Fishers of Men

\”Come, follow me,\” Jesus said, \”and I will make you fishers of men.\”


A Basic Lecture for Students in Non-Catholic Colleges and Universities
General Editor
Joseph M. Wyss, O.P., S.T.Lr. Ph.D.
Rev. George L. Concordia, O.P., S.T.L.

Father Concordia has taken an active interest in the educational aspects of Newman work. A professor of philosophy at Emmanuel College, Boston, he has lectured to various New England Newman groups and consistently at Tufts University. He is co-editor of the Newman Institute of Catholic Thought at Providence College. His degree in theology is from the Pontifical Dominican Faculty in Washington and he has done graduate work at Yale.

A. The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche deserves the attention of the twentieth century intellectual.
In the introduction to the Modern Library Volume on Nietzsche, Willard H. Wright begins his statements with the sentence:

“No philosopher since Kant has left so undeniable an imprint on modern thought as Friedrich ,Nietzsche.” (Wright, W. H.; Philosophy of Nietzsche; Modern Library Edition; Introduction p. vii.)
Many of his ideas are alive in the popular philosophy of the day, Existentialism. One might connect his philosophy with some of the first images which our youths acquire from their comic books. One of the comic strips is called “Superman,” who has power to overcome all forces in the universe. One could associate his ideas with the advertising campaigns which propose certain breakfast foods as the nourishment of champions. It is evident, then, that the philosophy of Nietzsche has extended itself beyond the academic circle and is influencing our society.
B. This lecture has two purposes: first, to present Nietzsche’s philosophical and theological thought; secondly, to evaluate this system from the Thomistic viewpoint.
Our purpose here is not only to present the reflexions of this philosopher. We are not merely historians. Our aim is to do more than catalogue words, statements and facts of the past. We desire to interpret these reflexions. We want to measure his wisdom or what he claims to be wisdom. In order to do this, it is necessary to have a point of view. Without one, no judgment is possible. The thought of Aquinas is the viewpoint to which we would compare the ideas of Nietzsche.

It might appear surprising that this selection is made, since Aquinas lived over five hundred years before Nietzclche. We justify this procedure, however, on two grounds. First of all, the philosophy of Aquinas claims perennial value. Not in the sense that nothing new and valuable has been conceived, said or written since the thirteenth century. Such a position is unrealistic. It destroys confidence in the ability of human intelligence to discover new questions, deeper truths and clearer answers. But in this sense: that the basic principles of Aquinas have solved most fundamental questions; that these principles offer to intellectuals of all time, direction, course of inquiry and proper approach; that by them all knowledge can be integrated into organic unity. By bringing the ideas of Aquinas into the picture, one can harmonize and synthesize new discoveries into the firm demonstrated conclusions of the past.

The, second reason in justification of our viewpoint originates from the first. If Aquinas has perennial value, then his system must be capable of standing firm in the face of contemporary thought. If his judgments and insight into reality are entirely shattered by the evident realism of a modern thinker, then it would be well that we forget Aquinas and seek some other source for synthesis. Our contention is, however, not only that he can face the questions of contemporary intellectuals, but that his system resolves their difficulties with clarity, with certitude and in a succinct manner.
A. The metaphysical view of Nietzsche identifies being and becoming.
1. What Nietzsche holds.
Keenly aware of the change which nature undergoes, Nietzsche concluded that all reality is constantly changing even though the same situations occur again and again. In this his doctrine is similar to his contemporaries, Darwin and Spencer, who advocated theories of evolution. But in Nietzsche, this is not merely a conclusion of psychology. He does apply it in the study of life; he repeatedly refers to living reality. But fundamentally it is a metaphysic. His idea of being or existing is identified with becoming. This alone is the really real. His science of existence or his metaphysics enunciates that the one thing which we encounter in reality is becoming.

He carries on the tradition of the ancient Greek, Heraclitus, who agreed with Parmenides that the reconciliation of being with change, is impossible, but judged that different conclusions should be drawn from the fact. Heraclitus chose to deny the reality of being and selected becoming or change alone as deserving that name. The theory of Heraclitus is summarized in the famous formula: “Every thing is in a state of flux.”

In Zarathustra, Nietzsche wrote:

“Everything goeth, everything returneth—eternally rolleth the wheel of existence. Everything dieth, everything blossometh forth again. . . Everything breaketh, everything is integrated anew again; eternally buildeth itself the same house of existence. All things separate; all things again greet one another.” (Ibid; Thus Spake Zarathustra Essay 57, no 2, p. 223.)

