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Nietzsche, Cosmodicy, and the Saintly Ideal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2015


In this essay I examine Nietzsche's shifting understanding of the saintly ideal with an aim to bringing out its philosophical importance, particularly with respect to what I call the problem of ‘cosmodicy’, i.e., the problem of justifying life in the world as worthwhile in light of the prevalent reality of suffering. In his early account Nietzsche understood the saint as embodying the supreme achievement of a self-transcending ‘feeling of oneness and identity with all living things’, while in his later account he viewed the saint as a representative of an unhealthy, life-denying ‘ascetic ideal’. This shift, I contend, is due in large part to Nietzsche's development of an ‘ethic of power’ as part of his turn against Schopenhauer's ethic of compassion, which needs to be seen in light of his ongoing effort to articulate and defend an adequate cosmodicy. My ultimate aim in this essay is to read the earlier Nietzsche against the later Nietzsche – with the help of Dostoevsky's novelistic depiction of the saintly ideal – and to suggest that when properly articulated the saintly ideal is able to provide a more adequate cosmodicy than that which is offered in Nietzsche's ethic of power.

Research Article
Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy 2015 

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1 Nietzsche's account of the ‘ascetic ideal’ has received much more attention in the scholarly literature. Although in his later philosophy Nietzsche understands the saint as a representative of the ascetic ideal, nevertheless, this literature does not account for the shift that took place in Nietzsche's understanding of the saintly ideal and its significance. On the ‘ascetic ideal’ see: Ivan Soll, ‘Nietzsche on Cruelty, Asceticism, and the Failure of Hedonism’, Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality: Essays on Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals, ed. Richard Schacht (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994); Christopher Janaway, Beyond Selflessness: Reading Nietzsche's Genealogy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), chs 8 & 13; Brian Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality. New York: Routledge, 2002), chs 7 & 8. One of the few instances in which Nietzsche's view of the saint has been explicitly addressed is in William James's lectures on ‘The Value of Saintliness’ in The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004 [1902]), 322–7), but unfortunately this fails to give evidence of any serious engagement with Nietzsche's writings and instead it depends in large part upon popular caricatures. Walter Kaufmann nicely sums up the failure of James's engagement with Nietzsche on the topic of the value of saintliness in Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1974 [1882/1887]), §373, n. 135.

2 I borrow the term ‘cosmodicy’ from Charles Guignon, who uses it to describe the problem put forward by Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (‘Introduction’, The Grand Inquisitor: with related chapters from The Brothers Karamazov [Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 1993], xxx). Ivan forcefully presents the problem of evil and suffering for theists and non-theists alike and then says he hands back his ‘ticket’ to life in the world. One might also recall here the well-known remarks at the beginning of Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus: ‘There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest […] comes afterwards’ (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O'Brien [New York: Vintage, 1991 (1942)], 3).

3 See Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, 4th ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), 175, 196, 252, 285, 322. Although Kaufmann notes that in Nietzsche's later works the ‘saint has dropped out of the picture’ and ‘those who achieve self-perfection’ have ‘taken the place of the saint’ as human exemplars, along with the philosopher and the artist, nowhere does he mention any shift in his understanding of the saint (285, 322). Instead, he only acknowledges Nietzsche's later account of the saint in terms of ascetic self-mastery, which he also (misleadingly) presents as encompassing Nietzsche's earlier account of the saint as well (252). Nowhere does Kaufmann cite Nietzsche's early description of the saint in ‘Schopenhauer as Educator’ as embodying the supreme achievement of a self-transcending ‘feeling of oneness and identity with all living things’.

4 The awareness of extensive suffering, we might say, is part of a general sense that the world is deeply ‘out of joint’.

