Johnson, Galen A. [faculty advisor, Department of Philosophy]




Nietzsche, time, recurrence


In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche challenges the reader to imagine that every moment of his or her life, every joy and every sorrow, every smile and every tear, will be repeated in exactly the same way from beginning to end. He asks us to envision these things recurring, not one more time, but for all infinity into the past and future alike. Amongst the many revolutionary and profound concepts put forward by the witty and vitriolic Nietzsche, there is none as inscrutable and seemingly inapproachable as this doctrine of eternal return of the same. In just three of his published texts, The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche sets the stage for what has become his most profoundly challenging concept. How to understand its merit philosophically has been an ongoing task since its original release into printed form. In researching my thesis, I have studied the most influential and eloquent philosophers to elucidate this enigmatic doctrine. Supplementing the primary texts with the corresponding works of thinkers like Martin Heidegger, Karl Löwith, Joan Stambaugh, Gilles Deleuze, and David Wood, has given me a clearer perspective of the kinds of conceptions and misconceptions that can arise through various interpretations of the theory. In my own critical analysis of eternal return, I have elaborated on the errors and insights found in a number of contemporary writings to clarify my own view of Nietzsche’s pervasively challenging thought. Placing always the existential imperative of the doctrine above the metaphysical proof, I have attempted to refute the emphasis of some scholars without ignoring the importance of their claims. In my contention, it is the burdensome weight of this guaranteed repetition ad infinitum that imbues every decision with an absolute, undeniable importance which cannot be easily dismissed through dissection of possible metaphysical difficulties.

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