Fatal Instinct by Craig Payne

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Fatal Instinct

The Thousand-Year Gap in Nietzsche's Education & Our Modern Sickness by Craig Payne

This essay began its life as a presentation to the Midwest Conference of the Society of Christian Philosophers in 2016, the same conference at which Richard Swinburne stirred up a bit of a kerfuffle by using the word "disability" with reference to homosexuality—a usage to which I will return. In this paper, originally titled "The Anti-Nietzsche: Advocating for a Thomistic Culture," I express my indebtedness to Alasdair MacIntyre, but such a debt is obvious by the title itself. Any time you see the names of Nietzsche and Thomas Aquinas side by side, you know the author is referring to MacIntyre's After Virtue. It has now been 37 years since After Virtue was first published, but MacIntyre's claims in that book are still important and relevant.

A primary claim is that the central ethical division in the modern world lies between, on the one hand, the ethical and political worldview of Aristotle and Aquinas, based on the rational nature of humanity and its judgments, and, on the other hand, the Nietzschean worldview, based on the human will and its assertions. According to MacIntyre, Nietzsche is "the moral philosopher of the present age." MacIntyre goes on to argue that, since in his view Enlightenment-era ethical philosophies cannot stand up against Nietzsche's critique, if any pre-modern moral philosophy (such as natural law) is "to be vindicated against modernity, it will be in something like Aristotelian terms or not at all."

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