An Untimely Co-Arising: Friedrich Nietzsche, the Presocratic Greeks, and Taoist Thought
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AbstractFor most of the century following his death in 1900, the three things most people knew about Friedrich Nietzsche were false: that he “killed God”; that his work was a blueprint for Nazi ideology; and that he died a madman of peretic syphilis. These distortions originated with the ignorant, were embraced by the vindictive, and then persistently reiterated by the misled, including some of Nietzsche’s most prestigious admirers. At the heart of everything Nietzsche has written is a profound awareness of the inseparability of all apparent contradictions and the rejection of dualistic split thinking, whether it is the Platonic ideal, Kant’s subject/object dichotomy, or any other of the absolutes put forward by philosophers since the beginning of Western philosophy in Presocratic Greece. When Nietzsche writes that he prefers to be misunderstood, it is because he understands the fluidity of language and meaning, the multiplicity of perspectives, and the inescapable subjectivity of human thought. This thesis views the often enigmatic nature of Nietzsche’s words and ideas through the twin lenses of Taoist philosophical thought and the systems of the Presocratic physikoi. I do not claim that Nietzsche thought himself a Taoist. My methodology, described in some detail in Chapter I, is a blend of scholarly research and creative intuition, a formula that enables me to understand my subjects on their terms. One way to explain the congruency of ideas between Nietzsche, the Presocratic Greeks, and Eastern philosophy is to ask whether there was a migration of ideas from China to ancient Greece and from there into the mind of Nietzsche. But another way of viewing such a congruency is to ask whether these are ideas that arise naturally when, in any time and in any space, we look beyond the limitations of dualistic thinking: hence the “untimely co-arising” in the title of this work. These are times when we are uncertain about nearly everything, when we are as quick to condemn a “lie” as we are reluctant to accept the “truth.” “Why not untruth instead?” Nietzsche asks in Beyond Good and Evil. When we begin with uncertainty, we are in reality.
TypeThesis or Dissertation
Theodore, Deborah. 2017. An Untimely Co-Arising: Friedrich Nietzsche, the Presocratic Greeks, and Taoist Thought. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.