Let me begin by telling I love Nietzsche. He fascinates and charms me as well as infuriates me to no end. He is brilliant yet inconsistent; wise yet incomprehensible at times. But never, never for a second, boring. This text is a homage to him, he is known to work in 20 min bursts and in a way this whole category of texts is inspired by him. So here it goes...
The Question: What is the Meaning of Life?
Nietzsche's search for meaning of life is probably a contrapunctus to Schopenhauer's way of thinking. S. thought suffering was caused by desires, unfulfilled desires, and we should pass this life as a stoic. Never desiring, never wanting - hence minimizing the pain. This is something N. furiously disagrees with. His first book The Birth of Tragedy basically focuses on how ancient, pre-Socratic, Greeks handled this problem. There he founds his answer in their tragedies and more specifically in their choirs.
With the choir the watching populus became a part of something more - they did not understand the hero's plight in an Apollonic - Reasoned, ordered - way but in a Dionysian one. In the moment of choir, every part of the watchers feels his self within a greater whole - hence when something bad happens it is not distanced away, and denied; instead it is accepted as a fact of life.
Life is N.'s guiding light. His thought can be summed up in one sentence if I dare: What affirms life is good; and what doesn't is bad. His thought of eternal recurrence can also be thought in this light. It involves a theoretical demon who comes up to you and says
You will live this life over and over again, no changes, every decision made as the same.
What would your reaction be? Would you gnash your teeth and rage against the heavens OR would you say to that daemon "You are a god and these are the most blessed words I have ever heard". N. says instead of turning your life into a prison and feeling despair, meaning the desire to live a different life, or preparing yourself for an eternal, other, world - proclaimed by Plato and others in the first place then Judeo-Christian religions took over, hence he describes those religions as "Platonism for the masses"
But in time he loses his faith in converting the masses and the individual who will burn away his individualness in the ecstasy of music and choir. I believe his falling out with Richard Wagner plays a huge role in that. Instead he turns to the individual and his/her morals. Hence begins the discussion of Overman/Übermensch.
Contrary to popular opinion this term doesn't carry and wasn't intended to carry Hitlerian or eugenical undertones. N. was an anti anti-semitist. His breaking up with Wagner as well as his sister stem from this fact. Overman is, in today's terms, a Weberian ideal type. A thing we should aspire to but never be. In this "man" N. tries to convey us becoming is not a static thing but a cultivation of morals.
In a world devoid of God where should we source these morals? Life itself he says. And then he continues, whose morals? Morals of a master or a slave? This is a discussion N. goes into much detail and he distinguishes three words Good, Evil and Bad. Good is what the Master sees in himself. Bad is what he is not. He is Master because he is a creator of values, he has the will to power to create and slave is slave, because he is weak, hunted by the masters (because Masters are maybe kind to each other but they act like predators among the slaves), and envious of the masters. To topple this power dynamic the slaves create a morality of weakness. In this morality they preach meekness is good, not affirming this life is good... basically they preach whatever they are as the good. And in time this morality becomes dominant. This is the main struggle within ourselves. And evil is whoever doesn't fit to this slave morality.
My 20 mins is up and I have much to write but I will adhere to my own rules and publish it. Thank you for reading.