McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Anaximander, Heraclitus, Nietzsche, Parmenides, Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Schopenhauer
Friedrich Nietzsche's unfinished 1873 manuscript, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, has been long overlooked by scholars. The piece is ostensibly a philological work, detailing the lives of Pre-Platonic philosophers. What I show in my work, however, is that Nietzsche is actually using the figures of the early Greeks to deal with philosophical problems that remain germane throughout his entire corpus, notably the relation of temperament to one's philosophical outlook and the attempt to deal with the pessimism of Schopenhauer. The former problem is examined by viewing the Pre-Platonic philosophers as "philosophical archetypes" whose "unmixed" outlooks are the result of their monolithic characters. These primordial philosophical types have recurred throughout the history of philosophy, albeit in diluted forms. The first of these archetypes to be examined is Anaximander, whom Nietzsche sees as the original pessimist: a proto-Schopenhauer. Nietzsche's Anaximander poses the question of why things pass away and then insists that it is because they deserve to be annihilated. Those who do not wish to be gloomy pessimists in the Schopenhauerian vein henceforth must find a way to justify the seeming injustices of the world of becoming. Nietzsche provides two contrary characters to show how philosophers have dealt with the Anaximandrian problem. The first is Heraclitus, for whom Nietzsche is unambiguous in his admiration. Heraclitus celebrates the vicissitudes of becoming, seeing the conflict and impermanence as being justice itself. This leads to the Heraclitean metaphors of justice as competition, fire, and a child at play. Nietzsche's writing on Heraclitus is particularly interesting since it shows Nietzsche's own attempts to escape from the Schopenhauerian worldview that he had long held, but ultimately would reject. The other figure who attempts to deal with the problem of Anaximander is Parmenides. While Heraclitus dealt with becoming by celebrating it, Parmenides denies it, reducing the world of perception to a mere illusion and inventing a second world of being where the horrors of becoming are absent. According to Nietzsche, this misstep has informed most subsequent philosophers, causing them to prefer eternal being over temporal becoming.
Mountenay, C. (2013). In the Shadow of Anaximander: Philosophical Temperaments and Schopenhauerian Pessimism in Nietzsche's Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/955