The Flame of Eternity: An Interpretation of Nietzsche's Thought

The Flame of Eternity: An Interpretation of Nietzsche's Thought

The Flame of Eternity: An Interpretation of Nietzsche's Thought

The Flame of Eternity: An Interpretation of Nietzsche's Thought

Synopsis


The Flame of Eternity provides a reexamination and new interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy and the central role that the concepts of eternity and time, as he understood them, played in it. According to Krzysztof Michalski, Nietzsche's reflections on human life are inextricably linked to time, which in turn cannot be conceived of without eternity. Eternity is a measure of time, but also, Michalski argues, something Nietzsche viewed first and foremost as a physiological concept having to do with the body. The body ages and decays, involving us in a confrontation with our eventual death. It is in relation to this brute fact that we come to understand eternity and the finitude of time. Nietzsche argues that humanity has long regarded the impermanence of our life as an illness in need of curing. It is this "pathology" that Nietzsche called nihilism. Arguing that this insight lies at the core of Nietzsche's philosophy as a whole, Michalski seeks to explain and reinterpret Nietzsche's thought in light of it. Michalski maintains that many of Nietzsche's main ideas--including his views on love, morality (beyond good and evil), the will to power, overcoming, the suprahuman (or the overman, as it is infamously referred to), the Death of God, and the myth of the eternal return--take on new meaning and significance when viewed through the prism of eternity.

Excerpt

The subject of this book is eternity, the concept of eternity. the point of departure is Nietzsche. I contend that Nietzsche’s thought can be organized into a consistent whole through precisely his concept of eternity. Both original and at the same time deeply rooted in tradition, Nietzsche’s concept remains as thought-provoking for us as it had been among his contemporaries.

In Nietzsche’s books and notes, eternity emerges under the name “the eternal return of the same.” But we find the notion of eternity not only where we hear of eternal return: it is present in nearly everything Nietzsche wrote, from his first sketches to his last pages before he succumbed to madness. Nietzsche’s intellectual work is, from beginning to end, a reflection on human life—how it passes, how it gives rise to new things—and therefore on time. and time, Nietzsche believes, cannot be understood without eternity; without reference to eternity one cannot understand how it flows, what we mean when we say that it destroys or creates.

In my reading of Nietzsche eternity is a dimension of time, the core of time, its essence, its engine. Not its infinite continuation, not its refutation; eternity is neither a diamond nor the rock of which “time does not partake.” the concept of eternity answers the question of why “today” transforms into “yesterday”; eternity comes to the fore precisely in the flow of time.

Eternity, for Nietzsche, is thus a physiological notion; the concept that succinctly expresses the temporality of our lives is that of “the body.” If eternity comes to the fore in time, then it is precisely our bodily presence in the world, “the body,” that must be its expression.

The body: hair falls out, muscles get flabby, memory fades. But that’s not all. the concept of “the body,” Nietzsche contends, points to something more than this falling out, this loss of tone, this fading. To something more than disintegration. the confrontation with death demonstrates this. As does love.

In the face of death, all known concepts, all words, lose their meaning, are no longer useful. What good, then, are such notions as “more” or “less”? What’s “broken” here? Death is not the next step in life; when I am dying, I am not “more” ill. Death is a step into the abyss, a radical interruption of continuity. Death does not fit what I know; our confrontation with death places us before a wall of incomprehension. Before a mystery.

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