The Eternal Recurrence

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The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Three Times Great » Wed Apr 15, 2009 7:05 am

does Nietzsche's concept of the eternal recurrence of the same mean that he LITERALLY claimed this was a physical reality-- that everything LITERALLY 'recurrs' or returns again and again, in a real, materialistic fashion, for all of "eternity"? or, is the concept used by Nietzsche more as a thought-experiment, a hypothetical or metaphoric argument? is it a way of thinking which can lead to higher truths, or is it a literal ASPECT OF REALITY that Nietzsche was describing?

i remember reading somewhere (i think in Zarathustra?) that the eternal recurrence "redeems" man from the meaninglessness or hopelessness of life, after god has died and we have abandoned all false beliefs in the other-wordly; if this is the case, could Nietzsche be using the eternal recurrence as a sort of replacement for an afterlife vision? i find this hard to believe, that Nietzsche would utilize a concept he did not think a literal truth merely for its emotional value as a false meaning (better a false meaning than no meaning at all?), but then again i also find it hard to believe that someone so carefully thoughtful and adherent to what he considered REALITY or real truth (as opposed to false ideals or fantasy) would come to advocate such a strange concept as eternal recurrence... basically, i dont really see how the idea is helpful to his overall philosophy unless he is concerned with "making it easier" for man to transition out of his older false beliefs in made-up fantasy afterworlds; and if this is the case, then it doesnt sound much like Nietzsche, who was so seemingly-uncaring about "dumbing down" his philosophy or truths to common levels.

so... did Nietzsche sense or understand that man had so far invested so much of his NEED in purpose beyond himself, that if then he were to come to believe that "all comes to an end in the grave", that he would suffer from complete hopelessness and nihilism? or, as seems more likely, did he truly believe that the "eternal" and cyclical nature of material/energy change leads to everything being born again and again, in its exact same form?

IF this is the case, that Nietzsche did truly believe this, then:

    1) i dont see how its really relevant to anything in his philosophy of overcoming (if anything it still seems closer to a comforting belief in the afterwordly), and

    2) i dont really buy the idea itself-- nothing can be "exactly" the same as it was before, because the EXACT causal conditions which brought about the thing the first time can NEVER occur again, not even given infinite time.

this is because a complete RESTART IN IDENTICAL FASHION of time itself, the 'beginning' of time, would be needed to produce identical causality... basically, even if, in say 1 trillion years, another universe arises which produces earth, and produces me typing this exact sentence on this exact computer, its still not ME in a literal sense, its a "copy" or facsimile of me, like a 'clone' maybe... in order to be ME, literally, it would have to BE me, which is impossible because I HAVE DIED a trillion years previously.

how, then, does the eternal recurrence of the same, given that we assume Nietzsche's literal belief in it as a material fact of existence, affect our understanding of identity? no two hydrogen atoms, despite being identical subatomic 'copies' of one another (possessing identical or exact sameness of structure/components) are literally THE SAME hydrogen atom..! so why would we belive in the eternal recurrence of the same? is it the same form, rather than a sameness of identity, that is described by the idea?

and once again, given that we DO believe literally in the idea, how/why is it so essential to grasping Nietzsche's philosophy, particularly in Zarathustra, where the concept of eternal recurrence seems so central to the overall 'meaning' or intent of the writing? basically (and i have to admit that this could only be my as-of-yet limited understanding of his philosophy and its full implications) even if i accept that everything will "recurr" again and again, forever and ever, why should i even care? why should it even matter to me or my life?

...really, i just dont see how replacing a belief in one "eternity" (Heaven) with another eternity (Eternal Recurrence) accomplishes much, particularly in light of the rest of Nietzsche's philosophy, and in light of the fact that when we die, we die, regardless whether or not "everything comes again"...
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Faust » Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:32 pm

Nietzsche is the Anti-Kant. Where Kant prescribes universality - in the Categorical Imperative, Nietzsche substitutes a kind of personal, individual "forever". Nietzsche makes no prescriptions that can apply to everyone - but here he makes one that applies to the individual, "absolutely". Instead of "act as if everyone should", it's "act as if you're stuck with the act forever."

