The Death of God and the Meaning of Life

By Julian Young | Go to book overview

15

Later Heidegger

Grand-narrative, end-of-history, 'true-world' philosophies offered, as we saw, a meaning of life that is universal, the same for all human beings at all times and in all places. Though there is no necessary reason why this should be so - nothing in logic says that a universal meaning to life can be provided only in terms of a grand-narrative, end-of-history structure (a point to which I shall return) - the death of God, in all his forms, has, de facto, meant the death of the attempt to discover a universal meaning, the abandonment of the quest to discover anything that could count as the meaning of life. With the exception of posthumous Nietzsche's view that the meaning of life is power (which doesn't really count since posthumous Nietzsche never existed), post-death-of-God philosophers are generally agreed that there is no meaning of life, that life as such is meaningless; 'chaos' (Nietzsche), 'absurd' (Camus).

Given this agreed point of departure, the most common response to the resulting threat of, as Nietzsche calls it, 'nausea and suicide' (GS 107) is to suggest that the fact that life is meaningless in no way entails that my life is meaningless. A distinction is drawn, that is to say, between universal meaning and personal meaning, and the suggestion is made that the absence of the former does not entail the absence of the latter. It is further suggested that, while it is indeed true that life needs meaning to be worth living, personal meaning will do just as well as universal meaning to secure such worthwhileness. (The exception here is Camus, who, as we finally understood him, argues - in the end unconvincingly, I suggested - that a worthwhile life can't have any meaning (either universal or personal) since any meaning cuts one off from the vibrant joys of just being in the world.) This is the position adopted by (later) Nietzsche, Foucault, and, one might guess (since his outlook is in general close to that of Foucault), is the kind of thing that would be

-197-

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The Death of God and the Meaning of Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Before the Death of God 7
  • 1 - Plato 9
  • 2 - Kant and Christianity 21
  • 3 - Schopenhauer 29
  • 4 - Early Nietzsche 44
  • 5 - Hegel 57
  • 6 - Hegel (Continued), with a Postscript on Marx 71
  • Part II - After the Death of God 81
  • 7 - Later Nietzsche 83
  • 8 - Posthumous Nietzsche 97
  • 9 - Early Heidegger 107
  • 10 - Sartre 125
  • 11 - Sartre (Continued) 142
  • 12 - Camus 160
  • 13 - Foucault 173
  • 14 - Derrida 188
  • 15 - Later Heidegger 197
  • Further Reading 213
  • Notes 216
  • Index 233
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