In another passage from the same work:

When the water hath planks, when gangways and railing o’erspan the stream, verily, he is not believed who then saith: “all is in flux.”

But even the simpletons contradict him. “What?” say the simpletons, “all in flux?” Planks and railings are still over the stream.
“Over the stream all is stable, all the values of things, the bridges and bearings, all ‘good’ and ‘evil’: these are all stable!”—
Cometh, however, the hard winter, the stream-tamer, then learn even the wittiest distrust, and verily, not only the simpletons then say: “Should not everything—stand still?”

“Fundamentally standeth everything still”—that is an appropriate winter doctrine, good cheer for an unproductive period, a great comfort for winter-sleepers and fireside-loungers.

“Fundamentally standeth everything still”—: but contrary thereto-preacheth the thawing wind!

The thawing wind, a bullock, which is no plowing bullock—a furious bullock, a destroyer, which with angry horns breaketh the ice! The ice however—breaketh gangways!

0 my brethren, is not everything at present in flux? (Ibid; Essay 56, no. 8, p. 207.)

Nietzsche used vivid imagery to communicate his doctrine. If one watches a stream of water: in the spring, vigorous movement is apparent; in the winter, it is frozen solid; in the spring it thaws again. This image describes and emphasizes the constancy of change.
2. Thomistic critique.
St. Thomas follows the tradition of Aristotle who gave an extensive consideration to the problem of change in the world of nature in his Physics and Metaphysics. In solution to the fact of variability in reality, Aristotle and Aquinas propose the theory of potency and act, matter and form, and substance and accident. The principles in the totally material world are matter and form; in forms separate from matter, potency and act designate the poles of change; in being, substance and accident delineate modification.

In this theory the fact of change is not denied, nor is the opposite—stability—denied, but reality is looked upon as twofold. In one aspect, the real is subject to modification but a substrate remains throughout the change. The accidents are subject to modification but the substantial aspect remains throughout the modification. For example, water in a stream can become ice or steam, move or remains still. No matter what the conditions, however, water is still composed of definite elements, hydrogen and oxygen in measured quantities. The states are variable but the elements invariable.
In nature there is a capacity in a thing to change. This is potency—the ability of a thing to be effected by something outside itself, responding by a change of form. So an oak tree can grow from an acorn. This piece of matter can be changed into a gigantic oak because there is something within the acorn whereby the tree is generated. What should be recognized as unchangeable and free from modification is called the “nature,” that which is within the reality making it to be what it is. The invariability is verified from the fact that the reality generated is always limited in similarity to the principles generating. From an acorn, an elm or a maple or a rose bush cannot be generated. The acorn must give rise to an oak, if it is to generate at all. This similarity bespeaks consistency and constancy. The substantial is immutable and free of change. All is not in flux, even though phenomena or the outer garments of a nature are subject to change. But these outer garments are far from the whole of reality. The total being comprises both the “within” or nature from which similarity originates and the “outer” from which diversity originates. Nietzsche has exaggerated the outer in reality, overlooking the within. He has faced part of the question but failed to recognize the totality beyond that part.

When one is faced with the position of those who interpret reality as in constant flux i.e. everything is changing, one thinks of reaction to moral advice. Have you ever tried to change an alcoholic? He usually considers himself radically incapable of change. Reflection upon critical life situations points to the opposite conclusion: nothing changes; everything is dreadfully repetitious.

But Aristotle and Aquinas bridge the two extremes. They admit the obvious fact of change but insist that a nature . . . the “within” of reality enjoys invariability. It is this “within” that produces the constancy in the cycle of change.
B. His epistemological theory is summarized in the statement: all truth is relative.
I. What Nietzsche holds.
The second presupposition in Nietzsche’s thought follows from his metaphysical position. He argued that since the world is in constant flux, our mind’s response to that world suffers from the same inconstancy. In other words, truth, the estimation of the world by a mind, is relative and variable. What we think to be true today might be false tomorrow. He is convinced that truth and falsehood are of equal validity and value. After a discussion of certain presuppositions in science, Nietzsche wrote in The Joyful Wisdom:

“What do you know of the character of existence in all its phases to be able to decide whether the greater advantage is on the side of absolute distrust or of absolute truthfulness: In case of both being necessary, much trusting and much distrusting, whence then should science derive the absolute belief, that conviction on which it rests, that truth is more important than anything else, even than every other conviction. This conviction could not have arisen if truth and untruth had both continually proved themselves to be useful; as is the case.” (Nietzsche, F.; The Joyful Wisdom. Translated by Thomas Common, 1910, p. 278.)

