Saturday, May 21, 2005

Nietzschean affirmation

I've been reading David Hart's book The Beauty of the Infinite, and it has been a treasure house of insights. The latest is his dissection of the problem of postmodernity, which exalts flux over substance, difference over identity, and as a remedy for this Heraclitean flux, proposes affirmation. Consider Nietzsche's doctrine of the eternal return--one knows that one is not suffering from a sickness of life-denial when one is able to say that one would affirm with joy the eternal repetition of everything that has happened and will happen.

The problem, as Hart points out, is that in the affirmation of the likes of Nietzsche and Foucault, there is no way to figure out what one ought to affirm. ``A philosophy whose concept of affirmation is merely the result of a reaction against dialectical negation (thus retaining the narrative of ontological violence that dialectic presumes) cannot ultimately make a morally credible distinction between hospices and death camps. . . .'' (72) The only sort of affirmation that can do the job they want it to do is the affirmation of God: "It is very good," an affirmation both transcendent and creative.

Anyway, it's a good book.

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