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Title:Health and great health: Nietzsche on overcoming sickness
Author(s):Schaaf, Eric Ryan
Director of Research:Schroeder, William
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Schroeder, William
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Schacht, Richard; Sussman, David; Sanders, Kirk
Department / Program:Philosophy
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Nietzsche, morality
Abstract:My dissertation was motivated by a desire to not only gain clarity in Nietzsche’s manifold use of the notion of sickness, but also to better understand the ideal of health that runs through his writings. Given this goal, I begin by identifying the primary kinds of sickness that animate Nietzsche’s critical project. Having identified three types of sickness in his writings, I then turn to offering an account of how Nietzsche attempts to address these forms of sickness. Finally, having completed the task of understanding health—which forms the three central chapters of the dissertation—I conclude by moving to what Nietzsche calls “the great health,” which can be understood as moving beyond mere health. In chapter one I identify three kinds of sickness—the sickness of bad conscience, the sickness of life negation, and the sickness of enervation—which I argue are the central to understanding Nietzsche’s critique of morality. According to this diagnosis, people suffer from several problems, including pervasive feelings of guilt and self-hatred, a tendency to devalue the world and life, and a false sense of human good that results in enervation. Nietzsche’s work can be read as an attempt to diagnose, understand, and address these problems. Chapter two begins my analysis of how Nietzsche works to treat the three forms of sickness identified in chapter one. I proceed by reconstructing an account of how to treat the first form of sickness, that of bad conscience, as well as the pervasive feelings of guilt and self-punishment that follow. Surveying several tentative ideas Nietzsche offers on how this problem might be addressed, I conclude by arguing that the path to a “good conscience” is paved via a kind of philosophical therapy, which aims to reorient how we look at guilt and failure, thereby initiating a psychic transformation. Chapter three turns to an examination of how to address the problem of suffering and meaninglessness, offering an account of how a person might learn to love life, despite what is strange, questionable, and terrible. I argue that with §334 of The Gay Science, Nietzsche offers a model of how a person might learn to love life. First, a person must work to understand life; then, through good will, patience, and openness to life, she becomes used to it; and finally, enchanted by life, she comes to love life for what it is. Chapter four turns to Nietzsche’s attempt to address the problem of enervation. The problem lies with a weakened will, which is attributed to the goal of eliminating suffering, as well as other values Nietzsche associates with modernity. The solution Nietzsche offers can be understood as an attempt to strengthen the will. Through his discussion of the will to power, which, following Reginster, can be understood as a will to overcome resistances, Nietzsche can be understood as advocating the need for appropriate forms of resistance and challenge in a person’s life. I conclude by examining what Nietzsche calls “the great health”, which he describes as “the ideal of a human, superhuman well-being” (GS 382). Health can be understood as the process whereby a person continuously works to eliminate the negative factors that undermine health. Nietzsche also recognizes a further process beyond mere health, which he calls “the great health.” This great health can be understood as the ongoing development of the positive elements of health. Among the notions that Nietzsche intimates are part of great health, I focus on four such elements: overflowing abundance, cheerfulness and laughter, living experimentally, and forgetting.
Issue Date:2017-12-04
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Eric Schaaf
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-03-13
Date Deposited:2017-12

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