It's an absolute that's not a universal.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Three Times Great » Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:48 pm

Faust wrote:Nietzsche is the Anti-Kant. Where Kant prescribes universality - in the Categorical Imperative, Nietzsche substitutes a kind of personal, individual "forever". Nietzsche makes no prescriptions that can apply to everyone - but here he makes one that applies to the individual, "absolutely". Instead of "act as if everyone should", it's "act as if you're stuck with the act forever."

It's an absolute that's not a universal.


i agree that Nietzsche's ideas are quite at odds with kant's, often diametrically opposed, but im looking more for what exactly the eternal recurrence is, and why Nietzsche thought it was so important to his philosophy.

it seems you are affirming that Nietzsche literally was saying that "yes, every thing will come again an infinite number of times", but i still dont see how this changes anything, or why it should matter at all.... its not going to be literally ME that "recurrs" in the future, but at most a "duplicate copy" of my material structure, which seems completely meaningless to me... what difference if a living entity in trillions of years arises which is structurally the same as me now, or structurally different? it doesnt affect me at all either way, and its completely irrelevant to my life.

and as i said, i still think the idea of recurrence is NOT a logical necessity, even given infinite time, which is also not a logical necessity...
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Faust » Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:00 pm

it seems you are affirming that Nietzsche literally was saying that "yes, every thing will come again an infinite number of times",


No, I'm not. I'm saying he made it up.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Three Times Great » Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:03 pm

another thought i just had... if everything which is possible, will occur an infinite number of times, then it doesnt even matter "what i do" or who i become/overcome, if we are taking the eternal look at things... if Zarathustra overcomes himself and achieves overman status, then in the future Zarathusrtra-'copies' will exist infinite numbers of times, an infinite number of them becoming overmen and an infinite number of them failing to become overmen.

however, if Zarathustra (now) does NOT overcome himself and achieve overman status, then, well the future is exactly the same, with the same infinite number of 'copies' of "himself" achieving any and every possible "becoming" infinite times.

basically, the idea of eternal recurrence seems to destroy any meaning or causality that we may have going into the future, because "its all going to happen anyways infinite times"... why does what i do NOW, matter so much to Nietzsche, and, the fundamental question is:

why does Nietzsche think that what i do NOW is going to "echo through infinity" more than what i fail to do now???

it seems you are affirming that Nietzsche literally was saying that "yes, every thing will come again an infinite number of times",
No, I'm not. I'm saying he made it up.


i know, i meant that you are saying that HE thought it was a literal truth, and not just a metaphor or parable.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby matty » Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:10 pm

I don't think it's right to see the Eternal Return as an actual thing, a feature of the material world. Like I think Faust is sort of saying, it's rather a way of founding each act of affirmation, for itself, in the moment. Instead of saying "this moment will come again and exactly the same", what Nietzsche was saying, I think, is "anything could happen, by necessity".
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Faust » Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:22 pm

How are we to act with no absolute moral guide? We are to act as if our actions are permanent, even if they are not. It's a useful lie.

it's rather a way of founding each act of affirmation,


That much, matty, I agree with.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Three Times Great » Wed Apr 15, 2009 9:07 pm

ok... well, maybe its just me, but Nietzsche doesnt seem one to compose willing "lies" just because they may be useful... thats kinda my point, that im starting with the premise that he is NOT lying about the eternal recurrence, and so assuming he honestly believes it as a literal material fact of reality, WHY does he believe it, what purpose does it serve/why is it necessary to his philosophy (assuming a rejection of "it makes us feel better", which isnt a need that i think Nietzsche would have cared to recognize, let alone define his ideas)?

and even if it is for emotional or "spiritual comfort" in the absence of any other "morality", that still doesnt explain why Nietzsche comes to advocate the idea of eternal recurrence in the first place. if you think he literally believed it, which it seems you do, then tell me more than "it feels good" as his reason for buying into it...
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Diekon » Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:09 pm

