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Overcoming Nihilism : Nietzsche on self-creation, politics and morality.

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This thesis explores three of Nietzsche in terms of his conception of nihilism and his attempt to overcome it. It is argued that Nietzsche views modernity as being characterized by nihilism and in a state of crisis. Nietzsche responds to this crisis by offering both an aetiology of it, and a vision of a future beyond nihilism. It is Nietzsche's vision which is the primary concern of this work. Nietzsche's first attempt to overcome nihilism is found in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In this book Nietzsche offers a solution of individual salvation which is elucidated in terms of a trio of ideas - the Superman, the will to power and eternal recurrence. Since nihilism is a social problem, however, this individual overcoming of it is insufficient. In Beyond Good arid Evil Nietzsche, realizing this, offers a more inclusive solution which centres on a political vision of an aristocracy which lies beyond, and outside of, social morality. In On the Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche attempts to show that the creation of such a future does not involve any ahistorical leaps, that the potential for it is already present, though repressed, in Western culture. In sUbjecting Nietzsche' s vision of the future to critical evaluation it is argued that his visions of individual and society are both unattractive and unfeasible. The Nietzschean individual is argued to be less a model of psychological health and well-being than a case study in alienation. The aristocratic society which Nietzsche envisages seems sure to lead to a new crisis. It is further argued that this lack of a workable and attractive vision of the future is based in a misinterpretation of the present, which, I suggest, is not characterized by a crisis.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1994.


Nihilism., Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900--Ethics., Philosophy, Modern--20th century., Theses--Philosophy.