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NIETZSCHE-STUDIEN

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III

NIETZSCHE-STUDIEN
Internationales Jahrbuch
fr die Nietzsche-Forschung

Begrndet von

Mazzino Montinari Wolfgang Mller-Lauter


Heinz Wenzel
Herausgegeben von

Gnter Abel (Berlin) Josef Simon (Bonn)


Werner Stegmaier (Greifswald)

Band 34 2005

Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York

IV

Anschriften der Herausgeber


Prof. Dr. Gnter Abel, Institut fr Philosophie, TU Berlin, Sekr. TEL 12/1,
Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, D-10587 Berlin
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Josef Simon, Philosophisches Seminar A der Universitt Bonn, Am Hof 1,
D-53113 Bonn
Prof. Dr. Werner Stegmaier, Universitt Greifswald, Institut fr Philosophie,
Baderstrae 67, D-17487 Greifswald

Redaktion
Dr. Ulrich Dirks, Institut fr Philosophie, TU Berlin, Sekr. TEL 12/1,
Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, D-10587 Berlin
PD Dr. Andreas Urs Sommer, Universitt Greifswald, Institut fr Philosophie,
Baderstrae 67, D17487 Greifswald

Wissenschaftlicher Beirat
Prof. Dr. Keith Ansell-Pearson (Warwick/UK) Prof. Dr. Eric Blondel (Paris)
Prof. Dr. Glenn W. Most (Pisa)
Prof. Dr. Richard Schacht (Urbana/Ill.) Prof. Dr. Ivan Soll (Madison/Wis.)
Prof. Dr. Aldo Venturelli (Urbino)

Online-Zugang fr Subskribenten/Online access for subscribers:


http://www.deGruyter.de/journals/nietz-stud

ISBN-13: 978-3-11-018262-0
ISBN-10: 3-11-018262-9
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Inhaltsverzeichnis

INHALTSVERZEICHNIS

A BHANDLUNGEN
P ETER B ORNEDAL , A Silent World. Nietzsches Radical Realism: World,
Sensation, Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

M ICHAEL C OWAN , Nichts ist so sehr zeitgemss als Willensschwche.


Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

48

J ACQUES G OETSCHEL , Nietzsche inimitable. Cration et imitation dorigine contrle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

75

R OBERT W ICKS , Nietzsches Yes to Life and the Apollonian Neutrality of


Existence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
I RIS D RMANN, Rausch als sthetischer Zustand. Nietzsches Deutung
der Aristotelischen Katharsis und ihre Platonisch-Kantische Umdeutung durch Heidegger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
P ETER S EDGWICK , Violence, Economy and Temporality. Plotting the
Political Terrain of On the Genealogy of Morality . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
M ICHAEL V. U RE , Stoic Comedians. Nietzsche and Freud on the Art of
Arranging Ones Humours . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186

B ERICHT

, Die Rezeption Friedrich Nietzsches in Rumnien. Eine


S IMION D ANILA
Retrospektive vom Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts bis heute . . . . . . . . 217

M ISZELLE
C HRISTOPH L ANDERER /M ARC -O LIVER S CHUSTER , Begehrlich schrie
der Geyer in das Thal. Zu einem Motiv frher Wagner-Entfremdung
in Nietzsches Nachla . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 246

VI

Inhaltsverzeichnis

D ISKUSSION
T HOMAS H. B ROBJER , Nietzsches Relation to the Greek Sophists . . . . 256
B EITRGE

ZUR

Q UELLENFORSCHUNG

Abhandlungen

T HOMAS H. B ROBJER , Sources of and Influences on Nietzsches The Birth


of Tragedy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 278
N IKOLAOS L OUKIDELIS, Quellen von Nietzsches Verstndnis und Kritik
des cartesischen cogito, ergo sum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 300
M ARIA C RISTINA F ORNARI , Die Spur Spencers in Nietzsches moralischem Bergwerke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310
T HOMAS H. B ROBJER , Nietzsches Reading about China and Japan . . . . 329
Nachweise

T HOMAS H. B ROBJER , Nachweis aus Zeitstimmen aus der reformirten Kirche . 337
T HOMAS H. B ROBJER , Nachweise aus Mller, Lucian: Geschichte der Klassischen Philologie in den Niederlanden und Jahn, Otto: Aus der Alterthumswissenschaft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 339
N IKOLAOS L OUKIDELIS, Nachweis aus Teichmller, Gustav: Die wirkliche
und die scheinbare Welt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 340
N IKOLAOS L OUKIDELIS, Nachweis aus Drossbach, Maximilian: ber die
scheinbaren und die wirklichen Ursachen des Geschehens in der Welt . . . . . . 342
R EZENSIONEN
R ALF R OSMIAREK , Briefpartner und Zeitgenossen Nietzsches . . . . . . 343
Reich, Hauke: Nietzsche-Zeitgenossenlexikon: Verwandte und Vorfahren,
Freunde und Feinde, Verehrer und Kritiker von Friedrich Nietzsche. Basel
(Schwabe) 2004. (Beitrge zu Friedrich Nietzsche 7). 220 Seiten. ISBN
3-7965-1921-0.

W ERNER S TEGMAIER , Nietzsches Philosophie der Kunst und seine Kunst


der Philosophie. Zur aktuellen Forschung und Forschungsmethodik . 348
1. Reckermann, Alfons: Lesarten der Philosophie Nietzsches. Ihre Rezeption
und Diskussion in Frankreich, Italien und der angelschsischen Welt
1960 2000. Berlin, New York (Walter de Gruyter) 2003. (Monographien
und Texte zur Nietzsche-Forschung 45). 336 Seiten. ISBN 3-11-017452-9.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

2. Kemal, Salim / Gaskell, Ivan / Conway, Daniel W.: Nietzsche, Philosophy


and the Arts. Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 1998. XV + 351
Seiten. ISBN 0-521-59381-6.
3. Schweppenhuser, Gerhard / Gleiter, Jrg H.: Nietzsches Labyrinthe.
Perspektiven zur sthetik, Ethik und Kulturphilosophie. Weimar (Universitts-Verlag) 2001. (Philosophische Diskurse 4). 151 Seiten. ISBN
3-86068-149-4.
4. Seubold, Gnter (Hg.): Man ist viel mehr Knstler als man wei. Bilder
und Bildner: Werk- und Lebenskunst bei Friedrich Nietzsche. Mit Beitrgen von Martina Bretz u.a. Alfter, Bonn (DenkMal-Verlag) 2001.
(Nietzsche Denken 2). 220 Seiten. ISBN 3-935404-00-X.
5. Seubert, Harald (Hg.): Natur und Kunst in Nietzsches Denken. Kln u.a.
(Bhlau) 2002. (Collegium Hermeneuticum 8). XII + 207 Seiten. ISBN
3-412-09502-8.
6. Geisenhanslke, Achim: Le sublime chez Nietzsche. Paris (LHarmattan)
2000. 176 Seiten. ISBN 2-7384-8918-4.
7. Pothen, Philip: Nietzsche and the Fate of Art. Aldershot (Ashgate) 2002.
X + 235 Seiten. ISBN 0-7546-0792-5 / 0-7546-0793-3.
8. Cherlonneix, Laurent: Nietzsche. Sant et maladie, lart. Paris (LHarmattan) 2003. (Collection Ouverture philosophique). 322 Seiten. ISBN
2-7475-3150-3.
9. Kang, Yong-Soo: Nietzsches Kulturphilosophie. Wrzburg (Knigshausen und Neumann) 2003. 192 Seiten. ISBN 3-8260-2357-9.
10. Grner, Rdiger: Nietzsches Kunst. Annherungen an einen Denkartisten. Frankfurt am Main, Leipzig (Insel Verlag) 2000. 363 Seiten. ISBN
3-458-34310-5.
11. Audi, Paul: LIvresse de lart. Nietzsche et lesthtique. Paris (Librairie
Gnrale Franaise) 2003. 221 Seiten. ISBN 2-253-94351-7.
12. Rampley, Matthew: Nietzsche, Aesthetics, and Modernity. Cambridge
(Cambridge University Press) 2000. XI + 286 Seiten. ISBN 0-521-65155-7.
13. Im Namen des Dionysos: Friedrich Nietzsche Philosophie als Kunst.
Beitrge von Heinz Friedrich u. a., Waakirchen (Oreos) 1995. (Bayerische
Akademie der Schnen Knste: Eine Veranstaltungsreihe zum 150. Geburtstag des Philosophen). S. 141 216.
14. Kostka, Alexandre / Wohlfarth, Irving (Hg.): Nietzsche and An Architecture of Our Minds. Los Angeles 1999 (= Issues and Debates, published
by the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities).
XI + 364 Seiten. ISBN 0-89236-485-8.
15. Buddensieg, Tilmann: Nietzsches Italien. Stdte, Grten und Palste. Berlin (Klaus Wagenbach) 2002. 252 Seiten. ISBN 3-8031-3609-1.

VII

VIII

Inhaltsverzeichnis

A RNE G RN, Jenseits? Nietzsches Religionskritik revisited.


Zum Stand der Forschung in Sachen Nietzsche und die christliche
Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 375
1. Biser, Eugen: Nietzsche Zerstrer oder Erneuerer des Christentums?
Darmstadt (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft) 2002. 178 Seiten. ISBN
3-534-16027-4.
2. Kster, Peter: Kontroversen um Nietzsche. Untersuchungen zur theologischen Rezeption. Zrich (Theologischer Verlag Zrich) 2003. 383 Seiten.
ISBN 3-290-17277-5.
3. Hbner, Hans: Nietzsche und das Neue Testament. Tbingen (Mohr Siebeck) 2000. XI + 290 Seiten. ISBN 3-16-147489-9.
4. Sommer, Andreas Urs: Friedrich Nietzsches Der Antichrist. Ein philosophisch-historischer Kommentar. Basel (Schwabe) 2000. (Beitrge zu
Friedrich Nietzsche. Bd. 2). 783 Seiten. ISBN 3-7965-1098-1.
5. Havemann, Daniel: Der Apostel der Rache. Nietzsches Paulusdeutung.
Berlin, New York (Walter de Gruyter) 2002. X + 312 Seiten. (Monographien und Texte zur Nietzsche-Forschung. Bd. 46). ISBN 3-11-017523-1.
6. Mourkojannis, Daniel: Ethik der Lebenskunst. Zur Nietzsche-Rezeption
in der evangelischen Theologie. Mnster, Hamburg, London (LIT) 2000.
(Studien zur systematischen Theologie und Ethik. Bd. 23). 231 Seiten.
ISBN 3-8258-4674-1.
7. Broisson, Ivan: Nietzsche et la vie spirituelle. Paris (LHarmattan) 2003.
(Ouverture Philosophique). 200 Seiten. ISBN 2-7475-4449-4.
8. Vogel, Beatrix (Hg.): Von der Unmglichkeit oder Mglichkeit, ein Christ
zu sein. Symposion 1996 des Nietzsche-Kreises Mnchen. Vortrge aus
den Jahren 1996 2001. Mnchen (Allitera) 2001. (Mit Nietzsche Denken.
Publikationen des Nietzsche-Forums Mnchen e.V. Bd. 2). 347 Seiten.
ISBN 3-935284-47-0.
9. Willers, Ulrich (Hg.): Theodizee im Zeichen des Dionysos. Nietzsches Fragen jenseits Moral und Religion. Mnster, Hamburg, London (LIT) 2003.
239 Seiten. ISBN 3-8258-5561-9.
10. Striet, Magnus: Das Ich im Sturz der Realitt. Philosophisch-theologische
Studien zu einer Theorie des Subjekts in Auseinandersetzung mit der
Sptphilosophie Friedrich Nietzsches. Regensburg (Friedrich Pustet) 1998.
(ratio fidei. Beitrge zur philosophischen Rechenschaft der Theologie.
Bd. 1). 329 Seiten. ISBN 3-7917-1624-7.

H ARTWIG F RANK , Nietzsches System nach John Richardson . . . . . . . 409


1. Richardson, John: Nietzsches System. New York, Oxford (Oxford University Press) 1996. IX + 316 Seiten. ISBN 0-19-509846-3.
2. Richardson, John: Nietzsches New Darwinism. Oxford, New York (Oxford University Press) 2004. XII + 288 Seiten. ISBN 0-19-517103-9.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

IX

A NDREA B ERTINO, Nietzsches Philosophie des Masses . . . . . . . . . . 420


1. Giovanola, Benedetta: Nietzsche e lAurora della misura. Roma (Carocci
editore) 2002. 243 Seiten. ISBN 88-430-2404-3.
2. Totaro, Francesco (Hg.): Nietzsche tra eccesso e misura. La volont di
potenza a confronto. Roma (Carocci editore) 2002. 348 Seiten. ISBN
88-430-2102-8.
3. Totaro, Francesco (Hg.): Nietzsche e la provocazione del superuomo.
Per unetica della misura. Roma (Carocci editore) 2004. 199 Seiten. ISBN
88-430-3229-1.

C ARSTEN P ALLESEN, Das ewige Wiederkuen des Gleichen . . . . . . . 424


Hffe, Otfried (Hg.): Friedrich Nietzsche, Zur Genealogie der Moral. Berlin (Akademie Verlag) 2004. (Klassiker Auslegen 29). 187 Seiten. ISBN 3-05-003026-7.

E NRICO M LLER , Nietzsche und die Griechen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430


Bishop, Paul (Hg.): Nietzsche and Antiquity. His Reaction and Response to the
Classical Tradition. Rochester, NY (Camden House) 2004. (Studies in German
Literature, Linguistics, and Culture). XII + 504 Seiten. ISBN 1-57113-282-1.

D ANIEL M OURKOJANNIS , Nietzsches Europa-Philosophie . . . . . . . . 436


1. Elbe, Stefan: Europe. A Nietzschean Perspective. London, New York
(Routledge) 2003. (Routledge Advances in European Politics. Bd. 11). 168
Seiten. ISBN 0-415-36975-4.
2. Merlio, Gilbert / DIorio, Paolo (Hg.): Le rayonnement europen de Nietzsche. Paris (Klincksieck) 2004. (Germanistique. Collection dirige par
Jean-Marie Valentin). 264 Seiten. ISBN 2-252-03445-9.

K ONRAD O TT, On Taming Nietzsche for Environmental Ethics . . . . . 441


Del Caro, Adrian: Grounding the Nietzsche Rhetoric of Earth. Berlin, New
York (Walter de Gruyter) 2004. (Monographien und Texte zur Nietzsche-Forschung 48). X + 460 Seiten. ISBN 3-11-018038-3.

P ATRICK W OTLING, Nietzsche et Hegel. Quatre tentatives pour faire dialoguer deux frres ennemis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 458
1. Dudley, Will: Hegel, Nietzsche, and Philosophy. Thinking Freedom.
Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 2002. XVII et 326 pages. ISBN
0-521-81250-X.
2. Jurist, Elliot T.: Beyond Hegel and Nietzsche. Philosophy, Culture, Agency.
Cambridge, Mass., London (MIT Press) 2000. XII et 355 pages. ISBN
0-262-10087-8.
3. Houlgate, Stephen: Hegel, Nietzsche, and the Criticism of Metaphysics.
Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) first published 1986, paperback
edition 2004. XVIII et 300 pages. ISBN 0-521-89279-1.
4. Lebrun, Grard: Lenvers de la dialectique. Hegel la lumire de Nietzsche.
Paris (ditions du Seuil) 2004. 376 pages. ISBN 2-02-07797-6.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

W ENCHE M ARIT Q UIST, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard Tracing Common


Themes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 474
1. Brandes, Georg: Nietzsche. Eine Abhandlung ber aristokratischen Radikalismus. Mit einer Einleitung von Klaus Bohnen. Berlin (Berenberg Verlag) 2004. 126 pages. ISBN 3-937834-03-6.
2. Brobjer, Thomas H.: Notes and Discussions. Nietzsches Knowledge of
Kierkegaard. In: Journal of the History of Philosophy 41/2 (2003),
pp. 251 263. ISSN 00225053.
3. Guignon, Charles (ed.): The Existentialists. Critical Essays on Kierkegaard,
Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre. Oxford (Rawman & Rittlefield) 2004.
VIII + 182 pages. ISBN 0-7425-1413-7.
4. Kellenberger, James: Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Faith and Eternal Acceptance. Basingstoke, New York (Macmillan Press / St. Martin Press) 1997.
IX + 150 pages. ISBN 0-333-67656-4 / 0-312-17347-4.
5. Grau, Gerd-Gnther: Zwei Glaubensstreiter. Kierkegaard und Nietzsche.
Hamburg (Katholische Akademie) 2000. (Vortrge in der Katholischen
Akademie Hamburg). 38 Seiten. ISBN 3-928750-58-5.

G NTER G DDE /R ENATE M LLER -B UCK , Neue Beitrge zum FreudNietzsche-Diskurs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 486
1. Assoun, Paul-Laurent: Freud and Nietzsche. Translated by Richard L. Collier. London (Athlone Press) 2000. 238 Seiten. ISBN 0-485-11483-6.
2. Haberkamp, Gnter: Triebgeschehen und Wille zur Macht. Nietzsche
zwischen Philosophie und Psychologie. Wrzburg (Knigshausen &
Neumann) 2000. (Nietzsche in der Diskussion). 214 Seiten. ISBN
3-8260-1869-9.
3. Yalom, Irvin D.: Und Nietzsche weinte. Roman. Aus dem Amerikanischen
von Uda Strtling. Mit einem neuen Nachwort des Autors. [bers. des
neuen Nachworts des Autors von Anja Urban]. Sonderausgabe. Mnchen,
Zrich (Piper) 2003. 463 Seiten. ISBN 3-492-04559-6. Taschenbuchausgabe Mnchen, Zrich (Piper) 2005. (Serie Piper 4328). 463 Seiten. ISBN
3-492-24328-2.
4. Mller-Buck, Renate: Ach dass doch alle Schranken zwischen uns fielen.
Siegfried Lipiner und der Nietzsche-Kult in Wien. In: Barbera, Sandro /
DIorio, Paolo / Ulbricht, Justus H. (Hg.): Friedrich Nietzsche. Rezeption
und Kultus. Pisa (Edizioni ETS) 2004. ISBN 88-467-0920-9. S. 33 75.
5. Bruder-Bezzel, Almuth / Bruder, Klaus-Jrgen: Kreativitt und Determination. Studien zu Nietzsche, Freud und Adler. Gttingen (Vandenhoeck
& Ruprecht) 2004. 206 Seiten. ISBN 3-525-46207-7.
6. Le Rider, Jacques: Freud von der Akropolis zum Sinai. Die Rckwendung zur Antike in der Wiener Moderne. Wien (Passagen Verlag) 2004. 366
Seiten. ISBN 3-85165-636-9.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

XI

7. Golomb, Jacob / Santaniello, Weaver / Lehrer, Ronald: Nietzsche and


Depth Psychology. Albany, NY (State University of New York Press) 1999.
XIII + 364 Seiten. ISBN 0-7914-4140-7.
8. Lickint, Klaus Gerhard: Nietzsches Kunst des Psychoanalysierens. Eine
Schule fr kultur- und geschichtsbewute Analytiker der Zukunft. Wrzburg (Knigshausen & Neumann) 2000. 613 Seiten. ISBN 3-8260-1926-1.
9. Wolfenstein, Eugene Victor: Inside/Outside Nietzsche. Psychoanalytic
Explorations. Ithaca, NY (Cornell University Press) 2000. XI + 267 Seiten.
ISBN 0-8014-3703-2.

Siglen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

506

Register . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

508

Hinweise fr den Benutzer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

508

Literatur-Register . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

509

Personen-Register . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

533

Hinweise zur Gestaltung von Manuskripten fr die Nietzsche-Studien .

545

XII

XIII

VERZEICHNIS DER MITARBEITERINNEN UND MITARBEITER

Andrea Bertino, Corso Ugo Bassi 32 4, I-16135 Genova, Italien, e-mail: andrebertin@
libero.it
Dr. phil., PhD., Peter Bornedal, American University of Beirut, Program for Civilisation
Studies, Bliss Street, Box II-0236 Beirut, Lebanon
Dr. Thomas H. Brobjer, Uppsala University, Dept. of the History of Ideas, Box 629,
S-75126 Uppsala, Schweden, e-mail: Thomas.Brobjer@idehist.uu.se
Michael Cowan, PhD., Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, German
Annex A, P.O. Box 400125, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA
Simion Danila, 307045 BELINT, Nr. 637, Jud TIMIS,, Rumnien
Priv.-Doz. Dr. Iris Drmann, Institut fr Kulturtheorie der Universitt Lneburg,
Scharnhorststr. 1, 21332 Lneburg, e-mail: daermann@uni-lueneburg.de
Dr. Maria Cristina Fornari, Universit degli Studi di Lecce, Dipartimento di Filosofia
e Scienze sociali, Palazzo Parlangeli via Stampacchia, 73100 Lecce, Italien, e-mail:
mariafor@tin.it
Priv.-Doz. Dr. Hartwig Frank, Institut fr Philosophie, Universitt Greifswald, Baderstr.
6 7, 17487 Greifswald, e-mail: frankha@uni-greifswald.de
Dr. Gnter Gdde, Kuno-Fischer-Str. 20, 14057 Berlin, e-mail: G.Goedde@t-online.de
Dr. Jacques Goetschel, 19a Avenue de la Paix, F-67000 Strasbourg, Frankreich, e-mail:
GoetschelJacques@aol.com
Prof. Dr. Arne Grn, Department of Systematic Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen, Kbmagergade 44 46, 3. sal, DK-1150 Copenhagen K, Dnemark, e-mail: ag@teol.ku.dk
Dr. Christoph Landerer, Fachbereich fr Philosophie, Universitt Salzburg, Franziskanergasse 1, 5020 Salzburg, email: christophclemens.landerer@sbq.ac.at
Nikolaos Loukidelis, Doktorand am Institut fr Philosophie der HU Berlin, RichardWagner-Str. 31, 10585 Berlin, e-mail: nikolaos.loukidelis@student.hu-berlin.de

XIV

Verzeichnis der Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter

Dr. Daniel Mourkojannis, Jaegerallee 6, 24159 Kiel, e-mail: danmouro@web.de


Dr. Enrico Mller, Institut fr Philosophie, Universitt Greifswald, Baderstr. 6 7, 17487
Greifswald, e-mail: EnricoDietrich@gmx.de
Dr. Renate Mller-Buck, Nietzsche-Edition (Briefwechsel), Rappenberghalde 74, 72070
Tbingen, e-mail: rmueller-buck@web.de
Prof. Dr. Konrad Ott, Professur fr Umweltethik, Institut fr Botanik und Landschaftskologie, Universitt Greifswald, Grimmer Str. 88, 17487 Greifswald, e-mail:
ott@uni-greifswald.de
Carsten Pallesen, Abteilung fr Ethik und Religionsphilosophie an der Theologischen
Fakultt, Universitt Kopenhagen, Kobmagergade 44 46, 1150 Kobenhavn K,
Dnemark, e-mail: cp@teol.ku.dk
Wenche Marit Quist, Ph.d., Statholdervej 17, 1tv, 2400 Kbenhavn NV, Dnemark,
e-mail: wmq@cfs.ku.dk
Ralf Rosmiarek, Kartuser Str. 18A, 99084 Erfurt, e-mail:raros@t-online.de
Dr. Marc-Oliver Schuster, Arbeitsstelle fr Semiotik, Technische Universitt Berlin,
Franklinstr. 28/29, 10587 Berlin, email: marc.schuster@utoronto.ca
Dr. Peter Sedgwick, School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University, Humanities Building, Colum Drive, GB-Cardiff CF10 3EU, Grossbritanien,
e-mail: sedgwick@Cardiff.ac.uk
Prof. Dr. Werner Stegmaier, Institut fr Philosophie, Universitt Greifswald, Baderstr.
6 7, 17487 Greifswald, e-mail: stegmai@uni-greifswald.de
Dr. Michael V. Ure, Faculty of Arts, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australien, e-mail: Michael.Ure@arts.monash.edu.au
Dr. Robert Wicks, Department of Philosophy. The University Of Auckland, Fisher Building, 18 Waterloo Quadrant, Auckland, New Zealand, email: r.wicks@auckland.ac.nz
Prof. Dr. Patrick Wotling, Universit de Reims, Dpartement de philosophie, 57 rue
Pierre Taittinger, F-51096 Reims Cedex, Frankreich, e-mail: Patrick.Wotling@paris4.
sorbonne.fr

A Silent World

PETER BORNEDAL
A SILENT WORLD
NIETZSCHES RADICAL REALISM: WORLD, SENSATION, LANGUAGE

The world lies there complete a golden shell/


skin of benevolence [eine goldne Schale des Guten].
But the creative spirit wants to create also what is
complete: so it invented time and now the world
rolled away from itself, and rolled together again
in large rings.
Nietzsche: Nachla 1882 83; KSA 10, 5[1/266]
The sea lies there pale and glittering, it cannot
speak. The sky play its everlasting silent evening
game with red and yellow and green, it cannot
speak. The little cliffs and ribbons of rock that
run down into the sea as if to find the place where it
is most solitary, none of them can speak. [] Ah, it
is growing yet more still, my heart swells again: it is
startled by a new truth, it to o c a n n o t s p e a k, it
too mocks when the mouth calls something into
this beauty, it too enjoys its sweet silent malice.
I begin to hate speech, to hate even thinking; for do
I not hear behind every word the laughter of error?
Nietzsche: Daybreak 4231
The world does not speak. Only we do.
Richard Rorty2

I) Introduction
(i) Nietzsches Rejection of Idealism and Abstract Truth-Claims
According to a long epistemological tradition, culminating in Idealism, when
we perceive the world, we essentially perceive ourselves, or qualities and attributes of ourselves. Looking at the world becomes like looking in a mirror
1
2

Nietzsche, Friedrich: Daybreak. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge 2002.


Rorty, Richard: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge 1989, p. 6.

Peter Bornedal

mirroring ourselves. The world-human, other-self relationship is really according to lengthy treatises of ingenious argument a human-human, a self-self
relationship. The world as other, as resistance, as appearance is either (i) deceptive;
or (ii), it does not exist itself but only insofar as it is constituted by us; or (iii), if it
does exist in-itself, it has no bearings on us, because it is inaccessible, why the
knowable world is again uniquely constituted by-us and for-us.
Whichever of these popular epistemological positions one picks roughly representing Rationalism, Empiricism, and Kantianism one notices a hostility towards the outside, a hostility and aggression that is immediately turned into an attempt to appropriate the outside as a projection of the inside; that is, as a part of us.
In the new self-self relationship between world and human, it becomes the task of
the philosopher to explain how the first self in the relationship is identical to the
second, how the flesh of the world is our flesh. The overwhelming perceptive intuition that upon the philosopher and the layman alike impresses a sense of difference is discarded as mere appearance, or just as strangely insignificant and trivial.
According to the epistemological tradition before Nietzsche, reality is invariably the problem, and invariably the problem is solved by neutralizing
the outside, alien, in-human, and indifferent world, by replacing it with a world
humanized, a world for-us, a world interpreted. When the first terms in the
epistemological dichotomies, world versus human, other versus self, it versus us, are
canceled and reduced to the human, the self, the us, it is in part justified by
means of the truism that the world we perceive, is as perceived by us necessarily
reduced to our perceptive capabilities ( we admittedly dont perceive, for
example, heat-radiation, or electric and magnetic fields, as some animals). From
here it seems warranted to draw the conclusion that the world itself is unknown
and inaccessible (Kant and Schopenhauer), or simply non-existent (Berkeley).
It is from the entanglement in this epistemological narcissism (everything is in the
final analysis us) that Nietzsche increasingly, and especially in later writings, tries
to extricate himself as I shall try to demonstrate and argue.
It is clear that in his emerging epistemological program, Nietzsche is primarily reacting to Kant and Schopenhauer. Although he reveals his philosophical erudition by confidently referring to Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume,
Hegel, Feuerbach, Comte, and a variety of lesser known philosophers of his day,
it is the arguments of Kant and Schopenhauer that are repeatedly rehearsed, as
Nietzsche often as least in the Nachla brainstorms himself as to clarify the
fallacies inherent in their major presuppositions. Two such major presuppositions are, first, the Kantian doctrine of the thing-in-itself, and secondly, Schopenhauers interpretation of the thing-in-itself as will.3
3

When Nietzsche, in numerous places around in the work, reiterates that there is no will, it typically refers to Schopenhauers notion of will. If therefore Nietzsches rejection of the will as

A Silent World

To Nietzsche, there are only appearances and surfaces, and still, we are capable of producing knowledge of these appearances. It is now Nietzsches sustained epistemological project to explain (i) how is knowledge being produced,
and (ii) what is knowledge in a world that is entirely superficial that is, a world
that is not, as surface, the cover of some deeper located truth, and is not designed
according to, and does not abide by, any anthropomorphic principles like Schopenhauers will. Nietzsches project is then to explain how we conform an utterly
de-humanized world to our own needs, a world that is essentially indifferent
to us and our measurements. We stand in the midst of the world; we look into
a night full of stars; there is in truth nothing but a surface, but at an early point in
our civilizational development, we have started seeing constellations; we have
started recognizing star-patterns as something; we have begun to know. With
a sense of relief, we made the night familiar and human. The humanization
[Vermenschlichung] of nature a construal according to us. (Nachla 1885;
KSA 12, 1[29]).
the renowned philosopher of the will-to-power has had some commentators confused, it is
because they do not appreciate the fundamental difference between Schopenhauers and
Nietzsches notions of will. This discrepancy is often reiterated in Nietzsche. Philosophers are
given to speaking of the will as if it were the best-known thing in the world; Schopenhauer,
indeed, would have us understand that the will alone is truly known to us, known completely,
known without deduction or addition. But it seems to me that in this case too Schopenhauer has
done only what philosophers in general are given to doing; that he has taken up a popular
prejudice and exaggerated it. Willing seems to me to be above all something c omplic ate d,
something that is a unity only as a word. (BGE 19; KSA 5, pp. 31 32). This objection to
Schopenhauer is repeated in the late Nachla material: Is will-to-power a kind of will, or
is it identical to the notion will? Does it mean as much as desire? Or command? Is it a will as
Schopenhauer understood it, i. e., as an in-itself of things [An sich der Dinge]? [] My proposal is
that the will of psychology so far is only an unjustified generalization, that this will doe s not
exist at all. [] This is also in the highest degree the case in Schopenhauer: that which he calls
will, is merely an empty word. (Nachla 1888; KSA 13, 14[121]). Schopenhauers will is merely an
empty word. Nietzsches succinct sentence, We set up a word at the point where our ignorance
begins, where we cannot see any further (WP 482), is perfectly applicable to Schopenhauers
will. Schopenhauers will is a genuinely metaphysical principle: an indivisible singularity, unconditioned by anything but conditioning everything; the reason why it cannot be intelligibly explained. Nietzsches will by contrast as will-to-power is a result of a competition between forces
engaged in a perpetual struggle against one another. Nietzsches will is therefore not an unmoved mover of everything, it is not the first link in a causal chain of beings, but emerges as the
result of a struggle. Nietzsches will is never a singularity, it always implies several wills. As the
opportune constellation of forces, Nietzsches will materializes as just a local and temporary
order of rank. Wolfgang Mller-Lauter has aptly pointed out that Nietzsches will is always conceived as an organization of quanta of forces: The will to power is a manifold of forces that are
mutually engaged in a struggle. Also the force, in Nietzsches sense, can only be understood as
unity in the sense of organization. Accordingly, the world is a fixed, even expanse of power, it
forms a quantum of force. However, this quantum only exists in opposition to other quanta.
(Mller-Lauter, Wolfgang: ber Werden und Wille zur Macht. Nietzsche Interpretationen I. Berlin, New York 1999, p. 40.) Gnter Abel talks appropriately about Wille-zur-Macht-Komplexe
(Abel, Gnter: Nietzsche. Die Dynamik des Willen zur Macht und die ewige Wiederkehr. Berlin,
New York 1998).

Peter Bornedal

It is in itself puzzling why humans have a compulsion to familiarize and label.


As far as we know, it is a desire shared by no other animal, seemingly living just as
well without it. Hence, adding to the two epistemological questions above (how
and what), one might add as essential to Nietzsches project the anthropological-psychological question: why do humans want knowledge in the first place; why this insistence on truth?
As also Heidegger reminds us, it is therefore not the case that in Nietzsche,
there is no truth4 (although measured against the naked flesh of the world,
this is exactly the case), it is rather the case, that humans are basking in truths,
with an insatiable appetite lapping up every possible candidate. In one context
(and according to one definition), there is no truth; in another context, since
the dawn of civilization no notion has been pursued more persistently, no other
concept has been so over-produced and over-promoted.5 Nietzsches three
major questions, how, what, and why, are posed in order to come to an understanding of and to diagnose this situation. With these three questions, he wants to produce a knowledge of the production of knowledge, or, in other words, to pro-

Heidegger has asserted that Nietzsche must necessarily presuppose the concept of truth as correctness, since insofar as truth does not conform to the world of becoming, it is because it cannot
give a correct representation of this becoming world; consequently, presupposed is the notion of
truth as correctness. A non-conforming truth, a truth that cannot grasp the flow of becoming,
is now necessarily incorrectness, error, and illusion. Only if truth in its essence is correctness
can it be incorrectness and illusion according to Nietzsches interpretation. (Heidegger, Martin:
Nietzsche. Vol. III: The Will to Power as Knowledge. Edited and translated by D. F. Krell. San
Francisco 1987, p. 64.) According to this interpretation of Heideggers, Nietzsche misunderstands himself; as tacit presupposition, truth, seen as correspondence, is still controlling his writing. However, Heidegger also asserts that Nietzsche elsewhere criticizes exactly this concept. He
notices, for example, that the concept of truth as conformity is usually by Nietzsche placed in
quotation marks, implying, as he correctly sees, that Nietzsche as such quotes the notion from
somebody else i. e., he is commenting on a notion as it is handed down from the history of
Western Thinking. Nietzsche often expresses this thought pointedly and exaggeratedly in the
quite misleading form There is no truth (WM 616). Yet, here too he writes truth in quotation
marks. This truth, according to its essence, is an illusion, but, as illusion, a necessary condition
of life. So, is there truth after all? Certainly, and Nietzsche would be the last to want to deny
that. (Heidegger: Nietzsche, loc. cit., p. 66.). How Heidegger reconciles these two positions,
I can not speculate about here, but in the last statement, he would seem to be right. Only if we
place too high a premium on the concept of truth is there no truth. I. e., if truth is understood as
correspondence between proposition and thing (adequatio intellectus et rei ), and given that the
thing is in constant change, then truth as being must be of a categorically different nature than
becoming, and it must necessarily represent falsely the flux ( like Van Gogh on his two-dimensional canvas represents falsely the cypresses waving in the wind). Stabilization of the flux must
have the character of production or creation, provisionally added to a world in flux, but not discovered in an unmovable and permanent world.
The position is not as inconsistent as it may sound. If there are many truths, there is no single
truth as the absolute notion of truth philosophy traditionally has been pursuing. Compare to
Gnter Abel: But when there are several truths (not several partial truths [Teilwahrheiten]), then
there is exactly none. Abel: Nietzsche, loc. cit., p. 154.

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duce a knowledge of truth. What inevitably happens in inquiries that take their
investigations such a step deeper is that the object they investigate can no longer
claim of itself to be the first and primary condition. Inevitably, the object under
investigation has been demoted and its significance reduced, also such sanctified
and revered objects as truth.
Therefore, it may be befitting to offer a brief remark on a recurrent criticism
of Nietzsche. Ever since the beginning of Nietzsche-reception, his interrogation
of knowledge and truth has by various commentators been regarded as self-defeating, and throughout the 20th century we have seen the following purportedly
devastating objection been leveled at Nietzsche: If Nietzsche says there is no
truth (and either one of two possible conclusions follows), (i) then this is also not
true, or (ii) then Nietzsche is contradicting himself since he asserts as true that
there is no truth. Today, the objection is usually introduced as the problem of
self-reference. (The often repeated objection has even filtered down as laymans
knowledge; when the conversation falls upon Nietzsche, one can be sure that
at some point somebody eventually delivers the fatal coup de grce: but if
Nietzsche says that there is no truth, then this is also not true! Checkmate!)
However, it is only when truth is regarded as unconditioned (and this is exactly the
premise in question) that Nietzsches research-strategy can be seen as absurd,
paradoxical, and self-defeating. Under that traditional perspective, the truth
Nietzsche produces on Truth, is also Truth, and he has done no more than
confirming the absolute hegemony of Truth (with a capital T). Under that traditional perspective, Truth is like an umbrella that encompasses all philosophical,
even all human, discourse; to think about this umbrella, one is preconditioned to
do under the umbrella; thus, the project is in the last analysis futile. On that traditional approach, Truth is like a protective shield protecting philosophy against
all kinds of ills, and it is therefore an assault against this metaphysical sanctuary
when Nietzsche has the audacity to, so to speak, climb up on top of the umbrella,
and begin describing it.
Nietzsche, the anti-idealist, wants to describe the means of production of
Truth. However, he acutely realizes that his project is fraught with difficulties,
because something as indispensable for his investigations as language has been
formed under the projective shield of the umbrella; elementary metaphysics is
repeated in our syntax and grammar. There is only one way out of this dilemma;
it is not perfect, but there is (a priori) no other: one is compelled to use the language one has inherited, ignoring provisionally in some act of deliberate forgetfulness that that language in itself is permeated with truth-claims. There is no
purely descriptive and value-free language in which to describe Truth; there is
no language from nowhere. Hence, Nietzsche as he engages in his attempts to
answer his how, what, and why must in his revolutionary project assert and confirm
and validate and substantiate and justify whatever he says about Truth as a human

Peter Bornedal

invention and construct.6 If Nietzsche wants to communicate to us that there is


no truth, he necessarily has to say it. More precisely, in order to make any philosophical claims, he has to engage the illocutionary component of language we
call assertion. Since we know of no language without illocutionary components,
the only truly consistent alternative to talk about non-existent, illusory Truth could
only be (absurdly) not to talk about non-existent, illusory Truth. In other words,
the purportedly devastating objection to Nietzsche has a single, distinct message
( its underlying and unspoken desire): Nietzsche! Shut up!7

(ii) Juxtaposition to an Analytic Philosophical Approach


The criticism of Kants thing (= X ) and Schopenhauers thing (= will ) is during
the eighties still better articulated by Nietzsche; but before he reaches this point,
he adopts in earlier writings as several commentators have noted positions
similar to Kant and Schopenhauers. These positions we find represented in
writings from the early seventies, especially in Nietzsches unpublished so-called
Philosophenbuch (explicitly in the essay On the Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense 8),
6

In his work on Nietzsches theory of knowledge, Ruediger Grimm has precisely described this
condition. Grimm reconstructs the traditional criticism of Nietzsches there is no truth in the
passage, Nietzsche tells us again and again that there is no truth. But by claiming that there is no
truth, is he not in fact offering us another truth? Is he not claiming, in effect, that the statement
there is no truth is a true statement? And, if so, is this not a flagrant self-contradiction?
(Grimm, Ruediger H.: Nietzsches Theory of Knowledge. Berlin, New York 1977, p. 26.) Heidegger refers in volume three of his Nietzsche to the same so-called self-referential problem,
rejecting in a mocking exposition the position: Herr Nietzsche says that truth is an illusion. And
if Nietzsche wants to be consistent for there is nothing like consistency his statement
about truth is an illusion, too, and so we need not bother with him any longer. Heidegger:
Nietzsche, loc. cit., p. 25. The answer Grimm provides to his rhetorical question above is similar
to the view I am indicating: Nietzsche wishes to deny that there exists any absolute, unchanging
standard for truth, but the language in which he is forced to express such an idea is already based
upon the tacit metaphysical assumption that such a standard exists. [] Obviously, using language to deny something which that language one is using already presupposes is a proceeding
fraught with difficulties, and Nietzsche is very much aware of this. (Grimm: Nietzsches Theory,
loc. cit., pp. 28 29) Finally, essentially the same insight has been advanced by Jacques Derrida
in the essay Structure, Sign, and Play: We have no language no syntax and no lexicon
which is foreign to this history [of metaphysics]; we can pronounce not a single destructive proposition which has not already had to slip into the form, the logic, and the implicit postulations
of precisely what it seeks to contest. (Derrida, Jacques: Writing and Difference. Chicago 1978,
p. 280.)
It is bitter irony that Nietzsche eventually did in fact shut up. Thus, granted the premise that
one could only consistently criticize truth if also annihilating the truth-claims suffusing language, Nietzsche ended up performing a life is greater consistency with the content of his thinking
than any philosopher before and after.
These notes have recently been translated into English by Daniel Breazeale as Philosophy and
Truth. See: Nietzsche, Friedrich: Philosophy and Truth. Selections from Nietzsches Notebooks
of the Early 1870s. Translated by Daniel Breazeale. New York 1999.

A Silent World

and in The Birth of Tragedy.9 Several commentators thus see a development in


Nietzsches thinking: from an early acceptance of the Kantian-Schopenhauerian
thing-in-itself, to a later rejection of this thing; from an early acceptance of the
dichotomy truth versus appearance, to a later rejection of this dichotomy.10 Some
commentators have now argued that Nietzsche in this late position also relinquishes the often reiterated conception that senses or concepts falsify reality a conception which has been labeled Nietzsches falsification-thesis (in Maudemarie
Clark11), or error-theory (in Martin Steven Green12).
In Clarks syllogistic reconstruction of Nietzsche, the problem of self-reference is summoned up again. It is again seen as the most damning charge one
can level against Nietzsche, and since Clark is a sympathetic reader, her reading
is meant to rescue Nietzsche from the supposed logical inconsistency it produces.13 The strategy is, in brief, to restore to Nietzsche a belief in Truth. Pursuing
this strategy, Clark argues that Nietzsche ends up rejecting his early so-called
falsification-thesis. Nietzsche rejects in later works as contradictory the very

10

11
12
13

Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings. Translated by R. Speirs. Cambridge 1999.
This so-called Kehre in Nietzsches thinking has been addressed by for example Alexander
Nehamas (see: Nehamas, Alexander: Nietzsche. Life as Literature. Cambridge, Mass. 1985,
p. 43); by Maudemarie Clark (see: Clark, Maudemarie: Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy.
Cambridge 1990, p. 95); by Michael Steven Green (see: Green, Michael Steven: Nietzsche and
the Transcendental Tradition. Urbana, Chicago 2002, p. 9); or from a De Manian perspective
by Wayne Klein (see: Klein, Wayne: Nietzsche and the Promise of Philosophy. New York
1997).
Clark: Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy, loc. cit.
Green: Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition, loc. cit.
Different stratagems are employed to argue that Nietzsche either cannot make inconsistent
claims on Truth, or if he actually does, he cannot mean it, because he then would end in hopeless self-contradiction. The problem with this influential view of truth is that it seems to lead
Nietzsche into hopeless self-contradiction. There is, first of all, the problem of self-reference.
If it is supposed to be true that there is no truth, then there is apparently a truth after all; and if it
is not supposed to be true, it seems that we have no reason to take it seriously, that is, accept it or
its alleged implications. (Clark: Nietzsche, loc. cit., p. 3.) The argument is introduced in several
variations in Clarks work, for example in the discussion of Nietzsches Perspectivism. If it is true
that interpretations are only resulting from different perspectives, and therefore always relative
to beliefs, then Nietzsche again ends up in hopeless self-contradiction, because he must deny
the absolute truth of his own perspective. If all perspectives or beliefs are equally true, then
the belief we consider true is as true or false as the belief we consider false. Nietzsche criticism of
Christian morality, for example introduced as it is with such fervor and zeal is therefore no
truer than Christian morality. But of all perspectives are of equal cognitive value, perspectivism
then entails that every perspective falsifies since each perspective induces us to consider beliefs
false when they are actually as true as the ones we consider true. [] However, this interpretation of Nietzsches perspectivism trivializes his other claims. [] Unless perspectivism implies
its impossibility, there is every reason to assume that Nietzsche claims superiority for his own
perspective. [] Nietzsches commitment to the genealogical perspective makes it seem ridiculous to deny that he does consider it cognitively superior to the religio-moral perspective. (Ibd.,
pp. 139 40.)

Peter Bornedal

idea of a thing-in-itself.14 and this rejection of Kants thing implies to Clark that
Nietzsche confirms truth, and she draws the following conclusion: He thereby
lost all basis for denying truth, or for its equivalent, the thesis that human knowledge falsifies reality.15 Clarks argument runs approximately as follows: If Nietzsche rejects the thing-in-itself, truth (understood as residing in this inaccessible
thing) no longer hides itself if it is no longer hidden, then it must be in the
open if it is in the open, it must be there for us all to see thus, senses no longer
produce false knowledge; they produce true knowledge. Hence, Nietzsche ends up
rejecting his falsification-thesis, finally confirming truth!
Because he [Nietzsche] treats logic and mathematics as formal sciences that make no
claims about reality, Nietzsche must surely abandon his earlier claim that they falsify
reality. He also rejects as miscarriage doctrines which can get off the ground only
on the assumption that the senses deceive us, that they tell us only about appearance, and not reality. [Transcribed into plainer words: senses dont deceive; they dont
inform us on appearances, i. e., illusions, but on reality, i. e., true reality. P. B.]. [] These
passages from TI and A contain no hint of the view that human truths, science, logic
mathematics or causality falsify reality. Instead, they exhibit a uniform and unambiguous respect for facts, the senses, and science. [] Nietzsche does not claim that
knowledge falsifies in his last six works.16
Nietzsches last six books therefore provide no evidence of this commitment to the
falsification thesis, no reason to deny his commitment to the possibility of truth in
science, nor to the truth of his own theories. Given his earlier works, this seems remarkable and in need of explanation. [] My next section provides evidence that it
took Nietzsche some time to realize that his denial of truth depended on the assumption of a thing-in-itself [which entails: with his denial of the thing-in-itself, Nietzsche
ends up confirming truth. P. B.].17

To first clear up the negations: rejecting the falsification-thesis, i. e., asserting as false that senses or concepts falsify, implies that senses or concepts are
veridical accounts of reality. Since, during Nietzsches development, truth
moves from concealment to disclosure, and since, apparently, true knowledge
to Clark is something we acquire qua perception, Nietzsche can no longer mean
that senses falsify. So, in summa, after rejecting Kants thing, Clarks Nietzsche arrives to his final position, according to which senses dont falsify and truth is reconstituted or reestablished as the proper guarantor of philosophy.
Clarks reading is obviously conceived to rescue Nietzsche from the reception of his many recent neo-pragmatist and post-modernist commentators, and
to situate him within the ideological framework of Analytic Philosophy. How-

14
15
16
17

Ibd., p. 95.
Ibd.
Ibd., p. 105.
Ibd., p. 109.

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ever, the rescuing reading is fraught with problems, some of them obvious,
others less so.
The implicit model for Clarks reading is in-itself questionable; Clark reads
Nietzsches development as a journey of truth. Nietzsche has three stadia in this
development: First, he believes in the thing-in-itself, and truth is consequently
inaccessible (in The Brith of Tragedy and On the Truth and Lies in an Extra-moral
Sense); second, he rejects the notion of the thing-in-itself, but continues inconsistently to believe that truth is inaccessible (in work up till and including Beyond
Good and Evil ); third, he rejects the notion of the thing-in-itself, and arrives to
his final consistent position, truth is accessible (from The Genealogy of Morals onwards; the last six works). In this narrative, truth is seen as an entity that has a
movement: first, it hides itself in the thing-in-itself, then gradually it moves out
of hiding and manifests itself in the open. Contemplating this narrative, one
wonders that insofar as truth is supposed to mean true or positive knowledge
of the world, how it could possibly be seen as residing in Kants thing-in-itself in
the first place. Kants Ding-an-Sich was never residence for true knowledge
an idea in itself utterly meaningless, since to Kant true knowledge could never
be generated by merely consulting the object-world under investigation, but only
by imposing on it principles formed by the transcendental subject: Reason
has insight only into what it itself produces according to its own plan. (Kant:
Critique of Pure Reason, Preface B xiii).18 However, the misinterpretation of
Kant is obviously crucial to Clark, since according to her master-argument, as
long as Nietzsche believes in the thing-in-itself, true knowledge is inaccessible;
but as soon as Nietzsche rejects the thing-in-itself, true knowledge is accessible
again. Everything hinges of the acceptance/non-acceptance of the Kantian thing.
On an explicit level of Clarks reading, the final position that is assigned to
Nietzsche is contradicted by so many explicit passages that one is tempted to say
that it is refuted by the entire textual corpus of Nietzsches.19 What does it mean
18

19

Kant, Immanuel: Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by W. Pluhan. Indianapolis, Cambridge


1996, p. 19.
In general, although also Analytic commentators come in shades and degrees of hermeneutic
sensitivity, often, when Analytic philosophers explain Nietzsches epistemological views, the resulting representations of Nietzsches texts appear lacking in detail and precision. We dont discern much commitment to philological exactitude. As a diagnosis of the situation, one may recall
a fragment from Nietzsches Nachla: T he lack of philolog y: one constantly confuses
the explanation and the t ext and what explanation! (Nachla 1888; KSA 13, 15[82]). My
suspicion is that the main methodological device of the Analytic commentator, the syllogism,
is incapable of representing complexity; the complexity, for example, of the context-dependent
floating meanings of Nietzschean concepts. Since the syllogism gives us only a linear and diachronic representation of propositions that remains self-identically the same, complexity within
such a linear logic is read as contradiction. Now depending on the commentators allegiances
it becomes the undertaking to resolve or underscore Nietzsches contradictions. In sympathetic
approaches, the project is to find a syllogistically satisfying fit for Nietzsche within the formal

10

Peter Bornedal

that Nietzsche in his last two years of writing, his last six works, purportedly ends
up rejecting his falsification-thesis in the sense indicated above? It can only
mean that Nietzsche completely reverses the direction of his essential thinking;
now, since the falsification-thesis is false, senses and concepts no longer falsify,
simplify, or interpret; now truth is no longer an illusion, since there is a oneto-one relationship between world and perception, as well as between perception and proposition. Ultimately, according to the final position, the proposition
communicates true knowledge as experienced in non-falsifying perception.20 Nietzsche purportedly makes this complete U-turn in this thinking, but without a word of explanation; this is truly, as Clark says, remarkable. Not only does Nietzsche not
address this radical change of mind, but in his Nachla (especially), he is even so
conceited as to continue his old theory; an old theory that oftentimes reads
like a critical comment on Clarks Nietzsche.
Man seeks truth! That is, a world that does not contradict itself, does not deceive,
does not change; a t r u e world a world in which man does not suffer: from contradiction, deception, change the origins of suffering! Man does not doubt that such
a world, as it should be, exists. [Consequently], he has to pursue the path that leads to
it. [] The conviction [Glaube] that the world, as it should be, is, really exists, is the
conviction of the unproductive, who does not want to create the world as it
should be. He assumes it is present [Vorhanden], and searches for the means and
manners by which to achieve it. T h e W i l l to Tr u th a s th e p owe r l e s s n e s s
[Ohnmacht] o f t he will t o crea t io n . (Nachla 1887; KSA 12, 9[60]).21

So says Clark: in his last six works, Nietzsche ends up confirming truth!
But in the notes from Spring, 1888, Nietzsche is preparing a chapter for the work

20

21

universe of Analytic philosophy. Nietzsches text is no longer a text, but a conglomerate of a few
well-known philosophical positions and set-problems; reading him becomes a question of navigating him in and between these positions as they stand in some conventional logical relationship to one another. This, indeed, is a perilous odyssey for the Analytic philosopher, committed
as she is to an inventory of concepts (Truth, Fact, Objectivity, Reason, Commonsense, etc.) that
only draws scorn from Nietzsche. Dangers lurk everywhere, and one asks oneself what possibly
motivated the Analytic philosopher to embark on this journey in the first place.
This view announces an epistemology, which seems to best conform to Francis Bacons epistemological optimism from The New Organon. Given careful observation of the world as it is,
and avoiding certain treacherous idols, i. e., illusions that lead us astray in our investigations
(language being one of them), we are potentially all capable of producing true knowledge of the
world. Applying this epistemology to Nietzsche has, to my knowledge, never been contemplated
before. One has typically compared Nietzsche to modern epistemologists like Feyerabend and
Kuhn. Habermas, Rorty, and (for obvious reasons) Foucault have all had an inclination to see
Nietzsche as foreshadowing certain aspects of their own epistemological programs. On a personal note, I might suggest that Nietzsche could also be seen as anticipating aspects of Niels
Bohr, Henri Poincar, or Karl Poppers theories of knowledge.
Also from the late Nachla material we read: It is of cardinal importance that we abandon the
tr ue world. She is the great unbeliever [Anzweiflerin] and value reducer [Wertverminderung] of
the world that we is: She is the so far most dangerous atte mpt [attentat] on life. (Nachla
1888; KSA 13, 14[103]).

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11

that he in the Nachla entitles sometimes Der Wille zur Macht, sometimes Umwerthung aller Werthe. According to several outlines, the chapter was to be called
Der Wille zur Wahrheit. In these sketches, we encounter the repetition of positions
that he has been advancing during the eighties. We read for example:
The claim, that t r u t h ex ist s, and it is an end to ignorance and error, is one of the
greatest existing seductions.
[]
it is more comfortable to obey than to prove It is more flattering to think I have
the truth than to peek around in the dark
first and foremost: it appeases, it gives comfort, it alleviates life it improves the
charact er, insofar as it minimizes mistr ust
The peace of mind, the calm of consciousness, is all discoveries that are possible
only under the presupposition, that t r u t h exist. (Nachla 1888; KSA 13, 15[46]).
Chapter: the Will to Truth
[]
the methodology of truth cannot be found in truth as motive, but in p owe r a s mo tive, i n a want- t o- become- su p er ior [berlegen-sein-wollen].
how does truth proves itself ? In the feeling of increased power (in certainty-belief
[Gewiheit-Glaube]) in its usefulness in its indispensability i n b r i e f, i n j u d g ments
namely, presuppositions of a kind that truth mu st occupy itself with in order to be
recognized by us
but it is prejudice: a sign that shows that it is not at all about tr uth
[]
why knowledge? Why not rather deception?
what one wanted, was always belief, and not truth
(Nachla 1888; KSA 13, 15[58]).

Here, it does not help to argue, as Clark strongly indicates in her introductory
chapter, that the Nachla is inferior source material, and that only the published
work is entitled to consideration.22 It cannot be the case that Nietzsche in his
thinking soliloquies manifests himself as one philosopher, but as soon as he puts
the final touches on a manuscript for publication, transforms himself into an
entirely different philosopher. Nothing could account for such a radical transformation of a written corpus other than magic or divine intervention. (A radical
transformation of a philosophical position would require other thinking soliloquies, other unpublished sketches, which we do not find in Nietzsches Nachgelassene Aufzeichnungen.) And even if (hypothetically) a radical distinction existed

22

Brian Leiter in Leiter, Brian: Nietzsche on Morality. London, New York 2002, coming across as
a follower of Clark has made this claim with much more passion. Leiter for example reports
that Nietzsche should have expressed a wish to have his notebooks burned; readers of these
notebooks are consequently in violation of Nietzsches personal wishes. I dont know where
Nietzsche has expressed such a wish, but I understand that if the unpublished material is invalid,
then Nietzsches reported wishes would be utterly invalid.

12

Peter Bornedal

between published and unpublished material, still, we would have no sure criteria
of demarcation by which to decide whether Nietzsches published work is a
more authentic expression of Nietzsche than is his Nachla.23

(iii) An Outline of the Position


Although Clarks commentary is designed to appropriate Nietzsche for
(a particular branch of) Analytic Philosophy, and is as such ideologically motivated, still, within its web of innovative readings, it raises some pertinent questions regarding Nietzsches ontology and epistemology. Its thrust to understand
the status of reality, sensation, and knowledge in Nietzsche, in a reversionary
interpretation that qualifies some of the recent radical (neo-idealistic) accounts
of Nietzsche, is fundamentally interesting. The problem with this reading I shall
not repeat, but the reading gives me a polemic point of departure for outlining
an alternative reading (which I shall here summarize, and in the remainder of the
essay elaborate and substantiate).
There is no doubt that Nietzsche, relatively early, discards the notion of Kants
thing-in-itself. Already in Human, All too Human we read that the thing-in-itself is
worthy only of Homeric laughter (HAH I, 16; KSA 2, p. 38),24 and in statements
from Daybreak, The Gay Science, Beyond Good and Evil, Twilight of the Idols, The Will to
Power, and the Nachla from the Eighties,25 we encounter time and again the rejection of thing-in-itself and true vs. apparent. However, this rejection oftentimes comes
alongside the profession of falsifying and arbitrary sense-perceptions. Up through
the eighties till his last years of writing, Nietzsche continues to refer to deceptive
senses in a number of contexts, while we also, in other contexts, see him dismissing
the notion as philosophical nonsense. In the latter position senses do not deceive,
but apprehend the world in its self-manifestation this is by Clark seen as Nietzsches conclusive position, but as such, it appears to be only half the truth. The task
must be to understand, rather, in which sense senses deceive, and in which sense senses
dont deceive (however frustrating such an apparently open contradiction may be).26
23

24
25

26

I shall not at this point go deeper into the Nachla-problematics in Nietzsche, but shall for a balanced account restrict myself to refer to Mller-Lauter: ber Werden, loc. cit., pp. 28 30.
Nietzsche, Friedrich: Human, All too Human. Translation R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge 1996.
The editions here referred to are the following: The Gay Science. Translated by J Nauckhoff.
Cambridge 2001; Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by J. Norman. Cambridge 2002; The Will
to Power. Edited by W. Kaufmann; translated by J. R. Hollingdale and W. Kaufmann. New York
1968; and Nietzsches Nachla from volumes 9 to 13 of KSA.
To find a deliberate and explicit solution to these problems in Nietzsches own texts appears to
be impossible. Rereading Nietzsches Nachla from the eighties, I have at no point come across a
definitive and conclusive explanation of these senses that apparently are sometimes deceptive,
sometimes not.

