Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence: The Most Scientific of All Possible Hypotheses

Dissertation, University of Missouri - Columbia (1984)
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Abstract

This paper contends that the idea of eternal recurrence was devised by Nietzsche as the means necessary for achieving the primary objective of his philosophical enterprise, i.e., the overcoming of nihilism as the last phase of the devolution of the "ascetic ideal" and the subsequent establishment of a new cultural order based on an interpretation of the world as will to power. In significant departure from the general tendency in Nietzsche literature to dismiss eternal recurrence as an intended cosmology, it is argued that the success of Nietzsche's strategy for achieving his objective depends entirely on the understanding of eternal recurrence in no other way than as a truth-claiming theory of the cosmos--moreover, a theory that is supported by premises and arguments that are logically sound in the strictest sense. ;This interpretation of eternal recurrence proceeds from a full awareness of the well rehearsed problem of the logical incompatibility between eternal recurrence as "doctrine" and both Nietzsche's epistemology and his theory of will to power . But it is contended that this problem as well as the problem of self-reference in Nietzsche's thought, can be resolved by adequate attention to his perspectival mode of presentation and the dialectical nature of his thought. ;Eternal recurrence as cosmology is presented as the translation of the nihilist's atheism and immoralism into "scientific" doctrine which the nihilist must accept as objective truth. But given the nihilist's unconditional will to truth that springs from his ascetic perspective, eternal recurrence is the "truth" that defeats itself by forcing the overcoming of the perspective to which it owes its origin and validity. ;The overcoming of asceticism makes possible Nietzsche's life-affirming aesthetic perspective from which the world is re-interpreted as will to power and from which eternal recurrence, having shed its ascetic nihilistic truth as cosmology, may be assigned new and vital meanings

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