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Nietzsche and the idea of Eternal Return

MCNEIL, BEVIS,EDWARD (2016) Nietzsche and the idea of Eternal Return. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 01 November 2021.

Abstract

This thesis will evaluate the cogency and value of Nietzsche’s idea of eternal return, which he saw as the pinnacle of his philosophical enterprise, as an antidote to the passive nihilism which results from the ‘death of God’ and the collapse of our once cherished Christian moral values. The centrality and importance of the eternal return in Nietzsche’s philosophy will be assessed. Firstly, the significance of the idea of the eternal return, when presented as an imaginative thought experiment, cosmological hypothesis, and poetic metaphor will be analysed. The importance of eternal return as a cosmology will be further evaluated, in terms of its roles in giving credibility to the thought of eternal return and in acting as a model of time in opposition to a linear Christian timeline. A review of criticisms of the cosmology, including Georg Simmel’s groundbreaking critique, will be conducted. The doctrine will be defended against the charges that it lacks coherence, that there is a lack of evidence for its reality, that it is fatalistic and that it invites indifference.
The strength of metaphorical meaning contained within Heraclitean and Stoic cosmologies and their influence on Nietzsche’s cosmology, as well as their more holistic approach to life which Nietzsche wished to foster, are also discussed. Secondly, two of the most important and influential interpretations of Nietzsche’s eternal return of the twentieth century, those of Gilles Deleuze and Martin Heidegger, will be critically engaged with. Whereas Deleuze interprets eternal return as a highly ethical and selective thought, which acts like a centrifugal wheel in expelling all ‘reactive’ forces and nihilism and only allowing the return of ‘active’ forces, Heidegger interprets eternal return as the consummation of metaphysics and so nihilism, representing its peak rather than its overcoming. Although both interpretations enable a much profounder understanding of eternal return, both suffer from a comparable one-sidedness and failure to appreciate certain essential aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy of eternal recurrence.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Nietzsche; Eternal Return
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:03 Nov 2016 13:03

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