On the difficult case of loving life: Plato's Symposium and Nietzsche's eternal recurrence

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (3):519-539 (2018)
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Abstract

ABSTRACTA simple but significant historical fact has been overlooked in interpretations of Nietzsche's eternal recurrence. In making eternal recurrence the standard for the affirmation and love of life, Nietzsche accepts an understanding of love developed in Plato's Symposium: love means ‘wanting to possess the good forever’. I argue that Plato develops two distinct types of love, which remain in tension with one another. I then show that a corresponding tension arises in Nietzsche's work when we consider eternal recurrence as the love of life. By making love central in the phrase ‘love of life’, and by allowing Plato's thoughts on love to inform the love of life that Nietzsche expresses in the thought of eternal recurrence, I show that Nietzsche's dramatic presentations of the eternal recurrence do not present us with a test, but in revealing an incompatibility between loving something in life and loving life in its entirety, they present the tragic conflict in the task of life affirmation.

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