Tuesday, February 19, 2013

[PHI 2200] The Eternal Recurrence

In The Gay Science (341), Nietzsche introduces the notion of the "Eternal Recurrence" as a sort of thought experiment:
What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence - even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!"

Could the notion of the Eternal Recurrence serve as the basis for a normative theory of ethics? Consider the following moral principle:
Act in such a way that you can will your action to recur eternally.
For example, suppose you are considering whether you should cheat on an exam or not. If you can will your act of cheating to recur eternally, then it is morally permissible. In other words, if you are truly willing to cheat on the exam over and over again, and experience everything that comes with cheating on the exam, such as the frustration of not comprehending the material, the fear of getting caught, the doubts about your abilities as a student, etc., for all eternity, then you should cheat on the exam.

However, if you cannot will your act of cheating to recur eternally, then it is morally impermissible. In other words, if you wouldn't want to experience the frustration, doubt, fear, and shame over and over again for all eternity, then you don't really want your act of cheating to recur eternally, and thus you should not cheat.

What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment

This is an academic blog about critical thinking, logic, and philosophy. So please refrain from making insulting, disparaging, and otherwise inappropriate comments. Also, if I publish your comment, that does not mean I agree with it. Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog.