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Nietzsche’s Ideas: God and True Virtue

Introduction

Friedrich Nietzsche, the outstanding German philosopher of the 19th century, left behind a rich academic heritage and became one of the founders of irrationalism as a philosophical doctrine. One of his well-known works is Thus Spake Zarathustra, the story about a wandering preacher who promotes the doctrine of the Superman, but society is indifferent to his speeches. The themes of morality, God, the meaning and purpose of human existence, as well as true virtue are touched upon in parables and stories of moral and philosophical content. This work aims to highlight several passages from Nietzsche’s book, analyze his ideas regarding the aforementioned aspects, and correlate them with the ideas presented in the book I and Thou by the Jewish philosopher Buber.

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Ideas About God and True Virtue

In his stories, Zarathustra portrayed by Nietzsche ridicules the false morals and principles of humanity, which are based on fear of God. In one of the parables called “Backworldsmen,” the philosopher states as follows: “God whom I created was human work and human madness, like all the Gods” (Nietzsche 2016). By saying this, Zarathustra emphasizes that the power of God in whom people believe is not true and should not be perceived as a single life postulate dictating how a person should live. He condemns deeply religious believers and claims that “many sickly ones have there always been among those who muse, and languish for God” (Nietzsche 2016). Through these words, Nietzsche seeks to show that human aspirations regarding submission to higher forces are paradoxical and beyond reasonable explanation. He considers “the latest of virtues, which is uprightness,” and argues that doubt regarded as a sin by believers is a prerequisite for lying (Nietzsche 2016). Such a doctrine testifies to the philosopher’s radical views on God, virtue, and religion in general.

Applied to Buber’s reasoning in I and Thou, Nietzsche’s ideas resonate. The Jewish philosopher is less radical about the nature and role of God, but he argues that “in truth, God may only be “addressed, not expressed” (Buber 1937, vii). In addition, Buber (1937) notes that virtue manifests itself in real life but not in minds and thoughts. Thus, the ideas of both philosophers regarding the designated concepts are of a similar nature.

Ideas About Morality

In the understanding of Zarathustra, the concepts of morality are coordinated by humans in accordance with the existing values. In the parable called “Redemption,” Nietzsche (2016) writes as follows: “morally are things ordered according to justice and penalty.” In other words, any attempts to tie morality to a religious principle and associate it with higher powers are unreasonable in nature since human interaction is the key indicator of the relevance of behavioral norms. Actions against morality, in turn, should be criticized and condemned within the framework of humane punishment, which implies the awareness and acceptance of mistakes made. Thus, the philosopher cites his position regarding society as a main determinant and coordinator of moral values.

Since Buber also draws parallels with God in many of his discourses, his concept of morality often deals with religious connotations. He argues that despite one’s faith, the human being “is still involved in duty and obligation to the world,” which confirms the unreasonableness of relying solely on biblical motives (Buber 1937, 107). Therefore, despite personal convictions, social values dictating morality prevail in the ideas of both philosophers.

Ideas About Meaning and Purpose

In the third part of the book, one can find the parable “Old and New Tables” mentioning the meaning and purpose of everything that is created on earth. Through this story, Nietzsche (2016) conveys the fact that all living creatures are designed to serve a predetermined purpose, and the meaning of any phenomenon or entity, including humans, is to fulfill a specific mission. By addressing people who trust in divine signs, Zarathushtra “bade them laugh at their great moralists, their saints, their poets, and their Saviours,” and the key reason is the lack of self-meaning and purpose (Nietzsche 2016). Thus, the role of the human being is not limited to existence and depends on oneself.

In I and Thou, almost identical thoughts with those of Nietzsche are given. According to Buber (1937, 53), “freedom and destiny are linked together in meaning.” The philosopher is not ready to accept the fact that the purpose of existence is blind devotion to the coming circumstances. Conversely, the human being is the creator of one’s personality, destiny, and morality. Therefore, Buber’s and Nietzsche’s reasoning on purpose and meaning have much in common and may be compared in a similar context.

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Conclusion

Nietzsche’s ideas about morality, purpose and meaning, God, and true virtue are expressed in his book in the context of an open criticism of blind faith in the power of religion. Similar thoughts are reflected in Buber’s work that also includes reasoning on these topics but in a less radical form. The role of the human being is seen as the creator of one’s destiny, and the fear of God inhibits individual development and hinders the knowledge of the world.

References

Buber, Martin. 1937. I and Thou. Translated by Ronald Gregor Smith. Edinburgh: Morrison and Gibb.

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. 2016. Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. Translated by Thomas Common. The Project Gutenberg eBook. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Nietzsche’s Ideas: God and True Virtue." July 2, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/nietzsches-ideas-god-and-true-virtue/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Nietzsche’s Ideas: God and True Virtue'. 2 July.

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