Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Death of God

Readings for Thursday the 12th:

Nietzsche, The Gay Science, excerpts
    Nietzsche's "aphorisms" can be read in any order, so feel free to explore this selection from Book 3 of The Gay Science.  At minimum, read the following aphorisms: 125, 108-112, 115, 123-125.  (I recommend reading 125, the famous "Death of God" aphorism, twice, and it's a great way to bookend these provocative declarations.)
    Nietzsche is a difficult author, and it's best to read him slowly.  Today's readings are short, so give yourself plenty of time to digest Nietzsche's work.

Ballard, "The Drowned Giant" 
   SF author J. G. Ballard explore the death of a God literally in this short story.  As you read, pay attention to the "stages" of decay and transformation that occurs to this washed-up god.

RP1: Shadows of God
    Your first Response Paper is due tomorrow (see the syllabus or the update below for details).  Base it on the following prompt:

What do you interpret Nietzsche to mean by the "death of God"?  In aphorism 108 Nietzsche says that we still have to erase God's "shadows."  Based on subsequent aphorisms, what are some examples of shadows of God that still linger today?

Looking forward to your comments below!


  1.  Ozymandias 

    by  Percy Bysshe Shelley  (1792-1822)
    I met a traveler from an antique land
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

  2. I found the Neitzsch reading to be really interesting but hard to understand. I easily became wrapped up in his metaphors using humanity, psychology, logic, and the death of God, but had difficulty coming to a conclusion on what he actually meant. But I like the connection he made that something has to come from nothing. Logic from illogical. He says humanity springs from error and without this error there would be no humanity. And I like what he states in aphorism 123 that with or without science things are changeable and insecure enough. Knowledge is something I think we will always search for, but it is also something that has to be refined over time because useful knowledge is ever changing.

  3. Regarding "The Drowned Giant", what gave this story its real effect for me was in its use of religion/philosophy in terms of the physical presence of a religion on earth. It washes up unexplained, first as an object of fear and awe, then it becomes a joyful spectacle for all. However, the desecration of the giant as souvenir-hunters and agricultural concerns chop it apart, brings it into focus as corporeal entity. It is used, dissected, abandoned and eventually all but forgotten. What exists of it at the end of the story is only relics and ruins of a once very real religion.

  4. I was fascinated by 'The Drowned Giant'. It was such a strange story and a weird concept to grasp but I appreciated it. The language the author uses to describe this giant was helpful in picturing this scene. What i found most interesting was how the people reacted to the body. No one really seemed to be shocked by the presence of the giant and it was just left there to rot until people started taking bits and pieces of it for their own use. I thought it was interesting when he mentions that people had graffitied it and defaced the giant - this was almost not surprising to me, kind of typical for human kind to think that they can do whatever they want, that if it is different from us then it doesn't deserve the respect a deceased human would receive.

  5. I found Nietzsche's work very thought provoking. In some ways his view on the origin of knowledge and truth seem right to me. I don't necessarily agree with them but those are examples where they feel right. He sounds very angry at life in general and feels so out of place. I will say this he does point out some errors of Christianity that show how misguided at times christians can be, but i feel that he is attacking humanity as a whole and not truly God or religion

  6. I wanted to draw specific attention to one part of the Nieztche reading, particularly aphorism 125. After the madman has accused the crowd of murdering god, and has mad his inquiries, he makes a most curious statement. "I have come too early, my time is not yet... The deed is still more distant than the most distant stars- and yet they have done it themselves." It occurs to me that this man may in fact be an allegory for Jesus, and his return is not meant to greet and protect humanity, but to punish them for their 'crime' of killing the worship of god, his father. some people adopt the belief that gods hold only as much power as we give them, and this is done via worship. By destroying, or even by merely fundamentally changing, the nature of our worship of god, we have in effect killed him, by destroying that embodiment of god.

  7. I got severely bogged down with Nietzsche. Mostly I kept getting distracted trying to connect him with the old saying "Nothing is true, everything is permitted." Disappointingly though, it does not appear to be from his pen. Oh well, I still like the quote.