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This chapter addresses five authors who respond to Romantic hopes in indefinite futures: John Stuart Mill, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In Mill’s late writing on religion, hope in eternal life constitutes a link to Romantic poetry, a motive for taking life seriously, and a wan empirical possibility. In Eliot’s novella The Lifted Veil, blind hope, or our uncertainty about other people and any future we might share with them, may be necessary for love and engagement in this life – or it may be a grievous, fatal error. Along with Dickinson, Eliot supplies a bridge to the Modernists’ largely ironic representation of hope, more or less stripped of its possible virtue. The art of Dostoevsky is also oriented toward emerging Modernism, even as he exposes the ills of modernity, ultimately affirming something akin to Christian hope. Nietzsche sketches a new hope that might rise on the grave of Christianity. Despite his well-known adage on Pandora’s jar – the hope it contains is “the worst of evils” – Nietzsche more often prophesies, in his later writings, the “highest hope” of becoming who one is.
In the history of philosophy, two lines can be distinguished, one represented by Plato, Augustine, and Descartes, emphasizing the centralizing movements in the self, another one embodied by Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Freud, proposing decentralizing movements in the self. As an example of present-day centralizing tendencies, the rise of meritocracy is discussed. An example of a contemporary decentralizing trend is the global–local nexus that implies a decentralizing multiplicity of self and identity. Whereas the centralizing movement in the self is focused on the realization of just one main form of positioning (personal excellence or superiority), the decentralizing movement results in the development of a wide variety of positions (full self-expression). Given this bidirectionality, the self is located in a field of tension resulting in an experience of uncertainty, or even stress, which challenges the dialogical self to liberate itself from imprisonment by alternating between centralization and decentralization.
The concept of the common good represents those resources that are good for an entire group as a whole, or what preserves what the people or inhabitants of the national community have in common. The “good” are those things that benefit the community as a whole; lead to the protection, sustainment, and improvement of the community. Theorists agree that it is the ultimate end of government; the good of all its citizens and void of special interests. Theories of the common good are discussed in this paper with implications regarding the shortcomings of democratic political institutions and structures. The theoretical framework provided by the political thought of W. E. B. Du Bois and Friedrich Nietzsche are used to critically examine the idea of the common good in contemporary democratic societies. Du Bois sought an objective truth that could dispel once and for all the irrational prejudices and ignorances that stood in the way of a just social order for African Americans. Nietzsche’s political theory was primarily concerned with disdain for democracy and the need for Aristocratic forms and social ordering. He was skeptical that with the demise of religion, it would be possible to achieve an effective normative consensus in society at large which is needed to legitimize government authority. Both theorists agree that the exceptional and great individuals are few in society and should govern in favor of the masses. Based on their example, this paper argues that both authors are suggesting an Epistocratic form of government where those with political knowledge are privileged.
A historical investigation into Spinozism teaches us at least as much about the interpreters of Spinoza as it does about Spinoza’s thought itself. More than any other philosophy, Spinoza’s has been held up like a mirror to the great currents of thought, providing a particular perspective on them: one can see reflected and revealed in the mirror of Spinozism the inner and outer conflicts and contradictions of Calvinism, Cartesianism, freethinking and libertinism, the Enlightenment, materialism, the Pantheismusstreit, German Idealism, French spiritualism, Marxism, British Idealism, structuralism, and other movements. This chapter provides a condensed overview of the European reception of Spinoza from the seventeenth century until today, in both minor and major thinkers.
This introduction marks out the space of the following volume, as it takes its bearings from David Jasper’s Sacred Trilogy and explores its implications through various sacred modes of being. It sets out the terms of a now questioned antagonism between religion and the secular by looking at a renewed relationship, as reconstituted by the postsecular, between religion and theology. It suggests that theology, as a cultural practice, must now reckon not only with the secular but also with an increasingly contested religious conception, and it does so through the concept of the sacred. In looking at how the sacred has been recently modulated through such theorists as Girard and Agamben, and then through the poetics of Rilke and Nietzsche, a new understanding emerges, one in which theology takes on, necessarily, a cultural mode, and culture, necessarily, a theological mode. The contributing chapters are then positioned around these modes, to suggest and exemplify, in their interdisciplinary approach, a new sense of living and dwelling in the sacred.