The argument of Nietzsche is that a society which had tested the value of untruth or doubt has never existed. He questions the possible answer to such a test and feels that untruth would be proven as useful or as valuable as truth. His position reduces itself to the conclusion that truth is relative; it depends upon use or society or individual need. This judgment about his philosophy is confirmed by Kurt Reinhardt in the work The Existentialist Revolt. He analyzes the words of Nietzsche and expresses his judgment in these terms:

“There is neither mind, nor reason, nor thought, nor consciousness, nor soul, nor will nor truth, Nietzsche wrote in the Will to Power, All these are fictions and quite useless.” (Reinhardt, Kurt; The Existentialist Revolt, p. 198.)

This statement indicates the psychological cause of knowledge and truth according to Nietzsche.
2. Thomistic critique.
Aquinas approaches truth from the viewpoint that its absolute validity is attained when ideas and judgments conform to objective evidence. If judgments in the mind fit reality outside the mind exactly, then truth is achieved. Nature existing extra-mentally measures the mind. Because a nature has real i.e. extra-mental existence, it is independent of the mind for its reality. The mind recognizes and identifies this nature. This recognition and identification harmonized with the extra-mental nature is truth. Aquinas is a metaphysical realist in asserting a real world outside the mind. He goes further, however, in teaching that the mind is capable of attaining the real world in knowledge. In this he is an epistemological realist as well. Aquinas is certain that some knowledge of this reality is valid. He is secure both as to the reality as well as the ability to know it. This ability to know is not merely a recourse to faith or to a source of knowledge outside the realm of nature. Admission of reality does not depend upon the existence of God. The truth that God exists, however, arises from (i.e., is attained by) recognition of the existence of the world outside the mind. We admit that God is, because things are; existence is unintelligible without his existence.
The position of Aquinas that there are first, immediate, indubitable principles gives rise to the acceptance of the validity of a theory of absolute truth. Principles of knowledge correspond to first, immediate, and indubitably existing realities. The admission of the real world outside the mind is a principle of knowledge. One does not have to prove it. Every action performed by man is evidence of the fact. He meets reality in every step of life. Reality is the foundation of absolute truth. Our knowledge will be absolutely true, if it conforms to the real.
C. Nietzsche’s psychological interpretation of the origin of knowledge is expressed in the judgment: all knowledge is creation.
1. What Nietzsche holds.
Nietzsche explains the origin of knowledge with psychological orientation. He considered truth useless because he had a pre-judgment about its source. This presupposition led him to write that all is false. Nietzsche uses in this context a term that occurs frequently in his writings, namely, creation. It is of maximum importance in his philosophy. Albert Camus in the Rebel wrote:

“Nietzsche’s message is summed up in the word ‘creation’ with the ambiguous meaning it-has assumed.” (Camus, Albert; The Rebel, p. 74.)

The term does not refer to the act of God making reality as the Christian would conceive it. Far from it. He means: man making meaningfulness. The role of philosophy (or at least what philosophers have done in the past and are doing in the present day) is realized in this act. Nietzsche writes:

What happened in old times with the Stoics still happens today as soon as a philosophy begins to believe in itself. It always creates the world in its own image.” (Nietzsche, F.; Modern Library Giant, Beyond Good and Evil. Part I, chapter 9, p. 9.)

The process of knowing to him is not one of vision of reality. It is not identification of the real. But the mind, as human, is primary source. The mind makes the meaning in the universe. Reinhardt describes this notion:

“The human mind constructs its own world by transforming, uniting, ordering, and simplyfying a meaningless mass of phenomena. Both the world of sense experience and the supposed ontological or metaphysical realm behind sense experience are equally unreal. There is no real world at all.” (Reinhardt, Kurt; The Existentialist Revolt. p. 108.)

