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Philosophy, Literature, and the Dissolution of the Subject

Nietzsche, Musil, Atay

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Zeynep Talay

If philosophy has limits, what lies beyond them? One answer is literature. In this study, rather than seeing literature as a source of illustrations of philosophical themes, the author considers both philosophy and literature as sometimes competing but often complementary ways of making sense of and conveying the character of ethical experience. She does so through an analysis of ideas about language, experience and ethics in the philosophy of Nietzsche, and of the way in which these themes are worked out and elaborated in the writings of Robert Musil and the Turkish novelist Oğuz Atay.
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Chapter II: Nietzsche’s Remedy

Extract

This chapter is devoted to Nietzsche’s remedy for the decline of modern man. It centres on the idea of a ‘trying’ or experimental morality; this in turn is related to the idea of philosophy as an art of living. This latter is a Stoic idea and so in the first section (II. ii) I give a synopsis of Nietzsche’s relationship with Stoic ethics. In the second section (II.iii) I focus on the sovereign individual as it appears in Genealogy (1887), a book that Nietzsche wrote in his so-called later period, some five years after The Gay Science in which we encounter the thoughts of amor fati and eternal return.

In formulating his own conception of philosophy as an art of living Nietzsche is indebted to Stoicism. Especially during his so-called ‘Free Spirit Trilogy’ period (Human, all too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science) he refers to the Stoics numerous times, adopting a form of Stoic therapy in Daybreak (1881). Although The Gay Science (1882) contains a critique of Stoic therapy and also of Stoic cosmology, he can no less avoid a dialogue with the Stoics than he can with Spinoza. In this section I will not give a detailed account of Stoic philosophy, but rather focus on Stoic ethics, central to which are ideas of self-mastery and the care of the self.

We saw in the last chapter that Nietzsche detected a root of the decline of modern man in Christian – or slave – morality, and that...

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