Second Year Philosophy Essay: on Nietzsche & the ‘Death of God’
There are various issues involved here.


You need to recall that, for N, the term ‘God’ has extremely wide connotations: it stands for all metaphysics, Platonic Forms, ‘timeless truths’, essences, etc.


N. is rejecting the very notion of anything ‘transcendent’ – whether this be theological or philosophical. There is nothing ‘beyond’.


Instead of ‘Truth’, there is only my truth, my interpretation. (There’s a very obvious problem with this claim; I mentioned this in lectures & you might want to give it some consideration.)


The only ‘fact’ N seems to accept is that we are driven by an incessant will to power: “The world is this will to power – and nothing else besides. And you yourselves are this will to power – and nothing else besides”.


You also need to consider the related cultural-political point to what N is claiming: that Christianity is a deadening ‘slave morality’, the negation of our will to power, the revenge of the weak, and so on. (Contrast this with N’s beloved ‘heroic’ culture…)


In stripping away the supposed illusion of God/Truth, the way is open for a ‘transvaluation’ of Christian & Platonic values. What does this involve? And how would you judge it?


Overall, you need to outline what N means by his claim; and you have to evaluate it.


You might consider whether there is anything positive to N’s critique:


Is there a ‘therapeutic’ point to his writing, designed to invest more power & diginity in the affairs of this life?


Might it be that, from a Christian perspective, disbanding the conceptual ‘God’ of philosophy (in favour of the God of faith) is liberating? (You’ll find this idea explored further in a book by Jean-Luc Marion called God Without Being; use his index for help.)


Or should we be extremely wary of N? Does his thought represent a dangerous irrationalism, a self-contradictory exaltation of selfishness?


Whatever your conclusion, make sure it’s based on sound ‘evidence’ & is properly argued.


Some library books worth consulting are:


F. Copleston, History of Philosophy, vol. 7, ch.21


F.Copleston, Friedrich Nietzsche, ch.6


H.J.Blackham, Six Existentialist Thinkers, ch.2


Critchley & Schroeder (eds), Companion to Continental Philosophy, ch.11


The most useful primary text is N’s Thus Spake Zarathustra. However, here is a summary of some important texts, in chronological order: this might help you locate appropriate material.


Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, 1872:


nothing of usual scholarly apparatus; no footnotes, etc. Makes its point by getting readers to draw on their own ‘irrational’ experiences - of, eg, dreams & drunken states.


As ‘counter’ to contemp. stress on Apollo (sun-king; embodiment of order, harmony, light, reason), stresses Dionysus (Bacchus): flux, frenzy, etc.


critique of Socrates as too Apollonian.


‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’, 1873:


questions idea that truth = a correspondence of thought & being; instead, stresses language as rhetoric, metaphor, etc. Famously asks:


“What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.”





Human, All Too Human, a Book for Free Spirits, 1878:


provides early indication of some themes developed in 1880s: free spirits (of the future) who have become ‘liberated’ from the all-too human failings of the past, who are independent, self-contained, adventurous. Develops the idea that ‘truths’ are merely perspectives, particularly the ‘truths’ of morality.


Imprinted with a particularly Nietzschean ‘style’: aphoristic, apparently random, anti-systematic.


Daybreak: Thoughts on Moral Prejudices, 1881:


Continues with critique of morality, esp. Christian variety. The notion of sin is dismissed as our projection - but one capable of causing enormous psychological damage. Asks about the psychology behind the Christian perspective, deliberately flouting ‘rules’ against ad hominem arguments.


The Gay Science, 1882:


calls for a ‘light-hearted’ approach to scholarship - an aesthetic, anti-academic, playful writing. More importantly, first occassion for Nietzsche to declare that ‘God is dead’; and first time that he mentions the notion of ‘eternal recurrence’: the ‘thought experiment’ where one asks oneself whether or not one