What follows is a section from a paper I wrote comparing Nietzsche’s philosophy of immanence to that of the author of Ecclesiastes–Qohelet. The section presented here is specifically focused on Nietzsche’s philosophical vision. Enjoy!
1. Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Immanence
A. Introducing Nietzsche
While at age six Nietzsche was referred to by his classmates as “the little pastor” due to his ability to recite Scripture and hymns, by age 20 he had decided to quit taking the Eucharist. This brought shame and dismay to his mother who had at one point thought he might follow in the footsteps of his father, a deceased Lutheran pastor. From this point on there is no sign that Nietzsche ever looked back as he followed what he called the “will to truth”, the desire to find and embrace the truth at any existential cost, for the rest of his life. By the time Nietzsche came into his own philosophically he had thoroughly embraced atheism and was set on working out its implications.
This must be kept in mind when reading about Nietzsche’s famous statement “God is dead”.When Nietzsche’s fictional madmen jumps into the midst of the crowd in the modern market place, “piercing” them with his eyes and declaring that they have murdered God it is not a metaphysical entity that he is speaking of, but rather the myth that gave meaning to existence. The madmen gives voice to the anxiety felt by Nietzsche in light of this “great” dead that has “unchained the earth from its sun” leaving us “straying as through an infinite nothing”. (GS 181)
This was written in 1882. In 1887 Nietzsche was still wrestling with this anxiety—what I see as a recognition of a shared cultural anxiety—and it is this very anxiety that he seeks to address in his notes on European Nihilism. These notes are important for interpreting Nietzsche’s own understanding of his philosophical task and vision in that they offer perhaps the most systematic presentation of Nietzsche’s highly unsystematic thought. However, as with all of Nietzsche’s texts, his notes must be brought into conversation with other works in his oeuvre if they are to be read fruitfully and interpreted faithfully. In light of this, my plan is to follow the overall trajectory of these notes while taking into consideration several of his other works in my reading. The goal is to present as explicitly as possible Nietzsche’s philosophy of immanence so that it can be compared and contrasted to the philosophical vision of Ecclesiastes.
B. Nietzsche Philosophical Vision
As we have seen the myth of God has died. It has become implausible for humanity, according to Nietzsche, to believe any longer in this myth that brought meaning to life. Yet, because this myth—whether in its Christian or Buddhist form—has been present for so long humanity has come to need it.
Human nature has now been changed by the ever new appearance of these teachers of the purpose of existence… man has become a fantastic animal that has to fulfill one more condition of existence than any other: man has to believe, to know, from time to time why he exists. (GS 1)
But now this myth is gone and with its lose comes a mistrust of all of our past evaluations. Everything which gave meaning to our lives is now gone and hence now life seems as if it is in “vain”. That is, life now has no purpose (EN 4, 5). The irony is that with his works, specifically Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche did much to destroy the edifices, the moralities and meanings, upon which this purpose stood. Seemingly pierced by his own madman’s eyes Nietzsche responds to his gaze by stating that, “we can destroy only as creators.” (GS 58) And so, Nietzsche goes “over” and “under” by bringing this nihilism itself to its utmost, to its breaking point.
The logic appears to be thus. Since existence has no point or aim “the most paralyzing thought” would be for existence to stretch on for all eternity. This is, “the most extreme form of nihilism: nothingness (the ‘senseless’) eternally?” (EN, 6) Already in his notes from 1881 Nietzsche had developed this “most scientific of all hypothesis.” (EN, 6) If one begins with the assumption that there is no God it follows that there is no beginning and thus that time stretches into the past eternally. (RS, 11) From this Nietzsche reasons that energy, “world forces”, must never decrease in quantity, but only change in form—a version of the Second Law of Thermodynamics—otherwise what exists, which is dependant on such forces, would not be possible because the forces would have run out. Coupling this with a deterministic physics Nietzsche states, “Whatever state this world can attain, it must have attained it and not once but countless times. Take this moment: it has already been once and many times and will return… Man: Your whole life will be turned over like an hourglass time and again…” (RS, 11) Whether or not Nietzsche truly sought to establish a new ontology and cosmology with this doctrine—and thus in what way quantum physics would overturn it—I will leave to Nietzschian studies. The significance of the Eternal Recurrence for this essay is the existential import that Nietzsche placed upon it. Nietzsche states, “My doctrine says: the task is to live your life in such a way that you have to want to live again—you will in any case?” (RS 11)
The goal of such a doctrine is the affirmation of the process when its telos, or end, is removed, the affirmation of life without a divinely revealed reason or goal. (EN, 7) In part IV of Thus Spoke Zarathustra “the ugliest man” (the murderer of God) affirms that, “one day, one festival, with Zarathustra has taught me to love the earth.” It is after this affirmation of immanence and it’s proceeding “once more” to life that Zarathustra preaches his doctrine of the Eternal Recurrence to the Higher Men. (TSZ, The Drunken Song 2-12) However, while Zarathustra was awake these men still slept (TSZ, The Sign), which is Nietzsche’s way of saying that they were not yet ready for this doctrine. This is how Nietzsche saw his thought. He was ahead of his time and possibly light years so. (GS 125, BGE 285) Part of the reason this doctrine would take so long to incorporate itself into life was that it at first appeared as repulsive. In The Gay Science Nietzsche presents it as first taught by a demon who is only in hindsight recognized as a god. (GS 341) Yet once the eternal recurrence is accepted the “new philosophers” can see it as a “new dawn” and “an open sea” that calls out to all who are adventurous in spirit to embark upon its unknown vastness. (GS 343)
However, this is not the only thing that keeps this doctrine from being incorporated into life. There are many, the vast majority of humankind, who have to depend on morality to protect them from despair and “the will to nothingness”. (EN, 10-11, 14) This despair does not come in the face of natural danger, but rather when faced by those who are powerful enough to exercise their wills over and above others. This is dependent on Nietzsche’s genealogy of the rise of morality and his distinction between “slave morality” and “master morality”. Put simply, and possibly crudely, slave morality is the morality of those who are not able to exercise their own power and wills over others but instead are subservient to others wills, desires and demands. Master morality is the morality of the strong. It is a morality that recognizes its own strength, exults in it and recognizes this strength in others. Master morality was originally seen as good because it was able to “requite goodness with goodness, and evil with evil, and really does practice requital by being grateful and vengeful”. (HH, Section 1, 45) It is the morality of the ruling classes. However, the oppressed could not exercise power and thus saw men, especially the masters, as evil. They sought requital as well and since they did not have the power to do so physically they did so through inventing morality as a revenge. This carried on through the highest forms of society until the priests were able to make all men feel the sting of slave morality and thus even despise themselves and the life, or power within them.
