Download: Nietzsche and the Post-Modern Condition (1991) Lecture 4: The Death of God

Transcript: In this lecture I want to pick up on my discussion of “On the Genealogy of Morals” by Nietzsche and return our argument concerning the value of our values, the origins of our ethical judgements and so on, and look at the question of – as I stated in the opening lecture – the paradoxical situation that our morality may, oddly enough, have an immoral origin. And so this is the argument to which we will return. One of the points I didn’t make about the genealogical method in the last lecture, I want to make now and it’s very important. When we look genealogically at “The Greeks” as a type, or Christianity; Nietzsche uses a kind of typology where we don’t look for who speaks in a document, but for as it were, what motivates the speaker behind the document.

So the hermeneutic question of “Who is the speaker and is he honest?” isn’t really what Nietzsche wants, but to see what kind of type would say something like that. See, the standard philosophical approach to a text would be to look at the propositions and then to determine if the argument is valid, sound if the speaker is sincere and so on. Nietzsche, rather than looking at that, looks at the question: “What kind of person would make an argument like that?” – “What type of person would evaluate like that?” – rather than to look at the evaluation. That’s another way to look at genealogy.

You know, rather than to look directly at an evaluation, you look at the kind, characteristic or type that would make it. So when I make a remark about “master morality”; it’s about a certain type that speaks in these various evaluatory words. Or about Christian morality; it’s about the type, or “What human types speaks in these texts?”, okay. And again, that’s part of the suspicion of the method; of what it causes us to suspect.

Well we get onto some rather strong claims; the account of – as I say – of “Greek ideals”, is that they are active, noble; you notice these various valorising terms, but they are also somewhat childlike and naive. These are terms that imply that there should be more of a mendacious spirit in human beings; more malice wouldn’t be bad here. In fact, throughout the text of Nietzsche, there is something like – and I don’t want to trivialise it – but there is something like what Mick Jagger calls “Sympathy for the Devil“; that all really dialectical and intelligent human beings will have to have a sense for evil and some sympathy for the devil, or they will be a little… stifled and boring. And I think that’s not wrong; just a little sympathy for the devil won’t hurt.

In any case, let me look at a famous argument… In the first type that we have looked at – the Greek type – we will give it a name and call it the “active type”, or the “master morality”, and here we have what I have called active force which prevails over reactive forces. And reactive forces here would be things that stand in the way of the will realising what it wants. Well that’s not much of a problem from that position in Greek society where myths… and by the way we are in the realm of myth here. These types are after all not really sociological accounts, but in a certain sense mythic accounts… if you put enough weight on “myth”, and I want to put a heavy weight on that term.

Anyway, this is the active type. One of the faculties that the active type is noted for is the ability to forget. And this is again part of Nietzsche’s ongoing polemic with what might be called “mere historicism” – people who just wander idly through the relics of the past in search of a cultural treasure or whatever. In other words, for Nietzsche, the active person is willing to forget, and he contrasts that with memory, which you need in Christianity in order for the redemption story, for example, to make sense. You need to remember the sufferings of the martyrs… remember… memory plays an entirely different role for the master morality; the way Nietzsche puts it they are “strong enough to forget”.

So if insulted and you hit the master in the face, he hits you back and that way he honours you and then he forgets it, see. Because first of all, if he turns the other cheek he shames you by saying well you are not, you know, good enough to even fight with me. Rather, you hit him, he hits you back and then you both forget it. It’s the West Texas version of master morality [crowd laughter]. He hits you, you hit him, and then you have treated each other with dignity, and then you forget it. But you don’t turn the other cheek and then remember it; mendaciously remember it “Oh yes, you have hit me now, but later…” There is the secret that will come in with Christianity; the “but later”.

