Crowell, Steven G.
Doctor of Philosophy
In this work, I offer a new interpretation of Nietzsche's existential philosophy. I argue that, methodologically, Nietzsche's existentialism is a consequence of making the typical existential position foundational, and then developing to the fullest the implications of this position. I call the resultant approach, "meta-existentialism." Further, I show that Nietzsche's meta-existential philosophy necessarily implicates his complex critique of metaphysics. In other words, his particular type of existentialism can be understood only by thoroughly investigating his criticism of metaphysical thought. Previous interpreters who have sought to portray Nietzsche as an existential thinker, such as Karl Jaspers, Walter Kaufmann and Robert Solomon, fail to seriously engage his critique of metaphysics. They set aside the latter issue, precisely in order to explicate his existentialism. My interpretation remedies this deficiency. This work also addresses those other commentators who do carefully consider Nietzsche's relation to metaphysics, although they do not interpret him as an existentialist. While poststructuralist thinkers, such as Eric Blondel, Sarah Kofman and Michel Haar, have argued that Nietzsche's thought exceeds the limits of metaphysics, other philosophers, such as Martin Heidegger, have claimed that Nietzsche remains trapped within its confines. My argument undercuts this debate by showing that Nietzsche provides an open-ended and ambiguous critique of metaphysics, in which the problem of metaphysics is never settled once and for all. By analyzing Nietzsche's central notion of "will to power" and the problem of "decadence," I show that an encounter with and an ever-renewed critique of metaphysics is essential to Nietzsche's meta-existentialism.