5 The Gay Science, §357.

6 Untimely Meditations, trans. R.J. Hollingdale, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997 [1873–1876]), 157. Earlier in the second of the Untimely Mediations Nietzsche remarks: ‘If […] the doctrine of sovereign becoming, of the fluidity of all concepts, types and species, of the lack of any cardinal distinction between man and animal – doctrines which I consider true but deadly – are thrust upon the people for another generation with the rage for instruction that has by now become normal, no one should be surprised if the people perishes of petty egoism, ossification and greed, falls apart and ceases to be a people; in its place systems of individualist egoism, brotherhoods for the rapacious exploitation of the non-brothers, and similar creations of utilitarian vulgarity may perhaps appear in the arena of the future’ (112–3; my emphasis). Walter Kaufmann comments: ‘Nietzsche was aroused from his dogmatic slumber by Darwin, as Kant had been by Hume a century earlier; and again it was a question of creating a new picture of man in reply to the “true but deadly” nihilism from beyond the Channel’ (Nietzsche, 167; see also 136–7, 150–2, 161, 175, 246, 285, 329, where Kaufmann discusses the significance of Darwin for Nietzsche's thought).

7 Untimely Meditations, 157. Note that it is also distinctive of human life – as contrasted with the life form of non-human animals – that we are the kind of beings for whom the problem of cosmodicy arises. The deep human need to address this problem can be regarded as indicative of our distinctive nature as ‘meaning-seeking animals’.

8 Untimely Meditations, 159. Traditionally these three figures are seen as representatives of the human pursuit of truth (the philosopher), beauty (the artist), and goodness (the saint).

9 Untimely Meditations, 160.

10 Untimely Meditations, 161–2.

11 Untimely Meditations, 160–1; cf. The Birth of Tragedy, trans. Walter Kaufmann, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche (New York: The Modern Library, 2000 [1872]), 36–40.

12 In his discussion of ‘Saintliness’ in The Varieties of Religious Experience, James writes: ‘the best fruits of religious experience are the best things that history has to show. They have always been esteemed so; here if anywhere is the genuinely strenuous life; and to call to mind a succession of such examples […] is to feel encouraged and uplifted and washed in better moral air. The highest flights of charity, devotion, trust, patience, bravery to which the wings of human nature have spread themselves have been flown for religious ideals’ (230). James goes on to identify ‘saintliness’ as the ‘collective name for the ripe fruits of religion in a character’, which has the following characteristics: (1) a ‘feeling of being in a wider life than that of this world's selfish little interests; and a conviction, not merely intellectual, but as it were sensible, of the existence of an Ideal Power’; (2) a ‘sense of the friendly continuity of the ideal power with our own life, and a willing self-surrender to its control’; (3) an ‘immense elation and freedom, as the outlines of the confining selfhood melt down’; and (4) a ‘shifting of the emotional centre towards loving and harmonious affections, towards “yes, yes,” and away from “no,” where the claims of the non-ego are concerned’ (239–40). In short, saintliness represents the heights of human achievement in self-transcending love or concern for others.

13 On the Basis of Morality, trans. E.F.J. Payne (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1995 [1840]), 166.

14 On the Basis of Morality, 211.

15 In The Birth of Tragedy the emphasis is placed on the role of the artist: ‘it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified’ (The Birth of Tragedy, 52; cf. 35, 141). However, there are passages that point towards the saintly ideal as well; e.g., Nietzsche writes: ‘Under the charm of the Dionysian not only is the union between man and man reaffirmed, but nature which has become alienated, hostile, or subjugated, celebrates once more her reconciliation with her lost son, man. […] Now, with the gospel of universal harmony, each one feels himself not only united, reconciled, and fused with his neighbor, but as one with him, as if the veil of māyā had been torn aside and were now merely fluttering in tatters before the mysterious primordial unity’ (37; cf. 38, 40).

16 Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Walter Kaufmann, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche (New York: The Modern Library, 2000 [1886]), §51. Other passages that exemplify Nietzsche's later understanding of the saint include: Human, All Too Human, trans. R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986 [1878–1879]), §§136–44; Daybreak, trans. R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997 [1881]), §14, §113, §294; The Gay Science, §150; Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: The Modern Library, 1995 [1883–1885]), ‘Prologue’ §2, IV ‘On the Higher Man’ §13; Beyond Good and Evil, §47, §50, §271; On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale, in On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo (New York: Vintage, 1967 [1887]), III, §1; Twilight of the Idols, trans. Walter Kaufmann, in The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin, 1954 [1888]), ‘Morality as Anti-Nature’ §4; The Will to Power, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage, 1968 [1901]), §359.