How Norman Mailer enters the discussion of Modernism may be as opaque as the discussion of Modernism itself. Several lines of approach, however, may be useful: First, which traditions did Mailer gravitate towards; second, how did Mailer define himself as an artist; third, what were the central elements of his worldview and poetics; and fourth, what questions of form and style did his work attempt to explore? This chapter situates Mailer’s work within the literary and historical context of the Modernist movement by focusing on his use of persona, his worldview, and the thematic content of his work.
Throughout his life, W. B. Yeats used the terms ‘tragedy’ and ‘comedy’ in relation to the theatre. However, it is clear that his understanding of these terms did not derive from Aristotle. He also frequently mentions Nietzsche, and particularly Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy; however, he uses Nietzsche’s theory of tragedy in an unique and distinctive way. For Yeats, tragic theatre was what he referred to as 'subjective', a term he develops in his occult and philosophical works, particularly A Vision, and which he relates to vision, thought, and the individual. 'Comedy', by contrast, is what Yeats considers to be 'objective', concerned with the material world and its manifestations, including the body, and rationality. Based on this opposition, Yeats lays the foundations for a theory of theatre that is distinctive, and which shapes his own theatrical practice.
This chapter analyses Simmel’s intellectual explorations during his middle period (ca. 1900 – ca. 1910). Having despaired of the possibility of finding a grand synthesis, Simmel developed a radically pluralistic vision of the world, in which no comprehensive unity was envisioned, but each particular form of experience served as a symbol of unity. This view formed in his mind as he engaged with the ideas of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The chapter examines Simmel’s attempts to find a symbol of unity in the aesthetic and religious experience, as well as in the experience of femininity. These explorations, however, did not bring about any general philosophical solution. In the end, none of these experiences was shown by to be a fully satisfactory answer to the discontents of modernity.
“Mussolini the Critic” explores the dictator’s engagement with his preferred contemporary dramatists: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Luigi Pirandello, and George Bernard Shaw. Moving from a recounting of il Duce’s personal acquaintance with the writers into a discussion of how he interpreted their works (drawing on his writings and interviews and various third-party testimonies), the chapter identifies the theatrical traditions that inspired the dictator and shaped his thinking, and works through the philosophical elements that united the authors and drew Mussolini to them: Nietzschean exaltations of the will to power; the command of word and ritual in moving the modern masses; the celebration of intuitive action; and, most surprisingly, a fascination for heroic, rebellious women. The chapter concludes with reflections on fascism’s reputed “aesthetic pluralism,” suggesting that the ideological affinities in such apparently different authors counters the reigning postulate that this perceived pluralism is the result of an ideological vacuity in fascist thought.
In nineteenth-century Scandinavia, philosophy was not merely an academic matter. Beyond a relatively small group of philosophy professors at the universities in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, philosophical ideas saturated culture more broadly, including the theatre. Thus, the philosophical context of Ibsen’s drama must be understood historically and contextually. Of particular importance – albeit often overlooked in the scholarly literature – is modern philosophy of drama as it develops in the works of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Johann Gottfried Herder and the Sturm und Drang movement. Later, we see an interest in romantic philosophy, the works of Germaine de Staël and the idealist position of G.W.F. Hegel. Towards the end of the century, the ideas of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche featured centrally in Ibsen’s intellectual circles.
