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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) has exerted a huge influence on 20th century philosophy and literature - an influence that looks set to continue into the 21st century. Nietzsche questioned what it means for us to live in our modern world. He was an 'anti-philosopher' who expressed grave reservations about the reliability and extent of human knowledge. His radical scepticism disturbs our deepest-held beliefs and values. For these reasons, Nietzsche casts a 'long shadow' on the complex cultural and philosophical phenomenon we now call 'postmodernism'. "Nietzsche and Postmodernism" explains the key ideas of this 'Anti-Christ' philosopher. It then provides a clear account of the central themes of postmodernist thought exemplified by such thinkers as Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard and Rorty, and concludes by asking if Nietzsche can justifiably be called the first great postmodernist.
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Dave Robinson has taught philosophy for many years and is the author of numerous Introducing titles. He is now a part-time lecturer in Critical Studies and lives in Devon.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Nietzsche is an important philosopher because he was the first to recognise what being 'modern' really means for Western Europeans. He saw that two thousand years of belief in Christian values was coming to an end, and that this meant that our individual lives no longer had any purpose or meaning. Even worse, nearly all of the key ideas and values of Western thought were just 'metaphysics', without foundation, and he believed that this devastating fact woiuld have to be confronted honestly. He finally suggested the need for 'new people' who would understand and celebrate the new state of affairs. And all of these disturbing ideas he expressed in an extraordinary way:
"At last the horizon appears free again to us, even granted that it's not bright, at last our ships may venture out again...the sea, our sea lies open again; perhaps there has never been such an 'open sea'."
Nietzsche knew he was a prophet. Photographs of him usually reveal a man with a ridiculous walrus moustache and wild staring eyes. He always thought he was writing for a more appreciative future audience, and described himself as a 'posthumous' philosopher. So, one hundred years later, perhaps we are that audience and he is the first great postmodernist...
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