For the first time, Nietzsche Online, a platform of integrated databases, will provide comprehensive access to one of the most important philosophers. Alongside the world-renowned editions of Friedrich Nietzsche’s works (KGW) and letters (KGB) by G. Colli and M. Montinari, Nietzsche Online will include all De Gruyter publications which have appeared on Nietzsche’s works and his reception as a philosopher. The platform will not only contain the 70 volumes of the Nietzsche edition but also more than 80 monographs and reference works, such as the Nietzsche Dictionary and 38 yearbooks of Nietzsche studies – altogether more than 100,000 book pages.
However, the research platform will offer considerably more than just the sum of its print content. “The key advantage of Nietzsche Online in contrast to the print version is that the text passages and aphorisms of Nietzsche can be accessed easily and quickly and that the related secondary literature can be retrieved with a single mouse click,” said Dr. Gertrud Grünkorn, Editorial Director of Humanities at De Gruyter. Additional features are planned besides the links to documents and secondary literature. Nietzsche Online will set standards for future scholarly Internet editions. Corrections and variants will be incorporated into the Nietzsche texts. The commentaries and notes will appear together with the original texts in one screen view. The articles of the Nietzsche Dictionary will be published online first and will be more extensive in the online version than in the print version. Navigation pages will enable researchers and students to retrieve text passages related to specific topics and keywords.
Moreover, Nietzsche Online is conceived as a “living” database platform: New content will be continually added, meaning that the platform will always contain the most recent literature and the latest state of research.
A staff of editors will ensure the quality and further development of the platform. “Quality assurance and further development of the content and functions are very important, especially in the case of Nietzsche. Due to the many unexplored aspects regarding the philosopher it is essential to provide a platform committed to high scholarly standards,” said Dr. Grünkorn, underscoring the intention of the platform. Dr. Sven Fund, CEO at De Gruyter, concurred and added: “With Nietzsche Online, De Gruyter has shown once again that it is an innovative partner for the humanities.”
Eminent Nietzsche scholars are looking forward to Nietzsche Online as future reference resource for their research. According to Prof. Dr. Werner Stegmaier, Professor of Philosophy at Ernst Moritz Arndt University in Greifswald: “By facilitating quick access to complex text databases, this platform will make searches much easier and will open up new research fields.”
We hope to tour the site, once active to offer our impressions
of how the archive works. As should be obvious most of the content
will be in German.
We hope to tour the site, once active to offer our impressions of how the archive works. As should be obvious most of the content will be in German.
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Nietzsche on Time and History edited by Manuel Dries (Walter de Gruyter) This set of essays investigates the correlation between Nietzsche's philosophy of time and his philosophy of history. Nietzsche's attempt to rethink time affects the task of recording history. History can no longer be a discipline that merely registers the constellations of entities and objects that remain identical over time. While philosophy requires the corrective of history, the latter will have to be improved through a new conception of time.
Excerpt: Nietzsche believed most if not all homines mensurae to be in thrall to the staticist, ordinary standpoint. It is the way the world first seems or appears to them. After a relatively short period of discipleship, Nietzsche realized that Schopenhauer's philosophy remained, despite its subversive meta-physical and critical aspects, firmly embedded within a philosophical tradi-tion that hypostatizes the atemporal, thereby tacitly supporting the staticist picture. Schopenhauer distinguishes between a reality as it is in and for itself, a metaphysical will that is not (still a common misconception) the thing in itself but nevertheless 'the nearest and clearest phenomenon of the thing-in-itself, and an illusory actuality of becoming that has the ontological status of a problematic, mere appearance (Schein). Commitment to a number of Kantian dualisms leads Schopenhauer to attack in The World as Will and Representation any philosophy focussed on time and history. Philosophy, he writes in 'On history' should not consider ... that which is always becoming and never is ... On the contrary, it should keep in view that which always is, and never becomes and passes away ... The true philosophy of history consists in the insight that, in spite of all these endless changes and their chaos and confusion, we yet always have before us the same, identical, unchangeable essence, acting in the same way today as it did yesterday and always. (Schopenhauer 1969, vol. 2, p. 444)
For Schopenhauer, then, accepting temporality, and its appearance for human beings as history, as essential is fundamentally misguided. Nietz-sche realized that such privileging of ideas devoid of change ultimately leads to a non-Christian but equally world-negating pessimism: if philosophy is supposed to contemplate that which is permanent and unchanging, then the confrontation with impermanence poses a real problem. If that which is permanent has added value, and binary thinking demands a neces-sary choice or exclusive disjunction, it follows that the value of becoming approaches zero. As Schopenhauer puts it in his 'Additional Remarks on the Doctrine of the Vanity of Existence':
This vanity [of existence] finds its expression ... in constant becoming without being; in constant desire without satisfaction ... Time is that by virtue whereof at every moment all things in our hands come to naught and thereby lose all true value. (Schopenhauer 1974, vol. 2, p. 283)
Nietzsche would ultimately reject Schopenhauer's `chronophobic' evaluation of existence but primarily because it thereby tacitly supports the staticist worldview.
The same holds, in Nietzsche's evaluation, for Hegel. Hegel had drawn attention to the concept of becoming but did so within a macro-teleological, systematic philosophy. 'Becoming' denotes not only the original, restless-creative oscillation between determination and indeterminacy—being and nothing—that gets the micro-teleological dialectical becoming under way, but more importantly the macro-teleological, necessary autopoesis of a mind-like absolute substance. Nietzsche's Hegel is the optimistic panlogicist who imbues 'the whole' with meaning only by attributing to it an organic, macro-teleological, rational and thereby stable composition. In Untimely Meditation II Nietzsche cautions against such an un-critical view of becoming since it still contains all the attributes of necessary Sein, 'being'—the staticist concept par excellence for Nietzsche:
If every success is in itself a rational necessity, if every event is the victory of the logical or the 'idea' — then quickly down on your knees and hold in reverence the entire stepladder of 'successes'.
The Hegelian system both presupposes and culminates in the unsinnige absolute Idea that 'alone has Being, imperishable life, truth known to itself, and is all truth ... since its essence is, the highest, the concept' (Hegel 1969, vol 2., p. 549). Nietzsche therefore sees in Hegel's philosophy the 'bridge of lies back to old ideals' and rejects Hegel's problematic practice of 'mediating' and 'fusing' . Hegel like Parmenides desired to know the absolute by means of reflection, "to grasp the absolute within consciousness", and such at-tempts, Nietzsche is convinced, expose the tacit continuation of the staticist worldview.
Nietzsche is convinced that his philosophical predecessors, and also the natural sciences, had merely changed the appearance of the dominant static ist paradigm of being. Yet behind the macro-teleological idea of be-coming, the idea of will as quasi thing-in-itself, and the positivism and objectivity of science, the belief in permanence as highest value remained unquestioned.
From whence this chronophobia and hysterical overvaluation of being? Nietzsche's writings are littered with attempts to provide ever new explanations of this phenomenon. Unfortunately, this part of Nietzsche's work is not often discussed in the exisiting literature. I believe, however, that it is of great importance because it allows us to see that Nietzsche holds a kind of error theory about staticism.
Against the Rejection of Time: Nietzsche's Error Theory
In note 9 of autumn 1887 Nietzsche presents a mini-genealogy of the idea of being that can be seen as paradigmatic for his belief in the primacy of becoming; at the same time this genealogy explains why humans cling so desperately to the idea of unchanging being. He wishes to subject to a genealogical critique both the concept of reality and the positive valuation of being. This genealogy in nuce starts with an instruction important for his overall idea of the genealogical method, that of Selbstbesinnung:
'Uncanny self-reflection/auto-sensitization [Se/bstbesinnungl: not as individual but becoming conscious of oneself as human species. Let us come to our senses [besinnen], let us think backward: let us walk the short and the long paths'
Genealogy as a method or tool is not only a (sich) besinnen in the sense of 'contemplating' or 'reflecting upon', for example, the historicity of a value, but also always a (sich) besinnen in the literal sense, i.e., a 'returning to the senses', and thereby a returning and coming 'to one's senses'. It is worth quoting this genealogy of being in full:
Man is searching for 'the truth': a world that does not contradict itself, does not deceive, does not change, a true world — a world, in which one does not suffer: contradiction, illusion, transistoriness — causes of suffering! He does not doubt, that such a world, as it ought to be, exists; he wants to find his way to it....
Whence does man take the concept of reality? —
Why is it that man deduces suffering precisely from change, illusion, contradiction? And why not more so his happiness? ...
The contempt, the hatred of all that passes away, changes, transforms: — whence this valuation of the permanent?
What is obvious here is the will to truth, just the desire for a world of permanence.
The senses deceive, rationality corrects the errors: consequently, one inferred, that reason is the path to the permanent; the most non-sensory [unsinnlichsten] ideas must be closest to the 'true world'. — Most misfortunes come from the senses — they are fraudsters, beguilers, annihilators:
Happiness is only warranted in what has being [im Seienden]: change and happiness are mutually exclusive. The greatest desire aims at a becoming one with being. This is the strange path to the highest form of happiness.
In sum: the world, as it ought to be, exists; this world, the one we live in, is only error, — this our world ought not to exist.
The belief in being turns out to be just <as> a consequence: the real primum mobile is the unbelief in becoming, the mistrust against becoming, the contempt for all becoming...
Nietzsche questions how human beings arrived at their belief in being and came to understand suffering as the consequence of 'change', 'illusion' and 'contradiction'. Why not equate change with happiness? At the core of this equation lies what I wish to call Nietzsche's error theory regarding stati-cism. It can be summarized as follows:
(i) ordinary human discourse is ineliminably committed to the staticist worldview (semantic thesis);
(ii) there are no relatively easily distinguishable, property-instantiating entities and objects (ontological thesis);
(iii) it follows that our ordinary natural attitude is false.
In addition to what can be called the semantic thesis (i) and the ontological thesis (ii) Nietzsche also offers an explanatory thesis:
(iv) human beings hold the staticist worldview because it allows them to reduce uncertainty, thereby alleviating suffering.
The explanatory step can be unpacked as follows: perceiving something as something involves a transformation that is error-prone. Since humans use their rational capacities to correct some of these initial errors, rationality seems the one and only remedy against the ills and contradictions of the senses. In our attempts to overcome the impractical unreliability of sense-impressions once and for all, 'non-sensory' ideas—for Nietzsche, entirely non-sensory (unsinnlich) amounts to nonsense (Unsinn)—are gradually regarded as closest to what is simple, true, and predictable, thereby creat-ing a less painful environment. It is here that becoming and happiness can no longer coexist, so that they have become einverleibt or 'incorporated' (GS as mutually exclusive spheres, and static being comes to be the highest value (and Nietzsche really means incorporated: our species has adapted most successfully by organizing its world, thereby keeping uncertainty and pain at a minimum).
Note 9 shows that for Nietzsche this turn against the senses has two consequences that amount to two 'incorporated' commitments—one ontological, one ethical: the tacit ontological commitment entails that the world as it ought to exist, the staticist world, really exists ('die Welt, wie sie sein sollte, existiert'); and tacit ethical commitment, in turn, entails that the world of becoming therefore ought not to exist ('diese unsere Welt sollte nicht existieren').
This positive valuation of being leads to the strong belief in the existence of being and to the search for truth in a rational, abstract, measuring manner. Nietzsche concludes note 9 by restating this argument: the valuation of being arises as a consequence of the initial 'disdain for becoming' (ibid.).
Read as a genealogy in nuce this line of argument is therefore at the same time a reflection on the valuation of being, a rehabilitation of the senses, and thereby a sobering experience of 'coming to one's senses'. It is this argument that underpins Nietzsche's basic assumptions and accounts for both his own biased ontological commitment (that which really exists is better understood as Werden) and his concomitant ethical commitment: the world of any permanent Sein should therefore not exist—at least not within the same logical exclusive-disjunctive relation to becoming. But why is staticism so vicious?
Staticism and Nihilism
First, Nietzsche acknowledges that staticism and the Judeo-Christian mo-rality it underpins has had real benefits as a successful defence against the earliest form of nihilism induced by fear and uncertainty. Nevertheless, he is adamant that 'the fear became less' and that 'life is no longer so uncertain, accidental, chaotic in our Europe' and the level of strength which human beings have attained 'allows for a lowering of the means of taming' contingency. "God" or stable being as the ultimate guarantor of staticism 'is now a hypothesis much too extreme'. And staticism, if not also 'lowered' and adapted to the current, lower level of uncertainty will now lead to a new type of nihilism. Why? It supports not just one peculiar valuation and meta-belief but rather an entire system of related valuations, lower-level beliefs—a two-world metaphysics (both a false ontology of what-there-is and a questionable epistemology of what we can know) within which permanence is valued highest. With such a web of beliefs in place, any value of the non-permanent is merely due to a kind of 'retension' of or 'protension' to some permanent state or realm, be that ontological or theoretic-epistemological, or ethical. The staticist viewpoint demands a revision (Nietzsche's early idea of a time-atom theory can be seen as an early attempt. Eternal recurrence is his late conception).
More correctly: the value of the non-static needs to be changed and for the first time taken seriously. Since logic and ontology in Nietzsche's view sprang from and subsequently confirmed and upheld the staticist error, traditional logic—and Nietzsche's attack on logic is always only an attack on traditional Aristotelian logic—can no longer be the tool to deliver reli-able guidance. New frameworks and methodologies are needed within which philosophy can continue its interpretive-descriptive enterprise and avoid the trappings of the previous, nihilistic framework. If logic had been the science that derives certain and reliable truths from timeless laws, then a philosophy that wishes to undercut the staticist picture can no longer rely on it in the same way. It is here that history as genealogy becomes one of the new 'chronophile' investigative methods:
Philosophy in the only way I still allow it to stand, as the most general form of history, as an attempt somehow to describe Heraclitean becoming and to abbreviate it into signs (so to speak, to translate and mummify it into a kind of illusory being)
But history, too, can be practised as—and is in danger of being an ancilla metaphysica, in thrall to staticism, describing the same hyperstable world as that projected in traditional metaphysics. Philosophy as history proper that takes the temporal disposition of the whole with its several simulta-neous temporal-perspectival dimensions seriously must then create a very different, revised historical-philosophical approach, self-reflexively aware of the staticist fallacy. It, too, must incorporate an awareness of the latter. The contributions in Nietzsche on Time and History deal with the impact and importance of history for philosophy and the need gradually to unlearn the natural staticist standpoint.
However, and this is crucial and complicates matters considerably, Nietzsche's advice is not simply to do away with the staticist pictures.
The Staticist Picture: Nietzsche's Staticist Fictionalism?
