Richard Rorty has argued that Friedrich Nietzsche and William James are both polytheists in the deflationary sense that they are both pluralists about human value. I argue that there is a more philosophically significant sense in which Nietzsche and James might be called polytheists: both advocate a life of openness and receptivity to multiple and potentially incommensurable sources of inspiration outside of our conscious control. The value of these sources is accessed in experiences in which one feels that one is given something in an experience that one could not have obtained through conscious effort. I argue that this moment of passivity plays a crucial role in both James’s treatment of religious experience in The Varieties of Religious Experience and Nietzsche’s account of the state of inspiration he experienced while composing Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and that their deep similarity on this point suggests that Nietzsche is closer to Jamesian religion than he is to Rortyan secularism.


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pp. 69-96
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