A Critique Of The Moral And Religious Nihilism In The Philosophy Of Freidrich Nietzsche

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

A Critique Of The Moral And Religious Nihilism In The Philosophy Of Freidrich Nietzsche

Table of Content

  • Title Page
  • Certification
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Table Of Content
  • General Introduction
  • Brief Profile

Chapter One

  • 1.0 Religious Nihilism
  • 1.1 What Is Nihilism?
  • 1.2 Nietzsche’s Conception of Nihilism
  • 1.3 Nietzsche’s Conception of Christianity
  • 1.4 Anti-Christ
  • 1.5 The Death of God

Chapter Two

  • 2.0 Morality in Question
  • 2.1 Nietzsche’s Conception of Morality
  • 2.2 Master Slave Morality
  • 2.3 Moral Valuation (Good and Evil)
  • 2.4 Critique of the Moral Ideals

Chapter Three

  • 3.0 The Remedies on Nihilism
  • 3.1 The Will to Power
  • 3.2 The Ubermensch (Superman)

Chapter Four.

  • 4.0 Critical Evaluation
  • 4.0 Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Chapter One

General Introduction

Statement of Problem

Down the stages of the history of philosophy, the modern philosophy of consciousness, attention has been directed to the mastery of the natural world. This is a period whose character of rational optimism was diametrically opposed to tradition and authority upon which stood the veracity and logic of primitive religion. It has been a period oriented to the practical. The possession of and ownership of the real. With Kant, the practical reason is already being understood as will. Schopenhauer took up this indication from Kant and conceived reality as will and idea. He opines that the world is a meaningless and purposeless existence or will to live. Nietzsche however, finally accepts the fundamental notion of Schopenhauer that the will is the principle of existence, but he conceives this will not merely as the will to live, but as the will for power.

Along the way to the will to power, the anthropological subject has become central. This turn towards the subject excludes any supreme value in man. Thus, when Nietzsche proclaimed and declared the death of God, he believed that he was accomplishing the work, which other existentialist philosophers started but were unable to complete. Little did he realize the havoc he had caused to the contemporary man. Consequently he joined other thinkers of his time to sweep off the hold of God on the modern man.

With “the death of God” man could surpass himself and attain his greatness.

Now it is up to man to give his life meaning by raising himself above the animals. Our so-called human nature is precisely what we should do well to overcome…[1]

It becomes succinctly comprehensible that God, the supreme value was a barrier to man’s attainment of self-fulfillment. However, with the elimination of the idea of God, supposedly a vacuum will be created and thus nothingness could break out in all directions. This at least goes to show the nothingness of religion, which it’s values and morality, find their meaning in God. This is thus the focus of nihilism, which also involves the revaluation of these values. Through nihilism, Nietzsche was able to posit a new value that would replace the old and eliminated` supreme value.

Purpose of Study.

This project is necessary in the face of the present-day unscrutinized quest for faith or religion. For this reason, it will follow a thought-pattern that will argue for the credibility of God and religion. Thus the major task of this work is to criticize without reservation this religious and moral demise of Nietzsche and restore the supreme value to its place in the world.

Scope of Study.

This work does not however guarantee to exhaust the rigorous arguments concerning the existence of God. It does not even pretend to expose the whole philosophical thought of Nietzsche. It will evaluate and criticize Nietzsche’s arguments concerning the existence of God.

Method of Study.

For the purpose lucidity this work will be largely critical and expository. More so, a brief historical survey of Nietzsche is adopted to bring to limelight, his conception about God.

Division of Work.

This work is divided into four chapters. Apart from the introduction, the first chapter will x-ray the meaning of nihilism for Nietzsche, and the religion and its values as attacked and refuted by him. In chapter two, we shall be exposing the nihilistic morality as presented by Nietzsche. Chapter three centers on the remedies offered by Nietzsche as the ideal value after his nihilism of supreme value. Chapter four will evaluate Nietzsche’s philosophy of nihilism.

