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    Default Nietzsche eternal return

    calling all philosophy nerds...

    anyone understand this and able to explain to me?

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    Scito Te Ipsum TheOriginalGrumpySpy's Avatar
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    I'd hate to be that guy, but Wikipedia's pages on Amor fati and fatalism provide fairly good glimpses into this idea.

    The basic idea here is that one may believe that there is such a thing as fate--an inevitability, if you will, but Nietzsche took it a step further to accept it whole-heartedly leading to the idea that every emotion good or bad is ultimately good because it was decidedly so. He embraced his place and every emotion he experienced within it. There is no regret, but in the same vein no hope, for Nietzsche, everything simply was as it should have been.

    "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." -Anne Frank


    “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” -Buddha

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    ))) joke, relax ;) coqauvin's Avatar
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    Isn't that also called Manifest Destiny?
    Quote Originally Posted by Nermy2k View Post
    yeah obviously we'd all suck our alternate universe dicks there was never any question about that
    Quote Originally Posted by Atmosfear
    I don't know if Obama did anything to make that happen, but I do know that he didn't do anything to stop me from blaming him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coqauvin View Post
    Isn't that also called Manifest Destiny?
    No. Not at all.

    "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." -Anne Frank


    “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” -Buddha

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    I'm pretty sure Manifest Destiny is what douchebags use to excuse being douchebags.

    It's also the name of my prog band.

    And togs, aren't you making Nietzsche's views sound a little bit more optimistic than they were?
    Quote Originally Posted by KT. View Post
    simonj can be a real dick sometimes.
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    I CAN'T LABI-STRETCH SIMONJ

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    Quote Originally Posted by simonj View Post
    I'm pretty sure Manifest Destiny is what douchebags use to excuse being douchebags.
    Well there is that, yes, but more fundamentally... Manifest Destiny is widely seen as a "God-given" right. It's the divine allocation of the west to the WASPs (if you will, as much as I hate that term). Manifest Destiny is the belief in the "right" to something, not entirely as opposed to the more "this is as it was."

    Quote Originally Posted by simonj View Post
    And togs, aren't you making Nietzsche's views sound a little bit more optimistic than they were?
    Perhaps, but I don't believe so. Where eternal return is more akin to the Cylon belief that "All of this has happened before, and will happen again." Nietzsche's fatalism is more a construct from ""All of this has happened as it should." In fact, in the passage specifically quoted in the Amor fati page, there shouldn't be any sense optimism or pessimism because to do so would, in effect, negate the very idea he is trying to form.

    "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." -Anne Frank


    “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” -Buddha

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    ))) joke, relax ;) coqauvin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheOriginalGrumpySpy View Post
    Well there is that, yes, but more fundamentally... Manifest Destiny is widely seen as a "God-given" right. It's the divine allocation of the west to the WASPs (if you will, as much as I hate that term). Manifest Destiny is the belief in the "right" to something, not entirely as opposed to the more "this is as it was."
    This still captures the essence of it. Nietzsche says "All happens as it should" and Manifest Destiny is "If I can do it, God wanted me to" implying that "All that happens happens because God wanted it to (ergo it should)".

    Quote Originally Posted by TheOriginalGrumpySpy
    Perhaps, but I don't believe so. Where eternal return is more akin to the Cylon belief that "All of this has happened before, and will happen again." Nietzsche's fatalism is more a construct from ""All of this has happened as it should." In fact, in the passage specifically quoted in the Amor fati page, there shouldn't be any sense optimism or pessimism because to do so would, in effect, negate the very idea he is trying to form.
    I think simonj is commenting on the fact that the neutrality this point espouses is loads cheerier than most of Nietzsche's writing. Regardless, it's still incredibly bleak.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nermy2k View Post
    yeah obviously we'd all suck our alternate universe dicks there was never any question about that
    Quote Originally Posted by Atmosfear
    I don't know if Obama did anything to make that happen, but I do know that he didn't do anything to stop me from blaming him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coqauvin View Post
    This still captures the essence of it. Nietzsche says "All happens as it should" and Manifest Destiny is "If I can do it, God wanted me to" implying that "All that happens happens because God wanted it to (ergo it should)".
    Hmm. I agree with you but with a caveat; a belief in fate is more fundamental than a belief in fate guided by a divine entity. That's my only sticking point, but I could easily argue that they are the same thing, but for me, they are not.