Although he wanted to do away with religion, traditional morality, metaphysics, and all unearthly idols basicly, he did recognize that they had been a driving force for humanity throughout history no matter how misguided, a pressure that enabled man to rise above himself. With the dead of God, no one REALLY believed anymore, these didn't do much anymore in this sense. He was afraid man would fall into nihilism. Man isn't really made to be entirely free from these kind of pressures, so he set out to create new, more earthly, fictions, like the ubermensch and the eternal return to fill this void.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Sauwelios » Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:30 pm

Three Times Great wrote:does Nietzsche's concept of the eternal recurrence of the same mean that he LITERALLY claimed this was a physical reality-- that everything LITERALLY 'recurrs' or returns again and again, in a real, materialistic fashion, for all of "eternity"? or, is the concept used by Nietzsche more as a thought-experiment, a hypothetical or metaphoric argument? is it a way of thinking which can lead to higher truths, or is it a literal ASPECT OF REALITY that Nietzsche was describing?

1. In his notebooks, Nietzsche does present it as fact.
2. I used to be-lieve in it (but then I used to be a fanatic).
3. I now think its value lies in being the supreme life-affirmation formula.

It is a metaphysical teaching, and that alone is enough to not take it literally.


2) i dont really buy the idea itself-- nothing can be "exactly" the same as it was before, because the EXACT causal conditions which brought about the thing the first time can NEVER occur again, not even given infinite time.

That is indeed how Nietzsche presents it in (some of) his notebooks. But that is not right. The eternal recurrence is about time as a circle, not time as an infinite line with repeating segments.


this is because a complete RESTART IN IDENTICAL FASHION of time itself, the 'beginning' of time, would be needed to produce identical causality...

According to the doctrine, there was no beginning of time.


basically, even if, in say 1 trillion years, another universe arises which produces earth, and produces me typing this exact sentence on this exact computer, its still not ME in a literal sense, its a "copy" or facsimile of me, like a 'clone' maybe... in order to be ME, literally, it would have to BE me, which is impossible because I HAVE DIED a trillion years previously.

According to the doctrine, there has never been an original occurrence which then started to re-occur endlessly, but the original occurrence is a recurrence. There is only one "you" on the circle (or rather, only one "life of TTG").


how, then, does the eternal recurrence of the same, given that we assume Nietzsche's literal belief in it as a material fact of existence, affect our understanding of identity? no two hydrogen atoms, despite being identical subatomic 'copies' of one another (possessing identical or exact sameness of structure/components) are literally THE SAME hydrogen atom..!

They do not even posses identical or exact sameness of structure/components (logically as well as according to Nietzsche).


so why would we belive in the eternal recurrence of the same? is it the same form, rather than a sameness of identity, that is described by the idea?

The question is: why would we be-lieve in it (in the original etymological sense of "hold dear"; why would we hold dear to it)? It is theoretically possible, so we can hope it's true. But why would we hope it's true?

    [H]ow well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?
    [GS 341.]


and once again, given that we DO believe literally in the idea, how/why is it so essential to grasping Nietzsche's philosophy, particularly in Zarathustra, where the concept of eternal recurrence seems so central to the overall 'meaning' or intent of the writing? basically (and i have to admit that this could only be my as-of-yet limited understanding of his philosophy and its full implications) even if i accept that everything will "recurr" again and again, forever and ever, why should i even care? why should it even matter to me or my life?

What matters is that there is really only this life, eternally only this life (the exact way it goes). This world is the will to power---and nothing besides.---


...really, i just dont see how replacing a belief in one "eternity" (Heaven) with another eternity (Eternal Recurrence) accomplishes much, particularly in light of the rest of Nietzsche's philosophy, and in light of the fact that when we die, we die, regardless whether or not "everything comes again"...

The difference is that Heaven is not the will to power and nothing besides. Also, "life" in Heaven is supposed to describe an infinite straight line; life on earth describes a circle, finite in all dimensions.