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13

Furthermore, even when senses are redeemed as adequate instruments for apprehending the world, this still does not entail that Nietzsche has abandoned his falsification-thesis (as Clark has it), because concepts, in any circumstance, are guilty
of falsification.
When senses do deceive, they deceive us about what seems plain reality;
but the simplicity of this statement is deceptive. Clark believes that insofar as
senses deceive (in Nietzsches early position), then reality must be inaccessible,
and when they no longer deceive (in Nietzsches final position), then reality
must be immediately accessible for knowledge. This conception may seem
straightforward, but in my reading it misunderstands, at the least, Nietzsches notions of deception and reality.
One might say for a start that senses dont only deceive us about what we see;
more profoundly, they deceive us in how we see what we see. What we see is the terminal of a process, by which an apparatus distorts impressions arriving from the
exterior world. How we see has thus always-already falsified what we see; what we see
has had to pass through a simplification-apparatus, a filtration-device, before
properly seen (more about these two Nietzschean notions follows below). What
we therefore see in Clarks so-called non-deceptive perception, is already
stamped with the limitations of our perceptive apparatus; to put it differently,
non-deceptive perception is not an available option. This implies that whenever
we see something, this something has been through a structuring process (the
so-called how of seeing) that is indispensable, and, moreover, that access to
reality is necessarily access to a falsified reality. This may sound a high philosophical speculation, but it has been common knowledge in contemporary neuroscience for several years.27
We see reality as we best can! But what arrives to us as conscious perception
is, according to Nietzsche, simplified, thus falsified, thus interpreted. As such,
one must now assume that Reality, strictly speaking, must be different from
what announces itself as perceived reality. In Nietzsche, as well as in the tradition,
this Reality is usually described as chaos or becoming. Heidegger is inclined
27

It seems highly relevant to relate Nietzsche to the findings of a new generation of neuroscientists
such as Antonio Damasio, Daniel Dennett, and Mark Solms. If for example Damasio in his recent Looking for Spinoza has labeled Spinoza a proto-biologist since anticipating recent discoveries about mind and body one may well contend (without diminishing Spinozas evident
relevance) that an even more obvious candidate for that label might be Nietzsche. In this context, it is also worth mentioning that Gnter Abel, in a recent essay from Nietzsche Studien, has
made comparative analyses between neuroscience and Nietzsches positions on perception,
mind, and consciousness. To my knowledge, it is the first time anybody has highlighted this
relationship. It thus comes across as pioneering work that may well inaugurate a new direction
for current Nietzsche-reception, offering us the opportunity to appraise, with much more theoretical gravitas, Nietzsche as a precocious early philosopher of brain, mind, and consciousness.
(See: Abel, Gnter: Bewutsein Sprache Natur. Nietzsches Philosophie des Geistes. In
Nietzsche-Studien 30 (2001) pp. 1 43).

14

Peter Bornedal

to talk about chaos; Eugen Fink, Ruediger Grimm, and Mller-Lauter speak
often of a world of becoming.28 In any case, we are addressing a relationship
between form-giving sensations and a form-less fleeting world of becoming.
(Masses in movement and nothing else, says Freud less than ten years after
Nietzsche writes, referring to an exterior world impinging itself on our senseorgans, but without yet having penetrated into our memory systems, thus without being recognized as so and so.29) These fleeting masses in movement is Reality in the strictest sense, but as such, reality does not by itself open itself up for
knowledge; it is not like a cornfield just waiting to be harvested. If some unfortunate fool had immediate access to reality in this sense, he would be suffering
from the severest psychopathological condition imaginable. This fleeting mass
of becoming is being opened by the sense-apparatus, for sensation; it does as such
nothing by itself. It is certainly there, but is it not an activity with us as its final purpose. It gives as such nothing. It is in the very opening of Reality that senses falsify.
In the strictest sense, senses are falsifying thanks to our specific perceptive
designs. When Nietzsche refers to these specific perceptive designs, he often
speaks of an Optik, and sometimes of a menschliche Optik a phrase that seems to
have been consistently, but misleadingly, translated into the English, human perspective. Optics and perspective are of course two different things. Human optics
refers to our faculty of sight, our visual perception; thus, we speak of the mechanics of our eyes, enabling us to perceive things in depth; three-dimensionally;
shades of lightness and darkness; colors; movement and rest, etc. To translate
28

29

Heidegger, Fink, Grimm, and Mller-Lauter usually talk about only one world of chaos or becoming, which is, given various will-to-power processes, stabilized into a world of being, or rather,
into several worlds of being (since the perspectival character of interpretations would seem
to grant us several interpreted worlds). However, the world of becoming is always discussed in the
singular. Fink, for example, speaks of the fluctuating flow of life [Lebensflut], [] the stream of
becoming, the ceaseless to-and-fro of its drift; there is nothing enduring, unchanging, permanent everything is in flux. (Fink, Eugen: Nietzsches Philosophie. Stuttgart, Berlin 1960. p. 163;
my italics.) At this point I modify the tradition, and suggest that much in Nietzsches texts is
easier to read, and simpler to understand, if the world of becoming is (abstractly) seen as two
(cf. below): an Ur-ground and a Human ground, as these grounds are subject to two fundamentally different simplification-processes. To express the view with complete simplicity: our eyes are
engaged in one kind of simplification; our language is engaged in another kind of simplification.
As we shall see also Nietzsche be claiming, Freud believes that originally we receive impressions
only as quantities, which are subsequently transformed, in his neurological apparatus, into
qualities. At this point, I cannot go into detail with Freuds neurological conception of the psyche,
but it is interesting to note that to Freud the external world beyond or before conscious perception
is explicitly conceived as a world of becoming; in Freuds words: Consciousness gives us what are
called quality-sensations, which are different in a great multiplicity of ways and whose difference
is distinguished according to the relations with the external world. Within this difference there
are series, similarities, and so on, but there are in fact no quantities in it. [] Where do qualities
originate? Not in the external world. For out there there are only masses in motion and nothing else.
(Freud, Sigmund: Project for a Scientific Psychology. Standard Edition. Vol. I. Translated and
edited by J. Strachey. London 1966, p. 308; my italics.)

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menschliche Optik to human perspective waters down the notion; it might also suggest
a science-phobic translation, since the notion now refers to various points of
view, various ideological stances, that humans apply to intellectual, existential,
cultural, or religious issues. Optics designates the mechanical designs of our eyes;
perspective suggests individual idiosyncrasies underpinning opinions. Optics belongs in Biology and Anatomy; perspective belongs in the Humanities. We are free
to choose between perspectives, but no one has the freedom to choose between
optics. Discussions of whether Nietzsche means that everybody are entitled
to their own perspective, or there are as many of them as there are individuals;
or whether he can mean that all perspectives are equally good (without degrading his own perspective, etc.) are completely superfluous if, or rather when, perspective means optics. It is also immediately obvious that there can be no neutral perspective in the sense of a neutral optics (a notion that doesnt even begin to
make sense).
Therefore, if it is Nietzsches contention that we falsify reality thanks to our
human optics, it is hardly possible to disagree. As such, we see masses in movement and becoming on our terms, i. e., our human optics narrow down a ground
that we know is perceived differently by other animals having different perceptions of, for example, space and time, or perhaps none at all. We live as such on
what I will call an Ur-ground as the ground we share with all perceiving creatures, but which we form and shape according to our exclusive designs, our
human optics. The Ur-ground itself is being opened by an indefinite number of
creatures, seeing it according to their specific perceptive designs; we, however,
open reality according to our own perceptive designs. The Ur-ground is therefore
an infinite expanse of possibilities, but when we open this expanse according to
our human possibilities, we create a human horizon, which becomes the world
for us. In contrast to the Ur-ground, I shall label this human horizon, the Human
ground.
In order to express the distinction between Ur-ground and Human ground
more succinctly, we might say that the Ur-ground is the ground that is open
for all possible perception, while the human ground is open only for possible human
perception. Since it is clear that all possible perception includes humans only as a single
point (more about points is just a moment) within this ocean of possibilities,
humans must inevitably falsify the Ur-ground. Against the Ur-ground, falsification is a condition and an ontological given. The Human ground is now a
single horizon, a single point, on the Ur-ground; it designates the world as we
see and know it, the world according to, for example, our three-dimensional time
and space perception.
Now, if necessarily our senses falsify the Ur-ground, what do our senses
do to the Human ground? Senses falsify also this ground, but for somewhat
different reasons. We falsify the Ur-ground because our perceptive design is

16

Peter Bornedal

unique (we have three-dimensional vision, color-perception, etc.), but we falsify


the Human ground, because we cannot process the overload of information
made available within our perceptive horizon.30 Thus, to Nietzsche, the problem
is never that there is no reality (but only interpretations, as current academic
fashion often stipulates); the problem is that there is always too much reality. To
deal with this abundance, we have evolved a mental apparatus that reduces
and simplifies these overloads. We have evolved something we might call a reality-defense, i. e., certain defense-mechanisms that allow us to be selective when we
scan the exterior world according to our interests and survival-benefits.31 What
exactly these defense-mechanisms are and how they work, Nietzsche tries with
his formidable philosophical intuition to determine, but since he is well ahead
of advances that will later be made in linguistics, and in the theories of mind and
consciousness, his thinking on the issue remains a torso. His realizes, however,
that our memory-systems and closely related to memory, language must be
accountable for these necessary defenses. Our sensations are like tentacles
shooting out and being withdrawn in order to test snippets of a dangerous world.
In this reality-testing, sensation constantly consults memory in order to crosscheck a current sensation against the memory of an identical sensation.
The overflow of impressions that as exterior reality impinges and invade the
virgin, still unprepared, sensual system, I will below describe as hyper-reality. I suggest this neologism32 since the simpler reality has become so highly inflated,
therefore useless, that it is virtually impossible to guess what people are talking
about when they refer to reality. Reality refers to sometimes Kants, sometimes
30

31

32

Even if the Ur-ground has been considerably narrowed by human perception, the human
ground is still conceived as a world of becoming, and sensations falsify also this ground. We
notice in Nietzsche the promotion of an idea, which may at first seem counter-intuitive, but
which is in fact in good accordance with modern science: complexity never ends. If the Urground is unfathomable as an expanse of possibilities where we are, so to speak, only specks of
dust, our speck of dust is no less complex that the expanse itself. Complexity always remains an
unspecified constant, however much we narrow down a field. If, for example, we simplify our
speck of dust according to our mental apparatus, this apparatus is as complex as everything
above. Our utterly superficial world is also infinitely deep. It even occurs to me that the infinite
depth of the world is a function of its utter superficiality; but at this point I shall not try to explain why this must be the case!
Compare to Werner Stegmaier: In the ongoing dialogue between our mind and the surrounding world, it is not primarily about taking possession of as much information as possible, but
on the contrary to limit, as much as possible, the impinging overflow of information, and only allow actionrelevant information access to consciousness. The simplification- and abbreviation-apparatus,
as Nietzsche describes thinking, must therefore be organized as an inhibition-apparatus
[Hemmungsapparat ]. (Stegmaier, Werner: Nietzsches Genealogie der Moral. Darmstadt
1994, p. 134; my italics.) See also: Stegmaier, Werner: Weltabkrzungskunst. Orientierung
durch Zeichen. In: Simon, Josef (ed.), Zeichen und Interpretation, Frankfurt am Main 1994,
pp. 119 141.
The notion I have originally seen in Babich, Babette E.: Nietzsches Philosophy of Science. New
York 1994.

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Platos, reality; sometimes to the world of becoming; sometimes to perceived


reality, etc.
With this notion in hand, I shall address the interesting question that Clark
in her Analytic account is engaged in promoting as Nietzsches final position.
Does Nietzsche think, by any chance, that senses dont deceive? In my reformulation, is it possible to perceive hyper-reality? Is it possible to shut down consciousness, and just see? ( Within the vistas of current neo-pragmatic and post-modernist thinking: is access to a language-independent reality an available option?)
We can obviously not suspend our perceptive designs, and we have as such no
perceptive access to the so-called Ur-ground (to put it forcefully and in paradox:
we cant see without eyes!). The question is therefore: is it possible to suspend the
defenses we normally put up when we orient ourselves on our Human ground?
In a first provisional, and somewhat simplified, answer, I suggest, that insofar as the Human ground is falsified and interpreted thanks to language,
with this made conscious and communicable, we are in fact capable of suspending consciousness and short-circuiting certain components of our mental system. When we do, we see as in a blank or empty stare a muted reality lying
there in the presence of itself. In this mode of seeing, we reduce our humanity,
and deliberately approach animal stupidity which, in the first place, was always
our ontogenetic residual. Reading Nietzsche with the suspended attention of a
psychoanalyst, it escapes nobody that he often displays the temptation and desire to access an exterior world in non-conscious and pure perception, as what
would seem to be the fascinating entrance into the self-presence of the present.
However, this mode of perception since it presupposes ideal suspension of
consciousness could offer us no promise of access to positive knowledge of
the exterior world (as is Clarks contention and ideological concern). On the
contrary, it at best indicates the adoption of a purely aesthetic attitude in which the
subject indulges is the pleasures of seeing: with eyes wide open, absorbing, assimilating, affirming everything; with eyes wide open, sounding an emphatic Yes to
the eternity (or more precisely, the timelessness) of the self-present. Since everything in this mode returns to itself as self-identity, there is no assertion of difference, and hence no production of knowledge.

II) Substantiation and Elaboration of the Position


(i) Ur-Ground and Sensation
In the following quote from the Nachla, included also in The Will to Power,
the dichotomy true vs. apparent world is again rejected, and then follows a
speculation on what constitutes appearance after the true world is annihilated.

18

Peter Bornedal

The result of the speculation is the proposal of two worlds: (1) one apparent world
that serves our practical needs; a world calculable; a world arranged and simplified, as such perfectly true for us; (2) another world beyond our practically arranged life-world; a world not reduced to our own being; a world extending itself
beyond us, but still not understood as identical to the world in-itself ; the world
I have been labeling the Ur-ground.
Will t o Power a s Kn owledg e
Critique of the concept true and apparent world.
of these, the first is a mere fiction, constructed of fictitious entities.
Appearance in itself belongs to reality; it is a form of its being; i. e.
a world where there is no being [Sein], must first be created from a p p e a r a n c e s as a
calculable world of identical cases: [in] a tempo at which observation and comparison are possible, etc.
Appearance is an arranged and simplified world, at which our practical instincts
have been at work: it is perfectly true for us; namely insofar as we live, are able to live
in it: proof of its truth for us
The world, apart from our condition of living in it, the world that we have not reduced
to our being, our logic, and psychological prejudices
does not exist as a world in-itself
it is essentially a world of relationships [Relations-Welt ]: it has, under certain conditions,
a d if f eren t look [Gesicht] from every point [Punkt]; its being [Sein] is essentially different from every point; it presses upon every point, every point resists it and the
sum of these is in every case quite incong r uent.
The measure of power [Ma von Macht] determines what creature [Wesen] possesses the other measure of power; in what form, force, constraint it acts or resists.
Our particular case is interesting enough: we have produced a conception in order to
be able to live in a world, in order to perceive just enough to endure it. (WP 568;
Nachla 1888; KSA 13, 14[93]).

We are introduced to two cases, two aspects of the world described as respectively being and becoming (we are obviously not introduced to two distinct and separate worlds, but to two aspects under which we live in, or stand out
in, one single world). The world of being is the world stabilized by us in order to
satisfy our practical needs. It is reminiscent of the world that the late Husserl
would describe as life-world. It provides us with our historical, social, cultural
memory and identity. It is the world I shall describe referring to Structural Linguistics below as our linguistically mediated life-world. It is especially (but not exclusively) language that makes this world habitable to humans.
The world of becoming is much more difficult to describe, and in this quotation, Nietzsche offers us only a cosmology. We learn that it is a world of relationships of points; that its being is different from every point, with a different
look from every point; that it presses upon every point, while every point also
resists pressure; that the sum of these pressures are in every case incongruent.
How are we to understand and make sense of this theory? We are apparently

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19

introduced to an extreme relativism, where each point in cosmos sees the rest
from its own perspective, or perhaps rather, optics. There is in this cosmos, as later
in Einstein, neither absolute space nor absolute time, but only relationships
of points warping time and space. Every point exerts a pressure on its environing universe, and is being pressurized by a counter-pressure that is not congruent
to the pressure the point exerts. If a point can be seen in the biological universe as an organism, the organism puts a pressure on the environment, and is
countered with a pressure of the environment. The incongruity between the
strengths of the forces in the action (of the organism) and the reaction (of the environment) would account for the organisms survival and ability to grow; its socalled will-to-power. If the force of the reaction is stronger than the force of the
action, we must assume that the organism dies. We must assume, moreover, that
in Nietzsches theory of relativity, space would be measured from the optics of the
organism according to its means of perception, and time according to its speed of
perception. Thus, both space and time is relative to the perceptive mechanisms
of the organism. Every organism (or point) thus sees being from its own perspective optics: being is essentially different from every point. The world as such
a relationship of points is thus the primordial Ur-ground for all living entities.
In its relation to this Ur-ground, the human being is now just one point,
and it sees being from the perspective of its own point. From within that perspective,
senses are no longer necessarily deceptive, although they necessarily falsify the Urground. That perforce, we see the world humanly not by the means of perception
of a bat (echolocation), nor with the speed of perception of a fly (perceiving the
world three times faster than the human eye; thus living in a world of slow-motion humans trying to catch it) does not imply that the world is an inaccessible
thing-in-itself. We perceive from within our perspective the Ur-ground, and as such,
simplify, i. e., falsify, the Ur-ground. However, if now our senses by perceiving
humanly deceive and falsify the world as this Ur-ground, the deception and
falsification would seem to be inconsequential; no more an error than if, during
the evolutionary process, we have been deceived into breathing a corrosive gas
like oxygen.33
33

In the last aphorism from The Will to Power, we encounter again a description of this in-human Urground, a description of an impersonal cosmos of forces played out against each other; a cosmos
essentially being will-to-power: This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end;
a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself
but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses,
but like wise without increase or income; enclosed by nothingness as by a boundary; not something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite
force, and not a space that might be empty here or there, but rather as force throughout, as a
play of forces and waves of forces [] a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally
changing, eternally flooding back. [] [A world] without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a
goal; without will, unless a ring feels good will toward itself do you want a name for this
world? [] T h is wor ld is t he will t o p ower an d nothing be side s! (WP 1067).

20

Peter Bornedal

If Nietzsche is seeing the organism as a point in a cosmos of becoming,


perceiving cosmos from within its own point (from within its own means and
speed of perception), the human being would be such a point. However, as such,
the human being inevitably perceives qualities, never quantities, although quantities, minor gradations and differences in degree, are understood as the objective foundations for qualities. By perceiving qualities, we construct an object, i. e.,
solidify a flow or a sequence, create it as unity, as such making it appear (ob-jectum:
to throw something before someone; to make appear). We thereupon assign to
the objectified flow a value. From prehistoric days, we must assume that appraisal
and evaluation of an object was a biological necessity. From an evolutionary point
of view, it was requisite for the early hominid to know whether an object
was good or bad. In brief, an object is the sum of experienced oppositions
[Hemmungen] that have become conscious for us. A quality always expresses
something that is useful or harmful. (Nachla 1885 86; KSA 12, 2[77]). The
early hominid thus had to, first, apprehend something in the unity of an object,
and, secondly, judge whether this unity was good or bad. With this, the early
hominid made an in-itself fluid state a thing, endowing this thing with its specific
valuations. It created a quality; and this is, Nietzsche says, our insurmountable
limit.34
Qualities are our insurmountable limit; there is nothing to stop us from feeling
that differences in quantity [Quantitts-differenzen] are fundamentally unlike qualities,
which are no longer reducible to something else. However, everything, for which the
word knowledge [Erkenntnis] has any meaning is related to a realm that can be
counted, weighed, or measured i. e., according to quantity; while, on the contrary,
our sense of value exclusively depends on qualities, that is, on our perspectival
truths, exclusively belonging to us and which strictly cannot be known [erkannt].
It is now obvious that every creature, different from us, would sense other qualities,
and consequently would live in a world different from the one we live in. (Nachla
1886; KSA 12, 6[14]).

If we grant that creating and perceiving qualities is what humans do, do not
other creatures perceive other qualities; create other ob-jects; assign to them other
values? And if so, do they not live in another world than the one we live in; not
on another ground we are all assigned the same ground but in another lifeworld? A creature thus lives on an Ur-ground as an abundance of possibilities
that the creature from its own narrow perspective cannot fathom, since perforce it must perceive the ground through its distinctive optics.
Since this construal would apply to humans as well, the Ur-ground itself although it does not hide as the thing-in-itself does is therefore indifferent to the
34

Also Freud believes that originally we receive impressions only as quantities, which are subsequently transformed, in his neurological apparatus, into qualities; and also Freud maintains that in
conscious perception, we can only perceive qualities.

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21

human perspective; it is the absolutely non-human and in-human, merely providing the ground for a play of forces between an indefinite numbers of points.
It is a ground that has nothing to do with us, except for the fact that we happen
to be one of its points. It is to this Ur-ground Nietzsche is referring in the
aphorism, Let Us Beware, from The Gay Science.
Let us beware! [Hten wir uns! ]. Let us beware of thinking that the world is a living
being. Where would it stretch? What would it feed on? How could it grow and procreate? [] The total character of the world, however, is in all eternity chaos
in the sense not of a lack of necessity but of a lack of order, arrangement, form,
beauty, wisdom, and whatever other names there are for our aesthetic anthropomorphisms [sthetischen Menschlichkeiten]. [] How could we reproach or praise the universe? Let us beware of attributing to it heartlessness and unreason or their opposites:
it is neither perfect nor beautiful, nor noble, nor does it wish to become any of these
things; it does not by any means strive to imitate man. None of our aesthetic and
moral judgments apply to it. Nor does it have any instinct for self-preservation or any
other instinct; and it does not observe any laws either. Let us beware of saying that
there are laws in nature. There are only necessities: there are no one who commands,
no one who obeys, no one who transgresses. Once you know that there are no purposes, you also know that there is no accident, for only against a world of purposes
does a word accident have a meaning. (GS 109; KSA 3, pp. 468 69).

Since the Ur-ground has nothing to do with us, it is indifferent to the interpretations we apply to it. Thus, we necessarily falsify the Ur-ground when we
apply to it our interpretations, as such, projecting into this indifferent universe
our measurements and ourselves. Nietzsches prudent proposal is therefore: let
us beware of our human narcissism; our truths are not true in an absolute sense, that is,
measured against the proposed Ur-ground; they are after all only ours.
In Nietzsche, we are condemned to live in this cold and indifferent universe
(a universe one might notice in a symptomatic reading that characteristically
does not like us, ignoring for a second the obvious fact that it does not express
emotion). Nietzsches universe has been emptied of all anthropomorphic principles. God has surely disappeared, but so has everything else that could give the
universe identity, such as purpose (intention), design, causes, or scientific laws; let us
beware of saying that there are laws in nature, Nietzsche cautions.
Thanks to humanization, nature becomes like a living organism, having the
freedom to abide by laws or not. However, that from which we are deducing laws
in the first place, regularity of events, does not guarantee Law. In Nietzsche as in
Hume, the repeated occurrence of an event does not guarantee a priori knowledge of cause-effect relationships. There is no objective nexus between cause and
effect. Nietzsche, however, adds to Humes skepticism a psychological analysis
of the sciences. If the scientists display a propensity to see causes, it is because,
ultimately, they have an inclination to humanize, i. e., to discover intentions in nature: purposes, designs, causes, or Laws. In Nietzsche as in Hume, cause-effect

22

Peter Bornedal

relations are constituted merely as a result of experience, as a result of custom and


habit; but furthermore, to Nietzsche there is now an older habit behind our habit
of positing cause-effect relations, namely the habit of impressing upon the world
the belief in ourselves, i. e., the beliefs in intentions and subjects.
Hume was right; habit makes us expect that a certain often-observed occurrence will
follow another: nothing more! That which gives the extraordinary firmness to our belief in causality is not the great habit of seeing one occurrence following another but
our inability to interpret events otherwise than as events caused by intentions. It is belief in the living and thinking as the only effective force in will, in intention it is belief that every event is a deed, that every deed presupposes a doer, it is belief in the
subject. (WP 550).

The Ur-ground we cannot understand; it is beyond our sensational capacities,


not because it is hidden (on the contrary, it is absolutely present), but because we
cannot fathom its super-abundance. Thus, we do not know this self-manifesting
Ur-ground, because we have never evolved a need to perceive from more than
our own modest perspective.35 A perspective or more abstractly, a point is
therefore necessarily a narrowing of the universe. A fortiori, without this narrowing, (i. e., simplification, falsification) there would be no sensation and no
knowledge. A point is the absolutely necessary, and absolutely beneficial, narrowing
of the universe.
Our knowledge and sensation is like a point in a system: it is like an eye whose visual
strength and visual field [Sehkraft und Sehfeld ] slowly grows and includes still more.
With this the real world does not change, but this constant activity of the eyes
changes everything to a constantly growing streaming activity. [] We are l iv i n g
mir ro r- ima g es. What is consequently knowledge [Erkenntni ]? Its starting point is
an erroneous narrowing, as if measurement existed for sensations; everywhere the
mirror and the taste-organs come about a sphere is formed. If one thinks away this
narrowing, one also thinks away knowledge. (Nachla 1880; KSA 9, 6[441]).

The real world Nietzsche refers to in this quote, is his (not too fortunate)
term for what I am discussing as Ur-ground ( but we understand him!). This
real world is of course not affected by our perception; it remains what it is. With
the activity of our eyes, says Nietzsche, the real world does not change. So, it
is clear that there are no remnants of idealism in Nietzsches position. The real
world does not disappear if we close our eyes (Berkeley); it is not constituted in
subjectivity (Fichte); it is not our representation (Schopenhauer); nor is it con-

35

A hominid starting (ex hypothesi ) to evolve more than a single perception of the world if for
example its three-dimensional image of the world suddenly had to compete with a two-dimensional image would just be an aberration and would have had such an evolutionary disadvantage that it would become extinct before the new feature could evolve and become species-typical.

A Silent World

23

stituted in language (20th century neo-Idealism). It is also, in Nietzsches interpretation, different from Kants Thing-in-itself.36
It is this chaotic ground that stands in opposition to our apparent world: the world
as we see it. Nietzsches principal opposition is therefore not between an apparent
world and a true world, but between an apparent world and chaos. The opposition to
this phenomenal-world is not the true world, but rather the world as a formlessinexpressible chaos of sensations [die formlos-unformulirbare Welt des SensationenChaos] consequently an other phenomenal-world, for us incomprehensible
[unerkennbar ]. (Nachla 1887; KSA 12, 9[106]). As such, this sensation-chaos is
also an apparent world. It is not our apparent world, but it Nietzsches idea that it can
be appropriated, or raised into our world depending on the interest we invest in certain of its aspects. There is no being-in-itself [Sein an sich], no criteria or reality,
but only gradations of appearances measured according to the strength of the
interest that we apply to something appearing. (Nachla 188687; KSA 12, 7[49]).
Commentators frequently describe Nietzsches epistemology as fictionalism, subjectivism, and/or as aestheticism. Thus, Eugen Fink describes
Nietzsches epistemology as a fictional theory of knowledge,37 while Jrgen
Habermas, in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity,38 sees Nietzsche as over-emphasizing the playfulness of a purely aesthetic dimension over and above Habermas
cognitive, inter-subjective, and expressive dimensions of knowledge.39 Although
36

37
38
39

That I, following some of Kants 20th century exponents, was never convinced about Nietzsches understanding of Kants thing-in-itself, and should be only too happy (at another point in
time) to elaborate on the resemblance between Kants thing and Nietzsches Ur-ground, must here be
left as an entirely different issue that cannot concern us at this point.
Fink: Nietzsches Philosophie, loc. cit., p. 165.
See Habermas, Jrgen: The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Cambridge, Mass. 1988.
Referring to the will-to-power, Habermas states: This is at the same time a will to illusion, a will
to simplification, to masks, to the superficial; art counts as mans genuine metaphysical activity,
because life itself is based on illusion, deception, optics, the necessity of the perspectival and
of error. Of course, Nietzsche can shape these ideas into a metaphysics for artists only if he
reduces everything that is and should be to the aesthetic dimension. [] The famous sketches
for a pragmatic theory of knowledge and for a natural history of morality that trace the distinction between true and alse, good and Evil, back to preferences for what serves life and for
the noble, are meant to demonstrate this. According to this analysis, behind apparently universal
normative claims lie hidden the subjective power claims of value appraisals. (Ibd., p. 95.) Behind
this appraisal of Nietzsche lies Habermas elaborate diagrams of different types of communicative action. In On the Theory of Communicative Action, Habermas outlines four such types; the socalled: (1) Teleological action producing knowledge of technologies; (2) Constative Speech acts
producing knowledge of theories; (3) Normatively Regulated Action, producing knowledge of
legal and moral representations; and finally (4) Dramaturgical Action producing knowledge as
works of art. According to Habermas, there is thus, in the production of knowledge, a division of
labor between types of communicative action, which Nietzsche ignores, since he promotes the
final dramaturgical action as the overarching type of action. That is, Nietzsche superimposes
the aesthetic dimension on all of the three preceding types of action: reduces everything that is
to the aesthetic dimension. For these diagrams, see for example: Habermas, Jrgen: On the
Theory of Communicative Action. Vol. I. Translated by T. McCarthy. Boston 1984, p. 334.

24

Peter Bornedal

such interpretations tally with certain of Nietzsches fragments (e. g., the famous
there are only interpretations.), the labels give the wrong impression that
Nietzsche means that scientists are working with the same freedom of spirit as
poets: they both invent. Accordingly, a poem by William Blake and the DNA
molecule supposedly have the same ontological status; are as such the results of
the same poetic-creative-inspirational processes.
However, following Nietzsche in his Nachla, there are reasons to believe
that this was never his intended position. It does not seem to be the claim that a
poem and a scientific discovery have the same status, but rather that something
like the DNA is not an exclusive human invention or fiction, not exclusively
constituted in and by language. It is surely an interpretation, but then an
interpretation of something. Following Nietzsche, DNA would be understood,
rather, as a single layer in an infinitely deep and proliferous nature; a nature which
consists of multiple layers and combinations that we do not care about (do not
yet care about, etc.), and consequently, do not see and do not know. We only see
and learn that which, under the pressure of our reductive observations, seem to
give us a perceived advantage in existence. We observe according to the promise of
a reward. Since our interpretations are interested, they are relative to the world
of becoming (the Ur-ground) false. Since scientific knowledge is a construct
resulting from our selective observations, it is in this sense false. The world
that concer ns us is false, i. e., it is no matter of fact, but rather an invention
[Ausdichtung] and something rounded up from a meager sum of observations.
It is in flow; as something becoming; as an ever-new forward thrusting falsity
that never reaches truth there is no truth. (Nachla 1885 86; KSA 12,
2[108]). However, our interpretations are still true for us. They are the constructs
by which we understand fragments of an abundant world, selected according to
what concerns our humanity.
In order to classify and understand single layers, or a particular combination,
in proliferous nature, in order to see and to bring it into knowledge, language is now
indispensable. Language as such does not create that which is, but it brings
something that is (i. e., the DNA) on formula. Thanks to language, we write up a
model for this existing something, but we realize (or we ought to realize) that this
something could have been represented in numerous alternative models (or it
could have been represented as another combination).40
40

In his important work on Nietzsches theory of knowledge, Ruediger Grimm is also addressing
this so-called fictionalism, but seems in various passages undecided as to whether knowledge is
pure invention, or knowledge of something. Nietzsche is cited for the following passage, corroborating my position as indicated above, Schaffen als Auswhlen und Fertig-machen des Gewhlten. (Nachla 1887, 9[106]), and Grimm comments: Creation here does not mean creation ex nihilo. For Nietzsche, a thing, object, quality, etc., is constituted within the sphere of
perspectival activity of a power-center. What or how anything is, is a function of this activity and,

A Silent World

25

I have been given to understand that the pioneers in the discovery of the
DNA were in fact experimenting with a number of different representations of
the DNA, before, eventually, they reached a consensus about a simple and elegant model that most efficiently solved the problems of representing this
string. (Thanks to powerful microscopes, we have today enhanced visibility of
the world; thus, we believe we see a string tightly wrapped up in the nucleus of
the cell; it is today part of our appearing universe.) The model of the string is currently our truth about the DNA; what DNA is beyond that truth, on the inexplicable Ur-ground, that we cannot imagine. We can of course always imagine
other models; and one must expect that some day our present model will be replaced with something else; maybe our old string will still be there, but merely
as a remnant, as an insignificant loop within something more complicated, more
sophisticated, solving other problems, etc. Maybe one day, advances in mathematics will give us completely different ways of representing inner nature; maybe
we will realize that inner nature is much more precisely represented in four, five,
or six dimensions. Maybe one day, computers will give us the means to perceive
the inner workings of the DNA according to another speed, different from the
cumbersome human timeframe that we always apply to observations.
But still, if DNA had been a mere fiction, a playful creation, a conceptional
invention, a construction in language, how could one explain the repeated success of DNA fingerprinting (a few rape victims have been vindicated thanks to
DNA analysis)? Nietzsches position is sufficiently pragmatic to save him from
the embarrassment of having to choke back such simple and straightforward
questions.41

41

as we have seen, there can be no thing apart from an interpretative act. Thus the interpretativecognitive act is entirely creative: not only is this act responsible for its contents it is also identical with them. (Grimm: Nietzsches Theory, loc. cit., p. 185.) Now, if a creative act is responsible for and identical to its content, then it is exactly creation ex nihilo. The Nietzsche-quote
Grimm comments upon is completely lucid in this matter: creation is selection. So, something
is selected, which as such must be independent of the creative act i. e., it does not spring from
the creative act itself. As Grimm continues, he sinks deeper and deeper into the trap of Idealism:
The external world is not something simply and univocally present, apart from any observer.
It is a function of that activity of perspectival interpretation and falsification through which each
power-center actively structures and creates its own world. (Ibd., p. 185.) I would reformulate:
the external world is absolute presence, existing apart from any observer; however, in our perspectival interpretations and falsifications, we structure and create our own world on top of
that external world.
This defense of reality in Nietzsche has been echoed by other commentators. Thus, Gnter
Abel asserts: There is no in-itself of things, but only interpreting and interpreted processes of
establishing [Fest-stellung]. This does not imply that reality does not exist, as if interpretation were
identical to fantasizing. But it implies that something, which appears as and is addressed as reality, is not something in an ontological sense given [Gegebenes] and cannot be fixated as an in-itselfalways-lasting permanence [sich-gleich-bleibender Bestand ] of that which is. Reality is always constructed
reality. It is all about production, not about re-production [Wiedergabe] and mirroring. (Abel:
Nietzsche, loc. cit., p. 173.) From a pragmatic position, Nehamas repeats the necessity of selec-

26

Peter Bornedal

(ii) Human Ground and Sensation


The distinction between Ur-ground and Human ground is not clear in
Nietzsche, and he never suggests it explicitly and deliberately. However, it is implied in several of his statements, for example: We can only understand intellectual processes; that is, the matter that becomes and c a n become visible,
a u d i ble, and t a n gi b l e. We understand the changes in our seeing, hearing, and
touch that hereby occur. That for which we have no sensation does n o t exist
for us but the world does not therefore have to come to an end. (Nachla
1881; KSA 9, 11[75]). Here, we are again introduced to my suggested two
worlds (i. e., as two aspects of one and the same ground): a world we can possibly
perceive (so-called Human), and a world we cannot possibly perceive (so-called
Ur-). In the latter case, the world for which we have no sensation does not
exist for us, but it does not therefore come to an end. In its totality, it is
beyond our perception, but it is not therefore non-existent, as Nietzsche cautions, against for example Berkeleys radical subjectivism.42
We said in the summary above that the Ur-ground could be determined as
the expanse that presents itself to all possible perception. All possible perception was
evoked as an abstract construction meant to signify the inclusion of not only
what humans perceive, and not only what animals (lower and higher) may perceive, but also, somewhat exotically, what any extra-terrestrial might perceive,
what a Cartesian demon might perceive, what God might perceive, etc. In a

42

tivity in our production of knowledge; we could not begin with all data: We must bring something into the foreground and distance others into the background. We must assign a greater
relative importance to something than we do to others, and still others we must completely ignore. We do not, and cannot, begin (or end) with all the data. This is an incoherent desire and an
impossible goal. To grasp everything would be to do away with all perspective relations, it
would mean to grasp nothing, to misapprehend the nature of knowledge. If we are ever to begin
a practice or an inquiry we must, and must want to, leave unasked indefinitely many question
about the world. (Nehamas: Nietzsche, loc. cit., p. 49.) From an Analytic position, also Peter
Poellner appears to advocate the notion of a perception-independent reality that eventually
may or may not be correlated with possible variables in scientific equations: The theoretical
entities which are eventually observed by suitable procedures are phenomena [] whose intrinsic
qualities nature remains unknown. Nothing of what Nietzsche says in this connection requires
him to deny that there may be real, perception-independent items of some sort corresponding to
variables in scientific equations which have as yet not been correlated with observable phenomena, but which may in the future be successfully correlated with observables. What he does deny
is rather that such newly discovered correspondences usually enlighten us about the qualitative
nature of these entities. (Poellner, Peter: Causation and Force in Nietzsche. In: Babich, Babette
E. (ed.): Nietzsche, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht 1999, p. 295.)
This critical stance against Idealism is expressed explicitly and frequently in Nietzsche. We are
regarded as mirrors bringing a world in flux into the stabilizing parameters of our organizing
mental mirror. However, it is never the stance that without us (as these so-called mirrors) the
world would also cease to exist: There is no world where there is no mirror, is nonsense.
(Nachla 1880; KSA 9, 6[429]).

A Silent World

27

world open for all possible perception, every layer would be visible, every combination would reveal itself (we would no longer need scientists to make discoveries). If the Ur-ground indicates a ground open for all possible perception,
the Human ground, more modestly, indicates the ground open for possible human
perception. It is the expanse that presents itself to us; that which is or can be (or
could possibly be) seen from our perspective or point.
Whether we are talking about Ur-ground or Human ground, the grounds are
being falsified. The Ur-ground is absolute chaos, a world of becoming, a maelstrom of entropy and disorder we cannot fathom. However, the Human ground
is also chaos, but rather because this reality impresses itself upon us with all its
detail and multiplicity a level of detail we do not and cannot take in and process. In both cases, we simplify, thus falsify, these worlds. In the first case, we
falsify out of intrinsic ontological necessity; in the second case, we falsify out of
intrinsic psychological necessity.
The Human ground is the ground, on which we live and perceive; it is (mutatis
mutandis) the world we see. It appears as if outside us, next to us, and in front
of us; it appears in three dimensions, organized in up and down, near and far,
left and right, etc. (On the Ur-ground it has no meaning to talk about up and
down or left and right; for one thing, because it is not the organization of the
world according to every creature.43) Still, we never see everything next to or in
front of us. We do not travel through the world hyper-conscious of every minor
detail; we rather select, suppress, ignore, and forget. When we pull ourselves together, we are capable of focusing, but mostly, the mode and mindset in which
we see the world is distracted, distant, and absent. And even when we focus,
how focused are we in fact, how attentively do we see (it takes painters years to
learn to see with attention)?
Our sense-organs have evolved in order to respond to certain human needs,
as such they falsify. The sense-apparatus reduces, compresses, and abbreviates.
When we perceive, we are tirelessly gathering information, our eyes scans the
world in rapid saccades for information, but we are becoming conscious of and
using only a fraction of the information we gather. As such, we are only browsing
and skimming the world, but (almost) never seriously reading or studying it. This
analogy to reading is suggested by Nietzsche himself:

43

One may also note that on the scale of the infinitely large and the infinitesimal small it makes
no longer sense to talk about up and down, left and right. We dont admit into our repertoire
statements like The Andromeda Galaxy is located a bit to the left of, and slightly above, our
Milky Way. Near and far, large and small, also makes no sense in the universe; whether the
Andromeda Galaxy is near to or far from the Milky Way is completely relative to the frame of
reference we adopt.

28

Peter Bornedal

Just as little as todays reader takes in all the individual words (or especially syllables)
on a page (he catches maybe five out of twenty words and guesses what these five
arbitrary words might possibly mean) just as little do we see a tree precisely and
completely, with respect to leaves, branches, colors, and shape. We find it so much easier to imagine an approximate tree instead. (BGE 192; KSA 5, p. 113).

When we read, which is also perception of an outside world (a point typically


ignored or repressed by Derrida and Derridians44), we are being exposed to an
information-overload that we necessarily reduce and simplify in order to understand. The page is here a world of becoming, a world in flux, but a world by no
means beyond our perceptive capacities, as little as the tree in its detailed manifold is. However, the text, as well as the tree, overwhelms us with information,
and this triggers our natural defense: to compress, truncate, and interpret. We
notice here that we, as already mentioned, defend ourselves against too much reality.
As such self-defensive readers, we create forms that are easier to conceive, but
are in fact mere approximations to the information that is available on the page,
information that our senses make available, but we reduce to what we call the
message or meaning of the text.45
Nietzsche explains himself in more detail in the Nachla:
We are not sufficiently refined to see what is projected in th e a b s o l u te f l ow o f
becoming [absoluten Flu des Geschehens]. Our crude organs only have a capacity for
the enduring [Bleibendes], and summarize and exhibit a surface that does not exist as
such. The tree is in every immediate now [Augenblick] something n e w; but we postulate a f or m, because we are incapable of perceiving the minute absolute movements
[die feinste absolute Bewegung]. We expertly add [legen hinein] a m a th e m a ti c a l ave r ag e-line [mathematische Durchschnittslinie] to the absolute movement. We indeed i n ve n t lines and surfaces, because our intellect takes for granted the e r r o r : the assumption of equality and stability; we can only s e e the stable and only r e m e m b e r
the equal. (Nachla 1881; KSA 9, 11[293]).
44

45

One of the more interesting problems in Derridas famous slogan, There is nothing outside the
text, as it during the seventies and eighties became the battle-cry for a new generation of textualists, is that the text itself is exactly outside us ( and since this is so, from the texts perspective, we as readers must consequently be outside the text.) It is precisely because we as outsiders have to perceive a text that we are inclined to reduce it to meaning; i. e., a meaning, which is,
as Derrida repeatedly demonstrates, often incongruent with the existence of the original information-overload present on the page. See also the following note.
Jacques Derrida has internalized this insight, as he has tried hard, almost uniformly in his earlier
writings, to defeat the human tendency to reduce a text to meaning. He is exercising Nietzsches
ideal philology, to read a text as text; as such, to be aware of all minor details and nuances as they
appear on the textual surface. But whether Derrida has succeeded in realizing this very Nietzschean program is another matter that is still hotly debated, and a discussion which I cannot
engage myself in here. I am inclined to think not; adding as extenuating explanation that it may
never be humanly possible to be absolutely successful in this ambitious program ( we reduce,
qua our so-called reality-defense, which apply also to the world of texts). In the final analysis,
we can only reduce the text to certain abstract forms, such as (in Derridas case) a certain logic
of writing (existing in a variety of descriptions in his philosophy); even somebody as self-conscious as Jacques Derrida.

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29

Again, the tree is the favorite example. In a world of absolute becoming, the
tree would be something new from one moment to the next, like the clouds on
the sky, or the waves of the ocean. In a world of becoming, everything renews
itself again and again unendingly. This renewal, however, we cannot grasp.
Throughout a long evolutionary history, we have invented simplifying forms,
such as the line and the surface, on which to organize the flow in stable and equal
things. When we look at the tree, we no longer see a multitude of branches and
leaves waving in the wind, endlessly changing the shape of the crown of the tree,
we see a Gestalt and a shape literally, we see a ghost tree.
We realize now that there is no discrepancy between rejecting the notion of a
thing-in-itself and still maintain that senses falsify. On the contrary! In Nietzsches interpretation of Kant, rejecting the thing-in-itself implies denouncing the
notion of an abstract content beneath or beyond our apparent world. If we live in
a world of nothing but appearance, senses falsify because they reduce, simplify, and
compress the impressions we receive of these appearances, not because they
inform us incorrectly about a presumed thing-in-itself beyond the cover of the appearances. One might say that senses deceive because they are lazy, not because
they are inadequate. (In that case, they are of course phylogenetically lazy; biologically taught to be lazy; lazy as a part of acquired human constitution. To paint the
world with the broadest brush, that was always a biological advantage; it was
never advantageous to immerse oneself in detail and sophistication. But why
not? Because that would delay our response-time when we needed to quickly
identify and respond to a situation, e. g., danger!) It therefore comes as no surprise when in numerous places, we encounter the rejection of the thing-in-itself
along with the proposal of falsifying and arbitrary sense-perceptions.
In the published work, we find statements to that effect in Daybreak, The Gay
Science, and Beyond Good and Evil.
In prison. my eyes, however strong or weak they may be, can see only a certain distance, and it is within the space encompassed by this distance that I live and move, the
line of this horizon constitutes my immediate fate, in great things and small, from
which I cannot escape. Around every being there is described a similar concentric
circle, which has a mid-point and is peculiar to him. Our ears enclose us within a comparable circle, and so does our sense of touch. Now, it is by these horizons, within
which each of us encloses his senses if behind prison walls, that we measure the world,
we say that this is near and that far, this is big and that small, this is hard and that soft:
this measuring we call sensation a n d it is a ll of it a n e r r o r ! [] The habits of our
senses have woven us into lies and deception of sensation [haben uns in Lug und Trug der
Empfindung eingesponnen; or better: have ensnared us in the lies and deceptions of sensation], these again are the basis of all our judgments and knowledge there is
absolutely no escape, no backway or bypath into the real world! [die wirkliche Welt! ]
We sit within our net, we spiders, and whatever we may catch in it, we can catch
nothing at all except that which allows itself to be caught in precisely o ur net. (D 117;
KSA 3, p. 110).

30

Peter Bornedal

According to this passage, we are imprisoned by our senses, since they can
give us only the information that they are arbitrarily designed to give. (The following specification may be in order: granted that our sense-organs are the result
of evolution, and not of design, they must be a priori arbitrary; but they are of
course biologically necessary.) We are in the quotation seen as imprisoned, because
we exist as if surrounded by the world, with ourselves as center. Whether we perceive by sight, hearing, or touch, we perceive within a given periphery. The world
appears like a giant plate with a boundary that moves as we move, always equidistant to the point we happen to occupy; a boundary, therefore, impossible to
transgress. It is from this world that there is no escape into a real world (the real
world here implied may designate either Plato, Kant, or Christianitys real
world; a reality I would label in order to keep track on all these realities the
extra-real ). In his description of the world as a plate and a horizon, Nietzsche is
describing the apparent (the hyper-real ) world; the world we know, the world that
binds us, and the world from which there is no escape into anything more real
than what we already know is real. Expressing oneself less ambiguously, from the
hyper-real there is no escape into the extra-real. As explained in the concluding section, the world according to Nietzsche is always only one, never two; there is no
possibility of escaping one world.
Thus, in Daybreak, both the world as thing-in-itself and the distinction real vs.
apparent are under deconstruction. Still, our senses ensnare us in their deception,
they are errors. The nets, we as spiders sit in, are the nets of our sense-apparatuses. Given our limited sense-apparatus, we are prejudiced in our sensations of
the world. Our limited senses are selective, designed to catch only a certain portion of the world; as such, they generate erroneous knowledge of the world.
This conception is repeated in a passage from The Gay Science. Here explicitly,
the notion of the unknown Kantian X is again rejected, and it is once more
confirmed that there are only appearances. However, these appearances are
again deceptive (there is appearance and a will-o-the-wisp).
What is appearance to me now! Certainly not a dead mask that one could put on
an unknown X and probably also take of X! To me, appearance is the active and living
itself, which goes so far in its self-mockery that it makes me feel that here there is
appearance and a will-o-the-wisp and a dance of spirits and nothing else [dass hier
Schein und Irrlicht und Geistertanz und nichts Mehr ist]. (GS 54; KSA 3, p. 417).

Finally, in the following passage from Beyond Good and Evil, we produce
knowledge of the world by filtering an already existing manifold, thus simplifying a world of becoming and producing distinctions where originally there is
only continua. It is not clear which of our grounds that is object of simplification: the Ur- or the Human. It is also not clear, who is being singled out as the
primary culprit of deception, the senses or the concepts. On the one hand, it is
our senses that we have given a carte blanche for everything superficial; but on

A Silent World

31

the other, it is language that cannot get over its crassness as it keeps asserting
oppositions and distinctions where there is only a fluidity of gradations.
O sanct a si mp licit a s! What a strange simplification and falsification people live
in! the wonders never cease, for those who devote their eyes to such wondering. How
we have made everything around us so bright and easy and free and simple! How we
have given our sense a ca r t e blanche for everything superficial, given our thoughts
a divine craving for high-spirited leaps and false inferences! How we have known
from the start to hold on to our ignorance in order to enjoy a barely comprehensible
freedom, thoughtlessness, recklessness, bravery, and joy in life; to delight in life itself!
And, until now, science could arise only on this solidified, granite foundation of ignorance, the will to know rising up on the foundation of a much more powerful will,
the will to not know, to uncertainty, to untruth! Not as its opposite, but rather as
its refinement! Even when language, here as elsewhere, cannot get over its crassness
and keeps talking about opposites where there are only degrees and multiple, subtle
shades of gradation. (BGE 24; KSA 5, p. 41).

We notice that Nietzsche has three agencies responsible for falsification:


first senses, then (metonymically associated to senses) thoughts, and finally, language. He does not seem to recognize a distinction between these three agencies.
Whether senses, thoughts, or concepts deceive, they perform the same simplifying operation as this operation makes possible science. Thanks to our perceptive,
cognitive, and linguistic simplifications of the world, science raises itself on a solidified, granite foundation of ignorance ignorance, of course, of the original
ground, the world in perpetual flux and eternal becoming, i. e., the chaos as Urground and/or the sensation-chaos as Human ground that we do not access
and/or cannot process as such. We therefore simplify from necessity. As repeated
time and again, falsification is necessary for life. If our perceptive, cognitive,
linguistic simplications are errors, they are surely errors that need not alarm us;
errors that most emphatically we should not try to correct nor could we!46

(iii) Sensation and Word


Hyper-reality is what we encounter before we impose any interpretation on the
world (we ignore for now that relative to the so-called Ur-ground, our perceptive
designs always but in a general, almost metaphorical, sense interpret).
46

When we therefore read Nietzsches Analytic commentators excusing, amending, or mitigating


Nietzsches falsification or error-theory, they are committing a mistake so essential, that if by
any chance they were right about Nietzsche being wrong, they would have annihilated their own
cognitive and linguistic capabilities. Nietzsches error is the condition of the possibility for the
reasoning of Analytic commentators (all these innumerable I shall argue that are falsifications
of a text that is both much more than, and often much different from, the proposed argument).
They forget, that Nietzsches false is not identical to Tarskis false, his Truth not identical to
Tarskis true.

32

Peter Bornedal

Nietzsche suggests in this context that it is possible, or it might be possible,


to see without thinking. Senses deceive relative to the degree of thinking by and
through which we apprehend the world. Hyper-reality is thus suggested as the
realm offering a possibility for non-deceiving sense-perception, but typically, we
pass up the possibility by perceiving the world through our cognitive and linguistic filters. Insofar as we see the world through this filter, senses deceive.
The model of the perfect [vollstndiger] fiction is logic. [] Something like that
does not happen in reality [Wirklichkeit ]: it is unutterably more complicated. Since we
impose every fiction as a schema, we also, in our thinking, filter the factual event
through a simplification-apparatus: we thus impress upon it the s i g n - l a n g u a g e
[Zeichenschrift], communicability and knowability [Merkbarkeit] of the logical procedures. [] That something remains unknown does not worry me; I a m d e l i g h te d
that still, there exists an art of knowledge [Erkenntni ] and admire the complexity of
this possibility. The method is: the introduction of absolute fictions as schemata, by
which we may conceive our intellectual processes [geistige Geschehen] as simpler than
they are. Experience [Erfahrung] is only possible by means of memory [Gedchtni ];
memory is only possible by truncating [Abkrzung] intellectual processes into s i g n s.
(Nachla 1885; KSA 11, 34[249]).

The interpreting linguistic expression is not an expression of nothing and


knowledge does not generate itself ex nihilo. Instead, as expressly stated, interpretation is to filter a factual event through a simplification-apparatus a factual event !
But in fact, already Nietzsches choice of words in describing the interpretive
activity simplification, schematization, filtering, etc. suggest a process
where there is a reality to be filtered, schematized, etc. It is because it is there
as the too much and the too chaotic that we filter it through our nets. It is our
human predicament to be exposed to these information-overloads, and our
response is to simplify according to the process, I have called reality-defense. We
thus truncate a phenomenal complex into simple forms that become the conceivable stand-in for (with this falsifying) the complex.47
Through our interpreting filter, we do not secure any a priori knowledge of
the world. Given the inherent arbitrariness and contingency of the filter, we as-

47

Werner Stegmaier offers an interpretation of the logic of the simplification-process that corresponds to my own: Abbreviation in itself does not follow logic in the traditional sense; it
is rather an art, an art of abbreviation [Abkrzungskunst]. It is the art to simplify, to prepare an
infinitely complex world for our ability to orient ourselves in it; a complex world, which is always
something else when we try to think it with our most subtle concepts; which is, as Nietzsche
often says, unutterably more complicated []. To speak of knowledge of things as if things
existed in the world and thinking is representing them as they are, is now to cater to a mythology that already has had its time. Logical thinking, as Nietzsche has learnt to see it, is the
model of a complete Fiction, and Logic, as the logical thinking of logical thinking, is consequently the fiction of a fiction. When thinking of things, we already simplify the reality according to Schemata; we filter it through a simplification apparatus. (Stegmaier: Nietzsches Genealogie der Moral, loc. cit., p. 81.)

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33

pire in vain to conceptualize, schematize, and stabilize a perpetually changing


world in any absolute sense. There is as such no arche-interpretation, but there
are surely interpretations. These interpretations are applied to a ground, which
neither withdraws itself from, nor does it yield itself to, interpretation. It is
simply there. It is always in existence, but fleetingly as the evanescent flicker of a
world in incessant change. Interpretation is the attempt to hold on to snippets of
this fleeting world.
In the above passage, the simplification-apparatus is first and foremost a linguistic construct. Experience, says Nietzsche, is only possible by means of memory, memory is only possible by truncating intellectual processes into signs.
Nietzsche is here repeating a notion from Leibniz New Essays of Human
Understanding48; also in Leibniz we simplify our universe thanks to memory that
so to speak assists perception in becoming conscious of itself. In his New Essays,
Leibniz observed that as we go about our average daily lives, consciousness does
not seem to be as dominant a feature as we tend to think. Due to either the
habitualness or superabundance of impressions, we become conscious of only
fractions of our surrounding world. As we grow accustomed to a sight, we tend
to stop noticing it. This is how we become so accustomed to the motion of a
mill or a waterfall, after living beside it for a while, that we pay no heed to it.49
Also when impressions are too minute or too numerous they do not engage our
attention. At every moment there is in us an infinity of perceptions, unaccompanied by awareness or reflection.50
If this is granted, according to what principle does our perception eventually
lighten up the world enfolding us? Leibniz shall say that attentive perception
requires memory. Memory is needed for attention: when we are not alerted, so to
speak, to pay heed to certain of our own present perceptions, we allow them to
slip by unconsidered and even unnoticed. But if someone alerts us to them
straight away, [] then we remember them and are aware of just having had some
sense of them.51
From the immediate past, memory informs present perception. This would
be the first mental mechanism for stabilizing and fixating a world of becoming:
I see, and become aware of, something as something. It is by engaging our memory
in our perceptive present that we become conscious. We are thus endowed with a
psychological capability that does not seem to be strictly necessary. Both Leibniz
and Nietzsche are certain that animals do not possess this capability, while we, in
the better part of our waken life, also do fine without it although eventually,
48

49
50
51

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm: New Essays on Human Understanding. Translated and edited by
J. Bennett and P. Ramnant. Cambridge 1982.
Ibd., p. 54.
Ibd.
Ibd., my italics.

