I gave a short introductory lecture for my new class on Existentialism last Friday. I thought it proper to begin with philosophers that class took up with me a year ago: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Supposedly the fathers of Existentialism, without them knowing it, it was interesting to note some of the similarities between the two creators. Some analogues to note:
Kierkegaard :: Nietzsche
- The Test of Abraham :: The Death of God
- Anxiety, dread, fear and trembling :: the abandonment of God and nihilism
- The teleological suspension of the ethical :: the transvaluation of values towards a philosophy which is Beyond Good and Evil
- The priority of choice and decision (Either/Or) :: the test of the eternal recurrence (will I choose my life over and again?)
- Freedom :: responsibility for one's self
- The Knight of Faith :: the Overman
But as I told them: The knight's offering and sacrificing need not be a dissolution or destruction of the self. Recalling Augustine (with whom they are more familiar with): the more we approach God the nearer we come to our true selves. God is interior intimo meo--more nearer to me than my innermost self. That is to say, deep down the recesses of my self I find God; or in the desert of the Godhead I find my wandering self (Eckhart).
The paradox of faith is that the more I allow myself to be destroyed by God, the more I am re-created into my true self. Whence Matthew's paradox: "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 10:39). In the time of my greatest destruction and need, I had only one prayer: Destroy me fully so you can renew me completely.
Overcoming one's self is rather tedious and difficult because I may not have enough will and power to do so, which may stem ultimately because I do not know what overcoming myself is for. But the man of faith, to follow this line, is him who is clear to himself that there is a goal and a purpose. He has an intentional object, an aim, a reason--to make God happy. This gives his endeavors and actions meaning and unity. "Purity of heart," says Kierkegaard, "is to will one thing."