Creation takes place by the arbitrary action of human mind and will. Ideas are nothing but signs and symbols without objective meaning. Sense knowing alone is trustworthy and dependable. Concepts are untrustworthy results of human creativity. If the mind gives origin to meaning, it is. understandable for Nietzsche to conclude that all is false. Man has no ground for judgment, since intelligibility is merely a product of human imagination, will or prejudice.

2. Thomistic critique.
Aquinas would not hesitate to agree with Nietzsche that emotions, can influence the acts of man’s higher powers. He is fully aware that judgment can be warped by feelings and wishes in the one judging. But to conclude from this fact that all knowledge is merely a projection of one’s whim is to misinterpret the psychological value of emotion and will. Emotions can give force and energy to man’s activity as well as hinder it in its impulsiveness. Love for truth in the will can restrain judgment until all evidence has been presented as well as urge the judge to jump to a conclusion. Nietzsche tends to exaggerate the negative aspects of emotion and will to the neglect of their positive contributions.

Aquinas teaches that the human mind was made for truth. He says in the Summa Theologiae that just as desire arises for good things so the mind seeks the true. There is a faculty within human nature ordered to the true which will not rest in the limited or in the false. Everything cannot be false for the reason that falsity must exist in something which is at least partially true. There is no separately existing falsity. Falsity is in every instance a wound in the body of truth.

The position of Nietzsche which sees human knowing as creation differs fundamentally from the position of Aquinas, who considers knowing as a vision. The act of understanding according to Aquinas is one of reception or passivity. The knower is changed from mere capacity to the fruition of understanding in the process. Reality affects the knower in the act of knowing. This is not to deny that man can change the world or what he contacts. But the ability to change is modified and made possible by the fact that man has acquired a measurement of the world in his act of knowing. He has experienced a vision of being. With this as a blueprint, he proceeds to modify, control, and order the world in which he exists. To Aquinas knowing is fundamentally a suffering on the part of the mind because reality has affected the mind. In order for man to create the world of meaning or to effect the universe, more than knowledge is required. This can be achieved only by the will responding to knowledge and executing what has been designed in knowledge. The creative activity is not an act of knowing at all but an exercise of the power of impulse. This power transcends the limits and is distinct from the power of knowing.
A. Nietzsche revolutionized thought in the area of moral life.
The branch of his philosophy which has gained the greatest notoriety is without doubt his moral thinking. This is the judgment of Walter Kaufmann in From Shakespeare to Existentialism:

“Before we develop Nietzsche’s continuity with a great tradition we ought to ask ourselves in what way he revolutionized thought. And if a single field must be chosen to give some idea of the break that Nietzsche brought about ethics is the best choice.” (Kaufmann, W.; From Shakespeare to Existentialism, p. 207.)

The motive for his interest in ethics is his hope to modify contemporary society. Nietzsche saw in the area of ethics the key to changing his world. If a new morality could be accepted then the dying society in which he was living could be revitalized. A parallel exists on this point between him and Kierkegaard. Both were discontented with the contemporary culture. Both recognized a need for a revolution of mind. Their world appeared to be a fraud. But Kierkegaard differs in that he saw solution in a return to pure and primitive Christianity. The restoration of Christianity to Christendom is his principal message. Nietzsche could not agree in this as a solution. Contrariwise, he believed Christianity to have caused the disintegration in the west of the golden civilization of ancient Greece.

Nietzsche questioned the source of morality. He inquired into the origin of morality. He sought the cause of moral judgment. He pursued a justification of traditional moral affirmations.
B. Two ethical positions stand out in his moral thought.
1. All morality is relative; there are no absolute permanent standards.
a. What Nietzsche holds.
Nietzsche defined morality in his work Ecce Homo:

“Morality is the idiosyncrasy of decadents, actuated by a desire to avenge themselves successfully upon life. I attach great value to this definition.” (Nietzsche, F.; Modern Library Giant, Ecce Homo, pp. 142-143.)

The moral judgment arises from the type of individual. If a person is a member of the aristocracy, his code of morality reflects that condition in life; if a person is a slave, his status determines his moral judgment. In the slave, morality arises from resentment felt toward the master. This concept of resentment is the psychological experience of jealousy felt toward another. Nietzsche selects this experience as the motive force influencing individuals to formulate a morality. This morality will quiet and satisfy the hunger for revenge.

