The same goes for our enemies. We should respect and love our enemies, not out of piety, but because they challenge and push us.
Religion and Morality
Life-denying philosophies are philosophies that attempt to downplay or even eliminate both the pains and pleasures of this life. According to Nietzsche, Christianity and even scientific materialism promoted this sort of life-denying thinking. Nietzsche saw scientific materialism as fomenting a similar dissatisfaction with life, by holding out hope not for heaven, but for a better future just over the horizon.
Life, Nietzsche argued, had to be lived now. The other type of life-denying philosophy Nietzsche criticized was asceticism. He felt that asceticism prevented people from enjoying all that mortality had to offer. Nietzsche also saw type-A workaholics who never have the time to enjoy the fruits of their labor as yet another category of life-denying ascetics. Several ancient cultures had some conception of eternal recurrence, including the Persians, the Vedics of India, and the Ancient Greeks.
Nietzsche simply expanded on the idea and used it as an existential test for modern man. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!
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If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate confirmation and seal? Eternal recurrence is a thought experiment that serves as an existential gut check: Do you really love life? People say they love their life all the time, but when they say that, they usually mean they love all the good things in life that happen to them. For Nietzsche, love of life requires loving all of life, even its pains and sorrows.
So how does one come to love life? Nietzsche prescribes his philosophy of amor fati — the love of fate. Love and embrace all that life throws at you — both the good and the bad. Nietzsche had doubts about the human capacity for personal improvement he was somewhat of a determinist; you were born the way you were, and pretty much stayed that way , but he does suggest that we can take action to create the kind of life we would gladly put on an infinite loop.
Does contemplating replaying your life fill you with feelings of anxiety and regret? Eternal recurrence would have a tremendous influence on the Existential philosophers of the 20th century. He did have some notes in which he tried to create a scientific proof of eternal recurrence, but it was deeply flawed, and he never published it. For Schopenhauer, all living creatures had a motivation for self-preservation and would do anything just to survive. Nietzsche thought this outlook was overly pessimistic and reactive. He felt there was more to life than merely avoiding death, and believed that living beings are motivated by the drive for power.
But what does Nietzsche mean by power? He just gives hints here and there.
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Many have interpreted it as the drive for control over others. While it could mean that, if we look at the original German phrase Der Wille zur Macht , we discover that Nietzsche likely had something bigger and more spiritual in mind. Humans are driven not just to survive, Nietzsche proclaims, but to dare mighty deeds. Some have interpreted it as a biological, evolutionary goal — that through our mastery of technology and nature, humanity will be able to become a race of Supermen. It could be a work of art, a book, a business, a piece of legislation, or a strong family culture.
Through the act of creation, we can forge a legacy that lives beyond our mortal life. What is creation? What is longing? What is a star? The earth hath then become small, and on it there hoppeth the last man who maketh everything small. His species is ineradicable like that of the ground-flea; the last man liveth longest. They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily.
He is a fool who still stumbleth over stones or men! A little poison now and then: that maketh pleasant dreams. And much poison at last for a pleasant death. One still worketh, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.
The Spiritual Life
One no longer becometh poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wanteth to rule? Who still wanteth to obey? Both are too burdensome. No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wanteth the same; every one is equal: he who hath other sentiments goeth voluntarily into the madhouse. They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health. The Last Man plays it small and safe. There is no ambition, no risk-taking, and no vitality in the Last Man.
He avoids challenges because challenges result in discomfort. The Last Man is simply surviving, and not truly living.
Look around you and even at yourself. That can only lead to frustration. Within these limitations, we must strive to live our natural talents and abilities to the fullest extent possible. In fact, we should embrace our limitations because they provide us the opportunity to exercise more creative power than if we had complete freedom.
The constraints of haiku poetry force the poet to think deeply about which words to use and how to structure his prose. The constraints counterintuitively encourage creativity. Instead, Nietzsche argues, we should channel our energies into focusing on the here and now and find joy in the journey. If I really believed without a doubt that the claims of my faith are true, how would my daily behavior, how I spend my time, and my life goals change?
For Nietzsche, the challenge for all modern men is to create and live by their own life-affirming values — to become autonomous — and to find meaning in a world that has become void of any such thing. Audio lectures by Solomon and Higgins. Very accessible. A graphic novel introduction to Nietzsche and his philosophy. At the end of each chapter, the author includes actionable steps on how you can apply that principle in your own life.