Brief Profile of Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844 at Bocken in the province of Saxony. He was the son and grandson of Lutheran ministers. His father died at the tender age of four and he grew up under the care of his mother Fran Nietzsche and his sister, Elizabeth.

At the age of fourteen, he was sent to the famous Pforta School where he studied classics, religion and German literature. In 1864, he went to the University of Bonn and studied theology. But having lost his faith in Christian religion in 1865 he abandoned theological studies, left Bonn and went to Leipzig where he studied philology. Here, also he came upon Schopenhauer’s works, The World as Will and Idea, which had an influence on him and confirmed his atheistic standpoint. He was also influenced by the Wagnerian music he came in contact with.

His outstanding intelligence merited him the appointment as a lecturer at the age of twenty, and later at the age of twenty-four, was yet appointed to the chair of classical philology at the university of Basal. He was at this school until heath forced him to resign his professorship in 1879. It was during this period that he came close to a relationship with Wagner but thy later separated. From 1880 to 1889, he lived life of solitude. He surprisingly became insane in 1889 and remained in that state of mental and physical paralysis until his death on August 25, 1900 at the of fifty-five.

Nietzsche was a prolific writer and wrote extensively even while ill. His major works include: The Birth of Tragedy, which he wrote in 1872. Between the periods of 1873 to 1876, he published the Untimely Meditations and Human, All-to-Human. Then, again between the periods of 1881 to 1887, he wrote these five books: The Dawn, The Gay Science, Thus spoke Zarathusthra, Beyond Good and Evil and Genealogy of Morals. In 1888, he yet produced these books: The Case of Wagner, Twilight of Idols, Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Nietzsche contra Wagner and completed work, The revaluation of all Values (The Will to Power).

Chapter Five

5.0 Evaluation and Conclusion

5.1 Critical Evaluation

Having gone to this extent in this exposition without prejudices, let us embark on critical analysis of Nietzsche religious and moral nihilism. Nietzsche, from the beginning has meant different things for different people, since no two people are the same. This accounts for the reasons why some are for him and others are against him. Stephen Tonson has this to say of him:

During the 1870’s and 1880’s when the new physics, the new symbolic art and literature, the new psychology, new social theories and the philosophy were the cutting edge of revolutionary society and radical thoughts of those German thinkers, none was more characteristic than the prophet of modernity, Fredrick Nietzsche the great philosophical poet of late 19th century…

Furthermore, in relation with time, Nietzsche has been extolled for his contribution to philosophy.
Nietzsche is thereby the philosopher, not only of the most recent period. But also of a most ancient period, and hence of an age

Moreover, some thinkers argue that the prophecy and proclamation of Nietzsche was built upon the realization of the fact that the Christians of his time did not live up to expectations. But whether we accept this or not, his philosophy has stirred up thoughts for the Christians today to examine their relationship with God, their faith in God, their love of God and the extent of their belief in God.

When we take a look at the whole of Nietzsche’s modes of thought, life and philosophy, we are bound to discover that he was a man of extreme. I am even saying that he was a man inspired and pushed to action by the devil. For instance, there is no problem starting the inquiry into the origin of evil and good at the boyish age of thirteen, but the solution of making God the father of evil even though he claimed to have honoured God is quite atrocious. Again, he despised universal love which is the motivating power to all that is desirable as regards this world therefore excluding Christ’s injunction: Love your neighbour as yourself and then love God. For these and many other reasons, philosophers and other thinkers have come to show their dislike for him. Bertrand Russell was one of them

I dislike Nietzsche because he likes the contemplation of pain, because he erect deceit into duty because the men whom he must admires are conquerors, whose glory is devilish in causing men to die.

From what we know of modern philosophy, we can infer and conclude that what is at the heart of modernity was the glorification on the self or the primacy of the self. This necessitated the revolt against God. The revolutionists sought the devastation and elimination of God and everything associated with God. Nietzsche being the godfather of modernity was one of the few who were courageous enough to delve into this question of God. For him therefore, God is dead, God remains dead. But was Nietzsche supposed to have made this proclamation? No, he overstepped his bounds of philosophy and entered into religion.

