Has anyone claimed that any eternal return is not for and to me, because "a perfect repletion is the same"?

I use quotes cos it's something a friend said, and I reckon that (if their original thinking) it may be strong enough to start a new world religion. Well, I likely exaggerate, but yeah.

  • 1
    (Something is 'replete' if you have more than enough of it. (Usually either enough to never worry about running out, or enough to register as excessive to an ordinary person without being offensive.) Is there a perfect amount too much of something?)
    – user9166
    Feb 1 '18 at 20:13
  • 4
    It is unclear what you are asking. Feb 1 '18 at 20:55
  • Repletion huh? Did you mean repetition?
    – CriglCragl
    Jan 16 at 18:51

1 Eternal recurrence involves reference - note, merely reference - to personal identity as 'The Gay Science makes clear :

The heaviest burden.? What if a demon crept after you one day or night in your loneliest solitude and said to you: "This life, as you live it now and have lived it, you will have to live again and again, times without number; and there will nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh and all the unspeakably small and great in your life must return to you, and every thing in the same series and sequence?and in the same way this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and in the same way this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence will be turned again and again?and you with it, you dust of dust!"?Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who thus spoke? Or have you experienced a tremendous moment in which you would have answered him: "You are a god and never did I hear anything more divine!" If this thought gained power over you it would, as you are now, transform and perhaps crush you; the question in all and everything "do you want this again and again, times without number?" would lie as the heaviest burden upon all your actions. Or how well disposed towards yourself and towards life would you have to become to have no greater desire than for this ultimate eternal sanction and seal?' ('The Gay Science, tr. W. Kaufman, NY : Random House, 1974, 273-4)

2 The most natural reading yields a purely ethical interpretation, however, involving no physical recurrence of persons. On these lines, the doctrine means: 'Act as though you had to relive your life innumerable times and will relive it innumerable times' (Pierre Klossowski, 'Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle', tr. DW Smith, London : Athlone Press, 1997, 56-7). 'Act as though you have to relive' does not imply 'Act in light of the fact that you have to relive'.

3 We might also wonder how generally the ethical interpretation is to be taken. For whom is it meant ? In 'Ecce Homo' he says :

'The basic idea of the work [Zarathustra], the thought of eternal return, the highest formula of affirmation -, belongs to August of the year 1881 : it was thrown onto paper with the title '6,000 feet beyond people and time'. That day I went through the woods to the lake of Silvaplana; I stopped near Surlei by a huge, pyramidal boulder. That is where this thought came to me' (Nietzsche, 'The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols', ed. A. Ridley & J. Norman, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2005, 123).

The 'basic idea' occurs to a solitary individual, Nietzsche, isolated from 'people and time'. A tentative thought is that the basic idea was conceived as being for Nietzsche's sole guidance and not as a message to the world.

  • @anon. You have a new answer to your question.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Feb 2 '18 at 19:30

Repetition rather than repletion?

You could draw that notion from a standard definition of identity, that something identical in every observable to something else is the same thing.

But identity turns out to be an ontically incoherent concept, looked at in terms of the ship of Theseus, or Buddhist deconstruction of inherent or essential identity.

Nietzsche's view on eternal return seems to me about gathering oneself up into a sense of focus and decisiveness such as to be able to act without regrets, and in a way that balances the various paradoxes he found essential to being human (or even superhuman).


There is no claim that it is really about you at all. There would be an infinite succession of copies of you. They might not be you, but they are just like you, and you should therefore empathize with them. They together are at least as valuable as you individually.

The point is that this might be an iteration with a very small chance of an improvement. In Nietzsche's original that could happen by your iteration still being on the converging path. In a more modern framing, it could happen by your iteration encountering some rare 'butterfly effect' condition.

That means that if you live more like you wish, even in a very small way, that would still affect infinitely many people. His impetus is to wash out the notion that everyone else is more important because there are just more of them than there are of you. There are infinitely many of you, just like there are infinitely many of them, and there is no point in talking about 'larger infinities' (as long as they are all countable). So ultimately, it is an argument for radical, prudent selfishness in every instant over utilitarianism or other moralities focused on our culture or our species.

Discounting the possibility that things can still change slightly, your friend (who echos some versions of Buddhism) is right. This is just a cycle and all we can affect is our approach to the inevitable, we may not even be able to affect that. All infinitely many of us live with the false hope of mattering.

By modern scientific principles, Nietzsche is just wrong. There is no convergent path and differences would not really be rare at all. At some point in each iteration the whole universe is compressed to a space small enough that uncertainty on the Planck length can change literally everything, and the next cycle would look nothing at all like the last. But he was looking at this from a standpoint of science before quantum mechanics and curved space were observed.

  • At least as valuable, to who? As objects of moral concern, fine. But clearly there is a distinction based on subjective experience of who we are, when thinking. There’s enhanced condolence/convergence of views likely with our past & future selves. From this kind of standpoint, our other selves in many worlds, who made different decisions, are also part of who we are, and diverge
    – CriglCragl
    Jan 16 at 18:59

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