17 On the Genealogy of Morals, III, §28.

18 See Beyond Good and Evil, §23; Twilight of the Idols, ‘Morality as Anti-Nature’ §1; On the Genealogy of the Morals, II, §18.

19 On the Genealogy of Morals, I, §6; cf. III, §17.

20 On the Genealogy of Morals, III, §1.

21 On the Genealogy of Morals, III, §28.

22 On the Genealogy of Morals, III, §11.

23 See Human, All Too Human, §§136–44.

24 On the Genealogy of Morals, ‘Preface’ §5.

25 Maudemarie Clark and Brian Leiter, ‘Introduction’, in Daybreak, xix.

26 On the Basis of Morality, 209.

27 On the Genealogy of Morals, ‘Preface’ §5.

28 Clark and Leiter, ‘Introduction’, xxii; see Human, All Too Human, §103.

29 Beyond Good and Evil, §36.

30 See Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I ‘On the Thousand and One Goals’, II ‘On Self-Overcoming’; Beyond Good and Evil, §225, §259; On the Genealogy of Morals, I, §13; The Antichrist, trans. Walter Kaufmann, in The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin, 1954 [1888]), §2; The Will to Power, §699, §702. I am indebted here to Bernard Reginster's interpretation of the doctrine of the will to power in The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), ch. 3. In this essay I am focusing on the ‘psychological’ aspect of this doctrine, which is intended to provide a unified account of human motivation. However, some of Nietzsche's texts suggest a wider ‘metaphysical’ or ‘ontological’ application of this doctrine. For instance, in a well-known passage from The Will to Power he says: ‘This world is the will to power – and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power – and nothing besides!’ (The Will to Power, §1067). This seems to suggest a monistic metaphysic of some sort. The status of this metaphysical or ontological aspect of the doctrine has been a point of debate among scholars (see Maudemarie Clark, ‘Nietzsche's Doctrines of the Will to Power’, Nietzsche (eds) John Richardson and Brian Leiter [New York: Oxford University Press, 2001]; John Richardson, ‘Nietzsche's Power Ontology’, Nietzsche (eds) Richardson and Leiter; and Kaufmann, Nietzsche, ch. 6); however, for the purposes of this essay I leave this issue aside and focus on the psychological aspect of the doctrine. As an account of human psychology, Nietzsche intends his doctrine of the will to power to supplant the doctrine of psychological hedonism, as can be seen in the following passage: ‘Man does not seek pleasure and does not avoid displeasure […]. [What] man wants, what every smallest part of a living organism wants, is an increase of power. Pleasure or displeasure follow from the striving after that; driven by that will it seeks resistance, it needs something that opposes it – Displeasure, as an obstacle to its will to power, is therefore a normal fact, the normal ingredient of every organic event; man does not avoid it, he is rather in continual need of it; every victory, every feeling of pleasure, every event, presupposes a resistance overcome’ (The Will to Power, §702; cf. Kaufmann, Nietzsche, ch. 9). Establishing this doctrine is in fact vital for Nietzsche's attempt to justify life in the world – as will be seen shortly – since if he can show that suffering or displeasure is in fact an essential ingredient in achieving human fulfillment, then he can overcome Schopenhauer's pessimism (see Beyond Good and Evil, §225).

31 I think Reginster convincingly shows that the fundamental instinct of the will to power ‘has the structure of a second-order desire: it is a desire whose object includes (first-order) desire. It is, specifically, a desire for the overcoming of resistance in the pursuit of some determinate first-order desire’ (The Affirmation of Life, 132). Common first-order desires mentioned by Nietzsche include sensual desire, avarice, lust to rule, vengefulness, desire to create, desire for self-esteem (i.e., pride), and so forth (see Twilight of the Idols, ‘Morality as Anti-Nature’ §1; Beyond Good and Evil, §23).

32 Beyond Good and Evil, §259. For most people this is obviously the more problematic aspect of Nietzsche's doctrine of the will to power as involving the overcoming of ‘resistance’.

