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Eternal Recurrence and Nietzschean Nihilism: Adding Weight to Our Decisions?

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[E]ternal recurrence means that every time you choose an action you must be willing to choose it for all eternity. And it is the same for every action not made, every stillborn thought, every choice avoided. And all unlived life will remain bulging inside you, unlived through all eternity. And the unheeded choice of your conscience will cry out to you forever. (“Nietzsche” in Irvin Yalom’s When Nietzsche Wept)Nietzsche was a nihilist. He rejected the truth of normative and evaluative statements. That said, the exact kind of nihilism he favoured is a matter of some dispute (a dispute I touched upon in a previous article). Furthermore, despite his commitment to nihilism, a lot of Nietzsche’s philosophy was dedicated to moving beyond it. He wanted to show how life is still possible in the shadow of nihilism. Indeed, on one reading, it is possible to argue that Nietzsche saw nihilism as a great opportunity for humankind. Instead of passively accepting the values that are foisted upon us by cultural tradition, we can now actively create our own value systems. This could bring new hope to our lives.Key to this was the doctrine of eternal recurrence. This doctrine showed how to add weight to our decisions in a nihilistic world. According to this doctrine, whenever you make a decision, you should imagine that you will have to make that decision over and over again (i.e. that there will be infinite replays of the decision). You should then choose whichever option you would be willing to choose across all of those replays. In other words, don’t go with one option for the sake of it and hope that you’ll get a chance to choose another option at a later replaying; pick the option that stands up to scrutiny over and over again.Nietzsche may have believed that eternal recurrence was a real thing, and that our lives really do replay themselves an infinite number of times. But that’s not strictly speaking necessary to the usefuless of eternal recurrence as a decision. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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