Nietzsche on the Death of God and Eternal Recurrence

Robert R. Williams

in Tragedy, Recognition, and the Death of God

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199656059
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744846 | DOI:
Nietzsche on the Death of God and Eternal Recurrence

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In Nietzsche’s view the God who is dead is the moral God; for Nietzsche the moral God is the Christian God. So his account of the death of God is anti-Christian. Nietzsche’s critique of the herd morality is an anti-Christian polemic, aspects of which Hegel could share. Nietzsche understands himself as a tragic philosopher, and embraces a tragic vision of the world. Since God is dead, values become relative to the human being. But what can be created by human agency can also be undone by human agency. The recognition of the relativity of all values to the subject empties values of intrinsic worth. To overcome nihilism, Nietzsche develops the doctrine of eternal return. It is supposed to provide a new goal and meaning for a human existence that has become meaningless and goalless. Formulated as an imperative it directs us to will only that which we can will to be repeated eternally. Thus eternal return counterbalances the emptiness of values. However, the doctrine of eternal return may be incoherent. It is both an existential imperative, and a cosmological doctrine about world-cycles. Karl Löwith believes that each aspect of eternal return undermines the other. Dudley, Hatab, and Magnus criticize Löwith. Underlying this dispute is a deeper issue, whether Nietzsche finds an anti-dualist alternative to the Kantian dualisms that he criticizes, or serves up another version of dualism. Michel Haar shows that Nietzsche presents an anti-Christian tragic theology — a religion without creed, but nevertheless with a mystical ecstasy of joyous fatalism or amor fati wherein even tragedy and destruction seem necessary.

Keywords: death of God; nihilism; herd morality; weightlessness of values; Karl löwith; Bernd Magnus; Gilles Deleuze; Michel Haar; joyous fatalism

Chapter.  14188 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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