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The Flame of Eternity

The Flame of Eternity: An Interpretation of Nietzsche's Thought

Krzysztof Michalski
Translated from the Polish by Benjamin Paloff
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Flame of Eternity
    Book Description:

    The Flame of Eternityprovides a reexamination and new interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy and the central role that the concepts of eternity and time, as he understood them, played in it. According to Krzysztof Michalski, Nietzsche's reflections on human life are inextricably linked to time, which in turn cannot be conceived of without eternity. Eternity is a measure of time, but also, Michalski argues, something Nietzsche viewed first and foremost as a physiological concept having to do with the body. The body ages and decays, involving us in a confrontation with our eventual death. It is in relation to this brute fact that we come to understand eternity and the finitude of time. Nietzsche argues that humanity has long regarded the impermanence of our life as an illness in need of curing. It is this "pathology" that Nietzsche called nihilism. Arguing that this insight lies at the core of Nietzsche's philosophy as a whole, Michalski seeks to explain and reinterpret Nietzsche's thought in light of it. Michalski maintains that many of Nietzsche's main ideas--including his views on love, morality (beyond good and evil), the will to power, overcoming, the suprahuman (or theoverman, as it is infamously referred to), the Death of God, and the myth of the eternal return--take on new meaning and significance when viewed through the prism of eternity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4021-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. I Nihilism
    (pp. 1-15)

    Curiosity about the world, as we know, sometimes leads to philosophy. It can happen when that curiosity cannot be satisfied by knowledge of one or another event, by knowledge of one or another contingency, or by discovering the causes behind one or another phenomenon. It happens when we are not satisfied with the information we have about particular events or relations, or with a discovery of their causes. When, in short, we are curious to understand the world, and not just a fragment thereof.

    It is only then—when we understand what the world is like, when we discover the...

  5. II Time Flows, the Child Plays
    (pp. 16-31)

    On the first page of his essay “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life,” Nietzsche writes: “Consider the cattle, grazing as they pass you by: they do not know what is meant by yesterday or today, they leap about, eat, rest […], fettered to the moment and its pleasure or displeasure.”¹

    What is the point of this image?

    Where there is no difference between yesterday and today, between the past and the present, there is no room for memory: there is nothing to remember. A herd of animals doesn’t remember anything, not because it forgets something that has...

  6. III Good and Evil, Joy and Pain
    (pp. 32-45)

    Though there is a lot that we know, we are least knowledgeable about ourselves. This is what Nietzsche says in the opening passage ofOn the Genealogy of Morals. We do not know who we really are.

    Descartes famously argues just the opposite: who we are is the only thing we know for sure. We may be mistaken about the rest of the world (mistaking a bush for a person approaching in the darkness, or adding incorrectly, or misjudging someone else’s motives), but we cannot be mistaken with regard to ourselves, or at least with regard to that which constitutes...

  7. IV Reason, Which Hurts
    (pp. 46-61)

    Zarathustra says: “What returns, what finally comes home to me, is my own self and what of myself has long been in strange lands and scattered among all things and accidents.”¹

    One way of interpreting this: chance is something alien. But nothing I encounter on the road of my life, in the course of my experience, is entirely alien to me. Everything I encounter is, to a certain degree, familiar. It is familiar insofar as its meaning—the meaning of what I live through, of what I experience, of mountains, triangles, betrayal, responsibility—relates to me, insofar as it is...

  8. V The Time Is at Hand
    (pp. 62-74)

    As we have seen, Nietzsche maintained that all knowledge is inherently moral. This is especially true of science. Regardless of the content of scientific assertions, scientific activity is an endeavor undertaken for one reason or another and, as such, expresses the conscious or unconscious preferences of those who engage in it; it testifies to what they believe is good, what evil. Science carries this moral sense, too, which is hardly to suggest that this is all it amounts to.

    Let’s examine this argument more closely.

    We should note that science and its functions are not Nietzsche’s primary concern here. His...

  9. VI The Death of God
    (pp. 75-89)

    Do you remember how, inPhaedo, Plato recorded the last moments of Socrates’ life? Phaedo, a friend of Socrates, shares with his acquaintance, Echecrates, his final discussion with Socrates. The subject of their discussion is death. But this discussion is unlike others. It is during this discussion that Socrates drinks the poison and dies, carrying out the sentence of the rulers of Athens.

    His circle of friends, Phaedo among them, have come to bid him farewell. They are troubled, distressed, and look to the future, a future without Socrates, with sorrow and worry. But Socrates is cheerful and full of...

  10. VII The Flame of Eternity
    (pp. 90-123)

    This is Aurelius Augustus—Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo—in the fifth century, preaching.¹ How long since that city has passed! Only these words strike me, after all these centuries, as they surely must have struck the faithful gathered in that church.

    What is the source of their strength?

    It is not easy to understand what he’s talking about. Unlike then, today the eye, when properly equipped, has no real difficulty seeing how hair grows. And yet we cannot see passing now, either. The eye, whether so equipped or naked, cannot see the change of what is into what has...

  11. VIII Eternal Love
    (pp. 124-149)

    “What is Love?” Plotinus asks in theEnneads. “A God, a Celestial Spirit, a state of mind?”¹

    Love: how numerous its forms, how various are all those aspects and moments of life to which we apply that word. Any attempt to reduce them to a common denominator would be foolish. Among this enormous diversity there is also the meaning I will now address: eternal love.

    This love is a trace of eternity. It is the presence of eternity in time. It is the revelation of a certain kind of “now”: here, under the apple tree, when I ask you to...

  12. IX Our Insatiable Desire for More Future: On the Eternal Return of the Same
    (pp. 150-208)

    That evening in Żeromski Park Joanna and I were playing hide-and-seek; I was lying on the moist earth, in the bushes, and didn’t want to come out. Joanna walked up and down the paths for a long time, dusk was falling, and she was calling out: “Krzysztof! Krzysztof! Where are you?”

    I remember this so well, but this was some time ago, not now. It will never be again. It’s not coming back.

    Or my father’s hands, steady, reassuring. I held them, flying through the air, in a circle, like on a carousel. How I would like to return to...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 209-224)
  14. Index
    (pp. 225-232)