Simon Critchly is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York. He is the author of many books,including On Heidegger's Being and Time and Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance. The Book of Dead Philosophers was written on a hill overlooking Los Angeles, where he was a scholar at the Getty Research Institute. He lives in Brooklyn.
Critchley: Yeah. Nietzsche describes a mad man who runs into a public square shouting, God is dead. God is dead and the people didn’t believe him, and he’s laughed at, and he leaves. He came too soon. He says, he came, I came too soon. But the thought here is deeper, more interesting. It’s not that the Nietzsche said, God is dead. Something you can find on _____ worlds, the world over is that God is dead, we have killed him, and what Nietzsche means by that I think is that the outcome of history is the death of God. We no longer need or we no longer can believe in those sorts of assurances which theology gave us through let’s say, let’s say through the development of science and technology. We’ve got ourselves to a position where God is an accessory that we can do without. So, it’s not that Nietzsche was celebrating the death of God. He thinks that God is a pretty bad idea. He makes us cringing, cowardly, submissive creatures but it doesn’t mean the opposite is something to be celebrated. We shouldn’t just celebrate our, you know, that would lead to sort of annihilism. What Nietzsche thought is that, you know, human history is led to a point where we are, we find the idea of God incredible. We can no longer believe it and at that point he says, there’s a risk of us throwing up our hands, and saying, well, nothing means anything. That’s what Nietzsche calls annihilism. Nietzsche’s thought is not annihilistic. This is a key thing. Nietzsche is trying to think, a counter movement to annihilism and this is what he calls a re-evaluation of values, or an overcoming of annihilism. It’s what Nietzsche wants us to do. Nietzsche is, you know, Nietzsche wants us to reject our usual ways of thinking morally in terms of a new way of conceding of value that would be in terms of life ultimately, the affirmation of life, something like that.