The Case for Anthro-culturalism: A Nietzschean Rejoinder to MacIntyre's Critique of Modernity
Douglass, R. Bruce
By means of an in-depth exegesis of the works of Alasdair MacIntyre and Friedrich Nietzsche, my dissertation argues that the fundamental pathology afflicting Modernity in the West is not a crisis of values—whether valuelessness or value-anarchy (i.e., an axiological crisis)—as MacIntyre claims, but meaninglessness and will-lessness (i.e., a practical-existential crisis), the latter having profound cultural and political implications in Nietzsche’s view and prognosticating cultural passivity and total nihilism for the West. With his emphasis on the ‘revaluation of all values’, I argue that Nietzsche proposes a positive program designed to counteract this general decline in the cultural health of the West unleashed by the décadent and ressentimental instincts and their domination (for millennia) of the Western form of life (i.e., ‘culture-complex’) within different corruptive/degenerative paradigms. By means of a distinctive tragic and visionary realism that emphasizes the natural condition of human life (as one shaped in relation to suffering, disorder and flux and in an incessant search for meaning) and the differential ‘psycho-physiology’ (or ‘nature’) of various human types (in terms of their capacity for mythopoetic activity), Nietzsche hopes to reaffirm the dominance of the (healthy) ‘pathos of Distanz’ embodied in the Übermenschlich types of persons and to do so within an epoch-transforming project that is informed by a novel ‘philosophy of life’ and deemed attainable within a new ‘politics of culture’. Under the aegis of what he calls ‘great politics’ and conceives of as an ‘agonistic aristocracy’, Nietzsche envisions the radical possibility for profound cultural transformation and regeneration, anticipated since the Enlightenment, to finally be effected as the ‘destiny of task’ of those higher and exceptional types of men—the Übermenschen, bringing about a new dawn in (higher) culture. Nietzsche’s emphasis on culture as the source of symbolic and practical meaning (i.e., semiotic order) for human life and his insistence on the dynamic transformation of ‘culture-complexes’ within continuous cycles of ascent and decline, a process informed by the willpower of outstanding human agents or the Übermensch (exemplifying the strongest spirits in mankind), betrays his critique of Modernity as well as his overarching life-affirming philosophy and theory of (cultural) agency—all within a distinctive form of realism and of ‘dispositional-spiritual’ (or perspectival) orientation’ we can label “anthro-culturalism”.
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