good or evil by God in eternity; so that every deed is, in each instant, burdened with the moral gravity of eternity.

(c)    Eternity in Imagination: Nietzsche can circumvent the (4.a) contradiction of eternity in an instant only by reconceiving of eternity as an imagined potential infinity of time rather than as a true and actual infinity of time. A potential infinity is a sequence of moments that could potentially proceed to infinity if the process remained uninterrupted for an infinite duration of time (e.g. the calculation of the decimal numerals in the number Pi, π), while an actual infinity is that which has no finite limit, either in itself or outside of itself (e.g. the procession around the circumference of a circle). Since every concept of the imagination is delimited in the intuition of time, and an actual infinity is absolutely unlimited, only a potential infinity of time can be imagined. No actual infinity is conceivable. Hence, Nietzsche’s Eternal Return is merely the imagination of a potentially infinite sequence of moments in time, as though every act in each instance were repeated as many times as one might care to imagine it to have been, or to be repeated. Whether we choose to slavishly obey old values or to freely create new values, Nietzsche asks us to imagine this choice to have been, and to be infinitely repeated, so that we might, with terrible contrition, appreciate the moral gravity of our choices sub specie aeternitatis.

5.      Übermensch - The Creation of New Values:

(a)   Infinite Self-Overcoming: The Overman (i.e. Übermensch) is the infinite overcoming, surpassing, and transcending of every finite self-determination. Thus Nietzsche proclaims: “I teach you the Overman. Man is something to be surpassed.” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, §3)  Nietzsche presents the Overman as the zenith of voluntary self-overcoming. The Overman is exclusively opposed to the Last Man, who is the nadir of slavish self-satisfaction. Nietzsche asks us to choose to become either the Overman or the Last Man. Hence, if we affirm the Overman we must reject the Last Man, and vice versa. Thus Nietzsche writes: “It is time for man to plant the seed of his highest hope.” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, §5) However, Nietzsche’s ethic of the overcoming of nihilism (3) and the Last Man is a potentially infinite (4.c) task of ceaselessly negating, so as to overcome, every finite determination of himself. Since an infinite sequence is never completed, the infinite task of self-overcoming may never be achieved. Since every act is pursued for some purpose, and it would be absurd to pursue any purpose that could not ever be achieved, Nietzsche’s ethic of self-overcoming, by which man should become the Overman, is in principle an unachievable, absurd, and infinite task.

(b)   The God who is Man: For Christian Theology, Jesus Christ is the God-man who, by his divinity, infinitely transcends any possible ‘all-too-human’ goodness while remaining an individual human person. Since God’s infinity encompasses every positive property, which together constitutes the infinite goodness that is called perfection (1.b), and Jesus Christ is fully God (cf. Chalcedonian Formula), Christ is the image of divine perfection in man. Thus, Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes “Paul calls Christ the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15)… If we are to become the invisible God’s image, we must model the form of our life upon the pattern given us…. [who] having become man through the Virgin, he was tempted in all things according to the likeness of human nature yet did not experience sin.” (On Perfection) Christ is the highest ethical ideal of self-overcoming because, as every act is perused for some good (cf. Plato, Gorgias, and Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics), and Christ is the ideal of God’s infinite divine goodness in man, so Christian ethics admonishes us towards this infinite self-surpassing goodness of Christ. Thus Christ teaches “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48)

(c)    Nietzschean Mythos: The infinitely self-surpassing Overman is the keystone myth in the grand mythos of Friedrich Nietzsche. Since the Overman can never be achieved in any possible person (5.a), it is neither a fact of the world nor of a future possibility that we may ever hope to achieve, but merely a myth created for the purpose of validating the many paradoxes of Nietzschean philosophy. The (1) ‘Death of God’, (2) the truth that there is no Truth, (3) the overcoming of nihilism, and (4) the Eternal Return are credible only if the reader believes that Nietzsche knows that the Overman knows them to be true, in the sure self-knowledge of his own incontestably infinitely self-surpassing greatness. However, since (5.a) the infinite self-overcoming of the Overman is absurd and impossible, none of the other paradoxes of Nietzschean philosophy may be validated by the self-knowledge of the Overman. The Nietzschean Overman knows the truth of the ostensible paradoxes of Nietzscehan philosophy in virtue of his infinite self-surpassing greatness in much the same way as Christ knows the truth of Christian doctrine in virtue of his divinity. Where Christians locate the incarnation of Christ in the historical past, Nietzsche locates the Overman as a potential for the future; and while Christians affirm the necessity of Christ, begotten in eternity before all things, Nietzsche suggests only the slimmest possibility of man surpassing himself to become the Overman. Thus Nietzsche writes: “Man is a rope stretched between animal and overman – a rope over an abyss.” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, §4)

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