• Who Murdered God? Diagnosing Nietzsche's Madman

A Pearl Lecture Series Event by Daniel W. Conway, Texas A&M University

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
4:00-5:30 pm
10th floor Large Conference Room (10-100), 73 Tremont St

The Philosophy department is happy to announce a lecture in the Pearl Lecture Series by Daniel W. Conway, Professor and Chair at Texas A&M University, entitled, "Who Murdered God? Diagnosing Nietzsche's Madman."

A short accompanying reading is available here to prepare you for the lecture: "The Madman" (Nietzsche. The Gay Science, section 125). All are welcome! Please contact Genia Cherkasova at echerkasova@suffolk.edu with questions.  Sponsored by the Philosophy Department and the Pearl Lecture Series in Philosophy and Public Affairs.

From Conway:

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?,” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this?...”
—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125

No philosopher is more closely associated with the cause of atheism than Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Widely recognized for announcing the “death of God,” Nietzsche is often cited as the philosophical champion par excellence of atheism. This recognition is equally distributed, moreover, across those who applaud Nietzsche for his audacity and those who revile him for what they take to be a gratuitous attack on the authority of the Christian church. As it turns out, however, Nietzsche’s relationship to atheism was not as uncomplicated as his friends and foes would have us believe. Although deeply critical of the psychological and emotional costs incurred by practitioners of Christian morality, Nietzsche was uniquely attentive to the integral role played by Christian morality in the development and survival of Western civilization.

The complexity of Nietzsche’s relationship to Western theism is nowhere more evident than with respect to his most famous—or infamous—teaching: the “death of God.” Drawing on recent research (e.g., Pippin, Univ. of Chicago Press, 2010), I hope to show that Nietzsche intends this teaching to explain why his contemporary and late modern readers are not yet prepared to embrace a thoroughgoing atheism. In fact, or so I maintain, Nietzsche’s announcement of the “death of God” is meant to prepare his best readers for a calamitous transitional period, perhaps lasting centuries, in which they will neither renounce nor renew their fading belief in God. Nietzsche’s teaching of the “death of God” thus marks the commencement of a twilight period in human history, wherein the belief in God will become increasingly irrational and incredible, yet unshakable nonetheless. Through no choice or fault of our own, but owing to a long tradition of acculturation that is nearing the point of exhaustion, we late moderns continue to cleave to practices and routines that are indicative of a belief that we no longer deem worthy of resolute investment.

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