Actually, though, the circle is not finite in all dimensions:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/human_superhuman/message/267

P.S.: As Heidegger says, the will to power is Nietzsche's central teaching; not the eternal recurrence.
"Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process which has led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated. But would such a repetition of the process--a new lease of life for man's humanity--not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again?" (Leo Strauss, "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero".)
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Diekon » Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:02 pm

The couch patato usually isn't metaphysical...
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Faust » Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:32 am

3X-
ok... well, maybe its just me, but Nietzsche doesnt seem one to compose willing "lies" just because they may be useful... thats kinda my point, that im starting with the premise that he is NOT lying about the eternal recurrence, and so assuming he honestly believes it as a literal material fact of reality,


Nietzsche speaks of useful lies all the time. Even of necessary ones.

if you think he literally believed it, which it seems you do


Are you addressing me here? I don't think he literally believed it. As I said, I think he made it up.

I would love a passage or two from N's notes, Sau.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby amor fati » Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:09 am

Of the Vision and the Riddle p.2 wrote:
...
'Behold this gateway, dwarf!' I went on: 'it has two aspects. Two paths come together here: no one has ever reached their end.

'This long lane behind us: it goes on for an eternity. And that long lane ahead of us - that is another eternity.

'They are in opposition to one another, these paths; they abut on one another: and it is here at this gateway that they come together. The name of the gateway is written above it: "Moment".'


^ any ya'll understand that?

many men of distinction have said that very same thing in many different ways, and it is part of what it is to will one's fate with love - amor fati

amor fati, at bottom, means the same thing as 'thy will be done'

the same idea is also found at the essence of kierkegaard's notion of willing of single thing - any ya'll see that?
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby amor fati » Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:10 am

i think many miss the point entirely here

but that's just me
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Three Times Great » Thu Apr 16, 2009 7:15 am

amor fati wrote:
Of the Vision and the Riddle p.2 wrote:
...
'Behold this gateway, dwarf!' I went on: 'it has two aspects. Two paths come together here: no one has ever reached their end.

'This long lane behind us: it goes on for an eternity. And that long lane ahead of us - that is another eternity.

'They are in opposition to one another, these paths; they abut on one another: and it is here at this gateway that they come together. The name of the gateway is written above it: "Moment".'


^ any ya'll understand that?

many men of distinction have said that very same thing in many different ways, and it is part of what it is to will one's fate with love - amor fati

amor fati, at bottom, means the same thing as 'thy will be done'

the same idea is also found at the essence of kierkegaard's notion of willing of single thing - any ya'll see that?


af, i understand the idea of 'love of fate' and willing onesself to what is, or to ones "destiny" or however you want to phrase it. however, the idea of eternal recurrence is NOT necessary for that willing. thats my point, that the entire metaphysical idea of eternal recurrence seems absurd, and is superfluous and unnecessary even when we are understanding "amor fati".

the idea that two paths, infinitely from the past and infinitely into the future, converge on the present moment, isnt necessary to understand amor fati. nor is this picture necessary for one to "will" himself and his destiny, nor to will an "acceptance of what is"... it seems that Nietzsche is using the idea of eternal recurrence as a sort of crutch, to give us some kind of EXTRA reassurance or PURPOSE (eternal-- i.e. metaphysical, beyond man) in the face of the apparent meaninglessness of life without god and eternal life. my point, is that this seems very uncharacteristic for Nietzsche.

i am open to the idea that i still do not understand the significance of the eternal recurrence idea for "willing onesself and ones destiny" or amor fati, because its easier for me to believe that i just dont grasp the necessity or depth of the idea rather than believe that Nietzsche broke down and decided he needed an eternal heaven to make sense of life, but so far, no one has been able to explain to me WHY this eternal recurrence is necessary or even helpful to Nietzsche's philosophy. if you think that its an essential aspect, and that it carries truth or wisdom or significance for "willing ones destiny" or whatever, then please, explain to me why this is. because like i said, i find it more likely that i just dont understand it, but so far no one else seems to either...

