Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Shestov on the Fool

Lev Shestov (1866-1938), Job's Balances:

"The fool said in his heart: There is no God." Sometimes this is a sign of the end and of death. Sometimes of the beginning and of life. As soon as man feels that God is not, he suddenly comprehends the frightful horror and the wild folly of human temporal existence, and when he has comprehended this he awakes, perhaps not to the ultimate knowledge but to the penultimate. Was it not so with Nietzsche, Spinoza, Pascal, Luther, Augustine, even with St. Paul?

Quoted from D. M. White, Eternal Quest (Paragon, 1991), p. 111.

The penutimate knowledge, I take it, would be the knowledge that without God, life is meaningless, "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." This was Nietzsche's knowledge, and Nietzsche's dead end. The ultimate knowledge would then be the knowledge that God exists, a knowledge that begins in earnest once one has come through the Great Doubt expressed by the fool.