Nietzsche’s “Death of God” and Its Implications

In Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (a.k.a., The Joyful Knowledge), he tells the fictitious story of the madman who enters a village one evening proclaiming that God has died. He says that, “You and I have killed him.”

The madman in the story is portrayed as a sort of John the Baptist to herald in the coming Ubermensch, or anti-christ figure. This Ubermensch is also known as the Overman or, the New Man – who is a sort of Christ figure.

Along with the death of God has been the wiping away of the horizon. Now that the horizon has been wiped clear, we can re-orient ourselves to a life and a reality without God and the old religion with its traditions.

The joyful knowledge is the knowledge that God is dead. Nietzsche doesn’t mean that God was once alive, but now he is dead. By the death of God, he means that God has never been alive. Since the madman’s arrival and proclamation, we are just now beginning to realize that God has been dead all along. God has been fiction all this time. Nietzsche never argues for the death of God. He assumes God’s death.

Here are four implications that Nietzsche sees following from the “death of God.”

  1. Purpose or meaning has died. Since there is no God who has created or designed us for a purpose, we are not to be held accountable to anyone for any certain purpose at all.
  2. Morality has died. There is no good or evil; there is only strength and weakness. The purpose of the strong is to subdue the weak; and the purpose of the weak is to be dominated by the strong. What is good is only the feeling of being able to put one’s will to power over someone else. Also, there are no moral phenomena. There is only moral interpretation of phenomena.
  3. Rationality has died. Rationality (or, reason) is a whore (as described by Luther, as well), and serves whatever purpose or agenda I want it to serve.
  4. The death of objective Beauty. There is no objective beauty; there is only subjective interpretation of beauty.

Besides the four explicit implications that Nietzsche sees following from the “death of God,” there is also the death of the Author. This means that there is no longer an objective meaning of a text; there is only a subjective interpretation of a text. I may exert my will to power interpretation over the text to say what I want it to say for my purposes and my own agenda. I thus become the Author.

In light of God’s death, Nietzsche counsels us to live as gods ourselves.

This means that we should create our own purpose, and make of our life whatever we want it to be. As gods ourselves, we should use reason and argumentation to serve our own purpose and desires. As gods ourselves, we should decide what is beautiful and worthy of our admiration. As gods ourselves, we should will to power over the weak however we wish to live; however we please!

Given the opportunity to speak face to face with Nietzsche, how would you biblically-theologically respond to him in light of these dark implications?

Rene Descartes’ Epistemological Method: FAIL

Rene wanted to break with the philosophy of the past, along with its traditions, authority, vagueness of language, and uncertainty. He probably had in mind the particular philosophical system of the scholastics, which followed in line with Aristotle (in some respects).

Descartes was a rationalist, which means he trusted merely his naked reason for the creation of his own philosophical system (or, system of knowledge). In other words, he did not rely upon the faculty of his senses/perception. He felt that the senses could be very deceptive. One of Descartes’ main aims in his search for knowledge was a system of knowledge that would conquer skepticism, or the idea thereof. Another of his aims was to bridge the gap between appearance and reality. A common question in this area can be asked: “How can I know what is in the external world, really is that which I see or observe it to be?”

As a mathematician, Descartes had a bent toward deductive reasoning; and thus, he had the inclination to develop a system of knowledge that fit logically together. In this system, for instance, a person could come to the same set of hypotheses and propositions in the same order in which Descartes had laid them out, and come to the same conclusion as did Descartes.

The method by which Descartes aimed to arrive at knowledge has been called methodological doubt. In this method, he used a priori deductive reasoning. Descartes counted as knowledge those things that he could know with certainty. In other words, if there was something in his view that could be doubted, he did not trust that thing as something which could be known. So, in the formulation of his system of knowledge, he began by doubting everything – from the things he had previously learned in philosophical systems to his present environment and personal state of being. The one thing he found that was indubitable was his thinking process. This “knowledge/certainty” led him to the doubtless knowledge of his own existence. This particular breakthrough of his thinking process has been dubbed, “I think, therefore, I am.” Since Descartes became certain of his own existence and the knowledge of his being a thinking-being, he began to reason from this particular knowledge of himself outward.

So, since he could trust that he was himself was a thinking-being, and that he existed, he could then begin to deduce from these certainties other things, including God. This seems to be where Descartes’ method begins to show its apparent flaws. He said something to the effect of:

“I think there is a God, because I believe that God is good. Since God is good, he would not deceive me into believing he exists.”

This line of reasoning, however, seems misguided.

Without metaphysical foundations, Descartes’ method FAILS. He jumps from the certainty of his own existence to the certainty of God’s existence. He reasons from the lesser being to greater Being. Descartes should not have broken away from the past traditions of theology/philosophy, which bound faith and reason together. Instead of keeping with the tradition of Augustine and Aquinas in saying something to the effect of: “I believe in order to understand,” Descartes holds himself in higher authority by saying something to the effect of: “I understand in order to believe.” He holds revelation over against reason instead of reasoning within the bounds of revelation. In attempting to develop an epistemology without metaphysical foundations, Rene Descartes, much like Nietzsche, seems to (though, unknowingly) have wiped away the sun and everything with it from the horizon, that we may have no other choice to re-orient ourselves with a life and a reality without God as our foundation – only to be left with ourselves as gods to determine that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.

The Requisites and Rewards of Penetrating Greek Thought

Mental effort and perseverance are no doubt required in order to penetrate the riches of Greek thought, but any effort that is expended in the attempt to understand and appreciate the philosophy of those two men of genius, Plato and Aristotle, is amply rewarded: it can no more be wasted than the effort we expend to appreciate at its full value the music of Beethoven or Mozart or the beauty of the cathedral at Chartres Greek drama, Greek architecture, Greek sculpture, are imperishable memorials of the Greek genius and culture, of the glory of Hellas; but that glory would be incomplete without Greek philosophy and we cannot appreciate fully the culture of the Greeks unless we know something of Greek philosophy.

Frederick Copleston, S.J., The History of Philosophy — Volume I: Greece and Rome