we are born, we live, and we will die. thats it. i see no evidence that there is a heaven, and certainly no evidence that "i will come again and again for ever and ever"... its an absurd notion, because even IF we choose to believe it, it doesnt change anything NOW, in THIS moment or in our lives... we will still die, and even if in the future, some copy of "me" recurrs, its not going to be ME, literally. saying otherwise, that it will be me literally "born again", is just positing an "eternal soul" and thus a reincarnation, both things that i know for a fact Nietzsche rejected.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Jakob » Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:52 am

3G, your observation that, assuming everything will recur infinitely, not only this self, this decision, this moment will occur again and again, but also an infinity of other selves, decisions and moments, seems critical to the theory of the recurrence, in that it really disarms it of it's commanding power. I find it likely he would have hated your observation.

To the question as to why he found it necessary he gives an answer somewhere, unfortunately I can' t remember where but I recently read it. It comes down to him not being able to accept that the glory of what he is experiencing in the moment is passing forever. It just doesn't make sense to him, it isn't real enough for him when it isn't eternal.

The unexpected thing is that he openly admits to avail himself of such non-arguments when he wants something to be true or false. Compare: "But that I may reveal my heart entirely unto you, my friends: if there were gods, how could I endure it to be no God! Therefore there are no gods." (Zarathustra, the Happy Isles).
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Three Times Great » Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:08 am

Jakob wrote:3G, your observation that, assuming everything will recur infinitely, not only this self, this decision, this moment will occur again and again, but also an infinity of other selves, decisions and moments, seems critical to the theory of the recurrence, in that it really disarms it of it's commanding power. I find it likely he would have hated your observation.

To the question as to why he found it necessary he gives an answer somewhere, unfortunately I can' t remember where but I recently read it. It comes down to him not being able to accept that the glory of what he is experiencing in the moment is passing forever. It just doesn't make sense to him, it isn't real enough for him when it isn't eternal.

The unexpected thing is that he openly admits to avail himself of such baloney arguments on seemingly critical issues: I want it to be so, therefore it is. Compare: "But that I may reveal my heart entirely unto you, my friends: if there were gods, how could I endure it to be no God! Therefore there are no gods." (Zarathustra, the Happy Isles).


please show me a quote from Nietzsche's work as evidence for your claim that "not being able to accept that the glory of what he is experiencing in the moment is passing forever. It just doesn't make sense to him, it isn't real enough for him when it isn't eternal"... i find this very hard to believe, but only because i cannot recall any passages or writings of Nietzsche that hint at this underlying belief of his.

if the idea of eternal recurrence does not mean that "everything, in every possible way, will recurr again and again, infinite times in infinite ways", then what does it mean?

that only those things we DO recurr infinitely? maybe possibility isnt a part of the idea, but i believe i read that it is. i agree that the idea that 'all which is possible will occur' destroys any validity or "power" to the theory of recurrence, in that it doesnt matter what we do now... however, stripping the theory of this aspect of actualization of infinite possibilities doesnt seem justified, since the theory is based on the infinity of time and energy, which will reorient themselves in every conceivable way, given enough time, and that THIS infinite number of combinations of energy is what gives rise to recurrence itself!

if Nietzsche, or anyone else, wants to believe in or advocate for the idea of eternal recurrence, without this aspect of infinite combinations of energy via infinite time/cycles, then there needs to be found another mechanism by which infinite recurrence manifests. more importantly than why do things recurr, then, is HOW does this happen?

i can understand, and even defend, the idea that, given infinite time, perhaps all possible combinations/orientations of energy will be actualized, but as you said, this destroys the supposed meaning of eternal recurrence, in that recurrence serves as justification that "what we do NOW, we will do (will to do) forever and ever"-- so. given that this explanation of the mechanism of recurrence fails, what then remains the reason WHY and HOW eternal recurrence exists?