    My assumption is that if you were to ask Nietzsche if he believed in fate, he would say yes (obviously, this is apparent). Now ask if believed a divine entity was the direct cause of this, he would say no.

    "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." -Anne Frank


    “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” -Buddha

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    Well, to understand the eternal return really you have to understand the two ideologies that Nietzsche is opposing: first, Judeo-Christianity, and second, the Enlightenment, especially as it is espoused by Hegel.

    Nietzsche is also notable for being in some ways an archetypal romantic of the period: the individual, not society; the will, not reason; the pagan past, not the christian present; nature, not civilisation. In short, it's important to remember that this is a man who Shelley and Blake especially would have, perhaps in horror, recognised as "one of their own".

    Now, when we look at the enlightenment we often take it at its word (i.e. it is fundamentally opposed to and a contradiction of Christianity). In terms of ideological structure, the enlightenment has certainly come a long way from roman catholicism, at least. But Nietzsche saw that the most fundamental doctrine that broke the pagan past from the christian present was still in place: the linearity of time. A cursory glance at the poetry of hesiod will reveal a conception of time based on the seasons: everything has its time, and everything comes to dust, but these things will have their time again someday. It underlies even a lot of greek philosophical talk. if you were looking for a single principle that united the disparate doctrines of Pythagoras' transmigration of souls, aristotle's eternal universe, Heraclitus' world of unending becoming, I suggest to you that it is a conception of history as recurring or reiterating. The doctrine only begins to decline at the time of Epicurus (who felt the need to answer arguments based on the mortality of man), being finally vanquished by the triumph of monotheism in the Roman empire. Even Jewish history, with its conception of a single God involved in one act of creation and in relationship with individuals who were to be held accountable for their moral actions, implied one life for men, one course to history. But the belief in the final and irrevocable revelation of God to man in the coming of the Messiah to Israel in the early first century absolutely situated the Christian system within an ordered, non-eternal, non-repeating timeline.

    Now, the enlightenment may have challenged many of the dogmas and principles of christianity, but this principle it not only protected but exaggerated. In the histories written in England by men like Macaulay, it gets an outing as "whig history", the belief that history is a process of refinement and improvement, moving inexhorably towards better and happier days (and more whiggish days, naturally). In the idealism of Hegel, it gets its outing as the belief that Reason is working itself out in the minds and affairs of men historically, so that great men like Julius Caesar and Napoleon are prompted by the rationalist's version of the Holy Spirit, and that we are moving up and up into Absolute Spirit, an unfolding of history that reveals itself as the coming into existence of God. Of course, it's this conception of history, as you, dear reader, might have guessed, that provides the ideological backdrop for the musings of Erasmus Darwin and his nephew Charles, and of a certain Mr Marx. I need hardly be so patronising as to spell out how their ideas might be related to this zeitgeist of historical progression.

    And this leads us slowly towards to the great paradox and irony of Nietzsche. Nietzsche wants nothing more than to escape individuation without escaping individualism. That is to say, Nietzsche sees nothing good in the world but that it belongs to the individual. Society leaves him sneering with contempt. He's not so much a prophet of selfishness as some people think, and he could probably see the heroism of saving an old lady from a monster in a way that Ayn Rand absolutely couldn't. What he couldn't see was how there could be any heroism at all if the hero had any mind for what society expected or would think of him. In other words, all kindness rooted in our caring as a group, all kindness rooted in our concerns for our own respectability, all kindness that came from somewhere other than our own strictly individual desires was something to be sneered at and opposed.

