Personal Providence

2004-05-23

While working on a paper tentatively entitled Nietzsche Contra Epicurus, I've been reading and re-reading a number of relevant quotes from Nietzsche; here is one that struck me today, mainly for the phrase "the beautiful chaos of existence" (La Gaya Scienza, section 277):

Personal providence. -- There is a certain high point in life: once we have reached that, we are, for all our freedom, once more in the greatest danger of spiritual unfreedom, and no matter how much we have faced up to the beautiful chaos of existence and denied it all providential reason and goodness, we still have to pass our hardest test. For it is only now that the idea of a personal providence confronts us with the most penetrating force, and the best advocate, the evidence of our eyes, speaks for it -- now that we can see palpably always everything that happens to us turns out for the best. Every day and every hour, life seems to have no other wish than to prove this proposition again and again. Whatever it is, bad weather or good, the loss of a friend, sickness, slander, the failure of some letter to arrive, the spraining of an ankle, a glance into a shop, a counter-argument, the opening of a book, a dream, a fraud -- either immediately or very soon after it proves to be something that "must not be missing": it has a profound significance and use precisely for us. Is there any more dangerous seduction that might tempt one to renounce one's faith in the gods of Epicurus who have no care and are unknown, and to believe instead in some petty deity who is full of care and personally knows every little fair on our head and finds nothing nauseous in the most miserable small service? ...

Nietzsche was quite aware that the beautiful chaos of existence involves both creation and destruction (at least 50 years before Schumpeter coined the phrase "creative destruction"). There is so much to reflect on here -- I'm really looking forward to writing this essay...


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