Nietzsche interprets paradise, the idea of heaven, as arising from a resentment of slave to master. The slave conceives of paradise as a place where he becomes master. Hell is the place where the master becomes slave. The slave goes on for all eternity satisfied that he has gained revenge. The psychological is the prime source for formulating moral judgments.
The slave morality is the creation of the passion of resentment. It is opposed to the morality of the aristocrats, nobles or masters. Since these men are rulers, they make values for others. To them nobility of birth, power, riches, beauty of body and health are the higher values. Whatever will help to preserve these characteristics will be good and whatever impedes them is evil. To the slave, contrariwise, the truly good and blessed are the weak, the hungry, the poor in spirit, the outcasts in life.

Good and evil to Nietzsche are dependent upon the class to which one belongs. All morality is relative. It is impossible to formulate a moral law for everyone. Morality is an idiosyncrasy.
b. Thomistic critique.
More fundamental than class, human nature should serve as the basis for considering morality. A point of departure between Nietzsche and Thomism is the mode of interpreting human nature. The Thomist sees it as permanent and constant. There is something specific in man. His reality is not open at both ends. In light of this, something of what he is determines what he becomes and what he ought to become. The something is his essence. Man is seen as a rational animal; man is an animal with self-determination arising from acquired knowledge. His activities must be, consequently, in accord with reason and self-determination, in accord with what he is.
Norms of morality measure the distance between what man is and what he ought to be. If the essence and the realization are found to be coextensive, then that man is a good man. If the distance between the two terms is wide, the man is to be judged as failing in his realization of his possibilities.

It is true that man’s actions vary, that his social customs are subject to change. But this should not overshadow the fact that the other term in the comparison from which the norm of morality arises remains fixed. This essence provides a basis for universality in a moral code. It justifies a transcendent good. Morality is established upon a realistic foundation. Those actions will be good in so far as the being and existence in man are realized. All actions which jeopardize this being are evil.
2. Nietzsche taught that man has no ultimate goal.
a. What Nietzsche holds.
Nietzsche found lacking in human civilization any universally accepted ultimate goal. He wrote in Zarathustra:

“A thousand goals have there been hereto, for a thousand peoples have there been. . . there is lacking the one goal. As yet Humanity hath not a goal.” (Thus Spake Zarathustra, pp. 74-75.)

Nietzsche is bewildered by the fact that he can find no ultimate goal. He has visited many lands and many peoples but is not able to discover some ultimate end for all men. Each people creates a value for itself but its neigh­bors must create the opposite value in order to subsist. That which is judged good by one people elicits scorn from another people. This ability in man to praise and blame is recognized by Nietzsche as a great power. But it is an uncontrolled power. He asks who will who will fetter this instinct to create values.
The fact that man has no ultimate goal shows indeed ‘the freedom of man, but it deprives him of any direction for that freedom. That man creates his goals obviously disturbs Nietzsche. He terminates his reasoning by wondering whether humanity itself has any reality. There is nothing that all men can pursue capable of satisfying all men. Humanity has no goal, objective or ultimate purpose.
b. Thomistic critique.
St. Thomas proposes the basic distinction between two questions, namely, whether man has an ultimate goal and in what it consists in the following terms:

“Concerning the ultimate end, we can speak in a twofold manner: one way according to the very definition of ultimate goal; and secondly according to that in which the formality of the ultimate goal is discovered.” (Aquinas St. Thomas; Summa Theologiae, Ia IIae Question 1, art. 7.)

The significance of this distinction rests in the difference between the fact that an ultimate goal for all men exists and the judgment as to what the ultimate goal is. One should distinguish the existence from the choice. One should become aware of the difference between whether and what.
Acceptance of the formality of a single ultimate end originates in the desire for such a goal. All men have a desire to be perfect, complete. Everyone has a natural hope for fulfillment and realization. There is within the human heart an unending urge for total self-identity. Walter Farrell in the Companion to the Summa wrote:

“That note of unity and harmony is human desire. The same force that has driven men apart, that has set nations at one another’s throats, that has wiped individuals and races off the face of the earth, is at the same time the one great focal point of human agreement and harmony. All men agree in this: They want what they want. And because of this desire they act.” (Farrell, Walter, O.P.; Companion to the Summa, Volume II, pp. 3-4.)

This desire bears the name “happiness.” Every man agrees with other men in this that he wants to be happy. Because of this common desire, there is an objective supreme goal for all men.

