Nietzsche: Loving existence even though it’s horrifying and absurd
A review of Keith Ansell Pearson’s How to Read Nietzsche (2005) at The Journal of Nietzsche Studies features the following paragraph, which, with its focus on Nietzsche and its description of a worldview based on tragedy and horror, is a quintessential example of the type of writing that has unfailingly arrested me with a hypnotic fascination for the past 20 years:
Noting that unlike Aristotle, philosophy for Nietzsche does not begin with wonder but horror, Ansell Pearson commences with a crucial and striking interpretation. Rarely is it emphasized and both analytic and continental commentators often neglect it. The tragic realization is that existence is simultaneously horrifying and absurd, and it is Silenus who utters the crushing assessment that it would have been best for us had we not be born at all, while to die as soon as possible would be the next best thing. Thus begins Nietzsche’s battle, which might be characterized as a lifelong agon with Silenus, who perhaps more than Homer, Socrates, or Christ had to be confronted and overcome. For even if Christianity is overcome, Silenus would still remain. He is the fierce specter haunting Nietzsche, whose philosophy in part is an antidote to Silenus’ exceedingly nihilistic vision of existence. From this pivot, and it is a decisive one to travel from, the journey through Nietzsche’s philosophy is initiated. It is philosophy as sublimity, thus one that requires great courage to live up to. It does not suffer optimists like Socrates but demands figures like Zarathustra or the Übermensch, free spirits capable of confronting the pessimistic dimension of existence and not being overcome by resignation, but loving life in its horrific and questionable entirety.
For more about Nietzsche on the horror of existence, see my post from last October titled, appropriately enough, “Nietzsche on the horror of existence,” which continues to draw a steady stream of traffic.
Also note that the first chapter of Pearson’s book is titled “The Horror of Existence,” which primes me, at least, to acquire a copy. Then there’s Philip J. Kain’s Nietzsche and the Horror of Existence — but good luck finding out much about it online.