Now, I want to start this with a typology and then to read a brief portion of the genealogy where Nietzsche thinks he has uncovered, as it were, a text that’s at the very heart of Christian morality – for Nietzsche – in this typological sense. The Christian type, Nietzsche says, is reactive; calls it a “slave morality”, and in this type of morality, reactive forces prevail over the active ones. And here you want things, but there is, as it were, principles and rules that stand between your will and fulfilling the will or the desire. And the extremes that we know throughout history that this has achieved are unbelievable, but their achievement has always had some perverse opposite character. And I will try to use just one example here, and that’s the monk who is going to think about the pleasures of the flesh no more.

So the monk sleeps naked under a cloth that’s rough and as he denies that part of being human of being a biological animal – as he denies it – does his body become less or more eroticised I wonder? After years of sleeping under this rough blanket naked and denying the flesh; oddly enough, what comes in precisely is a new sublime and elevated form of the erotic. Everything is eroticised about the blanket and the body of the monk. No longer this straightforward sort of Greek physical act, but now an entire eroticised body.

I mean, try to explain that the Victorian era produces novels like “Wuthering Heights“, I mean, the point is this: you know, the denial of that power, in reactive power, doesn’t mean that people really just say “no” and things become de-eroticised. No! Christianity perversely eroticises the world in a brand new way. And you know, in Wuthering Heights, the moment that you sinned was the moment that Nietzsche thought was interesting about Christianity; was that to break through and to sin gave a whole new dimension – for him – to human interest.

It made the human being an interesting species; sin did. Before that, we looked a lot like primates… you know, and afterwards it becomes this act filled with meaning across a whole terrain; subtle glances… of course all this may be gone now, right? It’s just you meet in the mall, the same old thing as the Greeks maybe, who the hell knows… more or less. But you know, in the Victorian era, you can imagine that a glance, a touch, a glove… you know. You read Kierkegaard on the diary of a seducer, and even though its… all of the book is about him just thinking about it, and not even mentioning anything the least bit pornographic, its just “My God, you can’t get that involved over one look, can you?” and yes… you can.

But perversely, it was this morality that, as it were, pushed those active release of those normal human powers into this reactive mode, so that they were devious in roundabout ways; they did not de-eroticise humans, but eroticised us in a new way. And then of course made us have at it, and then to take the lies inward in a form of guilt; where oddly enough the weak revenged themselves upon the strong – again, in terminology – this way… you want something, but you are really not up to getting it, so… in the Greek scheme, you just don’t get it because and for the simple reason that you weren’t up for it; you couldn’t handle it, you couldn’t do it.

Now the Christian will take that same inability and turn it against the active type and use it as a reproach. The things they can’t do – their limitations – become virtues; now they are virtuous because their limitations, their faults, their inabilities to get the things they want, now are valued highly. Whereas the active type, who previously was valued highly, who goes ahead and acts out is considered immoral, and even worse, turns the punishment inward in the form of guilt, because the morality is general. So he goes “I did what I wanted… oh I feel awful about it!”, and Nietzsche finds that mendacious and perverse. “I did what I wanted to do, god I feel terrible!”, “I did what I was inclined to do, oh I feel awful!”

See, for the Greeks, the way Nietzsche presents it, that’s unthinkable. You can’t imagine Odysseus later going “Oh god, I blinded a god, I feel terrible!” No! “I blinded his eye! Knocked it out! Wow! Let me tell you a story about it!” But no, that would be too straightforward for what happens after Christianity, where reactive powers make the world a more subtle place; more erotic, and in fact open up whole new fields of interpretation.