In regard to what this is, however, all men are not in agreement. Certain men desire money as their consummated good; others seek pleasure; still others fame, power or glory. Choice of the object which will produce fulfillment or perfection or total self-identity points up variety of opinion and diversity of pursuit. St. Thomas uses an example to illustrate the point. To everyone’s taste, the same sweetness is not delightful. For to some the sweetness of wine is more delightful; to others the sweetness of honey. But each in some way desires sweetness.
Because the ultimate goal has a single identity, namely happiness, we can assert that man has a single ultimate goal. But we must always recognize the fact that the pursuit of this goal is executed in diverse ways by individual men. (See Newman Lecture Notes on Man’s High Destiny: Happiness, by J. M. Wyss.)
A. Although his writing is ambiguous Nietzsche expressed a philosophical commitment.
Nietzsche’s comments about God are metaphorical and poetical. One could be perplexed in attempting to judge his personal conviction and purpose. Authors have interpreted his style as a hyperbole or exaggeration for effect. He is said to write more severely than he judged with the intention of awakening a dying culture and disintegrating civilization. There are signs, however, that this judgment involves a commitment on his part.
Nietzsche’s writing is impulsive. Once he began to work in expressing his thoughts, his mind pours forth his ideas with vigor and enthusiasm. He would lose himself in writing as if in ecstasy. He describes the experience as a sort of inspiration as if the writer becomes a mere instrument of a higher power. At moments, however, reflexion upon his previous statements occurs, perhaps when the inspiration wanes. At these moments he asks himself questions about what he has written. At these moments the real mind of Nietzsche is made manifest. He looks back at what was said and then reaffirms his judgment.
An instance of this kind is found in the Genealogy of Morals. After a lengthy discussion of the origin of conscience, the idea of guilt with references to the projection of God as arising from ancestor worship, Nietzsche writes:

“Is an ideal actually set up here, or is one pulled down.”

By this he means to question whether his criticism is constructive or is merely destructive of ideas and institutions which characterize his society. But his judgment is not delayed. He answers his question with a strong direct response:

“To enable a sanctuary to be set up a sanctuary has to be destroyed—that is a law.” (Nietzsche, F.; Modern Library Giant, Genealogy of Morals, pp.90-91.)

He affirms his purpose here. It cannot be criticism in order to correct. His new ideas cannot be built into the situation as it stands. In order for his message to be constructed into life, the ideals and attitudes of past and present must be demolished and a new foundation laid. He wanted to build a new world for man based upon a new theology. His criticisms are not mere exaggeration for effect. They express a definite philosophical position, and acceptance of it is necessary that his philosophical prophecies be fulfilled.
B. He begins with the judgment: god is dead.
Nietzsche’s theology begins with the judgment that god is dead. This is the principal message of the work Thus Spake Zarathustra. The assertion is expressed in different forms repeatedly throughout the work:

“Once blasphemy against god was the greatest blasphemy; but god died, and therewith also those blasphemers.” (Thus Spake Zarathitstra, p. 28.)

The central literary figure, Zarathustra, has the office of announcing this to all men. He is Nietzsche’s mouthpiece. In the same context that the death of god is announced, Zarathustra pronounces the new man, Superman, who will replace the god who has died.
C. Three reasons influenced him in forming this judgment.

1. Study of philosophy led him to the conclusion that the idea of god originated from fear of nature in primitive man.
a. What Nietzsche holds.

Nietzsche argued against the idea of god. One type of reasoning proceeded from his estimation of the pre-historical development of the idea of god. He thought that belief in god originated from a non-rational feeling. The first ages of man practiced a type of ancestor worship. In paying respect to his forebears, primitive man handed down a tradition whereby a debt of reverence was owed to deceased parents. As the clan increased, the power and importance of these ancestors increased likewise. As this worship and respect for them develops, there arises fear of them in the imaginations of living men. This grows to monstrous dimensions and is exaggerated beyond human proportions.

“The ancestor becomes at last transfigured into a god . . . Perhaps, this is the very origin of gods, that is, an origin from fear.” (Nietzsche, F.; Modern Library Giant, Genealogy of Morals, p. 83.)

Since the idea of god is caused by a non-rational experience there is no objectively real god, but merely the imagination of some transcendent being. Man makes god, rather than finds god. There is no extra-mental reality deserving the name of divinity.

