2008 EPS Papers (Coblentz)

November 20, 2008
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Travis Coblentz

Lex Luther vs. Superman: Using Bonhoeffer to Make Nietzsche’s Ethic Christian

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to examine the following comment by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Nietzsche’s Superman is not really, as he supposed, the opposite of the Christian; without knowing it, Nietzsche has here introduced many traits of the Christian made free, as Paul and Luther describe him.” In particular, I shall attempt, using Bonhoeffer’s view of Christian ethics, to show the similarity between the ethical life of the Ubermensche and the Christian. Bonhoeffer and Nietzsche share a negative view of deontological ethics – Bonhoeffer uses the language of law or duty, while Nietzsche opposes all generalization or abstraction of morality. I shall give a brief description and justification of Bonhoeffer’s ethic, and then argue that, in light of this, Nietzsche’s Ubermensche is, with a few qualitications, an appropriate description of the ethical life of the Christian.