In addition to Nietzsche's 'argument from anxiety' he repeatedly argues
that the staticist picture stems from our Cartesian failure to conceive of
ourselves as some kind of distinct, metaphysical, underlying substances or
'soul atoms' and that everything else, our world of subjects, objects, and causal relations, then simply follow:
What separates me most deeply from metaphysicians is: I don't concede that the 'I' is what thinks. Instead, I take the I itself to be a construction of thinking, of the same rank as 'matter', 'thing', 'substance', 'individual', 'purpose', 'number': in other words to be only a regulative fiction with the help of which a kind of constancy and `knowability' is inserted into, in-vented into, a world of becoming.
Most of the so-called Continental interpretations of Nietzsche have fo-cused—too much, in my view—on this critique of the self. Why too much? The well-known fragment contains an important qualification, a second premise if you will (provided we interpret Nietzsche's texts as arguments consisting of a number of explicit and implicit premises and assumptions).
Nietzsche clearly insists at the end of 35 that the staticist picture and the self, though false, cannot be abandoned:
However habituated and indispensable this fiction may now be, that in no way disproves its having been invented: something can be a condition of life and nevertheless be false. (NachlaB Autumn 1884–Autumn 1885, KSA 11, 35)
It is here that we encounter a seemingly contradictory inconsistency that
has been vexing commentators. Nietzsche's texts are littered with polemic reversals, on the one hand, and reversals of those reversals, on the other: the static picture is false (assuming that it contains belief in x, y, z,); and the static picture is an anthropological constant, a necessary condition of life. Any interpretation that is not in hermeneutic denial needs to account for both. If we, then, allow for the further assumption—and there is plenty of textual evidence that we should—that 'life' (in the above passage) is for Nietzsche a phenomenon of very high value, and if the static picture is a necessary condition of 'life': and 'life' is of high, if not the highest, value, it follows that the staticist picture cannot simply be false per se.
One might argue then that Nietzsche is really a fictionalist about staticism: according to which staticism is false and yet human beings are com-mitted to it for adaptive-pragmatic purposes. I do not believe that Nietzsche's analysis ends here; he demands something more than a quasi-staticism. Nietzsche is always aware of the dangers of such pragmatic-adaptive acceptance. The danger is that too much remains in place, too much remains acceptable, and that new variants of nihilism come in through the back door. Therefore, Nietzsche's critique of staticism as well as its rehabilitation (as necessary for life) needs to be re-situated rather than replaced. In European philosophy, there has been a tendency to negate logic too quickly without realizing that it is the very same logic of mutually exclusive alternatives which is still tacitly at work in its own abolition. There are good grounds for a different logical framework. For want of better terms I will call this Nietzsche's adualistic-dialetheic framework. Dialetheism, from Greek `diplo-aletheia' or two-way truth, allows for true contradictions and can therefore cope better with 'transition states', border-line cases, and vague predicates.
The Dialetheic Status of Staticism
We are left in a state of tension: staticism is the case and is not the case. Immediately, most will argue that this is only superficially so: staticism might be, for example, false from a third-person, scientific point of view, and yet psychologically true from a first-person perspective. Think of Hu-man, All Too Human where Nietzsche argues that although water has certain chemical properties, this is hardly what concerns the sailor in distress (HA I 9). Again others might say that staticism is indeed false tout court, that there are only fields composed of whatever 'ultimates' are assumed by our best scientific theories, and that the world as it is to us is merely epiphenomenal and in theory reducible to the best description our physics has to offer. But Nietzsche is clear that both worlds are (1) the same world, and (2) of equal importance; they are to be taken seriously both together and in Opposition to each other. Neither ought to assume exclusively priority. A mutually exclusive opposition 'is after all only the contradiction [Gegensatz] typical for human beings' .
It is exactly this Heraclitean, deconstructive (if properly understood, see, e.g., Wheeler III 2000; Nancy 2000; Gemes 2001; Waldenfels 2002), adualistic-dialetheic tension that requires a rationality that can do more than simply either abandon staticism or subscribe to it fully in a quasi-staticist way. As is well-known, Graham Priest has, for example, argued for a logic opposed to the law of non-contradiction (see Priest 1995). In order to get into a different (logical) 'frame of mind', in order to arrange one's beliefs in a different, appropriate logical field (something which is not always appropriate), Nietzsche sometimes uses a certain dialetheic technique which allows him to express, I wish to argue, perspectival asymmetries as well as perspectival simultaneity of the above kind, between a first person 'experiential' perspective and third person 'descriptive' perspective. Both valid and necessary: any attempt to reduce the matter at hand to either the one or the other or to a mediating third term is conceived as unacceptably reductive. Brian Leiter's enlightening work on Nietzsche's critique of free will (Knobe/Leiter 2007; Leiter 2007) credits Nietzsche with the polemic reversal of the Cartesian error of granting absolute priority to the first-person perspective. Like most work that has been done on (not only Nietzsche's) philosophy of mind, Leiter shies away from trying to provide the more complex theoretical framework needed for an interpretation of consciousness and agency (not only in Nietzsche). Such a framework is already emerging within contemporary philosophy of mind though perhaps not yet in cognitive science and empirical psychology (see, e.g., McGinn 2004, Gray 2004, Abel 2004, Rockwell 2005, Free-man/Strawson 2006, Thompson 2007, and Cosmelli et al. 2007). Nietzsche's tensional asymmetries are by no means trivial. They cannot be done away with, Nietzsche held, precisely because reality is not simple but is perspectival, constituted by these oppositions (see, e.g., Hatab 2008, p. 149; Reginster 2007).
Let us return to the explanatory step (4) one more time: it is certainly true that at times Nietzsche argues from an evolutionary point of view. The application of the law of non-contradiction, for example as an incorporated regulative rule, had a certain adaptive value. Existence demanded a com-plex matrix of choices within an environment that is itself not simply 'given' (as we know today also from Sellars and Quine) but also in part constituted and altered by practical and theoretical choices. Had the evolving organism failed to make a great number of either-or choices, it might simply have vanished. Whereas every regulative, seemingly constant 'fiction' or, better, 'practical belief' has its history (to be studied genealogically) and its time (when it is first selected), subject to changing conditions, some regulative fictions and 'habituated practices' might no longer stand the test of time. This 'test of time' will have to be properly examined and will amount to a test based on criteria such as practice or belief x is or is no longer necessary if it is either 'for' or 'against' life. And we might indeed be able to abandon some beliefs and replace them with ones better suited to our current form of life and its requirements.
I don't see any textual evidence that Nietzsche ever envisaged human beings as fit to abandon the staticist worldview. Again, as an analogy one might think again of the concept 'mental state' as it figures (i) within neuroscience and (ii) as a first-person, qualitative experience, i.e. the description of the C-fibres firing in the brain and the pain I am experiencing. We do not believe that all that is going on is the quale; rather we believe that there is a wealth of neurobiological, unconscious processes that we can even make visible. Despite all this, it will remain necessary to retain the qualitative, first-person state. We need, for example, a `nondualise (Rock-well 2005) or 'equal-status fundamental-duality monistic' framework (Strawson 2006, p. 241) that allows us to acknowledge that both descriptions somehow refer to, aim to describe the same 'mind-brain-world state' from a different perspective. Nietzsche believes, and I think he is right, that bringing such perspectives or interpretations or language games together within an adualistic-dialetheic framework does not leave things simply as they are (not in matters of the mind, knowledge, (meta)physics or politics). These perspectives enter into a relationship that will from now on change reality. We have good grounds to assume that consciousness as a qualitative, experiential state is also a neurobiological event, and yet the neurobiological event must account for much more than C-fibres in a state of electric excitation, namely their phenomenological 'experiential' features. The adualistic-dialetheic framework allows one to describe the necessary tension opened up in a field structured around combining the unity-asserting both-and and the difference-preserving neither-nor. Staticism might both 'be the case' (from and for a first person perspective) and 'not be the case' (from and for a third person perspective) and, yet, is reducible to neither one or the other. This has all been said before, in both anglo-analytic and continental traditions, but whenever something goes against beliefs held deeply or practices carried out mainly unconsciously, it is necessary to repeat it, rephrasing it continually until it finally sinks in.
This may perhaps be seen as a step too far. Staticism is false, as we saw following Nietzsche's argument, as it leads to nihilism. Nietzsche was much better at criticizing false views than at constructing theories. His focus on history and his rehabilitation of time is first and foremost concerned—and so are the fourteen essays of Nietzsche on Time and History—with the proof that staticism about persons, objects, entities such as nations, the law, truth, or the linear future of time and history itself is false. And yet, most contributions reach a point when a different conception is called for. Rather than summarizing the essays of Nietzsche on Time and History I will simply point towards these points of transition.
Nietzsche on Time and History
Nietzsche on Time and History falls in five parts: 'Time, History, Method'; 'Genealogy, Time, Becoming'; 'Eternal Recurrence, Meaning, Agency'; 'Nietzsche's Contemporaries'; and 'Tragic and Musical Time'.
Part one opens with an essay by Andrea Orsucci on 'Nietzsche's Cul- 1 tural Criticism and his Historical Methodology'. Orsucci examines Nietz-sche's treatments of ancient Greek civilization and primitive Christianity and traces Nietzsche's claims to his readings of, and critical engagements with, contemporary texts. It is the historical phenomena themselves that, according to Orsucci, Nietzsche's methods reveal as consisting of a complex simultaneity of temporal and historical layers, 'consistently concerned to identify and theorize the coexistence and mixing of very different traditions, cultures, and ways of thinking in any particular historical phenomenon' (Orsucci 2008, p. 12).
In `Thucydides, Nietzsche, and Williams', Raymond Geuss analyses Nietzsche's preference for Thucydides over Plato. The reasons for Nietzsche's non-traditional preference are, first, that Thucydides portrayed human beings and their motivations in a non-moralizing way, and second, that he was opposed to the rationalistic, Platonic optimism symptomatic of two millennia of systematic philosophy. Between poetry on the one hand, and philosophy on the other, the bipartite structure Nietzssche follows in the Birth of Tragedy, Thucydidean Wissenschaftlichkeit [scientific-mindedness] 'radically non-mythic, non-theological, and non-literary' appears as a third possibility that informs Nietzsche's own interests not in the past per se but in dissecting 'those forms of collective human behaviour that are recurrent and thus comprehensible' (Geuss 2008, p. 43). In the late 1870s and early 1880s Nietzsche's notebooks indicate the importance he attributed to the 'strand of realist and empiricist thinking that Thucydides represents, and of seeing the demise of tragedy and of Thucydidean "enquiry" synoptically' (ibid., p. 46). It is the rejection of both optimism and pessimism, against the mutually exclusive alternatives 'to think either that these items [rationality, individual happiness, natural human development, socially desirable action] are set up so as to cohere, or that they are 'by nature' ineluctably fated to conflict in an unresolvable way the refusal to
be either an old-style philosophical optimist or a dogmatic pessimist' that
Geuss finds at the heart of Nietzsche's fascination with Thucydides and Nietzsche's idea of the music-making Socrates: 'when Nietzsche wrote that "the Hellene was neither an optimist nor a pessimist" (NachlaB Winter 1869/70–Spring 1870, KSA 7, 3[621), this is what I assume he meant, and no Hellene could illustrate this more exactly than Thucydides' (ibid., p.
Thomas Brobjer's 'The Late Nietzsche's Fundamental Critique of His-torical Scholarship' focuses on the third essay of the Genealogy in which Nietzsche explicitly attacks the value of purely historical scholarship. Brobjer argues that the late Nietzsche's main objection to history as a science was not methodological but rather 'that history was placed above philosophy—that history and historical scholarship were seen as a goal or an end in itself rather than as a means' (Brobjer 2008, p. 52). Only once historical scholarship lives up to the demand for the philosophical creation of values does it find its proper justification.
Part twp of Nietzsche on Time and History opens with Tinneke Beeckman's essay on 'Nietzsche's Timely Genealogy: An Exercise in Anti-Reductionist Naturalism'. Beeckman revisits the link between Nietzsche's genealogical method and his Lamarck and Darwin inspired naturalism. The reactive, associated by Beeckman with Nietzsche's Darwin, and the active, associated with Lamarck, need to be considered side by side in order to appreciate Nietzsche's non-reductive naturalism: 'Adaptation is not active, but reactive. Nietzsche emphasizes Spencer's fatal mistake: to see life itself as an inner adaptation to external circumstances' (Beeckman 2008, p. 72).
According to Kevin Hill's 'From Kantian Temporality to Nietzschen Naturalism' it is central to any understanding of Nietzsche's view of time that Nietzsche struggled precisely with the idea that 'space and time ... are mind-dependent in the sense that Kant and Schopenhauer intended, while also maintaining that the mind is itself something that occurs within nature, as Schopenhauer had maintained' (Hill 2008, p. 75). While the early Nietzsche had tried to resolve this matter by attributing time and space to a primordial intellect that 'produces space and time and by that produces the brain' (ibid., p. 76), the later Nietzsche arrives at a notion of naturalism that 'reinterprets things as complexes of power relations in which observers are always involved; he does not reduce things to sums of episodes within subjects' (ibid., p. 84).
John Richardson's examination of `Nietzsche's Problem of the Past' sets itself the task of resolving the tension that lies in the fact that for Nietzsche the past is far too important to be ignored, but attention to it turns out to be harmful. The past is important for the simple reason that 'what one is' is what one has been selected (in an evolutionary sense) to be. The past 'has a kind of "presence" in us, constituting us now as who we are, determining the meaning of what we now do' (Richardson 2008, p. 91). Central to our understanding of the presence of the past in the present is Richardson's understanding of power wills that have been selected and structure us who 'express the aims of these wills, which carry their intentions ahead into us' (ibid., p. 91). Nietzsche's genealogical method is there-fore a technique to become aware of the proto-intentional 'wills', to expose the social formation of values, and in a retrospective stance to bring into view 'the forces that really aimed the rules and values to which I commit myself' (ibid., p. 107). By 'cutting-into' our lives of desiring, willing, valu-ing etc. we are always in danger of falling into an alienating form of nihil-ism, and yet, Richardson argues that genealogy enables us to 'judge those designed-in purposes of our ways of thinking and acting—and decide whether we favour those purposes' (ibid., p. 108).
In the final paper of part two, 'Towards Adualism: Becoming and Nihilism in Nietzsche's Philosophy', I examine the relationship that holds between the concepts of 'being' and 'becoming' in Nietzsche's philosophy. I argue that Nietzsche's emphasis on 'becoming' is motivated by the anomaly of nihilism that is best explained as 'a function of the belief in being' (Dries 2008, p. 114). Nietzsche's philosophical agenda, his attempt to pro-vide a 'counterforce' to nihilism, should be regarded as the reason for the initial, seemingly radical nature of his affirmation of becoming, which at first sight reintroduces a dualism between becoming and language, recapitulating the nihilism it had aimed to circumvent (ibid., p. 120). I argue that Nietzsche's ontology of becoming as will-to-power relations should be seen instead as a less radical presentation of becoming. Aiming at a non-reductive, adualistic practice of thought, he accounts for both the relative permanence of 'relations', 'entities' and 'objects' and their constantly changing, temporal complexity.
