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Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    While most recent studies of Nietzsche's works have lost sight of the fundamental question of the meaning of a life characterized by inescapable suffering, Bernard Reginster's book The Affirmation of Life brings it sharply into focus. Reginster identifies overcoming nihilism as a central objective of Nietzsche's philosophical project, and shows how this concern systematically animates all of his main ideas.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04264-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    On November 13, 1888, a mere few weeks before his final collapse into insanity, Nietzsche makes the following announcement, in a letter to his friend Franz Overbeck: “The printing ofTwilight of the Idols, or How to Philosophize with a Hammeris finished; the manuscript ofEcce Homo: How One Becomes What One Isis already at the printer’s. The latter, an absolutely important book, gives some psychological and even biographical details about me and my writings; people will at last suddenlyseeme. The tone of the work, one of gay detachment fraught with a sense of destiny, as...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Nihilism
    (pp. 21-53)

    Nihilism is the central problem of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Although this view is not new, its nature and implications have not been well understood. One reason is that Nietzsche’s conception of nihilism itself remains elusive. The bulk of his analysis of it is confined to unpublished notebooks, where it often remains sketchy and fragmentary. It is, moreover, marred by complications the significance of which is unclear: in the course of his analysis, he flanks the termnihilismwith no fewer than eighteen different epithets, all of which create the often misleading impression that an important qualification has been introduced.¹ Last but...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Overcoming Disorientation
    (pp. 54-102)

    The primary form of Nietzschean nihilism is despair over the unrealizability of our highest values. However, Nietzsche also considers another form of nihilism, the disorientation that results from the devaluation of all values. Although he does not explicitly acknowledge this ambiguity in his concept of nihilism, he offers a tantalizing hint about the relation between despair and disorientation: “I fear it is still the Circe of philosophers, morality, that has here bewitched them into having to be slanderers forever—They believed in moral ‘truths,’ they found there the highest values—what else could they do but deny existence more firmly...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Will to Power
    (pp. 103-147)

    Most of Nietzsche’s later works are explicitly related to his project of a “revaluation of all values.”On the Genealogy of Morals, for instance, offers three “preliminary studies” for such a revaluation (EH, III “On the Genealogy of Morals”), andThe Anti-Christis its first installment (EH, III “The Twilight of the Idols” 3). And the notebooks from the last two years of Nietzsche’s productive life offer a large number of more or less detailed sketches for a major book devoted to this project. If we are to believe the various plans for its execution Nietzsche left us, as well...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Overcoming Despair
    (pp. 148-200)

    On the face of it, the project of a revaluation of all values is eminently paradoxical. A revaluation presupposes values in terms of which it is conducted, but it seems that if we are to revaluateall(or, as Nietzsche sometimes says, the “highest”) values, we deprive ourselves precisely of all possible terms of revaluation. By calling all values into question, we seem to be left with no value to underwrite this revaluation. Any adequate interpretation of Nietzschean revaluation must include a resolution of this paradox.

    Nietzsche declares that the “principle [Prinzip]” or “standard [Maßstab]” of the revaluation of values...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Eternal Recurrence
    (pp. 201-227)

    The eternal recurrence is “the fundamental conception” ofThus Spoke Zarathustra, a book Nietzsche regards as his highest achievement (EH, III 1, Preface 4). In one of his latest books, he also identifies himself as the teacher of the eternal recurrence: “I, the last disciple of the philosopher Dionysos—I, the teacher of the eternal recurrence” (TI, X 5). Yet, for all its importance, the doctrine is also one of the most difficult and mysterious in a body of works that includes many difficult and mysterious views. According to a venerable scholarly tradition, the idea of the eternal recurrence should...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Dionysian Wisdom
    (pp. 228-268)

    Nietzsche concludesEcce Homo, his intellectual testament, with a last, anxious plea for understanding: “Have I been understood?—Dionysus versus the Crucified.—” (EH, IV 9). The figure of Dionysus symbolizes the “affirmation of life,” whereas “the Crucified,” an expression which conventionally designates the Paulinian conception of Christ, represents the negation of life: “Christianity […] is nihilistic in the most profound sense, while in the Dionysian symbol the ultimate limit of affirmation is attained” (EH, III, “The Birth of Tragedy” 1). The strategic location of these words unequivocally indicates that Nietzsche regards the affirmation of life as his defining philosophical...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 271-300)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-308)
  14. Index
    (pp. 309-312)