Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Political Science and Law

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Brian Smith

Committee Member

Jack Baldwin-LeClair

Committee Member

Tony Spanakos


Friedrich Nietzsche’s critique of the West is just as poignant now as it was at the time of his writing. Arguably, his commentary on nihilism, decadence and the last men are of special interest, because of the ways in which we currently see his predictions as they function in the modem world. Nietzsche challenges us throughout his work to respond to the claim of the madman in “The Parable of the Madman” - what have we done to make ourselves worthy of the death of God? For Nietzsche, the idiosyncratic niceties of modem society are just residuum of the herd morality; and if man was truly desirous of returning to excellence, he would appropriate Nietzsche’s philosophy and embrace the tragic age.

Nietzsche’s secular case for suffering presents a worldview underpinned by violence. Emphasizing the tragic man as the excellent, Nietzsche is demonstrating to readers that, in a truly revalued society, nothing that necessitates respect for concepts like equality and dignity. Instead, Nietzsche takes a drastically different approach to the “problem” of modern man, advocating for those things which would remove structures of comfort and necessitate suffering. In this way, suffering is a vehicle for both knowledge and greatness. To the extent we want great culture, Nietzsche argues, we must accept great suffering.

Concerning liberalism in the modernized, and secularized, world, Nietzsche’s views are telling. Once we have placed ourselves on the same level as Nietzsche regarding rejection of universal morality, what justifications do we have to reject his desire for suffering, in favor of our own comfort and decadence? It is this question that this paper will seek to address, focusing on Nietzsche’s views on suffering and rejection of universal standards.

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