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Essay on Zarathustra's Three Metamorphoses, Applied to Modernism

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The 1859 publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species had dramatic consequences, among them the creation of doubt about God’s place in a world where species independently evolve and continually change. Darwin had not merely questioned God; he had shaken one of the core Christian beliefs: that God had created a flawless and unchanging earth. When Darwin’s ideas were not scientifically disproven, the basis of Christianity itself was called into question. That questioning continued as scientific discovery advanced. The traditional view and place of God became less and less applicable to modern life, triggering an onset of nihilism in many as the foundations of their lives were chipped away by scientific progress. Scholars and philosophers of the Western world addressed this in one of two ways: either by trying to fit God back into people’s daily lives, or by thinking about ways to overcome nihilism and go on without Him. This new era of modernism served as the backdrop to much of Nietzsche’s work, and had an undeniable impact on later writings such as Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The parable “The Three Metamorphoses” in that work is an outline of Nietzsche’s ideas about redemption in his contemporary period of Godless modernism.

Though the title references three metamorphoses of the soul, one has already occurred when the fable begins. The soul begins camel-like; it lives in “reverence,” and “wanteth to be well laden” (Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra). The camel achieves these states of reverence and burden by accepting the Christian-Platonic value system and acetic ideals in full, which devalue man’s earthly existence. The reverence in which he holds this paradigm gives rise to his burden: his life is a “desert… because [in accor...


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...is exercise would help them to identify the values they wish to live by, and then allow them to apply those values to their past through revaluation, and to their future by the will to power. In a new age of modernistic Godlessness, Nietzsche’s parable offers one of many methods of achieving secular redemption once the religious idea of redemption loses its validity.


Works Cited

Cybulska, Eva. "Nietzsche's Ubermensch: A Hero of Our Time?" Philosophy Now (2012): 10-12.
Gooding-Williams, Robert. Zarathustra's Dionysian Modernism. Ed. Judith Butler and Frederick M. Dolan. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. New York: Random House, 1967.
—. Thus Spake Zarathustra. Trans. Thomas Common. 2008.
Reginster, Bernard. The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.



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