    These societal pressures, this urge to prompt us towards a guilt complex, is finally, in Nietzsche's mind, to do with the linear conception of history. For if all men are strictly judged by their actions, and live but once, then their instincts towards equality, the rule of law and dispassionate universalised kindness make sense. This because either God or History are judging them. if you like, there's an objective order to be on the "right" side of, and we are all brought to reconcile, or in Nietzsche's view, compromise with it.

    Nietzsche finds his medicine for the modern maladies of christianity and the enlightenment in amor fati and the eternal recurrence of all things. "Live Bravely!" Zarathustra cries. At their heart, Christianity and the Enlightenment say that there is a correct way of going about things and that you ought to adopt it. Eternal recurrence allows Nietzsche to say "live so that you will not regret anything: and regret nothing by adopting no dispassionate values. Be kind if kindness is in you, be cruel if cruelness is in you. But no more of this nonsense of Oughts and Musts. Those days are over. We have killed God and we have killed History."

    Another way of demonstrating it would be to talk about Christianity, Buddhism and Nietzsche. Christianity at its heart says men in history are essentially good and accidentally bad, and consequently do bad things, and they must cease to do bad things if, when once they step outside of history, they are to be reconciled with that ultimate Good which is God. Buddhism says that men are bad insofar as they are . They must cease to desire because desire leads to suffering. Self is shaped by desire and continues to exist as long as there is desire. To step out of samsara, the endless cycles of birth and rebirth, which is hell, we must cease to desire, cease to be self, attain nirvana, which is non-desire and non-existence. Nietzsche says, in effect, that we must learn to love samsara. He's too pagan to say that desire and selfhood and ultimately existence are bad, but not christian enough to say that there's an absolute good in them that must be separated from the bad. Consequently, where the buddhist says "Desire is false. Leave this plane of false desire for the quietness of non-desire" and the Christian says "Desire is true. Leave this plane of badly ordered desire for what you really want.", Nietzsche says "Learn to really want this. Again and again and again forever. Then you will be the superman."

    You will have to search hard to find one disciple of Nietzsche who does not talk of his philosophy as being the one of the future, of his superman as evolving out of the men of the past, of the transvaluation of all values as being the next stage of historical development, of the brave radicalism of the socialist project. This is because they all imagined that Nietzsche's hatred of Christianity marked him as a fellow-traveller of the enlightenment. But Nietzsche hated the enlightenment. He had as much contempt for Voltaire as he had for a parish priest. And this is the central irony of Nietzsche's thought. Another is that if there was one concept Nietzsche would have found it hard to grasp, it was irony. If he was anything, he was always sincere.

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    Now, the subject of the comparison of manifest destiny with Nietzsche's conception of amor fati is genuinely an interesting and, to me, a novel one. It is true that from the start, as in all monotheistic or monistic creeds, there was in Christianity a belief in an historical ordering principle.

    In Christianity, this took the form of a faith in Providence, the belief that God in some way and to some extent "pulled the strings of history". In the orthodox Christianity of the first millenium, this was atteunated by an understanding of evil as a principle separate from God. The theory ran that God was goodness and that evil was therefore an absence of God. Insofar as this world was corrupted by evil, God's sovereignty was frustrated. God here, incidentally, is understood not only as a person, but as a substance, as Good and Being and Justice par excellence.

    Now with the reformation, the substantial understanding of God (which had provided a necessary counterpart to the understanding of Him as a person), and the existence of evil as a separate principle began to be undermined. Calvin's first concern was to present a rigorous and absoute doctrine of the sovereignty of God over creation, which logically ended with the assertion that wherever men are evil, it is because God wills both their evil and their damnation through it. To be more precise, without going into the complexities of intralapsarian as opposed to supralapsarian Calvinism, the theory stated that God could prevent men from evil by perfectly efficaciously bringing them to repentence and Christianity. If God didn't do that to a man, he passively allowed the evil, leaving the man in sin and the victim in suffering. Now, to make the careful logical distinction, that doesn't mean that God wills evil, but that he allows it. Likewise, it does not mean that he allows any particular evil, but that he allows these people to will evil things in general or in principle. But at bottom, in my estimation, it denied man enough freedom that he could be responsible for the way his disposition towards evil actually produced evil acts (even if any particular evil acts were insisted to properly belong to him), and allowed God enough power that he could prevent any particular evil act He chose. In other words, the principle that had kept men from fatalism (that God had no part, either passively or actively, in evil) was deliberately and as a first principle denied.

