Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 3

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Lecture 3 focused on four things:  1.  The intellectual backdrop to Nietzsche  2.  Nietzsche’s 3 main objections to Christianity  3.  Nietzsche’s positive affirmations in place of Christianity  4.  The Nietzschean Catechism.  Audio is available here.

I.  Intellectual Backdrop

19th century Western (Continental) Europe was unkind to Christianity.  Some of the major works floating around were:

The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin

Replaces need for God in cosmology

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Inherently atheistic

On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers by Friedrich Schleiermacher

Book basically splits Protestantism in two

Origins of the History of Christianity by Ernest Renan

The New Testament is essentially myth.  This revisionist history was seminal in classic liberalism and influential in the later Jesus Seminar.

The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig von Feuerbach

Christianity is superstition that will soon be replaced by humanism

The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

Humanity has invented God and this delusion is a kind of mental illness.

Prolegomena to the History of Israel by Julius Wellhausen

Wellhausen espouses that the first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses but by editors from four schools of thought.  A flood of Bible criticism followed Wellhausen.  Tubingen.

History of Materialism and Critique of its Present Importance by Friedrich Lange

Atomistic Materialism and Darwinism.

II.  3 OJECTIONS:

1.  Intellectually impossible (this is assumed a priori without argumentation)

2.  It demeans humanity (herd mentality, Dionysianism…)

3.  Its morality is fatal to life (slave morality, Dionysianism…)

Nietzsche is more concerned with assessing the damage that Christianity has done rather than tearing it apart limb from limb.  Nature was determinant and all metaphysics are to be rejected.

III.  Nietzsche’s Positive Affirmations

1.  Be a free-spirit

2.  Be curious

3.  Be nomadic (as well as will to power, master morality…)

IV.  The Nietzschean Catechsim

Nietzsche ends book 3 of The Gay Science with 8 hypothetical questions and answers (see page 142):

1.  What makes one heroic?

To approach at the same time one’s highest suffering and one’s highest hope

2.  What do you believe in?

In this, that the weights of all things must be determined anew.

3.  What does your conscience say?

You should become who you are.

4.   Where lie your greatest dangers?

In compassion

5.  What do you love in others?

My hopes

6.  Whom do you call bad?

He who always wants to put people to shame

7.  What is most human to you?

To spare someone shame

8.  What is the seal of having become free?

No longer to be ashamed before oneself.

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  1. also interesting re: 19C is the 3rd edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica. See A.MacIntyre’s “3 rival versions of moral inquiry” for more on that point.

    i’d say that the reconstruction of Westminster Palace in the Neo-Gothic was a major triumph for the faith, though. Pugin combined the spiritual and the physical in profound ways.

    Steve McGregor

    April 25, 2010 at 10:06 am


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