Friedrich Nietzsche, Nihilism and Meaningless Suffering

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While outlining Nietzsche’s opposition to the Christian exegesis of distress, this chapter shows that he was preoccupied with bestowing one’s suffering with significance to avert a nihilistic loss of willing. Beginning by accounting for Nietzsche’s celebration of a Dionysian or ‘tragic meaning’ of suffering, it then moves to consider his valorisation of aesthetic activity in relation to experiences of pain and illness. Responding to critiques of Nietzsche’s approach to suffering—particularly to the charge that he fails to account for useless, excessive forms of distress—the chapter claims that Nietzsche’s thought evinces a profound sensitivity towards the problem of ‘senseless suffering’ and its tie to ‘suicidal nihilism’. The chapter concludes by exploring this sensibility to account for the contradictions that beset his work.

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Aaron Ridley explores Nietzsche's mature ethical thought as expressed in his masterpiece On the Genealogy of Morals. Taking seriously the use that Nietzsche makes of human types, Ridley arranges his book thematically around the six characters who loom largest in that work—the slave, the priest, the philosopher, the artist, the scientist, and the noble. By elucidating what the Genealogy says about these figures, he achieves a persuasive new assessment of Nietzsche's ethics. Ridley's intellectually supple interpretation reveals Nietzsche's ethical position to be deeper and more interesting than is often supposed: the relation, for instance, between Nietzsche's ideal of the noble and the ascetic or priestly conscience does not emerge as a stark opposition but as a rich interplay between the tensions inherent in each. Equally, he shows that certain under-appreciated confusions in Nietzsche's thought reveal much about the positive aspects of the philosopher's moral vision. The only book devoted entirely to the Genealogy, Nietzsche's Conscience offers a sympathetic but tough-minded critical reading of the philosopher's most important work. Delivered in clear and vigorous language and employing a broadly analytical approach, Ridley's commentary makes Nietzsche's reflections on morality more accessible than they have been hitherto.
The Genesis of Tragedy in Dionysiac CultTragedies about DionysusTragedy and the Dionysiac
This timely book by philosopher Peter Dews explores the idea of evil, one of the most problematic terms in the contemporary moral vocabulary. Surveys the intellectual debate on the nature of evil over the past two hundred years Engages with a broad range of discourses and thinkers, from Kant and the German Idealists, via Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, to Levinas and Adorno Suggests that the concept of moral evil touches on a neuralgic point in western culture Argues that, despite the widespread abuse and political manipulation of the term 'evil', we cannot do without it Concludes that if we use the concept of evil, we must acknowledge its religious dimension.
A mad dog, foaming at the moustache and snarling at the world; that is how the American artist David Levine portrays Friedrich Nietzsche in his well-known caricature in The New York Review of Books. It is not so different in its malicious intent, nor further wrong in its interpretation of Nietzsche, than a good number of scholarly works. This is indeed the traditional portrait — the unconsummated consummate immoralist, the personally gentle even timid arch-destroyer. Of course, Nietzsche himself made adolescent comments about his own destructiveness not infrequently — throughout the whole of Ecce Homo, for example. Nevertheless, these give a false impression of his intentions as well as of the good philosophical sense to be made of his works.
What is the meaning of life? In the post-modern, post-religious scientific world, this question is becoming a preoccupation. But it also has a long history: many major figures in philosophy had something to say on the subject, as Julian Young so vividly illustrates in this thought-provoking book. Part One of the book presents an historical overview of philosophers from Plato to Hegel and Marx who have believed in some sort of meaning of life, either in some supposed 'other' world or in the future of this world. Part Two looks at what happened when the traditional structures that provided life with meaning ceased to be believed. With nothing to take their place, these structures gave way to the threat of nihilism, to the appearance that life is meaningless. Julian Young looks at the responses to this threat in the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Foucault and Derrida. This compelling and highly engaging exploration of fundamental values will captivate anyone who's ever asked themselves where life's meaning (if there is one) really lies. It also makes a perfect historical introduction to philosophy.
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