Module IX: Nihilism


The demands of Nihilism are high: some moral philosophers never get beyond existentialism

Best known book is Thus Spake Zarathustra where the protagonist announces "God is Dead

Richard Straus “Thus Spake Zarathustra” HERE

The idea of the Last Man

Andrew Bird: “Oh, No”  (Bird discusses the genesis of the song HERE)

The idea of the Overman, the next stage in the evolutionary process.

--see top of page 25 "brave, proud, and magnanimous animals" These are "free spirits" (see p. 36) (see p. 40 p. second paragraph).

--antipathy toward Christianity and Judaism; see page 33 bottom, first paragraph page 34, first paragraph p. 35. Such religions have encouraged a "herd" mentality (see bottom of page 35)

Nietzsche argues that "good" and "evil" are artificial constructs and it is time now to go "Beyond Good and Evil" and "revalue" our "values." Ideas such as good and evil will slow the evolutionary process. We also need to do away with ideas of mercy on the poor and weak. (see p. 44, last paragraph of section 12; see p. 52, first paragraph of section 16; p. 55, top paragraph; p. 56.)

We are at a time in history when we see "the last man", people of the modern age who have no ambition or courage, who are not daring, who are not willing to "go against the crowd." This is why Nietzsche didn't like democracy: it prevents people from being individuals, from thinking outside of the box. (see p. 43, second paragraph; p. 44, last paragraph of section 12.)

Where do we see nihilism in the modern world?

Nietzsche's influence has been incalculable.

His most notorious influence is on Nazism (see p. 42, first paragraph "the blond Germanic beast", p. 43 at the top.) However, his defenders argue that the nazi appropriate of his ideas was a distortion of his ideas, not a legitimate application of his work.

In culture, especially music and cinema

Big screen:
"2001 Space Odyssey" 
"Fight Club" 
"Murder By Numbers"
"Garden State"

public policy, especially bioengineering, some movements in public education, and also, some argue terrorism

Sometimes nihilism involves a preoccupation with death.

Admittedly, nihilism involves a risk--we don't know for sure if we can create after we destroy, nor what we will create

"Break on Through” The Doors

“Story in Your Eyes” Moody Blues

Several authors have been very concerned about nihilism, including Dostoevsky and Flannery O'Connor

Some argue that the cutting edge of this destruction--of tradition, religion, etc.--is sexuality.

"Human," The Killers

“Human,” The Killers