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On God and Guilt: A Reply to Aaron Ridley

On God and Guilt: A Reply to Aaron Ridley 040 Risse (46-53) 3/21/05 12:13 PM Page 46 On God and Guilt: A Reply to Aaron Ridley Mathias Risse 1. Let me begin by distinguishing two conceptions of guilt. The first conceives of guilt as an experience of reprehensible failure in response to specific actions. I feel guilty if I break a promise for reasons that cannot justify this transgres- sion. This conception of guilt as a responsive attitude, which I call locally- reactive guilt, captures a tension in one’s agency that arises from a local failure. The second conception understands guilt as a condition that shapes one’s whole existence. Guilt, on this view, is a persistent feeling of imperfection. Such guilt, existential guilt, presupposes a reference point vis-à-vis which one’s life is so experienced. This reference is most plausibly a shared understanding of moral perfection within a community that is so demanding as to make it hard or impos- sible to live up to its standards. While the adoption of the Christian God offers one explanation for the emergence of such a shared understanding, other expla- nations of existential guilt are possible (see section 5 below). Existential guilt manifests itself especially in locally-reactive guilt, but there can be http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of Nietzsche Studies Penn State University Press

On God and Guilt: A Reply to Aaron Ridley

The Journal of Nietzsche Studies , Volume 29 (1) – May 9, 2005

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2005 The Friedrich Nietzsche Society.
ISSN
1538-4594

Abstract

040 Risse (46-53) 3/21/05 12:13 PM Page 46 On God and Guilt: A Reply to Aaron Ridley Mathias Risse 1. Let me begin by distinguishing two conceptions of guilt. The first conceives of guilt as an experience of reprehensible failure in response to specific actions. I feel guilty if I break a promise for reasons that cannot justify this transgres- sion. This conception of guilt as a responsive attitude, which I call locally- reactive guilt, captures a tension in one’s agency that arises from a local failure. The second conception understands guilt as a condition that shapes one’s whole existence. Guilt, on this view, is a persistent feeling of imperfection. Such guilt, existential guilt, presupposes a reference point vis-à-vis which one’s life is so experienced. This reference is most plausibly a shared understanding of moral perfection within a community that is so demanding as to make it hard or impos- sible to live up to its standards. While the adoption of the Christian God offers one explanation for the emergence of such a shared understanding, other expla- nations of existential guilt are possible (see section 5 below). Existential guilt manifests itself especially in locally-reactive guilt, but there can be

Journal

The Journal of Nietzsche StudiesPenn State University Press

Published: May 9, 2005

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