The Challenge of Eternal Recurrence
Kathleen O’Dwyer considers Nietzsche’s method of self-assessment.
“I am content to live it all again
And yet again…”
(Yeats, ‘A Dialogue of Self and Soul’)
Friedrich Nietzsche has been read and assessed differently by many commentators and students. Some consider that he was the first existentialist, putting forward ideas and arguments that were later developed by Jean-Paul Sartre and others; some consider that he was primarily a psychologist – an analyst and commentator of human behaviour and motivation, and a precursor of Freud; others see him as a radical poet, using a clever and sometimes shockingly abrupt aphoristic style to express his ideas; many label him as a madman, citing biographical details, particularly of his later years, as evidence that his work should not be taken seriously; and some ascribe to him the inspiration for the assumption of the superiority of the German race fostered by Hitler and the Nazis. As with all writers, in any endeavour to understand his thinking, the best place to start is the work itself. We can read Nietzsche’s own words, consider them with or without reference to biographical accounts, and decide for ourselves whether what he is saying is meaningful or relevant for us as individuals.
One of Nietzsche’s most interesting and challenging ideas is a method he offers for assessing one’s attitude to life.