Ah, the good old days…

Mike raises the following question:

From Nz’s perspective, what was the world like before the death of God? The best answer I have at the moment is The Gay Science #84 the last paragraph. Maybe that’s *way* before the death of God though or maybe that’s basically what it is.

I don’t have GS handy, but I did come across an interesting and relevant notebook entry from 1887:

What advantages did the Christian morality hypothesis offer?
1. it conferred on man an absolute value, in contrast to his smallness and contingency in the flux of becoming and passing away
2. it served the advocates of God to the extent that, despite suffering and evil, it let the world have the character of perfection – including “freedom” – and evil appeared full of sense
3. it posited a knowledge of absolute values in man and thus gave him adequate knowledge of precisely the most important thing.

it prevented man from despising himself as man, from taking against life, from despairing of knowing: it was a means of preservation – in sum: morality was the great antidote against practical and theoretical nihilism.

[This is from Pearson’s and Large’s Nietzsche Reader, p. 385]

So I take it that, before the death of god, it felt like we were significant, and that was a good survival strategy for staving off despair and suicide. Now the question is whether we can live with the truth, and invent for ourselves some new survival strategy. In this same set of notes, Nz provides the eternal recurrence as such a strategy. He seems to think it’s better than accepting the plain old “you live, you die, that’s it” since that thought makes nothingness the “goal” of the universe, or at least becomes the universe’s prevalent theme. If nihilism is something to be fought against — and for Nietzsche, it was — we need a replacement for God.

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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4 Responses to Ah, the good old days…

  1. Mike says:

    In GS 84 he’s talking about the value of music for the ancients so not nearly as straightforward as those notebook entries. Here’s the part I was thinking of:

    In sum: What could have been more useful for the ancient, superstitious type of man than rhythm? It enabled one to do anything–to advance some work magically; to force a god to appear, to be near, and to listen; to mold the future in accordance with one’s will; to cleanse one’s own soul from some excess (of anxiety, mania, pity, or vengefulness)– and not only one’s own soul but also that of the most evil demon: without verse one was nothing; by means of verse one almost became a god.


  2. Mike says:

    So I’m still pretty confused. For Nz it seems there are different eras that allow for different ways of being and the current era disallows the belief in God (at least as an honest belief). But what does a sketch of “ancient, superstitious man” look like compared to the Christian and then compared to contemporary (with Nz) man? And are there any other types of man (eras) in the Nietzschean bestiary?


  3. Huenemann says:

    I can think of a few types he describes in some detail: the Homeric Greeks, the ancient Jews, the Christians, the Germans, women, the free spirits. But you’d have to go through his works looking for all those details — an interesting project! “A Nzean bestiary.”


  4. Mike says:

    I hope I can find the appropriate action figures. In GS 349, natural scientists almost sound like hobbits or maybe gollum (small people in conditions of distress).


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