1. A TETRALOGUE ON NIETZSCHE AND CHRISTIANITY
Consider the following four characters: (i) Nietzsche, who thinks that Christianity and Christian values are a disaster for humanity; (ii) someone who identifies as a Christian, who broadly agrees with Nietzsches characterization of Christianity, but radically disagrees with his negative evaluation of it; (iii) someone whether identifying as a Christian or not who thinks that Nietzsche has completely mischaracterized Christianity; and (iv) someone who identifies as a Nietzschean Christian, i.e. who agrees with Nietzsches values and ideals, and who thinks that Christianity either already conforms to them, or else who thinks that Christianity can and should be tweaked/reformed so as to conform to them.
Write a tetralogue i.e. a four-part conversation between these four characters. Have Nietzsche start off by putting forward some or all of his characterization and critique of Christianity, then have the others respond to him and to each other, with Nietzsche responding in turn. Be sure to give each character the best most plausible, most clearly presented, and most convincingly argued versions of their positions, objections, and responses. And be sure to make each of the characters justify the claims that they make. This is your opportunity to host an ideal philosophico-religious debate!
You can set it out like the script of a play with four parts, or you can embed the tetralogue in prose narrative whichever you prefer. If you want, you can swoop in at the end to give your own judgement of who you think comes out best from the conversation (being sure to justify your claim), or you can leave the interlocutors to their own devices to conclude the tetralogue for themselves.
2. EXPERIMENTING WITH AMOR FATI (LOVE OF FATE)
In Ecce Homo Nietzsche writes: My formula for human greatness is amor fati [love of fate]: that you do not want anything to be different, not forwards, not backwards, not for all eternity. Not just to tolerate necessity, still less to conceal it…, but to love it …
In the lectures and slides for Week 10 I discussed a number of the tools and techniques which Nietzsche suggests for actually achieving this lofty state of utterly loving ones life exuberantly embracing every aspect of it, including even its seeming accidents, losses, pains, failures, shames, and everything else that we usually reject. Hopefully you have already spent some time experimenting with actually making use of some of those tools, and recording your experience in your journals. Over the next few weeks pick two specific tools or techniques and try to achieve the state that Nietzsche describes as love of fate as best you can. This will probably involve thinking through the tools somewhat more concretely than I was able to do in the lectures, so as to be able to put them into practice. It will also probably be helpful for you to keep some notes regarding how the experiment is going in your journal, then potentially tweaking your practice as you go along, to make it as effective as possible.
Use the essay to write up a report of your experiment: its details, its results, and you analysis and evaluation of what happened. You should seek to respond to the following questions/prompts: (i) For each of the tools or techniques that you picked, describe exactly what was involved in putting it into practice; and (ii) explain exactly how it was meant to help you towards achieving love of every aspect of your life. (iii) What resulted from your enacting these two practices? Did they help you to any degree in embracing all aspects of your life? If so, in what way, and if not, did they have any other effect? (iv) If these practices either were failures or even if they simply did not bring you to complete love of every aspect of your life what accounts for this? Was it a failure on the part of your execution, or a failure in the design of the practices themselves, or something else? (v) Did the practices improve your life, make it worse, or do neither? And why? Finally (vi) do you consider the aim of loving every aspect of our lives to be a good one, or to be a misguided and potentially even dangerous one, and why? Be sure to justify all your answers.
3. THE DIFFICULTY OF HONEST SELF-KNOWLEDGE
One theme that seems to unite Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Baldwin, is that of our tendency to avoid honest and deep self-knowledge, and the difficulty of obtaining it.
Consider the following three questions: (i) Why is self-knowledge so difficult to obtain? (ii) What are the ramifications of achieving self-knowledge, and what is the value of self- knowledge (if any)? And (iii) how should we best go about obtaining self-knowledge?
This essay should focus on Baldwin plus one of the other two figures (i.e. in addition to Baldwin pick either Kierkegaard or Nietzsche). Then compare and contrast the answers that Baldwin and your chosen second thinker would give to the above three questions. Be sure to discuss and analyse their respective justifications for their responses. On points over which your two figures disagree, how would they try to convince each other of their own rightness?
Discuss, also, where you stand on these questions: do you agree with one or both of these thinkers, and why? And if with neither, then what are your own answers to the above questions, and why?
Wherever relevant, try to bring your own experience to bear on your discussion. Does what these thinkers say about the difficulty or obtaining self-knowledge and the ways we can obtain it ring true to your experience? Either way, try to bring concrete examples from your own life, if you can (whether from the past, or from the next few weeks in which you actually try to engage in some introspection on these matters).
4. A SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY OF EARTHSEED
Octavia Butlers novel Parable of the Sower describes the development of a new religion called Earthseed by Lauren Oya Olamina. The first few chapters of the novel provides us with a history of the origins of the religion, and the collection of 66 verses provides us with everything we have from the new religions scriptures, The Books of the Living (both are posted as readings on Blackboard).
Crudely put, Systematic Theology is the project of: (i) organizing the various beliefs of a religion in a systematic manner, beginning with the most fundamental beliefs, and building the derivative beliefs on top of those; (ii) providing some grounds/arguments for holding those beliefs; and (iii) spelling out some of the practical upshots for ones life of holding those beliefs.
In this essay you should write a brief Systematic Theology of Earthseed (possibly the first such systematic theology to have been constructed for this religion!). To do so, address the following questions: (i) What are the most fundamental beliefs of Earthseed? What are some of the secondary beliefs, which rest on those fundamental beliefs? Be sure to spell out the content of these beliefs as clearly as you can. (ii) How might you best convince someone to become an adherent of Earthseed? Would this be a matter of rational proof/argument (and if so, what)? Would it be by some other means (and if so, what)? How might you best bring up a child to be a pious adherent of Earthseed? (iii) What would the life of an adherent of Earthseed look like, in its most important aspects? How would the life of an Earthseed adherent differ from that of a fairly similar person who was not an adherent of this religion? And (iv) Do you think Earthseed is a good religion? (In answering this, include an explanation of what you mean by good religion).
In answering these be sure to justify the claims you make (by reference to reason where relevant, and by reference to verses from The Books of the Living where relevant).