33 The Antichrist, §2; cf. Reginster, The Affirmation of Life, 176–84.

34 See Beyond Good and Evil, §225.

35 See The Gay Science, §276, §357; Twilight of the Idols, ‘What I Owe to the Ancients’ §5; Ecce Homo, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale, in On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo (New York: Vintage, 1967 [1888]), ‘Why I am so Clever’ §10, ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ §2.

36 Here Nietzsche differs from Hume who also offers a critique of the ascetic ideal in his well-known comments about the ‘monkish virtues’ in his second Enquiry. Whereas Hume sought to replace religious aspirations with what he regarded as a self-sufficient life in pursuit of fame and fortune within polite, commercial society (conceived as a social order based on mutual benefit), Nietzsche offers an ideal of self-transcendence through power that goes beyond such a life and indeed calls it into question as a form of ‘wretched contentment’ (see Thus Spoke Zarathustra, ‘Prologue’ §§3–5).

37 Thus Spoke Zarathustra, ‘Prologue’ §§3–5, II ‘On Self-Overcoming’.

38 On the Genealogy of Morals, III, §18.

39 The Gay Science, §338; Thus Spoke Zarathustra, II ‘On the Pitying’.

40 Thus Spoke Zarathustra, II ‘On the Pitying’; The Antichrist, §7.

41 Beyond Good and Evil, §§259–60; On the Genealogy of Morals, passim.

42 See The Gay Science, §338; Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I ‘On the Love of Neighbor’; The Antichrist, §7.

43 The Antichrist, §7.

44 See Reginster, The Affirmation of Life.

45 The Antichrist, §7.

46 In the noble and powerful individual, Nietzsche says, ‘there is the feeling of fullness, of power that seeks to overflow, the happiness of high tension, the consciousness of wealth that would give and bestow: the noble human being, too, helps the unfortunate, but not, or almost not, from pity, but prompted more by an urge begotten by excess of power’ (Beyond Good and Evil, §260; cf. The Gay Science, §13; Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I ‘On The Gift-Giving Virtue’). With regard to good pity, he writes: ‘a man who has his wrath and his sword and to whom the weak, the suffering, the hard pressed, and the animals, too, like to come and belong by nature, in short a man who is by nature a master – when such a man has pity, well, this pity has value. But what good is the pity of those who suffer. Or those who, worse, preach pity’ (Beyond Good and Evil, §293; cf. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, II ‘On the Pitying’; The Will to Power, §367, §388). It is noteworthy that for Nietzsche there is nothing about the recipients themselves that makes them worthy of such beneficence (see Beyond Good and Evil, §60).

47 See The Gay Science, §13; Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I, ‘On the Gift-Giving Virtue’; Beyond Good and Evil, §259; The Will to Power, §388.

48 It other words, our sense of self is coextensive with that with which we identify.

49 My account of love here is indebted to Aristotle's account of the friend as ‘another self’ in the Nicomachean Ethics (IV.4–9), Josiah Royce's account of the ‘ideally extended self’ in The Problem of Christianity (IX-X), and Aquinas's account of the ‘love of friendship’ in Questions 26–28 of the First Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologiae (see especially Aquinas's discussion of the love of friendship in terms of ‘benevolence’ [q. 26, a. 4], ‘union’ [q. 28, a. 1], ‘mutual indwelling’ [q. 28, a. 2], and ‘ecstasy’ [q. 28, a. 3]).

50 It should be noted that communion is of course most fully realized when there is mutual love between persons, but we can speak of communion in any case where we affectively identify with the being and happiness of others.

