Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Character, health, and religion

Nietzsche is new to me. Philosophy in general is to me. I studied technical writing for the last six years--how much philosophizing need we engage in for that?? :) Of course, I recognize obvious (and very important) connections, particularly when we pursue discussions about language, histories, dichotomies (and paralogies), and, of course, rhetoric. What is particularly interesting to me, after deliberating over The Gay Science (or Joyous Wisdom, as it was apparently originally translated) is how we define ethos and what it means as we *attempt* to interpret others' texts.

I can't say I know Nietzsche--certainly not personally, but not even at a literary level. But from what I gather, The Gay Science was written shortly after (or towards the end of) a particularly depressing time for Nietzsche. Previous writings were quite dark and his philosphy--his understanding of the world--took a different shape. Part of this was Nietzsche dealing with quite severe health problems, which, no doubt, would shape many persons' perspectives. The Gay Science seems to reflect a more hopeful approach to life and humanity. Nietzsche appears to have had an awakening of sorts.

I don't know what Nietzsche considered as his religion. I would venture to guess he believed that philosophy and science has a way of killing God. In his preface, he states that the Greeks knew how to live--they stopped courageously at the surfaces. They were superficial. Nietzsche apparently didn't see himself as superficial. He had gone too far, in essence, in search for his own truth to be able to comprehend God or science--for both of those tend to have a final say, a limit, or an omniscience. Reality, at least for him, didn't seem to have that.

So, what questions I raise are this: how does (or should) Nietzsche's illness affect the way we interpret what he meant? Should religion play a factor in interpreting ethos? When does a philosophists writing take a dramatic turn from influential discovery to psychotic, sickly rambling? I'm not saying that Nietzsche is (or was ever) in a state of dilerium, but certainly depression (and later hope) shaped his discoveries or personal "truth." This is, likely, the case for any human being. Thus, how much can we be allowed to consider in regards to ethos?

1 comment:

Cynthia Haynes said...

Very interesting insights and questions. I certainly think that even though Nietzsche was new to you, you 'got' him in a new way for me...and that's very intriguing to me. Ethos, and what spawns it and defines it, is extremely important to me. I had not quite thought about whether, and to what degree, Nietzsche's illness should (or should not) enter into our consideration of his ethos, and specifically the value of his philosophical theories. But clearly it should.