    The reformed protestant understanding was carried over to America, where men decided that insofar as God wills all things good actively and all evil things passively, and insofar as their being Christians show them to be favoured as a willed good, their actions were legitimated by divine sanction. There's still a tension, because evil as a principle still exists in the hearts of men, but these people presumed that for the most part they were in God's good books. Now, even this perverted and deformed Christianity cannot own that a person can do evil that good will come of it, or, in other words, that means justify ends. Their evil is therefore limited to only that that they can explain away as good. Nonetheless, as long as they can explain it away, their doctrine of providence clearly allows them to cite God's approval in a way that Lutheran or Catholic thought would not allow.

    Perhaps the most obvious and vulgar descendants of this line of thought are the Westboro Baptist Church. Their ideology, because it seems to neglect the passive/active distinction, is something even Calvin would have found clearly blasphemous. All evil that other people do is not to them some sad fact which they should seek to ameliorate in the victims and seek repentence for in the perpetrators. Rather, it is a sign of divine wrath for the victims and a deliberate damning to divine punishment for the perpetrators. The members of the church can, of course, point this out in the most vile ways, because that must be good, because they enjoy divine favour.

    But there is a difference with Nietzsche. And that is this: A member of WBC, when pressed, would not and could not admit the goodness of the holocaust. Their odious philosophy will keep them from expressing sympathy with the victims (who, to them, must have deserved it), but they will admit the moral evil of the perpetrators (although they will deny that these were properly speaking free in choosing to do it, whilst affirming that somehow they can nonetheless be punished for it). Nietzsche, by contrast, must, under pain of logical contradiction, state that the holocaust must be loved. His conception of fatalism not only means that we must exult in all of our own actions, none excepted, but that we must exult in everything precisely as it is. You could no more wish the holocaust undone than wish the flowers undone, because they emerge from the same principle. The WBC at least retain some conception that the holocaust is "the evil that men do". Nietzsche will not see any sense in the word "evil". He is not, as it is often insinuated, an ideologue of National Socialism. To him, all things occur at the level of the individual. Any conception at the level of "race" or "nation" would have been quite foreign to his thought. Any concept of eugenics would have seemed quite bizarre to him, being as it was an illegitimate framing of Darwinian discourse. I remain convinced that his anti-semitism was at bottom a hatred of judaism and not a hatred of jews, however unfortunately he may at times have expressed himself. But, we must admit, any objection to the holocaust would have struck him as mere ressentiment. He may have seen no particular reason to commit those atrocities, but equally he would have seen no particular reason to oppose them. And that, in the end, is something you cannot even say of the WBC.
    Last edited by Think; 03-22-2012 at 11:07 PM.

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    think, I think I want to marry you and your beautiful brain

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    Quote Originally Posted by Think View Post
    Well, to understand the eternal return really you have to understand the two ideologies that Nietzsche is opposing: first, Judeo-Christianity, and second, the Enlightenment, especially as it is espoused by Hegel.
    I really liked this post because I want to know more about Nietzsche, but instead of following his class curriculum the professor talks about the rape and abuse ofthe indigenous people of the Americans especially the tribe he was adopted into. This was really enlightening and ties into a lot of my classes. Thanks Think!
    Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
    Albert Einstein

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    The third antinomy of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason posits two opposing theses, each of which arrive in paradox when followed to their end. To resolve these paradoxes, Kant argues that our cognitive capacity for making ought claims refers to the freedom of rational agents to make a decision one way or the other, which in turn depends on a non-empirical, conceptual justification. The paradox in causality that Kant finds in the thesis is the result of his belief that time is a linear chain of cause and effect, ascending from past into future. Such a chain is unable to supply all the causes necessary for every kind of effect. Nietzsche does not see any such contradiction in causality because he imagines time as a circle, past running into the future in an eternal recurrence. Nietzsche argues that free will is an illusion, and there is nothing outside of nature.