The intellectual is not the man best equipped to tell us much about God. The man who is humble, prayerful, docile, moral has a better chance…

Nevertheless, the all-important question that he has to answer is: Was God ever in existence? It is obvious that with the proclamation, he excluded any possibility of the existence of God and thus implicitly affirmed the denial of God. Moreover, his Zarathustra cannot afford not to be one if God exist. But Nietzsche made a profound mistake since something cannot die without being alive first. Life precedes death. And in the words of the psalmists, the fool has said in his heart, there is no God above hence Nietzsche is a fool. We however have substantial proofs of the existence of God.

The great angelic doctor, St Thomas Aquinas through his Qiunque viae has succeeded in proving the existence of God. Permit me to show how he succeeded with only two of his five proofs. In the first proof, the principle of the demonstration is quid quid movetur ab alio movetur, meaning, whatever is moved is moved by another. According to this argument:

It is certain and evident to our senses that in the world, some things are in motion, now whatever is moved, is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is moved…
This movement cannot go on to infinity. Thus there cannot be an infinite regress to this motion. Therefore, “… It is necessary to arrive at the first mover moved by no other…” The first mover we understand to be God. In line with this argument therefore, it is Nietzsche’s biggest mistake to claim the death of God. For if God moves everything, nothing moves Him, then it follow that at God’s death, every movement will be affected with stagnancy.

In an ordered series of movers and things moved…. It is necessarily the fact but when the first mover is removed, or ceases to move, no other will move or be moved for the first mover is the cause of motion for all others.

The second demonstration argues God’s existence from the idea of efficient causality. A cause causes something to be and the thing caused is the effect. We can then say that the effect is dependent upon the cause. In the mode of causality where the dependence of effect is upon the cause and the cause upon the effect is secundum fieri; the relationship is accidental. But in this case of secundum fieri, the possibility of an infinite regress of cause and effect is not excluded.

… An infinite regress of cause accidentally subordinated is not considered impossible, as long as the totality of cause thus multiplied is assembled as one cause…

But there is a mode of causal relationship where there is no active determining of the cause and the passive reception in the effect. The causal relationship here is immediate, abiding and ontological. This type of relationship is secundum esse. In secundum esse the being and intelligibility of the effect depends upon the present and continuous causal efficiency of the cause. This is existential and substantial. Hence an infinite regress is not possible in the causal relationship that is secundum esse, for the relationship between God and his creatures demand an ultimate first cause which is to be founded in the existence of the effect, the created universe. Since God is an uncaused cause. He caused things in the world into being. To eliminate the uncaused cause is to do away with the totality of being, in which case the universe will cease to exist. This consequently implies the extermination of Nietzsche too. So, he was so myopic to have made the proclamation. Furthermore, it is our natural inclination to flee from danger. It follows that inviting dangers will be foolishness on our own part. So Nietzsche was foolish to have invited and wanted the elimination of the universe and consequently, himself.

Moreover, it is quite evident that God has no material body and therefore cannot die. God is spirit and so cannot be murdered by human beings. Since it is quite impossible for human beings to murder spirits, God cannot also be subjected to space and time, as such, there is no limitation attached to God. God is necessary and not contingent. He is eternal, as He was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Therefore, God cannot die. He cannot devalue Himself. That God is silent does not mean weakness; that he has left man to his own freedom is not weakness and so He has not devalued Himself. It is rather the fault of man that he cannot hold tenaciously to God.
The whole nihilistic philosophy of Nietzsche is not hidden at all. His hatred on Christianity as being founded on resentment, anti-natural, debasing and his reproach of priests, theologians, saints, good men, and his attack on morality and finally, the stupidity of enthroning man as the alternative after the death of his own God is destructive.