34

Peter Bornedal

consciousness always seems to interfere in and disturb this original unconscious


celebration of the pure perceptive present.
In aphorism 354 from The Gay Science, Nietzsche elaborates on Leibnizs
observation. He explicitly refers to Leibnizs insight,52 and remarks: We could
think, feel, will, remember, and also act in every sense of the term, and yet
none of all this would have to enter our consciousness (as one says figuratively) [wie man im Bilde sagt]. (GS 354; KSA 3, p. 590). Enter consciousness is
here an image [Bilde], a metaphor; it indicates that something can either enter our
consciousness or stay outside. If it stays outside, it is in Nietzsches sense unconscious. It is obviously not repressed, as is Freuds unconscious; it is only not
noticed.
Nietzsche ends up taking Leibnizs insight a step further: we perceive thanks
to memory (so far Leibniz), but we remember thanks to language (Nietzsche). This
step is taken qua the notion of the simplification-apparatus. More precisely, a
simplification-apparatus is an apparatus by which we condense, and then identify.
But then we must ask, why is it that condensation and identification are interrelated
processes? A simplification-apparatus is a device by which to identify something
as; it allows us to recognize something as something. In identifying or recognizing
something as something, we cannot rely only on the masses or stuff in eternal becoming; because these masses, such stuff, cannot be compared to itself. Masses
or stuff cannot from itself be identified as something. In order to be understood as
itself, stuff must be compared to something radically different from itself paradoxically as this may sound. That which is radically different from stuff, and by
which stuff is identified, is the sign. Now stuff becomes a entity, while it also, in
its encounter with the sign, becomes an id-entity. In its natural habitat, in the
world of becoming, it is never an entity-identity, but a nameless complex or multiplex. However, Nietzsches simplification-apparatus, the sign, (i) condenses stuff
into a single indivisible entity, and simultaneously, (ii) identifies this entity as such
and such by labeling it qua the sign.53
52

53

In the present aphorism, it may not be clear which of Leibnizs insights Nietzsche alludes to
when writing that first now we able to catch up with Leibnizs precocious suspicion that there
is a problem of consciousness. In the following aphorism 357, however, he explicitly refers to
Leibnizs incomparable insight [] that consciousness is merely an accidens of the power of representation and not its necessary and essential attribute; so that what we call consciousness constitutes only one state of our spiritual and psychic world (perhaps a sick state) and by no means the
whole of it. (GS 357; KSA 3, p. 598). This would refer to Leibnizs discussions of perception and
memory from New Essays on Human Understanding.
In many respects, Heideggers analysis of how the thing is constituted from a fleeting world of
chaos is similar to the analysis above, except for the fact that Heidegger believes that he can account for these complex matters without recourse to linguistics. Heidegger discusses the thing
as the blackboard behind him in his lecture hall, and says, correctly, that to know this thing as a
blackboard, we must already have ascertained what we encounter as a thing as such, and not,
say, as a fleeing occurrence. (Heidegger: Nietzsche, loc. cit., p. 78.) Right! And what does Hei-

A Silent World

35

Before the sign, there is for example no dog-entity/dog-identity. There are


these four-legged, growling, barking, friendly creatures roaming around, but
there are many of them that they are all different so far, they are only stuff.
The sign, (i) condenses them all into the same abstract entity, and (ii) identifies
these creatures as something. The word dog is doing this job. The word dog is
thus a simplification-apparatus that simultaneously condenses and identifies. This
does not mean that we are all of a sudden unable to see different dogs running
about. Language is not like a gray blanket we throw over the world of appearances; it doesnt make the world disappear by transforming it to signifiers; it
doesnt make our eyes fall out of their sockets. However, after the introduction
of the word, we are paradoxically capable of seeing individual dogs as if the selfsame thing. And more importantly, we are able to retrieve them from memory as
the abstract self-same thing: somebody says dog, and suddenly, but without
seeing any particular dog in my imagination, I remember some abstract form
corresponding to dog. So, somebody says dog, and the sound interacts with
old memory-traces, reaches deep back into unconscious memories (memory is
always unconscious, as Freud and Breuer would insist), and now it retrieves not
an exact picture of a dog, but merely some kind of rough outline, some vague silhouette, or some aggregate of dog-attributes. The word dog is thus a most
economical means by which to remember dogs. It is in fact so economical and abstract that the word sometimes make me remember dogs, without I have to take
a detour around an actual representation of dogs, that is, without I have to evoke a
corresponding picture.
As another example, the sign allows me to identify a leaf as a leaf not as an individual entity with its unique and matchless characteristics. By identifying a leaf
as leaf, I give abstract form to something, create an entity out of something,
which in unspoiled and pure perception I could only have apprehended in its

degger now think a fleeting occurrence (my stuff ) is before it is constituted as a thing: Kant
speaks of the mass of sensations, meaning by that the chaos, the jumble that crowds us, keeps us
occupied, concerns us, washes over than tunnels through us [] not only in the moment of perceiving this blackboard, but constantly and everywhere, [] what appears so harmlessly and
quietly and conclusively to us as an object, such as this blackboard or any other familiar thing,
we do meet up with the mass of sensation chaos. It is what is nearest. (Ibd., pp. 78 79.) Heidegger is talking about Nietzsches sensation-chaos, Freuds masses in movement, my hyperreality. In all cases, we are talking about the constant impingement of impressions on our mental
apparatus, before this apparatus has had a chance to remember these sensations as the same;
a memory partly (but not exclusively) constituted by means of the sign with which a certain
selection of impressions are associated, thus retrieved and remembered. However, since
Heidegger never consults linguistics, the constitution of things appears to be abstract and
medium-less. In Heidegger, it just happens thanks to a purely cognitive drive to schematize.
Undoubtedly, Heidegger would have been able to take his analysis more than a few steps further,
had he not been in the grip of a permeating science-phobia and technology-fear that also
seems to extend into the field of Linguistics.

36

Peter Bornedal

enigmatic individuality. Hence, following Nietzsche, the thing is an abstraction,


and the thingness of a thing does not grow naturally out of the stuff itself, but
is formed by superimposing on stuff the label by which it becomes a thing, and
to which it will have to answer: its name, its sign. Nietzsche is precise in describing this identification-process as depending on memory and language both! I must
necessarily remember this multitude of glistering, rattling, greenish entities as
some-thing; more precisely, as some thing. We would be utterly incapable of remembering millions of glistering, rattling, greenish entities in their matchless
uniqueness.
Because of this linguistic intermeddling with our perceptions, the universe
has been logicized, as Nietzsche says in another passage from the late Nachla.
Our psychological optics is determined by the following:
1. That communication is necessary, and that through communication something is made stable, simple, and precise (above all, in the identical case). Before
something can be communicable, however, it must be experienced as c u s to m i ze d
[zurechtgemacht], as re- co gn iz a b le [wieder erkennbar]. The material of the senses
customized by the understanding, is reduced to rough outlines, it is made similar, and
subsumed under familiar matters. Thus, the haziness and chaos of the sense-impressions are, as it were, logicized [logisiert ].
2. The world of phenomena is the customized world, which we fe e l a s r e a l.
The reality lies in the continual recurrence of identical, familiar, related things in
their lo giciz ed ch a r a ct er, in the belief that there we are able to reckon and calculate;
3. The opposition to this phenomena-world is n o t the true world, but rather
the world as a formless-inexpressible chaos of sensations [die formlos-unformulirbare
Welt des Sensationen-Chaos] consequently, a n o th e r k i n d o f phenomena-world, for
us incomprehensible [unerkennbar].
4. Questions, what things in-themselves may be like, apart from our sensereceptivity and intellectual activity, must be rebutted with the question: how could we
know t ha t t hin gs ex ist? Thingness was first created by us. (WP 569; KSA 12,
9[106]).

In this passage, several of the problems introduced above have been solved.
It is clear that there is no conflict in, on the one hand, discarding the notion of
things-in-themselves, and on the other, maintain that senses deceive. It is also
clear that it is not inconsistent to claim, in one context, that senses deceive, and
in another that they dont. Senses deceive or not relative to how logicized they
have become. To the extent that we have customized our surrounding world,
made it simple and familiar as life-world, senses interpret, thus deceive. But to
the extent that we transgress this customized, logicized life-world, we rediscover
the haziness and chaos of sense-impressions. In the latter case, we stand out
in a relation to a world that is given in its self-presence, a world of which we may
not be entirely conscious (since consciousness depends of linguistic logicization), and a world therefore described as a formless inexpressible chaos of

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37

sensations, but still a world self-given in its self-presence, and therefore within
the range of our perceptive possibilities (therefore also radically different from
Kants so-called true world in-itself ).
Before the emergence of Structural Linguistics, Nietzsche is articulating
insights that later Ferdinand de Saussure, Roman Jakobsen, and Louis Hjelmslev
would systematize and clarify. It is in Nietzsche the sign, as linguistic unit, that
is responsible for so-called deception (in this context: relative to the Human
ground). Before the emergence of the form-giving sign, perceptions and
thoughts are just chaotic, indistinct, and subconscious. In Saussures words, they
are vague and nebulous chaotic confused54; in Hjelmslevs words, they
are an unanalyzed, amorphous continuum.55 First in the application of the sign
amorphous thoughts and perceptions are made distinct by being segmented into
distinct parts, which, after segmentation, we conceive as ideas or concepts. The
segmentation occurs when the signifier, the sound-image, and the signified, the
idea, delimit and circumscribe a certain content. Repeating Saussures model of
the sign, there is thus a relationship between signifier and signified that is a priori
arbitrary, but a posteriori necessary. That is, it is a priori arbitrary that we describe glistering, fluttering, rattling, greenish entities as leaves, but as soon as the description has caught on, it forces our hand, or rather our perception. Now we cannot
but see these entities as leaves.
Thanks to the signifier, we have an abstract concept of leaf ; thanks to the
signified, the sound-image leaf circumscribes and defines an abstract content.
In isolation, the two layers are merely two amorphous masses, a mass of thought
(or impressions) and a mass of sound. In isolation, they both elude linguistic description. Thinking before the expression might constitute what we call a mood,
or vague feelings and sensations. Sounds without concepts might constitute noise
(or perhaps music). Separately, none of the entities constitutes a linguistic unit.
First in their attachment, the two masses of thought and sound are segmented into distinct units, representing meaningful and comprehensible signs.
The actual procedure for this reciprocal attachment is admittedly an enigma to
Saussure.
Without language, thought is a vague, uncharted nebula [Prise en elle-mme, la pense est
comme une nbuleuse o rien nest ncessairement dlimit ]. There are no pre-existing ideas,
and nothing is distinct before the appearance of language. [] Phonic substance is
neither more fixed nor more rigid than thought; it is not a mold into which thought
54

55

Saussure, Ferdinand de: Course in General Linguistics. Translation by W. Baskin. New York
1966, p. 112. Baskins translation is in the following compared the Saussures French original:
Saussure, Ferdinand de: Cours de linguistique gnrale. Edited by C. Bally and A. Sechehaye.
Paris 1972.
Hjelmslev, Louis: Prolegomena to a Theory of Language. Translation by F. J. Whitfield. Madison
1961, p. 52.

38

Peter Bornedal

must of necessity fit but a plastic substance [a matire plastique] divided in turn into distinct parts to furnish the signifiers needed by thought. The linguistic fact can therefore be pictured in its totality i. e. language as a series on contiguous subdivisions
marked off on both the indefinite plane of jumbled ideas [des ides confuses] and the
equally vague [indtermin ] plane of sounds. [] Thought, chaotic by nature, has to become ordered in the process of its decomposition [est force de se prciser en se dcomposant;
better: is made precise in the process of segmentation]. Neither are thoughts given
material form nor are sounds transformed into mental entities [Il ny a donc ni matrialisation des pense, ni spiritualisation des sons]; the somewhat mysterious fact is rather that
thought-sound implies division, and that language works out its units while taking
shape between two shapeless masses [masses amorphes]. [] Linguistics then works in
the borderland where the elements of sound and though combine; their combination produces a form, not a substance.56

It is in the context of this quotation that Saussure suggests two models representing the interaction of the two layers. The first model underscores their mysterious interaction. The signified and the signifier interact as air-pressure acts in
the formation of waves in the ocean. Between the two layers of air and water,
there is an invisible interaction going on, represented, in a drawing by Saussure,
by vertical, fragile-looking, punctuated lines. The linguistic sign would similarly
be an entity represented not by any of the layers, but by the invisible strings between them holding them together. Saussures model below can be seen as a formalized version of the air-pressure/wave analogy; level-a represents the sequence of sounds, and level-b the sequence of concepts.57

Saussures second model underscores the inseparability of the layers. Signified and
signifier are like two sides of the same sheet of paper. Cutting the paper means cutting front and back, signified and signifier, simultaneously; changing one side
implies simultaneously changing the other. However, although there would be
infinite possibilities of configuring the paper, front and back would always stick
together. No pair of scissors could separate the two sides from each other.
In Saussures model, the vertical separation-lines form concept- and soundlevels into linguistic signs. According to these separation-lines a world is sliced
up into abstract entities, simplifying, thus distorting, a world of becoming, a
world originally and essentially language-independent. This is the world Saussure describes as a substance, and Hjelmslev describes as an amorphous con56

57

Saussure: Course in General Linguistics, loc. cit., pp. 112 113; Saussure: Cours, loc. cit.,
pp. 155 157.
Cf. Saussure: Course in General Linguistics, loc. cit., p. 103.

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39

tinuum. In Hjelmslevs famous illustration of how this continuum is differently


formatted, he notices how the color-spectrum (which is, as far as we know, a
continuum) is differently described in disparate languages
In Welsh, green is gwyrdd or glas, blue is glas, gray is glas or llwyd, brown is llwyd. That
is to say the part of the spectrum that is covered by our word green is intersected
in Welsh by a line that assigns a part of it to the same area as our word blue while
the English boundary between green and blue is not found in Welsh. Moreover, Welsh
lacks the English boundary between blue and gray, and likewise the English boundary
between gray and brown. On the other hand, the area that is covered by English gray is
intersected in Welsh so that half of it is referred to the same area as our blue and half to
the same area as our brown.58

This implies that in Welsh there is, for example, no sharp distinction between
our green, blue, and gray, which is all glas; neither between gray and brown, which
is llwyd, etc. If thus we adhere to Saussures model above, there would exist a
c-level below the ab sign-level. This c-level would represent Saussures uncharted
nebula; Hjelmslevs amorphous continuum; Nietzsches sensation-chaos; or what above,
I called hyper-reality. If I illustrate this continuum simply by means of a number
line (which most appropriately is called a real line in mathematics), we can give a
formalized illustration on how two languages segment this continuum in two
different ways.

The c-level, the continuum, would now represent the amorphous world,
Nietzsches world of becoming. If the signifier-signified entities, BB, CC, and
HH are the signs for stem, leaf, and petal, then the two different languages in the
model would produce different definitions of how much of the continuum constitutes a stem, how much a leaf, and how much a petal. (Without having to go into
technical details, we notice that in language I, the sign C/C (say leaf ) determines a leaf as the continuum from approximately 5 to 7, while in language II,
a leaf is determined as the continuum from approximately 6 to 10. The continuum from 5 to 7, 6 to 10, etc., is here merely an algebraic metaphor for a particular segment of what above we called hyper-reality.) The c-level would now cor58

Hjelmslev: Prolegomena, loc. cit., pp. 52 53.

40

Peter Bornedal

respond to the continuum of impressions received of the tree; the tree in its
amorphous and chaotic totality of detail; the original tree we seem to sacrifice
to the linguistic sign as soon as we start naming a few of its properties.
In conclusion, senses as such are not inadequate instruments of observing the
world, they have not evolved in order to deceive (not regarding what I have called
the Human Ground). Relative to the Human Ground, they are not in-and-ofthemselves deceptive, but they are bound up with a mental apparatus that does
deceive about (i. e., simplify and interpret) the world. As the mental apparatus
during upbringing deepens and expands, a pure and virgin perception of the
world also becomes increasingly impossible.
In his Project for a Scientific Psychology, Freud explains how the psychic apparatus,
thanks to the intensity and the repetition of certain impressions, forms
certain facilitating passages [Bahnungen] that assist and adjust the reception of
future impressions. As such, the psychic system creates a shell that during
upbringing and adulthood hardens or coagulates, thus setting the threshold
for what in the future may and may not enter the system. Eventually, memory
(and thus language) comes to play an important role in conscious perception.
Nietzsche seems to be on a par with Freud. When Nietzsche asserts that senses
deceive, they do so relative to the degree of cognitive and linguistic generalization and simplification they have undergone (by mental processes that
Nietzsche elsewhere also tries to explain, but a discussion I must suspend at this
point). In an empty stare into the depth of a lingering, self-manifesting world,
there is possibly no deception (at least, it seems to be an option to bypass some,
if not all, of the defensive layers developed by a normal mental system). However,
there is also in this attitude no self-conscious perception. The world is seen like
Leibniz on his daily stroll sees the habitual sights of the windmill and the waterfall; i. e., in his mode of distracted, passive perception. Let us call this mode of
perception subconscious, unmediated, and non-falsifying. However, sensations deceive
when in full self-consciousness we see actively; i. e., we see and remember the
seen as being such and such. We now recall from memory the Gestalt that
uniquely corresponds to the seen, as this gestalt has been formed in and by language. I see and know I see a leaf only because a leaf-entity is defined in language
(if there were no language for leaf-entities, I would still see leaves, but I would
hardly notice, and possibly not remember. I would see this unnamed leave-stuff
like a mass of impressions rather than as a thing). We will call the mode of perception where I see and know what I see conscious, mediated, and falsifying.
It is thus not the case that senses shut down themselves as soon as language
with its form-giving power defines the seen; it is not the case that language makes
us see only signifiers; it does not disable access to language independent reality.
If it did, Nietzsche had simply recreated appearance as a new thing-in-itself, and language as a new appearance.

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41

The diagram below may now summarize some of the relationships having
been discussed. As appears from the diagram, there are two relationships of solidarity between, first, the human ground and subconscious sensations, and, second, conscious sensations and language. Neither of these two relationships of solidarity is
negatively evaluated in Nietzsche. Although the first relationship exerts a special
attraction to Nietzsche (and to numerous other 19th century poets and thinkers),
since it seems like the fascinating entry-point to a world of becoming, the second
relationship as solidifying the world of becoming as a world of being is acknowledged as both necessary and indispensable. That language in this relationship
falsifies does not entail a negative evaluation of language, and it should definitely not prompt us to a search for a language that does not falsify. Language
falsifying in a negative sense is the language I have equated with metaphysics in
the diagram; this metaphysical language has no relationship of solidarity; it
exists in-and-for-itself, referring to nothing.
L ATE E PISTEMOLOGICAL P OSITION
Language (= Metaphysics; destruction of life)
Concepts (= Falsifying) {
Language (= Simplifying; necessary for life)
Sensations (= Conscious; mediated; falsifying)
Sensations (= Neutral) {
Sensations (= Subconscious; unmediated; non-falsifying)
Human ground (= pre-linguistic hyper-reality; continuum)
Thing-in-itself (= Non-existent). Instead: relativistic Ur-ground of forces and points.

The Ur-ground lives an isolated existence in my diagram. This is deliberate,


since, although we are compelled to think the existence of such a ground, its existence has hardly any consequences. As said, the Ur-ground has nothing to do with
us; it is cold and indifferent; it does not like us; therefore, we shrug it off as well.

III) Two Brief Control-Readings to Put the Position to Test


(i) Explaining Nietzsches Negative Ontologie des Dinges
As soon as we perceive a leaf, named and circumscribed as such in language,
we condenses a mass of impressions in form of the glister, the flutter, the rattling, or the green of the trees majestic crown of leaves. We now perceive the
original manifold as a new abstract entity, called leaf. And still, we must insist
with Nietzsche, that the real continuum is there to be perceived; it has not all
of a sudden sunk down behind the world of appearances as a thing-in-itself. It is
not an inaccessible X, but an expanse of impressions intruding upon our sense-

42

Peter Bornedal

organs. If the majestic crown of the tree is hidden in and by the abstract entity
leaves, it is no more hidden than an entire color-spectrum is hidden in an object I for shorthand call white the shirt is surely white, but truly, it reflects
from its immediate environment a variety of color-nuances. I see the shirt as
white; I say the shirt is white; but I am also capable of going beyond my abstraction, my short-hand perception, and re-discover a world of colors hidden in the
white. As in Leibniz and as in Freud, also in Nietzsche there is always too much
reality; our ability to respond to this reality indeed our health depends on
how effectively we are able to fend off this reality; with this, reduce it.
We now understand how Nietzsche can call our belief in things a fiction; for
example, as this belief in The Will to Power is described as a fiction necessary for
logic: Supposing there were no self-identical A [Sich-selbst-identisches A] such as
is presupposed by every proposition of logic (and of mathematics), and the A
were already mere appearance, then logic would have a merely apparent world
as its condition . The thing that is the real substratum of A; our belief in
things is the precondition of our belief in logic. The A of logic is, like the atom, a
reconstruction of the thing [eine Nachkonstruktion des Dings]. (WP 516).
In Nietzsches Philosophie ( almost half a century after its publication still one
of the superior introductions to Nietzsche), Eugen Fink labels this lack of belief
in enduring things Nietzsches negative Ontologie des Dinges.
Nietzsches thesis is: there are [es gibt ] in truth [in Wahrheit ] no things, no substances,
there is no reality [Seiendes]; there is only the fluctuating flow of life [Lebensflut],
only the stream of becoming, the ceaseless to-and-fro of its drift; there is nothing enduring, unchanging, permanent everything is in flux. However, our knowledge falsifies reality; it misrepresents the flow as the being of enduring things, fluctuation as
cessation, and transformation of events as standstill. The thing, the substance, is a
fiction, is a power-image of Will to Power, which as Knowledge [Erkenntnis] of
reality subdues, arrests, misrepresents [umlgt], stabilizes becoming, by subordinating
it to the concept. Subsequently, it forgets its violation to the extent that it begins to
believe that it has comprehended reality in its self-produced concepts like substance,
causality, etc. The human being believes in things but there are none; it believes in
Reality [Seiende], but this Reality is its own creation, the conceptual net [Begriffsnetz ] that the human repeatedly casts into the tide of becoming. The world is not the
sum of different and separate things for Nietzsche, coexisting in relation with one another. It does not consists of things at all. [] At the beginning of Knowledge stands
the Original Fall, stands the lie of the conceptual interpretation. [] The Thing is a
human thought-object [Denkegebilde]. [] There is no Knowledge of the Being of
Reality [Seiendheit des Seienden], as Metaphysics has it, because there are no Things whatever, nothing final, no in their finality solidified Things. [] Nietzsches fictional theory of Knowledge is in a decisive sense a negative Ontology of Things: there are no
Things [eine negative Ontologie des Dinges: es gibt keine Dinge].59

59

Fink: Nietzsches Philosophie, loc. cit., pp. 163 165.

A Silent World

43

Reading Fink, we notice that he, in conformity with the general Nietzschereception, does not distinguish between a so-called Ur-ground and Human ground.
As Fink sees it, Becoming and Being is simply a complementary two-fold relationship: a single ground of becoming, complemented by the conceptual falsifications of this ground. In this falsification, the biggest lie of them all is the fabrication of things.60 Fink can therefore conclude es gibt keine Dinge. Although
this statement in itself reiterates statements by Nietzsche to the same effect (for
example: Die Dingheit ist erst von uns geschaffen. Nachla 1887; KSA 12,
9[106]61 Finks interpretation therefore remaining faithful to Nietzsche), standing alone, it is almost incomprehensible in what sense there are no things; and how
Nietzsche could arrive to such a thesis. Things are after all what surround us all
the time, whether asleep or awake. Why would not the massive rock protruding
from the surface of the ground in its undeniable self-presence be a thing? And
why would not the rock be exactly an enduring, permanent, solid thing, rather
than a thing in flux?62
It is here my argument that it is impossible to answer and make sense of
these elementary questions without rethinking Nietzsche within the framework
of Structural Linguistics. Accordingly, it is not the rock as substance that moves
itself around in a world of eternal becoming, it is our impressions of the rock
before the arrival of the sign that moves around in a world of eternal becoming. It is not the rock that needs to be solidified, it is our impressions of the
rock that need solidification. Nietzsches negative ontology of things does not
apply to things as matter and substance, but to things as constituted for a consciousness.

60

61

62

This view echoes Heidegger, who is also seeing the fundamental opposition as between becoming and being, where being, since erecting its truth on the more fundamental ground of becoming, necessarily becomes an illusion: If the world were constantly changing and perishing, if it
had its essence in the most perishable of what perishes and is inconstant, truth in the sense of
what is constant and stable would be a mere fiction and coagulation of what in itself is becoming;
measured against what is becoming such fixating would be inappropriate and merely a distortion. The true as the correct would precisely not conform to Becoming. Truth would then
be incorrectness, error an illusion, albeit a perhaps necessary one. (Heidegger: Nietzsche,
loc. cit., p. 64.)
One may also compare to this passage: The emergence of the thing is entirely the work of the
one representing, thinking, willing, discovering. (Nachla 1885 86; KSA 12, 2[152]).
Commentators lesser than Fink seem oftentimes clueless in regard to this question. One reads
long, and longwinded, accounts of Nietzsches becoming world and non-enduring things by
authors that obviously cannot get past their own pre-theoretical and commonsensical perception of the world. Accounts that have little or no theoretical approach to Nietzsche, applying to
Nietzsche only the impoverished comprehension of the average and ordinary: Yes, the world
changes, but is it not stable in-between the changes? Things dont change all the time; only
sometimes they do! And if nothing else, the commentator can always try to give the trivia an
appearance of logic: If A changes to B, A is still A and B is still B.

44

Peter Bornedal

As such, there are in truth no things. There is (es gibt) only Saussures uncharted nebula, or Hjelmslevs amorphous continuum. Before the sign, rocks
would be only large individual masses, hard to the touch, protruding from everywhere in nature on familiar places or on threatening unfamiliar places. Every
rock would be an individual by the early hominid only known (perhaps! in
truth nobody knows!) by its characteristic individual shape and form. First with
the emergence of the sign, these hard individual substances become one thing, a
universal rock-thing. The rock gains permanence and solidity thanks to something as flimsy and ethereal as the word.

(ii) How Come that Lightning Flashes only in Language?


Sometimes Nietzsche introduces the two relationships, cause-effect and subjectpredicate, as if synonymous. And sometimes the subject-predicate relationship is introduced now as an ontological theme (as what one would strictly call a substanceattribute relation), and now as a linguistic theme (as what one would strictly call a
noun-verb relation). One asks oneself, are these relationships supposed to express
the same thing: cause-effect, subject-predicate, substance-attribute, noun-verb?
It is clear that in all cases, the relationships falsify the world. They express
something, which in itself is one, as two. They double the world in first, an actor,
and then, an action. This implies that in these relationships we encounter the
unique method and logic by which humans humanize the world. A world seen as
only one is fundamentally in-human. To escape this in-humanity, humans invent a
world that is always two.
The world as one, is the world we perceive; the world as surface; the world that
opens itself up to us as hyper-reality; the human ground on which we stand. There is
truly nothing but this appearing world; but, on the other hand, this is intolerable; there must be a reason, a purpose, an intention; there must be something
that gives meaning and explains; there must be a hidden double. Consequently,
the world must be two. The above relationships all express the two.
Every judgment presupposes a deep belief in subject and predicate or in cause and
effect; and the latter belief (that is, the claim that every effect is an activity, and to an
activity one must presuppose an actor) is even only a special case of the former. So the
fundamental belief remains: there exist subjects. I observe something, and look for
a reason for it: this means originally, I am looking for an intention; first and foremost
for someone with an intention, i. e., for a subject, for an actor. (Nachla 1885 86;
KSA 12, 2[83]).

To look for a subject, an intention, in what we observe, is in the epistemological tradition to look for causes. As mentioned above, Nietzsche is taking
Hume a step further. The cause-effect relationship is not to be found as an in-

A Silent World

45

herent objectivity in nature as Hume correctly understood; but Humes epistemological skepticism is still only a special case of our fundamental beliefs in subjects and intentions; that is, our beliefs in life in what is dead. Humes cause-effect
relationship are formed because of habit, but to Nietzsche there is a habit for
that habit, namely our habitual belief in life. The world as one is dead; the world as
two is resurrected and alive. The resurrection is a falsification.
Language stabilizes this misconception. The subject-predicate, or strictly speaking noun-verb, relationship corroborates the idea that for an action there has to be
also an actor. Inherent in our grammatical structure we thus find elementary
metaphysics. Since from early on, we internalize this grammatical structure, we
are by language seduced into thinking the world according to an actor-action
model: I think, I sleep, he expresses, she does, it acts, etc.63
In The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche explains this doubling of the world as
resulting from the seductions of language, and illustrates his idea by a favorite
example to which he returns several times in the Nachla: the lightning flashes
[der Blitz leuchten]. He is discussing how the strong cannot be separated from his
strength, and he adds the following general explanation.
A quantum of force is equal to an identical quantum of drive, will, and effect moreover, it is nothing but exactly this drive, willing, and effect itself; and only because of
the seduction of language [] which understands and misunderstands all action as
conditioned by an actor, by a subject, does this appear otherwise. Exactly like the
people separate the lightning from its flash, and makes the latter a deed, an effect of
a subject they call lightning, so people-morality also separates strength from the expressions of strength, as if behind the strong there were some indifferent substratum,
which had t he f reedom to express itself as strength or not. But there exist no such
substratum; there is no Being behind the deed, the effect, the becoming. The
doer is simply creatively added [hinzugedichtet] to the deed; the deed is everything.
People essentially double the deed when they make the lightning flash; it is a deeddeed; it posits the same occurrence first as cause and then again as its effect. The
scientists are no better, when they say the force moves, the force causes, etc. (GM I,
13; KSA 5, p. 279).

And in the Nachla material, the same idea is expressed.


The predicate expresses an effect, which is brought before us, not the effect in itself.
The sum of the effects is condensed [zusammengefat] into a word. It is a mistake that
the subject is made causa sui mythology of the notion of subject. The lightning
flashes a doubling the effect reifies [verdinglicht ]. [] When I say that the lightning flashes, then I have first taken the lightning as an activity, and then as a subject.
(Nachla 1885 86; KSA 12, 2[78] & 2[84]).

63

Since the noun-verb relation is near universal, elementary metaphysics would seem to be promoted in virtually all languages. (We will have to consult the linguists to know exactly how universal this structure is; and perhaps more interestingly, how people with a language where it does
not apply, perceive the world.)

46

Peter Bornedal

It is clear that the separation of lightning from its flash is seen as a falsification of a reality (here, a hyper-reality) where there is no such separation. When
people thus express themselves about the flashing lightning they invent the lightning first as cause, and then add the flashing as its effect; or more precisely, language as such establishes this cause-effect relation (humans can do no better than
using the language they have; they are as such seduced).
In hyper-reality, when lightning flashes, it only does a single thing ( since the
world is always only one): it makes this characteristic zigzag line on the background of the black sky. This zigzag line is only one. But this is not how we report our perception of the zigzag; language impels us into saying instead that the
lightning flashes, and introduces thus into the zigzag an actor-action relationship. Tacitly, language has introduced an intention into the flash. We ask, who/
what is doing the flashing? And answer, lightning is! And again, what is lightning doing? It is flashing! This linguistic seduction has an unconscious effect
upon the subject, since the lightning is now understood as an actor that does
something, namely lighting up the sky. The zigzag has intention. The world has
been humanized.64
This doubling of the world is, we notice, a formal requirement for the
foundation of science. Only on the condition of such a doubling, the physicist is
capable of asking: Why is lightning doing such a flashing? And first now
can he attempt an answer: This is because ; and then follows a scientific explanation of what kind of actor lightning is. The why could only be asked if there
is more to the zigzag than the zigzag; language postulates this additional layer.
We are now in a position to understand why the subject-predicate relationship
over-determines the cause-effect relationship; why there is an older habit behind
Humes habit.

64

Mller-Lauter too refers to this Nietzschean example on subject-predicate logic, and makes the
following comment: As qualities [the predicates, P. B.] attributed to a fictional entity [the subject, P. B.] wherein they are said to subsist, they are thereby transformed into something apart
from us. We posit this entity as the casual origin of these changes, because we are incapable
of thinking them otherwise. Whenever we say to cite one of Nietzsches favorite examples
lightning flashes, we have within ourselves the state of flashing. Yet we do not stop at this, but
rather invent an extra cause (the lightning) (KSA 12, 2[84]). Through this reification of the effect
we bring about a linguistic doubling (KSA 12, 2 [70]). (Mller-Lauter, Wolfgang: On Judging
in a World of Becoming. In: Babich (ed.): Nietzsche, Epistemology, and Philosophy, loc.
cit., p. 168.) One wonders what precisely is meant by we have within ourselves the state of
flashing? Mller-Lauter appears to repeat here Nietzsches leuchten ist ein Zustand an
uns (KSA 12, 2[84]), what however, does not make the phrase more lucid; lightning obvious
does not flash in our selves! The idea must be that we receive the impression of a flash, or, we see
a zigzag, this being our state! To this we add, invent, an extra cause, although the added
cause is the same as the effect as state that it aspires to explain. See also: Stegmaier: Weltabkrzungskunst, loc. cit.

A Silent World

47

In Nietzsches cold and indifferent world, there is only the zigzag; and this is
confirmed to us, when in pure and unspoiled perception, we gaze into this empty
world as it opens itself up to us as hyper-reality (as appearance and nothing but
appearance). However, we have created a world where this elementary truth
is rejected and denied; a false world where lightning flashes, forces move, and
I think. But in hyper-reality, there are only flashes, movement, and thinking, without something or someone doing the flashing, moving, and thinking.

48

Michael Cowan

MICHAEL COWAN
NICHTS IST SO SEHR ZEITGEMSS ALS WILLENSSCHWCHE
NIETZSCHE AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE WILL

De la vaporisation et de la concentration du moi.


Tout est l.
(Charles Baudelaire: Mon cur mis nu)

Whereas the secondary literature on Nietzsche was once dominated by


poststructuralist philosophical approaches, some of the most innovative recent
research has been concerned with reassessing Nietzsches relation to his more
immediate cultural and discursive contexts. In particular, scholars such as Hans
Erich Lampl, Bettina Wahrig-Schmidt, Robin Small, Anette Horn and Ignace
Haaz have sought to reevaluate the importance, for Nietzsches philosophical
concerns, of his extensive readings in the 19th-century sciences.1 As Andreas Urs
Sommer has argued, in place of strictly theoretical or philosophical readings,
such investigations into Nietzsches more immediate contemporary sources
have sought to probe the historical and cultural stakes of the questions that
his philosophy sought to work through.2 Adopting the latter mode of enquiry,
the present essay seeks to show how an analysis of Nietzsches relation to late
1

See Lampl, Hans Erich: Ex Oblivione: Das Fr-Palimpseste: Noten zur Beziehung Friedrich
Nietzsche-Charles Fr (1857 1907). In: Nietzsche-Studien 15 (1987), pp. 225 264; Lampl,
Hans Erich: Flaire du livre. Friedrich Nietzsche und Thodule Ribot, eine Trouvaille
1887 1987: Hundert Jahre Genealogie der Moral. Zrich 1988; Wahrig-Schmidt, Bettina:
Irgendwie, jedenfalls physiologisch: Friedrich Nietzsche, Alexander Herzen (fils) und Charles
Fr 1888. in: Nietzsche-Studien 17 (1989), pp. 434 464. Small, Robin (ed.): Nietzsche in Context. Aldershot, UK 2001; Horn, Anette: Nietzsches Begriff der dcadence. Kritik und Analyse der
Moderne. Frankfurt am Main 2002; Haaz, Ignace: Les conceptions du corps chez Ribot et
Nietzsche. partrir des Fragments posthumes de Nietzsche, de la Revue philosophique de la France et de
ltranger et de la Recherche-Nietzsche. Paris 2002.
See Sommer, Andreas Urs: Vom Nutzen und Nachteil kritischer Quellenforschung. Einige
berlegungen zum Fall Nietzsches. In: Nietzsche-Studien 29 (2000), pp. 303 316. Quellenforschung [stellt] das scheinbar Zeitlose in seinen Entstehungszusammenhang und [raubt] ihm
damit seine erdrckende berzeitlichkeit, eben seine Monumentalitt. Kritische Quellenforschung rekonstruiert den Verstehenshorizont, innerhalb dessen bestimmte Fragen und bestimmte Antworten auftauchen. Diese Fragen bestehen ebensowenig wie ihre Antworten rein
fr sich; sie werden nicht direkt vom Ideenhimmel gepflckt. Nur wer das glaubt, kann Quellenforschung mit philosophischer Verachtung bergehen. Freilich wre ein solcher ahistorischer
Idealismus kaum mehr einer Richtung anschlussfhig (ibid., p. 314).

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

49

19th-century psychology can help to illuminate one of the key concepts of his late
philosophy: that of the will. Hans Erich Lampl and Ignace Haaz have already
laid the groundwork for such an investigation with their research on Nietzsches
readings in French psychology and in particular, Nietzsches reception of the
writings of Thodule Ribot and the group surrounding Ribots journal La revue
philosophique de la France et de ltranger.3 Building on their work, I wish above all to
explore some of the broader cultural questions that Nietzsches turn toward the
psychology of the will sought to answer.4 While Nietzsches borrowings from
medical literature certainly functioned to bestow authority upon his philosophy
by recourse to one of the dominant explanatory paradigms of the late 19th century, he did not simply repeat or apply verbatim the model of the will he found
there. Rather, Nietzsche transformed this model into a tool for a much broader
sort of cultural critique; in particular, beginning with Jenseits von Gut und Bse
(1885/6), Nietzsche increasingly employed the model of the healthy and pathological will articulated in Ribots work as a master metaphor for describing
the process of social leveling characteristic of democratic societies and modern
mass culture.

I. From Wille zur Macht to Willensschwche


Any investigation into the role of the will in Nietzsches late philosophy must
begin with his concept of the will to power as outlined in part two of Jenseits
von Gut und Bse. There, Nietzsche sought specifically to oppose a dualistic and
mechanistic model of the will stemming from rationalist psychology and decidedly outdated by the late 19th century as a strictly spiritual agency, existing
separately from matter and acting causally upon the latter. The will, Nietzsche
insisted, does not act upon the bodys organic material from the outside, but
rather inhabits the latter through and through; moreover, the will always exists
within a relation of forces, acting not upon matter (since it is part of the latter),
but rather upon other wills:
Wille kann natrlich nur auf Wille wirken und nicht auf Stoffe (nicht auf
Nerven zum Beispiel ): genug, man muss die Hypothese wagen, ob nicht berall,
wo Wirkungen anerkannt werden, Wille auf Wille wirkt und ob nicht alles mechanische Geschehen, insofern eine Kraft darin thtig wird, eben Willenskraft, Willens3

See Lampl: Flaire du livre, loc. cit.; Haaz: Les conceptions du corps chez Ribot et Nietzsche,
loc. cit.
Quellenforschung ist [] der Versuch, jene Fragen zu rekonstruieren, auf die der Text antwortet Fragen, die unserer eigenen, verspteten und verschobenen Lektren wegen nicht mehr
(sozusagen von selbst) unsere eigenen Fragen sind (Sommer: Vom Nutzen und Nachteil kritischer Quellenforschung, loc. cit., p. 306).

50

Michael Cowan

Wirkung ist. Gesetzt endlich, dass es gelnge, unser gesamtes Triebleben als die
Ausgestaltung und Verzweigung einer Grundform des Willens zu erklren nmlich
des Willens zur Macht, wie es mein Satz ist ; gesetzt, dass man alle organischen
Funktionen auf diesen Willen zur Macht zurckfhren knnte [], so htte man
damit sich das Recht verschafft, alle wirkende Kraft eindeutig zu bestimmen als:
Wille z u r Ma cht. ( JGB 36, KSA 5, p. 55)

Nietzsches critique of causal models of the will in which a purely mental


agency would influence matter from the outside takes up a prominent strand
in the thought on the will at the time, which would find its culminating expression
in Hugo Mnsterbergs critique of causal models in his study Die Willenshandlung
(1888).5 More significantly, however, Nietzsches insistence on seeing the will not
as a separate intellectual category but rather as a force inhabiting all organic
activity (instincts, drives, passions, etc.) takes up a key component of the model
of the will laid out by Wilhelm Wundt in his Grundzge der physiologischen Psychologie
(1873/4). Among 19th-century psychologists, Wundts theory of the will was
famous precisely for seeing all organic and psychic functions as more or less
complex expressions of a basic form of will at the origin of all physiological
and psychic activity. As he later described it in his Grundriss der Psychologie (1896):
Die Annahme eines aus rein intellektuellen Erwgungen entspringenden
Wollens, einer Willensentscheidung im Gegensatz zu allen in Gefhlen zum
Ausdruck kommenden Neigungen, usw. schliet [] einen psychologischen Widerspruch in sich.6 For Wundt, as for Nietzsche, all of the bodys activity, from
the most basic instinctual reactions to processes of complex decision-making,

See Mnsterberg, Hugo: Die Willenshandlung. Freiburg im Breisgau 1888. Mnsterberg argued
that the conscious state which individuals tend to identify as the act of willing (in the belief
that the latter could cause material transformations) constituted nothing more than a belated byproduct of the bodys automatic organic processes. More specifically, the sensation of willing
(in the sense of thought acting upon matter) resulted from a metaleptic reversal; having experienced passive kinaesthetic sensations resulting from involuntary muscle reactions, the subject recalled these sensations at the moment at which similar stimuli were about to unleash similar reactions and mistakenly interpreted them as the cause of the movement: Psychisch ausgedrckt,
die Wahrnehmung des Reizes muss durch Association die Erinnerungsvorstellung der entsprechenden Bewegungsempfindung auslsen, noch ehe dieselbe von der vollzogenen Bewegung selbst erzeugt ist. [] In [dieser
Association], als dem konstanten Signal der Bewegung, das zugleich inhaltlich der Bewegung
entspricht, glauben wir nun unwillkrlich auch die Ursache derselben zu sehen: das ist der Typus
der Willenshandlung, aus dem sich alle anderen Formen entwickeln lassen (ibid., p. 145).
Readers of Nietzsche will recognize this notion of psychological reversal as a familiar theme
from Nietzsches own writings, which would occupy a central place in his analysis of the problem
of the agent the deed and responsibility in Zur Genealogie der Moral (see GM I, 13, KSA 5,
pp. 279 80).
Wundt, Wilhelm: Grundriss der Psychologie. 9th ed. Leipzig 1909, p. 223. See also p. 228:
Ein durch rein intellektuelle Motive bestimmtes, vllig affektloses Wollen ist daher, wie schon
oben [] bemerkt, ein psychologisch unmglicher Begriff. Wundt saw his doctrine of the will
specifically as a critique of the classical, rationalist model of Vermgenspsychologie, which saw the
will as a faculty external to the bodys physiological processes (ibid., p. 233).

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

51

are modalities of a basic form of willing. What separates complex decisions


(what Wundt calles Wahlhandlungen) from simple instinctual reactions
(Triebhandlungen in Wundts vocabulary) is not any added faculty of causality,
but rather an increase in complexity; while instinctual reactions follow upon a
single motive (such as eating upon hunger), decision-making results from what
Wundt calls a struggle of motives, in which one motive must gain dominance
and impose its direction on all the others:
Sobald ein Kampf solcher widerstreitender Motive deutlich wahrnehmbar der Handlung vorausgeht, nennen wir die Willkrhandlung speziell eine Wahlhandlung und den
ihr vorangehenden Proze einen Wahlvorgang. Ein Herrschendwerden eines Motivs
ber andere gleichzeitig mit ihm gegebene ist berhaupt nur unter der Voraussetzung
eines Kampfes der Motive verstndlich.7

Chart illustrating progression from instinctual reactions to complex decision-making.


From Wundt, Grundriss der Psychologie.

If Wundts struggle of motives appears reminiscent of Nietzsches struggle


of wills, this is hardly by chance. Like Wundt, Nietzsches model of the will to
power sought, first and foremost, to identify a struggle taking place within the
individual.8 One sees this clearly in an early entry from part one of Jenseits
von Gut und Bse, where Nietzsche insisted against the rational psychologists
on seeing the will as a complex psycho-physiological phenomenon: Wollen
scheint mir vor Allem etwas C o mplici r t es, Etwas, das nur als Wort eine Einheit ist, und eben im Einen Worte steckt das Volks-Vorurtheil, das ber die allzeit nur geringe Vorsicht der Philosophen Herr geworden ist ( JGB 19, KSA 5,
p. 32). In particular, Nietzsche argued that any complex act of willing involves
an inner coordination, one in which the inner struggle of wills results in a clear
demarcation of commanding and obeying elements within one and the same
organism:

7
8

Ibid., p. 225.
This model was, in fact, widespread. As Haaz and others have shown, Nietzsches notion of
a struggle within the individual was also largely influenced by his reading of Paul Rouxs
Der Kampf der Theile im Organismus. Ein Beitrag zur Vervollstndigung der mechanischen Zwecksmigkeitslehre (1881). See Haaz: Les conceptions du corps chez Ribot et Nietzsche, loc. cit., pp. 41 44.

52

Michael Cowan

Ein Mensch, der will , befiehlt einem Etwas in sich, das gehorcht oder von dem
er glaubt, dass es gehorcht. [] Der Wollende nimmt dergestalt die Lustgefhle der
ausfhrenden, erfolgreichen Werkzeuge, der dienstbaren Unterwillen oder UnterSeelen unser Leib ist ja nur ein Gesellschaftsaufbau vieler Seelen zu einem Lustgefhle als Befehlender hinzu. Leffet cest moi: es begiebt sich hier, was sich in jedem
gut gebauten und glcklichen Gemeinwesen begiebt, dass die regierenden Klasse sich
mit den Erfolgen des Gemeinwesens identificirt. Bei allem Wollen handelt es sich
schlechterdings um Befehlen und Gehorchen, auf der Grundlage, wie gesagt, eines
Gesellschaftsbaus vieler Seelen: weshalb ein Philosoph sich das Recht nehmen
sollte, Wollen an sich schon unter den Gesichtskreis der Moral zu fassen: Moral nmlich als Lehre von den Herrschafts-Verhltnissen verstanden, unter denen das Phnomen Leben entsteht. ( JGB 19, KSA 5, pp. 32 33).

There are two central points of interest in this passage. First, recalling the
critiques of Wundt and Mnsterberg, Nietzsche sees any notion of a unitary subject as an illusion. Although the willing subject identifies himself with the commanding will to power within himself, that commanding will can only exist in a
structural relation with all of the other forces in the body that submit to its dictates (the Unterwillen in Nietzsches telling choice of terms); in actuality, the
individual is not synonymous with that commanding will, but rather comprises
the conglomerate sum of all of these struggling forces. That said, however,
one should not conclude that Nietzsche was promoting a pluralistic understanding of subjectivity in any poststructuralist sense. Despite the illusory nature
of the willing subjects identification only with the commanding part of himself,
Nietzsche still holds up this configuration as a model for the correct functioning
of a healthy will. If the individual houses a multiplicity, one might say, Nietzsche
is still thoroughly convinced of the need for gaining a unity of goal and direction
through the hierarchical coordination of organic and psychological forces.9
The second point which I will explore further below is that this model of
the good will always functions, in Nietzsches later writings, as both an individual
and a social model; as Nietzsches own description of the body as a society of
souls implies, his philosophy of the will is always already a philosophy of the
good social order (in jedem gut gebauten und glcklichen Gemeinwesen).
And the central characteristic of such a well ordered and successful social
formation, for Nietzsche, is precisely the clarity of roles between commanding
9

See for example the following notebook entry from 1885: Kampf der Atome, wie der Individuen, aber, bei gewisser Strkeverschiedenheit wird aus zwei Atomen Eins, und aus zwei Individuen Eins. Ebenso umgekehrt aus Eins werden zwei, wenn der innere Zustand eine Disgregation des Macht-Centrums bewerkstelligt. Also g eg en den absoluten Begriff Atom und
Individuum! Das Atom kmpft um seinen Zustand, aber andere Atome greifen es an, um ihre
Kraft zu vermehren. Beide Prozesse: den der Auflsung und den der Verdichtung als Wirkung en des Willens zur Macht zu begreifen. Bis in seine kleinsten Fragmente hinein hat er den
Willen, sich zu verdichten. Aber er wird g e z wung e n, um sich irgendwohin zu verdichten,
an anderer Stelle sich zu verdnnen usw. Weltkrper und Atome nur grenverschieden, aber
g lei ch e Geset ze (Nachla 1885, KSA 11, 43[2]).

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

53

and obeying instances, which is the single criteria for what he here calls, in the
language of contemporary psychology, the state of pleasure (Lust-Zustand)
accompanying all acts of successful willing. That state of pleasure does not result
from any freedom of the will in the rational sense, but rather from the clear demarcation of commanding and obeying wills.
Indeed, despite Nietzsches attacks on conventional (Christian and bourgeois) morality in Jenseits von Gut und Bse, his call to examine the act of willing
under the lens of morality in the passage cited above contains not a trace of
irony. Rather, Nietzsche was suggesting an alternative version of morality as the
doctrine of correct relations of force under which the phenomenon of life
might thrive (die Lehre von den Herrschafts-Verhltnissen, [] unter denen
das Phnomen Leben entsteht); at stake, in Nietzsche model of the will, is
precisely an effort to articulate the conditions and power relations both within
individual subjects and within social formations propitious to the thriving of
life. In what follows, I would like to explore the stakes of Nietzsches normative
model of the will as a model both for individual and social relations of force.
One can better understand exactly what this normative model entailed by
examining the late Nietzsches increasing interest in the contemporary medical
discussion of the wills pathologies. Heute, Nietzsche wrote in a later passage
from Jenseits von Gut und Bse criticizing the moral ideals of sympathy and
altruistic self-sacrifice, schwcht und verdnnt der Zeitgeschmack und die
Zeittugend den Willen, Nichts ist so sehr zeitgemss als Willensschwche: also
muss, im Ideale des Philosophen, gerade Strke des Willens, Hrte und Fhigkeit
zu langen Entschliessungen in den Begriff Grsse hineingehren ( JGB 212,
KSA 5, p. 146). From the time of Jenseits von Gut und Bse on, Nietzsche made
the notion of the weak or impaired will (Willensschwche, Willensverlust,
Willenslhmung, etc.) into a centerpiece of his philosophy. As he would
explain in the opening section of his 1888 study Gtzendmmerung (once again
arguing for a realignment of morality and hygiene): Jeder Fehler in jedem Sinne
ist die Folge von Instikt-Entartung, von Disgregation des Willens: man definirt
beinahe damit das Schlech t e (GD VI 2, KSA 6, p. 90).
This concern with the pathological will took up one of the key concepts of
the latest psychological theories to emerge from the research into nervous disorders in the late 19th century. In particular, as Lampl and Haaz have both argued, Nietzsche largely adopted his model of the pathological will from the work
of the French physiologist and psychologist Thodule Ribot, whose seminal
study Les maladies de la volont (1883) had appeared only two years before Jenseits
von Gut und Bse. Like Wundt, Ribot subscribed to an evolutionary model of the
will stretching from automatic drives and reflexes to complex acts of decisionmaking. What distinguished the highest evolutionary stage from the lowest was
not any additional source of motor action which always derived, for Ribot,

54

Michael Cowan

from automatic drives and reflexes but rather the ability to coordinate various
bodily reactions toward the attainment of a single goal; acting as a kind of steering mechanism among possible reactions, the higher will functioned to impose
unity on the subjects actions by allowing certain reactions to take place and,
more crucially, inhibiting others: [La volition] est aussi une puissance darrt, ou,
pour parler la langue de physiologie, un pouvoir dinhibition.10 The will thus imposed what Ribot called a hierarchical coordination upon the bodys drives
and instincts, subordinating certain reactions to the favor of others: On peut
donc dire que [la volont] a pour condition fondamentale une coordination hirarchique, [] une coordination avec subordination, telle que tout converge vers
un point unique: le but atteindre.11 For Ribot, such a capacity for hierarchical
coordination on the psychic plane depended upon the preexistence of an inner
state of organic unity he called character; it was this organic unity, he argued,
that constituted the real secret of productive, resolute and strong-willed men
throughout history;
La coordination la plus parfaite est celle des plus hautes volonts, des grands actifs,
quel que soit lordre de leur activit: Csar, ou Michel-Ange, ou saint Vincent de Paul.
Elle se rsume en quelque mots: unit, stabilit, puissance. Lunit extrieure de leur
vie est dans lunit de leur but, toujours poursuivi. [] Mais cette unit extrieure
nest elle-mme que lexpression dune unit intrieure, celle de leur caractre. Cest
parce quils restent les mmes que leur but reste le mme. [] Ils offrent le type dune
vie toujours daccord avec elle-mme, parce que chez eux tout conspire, converge et
consent.12

The healthy will thus constituted the psychic expression of a healthy state of
hierarchical coordination within the subjects very physiological constitution.
Pathology of the will, on the other hand, occurred whenever this state of organic unity and its corresponding psychic coordination broke down. Building on
the work of the English psychiatrist John Hughling Jackson (Evolution and Dissolution of the Nervous System, 1884), Ribot famously attributed will impairments to a
reversal of the evolutionary process, or a state of dissolution.13 Above all, what
10

11
12

13

Ribot, Thodule: Les maladies de la volont. 14th ed. Paris 1900, p. 13. See also p. 14: La doctrine courante admet que la volont est un fiat auquel les muscles obissent on ne sait comment.
Dans cette hypothse, il importe peu que le fiat commande un mouvement ou un arrt. Mais si
lon admet, avec tous le physiologistes contemporains, que le rflexe est le type et la base de toute
action, et si, par consquent, il ny a pas lieu de chercher pourquoi un tat de conscience se transforme en mouvement puisque cest la loi il faut expliquer pourquoi il ne se transforme pas.
Ibid., p. 153.
Ibid., pp. 173 174. See also p. 179: La coordination a pour facteur principal le caractre, qui
nest que lexpression psychique dun organisme individuel.
Ibid., p. 1. On the origins of the notion of evolution and dissolution of the nervous system, see
Lampl: Flaire du livre, loc. cit., p. 53. In fact, Ribot employed the figure of dissolution to explain
most psychic pathologies, as one can read in his earlier works Les maladies de la mmoire (1881) and
Les maladies de la personnalit (1885).

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

55

this process entailed was the loss of a healthy faculty of inhibition,14 so that the
unity of character dissolved into a chaotic state of discordant bodily reactions
with no clear direction or tendency: toutes [les pathologies de la volont] se
rduisent cette formule: absence de coordination hirarchique, action indpendante, irrgulire, isole, anarchique.15 Although Ribot saw the rudiments
of this anarchic condition in what he called the irresolute character,16 it
found its ideal type and its ultimate pathological expression in the figure of the
hysteric. As the most extreme example of evolutionary regression, the hysteric,
in Ribots understanding, lacked even the most rudimentary capacity for selfcontrol through the power of inhibition.17 Unable to impose any hierarchical
order onto her competing reflexes, reactions and drives, hysterics thus represented the quintessential embodiment of psychic dissolution; and here, too,
Ribot saw this psychic state is the expression of a physiology in disarray:
Nous appelons une volont ferme celle dont le but, quelle quen soit la nature, est
fixe. [] Sa stabilit traduit la permanence du caractre de lindividu. Si le mme but
reste choisi, agr, cest quau fond lindividu reste le mme. Supposons au contraire
un organisme fonctions instables, dont lunit qui nest quun consensus est sans
cesse dfaite et refaite sur un nouveau plan, suivant la variation brusque des fonctions
qui la composent; il est clair quen pareil cas le choix peut peine natre, ne peut durer,
14

15
16

17

Although Ribot allowed for a form of will pathology involving a lack of drive (rather than a lack
of inhibition), he argued that the overwhelming majority of cases involved what he called les
impulsions irrsistibles qui, elles seules, reprsentent la pathologie de la volont presque entire
(Ribot: Les maladies de la volont, loc. cit., p. 153).
Ibid., pp. 153 154.
Lirrsolution, qui est un commencement dtat morbide, a des causes intrieures que la pathologie nous fera comprendre. [] La volition [] est un tat dfinitif: elle clt le dbat. [] Chez
les natures changeantes, ce dfinitif est toujours provisoire, cest--dire que le moi voulant est un
compos si instable que le plus insignifiant tat de conscience, en surgissant, le modifie, le fait
autre. Le compos form chaque instant na aucune force de rsistance linstant qui suit. Dans
cette somme dtats conscients et inconscients qui, chaque instant, reprsentent les causes de la
volition, la part du caractre individuel est un minimum, la part des circonstances extrieures un
maximum. Nous retombons dans cette forme infrieue de la volont tudie plus haut qui consiste en un laissez faire (ibid., pp. 35 36).
Recapitulating his entire evolutionary model of the will, Ribot explains the hysterics capricious and unpredictable nature as the result of an inability to inhibit the bodily reactions resulting from the drives and passions: Si nous prenons une personne adulte, doue dune volont
moyenne, nous remarquerons que son activit (cest--dire son pouvoir de produire des actes)
forme en gros trois tages: au plus bas, les actes automatiques, rflexes simples ou composs,
habitudes; au-dessus, les actes produits par les sentiments, les motions et les passions; plus haut,
les actes raisonnables. Ce dernier tage suppose les deux autres, repose sur eux et par consquent
en dpend, quoiquil leur donne la coordination et lunit. Les caractres capricieux, dont lhystrique est le type nont que les deux formes infrieures; la troisime est comme atrophie.
[] La tendance des sentiments et des passions se traduire en actes est doublement forte: par
elle-mme et parce quil ny a rien au-dessus delle qui lenraye et lui fasse contre-poids. [] [L]es
dsirs, ns promptement, immdiatement satisfaits, laissent la place libre dautres, analogues
ou opposs, au gr des variations perptuelles de lindividu. Il ny a plus que des caprices, tout au
plus des vellits, une bauche de la volition (ibid., p. 121).

56

Michael Cowan

et quil ny a plus que des vellits et des caprices. Cest ce qui advient chez lhystrique. Linstabilit est un fait. [] Lanesthsie des sens spciaux ou de la sensibilit
gnrale, les hyperesthsies, les dsordres de la motilit, contractures, convulsions,
paralysies, les troubles des fonctions organiques, vaso-motrices, scrtoires, etc., qui
se succdent ou coexistent, tiennent lorganisme en tat perptuel dquilibre instable,
et le caractre qui nest que lexpression psychique de lorganisme varie de mme. Un
caractre stable sur des bases chancelantes serait un miracle. Nous trouvons donc ici
la vraie cause de limpuissance de la volont tre, et cette impuissance est, comme
nous lavons dit, constitutionnelle.18

If the healthy will constituted the psychic expression of an inner organic


unity, then, the diseased will, as represented by the mental state of the hysteric,
was defined above all by the dissolution of hierarchical order.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact of Ribots study, which went
through some 36 editions between 1883 and 1931. Ribots theory of the will as a
hierarchical coordination of bodily reactions and drives provided the basis for
most subsequent discussions of will pathology, including those of such figures as
William James in the United States19 and Pierre Janet in France whose descriptions of hysteria as a dissociation of consciousness into multiple personalities
were most certainly inspired by Ribots model of psychic pathology as a process
of dissolution of the subjects hierarchical unity.20 For his part, Nietzsche might
have gained access to such models through his subscription to Ribots Revue philosophique de la France et de ltranger, one of the premiere forums for the latest research into hysteria, neurasthenia and other nervous disorders by French physiologists and psychologists, which published early printings of all of the passages
from Les maladies de la volont that I cited above, as well as Janets work on dissociation.21 As Lampl demonstrates, Nietzsches interest in Ribots Revue forms
18
19

20

21

Ibid., pp. 122 123.


See for example Jamess discussion of the explosive will in James, William: Principles of Psychology. Dover Publications 1950, vol. II, p. 539.
Janets model of dissociation can be found in his study Ltat mental des hystriques (Paris
1892 1894). See also Janets introduction to his 1893 study Lautomatisme psychologique. Essai de
psychologie exprimentale sur les formes infrieures de lactivit humaine (Paris 1893), where he lays out a
theory of the self similar to that of Ribot: Ce sont presque toujours les formes les plus leves
de lactivit humaine, la volont, la rsolution, le libre arbitre, qui ont t tudies par les philosophes. On sintressait naturellement aux manifestations de lactivit quil tait le plus utile de
connatre pour comprendre la conduite des hommes, leur responsabilit et la valeur morale de
leurs actions. [] Cest lactivit humaine dans ses formes les plus simples, les plus rudimentaires, qui fera
lobjet de cette tude. Cette activit lmentaire, soit quelle ait t constate chez les animaux,
soit quelle ait t tudie chez lhomme mme par les mdecins alinistes, a t dsigne par le
nom quil faut lui conserver, celui dactivit automatique (pp. 1 2).
See Ribot, Thodule: Lanantissement de la volont. In: Revue philosophique de la France et de
ltranger 15 ( January to June 1883), pp. 134 169; Janet, Pierre: Lanesthsie systmatise et la
dissociation des phnomnes psychologiques. In: Revue philosophique de la France et de
ltranger 23 ( January-June 1887), pp. 449 472. On the evidence of Nietzsches familiarity with
the journal, see Haaz: La conception du corps chez Ribot et Nietzsche, loc. cit., p. 81.