In fact, it’s interesting to note that the first thing that the Devil does in the Bible is to teach Eve to interpret. God has given a rather straightforward command. Milton makes a lot out of this: God says “Don’t eat anything…” This is a myth, you all know this is a myth, so chill out: “Don’t eat anything off that tree” Well, what does the serpent say? He says “Well, maybe God’s testing you. Maybe God really wants you to eat it to prove that you are a worthy creature…” So Eve starts thinking “Well [maybe] that’s it after all then… let me think and interpret this…” And so it is with the Devil that interpretation is born within the inside of the text itself; the Devil says “interpret… think… interpret… don’t just listen to that… of course that could mean more than one thing!” Well of course, so could everything else. Anyway…

Now, the Christian morality then. When Nietzsche says it turns itself against life; there’s one level in which I want you to understand where I think it’s pretty obvious; sort of “flat footed” critique. At least the kind of Christianity I was brought up around – the Baptist church – and I don’t think it’s not consonate with most varieties. Things like thinking critically, having a whole hell of a lot of fun, enjoying sex a whole bunch, taking certain substances, getting real drunk, letting yourself be a free spirit, being free of malice and the envy of other people and stuff aren’t cultivated very much by Christianity; all the things that Nietzsche associated with the other morality. Now admittedly the Greek way of doing this is too straightforward, too childlike; certainly not nearly as interesting as things will be later, in his view or in mine either.

Now, Nietzsche makes here… and I am going to read, I think, a famous passage. And a justly famous passage. Perhaps in this passage we see his most negative moment of the critique of Christianity and so we’ll look at that, and its in – and then I’ll read it briefly – and its in the first essay in The Genealogy of Morals, in case you decide to read the book, in Section 15… and I’ll read… I haven’t read to you much… but this passage is so beautiful in Nietzsche I can’t pass it up… and well I have talked about his style so much, and this is a great example of it. So I’ll read you this, then toward the end of the talk today I’ll do one other little piece. Okay.

Nietzsche here is discussing Christian values of… faith, love and hope, and I’ll start with his rhetorical question. “What, do I hear a riot? They call things ‘the last judgement’? They call things ‘their kingdom’? ‘The kingdom of God’?” – Meanwhile, however, you know – “Until then they live in faith, in hope, in love. In faith in what? In love of what? In hope of what?” – You see how this genealogy of suspicion is going to start to work now? He is going to examine that – “In love of what? These weak people; someday or other they too intend to be strong. There is no doubt in that, because some day their kingdom too shall come. They term it the kingdom of God of course, because after all one is so very humble in all things. To experience that one needs to live a long time, beyond death. Indeed one needs eternal life, so as to be eternally justified in the kingdom of God for this earthly life in faith, in love, in hope. But how justified?”

Dante, I think, committed a crude blunder” – very few people but Nietzsche would say Dante committed a crude blunder, let me just tell you that right now – “Dante, I think, committed a crude blunder when with a terror inspiring ingenuity he placed above the gateway of his hell the inscription ‘I too was created by eternal love‘. At any rate, there would be more justification for placing above the gateway to the Christian paradise the inscription ‘I too was created by eternal hate‘; provided a truth may be place above the gateway to a lie. So what is it that constitutes the bliss of the Christian paradise? We might even guess…” – a genealogist isn’t going to guess, they are going to look for a text. We might guess, but Nietzsche says they have an authority to tell them about it. And Nietzsche doesn’t pick out, ah, Jimmy Swaggart or some second rate figure in Christianity, he picks a text in Thomas Aquinas.

And you know, arguably, I think Thomas Aquinas knew something about Christianity; that’s my view. I don’t think Nietzsche picked someone out of the mainstream of the tradition, I think he picked a very important figure. According to Thomas Aquinas the chief blessing in heaven will be like this. Thomas Aquinas, the great teacher and saint, says “The blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the punishments of the damned in order that their bliss be more delightful to them” [crowd laughter]

[long pause] [sigh] In the place of the Greek athletes we have martyrs. Surely you understand that this is drenched in more blood than the simple Greeks could ever dream of. I mean, the trick of genealogy is not to see that as an argument, but to make it raise a whole host of suspicions in your mind about people who want to be nice, be good, be kind, love, cherish you; you’ve got to suspect that area of discourse. And this kind of genealogical argument – and I just gave you what I take to be a powerful sample of it – is supposed to make you ask this question: “Isn’t that kind of love a mask for a kind of hate? Isn’t that kind of faith a mask for a kind of power?”

