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!

Nietzsche’s Philosophy

Nietzsche is known for his use of poetry and prose (sometimes together in poetic prose style) in his writings. An excellent example is his iconic phrase “God is dead”, in German: “Gott ist tot”. This, combined with the fact that he disdained any kind of system, has made several aspects of his philosophy seemingly lacking coherent meaning or being paradoxical. Because of Nietzsche’s evocative style and his often outrageous claims, his philosophy generates passionate reactions running from love to disgust. His works remain controversial, due to varying interpretations and misinterpretations of his work. In Western philosophy tradition, Nietzsche’s writings are the unique case of free revolutionary thought that is revolutionary in its structure and problems but isn’t tied to any revolutionary project at all.

In Daybreak Nietzsche begins his “Campaign against Morality”. He calls himself an “immoralist” and harshly criticizes the prominent moral philosophies of his day: Christianity, Kantianism, and utilitarianism. Nietzsche is also known for being very critical of the Western belief in egalitarianism and rationality. Nietzsche’s concept “God is dead” applies to the doctrines of Christendom, though not to all other faiths: he claimed that Buddhism is a successful religion that he compliments for fostering critical thought. Still, Nietzsche saw his philosophy as a counter-movement to nihilism through appreciation of art:

Art as the single superior counterforce against all will to negation of life, art as the anti-Christian, anti-Buddhist, anti-Nihilist par excellence.

Nietzsche claimed that the Christian faith as practised was not a proper representation of Jesus’ teachings, as it forced people merely to believe in the way of Jesus but not to act as Jesus did, in particular his example of refusing to judge people, something that Christians had constantly done the opposite of. He condemned institutionalized Christianity for emphasizing a morality of pity (Mitleid), which assumes an inherent illness in society:

Christianity is called the religion of pity. Pity stands opposed to the tonic emotions which heighten our vitality: it has a depressing effect. We are deprived of strength when we feel pity. That loss of strength which suffering as such inflicts on life is still further increased and multiplied by pity. Pity makes suffering contagious.

In Ecce Homo Nietzsche called the establishment of moral systems based on a dichotomy of good and evil a “calamitous error”, and wished to initiate a re-evaluation of the values of the Judeo-Christian world. He indicates his desire to bring about a new, more naturalistic source of value in the vital impulses of life itself. While Nietzsche attacked the principles of Judaism, he was not antisemitic: in his work On the Genealogy of Morality, he explicitly condemns antisemitism, and pointed out that his attack on Judaism was not an attack on Jews as a people but specifically an attack upon the ancient Jewish priesthood whom he claims antisemitic Christians paradoxically based their views upon.

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