Vce philosophy units 3 & 4



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VCE PHILOSOPHY UNITS 3 & 4



Nietzsche, “The Joyful Wisdom”

  1. Using the Internet, authoring tools, class handouts and/or encyclopaedias, provide a brief biographical sketch on Nietzsche.

Try http://www.usc.edu/~douglas/nietzsche.htm and www.utm.edu/research/iep

  1. Kierkegaard is generally acknowledged as the ‘prime mover’ of ‘the movement’ (if it can be called one) that is referred to as existentialism. What is existentialism, and what was it a reaction against?

  2. What is the ‘evolutionary account of ethics’?

  3. Although Nietzsche never read Kierkegaard, they share many similarities. What are they? Where do they differ?

  4. According to Nietzsche:

It is the case ‘that God is dead, that belief in the Christian God has become unworthy of belief,’ and ‘our entire European morality was built on this belief.




  1. Does he give any reasons for believing these assertions?

  2. What do you think his reasons are for saying that “God is dead”?

  3. Which historical events may have influenced Nietzsche?

  1. It may seem as though Nietzsche is assuming that science and the theory of evolution tell us that there is no God. The evidence for believing in God is no longer compelling. However Nietzsche also seems to reject the idea that we should believe in scientific truth. What does Nietzsche mean when he says: “even we knowing ones of today, the godless and anti-metaphysical, still take our fire from … the belief of Plato … that truth is divine.”

  1. Do you think what he says is true?

  2. Is he being consistent?

  1. Explain why Nietzsche says:

When a man arrives at the fundamental conviction that he requires to be commended, he becomes a believer. Reversely, one could imagine a delight and a power of self-determining, and a freedom of the will, whereby a spirit could bid farewell to every belief, to every wish for certainty, accustomed as it would be to support itself on slender cords and possibilities, and to dance even on the verge of abysses. Such a spirit would be the free spirit par excellence.




  1. What reason does he give for thinking that we could believe things simply in virtue of our will?

  2. What reason does he give for believing that we are free spirits?

  3. It seems to be a belief in science that leads him to the view that there is no God. However, can we believe in science and also believe in free will?

  1. What does Nietzsche suggest is the basis for morality? What kind of morality do you think Nietzsche is proposing? Do you agree that humans are free to create their own morality?

  2. Explain why Nietzsche thinks that morality becomes problematic once one no longer believes in God.

  3. Is it the case that, “If God is dead everything is permitted?

  4. Do we need God to provide a meaning and purpose to life? Do we need God as a foundation for morality?

  5. What attitude does Nietzsche have to past moralities? What does he think will be the basis of future morality? How plausible are his views?

  6. According to Nietzsche, what are the consequences for morality of 'the death of God'? Is the atheist really committed to these views?

  7. "If God does not exist, everything is permitted." What assumptions, stated or unstated, underlie this claim? Are they valid assumptions?

  8. Does Darwin’s theory of evolution show that there is nothing special about human beings? If so, is life meaningless?

  9. What attitude does Nietzsche have to Buddhism? Given what Nietzsche says about Christianity and about Socrates, what do you think his attitude to Epicurus’ ethical views would be? What do you think his attitude to Stoicism would be?

  10. What response do you think an Epicurean could make to Nietzsche? What response could a Stoic make? What response could a Buddhist make? Whose views do you think are most plausible given your own metaphysical beliefs and given what you think the consequences of adopting these various views of morality might be?

  11. Can the ideas on the good life (how we should live for life to be good), as expressed by Nietzsche, be compared with the notions of the good life in other traditions such as Christianity, Confucianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Indigenous cultures or modern materialism? Choose two of these. How would they react to Nietzsche’s conception of the good life developed in the core texts? This will be relevant to SAC 3.

  12. Re-examine the lives of some prominent people of interest to you, such as politicians, performers, religious leaders, writers or whomever. To what extent do you think their lives conform to existentialism as propounded by Nietzsche. To what extent do you think their lives confirm or disconfirm to the conceptions of the good life to be found in this late nineteenth century view?

  13. In your own words, provide a detailed summary of the arguments, assumptions and assertions in the extract from “The Joyful Wisdom”. Now analyze and evaluate the key arguments. This is the most important work for the SACs and the examination. Be sure that you clarify the premises and conclusions of the major arguments in your own words, so that they make sense when you come to revise for SACs and for the examination.

  14. Choose what you think is the weakest argument in “The Joyful Wisdom”. How would you alter it to make it more plausible? Also choose what you think is the strongest argument and explain why it is plausible.


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