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

57

part of a turn, beginning in the mid-1880s, toward the contemporary French


medical discourse, a turn that marked the entry of certain key medical terms,
such as dcadence and Degenerescenz, into his philosophical vocabulary.22
Printing contributions by medical theorists such as Ribot and Janet alongside
those of philosophers such as Henri Guyau, Alfred Fouille and Henri Bergson,
moreover, Ribots Revue also provided a model for one of Nietzsches central
undertakings in his late work: that of incorporating into philosophy the latest
findings of pathological medicine; in this sense, Nietzsches readings in French
medicine were crucial, as both Lampl and Haaz have suggested, to his efforts
forge a philosophy of the body. In what follows, I would like to investigate
more thoroughly the precise role played by Ribots model of the pathological will
in Nietzsches late cultural critique.

II. Culture as Expression of the Will


In a passage from Nietzsches 1888 notebooks, one can read the following interpretation of moral phenomena:
Wir wissen heute, die moralische Degenerescenz nicht mehr abgetrennt von der
physiologischen zu denken: sie ist ein bloer Symptom-Complex der letzteren;
!man" ist nothwendig schlecht, wie man nothwendig krank ist Schlecht: das Wort
drckt hier gewisse U nve r m g en aus, die physiologisch mit dem Typus der Degenerescenz verbunden sind: z.B. die Schwche des Willens, die Unsicherheit und selbst
Mehrheit der Person, die Ohnmacht, auf irgend einen Reiz hin die Reaktion auszusetzen und sich zu beherrschen [] (Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 14[113])

This passage is significant in this context for at least two reasons. First, like
Ribot, Nietzsche espoused the view that psychological and intellectual phenomena were largely dependent upon bodily states.23 More broadly, one can say that
the late Nietzsches turn toward medical theory coincided with a interpretive
schema in which culture appeared as the expression of physiology moral depravity, in the above example, appearing as a function of physiological degeneracy, and specifically of the dissolution of the will. Secondly, as it appears in the
above example, Nietzsches understanding of will pathology (die Schwche
des Willens) clearly derives from Ribots model and incorporates its two central
elements: on the one hand, the notion of the weak-willed subjects inability to
exert self-control through the inhibition of bodily reactions (the inability not to
22

23

Nietzsche himself consistently underscored the French provenance of these terms by including
the accent (dcadence) and avoiding German variants (such as Entartung for Degenerescenz).
See Lampl: Flaire du livre, loc. cit.
For more on Nietzsches understanding of the physiological basis of cultural and intellectual
phenomena, see Horn: Nietzsches Begriff der dcadence, loc. cit., pp. 111 169.

58

Michael Cowan

react to stimuli) and, on the other, the dissolution of the weak-willed subjects organic coordination and corresponding character (die Mehrheit der Person).
In his late writings, Nietzsche increasingly employed both of these figures of
will pathology as tools of his cultural critique. For example, he repeatedly interpreted the altruistic moral precepts of Christianity (along with their secular variants in post-Enlightenment bourgeois society) as the cultural expression of a
pathological physiological state defined by a lack of inhibition and corresponding
state of nervous excitability.24 As Nietzsche explained in one late notebook entry:
[] man verliert die Widerst a n ds-Kraft gegen die Reize, man wird bedingt durch
die Zuflle: man vergrbert und vergrert die Erlebnisse ins Ungeheure eine
Entpersnlichung, eine Disgregation des Willens dahin gehrt eine ganze Art
Moral, die altruistische, welche das Mitleiden im Munde fhrt: an der das Wesentliche
die Schwche der Persnlichkeit ist, so da sie mitklingt und wie eine berreizte
Saite bestndig zittert eine extreme Irritabilitt (Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 17[6])25

Certainly, the notion of the hypersensitive (irritable) subject formed a


longstanding topos of modern pathological medicine, and was hardly unique to
Ribots theory;26 here, Nietzsches comparison of the sympathetic subject to an
excited musical string recalls the vocabulary of sensibility (Empfindsamkeit)
from the 18th century.27 But Nietzsches depiction of the subjects inability to resist the influence of stimuli as a symptom of Willensschwche does point to a specific late-19th century discourse on nervousness and the diseases of the will, and
in particular to Ribots model of a faulty faculty of inhibition.
If the morality of altruism found its explanation in a physiological disorder
of the mechanism of inhibition for the late Nietzsche, so too did the other great

24

25

26
27

On Nietzsches pathological reading of Christianity, see Horn: Nietzsches Begriff der dcadence,
loc. cit., pp. 229 273.
Nietzsche used the same physiological explanation to account for the rise of pessimism (and the
popularity of Schopenhauer) in fin-de-sicle Europe: Die Hauptarten des Pessimismus: der Pessimismus der Sen sibilitt (die berreizbarkeit mit einem bergewicht der Unlustgefhle). Der
Pessimismus des u nf r eien Willen s (anders gesagt: der Mangel an Hemmungskrften gegen
die Reize). Der Pessimismus des Z weifels (: die Scheu vor allem Festen, vor allem Fassen und
Anrhren) die dazugehrigen psychologischen Zustnde kann man allesammt im Irrenhause
beobachten, wenn auch in einer gewissen bertreibung. Insgleichen den Nihilismus (das
durchbohrende Gefhl des Nichts) (Nachla 1887/1888, KSA 13, 11[228]).
See Sarasin, Philip: Reizbare Maschinen. Frankfurt am Main 2001.
In his famous Abhandlung ber den Ursprung der Sprachen (1772), for example, Johann Gottfried
Herder took constant recourse to the metaphor of sympathetic instruments in harmony to describe human communication, as in the following passage: Je harmonischer das empfindsame
Saitenspiel selbst bei Tieren mit anderen Tieren gewebt ist, desto mehr fhlen selbst diese
miteinander: ihre Nerven kommen in eine gleichmssige Spannung, ihre Seele in einen gleichmssigen Ton, sie leiden wrkilich mechanisch mit. Und welche Sthlung seiner Fibern! Welche
Macht, alle ffnungen seiner Empfindsamkeit zu verstopfen, gehrt dazu, dass ein Mench hiergegen taub und hart werde! (Herder, Johann Gottfried: Abhandlung ber den Ursprung der
Sprachen. Ed. Hans D. Irmscher. Stuttgart 1996, pp. 14).

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

59

Christian virtue: asceticism. On the surface, the latter reading might seem
counter-intuitive, insofar as the ascetic was often held up as a paragon of will
power because of his seeming ability to resist the urges of the body. But
Nietzsche increasingly interpreted the cultivation of ascetic practices in precisely
the opposite sense: i. e., as supplemental techniques of bodily discipline designed
to compensate for the subjects inherent incapacity to inhibit the bodys impulses;
for Nietzsche, the premium placed on ascetic behavior in Western culture since
late Antiquity functioned as a demonstration not of physiological strength (i. e.,
the ability to resist temptations), but rather as an effort to cover over physiological degeneracy. As he described it in his critique of Christianity in the section of
Gtzendmmerung entitled Moral als Widernatur:
Dasselbe Mittel, Verschneidung, Ausrottung, wird instinktiv im Kampfe mit einer
Begierde von Denen gewhlt, welche zu willensschwach, zu degenerirt sind, um sich
ein Maass in ihr auflegen zu knnen. [] Die radikalen Mittel sind nur den Degenerirten unentbehrlich; die Schwche des Willens, bestimmter geredet, die Unfhigkeit,
auf einen Reiz n i cht zu reagiren, ist selbst bloss eine andre Form der Degenerescenz.
Die radikale Feindschaft, die Todfeindschaft gegen die Sinnlichkeit bleibt ein nachdenkliches Symptom: man ist damit zu Vermuthungen ber den Gesammt-Zustand
eines dergestalt Excessiven berechtigt. (GD Moral als Widernatur 2, KSA 6, p. 83)

Techniques of asceticism, then, merely acted to cover over asceticisms opposite: the inability to control sensations and bodily reactions from within.
In his late works, Nietzsche repeatedly employed this model of a pathological
lack of inhibition in order to analyze cultural-historical phenomena. For instance, his critique of disinterested aesthetic contemplation specifically in its
Schopenhauerian variant turned on the same basic argument. Schopenhauers
attempt to escape the will into a realm free of the bodys drives, urges and desires
constituted a reaction to his own inability to impose order on his primary impulses. Indeed, if Schopenhauer took such a negative view of the will, this is because, lacking a healthy faculty of inhibition, he saw the will as synonymous with
the bodys instincts, drives and passions in their primary state. As Nietzsche described it in a notebook entry from 1887:
Schopenhauers Grundmiverstndni des Willens (wie als ob Begierde, Instinkt,
Trieb das Wesentliche am Willen sei) ist typisch: Wertherniedrigung des Willens
bis zur Verkmmerung. Insgleichen Ha gegen das Wollen; Versuch, in dem Nichtmehr-wollen, im Subjekt sein ohne Ziel und Absicht (im reinen willensfreien
Subjekt) etwas Hheres, ja da s Hhere, das Werthvolle zu sehen. Groes Symptom
der E r m dung, oder der Schw che des Willen s: denn dieser ist ganz eigentlich
das, was die Begierde als Herr behandelt, ihr Weg und Maa weist (Nachla 1887,
KSA 12, 9[169])

Where Schopenhauer identified the will with the bodys primary urges,
Nietzsche, as a student of Ribot, saw it as the commanding principle of unity that
should impose order on all of these chaotic impulses (ihr Weg und Maa weist).

60

Michael Cowan

Like the priests flight into ascetic religious practices, Schopenhauers flight from
the body into a neo-Kantian aesthetics of disinterested (i. e. will-less) contemplation reveals, symptomatically, precisely what it attempts to cover up: the inability to resist stimuli or control ones own bodily processes.28
But if Nietzsche took his concept of a failure in inhibition from the scientific
discourse on will pathologies, his interest in that discourse focused above all on
the model of psychic and organic dissolution of the personality described by
Ribot; indeed, like Ribot, Nietzsche saw the two symptoms as parts of one and
the same physiological condition. From the mid-1880s on, Nietzsche returned
again and again, in both his notebooks and publications, to a model of an organism in dissolution. Thus in one notebook entry from early 1888, he explained:
Die Vielheit und Disgregation der Antriebe, der Mangel an System unter ihnen
resultirt als schwacher Wille; die Coordination derselben unter der Vorherrschaft eines einzelnen resultirt als starker Wille; im ersteren Falle ist es das
Oscilliren und der Mangel an Schwergewicht; im letzteren die Prcision und
Klarheit der Richtung (Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 14[219]). Here, too, one could
say that Ribot and the theorists of will pathology hardly had a monopoly on the
anxiety about psychic dissolution in the 19th century, but the very frequency with
which Nietzsche employs the vocabulary of Disgregation29 already suggests
28

29

Nietzsche offers a similar critique of Socrates in Gtzendmmerung. There, Socrates turn toward
the dialectic and rational thought no longer figures as a metaphysical reaction to Dionysian
pessimism (as it did in Die Geburt der Tragdie), but rather as a defense mechanism aimed specifically at suppressing Socratess own physiological degeneration: Die Vernnftigkeit wurde damals errathen als Retterin, es stand weder Sokrates, noch seinen Kranken frei, vernnftig zu
sein, es war de rigueur, es war ihr letztes Mittel. Der Fanatismus, mit dem sich das ganze griechische Nachdenken auf die Vernnftigkeit wirft, verrth eine Nothlage: man war in Gefahr,
man hatte nur eine Wahl: entweder zu Grunde zu gehn oder absurd-ve r nnftig zu sein
Der Moralismus der griechischen Philosophen von Plato ab ist pathologisch bedingt; ebenso
ihre Schtzung der Dialektik. [] Man muss klug, klar, hell um jeden Preis sein: jedes Nachgeben an die Instinkte, ans Unbewusste fhrt hinab (GD II, 10, KSA 6, p. 72). Socratess
turn to toward reason functioned not as a reaction to the instincts as such, but rather as a reaction to his instincts in their specific state of degeneration. If Nietzsche finishes by praising
Socrates in Gtzendmmerung, this is because Socrates finally saw that he was living a lie and,
in recognizing the evidence of his own decadent instincts, followed them into the grave to
make way for a more healthy form of life: Hat er das selbst noch begriffen, dieser Klgste
aller Selbst-berlister? Sagte er sich das zuletzt, in der Weisheit seines Muthes zum Tode?
Sokrates wollte sterben: nicht Athen, er gab sich den Giftbecher, er zwang Athen zum Giftbecher Sokrates ist kein Arzt, sprach er zu sich: der Tod allein ist hier Arzt Sokrates selbst
war nur lange krank (GD II 12, KSA 6, p. 73).
See, for example, Nietzsches critique of altruistic morality in Gtzendmmerung: Es fehlt am
Besten, wenn es an der Selbstsucht zu fehlen beginnt. Instinktiv das Sich-Schdliche whlen,
Gelockt-werden durch uninteressirte Motive giebt beinahe die Formel ab fr dcadence.
Nicht seinen Nutzen suchen, das ist bloss das moralische Feigenblatt fr eine ganz andere,
nmlich physiologische Thatschlichkeit: ich weiss meinen Nutzen nicht mehr zu finde n
Disgregation der Instinkte! Es ist zu Ende mit ihm, wenn der Mensch altruistisch wird (GD
IX 35, KSA 6, pp. 133 134). In a notebook entry from 1888, he makes a similar critique of

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

61

the extent to which he subscribed to the model of will pathology outlined by


Ribot and his colleagues. From the mid-1880s on, the opposition between the
hierarchical ordering and the dissolution of bodily forces assumes an explanatory importance in Nietzsches writing absent from his earlier works. As one can
read in another notebook entry from 1888, the very definition of health for
Nietzsche implies a clear hierarchical coordination of the subjects psychic elements through the domination of one passion over all others:
1) die dominirende Leidenschaft, welche sogar die supremste Form der Gesundheit berhaupt mit sich bringt: hier ist die Coordination der inneren Systeme und
ihr Arbeiten in Einem Dienste am besten erreicht aber das ist beinahe die Definition
der Gesundheit!
2) das Gegeneinander der Leidenschaften, die Zweiheit, Dreiheit, Vielheit der
Seelen in Einer Brust: sehr ungesund, innerer Ruin, auseinanderlsend, einen inneren Zwiespalt und Anarchismus verrathend und steigernd : es sei denn, da eine
Leidenschaft endlich Herr wird. Rckkeh r der G e s u n d h e i t (Nachla 1888,
KSA 13, 14[157])30

While Nietzsches ironic description of two souls in a single breast most


immediately invokes Fausts dilemma Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach!, in meiner
Brust it also recalls the famous cases of split personalities that fascinated psychiatrists such as Ribot and Janet in the late 19th century.31 Indeed, Nietzsche
might also have found a model for his description directly in the pages of Ribots
Maladies de la volont, where Ribot described the familiar literary motif of internal
conflict as the first step toward the dissociation of the will:
Il y a dans lindividu [en conflit avec lui-mme] deux centres de gravit alternatifs,
deux points de convergence pour des coordinations successivement prpondrantes,
mais partielles. A tout prendre, cest peut-tre le type [de maladie de la volont] le plus
commun, si lon [] consulte les potes et le moralistes de tous les temps, rptant
lenvi quil y a deux hommes en nous.32

30

31

32

scientific curiosity as a sign of inner splittering and aging of the organism: ob nicht ein D c ad en ce-S ym p to m schon in der Richtung auf solche Allg e me inhe it gegeben ist: Obje ktivit t als Willens-Disgregation (Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 14[83]). In another notebook entry,
Nietzsche sees the milieu theory of the natural sciences with its definition of man as an essentially reactive being as itself symptomatic of such a dissolution of the will: Die Theorie vom
Milieu, heute die Pariser Theorie par excellence, ist selbst ein Beweis von einer verhngnivollen Disgregation der Persnlichkeit: wenn das Milieu anfngt zu formen und es dem Thatbestand entspricht, die Vordergrunds-Talente als bloe Concrescenzen ihrer Umgebung verstehen zu drfen, da ist die Zeit vorbei, wo noch gesammelt, gehuft, geerntet werden kann die
Zukunft ist vorbei Der Augenblick frit auf, was er hervorbringt und, wehe, er bleibt
dabei noch hungrig (Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 15[106]).
Cf. an entry from the 1887 notebooks: alle Schwche ist Willensschwche; alle Schwche des
Willens rhrt daher, da keine Leidenschaft, kein kategorischer Imperativ kommandirt (Nachla 1887/1888, KSA 13, 11[48]).
See for example Ribot, Thodule: Diseases of the Personality. Chicago 1891, pp. 34 38,
pp. 62 66, pp. 117 135.
Ribot: Les maladies de la volont, loc. cit., p. 175.

62

Michael Cowan

But Nietzsches reference to the subjects multiple souls also recalls the passages on the will to power from Jenseits von Gut und Bse with which I began: Der
Wollende nimmt dergestalt die Lustgefhle der ausfhrenden, erfolgreichen
Werkzeuge, der dienstbaren Unterwillen oder Unter-Seelen unser Leib ist ja
nur ein Gesellschaftsaufbau vieler Seelen zu einem Lustgefhle als Befehlender hinzu. If the body contains an irreducible plurality of souls (drives,
passions or wills), pathological and healthy states depended, for the late
Nietzsche, entirely on how this plurality was organized. Increasingly (as in the
above citation), the concept of anarchy (Anarchismus) which a classicist
such as Nietzsche would have understood in its etymological sense as a lack of
hierarchical order reappears in Nietzsches vocabulary to describe the chaotic
state of the weakened will, in which no force can gain any clear dominance of direction over others. As he described it in one notebook entry: Alle Einheit ist
nur als O rg anis at i o n un d Z us am m e nspie l. Einheit: nicht anders als wie
ein menschliches Gemeinwesen eine Einheit ist: also G e g ensatz der atomistischen An archie, somit ein H e r r s cha fts-G e bilde, das Eins bedeutet, aber
nicht eins i s t (Nachla 1885/6, KSA 12, 2[87]).

III. The Diseased Will and Mass Modernity


Like the medical trope of hypersensitivity, this figure of anarchic dissolution could also function in Nietzsches philosophy to account for any number
of cultural-historical phenomena such as Socrates decadence, which
Nietzsche constantly refers to in terms of an anarchic state of competing instincts and drives: Die Wildheit und Anarchie der Instinkte bei Sokrates ist ein
d c a den ce-Sympt o m. Die Superftation der Logik und der Vernunft-Helligkeit insgleichen. Beide sind Abnormitten, beide gehren zu einander (Nachla
1888, KSA 13, 14[92]). But more than anything else, Nietzsche invoked the trope
of dissolution and anarchy to ground a specific critique of mass modernity. What
Ribots theory of the anarchic organism offered, that is, was a model with which
to describe what Nietzsche saw as a thoroughly social and political pathology
and one synonymous with the rise of democratic society itself. An entry in
Nietzsches 1887 notebooks defines the problem that concerned him unmistakably: die immer grere Besiegung der Bevorrechteten und Strkeren und folglich Heraufkunft der Demokratie, endlich Anarchie der Elemente (Nachla
1887, KSA 12, 9[8]).
This association between the model of will dissolution (the anarchy of power
relations within the individual organism) and the rise of democratic society
(the anarchy of power relations in the social organism) already formed one of the
central argumentative strategies of Jenseits von Gut und Bse; in Part Six (Wir Ge-

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

63

lehrten), Nietzsche returns to the problem of the will outlined in Parts One and
Two to argue that modern Europe is characterized by a pathological weakness
of the will (Willensschwche) visible above all in the cultivation of doubt and
skepticism. In his diagnosis, Nietzsche attributes this condition to the breakdown of the hierarchical boundaries between various social estates and races in
modern European society:
Skepsis nmlich ist der geistigste Ausdruck einer gewissen vielfachen physiologischen
Beschaffenheit, welche man in gemeiner Sprache Nervenschwche und Krnklichkeit
nennt; sie entsteht jedes Mal, wenn sich in entscheidender und pltzlicher Weise lang
von einander abgetrennte Rassen oder Stnde kreuzen. In dem neuen Geschlechte,
das gleichsam verschiedene Maasse und Werthe ins Blut vererbt bekommt, ist Alles
Unruhe, Strung, Zweifel, Versuch. [] [I]n Leib und Seele fehlt Gleichgewicht,
Schwergewicht, perpendikulre Sicherheit. Was aber in solchen Mischlingen am
tiefsten krank wird und entartet, das ist der Wille: sie kennen das Unabhngige im
Entschlusse, das tapfere Lustgefhl im Wollen gar nicht mehr, sie zweifeln an der
Freiheit des Willens auch noch in ihren Trumen. Unser Europa von heute, der
Schauplatz eines unsinnig pltzlichen Versuchs von radikaler Stnde- und fo l g l i ch
Rassenmischung, ist deshalb skeptisch in allen Hhen und Teifen, [] und seines
Willens oft bis zum Sterben satt! Willenslhmung: wo findet man nicht heute diesen
Krppel sitzen! ( JGB 208, KSA 5, p. 138)

Here again, one can observe that, like the degeneration theorists of his day,
Nietzsche attributed cultural phenomena to thoroughly physiological and biological processes. That said, however, it would be a mistake to attribute Nietzsches observations on the mixing of races (Rassenmischung) and bloodlines to any overarching concern with the kind of racial science which growing
out of 19th-century historical linguistics would go onto inform the theories
of National Socialism. On the contrary, Nietzsches characterization of racial
mixing as the result of a more fundamental mixing of social estates (Stnde- und
folglich Rassenmischung) clearly underscores what bothered him most: the
leveling of social hierarchies. As the privileged disease of modern life, the disease of
the will was always a sign, for Nietzsche, of this movement of social leveling
anarchy33 accompanying the transition to a democratic, mass modernity. Perhaps no cultural process appeared more detrimental to Nietzsche than what
33

Indeed, there is good reason to believe that Nietzsches frequent use of the term anarchy
to describe the flattening out of the hierarchy of the will into a chaos of competing instincts was
motivated, at least in part, by his opposition to contemporary theories of anarchism. Nietzsche
saw anarchism along with nihilism and skepticism as part of a complex of symptoms of
physiological degeneration (see for example Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 14[74], p. 255). For
Nietzsche, anarchism belonged together with socialism and parlamentarism in one great movement of social leveling, as he explained in his an 1885 notebook entry: Ich bin abgeneigt 1) dem
Socialismus, weil er ganz naiv vom Heerden-Bldsinn des Guten Wahren Schnen und von
gleichen Rechten trumt: auch der Anarchismus will, nur auf brutalere Weise, das gleiche Ideal 2)
!dem" Parlamentarismus und Zeitungswesen, weil dies die Mittel sind, wodurch das Heerdenthier sich zum Herrn macht. (Nachla 1885, KSA 11, 34[177])

64

Michael Cowan

he later called the democratic reduction of social rank and races into a mass
(die demokratische Vermengung der Stnde und Rassen) ( JGB 224, KSA 5,
p. 158). What results is a motley chaos of competing social values and evaluative
criteria (verschiedene Maasse und Werthe). Without any clearly dominant
value system around which to coordinate all the others, the new European generation (Geschlecht) suffers from a permanent state of pathological doubting,
irresolution and the inability to decide (a condition diametrically opposed to the
state of pleasure [Lustgefhl] Nietzsche associated with successful configurations of the will to power).
If Nietzsche turned to French psychology, in particular, for a model with
which to interpret the process of social leveling accompanying the emergence of
mass modernity, this is surely not least of all because he associated the democratic project itself with modern France. In Nietzsches reading of European history, the French Revolution constituted the inaugural event of a modern project
to dissolve social hierarchies into what he described, in a notebook entry from
early 1888, as a new social mishmash:
[] der soz ia le Misch ma sch , Folge der Revolution, der Herstellung gleicher
Rechte, des Aberglaubens an gleiche Menschen. Dabei mischen sich die Trger der
Niedergangs-Instinkte (des ressentiment, der Unzufriedenheit, des Zerstrer-Triebs,
des Anarchismus und Nihilismus) [] der lang e unten gehaltenen Schichten in
alles Blut aller Stnde hinein: zwei, drei Geschlechter darauf ist die Rasse nicht mehr
zu erkennen. Alles ist ver p belt. Hieraus resultirt ein Gesammtinstinkt gegen die
Auswahl, gegen das Privilegium jeder Art. (Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 14[182])34

It was precisely this association of French universalist culture with the dissolution of social hierarchies that allowed Nietzsche to perform an imaginary
mapping of the disease of the will afflicting modern Europe onto the geographical territory across the Rhine. As the analysis of Europes will pathology
from Jenseits von Gut und Bse continues, Nietzsche argues that the sickness affects
34

Of course, Nietzsche did not limit his critique of the demand for equal rights to post-Revolutionary politics. On the contrary, from his analysis of Platonic philosophy to his understanding
of the rise of Christianity, the late Nietzsche everywhere managed to find the same historical
process at work, in which the weak and degenerate demanded to obtain an equal status with their
traditional superiors. See for example Der Antichrist: Dass Jeder als unsterbliche Seele mit
Jedem gleichen Rang hat, dass in der Gesammtheit aller Wesen das Heil jedes Einzelnen eine
ewige Wichtigkeit in Anspruch nehmen darf, dass kleine Mucker und Dreiviertels-Verrckte
sich einbilden drfen, dass um ihretwillen die Gesetze der Natur gestndig durchbroche n
werden eine solche Steigerung jeder Art Selbstsucht ins Unendliche, ins Unverschmte kann man
nicht mit genug Verachtung brandmarken. Und doch verdankt das Christenthum dieser erbarmungswrdigen Schmeichelei vor der Personal-Eitelkeit seinen Sieg, gerade alles Missrathene, Aufstndhisch-Gesinnte, Schlechtweggekommene, den ganzen Auswurf und Abhub der
Menschheit hat es damit zu sich berredet. Das Heil der Seele auf deutsch: die Welt dreht
sich um mich (AC 43, KSA 6, p. 217). Still, even if Nietzsche saw Christian socialism as
a forerunner to the 19th-century political variant, one can no doubt assume that it was the latter
that most directly prompted his social critique.

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

65

different European countries in different measures, depending on the extent


to which democratic ideals and their central vehicle mass education have dismantled older social privileges and hierarchies: Die Krankheit des Willens ist
ungleichmssig ber Europa verbreitet: sie zeigt sich dort am grssten und vielfltigsten, wo die Cultur schon am lngsten heimisch ist, sie verschwindet im
dem Maasse, als der Barbar noch oder wieder unter dem schlotterichten Gewande von westlndischer Bildung sein Recht geltend macht ( JGB 208, KSA 5,
p. 139). As the disease of modernity par excellence, the disease of the will would
thus extend its hold on European societies in direct proportion to the extent
to which those societies had undergone the transition from strong-willed, hierarchical barbarian communities into the new leveled social formations of mass
modernity with its claim to universal education and cultivation.35 By far, Nietzsche argues, this process has attained its apogee in modern France, where the
ideal of cultivating and educating the masses has gained the most ground: Im
jetzigen Frankreich ist demnach, wie man es ebenso leicht erschliessen als mit
Hnden ergreifen kann, der Wille am schlimmsten erkrankt; und Frankreich []
zeigt heute recht eigentlich als Schule und Schaustellung aller Zauber der Skepsis
sein Cultur-bergewicht ber Europa ( JGB 208, KSA 5, p.139).
Where France displays the most advanced state of disintegration of the social
hierarchy, Nietzsche finds the older forms of hierarchy most intact in the feudalistic political climate of late-19th century Russia: Da [in Russland] ist die Kraft
zu wollen seit langem zurckgelegt und aufgespeichert, da wartet der Wille []
in bedrohlicher Weise darauf, ausgelst zu werden, um den Physikern von heute
ihr Leibwort abzuborgen ( JGB 208, KSA 5, p.139). If Europe wishes to reduce
the Russian threat, Nietzsche argues, the best way to weaken its rival is not by encouraging Russia in its imperialistic ambitions, but rather by dissolving Russias
political will through the introduction of democratic institutions from within:
35

Nietzsches use of the term barbarian here carries precisely the opposite sense from that used
by many of his contemporaries to describe the new urban masses. In his novel Sous loeil des barbares (Paris 1888), for example, Maurice Barrs used the term to describe the Parisian crowds
from which the protagonist Phillip attempts to differentiate himself. For Nietzsche, on the
contrary, the barbarian is not the member of the uncultivated masses, but rather the strongwilled personality and more importantly, the strong-willed, unified social formation in opposition to the mishmash of mass modernity; as he described it in his 1887 notebooks, Nietzsche
hoped that a new breed of barbarians would reassert an aristocratic and hierarchic social order
into the chaos of modern mass democracies: Gesammt-Anblick des zuknftigen Europers:
derselbe als das intelligenteste Sklaventhier, sehr arbeitsam, im Grunde sehr bescheiden, bis zum
Excess neugierig, vielfach, verzrtelt, willensschwach ein kosmopolitisches Affekt- und Intelligenzen-Chaos. Wie mchte sich aus ihm eine strkere Art herausheben? [] Eine herrschaftliche Rasse kann nur aus furchtbaren und gewaltsamen Anfngen emporwachsen. Problem:
wo sind die Ba rb a ren des 20. Jahrhunderts? Offenbar werden sie erst nach ungeheuren socialistischen Krisen sichtbar werden und sich consolidiren, es werden die Elemente sein, die
der g r t en H r te g eg en sich selber fhig sind und den lngste n Wille n garantiren
knnen (Nachla 1887/1888, KSA 13, 11[31]).

66

Michael Cowan

Es drften nicht nur indische Kriege und Verwicklungen in Asien dazu nthig sein,
damit Europa von seiner grssten Gefahr entlastet werde, sondern innere Umstrze,
die Zersprengung des Reichs in kleine Krper und vor Allem die Einfhrung des
parlamentarischen Bldsinns, hinzugerechnet die Verpflichtung fr Jedermann, zum
Frhstck seine Zeitung zu lesen. Ich sage dies nicht als Wnschender: mir wrde das
Entgegengesetzte eher nach dem Herzen sein, ich meine eine solche Zunahme der
Bedrohlichkeit Russlands, dass Europa sich entschliessen msste, gleichermaassen
bedrohlich zu werden, nmlich E ine n W i l l e n z u b e ko m m e n, durch das Mittel einer neuen ber Europa herrschenden Kaste, einen langen furchtbaren eigenen
Willen, der sich ber Jahrtausende hin Ziele setzen knnte. ( JGB 208, KSA 5,
pp.139 140)

Longing for the reawakening of Europes political will through the authoritative imposition of a new ruling cast, Nietzsche here called to fight what he
saw as a general tendency toward the dissolution of the social and political will in
the post-1789 world: i. e., the tendency toward the reduction of social hierarchies
through the extension of culture, education and political representation to more
and more competing constituencies.36 Despite his desire for a new cast of ruling
barbarians to impose order on this social anarchy, however, Nietzsches very
use of the conditional tense in the above citation (mir wrde das Entgegengesetzte eher nach dem Herzen sein) reflects his own awareness of the unlikelihood of reversing the leveling process constitutive of mass modernity.

36

If socialism represented one such leveling tendency, Nietzsche found another in the womens
movement. From the time of Jenseits von Gut und Bse on, Nietzsche was extremely concerned
with the calls for womens emancipation, which for his contemporaries revolved precisely
around a question of access to education and which Nietzsche saw as part of a general social
evolution toward the dissolution of organic social hierarchies: Man will [die Frauen] berhaupt
noch mehr cultiviren und, wie man sagt, das schwache Geschlecht durch Cultur stark
machen: als ob nicht die Geschichte so eindringlich wie mglich lehrte, dass Cultivirung des
Menschen und Schwchung nmlich Schwchung, Zersplitterung, Ankrnkelung der Willenskraft, immer mit einander Schritt gegangen sind, und dass die mchtigsten und einflussreichsten Frauen der Welt (zuletzt noch die Mutter Napoleons) gerade ihrer Willenskraft und
nicht den Schulmeistern! ihre Macht und ihr bergewicht ber die Mnner verdankten ( JGB
239, KSA 5, pp. 177 178). Far from making women strong, Nietzsche argued, the exposure of
women to education, newspapers and all the other components of a mass-leveled social
formation only rendered them more like their modern, weak-willed male counterparts. Although
Nietzsches arguments here in many ways predict those of such anti-feminists as Otto Weininger,
the specificity of Nietzsches argument lies elsewhere i. e., in a disdain for social leveling as
such. Nietzsche was happy to recognize that select women such as Napoleons mother could
be strong-willed; what horrified him was rather the leveling of social personalities as a whole in
mass society.

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

67

IV. The Aesthetics of Will Impairment: Wagner as Embodiment of Mass Modernity


Wagner hat, sein halbes Leben lang, an die Re volution geglaubt, wie nur irgend ein Franzose
an sie geglaubt hat.
( WA 4)

From the time of Jenseits von Gut und Bse on, Nietzsche interprets the emergence of mass modernity through a veritable historical metanarrative of the
weakening of the will. Indeed, in Nietzsches late writings, the notion of Willensschwche becomes almost synonymous with the other key concept used by Nietzsche to describe modern culture: that of dcadence.37 One can see this by examining the most famous polemic of Nietzsches late writings: his critique of Richard
Wagner. Perhaps no single figure appears more directly associated, in Nietzsches
late texts, with the process of modern leveling than his former mentor. As
Nietzsche describes it in one notebook entry from 1888, Richard Wagner stands
alongside Victor Hugo as an ideal type of the modern artist creating for a leveled
mass culture:
[] Alles ist ve r pbelt. Hieraus resultirt ein Gesammtinstinkt gegen die Au swa h l,
gegen das Privilegium jeder Art, von einer Macht und Sicherheit, Hrte, Grausamkeit der Praxis, da in der That sich alsbald selbst die Privilegir ten unterwerfen:
was noch Macht festhalten will, schmeichelt dem Pbel, mu den Pbel auf seiner
Seite haben
die Genies voran: sie werden Herolde der Gefhle, mit denen man Massen begeistert die Note des Mitleids, der Ehrfurcht selbst vor Allem, was leidend, niedrig,
verachtet, verfolgt gelebt hat, klingt ber alle anderen Noten weg (Typen: V. Hugo
und R. Wagner). (Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 14[182])

In placing Wagner and Hugo in the same category, Nietzsche not only
associated Wagner with the modern masses no writer had more mass appeal
in France than Hugo, whose legendary funeral in 1885 had drawn millions
mourners into the Parisian streets but also with France, and more specifically
with Paris, the epicenter of the culture of mass modernity in Nietzsches imaginary geography.
In an entry from his 1888 notebooks in which he formulated many of the arguments he would publish the same year in Der Fall Wagner, Nietzsche insisted
that the success of Wagners art responded more to a modern sensibility more
Parisian than German:
Ich habe mich gefragt, ob berhaupt schon Jemand dagewesen ist, modern, morbid,
vielfach und krumm genug, um als vorbereitet fr das Problem Wagner zu gelten?
Hchstens in Frankreich: Ch. Baudelaire z.B. Vielleicht auch die Gebrder Goncourt.
37

For a thorough discussion of Nietzsches use of the term dcadence, see Horn: Nietzsches Begriff der dcadence, loc. cit.

68

Michael Cowan

Die Verfasser der Faustine wrden sicherlich Einiges an Wagner errathen. [] Die
Sensibilitt Wagners gehrt nicht nach Deutschland: man trifft sie wieder unter den
Nchstverwandten Wagners, den franzsischen Romantikern. [] [Wagners Helden
sind] ein armes Volk [] und ein Prparat zu allerlei neurotisch-hypnotisch-erotischen
Experimenten Pariser Psychologen! Hat man wohl schon bemerkt, da keine je ein
Kind gebar? Sie k n n ens nicht! [] Man will es heute noch am Wenigsten Wort
haben, wie viel Wagner Frankreich verdankt, wie sehr er selbst nach Paris gehrt. []
Zuletzt erwgen wir doch das Entscheidende: was charakterisirt die Wagnersche
Knstlerschaft? der Histrionismus, das in-Scene-Setzen, die Kunst der talage, der
Wille zur Wirkung um der Wirkung willen, das Genie des Vortragens, Vorstellens,
Nachmachens, Darstellens, Bedeutens, Scheinens: ist das in irgend einem Genre eine
deutsche Art Begabung? [] Wir haben an dieser Stelle wir wissen es zu gut! bisher
unsere Schwche gehabt und wir wollen uns keinen Stolz aus dieser Schwche zurechtmachen! [] A b er es ist da s Genie Fr a n k r e i ch s ! (Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 15[6])

Any reader familiar with Der Fall Wagner will recognize, in this notebook
entry, many of the central motifs that would reappear in Nietzsches published
polemic against his former mentor the same year. There too, Nietzsche would
remark on the sterility, and by implication degeneration, of Wagners protagonists.38 There too, moreover, he would insist on the essentially French provenance of Wagners concern with such morbid subjects, associating Wagner, in
particular, with French romantic and decadent authors such as Baudelaire, the
Brothers Goncourt, and Hugo.39 [I]ns Grosse gerechnet, Nietzsche insisted in
Der Fall Wagner, scheint Wagner sich fr keine andern Probleme interessirt zu
haben, als die, welche heute die kleinen Pariser dcadents interessiren. Immer
fnf Schritte weit vom Hospital! (WA 9, KSA 6, p. 34).
Above all, however, the preparatory passage from Nietzsches notebooks
points to Der Fall Wagner in its stylistic argument, and specifically in its characterization of Wagners predilection for exciting, dramatic effects. What Nietzsche
here calls Wagners histrionism, and which he associates with a desire to produce
effects for the sake of effects (Wirkung um der Wirkung willen) will reappear,
in Der Fall Wagner, in an extended critique of the theatrical quality of Wagners
operas. War Wagner berhaupt Musiker?, Nietzsche writes in the published text:
38

39

Die Probleme, die er auf die Bhne bringt lauter Hysteriker-Probleme , das Convulsivische
seines Affekts, seine berreizte Sensibilitt, sein Geschmack, der nach immer schrfern Wrzen
verlangte, seine Instabilitt, die er zu Principien verkleidete, nicht am wenigsten die Wahl seiner
Helden und Heldinnen, diese als physiologische Typen betrachtet (eine Kranken-Galerie!): Alles
zusammen stellt ein Krankheitsbild dar, das keinen Zweifel lsst. Wagne r e st un n vrose
(WA 5, KSA 6, p. 22). Ja, ins Grosse gerechnet, scheint Wagner sich fr keine andern Probleme interessirt zu haben, als die, welche heute die kleinen Pariser dcadents interessiren. Immer fnf
Schritte weit vom Hospital! Lauter ganz moderne, lauter ganz g rossstdtische Probleme! zweifeln Sie nicht daran! Haben Sie bemerkt (es gehrt in diese Ideen-Association), dass die Wagnerischen Heldinnen keine Kinder bekommen? Sie k nne ns nicht (WA 9, KSA 6, p. 34).
Seine Manieren dabei erinnern an die auch sonst fr Wagners Stil heranziehbaren frres de
Goncourt: man hat eine Art Erbarmen mit soviel Nothstand (WA 7, KSA 6, p. 28). [Wagner]
ist der Victor Hugo der Musik als Sprache (WA 8, KSA 6, p. 30).

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

69

Jedenfalls war er etwas Anderes mehr : nmlich ein unvergleichbarer Histrio, der
grsste Mime, das erstaunlichste Theater-Genie, das die Deutschen gehabt haben,
unser Sceniker par excellence. [] Wagner rechnet nie als Musiker, von irgend
einem Musiker-Gewissen aus: er will die Wirkung, er will Nichts als die Wirkung. Und
er kennt das, worauf er zu wirken hat! (WA 8, KSA 6, pp. 30 31)

If Nietzsche associates Wagners theatrical quality with a desire to cultivation exciting effects,40 he everywhere interprets this new gesture as a response to the process of modern leveling. Like Victor Hugo, Wagner composed
specifically for the masses:
Der grosse Erfolg, der Massen-Erfolg ist nicht mehr auf Seite der Echten , man
muss Schauspieler sein, ihn zu haben! Victor Hugo und Richard Wagner sie bedeuten Ein und Dasselbe: dass in Niedergangs-Culturen, dass berall, wo den Massen
die Entscheidung in die Hnde fllt, die Echtheit berflssig, nachtheilig zurcksetzend wird. Nur der Schauspieler weckt noch die g rosse Begeisterung. Damit
kommt fr den Schauspieler das g o lden e Z eit a lt e r herauf fr ihn und fr Alles,
was seiner Art verwandt ist. Wagner marschirt mit Trommeln und Pfeifen an der
Spitze aller Knstler des Vortrags, der Darstellung, des Virtuosenthums. (WA 11,
KSA 6, pp. 37 38)41

Like Hugo, Wagner transformed art to appeal to the new mass tastes, and he
did precisely by cultivating loud, exciting and stimulating effects a quality
that Nietzsche, writing as a contemporary of Sara Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse,
associated with the 19th-century theater.42
It was precisely in this sense, as a catalyst of the modern leveling process, that
Wagners art could be said to summarize modernity, as Nietzsche described
it in the preface to his 1888 text: Wagner r e s m ir t die Modernitt (WA
40

41

42

Wagner wrde ber das Eine, was noth thut ungefhr urtheilen, wie jeder andre Schauspieler
heute urtheilt: eine Reihe starker Scenen, eine strker als die andre und, dazwischen, viele
klug e Stupididt. Er sucht sich selbst zuerst die Wirkung seines Werkes zu garantiren, er beginnt mit dem dritten Akte, er b e we i s t sich sein Werk mit dessen letzter Wirkung (WA 9,
KSA 6, p. 32).
Compare the following passage: Wozu also Schnheit? Warum nicht lieber das Grosse, das Erhabne, das Gigantische, Das, was die Massen bewegt? (WA 6, KSA 6, p. 24).
Indeed, in order to understand the significance of Nietzsches critique of Wagners theatricality, one must understand Nietzsches view of the theater as the democratic form of entertainment par excellence. The prominence of theater and by extension the theatrical quality of
Wagners operas represented, for Nietzsche, nothing short of a revolt of the masses: Aber
man soll es den Wagnerianern hundert Mal ins Gesicht sagen, was das Theater ist: immer nur ein
U n terh a lb der Kunst, immer nur etwas Zweites, etwas Vergrbertes, etwas fr die Massen Zurechtgebogenes, Zurechtgelogenes! [] Das Theater ist eine Form der Demolatrie in Sachen
des Geschmacks, das Theater ist ein Massen-Aufstand, ein Plebiscit g eg en den guten Geschmack D ies eb en b eweist d er Fall Wagn er : er gewann die Menge, er verdarb den
Geschmack, er verdarb selbst fr die Oper unseren Geschmack! (WA 13, KSA 6, p. 42). On
the cultivation of effects and emotion in the 19th-century theater, see Vogel, Juliane: Die Furie
und das Gesetz. Zur Dramaturgie der groen Szene in der Tragdie des 19. Jahrhunderts. Freiburg im Breisgau 2003.

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Michael Cowan

Vorwort, KSA 6, p. 12). And here, too, Nietzsche everywhere interpreted this
leveling process through the lens of 19th-century nervous pathology. Through
the cultivation of exciting effects, Nietzsche insisted, Wagner sought above all to
use music as a means of stimulating the modern masses already overexcited
nerves: Wagner ist ein grosser Verberb fr die Musik. Er hat in ihr das Mittel
errathen, mde Nerven zu reizen, er hat die Musik krank gemacht (WA 5,
KSA 6, p. 23).43 Indeed, if Wagner makes such a good case study, this is because his music corresponds to the disposition of an entire age dominated by the
nervous masses: Unsre Aerzte und Physiologen haben in Wagner ihren interessantesten Fall, zum Mindesten einen sehr vollstndigen. Gerade, weil Nichts
moderner ist als diese Gesammterkrankung, diese Sptheit und berreiztheit
der nervsen Machinerie, ist Wagner der m ode r ne K nstle r par excellence
(WA 5, KSA 6, p. 23).
But if Wagners appeal to the nerves of the masses already seems to encourage
the kind of social levelling Nietzsche sought to criticize with the model of will pathology, his stylistic innovations also offer a kind of mimesis of this very process
on the formal level. Throughout Der Fall Wagner, Nietzsche interprets the cultivation of effects as a sign of Wagners inability to impose any hierarchical organization on the artistic material, or what Nietzsche describes as his incapacity
for organic arrangements (seine Unfhigkeit zum organischen Gestalten)
(WA 7, KSA 6, p. 28). Wagner, Nietzsche argues, cultivated his theatrical aesthetic to the precise extent that he abandoned internal logic or musical structure.
Wagner war nicht Musiker von Instinkt. Dies bewies er damit, dass er alle Gesetzlichkeit und, bestimmter geredet, allen Stil in der Musik preisgab, um aus ihr zu
machen, was er nthig hatte, eine Theater-Rhetorik. [] Wagner hat beinahe entdeckt, welche Magie selbst noch mit einer aufgelsten und gleichsam e l e m e n ta risch gemachten Musik ausgebt werden kann. Sein Bewusstsein davon geht bis ins
Unheimliche, wie sein Instinkt, die hhere Gesetzlichkeit, den Stil gar nicht nthig
zu haben. Das Elementarische g eng t Klang, Bewegung, Farbe, kurz die Sinnlichkeit der Musik. (WA 8, KSA 6, pp. 30 31)44
43

44

Cf. the following: [I]ch mag alle Musik nicht, deren Ehrgeiz nicht weiter geht als die Nerven zu
berreden (WA 7, KSA 6, p. 29).
Nietzsches critique of Wagners lack of organic structure and internal logic overlaps with the
burgeoning critique of impressionist aesthetics in the late 19th century. Vor allem kein Gedanke!, Nietzsche writes ironically at one point. Nichts ist compromittirender als ein Gedanke!
Sondern der Zustand vor dem Gedanken, das Gedrng der noch nicht geborenen Gedanken,
das Versprechen zuknftiger Gedanken, die Welt, wie sie war, bevor Gott sie schuf, eine
Recrudescenz des Chaos Das Chaos macht ahnen In der Sprache des Meisters geredet:
Unendlichkeit, aber ohne Melodie (WA 6, KSA 6, p. 24). Three years after the publication of
Der Fall Wagner, in his collection Die berwindung des Naturalismus (Dresden 1891), the Austrian
critic Hermann Bahr would describe the new decadent literature from France in analogy to
impressionist painting as follows: Die alte Psychologie hat die Resultate der Gefhle, wie sie
sich am Ende im Bewutsein ausdrcken, aus dem Gedchtnis gezeichnet; die neue zeichnet die
Vorbereitungen der Gefhle, bevor sie sich noch ins Bewutsein hinein entschieden haben. Die

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

71

Even more than the question of Wagners mass appeal, it was this stylistic
transformation the flattening out of hierarchical structure into so many exciting, dramatic effects that seemed to embody, on the aesthetic level, the pathology of the age for Nietzsche. In a key passage from Der Fall Wagner,
Nietzsche reads Wagners theatricality as an aesthetic expression of modernitys hysteria:
Ich werde eine Gelegenheit haben (in einem Capitel meines Hauptwerks, das den
Titel fhrt Zur Physiologie der Kunst), des Nheren zu zeigen, wie diese Gesammtverwandlung der Kunst ins Schauspielerische eben so bestimmt ein Ausdruck
physiologischer Degenerescenz (genauer, eine Form des Hysterismus) ist, wie jede
einzelne Verderbniss und Gebrechlichkeit der durch Wagner inaugurirten Kunst: zum
Beispiel die Unruhe ihrer Optik, die dazu nthigt, in jedem Augenblick die Stellung
vor ihr zu wechseln. (WA 7, KSA 6, pp. 26 27)

Although Nietzsche never went on to write his masterwork of physiological


aesthetics, his polemic against Wagners opera allows us to discern the contours
of his model. Most centrally, as the very title Zur Physiologie der Kunst suggests, Nietzsche sought to interpret aesthetics, like morality, through the latest
findings of late 19th-century pathological medicine.45 No doubt, Nietzches
choice of hysteria as the signature pathology determining the theatrical
quality of Wagners music was motivated, in part, by the close association between hysteria and acting in the fin de sicle.46 More significantly, however,
Nietzsche, like Ribot, saw the hysteric as the principle representative of a widespread modern disease of the will. As Nietzsche understood it, the instability
(Unruhe) of Wagners optics corresponded to a constitutive physiological instability of the hysterics character. As he described it in a notebook entry from
1888, such a hysterical instability characterized above all the modern artist:

45

46

alte Psychologie hat die Gefhle nach ihrer Prgung in den idealen Zustand ergriffen, wie sie von
der Erinnerung aufbewahrt werden; die neue Psychologie wird die Gefhle in dem sensualen
Zustande vor jener Prgung aufsuchen (pp. 108 109). For critiques of the new impressionist
paradigm, see especially the first volume of Karl Lamprechts Zur jngsten deutschen Vergangenheit
(Berlin 1902), in which Lamprecht takes Wagners music as the paradigm for a late 19th-century
transformation from an intellectual to a sensual aesthetics in music, visual art and literature, and
Richard Hammans Der Impressionismus in Leben und Kunst (Kln 1907).
Aside from his efforts to discredit his former mentor, one of Nietzsches goals in Der Fall Wagner
was precisely to articulate this new model of physiological aesthetics, in which aesthetic productions would no longer be read as more or less in conformity with a timeless standard of
beauty, but as historical expressions of physiological states. As Nietzsche would describe it in the
epilogue to Der Fall Wagner: Die Aesthetik ist unablslich an diese biologischen Voraussetzungen [des auf- und niedersteigendem Lebens] gebunden: es giebt eine dcadence-Aesthetik,
es giebt eine klassische Aesthetik, ein Schnes an sich ist ein Hirngespinst (WA Epilog,
KSA 6, p. 50).
The metaphor of the hysteric as an actor was ubiquitous in turn-of-the-century culture. See also
my article: Cowan, Michael: Spectacle de masse et modernit hystrique dans Mario und der Zauberer de Thomas Mann. In: tudes Germaniques 59 (2004), pp. 87 107.

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Michael Cowan

Der moder ne Knstler, in seiner Physiologie dem Hysterismus nchstverwandt, ist


auch als Charakter auf diese Krankhaftigkeit hin abgezeichnet. [] Die absurde Erregbarkeit seines Systems, die aus allen Erlebnisse Krisen macht und das Dramatische in die geringsten Zuflle des Lebens einschleppt, nimmt ihm alles Berechenbare: er ist keine Person mehr, hchstens ein Rendezvous von Personen, von denen
bald diese, bald jene mit unverschmter Sicherheit herausschiet. Eben darum ist er
gro als Schauspieler: alle diese armen Willenlosen, welche die rzte in der Nhe studieren, setzen in Erstaunen durch ihre Virtuositt der Mimik, der Transfiguration, des
Eintretens in fast jeden ver la ngt en Charakter. (Nachla 1888, KSA 13, 16[89])47

Like Ribots capricious hysteric, Nietzsches hysterical modern artist a category embodied most perfectly for Nietzsche by the case of Wagner is characterized above all by his unpredictability and the dissolution of his personality
(eine Rendezvous von Personen) due to his extreme excitability (i. e. the inability to inhibit bodily reactions). As the expression of the hysteric condition,
Wagners art with its leveling of musical structure into a series of exciting,
dramatic effects would thus embody the abulic, hysterical state of an entire
age. The dissolution of form Nietzsche perceived in Wagners music offered an
aesthetic gage of an eminently physiological process of dissolution or what
Nietzsche would describe, in a later passage from Der Fall Wagner, as der Niedergang der organisirenden Kraft (WA Zweite Nachschrift, KSA 6, p. 47).
Indeed, this is precisely the sense in which Nietzsche understood Wagners
art as decadent. For Nietzsche, dcadence represented at once an aesthetic,
social and physiological category and one that centered around the same figure
of dissolution as will pathology. As he described it in the continuation of the
above passage on Wagners hysteria, the decadent style functions precisely as an
aesthetic symptom (or expression) of the dissolution of the will in modern life:
Ich halte mich dies Mal nur bei der Frage des Stils auf. Womit kennzeichnet sich
jede litterarische dcadence? Damit, dass das Leben nicht mehr im Ganzen wohnt.
Das Wort wird souverain und springt aus dem Satz hinaus, der Satz greift ber und
verdunkelt den Sinn der Seite, die Seite gewinng Leben auf Unkosten des Ganzen
das Ganze ist kein Ganzes mehr. Aber das ist das Gleichniss fr jeden Stil der dcadence: jedes Mal Anarchie der Atome, Disgregation des Willens, Freiheit des Indivi47

This notion of the hysteric as an actor comes straight from the research at the Salptrire (which
Nietzsche would have learned of in Ribots journal). In their famous leons du mardi, Charcot and
his colleagues fascinated their audiences with their demonstrations of the hysterics ability to
transform personalities on command. As Charcots assistant Paul Richer described it in one report: Un sujet, sous linfluence dune suggestion verbale, peut se croire M. X. ou Y. Il perd alors
la notion de tout ce qui concourt former sa propre personnalit, et cre laide de ses souvenirs
la personnalit nouvelle qui lui est impose. [] Ce nest plus seulement la faon de lhallucin
qui assiste en spectateur des images se droulant devant lui; cest comme un acteur qui, pris de
folie, simaginerait que le drame quil joue est une ralit, non une fiction, et quil a t transform, de corps et dme, dans le personnage quil est charg de jouer (Cited in Didi-Huberman, Georges: Linvention de lhystrie: Charcot et liconographie photographique de la Salptrire. Paris 1982, p. 286).

Nietzsche and the Psychology of the Will

73

duums, moralisch geredet zu einer politischen Theorie erweitert gleiche Rechte


fr Alle. Das Leben, die gleiche Lebendigkeit, die Vibration und Exuberanz des
Lebens in die kleinsten Gebilde zurckgedrngt, der Rest arm an Leben. berall Lhmung, Mhsal, Erstarrung oder Feindschaft und Chaos: beides immer mehr in die
Augen springend, in je hhere Formen der Organisation man aufsteigt. Das Ganze
lebt berhaupt nicht mehr: es ist zusammengesetzt, gerechnet, knstlich, ein Artefakt. (WA 7, KSA 6, p. 27)

Despite Nietzsches promise to limit himself to a question of style (Ich halte


mich dies Mal nur bei der Frage des Stils auf ), he is clearly interested in
questions going well beyond the sphere of aesthetics; the importance of
Wagners decadent style lies rather in its function as the formal aesthetic
mimesis of an eminently political process of social leveling (gleiche Rechte fr
Alle) the explanation for which the late Nietzsche found in Ribots model of
the will in dissolution (Disgregation des Willens). As this passage suggests,
Nietzsche saw decadence and the pathology of the will, with all of its sociopolitical implications, as more or less synonymous concepts; or rather, one might
say that decadence and democracy represented the aesthetic and political expressions respectively of the same underlying physiological process of the dissolution of the will. The anarchy of the atoms functioned, in Nietzsches late
work, a master-concept for describing mass modernity in its multiple manifestations.
Of course, Nietzsche was not the only observer to attribute cultural and historical phenomena to physiological causes. Readers familiar with the literary discourse of fin-de-sicle France will recognize Nietzsches description of literary
decadence the dissolution of stylistic unity into an anarchy of competing
details as a reference to Paul Bourgets famous definition of literary decadence
from his Essais de psychologie contemporaine (1883).48 In his analysis of Baudelaires
poetry, Bourget also described decadent literature as symptomatic of a society
in decomposition:
Par le mot dcadence, on dsigne volontiers un tat de socit qui produit un trs
grand nombre dindividus impropres aux travaux de la vie commune. Une socit doit
tre assimile un organisme. Comme un organisme, en effet, elle se rsout en une fdration dorganismes moindres, qui se rsolvent eux-mmes en une fdration de
cellules. Lindividu est la cellule sociale. [] Si lnergie des cellules devient indpendante, les organismes qui composent lorganisme total cessent pareillement de subordonner leur nergie lnergie totale, et lanarchie qui stablit constitue la dcadence
de lensemble. Lorganisme social nchappe pas cette loi, et il entre en dcadence
aussitt que la vie individuelle sest exagre sous linfluence du bien-tre acquis et de
lhrdit. Une mme loi gouverne le dveloppement et la dcadence de cet autre or48

According to Horn (Nietzsches Begriff der dcadence, loc. cit., pp. 328 329), it was from his reading of Bourgets Essais de psychologie contemporaine (1883) that Nietzsche gained most of his knowledge of modern French decadent authors.

74

Michael Cowan

ganisme qui est le langage Un style de dcadence est celui o lunit du livre se dcompose pour laisser la place lindpendance de la page, o la page se dcompose pour
laisser la place lindpendance de la phrase, et la phrase pour laisser la place lindpendance du mot. Les exemples foisonnent dans la littrature actuelle qui corroborent cette fconde hypothse.49

In invoking Bourgets concept of decadence during his discussion of Wagner,


Nietzsche was clearly following, in many ways, the logic of equivalence already
present in Bourgets model, whereby both aesthetics and society can be likened
to an organism in its healthy or pathological states.
However, in appropriating Bourget and the French concept of decadence,
Nietzsche also transforms it in one crucial respect. For Bourget and here Bourgets definition of decadence captured more clearly the symbolic stakes of the
fin-de-sicle decadent movement in the arts than did Nietzsches a decadent
society could be described as a society not democratic enough, one in which, to the
detriment of the greater good or the vie commune, individuals with decidedly aristocratic pretensions insist on hoarding their inherited property and wealth and
refuse to conform to the social imperative of productivity. Nietzsche, as we have
seen, drew precisely the opposite political implications from the model of decadence: the anarchy of decadent society no longer results from individuals insisting on aristocratic hoarding and waste, but rather from the very demand for
equal rights constitutive of modern mass democracy as such.
As I have attempted to demonstrate above, Nietzsche attributed that political
model, as well as its aesthetic expression, to an underlying physiological ground,
the explanation of which he found in contemporary writings on the will and its
pathologies. But here, too, he adopted this explanation from scientific discourse
in order to transform it. If Nietzsche took such great interest in Ribots model
of the dissolution of the will, he did so less in order to diagnose any individual
pathologies than to articulate a model one offering all the authority of 19thcentury science with which to describe what he saw as the pathology of an age,
its aesthetics and above all its politics. The modern disease of the will was, for
Nietzsche, synonymous with the emergence of democratic culture itself.

