Nietzsche, Cosmodicy, and the Saintly Ideal

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In this essay I examine Nietzsche's shifting understanding of the saintly ideal with an aim to bringing out its philosophical importance, particularly with respect to what I call the problem of 'cosmodicy', i.e., the problem of justifying life in the world as worthwhile in light of the prevalent reality of suffering. In his early account Nietzsche understood the saint as embodying the supreme achievement of a self-transcending 'feeling of oneness and identity with all living things', while in his later account he viewed the saint as a representative of an unhealthy, life-denying 'ascetic ideal'. This shift, I contend, is due in large part to Nietzsche's development of an 'ethic of power' as part of his turn against Schopenhauer's ethic of compassion, which needs to be seen in light of his ongoing effort to articulate and defend an adequate cosmodicy. My ultimate aim in this essay is to read the earlier Nietzsche against the later Nietzsche - with the help of Dostoevsky's novelistic depiction of the saintly ideal - and to suggest that when properly articulated the saintly ideal is able to provide a more adequate cosmodicy than that which is offered in Nietzsche's ethic of power.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-67
Number of pages29
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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