Perhaps the most fundamental disagreement concerning Nietzsche's view of metaphysics is that some commentators believe Nietzsche has a positive, systematic metaphysical project, and others deny this. Those who deny it hold that Nietzsche believes metaphysics has a special problem, that is, a distinctively problematic feature that distinguishes metaphysics from other areas of philosophy. In this paper, I investigate important features of Nietzsche's metametaphysics in order to argue that Nietzsche does not, in fact, think metaphysics has a special problem. The result is that, against a long-standing view held in the literature, we should be reading Nietzsche as a metaphysician.
This chapter explores the early twentieth-century phenomenon known as the roman-fleuve (river-novel) and proposes a model for understanding its place within French literary history. The origins of the term can be traced back to Romain Rolland’s Jean-Christophe, a multi-volume novel recounting the fictional life story of its eponymous protagonist. Although there are notable stylistic and thematic differences between it and the novel cycles of the other three proponents of the roman-fleuve form—Roger Martin du Gard, Jules Romains, and Georges Duhamel—Jean-Christophe provides the yardstick against which these later literary creations must be measured. Utilizing Rolland’s protagonist as its central reference point, the chapter contends that the roman-fleuve’s overarching ambition is to rework the notion of the modern subject in function of an alternative understanding of the individual and the collective. In a tumultuous era marked by war and the crumbling of religious and metaphysical certainties, this reconception of subjectivity inaugurated an innovative literary exploration of Bergsonian intuition and the Nietzschean overturning of ready-made systems of thought. Lying between the sentimentality of the romantics and the materialism of the positivists, the roman-fleuve was a landmark, if short-lived, example of French literary creativity blossoming in the arid ground of modernity.
The conclusion sums up the work, indicating the core elements shared by (Hellenic) theories of daimonification along with (Jewish and Christian) theories of angelification. One common element is the link of virtue (ethical transformation) with physical and cognitive transformation. It is this persistent link that allows ancient theories of posthuman transformation to serve as correctives for current Transhumanist visions of posthuman enhancement. Transhumanists often speak of cognitive and physical improvements with no robust reflection on ethical or moral improvement. Posthuman enhancement must never be defined apart from morality, but in terms of it. Morality cannot simply be programmed from without, nor can it be governed by the overall value of personal autonomy.
Lorsque les commentateurs s'interrogent sur les sources d'inspiration du perspectivisme nietzschéen, leur réponse la plus constante est de le rapporter à la monadologie de Leibniz. C'est oublier que Pascal — dont Leibniz avait lu les écrits — fut le premier à introduire l'idée de perspective en philosophie. C'est négliger surtout les indications de Nietzsche lui-même puisque, s'il loue en Pascal l'un de ces «bons Européens» qui précipitent la dévalorisation des valeurs chrétiennes et, singulièrement, de celle de vérité, il considère au contraire Leibniz comme l'une des plus «grandes entraves à la probité intellectuelle de l'Europe».
Though Mahler by no means embraced a Nietzschean worldview, the philosopher-psychologist was an important presence in his thinking, both in his student days in Vienna and during his maturity (particularly with the Third Symphony ). This chapter offers a fresh perspective on those ideas of Nietzsche that would have been available to Mahler, whether he interacted with them explicitly or not. These include Nietzsche as idiosyncratic philo-Semite, as left-wing liberator keen to undermine sclerotic social and political conventions, as prophet of the rebirth of ancient dramatic culture in the contemporary German-speaking world, as antagonist of liberalism’s individualist greed through reawakening the emotional elements of a culture, as advocate of the twin impulses of utopianism and self-destruction, and as a post-Wagnerian hoping to supplant the Christian myth of delivery through the Redeemer by his return to ancient Greece.
This chapter surveys the wide range of spiritual and philosophical ideas that influenced Strauss during the emergence of his famously idiosyncratic worldview. Already a “freethinker” in his youth, and a product of an “alt-katholisch” household that rejected central Catholic doctrine, Strauss settled into a comfortable atheism while still in his teens. This skeptical disposition provided the backdrop for his encounters with 1) the fundamentalist Wagnerian metaphysics of his mentor, Alexander Ritter, and Wagner’s powerful and cultured widow Cosima; 2) Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation (1818, 1844), which he studied carefully on his own; 3) the later, anti-Wagnerian writings of Nietzsche (most famously Also sprach Zarathustra), which had a powerful effect on Strauss’s tone poems beginning with Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (1895); and 4) the artistic and intellectual legacy of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, his lodestar, whose devotion to classical culture, and break from Romanticism, were paralleled by Strauss’s own.