Now don’t think that because we have called this “slave morality”, it has no power. As Nietzsche once said: “Christianity — a mistake? A two thousand year mistake?” No, it does have power. I mean it does have power. Don’t think that this is shallow critique of Christianity. This is not denying its power, for god’s sakes. In its appeal to love as a kind of hatred, in its appeal to compassion as a mask for power, and in its deferred way of insisting upon having its own way.

In fact, now I will return to a simpler example that Nietzsche wouldn’t have appreciated. But its that after this you should at least suspect when a television preacher – I don’t want to be sued for libel here – when a TV preacher goes “I love homosexuals…” – I am trying to do the voice too – “…but I hate their sin”. After you have read Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals you may suspect that statement. You may just go “I suspect that’s not the case”. I mean after all, for a lot of people being gay is what constitutes people in a certain way. Its part of their identity. You don’t just go well “I love them, but I hate that”. It’s kind of “I love Michael Jordan, but I don’t like basketball” Well, there might be reasons for that but… hard to know what they would be… I don’t know him myself. In any case, this hermeneutic of suspicion that Nietzsche is drawing out is that Christianity; while presenting itself as a religion of love and compassion and tenderness; is a mask of hate and fear; and another form of power.

The Greek form of power was a form of power too. It presented itself as an ideal of excellence, but it was… don’t you see now that the metaphor more straightforward really applied. In other words Odysseus would go… it’s like reading Aristotle, right? It’s not a big secret to anyone that Aristotle’s views represent the views of the gentlemanly upper classes of Greece. That shouldn’t… it’s no surprise because Aristotle says in The Ethics that well – “I don’t teach ethics to people who aren’t well brought up young Greek men, I mean why the hell bother…” – well then you know who he is talking to, and that has a charming honesty one can find naively throughout Aristotle’s encyclopaedic intelligence. I mean it’s really charming. This on the other hand is a form of power that is subtle, important, very interesting.

Now the possibility however looms in this scheme; that the triumph of these reactive forces will, as it were, overdo the job. You follow me? Its one thing to say “No” to certain instincts and – “life affirming” or not – but it’s quite another to push that process to the edge at which life is threatened in a profound and fundamental way. To deny them beyond a certain point begins to be a danger for the species. Now people keep going “Well, you sound like some damn sociobiologist“.

No, the way Nietzsche is using these terms: “life affirming”, “life negating”, have to do with our fate of the species in being able to recreate ourselves, and in the writing of these myths he is of course trying to recreate himself at some level; obviously. And retelling them is an effort at creating something, god knows what it will be by the time we are through, but it’s an attempt to do that.

Well the two things that he says – and again keep that passage in mind – that characterise Christianity are “resentment” and the term there means this double move of love/hate; the resentment of the weak of the strong, but the resentment plays itself out with the strong as well in the form of guilt. So Nietzsche has an extended analysis of resentment and guilt as being fundamental to this, as it were, substructure of Christian discourse.

Now Nietzsche takes this whole argument to be very destructive of all ethical theories in the Western tradition for this obvious reason. Whether you are talking about Mill, or about Kant, clearly these theories are rooted in that tradition. Especially Kant’s, I mean for God’s sakes, it’s just a very high German theoretic account of The Golden Rule in a certain way. I mean it’s very complicated, but its essence is that his parents were good Pietists, and he by God is smart enough to justify being that, theoretically; and he is, by the way.

In any case, these are the two factors Nietzsche sees working here in the reactive type: resentment and guilt, and the ideal for human living that they posit he says is not aesthetic but ascetic ideal; namely, the ideal of someone who just says “No”. You know, the ascetic ideal; not too much of anything “Oh no, no more desert for me”, “No, I’d rather not tonight”, “No, I can’t do that now”, what these are mechanisms or ways of making our bad conscience; our guilt, bearable.

