Jesus and Dionysus: A study of Nietzsche's ethics and psychology of the body

Carson, Ronald A (1969) Jesus and Dionysus: A study of Nietzsche's ethics and psychology of the body. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

In the Introduction we attempt to set the stage, as it were, by redressing the still predominantly negative balance of who Nietzsche was (Chapter One), and by establishing a few signposts on which we may be able to take our bearings for an accurate reading of what he was about (Chapter Two). We claim that Nietzsche is a sensitive moralist, in the sense of one who asks and attempts to answer questions of value, ethical questions; and we review briefly his own attitude to the answers to such questions provided by five of his predecessors; Pascal, Goethe Kant, Hegel and Schopenhauer. Part I is intended as an extended analysis of the starting point of Nietzsche's work-the death of God. We begin by baking a critical look at several interpretations of Nietzsche's pronouncement of the death of God, before attempting our own theological interpretation (Chapter Three). We then endeavor to show that he assumed God's death, rather than trying to prove it; that it was, for him, not a question of metaphysics, but a cultural, historical event. Nietzsche is concerned, not with the existence or non-existence of God, but with his life and death-and the consequences of his death (Chapter Four). Part II is designed to lay bare what is perhaps the most important of these consequences, namely the problematic nature of morality. We see Nietzsche struggling both aesthetically and psychologically with Schopenhauer's question-Has- existence any meaning at all?-a question which now, after the death of the old "answer," had to be raised (and answered) anew. In Chapter Five we discover that morality was understood by Nietzsche as having a double significance; every moral demand system can serve both as a guide to the passions men consider most powerful, and as a means of controlling and harnessing those passions. We also get our first glimpse of what will develop into the most fundamental concept of Nietzsche's philosophy, his will to power monism. Chapter Six sets out from an exposition of Nietzsche's typology of morality, continues through whet is undoubtedly his single most important discovery in the realm of values, namely, the instinct of conscience, and culminates in his plea for a remissive conscience, that is, a conscience based on and aimed toward fulfillment rather than continence. In Part III we try to be more explicit about how Nietzsche envisaged the creation of this remissive conscience. After pointing out that his doctrine of the body provides the clue to a synthesis of the best in both biblical monism and classical dualism in his own (diatomic) Dionysian monism, we make a case for Nietzsche's recommendation that we again begin to take our senses seriously, not as a final court of appeal but, at the very least, as a regulative hypothesis in questions of value (Chapter Seven). We then move from the body to the earth to dwell in detail upon Nietzsche's teaching of eternal recurrence both as a "scientific" and as a "religious" hypothesis, and conclude that in its latter form, it is not unlike Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom of God in the Sermon on the Mount. The correlate of eternal recurrence, amor fati, leads us to a further consideration of Nietzsche's diatomic monism, with its conception of creation arising out of agon, in this case, the creation of a remissive conscience based on the body and the earth, and directed toward affirmation, fulfillment and responsibility (Chapter Eight). In the penultimate chapter (Chapter Nine) we begin to draw together what has gone before by analyzing the formula, "Dionysus versus the Crucified." Our conclusion is twofold: that Nietzsche was pointing to pity as the peculiarly Christian expression of love; and that, for him, Christianity is possible only in private. We are thus constrained to reject Nietzsche's otherwise very able and sympathetic portragal of Jesus as incompatible with the Jesus of the New Testament, whose way of life is conspicuous neither for its pity nor for its privacy (Chapter Ten).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Gregor Smith
Keywords: Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion
Date of Award: 1969
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1969-72445
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 May 2019 15:12
Last Modified: 24 May 2019 15:12
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72445

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