Part three of Nietzsche on Time and History is concerned with Nietz-sche's attempt to describe the temporal disposition of the world as eternal recurrence and what this demands of the human being.
In 'Shocking Time: Reading Eternal Recurrence Literally' Lawrence Hatab argues that although Nietzsche did not present eternal recurrence as a cosmological theory or a scientific fact, it nevertheless must be taken literally, that 'a certain extra-psychological literality would better fit the world-disclosive and "revelatory" spirit of Nietzsche's accounts of eternal recurrence' (Hatab 2008, p. 148). In order to deal with the question of meaning that has hitherto blocked, in Nietzsche's view, the possibility of affirming life in its finite, temporal disposition as will to power, eternal recurrence emerges as 'Nietzsche's formula for "redemption" of time and becoming' (ibid., p. 150). Against nihilistic alternative models of time—Hatab identifies six: positivistic, salvational, teleological, cyclical, pessimistic, and novelistic— 'eternal recurrence comes forth as the only con-ceivable temporal model that does not fall prey to a fugitive gaze away from life as lived' (ibid., p. 154).
Paul S. Loeb approaches Nietzsche's eternal recurrence through an examination of Camus's Sisyphus and suicide. According to Loeb, standard readings of eternal recurrence, Nietzsche's counter-ideal to the ascetic ideal, tend to emphasize the doctrine's supposed ability to bring about a reversal from the ascetic to the affirmative. Loeb argues that standard in-terpretations (such as Nehamas) overlook that on Nietzsche's own premises, affirmation, for example by reinterpreting one's past in view of one's present state, turns out to be impossible as it, in Loeb's view, leads to a falsification of the past. 'But the thought of eternal recurrence closes off all such escape and condemns the human animal to eternal meaninglessness' (Loeb 2008, p. 179). Nietzsche offers therefore a disconcerting counter ideal that will force 'the decadents give in to their dominant suicidal instincts' (ibid., p. 176), and only by 'overcoming' themselves come closest to affirming life. Eternal recurrence 'must oppose the ascetic ideal's ability to block the suicidal nihilism of degenerating life' (ibid.). It might be asked if Loeb relies on a notion of selfhood more static than is warranted. Based on an exclusive disjunction between affirmation and asceticism that demands, in Loeb's view, the voluntary suicide of the decadent, he argues that true life affirmation requires a cosmological understanding of eternal recurrence, a truly superhuman 'backward willing'. The latter ideas rely on Loeb's previous writings (see ibid., p. 182) to which I cannot do justice in this introduction.
The last contribution of part three, Herman W. Siemens' 'Nietzsche and the Temporality of (Self-)Legislation' deals with a fundamental problem: how does one reconcile the need for a stable legislation that stands 'in radical contradiction with the pluralism and dynamism of life-as-becoming' (Siemens 2008, p. 189). Siemens interprets first Nietzsche's conception of self-legislation in `Schopenhauer as Educator' as a specific form of moral particularism coupled with an Emersonian notion of moral perfectionism. Schopenhauer's metaphysical solution is perceived as inadequate by Nietzsche as is Wagner's attempted artistic unification. Both Schopenhauer and Wagner, Siemens argues, fail 'the test of pluralism required for a life-affirming form of legislation' (ibid., p. 201). Siemens sets out to show that a different, agonistic and pluralistic and yet communal conception of self-legislation is to be found in the unpublished notes of the Zarathustra period. Here, the law should not only be understood as always only provisional and yet 'responsive to diversity, a law for many, not a law that subjects the many to One' (ibid., p. 202), it also requires us to combine an individual morality that 'cannot ... be achieved in isolation' with a mo-rality which is 'inseparable from the task of founding the kind of ethical community that makes it possible' (ibid., p. 207).
The essays of Anthony K. Jensen and Martin A. Ruehl provide a de-. tailed account of Nietzsche's relationship with contemporary philology, on the one hand, and with Walter Burkhardt and the Renaissance on the other.
Jensen's ' Geschichte or Historie? Nietzsche's Second Untimely Meditation in the Context of Nineteenth-Century Philological Studies' examines the polarization in classical studies or Altertumswissenschaft into 'Wort-Philologie' , 'approaching antiquity with the tools of textual emendation, codices, and literary criticism', and `Sach-Philologie', often labelled as "hermeneutical", "antiquarian", or "humanistic" philology. At first a follower of Ritchl who had tried to bridge both camps, Nietzsche would 'reject both traditions on the way to positing a third way of his own' (ibid., p. 216). Jensen's analysis enables him to throw new light on Wilamowitz's rejection of The Birth of Tragedy. Nietzsche aims to reveal the opposition between both 'scholastic factions' and life, depicts them 'as psychological types' rather than as scholars with different methodological preferences (ibid., p. 219). Nietzsche's own, monumental historical approach is modelled not on contemporary classicists but instead, among others, on Goethe whose character combines 'the healthiest aspects of antiquity for the sake of reinvigorating culture' (ibid., p. 224).
In 'An Uncanny Re-Awakening': Nietzsche's Renascence of the Renaissance out of the Spirit of Jacob Burckhardt' Martin A. Ruehl argues that with the exception of Greek antiquity no historical epoch fascinated Nietzsche more than the Italian Renaissance. In the 1870s, his study of the Renaissance, 'as a historical reference point and cultural ideal ... allowed him to question a set of values and notions that had determined his early thought' and 'became a crystallization point, especially in the 1880s, for Nietzsche's most radically anti-humanist, anti-liberal ideas about tyranny
I and individuality, war and culture, violence and health. Ruehl first discusses Burckhardt's portrayal of the Civilization of the Renaissance before tracing the various other sources of Nietzsche's 'Renaissance' and his selective appropriation of these sources against Wagner and Luther. It was the culture of the quattrocento, Ruehl argues, that furnished Nietzsche with an answer to Schopenhauer's pessimistic 'philosophical deconstruction of the principium individuationis and led him to rethink the significance of individual agency in history' and ultimately led to Nietzsche's belief that only a few select superior human beings could bring about a cultural renewal. According to Ruehl's reading, in contrast to Burckhardt, Nietzsche focuses exclusively on the aristocratic elements of the Renaissance. Burckhardt had 'allowed for the growth of "individuality" and cultural productivity' (ibid., pp. 250— 251), a republican alternative Nietzsche chose to ignore. Nietzsche's Re-naissance-inspired individualism stands of course side by side with his ideal of an agonistic community.
The final two essays take a close look at Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy and the importance of music for Nietzsche's views on time. Against influential interpretations of the Birth of Tragedy by among others Nehamas, de Man and Porter, Katherine Harloe argues for 'the positive character of its appropriation of Schopenhauer and Wagner', challenging the idea that it should be read primarily as a contribution to the major debate of post-Kantian German philosophy, namely 'that of the possibility of metaphysics' (Harloe 2008, p. 271). Harloe revisits the, in her view, simplified reading that Nietzsche's Dionysus—Apollo distinction mirrored Schopenhauer's own metaphysical distinctions and argues that it 'rests upon an oversimplification of what "Schopenhauer" could have represented for Nietzsche at the time' (ibid., p. 272). In fact, Nietzsche uses and relies heavily on Schopenhauer in his attack on Socratic optimism. Key passages often cited as a radical critique of Schopenhauer stem in fact from Schopenhauer him-self. This, Harloe remarks, 'raises the possibility that The Birth of Tragedy deploys Schopenhauer not in parodic fashion ... to shatter all such illusions, but rather as a means of developing them in a new and superior form' (ibid., p. 281). Nietzsche can be shown to construct a historical narrative of the crisis of science and 'casts Schopenhauer in a leading role' (ibid., p. 282)
Finally, Jonathan R. Cohen analyses the importance of music for 'Nietzsche's Musical Conception of Time'. In a close reading of Nietzsche's critique of Wagnerian endless melody Cohen shows that Nietzsche promotes both loss of an essential notion of the self and yet maintains that 'structure is necessary for a flourishing and creative life' (Cohen 2008, p. 291). Hollingdale's translation obfuscates that Nietzsche's critique of Wagner is not based on Wagner's choice of irregular time measures but that Nietzsche asks about its effect and 'makes endless melody be about rhythm, and thus by the same token about time' (ibid., p. 292). He criticizes that Wagner's melodies 'overflow" their measures' (ibid., p. 296) and that this leads to the loss of structure on the part of the listener and 'overrides the listener's own internal sense of structure' (ibid., p. 297). A larger issue emerges with regard to Nietzsche's conception of time: in the same way that Nietzsche rejects the idea of a thing-in-itself in favour of the world as it is experienced, he takes not the external metronome but rather 'takes the perspective of the listener' (ibid.) as the final measure of musical time. Cohen concludes that Nietzsche's emphasis on time as it is experienced corresponds to Nietzsche's insistence that each subject has its own internal rhythm and temporality, derived from, among other things, 'our internal physiological rhythms' (ibid., p, 299). The criterion for evaluating music then becomes its effect on us: 'it can help structure our internal rate of time—either directly or by providing a contrasting rhythm to serve as a beneficial tonic—or it can harm it ... And with no time-in-itself to fall back on, such undermining can be utterly destructive. It requires great strength to resist it and maintain one's own tempo' (ibid., p. 300).
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Nietzsche's Epic of the Soul: Thus Spoke Zarathustra by T.K. Seung (Lexington Books) (paperback)
The Nietzsche Disappointment: Reckoning with Nietzsche's Unkept Promises on Origins and Outcome by Nicholas Pappas (Rowman and Littlefield) (paperback)
Reading Nietzsche Pro and Con
These two exercises in Nietzsche exegesis adopt contrasting
strategies. T.K. Seung's _Nietzsche's Epic of the Soul:
Thus Spoke Zarathustra_ is an exultant attempt to resolve a
problem that has bedeviled generations of readers of "Nietzsche's
masterpiece" (p. ix). The concluding part 4 has seemed a blemish on
the whole, either as a jarring burlesque of all that preceded or an
ultimately disheartening exercise in circularity. Where critics have
found only disjointed aphorisms, didactic speeches and embarrassing
parodies, Seung locates the poem's "epic unity." His eclectic mix of
philosophy, psychology, religious studies, literary analysis and
cultural history is intended to root Nietzsche's thought in
Spinoza's pantheism. Where others have interpreted the climactic Ass
Festival as a mordant symbol of the mob or democracy run amuck,
Seung sees it as "a Dionysan festival that marks the return of
nature-religion, that is, the worship of Nature as God" (p. 291).
Does not the ass bear a load of wine; was not Dionysus typically
shown arriving on an ass? Where others have seen only parody, Seung
find also solemnity and reverence, the marks of a "new religion of
Dionysian pantheism" (p. 296). Seung is constantly delighted to find
so much Nietzsche in Spinoza.
Seung is an artful and at times eloquent guide. His study is structured as a running commentary on the poem, complete with brief analytic asides and occasional borrowings and skirmishes with other authors. The opening chapter, "The Superman," quotes Ludwig Feuerbach's dictum--"Religion is the dream of the human mind" (p. 4)--to explain Zarathustra's allegiance to the superhuman ideal despite the death of God. Seung declares that the "Zarathustra of the Prologue is a Young Hegelian" (p. 11), without mentioning Nietzsche's youthful critique of the Young Hegelian legacy.
Schopenhauer's influence is treated as an aside. Seung focuses on
the big picture, on making a "great book" appear even "greater." The
troubled writer fades into Zarathustra the sage, his publishing
travails unworthy of comment. The second chapter, "The Suffering
Soul," identifies Spinoza as a central influence on the poem that
transforms Zarathustra from a Faustian individualist to a cosmic
Spinozan epic hero. Driven by his metaphor of a journey of the soul,
Seung hustles the reader along the path of Zarathustra's
self-discovery. This is cultural history in the broadest sense. The
time-bound historian will miss the sickly author shuttling back and
forth between the Alps and the
If Seung is out to write an exhilarating tour de force,
trumpeting Nietzsche's masterful purpose, Nicholas Pappas
reconnoiters, circling the Nietzschean corpus, striking at it here
and there. He is more interested in Nietzsche's historicity, and
places this "overbred historian" (p. 29) in a nineteenth-century
context "when everyone deals in futures" (p. 182). _The Nietzsche
Disappointment: Reckoning with Nietzsche's Unkept Promises on
Origins and Outcomes_ employs a downbeat approach that takes heart
in the frustrations, dead ends and unresolved tensions in
Nietzsche's thought. To be disappointed in Nietzsche, Pappas
advises, is the most fruitful starting point. Certainly "pushing
back against Nietzsche instead of (yet again) pulling him onto the
philosophical stage" seems more in keeping with Nietzsche's own
agonistic proclivities (p. xi). Pappas adopts an aphoristic style
that facilitates such resistance. Whereas Seung resembles the
popular lecturer, generous to a fault, Pappas takes a stern stance
against grade inflation of any kind. He mocks Nietzsche's eagerness
to be accepted as a philosopher and gives him a failing grade for
posing the question "How did the present come out of the past?" and
failing to answer it; that this is true of all the other
philosophers is no excuse. "Nietzsche sets a standard and does not
meet it: that when it comes time for him to deliver the causal story
he called for, he balks. Nietzsche says that history needs a history
but doesn't give one," Pappas concludes (p. 31) In the end, Pappas
is haunted by the "gloomy thought" that "the failure of Nietzsche's
theories [is] not an invitation to further philosophizing but a
slammed door in every philosopher's face. Nietzsche's failure as a
philosopher is philosophy's failure" (pp. 251-252).
Along the way, Pappas explicates four Nietzsche texts: _The Birth
of Tragedy_, "On the Use and Disadvantage of History for Life," _On
the Genealogy of Morals_ and _Beyond Good and Evil_. In each, he
juxtaposes relevant texts to the Gospel of John, _The Origins of
Species_ and Henri Bergson's _Laughter_. In Nietzsche's final,
deranged letter to Jacob Burckhardt, Pappas finds sense in nonsense.
It is in the fragmented, all-too-human Nietzsche that Pappas
delights, and as one might expect Pappas's inquisition of Nietzsche
mirrors his own disappointment: Pappas's book belongs to those
"enticing books that finally let you down" (p. 243).