51 As the word ‘communion’ suggests, there is a ‘co-union’ with others such that there is both unity and difference.

52 In general, Nietzsche's doctrine of the will to power, understood as an individual's drive to overcome internal and external resistances, involves an atomistic or individualistic mode of being related to others. For instance, he contends that love, whether in the form of the ‘love of neighbor’ or sexual love, is basically the same instinct as avarice: it is a kind of ‘lust for possession’ (The Gay Science, §14). There is no recognition here of the communal-self that I discussed above. Furthermore, Nietzsche often emphasizes the combative nature of human relationships and the value of having ‘good enemies’ (see Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I ‘On War and Warriors’, III ‘Old and New Tablets’ §21; On the Genealogy of Morals, I, §10, §13; Twilight of the Idols, ‘Morality as Anti-Nature’ §3). Even friendship is conceived of in these terms: ‘In a friend one should have one's best enemy. You should be closest to him with your heart when you resist him’ (Z I ‘On the Friend’; cf. Beyond Good and Evil, §260). This view of human relationships as fundamentally combative is responsible for some of the more troublesome consequences of his doctrine of the will to power when it is expressed in domination or exploitation of others (see Beyond Good and Evil, §259, cited above). Where Nietzsche does seem to allow for identification with others is with respect to the ‘overman’ or those powerful and creative individuals who demonstrate the possibility of great human achievements, which he believes provide a justification and higher significance for human existence (see Thus Spoke Zarathustra, ‘Prologue’ §3, I ‘On the Love of the Neighbor’). However, there is no suggestion by Nietzsche that love for or interpersonal communion with others, including with those who are weak and who suffer, might itself provide a justification and a higher significance for human existence precisely through the greater fullness of life that I have argued is experienced when we affectively include the being and happiness of others within our own extended sense of self. In fact, Nietzsche maintains that love for humanity as such is unintelligible once we have abandoned any divine sanction: ‘To love man for God's sake […] has so far been the noblest and most remote feeling attained among men […]. [The] love of man is just one more stupidity and brutishness if there is no ulterior intent to sanctify it’ (Beyond Good and Evil, §60; cf. Twilight of the Idols, ‘Skirmishes of an Untimely Man’ §5). It is indeed difficult to see how such love could be intelligible given Nietzsche's all-encompassing doctrine of the will to power.

53 It is important to note that my account of self-transcendence as the transcending of a lower mode of selfhood for a higher one can also be applied to Nietzsche's account of self-overcoming in which one's grows in self-empowerment.

54 We might think here of the case of Paul Gauguin, who abandoned his family in order to pursue his art in Tahiti. Did he act well? I think not. The case is discussed in Bernard Williams, Moral Luck (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), ch. 2 and John Cottingham, On the Meaning of Life (New York: Routledge, 2003), 25–31.

55 See, again, Cottingham, On the Meaning of Life, 25–31; cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, VIII.1 & IX.9.

56 Dostoevsky expresses his artistic goal of depicting a truly good person in two letters written while working on The Idiot: ‘For a long time already, there was one idea that had been troubling me, but I was afraid to make a novel out of it because it was a very difficult idea, and I was not ready to tackle it, although it is a fascinating idea and one I am in love with. That idea is – to portray of perfectly good man. I believe there can be nothing more difficult than this, especially in our time’ (Selected Letters of Fyodor Dostoevsky, trans. Andrew MacAndrew, (eds) Joseph Frank and David I. Goldstein [New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987 (1868)], 262). Likewise: ‘The idea for the novel is an old favorite of mine, but it was so difficult that for a long time I did not dare to tackle it, and if I have done so now it is only because I was in a state verging on despair. The main idea of the novel is to portray a positively good man. There is nothing more difficult in the world, and this is especially true today. All writers – not only ours but Europeans as well – who have ever attempted to portray the positively good have always given up. Because the problem is a boundless one. The perfect is an ideal, and this ideal, whether it is ours or that of civilized Europe, is still far from having been worked out. There is only one positively good figure in the world – Christ – so that the phenomenon of that boundlessly, infinitely good figure is already in itself an infinite miracle. The whole of the Gospel of Saint John is a statement to that effect; he finds the whole miracle in the Incarnation alone, in the manifestation of the good alone’ (269–70).

57 E.g., Liza in Notes from Underground, Sonya in Crime and Punishment, Prince Myshkin in The Idiot, Bishop Tikhon in Demons, Makar in The Adolescent, and Alyosha and Father Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov.

