Faversham Stoa is a philosophy discussion group meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 7.30 to 9.30pm in the The Bull in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics. If you have an idea for a topic that you would like us to cover why not drop us a line? There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!

Eternal return

Eternal return (also known as “eternal recurrence”) is a concept which posits that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form an infinite number of times across infinite time or space. It is a purely physical concept, involving no supernatural reincarnation, but the return of beings in the same bodies. The idea of eternal return occurs in a parable in Section 341 of The Gay Science, and also in the chapter ‘Of the Vision and the Riddle’ in ~Thus Spoke Zarathustra~, among other places. Nietzsche contemplates the idea as potentially “horrifying and paralyzing”, and says that its burden is the “heaviest weight” imaginable ("das schwerste Gewicht"). The wish for the eternal return of all events would mark the ultimate affirmation of life, a reaction to Schopenhauer’s praise of denying the will-to-live. To comprehend eternal recurrence in his thought, and to not merely come to peace with it but to embrace it, requires amor fati, “love of fate”.

Alexander Nehamas writes in Nietzsche: Life as Literature of three ways of seeing the eternal recurrence: “(A) My life will recur in exactly identical fashion.” This expresses a totally fatalistic approach to the idea. “(B) My life may recur in exactly identical fashion.” This second view conditionally asserts cosmology, but fails to capture what Nietzsche refers to in The Gay Science, 341. Finally, “(C) If my life were to recur, then it could recur only in identical fashion.” Nehamas shows that this interpretation exists totally independently of physics and does not presuppose the truth of cosmology. Nehamas draws the conclusion that if individuals constitute themselves through their actions, then they can only maintain themselves in their current state by living in a recurrence of past actions (Nehamas 153). Nietzsche’s thought is the negation of the idea of a history of salvation.

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