The existential grounding of death in Hölderlin, Nietzsche, and Heidegger

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The existential grounding of death in Hölderlin, Nietzsche, and Heidegger

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Title: The existential grounding of death in Hölderlin, Nietzsche, and Heidegger
Author: Ireton, Sean Moore
Abstract: The present dissertation examines two of the most important yet overlooked precursors to Martin Heidegger's analytic of death in Sein und Zeit : Holderlin's unfinished drama Der Tod des Empedokles and Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra. In all three works, death forms an ontological problem; that is, it becomes integrated into being and takes on existential significance. In contrast to the traditional metaphysical view of death as a fixed point in time signaling the cessation of life, the ontological perspective posits finitude as the ultimate horizon of possibility against which one defines and structures existence. This tendency reaches its pinnacle with Heidegger, who regards human reality as an ongoing process of Sein zum Tode, in which one's relation to finitude becomes a determining factor of selfhood. In his analysis, Heidegger discusses several aspects of death that would appear to be unprecedented in both conception and formulation. Yet a closer examination of texts by Holderlin and Nietzsche reveals a probable indebtedness on the part of Heidegger for certain notions expressed in Sein und Zeit, particularly with regard to the concepts of Vorlaufen in den Tod and Freiheit zum Tode.As Heidegger was influenced by Holderlin and Nietzsche, Nietzsche was in turn inspired by Holderlin attempting to write a tragedy of his own around the Presocratic philosopher Empedocles. While neither dramatic project was carried through to completion, the extant fragments and drafts contain a number of similarities with regard to plot, characterization, and ideas. Although Nietzsche's Empedokles drama never progressed beyond a brief series of sketches conceived during the early 1870s, he took up the project under a different guise some ten years later. His famous work Also sprach Zarathustra, written in four parts from 1883--85, can be considered an extension of his initial Empedokles project, for it retains and expands upon several of the original themes, especially death. As posthumously published notes reveal, Nietzsche also planned to write parts of Zarathustra in dramatic form, which further speaks for a connection to the Empedokles project, both his own and that of his predecessor Holderlin.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1998

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