Life-Affirming

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1. WHAT IS LIFE-AFFIRMING?

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Nietzschean affirmation  also known as affirmation of life, is a concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The best example of this concept can be found in Nietzsche’s The Will to Power:

If we affirm one single moment, we thus affirm not only ourselves but all existence. For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness and sounded like a harp string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this one event—and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed.

— Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Will to Power (Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale translators). New York: Random House, 1967. pages 532–533

Walter Kaufmann wrote that Nietzsche “celebrates the Greeks who, facing up to the terrors of nature and history, did not seek refuge in “a Buddhistic negation of the will,” as Schopenhauer did, but instead created tragedies in which life is affirmed as beautiful in spite of everything.” Schopenhauer’s negation of the will was a saying “no” to life and to the world, which he judged to be a scene of pain and evil. “[D]irectly against Schopenhauer’s place as the ultimate nay-sayer to life, Nietzsche positioned himself as the ultimate yes-sayer….” Nietzsche’s affirmation of life’s pain and evil, in opposition to Schopenhauer, resulted from an overflow of life. Schopenhauer’s advocacy of self-denial and negation of life was, according to Nietzsche, very harmful.[7] For his entire mature life, Nietzsche was concerned with the damage that he thought resulted from Schopenhauerian disgust with life and turning against the world.

Jacques Derrida allocates this concept and applies it specifically to language, its structure and play. This application acknowledges that there is, in fact, no center or origin within language and its many parts, no firm ground from which to base any Truth or truths. This shock allows for two reactions in Derrida’s philosophy: the more negative, melancholic response, which he designates as Rousseauistic, or the more positive Nietzschean affirmation. Rousseau’s perspective focuses on deciphering the truth and origin of language and its many signs, an often exhaustive occupation. Derrida’s response to Nietzsche, however, offers an active participation with these signs and arrives at, in Derridean philosophy, a more resolute response to language.

In “Structure, Sign, and Play”, Derrida articulates Nietzsche’s perspective as:

… the joyous affirmation of the play of the world and of the innocence of becoming, the affirmation of a world of signs without fault, without truth, and without origin which is offered to an active interpretation.

Essentially, Derrida not only fosters Nietzsche’s work but evolves it within the sphere of language; in doing so, Derrida acquires and employs Nietzsche’s optimism in his concept of play: “the substitution of given and existing, present, pieces” (292). Much of this spirit resides in the abandonment of any sort of new humanism. This acceptance of the inevitable allows for considerable relief—evident in the designation of the loss of center as a non-center—as well as the opportunity to affirm and cultivate play, which enables humanity and the humanities “to pass beyond man and humanism” (292).

Amor fati (lit. “love of fate”) is a Latin phrase that may be translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary.[1]

Amor fati is often associated with what Friedrich Nietzsche called “eternal recurrence”, the idea that, over an infinite period of time, everything recurs infinitely. From this he developed a desire to be willing to live exactly the same life over and over for all eternity (“…long for nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal”).

The concept of amor fati has been linked to Epictetus. It has also been linked to the writings of Marcus Aurelius, who did not use the words (he wrote in Greek, not Latin). However, it found its most explicit expression in Nietzsche, who made love of fate central to his philosophy. In “Why I Am So Clever” Ecce Homo, section 10, he writes:

“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.”

The phrase is used elsewhere in Nietzsche’s writings and is representative of the general outlook on life that he articulates in section 276 of The Gay Science:

“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who makes things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”

Nietzsche in this context refers to the “Yes-sayer”, not in a political or social sense, but as a person who is capable of uncompromising acceptance of reality per se.

Nietzsche’s love of fate naturally leads him to confront the reality of suffering in a radical way. For to love that which is necessary, demands not only that we love the bad along with the good, but that we view the two as inextricably linked. In section 3 of the preface of The Gay Science, he writes:

“Only great pain is the ultimate liberator of the spirit….I doubt that such pain makes us ‘better’; but I know that it makes us more profound.”

Nietzsche does not promote suffering as a good in itself, but rather as a precondition for good. A ‘single moment’ of good justifies an eternity of bad, but one extreme cannot have meaning without the other. In Will to Power, he writes:

“For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness and sounded like a harp string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this one event—and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed.”

The French philosopher Albert Camus spoke of a desire to accept and even come to love difficulty along with ease, or at least to not ignore it. In The Myth of Sisyphus (“Return to Tipasa”), he writes:

“What else can I desire than to exclude nothing and to learn how to braid with white thread and black thread a single cord stretched to the breaking-point?”.

Camus, like Nietzsche, held his embrace of fate to be central to his philosophy and to life itself. Summarizing his general view of life in the above work, Camus further spoke of:

“a will to live without rejecting anything of life, which is the virtue I honor most in this world.”

2. WHAT IS THE ESSENTIAL DIALECTIC OF LIFE-AFFIRMING?

The Essential Dialectic of Life-Affirming is:

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3. WHAT IS THE INTERMEDIARY DIALECTIC OF LIFE-AFFIRMING?

The Intermediary Dialectic of Life-Affirming is:

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4. WHAT IS THE COMPLETE DIALECTIC OF LIFE-AFFIRMING?

The Complete Dialectic of Life-Affirming is:

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