Nietzsche's Existentialism Summary

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Chapter 1
1.0 Introduction
Existentialism as a doctrine is hard to pin down using a single definition. “Existential thought is not another branch on the philosophical tree along with metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, ethics, and politics, but rather a lens through which these topics can be viewed.” Existential philosophy is concerned with the kind of existence we have, as opposed to the kind of existence had by rocks, plants, and animals.
Sartre’s claim “existence precedes essence” is a pivotal idea in the context of existentialism. To understand this idea, one must go back to the idea of “essence” that is most closely associated with Plato. Plato asserted that all things have a predefined set of characteristics that help fulfil its purpose.
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He ‘studied the nature of the human condition as an important philosophical problem’; which can be used as a broad definition of existentialism. His works are utterly complex and thus susceptible to vastly diverse interpretations.
Nietzsche does not write directly of angst but he highlights the human fear of truth and our incorrect grasp on freedom. He suggests that we rely on the simplification of the truth, attempting to concretize concepts in a world where there is no actual objectivity. He states that absolute truth is an illusion and the search for certainty, displayed by Descartes, is born of out of fear. We deceive ourselves by reinterpreting phenomena such that life is more bearable.
He is claimed to be a nihilist by many and while it is unclear how apt that term would be, he writes about the ‘devaluation of the highest values’. This concept opens a door for the human to give meaning to one’s own existence and that of the world with no prior instructions. All cultures seek to give an ultimate meaning and purpose to life, Nietzsche emphasizes, and for this he is termed a nihilist, that humanity lacks basic aim, an inherent meaning, and thus it is up to culture (which includes religion) to compensate and enforce values and goals on
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He states that the moral code is an effort to curb the strength of the fortunate, instead of a result of rational concern for others. In Beyond Good and Evil, he describes this effort as a practice used by Christianity and other religious organizations to make people sacrifice their will and freedom, protect and preserve the weakness in humans which should be overcome. Nietzsche believed that the values of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ do not hold actual value as the idea that a person deserves a punishment for not acting differently than they did is “an extremely late and subtle form of human
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