Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Degree Granting Department
Joshua Rayman, Ph.D.
Lee Braver, Ph.D.
Vanessa Lemm, Ph.D.
Alex Levine, Ph.D.
Eternal Recurrence, Friedrich Nietzsche, Continental Philosophy, History of Philosophy
I argue that Nietzsche's thought of eternal recurrence is merely a kind of thought experiment that has two forms of engagement. The first form of engagement is destructive and results in the principles of classical logic being reduced to epistemic nihilism. In this first form, Nietzsche is thinking eternal recurrence, as it is presented in previous philosophers, to its end. The second form of engagement does not require the presuppositions of classical logic and is made through the affect of disgust. This second mode of engagement can result in two outcomes; suicidal pessimism or life affirmation.
The work on eternal recurrence that scholars typically think of as published has very little positive commitment to the ontological or metaphysical status of eternal recurrence. However, if eternal recurrence does represent the physical nature of the universe, as Nietzsche sometimes speculates about in his notebooks, this would not hurt either his destructive or his affective argument. The affective form of engagement allows us to think about the emergence of this affirmative ideal without strong positive commitment to any particular metaphysics or epistemology. The appearance of such an ideal may be multiply realizable over various physical organizations of the universe.
The new life affirming ideal which emerges is not a form of humanism. Rather, Nietzsche thinks that the thought of eternal recurrence will produce "the 'humanity' of the future." The thought of eternal recurrence selects out, via suicidal pessimism, those who cannot affirm life. This fosters the development of a new humanity that can affirm life and create a new kind of happiness unknown to humans previously. This new ideal, amor fati [love of fate], is not simply a reconciliation with suffering and hardship of the past. Rather, one must want and hope that such a thing is the case. This ideal, held by the most powerful people of the future, is an expression of will to power. This ideal understands hardship and challenges on the sea of life as part of what makes us truly great and our lives intrinsically valuable.
Scholar Commons Citation
Parkhurst, William A. B., "Nietzsche and Eternal Recurrence: Methods, Archives, History, and Genesis" (2021). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.