    What Kant refers to as the “law of nature” is the principle that all effects follow directly from a cause prior in time. Nature is defined as all empirical objects, which together make up a consistent, unified totality. These objects are said to be unified because they behave in a manner predictable by science: what they share in common is that they are subject to the laws of nature. One such law is causality. Because time is a condition for the possibility of experience, and the concept of causality is contained within the concept of time, causality is necessary for and universally present in our experience. The law of causality is necessary for our minds to grasp representations as having an identity that persists and changes. Were it otherwise, the law of nature would be a whim of nature, and we could not make accurate scientific predictions. However, when Kant explores causality through his conception of time, in its “unlimited universality” it can’t imagine a first cause and thereby is unable to account for itself.

    The chain of cause and effect continues in time ad infinitum; there is no object that is free to behave in a way not conditioned by a prior cause. All past can be written into infinity and all future predicted. Through Kant’s exploration, the necessity of a free agent arises as something spontaneously out of itself. In a universe whose functioning is determined by the assimilation of all experience into a regulated totality, there can be nothing amongst them which acts spontaneously. Any free agent would be outside of this unity - outside nature - outside experience. And yet, if nature cannot account for itself, what can?

    Kant’s antinomies refer to a series of contradictions he arrives at by considering the fundamental principles by which the world is governed. These “transcendental ideas” contain paradoxes which only wait to be uncovered by a rational agent with enough integrity to pursue the idea to its end. If such a critique is followed, a system of practical philosophy in greater accord with human nature can be developed by making one in greater accord with all of nature. Lacking sufficient integrity, one can only fall into dogmatically claiming one side or the other is true, despite its inability to be; or one might ignore the matter entirely. The thesis and antithesis posit a rule; their arguments are made by drawing out the position of the other and arriving at a conclusion through its failure.

    The third thesis states that there is causality from freedom in addition to natural causality. If we say that causality consists of an effect that is conditioned by a previous cause, and that this series “descends” into time conceived of as a linear continuum, then we will not be able to provide a cause for every effect. Given the fact that our minds take the presence of a cause as a priori when considering an effect, it seems as though our minds themselves violate the law of causality. Infinity is an unbounded process whose meaning is to never have a final instance, and therefore is unable to conceive of the condition that conditions the penultimate condition when descending through time. Whether or not enough data about the universe could really be collected, it should be possible a priori to imagine that we can supply this final condition. But even to have imagined this is to have already thought a contradiction. Contradiction can not be present in nature because nature is a unified whole. Natural causality implies infinity, but requires finitude: it can’t be properly thought without imagining a first cause that starts with no pre-condition. The first cause is freedom: absolute determinism combined with Kant’s picture of time depends on there being an absolutely spontaneous first cause. We know this prime mover exists because the empirical universe exists; however, for this cause to be free, it must be of an order such that it can not be experienced. Yet simultaneously, the prime mover seems to be in a causal relationship with appearances.

    The antithesis of the third antinomy states that there is nothing but natural causality, and it begins, as with the thesis, by stretching the opposite position until it breaks. For experience to constitute a unified whole, it must be held together by the law of cause and effect. Transcendental freedom supposes that there exists a moment that happens without being caused by a prior effect. If this freedom is embodied in the same object governed by the laws of nature, then causality becomes contingent and the unity of experience is broken. If this were the case, it would be evident in science, and another basis for practical philosophy would be required lest it wander into nihilism. Since experience does, in fact, constitute a unified whole, transcendental freedom can only be said to refer to an order that cannot be experienced, and is therefore “an empty thought-entity.” For experience to be represented as a consistent whole, no exceptions to the laws of nature may be admitted as being possible within experience. However, having just established the grounds for causality, if we refer to the argument for the thesis we have a few options: as stated above, we might dogmatically insist that one side is true, and ignore its contradictory aspects; we can turn our back to the situation entirely; or we can search for a resolution.

