Colloquium: Shalini Satkunanandan

Neither Religious nor Spiritual: Nietzsche’s Illiberal, Faith-Based Self-Fashioning

Nietzsche’s call to make one’s life a work of art should be understood against the backdrop of his early concern with the possibility of founding a new communal religion (evident in The Birth of Tragedy) and his later turn to individualized, less-doctrinal “faiths” as an alternative path to the affirmation of life (albeit for the few). I show that, for Nietzsche, faith is the precondition for self-fashioning; and that, therefore, self-fashioning’s work is severely constrained and constraining. Over the last decade scholars have argued that secular liberal frameworks preemptively view faith commitments as threats to freedom, and so risk obscuring faith’s complexity – including the un-straightforward relation between doctrine and practice, and positive connections between religious constraint and self-creation. By revealing faith’s role in self-fashioning, Nietzsche can help us recognize self-fashioning in the contemporary faithful. Indeed, in certain respects, Nietzsche’s idiosyncratic atheism models a clear-eyed appreciation for faith and the faithful.

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