The Idea of Eternal Return in the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

This life, as you live it now and as you have lived it, you will have to live once more and countless times more. And there will be nothing new about it, but every pain and every pleasure, and every thought and sigh, and everything unspeakably small and great in your life must come back to you, and all in the same series and sequence.” This is the description Friedrich Nietzsche uses to portray the idea of etemalrecurence famously presented in the pronouncement from a demon, For Nietzsche, eternal recurrence is a hypothetical situation in which every small minute detail of one’s life would be repeated in the same order and sequence for al of eternity Thatis, every humiliating, jubilant and even distressing aspect of one’s lie would have to be relived indefinitely with no hope of alt ng cither the events themselves or the sequence within which they occurred

The significance of this idea of eternal recurrence lies not in the realm of this being an actual possibility.

Nietzsche lays forth this idea of eternal recurrence not as a metaphysical claim, but rather as a way of evaluating and determining one’s viewpoint and feelings about their own life, That is for Nietzsche, the value of the eternal recurrence doctrine lies in the reaction of the listener upon hearing the demon’s news.

For instance, if you are instantly distraught over the news of eternal recurrence, this is almost certainly a sign that you are not living your li a way that you find fulfilling, Instead, if you were to find yourself rejoicing over the demon’s news of your life’s continued recurrence than itis equally as likely that the life you have led up to this point has been fulfilling to you.

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the obvious value of the demon’s advice in determining the value of one’s life up until now, its real value comes in helping the listener determine how they would like ta live the rest of their life. By this Nietzsche hopes the listener will begin (olive the rest of their life in a way that they would accept the doctrine of eternal recurrence. In this way, even though the doctrine of eternal recurrence is not true, Nietzsche hopes that this idea of being forced to infinitely relive one’s life one’s entirety will influence mankind to begin to live their life in a way that they would find pleasing were they given the demon’s news. That is, Nietzsche hopes that the demon’s news would not send the listener into a spiral of despair, but rather that it would enlighten the listener to the point that they may even feel a sense of necessity that alters their life in a way that they find it more fulfilling In this way the demon’s news is dually significant in jot only provides a blueprint th which to measure our fulfillment with our past/present, but also a mode with which to base our future actions.

One interesting component of the passage containing the demon’s news is its relationship with some of the other main points found in The Gay Science, One such idea is Nietzsche’s explanation of religion known as perspectivism. Nietzsche views perspectivism as a process by which the viewpoint of something is gradually shaped by an outside interpretation of it, That is, Nietzsche makes the argument that every viewpoint is merely the viewer”s interpretation of it He explains this idea by describing how the ideas of Jesus shaped Christianity by placing value on humility as opposed to the poor reputation traditionally heaped upon those who were poor. Not only was Jesus able to spread this complete change of philosophy to those around him, but he changed this belief system in a way that the glorification of humbleness has now become a basic tenet of Christianity, Nietzsche’s classification of perspectivism is important as some of the basic tenets ofthisi could easily be attributed to the demon’s news. This relationship appears in that a sense of perspectivism is apparent in the self-reflection Nietzsche hopes to inspire by the demon’s news. That is, much in the same way that Jesus’ declaration on humbleness changed how Christians viewed their humbleness, Nietzsche hopes that the demon’s news that man is forced to relive their life’s details for all eternity would significantly alter the way the listener views his own life, ‘Thus this thinking revolves around the idea that a man would regard his life differently were he forced to eternally reliving his precious moments.

Also, the main tenant of perspectivism that every view is merely an interpretation is mirrored in the demon’s news. For example, someone who had lived an unfulfilling life up to this news would view this news with a sense of despair and agony. Meanwhile, those who had lived their lives in a way they found rewarding would view the demon’s news of eternal recurrence in an extremely positive way and rejoice at the news of being able to repeat their “greatest hits”. In thiswaya,y the main aspects of perspectivism is very much apparent in Nietzsche’s tale of the demon’s news: This parcel of perspectivism included in the demon’s tale shows the connectedness of Nietzsche’s writings however it is not the only example of this phenomenon found throughout the demon’s tale.

Another example of this which was readily available in the demon’s tale was the presence of the idea of becoming who you are which was another central theme in Nietzsche’s writing, This idea is found in the demon’s tale in a slightly altered fashion as it perhaps corresponds better become what you value”. That is in light of the demon’s news, and even greater importance is placed on living one’s life (or at least the rest of it) in a way that would not fill one with dread was they gave the news that it would be eternally repeated. This is in a way an advancement of Nietzsche’s earlier idea of becoming who you are in that a basic understanding of this concept is necessary to understanding the overall argument moral of the demon’s tale, In this way, Nietzsche’s concept about “becoming what you are is just as if not more critical o the demon’s news as his ideas concerning perspectivism.

The final aspect of the demon’s news which is important to examine is whether the notion of eternal recurrence makes life absurd or meaningful, Some would claim that since there is a possibility that you are already on “repeat” this idea of eternal recurrence lends itself to the absurdity of life in that no matter what one hopes‘accomplishes, they are subject 10 merely reaching the point at which they had already reached in their past life. Though this idea of being forced to repeat one’s past repeatedly does carry with it a definite air of absurdity, this point is irrelevant to the overall effect of eternal recurrence, Though it is undoubtedly true that if one were living in a subsequent repeat life that said life would surely be absurd, however, the greater issue lies in the possibility that this is nota repeat life I the very le on the many-go- round”. This is a much greater issue given that if this is one’s first life, one would undoubtedly want to make the most of it were they bound to repeat it for eternity. For this reason, the even, minute possibility that one’s current life is their first life is more than enough to support the idea that one should make the absolute most of one’s experiences, thus allowing life’s meaningfulness vastly outweigh the cloud of life’s absurdity which may approach as a result of the news of eternal recurrence.

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The Idea of Eternal Return in the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. (2022, Jun 13). Retrieved from

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