The Death of God

What are we doing this week?

  • This week we are going to explore the idea of the “death of God” and why is it important for contemporary philosophy.
  • We will discuss the parable of the madman from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science and see how it raises new sets of problems to which subsequent philosophy tried to respond.

Supplied readings

Here's the main text we'll be looking at this week: Nietzsche’s parable of the madman. It's only one page long :)  

And here are some questions to guide your reading of the passage:

  • Who is the madman talking to?
  • In what way has God ‘died’ for Nietzsche?
  • Why is the madman not understood?
  • Why do you think the madman carries a lantern in the daytime?
  • ‘If God is dead, then everything is permitted’. Why?
  • The passage is written in a very colourful style. What effect does this way of writing have on the reader? Why do you think Nietzsche wants it that way?
  • Why do you think Nietzsche puts these words in the mouth of a madman?
  • The madman says "This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars". Do you think that the death of God is still "on its way" in our society today, or do you think it has fully arrived? What makes you say that?

The videos

There are four videos this week: two on the death of God itself, and two on its consequences.

1) Introducing the death of God

In this video you'll learn:

  • what Nietzsche means (and what he doesn't mean!) when his madman says that "God is dead".
  • the importance of Plato for grasping what the madman is saying, and for understanding the death of God  

2) Which God is dead?

In this video you'll learn:

  • what the "God of the philosophers" is, and why Pascal didn't like the idea
  • what on earth the death of God has to do with roadrunner cartoons

3) Consequences of the death of God

In this video you'll learn:

  • what consequences the death of God has been understood to have in three areas: morality, truth, and language
  • why the phrase "If God is dead, everything is permitted" is helpful, even if it is a misquotation   

4) More consequences of the death of God

In this video you'll learn:

  • about more consequences of the death of God, this time for humanity and the author.
  • how you can spot a mid twentieth-century French philosopher from fifty paces.