The contemporary attitude, enters the judgment of Nietzsche. Since there is no vital consciousness of god among contemporary men, god is dead. Since the primitive idea of god bears no effect upon nineteenth century society, man reverences god out of custom or habit or because it profits him in some personal way. From the view of his time then, Nietzsche judged the idea of god to be a fraud. But since it is merely an idea, it can be changed radically and replaced by a new idea. This possibility led him to propose the man-god or superman, who will replace the god who has died.
b. Thomistic critique.

The notion asserted by Nietzsche is that nature and the human will are adequate explanations of everything: One must not overlook, however, certain conditions to which nature and the human will are subject. A basic characteristic found in nature is this: nature operates for an end. Purpose in nature is obvious. Within each reality exists a drive for fulfillment, an intrinsic force urging toward completion of that entity. (This is most manifest in living reality but in a metaphysical way it also exists in non-living reality.) This fulfillment or completion or the thing produced by an activity give evidence for the truth that nature has no objective. With constancy nature realizes itself in the maturity of its offspring. Through the workings of the seasons, the quality of the earth, the heat of the sun and the various other expressions of nature, our orchards fructify and our gardens become bright with blossom. The productivity manifest in nature demonstrates that nature is not operating by chance nor by circumstance. Nature functions from design. For this reason scientific knowledge of the various strata of reality is possible. But order or design or relation between means and end point to an intelligence capable of transcending the means and the end in order to define the relationship between the two. In light of this argument, an attempt to explain reality as originating from nature leads quite directly to the source which imposes purpose and design upon nature. This source we call God.
The feeling of fear referred to by Nietzsche as the origin of the idea of god springs from the human will. But the will like nature is subject to conditions which lead to an affirmation of god. For example, the human will is by its nature changeable. It stops and goes. It fails and succeeds. It is intensely concerned or unresponsive. It is characterized by extensive variability. Everyone at some time is disturbed by the fickleness of human whim. This very mobility, however, on the part of the will implies something or someone who moves it. Just as an automobile doesn’t start unless one turns the ignition and steps on the gas pedal, so the will implies something or someone capable of initiating its course of action. Since it is impossible or at least an evasion of the question to keep reducing this motion to some further cause without end, it is necessary to affirm a first mover, which will give the first impulse to the actions of the will. This being we call God. The fear by which an impulse to God originates is evidence for the philosophical mind to transcend the world of man and nature to the world of a being from which all being originates.
2. Since evil exists in the world, God cannot exist.
a. What Nietzsche holds.
Nietzsche uses the presence of evil in the world as an objection to divinity. Calamity, sickness and failure cause him to wonder whether there can be a god. A particular evil which greatly disturbs him is the disintegration of his society. In ultimate terms, this objection is reduced to an age-old argument against god. If there was an infinite totally good being, it would destroy all its enemies. This is what is meant by god. If there is a god, why and how can evil exist? But yet that evil is present in the world is a fact. Therefore god does not exist.
b. Response of Christian tradition.
The simplicity and wisdom of Christian tradition shine forth in response to questions as real and profound as evil. St. Augustine writes in reference to this problem:

“Since God is the highest possible good, he would in no way permit evil to occur in his works unless he be so powerful and so good, that he can bring good even out of evil.” (St. Augustine; Enchiridion, Chapter 11: P.L. 40, 236.)

This statement is brief indeed, but it is truly the fullest possible answer. It is remarkable to draw good out of good but it is beyond human comprehension to bring good out of evil: that order be established from chaos; that new life be formed from disintegration; that new reality arise from corruption.

One could object, however, that the execution of such change is not apparent to human vision. Our scale of observation does not appreciate future good in its confrontation with present evil.

Although this must be admitted, one fact is obvious. The reality which operates this way is the greatest and highest being. Such a reality far surpasses any source of evil. St. Thomas puts- it this way:

“This pertains to the infinite goodness of God that he permit evils and from them draws out good things.” (Aquinas, St. Thomas; Summa Theo. Ia, Q. 2, art. 3, response to the first objection.

