Nietzsche's philosophy of self-creation as practical philosophy: an understanding, and overcoming, of suffering as philosophical problem.

Kleingeld, Charl (2016-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: There are an increasing number of philosophers today who utilize philosophy in order to cope with everyday difficulties, both their own and those of others. Yet philosophers have been aware of the therapeutic or, in this sense, practical nature of philosophy since its birth in Ancient Greece. In fact, the purpose of providing solace to a life of suffering was clearly visible throughout ancient Greek philosophy. Although philosophy has substantially grown beyond this purpose in subsequent millennia, one philosopher in particular made a deliberate return to this purpose in his philosophical works – though they are nevertheless often overlooked in this regard. Friedrich Nietzsche’s life was unusually beset with hardship and suffering. He thus turned to philosophy. For Nietzsche, suffering was a philosophical problem, and as such, it could only be overcome by philosophical means. Addressing what he called “the problem of suffering”, Nietzsche’s work can be viewed as an attempt to overcome this problem by providing all suffering with meaning. Suffering, he argued, is imbued with meaning through the philosophical process of self-creation; a process that is explained in this thesis as an amalgamation of individual philosophies, viz. the will to power, amor fati, and eternal recurrence. Together these philosophies are claimed to constitute a radical affirmation and revaluation of suffering and, as such, allow for a complete transformation of the individual, thus providing purpose and utility to suffering, rendering it meaningful as opposed to life-destructing. There can be little doubt that Nietzsche sought this solution for his own suffering – unsuccessfully as it turned out. Yet, in this thesis the assessment of the effectiveness of self-creation does not merely focus on Nietzsche’s own accomplishments in this regard. On the contrary, it is shown that, when properly applied, Nietzsche’s philosophy of self-creation can be effective as a practical philosophy meant to overcome the problem of suffering. This is done through testing its key features in a real-world scenario, viz. Victor Frankl’s implementation thereof to overcome his suffering in Nazi death-camps.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Al hoe meer filosowe gebruik vandag filosofie om die alledaagse eise van die lewe te hanteer. Filosowe was egter reeds met die geboorte van filosofie in antieke Griekeland bewus van die terapeutiese en, in hierdie sin, praktiese aard daarvan. Trouens, die klaarblyklike doel van antieke Griekse filosofie was deurgaans om troos te bied ten aansien van ‘n lewe van lyding. Filosofie het sedertdien oor millennia heen ook ander doelwitte begin dien. Een filosoof het egter doelbewus teruggekeer tot die terapeutiese doel van filosofie in sy werke – hoewel hulle dikwels in hierdie verband misgekyk word. Friedrich Nietzsche se lewe was buitengewoon vol moeilikhede en lyding. Hy het hom daarom tot filosofie gewend. Lyding was vir Nietzsche ‘n filosofiese probleem en dit kon as sodanig slegs met die hulp van filosofie oorkom word. Sy werk kan beskou word as ‘n poging om die (wat hy noem) “probleem van lyding” te oorkom deur sin aan alle lyding te gee. Lyding, so het hy geargumenteer, verkry sin deur die filosofiese proses van self-skepping, ‘n proses wat in hierdie tesis verduidelik word as die samevoeging van individuele filosofieë, te wete die wil tot mag, amor fati, en ewige wederkeer. Van hierdie drie filosofieë word beweer dat hulle saam neerkom op ‘n radikale bevestiging en herwaardering van lyding en dat hulle, as sodanig, ‘n algehele transformasie van die individu moontlik maak om só ‘n doel en nut aan lyding te verleen wat dit sinvol maak en nie lewensvernietigend nie. Daar kan min twyfel bestaan dat Nietzsche self probeer het om sy eie lyding so te hanteer – hoewel, soos dit geblyk het, onsuksesvol. Nietemin, in hierdie tesis word daar in die evaluering van die effektiwiteit van self-skepping nie slegs gefokus op Nietzsche se eie sukses in hierdie verband nie. Inteendeel, daar word aangetoon dat, indien dit behoorlik toegepas word, Nietzsche se filosofie van self-skepping wel effektief kan wees as ‘n praktiese filosofie wat veronderstel is om die probleem van lyding te oorkom. Dit word gedoen deur die sleutel-aspekte daarvan te toets in ‘n lewensgetroue scenario, te wete Victor Frankl se toepassing daarvan om sy lyding in die doodskampe van die Nazi’s te oorkom.

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