This ascetic ideal, you know, it’s an ideal so we can make these things bearable to live with. You know I started earlier on making the remark that we could only deal with so much reality. Well on this topic here, we can only deal with so much of this critique until somebody wants to say “Shut up”; “You know, I go to church, I don’t want to hear any more of that, shut your damn mouth, its ruining it for me”, well, I will in a minute, but not yet.

What the ascetic ideal does is it makes this bearable, but it also expresses finally a will to nothingness; to just simply not have to will anymore. This is where the spectre of Nihilism arises. And it doesn’t arise so much… well it arises with the origin of Christianity. It does not become, as it were – for Nietzsche – a problem on the agenda of the world and of our culture until what Nietzsche sees as “the decadent period of Christianity”. I mean, a period that I think we could understand might be… we might characterise this as a sort of decadent period, and Christianity is still lagging itself out.

In this decadent period what will happen is – Nietzsche thinks – is that we will see an expression of the “Will to nothingness”; simply the refusal to will anymore. This is where Nietzsche’s worry; his fear, which I have named “Nihilism”; which he names “Nihilism”, has become a real cultural possibility. And again, I am going to refer to a film…

I am using films rather than referring to other texts because, as you know, in our culture films are texts, right? And very important ones. A lot more people, a lot bigger impact on the objective culture, let’s face it.

Take a movie like Heathers; beautiful expression of the will to nothingness played out almost like an active will. In the movie Heathers, the young rebel wants the whole high school to commit suicide together and sign a mutual note about it and it will be “The Woodstock of the 80’s”. I like that, that’s cute. That’s… in the spirit of Joy Division’s famous line in one of their albums – referring to Nietzsche – “There is no turning back the last man“. In other words, the last humans are already here, and there is no turning back the next step.

So today for example, and now I will, in sympathy with some of my friends I know who teach in Theology I should say that their problem today formulated at a very head high level would be not the disbeliever, which was the older problem you discussed in theology departments, not the non-believer; their problem today is the non-person. In other words, to find someone for whom belief or disbelief might mean any damn thing either way. Its not that you can’t find people that won’t go “Oh I believe, I believe”, because you will. But to find someone that believes, you know, believes like Kierkegaard believed, or Saint Paul believed; you know, really believes. So the problem isn’t finding some silly tricky little argument, but finding some human being somewhere to make it to.

This is the Nihilism that makes Nietzsche relevant to the current situation. What Nietzsche actually sees at the end of this is what centred around God, and yet modern conditions – which I have characterised as the advent of Capitalism, mass communication, what Max Weber said were called “the disenchantment of the world”… you know… disenchantment. I don’t want to make that sound too strong because the enchanted world of the Middle Ages; you know if you got a toothache in that enchanted world it was unpleasant. So there are good things about modernity that I appreciate; like penicillin and other things. So don’t get too carried away with this enchanted/disenchanted distinction of Max Weber’s.

Nevertheless though, Max Weber called this modern world “disenchanted”, and Nietzsche’s trope for that – and the name of this lesson is called; what a thing to call a lesson – The Death of God”, I mean, you know, this is one of Nietzsche’s most notorious – as you know – parables and I am going to use it and hope that I get a chance to interpret it, to bring to an end this, sort of, this Nietzsche as a moralist point. In any case… before I do that I want to make two quick points about what I have just said.

Both the Greek Ideal – and don’t think these are very limited ideals… they structure all the things we still value… to the extent that we are still human and still value things – the Greek ideal and then the Christian ideal from which our other theories grew stay crucially important for all other theories. By that I mean for all other ethical theories. One of the ways Nietzsche sees these – and then I will get onto this passage – is this way.

Nietzsche talks about a reversal of values; that’s from the master to the slave; or from the active to the reactive human. That’s the reversal, and the reversal – as I say – has a double edge to it. It makes humans more mendacious, more interesting, sexier, more sinful, interesting. One more example might help there. I want to make this point clear.