The fact of evil should not deter the mind of man from admitting the existence of an ultimate being. The presence of evil upon the stage of life merely indicates that divinity is no ordinary playwrite. Where, when and how the curtain falls is clearly seen by the director, if not by us.
3. The concept of God is counter to life.
a. What Nietzsche holds.
The statement of Nietzsche that god is dead, implies the judgment that the traditional ideas are inadequate for the modern mind which has achieved mastery over nature and comprehension of the universe. There is the notion that god as an object of study, a source of influence, as a motive for love, no longer satisfies the human mind. To Nietzsche man must be overcome, he must be made into a new reality by the process of evolution. Man must say “yes” to nature and time. Since the traditional conceptions of god and religion asserted a negation of nature, these sources of moral judgment must be denied. He wrote:

“The concept of god was invented as the counter concept to life.” (Nietzsche, F.; Mod. Libr. Giant, Ecce Homo, p. 143.)

Saying yes to nature and time involve the negation of divinity. So he took this judgment as the springboard to the superman.
b. Christian critique.

The modern mind is groping for an answer. It is seeking the final response to the manifold questions of time and life. The contemporary mind is anxious for intellectual rest. This fact points the way to a response to Nietzsche on this question. The mystery of god does not negate the pursuit of truth or the energy of life. It stimulates questioning because there is always something more to be discovered. It recharges the disintegrating forces of life because it gives a greater and ever increasing delight to be attained.

One of the reasons why Nietzsche said god is dead centers upon the certainty of his philosophical ancestors. They had made god so well understood that his death became inevitable. They had so closely identified faith with reason that reason could get along quite well without faith. Nietzsche advanced and proposed a faith because he recognized a need for faith. His error is not in this recognition. In that he was correct. But the faith needed was not in nature or time. But what was required was a restoration in the mystery of god. What was urgent was a faith which limited reason in its interpretation of the world, a faith which could build upon these limits in order to identify all of the elements in the mystery of reality.
We have seen three aspects of Nietzsche’s thought: his metaphysical presuppositions, his moral system, and his idea of god with its consequences.

His thought manifests sincere, honest and relatively valid motives: to correct a disintegrating culture; to reestablish beginnings; to restore individual values.

It is vested, however, in startling and shocking garments which impede the attainment of the objective because they irritate minds sensitive to precision of language and fineness of conception.
It shouts rebellion against philosophical, theological and social institutions—a rebellion so frantic, wild and impulsive that one trembles with fear at such an unreasonable and frantic revolution.
I. Works of Nietzsche:

  • Beyond Good and Evil, Gateway Edition, Henry Regnery Company, 1955.
  • The Birth of Tragedy and Genealogy of Morals, Translated by Francis Golffing, Doubleday Anchor Book, (1956).
  • Thus Spake Zarathustra, (A book for all and none) Translated by Thomas Common, Macmillan Company, 1914, Notes by Anthony Ludovichi.
  • The Philosophy of Nietzsche, Modern Library Giant, Edited by W. H. Wright, Translations of the major works.

II. General Sources for quick reference:

  • Collins, James, A History of Modern European Philosophy, Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, 1954, Chapter 18.
  • Collins, James, The Existentialists, Gateway Edition, 1952, Chapter 1.
  • Copleston, Frederick, A History of Philosophy, Vol. VII, Burns and Oates, London, Chapters 21 and 22.

III. Major works on Nietzsche:

  • Brinton, C., Nietzsche, Cambridge, Mass., 1941.
  • Copleston, F. J., S.J., Friedrich Nietzsche: Philosopher of Culture, A Christian and Scholastic critique, London: Bums and Oates, 1942.
  • Eliade, M., The Myth of the Eternal Return, Pantheon, New York, 1955.
  • Emge, C. A. Nietzsche Werke und Briefe, Historisch-Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Munich, Beck, 1933.
  • Jaspers, Karl, Nietzsche and Christianity, Henry Regnery Company, A Gateway Edition, 1961.
  • Kaufmann, W., Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, AntiChrist, Princeton University Press, 1950.
  • Knight, A. H. J., Some Aspects of the Life and Work of Nietzsche, Cambridge, 1933.
  • Lea, F. A., The Tragic Philosopher: A Study of Nietzsche, Philosophical Library, New York, 1957.
  • Lubac, Henri De, The Drama of Atheist Humanism, (Trans. by E. Riley), London, Sheed and Ward, 1949.
  • Morgan, G. A., What Nietzsche Means, Harvard University Press, 1941.
  • Reyburn, H., with H. Hindersand, Nietzsche, the Story of a Human Philosopher, London, Macmillan Company, 1948.
  • Wright, W. H., What Nietzsche Taught, Huebach, 1915.

Published previously by THE PRIORY PRESS.

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