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Oddly enough, this passage paints a brighter picture of Nietzsche than popular thought attributes to him. Nietzsche here presents a direct path -- unlike Rousseau -- out of the swamps of nothingness: the path is not necessarily religion, nor is it secularism. Rather, it is a lack of contradiction.
Nietzsche urges each man to evaluate just what he believes and desires and understand for himself whether he wishes to credit God or himself. In other words, Nietzsche calls upon man to answer the age old question: fate or control?
If mankind avoids contradiction here, he is able to pick himself up by the bootstraps and re-instill into his life some of the soul and passion that Rousseau bleakly believes is missing.
In fact, Nietzsche had a great argument with Rousseau's thinking: this hostility derives from Nietzsche's conviction that the autonomous subject of Enlightened political discourse is hopelessly inadequate. Nietzsche did not feel that politics and freedom of religion and government are the keys to man's happiness.
Nietzsche's thinking also contradicts communist thought: Communism absolves both God and man and relies on community instead. Nietzsche asks mankind to choose between God and man and he truly means it: a choice of neither does not satisfy Nietzsche's model for picking oneself up from the swamps.
Similarly, Nietzsche's thought runs very contrary to More's "Utopia," simply because he did not at all believe in the concept of religions -- Catholicism in particular, as later years proved More's affinity -- and the freedom to choose a religion as being the savior for mankind's progression into unhappiness.
However, Nietzsche did share much with Dostoevsky. Both believed that Jesus presented no answers. However, Dostoevsky believed in Jesus' impotence from a very normative perspective; Nietzsche, on the other hand, only denied Jesus in a situation in which man was not given a choice to either choose to relegate responsibility for life to either God or man himself.
Marx/Engels, on the other hand, share their philosophy, at least in part, with every other thinker examined here. First, they believed that the descent of man into capitalism created social classes, and these social classes detract incontrovertibly from the human experience.
To that end, they agree entirely with Rousseau. However, Marx and Engels believe that the loss is an economic one, whereas Rousseau laments the emotional and spiritual loss.
Marx and Engels take their cue from More, of course, in designing the utopia that is communism. They feel that a utopia can only exist when devoid of the profit motive that serves to corrupt man.
Marx and Engels also believe that Dostoevsky's theory that Jesus is not a savior of humanity holds water. Marx and Engels are only willing to put their faith in concrete improvement for mankind through such modifications as collective farms and the communist form of government. They are not willing to assign away mankind's happiness to Jesus in any way. Jesus as an upholder of freedoms is useless to Marx and Engels. If Jesus had not resisted the temptations in "The Grand Inquisitor," Marx and Engels would have been much more likely to lend an ear and ascribe more to a religious political philosophy.
Through these comparisons, it is evident that the most convincing writers are Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. Dostoevsky uses narrative to achieve his ends of persuasion, and uses narrative well. He constructs a plot and twists us into actually rooting against Jesus Christ, purportedly the savior of mankind. Here, his work is akin to Nabokov's turning a pedophile into a protagonist.
Nietzsche is effective because he employs persuasive tones of voice and strategies supremely. He assumes certain "truths" that are nothing more that assumptions, but because of the forcefulness of his prose, readers are swept into thinking that these assumptions are truthful without questioning. Nietzsche then premises his more prized proofs on these assumptions, and does so successfully. The reader in Nietzsche is not only persuaded, he is literally swept away, and in no small part due to Nietzsche's subterfuge.
Indeed, even though all of these five thinkers deal with mankind's fall, they all take different paths in "curing" that fall, some more optimistically than others. This examination yields two surprising revelations: Nietzsche is by no means the most pessimistic of this group, and Rousseau is the only one who seems so distraught by man's fall that he cannot even pose an ostensible solution.
Dostoevsky, The Grand Inquisitor
Marx/Engels, The Communist Manifesto
Rousseau, Discourse on the origins and foundations of inequality among men…[continue]
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