we cannot avoid this question, unfortunately. it would be nice to just say "well, Nietzsche wanted to feel good about life, the answer HOW doesnt matter", but i dont consider this satisfactory. Nietzsche may well have had a human lapse in strength of character and broken down, needing a further JUSTIFICATION and mystical afterwordly explanation for WHY we should will what we will (other than that it IS our will, after all!), but for our sake here, and especially not knowing for sure what Nietzsche's motivations were, we must find if we can justify the idea of eternal recurrence at all, in light of Nietzsche's overall philosophy...

given that we cannot, which is my assumption, then the idea fails... in which case, the question becomes: is Nietzsche's philosophy of willing and overcoming/becoming fatally wounded by the death of the eternal recurrence?

i believe that it is not; however, i am open to different interpretations here, once the initial question of eternal recurrence has been satisfactorily answered (which, as of yet, it has not).
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Sauwelios » Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:36 am

Faust wrote:3X-
ok... well, maybe its just me, but Nietzsche doesnt seem one to compose willing "lies" just because they may be useful... thats kinda my point, that im starting with the premise that he is NOT lying about the eternal recurrence, and so assuming he honestly believes it as a literal material fact of reality,


Nietzsche speaks of useful lies all the time. Even of necessary ones.

if you think he literally believed it, which it seems you do


Are you addressing me here? I don't think he literally believed it. As I said, I think he made it up.

I would love a passage or two from N's notes, Sau.

Well, for instance:

    My teaching says: the task is, so to live that you must wish to live again---you are going to in any case!
    [Nachgelassene Werke 1881-86; found in George Morgan, 'What Nietzsche Means'.]

There are more, but I'd have to translate them myself.
"Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process which has led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated. But would such a repetition of the process--a new lease of life for man's humanity--not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again?" (Leo Strauss, "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero".)
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Sauwelios » Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:41 am

Jakob wrote:3G, your observation that, assuming everything will recur infinitely, not only this self, this decision, this moment will occur again and again, but also an infinity of other selves, decisions and moments,

But not an infinity of different other selves; that is, a finite number of other selves, decisions, and moments will also recur infinitely.

This is of course only if we regard time as an infinite line with repeating segments (as Nietzsche does often present it, in his notebooks at least),---not if we regard it as a circle.
"Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process which has led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated. But would such a repetition of the process--a new lease of life for man's humanity--not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again?" (Leo Strauss, "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero".)
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Diekon » Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:48 am

Three Times Great wrote:we are born, we live, and we will die. thats it.


If you hold this view, we are born, we live and we die, there isn't really a point in doing anything. I mean, why would you bother with anything, "I could do this and that, but i'm going to die anyway, so who cares...". People usually don't consistently hold this life-encompassing perspective, and I bet you don't either. They do get caught up in brooding over the past, faults, regrets,... and creating all kinds of delusion hope-scenario's, status, succes,... in fear of the future. All these things are a basis for acting, without it we wouldn't do anything. But what kind of perspective we take, is not a matter of truth or logic. Where the chain is cut, is arbitrairy really. I mean, you can only look a couple of days back and ahead, you can look months ahead... or you can look to the end of the universe. You can look at something from a societal perspective, a personal perspective or something in between. Or you can look to get a seat in the promissed afterlife. We invariably take these as real and act on them, and so we're all deluding ourself in some way or another. The eternal return is a way at looking at the world, I guess, where the moment gets a whole lot more importance. If we are to delude ourself, we might as well do it good :-D.

I don't think there's more to it, that's my take on it anyway.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Jakob » Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:01 am

"He who has a why to live can bear almost any how"
This might also be applied to the theory. There is a reason why he wants it to be true, a why - so how it is true doesn't really matter.

I don't have the quote for you yet. I will keep looking, but I have no idea where it was. The strange thing is that I had never read it before. I hope I didn't dream it.
If you really want to conceive of a mechanism by which the eternal recurrence might apply to especially that which one does do in this existence, you have to turn your epistemology on it's head. Instead of thinking in objectivity, think from a purely subjective perspective. That means that all physics go out of the window, and the egocentric, solipsist psyche takes the role of prime mover, cause of causes.