Augustine’s Confessions – I don’t know how many of you have read this, but – Augustine’s Confessions were magnificent and I think it’s a wonderful book. Augustine feels more guilt, and has more excitement over stealing a pear than any of us would feel if we stole seven million dollars! [crowd laughter] I mean, Augustine in the Confessions evokes sin in the most marvellously embodied way. Because he stole a stinking pear. We are a long way from that historically, folks. That is far distant.

And my scary thing I’d like to say is I am about to read this parable about the death of God, and its supposed to be shocking, and yet I feel like I am at a time and a place in culture when we are far distant from our ability to be shocked by that at all either. What Nietzsche took to be most shocking, I think today it’s just grist for a certain commodity, system, certain way of advertising. Today “World spirit” may very well be just advertising.

Nevertheless, let me give you the famous parable; Nietzsche’s Death of God parable, and I’ll use it to bring this kind of suspicion to an end because with “The Death of God” we have – in Nietzsche – and it’s going to take a long time to explain, and I’ll do that in the next lecture, we’ll talk more about this parable. We could have spent eight hours interpreting just the parable. First of all, a parable called “The Death of God” can’t be atheism, right? Because to the bourgeois atheist it makes no sense to say God died because there wasn’t one, so he couldn’t have died. So that doesn’t make sense.

“The Death of God” is about the drying up of a horizon of meaning, and of a whole form of human life. And about Nietzsche’s both fear and exhilaration at what might come next. We still to a large extent live in the interregnum between worlds, if you will, or between paradigms. Not many people in the history of the world have faced that; lived in periods like that. So Nietzsche in that sense is also a prophetic thinker, so I’ll share with you – just so you can scandalise your friends, hell if nothing else – Nietzsche’s famous parable, and it’s from “The Gay Science”. The one I want to share with you is the parable from “The Gay Science” called “The Madman”, naturally, and as a madman myself, sometimes a professional madman, I enjoy this passage a lot. In “The Gay Science”, this is 125; aphorism 125. Of course these are some of Nietzsche’s fragments he is best known for because they are filled with hyperbole and wonderful invective and so… well, I enjoy this one. The Madman.

“Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours and ran to the market place…” – please follow Nietzsche’s every line because none of this is accidental, the madman lit a lantern and ran to the marketplace, okay – “…and cried incessantly: ‘I seek God! I seek God!'” – Well you can imagine that in a mall, right? [crowd laughter] The cops are going to come and pull you out, because nothing in a mall is that serious. It’s not designed to be, folks. Anyway…

“As many of those who do not believe in God were standing around just…” – see, Nietzsche was not just a simple atheist; follow this – “As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then he provoked much laughter” – Mall again, right? – “God, get this skypilot out of here” – “Did he get lost? One said. Did he lose his way like a child? Said another. Or is he hiding?” – now they are talking about him – “Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Has he emigrated? They yelled and laughed.

“The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his glance. ‘Whither is God?’ he cried; ‘I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this thing? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its centre; from its sun? Whither is it moving now? [Whither are we moving?] Away from all suns? Or are we not plunging continually? Backward, forward, sliding in all directions?…'”

“‘Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God?” Even so close to them – I am adding to the text now – even as close to some of those gravediggers as we all sit today? “Don’t we hear their digging at all? Is not night and more night coming on all the time? Do we not smell anything as yet of God’s decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him'”

Now there is a change. The mall people are a little quiet now because this is more interesting than they thought it would be, okay. That’s why they were quiet. And then he goes on.

