Tradition, Self-Cultivation, and Human Becoming: A Comparison Between Nietzsche and Confucius

Dissertation, University of Hawai'i (2003)
The aim of this dissertation is to compare Nietzsche's three transformations of the spirit, as set forth in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, to Confucius's personal experience of self-cultivation in the Analects . For Nietzsche, the first stage, the camel, emphasizes the willingness to be "humble" and wanting to be "well-loaded" in the teachings of the tradition. This is reflected in Confucius's first step in self-cultivation, that is, at the age of fifteen, in which he "sets his heart-mind upon learning." Nietzsche's lion stage corresponds to Confucius's ages of thirty and forty. This is a period of reflective inquiry in which one goes beyond the boundaries of traditional values to evaluate critically what one has learned. Nietzsche's child stage is a new beginning where one is free from the burdens of inherited values and able to "recreate" the world. This is comparable to Confucius's ages of fifty and sixty when he creates the idea of ren and lives accordingly. Nietzsche's child stage is further developed with the formation of the ideas: amor fati and the eternal recurrence of the same. The former is the acceptance and appreciation of one's past whereas the latter is the ability to overcome the world's apparent meaninglessness and to summon the courage to say "yes" to the world and all its foibles. For Confucius, too, there is no other life but living in the world. His junzi is not beaten down by the vagaries of fate. He neither complains nor blames, but lives naturally with tianming. As a disciple of Confucius or Nietzsche, one has to learn from living in the everyday world
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