PHL 206
Instructor: Dr. Bob Zunjic

Friedrich Nietzsche

Selections from

Twilight of the Idols

An Outline


Title: The book was written in 1888 and published next year (the last book Nietzsche saw while still sane). The title is an indirect parody of Wagner's pompous "Twilight of the Gods".
Meaning: "Idols" are, for Nietzsche, abstract, permanent and self-identical concepts of philosophers. In Nietzsche's view, these concepts are "concept-mummies" since they are deprived of history, change and life. Since philosophers worship them as a sort of idols they could be called "idolators of concepts".
A prospect for true appreciation of becoming and appearance, that is to say, for life itself which is nothing else but growing and decaying, is now being opened with Nietzsche's unmasking of philosophical "Egypticism". The twilight of idols announces the fall of everything that was denying life and its forces.
Maxims Maxims and Arrows
  These maxims are difficult to interpret given their brevity and aphorostic style.
Psychology (1) Idleness is the beginning of psychology.
This is a reference to the German proverb: "Idleness is the beginning of all vices." While the folklore condones the condition of keeping busy as an antidote for vices Nietzsche endorses psychological considerations that arise out idle observations. And yet, a p;sychology of the philosophical mind should not be dismissed if it is, as Nietzsche wants it to be, an illuminating and critical study.
  The original title of the work: "A Psychologist's Leisure, or the Idle Hours of a Psychologist", suggests that Nietzsche himself aspires to undertake such an analysis. Strange and unorthodox ideas occur exactly in idle hours. But they are not worthless and deprived of insight. If they are called vices it is so only because they oppose common and superficial opinions.
The Problem of Socrates For Nietzsche, Socrates is embodiment of all philosophers, or better to say their ineptness for life.
  To live means to be sick, sick to death. In Nietzsche's eyes this is sick.
'Reason' in Philosophy Nietzsche unveils the idiosyncrasies of philosophizing in order to show that philosophy performs a series of unnatural operations.
(1) Aversion toward becoming, respect for being and constancy.
(2) Rejection of history, worship of eternity.
(3) Relegation of appearance to deception, extollment of substance.
(4) Accusation of the senses and the body, recognition of reason.
A Fable  


We all have killed God.


How have we done it? How a God can die?

How did we drink up the sea = infinity?

How did we wipe away the horizon = the framework?

How did we loose the earth from its sun = the center?


We have accomplished all these impossible things by ceasing to believe in the existence of a supra-sensible world up there. We have killed God by rejecting the transcendent world ("the holiest and the mightiest" we have possessed) as the true norm of our moral conduct.

Weapon: Our dissecting "knife" = sciences.
Time-Frame: The Modern Age.
Process: This event is an ongoing movement (burial/putrefaction), not a momentary incident.
Implicit Consequences:

(1) We have absorbed divine infinity into infinite human progress.

(2) We have given up the religious framework of evolution and history.

(3) We have placed the source of meaning into human creativity. We make our decisions without relating them to God. We have rendered the belief in God unbelievable. Void.


"God" in Nietzsche's pronouncement denotes:

(a) The center and the foundation of everything.

(b) The source of ideals, values, ends.

Outcome: God is dead. The center does not hold any more. It's getting "cold" and "dark". Emptiness. Disorientation.

Our Options:

(a) Nihilism. Despair. Suicide.

(b) Preserved Faith (churches as the tombs and monuments of God).

(c) New Creativity. Self-overcoming.

Prodigious Event: Yes, everything is permitted now, but this is a great chance to start "a higher history than any history hitherto".
Premature Message: Most people are not yet ready to positively accept and understand the magnitude of the "great event". Deeds need time.
Morality as Anti-Nature  
Four Great Errors  

Unheard Boldness:

"Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods?"



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