Well, now that school has started, my time is divided into two main categories: reading for school, and procrastinating from reading for school. That said, I try to carve out a little time once a day for exercise, mindless TV, and reading before bed (yup, more reading). I have one rule about reading before bed: no reading schoolwork. That is not to say, however, that I can't read philosophy! (just not philosophy I am currently working with for school!) the past week or so, I have been reading existential philosophy before bed each night. It's not really the same as reading regular philosophy; existential philosophy is much more lyrical and interesting to read, and a lot less dry and theroy-laden as most philosophical texts. Existentialism is the philosophy of existence; many "existential philosophers" would not consider themselves philosophers at all (Dostoevsky, Ortega, Sartre), and many would certainly not appreciate being labelled as anything, much less existentialist.
Often when I tell someone that I am a philosophy major, they ask me the question, "Who is your favourite philosopher?" I usually respond that I haven't studied enough to answer that knowledgably, but that my main areas of interest are in ethics/bioethics, feminist theory, and existentialism. Well, I think I'm going to go out on a limb from now on and name someone, even though my studies are incomplete in regards to philosophy in general as well as being incomplete in regards to the work of this philosopher in particular. So here goes, the big announcement: my favourite philosopher is Friedrich Nietzsche.
Nietzsche defies description. He is many things: peri-existentialist (not quite existentialist, but if there had been no Nietzsche, there would be no existentialism), nihilist, athiest, cynic, psychologist, gifted writer, philosopher. Nietzsche is most certainly a major figure in literature and philosophy, and his work is cutting, brilliant, egotistical, and foreceful.
I'd like to share a famous passage from "The Gay Science" with you, The Madman. *excerpt from Existentialism from Dostoevksy to Sartre, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann, Meridian Books, 1975
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, "I seek God! I seek God!" As many of those who do not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Why, did he get lost? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his glances.
"Whither is God?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. All of us are his murdereds. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its moving sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not laterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever will be born after us – for the sake of this deed he will be part of a higher history than all history hitherto."
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke and went out. "I come too early," he said then; "my time has not come yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering – it has not yet reached the ears of man. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars – and yet they have done it themselves."
It has been related further that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said to have replied each time, "What are these churches now if they are not tombs and sepulchers of God?"