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.edu

[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

1 comment:

Kenneth Lloyd Anderson said...

Here is my take on this subject.

Nietzsche thought that truth and honesty were sacrificed when a thinker begins to reason, he thought genius lies in the instincts, and that goodness does too. But what kind of thinking was Nietzsche doing when he made that statement? Was it not reason looking at the instincts? I think the problem for Nietzsche comes in thinking of the instincts as a wild Dionysian beast that needs to be released. What Nietzsche was really concerned with, which might have caused him to exaggerate a bit, was that too often religion, philosophy and science have completely blocked the innate instincts with reason---the continuing denial of sociobiology in the Humanities even today continues this blockade.

I think of reason, the intellect, and the conscious mind as riding a horse called the Instincts, which is not Nietzsche's wild Dionysian beast-instinct, but a horse which also contains the essential sacred instinct of evolving in the material/supermaterial world to the zenith of evolution, which is Godhood. This is the right balance between reason and passion, if it can be called a “balance.” Is your conscious mind totally aware of all your needs and wants? If it does not know the activation of life to evolve to Godhood---shaped by the vagaries of outside evolution and selection---then it is not totally aware of all your wants and needs and may be blocking your most sacred instinct.

Reason can become a virtue, contrary to Nietzsche, as long as reason includes the balance of a large dollop of the passions and emotions, and is especially aware of the goal of the instincts to evolve life to Godhood. We don't want to reject reason in favor of the passions, as Nietzsche seemed to do, without including in the passions the sacred Godhood goal of the instincts. But we also don't want to reject passion in favor of reason without including in reason the sacred instinct toward evolving to Godhood. Reason and the instincts can reason this. Intelligence developed to the degree that Nietzsche felt it was “tyranny” over the instincts, but it is not tyranny if we would not have survived and evolved without that powerful intelligence.

Even so, I have to acknowledge Nietzsche's concern with intellectuals, priests, and philosophers applying ideas as their own wills to power and not as the will to truth they claim. Nietzsche thought that Socrates separated the population from their instincts and that Plato was a moral fanatic in doing this. Nietzsche thought the real philosophers of Greece came before Socrates, they were on guard against an intellect that “puffs one out” with theatrical virtues and clever dialectics.

This is not anti-intellectual, it is anti-abstract ideas attempting to rule real life and biology, and anti the definitions of things becoming more important than living objects. Too often religion and philosophy grew out of this phoney ground, and I think they can be revitalized with theological materialism, which also includes a return to common sense. With Godhood seen as the sacred goal of the instincts, and related to the first glimpses of the Inward God seen in Christianity, and other religions, Nietzsche can be seen as having been mistaken in trying to murder God and religion---he missed the instincts and reason behind these things. K.L.Anderson