Kierkegaard & Nietzsche

Context: the study of moral discourse
Kierkegaard is big on choice and rationality. (They are all big on rationality. This is where I take issue. As if there is only one kind.) At some point, Kierkegaard says argument must end and we must choose to believe – we must decide. To decide – this is sparking a memory of latin roots from a comparison of different kinds of talk (debate, discussion, etc.). “cide” has something to do with murder, right? So to make a choice, to decide is to kill off other possibilities. “de” probably means something too . . .


Kierkegaard also poses the aesthetic vs the ethical (as if one can’t have both). I think this is related to the anti-emotivism in Marx and Hegel (?)…I’m reaching, because I don’t quite get this emotivism thing. Sure, the emotions aren’t always a sound basis for decision-making, but neither is rationality. And none of these folk account for intuition or non-rational modes of knowing. I didn’t know Kierkegaard was essentially Christian and that his “type of Christianity is in some ways a natural counterpart to his individualism.” MacIntyre supposes Kierkegaard can only ask and answer his own question, “How shall I live?” from within this combo of individualism and christianity.
Heinrich Heine (never heard of him before, or at least, not deeply enough to register) predicts that changes in religion (from paganism to christianity) are only on the surface, only at the level of “ideas”…an observation MacIntrye credits as a prophecy of the world wars. (Why are all the philosophers German?) MacIntyre says “the great moral philosophers of the nineteenth century are all anti-German Germans, constructing systems against the moral status quo“, seeing “the moral as something they are bound to condemn” (220).
Schopenhauer is the epitome of despair and meaninglessness. Did something say nihilism? MacIntrye doesn’t, but Schopenhauer reduces life to pain and suffering and (completely predetermined) Will.
Enter Nietzche, who understood his own subjective position as “the point at which all the contradictory influences of hte 19th century are brought to bear” (222). That must have been hell. I appreciate this summary: “Christianity is for Nietzsche at the core of the modern sickness. Why? Because Christianity has led to a systematic devaluation of this world in favor of the next, and thus to a false spirituality” (223). Nietzcshe says its all about power, power over others of whom we are jealous. This is almost as grim and Schopenhauer. There appears to be some psychology at work in Nietzsceh, though, because “it is when the will to power is not allowed expression, but is hidden and repressed, that it turns into a drive against others…” (224). MacIntrye accuses Nietzsche of being historically irresponsible (225), and this because he didn’t believe most “men” could be redeemed (not sure how this word is being used here – I suppose intellectually? reflectively?)
MacIntyre does, however, also read Nietzsche (along with other German moralists) as prophetic in his turning away from German society, paraphrasing Thomas Mann, who “once spoke of the artist as a seismograph in whose work tremors as yet unobserved are registered” (226).
Note a potential example of metonymy here (226).

One thought on “Kierkegaard & Nietzsche”

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