No, the rejection of the recurrence does by no mean invalidate his philosophy of overcoming. Nietzsche is not a (supposedly) mathematical philosopher, not a Kant or a Plato, where everything (supposedly) fits together in one grand formula. In fact, the attempts he does make to such an overarching doctrine, such as this eternal recurrence, and to a lesser extent the will to power as well, produce the weakest links in his thinking. Except that they're not really links, because he is not an IF - THEN thinker. The root of these doctrines is not his logic but more likely the drives of his christian heritage, atavisms, a desire for monism and eternity. Impressively, in most of his work he was able to overcome this instinct.

Sauwelios wrote:But not an infinity of different other selves; that is, a finite number of other selves, decisions, and moments will also recur infinitely.

This is of course only if we regard time as an infinite line with repeating segments (as Nietzsche does often present it, in his notebooks at least),---not if we regard it as a circle.

The only reason infinite time and finite matter produces the eternal recurrence of the same is that it produces the eternal recurrence of every single possible combination of particles.
Yes, you're right, this is a finite number.
What difference does it make if we see time as a circle or a line?
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Three Times Great » Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:09 am

sauw,

so... the idea then is that time is a circle, going round and round for an eternity, and that every point on the circle corresponds to a specific configuration of energy (thought/decision/action/identity/etc), and that ONLY those points on the circle of time (i.e have already been done before) will recurr forever... and in addition, that our willing is capable of ADDING more 'points' on the circle, therefore whatever we do or will becomes eternal, but ONLY what we do or will?

this seems to paint a picture that the circle is getting larger all the time, without end. time is always repeating or coming back to a "point" in the cycle where it was before, but with vast new information than before... so this seems to spawn an infinite series of ever-expanding causality, given infinite time-- unending creation of multiple universes-- which, while never actualizing EVERY possibility, nonetheless manifesting as a branching tree to eternity, with infinite numbers of events and configurations exponentially respawning over and over, creating more and more, forever and into eternity...?

seems far-fetched, at best... but its the only comprehensive or coherent understanding of eternal recurrence that i can come up with, save the whole "whatever is possible, occurs" scenario, which i already demonstrated we can rule out as being counter-productive and self-annihilating to Nietzsche's philosophy.

Diekon wrote:If you hold this view, we are born, we live and we die, there isn't really a point in doing anything. I mean, why would you bother with anything, "I could do this and that, but i'm going to die anyway, so who cares...". People usually don't consistently hold this life-encompassing perspective, and I bet you don't either. They do get caught up in brooding over the past, faults, regrets,... and creating all kinds of delusion hope-scenario's, status, succes,... in fear of the future. All these things are a basis for acting, without it we wouldn't do anything. But what kind of perspective we take, is not a matter of truth or logic, where the chain is cut is arbitrairy really. I mean, you can only look a couple of days back and ahead, you can look months ahead... or you can look to the end of the universe. You can look at something from a societal perspective, a personal perspective or something in between. Or you can look to get a seat in the promissed afterlife. We invariably take these as real and act on them, and so we're all deluding ourself in some way or another. The eternal return is a way at looking at the world, I guess, where the moment gets a whole lot more importance. If we are to delude ourself, we might as well do it good .

I don't think there's more to it, that's my take on it anyway.


"and so we're all deluding ourself in some way or another", exactly my point. exactly.

if we KNOW that its a delusion, then why in the hell are we CHOOSING it??? how deluded, how irrational, how absurd must we creatures be, to see a falsehood and embrace it, because it "feels good"? if this is the case, with anyone, they are worse than the blind religious zealot, who actually BELIEVES what he preaches. your talk here of "If we are to delude ourself, we might as well do it good" is nothing less than the complete, utter and willful destruction of the human mind, the human intelligence and of human life itself.

