Life affirmation is one of the
most important idea of Nietzsche’s philosophy. His intent is to affirm life
despite all sufferings and pains for people. So, it can be said that he wants
to avoid nihilism which is leaded by miseries. His first book, The Birth of Tragedy, is closely related
to life affirmation.
Nietzsche is also affected by Schopenhauer’s
philosophy exceedingly. According to Schopenhauer, the world of objects that we
represent is an only apparent world, on the contrary, the subjective world as
it is in itself is the world as “will”. He thinks that the world of different individuals
has no means except being a reflected dream image, which has its source in the principal
impulses of will. Also, pessimism is main tendency of his philosophy. It says
all existence of human being is fundamentally meaningless effort and misery. In parallel with these, Schopenhauer also
asserts that death is indeed the aim of existence, and human beings do not have
another chance except being “resigned”.
In the Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche
mentions how ancient Greek culture make sufferings meaningful and tolerable for
themselves. Nietzsche respects people of this culture because the ancient
Greeks were able to affirm life, even in tragedy. So, he also tries to find a
way to affirm life fervently. However, according to Schopenhauer, life is
fundamentally suffering, without meaning or goal.
In parallel with these, Nietzsche says, “How differently Dionysus spoke to
me! How alien to me at that time was precisely this whole philosophy of
resignation!” (1886, p.10). Nietzsche obviously rejects the idea of
“resignation” and passivism. Both Nietzsche and Schopenhauer think that life is
full of dissatisfactions and miseries in a pessimistic way. However, when Schopenhauer
defends “resignation”, Nietzsche lays emphasis on “affirmation”. For Schopenhauer,
people should “resign” to death, weakness and sickness; on the contrary, for
Nietzsche, people can “affirm” life, strength and health with all its pains and
sufferings. According to Nietzsche’s opinion, Schopenhauer’s pessimism is highly
nihilistic, but the real question is what is the meaning of nihilism in
Nietzsche according to BT?
According to Nietzsche, the
concept of nihilism is to limit human being from affirming life, but pessimism
is just a sense of being conscious about all the meaninglessness of life. In
his remark, if one can affirm life in face of the terror and horror of
existence, it is simply pessimism; on the contrary, if one cannot affirm life
in face of terror and horror of existence, it is clearly nihilism. Thus, Nietzsche
is obviously against Schopenhauer’s idea of pessimism because he thinks that
his pessimism causes nihilism.
On the other hand, ancient Greeks
are not nihilist. They do not deny the value of life and existence, and they
also affirm life despite of all its miseries and dissatisfactions. Moreover, Apollonian
and Dionysian pessimism leads to the rise of art and artistic impulses, so they
also they embrace life and affirm the existence because art give them meaning
and purpose even it is a meaning itself for them, but nihilism ultimately has
no meaning, goal or purpose.