Seton Hall University

In the Core This Week: Nietzsche  

Photo of Frederick NietzscheIn Core II this week, many students may be reading Friedrich Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals, in excerpts. This work is an important part of the "dialogue" aspect of Christianity and Culture in Dialogue, as Nietzsche strongly critiques religious faith as a guiding force, particularly in the form in which we find the morality that comes from the Judaeo-Christian tradition. For Nietzsche, morality is rooted in human will and finds its origins in the clash between two distinct classes of people: the noble, knightly class and the slave, priestly class, as Dr. Ki Joo Choi explains in the introduction to the readings. Nietzsche challenges the belief that goodness means "unegoism" or "selflessness." For him, goodness involves the enjoyment of one's strength and power, and the expression of one's identity.

The text is interesting to read alongside many of the other works covered in Core I and II, particularly the excerpts from the New Testament and also the papal documents. The introduction by Dr. Choi offers some serious questions to ask when reading this text, including these: "Does Nietzsche adequately describe the Christian meaning of love?... Do you think he is correct to conclude that Christian love makes human persons weak [and]... prevents human flourishing? ... More broadly, do you think he paints a fair picture of religion" (377). Reading a challenging text like this one can help believers look deeply into their own faith. A professor I know has his students read Jesus' Beatitudes (in the Sermon on the Mount) alongside Nietzsche's writings to bring out the contrast in perspective. The laying down of one's life advocated by Jesus in the Beatitudes (through mercy, sacrifice, and even willingness to die) certainly does depict a very different type of power than the one celebrated by Nietzsche. The strength of that power shown and preached by Jesus is explored in many of the additional readings in the class, and the discussion of these differences in perspective (along with those from other religious traditions, even those of Plato and other classical writers) with that of Nietzsche is a crucial part of the dialogue that is so important to Core II.

Categories: Arts and Culture , Education

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  • Nancy Enright
  • (973) 275-4847