58 In a letter Dostoevsky writes: ‘The next book will cover the Elder Zosima's death and his conversations with friends before he dies. It is not a sermon but rather a story, the tale of his own life. If it succeeds I shall have done a good deed: I shall compel them to recognize that a pure, ideal Christian is not something abstract but is graphically real, possible, obviously present, and that Christianity is the sole refuge for the Russian land from all its woes. I pray God it may succeed, it will be a moving thing, if I only have enough inspiration. And the main theme is one that could not even occur to any of today's writers and poets, therefore something completely original. The whole novel is written for its sake, if it will only come off, that's what worries me now!’ (Selected Letters of Fyodor Dostoevsky, 759–60). Elsewhere he writes: ‘I don't know whether I succeeded. I reckon myself that I wasn't able to express one tenth of what I wanted. Nevertheless, I look upon this sixth book as the culminating point of the novel. Of course, many of Elder Zosima's exhortations (or one might better say the manner of their expression) belong to him, that is, to the way he is depicted artistically. Though I completely share the thoughts he expresses, if I had expressed them as coming from me personally, I would have expressed them in a different form and in different style. But he could not express himself either in a different style or in a different spirit than that which I gave him. Otherwise there would have been no artistic character’ (760).

59 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett, rev. Ralph E. Matlaw (New York: W.W. Norton, 1976 [1880]), 23.

60 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Garnett, rev. Matlaw, 267.

61 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Garnett, rev. Matlaw, 277.

62 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Garnett, rev. Matlaw, 279.

63 See Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), 452; Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2007), 16–7, 388–9, 680–5, 701–3.

64 On the idea of transfigured vision see Taylor, Sources of the Self, 441–55, where Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer are all discussed.

65 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Garnett, rev. Matlaw, 298.

66 Earlier Zosima says: ‘Every blade of grass, every insect, ant, and golden bee, all so amazingly know their path, though they have not intelligence, they bear witness to the mystery of God and continually accomplish it themselves. […] [The] Word is for all. All creation and all creatures, every leaf is striving to the Word, singing glory to God, weeping to Christ, unconsciously accomplishing this by the mystery of their sinless life’ (273–4). Human beings of course are not sinless because we have reason and with it a moral conscience (and thus sin becomes an appropriate category), but it is also in virtue of this that we bear the mark of the ‘Logos’ (i.e., the ‘Word’) in a special way as we are able to conscientiously strive after the ideal of Christ-like love (I will return to this point later). We can see here that Dostoevsky embraces a cosmic understanding of Christ as the ‘Logos’ by which all things were created and towards which all things by nature strive to be united (a key source of this understanding is of course the prologue to the Gospel of John).

67 When I say that ‘life is sacred’, I mean that all of life is worthy of reverence, though human life is typically seen to be sacred in a special way (often involving a claim of inviolability), just as God, for theists, is seen to be sacred or holy in an even more special way. Of course, one might also say that non-living things are also sacred, but not to the degree of living things. We might say that what this expresses is an evaluative version of the ‘great chain of being’.

68 Raimond Gaita has an illuminating discussion of the saintly behavior and attitude of a nun who came to visit a psychiatric ward at which he worked when he was seventeen. Gaita writes: ‘everything in her demeanour towards [the patients]—the way she spoke to them, her facial expressions, the inflexions of her body—contrasted with and showed up the behavior of those noble psychiatrists. She showed that they were, despite their best efforts, condescending, as I too had been. She thereby revealed that such patients were, as the psychiatrists and I had sincerely and generously professed, the equals of those who want to help them; but she also revealed that in our hearts we did not believe this’ (A Common Humanity [New York: Routledge, 1998], 18–9). In other words, what the nun revealed through her love was that ‘all human being are sacred’, i.e., ‘all human beings are inestimably precious’ (23; cf. 17–27).

69 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Everyman's Library, 1990 [1880]), 57–88; cf. 18, 26–7, 236–7. Zosima says: ‘active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. […] Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science’ (58).