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A Nietzschean Bestiary: Becoming Animal Beyond Docile and Brutal by Christa Davis Acampora, Ralph R. Acampora (Rowman & Littlefield) (Paperback)
Inspired by the ancient and medieval genre, A Nietzschean Bestiary gathers essays treating the most vivid and lively animal images in one of the philosophic tradition's greatest bodies of work. Leading scholars treat specific animals--such as the prowling beast of prey, Zarathustra's laughing lions, and the notorious blond beast--to ingeniously reveal how these creatures play a prominent role in the development of Nietzsche's philosophy. Numerous essays explore the nature of human animality and our relations to other animals. Contributors shed new light on Nietzsche's conception of power, freedom, and meaning. Research tools, including discussions of Nietzsche's influence on important twentieth-century philosophers and the most extensive index of animal references in Nietzsche's corpus, make this an essential volume for scholars and students alike.
Excerpt: In the first chapter to her Philosophical Imaginary, Michèle Le Doeuff asks, "If someone set out to write a history of philosophical imagery, would such a study ever be as much an accepted part of the historiography of philosophy as histories of philosophical concepts, procedures or systems?"' She continues, "If one further argued that existing histories of philosophy are at the very least incomplete, not to say mutilating, in that they never present us with any individual philosopher's image-album, would such a reproach be deemed worthy of serious consideration?" Jacques Derrida, at least, has taken such questions seriously enough to direct their force upon himself and answer in the voice of animal autobiography: "It [his imaginary] would have amounted at the same time to something more and less than a bestiary." Perhaps an accounting of philosophic imagery along the animal axis can also be mounted with respect to other philosophers, living and historical. To accomplish this, of course, a great deal of disciplinary inertia would have to be overcome. Images, Le Doeuff correctly observes, are considered by most professional philosophers to be extrinsic to the real theoretical labor of a philosopher's writings. To dwell upon them is much like focusing on the wrap-ping of the gift of truth that the philosopher is supposed to give. Nietzsche's image-album is so extensive and so vivid that it has hardly gone unnoticed. Indeed, it might be said that it is precisely because Nietzsche's works are laden with images that there was, and perhaps continues to be, such reluctance to recognize his work as philosophy rather than literature. Le Doeuff's work endeavors to show that images are not only rhetorically interesting but that, despite various philosophers' protests to the contrary, such images play an essential role in the properly philosophic development of ideas (i.e., aside from questionable persuasive functions, such as slipping in unjustified claims and asserting dogmatic positions). Risking what Derrida calls "the troubling stakes of a philosophical bestiary, of a bestiary at the origin of philosophy," our intention in this volume is to display object lessons in support of Le Doeuff's gambit as it applies to Nietzsche' One of the project's motivations, then, is to enable an appreciation for the philosophic purposes of Nietzsche's metaphorical expression by focusing on this particular and prominent set of terms, perhaps illuminating paths for others to follow.
Another motivation for this project was our desire to intervene in con-temporary discussions on the traditional concept of "human nature" and in the emerging field of "animal studies." Research in the life sciences by figures as diverse as Frans de Waal, Steven Pinker, and Donna Haraway have given new currency to old debates regarding the definition of humanity as such. Controversies of an earlier generation over the political ramifications of sociobiology have morphed into philosophic disputes about the ontological import of primate ethology, evolutionary psychology, and cyborg biotechnology.' In addition, as walls of anthropocentrism are deconstructed, a multidisciplinary movement across the domains of science and "the humanities" is busily forming to reconsider the nature of nonhuman lives and cross-species encounters.' In the context of these explorations, we believe, an investigation of Nietzsche's "animal imaginary" can serve to illuminate historical developments of zoological constructs of other animals as well as self-conceptions of human animality.'
Following the keynote chapter that provides a thematic entryway into the topos of Nietzschean animality, the main body of the book is divided into five parts. The first one, "On `Lowly' Origins," is populated by animals that are given a low priority both in cultural currency at large and, at least superficially, in Nietzsche's own philosophic imaginary. The characteristics of these animals are typically associated with what is base and brutish in animality generally, with what humans pride themselves on having overcome. Each of the chapters in this division addresses Nietzsche's ambivalence toward these creatures and shows how they offer resources for what Nietzsche envisions as necessary to the future development of humanity as such. The second part, "Zarathustra's Animals," continues to develop the issues explicitly raised in the preceding part and ties them to prominent concerns in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, including the ideas of eternal recurrence and the overcoming of morality and humanity. The third part focuses on the most infamous creature in Nietzsche's bestiary, namely, the beast of prey, who is also associated with the blond beast, black beast, and lion. The three contributions to this division work together to trace Nietzsche's sources for this animal, its relation to creativity and violence, and the role it plays in his conception of the human animal. Various forms of human animality, including deficient and enigmatic forms, hybrids, and possible future forms are the subjects of the fourth division, "Human Animals." In these chapters, the authors consider the ways in which their subjects are figured as animals in order to devise a diagnostic tool or measure of the fitness of the human in relation to other animals. Nietzsche's goal in these cases is to develop therapies that would enable a more vibrant possibility for the human animal's future. The fifth and final part focuses upon Nietzsche's conception of himself as animal. These chapters reveal how Nietzsche thinks of his own "inner animal" and how he conceives the enterprise of philosophizing as drawing upon and cultivating various animal energies to appropriate different animal "styles." Finally, we conclude the volume with a set of reflections on Nietzsche's philosophic use of metaphor, focusing on the metamorphoses effected in his accounts of animal parts—paws, claws, and jaws—for the purposes of both imagining and instigating the transformation of human physis. This after-word is followed by materials that we expect to be especially useful to those who wish to pursue the themes of the volume, including a brief discussion of source materials for Nietzsche's famous account of the metamorphosis in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a bibliographic essay that explores how Nietzsche's conception of animality is developed in the work of philosophers following Nietzsche, and an index of animal references in Nietzsche's works. The index is by no means exhaustive, but it does constitute the most substantial survey available in English, noting exemplary passages for the multiple purposes to which Nietzsche's references are put.
The chapters in the volume were generally written to stand on their own, and many supply entrées to Nietzsche's works for specialists and non-specialists alike. The reader might well read them out of order, dipping in and out of the book as one might do with the bestiaries of popular and classical literature, which supply brief moral lessons based on the trials and tribulations of various animal characters.' Nevertheless, the assembly of the chapters is not haphazard, and the reader might welcome further direction about what one can expect to find between these covers. The following overview introduces the topics of each of the chapters and highlights their points of intersection, diversion, and dialogue.
The first creature to appear is the ape, who is at once closest to the human and an object of ridicule even in Nietzsche's bestiary. Peter S. Groff skillfully explores how Nietzsche's figure of the ape emerges in the context of Nietzsche's naturalism, his reception of Darwin, and his self-proclaimed efforts to overcome the inflated sense of human value that is derived from the kind of anthropomorphism he strives to surpass. Nietzsche's reclamation of the animal in the human appears to reiterate a hierarchy that places the ape in a decidedly low position, one in which the beast is base relative to what Nietzsche takes to be properly human potentialities. Groff focuses on the connection between the ape and mimesis, in which case the apishness of imitation appears to be the chief target of Nietzsche's derision. The essay concludes with a brief discussion of Zarathustra's speech on the three metamorphoses of the spirit at the beginning of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Groff thereby relates the transformation of imitation—which is how "the human being is more ape than any ape"—to the playfulness of the child in the final stage.
Charles Senn Taylor focuses on the apparent distinction between the camel and the lion in the same speech in Zarathustra and challenges the standard reading, which denigrates the camel for its reverence and valorizes the lion for its boldness. Recalling Nietzsche's instruction in Human, All Too Human, "Of First and Last Things," he explores the crucial role the camel plays as the "first thing" in the process of development that leads to the "last thing" that human beings are or can become. By calling attention to the essential function being-camel plays in exemplifying the nature of becoming, Taylor helps us see how the camel represents not merely a stage through which one hopes to pass on the way to child: the teaching of the camel affords opportunities for rumination about the process of sublimation through which our concepts, including those highest and most cherished by metaphysical philosophy, develop and obscure their origins.
It is the possible instruction for overcoming the metaphysical conception of the self as something singular, fixed, and determined that gives shape to Brian Domino's chapter on the smallest and seemingly simplest creature in the book, the polyp. Specifically, Domino focuses on the psychological effect of thinking of ourselves as a polyp-like collection of drives in which the various motives that organize our lives are thought of as so many arms of a polyp. These "arms" are nearly autonomous and autogenetic, and each seeks nourishment at the expense of the others. Domino does not so much as consider how the polyp represents something else that Nietzsche is endeavoring to describe as he explores the therapeutic value of the polyp as metaphor for life. Ultimately, Domino claims, Nietzsche's polyp psychology supplies new forms for conceiving the self, the intellect, and the soul—with the upshot that the intellect acts less as the chief manager or tamer of the soul and moreas a barometer of the degree to which the drives that constitute the self are harmonious.
The first among Zarathustra's animals to be discussed, the dog, similarly offers instruction about the conception of the ego as one of the metaphysical errors that Nietzsche claims we need to overcome. Gary Shapiro opens his chapter with discussion of Zarathustra's "On the Vision and the Riddle," in which the dog is joined by the spider and the snake in a passage devoted to Zarathustra's thought of eternal recurrence. Although the spider and the snake are most frequently discussed in relation to Zarathustra's idea, as elaborated below, Shapiro claims it is the dog who has the most active role in that section of the book insofar as the dog figures into our attachment to the ego and the idea of the self that the eternal recurrence appears to threaten. Focusing on how the training of dogs also involves disciplining those who would train them, Shapiro suggests that our prideful sense of individuality might very well be a result of the process through which we have pursued the domestication of other animals, including the so-called bestial elements of ourselves. In our exercise of power as domesticators, we have simultaneously disciplined ourselves into becoming the animals we are. If we truly respond to the howl of the dog, we shall understand that eternal recurrence requires us to give up the "dog we call `ego.
The figure of the spider is similarly woven into Nietzsche's concerns about metaphysical ideas that are debilitating or limiting and about the promise that the idea of eternal recurrence might somehow afford us a prospect of freeing ourselves from their webs. Alan D. Schrift develops these themes as he explores Nietzsche's ambivalent relation to arachnid potencies. Nietzsche's spider exhibits creativity (as self-creating genius) and deadly violence (as life-sucking), which Nietzsche likens to both an artist (as using materials at once delicate and strong) and metaphysician (as sick and a sickening spinner of concepts). Ultimately, Schrift concludes, Nietzsche appears to be more fearful than admiring of the spider, who acts more as "cunning trapper than a true predator" and threatens to catch poor Nietzsche in webs of philosophical concepts and to potentially infect him with the poison of life-denying morality.
Fear of poisonous infection is also at issue in Nietzsche's treatment of the snake, as Nickolas Pappas describes. But this is not all. As Pappas helpfully elaborates, the snake has multiple senses in Nietzsche's works and "does not slither straight to an index card to be filed under `enemy' or `knowledge' or `temptation."' Nietzsche's snake both retains and transforms the registers of meaning it acquires in Judeo-Christian theology as well as in the polytheistic
and other literary traditions with which Nietzsche was familiar. It is the snake's role in the transmission of the knowledge of eternal recurrence that Pappas finds particularly interesting. Nietzsche's animal imaginary appears to trade ophiophobia (the fear of snakes) for gynophobia in figuring the snake as the symbol of eternity, for it seems that even as Nietzsche favorably trans-forms the meaning of the knowledge that the snake conveys, he retains the gender of the snake as masculine. Nietzsche's masculine symbol of eternity figures it in terms of a future that has no maternity. For all his rhetorical prowess and cunning in the revaluation of values, Nietzsche might, in the end, feel a bite on the tail: by drawing upon such varied symbolic registers, Nietzsche's creatures cannot possibly all reside together in the same philosophical menagerie.
The connection between the feminine and the process of becoming other that informs the idea of eternal recurrence is also explored by Gary Shapiro in his chapter on the bird. Shapiro notices that Nietzsche associates the significance of his "gift to humanity," his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra, with sounding a halcyon tone. As a figure of self-sufficiency, dislocation, transformation, and fecundity, the female bird who builds her nest on the sea embodies what Nietzsche describes as his bird wisdom. Recalling illuminating features of the story of Alcyone, whose metamorphosis to the halcyon Ovid describes, Shapiro reveals how Nietzsche's bird wisdom is conveyed as "Alcyone and Zarathustra become-bird by entering into an alliance with winged creatures." The effect of this alliance is a new economy of desire, one figured not in terms of lack but rather as being drawn into a process of becoming other than what one is, and this new conception of desire and love recasts the significance of the feminine.
Shapiro frames Nietzsche's sense of becoming-animal as an Orphean trope, and it is precisely the music that Zarathustra plays on a new lyre and the new songs of eternal recurrence he sings that are the subjects of Tracey Stark's chapter on the cow. Stark considers how Zarathustra's teaching relates to rumination, making him "even better than a cow," as the voluntary beggar describes him in the fourth book of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. By illuminating the parallels between Zarathustra's quest and the mythical journey of the heroic Cadmus, who was led by a cow to the site where his city should be established, Stark endeavors to show how Zarathustra takes on the role of a cow leading his readers to a place in which new values and new forms of life can be founded.
Kathleen Marie Higgins rounds off the section devoted to Zarathustra's animals by picking up the theme of Zarathustra as a value-giver. Focusing onthe humor of Nietzsche's use of the ass metaphor in "The Awakening" and "The Ass Festival" in the fourth and final part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Higgins establishes the context of the medieval Ass Festival, which often included church clergy who disported themselves in presence of their flocks. The ass festival in Zarathustra, much like its historical model, Higgins argues, effectively undermines the power of ecclesiastical authority gaily; that is, humorously, creatively. In affronting those in whom such authority was invested, it models self-overcoming. Higgins emphasizes the comedic nature of this revaluation process, which stands in stark contrast to the grave character of the moralizing it overturns. By highlighting the ass as symbol of spiritual transformation, Higgins offers a highly suggestive reading of Thus Spoke Zarathustra that extends the metamorphic process initially described in terms of camel-lion-child in the prologue to include a fourth stage, that of the ass. This is not to say that Nietzsche sees asinine characteristics as the markers of the highest form of spirit, but rather that the innocence of the child is also informed by lessons learned and perspectives acquired through folly, which give Zarathustra's revaluating laughter a gnostic quality.