This proves that he is an enemy to intellectual religious liberty. This is harmful since his philosophy suppresses the original religious conviction of mankind. This contradicts nature since man by nature is a religious being. The morality founded on religion is also reduced to nothingness and he went to establish a new moral order, which was based on the superman. He saw morality as anti-natural and went as far as denying that morality was not God-given but man made. But any morality devoid of God and religion has no base. He conceived evil as good and thus wanted a situation in the world where everything done is evil since evil is good. But in a world where this dictum goes: Do to no one what you dislike operates, Nietzsche is at a loss. This is because, I wonder what the world will look like if there is no sense of evil as evil and sense of good as good and even when every one acts according to what one judges as good or evil. The world will not be habitable if there is no moral valuation.

Nietzsche holds that every meek and humble man is weak. And to revalue this weakness, he set out the principle of will to power and the superman as the only remedies. The exercise of power and violence is thus advocated for and even judged as the ideal. But we know that power corrupts and is also evil, violence too and as such should be discarded. Some atrocities committed in the past and even now could be traced to Nietzsche’s will to power and the superman. For instance, he is regarded as one of the originators of the Nazi’s Weltanschauung by his philosophy.
Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman.

This teaching at its extreme is considered to have exerted a strong appeal to Hitler. He thus considered himself as the superman of Nietzsche. Hitler a genius with a mission became above the law and he refused to be bound by bourgeois morals. Thus when his time for action came, he justified the most ruthless and cold-blooded atrocities ever committed in the world.

… The suppression of personal freedom, the brutal practice of slave labour, the depravities of the concentration camp, the massacre of his own followers in June 1934, the killing of war prisoners and the mass slaughter of Jews…
For a better world, and for the good of mankind, this idea of power, which Nietzsche advocates, should be discarded and thus, I declare it as evil. Imagine a world with evil. How enjoyable it will be.

In another development, Nietzsche’s philosophy of nihilism culminated into the notion of man making himself a god, becoming a superman. To be a superman requires according to Nietzsche, self-transcendence and holding to the master-morality as against the shackles of herd morality. We are compelled by the above to note that this is based on instinct and it is erroneous. The implication will be the elevation of the limitedness and nothingness of man. For an authentic self-transcendence, man naturally moves towards a higher being. It is with the intention of becoming like the higher being that man transcends. There’s nothing more to it. Nietzsche was myopic to understand this when he claimed that the will to power in man makes him transcend. He would have understood that transcendence is not possible in instinctual life if he had recognized the power of reason in man.

5.2 Conclusion

It is quite clear that for Nietzsche, the problem of Nihilism arose out of the discovery that God is dead. God here means the historical God of Christian faith. Now if this order, higher and external realm is gone, Nietzsche declares, man’s highest values have lost its base. The value that he had set up to take the place of these highest values that have lost its stand is power, which is fully realized in the superman. In the end of the whole process of nihilism, there comes an affirmation of the self as a sort of first principle that excludes God. Nietzsche thus advocates nothing than utter neglect of God without reservations, and this neglect becomes an active and positive affirmation of man’s autonomy. Consequently this leads to a pitch of darkness, which overwhelms and destroys religion and morality.

However, if man is to embrace the nihilistic philosophy properly and proclamations of Nietzsche, then we shall be gearing towards a religionless Christianity where in God superfluous and all areas of life will lay within the circumference of fuller realization of this autonomy. In effect, man becomes totally dedicated to the world as an expression of this religionless Christianity. Furthermore morality will become a bane. It is clear that moral decadence in our society today is as a result of the denial of God. The subjectiveness of morality is one of the causes, since objective morality is negated and then man is left to choose evil or good as his obligation.

Nietzsche did not bring forth any solution that satisfies us as to the controversial question he raised, but he started the most fundamental and crucial problems for man in this period, as no one else has done. Here at once lies his greatness and his challenge, which have stirred the contemporary Christians to rethink of their religiousness, morality and worship in God. This thought rather has as its fruit encouraged men to solidify their faith, trust and hope in God. The only way then that would lead men out of Nietzsche’s nihilism is to lead them back to the love of Christ. Men should embrace and hold tenaciously on Christ because without Him, we can do nothing.

In summary, Nietzsche has left some legacy for us even though his prophesy and objectives were not fulfilled and accomplished respectively. Philosophers must then take up the task of rethinking Nietzsche’s problems and successes back to its sources.

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