49

Bourget, Paul: Essais de psychologie contemporaine. Paris 1883, pp. 24 25.

Nietzsche inimitable

75

JACQUES GOETSCHEL
NIETZSCHE INIMITABLE
CRATION ET IMITATION DORIGINE CONTRLE

Dsir doriginalit
Nous prendrons le mot cration dans le sens descriptif de gense dune uvre. Celle-ci pourra tre, selon le cas, luvre dart littraire ou luvre thtrale.1
Disons demble, comme daucuns parmi les critiques, que le sens accord la
cration comme originalit ne convient pas ici. On voquera seulement Roger
Caillois lorsquil crit, propos de loriginalit, ces quelques phrases pleines de
bon sens et dans lesquelles tout (bon) crivain devrait se reconnatre quand il
prtend loriginalit;2 aprs avoir voqu une dlicieuse pense quon attribue
Nerval: Le premier qui compara la femme une rose tait un pote, le second
tait un imbcile, Caillois lui reconnat le mrite suprme quil est commun de
consentir loriginalit et daffirmer sans nuance que linvention fait le talent;
aussi ne voit-il que les talents mdiocres pour fuir tout modle et mettre leur effort chercher lindit. Cest pourquoi rien nchappe cette loi plus rigoureuse ququitable: limportant nest pas dinaugurer, cest dexceller. En ce sens,
laudace du gnie est infiniment suprieure, si la chance lui sourit, la virtuosit
du talentueux, car il peindra une millime Descente de Croix et choisira pour la
tragdie quil rve dcrire le sujet le plus souvent trait.

En ce sens, on dira que le texte dune pice de thtre ne devient proprement parler une uvre
thtrale que si elle sachve dans et par sa reprsentation sur une scne de thtre; et la reprsentation, cest--dire le spectacle, proprement parler, est une cration; on connat par ailleurs
le rle capital quont pris au XX sicle les metteurs en scne qui ont boulevers la pratique
thtrale: ils ont pour nen citer que quelques-uns, Stanislavki, Grotowski, Brecht, Meyerhold,
B. Dort, Chreau, etc. fortement contribu lapproche nouvelle de la thtralit.
Pour toutes les citations qui suivent cf.: Caillois, Roger: Originalit. Dans: Vocabulaire esthtique, publi dans Babel, Coll. Ides n399. Paris 1978, p. 49 51. A vouloir atteindre lorigine,
on peut et lon doit reconnatre quelle est seulement vise et, qu dfaut dtre le premier, au
commencement, savoir que lon est toujours le second. Aussi Flaubert aura-t-il voulu montrer,
parmi dautres sens possibles de son uvre, que Bouvard et Pcuchet poursuivent une chimre, celle
dun livre o rien ne serait dit pour la premire fois mme le pote qui le premier eut lide de
comparer la femme une rose: tout ce quil y a de beau a t bien dit dira Pcuchet et combien
de fois cela naura-t-il pas t dit avant et aprs Flaubert?

76

Jacques Goetschel

Exemplaire est Nietzsche qui, dans sa solitude solaire et silencieuse, solitude


aux sept peaux superposes que rien [] ne traverse3 se sent lu par tous ces
nous autres et parmi les plus clbres, ces hommes sans crainte qui ouvrent
(aussi au sens thtral du rideau) le cinquime livre du Gai Savoir: sans craindre la
banalit, il emprunte le meilleur ses modles dont il se sent complice et du plus
proche sans doute dont il dit: Je suis linventeur du dithyrambe.4
En sappropriant, si lon peut dire, linvention du dithyrambe, que la tradition
attribue Archiloque, il nest pas du tout question, dans lesprit de Nietzsche,
dune quelconque usurpation de ce quon appelle aujourdhui proprit littraire. Il sagit bien plutt de ce qui convient au gnie comme vient de le dire
Roger Caillois qui prcise qu il est plagiaire chaque fois quil en a besoin et na
pas scrupule ltre. Car cest bien dans lesprit du larcin discret et subtil que le
gnie peut construire son style et duquel il en tire son identit dcrivain original.
Aussi bien sera-t-il conforme la pense de Goethe: lcrivain original nest pas
celui qui nimite personne mais celui que personne ne peut imiter.5
En prenant apparemment le contre-pied de Goethe, cest bien sr sur le
mode parodique que Nietzsche inscrira au-dessus de la porte dissimule du Gai
Savoir: Jhabite ma propre maison, je nai jamais imit personne en rien et je me
ris de tout matre qui na su rire de lui-mme.
En ralit, Nietzsche sait bien quil emprunte, il le sait mme trop bien, mais
sans doute la manire de Montaigne: il ne compte pas ses emprunts, il les pse.6
Autrement dit, il les value; certains ont du poids et il sen moque pendant que
dautres, il sen dcharge htivement tant ils sont alourdis par lesprit de pesanteur. Et plus encore, sans les compter ni mme les peser, il veut connatre le vrai
bonheur de les voler; il est vrai quil sagit de son fils Zarathoustra, capable de
se rveiller en pleine nuit, avant le lever du soleil, pour chanter lamour et ainsi transformer la plus sombre mlancolie en dithyrambe,7 le soleil noir de la mlanco-

4
5

Ecce Homo (dsormais en abrg EH), Pourquoi jcris de si bons livres. Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra, publi dans les uvres Philosophiques Compltes, T. VIII. Paris 1974, p. 312. Nous
crirons dsormais en abrg OC lorsque nous renverrons cette dition. Nous indiquerons
aussi par FP les fragments posthumes publis dans la mme dition.
EH Zarathoustra 5, OC VIII, p. 315.
Nous ne savons pas si Michel Schneider connaissait ou non cette pense de Goethe mais on en
trouve une trs grande proximit avec celle quil a crite dans son livre qui traite justement du
plagiat, tude en outre trs originale dans une perspective psychanalytique: Le texte original
nest pas le texte qui nimite pas mais celui qui est inimitable; cf.: Schneider, Michel: Voleurs
de mots. Essai sur le plagiat, la psychanalyse et la pense, Coll. Connaissance de linconscient.
Paris 1985, p. 110.
Montaigne, Michel de: Essais, liv. II, chap. X, p. 37, cit par Schneider Michel: Voleurs, op. cit.,
p. 104. Cest un livre superbe qui dit aussi bien notre mal aux mots que lenvol amoureux des signes et qui nous a appris bien des choses sur lart de voler.
EH, OC VIII, p. 315.

Nietzsche inimitable

77

lie8 en pome de louange en lhonneur de Dionysos. On peut remarquer au passage que, malgr son auto-critique concernant la juvnile mlancolie dont
aurait t entache La Naissance de la tragdie,9 la prgnance de la mlancolie, trangement proche subsiste mme voile et transforme sous le charme cruel de Dionysos et de son substitut gnrique Zarathoustra. Comment ne pas reconnatre,
dans cette subtile filiation, une proximit entre, dun ct, le souffle dionysiaque
qui sempare de tout ce qui est mort, pourri, cass, fltri qui donne un spectacle
comme surgi dun gouffre, tout baign dune lumire dor, et si plein et vert,
si dbordant de vie, si tendu dun incommensurable dsir quil fait entendre
le chant lointain et mlancolique celui qui raconte les Mres de ltre;10 et de
lautre, comme une sorte de rponse cette attente dune consolation pour lavenir,11 la plainte immortelle dun tre condamn, par surabondance de lumire et
de puissance, par sa nature solaire, ne pas aimer12 alors quil vit sous lemprise dun
dsir insatiable, un dsir damour qui parle le langage de lamour?13 Condamn
ne pas aimer: amour impossible, car il se nourrit du seul dsir de parler: Cest la
nuit: maintenant, comme une source jaillissante hors de moi, slance mon dsir
cest de parler que jai dsir.14 Seule Ariane serait capable de rpondre15 au chant
amoureux de son amant, inconsolable soleil tnbreux. Or qui sait mieux que
Nietzsche quAriane nest quun masque de Lou lautre amante marine?16 Ny
aurait-il chez lui quune comdie de lamour qui sest lentement labore travers
une savante et douloureuse alchimie du dsir laquelle vise purifier la jouissance
du plaisir? Peut-tre sagit il alors dune purification qui suppose une cruaut telle
quelle puisse se chanter travers la finamor, cest--dire aussi une fine mort, littralement pour celui qui, comme le troubadour, meurt damour, autrement dit, se
voit condamn, malgr ou cause de ses chants, ne pas aimer.17
8

10
11
12
13
14
15
16

17

Cest le contexte du paragraphe et du chant nocturne qui nous a fait penser au vers de Nerval
dans son trs clbre pome El Desdichado quon traduit habituellement par Le Dshrit dont
nous voulons ici mme voquer simplement le premier quatrain:
Je suis le tnbreux, le veuf, linconsol,
Le Prince dAquitaine la tour abolie;
Ma seule toile est morte, et mon luth constell
Porte le Soleil noir de la Mlancolie.
(Les Filles du feu, OC Collection La Pliade)
Essai dautocritique 2. Dans: La Naissance de la Tragdie (en abrg NT), OC I, 1977, p. 27; FP
1885/1886, 2[110], OC XII, p. 120 121.
NT 20, OC I, p. 134.
Ibid.
EH, OC VIII, p. 315.
Ibid.
Ibid., p. 317.
Ibid.
Sur ce point, consulter Irigaray, Luce: Amante marine de Friedrich Nietzsche. Paris 1980; voir
notamment la premire partie intitule: Dire deaux immmoriales, p. 8 80.
Nous ne pouvons ici approfondir cet aspect qui pourra faire lobjet dune autre tude.

78

Jacques Goetschel

Ceci nous montre que le travail dcriture de Nietzsche, potique en loccurrence, est tel quil rend compte de cela mme qui fait de lui non pas un pur
original il ny en a jamais eu mais un crateur, dans le sens o, jamais avant lui,
mme Archiloque na pu composer quelque chose daussi approchant que de
dire et de parler la souffrance du dieu. Cest pourquoi on peut y voir deux choses:
Dabord le ddoublement, limage dun Zarathoustra bifrons (Dionysos/
Nietzsche), de l inconsol nervalien, puisquil na pas t consol de son attente dune consolation pour lavenir et de linconsolable, puisquil sait quaujourdhui cette consolation est impossible moins de conserver lavenir sa
part essentielle qui nest pas encore crite, autrement dit, sa part de hasard,
la seule qui soit rserve au rdempteur qui ne peut tre, si cest un homme,
quun pote et un dchiffreur dnigmes.18 Ensuite, quelles quaient t les influences varies et multiples autant physiques par les rencontres avec des personnes de son entourage (et elles furent nombreuses) que culturelles au sens
large ce qui inclut les lectures aussi bien que les spectacles de thtre, on doit
reconnatre avec Curt Paul Janz, que Nietzsche possdait une extraordinaire
facult dadaptation. Il pouvait emprunter penses, concepts et principes sans jamais faire uvre de plagiaire, car il avait lart de les repenser et de les dvelopper
tel point et avec une telle consquence, que l original ny retrouvait, tout au
plus, que ses innombrables potentialits.19
Nous nous retrouvons l au cur du problme qui nous proccupe. En effet,
sil ny a pas de plagiat au sens gnral du terme, cest quil ny a pas de vol, mais
qu travers des lectures par exemple (voire surtout), cest moins dun vol de
mots, de phrases, dides ou dobjets dont il sagit, que du dsir de devenir crivain; autrement dit, du dsir dcrire, cest--dire du dsir de voler la crativit, de
sapproprier la position de lauteur, cest--dire son lieu dorigine, lorigine
mme. Y aurait-il toujours dj, ds quon touche lorigine, une imposture, et,
partant, une imposture originaire dans lacte dcrire? Une imposture do, prcisment, surgissent dinnombrables potentialits? De sorte que lon puisse reconnatre non pas loriginal, puisquil est altr sinon voil et/ou cach/oubli
(lth, en grec) mais loriginalit, aprs-coup.
Ainsi, si lon accepte, juste titre, quil ny a pas de plagiat au sens dune imitation servile, cest--dire une contrefaon (Nachmachung), il faut bien admettre
une cration en tant quimitation (Nachahmung) dorigine contrle, cest--dire
parfaitement matrise, et, de surcrot, dont le matre peut et doit savoir rire: cest
l le plus que Nietzsche soffre dans sa capacit de se donner sa propre origine et
den rire. Michel Schneider a parfaitement raison lorsquil crit que loriginalit
nest pas le fait dtre sans origine, mais de fonder en quelque sorte sa propre ori18
19

EH, OC VIII, p. 317.


Janz, Curt Paul: Nietzsche. Biographie. T. 1. Paris 1985, p. 393.

Nietzsche inimitable

79

gine.20 Les mots ne vont-ils jamais que vers eux-mmes, vers leur origine peuttre toujours spare de celui qui crit? Peut-tre faut-il lavoir perdue pour pouvoir crire?
Afin de ne pas tout fait se prendre trop au srieux, comme laurait fait
Socrate, Nietzsche cherche videmment sinscrire dans loptique dune autoorigination Je nai jamais imit personne en rien mais sur le mode de la
parodie, de la plaisanterie, de la ruse et de la vengeance. Dans laprs-coup on rit. Il
aura fallu attendre vingt-cinq sicles avant que Nietzsche dise: Je suis linventeur
du dithyrambe.21 Inventeur, car il mle le souvenir et loubli.22 On dira, dune
autre faon, quinventer, cest le temps retrouv, et que linventeur est le rdempteur du hasard.23 Car cest l une tche que Nietzsche partage avec Zarathoustra:
racheter tout le pass, racheter tous ceux qui furent . Cest l une rdemption
qui signifie une prise en charge, qui assume son pass, indpendamment de toute
foi religieuse, une volont responsable capable de convertir tout il y avait en
ce que jai voulu. Racheter sans remords, et donc sans culpabilit, comme une
sorte de corps corps avec lui-mme, tel est le destin et la tche dionysienne de
Zarathoustra qui se parle lui-mme, en parlant des autres comme autant de
fragments didentits posthumes quil veut unifier et racheter. Offrir tous ceux
qui furent la certitude et lesprance davoir t ce quil a toujours voulu: quils
soient rachets, par lui lEcce homo, non pas au prix des clous, mais au prix des
coups de marteau dont la duret sadresse tant soi-mme qu tous les crateurs, les originaux. La condition pralable de la crativit inventive est, et ne
peut donc tre que la duret. Cest ce prix que se rachte loriginalit de tous
ceux qui lont prcd.
Faisons donc le point. Nous avons admis, avec Roger Caillois, que loriginalit devait tre dlimite et recevoir son statut moins par lacte de naissance ou
dinauguration que par le dfi quexige lexcellence. Si le plagiaire ne trouve sa raison dtre qu dpossder les autres de leurs biens et plus encore de leur identit
ou de leur propre en ce cas on parlera plutt dun imposteur il ne saurait prtendre loriginalit et lon sempresserait bien vite aujourdhui de le condamner,
au moins moralement. En revanche, de nombreux tmoignages dcrivains clbres, rapports pour un certain nombre dentre eux par Michel Schneider, voquent ici ou l des emprunts, souvent flagrants, mais, quau demeurant, ils ont
fini tout simplement par changer de place, de perspective, et, partant, de sens. En
ce sens, on parlera plutt dadaptation pour reprendre le mot, juste en loccurrence, de Curt Paul Janz, que de pure reproduction. Ce qui compte, ce nest pas

20
21
22
23

Schneider: Voleurs, op. cit., p. 110.


EH, OC VIII, p. 315
Scheider: Voleurs, op. cit., p. 111.
Zarathoustra II, De la rdemption, repris dans EH, OC VIII, p. 317.

80

Jacques Goetschel

la premire fois, mais de dceler en elle la vrit qui la fonde ou, pour le dire autrement, non pas dtre tout prix lauteur qui fait habilement (on y reconnat
l le talentueux) venir quelque chose au monde ou lexistence, mais de dire ou
seulement de mi-dire la vrit, de quoi en faire un vnement, cest--dire quelque
chose qui claire le pass sans quil puisse jamais tre dduit. Nous pourrions le
dire de la quasi-totalit des textes de Nietzsche dont nous savons quil les composait et les recomposait sans cesse, sans cesser de lire, sans cesser de marcher.
Lexemple du dithyrambe nest donc pas anodin.
Dire je suis linventeur du dithyrambe, na rien dune imposture. Cest dire,
dabord, que le dithyrambe aura t un commencement que Nietzsche a voulu
achever, quil a port en pleine lumire, ou ractualis, dans le sombre dsert de
notre civilisation extnue.24 Cette r-actualisation en fait un lment intempestif, inactuel; et de fait, toute invention, quelle quelle soit, est, par elle-mme,
in-actuelle. Cest dire ensuite, et en mme temps, que le dithyrambe et tous les
emprunts, dune part, rendent hommage ceux qui furent les auteurs dits originaux, ce qui leur assure aussi la perptuation, le souvenir, voire limmortalit;
dautre part, ces derniers, dans linterprtation que Nietzsche en fit, ont accd
leur pleine existence et leur pleine signification et peuvent dsormais durer
et demeurer comme part intgrante de la philosophie. Pour le dire un peu brivement, on dira que, du dithyrambe, il en vient (e-venire); je suis linventeur veut
dire: jen viens, jen suis venu. Cest donc moins une trouvaille quune retrouvaille; cest moins linvention dun objet que lacte par lequel cet objet, loin
dtre irrvocablement perdu comme le serait, par ailleurs, lobjet (petit) a ,
est retrouv. Du dithyrambe, Nietzsche a voulu le retour et, pour cela, il lui aura
fallu donner un nouveau tour: linvention est l.
Pour avoir crit des Dithyrambes de Dionysos,25 Nietzsche rejoue comme un
acteur qui rpte car, chaque rptition, il y a du jeu,26 de la diffrence, de
lcart, de la nouveaut, kanots, disaient les anciens Grecs, en parlant de loriginalit les mmes pices; mais celles-ci, force dtre rptes, comme les questions, changent de direction, de chemins, garent quelquefois.
Telle est sans doute la condition de lcriture dun livre venir: toujours crit
par un autre, un autre en voyage, dont le voyage ltranger est, comme lcrit
Heidegger, une condition essentielle pour que saccomplisse le retour au pays,
retour qui le fait entrer dans la loi propre du chant potique.27 Un chant qui,
24
25
26

27

NT 20, OC I, p. 134.
Dithyrambes de Dionysos. Pomes et fragments potiques posthumes, OC VIII, vol. 2, 1986.
Y compris au sens technique quand on parle dun espace amnag permettant le mouvement ais
entre deux pices mcaniques, cest--dire permettant leur articulation ou leur dfaut darticulation.
Heidegger, Martin: Approche de Hlderlin, Coll. Tel. Paris 1996, p. 105; il sagit du pome intitul: Souvenir .

Nietzsche inimitable

81

chez Nietzsche, unit un deuil impossible de lobjet aim et perdu, et la jubilation


de sa rsurrection, un chant qui fait jaillir les larmes de labme et resplendir le
sourire dans la douleur. Quoi quil en soit, un chant qui est un appel (Ariane, en
ce cas, pourra y rpondre) un texte qui en appelle un autre, un crit qui interpelle.
Tous ont en commun ladresse dun autre auquel Nietzsche, dans sa solitude rmitique et errante, aura consacr sa vie pour la faire advenir ce quil nommera
la vie posthume.
Le voil prt (se) produire sur toutes les scnes, y compris la scne philosophique, et bien au-del, puisque, pour y jouer et rejouer celui quil na cess de
rencontrer (Dionysos), comme ceux qui ds lenfance ont toujours t en
voyage et ltranger,28 il va se donner pour-mort, mme quand il est en vie.
Jouer la mort qui se donne pour la vie29 tel est lultime expdient de la confrrie
des hommes posthumes:
A quoi pensez-vous? disait lun de ceux-ci avec impatience, serions-nous
dhumeur supporter cette tranget, ce froid, ce silence spulcral, toute cette
solitude souterraine, cache, muette, ignore, qui chez nous se nomme vie et
pourrait tout aussi bien se nommer mort, si nous ne savions ce quil advient de
nous et que ce nest quaprs la mort que nous parvenons notre vie et devenons
vivants, trs vivants! Nous autres hommes posthumes.30
Nous ne serions pas tonns si Nietzsche tait ici, tout simplement avec la
subtile mtis qui le caractrise tout comme le fut Ulysse31 le crateur de sa propre lgende, comme ltait, en son temps, Empdocle,32 dans le sens o il sagirait de mettre fin la sparation vie/mort, comme pour retrouver la fois la
mmoire dune ou de plusieurs vies antrieures et, libr de toute pesanteur
(de lesprit comme du corps), demeurer en vie sans mourir ou mourir tout en restant en vie. Fantasme de limmortalit? Sa vie, son uvre et sa pense insparablement lies en tmoignent. Se librait-il de toutes les vieilles peaux et de tous
les oripeaux? Certains de ses proches (et parmi ses plus proches, sa sur) comme
dautres plus lointains, ne tardrent pas semparer de ses propres fragments de
pense et force de mal les tanner, les discrditrent pour longtemps. Na-t-il
pas voulu quon le prenne pour un bouffon et non pour un saint? Na-t-il pas refus ladoration et la canonisation, autrement dit, la mise mort? Rien ne lui sied
28
29
30

31

32

Par del bien et mal (PBM) 295, OC VII, p. 207.


Voir ce propos le personnage de Falstaff, dans Henri IV de Shakespeare.
Le Gai Savoir (GS) 365; voir aussi entre autres textes: avant-propos de lAntchrist et EH: Pourquoi jcris de si bons livres, 1.
Dtienne, Marcel / Vernant, Jean-Pierre: Les Ruses de lintelligence. La Mtis des Grecs, coll.
Champs n36. Paris 1978, p. 30.
Dodds, E. R: Les Chamans grecs et les origines du puritanisme. Dans: Les Grecs et lirrationnel.
Trad. M. Gibson. Paris 1965, p. 145 et notes 65 et 66; voir Bidez, Fernand: La biographie dEmpdocle, cit par Dodds, note 65. Fragments dEmpdocle, 111, 3, 9; 111, 4. Edition de DielsKranz.

82

Jacques Goetschel

mieux que le futur antrieur, ce temps merveilleux qui achve le destin en lui laissant encore ouverte la porte de lavenir. Cette porte ouverte/ferme, en tout cas
dissimule, bien que mentionne, nest autre que la porte du Gai Savoir, au-dessus
de laquelle se trouve linscription que nous avons cite. Cette porte est celle dun
livre, dun livre venir, o vivre, joint la gaiet, devient 500000 opinions de la
plus grande bouffonnerie, comme sil sagissait dune confession de soi.33

Y a-t-il quelque chose de nouveau sous le soi?


Voil une autre faon de montrer comment fonctionne, si lon peut dire,
limitation dorigine contrle chez Nietzsche. Car on noubliera pas, dune part,
que ce contrle a lieu selon la plaisanterie, la ruse et la vengeance runies et
que, dautre part, emprunter cest toujours dj interprter ne serait-ce que parce
que lemprunt implique un prt et que, suivant ltymologie, linterprte (inter =
entre, et pres, de pretium = prix) engage, moyennement un prix, un marchandage,
ce qui implique ici, lide de trafic de mots ou dides.
Aussi bien, compte tenu de ce pralable, nest-il pas impossible, au contraire,
de retrouver dans lcriture nietzschenne, lemprunt Rousseau quon pourrait
jusqu un certain point considrer parmi les hommes posthumes. En effet,
Rousseau ncrit-il pas dans ses Confessions: je ne commenai de vivre que quand
je me regardai comme un homme mort?34 Cest cette volont de se montrer tel
quen lui-mme lternit le change, dans une parfaite matrise de labsence que
signifie le travail de lcriture, dans lexacte mesure o, comme le dit J. Derrida:
lacte dcrire serait essentiellement et ici de manire exemplaire le plus
grand sacrifice visant la plus grande rappropriation symbolique de la prsence.35 Et Derrida ajoute, comme pour conjurer le destin qui lie, depuis Platon,
lcriture la mort: la mort par lcriture inaugure aussi la vie car, explique-t-il,
Rousseau savait que la mort nest pas le simple dehors de la vie.36
Quelles que soient les similitudes et les diffrences entre Nietzsche et Rousseau, ainsi que les vhmentes invectives du premier lgard du second, il reste
que lun et lautre sont passs matres dans la mise en scne de soi devant soimme avec la volont de refuser le thtral, en affichant une probit absolue,
mme si Nietzsche estime que le mot de confession est trop solennel et,
consquemment, ne croit ni la confession ni au soi. Il nempche que, du
33
34

35
36

FP 1884/1885, 34[1], OC XI, 1982, p. 151.


Rousseau, Jean-Jacques: Confessions, Livre VI, cit par Derrida, Jacques: Grammatologie. Paris
1974, p. 205. On peut mme suggrer que les Confessions pourraient tre lues comme une autobio-thanato-graphie.
Derrida: Grammatologie, op. cit., p. 205.
Ibid.

Nietzsche inimitable

83

point de vue do nous parlons, savoir le rapport entre imitation et cration, les
deux philosophes ont, juste titre, voulu prtendre non seulement loriginalit
en tant quelle introduit de la nouveaut, mais encore la cration, ce qui leur
confre, outre un droit dauteur et une reconnaissance publique, un primat
linimitabilit et lexemplarit.
Ainsi commence le clbre dbut des Confessions: Je forme une entreprise qui
neut jamais dexemple, et dont lexcution naura point dimitateur. Je veux
montrer nos semblables un homme dans toute la vrit de sa nature; et cet
homme ce sera moi. Moi seul. Ainsi commence lavant-propos de Ecce homo:
Prvoyant quil me faudra sous peu adresser lhumanit le plus grave dfi
quelle ait jamais reu, il me parat indispensable de dire qui je suis;37 un peu plus
loin, aprs avoir enterr [sa] quarante-quatrime anne, bon droit, et sauv ce
qui, en elle, est imprissable, Nietzsche estime ncessaire de conter sa vie:
cest pourquoi je conte ici ma vie. A lire la suite, on est assez loin, et par la
forme et par le contenu, des Confessions. Dans cette optique, la fameuse inscription au-dessus de la porte du Gai Savoir: habiter sa propre maison, cest--dire
chez soi tout en se moquant de (du) soi, cest la fois conter et interprter sa vie.
Or comment se conte-t-elle selon Nietzsche? Sans doute moins par le dire que
par lcrit ou par les crits, livres et fragments: cest par eux quelle est interprte. Lcriture de ses livres et de ses fragments ne prend de sens, si lon peut dire,
que parce que tous se rapportent sa vie, dans la mesure o celle-ci, comme
ceux-l, sont dits posthumes. Autrement dit, sauvs parce quimprissables, ou
inactuels et pas encore lordre du jour: il en est qui naissent posthumes.38 Or
cest dans lexprience de cette post-inhumation dont tmoignent ses livres on
ne peut mieux faire dans lart de la thtralisation de sa vie que rside son originalit. Car, prcise Nietzsche, ce quoi lon na pas accs par une exprience
vcue, on na pas doreilles pour lentendre. Or un livre qui ne parlerait que
dexpriences dont aucune ne serait susceptible dtre vcue frquemment, ni
mme exceptionnellement, serait un livre o l on nentend tout simplement
rien, avec en plus lillusion dacoustique que l o lon nentend rien, il ny a rien
non plus Telle est vrai dire mon exprience la plus banale, ou, si lon veut, loriginalit de mon exprience.39
Aussi bien pour accder soi-mme, cest--dire se donner soi-mme comme
exemple et, comme tel, inimitable, faut-il avoir beaucoup vcu. Moins en nombre dannes qu la rencontre de la solitude: en ermite errant, en bouffon des
ternits, en satyre servant de ce dieu tentateur, enjleur des consciences, dont
la voix sait descendre jusquaux enfers de chaque me [] qui enseigne couter
37
38
39

EH, OC VIII, p. 239.


ibid. p. 276.
ibid. p. 277.

84

Jacques Goetschel

[] la main brutale et presse [et au contact duquel] aprs son attachement


chacun repart enrichi, non combl [] mais plus riche de soi-mme, mais plus
neuf, plus ouvert lui-mme que jamais.40 Cest encore accder la vie, cette
chose ncessaire dont lexprience est celle du grand style qui doit montrer
que lon croit ses penses, quon ne fait pas que les penser, mais quon les
prouve.41 Ce qui tend donc prouver, si besoin en tait, que si lon peut parler de
Nietzsche comme dun acteur, cest parce quil se met en scne en tant que penseur.
Autrement dit, il ne veut pas, pas plus quil nprouve, la ncessit de jouer un
autre personnage que lui-mme. Mais ny a-t-il quun seul personnage? A force
de sentourer de masques, comme il le dit dans Par del bien et mal,42 on finirait par
en douter. Et pourtant, celui quil prtend donner voir, ne serait-ce qu travers
le miroir de ses livres, qu travers ses fragments de pense, est un seul et unique
personnage multiples facettes. On serait, en ce cas, tout proche de lhystrique,
et, partant, dun histrionisme mais dlest de sa charge ngative et hostile. Ce qui
suppose, outre le donner voir et la mise en scne, une relle demande de regarder et dtre regard, lie paradoxalement, celle de ne pas tre imit.
Or cest l aussi un des sens de loriginalit: se donner soi-mme en exemple,
comme lnonce cet aphorisme plein dhumour:
A: Quest-ce dire? Tu ne veux pas dimitateur?
B: Je ne veux point servir dexemple quon imite: je veux que chacun se
propose lui-mme quelque chose en exemple: tout comme je le fais.
A: Donc ?43
Cet aphorisme, si bien titr Imitateurs, nous importe au plus haut chef, car
il jette une lumire sur lensemble du travail dcriture et de production duvres
chez Nietzsche. Il permet de comprendre que, pour crer, il faut apprendre surmonter langoisse des influences: il en est ainsi tout particulirement, pour celle
que Nietzsche aura vcue dans sa relation Wagner comme attachement psychoaffectif et intellectuel la personnalit du musicien; un attachement dautant plus
fort quil y eut une rupture et qui se paie cher, selon une expression dont on
peut dire quelle forme la trame voire le leitmotiv du premier post-scriptum du
Cas Wagner.44
Lcrivain-pote-philosophe rcrit des imitations, originales et inimitables,
pour devenir son tour inimitable, comme sil sagissait, lintrieur de chaque
sance dcriture plutt en marchant quassis45 de se faire interprte de ce
quelque chose qui nest jamais proprement parler stable: soi-mme.
40
41
42
43
44
45

PBM 295 puis repris dans EH: Pourquoi jcris de si bons livres 6, p. 284.
FP 1882/1884, 23[32], OC IX, 1986, p. 341.
PBM 40.
GS 255, OC V, p. 182.
Le Cas Wagner (CW) Premier post-scriptum, OC VIII, p. 44 48.
GS 366 et Prlude en vers 52; voir FP 1884/1885, 36[53], OC XI, 1982, p. 304.

Nietzsche inimitable

85

Tout la fois insaisissable et imprsentable, si ce nest au travers de fictions,


de fantasmes, de simulacres, de souvenirs et surtout de livres rumins et dchanges pistolaires qui tentent de le figer, ce soi, auquel dailleurs il ne croit pas,
sans doute pour ne pas tre confisqu, ni idoltr, ni chosifi la manire de
Descartes, vise soriginer et soriginaliser sans sauto-fonder.
Cest pourquoi accder sa propre vie (sa maison, son labyrinthe, son chemin) cest comme assister sa propre origine, voire sa naissance, jusqu sinventer des origines polonaises pour refuser une ascendance germanique quil
honnit.46 Mais cest surtout porter son regard sur le monde antique, car il est ce
monde auquel [il a] cherch des voies daccs et auquel [il a] peut-tre trouv un
nouvel accs A quoi? A lui-mme, cest--dire cet autre quil nest pas, cet avenir qui nest pas encore et qui sest converti en pass qui doit faire retour. Si Nietzsche a une dette lgard des Anciens (des Romains plus que des Grecs quant au
style), dette quil honore dans Le Crpuscule des Idoles47 cest au regard dun pass
quil admire et des hommes dont lesprit coule dans ses artres crbrales, articulant les mcanismes de la facult de rumination ceux de loubli. Autant les
mcanismes de loubli et de leffacement des traces sont ncessaires la cration,
autant ceux de la mmoire et du ressentiment paraissent, au contraire, empcher
cette capacit de crer, limiter et confisquer lavenir.
Limitation est donc ici, non une pure et simple reproduction fidle dun modle, dun original ou dune origine, mais une production de ce qui dans et ds
lorigine veut du nouveau. Cela peut signifier vouloir sen retourner aux origines
pour les rcrire: en ce sens, ce serait dans et par cet acte de rcrire que constituerait loriginalit, et donc se demander, quand on croit dire quelque chose
de nouveau, de qui nous vient ce qui nous vient. La rponse, pour Nietzsche,
vient du dieu inconnu, Dionysos, dont il prtend tre son dernier initi pour
avoir appris beaucoup de choses [] de ces choses qui passent de bouche en
bouche [] mi-voix comme il convient car il sagit de choses secrtes, neuves,
trangres, bizarres, inquitantes.48 Telle est bien ce quon appelle couramment
la tradition orale. Tandis que les livres suggrent plus quils nenseignent, dont on
ne retiendrait que ce qui est crit voire fix une fois pour toutes, constituant un
hritage expos au double risque de la vnration et/ou de la confiscation, en revanche, la transmission orale de ces choses secrtes qui relveraient de lunheimlich, resteraient lapanage dun matre qui, tout en ouvrant un chemin vers le dis46

47
48

Voir: EH, Pourquoi je suis si sage, OC VIII, p. 248: Je suis un noble polonais pur sang; dans mes
veines, pas une goutte de sang allemand. Quand je cherche mon plus exact oppos, lincommensurable bassesse des instincts, je trouve toujours ma mre et ma sur []. Il est bien connu que
Nietzsche sest querell avec sa sur Elisabeth, tout particulirement cause de son mariage
avec Frster, un antismite notoire.
Crpuscule des Idoles, Ce que je dois aux Anciens, OC VIII, 1974, p. 144 147.
PBM 295, OC VII, p. 207 208.

86

Jacques Goetschel

ciple, fait effort de rnonciation et de crativit constante, offrant liniti un


savoir certes, mais bien plus encore: la capacit de transmettre son tour, indfectiblement lie celle de linterprtation, elle-mme condition pralable pour
que se renouvelle une tradition et consquemment un enseignement qui doit tre
lexacte mesure de la capacit dcoute du disciple. Celui-ci, enfin, deviendra le
lieu de la rencontre o se nouent parole et criture.
Ce qui signifie que, malgr le risque que contient lcriture de ses penses
dpouilles de leur nouveaut, quelques-unes sont prtes se changer en vrits49 Nietzsche estime que lcriture mdiatise deux paroles: lcriture donne
voir une premire parole dont lcrit porte la trace. Il y a toujours de la parole
qui dborde, qui excde lcrit comme si cette parole, jamais totalement dite, tait
en cours dcriture. Ce qui se donne voir nest pas ce qui se montre ou ce quon
a sous les yeux. Or le propre de loriginalit consiste, selon Nietzsche, : voir
quelque chose qui na pas encore de nom, qui ne peut tre nomm, bien que cela
soit sous les yeux de tous.50 Cest pourquoi, tre original ce nest pas dtre le
premier voir quelque chose de nouveau, mais cest de voir comme si elles taient
nouvelles, les vieilles choses et connues, vues et connues par tout le monde, qui
distingue les cerveaux vritablement originaux.51
Nous voici donc tout proches de loriginalit de Nietzsche et au seuil de la
porte du Gai Savoir. Son ambition, cest moins de se produire comme modle
imitable, ce qui pourrait provoquer des moqueries, que de revendiquer une inimitabilit suscitant dabord la facult de rire de soi-mme. Cest dire que, fondamentalement, si Nietzsche ne croit pas au moi, cest parce que celui-ci na pas
dexistence en soi et quil est faire et mme crer, puisquil sinscrit en toute
ncessit dans le devenir. Sil faut devenir ce que lon est, cest quon ne lest pas
encore. Le devenir nest pas l pour actualiser le virtuel ni pour dcouvrir le moi
ce serait en outre indcent. Le devenir du moi est l pour mettre en lumire
un moi qui sannonce, snonce, se dit (se ddit et se ddie), se crer la mesure
de ce quil produit, cest--dire finalement pour nexister qu travers ses uvres.
Cette auto-cration du moi au miroir des livres dont tmoigne Ecce Homo, est justement ce qui en fait loriginalit.
Cela ne veut pas dire que derrire lironique Je nai jamais imit personne en
rien, Nietzsche na jamais emprunt, mais que limitation, chez lui, nest pas du
mme type que celle des anciens Grecs dont il admire pourtant le caractre exceptionnel: En Grce, les esprits profonds et srieux taient les exceptions linstinct du peuple tendait, au contraire, considrer plutt ce qui est srieux et profond comme une espce de dformation. Emprunter les formes ltranger, non
49
50
51

Ibid. 296, p. 209.


GS 261 et Opinions et sentences mles (OSM) 200, Coll. Mdiations. Paris 1975, p. 118.
Humain trop humain (HTH) T. 1, 165, Coll. Mdiations. Paris 1973, p. 165.

Nietzsche inimitable

87

point les crer mais les transformer jusqu leur faire revtir la plus belle apparence cest cela qui est grec: imiter, non pour utiliser, mais pour crer lillusion
artistique, se rendre matre toujours nouveau du srieux impos, ordonner, embellir, aplanir.52 Cest l une imitation, finalement assez tolrante pour se concilier avec loriginalit. Ici, cest un peu comme si limitateur courait aprs un original qui ne serait lui-mme quune imitation dimitation, ce que certains grands
crivains nont pas hsit rappeler en remontant jusqu Lucien de Samosate,53
un crivain dont nous savons combien son uvre devait limitation et lemprunt sous toutes ses formes.
Comment donc comprendre cette exigence, cette volont dtre inimitable?
La seule approche que Nietzsche estime valable de cette inimitabilit est quelle
se veuille originaire, autrement dit cratrice, linstar de ces crateurs capables de

52
53

OSM 221, p. 129.


Il naura pas chapp Nietzsche que Diderot aura imit celui-ci [Laurence Sterne] dans son
Jacques le fataliste et mme admir, bafou, parodi (OSM 113) sans le savoir exactement
et peut-tre est-ce l prcisment ce qua voulu lauteur. Cest pourquoi ce doute rend les Franais injustes lgard de cette uvre [Tristam Shandy] de lun des matres de leur littrature (ibid.).
Un auteur quil dsigne comme le grand critain dans Son Histoire du roi de Bohme et de ses sept chteaux: Et vous voulez que moi, plagiaire des plagiaires de Sterne matre de lquivoque, le mot
pris, bien entendu, dans un sens beaucoup plus large que lon a coutume de faire, lorsque lon
songe des rapports sexuels. Il y a l, soit dit en passant, un terrain fort suggestif dfricher,
dautant que cette quivocit, Nietzsche la repre chez Wagner. Quoi quil en soit, nous devons
Michel Schneider davoir rappel qu un plagiat peut en cacher un autre et ainsi de Nodier
Nerval se poursuit une tradition du plagiat: Le premier
Qui fut plagiaire de Swift
Qui fut plagiaire de Wilkins
Qui fut plagiaire de Cyrano
Qui fut plagiaire de Reboul
Qui fut plagiaire de Guillaume des Autels
Qui fut plagiaire de Rabelais
Qui fut plagiaire de Morus
Qui fut plagiaire dErasme
Qui fut plagiaire de Lucien ou de Lucius de Patras ou dApule
car on ne sait lequel des trois a t vol par les deux autres, et je ne me suis jamais souci de le
savoir Vous voudriez, je le rpte que jinventasse la forme et le fond dun livre!
Le ciel me soit en aide! Condillac dit quelque part quil serait plus ais de crer le monde que de
crer une ide.
Quant au second, on dcouvre ce passage dans le dernier chapitre de son Anglique:
Et puis (Cest ainsi que Diderot commenait un conte, me dira-t-on)
Allez toujours!
Vous avez imit Diderot lui-mme
Qui avait imit Sterne
Lequel avait imit Swift
Qui avait imit Rabelais
Lequel avait imit Merlin Coccae.
Qui aurait imit Ptrone
Lequel avait imit Lucien. Et Lucien en avait imit bien dautres. Cits par M. Schneider:
Voleurs, op. cit., p. 75.

88

Jacques Goetschel

se crer eux-mmes: Quant nous autres, nous voulons devenir ceux que nous
sommes les nouveaux, les uniques, les incomparables, ceux qui se font eux-mmes la loi, ceux qui se crent!.54
Ce passage indique clairement que Nietzsche veut sinscrire, comme dailleurs la plupart des crivains (au sens large du terme, de ceux qui crivent) voire
des artistes, dans la ligne des gnies: non pas ceux qui, comme les anciens
Grecs, empruntent la forme ltranger et, par transformation ou mtamorphose, les recouvrent pour produire une nouvelle apparence, mais les gnies
crateurs de nouvelles formes, figures, valeurs, tables, etc. Autrement dit, lexigence de cration modifie le rapport au modle qui nest en fin de compte que
soi-mme. Il lui faut apprendre se dfaire de toutes ses corces jusqu ce quil
se dcouvre comme un noyau dur, cest--dire ce quil doit devenir: Devenez
durs dira Zarathoustra ses disciples.55 Cest limpratif ducatif de tous les
crateurs anims de la joyeuse envie de dtruire et le vritable signe dune nature
dionysiaque.56
Sil ne sagit pas tout fait ici de destruction mais plutt de construction, cest
dans la mesure o le modle est du ct de linventeur ou du dcouvreur; plus exactement, du ct du crateur de soi: faire de sa propre vie une uvre dart.57
De sorte que simposent des conditions de dure pour que lon devienne ce quon
est. Or ceci nadvient quaprs coup, cest--dire aprs que lon a dj vcu, crit,
et quand on peut donc se reconnatre soi-mme dans ses propres uvres, dans ses
crits. Ainsi, au moment de son autobiographie, Nietzsche pourra dire: Maintenant que je revois avec un certain recul toutes les circonstances dont [mes] crits
portent tmoignage, je ne nierai pas quau fond elles ne parlent que de moi.58
Nous avons volontairement remplac ces par mes car si Nietzsche parle
dans le contexte des troisime et quatrime Considrations inactuelles, il nest pas invraisemblable que cette remarque puisse sappliquer lensemble de ses uvres.
Nietzsche naura donc pas manqu de signifier son originalit, autrement dit sa
volont de devenir ce quil est (sans jamais donner l tre un autre sens que le
devenir, et donc en le marquant du signe irrvocable de linstabilit ce qui, par
ailleurs, se manifestait tant par ses tats physiologiques que par ses voyages
continus), et de saccomplir comme une promesse, quil dterminera lui-mme
dans Ecce Homo comme un destin, et, plus concrtement, travers ses crits. En
ce sens, Nietzsche crira: le texte Wagner Bayreuth est une vision prophtique
de mon avenir; par contre, dans Schopenhauer ducateur est inscrite mon histoire intime, celle de mon devenir. Et, avant tout, ma promesse! Ce que je suis
54
55
56
57
58

GS 335, OC V, p. 226.
Zarathoustra (APZ) III, Anciennes et nouvelles tables 29, OC VI, 1971, p. 235.
EH, p. 318.
NT 1, p. 45.
Voir propos des Inactuelles 3 dans: EH, p. 254.

Nietzsche inimitable

89

aujourdhui, o jen suis et o je suis aujourdhui, une altitude o je ne mexprime plus en mots mais en clairs! oh, comme jen tais encore loin en ce
temps l! Mais je voyais la Terre promise je ne me suis pas tromp un instant
sur le chemin, les mers traverser, les prils, ni, surtout, sur le succs! Cette assurance tranquille du serment, ce regard heureux jet vers un avenir qui ne doit
pas rester simple promesse!.59
Nietzsche est cet gard trs lucide quant au chemin qui doit le conduire vers
lui-mme. Bien quil ait crit sans quil connaisse le moment de sa rencontre avec
lui-mme, il savait intuitivement que le chemin tait le bon et navait pas de doute
quant sa propre attente. Comme le dit Zarathoustra: En vrit, moi aussi jai
appris attendre et fondamentalement, mais nattendre que moi-mme,60 dautant que si le chemin, en effet, nexiste pas, cest bien sur son propre chemin
quil faut apprendre se tenir debout, marcher, courir, sauter, grimper,
danser (ibid.) condition sine qua non pour apprendre voler un jour de ses
propres ailes.
Nous sommes l au cur de linimitabilit. Si Nietzsche se veut inimitable,
cest parce quil ne veut pas emprunter les mmes chemins que les autres, que ses
devanciers, ni demander son chemin; tout cela lui rpugne, car il prfre interroger les chemins eux-mmes et les essayer (ibid.) plutt que de marcher, sauter,
courir sur les traces de ceux qui ont dj parcouru leur propre chemin.
59

60

Ibid., p. 295. Il suffirait de substituer le nom de Schopenhauer par celui de Nietzsche et le tour
serait jou et nous aurions Nietzsche ducateur. Pour rester dans notre contexte nous voudrions, pour illustrer ce que Nietzsche dit de son Inactuelle, prendre, par exemple, le passage suivant: Celui qui laisse sinterposer entre lui et les choses des notions, des opinions des vnements du pass, des livres, celui donc qui, au sens le plus large, est n pour lhistoire, ne verra
jamais les choses pour la premire fois et ne sera jamais lui-mme une de ces choses que lon voit
pour la premire fois; mais les deux sappartiennent rciproquement chez le philosophe, parce
quil lui faut tirer de lui-mme le plus grand enseignement et parce quil se sert lui-mme
dimage et dabrg de lunivers. Lorsque quelquun se regarde par lintermdiaire dopinions
trangres, quoi dtonnant sil ne voit rien dautre que des opinions trangres! Et cest ainsi
que sont, vivent et voient les savants. Schopenhauer, par contre, a eu le bonheur indescriptible,
non seulement de voir en lui le gnie de prs, mais aussi en dehors de lui, chez Goethe: cette double rflexion la instruit et averti fond de tous les objectifs et de toutes les cultures drudits
[]. Il ny avait pour lui quune seule tche et cent mille moyens de la rsoudre: un seul sens et
dinnombrables hiroglyphes pour lexprimer, Considrations inactuelles III, OC, p. 80 81
Quant la promesse de la Terre, limage est assez forte dans lesprit de Nietzsche pour pouvoir
lemprunter et faire son chemin: celui du dsert, celui de Mose ce qui snonce dj en filigrane
comme refus du non moins clbre chemin de croix. Comme Mose, en effet, il voyait la Terre
promise peut-tre aussi en sachant quil ne pourrait y entrer. Aurait-il transgress linterdit quil
entra dans lenfer, le grand enfermement, la folie en devenant Autre. Son alliance fut celle de et
scelle avec Dionysos: pour y avoir voulu rentrer trop profondment, il en a perdu le sens du
vcu en mme temps que la raison, autrement dit, lensemble des conditions de lexistence humaine. A travers ses crits, Nietzsche tait-il en train de crer son moi, de refaire son me, de
faire revenir lui son propre futur? Sans doute ne savait-il pas encore que son destin irait quelque part dans linachev, dans linfondation des choses.
APZ III, Lesprit de pesanteur 2, OC VI, p. 216.

90

Jacques Goetschel

En sachant o il en est aujourdhui, Nietzsche estime quil est enfin la hauteur


de son attente, cest--dire jamais autrement que dans la rencontre avec soimme, dans et travers sa littrature, son texte intime, son propre style. Ainsi,
dans une lettre son ami Peter Gast de dcembre 1888, Nietzsche crit: Depuis
quelques jours je feuillette ma littrature, pour la premire fois je me sens sa hauteur.
Comprenez-vous cela? Jai tout trs bien russi sans jamais men rendre compte
au contraire! Par exemple, les divers Avant-Propos, le cinquime livre de la Gaya
Scienza Diable, tout ce quil y a l-dedans! Au sujet de la troisime et de la quatrime
Inactuelle, vous ferez dans Ecce Homo une dcouverte qui vous fera dresser les
cheveux elle a fait dresser les miens aussi! Dans toutes deux, il nest question que
de moi anticipando Wagner, pas plus que Schopenhauer, ny interviennent psychologiquement Je nai compris ces deux crits que depuis une quinzaine!61
Que signifie se comprendre soi-mme? Satteindre et sattendre soi-mme.
Comment est-ce possible? Le temps est ncessaire: il faut du temps pour scrire
soi-mme, hors confessions, si lon ne croit ni la confession ni au soi. Cest possible encore lorsque, tout en crivant sur dautres, on ne sait pas encore que lon
crit sur soi-mme, un peu comme si le soi ntait quun palimpseste. En un sens,
Nietzsche ne savait pas encore, bien quil ft le sujet suppos savoir, quil sinventait un personnage, un seul personnage, le seul quil puisse crire et jouer: luimme mais quil dissimulait sous une multitude de masques: figures mythiques,
personnalits ayant rellement exist ou encore des personnages littraires.
Il est difficile de dcider ici ce qui se dessinait ou sesquissait dans lesprit de
Nietzsche: un mythe, une lgende ou un roman personnel? Quoi quil en soit,
avant quil ne frappe son dernier coup qui sera son coup de folie et que ne
tombe le rideau aprs que cet ultime coup de thtre le spare presque dfinitivement du monde des hommes et le fasse concider avec lui-mme pour ne plus
tre divis davec lui-mme, Nietzsche aura, sa vie durant, cherch inverser le
platonisme, en r-installant une mimsis lorigine. Quest-ce que cela veut dire?

Le chemin qui ne mne nulle part qu soi-mme ou la folie


Nous savons que Platon, plusieurs reprises, aura mis en uvre le rejet de
la mimsis, de la mimsis thtrale en particulier, de sorte quelle ne puisse nuire
la formation des futurs gardiens de la cit idale, les philosophes. Avec Nietzsche, cest non seulement tout ldifice platonicien qui scroule, mais encore
la volont de restituer lart sa dignit en le plaant au lieu mme do la vrit
stait rige, mais en faisant exploser le lieu mme de lrection. Ce faisant, il
61

Lettre de Nietzsche Peter Gast, dcembre 1888, n272. Dans: Lettres Peter Gast. Trad. L.
Servicen. Paris 1981, p. 563.

Nietzsche inimitable

91

se met et sinstalle lui-mme en lieu et place de cette vrit en srigeant une stle
la hauteur de son moi. Original, on ne peut ou plutt on na pu faire mieux
avant lui. Inimitable, car il est pour lui-mme le miroir quil installe et se tend
lui-mme, devant lequel il se voit, comme jadis lacteur qui, condition dtre
vraiment dou, voit flotter devant ses yeux, doue dune ralit presque tangible,
limage du personnage dont il doit incarner le rle.62 Dsormais, personnage
dionysien par excellence, il ne peut contempler que cette nouvelle image de
son moi: celui quil est enfin devenu puisquon devient ce quon est.
Ainsi, en sinvestissant exclusivement sur lui-mme Je nai jamais imit
personne en rien il ne peut que simiter, autrement dit, se donner comme origine la mimsis ou comme une mimsis originaire quil finirait par incarner, si lon
peut dire. En ce sens, il nest pas impossible que la mimsis regagne63 sa place,
retrouve un lieu voire un chez soi: le moi. Une mimsis, donc, qui, bien quoriginaire, na plus elle ne la dailleurs jamais eu de statut ontologique. En revanche, son dplacement, son transfert dans le moi, sera justement la condition
de possibilit de toute inimitabilit. On sait, par ailleurs, que, pour la psychanalyse, linconscient ne rvle que peu peu ses secrets. A cet gard, il ne semble
pas difficile de voir et de comprendre que le devenir inimitable ne serait que lune
des manifestations ou lune des facettes (non pathologiques) du narcissisme
dont Freud, reprenant le mythe de Narcisse, amoureux de lui-mme, a montr le
voisinage avec la mort.
Quel que soit le texte de Nietzsche, il y a toujours, dsign ou non, montr
ou pas, un miroir dans un texte (Tous les potes sont des Narcisse disait lun
des deux Schlegel), car cest le seul moyen qui puisse se concevoir de combler cet
invitable retard du sujet sur lui-mme [] jusquau jour o [] ce qui commence bouger alors, au fond du miroir, derrire sa surface clate [] cest
toute cette instabilit terrorisante que la glace avait t charge de figer [].
Lhistoire est connue: cest celle, par exemple, dun professeur de philosophie
grecque hant par le dmon dcrire et qui se fait faire un nom dans la philosophie. Il croit srieusement en lui-mme, il se prend srieusement pour un gnie, il
se constitue en rival des plus grandes figures de la pense et des lettres il entreprend mme, srieusement, dimiter Platon.64 Du moins, semble-t-il, le Platoncrivain, celui qui a, le premier, intgr le genre dramatique, destin rendre le
dialogue plus inventif65 et prsenter celui-ci comme une mthode qui se cherche, ses deux aspects pouvant, lun et lautre, relever de lart de plaire, sans que
cet art soit exclusif de la formation de lesprit et de linstruction.
62
63

64
65

NT 8, p. 72.
Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe: Typographies. Dans: Mimsis. Des articulations. Coll. La philosophie en effet. Paris 1975, p. 269.
Ibid.
Platon: Le Politique 285d.

92

Jacques Goetschel

Or, quand la mimsis retrouve sa place (en tout cas une autre place que
Platon avait ddaign lui reconnatre) chez Nietzsche, cest au premier abord,
sous la forme de la parodie et de lauto-drision: Je nai jamais imit personne en
rien, renforce par et je me ris de tout matre qui na su rire de lui-mme. Se
prendre srieusement pour un gnie, oui, mais condition aussi et surtout den
rire. Ne pas cesser de dcliner ensemble cration et bouffonnerie ne serait-ce,
comme le dit Nietzsche, pour lui-mme, tout en sadressant aux autres, que pour
chapper la canonisation: Je suis un disciple du philosophe Dionysos, et jaimerais mieux tre satyre quun saint.66 Etrange position dun disciple qui se
croit gnie et se voit dj matre! Sans doute sagit-il plutt dun ddoublement,
et quau thtre de Dionysos se substitue dj un thtre du Je: du dieu qui rend
fou on passe mimtiquement au fou qui se donne pour fou. Je est un autre: ne
faut-il pas devenir ce que lon est? Dans son thtre priv o lon ne se prive de
rien, comment pourrait-on ne pas simiter? Simiter est aussi inimitable quoriginal: cela na rien de nouveau. Et pourtant, quand a arrive, a narrive qu soi.
Simiter na rien voir avec la singerie, la grimace, la contrefaon; et pourtant,
seule, peut-tre, la folie simite ou simite.67 Originalit par excellence: la folie car cest elle qui fraye la voie de la pense neuve, et, partant, du gnie. Si
lhomme est (un) comdien, peut-tre est-ce parce quil parat toujours fou dune
faon ou dune autre: comdien normal ou pathologique, il joue la folie et la djoue continuellement.
En rappelant avec Platon et toute lAntiquit que cest par la dmence [mania] que les plus grands biens sont advenus en Grce,68 et que sans une pointe
de dmence point de gnie ni de sagesse, Nietzsche, dans ce fameux aphorisme 14 dAurore, veut faire, dit-il un pas de plus, un pas de sens nouveau dans
lhistoire occidentale de la moralit; tous les hommes suprieurs qui se sentiront
irrsistiblement pousss briser le joug dune moralit quelconque et instaurer
de nouvelles lois neurent pas dautres solutions, sils ntaient pas rellement dments, que de se rendre dments ou de se donner pour tels et cela vaut pour les
novateurs dans tous les domaines, et non pas seulement pour celui des institutions sacerdotales et politiques []. Comment se rend-on dment lorsquon ne
lest pas et quon nose pas feindre de ltre? [] Qui donc se risque jeter un regard dans labme de dtresses spirituelles [] Ou prter loreille ces soupirs
des solitaires hagards: Ah! Donnez-moi au moins la dmence, puissances clestes! La dmence pour quenfin je croie en moi-mme! Donnez-moi le dlire et les
convulsions, les illuminations et les tnbres soudaines, terrifiez-moi par des
66
67
68

EH Avant-propos 2, p. 239.
Lacoue-Labarthe: Typographies, op. cit., p. 270.
Platon: Phdre, 244a, cit par Nietzsche: Aurore 14. On notera au passage que Lon Robin traduit mania par dlire. Voir aussi sur la Mania grecque: Dodds: Les Grecs, op. cit., et en particulier le chapitre III, p. 71 104.

Nietzsche inimitable

93

frissons et des ardeurs tels que jamais mortel nen prouve, des fracas et des formes errantes, faites-moi hurler et gmir et ramper comme une bte: mais que jai
foi en moi-mme! Le doute me dvore, jai tu la Loi, la Loi me hante comme un
cadavre un vivant; si je ne suis plus que la Loi, je suis le dernier des rprouvs.
Lesprit nouveau qui est en moi, do vient-il, sinon de vous? Prouvez-moi donc
que je suis vtre; seule la dmence me le prouve.69
La question ne se laisse pas attendre, dautant plus quelle se ddouble. Faudrait-il devenir rellement fou pour croire en soi-mme de la mme faon que les
Grecs, ayant cru au rle, devinrent rellement acteurs?70 Ny a-t-il pas lieu dtre reconnaissant aux artistes de thtre de nous avoir appris lart de nous considrer
en tant que hros et, pour ainsi dire transfigur lart de nous mettre en scne
nous-mmes nos propres yeux,71 comme sil sagissait, en mme temps, audel dune reconnaissance de dette, dune demande dtre regard inimitable?
Produire ce double jeu, cest sans doute l que rside le gnie, et, partant,
loriginalit de linimitable imitation de Nietzsche. Que la folie soit affaire
de mimsis, cest entendu, condition de ne jamais tout fait la simuler ou la
feindre, si lon veut croire en soi-mme et finalement devenir rellement ce que
lon est.
Au demeurant, si loriginalit est une manire quun acteur a de pouvoir simiter, cest, pour recentrer sur lune des plus belles mtaphores que Nietzsche
sadresse lui-mme, de renvoyer la forme pronominale non pas un sujet rflchi, mais un feu qui signifie, pour reprendre une expression de Bachelard.
Nest-ce pas ainsi que scrit en lettres de feu loriginal qui simite en signifiant,
dans le prlude en vers du Gai Savoir ?
Ecce Homo
Oui, je sais mon origine!
Insatiable, telle la flamme
Je me consume incandescent
Lumire tout ce que je prends,
Charbon tout ce que je laisse;
Flamme je suis assurment72
Tel est bien, nous semble-t-il, ce quil y a dinimitable dans ce corps incandescent, tout de lumire. On peut rappeler ce vers lumineux de Novalis que cite Bachelard dans sa Psychanalyse du Feu: La lumire est le gnie du phnomne ign.