The character of laughter in Zarathustra is at issue in Paul Loeb's chapter on the lion, which provides the segue to the section devoted to the animal image that is most recognized in Nietzsche's corpus—the beasts of prey. We note that these are plural, since, as it will become clear from reading Gerd Schank's survey of Nietzsche's use of the terms "beast," "bestial," and "blond beast," Nietzsche drew upon various models and applied the terms in a variety of contexts. Daniel Conway further illuminates the bestiality of the beast as he provides a fascinating account of the place of the beast of prey in Nietzsche's philosophical anthropology. The part devoted to Beasts of Prey begins with Paul S. Loeb's careful exploration of the connection between the lion of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and the blond beast of On the Genealogy of Morals. Loeb rightly points out that many commentators seek to mollify the ferocity and brutality of the beast of prey in GM by gesturing back to Nietzsche's Zarathustra. The blond beast, it is claimed, is identical to, or is at least a close cousin of, the leonine stage of spiritual development. Thus linked, the predacious activities associated with the beast of prey are described as merely figurative descriptions of the development of spirit and do not refer to any anticipated actual violence against other living beings, particularly human beings. While Loeb agrees that these lion images are connected, he offers an original account of the character of the lion in Nietzsche's Zarathustra. Stemming from a novel interpretation of the narrative structure of the conclusion of the book, Loeb establishes the basis for the claim that the laughter of Zarathustra's lions signals not a spiritual gaiety associated with transcendence but rather the sinister delight in wanton destruction and physical violence.
Gerd Schank's chapter, skillfully translated by Jennifer Ham, is an edited version of materials written for the massive project that will eventually be published as The Nietzsche Dictionary. Schank's extensive research on the contexts of Nietzsche's uses of the terms "blond," "beast," "bestial," and other related words reveals that Nietzsche's use of "blond beast" is not intended to lionize the German peoples. Schank emphasizes that Nietzsche's admiration of the blond beast is tied to his concern to effect an agonized relation between Nature and culture. Nietzsche's beasts of prey are more intimately tied to that project, Schank claims, than to any racist vision of the future of humanity.
Steering a course somewhat between the two preceding chapters, Daniel Conway considers the blond beast as "a biomorphism, i.e., a human/hominid type"; creatures who "act like wild animals toward other human beings." Emphasizing the brutality of the blond beast, Conway recovers the more terrifying characteristics that have been minimized in the course of the effort to distance Nietzsche from his Nazi appropriations, but at the same time Con-way indicates how these very same characteristics are conceived by Nietzsche as life-giving. As Conway traces the development of Nietzsche's philosophical anthropology, he suggests that the beast of prey, rather than simply refer-ring to the "wild" state of prehuman history, provides a kind of missing link between our animal past and the sickly domesticated species we have become. In a discussion that is akin to Gary Shapiro's chapter on the dog, which notices that the enforcement of a kind of forming or shaping of others has the effect, a kind of backlash, of domesticating or training the trainer, Conway claims that the disappearance of the beast of prey is explained as the result of the beasts' particular ways in which they seized their captives. By domesticating their captives, the beasts of prey were transformed, virtually to the point of their own extinction. Conway masterfully situates Nietzsche's discussion of the ascetic priest in this context and anticipates a renascence of the beast of prey that would give it wings.
The chapters relating to human animals and hybrids continue to pursue Nietzsche's accounting for the development of the human animal, its deformations, and its prospective reformations. Three human animal forms illuminate these possibilities: that which is under (woman), that which is liminal (the satyr), and that which is overcoming (the overhuman). It is to the double nature of humanity (as both herd animal and predator) that Thomas Brobjer looks in his provocative chapter on Nietzsche's conception of the animality of women. Brobjer reveals that although Nietzsche appears to share some fairly commonplace misogynistic ideas about the nature and place of women, the way he characterizes their animality reveals how Nietzsche thinks about human animality more generally. It is not that Nietzsche discredits women for their herd mentality, as one might expect; he is, rather, cautious of their predatory nature, which has not been sufficiently tamed. Brobjer casts new light on the sources of Nietzsche's ideas and his vision of the specific disciplining of wildness Nietzsche imagines for at least some human beings. This bears on the relation between nature and culture, cultivation and destruction, and domestication and wildness that are prominent themes in other chapters.
Jennifer Ham emphasizes how Nietzsche's discussion of women reveals certain aspects of how Nietzsche thinks about freedom and the relation between the sexes (and species). Referring to practices of animal training contemporaneous with Nietzsche, she shows that he was actually quite concerned with the cruelty of taming projects as they might apply to both zoo-logical and gender relations. This insight leads her to the thesis that "in grouping women with animals, Nietzsche was arguing vociferously for their liberation within the context of a new, posthuman order." The latter trans-valuation is marshaled by and in Nietzsche's sexually charged imagery of animal/female "ensphinxment" and seduction by the figure of Circe as woman/ truth. In treating these images, Ham's stimulating study raises interest in questions of the liminal and hybridity—issues that are key to the next two chapters (on satyrs and on the Übermensch).
The satyr is a hybrid figure who occupies a liminal niche in the ecology of Nietzsche's bestiary. Lawrence Hatab brings into the spotlight this creature's exuberance of eroticism, dance, and playfulness and finds in these traits a Nietzschean emblem of the intermixture of nature and culture. The satyr, Hatab demonstrates, also played a role in the articulation and development of Greek theater by serving as an intermediary between tragedy and comedy. Its comic leanings and behaviors associated it with the boisterous banter and anti-authoritarian borderline obscenity prevalent in the Dionysian gatherings, or komos. Yet, as Hatab argues, the satyr is not reducible to a piece of vulgar humor; rather, it is "an experiment with inversions and crossovers on the fringe, meant not so much to destroy as to renew human culture."
That renewal, of course, is famously centered for Nietzsche on the ideal of the Übermensch. The Nietzschean narrative of transhumanity is the focus of Vanessa Lemm's contribution. Her interpretation reaffirms Nietzsche's take on (natural) history as a revolutionary endeavor in which "overcoming takes the form of a return to the beginning, to the animal." Lemm shows that and how Nietzsche's conceptions of humanity, animality, the human animal, and the overhuman animal are determined by the antagonism of memory and forgetfulness, of promise and subversion. The figure of the over-human animal pioneers the future of what Nietzsche calls the Umgekehrten, those free animal spirits capable of transvaluatory endeavors that overcome the cultural, political and moral meaning of civilization towards freer forms of human animal life and culture.
The last part of the bestiary proper, "Animal Nietzsche," groups together three chapters that treat Nietzsche's self-identifications with a variety of animal forms. Debra Bergoffen sheds light on, or rather tries to get to the bottom of, the anti-metaphysical work of the mole, discovering in her endeavor that this creature will not admit illumination in any transparent sense. The mole, that is, serves sometimes as a doppelgänger for and sometimes as a double agent against Nietzsche as author and philosopher, alternately contesting and affirming his own duplicities, such as trying to remain faithful to the earth even as he champions heights and (sun)light. These aspects of the mole metaphor are craftily interpreted by Bergoffen as signs of Nietzsche's ambivalent ideals of genealogy/under-going and Ubermensch/over-coming.
Ambivalence, likewise, is the watchword for Martha Kendal Woodruff's reading of the cat image in and for Nietzsche. According to Woodruff, while he has some nasty things to say about feline deceit and the sensual (reminiscent of his notorious remarks about women), "the traits Nietzsche attributes to cats he also seeks for his own life-affirming laughter, embodiment, and artistry." This last point is best seen and appreciated by consideration of the cat as a writerly mascot for Nietzschean stylism, and it is just such a consideration that anchors Woodruff's interpretation. Ultimately, she reveals how—like a cat—Nietzsche "approaches his goals crookedly and indirectly, curving around meanings, arching his back in the `archness' of irony, purring with secret pleasure."
Our review of Nietzsche's bestiary closes with a meditation on a seemingly inconsequential creature, the lizard. But as Babette E. Babich ingeniously shows, Nietzsche's lizard is anything but insignificant as it elicits reflection on the very heart of his philosophical aspirations. Skimming a path from Nietzsche's interest in alchemic transfigurations—that is, his abiding concern for revaluation and the transformation of what is base into something exceptional and rare—Babich considers how Nietzsche endeavored to bring about not merely a renewed concern for matters of style but, more important, a transformation of language itself. By tying Nietzsche's investigations of rhetoric to his interest in music and his conception of tragedy, Babich illuminates how Nietzsche sought to bring a new sense of time to his philosophical thinking and writing, one that would make it possible for us to finally "hear with our eyes" and become aware of the soundings of the Dionysian. As a figure of the fleeting character of thought, the lizard "is a metaphor . . . for lapidary, illuminated insights." In its capacity for regeneration, the lizard symbolizes alchemical transformation, and in its ectothermic regulatory functions, the lizard is a marker of convalescence and renewed health. Thus, our book of Nietzsche's animals concludes by uniting many of the threads sown throughout the volume and by sounding some of the most significant themes in Nietzsche's philosophy.
The final materials in the volume provide touchstones and tools for future development of these and related ideas. Christa Davis Acampora's chapter takes its starting point from consideration of what might be called Nietzsche's "Parts of Animals" and considers the ontological import of Nietzsche's use of metaphor. Bibliographic and source materials provide readers with ample resources for their own explorations. Jami Weinstein provides an extremely helpful bibliographic essay that sheds light on how Nietzsche's conception of animality gives shape to the works of those who follow him, particularly those of Deleuze and Guattari, Heidegger, Foucault, and Irigaray. Richard Perkins discusses fables and other literary texts that supply the key images for Nietzsche's Zarathustra's metamorphosis of camellion-child. And, finally, Brian Crowley collects and organizes an index of Nietzsche's references to most of the animals treated in the book, in which he notes not only their prevalent senses but also deviations, sources, and their development over time. We greatly look forward to seeing the fruit this research will bear.
Nietzsche: Philosophy As Cultural Criticism by Gianni Vattimo, translated by Nicholas Martin (Stanford University Press) "This is the best short work on Nietzsche I have come across. It provides a rich understanding and convincing interpretation of Nietzsche's work from his first published book through the notes of his last productive years. Vattimo also demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of more than a century of European Nietzsche scholarship." ‑Christoph Cox, Hampshire College
This book is both a concise and lucid introduction to Nietzsche and an original contribution to critical debates concerning Nietzsche interpretation and reception. As an overview, it takes issue with the prevailing tendency to focus on Nietzsche's later work that reaches its extreme in Heidegger's almost exclusive focus on the group of late notes posthumously collected as The Will to Power. Vattimo aims to mediate between two prominent hermeneutic readings of Nietzsche: Wilhelm Dilthey's view that Nietzsche's work fits into the nineteenth‑century tradition of the philosophy of life and Heidegger's belief that Nietzsche is best understood as the author of a pair of ontological doctrines, the will to power and the eternal return of the same.
Vattimo aims to show that Nietzsche's early interest in cultural and historical criticism can be found throughout his corpus and that it informs, and helps to explain, Nietzsche's later doctrines and writings. This allows us to understand these later doctrines in a deeper way, to see their connections with his wider concerns, and thus to make greater sense of Nietzsche's philosophy as a whole.Throughout, Vattimo's intellectual agenda is to present the philosophical relevance of a cultural criticism that does not let itself be reduced to a merely literary presentation of the psychology of decadence and nihilism, or to the grand ontologicalmetaphysical finale that Heidegger had in mind in his monumental Nietzsche studies. As an appendix, Vattimo provides a history of Nietzsche reception in Europe.
Redeeming Nietzsche: On the Piety of Unbelief by Giles Fraser
(Routledge) Best known for having declared the death of God,
Nietzsche was a thinker thoroughly absorbed in the Christian
tradition in which he was born and raised. Yet while the atheist
Nietzsche is well known, the pious Nietzsche is seldom recognised
and rarely understood. Redeeming Nietzsche examines the residual
theologian in the most vociferous of atheists.
Fraser demonstrates that although Nietzsche rejected God, he remained obsessed with the question of human salvation. Examining his accounts of art, truth, morality and eternity, Nietzsche's thought is revealed to be a series of experiments in redemption. However, when placed in direct confrontation with the enormity of modern understandings of destruction, Nietzsche's prescriptions for human salvation look like the imaginings of a more comfortable age. Drawing upon the work of Kundera, Nussbaum, Girard and Cavell, Fraser traces the successive failures of Nietzsche's salvation theology to an inability fully to face the depths of human suffering.Though Nietzsche's powerful attack upon Christianity has remained influential for over a century, few have attempted to mount a sustained theological critique of his thought. Redeeming Nietzsche challenges assumptions of Nietzsche's secularity and opens up a new front in Nietzsche scholarship.
Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism? On the Uses and Abuses of a
Philosophy edited by Jacob Golomb and Robert S.
Wistrich (Princeton University Press) (HARDCOVER)
What can Nietzsche have in common with this murderous ideology?
Frequently described as the "radical aristocrat" of the spirit,
Nietzsche abhorred mass culture and strove to cultivate an
Ubermensch endowed with exceptional mental qualities. What can such
a thinker have in common with the fascistic manipulation of the
masses for chauvinistic goals that crushed the autonomy of the
The question that lies at the heart of this collection is how Nietzsche came to acquire the deadly "honor" of being considered the philosopher of the Third Reich and whether such claims had any justification. Does it make any sense to hold him in some way responsible for the horrors of
The editors present a range of views that attempt to do justice to the ambiguity and richness of Nietzsche's thought. First-rate contributions by a variety of distinguished philosophers and historians explore in depth Nietzsche's attitudes toward Jews, Judaism, Christianity, anti-Semitism, and National Socialism. They interrogate Nietzsche's writings for fascist and anti-Semitic proclivities and consider how they were read by fascists who claimed Nietzsche as their intellectual godfather.
There is much that is disturbingly antiegalitarian and antidemocratic in Nietzsche, and his writings on Jews are open to differing interpretations. Yet his emphasis on individualism and contempt for German nationalism and anti-Semitism put him at stark odds with Nazi ideology.
The Nietzsche that emerges here is a tragic prophet of the spiritual vacuum that produced the twentieth century's totalitarian movements, the thinker who best diagnosed the pathologies of fin-de-siScle European culture. Nietzsche dared to look into the abyss of modern nihilism. This book tells us what he found.
The contributors are Menahem Brinker, Daniel W. Conway, Stanley Corngold, Kurt Rudolf Fischer, Jacob Golomb, Robert C. Holub, Berel Lang, Wolfgang Muller-Lauter, Alexander Nehamas, David Ohana, Roderick Stackelberg, Mario Sznajder, Geoffrey Waite, Robert S. Wistrich, and Yirmiyahu Yovel.
Jacob Golomb teaches Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he is the Philosophical Editor of its Magnes Press and the Director of the Center for Austrian Studies. He is the author of In Search of Authenticity, Nietzsche's Enticing Psychology of Power, and Nietzsche in
excerpt: Nietzsche and fascism? Is it not almost a contradiction in terms? What can Nietzsche have in common with this murderous ideology? The central ideal of Nietzsche's philosophy was the individual and his freedom to shape his own character and destiny. The German philosopher was frequently described as the "radical aristocrat" of the spirit because he abhorred mass culture and strove to cultivate a special kind of human being, the Übermensch, endowed with exceptional spiritual and mental qualities. What can such a thinker have in common with National Socialism's manipulation of the masses for chauvinistic goals that swallowed up the personalities, concerns, and life of the individual?
