March 17, 2014
Radical figure in the history of thought
He almost rivals (maybe has more influence than) Marx
First existentialist thinker; in the 20th century this was a big class of thought
Culmination of a few trends; a purely strong thinker
Like Marx, he wants to change the way we live
o Anayzes the way we evaluate existence.
o Wants to shed humanity of its habits and illusions
He relentlessly criticizes anything that he thinks has been taken for granted
Around the time of Nietzsche
o Enlightenment has reached its peak.
o Has destroyed the way people used to think about their lives
o Has destabilized the old monarchies and institutions that told us how to feel about our
o Enlightenment criticism had been ineffective at providing alternative sources of
What do we use to replace these old ideas?
Of all the wondrous things science can do, it cannot provide meaning
We can't just measure human happiness with a test tube
Enlightenment said we are completely rational creatures
Hegel: realizing our ideas
Marx: great deal of limitation, our reason is not as powerful as we imagine
Step back to enlightnment project if we can't step back and criticize
If we're constantly changing, how can we really know ourselves at all?
In the later 19th century: growing sense that human beings don't really know
who/what they really are; first we thought we were religious, then rational, but
we keep changing so we don't know.
Romantic notion of the self: that we have an identity hidden deep in there, but
this is something we'll have to work out over time
Something true about us that we don't know
Romantic age: project of life is to bring out this hidden self
Science has served to get rid of old illusions about god and whatnot, but has also
served to show that life is a working out of ideas
Feeling that it's one thing after another- this is the system working itself out
This is called disenchantement; overtones of getting rid of mysticism but
also means get rid of traditional sources of meaning
Science is ill-equipped to replace the meaning it is destroying
Cannot tell us how we should be and what we should value
Nietzsche: a person's task is to find himself in the world
"We are unkown to ourselves.." We think science is telling us so much, but it's probably taking away more
than it's giving us
o If the enlightenment presented us with an image as a rational creature, Marx, working
creature, Nietzsche; a searching creature.
Nihilism as Nietzsche's answer?
o Believes a universe without a god is a universe with no meaning, where a meaning is
imposssible, so we throw our hands up at that
Nietzsche says succumbing to Nihilism sucks us of our human energy; leads to
a humanity that limits creativity
We have to find a way to recreate ourselves as human being; replenish our
energy; empower our will to do things
Nietzsche if anything is about life and maximizing life- in favor of all things
that maximize life; deadly critic of anything believed to be hostile to living a
full life; goal is how to live and how to live well.
Not a person who just lays out answes and tells people to believe them
o Aims to stimulate critical thoughts and attitudes
o Does he think his views of self-morality are true; if he does not think they are true,
why does he present them in the first place?
He is a critic- he wants to show problems, not replace what he's criticizing with
some structure- this would be up to the reader
o Depending on how you look at something it will seem different
To look at something in a different way will maybe reveal a truth
Is this foreshadowing the theory of relativity?
Overzealous, but as a metaphor it works
o N does not have a basic formula for what is fact; thinks what ends up being fact is
how you look at things
Truth isn't a unitary thing to be uncovered
So easy for Nietzsche to be taken out of context and distort what he's actually about