69
70
71
72

Aurore 14, OC IV, 1970, p. 28.


GS 356, p. 257.
GS 78, p. 106.
GS Prlude en vers 62, p. 45.

94

Jacques Goetschel

Bien comprise, limitation ne peut faire quune place essentielle loriginalit:


cest en ce sens que pourra tre dfinie la Nachahmung, quon traduit gnralement par imitation, mais qui dsigne avec plus de justesse par bonne imitation,
par opposition la Nachmachung: imitation en tant que contrefaon (dans Nachmachung il y a machen = faire, do faire daprs copier, fidlement, parfaitement). Cette distinction entre Nachahmung et Nachmachung a t releve par Derrida dans sa lecture de la thorie kantienne de la mimsis73 et plus prcisment
propos de la conception kantienne du gnie, dans les paragraphes 46 et 47 de la
Critique de la facult de juger esthtique.74 Rappelons-en quelques points essentiels et
dabord la dfinition qui est, il faut le souligner, une dfinition nominale: Le gnie
est la disposition inne de lesprit (ingenium) par laquelle la nature donne les rgles
lart.75 Dfinition nominale et donc arbitraire, car le gnie est accord autant aux
savants quaux artistes.76 Pour en dterminer sa spcificit, Kant va reconnatre
le gnie comme un don de la nature qui dispose harmonieusement des facults
de lesprit, et de fait le gnie crateur ne sait pas comment ses ides se trouvent
en lui, il nest pas en son pouvoir ni den concevoir les plans, ni de les communiquer autrui dans des prceptes quil suffirait dimiter. Cest pourquoi, dit Kant
(nous abrgeons), loriginalit doit tre sa premire proprit et il suffit que ses
productions soient exemplaires sans avoir t eux-mmes engendrs par limitation (Nachahmung).77

73

74

75
76

77

Derrida, Jacques: Economimsis. Dans: Mimsis. Des articulations. Coll. La philosophie en effet. Paris 1975, p. 57 93.
Kant, Immanuel: Critique de la facult de juger, 1re partie, 1re Section, livre II, 46: Les beauxarts sont les arts du gnie. Paris 1968, p. 138. Sans en faire le commentaire que daucuns parmi
les spcialistes de Kant ont dj effectu, nous pouvons cependant rappeler que la dfinition
quil propose nest pas le rsultat dune enqute portant sur des donnes dordre anthropologique empiriquement observables et qui aurait t, en ce cas, lobjet dune analyse psychologique;
en revanche, elle rsulte bien plutt de la recherche dun principe. La question laquelle la dfinition rpond serait celle-ci: que faut-il que soit le principe gnrateur (gniteur?) des uvres des
beaux-arts, sil est vrai que je ne puis les juger belles qu la condition quelles napparaissent
comme Nature, tout en me laissant conscient du fait quelles sont un produit de lArt? Autrement dit, il faut que le concept soit paradoxalement, tout la fois prsent et absent; or ceci ne
sexplique que parce quil est indterminable; or cest cette indtermination originaire, en tant
quelle permet le jeu libre des facults (limagination et lentendement) et au jugement rflchissant dapprcier la beaut, quil convient prcisment de situer le gnie.
Ibid.
Cette dfinition est claire certes, mais Kant y reconnat un risque darbitraire, car on pourrait lui
reprocher notamment de rserver exclusivement aux beaux-arts le principe producteur du gnie,
et lui objectant que le sens commun ou le commun des mortels a lhabitude de reconnatre le gnie aux savants aussi bien quaux artistes. Si nous voquons ici la dfinition kantienne du gnie
cest pour la situer par rapport la distinction opratoire de limitation. Il ne sagit pas pour nous,
du moins ici, dexposer la perpective nietzschenne. On peut dcouvrir une quantit de textes
dont certains sont mme anti-kantiens. cf.: par ex. HTH, T. 1, 162 et 163.
Kant, Immanuel: Critique de la facult de juger, op. cit.

Nietzsche inimitable

95

Cest en ce sens, bien videmment, quil y a incompatibilit du gnie, et partant, de loriginalit avec limitation; en effet, et se conformant lautorit dAristote, Kant estime que puisquapprendre nest autre chose quimiter, la meilleure
disposition, la plus grande facilit apprendre (capacit) ne peut, comme telle,
passer pour du gnie.78 Un matre peut bien se proposer denseigner ses lves
les techniques de lArt de la fugue en tant quelle comporte les rgles dtermines
de mise en forme, mais le gnie qui linventa, Johann Sebastian Bach, devait se
contenter de leur proposer en exemple luvre gniale produite par loriginalit
de son talent. Cest en ce sens, et en ce sens seulement, que peut se justifier la distinction entre la bonne imitation Nachahmung dfinie partir de loriginalit
et la contrefaon Nachmachung cest--dire une imitation servile.79 Puisque
cest le gnie, le don naturel, qui donne lart sa rgle et que celle-ci est proprement parler non-conceptuelle, il est clair que cest labsence de concept qui transforme limitation en copie: pour que les ides du matre veillent des ides
semblables chez les lves il faut que la nature ait dot ceux-ci dune proportion
comparable des facults de lesprit comme elle lest chez le matre, et cest en ce
sens quil faut que les lves aient eux aussi du gnie. Or une telle aptitude est incommunicable dans lexacte mesure o elle est un don de la nature et, en tant que
telle, elle obit la loi du tout ou rien. Ce qui veut dire que le gnie en a sa part
et que tous lont en entier. Do le paradoxe: inimitable parce quoriginal, exemplaire et incommunicable, le gnie, du fait de son exemplarit doit pourtant tre
imit; ce qui ne signifie nullement reproduit, copi servilement, contrefait.
Jacques Derrida fait trs justement remarquer, comme nous lavions indiqu
plus haut, que la nuance difficile qui rapporte la bonne la mauvaise imitation,
la bonne la mauvaise rptition, se fixe brivement dans lopposition entre
limitation et la contrefaon, entre Nachahmung et Nachmachung, linsaisissable de
lcart, qui va pourtant du tout au tout, se rpte, imite ou contrefait dans le signifiant: inversion anagrammatique parfaite, lexception dune seule lettre.80
La conception de la bonne imitation laisse donc place pour une appropriation du modle, cest--dire pour ce quon appelle une originalit lmentaire.
Cest pourquoi un modle ne sera un modle que sil peut tre imit, sil se donne
pour ou la mimsis; il nexiste pas comme modle en soi, mais modle parce
quimit, cest en quoi, paradoxalement, il reste inimitable. Autrement dit, un
modle qui runirait toutes les qualits nexiste quen esprit: ni lhistoire, ni la ralit empirique nattestent lexistence dun modle idal.81 Encore une fois, un
modle sera dfini comme modle moins parce quil aura t pens par lesprit

78
79
80
81

Ibid., II, 47.


Ibid.
Ibid. p. 70.
Cicron: De Oratore 7, 9; 18, 9; 100, 1; Quintillien: De Institutio Oratore X, 2; 5, 8; XI, 1, 92.

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Jacques Goetschel

ou projet hors des existants ou du monde de lexprience et de lexistence, que


parce quil aura t imit. A cette difficult qui tient au modle sen rajoute une
autre qui tient limitateur; en effet, certaines uvres dpassent tellement le modle quelles paratront inimitables. Linimitabilit ne tiendrait donc pas du modle mais de la perception de limitateur, cest--dire du regard quil porte sur une
uvre. Car si une uvre tait en soi inimitable, elle ne pourrait tre reprsente.
Or si elle se donne comme destine la reprsentation, une uvre devient un
modle ou reoit un statut de modle pour ceux-l mmes pour qui elle est reprsentable, et prsentement reprsentable.
Cest dire que la clef dune bonne imitation semble rsider dans une adaptation en profondeur au modle, en ayant conscience des efforts fournir pour
sen carter, et par consquent en prenant conscience de la distance qui len spare. Imiter, ce serait donc sassimiler au modle, de sorte que les emprunts subissent une transformation telle quils apparaissent mconnaissables, comme
fondus dans le milieu. Ainsi, lorsquil sagit dun crivain ou dun peintre par
exemple, un acte dappropriation du ou des modles suppose, en mme temps,
un effort dimagination et dinvention: linnovation est ce titre originalit,
comme le pensaient les Grecs, et limitation est alors, et alors seulement, re-cration dans tous les sens du mot et, partant, elle peut exister dans tous les domaines. Cest en ce sens que la parodie, bien que restant tributaire de la mimsis, laisse
lcrivain une latitude, une libert desprit sans laquelle, prcisment, la re-cration serait inconcevable. Ce qui signifie que, lorsquon qualifie quelquun d inimitable ce nest en aucune faon dsavouer ou dcourager la mimsis et donc
limitateur; cest une imitation qui joue et se dissimule sous les masques de lobsquiosit, du manirisme,82 de la servilit excessive, de lutilit pragmatique. Il
82

Ainsi Kant dira par exemple dune uvre dart quelle est manire, uniquement lorsque lexpos
de son Ide ne vise qu la singularit et nest pas construit de faon qui convient l Ide (Kant,
Immanuel: Critique de la facult de juger, op. cit., II, 49). En ce sens, le manir, cest--dire
le prcieux, le guind, et laffect qui ne cherchent (sans me) qu se distinguer du commun
ressemblent lattitude de celui dont on dit quil scoute parler, ou de celui qui se tient et qui
marche comme sil tait sur scne, afin dtre admir des badauds, chose qui rvle toujours un
sot (ibid.); cest la conduite dite thtrale au sens pjoratif: il en montre trop; ou encore: Etre
manir est une autre forme de singerie qui consiste ntre que personnel (originalit) pour tcher
de sloigner le plus possible des imitateurs, sans cependant possder le talent dtre en mme
temps un modle (ibid.). Cest celui quon appelle aujourdhui: un original, cest--dire celui
qui participe du culte de loriginalit prise comme fin en soi ce qui constitue un lieu commun
quon peut rfrer une interprtation individualiste o la recherche obsdante de la diffrence devient le critre essentiel de la conduite et ce, quelles que soit les consquences irrationnelles dune telle attitude. Ce qui pose videmment le problme suivant: le fait dtre diffrent
des autres et de vouloir tout prix cette diffrence contribue-t-il au fait dtre soi-mme? Et ce
qui met en lumire les implications suivantes: laffirmation de la diffrence et son affichage ostensible peut avoir des significations variables et mme relever de faux-semblants, dides illusoires ou de fantasmes. Cela peut tre un aveu de faiblesse qui rside dans lattitude qui consiste
se poser en sopposant comme le dit Sartre, ou se singulariser par raction contre quelquun

Nietzsche inimitable

97

en est une autre qui respecte les modles, ne les bouscule pas et qui pour cela est
vraiment originale, car elle va ou prtend aller au plus intime du modle.

Nietzsche: inimitable modle de thtralit


On pourrait donc considrer limitation non point comme un instinct servile,
ce qui pourrait lui donner lapparence ou le faux-semblant de la contrefaon,
mais bien plutt comme une capacit de sadapter tous les modles, supposant
souplesse et libert et peut-tre mme une lutte ouverte, une rivalit agonistique,
une rivalit mimtique do la servilit serait exclue. Il y aurait donc dans ce type
dimitation un vritable art subversif dans la mesure o il lui faudrait disposer
(don naturel?) dune puissance telle quelle puisse transgresser symboliquement les limites exhibes par les modles: sy conformer jusqu les subvertir,
y compris dans et par la contrefaon, mais entendue cette fois-ci autrement que
dans le sens kantien de singerie, ne serait-ce pas l une autre faon de percevoir
lart du comdien?
Au fond, sil peut rire de la comdie quil joue aux autres, et quil se joue luimme, en touffant un rire inaudible pour eux, comme il linscrivit sur la porte
dentre du Gai Savoir, Nietzsche nentre-t-il pas, par effraction, dguis en fantme, chez des travestis qui ne veulent pas quon les dise tels,83 par des portes
closes? Ou bien: lorsque toutes lumires sont teintes? Ou bien encore: alors que
nous sommes dj morts?84 Cest peut-tre cet expdient-l, comme tant le
plus beau rle et sans doute en mme temps le plus tragique que Nietzsche ait invent pour lavoir jou pendant toute sa vie: son premier et ultime masque natre posthume! Faire le mort: parfaite simulation! A-t-on jamais vu un tel rle sur
une scne?85
On peut se demander, en fin de compte, si le fait de mourir avant dtre n
jouer lhomme posthume nest pas au fond le lieu commun de tout crivain

83
84
85

ou quelque chose (une valeur) comme le pense Nietzsche. Quand on connat aujourdhui tout ce
tintamarre que dnonait dj Nietzsche par avance, concernant cette exacerbation de lexigence originalit tout prix et dont il vaut mieux se moquer en se riant dabord de la sienne
comme il le fait dans lauto-pigraphe du Gai Savoir, on ne peut stonner que tous ces modles
qui sont proposs avec toutes les ruses de la sduction et auxquels on invite les gens sidentifier
donnent naissance des strotypes qui dclenchent des mcanismes dont on ne mesure pas
quelquefois les effets pervers et dangereux. Mimtisme illusoire qui conduit des faux-semblants, une fausse originalit, une originalit servile. Cultiver la diffrence et loriginalit jusqu rompre toute possibilit de communication semble aussi nfaste que nier la diffrence pour
instaurer une communaut truque dans laquelle on peut se demander, pour reprendre linterrogation de Franoise Dolto, si au jeu du dsir les ds ne sont-ils pas pips?.
GS 365, p. 272.
Ibid.
Voir le personnage de Falstaff.

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Jacques Goetschel

dans la mesure o cest le prix payer du travail mme de lcriture86 qui, dans
son effort, vise loriginalit, cest--dire la nouveaut au sens grec: on touche ici
au mythe de lorigine. Chaque uvre quelle soit littraire, philosophique ou artistique quels que soient les emprunts et ils sont innombrables dans luvre
de Nietzsche, ne serait-ce que par ses lectures considrables et varies est souvent, sinon toujours, compose ou construite suivant un ou plusieurs modles,
considrs comme exemplaires, auxquels elle se conforme par une imitation dstabilisante pour les modles.
On ne peut nier que limitation dun modle sans tre copie ou contrefaon
ou si elle est contrefaon cela peut relever de la moquerie, du rire, de la ruse et
de la plaisanterie soit recherche dun sens nouveau, dun sens autre, et que
loriginalit reconnue aprs coup de ce sens nouveau donn lancien modle
au texte original consiste non pas tre sans origine mais fonder en quelque
sorte sa propre origine. Lenjeu est de taille chez Nietzsche puisquil tient
dune naissance double: celle de la Tragdie en tant que premire uvre, celle
de sa vie en tant que tragdie de la naissance;87 et cest l, au dire mme de
Nietzsche une nigme quil nonce sous cette forme: en tant que mon pre,
je suis dj mort, cest en tant que je suis ma mre que je vis encore et que je
vieillis.88
Toute son uvre est marque du sceau de cette nigme quil a, tout au long de
sa vie, dissimule (simule?) sous une infinit de masques parce quil est, simplement et sincrement pudique, car Lhomme dont la pudeur est profonde rencontre sa destine mme et ses dcisions les plus dlicates sur des chemins o
peu dhommes se sont jamais aventurs et dont ses proches et ses familiers ne
doivent pas connatre lexistence. Il dissimule leurs yeux les dangers mortels
quil court et aussi la scurit quil a reconquise. Cet homme secret, qui use de la
parole, instinctivement, pour ne rien dire, et pour taire certaines choses, est inpuisable en prtextes pour ne pas parler; ce quil veut et ce quil obtient, cest
quune forme masque de sa personne circule sa place dans les curs et les cerveaux de ses amis. Et mme sil ne la pas voulu, il dcouvrira un jour que cest
malgr tout un masque de lui qui se meurt l, et cest bien ainsi; suit une phrase
clbre et, comme telle, cite et plagie une infinit de fois exemplaire, originale, inimitable: Tout esprit profond a besoin dun masque (Jeder tiefe Geist
braucht eine Maske). Mais Nietzsche ajoute: bien plus, un masque se forme perptuellement autour de tout esprit profond, grce linterprtation continuelle-

86

87
88

Il est mme possible que dans ce travail dcriture il y ait un sacrifice ou seulement sa mimsis;
voir aussi Nancy, Jean-Luc: Lexcrit. Dans: La pense finie. Paris 1990, p. 55 64.
Pautrat, Bernard: Versions du soleil. Paris 1971, p. 144 et suivantes.
EH, Pourquoi je suis si sage 1, p. 245. Voir au sujet de cette nigme, la remarquable interprtation
quen a faite Kofman, Sarah: Explosion I, De l Ecce Homo de Nietzsche. Paris 1992.

Nietzsche inimitable

99

ment fausse, cest--dire plate, donne toutes ses paroles, toutes ses dmarches, toutes les manifestations de sa vie.89
Nietzsche savait plus que nimporte qui, dans la mesure o il la crit et rpt, que lhomme est un comdien emprunt littral, mais interprt, du
Psaume 116, 11 et parce que son savoir, comme nous lavions dit, est un savoir
vcu, une exprience, cest un savoir qui la travers de part en part, tragiquement, la croise ddipe et de Promthe, de la Sphinx et du Christ, du Grec et
du Juif, de lhomme et de la femme, du pre (mort) et de la mre (en vie et en
vieillesse) il savait donc que le fond de lhomme est thtralit. Et il sen est
tenu cela jusquau bout, ce nest pas pour se protger de vanits sduisantes ou
dplaisantes quil sest pudiquement entour de masques, comme autant didentifications multiples, comme le ferait un excellent comdien devenant acteur par
les rles des personnages quil incarne il ne sagit pas de cette fausset devenue chair; cest bien plutt pour faire advenir, dans un immense clat de rire
cosmique capable de faire trembler la terre, plus radicalement encore que ne le
fit Voltaire dans sa critique du christianisme, celui qui il veut sunir, avec qui il
veut communier comme le firent ces acteurs inconscients du drame satyrique,
tres mtamorphoss qui ont compltement oubli leur pass de citoyen et leur
position sociale.90 Il veut devenir, comme eux, un serviteur du dieu souffrant au
point de vouloir, dans une ultime crise paroxystique, sy identifier: quand le comdien-serviteur-mdiateur devient satyre, cest la folie qui, en fin de compte,
devient chair.
Nietzsche sait que Dionysos sera son dernier masque, son dernier nom demprunt avec lequel il signe un pacte dacquiescement la vie, la vie qui dit oui la
vie, qui dit oui son retour ternel, dans ce quelle a de sublime, deffrayant et de
cruel pour continuer daffirmer ce que lexistence possde comme force optimale (ce qui ne signifie pas optimisme mais optimiser, maximaliser les puissances vitales et psychiques, signe dune surabondance de forces affirmatives et
cratrices). Il sait dsormais quil appartient la ligne de ceux qui, comme
dipe, Promthe et dautres ont une me noble, une ascendance qui remonte
lenfance du dieu, lenfance de lart, au thtre de Dionysos, au morcellement
des quatre lments cosmiques (eau-terre-air-feu) de lUn-originel, au morcellement du corps de lenfant divin dchir par les Titans et dont la souffrance, due
lindividuation, associe paradoxalement une extase jubilatoire, signe (ou symptme) dune matrise de soi. L rside, en toute rigueur, loriginalit, le gnie de
Nietzsche: inimitable, en ceci quil a voulu rduire jusqu la supprimer, la marge
qui existe entre le thtral et le vcu. Cest dans cette marge que va natre et se
mtamorphoser le chur de la tragdie grecque.
89
90

PBM 40, p. 58.


NT 8, p. 74.

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Robert Wicks

ROBERT WICKS
NIETZSCHES YES TO LIFE
AND THE APOLLONIAN NEUTRALITY OF EXISTENCE

A few months before his collapse in January 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche stated
proudly: I am a disciple of the philosopher Dionysus (EH, Preface 2, KGW
VI 3, p. 256). To what extent, however, was Nietzsche an incorrigible Dionysian?
Is his enthusiastic philosophy of life-affirmation, as he often suggested, mostly
guided by instinct and health as opposed to abstractive reason and objectifying reflection? Although there are many places within Nietzsches corpus where we can
pose this question, among the most obvious is in reference to the well-known
conclusion of his autobiographical work, EH (1888) which reads: Have I been
understood? Dionysus versus the Crucified (EH, KGW VI 3, p. 372). Nietzsche instructs us that to understand his writings properly, we must associate his
thought fundamentally with the resonant meaning of the Greek god, Dionysus.
The word Dionysus evokes a mythological and metaphorical image that
represents for Nietzsche a cluster of life and health related ideas. Within this
cluster are those of life cycles, savage instinctual energies, growth and ecstasy. In
Nietzsches later works, these stand opposed to the Crucified a contrasting
metaphorical image that recalls the universalistic moral law that one should always resist harming other people, along with the redemptive promise that regards the present world as imperfect and as not the only world, as it holds out the
hope for a better world beyond. As we will see in an elucidating excerpt below,
this contrast between Dionysus and the Crucified intends to invoke a lifeoriented and supremely enthusiastic interpretation of the meaning of suffering,
as opposed to a death-oriented and defeatist interpretation. At the center of
Nietzsches conception of Dionysus reside not only the facts and cycles of life,
but the question of lifes meaning, given that life cycles condemn all of us individuals to death.
Nietzsche often maintained that we must regard the presently existing world
as a perfect world, if we are to be as healthy as possible. To attain and appreciate
this optimal condition, the violence and suffering that are among the facts of life
must not merely be accepted Buddhistically as inevitable and souring necessities;
they must be positively and enthusiastically valued to the degree to which one
loves life itself.

Nietzsches Yes to Life and the Apollonian Neutrality of Existence

101

My present aim is to determine the extent to which Nietzsches love of life


expresses a fundamentally Dionysian, life-affirming outlook by considering the
theoretical origin of the cosmological hypothesis in relation to which Nietzsches
love of life is expressed. The inquiry is motivated by noting that a key prescription of Nietzsches philosophy, namely, the affirmation of Eternal Recurrence,
has comforting and idealizing effects that are coupled with surprisingly rationalistic presuppositions, in the clinical sense of detached and objective rationality.1
To the extent that the affirmation of Eternal Recurrence is comforting, one must
wonder whether it immediately draws attention away from lifes pains; to the extent that the affirmation presupposes processes of idealization and rational detachment, it makes sense to ask whether the cosmological doctrine of Eternal
Recurrence would itself be better classified as an Apollonian as opposed to
Dionysian doctrine.2 Since Nietzsche himself criticized views that rest on what
he called metaphysical comforts, (BT, Attempt at a Self-Criticism, 7) and since
he criticized philosophical outlooks grounded on reason, abstraction and excessive reflection as being life-negating (TI, Reason in Philosophy, 1), there is a
prima facie inconsistency between Nietzsches Dionysian, life-affirming aims and
the affirmation of Eternal Recurrence to the extent that the cosmological doctrine presupposes a strong measure of reflective detachment as a condition for
its formulation.
Nietzsche explicitly characterized the affirmation of Eternal Recurrence as
the highest formula of life-affirmation, and we can alternatively express the present inquiry as an investigation regarding the degree to which a condition of optimal health requires the positive acknowledgement of lifes most meaning-ne1

Nietzsches cosmological doctrine of Eternal Recurrence is characterizable as follows:


The eternal recurrence is most commonly interpreted as a cosmological hypothesis. As
such, it holds that everything that has already happened in the universe, and everything that
is happening right now, and everything that will happen in the future, has already happened,
and will happen again, preceded and followed by exactly the same events in exactly the same
order, infinitely many times. (Nehamas, Alexander: The Eternal Recurrence. In: Richardson,
John/Leiter, Brian (eds.): Nietzsche. Oxford 2001, p. 119. The article was originally published in Philosophical Review 89 (1980), pp. 331 356.

In what follows, the meaningless energetic substrate of the above-described series of personal
and cultural reiterations will be emphasized. This is in contrast to the more commonly addressed
thought-experiment that asks us to reflect upon our respective attitudes towards the lives we
have so far lived.
In WP 1050 (March-June 1888), Nietzsche defines the Apollonian as the urge to perfect selfsufficiency, to the typical individual, to all that simplifies, distinguishes, makes strong, clear,
unambiguous, typical: freedom under the law (WP 1050, KGW VIII 3, P. 16). In BT 1, Nietzsche further associates the Apollonian with the Principle of Sufficient Reason a principle that
ascribes an all-permeating intelligibility to the world. Parallel to this, Nietzsche characterizes an
aesthetic Socratism which maintains that to be beautiful, everything must be intelligible
(BT 12). In his narrow and intense focus upon exclusively logical and reflective modes of intelligibility, Socrates represents a constricted and excessive form of the Apollonian principle.

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Robert Wicks

gating qualities qualities that Nietzsche regarded as terrifying. By embarking


upon the project of estimating the variable degrees of terror that the affirmation
of Eternal Recurrence respectively admits within Nietzsches alternative formulations, we can gain a sense of the affirmations effectiveness in being an alleged
expression of life-affirmation.
We will thereafter be able to assess the health supporting value of the affirmation of Eternal Recurrence, not because we will arrive at a typically Nietzschean
proportion of terror and compensating tranquillity, and will rest there. Searching
for such a proportion will indeed uncover a canonical ratio, but this determination will stimulate a more revealing reflection about the very nature of the terror against which Nietzsche sometimes shields himself, and towards which he
sometimes embracingly turns. We will discover that Nietzsches terrifying truth
of Eternal Recurrence, namely, that the world is essentially meaningless, is itself
a product of reflection and detachment, or of what one could also call the clinical or medical gaze an objectifying and distancing gaze that contradicts Nietzsches alleged identification with strong Dionysian instincts at the level of basic
presuppositions.

I. The Capacity to Deify


Let us begin by considering Nietzsches 1888 elucidation of his final remark
from EH Dionysus versus the Crucified that was written about six
months earlier.3 In his notebooks, he explained the meaning of the opposition as
follows:
Dionysus versus the Crucified: there you have the antithesis. It is not a difference in
regard to their martyrdom it is a difference in the meaning of it. Life itself, its eternal
fruitfulness and recurrence, creates torment, destruction, the will to annihilation.4 In
the other case, suffering the Crucified as the innocent one counts as an objection to this life, as a formula for its condemnation. One will see that the problem is
that of the meaning of suffering: whether a Christian meaning or a tragic meaning.
3

The notebook excerpt is from March-June 1888, and EH was written between October 15
(Nietzsches 44th birthday) and November 4, 1888.
One year earlier, Nietzsche explicitly referred to this expansive will to annihilation as Dionysian and contrasted it to another sort of destructive will based on resentment:
The desire for destruction, change, and becoming can be an expression of an overflowing
energy that is pregnant with future (my term for this, as is known, Dionysian); but it can
also be the hatred of the ill-constituted, disinherited, and underprivileged, who destroy, must
destroy, because what exists, indeed all existence, all being, outrages and provokes them.
(GS 370, KGW V 2, P. 303 304)
One therefore needs wisdom, or taste, or an understanding of life itself, to distinguish between
the affirmative versus the resentful forms of the will to destruction.

Nietzsches Yes to Life and the Apollonian Neutrality of Existence

103

In the former case, it is supposed to be the path to a holy existence; in the latter case,
being is counted as holy enough to justify even a monstrous amount of suffering. The
tragic man affirms even the harshest suffering: he is sufficiently strong, rich, and
capable of deifying to do so. The Christian denies even the happiest lot on earth: he
is sufficiently weak, poor, disinherited to suffer from life in whatever form he meets
it. The god on the cross is a curse on life, a signpost to seek redemption from life:
Dionysus cut to pieces is a promise of life: it will be eternally reborn and return again
from destruction. (WP 1052, KGW VIII 3, pp. 58 59)5

Given that Nietzsche concluded his autobiographical EH with the summary


remark about Dionysus versus the Crucified, the above elucidation underscores
that one of the central themes in Nietzsches thought concerns the meaning of
suffering. The traditional problem of evil motivates much of Nietzsches philosophizing, and up to the point of his collapse he remained concerned about how
the presence of suffering in life can be managed in the most healthy way. As was
the case with Buddha, Nietzsche wanted to come to satisfactory terms with the
inevitable suffering that is a part of life, and he intended to give his solution a
philosophical and therapeutic expression. Both Nietzsche and Buddha used
medical models, and both conceived of themselves as cultural physicians.
In the above excerpt, Nietzsche opposes two solutions to the problem of suffering the Christian and the Dionysian. The first of these reflects a futureoriented solution where suffering is justified in relation to its role as a means to a
more highly valued and less painful end-state that is not yet a present-state. The
second maintains that suffering is justified to the extent that insofar as the world
includes suffering as a necessary aspect, and insofar as the present world is
highly valued, suffering itself is justified to that very extent. Stated more extremely, since suffering is a necessary part of the present world, and if the present world is perfect just as it is6, then suffering itself must be of a fundamentally
positive quality.
This is an offensive and confusing view on the face of things, for the world is
filled with injustice and morally outrageous happenings that typically, people reasonably hope will be rectified in the future. If suffering, injustice and moral outrage are ineradicable and continually re-emerging features of the world, however,
and if there is nothing more than this world, then it is futile to expect that justice
will ever prevail for long.7 The absurdity of this situation would seem to be suf5
6

Italicized words are in the original text; boldfaced words are my emphasis.
For the idea that the world can be regarded as perfect just as it is, see, for example, one of the
concluding segments of Z At Noon and the final section [10] of Why I am so Clever in EH, where
Nietzsche associates the perception of the world as perfect with his formula for greatness in a
human being, amor fati (love of fate).
Nietzsche claims that from the highest biological standpoint, legal [i. e., civilized] conditions are
only exceptional conditions, and that life operates essentially through injury, assault, exploitation
and destruction (GM II 11).

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ficient for moral despair, for in moral terms, the world is painfully imperfect and
incomplete.
In connection with the above exposition I would like to focus upon Nietzsches characterization of the sort of person who would advocate a Dionysian or
tragic as opposed to a Christian view of suffering. According to Nietzsche, to ascribe a positive and intrinsic value to suffering and to the world as a whole, not
only must a person be strong and spiritually rich, a person must also be capable
of deifying. This capacity to deify is an intriguing quality, for Nietzsche does not
refer to this capacity exclusively as a Dionysian one, as one might suspect.
Rather, he refers to it in his early writings as a feature of both the Dionysian and
Apollonian principles. Moreover, as we will see in a moment, the Apollonian version of the capacity to deify comes closer to the sense expressed in the autobiographical excerpt from EH that contrasts Dionysus with the Crucified.
With respect to the Dionysian sense of deification that we find in BT,
Nietzsche states:
Under the charm of the Dionysian not only is the union between man and man reaffirmed, but nature which has become alienated, hostile, or subjugated, celebrates
once more her reconciliation with her lost son, man []
In song and in dance man expresses himself as a member of a higher community;
he has forgotten how to walk and speak and is on the way toward flying into the air,
dancing. His very gestures express enchantment. Just as the animals now talk, and
the earth yields milk and honey, supernatural sounds emanate from him too: he feels
himself a god, he himself now walks about enchanted, in ecstasy, like the gods he
saw walking in his dreams. He is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art
[] (BT 1, KGW III 1, pp. 25 26)8

The complementary Apollonian sense of deification from the same work is


expressed in the following, only a couple of sections later:
To understand this, it becomes necessary to level the artistic structure of the Apollinian culture, as it were, stone by stone, till the foundations on which it rests become visible. First of all we see the glorious Olympian figures of the gods, standing on the
gables of this structure []
Whoever approaches these Olympians with another religion in his heart [viz. Christianity], searching among them for moral elevation, even for sanctity, for disincarnate
spirituality, for charity and benevolence, will soon be forced to turn his back on them,
discouraged and disappointed. For there is nothing here that suggests asceticism,
spirituality or duty. We hear nothing but the accents of an exuberant, triumphant
8

This excerpt also illustrates that in BT, Nietzsche did not equate the Dionysian drive exclusively
with uncontrolled, frenzied, intoxicated passion only to change his conception in later years
to a more tempered one that embodied the fusion of Dionysian and Apollonian energies
(see, e.g., BGE: Beyond Good and Evil. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York 1966, note 44,
p. 235). Nietzsche always associated the Dionysian with overflowing life-forces, and he recognized that Dionysian energies can be expressed in various degrees of intensity, the most healthy
level of which defines a less ferocious and less self-destructive type of person.

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life in which all things, whether good or evil, are deified. And so the spectator
may stand quite bewildered before this fantastic excess of life, asking himself by virtue
of what magic potion these high-spirited men could have found life so enjoyable that,
wherever they turned, their eyes beheld the smile of Helen, the ideal picture of their
own existence, floating in sweet sensuality. (BT 3, KGW III 1, pp. 30 31)

To deify is to idealize, to regard as an absolute, to glorify as of supreme


worth, or to take as an object of worship.9 Within the above two excerpts, Nietzsche characterizes the Dionysian mode of deification as one of self-deification or
self-glorification. One could call this a reflective, self-centered, self-determining
or self-assured mode of deification. We encounter this attitude importantly in
Nietzsches later thought when he identifies the features of the noble (or master)
morality in the segment of BGE entitled, What is Noble:
The noble type of man experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, what is harmful to me is harmful in itself ; it knows itself to be that
which first accords honor to things; it is value-creating. Everything it knows as part of
itself it honors: such a morality is self-glorification [Selbstverherrlichung]. In the foreground there is the feeling of fullness, of power that seeks to overflow, the happiness
of high tension, the consciousness of wealth that would give and bestow [] (BGE
260, KGW VI 2, p. 219)

Alternatively, Nietzsche characterizes the Apollonian mode of deification as


one either of life as a whole, or of existence. One could call this a less-reflective
or other-focussed mode of deification where one glorifies ones general environment rather than ones individual self. In one of its modes, this style of deification expresses a sentiment akin to nature-worship or life-worship.
If we compare the EH excerpt from 1888 with BT excerpt of 1872, it is surprising how consistent they are in their general denigration of the Christian view in
favour of the Greek view. A difference is that in 1888, Nietzsche refers to the deification of existence as expressively Dionysian, whereas in 1872, he refers to it as
expressively Apollonian. This difference notwithstanding, Nietzsches remarks on
the value of suffering in 1888 logically match his remarks about Greek health in
1872: just as in his later remarks, suffering acquires an intrinsic value as a consequence of having deified existence as a whole, in his earlier remarks, people acquire
a sense of intrinsic value and deify themselves as a consequence of having deified
existence as a whole. The logic in both cases is identical: when one unconditionally
glorifies the whole, the wholes constituent parts become glorified by implication.
If we admit that the above considerations establish that the capacity to
deify is central to Nietzsches reflections upon the meaning of suffering and
that the logic of Nietzsches reasoning within this context typically proceeds
9

As a capacity to create the highest values, the capacity to deify is thus diametrically opposed
to the nihilistic mentality wherein the highest values devaluate themselves (WP I 2 [SpringFall 1887]). Hence arises its centrality to the present discussion.

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from whole to part, then there is a logical priority of the Apollonian outlook over
the Dionysian outlook within this dimension of Nietzsches view. According to
this logic, a necessary condition for deifying ones own suffering and of redeeming ones life thereby, is that one first deifies the whole of existence or deifies life
in general.10 If one has a healthy attitude towards the world as a whole, the reflective effect is that one has a healthy attitude towards oneself and ones place in
the world. In what follows below, we will recall this priority of the Apollonian
over the Dionysian style of thinking, for the Apollonian priority will be reiterated
when we examine the nature of the terror that Nietzsche hypothesizes at the
core of the world. This terror is associated with the presence of an all-permeating meaninglessness and absurdity that he tries to interpret enthusiastically
rather than pessimistically.

II. Nihilism and Soothsayers in


The Birth of Tragedy and Thus Spoke Zarathustra
To explore this theme of Apollonian (i. e., other-focussed) versus Dionysian
(i. e., self-focussed) modes of deification in connection Nietzsches doctrine of
Eternal Recurrence, we can attend initially to the ambiguous figure of the soothsayer, or speaker of truth, as he appears in BT and in Z. If only owing to the figures literary memorability, one might suppose that the soothsayer would be a
consistent figure within Nietzsches texts, giving voice to roughly the same sort
of doctrines. In fact, we encounter two styles of soothsayer that represent different and conflicting kinds of messages, namely, a pessimistic, defeatist and deathoriented message and an exuberant, triumphant and life-affirming message.
Within Nietzsches writings, only one of the soothsayers is consistently
remembered, and this is the pessimistic personage in Z a character who
expresses a straightforwardly defeatist doctrine, and against whom Zarathustra
argues in advocacy of a healthier and more triumphant outlook. The following is
a typical remark by the pessimistic soothsayer in Z:
And I saw a great sadness descend upon mankind. The best grew weary of their
works. A doctrine appeared, accompanied by a faith: All is empty, all is the same, all
has been! And from the hills it echoed: All is empty, all is the same, all has been! Indeed we have harvested: but why did all our fruit turn rotten and brown? What fell
down from the evil moon last night? In vain was all our work: our wine has turned to
poison; an evil eye has seared our fields and hearts [] Verily, we have become too
weary even to die. We are still waking and living on in tombs. (Z II, The Soothsayer,
KGW VI 1, p. 168)
10

This is to say that the one-way directionality from whole to part issues from the logic of justification.

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In Z, the soothsayer expresses defeatism, and he embodies a sense of meaninglessness, debilitated life energies, loss of inspiration and futility, all of which
are produced by lamenting about how death permeates all endeavours and how
nothing lasts. We find the same view in Ecclesiastes when it is stated that what
has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is
nothing new under the sun (1:9) and How can the wise die just like fools? So
I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind (2:17).11
In BT there is a corresponding defeatist doctrine as well, except that it is not
expressed by the figure of a soothsayer per se, but by the oldest of satyrs, Silenus,
a mythical figure and tutor of Dionysus. Upon being asked by King Midas to
reveal what is the best and most desirable of all things for human beings, Silenus
gave a shrill laugh and stated a frightening truth:
Oh, wretched ephemeral race, children of chance and misery, why do you compel me
to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all
is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second
best for you is to die soon. (BT 3, KGW III 1, p. 31)

Nietzsche refers to Silenuss message as an instance of ancient Greek folk


wisdom, and he accepts an aspect of this message as a fact, namely, that existence
is terrifying and horrible in its absurd brutality. One hard truth for Nietzsche
and our prevailing question is to ask, From where does this truth derive?
is that the world is without any permanent meaning that either is given from
without or is intrinsic to it. His preoccupying question is consequently how to
cope with this metaphysically senseless situation in a healthy manner, and it is
here where he turns to the image of Apollo for an answer.
Nietzsche has much to say about Apollo, but what is revealing in the present
context is an argument Nietzsche advances which implies that the pessimistic
view the view that accords a negative value to the meaninglessness of things
contradicts the conditions of human life. Pessimism is a death-oriented outlook
for Nietzsche, and he argues that as long as one is alive, it makes no sense to be a
pessimist or defeatist. The argument is given in the very first section of BT:
This joyous necessity of the dream experience has been embodied by the Greeks in
their Apollo: Apollo, the god of all plastic energies, is at the same time the soothsaying god. He, who (as the etymology of the name indicates) is the shining one,
the deity of light, is also ruler over the beautiful illusion of the inner world of fantasy.
The higher truth, the perfection of these states in contrast to the incompletely intel11

Nietzsche refers to the defeatist doctrine of Ecclesiastes explicitly in Z III On Old and New Tablets
13 (Why live? All is vanity!), calling it antiquarian babbling [altertmliches Geschwtz].
Although Nietzsches own doctrine of Eternal Recurrence states similarly that there is nothing
new under the sun and that all is the same, he disagrees with the defeatist evaluation of this
(alleged) fact.

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ligible everyday world, this deep consciousness of nature, healing and helping in sleep
and dream, is at the same time the symbolical analogue of the soothsaying faculty
and of the arts generally, which make life possible and worth living. (BT 1,
KGW III 1, p. 23)

If the soothsaying faculty and the arts generally make life (presumably, Nietzsche means civilized human life) possible and worth living, then no matter
how one defines these faculties, they are a priori conditions for life. If they make
life possible, then they must be present whenever there is life. More thought-provokingly, Nietzsche adds that these necessary conditions of life are also what
make life worth living, and this implies that civilized human life is by definition
perceived to be essentially worth living, because the necessary conditions for
such a life are themselves positively value-giving. There can be no civilized
human life without the condition that makes it worth living, so when people express defeatist views they stand unnaturally in conflict with their own living and
civilized nature. Existence in general might be metaphysically meaningless, but
there is a special configuration of existence that is the human cultural condition,
which itself issues in a subjective condition within whose perspective it is impossible not to value ones living existence to some positive extent.12 Such reflections are among the a priori grounds of Nietzsches philosophy of vitality.
By the soothsaying faculty and the arts generally, Nietzsche has in mind
more literally the human capacity to use ones imagination to be creative in an act
of idealization or beautification. Specifically, then, what makes human life worth
living is our Apollonian capacity to idealize and beautify both our surroundings
and ourselves, whatever their nature might be:
[] out of the original Titanic divine order of terror, the Olympian divine order of joy
gradually evolved through the Apollonian impulse toward beauty, just as roses burst
from thorny bushes. How else could this people, so sensitive, so vehement in its
desires, so singularly capable of suffering, have endured existence, if it had not been revealed to them in their gods, surrounded with such a higher glory?
The same impulse which calls art into being, as the complement and consummation
of existence, seducing one to a continuation of life, was also the cause of the Olympian world which the Hellenic will made use of as a transfiguring mirror. Thus do
the gods justify the life of man: they themselves live it the only satisfactory theodicy!
Existence under the bright sunshine of such gods is regarded as desirable
in itself, and the real pain of Homeric men is caused by parting from it, especially
by early parting: so that now, reversing the wisdom of Silenus, we might say of the
Greeks that to die soon is worst of all for them, the next worst to die at all! (BT 3,
KGW III 1, p. 32)

12

Nietzsches prescription to say yes to life is therefore a directive to intensify the strength of
ones already existing living condition.

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Life energies are thus artistic energies, and when life energies are strong,
there is a tendency to deify either existence or life itself, the result of which yields
a more reflective appreciation of ones taking a communal part in the grand and
glorious scheme of things.
We can now recognize two different figures of the soothsayer in Nietzsches
writings, namely, the imaginative and deifying Apollonian soothsayer in BT,
and the pessimistic, defeatist and death-oriented soothsayer in Z. Although
Nietzsche undoubtedly advocates the deifying soothsayer as opposed to the defeatist one, he is explicit about this by stating that Zarathustra himself is a kind of
soothsayer. Nietzsche does not advance this characterization merely in passing,
for it not only appears in Z, but is highlighted in his 1886 Attempt at Self-Criticism that he added to the second edition of BT. It is a representative remark:
This crown of him who laughs, this rose-wreath crown: I myself have put on this
crown, I myself have pronounced my laughter holy. Nobody else have I found
strong enough for this today.
Zarathustra the dancer, Zarathustra the light, waves with his wings, ready for flight,
waving at all birds, ready and heady, happily lightheaded; Zarathustra the soothsayer, Zarathustra the sooth-laugher, not impatient, not unconditional, one who
loves leaps and side-leaps: I myself have put on this crown! (Z IV, On the Higher Man,
18, KGW VI 1, p. 363)

Zarathustra paradigmatically embodies the Apollonian forces that make life


possible and worth living a condition not far from Nietzsches own reiterated
remarks about having put his ear to the heart of life to tap into its essence13 and
his solution to the problem of suffering in BT that we have already seen: as we
more satisfyingly conceive of ourselves to be one with the large-scale cycles of
life and death, suffering becomes justified.
If we collect these various images, we can conclude that the conditions of
human life include an artistic and Apollonian dimension that involves the deification of ones environment, and that these stand in amalgamation with what we
have not yet explicitly emphasized, namely, strong instinctual energy the aggressive, expansive, reproductive and often destructive energy that Nietzsche
refers to as being intemperately Dionysian. In BT, Nietzsche maintains that
optimal health requires a strong sense of aggressive and expansive instinct, but
one that has been tempered and refined by imaginative and deifying energies to a
point where the instincts are not simply brutal and self-destructive.
How, then, do these assorted reflections on the opposition between Dionysus versus the Crucified along with the two opposing figures of the soothsayer
help us to appreciate the conceptual foundations of Nietzsches central doctrine
13

For example, see BT 21, and Z II On Self-Overcoming, where Nietzsche asks after expressing his
doctrine of the Will to Power, whether he has indeed crawled into the very heart of life and into
the very roots of its heart (KGW VI 1, P. 143).

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of life-affirmation, namely, the affirmation of Eternal Recurrence? What are


these conceptual foundations, and do they issue mainly from a life-affirming or
from a life-negating mentality?
III. Life-Negation and Nietzsches Cosmological Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence
In his notebooks of 1885, Nietzsche offers a summary characterization of
the world that implicitly includes an expression of his cosmological doctrine of
Eternal Recurrence. In this particular instance, he emphasizes the idea of the
Will to Power, mentioning recurrence and the allegedly monstrous nature of the
scene. Nietzsche presents the scene reflected in a mirror, and refers to it as a
Dionysian world:
And do you know what the world is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This
world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude
of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only
transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or
losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by nothingness as by a
boundary; not something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set
in a definite space as a definite force, and not a space that might be empty here or
there, but rather as force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the
same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there; a sea
of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back,
with tremendous years of recurrence, with an ebb and a flood of its forms; out of the
simplest forms striving toward the most complex, out of the stillest, most rigid,
coldest forms toward the hottest, most turbulent, most self-contradictory, and then
again returning home to the simple out of this abundance, out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still affirming itself in this uniformity of its
courses and its years, blessing itself as that which knows no satiety, no disgust,
no weariness: this, my Dionysian world of the eternally self-creating, the eternally selfdestroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my beyond good
and evil, without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal; without will, unless
a ring feels good will toward itself do you want a name for this world? A solution for all
its riddles? A light for you, too, best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men? This world is the will to power and nothing besides! And you yourselves are
also this will to power and nothing besides! (WP 1067, KGW VII 3, pp. 338 339)

Nietzsche shows us his vision in a mirror, and it is useful to consider what


sort of mirror this is. I submit that the mirror is fundamentally an Apollonian
transfiguring and glorifying mirror that reflects and softens the devastating impact of a terrifyingly meaningless reality.14 Nietzsches mirror is like the shield
14

J.G. Fichte in The Vocation of Man [1800] describes dramatically how nature appears to be a monstrously frightening, meaningless, ever-revolving circle that continually devours itself. His remarks closely foreshadow Nietzsches famous WP 1067 notebook excerpt cited here. See The
Vocation of Man, Book Three, Faith, Section II for some of Fichtes concerns about whether life
is worth living, if it is only an ever-repeated game that tends to nothing and signifies nothing.

Nietzsches Yes to Life and the Apollonian Neutrality of Existence

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through which Perseus was able to perceive indirectly, and thereby withstand,
the mortifying gaze of Medusa.
If we imagine the reality that is being reflected as it is in itself, we can identify
the frightening aspects of Nietzsches hypothesis about the nature of the world.
For example, there is no escape from this world, and there is no developmentally-defined goal, end-state or satisfying conclusion involved in its process.
There is only a field of constantly recycling energy without any particular meaning or point. Neither is there any moral value within this world; it is completely
depersonalized. It is a violent, absurd and artless world where each and every
god is dead.
At the same time, we apprehend this meaningless flux in a tempering mirror,
and it is within the mirror itself that we can locate what is arguably Nietzsches
own addition of a factor of joy and self-blessing. Owing to the anthropomorphic
quality of the augmented characterization one where reality allegedly blesses
itself it is plausible to say that this self-blessing is actually Nietzsches own projected affirmative valuation. This is substantiated by his own programmatic remarks in The Gay Science about the need to remove all anthropomorphisms, or
shadows of God, in order to apprehend the true state of things:
Let us beware of thinking that the world is a living being [] The total character of
the world [] is in all eternity chaos in the sense not of a lack of necessity but a lack
of order, arrangement, form, beauty, wisdom, and whatever other names there are for
our aesthetic anthropomorphisms. (GS III, 109, KGW V 2, pp. 145 46)

What we thus have hypothesized before us within Nietzsches mirror is a depersonalised, objectified and uncaring metaphysical condition of the world in
itself that is subsequently amalgamated with a deifying and anthropomorphic
overlay of joy and blessing. This latter is Nietzsches chosen evaluation of the
neutral metaphysical foundation that the cosmological doctrine of Eternal
Recurrence expresses.15 The cold and lifeless facts of Eternal Recurrence are ascribed an enlivening value, not unlike how a mere squiggle of ink can be given a
semantic meaning, or how the starry skies above can be mythologically organized through the projection of pictorial images. To the extent that the will
15

Nietzsche refers to the value-neutral conception of Eternal Recurrence (i. e., the cosmological
version of Eternal Recurrence) as nihilism, but he does not infer that this is a necessarily lifenegating view (although it would be life-negating if one lacked the strength to glorify the situation); Nietzsche refers to the cosmological situation only as a terrifying view:
Let us think this thought in its most terrible form: existence as it is, without meaning or aim,
yet recurring inevitably without any finale of nothingness: the eternal recurrence.
This is the most extreme form of nihilism: the nothing (the meaningless), eternally!
The European form of Buddhism: the energy of knowledge and strength compels this belief. It is the most scientific of all possible hypotheses. We deny end goals: if existence had one
it would have been reached. (WP 55, KGW VIII 1, p. 217)

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within the Will to Power is nothing more than an anthropomorphic projection


of this sort, the Will to Power as a cosmological doctrine is itself only an idealized reflection and interpretation of a fundamentally absurd world of recycling
and careless energy.16 The world as the Will to Power is an affirmative and enlivened interpretation of the neutral and nihilistic cosmological doctrine of Eternal Recurrence and it expresses the affirmation of Eternal Recurrence.17
The balance between terror and tranquillity within Nietzsches affirmative
mirror image closely accords with the model of health that he advanced in BT,
for there he prescribes that we face the terrifyingly meaningless reality as
squarely as possible, tempering the situation only slightly by either idealization or
rationality that prevents the apprehension of the disconcerting and destructive
truth from being spiritually fatal to ones sense of personal meaning. The
relatively brief references to joy and blessing in the above description are consistent with this minimization of idealization and rationalization. In this instance, strength is linked with the amount of crushing meaninglessness one can
endure, and health is associated with ones degree of strength.
16

17

The value-neutral (i. e., cosmological) version of Eternal Recurrence is thus more theoretically
foundational than the more evaluation-enhanced cosmological doctrine of the Will to Power.
Martin Heidegger also interprets Nietzsche with an emphasis upon Eternal Recurrence and Will
to Power, and he recognizes that the Will to Power is already in itself an estimating and valuing.
For Heidegger, however, the ontological status of Will to Power and Eternal Recurrence are on a
par, and he does not interpret Will to Power as a positively evaluated apprehension of a more
neutral and fundamental nihilistic condition where all values have been dissolved. In contrast to
the present interpretation which prioritizes the neutrally-conceived Eternal Recurrence over the
evaluation-steeped Will to Power, Heideggers interpretation of Nietzsche locates value-postulation in Being itself. (Heidegger, Martin: Nietzsche. Volume I. The Will to Power as Art. Translated by David Farrell l. New York 1979, p. 32.)
Given the cosmological priority of the neutral Eternal Recurrence doctrine over the more affirmative Will to Power doctrine, it would misrepresent Nietzsches views if one were to develop
an account of Nietzsches metaphysical interpretation of the world by focussing primarily upon
the Will to Power, while substantially neglecting the nihilistic doctrine of Eternal Recurrence of
which the Will to Power is arguably only a subsequent affirmation. We can see this approach in
John Richardsons Nietzsches System (Oxford, 1996). As one might expect, Richardson reiterates
Heideggers claim that Will to Power immediately involves the expression of value (p. 109) as he
similarly locates Will to Power (called power ontology) at the foundation of Nietzsches view.
The adjective nihilistic is ambiguous in Nietzsches texts. Sometimes Nietzsche uses the term
to refer neutrally to a potentially frightening condition where there are no values and where anthropomorphism is absent (e.g., WP 55 [June 1887]); sometimes (and frequently) he uses the
term to refer to a defeatist, or pessimistic, psychological reaction to a completely de-valued and
non-anthropomorphic interpretation of the world (e.g., WP 435 [March-June 1888]). Both the
Nietzschean life-affirmer and Nietzschean life-negator are nihilists in the former sense.
To avoid confusion, I am using the terms pessimistic and defeatist to refer to the life-negating attitude, and am using the term nihilistic to refer to the neutral, de-valued and non-anthropomorphic interpretation of the world. Nietzsches cosmological doctrine of Eternal Recurrence would be a nihilistic doctrine in this neutral sense of the term.
The same ambiguity attends Nietzsches use of the term Buddhistic, as in WP 55 (neutral
sense) as opposed to BT 7 (pessimistic sense).

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Some of Nietzsches other evaluatively affirmative interpretations of the facts


of Eternal Recurrence do not reflect the above model of health, and we do not
encounter the consistency of expression that would be desirable across his corpus. For example, we find a significantly intensified joyful attitude towards the
world in Z only a year earlier (1884), where Nietzsche more dreamily characterizes his identification with the worlds endless recycling as analogous to a wedding ring signifying his marriage to the world. In this instance, he conceives of
the unfeeling and careless world as analogous to a woman whom he loves. The
romantic feeling expressed is notably intense:
Oh, how should I not lust after eternity and after the nuptial ring of rings, the ring of
recurrence?
Never yet have I found the woman from whom I wanted children, unless it be this
woman whom I love: for I love you, O eternity.
For I love you, O eternity! (Z III, The Seven Seals, KGW VI 1, p. 283)18

Nietzsche recites this refrain seven times at the conclusion of the third part
to Z, which is entitled The Seven Seals: The Yes and Amen Song, in clear resonance to the Book of Revelations.19 I would like to draw particular attention to
the romantic, joyful, dreamlike and strongly idealizing and deifying mentality
that Nietzsche exhibits in this particular characterization of both the world as
a whole and his attitude towards it.20 Given how violence-filled and morally
upsetting the cycles of the world can be, and given how Nietzsche nihilistically
hypothesizes the world in itself as being valueless, his ecstatically deifying mentality diverts our attention from the exact sort of senselessly violent world we are
urged to love. The Book of Revelations overflows with images of merciless and
extensive destruction, and although Nietzsches characterization of the world in
18

19

20

In the first of these seven instances, Zarathustra describes himself as a soothsayer who is pregnant with lightning bolts that say Yes and laugh Yes, soothsaying lightning bolts.
The Biblical seven seals secure shut a scroll that contains the details of the future. With the opening of each seal appears a force of death and destruction: (1) a conquering rider on a white horse,
(2) a peace-stealing rider on a red horse, (3) a task-master rider on a black horse, (4) Death himself riding on a pale green horse, (5) the masses of people who had been slaughtered for the word
of God and for the testimony they had given, (6) terrible earthquakes, and (7) seven angels with
seven plagues.
This joyful and glorifying attitude towards the world compares almost exactly with Nietzsches
metaphysically comforting outlook expressed in BT (e.g., 17) one that Nietzsche himself later
criticized in 1886. In light of the 1886 criticism, encountering the same comforting attitude expressed in 1884 in a culminating section of Z at the end of Book III (1884) leads us to reflect
whether the year 1885 (Z IV) marks a notable hardening point in Nietzsches outlook.
Nietzsches consistency of hardened attitude is lacking, though, for in yet a different work of
1886, Nietzsche characterizes the affirmer of Eternal Recurrence as shouting insatiably da capo
not only to himself but to the whole play and spectacle (BGE 56, KGW VI 2, p. 73) thus reiterating the tone of the more ecstatic versions from 1882 and 1884. In 1888, Nietzsche even associates the term Dionysian eternalistically with the triumphant Yes to life beyond all death and
change (TI What I Owe to the Ancients 4, KGW VI 3, p. 153)

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this concluding section of Z has a mildly turbulent tone, the apocalyptic devastation that we encounter in the Bible is only alluded to by the subtitle of the section.
Although such an intensely joyful attitude counteracts the discouraging impact of the worlds painful aspect as it revalues these aspects from a negative to a
positive value, it nonetheless acts as a pain-reducing mechanism, just as the offensive behavior of a person one loves or highly values tends to be less disturbing than the same behavior done by a person whom one glorifies to a lesser extent. It takes more strength to forgive a despicable person, for instance, than it
takes to forgive a friend.21
This reveals a tension between glorifying the world as a whole on the one
hand, and being constitutionally strong in the sense of having the capacity to
face explicitly a great deal of meaningless pain and suffering, on the other.
Nietzsches philosophy asks us to befriend, and even to love, pain and danger,
but this friendly and loving effort yields ambiguous results: it can either sustain a
productive struggle against absurd suffering that is geared towards self-overcoming, or it can precipitate an accommodation to and subsequent reduction of
the offense to our sense of rationality and balance. The latter is easily imaginable,
for if one realistically and openly accepts absurd suffering as a fact of life, one
very well might suffer less, as the Stoic philosophy observed. If one takes a step
further and adopts a loving attitude towards meaningless suffering, then it becomes even more likely that ones love will temper the pain.
In contrast, a strong life energy also entails an intensely idealizing and deifying mentality. So a healthy state of mind has conflicting aspects, namely, as expressed in the strength to endure the pain of absurdity, as opposed to the
strength for projecting enthusiastic meanings. Both strengths can be used to
overcome illness, but an overriding disposition for projecting glorifying meanings is incompatible with the tough temperament for dwelling in the arid atmosphere of nihilistic truth.22
These reflections indicate some tensions between the pain relieving and
health supporting aspects of Nietzsches advocacy of the capacity to deify, and if
we consider these in conjunction with what he believed to be a frightening and
numbing interpretation of the world in itself as a meaningless and recycling flux,
we can easily conclude that Nietzsches fundamental outlook on the world is
21

22

In an analogous manner, Nietzsche himself experienced a tremendous difficulty in affirming


that human mediocrity will never be eliminated (see Z III, The Convalescent, 2: And the eternal recurrence even of the smallest that was my disgust with all existence. Alas! Nausea!
Nausea! Nausea!) (KGW VI 1, p. 270 271)
In The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus observed this sort of tension, and he aimed for consistency
by arguing that turning absurdity into a God and retaining a nostalgia for the absurd has the effect of undermining the disconcerting nature of absurdity.

