Small Thoughts Review: Eternal Recurrence Revisited by Brandon Robshaw

Eternal Recurrence Revisited¬†by Brandon Robshaw is another look at Nietzsche’s interpretation of the recurrence of life and death Infinitum. It is published in issue 137 of Philosophy Now: A magazine of ideas.

Nietzsche’s take on eternal recurrence is, to nobodies surprise, rather depressing. Or at least it is for his sake. The idea is that every person will live life, again and again, exactly the way they have already lived it, making all the same mistakes and feeling all the same pain and joys as they are doing so right now in their current life. For Nietzsche, himself, this may have been perhaps debilitating. He was not a happy, optimistic person. Brandon Issue 137Robshaw, on the other hand, interprets this particular concept in far different ways than Nietzsche might have for himself. As Nietzsche was blighted by health issues, few friends, and constant personal egotistical demons, not everyone is. That’s what Robshaw brings to this. For some–Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence might be wonderful, for they have lived happy, fulfilling lives (by and large). However, Robshaw can’t stray too far from the near nihilistic nature of Nietzsche. Robshaw posits: if we are doomed to live and relive all our past experiences, are we then at what point is everything meaningless and the same, since it has already happened–even if we don’t remember our past lives, or the lives to come that will be exactly as our lives are now. Suddenly, life is not so linear in the sense from point A to Point B, for death entails another birth–are you an antinatalist? Do you prescribe a positive or negative value to birth? If you do then the continued birth-death-birth-death-etc, the cycle is no doubt depressing. But then there’s the chicken-or-egg conundrum: Can we tell which came first, birth or death? One may signify the other if we take Nietzsche’s idea of eternal recurrence for a fact. Suddenly, time seems not something fix, but rather nearly a room we could walk through sampling what experiences we might enjoy and those we do not–if only we could recall our past lives.