In 1934, Adolf Hitler paid a much publicized visit to the
Nietzsche archives at
Although Benito Mussolini was certainly familiar with Nietzsche's writings and was a long-time admirer of the philosopher, Hitler's own connection with Nietzsche remains uncertain. As a soldier during the First World War, he had carried the works of Schopenhauer and not those of Nietzsche in his backpack. There is no reference to Nietzsche in Mein Kampf (though there is to Schopenhauer), and in Hitler's Table Talk, he refers only indirectly to Nietzsche, saying: "In our part of the world, the Jews would have immediately eliminated Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kant. If the Bolsheviks had dominion over us for two hundred years, what works of our past would be handed on to posterity? Our great men would fall into oblivion, or else they'd be presented to future generations as criminals and bandits."
Thus the picture of Hitler gazing at Nietzsche's bust had more to
do with a carefully orchestrated cult, one aspect of which was to
connect National Socialism with the philosopher's legacy, at least
by association. On October 1944, celebrating the hundredth
anniversary of the birth of Nietzsche, Alfred Rosenberg, the leading
Nazi party ideologist, delivered an official speech in
The intriguing question that lies at the heart of this original
collection of essays is how Nietzsche came to acquire the deadly
"honor" of being considered the philosopher of the Third Reich and
whether such claims have any justification. What was it in Nietzsche
that attracted such a Nazi appropriation in the first place? To what
extent is it legitimate to view Nietzsche as a protofascist thinker?
Does it make any sense to hold him in some way responsible for the
Nietzsche's life and thought will never be reducible to a single constituency or political ideology, as this volume makes plain. The ambiguities and contradictions in his work as well as his elusive, aphoristic style lend themselves to a wide range of meanings and a multiplicity of interpretations. Nevertheless, while acknowledging this diversity, the editors cannot in good conscience be exempted from the challenge of offering some guidelines regarding the central issues raised by a book about Nietzsche and fascism, even if the title (as seems appropriate in this case) ends with a question mark.
Nietzsche was clearly an elitist who believed in the right to rule of a "good and healthy aristocracy," one that would, if necessary, be ready to sacrifice untold numbers of human beings. He sometimes wrote as if nations primarily existed for the sake of producing a few "great men," who could not be expected to show consideration for "normal humanity." Not suprisingly, in the light of the cruel century that has just ended, one is bound to regard such statements with grave misgivings. From Mussolini and Hitler to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein, the last eighty years have been riddled with so-called political geniuses imagining that they were "beyond good and evil" and free of any moral constraints. One has to ask if there is not something in Nietzsche's philosophy with its uninhibited cultivation of a heroic individualism and the will to power, which may have tended to favor the fascist ethos. Musssolini, for example, raised the Nietzschean formulation "live dangerously" (vivi pericolosamente) to the status of a fascist slogan. His reading of Nietzsche was one factor in converting him from Marxism to a philosophy of sacrifice and warlike deeds in defense of the fatherland. In this mutation, Mussolini was preceded by Gabriele d'Annunzio, whose passage from aestheticism to the political activism of a new, more virile and warlike age, was (as Mario Sznajder points out in his essay) greatly influenced by Nietzsche. Equally, there were other representatives of the First World War generation, like the radical German nationalist writer, Ernst Jünger, who would find in Nietzsche's writings a legitimization of the warrior ethos (as David Ohana makes clear).
There have also been Marxist critics like George Lukács, who saw in Nietzsche's philosophy nothing more than an ideological apologia for the rapacious plunder of German capitalist imperialism and a particularly destructive form of irrationalism. Lukács insisted both on the reactionary coherence of Nietzsche's "system" and on the "barren chaos" of his arbitrary language, singling him out as one of the most dangerous "intellectual class-enemies" of socialism. Lukács's own miserable record as an apologist (for the crimes of Stalinism), gave his one-sided reading of Nietzsche (which equated hostility to egalitarian socialism with fascist imperialism) transparently propagandist coloring, yet it is an interpretation that had considerable influence in its day.
Many commentators have raised the question as to whether the vulgar exploitation of Nietzsche by fascists, militarists, and Nazis could indeed be altogether arbitrary. While almost any philosophy can be propagandistically abused (as Hans Sluga has shown, Kant was a particular favorite among academic philosophers of the Third Reich!), Nietzsche's pathos, his imaginative excesses as well as his image as a prophetseer and creator of myths, seems especially conducive to such abuse by fascists. The radical manner in which Nietzsche thrust himself against the boundaries of conventional (Judeo-Christian) morality and dramatically proclaimed that God (meaning the bourgeois Christian faith of the nineteenth century) was dead, undoubtedly appealed to something in Nazism that wished to transgress and transcend all existing taboos. The totalitarianism of the twentieth century (of both the Right and Left) presupposed a breakdown of all authority and moral norms, of which Nietzsche was indeed a clear-sighted prophet, precisely because he had diagnosed nihilism as the central problem of his society--that of fin de si`ecle Europe. For him there was no way back to the old moral certainties about "good" and "evil," no way to regain firm ground under one's feet. Humanity, long before 1914, had (spiritually speaking) already burned its bridges. Nietzsche was convinced that there was no escape from the "nihilism" of the age, except to go forward into a more "perfect nihilism," to use the term of Wolfgang Müller-Lauter in this volume. Nietzsche believed that only by honestly facing the stark truth that there is no truth, no goal, no value or meaning in itself, could one pave the way for a real intellectual liberation and a revaluation of all values. Nietzsche was more a herald and prophet of the crisis of values out of which Nazism emerged, rather than a godfather of the century's fascist movements per se.
Much of the confusion identifying Nietzsche with National
Socialism can be traced back to the disastrous role of his sister
Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (married to a prominent German
anti-Semite) who took control of his manuscripts in the 1890s, when
he was mentally and physically incapacitated. Already in the 1920s
she promoted her brother as the philosopher of fascism, sending her
warmest good wishes to Benito Mussolini as "the inspired reawakener
of aristocratic values in Nietzsche's sense"; similarly, she invited
Hitler several times to the archive in
No less convoluted were the efforts of the Nazi commentator Heinrich Härtle in his 1937 book Nietzsche und der Nationalsozialismus, where he presented the philosopher "as a great ally in the present spiritual warfare." Härtle realized that Nietzsche's advocacy of European unity, his elitism and individualism, his critique of the state, his approval of race-mixing, and his anti-anti-Semitism were incompatible with Nazi ideology. By relativizing these shortcomings as minor issues (in the case of the Jews, he simply quoted those instances--comparatively few in number--where Nietzsche seemed to be attacking them) and as reflections of a different political environment in the nineteenth century, Härtle could present Nietzsche as a precursor of Hitler.
Sadly, such crude distortions were echoed in Allied war
propaganda and in newspaper headlines in
Before 1939 not everyone shared this increasingly broad
consensus, which saw Nietzsche as the spiritual godfather of fascism
and Nazism. Opponents of Nazism like the German philosophers Karl
Jaspers and Karl Löwith sought to invalidate the official Nazi
appropriation of Nietzsche in the 1930s. Together with a number of
French intellectuals, they contributed to a special issue of
Acéphale published in January 1937 and entitled "Réparation à
Nietzsche." The most prominent of the French antifascist
Nietzscheans was the left-wing existentialist thinker Georges
Bataille, who sought to rescue Nietzsche by demonstrating the German
philosopher's abhorrence of pan-Germanism, racism and the rabid
anti-Semitism of Hitler's followers. In the
One of Kaufmann's virtues was to document the scale of Nietzsche's contempt for the racist anti-Semites of his generation, such as the schoolteacher Bernhard Förster (his sister's husband), Theodor Fritsch, Paul de Lagarde, and Eugen Dühring. If Nazism conceived of Jewry as an inferior race of "subhumans" marked for annihilation, then Nietzsche's own writings show, as both Yirmiyahu Yovel and Robert Wistrich have argued, that the Jews represented for him a kind of spiritual crystallization of what he understood by the Übermensch (Overman) of the future.
At first sight, this sharp rejection of anti-Semitism might seem a good enough reason to answer negatively and decisively the question concerning Nietzsche's responsibility for Nazism. Certainly, a thinker who held a high opinion of Jewish qualities, looked to them as a spearhead for his own free-thinking Dionysian "revaluation of all values," and sought their full integration into European society could hardly be blamed for the Nazi Holocaust. On the other hand, in his sweeping rejection of Judeo-Christian values (as they were mirrored in German Protestantism) Nietzsche constantly referred to their origin in the sublime "vengefulness" of Israel and its alleged exploitation of so-called movements of "decadence" (like early Christianity, liberalism, and socialism) to ensure its own self-preservation and survival (Menahem Brinker). Even though Nietzsche's prime target was clearly Christianity--which he also blamed for the suffering of the Jews--the source of the infection ultimately lay in that fateful transvaluation of values initiated by priestly Judaism two millennia ago. It was a selective reading of this Nietzschean indictment of Judeo-Christianity that led the late Jacob Talmon, an Israeli historian, some forty years ago to see in Nietzsche a major intellectual signpost on the road to Auschwitz. Moreover, even when describing the "Judaization" of the world in terms that mixed admiration with disapprobation, Nietzsche seemed inadvertently to be feeding the myth of Jewish power, so beloved of Christian and racist anti-Semites. Though his intentions were profoundly hostile to anti-Semitism, this provocative technique was undoubtedly a dangerous game to play. While it would be senseless to hold Nietzsche responsible for such distortions, one can find troubling echoes of a vulgarized and debased Nietzscheanism in the later diatribes of Hitler, Himmler, Bormann, and Rosenberg against Judeo-Christianity.
The case of Nietzsche is a good illustration of the pitfalls in
an overly schematic approach to intellectual history that takes
particular strands in a thinker's oeuvre and seeks to fit them into
more general constructs like fascism or National Socialism. On the
basis of Nietzsche's declared hostility to Christianity, liberal
democracy, and socialism, it is possible to see him as a precursor
of the fascist synthesis. Some aspects of his admiration for ancient
Greek culture and for "Romanitas" were used by both fascists and
Nazis, who thoroughly distorted his philosophical intent. Though he
took the ancient Greeks as cultural models, he did not subscribe to
their self-conception as a "breed of masters," which prompted them
to brand non-Greeks as "barbarians," fit only to be slaves. Indeed,
all forms of xenophobia were profoundly alien to Nietzsche's
outlook, none more so than the hot-headed nationalistic rivalries so
typical of the European nation-state system into which he was born.
This explains his revulsion from the German nationalism that had
come into vogue in the 1880s following the unification of
This was one of the major reasons for his abandonment of Wagner
and the Bayreuth Festival, which had degenerated into a chauvinist
celebration of "German Art," "German virtues," and a so-called
"Germanic essence," deeply contaminated by "the humbug of races" and
antiSemitism. The fact that the Wagnerites gave a romantic Christian
veneer to their cult of "Germanism" further provoked his antagonism.
Nietzsche reserved a special animus for the ways in which the
Christian churches in
Far from relating to nationalist obsessions, Nietzsche had asserted a life-affirming outlook that sought to empower the individual to overcome his or her limitations by questioning all our assumptions concerning truth, logic, beliefs, culture, values, and history. As Jacob Golomb has shown, what Nietzsche prized above all was spiritual power (Macht) not the brute political force (Kraft) that he denounced with all the sarcasm at his command. This spiritual power of the sovereign, emancipated individual who is "master of a free will" involved a long and difficult process of sublimation, which would eventually culminate in self-mastery. It was a vision fundamentally antithetical to the totalitarian collectivism of both the Right and the Left.
Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography by Rudiger Safranski, translated by Shelley Frisch (W.W. Norton) The long-awaited biography of the world's most notorious philosopher reveals a man struggling against his own principles. No other modern philosopher has proved as influential as Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and none is as poorly understood. In the first major biography in decades, Rüdiger Safranski re-creates the anguished life of Nietzsche while simultaneously assessing the philosophical implications of his morality, religion, and art. Plagued by illness and profoundly shaped by his tortured sexuality, Nietzsche was a man of masks and mood swings, a thinker who called himself "dynamite" yet labored under the weight of compulsive self-consciousness. Posing apt questions and at times offering unorthodox interpretations of Nietzsche's philosophical writings, Safranski offers a brilliant portrait of a historical figure in a work that is as groundbreaking as it will be long-lasting.
Unlike the more tame accounts of this profound thinker, Safranski startles us with one of the most penetrating and entertaining accounts of Nietzsche to emerge in years. As an introductory book, it far out-does the more prosaic treatments of the philosopher giving a vivid lookinside the thinkers reasons and motives for his thinking.
Nietzsche in Context by Robin Small (Ashgate) (PAPERBACK) Excerpt: Friedrich Nietzsche has always been recognized as an original thinker, one who stands apart from and outside the philosophical schools and tendencies of his time. This is the way he continually presented himself, from his early writings onwards: as a writer sharing none of the assumptions and conventions of contemporary authors, as an `untimely' thinker, one belonging to the future rather than the present day. Many readers have accepted this self-interpretation at face value. Yet there is another side to Nietzsche's thinking which shows not only an awareness of contemporary writers, but an engagement with their ideas which is often both intense and sustained. My intention is to explore this side in detail, by surveying various themes in his philosophical thinking with such links in mind. It is important to avoid one misunderstanding, though. This book is not designed to show that Nietzsche derived his ideas from various other thinkers. In that sense, it is not necessarily about `sources', or even about `influences'. Rather, it shows that his independence and originality developed in dialogue with other thinkers. Those qualities are no less real for that reason: in fact, I believe that they can be appreciated all the more by being placed in the context of his relations to other philosophers.
Which philosophers, though? In keeping with his claims for untimeliness, Nietzsche preferred to disguise or conceal many links. Often they are signalled by uncredited quotations, or by verbal allusions which are left for his readers to identify ‑ if they can. Today's readers are not well placed to do this. The trail has in many cases been lost, and what remains is a relatively narrow range of references. Hence, commentators have argued for connections between Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, or other important philosophers such as Kant or Hegel, as well as with writers such as Emerson, who may or may not be labeled as a philosopher but is in any case acknowledged as a major literary figure. The drawbacks of this approach can be indicated by an illustration. More has been written about Nietzsche's relation to Leibniz than about his relation to Johann Gustav Vogt. We can guess the reason: Leibniz is an important thinker, known to every philosophical scholar, while Vogt was, and will no doubt remain, a very obscure writer indeed. Yet it is quite possible that Nietzsche never read a word of Leibniz. On the other hand, there is good evidence that he managed to work his way through Vogt's enormous treatise on cosmology: in fact, he not only annotated his own copy but made notes on several passages, and drew upon Vogt's ideas in works such as The Gay Science.
