Nietzsche and The Law of Eternal Return
The Law of Eternal Return is a philosophical concept of time that appears for the first time in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes in chapter one, and for the second time with stoicism, which proposed a repetition of the world in which it was extinguished to create itself again.
Under this conception, the world was returned to its origin through conflagration, where everything burned with fire. Once burned, it would rebuild itself so that the same acts would occur again.
Later, Friedrich Nietzsche also defines this concept in his work. A synthesis of the Eternal return – in German the term is Ewige Wiederkunft – is found in “The Gaia Science”:
Nietzsche shook convictions and traditions with his works and theories. Concepts such as the Law of Eternal Return and the will to power rebel against Christian values of resignation and seek to recover the ideals of antiquity.
The author argues that we are free to create our values, moving away from sick opinions and values in an act of individual overcoming that will transform us into super-men.
The Law of Eternal Return
Would you live your life over and over, and so on forever?
In the mountains of Surlei, in Sils Maria, Nietzsche had the vision of his life: the Eternal Return of the Same. From that moment on, this thought would accompany all of his work and express a single will, the desire to return to immanence.
This will would be concluded with the amor-fati and the Valuation of All Values. But Nietzsche would have a long way to go before that was possible.
In order to carry out his task, Nietzsche had to rethink the concept of Eternity, which places being at the expense of becoming.
The whole history of Western thought, since Plato, is contaminated by transcendent thinking. It’s then necessary to return to the pre-Socratics, next to Heraclitus and remember the river that flows forever without ever stopping, and which we can never enter twice.
The Law of Eternal Return: the concept
Nietzsche works hard to bring eternity back to this world and Eternal Return is one of his conceptual tools for this. We can understand this clash more clearly as two conflicting conceptions: Temporal Eternity versus Timeless Eternity.
The greatest representative of the second thesis, we already know, is Plato who thinks of eternity outside of existence, in the world of Ideas, but there are countless others who followed his philosophy: Aristotle, with Motor Immovable; Plotinus, denying eternity to the sensitive nature; Saint Augustine, bringing Platonism to Christianity and thinking of an eternal and timeless God who created everything from nothing.
Nietzsche returns to Heraclitus to think of the world as an eternal fire that is consumed and recreated, but always here, in this world. Your initial question is simple: “Would you live your life over and over, and so on forever?”, With this problem it becomes possible to work on the concept of Eternal Return, one of the most important of his work.
The Law of Eternal Return: the utility
The Law of Eternal Return works as a tool (as well as every concept), which the philosopher develops, in order to face nihilism that spreads like a shadow over the body of humanity, assaults man and leads him to decay.
Nietzsche sees every European philosophical building based on timeless eternity falling rapidly and decides to take a radically different path to account for an ethical life.
After the Death of God, it would be necessary to combat tiredness and the devaluation of all values. Nietzsche works the Eternal Return as a weapon against nihilism, to reverse it and give another center of gravity to values: this reality, this life.
The strength of Eternal Return is the possibility of founding a philosophy based on pure immanence. That is its importance.
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