Living Beyond Good and Evil
The semester is at a close and we have traveled quite a distance. So, as a way to bring some sort of “closure” to the semester, I ask that you consider going back to Module 1 and again contemplate the ethical theory of the very influential Western philosopher, Fredrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s ethics is very much tied to his philosophy of religion. Recall that you read that brief section on Nietzsche from an “Introduction to Philosophy” textbook in addition to his own Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Nietzsche argues that it is very possible for a human being to regain the spontaneity of a child, but not be childish, by living a human life from a perspective “beyond good and evil.” This is the perspective of his “Superman.” It is also the perspective of the Eastern “Self-Realized” sage. Nietzsche was one of the first Western philosophers to actually incorporate Eastern philosophy into his own work (the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita had just been translated from the Sanskrit language for the first time – these are two of the sacred Hindu texts). In his “The Three Metamorphoses of the Human Spirit” which you read (the story of the camel, the lion, and the child) and which is Part 1 of Book 1 of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (and which Joseph Campbell commented on in An Open Life – also located in Module 1), Nietzsche suggests that it is possible for human beings to live a life free of ALL ethical codes; indeed, this is the perspective of the most “enlightened” beings known to humanity – the perspective of the Zen master, the Taoist sage, the Buddha himself etc. This is the perspective of a truly FREE human being.
For 20 extra credit points, I would like your thoughts on such a perspective. I assume many of you have no or very little exposure to Eastern philosophy, but that does not matter here. You can complete this extra credit assignment simply by working with a bit of extra information I provide to you here.
First, read the selections from a book entitled I Am That, written by Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj, a little old man who used to sell cheap cigarettes (which are called “beedis” in India) on a street corner in Bombay. He eventually had quite a following until he died in 1981. There is no doubt that Nisargadatta was a self-realized human being who lived beyond good and evil. Today, I Am That is considered a sort of bible for spiritual seekers all over the world. Enjoy and pay special attention to the readings therein. Second, consider the words of the Buddha who stated: “Events happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer thereof.” Now, what does that mean? Well, third, consider the essence of what Nisargadatta is trying to convey in I Am That. He keeps stressing the point that “you are not the body/you are not the doer.” By identifying yourself with the body/with the “doer,” you suffer. And that identification is the greatest obstacle to self-realization, to true freedom.
Your extra credit question is this: In your opinion, what exactly does it mean to be Self-Realized, to live a life not identified with the body, with the doer? What would such a life look like, for you and for others?
Writing at least 300-400 words, post to the Discussion Although, you are certainly free to post earlier than this of course. Be sure to cite from resources and fully deveop your post in order to indicate what exactly you have assimilated from the material. (20pts)