This example can usefully be broadened. What Nietzsche did read was not T not Leibniz himself ac as much ac as various contemporary authors who might his philosophy is a metaphysical doctrine which deprives the intelligible world of any interest and relevance to experience. This is metaphysics taken to its ultimate conclusion. But for Nietzsche, such a reductio ad absurdum is a prelude to his own philosophy, which takes the world of appearance as the only one. Again, one might imagine that he would find nothing of positive use in Teichmuller's system but, on the contrary, Nietzsche takes up its key elements for his own purpose. These are signalled by a frequent use of such key words as `projection', `sign language' or `semiotic' and, above all, `perspective'. The theme of perspective is the clearest and most frequent debt of Nietzsche's thinking to Teichmuller. We will see in Chapter 3 how his use of this metaphor changes and develops as a consequence of his encounter with Teichmuller's system.
Any dialogue between Nietzsche and his contemporaries should be seen as including a third group of participants as well ‑ the early Greek thinkers. His lectures on the pre‑Platonic philosophers, and his unfinished essay `Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks', are very relevant here. So are his notebook sketches on Democritus, for the light they throw not only on his approach to early Greek thought, but also on his attitude to the materialism of his own time, in links that he tends to make by relying mainly on Lange's account. It must be acknowledged that Nietzsche's approach to the ancient thinkers often imports the ideas of the nineteenth century in an arbitrary and anachronistic fashion. In his lectures on pre‑Platonic philosophy, for instance, he illustrates Heraclitus by a summary of Karl Ernst von Baer's 1860 lecture proposing a naturalistic account of the differences in awareness of time amongst different living species.' The revised version, given the title Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, includes similar assimilations. For instance, Heraclitus's conception of time is explained by a long quotation from Schopenhauer, rationalized by an assurance that `As Heraclitus thinks of time, so does Schopenhauer'. African Spir stands in for Parmenides, but is also used against him. This work was never finished: it goes only as far as Anaxagoras, and would presumably have included Empedocles, Democritus and Socrates as well. Presumably it would have followed earlier drafts in associating Friedrich Albert Lange with ancient skepticism, modern materialism with Democritus, and Darwin's theory of natural selection with Empedocles. Here, we must remember Nietzsche's claim that all the possible philosophical standpoints had already been presented in their purest forms by early Greek thought." Given that proposition, what could remain but to identify modern accounts of the world as versions of these original standpoints?
This book is designed to work through the range of themes in Nietzsche's philosophical thinking about space, time and matter, about the nature of science and knowledge. In each case I have focused on the dialogue, or dialogues. which seemed most relevant to that subject. The early chanters deal with the broadest concepts such as space and time, and later ones with the physical theories which draw on these ideas. The concept of force is important here, for Nietzsche saw it as basic to a comprehensive model of reality which would be, if not derived from, then at least consistent with natural science. Much of this second half will be devoted to the controversial doctrine of eternal recurrence, within which many of these themes come together. Finally, I will turn to some themes surrounding the role of sensation and feeling in our knowledge of the world and our ethical concepts.
My starting‑point is one of Nietzsche's characterizations of his own thinking. In several places, he classifies himself as a follower of Heraclitus: that is, he proclaims his support for the Heraclitean doctrine of becoming, according to which reality as a whole is to be characterized by a constant change which rules out any stable being. Absolute becoming is an elusive concept, however. One of the few philosophers of Nietzsche's time prepared to say much about it was African Spir, who took his lead from J.F. Herbart's earlier treatment. Herbart had claimed that three characteristics can be attributed to absolute becoming. First, change is continual, never pausing and having no beginning or end. Second, change proceeds at a constant rate, with the same amount of alteration occurring in the same time. Third, change always goes in the same direction, never returning upon itself ‑ that is, never repeating an earlier state." My discussion will look into the first and third of these propositions in detail, since the questions they raise are crucial to Nietzsche's thinking. Herbart's first `law' of absolute becoming raises the two questions of the infinite divisibility and the infinitude of time. His third thesis is a direct challenge to the notion of recurrence. In each case, Nietzsche has ideas of his own to offer to such philosophical debates.
His Heracliteanism inclines him to the view that `Nature is just as infinite inwardly as outwardly'." Hence, he is inclined to support both aspects of Herbart's first proposition. Yet he supports them in his own way, and for his own purposes. The infinite divisibility of time is important for Nietzsche, primarily in his critique of epistemology. It implies that what we perceive can never be more than a minute fraction of the course of becoming. Our concepts are designed to cover up and rationalize this incapacity." Thus, the notion of cause and effect assumes discontinuities which are in fact products of our own failure to apprehend the flow of becoming. Our belief in separate `things' is just as much an illusion. At the same time, these are fortunate errors, since they serve our practical interests by enabling us to organize experience in regular patterns and thereby cope with our environment. Hence the dilemma that runs through Nietzsche's approach to epistemology: the need for illusion is one of our conditions of life, and yet the will to truth sets itself the task of uncovering and destroying all such falsehoods.
The second proposition about infinitude and time also relates to broader issues. Nietzsche was drawn to assert an infinity of past time not only by his rejection of any doctrine of divine creation, but also by his own thought of eternal recurrence. In defending the adequacy of understanding a past infinity in terms of an infinite regress from the present moment, he attempted to rebut the opposing arguments of several contemporary philosophers: Eduard von Hartmann (1842‑1906), Philipp Mainlander (1841‑1876) and, most importantly, Eugen Duhring (1833‑1921). Yet Nietzsche did not simply reject Duhring's thoroughgoing finitism. He accepted Duhring's so‑called `law of definite number', which states that whatever can be counted ‑ for example, the elements which constitute the physical world at a given time must have some definite and limited magnitude. From this follows an a priori answer to the question about the finitude of the world. Where the finitude of space is concerned, however, Nietzsche's thinking shows the influence of another contemporary, the controversial astrophysicist Friedrich Z611ner. Here the full story is a complex and interesting one, involving remarkable changes in Nietzsche's attitude towards Z611ner over a number of years. In Chapter 3, 1 will correlate these with other aspects of his development and also use them to throw some light on Thus Spake Zarathustra.
One important feature of Nietzsche's approach to science was shared with writers such as Zollner ‑ an emphasis on epistemology as the determining factor in scientific theorizing. Hence, his interest is just as much in the methodology as in the content of physical theories. This comes out most strongly in his attitude towards the version of materialism he calls `mechanism', a theory which is atomistic in its content and reductionist in its method. For Nietzsche, mechanism is not just one scientific theory among others, but the most advanced and successful kind of science. Sometimes he attacks it in strong terms, yet he often goes in the opposite direction, and even takes up what looks like a reductionist approach in his own thinking. What we need to bear in mind is that Nietzsche's concern is with the ongoing scientific programme, rather than with its current state. He attacks mechanism as he encounters it, and yet sees himself as `completing' its programme by, on the one hand, attacking the assumptions of atomism and, on the other, addressing the question of a final state of the universe.
This completion involves the idea of an eternal recurrence, one of the most disputed areas in Nietzsche's thinking. In Chapter 7, we will look more closely at the assumptions and arguments that he uses to support this theory, and in the following chapter at the physical model which he thinks corresponds to the concept of eternal recurrence. Nietzsche's reading in natural philosophy was biased towards approaches which seemed to build upon the dynamic theory of Boscovich, rather than the mainstream tradition of atomism. The contemporary writers he found of most interest were those who made the concept of force, rather than matter, central to their view of the world. One of these has already been mentioned: Gustav Vogt (b.1843), whose 1881 book Die Kraft offered an elaborate and comprehensive account of the natural world based on a few simple assumptions. The other contemporary writer whose ideas about force were an influence on Nietzsche was Julius Robert Mayer (1814‑1878), recognized as giving the law of conservation of energy its first definite statement. Concepts drawn from these writers led Nietzsche not only to propose a physical model for his doctrine of eternal recurrence, but also to link the theme of force with the consent of knower which became prominent in his later thinking.
Another theme arising from Nietzsche's confrontation with scientific materialism concerns the role of the senses in knowledge. `Materialism trusts the senses', Lange had written in his magisterial work." Following his lead, Nietzsche shows the same apparent inconsistency here as he does towards materialism in general. He can write `Today all of us are sensualists', yet elsewhere attack belief in the senses as a vulgar prejudice. The ambiguity is resolved by separating theoretical and practical versions of sensualism: Nietzsche supports its role as a methodology, but denies it any dogmatic claim to truth. In Chapter 9 I will explore three themes related to the role of the senses in knowledge: the association of sensualism with materialism; the relation between the vocabulary of sensory qualities and the categories of science; and the special cases of pleasure and pain, showing how sensualism figures as an important point of reference in Nietzsche's later thinking.
My concluding chapter considers Nietzsche's thinking on justice and punishment. In some ways, this takes us in a different direction from the previous discussions, and yet here, too, his ideas arise out of a dialogue with several contemporary writers. Eugen Duhring had argued that the source of the concept of justice is a natural feeling of ressentiment against those who have harmed us. He concluded that punishment, even in its impersonal legal form, is always an expression of revenge. It is society's strategy for controlling this dangerous passion, by giving it a legitimate but carefully limited outlet. In a powerful critique of moral concepts, Nietzsche turns this theory on its head. For Duhring, the fact that ressentiment comes `naturally' to human beings is sufficient for it to have a moral value, identified as the sense of injustice. For Nietzsche, the real question is: what are the reactive drives that appear in ressentiment? He identifies them as belonging to one kind of life rather than another ‑ namely, to a weak and unhealthy life ‑ and so places their value in question. In this way, the theory of ressentiment becomes a powerful lever for negating the valuation of justice which Duhring wants to rationalize.
Nietzsche's critique of moral concepts owes much to another contemporary writer. He borrowed his `historical' approach from Paul Ree (1849‑1901), who suggested that the utilitarian origin of punishment had been forgotten and obscured by practices which appear to be directly linked with moral guilt. Nietzsche takes up the idea of a hidden prehistory of morality, but finds Ree's account too simple in its assumption of an original rationality in social practice. He responds that punishment has quite different purposes and meanings at different times, so that any single explanation or justification is inadequate. Thus Ree's uncritical acceptance of an utilitarian valuation appears to be as naive in its own way as the retributivism that he wants to explain, or rather, to explain away.
It is in this final chapter that the main argument of my book emerges most clearly. For the area of values and morality is where Nietzsche has most often been credited with an originality which owes little or nothing to either familiarity or interaction with other philosophical thinkers. It is commonly supposed that the introduction of the concept of ressentiment into moral theory was his own contribution. This is simply wrong, a and yet we can see that he transformed the concept and turned it into a much more powerful instrument of theorizing than it had been in the hands of its originator. Similarly, Nietzsche's genealogical approach to morality is a development of `historical' philosophizing which is no longer concerned just to explain moral feelings and judgements, but achieves a change of perspective which in turn constitutes a radical revaluation. These examples confirm what I have maintained: that Nietzsche's originality is not placed in question when his relations with other authors are considered. Rather, it is this context that helps us to see more clearly where his starting‑points were, and how they acted as the impetus for his most striking and original contributions to many subjects, from natural science and epistemology to ethics and cultural theory.
Nietzsche's Prophecy: The Crisis in Meaning by Harvey Sarles
(Humanity Books) "Extreme positions are not succeeded by moderate
ones but by extreme positions of the opposite kind. Thus, the belief
in the absolute immorality of nature, in aim‑ and meaninglessness,
is the psychologically necessary effect once the belief in God and
an essentially moral order becomes untenable. Nihilism appears at
that point... because one has come to mistrust any `meaning' in
suffering; indeed in existence. One interpretation has collapsed;
but because it was considered the interpretation it now seems as if
there were no meaning at all in existence, as if everything were in
vain." ---Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power
Nietzsche's prophecy has come to haunt us in our day, says cultural critic Harvey Sarles. The postmodern age is a completely unscripted era, a time that has no generally recognized framework for meaning, when even the search for meaning itself is called into question. Using poetically phrased aphorisms, Sarles probes the many ways in which we currently grope for meaning, emphasizing that answers and even a sense of direction seem unavailable in the current social and historical moment. He examines not only the what but also the why of meaning, explores how this crisis developed, and offers some paths for resolution. Among the many contemporary trends, he sees a new and emergent form of Pragmatism, which may portend a positive and progressive future.
Author Summary: This work consists of aphorisms that explore the current crisis in meaning: aphorisms because they seem more immediate and penetrating both of the reader's thought and of their contextual reverberations. Ordinary narrative seems both too slow and analytically externalizing from these times that need to stalk our seriousness and hurry our minds to reflect on their own comprehending. Sometimes breathless, sometimes puzzling, aphorisms also range more widely, vying to captivate both the prose and poetry of our perorations. Aphorisms have the active possibility of being reflexive, calculated to return the reader to their first lines and premises, to rethink even as they go ahead.
The context and content of this study attempt to alight upon the edges of our being: the heights and depths of the being of our meaning, and the meaning of our being. By drawing these edges in bold relief, it aims to contain being within experience and to reflect the worries that might move us to fly beyond them: some sense of how we got to where we are that seems to blur such boundaries and to erase meaning; an affirming sense of how understanding might enable us to resolve the conceptual and living agonies that entice us to believe our own doubting. It is difficult, in a cynical world, to trust: oneself, one's experience, anyone else. As personal authority undercuts itself, other claims to authority fly myriad banners that seek our seeking: a crisis in meaning.
Though there is no simple way to describe or characterize such an epoch, this seems to be a time when we are not‑individually or societally--very sure of ourselves. This meaning crisis invades, then pervades, our lives: who we are, what there is to do to be or to have work; what either being or work means. It is difficult to trust one another in a world rife with cynicism; it is difficult to trust ourselves in a world that idolizes celebrity but cannot much imagine futurity. Where do we go in this moment of great change?
How do we prepare, educate? For many it is a time to look outside o for meaning: to history, to great thinkers and philosophers, to religious texts and symbols, to mysticisms, to any idea that might have the authority to tell ourselves that and who we are.
The crisis in meaning is that it is difficult to find meaning, to grant meaning to our being or activities, to find some repose where we can say that all is one thing or another or much of anything at all; when fear easily overtakes confidence; when the domain of death may grow in its powers to define life's experiences. At the least, the crisis in meaning blurs boundaries, conceptual and (what has seemed) real.
This crisis--an apt term, I think‑has various facets or aspects which each section of`the book attempts to characterize, unpack, redirect, resolve. This is no simple crisis, and there is no direct response or solution to any singularity of causes.