For Nietzsche life is the will to power. The will to exert power, through both creation and destruction, verses just the will to live, is what pushes life onwards in the universe. (EN, 10) It is those who more fully embody this power who do not need consolation through “morality”. And it is these who will be able to embrace the eternal recurrence and the active nihilism that is needed to purge. Nietzsche states that this, “forces together related elements and makes them ruin each other, that it allocates common tasks to people of opposing mentalities—also bringing to light the weaker…” (EN, 14) This will lead to the acknowledgment of “commanders as commanders, obeyers as obeyers.” (EN, 14)
Near the end of his notes on European Nihilism Nietzsche asks, “Who will prove to be the strongest in this?” (EN, 15) His answer is, “…men who are sure of their power and represent with conscious pride the achievement of human strength.” (EN, 15) This, of course, paves the way for the Ubermensch. However, because Nietzsche does not bring this up in the notes I am using to structure my investigation, and in light of space, I will not discuss this here. Suffice it to say that while Nietzsche attempted to affirm the process without an end, it does appear that he snuck one in through the back door. The Ubermensch may not rely on transcendence, or the myth of God, but for Nietzsche he/it is the goal. (TSZ, Prologue, 3)
It is no mystery that Nietzsche influenced Hitler and National Socialism. It is not my intention here to say whether or not Hitler read him rightly. The relationship between the two—and between Nietzsche’s philosophy and fascist/imperialist ideology and practice—is highly complex and needs much more space to be considered thoroughly. However, in light of statements like this, no matter how cryptic, it does seem that Nietzsche’s attempt to affirm life in spit of the lose of transcendence does not offer a philosophical vision that is ethically acceptable for those who wish to affirm all of human life on earth. If life is to be embraced and enjoyed for those in Nietzsche’s universe it is only to be done so by a select few. Further, his vision itself is grounded in an ontology (Will to Power), a metaphysics/cosmology (the Eternal Return), and teleology (the Ubermensch) that are just as speculative as any religion. As I turn my attention to Ecclesiastes I will ask the reader to keep Nietzsche’s vision in mind in order to ask which vision better grounds a philosophy that in Nietzsche’s words allows one to, “remain true to the earth.” (TSZ Prologue, 3)
 Craig Hovey, Nietzsche and Theology (New York: Continuum, 2008), 13.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (New York: Random House, 1974), 181. Aphorism 125. For the rest of the paper I will use in text quotations for this book. GS 181 refers to this edition of The Gay Science section 181.
 The Nietzsche Reader, ed. Keith A. Pearson and Duncan Large, “European Nihilism” (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.) 386. For the rest of the paper I will refer to these notes by the use of in text quotations. This particular quote is found in EN 5, which refers to European Nihilism section five. I also use this reader for his notes from 1881 on “The Recurrence of the Same”. RS will be used along with the notes number such as 11.
 The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufmann, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 429. (TSZ, The Drunken Song 1)
 Cf. HH Section 1, 45. And BGE Part V 186-188, 195-203; Part VI. 208; Part VI 219, 221, 222. Also GM (specifically the First Essay).
 Cf. Geoff Waite, Nietzsche’s Corps/e: Aesthetics, Politics, Prophecy, or, the Spectacular Technocultue of Everyday Life (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996). Waite’s book is a superb, complex and extremely erudite argument against Nietzsche’s reception in modern times but specifically by the Left. He prefers the term fascoid for Nietzsche verse fascist, imperialist, or racist. As he states, “The ‘fascoid’ refers to four primary things: (1) to a combative political ontology based on more or less permanent overt and covert warfare against democratic values in general and against the possibility of radical democracy in particular; (2) to an unquestioned commitment to some form of ‘Leader Principle’ (i.e. strong—predominately male—leaders and neo-aristocratic elites as the real motor of history, able to function, when need be, under the guise of individual rights, anarchism, libertarianism, populism, even social democracy—but theoretically By Any Means Necessary); (3) to a concomitant, enthusiastic socioeconomic commitment—not necessarily capitalist, but certainly capitalist if need be—to the maintenance of a gullible, pliable, and—if at all possible—willing workforce, up to and including slave labor; and (4) to a consciously manipulative, duplicitous practice of writing, speaking, and acting grounded in esotericism and other strategies of speaking to two audiences at once—those in the know, and those out of the know who are to be kept out of the know.” Pp. 72-73.