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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Camus on Nietzsche’s Rebellion

In The Rebel, Albert Camus discusses Friedrich Nietzsche in detail. He presents Nietzsche as the philosopher who has understood that nihilism is the decisive crisis of modernity. But Nietzsche’s nihilism is not without moral restraints and it aims to be the fountainhead of a rebellion. Nietzsche believed that one can only create good or evil by first destroying all values. In The Genealogy of Morals, he says, “To raise a new sanctuary, a sanctuary must be destroyed, that is the law.”

Here’s an excerpt from Camus’s essay, “Metaphysical Rebellion,” (The Rebel, Page: 41):
Nietzsche’s philosophy, undoubtedly, revolves around the problem of rebellion. More precisely, it begins by being a rebellion. But we sense the change of position that Nietzsche makes. With him, rebellion begins at ‘God is dead’ which is assumed as an established fact; then rebellion hinges on everything that aims at falsely replacing the vanished deity and reflects dishonour on a world which undoubtedly has no direction but which remains the only proving-ground of the gods. Contrary to the opinion of certain of his Christian critics, Nietzsche did not form a project to kill God. He found Him dead in the soul of his contemporaries. He was the first to understand the immense importance of the event and to decide that this rebellion among men could not lead to a renaissance unless it were controlled and directed. Any other attitude towards it, whether it were regret or complacency, must lead to the apocalypse. Thus Nietzsche did not formulate a philosophy of rebellion, but constructed a philosophy on rebellion. 
Camus points out that Nietzsche’s idea of freedom rests on the idea of duty. Nietzsche understood that real emancipation is only possible when there is acceptance of new obligations. A free mind is not a comfort; it is something that can only be achieved through a long struggle. Camus says in his essay (Page 44):
If nothing is true, if the world is without order, then nothing is forbidden; to prohibit an action, there must, in fact, be a standard of values and an aim. But, at the same time, nothing is authorized; there must also be values and aims in order to choose another course of action. Absolute domination by the law does not represent liberty, but nor does absolute freedom of choice. Chaos is also a form of servitude. Freedom only exists in a world where what is possible is defined at the same time as what is not possible. Without law there is no freedom. If fate is not guided by superior values, if chance is king then there is nothing but the step in the dark and the appalling freedom of the blind. At the conclusion of the most complete liberation, Nietzsche therefore chooses the most complete subordination. ‘If we do not make of God’s death a great renunciation and a perpetual victory over ourselves, we shall have to pay for that omission.’ In other words, with Nietzsche, rebellion ends in asceticism. 
The acceptance of what is necessary is a sign of freedom for Nietzsche (Page 46):
The free mind willingly accepts what is necessary. Nietzsche’s most intimate concept is that the necessity of phenomena, if it is absolute, does not imply any kind of restraint. Total acceptance of total necessity is his paradoxical definition of freedom. The question ‘Free of what?’ is thus replaced by ‘Free for what?’

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