I’m thoroughly enjoying my first Coursera course. It’s on philosophy since The Enlightenment and last week we did Friedrich Nietzsche. Of course, I’d heard Nietzsche’s infamous phrase “God is dead” before, but I did not know exactly what was behind it.
Now that I know, I wanted to share my class notes, because what Nietzsche meant by “God is dead” is surprisingly reassuring. Indeed, it can be summed up by the following phrase:
Don’t worry, be happy.
Of course, he also meant that –
- There is no ideal.
- There is no absolute standard.
- There is no History.
- There is no one pure notion of the good and the real.
Nietzsche blamed all philosophers since Plato for trying to convince us that there is an attainable ideal that we should strive to reach. But, the German philosopher insisted, we are nothing but distorted animals, and we will never reach the perfection we attach to God. Centuries of trying to do so has only left us with a senseless feeling of guilt.
What’s more, morality is a construct and a mere symptom of our severe self-denial. It is also a way for the weak to keep the strong in check.
But, for Nietzsche, strength and especially intensity were highly desirable qualities. In fact, he believed that the value of any philosophy lied in its capacity to make people feel more alive and live with greater intensity and passion. Whatever the philosophy.
So, don’t worry, be happy. According to Nietzsche, it’s the smartest thing we can do.