    Kant is able to gain insights into the nature of experience, and the world to which our experience refers, entirely by observing how our minds operate. His resolution of the above contradiction depends on distinguishing between the different grounds normative and descriptive judgments refer to as their basis for being true. A descriptive proposition about nature is either true or false based on empirically verifiable reasons. A normative “ought” proposition has no experience to which it can refer; it depends on concepts. Since something that ought to happen has never happened, we cannot point to an experience to say why our ought claim is true. All we can point to is a concept (of how things ought to be). Making an ought claim about nature is nonsensical, because the grounds for saying ought rely a priori on the possibility for it to have been otherwise. Nature is absolutely determined by causality; it is not possible for any natural phenomena to be other than it is. An ought statement can only be meaningfully applied to rational agents, and this application itself indicates an a priori knowledge of their freedom to choose. It is in the moment of choice that the “character” of the free agent, unknowable in experience, becomes intelligible. The “intelligible character” are the behavioural tendencies of an agent which does not pertain to our experience. It may not be possible to make precise insights into the nature of the free agent, but an outline around it can be drawn. With enough information, it is possible to predict the choice of any rational agent, since they are empirical phenomena and their choices will be subject to causality. However, Kant locates the moment of choice as the point where we can discern the spontaneity of the free agent.

    Kant’s problem with causality, and the resolution he invents depend on a conception of time as a straight line with all the moments prior to X being given. When he explores the law of causality from this framework, time descends infinitely into the past. However, because causality is necessary for experience, and because the concept “effect” contains a priori the concept “cause,” we should be able to hypothetically know the cause of every effect. Yet the nature of infinity is such that to know it completely is for it to be finite. This is the impossible contradiction which demands a free agent be posited to resolve it. If we follow Nietzsche (and many ancient traditions) and say that time is a circle, we avoid this contradiction, and are spared the extra step of having to justify freedom. If past and future run into each other, it becomes hypothetically possible to collect all data about this closed universe, and to say with precision how every single effect is caused.

    A natural first question to ask of such a metaphysics is what brought this circle into being. One might respond that the first cause is a moment to which we can point, but because past and future exist at the same time, this point is incorporated seamlessly into the turning of the wheel and we do not need to look for an unconditioned cause. In both of the conceptions of time outlined above, we are relying on spatial figures in a way that is not merely a visual metaphor, as we tend to in other areas of philosophy. Another question to ask of our metaphysician of the eternal return, is whether the line and the circle are mathematically distinct, and how the category of space might relate to them. At this early stage, it seems as though, by eliminating the need for a free agent, the eternal return results in fewer necessary propositions than Kant’s transcendental philosophy and is therefore to be favoured by Kant’s own critical method. However, whether or not this is true remains to be seen as we explore the ramifications of our new model, and relate it to space and other aspects of our experience. Such an investigation is beyond the scope of this essay.

    Nietzsche’s most famous formulation of the eternal return is as a thought experiment that he uses to determine whether we are living a life of quality. This question is healthy food for thought, but a more pressing question, far more urgent than fleshing out a comprehensive metaphysical model, is: on what basis can we hold people accountable for their actions? From the view of strict causality for which we have just argued, the fate of every human is written in stone from the beginning of the universe; how do we hold people responsible, since none of us have anything resembling choice? Now we are faced with the daunting task of developing a foundation for practical philosophy, lest we fall into black nihilism.

    At first glance, it seems apparent that the concepts of freedom and causality can not be held in the same hand. It is likely that Kant’s valiant struggle to resolve these two poles was motivated by an awareness of the danger of nihilism. Between Kant’s transcendental philosophy and his critical method, our first priority should be to ally ourselves with the latter; if we are for the system over the method, then we begin to dogmatically follow the anti-dogmatist. Caught in the wake of Nietzsche’s creative power, I have convinced myself of the supremacy of the law of nature, and I am now lost in void. I have no ground to stand on; the only illumination is the appealing glow of exploring what it means to conceive of time as a circle; but this task seems to emanate a light that is purely creative, an art of rhetoric and not a true means to find orientation from within the void.

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