and i refuse to believe that Nietzsche stooped to this level. yes, most, if not practically all people do stoop to this level. we think "if it all ends when i die, theres no point", and therefore justify our beliefs in fairy-tales and imaginary fantasylands in the clouds with an old guy in a white robe and beard. BUT, if we are of the priviledged few with the intellectual fortitude and clear-headedness to see that its all an illusion, then we are PRIVILEDGED to be the only ones to see the truth... and why not embrace it, no matter how unsavory it at first seems? its TRUE. T R U E ! do you get it? dont you know what that word means??

here is the real truth, if you want it (and Nietzsche understood this as well): you dont need fantasies and made-up ideal fabricated beliefs or lies to have purpose or meaning in your life; its YOUR life, you are ALIVE, right now! you breathe, you think, you move, you desire, you enjoy, you love, you live! THIS IS ALL THE PURPOSE WE NEED!

our life NOW cannot be justified just because that life will exist sometime in the future, this is just self-defeating and self-contradictory, that we live NOW to live TOMORROW, and then tomorrow, we will live for the day AFTER tomorrow.... meaningless.

at some point, everything comes to an end, all energy is recycled, every universe, every heaven, ends. nothing lasts forever, everything is dynamic, changes, there is no stable or static configuration, stasis is a lie... THIS IS TRUE. wishing it away wont do anything but transport you to a la-la-land of lies and meaninglessness, of self-defeating and life-destroying NIHILISM-- and worse, a willing nihilism.

you are your purpose in life! you live, you are alive, and that is the meaning of life; to live. enjoy it, thrive, grow, transcend, define yourself! what else can there be? nothing lasts forever... and indeed, even if it did, then THAT single fact would be the one true thing to undermine and destroy all meaning and purpose in life.

nothing other than a forever unending eternity could truly rob life of its meaning, purpose and joy.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Three Times Great » Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:13 am

Jakob wrote:The only reason infinite time and finite matter produces the eternal recurrence of the same is that it produces the eternal recurrence of every single possible combination of particles.


yes. i am inclined to agree, and this is the reason why i initially reject eternal recurrence at all, because even if true, it is self-defeating in Nietzsche's philosophical ideas (i.e. it creates no purpose, but only destroys it).

however, i did come up with the above (previous post) alternative explanation of eternal recurrence, which does not need to posit a "eternal recurrence of every single possible combination of particles"...
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Jakob » Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:22 am

Three Times Great wrote:if we KNOW that its a delusion, then why in the hell are we CHOOSING it??? how deluded, how irrational, how absurd must we creatures be, to see a falsehood and embrace it, because it "feels good"? if this is the case, with anyone, they are worse than the blind religious zealot, who actually BELIEVES what he preaches. your talk here of "If we are to delude ourself, we might as well do it good" is nothing less than the complete, utter and willful destruction of the human mind, the human intelligence and of human life itself.

and i refuse to believe that Nietzsche stooped to this level

You should really read The Birth of Tragedy. In this, his first work, he explains how classical, Apollonian culture came to be as a deliberately artificial construct against what was true up to that point - the cruel savagery of nature and the surrounding barbaric customs.

By a holy lie, the Greeks changed truth. In doing so, they created the most beautiful and lasting products of the human mind.
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Re: The Eternal Recurrence

Postby Sauwelios » Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:34 am

Jakob wrote:
Sauwelios wrote:But not an infinity of different other selves; that is, a finite number of other selves, decisions, and moments will also recur infinitely.

This is of course only if we regard time as an infinite line with repeating segments (as Nietzsche does often present it, in his notebooks at least),---not if we regard it as a circle.

The only reason infinite time and finite matter produces the eternal recurrence of the same is that it produces the eternal recurrence of every single possible combination of particles.
Yes, you're right, this is a finite number.

The way I see it, the eternal recurrence does not depend on temporal infinity.


What difference does it make if we see time as a circle or a line?

A circle has a finite length (from point A to point A); a (straight) line is infinite (and therefore non-sensical).
"Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process which has led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated. But would such a repetition of the process--a new lease of life for man's humanity--not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again?" (Leo Strauss, "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero".)
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