And here’s the point where I want to introduce my next series of talks with: “‘How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves now? What was holiest and that the world has yet known has bled to death under our knives, and who can wipe this blood off of us? What water is there that can clean us now? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent?'” – What new myths? What new ways to live shall we have to invent? – “‘Is not the greatness of our deed still far too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it?…'”

“Here the madman fell silent and looked again at the listeners; and they were silent and astonished. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke and went out. ‘I have come too early; my time has not yet come’, said the madman. ‘This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of man. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires even more time; deeds too require time, even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard'” – by many – “‘This deed is still more distant from some of them than most the distant star—and yet they have done it themselves'”

“It has been related further” – Nietzsche again – “that on that same day the madman entered various churches, and there he sang his ‘Requiem to a Dead God’. Led out and called to account, he is said to have replied each time: “What after all are these churches now if not the sepulchres and the tombs of God?” What are these churches now? If not the sepulchres and the tombs of God?

Well, there’s the famous “Death of God” parable, for what its worth, or not worth. It takes a lot of interpreting, but it’s a very, very – for me – excitingly interesting, challenging, powerful and serious moment. Philosophers are very seldom ever really serious. You can tell that from Socrates, and sometimes the best part about them is that they are not too serious. But that’s a very serious moment for Nietzsche. And it’s also a moment that I think that I’d like to bring down to earth just a bit, because this is still a deed quite distant from us, and it may take quite a bit of work to pull it closer. But it’s really hard not to catch a sense for that.

Coming from the university I come from, where we have one of the world’s great cathedrals: Duke Chapel, and we have a beautiful stained glass painting of various saints, martyrs, apostles, Christ, but most important, and I want to return to Nietzsche’s first line about the market place. Our madman went to the marketplace to tell the news, because it’s in the marketplace where the news – in the new era of the world – in the New World Order; it’s the marketplace where the news needed to be spread, okay? In any case in Duke Chapel; it’s a beautiful chapel, I mean it’s the best imitation you can get this side of Europe [crowd laughter].

Built in the thirties I think – right? 20’s, 30’s, something like that – in this chapel you wander through, and for a moment your sense of reverence is almost there, you almost can remember some of those feelings when you were very young and you thought just maybe that was right, or whatever. But you wander off the edge of the chapel, and usually it’s very cool in there and they are playing Bach and it’s just a nice place to go, I mean I have to admit it.

But as you wander off, then there are the barons of tobacco; all of the barons of tobacco; the Washington Duke family, all buried in stay – not cardinals, not saints, not martyrs, no Thomas Aquinas, no Saint Thomas More; but George Washington Duke and his family, the buyers and sellers of America’s first international commodity: tobacco. The fortune upon which that church is erected, and to which it is dedicated. What is that magnificent church now but the tomb and the sepulchre of God? This always seemed to me a striking example, from a local perspective. I mean you’d need to visit the chapel if you come to Duke, and you are welcome to do so.

I will bring up a few things from the Genealogy again, but by the time we have reached this moment of The Death of God, we already have a strange change in the discourse of Nietzsche’s text. Because now the challenge will be for me to present what I have only so far indicated. And it’s indicated in the parable. What new games, new festivals, can human beings – insofar there is any life that remains – what can be invented, now? To make up for what has already been destroyed.

And that’s the challenge we’ll have in the next classes; is to see first what does Nietzsche offer us by way of any new myths like that, and more importantly, what myths could we construct ourselves; what games, what holy festivals, what interesting books, fascinating arguments, and new ways to live? Other than the pathetic tragic, stupid, banal array of ordinary, everyday, bourgeois stinking life. Surely we can do better than that. Surely.

So that’s the project that we will head out on, you know. Because we don’t want to end with the thought that always seems to me ghastly – and especially after reading Nietzsche – it’s that to imagine someone looking at your tombstone years from now, and it says: “Bill O’Reilly”, gives the dates – its always comforting, I visit graveyards, I like it – “Sold tyres” [crowd laughter]. Now I don’t know if you sell tyres, and I know people driven to that and worse, but still, that would be “Great salesman. Wonderful friend. Nice chum”.

To experience that horror, just that horror, may require some effort from us but I want us to experience it so that we might think of some new games, some new ways to live. [applause]