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sublime: it involves a fusion of tranquillity and terror, or a fusion of deification


and nihilism. Determining the proportion of tranquillity to terror remains an
issue, for in the 1884 wedding ring of eternity excerpt, Nietzsches model of
life-affirmation suggests an Apollonian tranquillity tinged with a Dionysian terror, and in the 1885 monster of energy excerpt it suggests a Dionysian terror
tinged with an Apollonian tranquillity.
As noted above, Nietzsche claimed canonically in BT that the healthiest outlook involves a terror tinged with tranquillity, rather than the opposite. His complaints against Socrates and against the alleged dominance of the scientific
world-view since the time of the ancient Greeks stated that excessive rationality,
reflection and the quest for a disinterested objectivity have the effect of repressing and weakening natural, creative, expansive and aggressive instincts to the
detriment of cultural health. For this reason, he initially tried to reinvigorate the
culture of his times by celebrating the music of Bach, Beethoven and Wagner,
along with the more reason-limiting philosophical views of Kant and Schopenhauer.
This canonical Nietzschean position can be described further as follows:
Nietzsche typically advocated flying as close to the fire as one can without being
consumed, living as dangerously as one can without being killed as a result,
breaking as many rules as one can without being completely self-destructive, and
expanding ones horizons as much as one can without losing ones perspective altogether. He also advocated living ones life as if one were a work of art, and suggested that his view of life is theatrical in the sense that people are at their best
when they challenge themselves to play the most noble and dignified roles that
they can upon the worlds stage. These are all supposedly examples of Nietzsches preference for the enhancement and expression of Dionysian energies.
I mention the above set of examples, including especially those that have aesthetic content, to draw a parallel between Nietzsches canonical model of health
and a particular view of the ideal aesthetic attitude that was expressed influentially
during the early part of the 20th century. This is the account of psychical distance as a factor in art appreciation formulated by Edward Bullough in 1912.23
Bulloughs article usefully indicated that distance is a matter of degree: one can
disengage from ones personal and/or sympathetic interest in a situation or sub-

23

An association between Nietzsche and Bullough in connection with the Apollonian principle is
implicit in a passing phrase by Bernd Magnus and Kathleen M. Higgins: This sense of self as
part of a dynamic whole gave a different ground for experiencing life as meaningful than one
would recognize in the more typical Apollonian condition, which entails a certain psychic distance (Magnus, Bernd/Higgins, Kathleen M.: Nietzsches Works and Their Themes. In: Magnus, Bernd/Higgins, Kathleen M. (eds.): The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche. Cambridge
1996, p. 23. They mention neither Bullough nor his specific theory of psychical distance, however.

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ject matter to a variable extent, ranging from the closely engaged but not emotionally overwhelmed attitude, to that of the extraordinarily cool and distant observer. For example, being compassionate requires that distance be minimized;
performing as a surgeon or medical examiner requires a high degree of distance.
The above characterization of Nietzsche in connection with the sublimity of
his views in BT shows that he advocates as a matter of optimal health, the same
ideal that Bullough characterizes for optimal aesthetic appreciation, namely, the
utmost decrease of Distance without its disappearance.24 This association with
Bullough and the concept of aesthetic distance helps illuminate Nietzsches attempt to offer a fundamentally non-moral as opposed to moral justification of
suffering. By aesthetically distancing himself from the world, and by regarding
the world as an ideal work of art where each element contributes to the value of
the whole25, Nietzsche travelled along an aesthetic, rather than communallymoral, avenue to his glorification of the world. Nietzsche did not glorify the
world in the socially and morally traditional manner of Hegel or Marx, for he did
not envision a heaven on earth where justice and peaceful community would
prevail. Nietzsches aesthetic glorification involved taking what appears to be a
disappointingly imperfect, mediocre and mundane situation and reinterpreting it
as a sublime situation, often using the traditional aesthetic model of how disheartening situations can be portrayed artistically with a measure of idealization.
Nietzsche also used a trans-moral romantic model wherein the distasteful aspects of a person become less offensive, as ones love for the person intensifies.
This we have already seen in Nietzsches wedding ring of eternity excerpt and
attitude of amor fati.26

24

25

26

Bullough, Edward: Psychical Distance as a Factor in Art and an Aesthetic Principle [1912]. In:
Bullough, Edward: Aesthetics: Lectures and Essays. Westport, Conn. 1977, p. 100.
Nietzsche expresses this artistic view in BT 1 when he claims that the beautiful Apollonian image
contains nothing unimportant or superfluous. The same artistic ideal is conveyed by Hegels
claim [c. 1820s] that art makes every one of its productions into a thousand-eyed Argus,
whereby the inner soul and spirit is seen at every point (Hegel, G.W.F.: Hegels Aesthetics Lectures on Fine Art. Volume I. Translated by T. M. Knox. Oxford 1975, pp. 153 154.)
The aesthetic model is exemplified well in traditional wedding portraiture, where one aims to
remove the blemishes in order to idealize the person portrayed (See GS 290, where Nietzsche
emphasizes the importance of giving style to ones character.) The contrasting romantic model
does not necessarily involve neglecting the loved ones (or ones own) blemishes, and it can
come closer to an aesthetic transfiguration of the commonplace view, where ordinary objects
(or persons) are given a special and positive value, even though their physical appearance might
not change as a result.
With respect to the romantic justification for senseless suffering, the psychologically perplexing
quality of this particular Nietzschean solution requires understanding what it would be like
to love unconditionally a thoroughly violent and unjust person, for such are the despicable characteristics of life itself according to Nietzsches definitions. Within a Nietzschean context, one
can ask pointedly what it would be like to love the murderer of God, or the ugliest man, as
Nietzsche describes this personage in Z IV.

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IV. Extreme Distancing and the Neutrality of Eternal Recurrence


With these considerations in hand, we can reflect further upon the manner in
which Nietzsches sublime affirmation of Eternal Recurrence expresses a synthesis of Dionysian and Apollonian attitudes, since we are still left with the
unresolved situation where the well-known, 1885 notebooks formulation of the
doctrine in connection with the Will to Power expresses a terror mildly tinged
with a tempering tranquillity, whereas the formulation from 1884 one that
some scholars have identified as the true climax of Z27 conveys a joyful and
comforting tranquillity that seems effectively to overshadow the monstrous
undercurrent of essentially meaningless violence that Nietzsche hypothesizes at
the core of the world. It is easy to expect that our next interpretive task will be to
decide which model prevails within Nietzsches corpus by considering the various proportions of terror to tranquillity that we encounter in his various discussions of life-affirmation. This would be to ask whether Nietzsches sublime
philosophy of life-affirmation is closer to being a consolingly beautiful outlook,
or closer to being a terrifying outlook.28
To examine this question at a more revealing level, though, we can consider
the very source of the terror and truth involved in this sliding scale of sublimity that brings us one step away from sheer terror at one end, and one step away
from angelic tranquillity at the other. By examining the nature of the allegedly
terrible truth itself, we will arrive at the paradoxical conclusion that the cosmological doctrine of Eternal Recurrence is a fundamentally Apollonian doctrine,
and that whatever is Dionysian within it is grounded upon an Apollonian foundation. The hypothesized truth of the world the Medusa-like terror that
Nietzsche believes requires an Apollonian tempering can be understood as
being located not in the fabric of the world itself, as Nietzsches texts tend to
suggest, but as being the manifestation of Apollonian thought processes themselves. Moreover, since Apollonian thought includes that of traditional rationalistic philosophizing, then there is reason to think that Nietzsches own outlook

27
28

On the other hand, by contemplating the negative mirror image of Nietzsches romantic justification for suffering, we can also see how unrealistic it is. Just as a persons imperfections become
less distracting with a more intense projection of love towards the person, a persons imperfections become more distracting and exaggerated with a more intense projection of dislike towards
the person. It is realistic, however, to neither idealize nor demonize a person.
Hollingdale, R. J.: Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy. Baton Rouge 1965, p. 190.
Some Nietzsche scholars have noticed how the concept of the sublime fits Nietzsches account
of tragedy. Two examples are Nietzsches Philosophy of Art, by Julian Young (Cambridge 1992)
and more recently, To our Tragedy: The Aesthetic Determination of Nietzsches Nihilism, by Paul Canis
(In: New Nietzsche Studies 5, 1&2 (2002), pp. 113 131). Sublimity in general is expressible in
degrees that range from a more tranquil sublimity to a more terrifying sublimity, however, and
the usefulness in reflecting upon the specific style of sublimity that Nietzsches account of the
world embodies has remained unrecognized.

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and style of philosophizing, assuming that the nihilistic doctrine of Eternal Recurrence is representative, is closer to figures such as Socrates, who Nietzsche
criticized as having been too monolithically rationalistic.
We have seen that with respect to matters of health, Nietzsches affirmative
doctrine of Eternal Recurrence has two main components. The first is a cosmological and nihilistic hypothesis that the world is a recycling, essentially meaningless and violent field of energy.29 The second is an affirmation or projection of
positive value upon this violently energetic field that takes the joyful form of
glorification, deification or love of existence, life or fate (amor fati).30 This second, evaluative component, wherein the assumedly value-neutral substrate of
the world is glorified, deified or affirmed, we have already identified as the introduction of an Apollonian overlay that precipitates the doctrine of the Will to
Power.31
By recalling Bulloughs concept of psychical distance, we can now discern a
dimension of Nietzsches view that has been up until now less obvious. If we consider the state of mind that would result from the most distanced attitude the
very opposite of what Bullough advocated as the ideal of aesthetic appreciation
and the very opposite of what Nietzsche advocated in BT as the optimal condition of health we will be able to identify the theoretical origin of Nietzsches terrifying truth. Such an extremely distanced attitude is one of complete emotional
disengagement, objectivity, looking down upon a subject, cool impartiality and
detachment. It is essentially a nausea-negating, clinical attitude that considers the
world independently of all personal concerns. When taken to the extreme, it is
an attitude that also renders the human condition absurd. Within Nietzsches

29

We can recall the earlier quote from Nietzsches notebooks:


Let us think this thought in its most terrible form: existence as it is, without meaning or aim,
yet recurring inevitably without any finale of nothingness: the eternal recurrence.
(WP 55, KGW VIII 1, p. 217)

30

The initial expression of the doctrine of Eternal Recurrence (GS 341) in Nietzsches published
works is also formulated in a neutral fashion, and the reader is asked how he or she would react
to the fact of being fated to live ones life over again and again.
In EH, Nietzsche writes;
My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still
less conceal it all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary but love it.
(EH Why I am so Clever 10, KGW VI 3, p. 295)

31

This implies conversely, that when an overlay of negative value upon this energetic field occurs
(most likely because the energetic field is observed to create senseless suffering and death), the
result is a disconfirming, defeatist, debilitating and unhealthy attitude towards the world. Both
Zarathustra and the pessimistic soothsayer utter the neutral and nihilistic truth that all is the
same, for both recognize the repetitious nature of things and the inevitable death of individuals,
but each soothsayer values this repetitiousness differently.

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thought, a memorable example of this disengaged attitude is his introduction to


the 1873 essay, Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense, which reads:
In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar
systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was
the haughtiest and most mendacious minute of world history yet only a minute.
After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to
die. (TL, KGW III 2, p. 369)

More constitutively, and echoing the idea of being beyond good and evil,
Nietzsche furthermore advocates for the purposes of growth, the idea of looking down upon others and upon oneself, and obtaining thereby a view of oneself from a distance:
Without that pathos of distance [italics in original] which grows out of the ingrained difference between [social] strata when the ruling caste constantly looks afar and looks
down upon subjects and instruments and just as constantly practices obedience and
command, keeping down and keeping at a distance that other, more mysterious pathos could not have grown up either the craving for an ever new widening of distances within the soul itself, the development of ever higher, rarer, more remote,
further-stretching, more comprehensive states in brief, simply the enhancement of
the type man, the continual self-overcoming of man, to use a moral formula in a
supra-moral sense. (BGE 257, KGW VI 2, p. 215)32

Nietzsches cosmological interpretation of the world as being completely


neutral and valueless issues itself from a highly distanced and objectifying view of
the world. Moreover, this objectifying train of thought leads to a continual distancing and disengagement from ones involvement in the historical situation
and it consequently extrapolates speculatively towards the unrealistic ideal of an
absolutely detached, Gods-eye perspective. In the present case, the more local,
but still highly abstracted and generalized result is a neutral, scientific, clinical
and unemotional vision of how the world is before any value is ascribed to it.33
Nietzsche considered himself to be a cultural physician, but he might not have

32

33

In Z, Nietzsche also states that indeed, to look down upon myself and even upon my stars, that
alone I should call my peak; that has remained for me as my ultimate peak (Z III The Wanderer,
KGW VI 1, p. 190). Zarathustras ultimate effort to climb over himself in an act of metamorphosis echoes how the jester jumps over the tightrope walker in the well-known Prologue scene
in Z.
In this quotation from BGE we can observe yet another instance of Nietzsches tendency in
his non-Cartesian style of theorizing, initially to direct his attention away from himself, and subsequently to engage in an act of reflection that subjectivizes the principle derived from the
outwardly directed attention. In the present 1886 case, it is the act of keeping at a distance that
is first applied to others, and is then applied to oneself. This complements the above examples
from 1872 and 1888.
With respect to the present interpretation, it makes no difference whether this neutral substrate
is interpreted objectively as being a flux of mind-independent energy, or subjectively as being a
meaningless sensory manifold or flux of uninterpreted sense data.

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noticed that the physicians gaze he employed is a depersonalizing gaze that turns
a subjectively animated body into a mechanism. If one defines a situation as a
medical situation, then the personality of the patient is irrelevant and is set abstractively aside.34
The patients towards which Nietzsche attended philosophically and medically included the world, life itself, various cultural forms as particular expressions of life, and himself. He spoke often about adopting a perspective from
a distance, and this distanced approach can largely be understood in reference
to his having conceived of himself as the spiritual physician of the 19th century. If
we accept this, and if the distanced outlook can be described broadly as being
coincident with the reason-oriented, reflective, scientific outlook that Nietzsche
often criticized, then we arrive at a strikingly dissonant situation. The joyfully
dancing Nietzsche conflicts with the coolly scientific and aesthetically distanced
Nietzsche; the immediate and instinctual Nietzsche conflicts with the highly reflective Nietzsche; the deifying Nietzsche conflicts with the nihilistic and neutralizing Nietzsche; the sensitive, nausea-susceptible Nietzsche conflicts with
the depersonalising and clinically-minded Nietzsche.
If self-consciousness is an expression of rationality, and if self-conscious
reflection always objectifies that to which it attends, and if looking down upon
oneself is part of the process of reflection, then Nietzsches highly distanced and
distancing mode of thought the very mode of thought that generates his cosmological vision of the neutral flux of energy that underlies our experience can
be referred to as an essentially Apollonian mode of thought, since we can include
within its scope the sphere of intelligibility in general, which would include not
only the capacity to idealize, but the capacity to reason and to be reflective.
Idealization and rational reflection are both Apollonian principles, so the
process of generating the hypothesis of a neutral flux of energy and the process
of glorifying this neutral flux are the results of Apollonian principles. If this is
the case, then the elements of the nihilistic doctrine of Eternal Recurrence are
the products of Apollonian principles, and we can conclude that Eternal Recurrence is mainly an Apollonian doctrine.

34

The following is a contemporary characterization of the medically defined situation:


[An] implication of the medical definition is that the patient is a technical object to the staff.
It is as if the staff work on an assembly line for repairing bodies; similar body parts continually roll by and the staff have a particular job to do on them. The staff are concerned with
typical features of the body part and its pathology rather than with the unique features used
to define a persons identity. The staff disattend the connection between a part of the body
and some intangible self that is supposed to inhabit that body. (Emerson, Joan P.: Behavior
in Private Places: Sustaining Definitions of Reality in Gynecological Examinations. In:
Dreitzel, Hans Peter (ed.): Recent Sociology. No 2: Patterns of Communicative Behavior.
New York 1970, p. 78.

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Given Nietzsches claim that the affirmation of Eternal Recurrence expresses


the highest principle of life-affirmation, one might be tempted to resist this
grounding of Eternal Recurrence upon extreme distancing. The connection,
however, is substantiated in Nietzsches own autobiographical remarks about
how he came upon the doctrine in his reflective solitude, along with a remark
from CW concerning the attitude of Zarathustra:
Now I shall relate the history of Zarathustra. The fundamental conception of this
work, the idea of eternal recurrence, this highest formula of affirmation that is all attainable, belongs in August 1881: it was penned on a sheet with the notation underneath, 6000 feet beyond man and time. (EH, Z 1, KGW VI 3, p. 331)
[] the eye of Zarathustra, an eye that beholds the whole fact of man at a tremendous
distance below. (CW, Preface, KGW VI 3, p. 4)

We can now see that in two important Nietzschean contexts, the Apollonian
style of thought operates as a precondition for a Dionysian style. In the first case,
as discussed above, it is necessary first to glorify the world as a whole in an Apollonian way as a condition for justifying suffering and for glorifying oneself as a
creator of values. In the second case, we have seen that it is necessary for Apollonian thought processes to operate as a condition for the very formulation of
the neutral and terrifyingly absurd Dionysian world that needs to be glorified
with an overlay of rationality in order for one to be as healthy as one can. In the
first instance, the life-affirming Apollonian principle of idealization is the condition for the life-affirming Dionysian sense of self-glorification; in the second,
the life-negating Apollonian principle of reflection is the condition for apprehending the life-threatening Dionysian terror that is stimulated by the apprehension of a meaningless world.
Since Apollonian principles in general include principles of intelligibility (e.g.,
the principle of sufficient reason), one species of Apollonian principle may be
life-affirming, whereas other species may be life-negating. Beautifying and idealizing the human body in the manner of the ancient Greeks, for example, ascribes
a greater intelligibility to the body through the use of idealized proportions,
while it also glorifies and deifies the human body. Considering the human body
from a reflective and depersonalizing distance, as if it were merely an inanimate
mechanism, and as if one were a medical doctor, however, has contrary deadening and de-animating effects. Beautification involves value-attribution, illusioncreation and mythologizing in the broadest sense, whereas clinical distancing
and objectification involve value-neutralization, disillusionment and demythologizing. Apollonian principles of intelligibility are themselves in tension and can
yield sublime effects on their own accord, for they can construct and project
idealizations as much as they can dissolve them through disillusionment and demystification.

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What, then, would be consistently Dionysian? We can characterize such


drives as including what is prereflective, immediate, expansive and instinctual.
Any solution to the meaning of suffering that is based on excessive reflection
cannot consequently count as a fundamentally Dionysian solution. We have
seen, moreover, how Nietzsches affirmative doctrine of Eternal Recurrence can
resolve the problem of suffering only by assuming a nihilistic cosmological
hypothesis that is itself based on excessive reflection and clinical distancing.
Nietzsches characterization of Eternal Recurrence as expressive of an essentially Dionysian world-view must be regarded consequently as being hardly obvious, if it is not contradictory.
Either we must reject Nietzsches affirmation of Eternal Recurrence as a supreme expression of life-affirmation, or we must unravel the paradox of how
Nietzsche could be such a strong follower of Apollo and advocate of intelligibility and reflection in their life-negating modes, while still being a follower of
Dionysus and advocate of instinct, immediacy and direct involvement in the
world. For the very foundation of Nietzsches clinically cold and absurdist vision
of the world arises itself as a result of extreme Apollonian distancing.35 Silenus,
the tutor of Dionysus, along with the nay-saying soothsayer in Z were able to express their negative evaluation of neutral existence, only by having beforehand
adopted an Apollonian stance which itself looked down upon, objectified and
neutralized the daily world. They were both scientists and physicians at heart, as
Nietzsche seems to have been.
Further evidence for regarding Nietzsche as a fundamentally Apollonian
thinker in a wider sense resides in the very tone of his writings, for as a rule
he did not embody violence in his manuscripts. Unlike the Marquis de Sades
writings, for instance, which come closer to embodying Nietzsches Dionysian
35

Interpretations of the world can range from the psychologically comforting to the psychologically disturbing, and Nietzsche intends his nihilistic cosmological hypothesis of Eternal Recurrence to be among the most psychologically disturbing. If the cosmological hypothesis is regarded as true or as very likely, then it would be more disturbing than if it were regarded as
merely a hypothesis or sheer possibility, as disturbing as the sheer possibility itself might be. The
more disturbing the cosmological hypothesis happens to be, the greater the health in ones attitude one would require to overcome its spiritually discouraging effects.
Nietzsche employs Apollonian modes of thought to construct his cosmological hypothesis, so to
be a consistent Dionysian, this Apollonian hypothesis cannot be regarded as a final or true view.
However, for the cosmological hypothesis to be as psychologically disconcerting and as potentially health-generating as possible, one would need to intensify ones belief in the truth of the
hypothesis as much as possible. These two opposing demands generate a tension between needing to recognize the doctrines truth for the purpose of stimulating health, and needing to recognize the doctrines falsity as a matter of acknowledging that an Apollonian cosmological hypothesis cannot be an absolute view.
To resolve this tension, one can formulate Nietzsches yes to life as an emotional response that
arises within a fictional context, and appreciate his cosmological hypothesis of Eternal Recurrence as being on a par with the fictionally-grounded world of a novel, or work of art in general.

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witches brew of violence and excessive venereal appetites36, Nietzsches erudite texts do not stylistically have the immediate affect of violating our sense of
taste and decorum. Nietzsches remarks can be offensive, but these upsetting
moments are sprinkled throughout his texts like bits of fiery spice. His rhetorical
voice is usually elegant, aristocratic and aesthetically discriminating, as opposed
to feral and instinctive.
In sum, the chilling and neutralizing quality of Nietzsches nihilistic hypothesis of a meaningless world issues from thought processes that are more closely
linked to reason and reflection than they are to instinct, and Nietzsches outlook
is therefore far more Apollonian than Dionysian in terms of his cosmological
hypotheses and his associated affirmative deifications. This observation can help
us appreciate straightforwardly how Nietzsche could speak so enthusiastically of
a world filled with essentially meaningless suffering with such aristocratic sophistication, belittling condescension and aesthetic polish37, and why Nietzsches
writings are simultaneously steeped in the themes of alienation, distance and
hermetic solitude.

36
37

See BT 2.
Many images of Nietzsche have been put forth over the years, but among the more coincident
with the present interpretation is that suggested by Robert C. Solomon in his book, Living With
Nietzsche: What the Great Immoralist Has to Teach Us (Oxford 2003):
Nietzsche, as I read him, is a model for a very different sort of life than is celebrated as
success today. It is an outwardly simply and unglamorous life but a life of rich passion and
ecstatic enthusiasm, expressed first of all in the privacy of ones notes and writing, a life of
exquisite taste, cultivated through listening, looking, and the exercise of elegance in even the
simplest things in life. (p. 4)

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Iris Drmann

IRIS DRMANN
RAUSCH ALS STHETISCHER ZUSTAND1:
NIETZSCHES DEUTUNG DER ARISTOTELISCHEN KATHARSIS
UND IHRE PLATONISCH-KANTISCHE UMDEUTUNG
DURCH HEIDEGGER2

Das Verhltnis der europischen Philosophie zur Fremderfahrung des Rausches ist entschieden zwiespltig, wenn nicht allergisch geblieben. In einer fr die
Platonischen Dialoge insgesamt bezeichnenden Operation der berbietung, Aneignung und Beherrschung gestaltet sich die Auseinandersetzung mit der Frage
des Rausches bereits hier als auerordentlich ambivalent. So kann sich Sokrates
im Symposion seine Nchternheit selbst bei grtem Weingenuss noch bewahren
(233c), um stattdessen seine Mitunterredner durch bloe Worte in einen Zustand
orgiastischer Ekstase zu versetzen (215a 216b). Phaidros wird im gleichnamigen Dialog der Sophistik abspenstig gemacht und durch eine kontrollierte erotische mania rettungslos zur Philosophie verfhrt. Die Verwerfung der Tragdie in
der Politeia speist sich aus dem politisch brisanten Wissen, dass die Identifizierung mit der Mimesis3 falscher Gtter und von groem Unglck betroffener Personen (Politeia 603c) den Verlust des Sinnes fr das Wahre und tugendhaftes Verhalten bedeutet. Durch die tragische Katharsis der path mangelt es selbst einem
ansonsten vernnftigen Zuschauer sowohl innerhalb als auch auerhalb des
Theaters an der ntigen Kontrolle seiner Leidenschaften (Politeia 605ab). Doch
bekanntlich sieht sich Platon durch die Vertreibung der Tragdiendichter und
Musiker aus der idealen Polis4 nicht daran gehindert, seine eigene Staatsverfas1
2

Nachlass Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 14[119], S. 296.


Bei diesem Text handelt es sich um meine am 8. 12. 2003 an der Universitt Lneburg im Rahmen des Habilitationsverfahrens gehaltene, um den Heidegger betreffenden Abschnitt erweiterte und fr den Druck berarbeitete Antrittsvorlesung. Mein Dank gilt David Farell Krell,
Christoph Jamme, Tobias Klass und Werner Stegmaier.
Zum uerst komplexen System des Mimisis-Begriffs bei Platon siehe die entscheidende Funote von Derrida, Jacques: La double sance. In: ders.: La dissmination. Paris 1972. S. 199 318,
hier S. 211 213.
Platons Einschtzung, dass die Tragdie ein verwerfliches Modell fr das tugendhafte Handeln
liefere, macht ex negativo seine sittlich-pdagogische Programmierung der Kunst deutlich, die,
wre sie nur rechtens und am Logos ausgerichtet, ebenso heilsam wie frderlich fr das gesamte menschliche Leben sein knnte, so dass sie einen festumrissenen Ort innerhalb der Polis
einzunehmen htte (Politeia 607c d): Die tragische Mimesis ist die Technik der Bildung in allen

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

125

sung, sofern sie nur eine Darstellung des schnsten und besten Lebens zu liefern vermag, als die einzig wahre Tragdie auszuzeichnen (Nomoi 817a). Whrend Platon den alkoholischen, erotischen und tragischen Rausch fr philosophische Zwecke dienstbar zu machen und so zu zhmen sucht, verurteilt Kant hingegen jeglichen Rauschzustand: Der durch Alkohol oder Opium Berauschte
tuscht sich in temporrer Sorgenfreiheit nicht nur ber den Ernst seiner wirklichen Lage hinweg,5 sondern berschreitet auch lallend die Grenzlinie des
Selbstbesitzes und wird solchermaen unvermgend, die Sinnesvorstellungen
nach Erfahrungsgesetzen zu ordnen. Kann Kant sich angesichts der Zeitweiligkeit des durch Geniemittel befrderten Rausches noch zu einer Milderung
seines Urteils herablassen,6 so erweisen sich jedoch die Schte und Leidenschaften und die erotischen zumal als unheilbare Krebsschden fr die reine
praktische Vernunft.7 Im System der Knste umreit das gereimte Trauerspiel schlielich jene Stelle, an der sich die Darstellung des Erhabenen, sofern
sie zur schnen Kunst gehrt, mit der Schnheit vereinig[t].8 Die Reinheit des
Geschmacksurteils fordert freilich auch in diesem Fall eine von Reiz und Rhrung, d.h. von jeder tragischen Katharsis gnzlich unabhngige Beschaffenheit.9
Sieht man einmal von einigen wenigen Ausnahmen ab (man knnte hier an
Benjamins Haschisch in Marseille denken), so ist die europische Philosophie anders als die europische Literatur offenkundig niemals eine Allianz mit der Erfahrung eines undomestizierten Rausches mindestens als zeitweiliger Quelle der
Inspiration oder aber einer ansonsten unzugnglichen Wahrheit eingegangen,
die ber Platons ambivalente Haltung hinausgegangen wre. Denn die Frage des
Rausches betrifft oder besser: bedroht all jene Instanzen mit Auflsung das Ich,
die Vernunft, das Bewusstsein oder Subjekt , deren wachsame, freie und kritische
Ttigkeit den Zugang zur wahren Realitt, normalen Ordnung und produktiven
Arbeit, zum Gesetz und zur kommunikativen Gemeinschaft sicherstellen sollen.10

7
8
9
10

Wortsinnen. So nimmt es auch nicht Wunder, dass Platon die Hymnen auf die wahren Gtter
und die Loblieder auf sittlich edle Menschen (Politeia 607a) von der Verurteilung und Verbannung der Mimesis ausnimmt.
Der an den Rausch gerichtete Vorwurf der Wirklichkeitstuschung und des Selbstbetrugs reicht
bis in Die Dialektik der Aufklrung (Frankfurt am Main 1980. S. 58) hinein.
Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht. In: Kants Werke. Akademie Textausgabe. Bd. VII.
Berlin 1968. S. 169 f.
Ebd., S. 266.
Kritik der Urteilskraft. Bd. V. S. 325.
Ebd., S. 223.
In seiner entsprechenden Analyse jener modernen Rhetoriken, die Rauschgifte und Drogen in
Europa seit 1900 unter Berufung auf ein ursprngliches Freihheitsrecht entweder zu liberalisieren oder aber im Rekurs auf eine rechtsmedizinische Definition unter Strafe zu stellen suchen,
stellt Derrida heraus, dass das Verbot in letzter Instanz immer im Namen dieser wahren Realitt
ausgesprochen und damit von einer Platonischen Logik bestimmt werde. Rhtorique de la drogue. Entretien avec Jacques Derrida. Autrement. Serie Mutations 106. LEsprit des Drogues? Dirig par Jean-Michel Hervieu. Paris 1989. S. 197 214, hier S. 202.

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Mit Nietzsches Denken des Tragischen stt man auf die erste und dem Anschein nach auch letzte Philosophie des Rausches. Dabei erweist sich vor allem
Nietzsches Auslegung der Aristotelischen Katharsis als der entscheidende
Schlssel fr die Konzeption des Rausches als eines sthetischen Zustandes
und damit fr die Genealogie der Tragdie selbst. In seiner Ende 1871 erschienenen Schrift Die Geburt der Tragdie aus dem Geist der Musik, die er rckblickend,
in der Gtzen-Dmmerung, trotz philologischer Fremd-11 und antimetaphysischer
Selbstkritik,12 als seine erste Umwerthung aller Werthe13 auszeichnet,
scheint er dem Rtsel der tragischen Katharsis freilich wenig mehr als zwei Seiten gewidmet und dabei nur das Ungengen aller bisherigen Deutungsversuche
herausgestellt zu haben, weshalb es auch nicht verwundern kann, dass Nietzsches Denken der Katharsis in den beraus zahlreichen Untersuchungen zur
Tragdien-Schrift und zur spteren tragischen Philosophie14 bislang eine eher
marginale15 und erst in jngster Zeit etwa durch Barbara v. Reibnitz, David
Farell Krell und Enrico Mller16 verstrkte Beachtung gefunden hat. Vor dem
11

12
13

14

15

16

Vgl. dazu die von Karlfried Grnder zusammengestellte und eingeleitete Textsammlung: Grnder, Karlfried (Hrsg.): Der Streit um Nietzsches Geburt der Tragdie. Die Schriften von
E. Rohde, R. Wagner, U. v. Wilamowitz-Mllendorff. Hildesheim 1989. Siehe auerdem Howald,
Ernst: Friedrich Nietzsche und die klassische Philologie. Gotha 1920.
GT Versuch einer Selbstkritik, KSA 1, S. 11 20.
GD, Was ich den Alten verdanke 5, KSA 6, S. 160. Damit ist nicht zuletzt eine immoralistische
Umwertung gemeint, die mit der Konzeption des Antichristen korreliert, den Nietzsche auch
durch die Namen Zarathustra oder Dionysos bezeichnet. Zur anti-moralischen Bewertung der
Geburt der Tragdie durch Nietzsche selbst siehe Salaquarda, Jrg: Der Antichrist. In: NietzscheStudien 2 (1973). S. 91 136, hier S. 105; S. 115; S. 127.
In EH (Die Geburt der Tragdie 3, KSA 6, S. 312) bezeichnet sich Nietzsche selbst als den ersten tragischen Philosophen. Mit Josef Simon muss man festhalten, dass Nietzsches Beschftigung mit dem Phnomen des Tragischen immer mehr zu einer Selbstidentifizierung als tragische
Philosophie hinfhrt. (Simon, Josef: Grammatik und Wahrheit. ber das Verhltnis Nietzsches zur spekulativen Satzgrammatik der metaphysischen Tradition. In: Salaquarda, Jrg [Hg.]:
Nietzsche. Darmstadt 1980. S. 183 218, hier S. 187). Nietzsche nimmt gar fr sich in Anspruch,
das Tragische erst entdeckt zu haben, und zwar auf eine Weise, zu der nicht einmal die Griechen
aufgrund ihrer moralistischen Oberflchlichkeit imstande gewesen seien (Nachlass Frhjahr
1884, KSA 11, 25[95], S. 33; vgl. auch 25[101], S. 37).
Vgl. jedoch schon den entsprechenden Hinweis von Heidegger, Martin: Nietzsche. Erster Band
(1961). 5. Aufl. Pfullingen 1961. S. 279 f. (im Folgenden als N I).
Hinweisen mchte ich auf den am 4. 12. 2000 in Tbingen und am 5. 12. 2000 in Lneburg gehaltenen Vortrag von David Farell Krell Das tragische Absolute: Nietzsche und Hlderlin zwischen Antike und Moderne, der Nietzsches und Hlderlins Deutung der Katharsis auf der Spur
ist. Siehe auch die instruktiven berlegungen von Mller, Enrico: sthetische Lust und Dionysische Weisheit. Nietzsches Deutung der griechischen Tragdie. In: Nietzsche-Studien 31
(2002). S. 134 153, hier S. 137 (mit Dank an Werner Stegmaier). Mller identifiziert zu Recht
Aristoteles als den eigentlichen Gegenspieler Nietzsches, der als omniprsenter Begleiter in
dessen Frhwerk und, wie ich meine, auch in dessen spterer tragischer Philosophie angesehen werden muss. Barabara von Reibnitz hat bereits 1994 darauf hingewiesen, dass sich Nietzsches frhe Kritik der Aristotelischen Tragdientheorie gegen dessen uerste Marginalisierung
der Inszenierung der Tragdie richte (Poetik 6, 1450b 15 ff.), die auf eine Sanctionierung des
Lesedramas hinauslaufe (Nachlass Winter 1869 70 Frhjahr 1870, KSA 7, 3[66], S. 78).

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127

Hintergrund der hufig an Aristoteles schematisch gebten Kritik in den nachgelassenen Fragmenten der Jahre 1869 1873 und 1888 wird in der Tat deutlich,
dass Nietzsche mit der Geburt der Tragdie unter der Direktive des dionysischen
Fragezeichens17 nicht nur ein zweites, nmlich mystisch-orgiastisches, von wilden Opferritualen und kultischen Tnzen berauschtes Griechenland erfindet,
das den klassizistischen Idealen der schnen Form18, der edlen Einfalt
(Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 24[1], S. 626) und griechischen Heiterkeit (Nachlass
1870/71, KSA 7, 7[174], S. 207) widerstreitet.19 Er nimmt damit zugleich auch
eine sehr spezifische Umwertung der Aristotelischen Katharsis vor, die es im
Folgenden unter dem Titel der Entladung im Text selbst zu entdecken und zu
konturieren gilt. Namentlich Karlfried Grnder hat darauf hingewiesen, dass
sich Nietzsche seinen besonderen Zugang zur tragischen Katharsis ber eine
Lektre von Jacob Bernays 1858 verffentlichter Schrift Grundzge der verlorenen
Abhandlung des Aristoteles ber Wirkung der Tragdie erobert hat,20 die wegen ihrer
pathologischen Lesart gehrig Staub aufgewirbelt und eine unberschaubare
Flut von Entgegnungen und Stellungnahmen ausgelst hat.21 Wenn Nietzsche
ohne Frage den fr die Katharsis eingesetzten Begriff der Entladung dieser
bahnbrechenden philologischen Untersuchung entlehnt, so weicht jedoch sein
Verstndnis flagrant von demjenigen Bernays ab und erhebt damit den implizit
gebliebenen Anspruch, das Problem der tragischen Katharsis auf radikal neue
Weise gelst und damit wie nebenbei den berhmten Meisterschler seines
eigenen Lehrers Friedrich Ritschl in einer genau zu bezeichnenden Geste berboten zu haben.

17
18

19

20

21

Diese Reduktion der Tragdie auf Leselitteratur bilde, so von Reibnitz, die implizite Negativfolie, von der Nietzsche sein Bild der Tragdie als eines sprachlich-musikalischen Gesamtkunstwerks abhebt. Reibnitz, Barbara von: Vom Sprachkunstwerk zur Leseliteratur. Nietzsches Blick auf die griechische Literaturgeschichte als Gegenentwurf zur aristotelischen Poetik.
In: Borsche, Tilman / Gerratana, Federico / Venturelli, Aldo (Hg.): Centauren-Geburten.
Wissenschaft, Kunst und Philosophie beim jungen Nietzsche. Berlin, New York 1994. S. 47 66,
hier S. 61.
GT Versuch einer Selbstkritik, KSA 1, S. 20.
Winckelmann, Johann Joachim: Gedanken ber die Nachahmung der griechischen Werke in der
Malerei und Bildhauerkunst (1755). In: Winckelmanns Werke in einem Band. Hg. von Holzhauer, Helmut. 4. Aufl. Berlin, Weimar 1986. S. 1 36, hier S. 2.
Zu dieser Entdeckung eines doppelten Griechenlands in der Morgenrte des spekulativen
Idealismus und der romantischen Philologie siehe Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe / Nancy, JeanLuc: Le mythe nazi. La Tour dAigues 1991. S. 42 43.
Sowohl in einem Brief an Erwin Rohde vom 3. oder 4. 5. 1868 als auch in einem Brief an Friedrich Ritschl vom 12. 5. 1868 spricht Nietzsche von der strkende[en] und heilende[n] Magie,
eine[r] wirklich medizinische[n] bzw. quasi-rztlichen ktharsis ton pathemton. KSB 2, Nr. 569,
S. 272; Nr. 571, S. 279.
Grnder, Karlfried: Jacob Bernays und der Streit um die Katharsis. In: Epirrhosis. Festgabe fr
Carl Schmitt. Berlin 1968. S. 495 528, hier S. 515; S. 519ff. Zur Bedeutung der Bernaysschen
Untersuchung fr Nietzsches Tragdienkonzeption siehe auch Cancik, Hubert: Nietzsches Antike. Vorlesung. Stuttgart/Weimar 1995. S. 56 f.

128

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Fr Nietzsche bedeutet Katharsis nicht die Purgation von Furcht und Mitleid, sondern die aufeinander folgende Entladung22 des transfigurierenden
Rausches einerseits und der Vision andererseits, die als knstlerische Zustnde die Tragdie hervorbringen. Damit wird der Rausch zweifellos einem
schpferisch-visionren Programm unterstellt, wie Nietzsches Frontstellung gegenber dem dionysischen Barbaren (GT 2, S. 31) deutlich macht. Unter dem
Einfluss des narkotischen Getrnkes (GT 1, S. 28) ergehe sich dieser im besinnungslosen Taumel einer berschwnglichen geschlechtlichen Zuchtlosigkeit und Grausamkeit (GT 2, S. 32), ohne die Spur einer sthetischen Ttigkeit
zurckzulassen. Hat das orientalisch Dionysische bei Nietzsche jedoch den Charakter des verdrngten Eigenen, das abzuwehren der apollinischen Kultur nur
kurzfristig gelingt, um der Unheimlichkeit des Dionysischen23 nunmehr mit der
ganzen sublimierenden24 Kraft bildlicher Gestaltung zu begegnen,25 so wendet
sich Heideggers Auslegung von Nietzsches spter Philosophie in ihrer Rckbindung an die Tragdien-Schrift26 nicht nur ausdrcklich gegen einen sthetisch un22
23

24
25

26

Sokrates und die griechische Tragoedie, KSA 1, S. 610.


Im Unterschied zur Einschtzung Enrico Mllers, der Dionysos als das schlechthinnige Symbol fr Fremdheit und Indifferenz charakterisiert, welches in einer riskanten schpferischen
Einverleibung in das eigene Selbstverstndnis aufzunehmen der hellenischen Kultur erst zu
dem ihr eigentmlichen Geprge verhelfe, geht es in der Tragdien-Schrift jedoch darum zu
zeigen, dass die Konfrontation mit dem orientalischen Dionysischen der Wiederkehr des verdrngten eigenen Dionysischen Vorschub leistet und somit im Sinne Freuds das Unheimliche im
Sinne des eigenen Fremden darstellt. In Die dionysische Weltanschauung (KSA 1, S. 563) bzw. in Die
Geburt des tragischen Gedankens (KSA 1, S. 591) fasst Nietzsche die externe Invasion des Dionysischen in die hellenische Kultur hingegen noch ganz im Sinne Mllers weitaus radikaler: Man
hat nie mit eine Fremdling mehr Umstnde gemacht: dafr war er auch ein furchtbarer Fremdling (hostis in jedem Sinne), mchtig genug das gastliche Haus zu zertrmmern. Eine groe Revolution begann in allen Lebensformen: berall hin drang Dionysos, auch in die Kunst.
Vgl. Die dionysische Weltanschauung, KSA 1, S. 556.
Gegen die fieberhaften Regungen jener Feste, deren Kenntnis auf allen Land- und Seewegen zu
den Griechen drang, waren sie, wie es scheint, eine Zeit lang vllig gesichert und geschtzt durch
die hier in seinem ganzen Stolz sich aufrichtende Gestalt des Apollo, der das Medusenhaupt keiner gefhrlicheren Macht entgegenhalten konnte als dieser fratzenhaft ungeschlachten dionysischen. Es ist die dorische Kunst, in der sich eine majesttisch-ablehnende Haltung des Apollo
verewigt hat. Bedenklicher und sogar unmglich wurde dieser Widerstand, als endlich aus der
tiefsten Wurzel des Hellenischen heraus sich hnliche Triebe Bahn brachen; jetzt beschrnkte
sich das Wirken des delphischen Gottes darauf, dem gewaltigen Gegner durch eine zur rechten
Zeit abgeschlossene Vershnung die vernichtenden Waffen aus der Hand zu nehmen. Diese
Vershnung ist der wichtigste Moment in der Geschichte des griechischen Cultus (GT 2, S. 32).
Heideggers Einschtzung der Beziehung des jungen Nietzsche zu Wagner klingt wie eine verschobene Replik auf diese Passage: Dieser aus dem Rausch kommende Fortri ins Ganze war
es, wodurch der Mensch Richard Wagner und sein Werk den jungen Nietzsche in den Bann zogen; doch dieses war nur mglich, weil dem in Nietzsche selbst etwas entgegenkam, jenes, was
Nietzsche dann das Dionysische nannte. Aber weil Wagner die bloe Aufsteigerung des Dionysischen und die Verstrmung in ihm suchte, Nietzsche aber seine Bndigung und Gestaltung,
deshalb war auch der Ri zwischen beiden vorbestimmt. (N I, S. 29)
GD, Was ich den Alten verdanke 5, KSA 6, S. 160. Zu dieser Rckbindung siehe auch Wohlfahrt,
Gnter: Artisten-Metaphysik. Ein Nietzsche-Brevier. Wrzburg 1991. S. 42; S. 74.

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129

produktiven und in diesem Sinne orientalischen Rauschzustand reiner Empfnglichkeit, sondern auch gegen den Rausch als sthetischen Zustand. Wo es
sich darum handelt, Nietzsches sthetik als uersten Gipfelpunkt der abendlndischen Geschichte der sthetik vor Augen zu fhren, gelangt er ber eine
angeblich schrfere Fassung [seines] Wesens (N I, S. 138) zu einer PlatonischKantischen Bestimmung des Rausches, der mit der schnen Form als hchste
Einfachheit der reichsten Gesetzlichkeit auf den ihn erst begrndenden
Mglichkeitsbereich verwiesen wird (N I, S. 140). Unter der gide der in seiner
fnfsemestrigen Nietzsche-Vorlesung erstmals ausfhrlich entworfenen Seinsgeschichte bringt Heidegger so das Kunststck fertig, den Vorrang des dionysischen Rausches27 zugunsten des Apollinischen zu demontieren und damit die
Originalitt der sthetik Nietzsches ihrer metaphysischen Einschreibung zu opfern. Bringt Heidegger, der in vielfacher Hinsicht problematische Denker des
Eigenen und Eigentlichen, in der Abtreibung des Rausches einerseits seinen unverhohlenen Abscheu gegenber dieser durch und durch leiblichen, selbstentussernden (GT 2, S. 34) und orientalischen Fremderfahrung zum Ausdruck,
so bleibt er damit seinerseits in einer repressiven, d. h. metaphysischen Grundstellung befangen, die Nietzsches Ausbruch aus der Metaphysik mindestens
in dieser Hinsicht um so deutlicher hervortreten lsst.28
Die folgenden berlegungen gliedern sich vor dem Hintergrund des eben
Skizzierten in drei Abschnitte: (1) Jacob Bernays Untersuchung zur Aristotelischen Katharsis; (2) Nietzsches Bestimmung der Katharsis als Entladung knstlerischer Rauschzustnde und seine Genealogie der Tragdie; (3) Heideggers
seinsgeschichtliche Umkehrung von Nietzsches sthetik des Rausches.

27

28

Zur offenkundigen Dominanz des Dionysischen siehe Heftrich, Eckhard: Die Geburt der
Tragdie. Eine Prfiguration von Nietzsches Philosophie? In: Nietzsche-Studien 18 (1989).
S. 103 126, hier S. 117 f.
Ein solches Vorgehen wrde Eckhard Heftrich wohl der Leichtfertigkeit zeihen, wenn er mit Bezug auf das Denken Heideggers und Nietzsches und einem (fr ihn unmglichen) Vergleich herausstellt: Naiv wre es, fr beides einfach den Sammelnamen Metaphysik zu whlen und dann
zu sagen: Heidegger habe Nietzsche als die Vollendung der Metaphysik gesehen, doch sei zu fragen, ob Nietzsche nicht schon die Metaphysik hinter sich lasse. Denn da wrde das Wort Metaphysik wie eine feste, verfgbare Gre behandelt, obwohl der so selbstverstndlich verwendete
und auf Nietzsche angewandte Begriff doch gerade Heideggers Auslegung der Philosophie und
Geschichte entstammt. In dem Mae, in dem freilich auch Nietzsche sich des Wortes und Begriffes der Metaphysik bedient, scheint es in Anlehnung an Wolfgang Mller-Lauter durchaus
aussichtsreich, Heideggers Frage nach dem Sein aus der Optik Nietzsches in den Blick zu nehmen und Heideggers Metaphysikverstndnis aus der Perspektive Nietzsches mit Fragezeichen
zu versehen. Heftrich, Eckhard: Nietzsche im Denken Heideggers. In: Klostermann, Vittorio
(Hg.): Durchblicke. Martin Heidegger zum 80. Geburtstag. Frankfurt am Main 1970. S. 331 349,
hier S. 331. Mller-Lauter, Wolfgang: Heidegger und Nietzsche. Nietzsche-Interpretationen III.
Berlin, New York 2000. S. 74.

130

Iris Drmann

1. Jacob Bernays Untersuchung zur Aristotelischen Katharsis


Jacob Bernays schickt seiner mit den Mitteln der methodischen Hermeneutik29 unternommenen Beweisfhrung um den strikt pathologischen Sinn der
Aristotelischen Katharsis eine kurze Errterung der einschlgigen Deutungsversuche von Lessing und Goethe voraus, die in seinen Augen die bisherige Verlegenheit hinsichtlich ihres richtigen historischen Gehaltes recht gut illustrieren.
Sieht man einmal von der Ungenauigkeit ab, mit der beide Dichter den Tragdiensatz im sechsten Abschnitt der Poetik zu bersetzen bzw. nicht zu bersetzen
pflegen, so macht sich Lessing in der Hamburgischen Dramaturgie der die pathische
Intensitt von leos und phbos mindernden Ersetzung durch Mitleid und
Furcht schuldig,30 wobei letztere nichts anderes als ein selbstbezogenes Mitleid darstellen soll.31 Hinter der weniger christlichen denn Rousseauistischen
Einfrbung dieser beiden Mitleidsaffekte32 steht bekanntermaen eine Konzeption des brgerlichen Trauerspiels, die die Aristotelische Zweckbestimmung der
Tragdie auf die Moralisierung des Zuschauers zu verpflichten sucht: Denn der
mitleidigste Mensch ist der beste Mensch, und das Trauerspiel soll unsre Fhigkeit, Mitleid zu fhlen, erweitern, heit es in einem Brief Lessings vom November 1756 an Friedrich Nicolai.33 Die von Lessing mit Reinigung wiedergegebene tragische Katharsis wird mit der eigentmlichen Aufgabe betraut,
die Verwandlung der Leidenschaften in tugendhafte Fertigkeiten zu bewirken,
indem sie sowohl von einem berfluss als auch von einem Mangel an Mitleid
in jenem doppelten Sinne reinige und so die Mitte zwischen zwei Extremen
angebe.34 Lessings Anliegen, die griechische Tragdie in ein, so Bernays, moralisches Correctionshaus35 und in eine Suberungsanstalt des Mitleids berfh-

29

30

31

32

33

34
35

Bernays, Jacob: Grundzge der verlorenen Abhandlung des Aristoteles ber Wirkung der Tragdie. Reprint der Ausgabe Breslau 1858. Hg. von Grnder, Karlfried. Hildesheim, New York
1970. S. 11.
Diesen Vorwurf erhebt zwar nicht Bernays gegenber Lessing, jedoch Wolfgang Schadewaldt
unter Rckgriff auf die griechischen Grundbedeutungen der beiden Begriffe phbos und
leos: Schadewaldt, Wolfgang: Furcht und Mitleid? Zur Deutung des Aristotelischen Tragdiensatzes. In: Hermes 83 (1955). S. 129 171, hier S. 129.
Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim: Hamburgische Dramaturgie. 75. Stck. Den 19. Januar 1768. In:
Lessings Werke. Hg. von Wlfel, Kurt. Zweiter Band. Frankfurt am Main 1967. S. 420.
Zur Bedeutung des Rousseauistischen Mitleidsbegriffs, namentlich dem des 2. Discours, siehe
Schings, Hans-Jrgen: Der mitleidigste Mensch ist der beste Mensch. Poetik des Mitleids von
Lessing bis Bchner. Mnchen 1980. S. 36; S. 43.
Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim / Mendelssohn, Moses / Nicolai, Friedrich: Briefwechsel ber das
Trauerspiel. Hg. von Schulte-Sasse, Jochen. Mnchen 1972. S. 55.
Ebd., 78. Stck. Den 29. Januar 1768. S. 434.
Bernays: Grundzge, a. a. O., S. 4. Dass Bernays diesen polemischen Begriff ohne Namensnennung dem Junghegelianer Alfred Stahr entlehnt hat, darauf macht Grnder aufmerksam: Grnder: Jacob Bernays, a. a. O., S. 510.

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ren zu wollen, gehe entschieden am eigentlichen Sinn der Katharsis vorbei, fr


deren sthetische Reichweite sich demgegenber Goethe wesentlich empfnglicher gezeigt habe, auch wenn er sie flschlicherweise ber die Zuschauer
hinweg in die personae dramatis versetzen wollte und unter Katharsis die die dramatische Handlung selbst betreffende ausshnende Abrundung36 verstand. In
strenger Verurteilung jedes sittlichen Endzweckes37 und einer entsprechend
entfernten Wirkung auf den Zuschauer, die die Vollkommenheit des tragischen Kunstwerkes in und an sich selbst ldierten, gibt Goethe den Aristotelischen Tragdiensatz folgendermaen wieder:
Die Tragdie ist die Nachahmung einer bedeutenden und abgeschlossenen
Handlung, die [] nach einem Verlauf [] von Mitleid und Furcht mit Ausgleichung solcher Leidenschaften ihr Geschft schliet.38
Angesichts der offenkundigen Verwegenheit dieser Auslegungs- und bersetzungsversuche sieht sich Bernays zu einem Rckgang auf die antiken Texte
selbst und in Sonderheit zu einer grndlichen Lektre des achten Buches von
Aristoteles Politik (1341b) gentigt. Hier findet sich nmlich nicht nur der Hinweis auf eine ausfhrlichere, aber verlorengegangene Behandlung der Katharsis
in der Poetik, sondern auch deren einzig berlieferte Erluterung durch Aristoteles selbst, die im Kontext unterschiedlicher Musikgattungen entwickelt wird.
Von diesen interessieren Bernays und spter Nietzsche vor allem die von
dem mythischen Snger Olympos hergeleiteten phrygischen Lieder39 und die
ebenfalls orgiastische bzw. enthusiastische Fltenmusik (vgl. GT 6, S. 49), denen Aristoteles eine sowohl berauschende als auch kathartische Wirkung zuspricht:
Nun sehen wir an den heiligen Liedern, da wenn dergleichen Verzckte
Lieder, die eben das Gemth berauschen, auf sich wirken lassen, sie sich beruhigen, gleichsam als htten sie rztliche Cur und Katharsis erfahren.40
Auch wenn Aristoteles in Frontstellung zur Platonischen Verwerfung der
orgiastisch-kathartisch wirksamen Aulosmusik (Nomoi 790ce) die unschdliche
Freude (Politik 1342a) unterstreicht, mit der die Katharsis durch heilige Lieder verbunden sei, so hebt Bernays weniger diesen hedonistischen41 Aspekt als
vielmehr den pathologischen Blickwinkel der ganzen Betrachtung hervor. Der
36

37

38
39
40
41

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: Nachlese zu Aristoteles Poetik. In: Goethes Werke. Bd. XII.
Mnchen 1981. S. 342 345, hier S. 343.
Eckermann, Johann Peter: Gesprche mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens. Hg. von
Bergemann, Fritz. Frankfurt am Main 1981. 28. Mrz 1827. S. 563.
Goethe: Nachlese, a. a. O., S. 342 f.
Bernays: Grundzge, a. a. O., S. 9.
Aristoteles: Politik 1342a. In der bersetzung von Bernays: Grundzge, a. a. O., S. 7.
Zur empirischen und hedonistischen, wenn nicht gar eudaimonistischen Bestimmung der Aristotelischen Katharsis siehe Neschke-Hentschke, Ada B.: Aristoteles und Aristotelismus oder der
Fall der Poetik. In: Neue Hefte fr Philosophie 15/16 (1979). S. 70 101, hier S. 91.

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Iris Drmann

sprachlich eindeutig metaphorische42 Gehalt jenes pathologischen Gesichtspunktes lsst ihn zu einer Erluterung greifen, die nebenbei bemerkt und nicht
von ungefhr an die sptere kathartische Methode43 Breuers und Freuds erinnert, dessen Ehefrau Martha bekanntlich Bernays Nichte war: Die sowohl tragische als auch musikalische Katharsis des Aristoteles, deren einheitliches Grundverstndnis nicht genug betont werden knne,44 msse als eine vom Krperlichen
auf Gemthliches bertragene Bezeichnung fr solche Behandlung eines Beklommenen verstanden werden, die das ihn beklemmende Element nicht zu verwandeln oder zurckzudrngen sucht, sondern es aufregen, hervortreiben und
dadurch Erleichterung des Beklommenen bewirken soll.45 Fr die Zurckversetzung der Katharsis in jenen therapeutischen Kontext,46 dem sie ursprnglich entstammen soll, findet Bernays auerdem Belege in zwei Texttorsi neuplatonischer
Literatur, in denen er im brigen auf Paraphrasen der verlorenen Fragmente der
Poetik gestoen zu sein glaubte. Bei Proklos, d.h. in seinem Rekurs auf die Poetik,
entdeckt er zwei der medizinischen Semantik affine Nachbarworte: aphosiosis,
Ableitung, sowie aprasis, Entladung.47 Bei Jamblich lasse die mit dem Wort ktharsis verbundene Prposition to 48 an nichts anderes als an medizinisches Fortschaffen [] denken.49 Wo immer Bernays nunmehr den Terminus Katharsis und
also den Tragdiensatz des Aristoteles ins Deutsche bersetzt, wird er, wie auch
nach ihm Nietzsche, nicht von Reinigung, sondern von Entladung sprechen:
Die Tragdie bewirkt durch [Erregung von] Mitleid und Furcht die Entladung solcher [mitleidigen und furchtsamen] Gemthsaffectionen.50
42

43

44
45
46

47

48
49
50

Bernays: Grundzge, a. a. O., S. 16. In einem Brief an Leonhard Spengel vom 6. Mrz 1859 verteidigt Bernays erneut ausdrcklich die Metaphorizitt des Terminus katharsis bei Aristoteles
gegenber seinen Kritikern. Vgl. dazu Bernays, Jacob: Ein Brief an Leonhard Spengel ber die
tragische Katharsis bei Aristoteles. In: ders.: Zwei Abhandlungen ber die Aristotelische Theorie des Dramas. Berlin 1880. S. 119 132, hier S. 122.
Siehe dazu Breuer, Josef / Freud, Sigmund: ber den psychischen Mechanismus hysterischer
Phnomene (1893). In: Freud: Studien ber Hysterie. Gesammelte Werke. Bd. I. Hg. von Freud,
Anna u.a. London, Frankfurt am Main 1940ff. S. 75 98, hier S. 97.
Vgl. Grnder: Jacob Bernays, a. a. O., S. 513.
Bernays: Grundzge, a. a. O., S. 12.
Hellmut Flashar weist die ursprnglich medizinische Bedeutung der Katharsis in den Hippokratischen Schriften ber die Behandlung der heiligen Krankheiten (Epilepsie, Melancholie) nach:
Flashar, Hellmut: Die medizinischen Grundlagen der Lehre von der Wirkung der Dichtung in
der griechischen Poetik. In: Hermes 84 (1956). S. 12 48, hier S. 26 ff.
Procl. in Remp. I.42.2 (Kroll). In: Aristoteles: Fragmenta Selecta. Ed. Ross, W. D. Oxford 1958.
S. 69 70.
Iambl. Myst. I.II (Parthey) bzw. 3.9. In: Aristoteles: Fragmenta Selecta, a.a. O., S. 70.
Bernays: Grundzge, a. a. O., S. 36; S. 38.
Ebd., S. 16. Auf die den genitivus objectivus oder genitivus separativus betreffende Streitfrage,
ob nmlich der Zuschauer von besagten Affekten gereinigt werde oder aber diese Affekte selbst
eine Reinigung erfahren, gibt Bernays damit eine eindeutige Antwort. Siehe dazu auch Schadewaldt, Wolfgang: Die griechische Tragdie. Tbinger Vorlesungen (1966 1970). Bd. 4. Hg. von
Schudoma, Ingeborg. Frankfurt am Main 1991. S. 13.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

133

Der fr Aristoteles entscheidende Erfahrungshintergrund sei indes in dem in


der orientalischen und griechischen Antike weit verbreiteten Bereich der ekstatischen Erscheinungen51 zu finden. Das als heilig und gttlich aufgefasste Aussersichsein, das in ffentlichen Kulten unter priesterlicher Fhrung gleichermaen epidemisch erregt und kathartisch geheilt worden sei, erweist sich fr Bernays
namentlich in seinem objektlosen, die Fessel des Bewutseins sprengenden und
die soziale Ordnung auflsenden Modus als dasjenige Urpathos, das allen anderen Arten von Pathos seine wesentlich ekstatischen Zge leihe.52

2. Nietzsches Bestimmung der Katharsis


als Entladung knstlerischer Rauschzustnde und seine Genealogie der Tragdie
Dass Bernays seine eigenen Anschauungen in der Geburt der Tragdie in
stark bertriebener Form glaubte wiedergefunden zu haben, wie Nietzsche Erwin Rohde im Dezember 187253 voller Emprung mitteilt, ist ebenso zutreffend
wie falsch: Wie dieser lehnt Nietzsche jede moralische Deutung der Katharsis
als Antwort auf die Frage nach dem eigentlich Tragischen grundstzlich ab.
Wie Bernays unterstreicht auch er Goethes Ahnung, dass das hchste Pathetische der Tragdie nur als ein sthetisches Spiel umrissen werden knne. In
dem Mae, in dem Nietzsche jedoch die unbedingte Notwendigkeit eines sthetischen Verstndnisses der tragischen Katharsis unterschreibt, muss er mit um so
grerer Entschiedenheit deren medizinische Auslegung verwerfen. Diese Zurckweisung einer pharmazeutischen bzw. homopathischen Funktion rhrt
jedoch nicht etwa daher, dass Nietzsche die philologische Gltigkeit der Bernaysschen Untersuchung anzweifelt, die im 22. Kapitel der Tragdien-Schrift und anderswo, ohne eigens genannt zu werden, in Frage steht. Hinter der Verurteilung
der sowohl moralischen als auch pathologischen Deutung des Tragischen,
die im brigen auf die nmliche Stufe gestellt werden (GT 22, S. 142f.), steht vielmehr das Wissen um das groe Miverstndnis des Aristoteles selbst, der in
zwei deprimierenden Affekten, im Schrecken und im Mitleiden, die tragischen
Affekte zu erkennen glaubte. Htte er Recht, so wre die Tragdie eine lebensgefhrliche Kunst: man mte vor ihr wie etwas Gemeinschdlichem und Anrchi-

51

52
53

Vgl. auch die ber die griechischen Manifestationen hinausgehenden berlegungen von Burkhard Gladigow, der anhand einer Reihe von vergleichenden Kriterien transkulturell konstante
uerungs- und Zustandsformen der Ekstase in Betracht zieht: Gladigow, Burkhard: Ekstase
und Enthousiasmos. In: Cancik, Hubert (Hg.): Rausch Ekstase Mystik. Dsseldorf 1978.
S. 23 40, hier S. 33.
Bernays: Grundzge, a. a. O., S. 43 47.
Nietzsche an Erwin Rohde, 7. Dezember 1872, KSB 4, Nr. 487, S. 97. Siehe dazu Grnder: Jacob
Bernays, a. a. O., S. 520.

