NIHILISM IN NIETZSCHE; A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF NIGERIAN SITUATION
In the history of thought, Nietzsche occupies a fundamental position especially in the contemporary era. His ideas and postulations are not only thought provoking but brain storming; not so much because of his originality but for daring the ‘undared’. In the light of this, Copleston confirmed: “For whatever one may think about Nietzsche’s ideas, one cannot question his vast reputation and the power of his ideas to act like a potent wine in the minds of a good many people”.1 Nietzsche’s fame is not busted by his postulations of the Superman, Eternal Return, Transvaluation of Values and not even the Will to Power. The landmark that makes him remembered today is his famous nihilistic acclamation ‘God is dead!’ Nietzsche identified this calamity with European nihilism. The European culture, once a religious culture, had become religionless. However, since this culture was built on the foundation of the Christian religion, the death of God in the hearts of the 19th century European meant the collapse of the foundation of their culture, moral values, tradition, and this was for Nietzsche a tragedy. To buttress this Omoregbe opined: “Nietzsche foresaw and predicted in a prophetic way that Europe was heading for a period of gloom and eclipse, a period of instability, aimlessness, emptiness and darknes”.2 Furthermore, in his magnum opus ‘The Will To Power’ Nietzsche wrote:
What I relate is the history of the two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism…for sometime now, our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade: restless, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end, that no longer reflects, that is afraid to reflect.3 With regard to Nigerian situation, there is no gainsaying the fact that Nietzschean nihilistic principles have been directly translated into Nigerian experience. Nigerian situation is that whereby the concept of God has become a dead concept. This is so because God is dead in the hearts of Nigerians. Consequently everything is permitted; nothing is meaningful and nothing works, no central objective and rallying point. Morality is thrown to dogs and meaning goes with it. This explains why there are crisis, violence, lawlessness, assassination, armed robbery, embezzlement, injustice, anarchy and chaos in Nigerian society and this without mincing words or exaggeration is what I identified as Nigeria in nihilism. However to explore Nigerian nihilism with clarity and precision, and to bring it to limelight; moral nihilism, religious nihilism, educational nihilism, economic nihilism and political nihilism, remains the focal point of this memoir. Hence, what does Nietzsche mean by nihilism? What are the consequences and implications? And how do we evaluate Nietzschean nihilism with regard to Nigerian situation?
This project is divided into five chapters. Chapter one introduces the whole frame of the study with the general introduction and methodology. It further states the problem, the purpose of the study and the scope of the study. Chapter two focuses on definition of the term nihilism and traces its historical account in the history of thought, which is literature review. Chapter three centres on nihilism in Nietzsche where we shall see what he meant by nihilism and its implication. The exposition of Nigerian situation where we shall witness the influence of Nietzschean nihilism in Nigerian society is the proper locus of chapter four. Chapter five takes care of evaluation and conclusion. It is this final chapter that bears my opinion concerning the topic.
1.2 NIETZSCHE’S BIOGRAPHY
Fredrick Wilhelm Nietzsche was born in October 15th 1844 at Rocken in Prussian Saxony (present day Germany), into a family where his father and grandfather were Lutheran pastors. When Nietzsche was barely five years, his father died. Consequently, he was brought up at Naumburg in the feminine company of his mother, sister, grandmother and two aunts. Between 1854 and 1864 he studied at Pforta. There, his admiration for Greek thought was ignited, as he was particularly attracted to the Greeks gods, writing of Plato, Aristotle and Aeschylus. In October 1864, Nietzsche went to the University of Bonn. Later that year he moved to Leipzig, to further his philosophical studies under Ritsch. During his stay in Leipzig, Friedrich gradually abandoned Christianity, occupying his mind with atheism of Schopenhauer. As at 1869, Friedrich Nietzsche was appointed professor at Basel at the age of 24 years.
In the years between 1869 and 1889, Nietzsche had published a lot of works including ‘The Dawn of Day’, ‘Joyful Wisdom’, ‘The Birth of Tragedy’, ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ and ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’, etc. From his multiple works, he was able to posit ideas of the Superman; The Will to Power, Eternal Return, and God is Dead etc. As at 1888, with the publication of the Antichrist and Ecce Homo, clear signs of mental disorder manifested in Nietzsche. Though he was hospitalised in January 1889, he never recovered fully from the insanity till the end of his life. He died on August 25th 1900.
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM.
We live in the era when men are more concerned with power, pleasure, wealth and connection than character formation. An era when Hobbesian theory of man being wolf to man, the Machiavellian principle of might is right, and the Darwinian evolutionism of survival of the fittest are not only accepted but also cherished and adopted as the guiding principle in human relation. Today, what matters is how successful one is, with little or no regard to the means of the attainment of that success thus instead of the means justifying the end, the reverse is the case. Thus honesty is disregarded, indolence is extolled, probity is derided, and ostentation is paraded. Hence, there is apparent disregard of rule of law. Crime is committed with impunity. Therefore, there is loss of order and the society is chaotic.
This is not unconnected with Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche’s nihilistic proclamation. Having seen the meaninglessness, nothingness and absurdity of Judeo/Christian belief in God, Nietzsche announced to the world his shocking discovery that “God is dead”.4 He does not simply say that God does not exist, but that God is dead. What a catastrophe? Strengthening this, Omoregbe opined that: “What formerly gave meaning and sense of direction to human existence is no longer there. Men are now left simply with nothing, with emptiness and a meaningless existence”.5 Thus, the nothingness and nihilism of human existence, according to Nietzsche is the consequences of the death of God. It is this apparent lack of meaning and nihilism is what we are experiencing in Nigeria today. The situation in Nigeria has grown worse that she is “being described in international circles as the second most corrupt country in the world”6, by The Transparency International. It is to elicit this cankerworm or virus and to quarantine it that is the major problem of which this research sets out to resolve.
1.4 THE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
Among philosophers, the term ‘nihilism’ is mostly associated with Nietzsche. Thus, the sole aim or purpose of this project is to make clear what Nietzsche meant by nihilism and to see how far this has affected the situation in Nigeria.
1.5 THE SCOPE OF THE STUDY
Even though Nietzsche said many things, this study is limited to his idea of death of God, from which Nietzsche’s nihilism is interpreted. Nigerian situation is also a follow up to Nietzsche’s nihilistic doctrine.
This work is purely expository, interpretative and evaluative. Radically, Nietzsche’s dictum ‘God is dead’ is exposed as it were, which forms the base from which his nihilism is interpreted. This is followed by critical evaluation of Nigerian situation using Nietzsche’s nihilism as guideline.
1 F. Copleston, History of Philosophy, vol. 7, Part II, (New York: Image Books, 1965) p. 164
2 J. Omoregbe, A Philosophical Look at Religion, (Lagos: Joja Press, 1993) p.126
3 F. Nietzsche, The Will to Power, (ed.) W. Kaufmann et al., (New York: Vintage Books, 1967) p.34 S. Stumpf, Philosophy: History and Problems, (New York: Kingsport Press, 1971), p.386.
5 J. Omoregbe, A Simplified History of Western Philosophy, vol. II, (Lagos: Joja Press, 1991), p.171.
6 E. Ezeani, Education in Nigeria, (London: Veritas Lumen Publ., 2005), p.7.