“We Are Experiments”
“We Are Experiments”
Nietzsche on Morality and Authenticity
In this essay I explore the way in which Nietzsche resurrects a Hellenistic conception of philosophy and in which the love of wisdom is intimately bound up with the promotion of eudaemonia or human happiness and flourishing. I also show that for Nietzsche the achievement of individual eudaemonia involves for modern-day free spirits the experimental search for an authentic mode of existence. My focus is on Dawn from 1881. As a general point of inspiration I have adopted Pierre Hadot’s insight into the therapeutic ambitions of ancient philosophy which was, he claims, intended to cure mankind’s anguish over our mortality. This is evident in the teaching of Epicurus which sought to demonstrate the mortality of the soul and whose aim was to free human beings from the unnecessary fears of the mind. The ultimate aim of this conception of philosophy is to promote joy in living and in one’s own self. As Nietzsche makes clear in Dawn the main task is to translate into reason a strong and constant drive, one that yearns for ‘mild sunshine, clearer and fresher air, southerly vegetation, sea air’. For the greater part of its history the human being has lived in a condition of fear and as a herd-conforming animal. Nietzsche’s philosophy of the morning looks ahead to a new dawn in human existence in which individuals will have conquered this fear and cultivate their lives in a way that is conducive to themselves and beneficent to others. This at least is the hope—and the experiment. The task is to secure individual eudaemonia but traditional and typical formulations of morality prove to be a hindrance to it.
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