In P. Katsafanas (ed.), Routledge Philosophical Minds: The Nietzschean Mind. Routledge (2018)

Abstract
Most commentators assume that the affirmation of life can be defined univocally, as an act the success of which can be assessed by means of the test of the eternal return in GS341; and, that the affirmation of life is synonymous with what Nietzsche calls amor fati, and thus singlehandedly encapsulates Nietzsche’s ethical ideal. I take issue with both assumptions and develop an alternative view. I argue that for Nietzsche there are two ways to affirm life ethically. The first is unreflective and piecemeal. I propose a substantive modification to Bernard Reginster’s procedural approach by suggesting that life is affirmed each time an agent seeks to overcome, and succeeds in overcoming, resistance in the pursuit of a first order desire expressive of love for life – the last clause being mine. I further argue that even with this added clause this first form cannot defeat what Reginster calls the ‘normative core of nihilism’, namely the experiencing of suffering as an objection to life. I identify in Nietzsche’s later work a second form of ethical life affirmation: a holistic, ecstatic act, a Dionysian blessing which ‘calls good’ life as a whole and thus redeems it by making it fully desirable on erotic grounds. Yet even in its two ethical forms the affirmation of life does not suffice to define Nietzsche’s ethical ideal. The very perspective of life affirmation is limited because it remains beholden to the very framework Nietzsche sought to escape: the Christian overarching concern for redemption and preoccupation with theodicic narratives. By contrast, I argue that amor fati, as agapic love of life, affords Nietzsche with a distinct resource to go beyond theodicic prospects and examine its relation to the erotic love of life, which is at the core of both forms of ethical life affirmation. I offer a pluralistic reading of GS341, not simply as a test of life affirmation, but as articulating Nietzsche’s two ethical ideals, amor fati on the one hand, and the affirmation of life in both its forms, on the other.
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