Stanley Kubrick’s choice to appropriate the opening gesture of Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra (1896) in his science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) provided this music with a degree of pop-culture notoriety rarely attained by "serious" works. Afforded the mass exposure of a Hollywood blockbuster, the tone poem’s visceral power manifested itself in settings the composer never could have imagined: athletic stadiums, discotheques, Elvis Presley concerts, and cell phones, saturating the popular consciousness to an extent perhaps unparalleled. Beneath this spectacular feat of publicity, however, the film offers a rich and sophisticated reading of Strauss’s music, by duplicating visually the music’s dazzling aural effects, by engaging with the same Nietzschean dilemmas that occupied Strauss (particularly humanity’s evolving struggle to conceptualize the fate of the individual), and by seeking to integrate the worlds of self-consciously significant artistic expression and commercial entertainment.
This chapter explores the cultural, intellectual, and sociopolitical context surrounding Strauss’s operas based on Greek mythology: Elektra, Ariadne auf Naxos, Die ägyptische Helena, Daphne, and Die Liebe der Danae. Offering an overview of Germany’s cultural obsession with ancient Greece from the Enlightenment through the Third Reich, it highlights the changing nature of this engagement while pointing to ways in which German Hellenism informs an understanding of Strauss’s Greek-inspired operas. These works reflect broader cultural debates related to shifting German views of ancient Greece that range from a sunnier and more idealized portrait of the Greeks to a darker, more irrational one. This fundamental opposition between the Apollonian and the Dionysian impulses behind Greek tragedy plays out in these operas to one degree or another, while those composed during the Third Reich resonate with views of classical antiquity shaped by the Nazis' increasing focus on issues of race, ethnicity, and biological superiority that were tied to German identity.
While George Orwell often distanced himself from philosophical theorizing, he does implicitly take some sides in philosophical debates about evil. In particular, Orwell curiously straddles a philosophical divide between evil-realism and evil-scepticism and Nineteen Eighty-Four provides evidence of his sympathies with each. On the one hand, Orwell spoke of evil often and the narrative of Nineteen Eighty-Four is pretty clearly driven by agents and events that are reasonably regarded as evil. Yet Nineteen Eighty-Four also suggests some reasons for abandoning talk of evil altogether and anticipates at least some contemporary arguments for scepticism about evil and evil people. Nineteen Eighty-Four poses many questions about evil, not the least of which is whether we ought to be talking about it at all. This chapter illuminates some of Orwell’s thinking about evil and situates Orwell in current and live philosophical debates about evil.
In the years since its inception, Wagner’s Ring has generated significant commentary and controversy. Critics of the Ring asserted its influence in public discourse (beyond music criticism of the work and its performances) and generated ambitious intellectual and ideological debates about art, society, and politics. This chapter charts some milestones in these debates, including the contributions of well-known thinkers such as Nietzsche, Shaw, and Adorno, but also some of their French, German, or Russian contemporaries whose influence has waned since the fin de siècle. In the twentieth century, seminal musicological approaches emerged that transcend analytical-technical matters, such as Alfred Lorenz’s ideologically charged investigations of Wagnerian form or Richard Donington’s psychoanalytic explanations. More recently the task of interpreting the Ring has shifted from the written word to the operatic stage, where directors explore and expose its various and conflicting layers of meaning. Whether formulated by philosophers, writers, musicologists, or artists, two basic approaches emerge from these interpretations: They either develop a social or political interpretation from the Ring outward, or they insert the tetralogy into a preexisting worldview.