“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.”
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — To begin with, do you trust atheist Friedrich Nietzsche?
If yes, let’s continue. If no, stop reading this. If in doubt you may ignore this article or just shrug it off.
This controversial German philosopher who reportedly went insane the years before he died (that’s according to some book authors), wrote The Gay Science, which was brilliantly translated by Walter Kaufmann.
A collection and poems of 383 aphorisms in five sections that interrogates the origins of the history of knowledge. it’s a book that celebrates philosophy as a medicine capable of renewing the intellect, and perceives of philosophy as inspiration for individual freedom, and thereby capable of renewing culture. Nietzsche added a “Book Fifth” to The Gay Science five years later after it was published in 1882.
Nietzsche declares God is dead in this book; and in a hope to shake European thinking from the cloak of religion, he proposes arrests intellectual development and weighs the individual mind down with received knowledge that in part incorrectly describes man as flawed while presenting false virtues that only deepen human suffering.
Calling The Gay Science as “the most personal of all my books”, it was here that Nietzsche first proclaimed the death of God–to which a large part of the book is devoted–and his doctrine of the eternal recurrence.
Kaufmann’s commentary brings to life Nietzsche as a human being and illuminates his philosophy with its many quotations from previously untranslated letters.
The book contains some of Nietzsche’s most sustained discussions of art and morality, knowledge and truth, the intellectual conscience and the origin of logic.
Most of the book was reportedly written just before Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the last part five years later, after Beyond Good and Evil.
We encounter Zarathustra in these pages as well as many of Nietzsche’s most interesting philosophical ideas and the largest collection of his own poetry that he himself ever published.
Kaufmann’s English versions of Nietzsche represent one of the major translation enterprises of our time.
Interestingly, he is the first philosopher to have translated Nietzsche’s major works, and never before has a single translator given us so much of Nietzsche.
In this sensational book, Nietzsche adopts the provincial, plainspoken voice of a medieval poet.
After opening the book with a prelude in verse that alludes to the artful, playful, brief episodes to come, Nietzsche proposes that “human knowledge still suffers from the millennium-old herd instinct of preserving the species.”
This need for survival gave rise to the human invention of gods, as evidenced by the Greeks.
Centuries of Christian indoctrination and rule reportedly lead to a corrupt, vulgar church and community in the Middle Ages. Nietzsche writes into this history and against it.
This is why Nietzsche declares God is dead, just before halfway through the book. The question of how to go on, and interrogations deconstructing various European developments (the Lutheran Reformation, science, Kant, Hegel, and Schopenhauer) culminate in Nietzsche’s ideal of a Dionysian pessimist, the character of Zarathustra, an argonaut of knowledge. This interrogation occupies the second half of The Gay Science.