Pedro Alexis Tabensky
Rhodes University, Sudáfrica
He is the author of Happiness: Personhood, Community, Purpose (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003) and of several publications in peer reviewed journals. Editor of Judging and Understanding: Essays on Free Will, Narrative, Meaning and the Ethical Limits of Condemnation (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006) and of The Positive Function of Evil (London: Palgrave, 2009). Pedro A. Tabensky currently lectures in philosophy at Rhodes University, and is working on two monographs, one on the roots of evil and on the complex roles evil plays in human living, and the other defending a new position in the free will debate.
If one is to affirm this-worldly life in the way that Nietzsche does, then one must also affirm, at least to some extent, its tragic dimensions. Indeed, Nietzsche’s fundamental philosophical aim, it seems to me, is to develop what could be referred to as a secular theodicy; an attempt to show, not that God is good despite all the evil in the world, but that the world is good despite (and to a large extent also because of) the abundance of large and small evils (my use of «evil» here is different from Nietzsche’s idiosyncratic usage in the Genealogy but not necessarily from his usage elsewhere in his corpus, and it accords more closely with common usage). This does not mean that we must affirm any and every negative thing that life throws on us, but rather it means that we must learn to accept the fact that life emerges in all of its brilliance only in a world plagued with adversities (with evils), a world very much like our own. And the fact that this is the case for Nietzsche does not mean that he is committed to the incoherent idea that evil is good (or that it could be good). Rather, it means that for him evil plays a key positive function in our lives and not everything that plays such a function is good. The Mandelas and the Tutus of this world, for instance, could never have come about where it not for the presence of evils such as apartheid (or the Chile of Pinochet). This is not to say that we should have a positive attitude towards apartheid (or to the Chile of Pinochet), but what should our attitude be if we are committed to the idea that evil may have a positive function? I will argue, following among others Robert M. Adams and Philip Hallie, that our attitude should be one of ambivalence. But what ambivalence amounts to needs careful unpacking for it is clear that it cannot amount to the endorsement of evil or to apathy. Rather, and vaguely put, ambivalence amounts to a joyful type of non-complacent acceptance of the negative conditions that make human living at its best possible.