Every year, the department honors the legacy and memory of CU Professor Honi F. Haber by hosting a distinguished speaker. This year, the department happily hosted Dr. Maudemarie Clark of UC Riverside on April 24, 2019. 

 

Nietzsche Yellow and Black

"Self-Portait As Young Nietzsche" painting by Basil Baroda

Nietzsche’s Nihilism

In the preface to the notes that constitute The Will to Power, Nietzsche claims that nihilism is coming and can no longer not come.  He adds that in telling us about the coming of nihilism, he is relating “the history of the next two centuries.” He also informs us that he himself has been a nihilist, but has now left it behind. But what is the nihilism to which Nietzsche refers?  It is usually taken to be a philosophical position, one claiming that nothing is of value, in particular, that human life is without value.  But we are well into the second century of Nietzsche’s prediction.  If the nihilism to which he refers is this philosophical position, his prediction that nihilism will become a society-wide problem seems off-base.  I argue that the nihilism of interest to Nietzsche is not, or at least not mainly, a philosophical position, but is instead a cultural condition in which things of true value cannot be appreciated as such.  The upshot of my account is two-fold: 1) that it was only in overcoming the naturalistic orientation that it has become standard to attribute to him (and that I once attributed to him) that Nietzsche left nihilism behind, and 2) that our current cultural and political situation is well on its way to the kind of nihilism with which Nietzsche was particularly concerned.

Poster for Nietzsche's Nihilism lecture and Nietzsche plush  N2  N3  N4

Topics of past lectures have included "Public Artworks in Public Spaces: A Paradoxical Criterion for their Evaluation" and  "Addicts' Stories and Knowledge: Epistemic Authority in Effective Treatment".