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 Class Forums - Spring 2013
 PHIL 200-002 - Friedrich Nietzsche
 The Gay Science, Section 73
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Henry Thomas

22 Posts

Posted - Feb 18 2013 :  8:47:12 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
While I was reading The Gay Science I came across the section on page 129 titled "Holy cruelty," and it really caught my attention. I don't have questions about it. I just want to share my opinion and see if anyone responds with his or her own opinion or wants to add anything -- maybe something completely different.

The section contains a description of a man holding a baby and saying "What shall I do with this child?" because it has misshapen features and is struggling to live. A holy man tells the man to kill the baby. The people reproach the holy man for the cruelty involved in his telling the man to kill the baby. But at the very end of the section the holy man asks, "But is it not crueler to let it live?" This makes me wonder: if people are struggling or in a lot of pain, is it better to put them out of their pain, or is it better to allow them to deal with it on their own? The pain can be physical, emotional, or psychological. Personally I don't believe anyone has a say about whether someone should die or not.

[Edited to enhance readability -TT]

Tom Trelogan
Forum Admin

1533 Posts

Posted - Feb 19 2013 :  09:42:53 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
What occurs to me right off the bat, Henry, is that these two questions -- "Which of these two courses of action is better?" and "Which of them is less cruel?" -- aren't obviously the same question at all. Maybe this is one of those cases in which we'd find it illuminating (or at least unsettling) to give a bit of thought to the ancestry -- the genealogy -- of a very familiar way of putting things. What's the history of the word "cruel"? What light might its etymology shed on us?
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David Berger
Old Hand

103 Posts

Posted - Mar 15 2013 :  2:22:58 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
To answer the question of cruelty, I briefly looked up the definition of the word "cruel." The first entry I found read: "willingly or knowingly causing harm to others." Indeed, then, it is crueler to let the child live, for it will live out its life with the great pain of crooked joints, and we know of no definite pain that will come after death. Thus it is certainly crueler to let the misshapen ones live.

Now, is it better or worse? The pain these misshapen ones go through may indeed teach them to be stronger. Indeed, we must be aware that Nietzsche puts the murderous words, the claim that it is crueler to let it live, in the mouth of a priest! Such a priest, knowing of Nietzsche's fated painful existence, would have opted to kill him as well, do you not think? Some food for thought. :)

[Very lightly edited to enhance readability -TT]
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