Eternal Recurrence and Nihilism: Adding Weight to the Unbearable Lightness of Action

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(Version 2.4) I have argued elsewhere for ascribing an error theory about all normative and evaluative judgements to Nietzsche. Such a nihilism brings with it a puzzle: how could we—or at least the select few of us being addressed by Nietzsche—continue in the face of this nihilism? This is a philosophical puzzle and so, defeasibly, an interpretive puzzle. If there is no theory it would make sense for Nietzsche to have about how the select few could go on, then this is some evidence against the proposed interpretation of him as a nihilist. I defended the interpretation by arguing that Nietzsche’s declarations about creating values point to a practice of generating honest evaluative illusions. Such honest evaluative illusions are tricky things, though, and, precisely because they are honest, one might worry that they lack the motivational power of genuine evaluative belief. Can they truly play the role that evaluative beliefs play in our psychological economies? I suspect that Nietzsche does not want the honest illusions to play exactly the role that evaluative beliefs played. The cheerfulness, the playfulness, the lightness that Nietzsche hopes for are, I have suggested, a function of the shift from belief to pretence, from illusion to honest illusion. The question, nonetheless, is whether the resulting picture is too light. Can I go through life merely acting, as a critic might put it? My suggestion in this essay will be that the thought of eternal recurrence is meant to add weight to the lightness of acting—“acting”, obviously, in both the here relevant senses of the word.
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