Two Brands of Nihilism


As philosopher and poet Nietzsche\'s work is not easily conformable to the
traditional schools of thought within philosophy. However, an unmistakable
concern with the role of religion and values penetrates much of his work.
Contrary to the tradition before him, Nietzsche launches vicious diatribes
against Christianity and the dualistic philosophies he finds essentially life
denying. Despite his early tutelage under the influence of Schopenhauer\'s
philosophy, Nietzsche later philosophy indicates a refusal to cast existence as
embroiled in pessimism but, instead, as that which should be affirmed, even in
the face of bad fortune. This essay will study in further detail Nietzsche view
of Schopenhauer and Christianity as essentially nihilistic.

Nihilism

Throughout his work Nietzsche makes extensive use of the term “nihilism”. In
texts from the tradition prior to Nietzsche, the term connotes a necessary
connection between atheism and the subsequent disbelief in values. It was held
the atheist regarded the moral norms of society as merely conventional, without
any justification by rational argument. Furthermore, without a divine authority
prohibiting any immoral conduct, all appeals to morality by authority become
hollow. By the atheists reckoning then, all acts are permissible.

With Nietzsche\'s appearance on the scene, however, arrives the most potent
arguments denying the necessary link between atheism and nihilism. It will be
demonstrated that Nietzsche, in fact, will argue it is in the appeal to divine
proscriptions that the most virulent nihilism will attain.

There is a second sense of nihilism that appears as an outgrowth of the first
that Nietzsche appeals to in his critique of values. It contends that not only
does an active, pious, acknowledgment of a divinity foster nihilism, but also,
the disingenuous worship of a deity that has been replaced in the life man by
science, too, breeds a passive nihilism.

Christianity

Nietzsche conceives the first variety of nihilism, that fostered through active
worship, as pernicious due to its reinforcement of a fundamental attitude that
denies life. Throughout his life Nietzsche argued the contemporary metaphysical
basis for belief in a deity were merely negations of, or tried to deny, the
uncertainties of what is necessarily a situated human existence. Religious
doctrine is steeped in, and bounded by references to good and evil and original
sin.

The religious student is taught original sin, with the hopes the student will
faithfully deny a human nature. Good and evil are not the approbation or
prohibition against certain actions, rather, such doctrine codifies self hatred
and begs the rejection of “human nature”. Christianity goes beyond a denial of
just the flesh and blood of the body to do away with the whole of the world. In
Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche suggests in several places, that the world is
falsified when dictated by the tenets of dualistic philosophies, with emphasis
on Christianity.

How the “True World” Finally Became Fable, a section in Twilight of the Idols,
is subtitled “The History of an Error”, for it supposes to give a short
rendering of how the “true world” is lost in the histories of disfiguring
philosophies that posit otherworldly dualistic metaphysics. First, Plato\'s
vision of the realm of forms. “The true world - attainable for the sage, the
pious, the virtuous man…”, a feasible world, achievable through piety and wisdom.
A world a man may come to know, at least possible for the contemplative and
diligent student.In this early imagining the world is not entirely lost yet, it
is however, removed from the “concrete” world. A world hardly accessible but by
the few who might escape the cave.

The first realization of nihilism is the denial of the sensuous world for the
really real. The idea of the true world removed is then characterized as the
Christian world.“The true world - unattainable for now, but promised for the
sage, the pious, the virtuous man (‘for the sinner that repents\')...(progress of
the idea: it becomes more subtle, insidious, incomprehensible - it becomes
female, it becomes Christian.)” The true world is promised, but removed and the “
apparant” world is denied for the sake of attainment of the real one. The
undermining of sensuous values attains what Nietzsche calls “ascetic ideals”,
good, evil, God, truth and the virtues that are demanded to attain in light of
these form the codes of the priests. These metaphysical codes are designed to
give the pious a transcendent idealized place to go, one that will replace the
sensuous situated world of humanity. The series of “nots” that Christianity
embraces, truth is not of the body, not of this world, not humanity, this
general negation of the world reveals to Nietzsche, Christianity\'s fundamental
denial of life. Ultimately, the unattainable world is the truth, God\'s point