Reading Nietzsche: Reading Camus

“He said of himself that he was the first complete nihilist in Europe,” Camus wrote about Nietzsche in The Rebel, adding: “Not by choice, but by condition, and because he was too great to refuse the heritage of his time.” Camus explains:

The “can one live as rebel?” became with him “can one live believing in nothing?” His reply is affirmative. Yes, if one creates a system out of absence of faith, if one accepts the final consequences of nihilism, and if, on emerging into the desert and putting one’s confidence in what is going to come, one feels, with the same primitive instinct, both pain and joy.

That quote could easily, and eloquently, be the “about” section of this blog. Here’s an equally eloquent summary, again from The Rebel:

From the moment that man submits God to moral judgment, he kills Him in his own heart. And then what is the basis of morality? God is denied in the name of justice, but can the idea of justice be understood without the idea of God? At this point are we not in the realm of absurdity? Absurdity is the concept that Nietzsche meets face to face. In order to be able to dismiss it, he pushes it to extremes: morality is the ultimate aspect of God, which must be destroyed before reconstruction can begin. Then God no longer exists and is no longer responsible for our exiatence; man must resolve to act, in order to exist.

The first sentence of that section brings up a point I hadn’t previously considered: that even attempting to know god’s intentions—and then to scrutinize them and apply them to future action—necessarily negates god as a supreme anything. What kind of diety with any power to speak of needs to be, well, spoken of—let alone endlessly discussed?


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