Fate, Joy, and the Beauty of the Absurd: An Interpretation of Nietzsche on the Eternal Recurrence
In this paper I examine a fairly popular interpretation of Nietzsche’s idea of the eternal recurrence—one offered by, for instance, Alexander Nehamas (1985) and R. Lanier Anderson (2005). Such an interpretation understands the notion of the eternal recurrence to be inexorably linked to Nietzsche’s notion of redemption and sees both these ideas as thoroughly rooted in personal biography. I first raise a number of objections regarding the internal coherency of such interpretations. Then I proceed to provide a careful analysis of some of the major passages from Nietzsche’s texts that have generally been taken to suggest such an interpretation. What a close reading of these passages show, I argue, is that the eternal recurrence has little, except incidental, connection with biography as well as little, except incidental, connection with redemption. The eternal recurrence, I maintain, is intended to bring out a certain feature of life in general—a feature that actually rules out the possibility of redemption, as it has hitherto been understood. Finally, I conclude by offering a preliminary interpretation of the positive reaction to the eternal recurrence based on the structure of Nietzschean joy.
Franklin and Marshall College Archives, Undergraduate Honors Thesis 2009
- F&M Theses Collection