The six sections into which it divides itself roughly cover the domains of these issues: (1) What are the aspects of the crisis as they now appear? (2) What about the framing of meaning, what meaning means? No simple question--a question that appears problematic only or especially in crisis periods; e.g., right now; (3) How meaning is emptying out in various phases, including a rise in nihilism, the active destruction of meaning; (4) How the vast new wave of technology is changing us, especially changing how we think about ourselves; (5) What this all has to do with the question of being human, the architectonic or framing of how we think about ourselves, meaning, being doing‑how and why we are tempted to look outside the human experience to find meaning; and (6) Some directions we might take in pursuing wisdom and re-granting meaning to others, thence ourselves… others… ourselves by looking broadly, carefully, and critically at human experience.
Nietzsche and Jung: Sailing a Deeper Night by Patricia Dixon (Contemporary Existentialism, Peter Lang) comprehensive study of the affinity of thought between Friedrich Nietzsche and C. G. Jung reveals that the quest for wholeness, the central theme in Jung's psychology, is the dominant thread that runs through the entire fabric of Nietzsche's writings. Emerging in his earliest essays and ultimately interweaving the major philosophical concepts of his latest works, this underlying theme provides the pull-thread for unraveling the intricately entwined skein of Nietzsche's complex but coherent philosophy. This book aims, on the one hand, to expose the extraordinary reflection of Nietzsche's ideas in Jung's writings, and, at the same time, to employ the language of analytical psychology to illustrate and clarify Nietzsche's message. Holding that Jung's perception of Nietzsche's philosophy belies the uncanny similarity of their thought and perpetuates popular misunderstandings of Nietzsche, the author offers an extensive critique of Jung's analyses of Nietzsche's philosophy and his assessment of Nietzsche's psychic disturbance.
She cuts through the jargon, lays out their real, common, and divergent viewpoints, and links them to classical Christian and Grecian thinking. Much of Nietzsche's writings tend to be totally misread, for several reasons. Buttressed by vast references she explains why, rebuts the errors and reveals an astonishing concurrence between Philosophy and Psychology. She is amazing and very readable while maintaining the highest scholarship.
Nietzsche's Middle Period by Ruth Abbey (Oxford University Press) provides a close study of the seminal writings from Nietzsche's middle period: Human, All Too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science. Although these works tend to be neglected in commentaries on the philosopher, Abbey argues that they deserve attention for four main reasons. First, understanding these works prevents a static or essentialist reading of Nietzsche, showing the error of attributing to his work in general what are actually the views of a specific period or text. Second, studying the works of this period illuminates the processes by which Nietzsche becomes "who he is"; although there are undeniable continuities across his oeuvre, reading the middle period books brings to light the important ways in which his ideas evolved. It reveals the theoretical choices made and approaches discarded as Nietzsche's thinking developed.
Third, the middle period writings testify to what a careful, sensitive analyst of motivation and moral life Nietzsche could be, offering a range of nuanced and delicate analyses of psychological drives in their myriad manifestations. These works illustrate his fascination with the mystery and complexity of psychology, and deliver a different Nietzsche: one who is a more careful and less extreme thinker than he becomes. They offer a series of careful, variegated moral analyses compared to many of the later, cruder, more black‑and‑white moral arguments, caricatures, and essentializing gestures.
Finally, Abbey argues that these writings deliver a Nietzsche who is by some criteria a more interesting and valuable thinker than the later one. She contends that, by some of
Nietzsche's own measures, the middle works can be deemed superior to his subsequent writings. These criteria include self‑reflective criticism, anti‑dogmatism, schooling in suspicion, openness to surprising possibilities, the unmasking of becoming in being, the made in the given, and contingency in necessity.
A startling new interpretation of Nietzsche based on some of his most neglected texts, Abbey's study also clarifies a number of issues found in his more familiar works.Abbey reveals the radical thinker before he had wholly repudiated the tradition in his own mind. Unlike readers who have concentrated on Nietzsche's late writings and as it were our stunned by his extremes of expression and devastating conclusions that tends to trash tradition, in the middle period Nietzsche was still seeing his way through the forest and his views can be followed in a developmental light. This is a useful companion to the a reading of Human, All Too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science.
Zarathustra in Paris: The Nietzsche Vogue in France, 1891-1918 by Christopher E. Forth (Northern Illinois University Press) Friedrich Nietzsche's descent into madness prevented him from achieving his dream of seeing Paris, but his philosophical alter ego Zarathustra took the City of Light by storm, raising sharp debates among the political and cultural avant‑garde. Among the intelligentsia of Paris, Nietzsche's ideas shook the very foundations of modern philosophy, social thought, and political life.
Forth's lucid history reveals Nietzsche's impact upon French intellectual and cultural life and clarifies the crisis in European thought that foreshadowed the First World War.
Examining a broad range of intellectuals and opinion makers, including artists, politicians, academics, and journalists, Forth demonstrates that social frameworks such as institutional affiliation, aesthetic allegiance, and generational identity, even more than class or political sympathies, shaped responses to Nietzsche's writings. This discovery allows
Forth to broaden his inquiry into a general sociology of knowledge that explores the ways a thinker becomes recognized as important by cultural and political leaders.
In addition, Forth reveals the subtle ties between the reception of Nietzsche and the shifting currents of social and political developments leading to World War I. In 1900 many deemed Nietzsche a "good European" who transcended national divisions, but by 1914 patriotic fervor led many French critics to repudiate Nietzsche and his disciples. During the Great War most intellectuals turned against Nietzsche, with Leon Daudet blaming him for laying the philosophical groundwork for German barbarities in Belgium and occupied France.
Opening new avenues for understanding French and European intellectual life in the era before the Great War, Zarathustra in Paris will appeal to anyone interested in the literary and political avant‑garde of the early twentieth century.Christopher E. Forth is a Lecturer in History at the Australian National University.
Reading the New Nietzsche: An Approach to His Principal Works by David B. Allison (Paperback) (Rowman & Littlefield) "Had Nietzsche been aware that so many competing schools of interpretation would claim him for their own, he would doubtless have been flattered, after the almost complete neglect his writings had during his own lifetime. David Allison's book is the only one, however, he would have endorsed, as having gotten his philosophy down exactly as he would have wished, but hardly dared expect. The book is a masterpiece of exposition and analysis, presenting the work and the life through a brilliant reading of four of Nietzsche's great books. Nietzsche's enthusiasts can clear their shelves of the bickering secondary literature. This is the book to keep." -Arthur Danto, Columbia University
"David Allison enriches the reading of these key Nietzschean texts with helpful information and leads the reader to the philosophical issues at stake. His exposition is informed by the most sophisticated contemporary debates. First time as well as long time readers of Nietzsche will find they are discovering a Nietzsche writing for today." -AI Lingis, Pennsylvania State University
In this long-awaited volume, David B. Allison argues for a "generous" approach to Nietzsche's writings and provides comprehensive analyses of Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and On the Genealogy of Morals. Unique among other books on Nietzsche, Allison's text includes individual chapters devoted to Nietzsche's principal works. Historically oriented and continentally informed, Allison's readings draw on French and German thinkers such as Heidegger, Bataille, Derrida, Birault, and Deleuze, while explicitly resisting the use of jargon that frequently characterizes those approaches. Reading the New Nietzsche is an outstanding resource for those reading Nietzsche for the first time as well as for those who wish to know him better.
David B. Allison is professor of philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is the editor of the groundbreaking anthology The New Nietzsche.
Perhaps more than any other philosopher who readily comes to mind, Nietzsche writes exclusively for you. Not at you, but for you. For you, the reader. Only you. At least this is the feeling one often has when reading him. Like a friend, he seems to share your every concern-and your aversions and suspicions as well. Like a true friend, he rarely tells you what you ought to do-that would be too presumptuous, immodest, authoritarian. And friends don't moralize, either. They share secrets and encourage you-to enjoy, to travel, to try something new, to get out of your skin for a while. As for the "others," he can be paralyzingly critical, lacerating in his acerbic wit and humor. But he won't betray you, of that you can be certain. You have earned his trust. You have both been there, on the oblique and pretty far down at times, really, but now you can laugh-at the pettiness, the stupid mistakes, at all you had to go through to be where you are. No great revelations, no absolute knowledge, no timeless, leaden certainties-but things do look a bit different now, and one gets a better perspective on things, new perspectives, a nuanced appreciation. One is more tolerant of everything ambiguous and is far better disposed to oneself and to others. One begins to spare oneself the small annoyances, the sense of regret or shame, at the way things were supposed to be. And things take on a richer patina in turn, a sensuous immediacy, the way one feels after a long illness, when rediscovering the simple fact that sunlight is itself a medium of pleasure, or when warm voices and laughter once again drift up from the evening boulevards below.
Nietzsche lends a remarkable historical and philosophical resonance to the wide variety of subject matter he writes about. Tacitus, Themistocles, Aeschylus, Emerson, Pindar, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Goethe, Empedocles, Schiller, Schopenhauer, Herodotus, and Heraclitus infuse his reflections as effortlessly as a returned gesture of welcome. In part, it is due to the fascinating wealth of material he draws upon, his great knowledge of traditional thought and faith, his concern to communicate through an effective literary style, and his remarkable control of rhetoric that enable his works to become so successfully personalized by the attentive reader. Of course, this is part of the problem as well; namely, the paradoxical fact that everyone seems to find a different Nietzsche, that he is continually being reinvented and reappropriated, precisely because his work so readily lends itself to the plethora of interpretations that have arisen in response to it. The interpretations vary from the naive to the sublime, from the desire to have his thought serve a quite narrow, particular interest, to reduce and simplify it to a caricature of itself, or to positively exclude it from the company of civil discussion altogether-effectively, to interpret Nietzsche's work right out of all plausible existence. Nietzsche himself recognized that given the personal, intellectual, and historical specificity of the particular reader, any text would be necessarily factored by the agendas-the pretexts, concerns, and prejudices-of the audience it chanced upon. And to write in such a way as to foster this diversity of interpretation is a signal mark of generosity by an author, a quality rarely found in traditional philosophers.
Nonetheless, Nietzsche's writings are far from rudderless, nor are they merely capricious exercises for the endless improvisations of the reader's imagination. Rather, Nietzsche writes for a particular audience, a particular reader. And in the same way one has to work to cultivate and to maintain a friendship, Nietzsche desperately sought to cultivate an audience-one he would come to call his "Good Europeans." What motivated Nietzsche to assiduously pursue such an audience was his deep conviction that he, perhaps more than anyone else at the time, was in possession of a newly emergent truth-one he experienced and internalized as a veritable trauma --namely, that the world was on the brink of a completely unfathomable disruption and dislocation. It was his recognition that the very foundations of Western culture were being withdrawn: the God of the West, who for millennia on end had served humanity as the font of traditional faith, as the creative source of all being, truth, and moral value, was no longer credible to the scientifically educated classes of late nineteenth-century Europe.
If the "death of God" is perhaps the foremost central concern in Nietzsche's work, it is precisely his response to this "greatest event in history" that governs the detailed analyses of his more general reflection. Specifically, two broad motifs organize Nietzsche's painful attempts to achieve some livable, thinkable, harmonious resolution to this situation: the first, on the brighter side, is what he terms the "newly redeemed" innocence of becoming. And this is already
and palpably given to us as a de-deified world of nature and human nature, one that must be felt and experienced by all in the absence of the angry old God. Not only is this a universe of vibrant sensuous immediacy, but it also bears the enormous legacy of the classical civilizations, of European Renaissance humanism, and the Enlightenment project of modernity itself-an effulgent natural world of superabundant beauty and historical depth, whose very accomplishment subtends our every value, choice, and action. But, the second side is darker Nietzsche's horrified apprehension that the old God had become ideologically resurrected as a savage form of modern nationalism, with its hydra-head of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, plutocratic greed, and class hatred-all hardened avatars of the old, universal church, only this time, emboldened by the prosperity of modern science and fueled by a mighty industrial revolution.
The shadows materialized early on for Nietzsche through his firsthand experience of the highly mechanized and industrial-scale hostilities of the Franco-Prussian War, one Nietzsche knew could only be the Bismarckian herald of the unspeakable century to come. All the personal bitterness and pietistic resentment that had been developing for two millennia-now bereft of their stabilizing, if not fundamentally mendacious, ontotheological grounds-would be recast blindly and hatefully into the armed legions of so many divisive European nation-states. This will to destruction, nihilism, weariness, decadence, the all-so-many interconnected notions that Nietzsche struggled with in this domain, notions that would lead straight to despair and ruination-or, what he would simply call "woe" in Zarathustra-had to be thought through, anticipated, and countered on new grounds. It would have to be overcome by a willed unity of Good Europeans, and perhaps this might even have to come at an enormous human expense. But nonetheless, these concerns crystallized into Nietzsche's oft-repeated "task," progressively elaborated throughout his principal texts and correspondence. This task, framed against a volatile Europe of discredited value-formations, reeling into a thoughtless future, would prove to be the armature of Nietzsche's lifework, one that positively begged for completion against all odds. Ultimately, he knew, however, that the larger task would be Europe's own. Nietzsche's personal task would be to articulate it, even if this sometimes entailed a tone of desperation or stridency in his writing. Given the urgency of his task-most simply stated, "I would like to take away from human existence some of its heartbreaking and cruel character"-Nietzsche would attempt to induce a commensurate feeling and intellectual awareness in his audience. Writing to the heart as to the mind, he would draw upon every artistic and stylistic device from antique poetry and tragedy, from Aristotle right through contemporary opera, invoking a wide range of rhetorical and figurative usage: the employment of hyperbole, of striking imagery, the frequent use of aphorisms and apothegms, of analogy and metaphor, as well as elements of musicality, psychological association and projection, of personal reminiscence, and more. Nietzsche would employ all these stylistic devices to induce the reader to come to an understanding of his philosophical works, his reflections, indeed, of his very temperament and character. It is an extremely difficult thing to do well, especially for one who claimed to have written in blood.
The four works that are focused upon in the present volume-The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and On the Genealogy of Morals-are surely Nietzsche's most celebrated and widely read texts. While they each express many of Nietzsche's central concerns and teachings, their style of composition differs significantly. The Birth of Tragedy (1872) was written when Nietzsche was a professor of classical philology at the University of Basel and it is projected as a relatively straightforward scholarly analysis of the evolution and decline of classical Greek tragic drama. But rather than deal with the textual provenance and derivation of the tragedies themselves, as would a more conventional philologist (careful to note interpolations or emendations in the text through later transcriptions, differing word usages, stylistic or grammatical inconsistencies, etc.), Nietzsche examines the broader culture, whose richness and creativity gave rise to these stunning accomplishments dramatic tragedies that Nietzsche saw as the highest artistic achievement of classical Greek culture. In seeking to uncover the deep cultural dynamics of the classical period, Nietzsche hoped to present a model by which his contemporary audience could come to better understand the often obscure underpinnings of their own-modern-European condition and to prepare themselves in turn for the enormously difficult problems he foresaw emerging in the coming century.