70 Consider here the following remarks by Susan Neiman: ‘Nietzsche's paradigms of suffering sound more like weltschmerz than anything else. And weltschmerz may be acceptable where suffering is not. You may be willing to embrace pain in the course of a life that is richer than one where you feel very little at all. But your willingness may stop at the sort of pain that annihilates great souls instead of ennobling them. (To say that they wouldn't have been annihilated if they'd been greater is to beg too many questions, which Nietzsche sometimes does.) To put the problem differently: one can't help suspecting that Nietzsche sometimes imagined himself on the wrong side of the auto-da-fé. Embracing the evil involved in watching (not to mention causing) suffering is another matter than embracing what's involved when you're consumed by it’ (Evil in Modern Thought [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002], 223).

71 See n. 15.

72 The Gay Science, §357; cf. On the Genealogy of Morals, III, §27.

73 See, e.g., Cottingham, On the Meaning of Life, ch. 2.

74 Pragmatism (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1981 [1907]), 51; cf. 49–51. See also n. 12 above, which outlines James's account of the saintly ideal. He writes: ‘here if anywhere is the genuinely strenuous life’. And presumably here if anywhere is the genuinely joyous and life-affirming life (which is suggested by James's four characteristics of saintliness).

75 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky, 320.

76 Dostoevsky's Occasional Writings, trans. David Magarshack (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1997 [1864]), 305.

77 Dostoevsky's Occasional Writings, 306.

78 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky, 55.

79 E.g., on the best understandings of Judaism and Christianity the nature of love for God is such that it should lead to and arise from love and affirmation of the goodness of the world, rather than hatred and denial of it. This is clearly seen in the Jewish ideal of tikkun olam (i.e., repairing or healing the world) and the Christian ideal of agape (i.e., unconditional love for all). See the ‘Introduction’ to Taylor's A Secular Age, esp. at 16–7, where he describes well the relationship between the desire for ‘transcendence’ and the love and affirmation of the world that follows from it in Jewish and Christian traditions.

80 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky, 29.

81 The most memorable expression of this is by Dmitri Karamazov. He says to his brother Alyosha: ‘I want to tell you now about the “insects,” about those to whom God gave sensuality: “To insects – sensuality!” I am that very insect, brother, and those words are precisely about me. And all of us Karamazovs are like that, and in you, an angel, the same insect lives and stirs up storms in your blood. Storms, because sensuality is a storm, more than a storm! Beauty is a fearful and terrible thing! Fearful because it's undefinable, and it cannot be defined, because here God gave us only riddles. Here the shores converge, here all contradictions live together. I'm a very uneducated man, brother, but I've thought about it a lot. So terribly many mysteries! Too many riddles oppress man on earth. Solve them if you can without getting your feet wet. Beauty! Besides, I can't bear it that some man, even with a lofty heart and the highest mind, should start from the ideal of the Madonna and end with the ideal of Sodom. It's even more fearful when someone who already has the ideal of Sodom in his soul does not deny the ideal of the Madonna either, and his heart burns with it, verily, verily burns, as in his young, blameless years. No, man is broad, even too broad, I would narrow him down. Devil knows even what to make of him, that's the thing! What's shame for the mind is beauty all over for the heart. Can there be beauty in Sodom? Believe me, for the vast majority of people, that's just where beauty lies – did you know that secret? The terrible thing is that beauty is not only fearful but also mysterious. Here the devil is struggling with God, and the battlefield is the human heart’ (The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky, 108).

82 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky, 230–1. Nietzsche in fact also endorses a form of channeling desire towards a ‘higher end’: viz., he advocates ‘spiritualizing’ or ‘sublimating’ our natural instincts of sensuality, pride, lust to rule, avarice, vengefulness, and so forth, for the sake of great achievements of the will to power in overcoming internal and external resistances (see Twilight of the Idols, ‘Morality as Anti-Nature’ §1 & §3; cf. Kaufmann, Nietzsche, chs 7 & 8).

83 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky, 319.

84 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky, 314.

85 The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky, 319.

86 I would like to express my gratitude to Fiona Ellis, John Cottingham, Jerold Abrams, Jeanne Schuler, and Patrick Murray for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this essay.

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