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gem warnen (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 15[10], S. 410), wie Nietzsche noch 1888
auf der durchgngigen argumentativen Linie seiner wiederholten Einsprche gegen die Poetik formuliert. Aristoteles ist es demnach nicht gelungen, dem Bann
der Platonischen Verurteilung der tragischen Kunst zu entkommen. Indem er
die Unschdlichkeit der Tragdie demonstrieren wollte und sie zu einem ntzlichen Purgativ zwei[er] unmig aufgestaute[r] krankhafte[r] Affekte erklrt
hat (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 15[10], S. 410), bleibt er in derselben, wenngleich
umgekehrten Logik Platons gefangen. Fr Nietzsche ist jedoch vor allem der mit
der Katharsis ineinsgesetzte Vorgang der Schwchung, Auflsung, ja des Verlustes einer pathischen Spannung (tonicum) oder Disposition hchst fragwrdig
(Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 15[10], S. 410), die ihrerseits als problematisch bewertet
und deshalb ausgetrieben werden sollen. Um dieser Kraft- und Pathosminderung willen msste die Aristotelische Einschtzung der Tragdie, trfe sie denn
zu, in der Tat als lebensgefhrlich angesehen werden: Das groe Miverstndnis des Aristoteles54 beruht auf der Sokratisch-wissenschaftlichen Stigmatisierung von Pathos und Leidenschaft und der daraus folgenden Einsicht in
die vermeintliche Notwendigkeit ihres Exorzismus, als dessen bloes Mittel die
tragische Kunst missbraucht wird. Damit ist bereits in nuce das Programm einer
radikalen Neubewertung der Tragdie skizziert, dem sich Nietzsche sptestens
seit 1870 verschrieben hat: Es gilt die tragische Katharsis als ein Geschehen zu
begreifen, bei dem eminent knstlerische Zustnde und Ttigkeiten (GT 22,
S. 142) auf dem Spiel stehen. Sie gehen aus dem exzessiv Pathischen selbst hervor, knnen es ihrerseits steigern und sthetisch transfigurieren und fhren
damit das zum Leben verfhren[de] (Nachlass 1870/71, KSA 7, 7[125], S. 183)
Gewicht solcher Metamorphosen (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14 [127], S. 309)
vor Augen. So taucht der von Bernays eingefhrte und von Nietzsche unter usserster Sinnentstellung bernommene Terminus der Entladung nicht zuletzt
in jenen zwei prominenten Kapiteln der Tragdien-Schrift auf, die dem Ursprung
der Tragdie aus der orgiastischen Rauscherfahrung des Chores im Zeichen einer
musikalischen Theologie55 des Dionysos gewidmet sind.56 Dasjenige, was ge-

54

55

56

Zu diesem Aristotelischen Miverstndniss und seinen historischen Fortsetzungen vgl. auch:


GD, Was ich den Alten verdanke 5, KSA 6, S. 160.
Bernays: Grundzge, a.a.O., S. 37. Bernays referiert hier die Nietzsche offenbar beeindruckende,
vom ungttlichen Musikverstndnis des Aristoteles abweichende Ansicht von Jamblich, die
dieser in seiner Mysterien-Schrift vertritt, dass nmlich die einzelnen Liederweisen eine specifische Verwandtschaft mit den einzelnen Gttern haben, welche nun im Klang des Liedes gegenwrtig geworden, als gegenwrtige, je nach der ihnen zukommenden Macht, auf die Menschen
unmittelbar wirken und diese in mannichfach sich ussernde, bald still brtende, bald tobend
taumelnde Zustnde einer wirklichen Vergottung, eines enthousiasms, versetzen.
Zur auerordentlichen Bedeutung des Dionysos-Mythos fr die Romantik und den deutschen
Idealismus siehe Frank, Manfred: Der kommende Gott. Vorlesungen ber die Neue Mythologie. Frankfurt am Main 1982.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

135

meinhin als historischer Vorlufer der Tragdie angesehen wird, der Chor, ist fr
Nietzsche bekanntlich der Inbegriff der Tragdie (GT 7, S. 52) und das Urphnomen des Tragischen (GT 22, S. 143) selbst: Das Pathos der Musik (GT 6,
S. 49), das gewaltsam in den Satyr-Chor einschlgt (Nachlass 1870, KSA 7,
7[127], S. 188), fhrt zu einer Gesammt-Erregung und Steigerung des AffektSystems []: so dass es alle seine Mittel des Ausdrucks mit einem Mal entladet
und die Kraft des Darstellens, Nachbildens, Transfigurierens, Verwandelns, alle
Art Mimik und Schauspielerei zugleich heraustreibt. Mit dem im Feld der dionysischen Musik verwendeten Begriff der Entladung stellt Nietzsche offenkundig keine Abschwchung oder gar Austreibung von Affekten in Aussicht; er
hebt vielmehr die mit der pathischen Intensivierung einhergehende Leichtigkeit
der Metamorphose als die Unfhigkeit, nicht zu reagieren (GD, Streifzge 10,
S. 117) hervor. Das eminent sthetische der so verstandenen Katharsis ist die
mit der musikalischen Rauscherfahrung einhergehende zwanghafte Entladung
von knstlerischen Krften der Verwandlung der Person, die den Besessenen
seine Identitt verlieren, ihn in jede Haut schlpfen und in jeden Affekt [eingehen] (GD, Streifzge 10, S. 118) lsst. Der von der orgiastischen Gewalt der
dionysischen Musik Ergriffene verwandelt sich solchermaen in einen Diener
seines Gottes. Seine Transfiguration in einen dionysischen Satyr beruht ohne
Frage auf einer doppelten Fremderfahrung und Entladung: Der pathischen
Fremderfahrung des objektlosen Rausches einerseits, die Nietzsche ganz ebenso
wie Bernays mittels jener bewutseinsentgrenzenden, depersonalisierenden und
affektiv steigernden Wirkungen beschreibt,57 deren unmittelbar alterierender
Entladungsgewalt sich keiner zu entziehen vermag; sowie andererseits der mit
der Preisgabe der eigenen und der Annahme einer neuen Identitt verbundenen
Fremderfahrung der kathartischen Verwandlung in einen Gefhrten des Dionysos. bernimmt der Besessene und Verwandelte des dionysischen Chores fr
Nietzsche zweifellos die Rolle eines unbewussten Schauspielers (GT 8, S. 61),
so bringt er ihn zugleich als Zuschauer einer szenischen Vision ins Spiel, die
sich mit der pathisch-sthetischen Kraft einer nunmehr bildlichen Katharsis
einstellt.58 Indem der dionysische Schwrmer auer sich gert und sich in einen
Satyr verwandelt, sieht er eine neue Vision ausser sich, die fr Nietzsche nichts
anderes als die Entladung der dionysischen Fremderfahrung in eine apollinische Bilderwelt (GT 8, S. 62) darstellt und die Leiden des Dionysos fr jeden
Einzelnen halluzinativ sichtbar macht. Dieses sich ekstatisch entladende monstrse Imaginre, das in aufeinanderfolgenden Szenen die Zerstckelung des
57

58

Siehe dazu Reibnitz, Barbara von: Ein Kommentar zu Friedrich Nietzsche Die Geburt der Tragdie aus dem Geist der Musik (Kapitel 1 12). Stuttgart, Weimar 1992. S. 202.
Vgl. dazu auch die in mancherlei Hinsicht deutlicheren Ausfhrungen zur Geburt der Tragdie:
Nachlass Ende 1870 April 1871, KSA 7, 7[127], S. 185 ff., zur Vision siehe Nachlass Ende
1870 April 1871, KSA 7, 7 [127], S. 191.

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Dionysos59 vor Augen fhrt und verherrlicht, wirkt wiederum seinerseits insofern
affektiv auf den Schauer der Vision zurck, als dieser vom Anblick des Leidens
seines Gottes getroffen und in Mitleidenschaft gezogen wird (GT 8, S. 58, S. 63).
Das eigentliche Urdrama (GT 7, S. 52), das Nietzsche im uersten Gegensatz
zum traditionellen Verstndnis von jeder dramatischen Handlungskomponente
befreit (GT 8, 12, S. 63, S. 85), fllt demnach mit der Entfesselung zweier knstlerischer Gewalten im Menschen, dem Zwang zur Vision und dem Zwang
zum Orgiasmus zusammen, die ber ihn verfgen, ob er will oder nicht
(Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[36], S. 235f.). Wenn es zutrifft, dass die antike Tragdie nichts anderes als die in die externe Sichtbarkeit der Bhne bersetzte
Fremderfahrung des dionysischen Satyrchores darstellt (GT 8, S. 63), dann muss
sich die spezifische Bedeutung, die Nietzsche der tragischen Katharsis verleiht,
nmlich die mit pathischer Unvermeidlichkeit auftretende Entladung der beiden kunstschaffenden Zustnde (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[47], S. 241; vgl.
GT 22, S. 142) von Metamorphose und Vision, auch dort wiederfinden lassen.
Von der Urtragdie (GT 8, S. 60) unterscheidet sich die Tragdie freilich nicht
nur durch ihre externe Bildlichkeit, sondern auch durch die Einfhrung eines
vom dithyrambischen Chor geschiedenen Schauspielers, so dass die zuvor personelle Einheit zwischen unbewusstem Mimen und Zuschauer zerbricht. Zur
berbrckung dieser Kluft zwischen innerer und uerer Bildlichkeit einerseits
und derjenigen zwischen Zuschauer und Schauspieler andererseits muss Nietzsche auf die nicht eigens thematisierten Mechanismen der Identifizierung60
(sich wiederfinden) und der Projektion (bertragen) zurckgreifen (GT 8,
S. 59; S. 64). Bei seiner kathartischen Deutung der Tragdie nimmt er nicht mehr
die Position des Chores, sondern die des Zuhrers bzw. Zuschauers ein. Dem
dithyrambischen Chor obliegt nun die Aufgabe, die Stimmung des Zuhrers
dionysisch so weit zu erregen, dass dieser den Chor der Orchestra imaginativ in
den dionysischen Satyrchor verwandelt und in der Identifizierung mit jenem
selbst verwandelt wird (GT 8, S. 59). Erst unter dieser Voraussetzung wird es
dem Zuschauer mglich, in der Erscheinung des tragischen Helden auf der
Bhne [] nicht etwa den unfrmlich maskierten Menschen [], sondern eine
gleichsam aus [seiner] eigenen Verzckung geborene Visionsgestalt [zu] sehen,
um kraft des ganzen magisch vor seiner Seele zitternden Bild[es] des Gottes
mit dessen Leiden eins zu werden (GT 8, S. 63f.). Es ist dieses sich gegenseitig
zur Entladung erregende Zusammenspiel von musikalisch-pathischer Verwand59

60

Zur Zerstckelung des Dionysos Zagreus durch die Titanen siehe Nachlass Ende 1870 April
1871, KSA 7, 7[123], S. 177. Zur Geschichte des Zagreus und seiner Bedeutung fr Nietzsche
vgl. auch Wohlfahrt, Gnter: Nachwort. In: Friedrich Nietzsche: Die Geburt der Tragdie. Oder:
Griechenthum und Pessimismus. Stuttgart 1993. S. 155 175, hier S. 160 ff.
Nur insofern jeder Zuschauer mit dem Chore sich identificirt, giebt es eine Zuschauerwelt in
dem griechischen Theater. Nachlass 1871, KSA 7, 9[9], S. 273.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

137

lung und szenischer Vision das transfigurierende Pathos treibt die innere Bildlichkeit hervor und die projizierte Vision wirkt wiederum ihrerseits pathischalterierend , das als genuin sthetisches Geschehen fr die Entstehung der griechischen Tragdie in ihren unterschiedlichen Ausgestaltungen und fr die Deutung der tragischen Katharsis verantwortlich gemacht wird. Es ermglicht und
skandiert die von Nietzsche mehr oder minder fingierte Entwicklungs- und Verfallsgeschichte der Tragdie vom dionysischen Satyrchor zum dithyrambischen
Chor bis hin zum Auftritt eines ersten, zweiten und schlielich dritten Schauspielers bei Aischylos, Sophokles und Euripides, der Einfhrung dialogischer Passagen sowie der Inszenierung einer dramatischen Handlung im Angesicht von
Zuschauern. Was die originre Bestimmung des tragischen Pathos angeht, so
nimmt Nietzsche nicht das alte Miverstndnis des Aristoteles wieder auf
(Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[33], S. 234), wie er ber sich selbst im Umkreis seiner
Notizen zur Autobiographie seiner Schriften in Ecce Homo zum wiederholten Mal
formuliert; es geht ihm vielmehr um die Betonung einer gesteigerten Fremdbestimmung und pathischen Kraft der alterierenden Metamorphose. Sie gelangt
im musikalischen Rausch ebenso zur Entladung wie jene halluzinativen Bilder,
die der identifizierenden Visualisierung fremden Leids gewidmet sind. In dem
Mae, in dem Nietzsche die Tragdie zur sthetischen Reproduktion der religisen Besessenheitserfahrung des Dionysoskultes erklrt61 und mit Aristoteles den
rituellen Entstehungsherd der orgiastischen Musik betont, entspricht der tragische Proze hier wie dort durchaus der Anordnung jener rites de passage, die
Arnold van Gennep Jahre spter in das begriffliche Schema von sparation,
marge und agrgation eingepat hat:62 Was die Trennung zwischen der Welt
der alltglichen und der dionysischen Wirklichkeit betrifft,63 so betont Nietzsche nicht nur den Verlust der sozialen Stellung und brgerlichen Vergangenheit. Das ekstatische Aufgeben des Individuums durch Einkehr in eine fremde
Natur (GT 8, S. 61) wird darber hinaus als ein auerordentliches Geschehen
beschrieben, das in seiner Unverfgbarkeit und im Hinausgreifen ber Person,
Alltag, Gesellschaft, Realitt (Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 14[14], S. 224) den
Abstand zwischen der Ordnung des Normalzustandes und seiner rituellen Desorganisation markiert. Auf der liminalen Schwelle, die der in einen Diener seines Gottes verwandelte und damit einen neuen Status erlangende dionysische
Schwrmer betritt, wird der solchermaen Initiierte von der visionren und
fremden Wahrheit der Zerreiung des Gottes (Nachlass 1870/71, KSA 7,
7[62], S. 152) getroffen. Diese dionysische Wahrheit gilt es, bei der Rckkehr in
61

62
63

Nietzsche spricht auch von einer Identitt von Kunst und Religion im griechischen Sinne bzw.
von einem einzigen Quell, aus dem Kunst und Religion fliet. Nachlass 1871, KSA 7, 9[102],
S. 311; 9[94], S. 309.
Gennep, Arnold van: Les rites de passage (1906). Paris 1981.
Die dionysische Weltanschauung, KSA 1, S. 569.

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den Normalzustand und der Wiedereingliederung in das normale soziale Leben zu affirmieren und umzusetzen. Ganz ohne Frage ist Nietzsche im hohen
Mae an der Nachwirkung (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[119], S. 299) jener
sthetisch-pathischen rites de passage in den ausseraesthetischen Sphren des
Alltags (GT 22, S. 143) und damit an der Erbringung des Nachweises einer rigorosen Kunstbedrftigkeit64 des Lebens selbst interessiert. Insofern er in Anlehnung an den griechischen Pessimismus dem neuzeitlich-anthropologischen
Paradigma der Selbsterhaltung65 seine Anerkennung versagt und bestenfalls Prozesse der Selbstminderung bzw. Selbststeigerung in Geltung bringt, lsst sich
die Originalitt der Tragdien-Schrift nicht zuletzt an der Conception einer
allgemeinen Verfhrungstheorie66 bemessen (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[26],
S. 230). Sie bestimmt die tragische Kunst dazu, zum Leben [zu] verfhren
(Nachlass 1870/71, KSA 7, 7[125], S. 183) und als das groe Stimulans des Lebens, zum Leben (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[26], S. 230) aufzutreten.67 Fr diesen griechischen Pessimismus, auf den das Tragische eine zum Weiterleben verfhrende Antwort zu geben versucht, steht die viel zitierte Weisheit des Silenen,
Begleiter des Dionysos, symptomatisch ein: das Beste ist nicht zu sein, das
Zweitbeste bald zu sterben.68 Die dezidiert metaphysische Auslegung, mit der
64
65

66

67

68

Sokrates und die griechische Tragdie, KSA 1, S. 640.


Vgl. dazu bereits die einschlgigen uerungen Nietzsches, die unter der Direktive der an dieser
Stelle psychologisch nachgerechneten Wille zur Macht-Hypothese stehen: Der Satz des
Spinoza von der Selbsterhaltung mte eigentlich der Vernderung einen Halt setzen: aber der
Satz ist falsch, das Gegentheil ist wahr. Gerade an allem Lebendigen ist am deutlichsten zu zeigen,
da es alles thut, um nicht sich zu erhalten, sondern um mehr zu werden Nachlass Frhjahr
1888, KSA 13, 14[121], S. 301; 14[81], S. 261; sowie JGB, Erstes Hauptstck 13, KSA 5, S. 27 f.;
siehe auch Nachlass Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 6[123], S. 226 f.
Dieser Ausdruck stammt von Jean Laplanche, der auf Grund der Tatsache, dass in Freuds Drei
Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie (1905ff.) die Mutter explizit als erste Verfhrerin auftaucht, die
der Erogenisisierung des kindlichen Krpers durch Gesten der Zrtlichkeit und der Krperpflege Vorschub leistet, eine intersubjektiv-traumatische Erweckungsgeschichte der infantilen
Sexualitt in ihrer polymorph-perversen Ausgestaltung geltend macht. Damit erscheint die
angeblich radikale Preisgabe der Verfhrungstheorie, die Freud im September 1897 vollzogen
haben soll, in einem neuen Licht und die mtterliche Verfhrung nimmt geradezu universelle
und unumgngliche Ausmae an, die die anthropologische Konzeption eines eingeborenen Sexualtriebes in Abrede stellt. Laplanche, Jean: De la thorie de la sduction restreinte la thorie
de la sduction gnralise. In: tudes Freudiennes 27 (1986). S. 7 25.
Nachlass Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 17[3], S. 521: Die Kunst und nichts als die Kunst! Sie ist die
groe Ermglicherin des Lebens die groe Verfhrerin zum Leben, das groe Stimulans des
Lebens. [] Die Kunst als die Erlsu n g de s E rke nne nde n, dessen, der den furchtbaren
und fragwrdigen Charakter des Daseins nicht nur sieht, sehn will, des Tragisch-Erkennenden.
Man kann angesichts solcher Formulierungen mit Volker Gerhardt Zweifel daran anmelden, ob
die der Kunst 1888 zugesprochene Bedeutung eher dem Rckblick auf das Erstlingswerk gilt
oder aber auf das ungeschriebene neue [Buch] vorausblickt. Gerhardt, Volker: Von der sthetischen Metaphysik zur Physiologie der Kunst. In: Nietzsche-Studien 13 (1984). S. 374 393, hier
S. 387.
Die dionysische Weltanschauung, KSA 1, S. 560 f.; vgl. auch: Die Geburt des tragischen Gedankens, KSA 1, S. 588.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

139

der frhe Nietzsche die tragische Kunst einrahmt und belastet, macht in der Urtragdie bekanntermaen nicht nur eine historisch einzigartige Konstellation
der beiden Kunstprinzipien, des Apollinischen und Dionysischen, ausfindig,
sondern sieht dort auch eine Mittelwelt69 installiert, die den Widerstreit zwischen der Schnheit des die Not des Lebens verhllenden Scheins und der dionysischen Wahrheit ber das Schreckensgesicht des Daseins (Nachlass
1870/71, KSA 7, 7[27], S. 145) sthetisch ausgestaltet. Stellt die bloe Negation
der Noth (Nachlass 1870/71, KSA 7, 7[27], S. 144) durch den kalmierenden
Schein fr Nietzsche eine Minderung des Daseins dar, so treibt die grauenhafte dionysische Wahrheit einschlielich der Ekelgedanken ber das Entsetzliche oder Absurde des Daseins (GT 7, S. 57) hin zu dessen Vernichtung.
Demgegenber bewirkt die apollinische Darstellung der dionysischen Wahrheit
weder die Minimierung noch die Zerstrung, sondern eine Steigerung des Daseins und seiner Mglichkeiten: Die ekstatischen Erregungen und Entladungen,
durch die die Tragdie in der pathischen Hherspannung des Daseins zum Weiterleben reizt (Nachlass 1870/71, KSA 7, 7[27], S. 145), werden inhaltlich durch
das metaphysische Versprechen der Unvergnglichkeit und Unzerstrbarkeit des
Lebens gesttzt (GT 18, S. 115). In der szenischen Vision der titanischen Zerstckelung und apollinischen Zusammenfgung des Dionysos hat es einen symbolischen Ausdruck gefunden:70 Die tragische Kunst ist das, was ewig zum Leben,
zum ewigen Leben drngt (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[23], S. 228). Denn
nur als aesthetisches Phnomen ist das Dasein und die Welt ewig gerechtfertigt.
(GT 5, S. 47). Diese Theodizee71 stellt demnach jenes trostspendende (GT 18,
S. 115) und lebensrettende Artisten-Evangelium (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13,
14[23], S. 228) bereit, dessen der dionysisch Initiierte bei der Eingliederung in
sein normales Leben bedarf, um dem Grauen des Todes (GT 19, S. 126), dem die
Besessenheit ein visionres Bild geliehen hat, nicht fortwhrend ins zerstrerische Antlitz schauen zu mssen.

69
70
71

Die dionysische Weltanschauung, KSA 1, S. 567.


Ebd., S. 559.
Freilich sollte man nicht vergessen, dass sich fr Nietzsche das Problem der sthetischen
Rechtfertigung der Welt vor dem metaphysischen Hintergrund des leidenden Ur-Einen
stellt, aus dem zwei weitere Formen des Leidens als Folge (das Individuum gem Schopenhauers principium individuationis sowie das individuelle Leid) abgeleitet werden, fr die das Kunstwerk Erlsung im Schein verspricht. Vgl. Decher, Friedhelm: Nietzsches Metaphysik in der
Geburt der Tragdie im Verhltnis zur Philosophie Schopenhauers. In: Nietzsche-Studien 14
(1985). S. 110 125, hier S. 119 f.; sowie Fleischer, Margot: Dionysos als Ding an sich. In: Nietzsche-Studien 17 (1988). S. 74 90, hier S. 83.

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Iris Drmann

3. Heideggers seinsgeschichtliche Umkehrung von Nietzsches sthetik des Rausches


Wenn die Tragdie, nach Nietzsches bestechender Interpretation, erklrtermaen nicht zur Handlung, sondern zum Pathos drngt (GT 12, S. 85),
dann fragt es sich, welche Rolle die Katharsis des Rausches in einem Denken
noch spielen kann, das mit der Hypothese vom Willen zur Macht das Gewicht unverfgbar pathischer Fremderfahrungen ausgelscht zu haben scheint,
indem es dem Werden und allem Geschehen insgesamt den Charakter der Aktion und der Aktivitt des Wollens (N I, S. 15) zuspricht, worauf zumindest
Heideggers Lektre im Rckgriff auf die berhmt-berchtigte Gast-FrsterKompilation (1901/06/11)72 des angeblichen Hauptprosawerkes Nietzsches
insistiert. Zieht man jedoch in Betracht, dass Nietzsche seit dem Euripideischen
Selbstmord der Tragdie, der mit dem Sokratischen Sieg des theoretischen
Optimismus (GT 15, S. 100) zusammenfllt, im wissenschaftlichen Erkennen
und logischen Schematismus (GT 14, S. 94) einen grenzenlose[n] Apollinismus (Nachlass 1870, KSA 7, 6[13], S. 134) am Werk sieht, der den notwendigen
Bezug zum Dionysischen preisgegeben hat und somit fremd- und grundlos
geworden ist, dann steht nicht nur eine doppelte Lesart der Willen zur
Macht-Hypothese, sondern auch der Katharsis selbst zu erwarten: nmlich
eine wissenschaftliche und eine dionysische Perspektive, die stets die Frage danach erforderlich macht, auf welchem Terrain sich Nietzsche jeweils aufhlt.73 In
dem Mae, in dem sich Nietzsche 1888 als Lehrer der ewigen Wiederkunft
ausdrcklich auf jenen Boden zurck[stellt], aus dem [s]ein Wollen, [s]ein Knnen wchst (GD, Was ich den Alten verdanke 5, KSA 6, S. 160), unterschreibt er
aus dionysischer Perspektive nicht nur weiterhin den zweifach orgiastischen,
nmlich transfigurierend-visionren Ursprung der griechischen Kunst und da-

72

73

Die Vorbehalte Heideggers gegenber diesem verhngnisvollen Buch sind Legion. Siehe etwa:
1. Nietzsches Metaphysik. 2. Einleitung in die Philosophie. Denken und Dichten. GA. Bd. 50.
Hg. Jaeger, Petra. Frankfurt am Main 1990. S. 109. Als Mitglied des Wissenschaftlichen Ausschusses der historisch-kritischen Gesamtausgabe der Werke und Briefe Nietzsches im Nietzsche-Archiv Weimar in den Jahren 1935 1942 versuchte Heidegger die Edition der Werke und
die Auswahl der Nachlassfragmente um den Preis der Vollstndigkeit an seiner eigenen seinsgeschichtlichen Interpretation zu orientieren. Dabei galt sein Interesse namentlich, was die neue
Herausgabe des Willens zur Macht anbelangte der Konstruktion des eigentlichen Werkes.
Siehe dazu Heinz, Marion / Kiesiel, Theodore: Heideggers Beziehungen zum Nietzsche-Archiv
im Dritten Reich. In: Schfer, Herrmann (Hg.), Annherungen an Martin Heidegger. Festschrift
fr Hugo Ott zum 65. Geburtstag. Frankfurt am Main, New York 1996. S. 103 136.
Zu dieser zweifachen und gegenstzlich zu nennenden Perspektive (exoterisch, esoterisch) der
Hypothese vom Willen zur Macht, die sich einmal auf dem Boden der (physiologischen)
Wissenschaft bewegt und das andere Mal auf dem Terrain der Kunst entfaltet, vgl. die instruktiven berlegungen von Schmid, Holger: ber die Tragweite der Artisten-Metaphysik. In:
Nietzsche-Studien 13 (1984). S. 437 442, hier S. 440. Sowie ders.: Nietzsches Gedanke der tragischen Erkenntnis. Wrzburg 1984.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

141

mit seine frhe anti-Aristotelische Katharsisdeutung.74 berdies sieht er die fr


seine Erstlingsschrift im Rckblick reklamierte Originalitt namentlich in der
Entdeckung der lebensverfhrenden Kraft der Kunst und eines neuen Typus
des Pessimismus (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[26], S. 230) gegrndet. Kurzum:
Nietzsche bleibt auch in seinem Sptwerk den entscheidenden Einstzen seiner
Tragdien-Schrift treu, so dass Heidegger in seiner 1936/37 gehaltenen Vorlesung
Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst75 nicht umhin kann, sich mit eben diesen Konzeptionen aus-einander-zu-setzen76 (N I, S. 9 f., S. 86, S. 123, S. 251 f.). Seine Beschftigung mit Nietzsches Kunstphilosophie zielt bekanntlich nicht nur auf den
Nachweis ihrer Zugehrigkeit zu der mit Platon einsetzenden Geschichte der
sthetik (N I, S. 94), die ihre dramatische Zuspitzung in der Behauptung erfhrt,
dass sich Nietzsches Philosophie in dem Versuch, den Platonismus umzudrehen, umso mehr in diesen hereindreht und sich hier noch einmal und endgltig und am tiefsten in ihn verstrickt.77 Darber hinaus handelt es sich im
Rckgang auf Nietzsche zugleich darum, hinter ihn selbst zurck und ber ihn
hinaus78 zu denken, was nicht zuletzt hinsichtlich der Frage des Rausches zu
verqueren Sinnentstellungen fhrt, die mindestens in dieser Hinsicht Heideg74

75

76

77

78

Nachlass Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 14[36], S. 235. Siehe auch GD, Was ich den Alten verdanke 5,
KSA 6, S. 160. Ebenfalls EH, Die Geburt der Tragdie 3, KSA 6, S. 312.
Bei diesem Vorlesungstitel Heideggers handelt es sich bekanntlich um ein Zitat. Siehe etwa
Nachlass Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 14[61], S. 246.
Auseinandersetzung bedeutet freilich nicht Kritik im Sinne des Aufsprens von Schwchen
und Fehler, sondern das im Denken Nietzsches geschichtlich Begegnende in das Freie einer
Entscheidung zu bringen, die durch die Begegnung unumgnglich wird. Heidegger, Martin:
Einleitung in die Philosophie. Dichten und Denken. In: ders.: Gesamtausgabe [fortan zitiert:
HGA]. II. Abteilung: Vorlesungen 1919 1944. Bd. 50. Frankfurt am Main 1990. S. 98.
An anderer Stelle gesteht Heidegger Nietzsche auf hchst zweischneidige Weise zu: In der Zeit,
als fr Nietzsche die Umdrehung des Platonismus zu einer Herausdrehung wurde, berfiel ihn
der Wahnsinn. Heidegger: Nietzsche: Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst. HGA, Bd. 43. Frankfurt
am Main 1985. S. 251; S. 262 f. Dieter Bremer (Bremer, Dieter: Platonisches. Antiplatonisches.
Nietzsche-Studien 8 [1979]. S. 39 103, hier S. 65) macht zu Recht darauf aufmerksam, dass
Nietzsches Verstndnis seiner eigenen Philosophie als umgedrehter Platonismus bereits eine
konsequenzenreiche Umdrehung des Umgedrehten bedeuten muss, wenn es etwa Ende
1886 Frhjahr 1887 im Nachlass (KSA 12, 7[2], S. 253) in Bezug auf Platos Khnheit [] im
Umdrehen heit: er ma den Grad Realitt nach dem Wahrheitsgrade ab und sagte: je mehr
Idee desto mehr Sein. Er drehte den Begriff Wirklichkeit herum und sagte: was ihr fr
wirklich haltet, ist ein Irrthum, und wir kommen, je nher wir der Idee kommen, !um so nher"
der Wahrheit. Versteht man es? Das war die grte Umtaufung: und weil sie vom Christenthum aufgenommen ist, so sehen wir die erstaunliche Sache nicht. Plato hat im Grunde den
Schein, als Artist, der er war, dem Sein vo rg ezog en: also die Lge und Erdichtung der Wahrheit, das Unwirkliche dem Vorhandenen, er war aber so sehr vom Werthe des Scheins berzeugt, da er ihm die Attribute Sein, Urschlichlichkeit und Gutheit, Wahrheit, kurz alles
brige beilegte, dem man Werth beilegt.
HGA 43, S. 143. Wo Heidegger Niezsche als einen Denker ausweist, der ein Dichter ist, und
Hlderlin als einen Dichter charakterisiert, der ein Denker ist, gesteht er beiden zu, dass sie
uns deshalb unmittelbar angehen, weil sie vermutlich jeder in einer anderen Art ber uns
hinausgehen. HGA 50, S. 96.

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Iris Drmann

gers eigene metaphysische Grundstellung79 verraten und Nietzsches Ausbruch aus der Metaphysik demgegenber desto nachdrcklicher machen.
Die von Heidegger aufgestellten sechs Grundtatsachen aus der Geschichte
der sthetik sind dem erklrten Vorhaben gewidmet, Nietzsches Besinnung
auf die Kunst (N I, S. 91), sofern sie fr eine Wesensbestimmung des Willens
zur Macht (N I, S. 109) beansprucht werden kann, in die berlieferte Bahn
der Beherrschung der Kunst durch die sthetik zurckzustellen, um dessen
Auszeichnung des Rausches als des sthetischen Grundzustandes schlechthin
(N I, S. 116) am uersten Ende jener Bahn zu situieren, an dem sich schlielich
fr Heidegger die Aufgabe einer berwindung der sthetik80 abzeichnet. Unter dem Titel sthetik rubriziert er das abendlndische Denken der Kunst insgesamt, die die Kunst nicht vom groen Werk (schon gar nicht vom Ursprung des
Kunstwerkes) ausgehend, sondern lediglich hinsichtlich ihrer Wirkung auf den
Menschen81 und mit Blick auf den Gefhlszustand des Menschen in seinem
Verhltnis zum Schnen begriffen habe. Ist das erzeugte oder empfangene
Kunstwerk nichts anderes als der Trger und Erreger des Schnen mit Bezug
auf den Gefhlszustand, dann bleibt und nicht erst seit dem 18. Jahrhundert
die fhlende Subjekt-Objekt-Beziehung fr die Betrachtung des Kunstwerks
die einzig magebliche. Dieses selbst wird zum Gegenstand in seiner dem Erleben zugekehrten Flche (N I, S. 93).
Whrend sich die groe griechische Kunst, mit der Heidegger befremdlicherweise den ersten (1.) Augenblick dieser Geschichte der sthetik erffnet,
noch ohne gleichzeitige sthetik ereignet und stattdessen von einer Leidenschaft zum Wissen getragen gewesen sei, htten Platon und Aristoteles (2.),
und zwar just in dem Augenblick, da die groe Kunst und das tragische Denken zu ihrem Ende gehen, jene Grundbegriffe aufgestellt, die fr die europi79

80

81

Wenn Heidegger ber Nietzsches metaphysischer Grundstellung spricht, dann besagt das soviel wie: wir sehen Nietzsches Philosophie aus derjenigen Stellung, die ihr durch die bisherige
abendlndische Philosophiegeschichte angewiesen ist. N I, S. 463. Dass Nietzsche sich selbst
ausdrcklich als Anti-Metaphysiker bezeichnet, ist demgegenber kein Einwand, wie Heidegger
sinnigerweise am Beispiel des Anti-Alkoholikers deutlich macht: Da er selbst sich als Metaphysiker bezeichnet, sagt nur, da er die Metaphysik braucht, und zwar in einer bestimmten Gestalt, um gegen sie zu sein und so das, was er selbst ist, als ihr Umkehrer und scheinbarer Gegner.
(In dem Augenblick, wo es keinen Alkohol und kaum Alkohol mehr gibt, verliert der Anti-Alkoholiker, derjenige, der aus diesem Anti- und fr dieses lebt, seine Substanz. Er mu sich, um
leben zu knnen, nach anderen Gegnern umsehen). Heidegger: Nietzsche. Der europische
Nihilismus. HGA, Bd. 48. Frankfurt am Main 1986. S. 85.
Heidegger: Beitrge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis). HGA, Bd. 65. Frankfurt am Main 1989.
S. 503.
Die ungebrochene, von Platon bis Nietzsche reichende Herrschaft der sthetik, unter deren eingeschrnktem Blickwinkel das Kunstwerk lediglich in seiner Wirkung auf den Menschen
und dessen Erleben in Betracht komme, gehrt zu Heideggers Standartrepertoire metaphysischer Grundtatsachen. Siehe Heidegger: Parmenides. HGA, Bd. 54. 2. Aufl. Frankfurt am Main
1992. S. 171.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

143

sche sthetik fortan bestimmend bleiben sollten. Diese Geburt der sthetik vor
dem Auftritt der sthetik als philosophischer Disziplin im engeren Sinne errichtet mit dem Begriffspaar hyl morph eine unwiderstehliche Begriffsmechanik,
der nichts entgeht. Geleitet ber einen verengten Begriff von tchne, rckt die
Herstellung von schnen Kunstwerken genauso wie die Anfertigung von Gebrauchsdingen in deren Einzugsbereich (N I, S. 98). Es mutet seltsam an, dass
Heidegger, zumindest an dieser Stelle, die Auseinandersetzung mit der durch
Platon und Aristoteles erffneten sthetik nicht auf dem Terrain jener Texte
des dritten und zehnten Buches der Politeia oder der Poetik sucht, die explizit
der Frage der Kunst gewidmet sind. Unter der fr Heidegger blichen Ausblendung der rmischen und mittelalterlichen Kunst erhebt sich (3.) ferner mit dem
Beginn der Neuzeit und der Metaphysik des Subjekts der Geschmack zum exklusiven Richter ber das Seiende. (N I, S. 99) Dass Kant diesem Augenblick
der Geschichte der sthetik zugerechnet werden muss, ohne ihm jedoch ganz
und gar anzugehren, wird bei Gelegenheit von Heideggers Kantischer Deutung des Rausches und seiner Auseinandersetzung mit Nietzsches vermeintlicher Mideutung der Lehre vom Schnen von Belang sein (N I, S. 126 ff.).
Wie nicht anders zu erwarten, erreicht die Geschichte der sthetik mit (4.) Hegel
und dem seltsam genug zweiten Tod bzw. Verfall der geschichtlichen Aufgabe der Kunst, das Absolute darzustellen, ihre Vollendung. Die Gre
von Hegels Vorlesungen ber sthetik zeichne sich vor allem dadurch aus, dass sie
mit ihrer berhmten These vom Vergangenheits-Charakter der Kunst das Ende
der groen Kunst als solches erkenn[en] und ausspr[echen] (N I, S. 100).82
Schlielich stellt Heidegger (5.) das 19. Jahrhundert ganz unter die gide von
Wagners Wille zum Gesamtkunstwerkes,83 um in den Fustapfen von Nietzsches Kritik an Wagner die fr ihn zentralen Argumente fr seine allergische
Verurteilung des Rausches zu befestigen.84 Mit Wagners Projekt gert sowohl die
82

83
84

Die unter der gide von Hegels Spruch vom Ende der Kunst stehende Erfahrung der
Kunst-losigkeit (Heidegger: Beitrge, a. a. O., S. 505) wirft freilich eine noch unentschiedene
Frage auf: Ist die Kunst noch eine wesentliche und eine notwendige Weise, in der die fr unser
geschichtliches Dasein entscheidende Wahrheit geschieht, oder ist die Kunst dies nicht mehr?
Wenn sie es aber nicht mehr ist, dann bleibt die Frage, warum das so ist. (Heidegger, Martin:
Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes. In: ders.: Holzwege. 6. Aufl. Frankfurt am Main 1980. S. 66)
Kunstlosigkeit ist damit keine bereits feststehende und festgestellte geschichtliche Tatsache,
die sich mit dem Ende der groen griechischen Kunst belegen lsst, sondern erfahrbar nur im
Modus eines noch ausstehenden und knftigen Ereignisses. (Siehe Beitrge, a. a. O., S. 506) und
ihre einschlgige Interpretation durch Buchheim, Iris: Wegbereitung in die Kunstlosigkeit. Zu
Heideggers Auseinandersetzung mit Hlderlin. Wrzburg 1994. S. 207 214.
HGA 43, S. 100 ff.
Dass Nietzsche die Musik Wagners bereits als 13- bzw. 22-jhriger kritisch beurteilt hat und sich
seine Haltung gegenber der Wagnerschen Musik nicht eindeutig in eine Zeit des Wagnerianismus und Anti-Wagnerianismus unterscheiden lsst, sondern vom Beginn seiner Bekanntschaft
an als durchaus ambivalent gelten muss, machen in vielschichtiger Weise die in folgenden Sammelbnden enthaltenen Beitrge deutlich: Borchmeyer, Dieter / Salaquarda (Hg.): Nietzsche

144

Iris Drmann

Kunst als auch die sthetische Reflexion aus Sicht Heideggers unter die verhngnisvolle Direktive des wollstigen, sich ganz der Auflsung hingebenden, gar
brnstigen Gefhlsrausches oder, anders gesagt, des orientalisch Dionysischen
(N I, S. 103). Wo Nietzsche mit Wagner die Musik auf ein bloes Mittel zum
Zweck der Verdeutlichung des Dramas (NW, Wo ich Einwnde mache, KSA 6,
S. 419) reduziert und [d ]i e H erauf ku nft de s S cha u spie le r s in de r M u s i k (WA 11, KSA 6, S. 37) gekommen sieht, prangert Heidegger hingegen nicht
so sehr Wagners T heat rok rat i e an, d.h. die Her rschaft des Theaters
ber die Knste, ber die Kunst (WA, Nachschrift, KSA 6, S. 42). Die Inszenierungsvordergrndigkeit der Oper ist Heidegger allenfalls ein Symptom
des Verlustes der Grndung des echten Dramas in der gestalteten Wahrheit des
Sprachwerkes, das unter die prekre Fhrung der Musik geraten ist. Heidegger
macht die Herrschaft der Kunst als Musik fr die Herrschaft des reinen Gefhlszustandes (N I, S. 103) und die sthetische Grundstellung zur Kunst im
Ganzen fr das Scheitern Wagners verantwortlich. Der Vorrang der Musik ber
die Dichtung und aller brigen Knste bewirke eine zunehmende Barbarisierung des Gefhlszustandes selbst zum bloen Brodeln und Wallen des sich
selbst berlassenen Gefhls (N I, S. 104), ja zur malosen Nacht des reinen
Versinkens (N I, S. 105). Nietzsche indes wirft Wagner vor, wofr Heidegger
freilich blind zu sein vorgibt, in der Musik, alles Musikalische, die Musik geopfert (Nachlass 1887/88, KSA 13, 11[322], S. 136) zu haben, um an ihrer Stelle
eine Kunst der bloen Attitde und des Ausdrucks gesetzt zu haben, die nichts
ausdrckt. Er kreidet Wagner ohne Frage einen rigorosen Mangel an groem
Stil85 sowie die Unfhigkeit zur apollinischen Gestaltung an: Schwimmen,
Schweben nicht mehr Gehen, Tanzen .86 [D]ie wollstige Art Rausch, die
seine Musik aus diesem Grund hervorrufe, zeuge nicht von einer dionysischen
Kunst, sondern von einer Kunst der dcadence,87 die auf der Seite eines verarmten und leidenden Lebens zu stehen komme, dem es nach Rausch, Krampf
und Betubung (NW, Wir Antipoden, KSA 6, S. 425) verlange. Nietzsche verurteilt die umwerfende (WA 6; 9, KSA 6, S. 24 f.; S. 32), da gestalt- und gesetzlose Musik Wagners, weil es ihr nicht gelingt, die lebensstimulierende Entladung der beiden Rauschzustnde von Metamorphose und Vision hervorzurufen

85
86

87

und Wagner. Stationen einer epochalen Begegnung. Frankfurt M. 1994. Steiert, Thomas (Hg.):
Der Fall Wagner. Ursprnge und Folgen von Nietzsches Wagner-Kritik. Laaber 1991.
Nachlass Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 14[61], S. 246 ff.; 16[49], S. 502. Vgl. auch WA 8, KSA 6, S. 30.
Wagner hat nie gehen gelernt. Er strzt, er stolpert, er mihandelt den armen Pegasus mit Peitschenschlgen. Lauter falsche Leidenschaft, lauter falscher Contrapunkt Wagner ist unfhig jedes Stils . Nachlass Frhjahr Sommer 1888, KSA 13, 16[79], S. 513. Siehe ebenfalls NW,
Wagner als Gefahr 1, KSA 6, S. 422.
Vgl. Mller-Lauter, Wolfgang: Artistische dcadence als physiologische dcadence. Zu Friedrich
Nietzsches Kritik am spten Richard Wagner. In: Brckle, Horst / Becker, Gerold (Hg.): Communicatio Fidei. Festschrift fr Eugen Biser zum 65. Geburtstag. Regensburg 1985. S. 285 294.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

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und solchermaen einem tragischen Erkennen Vorschub zu leisten (Nachlass


1888, KSA 13, 15[10], S. 409), das es bekanntermaen nicht auf Wahrheit abgesehen hat. Heidegger verwirft das Wagnersche Gesamtkunstwerk hingegen
aufgrund eines ganz anderen Gestaltungsprinzips, das auf der Identifizierung
der Kunst schlechthin mit der sogenannten wesentlichen Dichtung beruht:88
Wie man wei, ist es ihm um die Ins-Werk-Setzung der Wahrheit durch den
Mythos bzw. die Sage zu tun, die unter Rekurs auf Hlderlin jenen Widerstreit
von Erde und Welt anzustiften hat, welcher geschichtlich einem Volk seine Welt
aufgehe[n] und die Erde als das Verschlossene aufbewahr[en]89 lsst. Die Musik
aber hat im Kontext dieser geschichtlichen Bestimmung der Kunst nichts zu sagen oder zu suchen.90 Wenn Heidegger mit Nietzsche den groen Stil,91 die
magebende Gestaltung (N I, S. 106) und Gesetzlichkeit der Kunst92 gegen
die Auflsung, Dekomposition ins Kleinste und das Untertauchen im wollstigen Gefhlsrausch ausspielt, dann dient ihm die von Nietzsche gegen die Wagnersche Musik aufgerichtete Klinik: das Hypnotische, Magnetisierende,93 Somnambule, Hysterische,94 Komatse (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 16[75], S. 511)
88

89
90

91

92
93

94

Heidegger: Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes, a. a. O., S. 58 61. Alle Kunst ist als Geschehenlassen der Wahrheit des Seienden als eines solchen im Wesen Dichtung. Das Wesen der Kunst, worin das Kunstwerk und der Knstler zumal beruhen, ist das Sich-ins-Werk-setzen der Wahrheit.
Aus dem dichtenden Wesen der Kunst geschieht es, da sie inmitten des Seienden eine Stelle aufschlgt, in deren Offenheit alles anders ist als sonst. [] Das Wesen der Kunst ist die Dichtung.
Das Wesen der Dichtung aber ist die Stiftung der Wahrheit. Daran soll sich im brigen nicht
nur die vergangene, sondern auch alle zuknftige Kunst messen lassen, wie es in der Vorlesung
des Wintersemesters 1937/38 resmierend heit. Heidegger, Martin: Grundfragen der Philosophie. Ausgewhlte Probleme der Logik. HGA, Bd. 45. Frankfurt am Main 1984. S. 190. In
den Beitrgen stellt Heidegger um einiges vorsichtiger das Vorlufige und bergngliche seines
Versuches einer berwindung der Aesthetik und d.h. zugleich einer bestimmten Auffassung
des Seienden als gegenstndlich Vorstellbaren heraus, dem die Frage nach dem Ursprung des
Kunstwerks gewidmet sei. Jeder Interpretationszugriff, der in der Ins-Werk-Setzung der Wahrheit eine zeitlos gltige Feststellung des Wesens des Kunstwerks zu sehen gewillt ist, betreibt
damit eine fr Heidegger unzulssige Substantialisierung, die Diktion und Stil seines Denkens
jedoch zweifellos nahelegen. Heidegger: Beitrge, a. a. O., S. 503 f.
Heidegger: Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes, a. a. O., S. 60 f.
Ebd., S. 60. In Heideggers System der Knste wird die Musik noch nicht einmal genannt,
wenn es unter der Vorrangstellung der Dichtung heit: Bauen und Bilden dagegen geschehen
immer schon und immer nur im Offenen der Sage und des Nennens. Nennen aber im Sinne
der Erffnung des Seins des Seienden im Gefge seiner Gesammeltheit vermochte bisher nur
die groe griechische Dichtung (namentlich Sophokles Antigone und Hlderlins Dichtung), so
Heidegger in: Einfhrung in die Metaphysik, a. a. O., S. 131.
In diesem Zusammenhang sollte man nicht vergessen, dass Nietzsche der Ehrgeiz des groen
Stils der Wagnerschen Musik Stil-Unfhigkeit bedeutet. Nachlass November 1887 Mrz
1888, KSA 13, 11[321], S. 134.
Nietzsche denkt an das Gesetz der Plastik. NW, Wagner als Gefahr, KSA 6, S. 422.
Nachlass November 1887 Mrz 1888, KSA 13, 11[323], S. 136; Nachlass Frhjahr Sommer
1888, KSA 13, 16[89], S. 517.
Nachlass Frhjahr Sommer 1888, KSA 13, 16 [48], S. 502. Nachlass August 1885, KSA 11,
41[2], S. 673.

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nicht nur dazu, dessen wesentliche Abkehr von Wagner zu unterschreiben (N I,


S. 108), sondern auch dazu, dem Rausch insgesamt den Kredit zu entziehen.
Mit Nietzsche (6.) erreicht schlielich die von Heidegger entworfene Geschichte der sthetik ihren konsequenzenreichsten Hhepunkt. In dem Mae,
in dem mit und seit Nietzsche die absoluten Wahrheiten und obersten
Werte von Religion, Moral, Philosophie (N I, S. 108) irreparabel zu Schaden
kommen, sucht dieser in der Kunst eine Gegenbewegung (Nachlass 1888,
KSA 13, 14[117], S. 293). Doch steht fr Heidegger Nietzsches Versuch, mit der
Kunst gegen den Nihilismus anzutreten, in uerster Spannung zu der von ihm
betriebenen Auslieferung der sthetik an die Physiologie, die diese auf das Niveau von Leibzustnden und Verdauungsprozessen herabwrdige (N I, S. 109 f.),
auch wenn er sich zu betonen beeilt, dass Leib bei Nietzsche stets anticartesianisch: beseelter Leib bedeute (N I, S. 114). Nietzsches Frage nach der sthetik als angewandter Physiologie (NW, Wo ich Einwnde mache, KSA 6,
S. 418) bzw. nach der Physiologie der Kunst (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 17[9],
S. 529) bewegt sich in ihrer Verklammerung mit der Hypothese vom Willen
zur Macht (Nachlass 1883, KSA 10, 12 [30], S. 405), die Heidegger im brigen
in ihren wichtigsten Implikationen und als Hypothese zumal verkennt, zweifellos auf dem Boden der Wissenschaft. Sie hat sich von den mit der Causalitts-Interpretation verbundenen Zuthaten (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[98],
S. 275) und Glaubensstzen absichtlich noch nicht gelst, um nach der Herkunft
des Rausches und den Ursachen der Kunst zu fahnden (GM III 4, KSA 5, S. 343).
Unter Rekurs auf die Gtzen-Dmmerung stellt Heidegger verschiedene Momente
dieser physiologischen Perspektive heraus, ohne sie als wissenschaftliche zu
kennzeichnen: Zunchst (1) die von Nietzsche in Anschlag gebrachte Unumgnglichkeit des Rausches als physiologische Vorbedingung der Kunst, die
sich auf jede Art von rauschhafter Erregung erstreckt (GD, Streifzge 8, KSA 6,
S. 116). Ferner (2) die fr Heidegger berraschende, weil das Gegenstzliche der
beiden Kunstprinzipien verwischende Feststellung, dass Nietzsche sowohl von
einem apollinischen als auch von einem dionysischen Rausch spricht.95 Sodann
(3) das mit dem Rausch wesentlich verbundene Gefhl der Kraftsteigerung
und Flle, kraft dessen der Knstler an die Dinge ab[giebt] und sie ideali-

95

GD, Streifzge 10, KSA 6, S. 117 f. Heidegger spricht Nietzsche das zweischneidige Verdienst
zu, den Gegensatz von Apollinisch und Dionysisch erstmals ffentlich herausgestellt und gestaltet zu haben, freilich auf eine nicht an Hlderlin heranreichende Weise, der diesen Gegensatz bereits in einer noch tieferen und edleren Weise begriffen hatte, nmlich als nchterne
Darstellung bzw. abendlndische Junonische Nchternheit einerseits und als heilige Leidenschaft bzw. heiliges Pathos andererseits (N I, S. 123 f.). Auch HGA 43, S. 121. Wenn Heidegger feststellen muss, dass Nietzsche 1888 das Apollinische und Dionysische als zwei Arten des
Rausches begreift, dann werde damit gemessen an Hlderlin das Gegenstzliche dieser beiden Prinzipien physiologisch nunmehr ganz verunstaltet (N I, S. 117).

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

147

siert (GD, Streifzge 8, KSA 6, S. 116), indem er ihnen gewaltsam seine Form
aufprgt. Schlielich (4) die mit dem Rausch einhergehende wechselweise Steigerung aller Vermgen (N I, S. 120, S, 126), die Nietzsche in der Tat mehr als
einmal herausstellt. Die nunmehr ber den Umweg Kants gefhrte Passage wird
der Beantwortung einer doppelten Frage unterworfen: nmlich die nach dem
allgemeinen Wesen des Rausches und die seiner Unumgnglichkeit fr die
Kunst (N I, S. 117 f.) Auch wenn Heidegger darum wei, dass gelufige Titel
wie Affekt, Leidenschaft, Gefhl denkbar ungeeignet fr eine wesentliche
Bestimmung des Rausches sind, so insistiert er doch weiterhin darauf, den
Rausch als ein Gefhl zu kennzeichnen (N I, S. 121), um Nietzsches Denken
der Kunst seiner vermeintlichen Komplizenschaft mit der abendlndischen sthetik zu berfhren und, was gewiss nicht weniger zhlt, um dabei wie im
Vorbeigehen die alterierende Kraft des Rausches zu marginalisieren. Dabei
strt es ihn herzlich wenig, dass es Nietzsche 1888 nicht um eine Wesensbestimmung des Rausches und schon gar nicht um die Einkehr in eine Stimmung als
jener Grundart geht, wie wir auerhalb unserer selbst [] wesenhaft und
stets [sind]. Kurzum: von der Konzeption des Rausches als Einheit leibenden
Gestimmtseins im Sinne eines immerwhrenden echten Gefhls (N I, S. 119)
oder gar von einem wesenhaft-zeitlosen Selbstsein ist Nietzsche Lichtjahre entfernt.96 Das fr Heidegger mit dem Rausch verbundene und doch nirgendwo
eigens thematisierte Skandalon ist ersichtlich mit dem Umstand verknpft,
dass diese Fremderfahrung mit einer radikalen Enteignung und berwltigenden [] Obsession der Person einhergeht. Nietzsches drastischen Beschreibungen zufolge, entladet sich ihr in einem epileptisch anmutenden Zustand
der Besessenheit97 alle [ihre] Mittel des Ausdrucks und treibt die Kraft des
Darstellens, Nachbildens, Transfigurierens, Verwandelns, alle Art Mimik und
Schauspielerei zugleich heraus. So sieht sie sich (wie bei gewissen Hysterischen) auf unumgngliche Weise dazu gentigt, auf jeden Wink hin in jede
Rolle ein[zu]treten (GD, Streifzge 10, KSA 6, S. 117), um niemand und alle zu
sein, um in oder auer sich wer knnte das noch sagen von einem Rendezvous von Personen (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 16[89], S. 518) heimgesucht zu
werden. In dem Mae, in dem Heidegger der konvulsivischen Gewaltsamkeit
des Rausches in seiner sowohl transfigurierenden als auch visionren Macht systematisch aus dem Weg geht, muss ihm folglich auch die fr Nietzsche in dieser
Hinsicht entscheidende Umwertung der Aristotelischen Katharsis im Sinne der
Entladung aus dem Blick geraten. Obgleich Nietzsche in der Gtzen-Dmme96

97

Heideggers Denken der Stimmung betont im Unterschied zu Nietzsches Rausch, der sich nur
temporr ereignet und wegen seines aneidetischen Charakters unzugnglich und unbestimmbar
bleiben muss, das Zeitlose und Wesentliche: Die Stimmung ist gerade die Grundart, wie wir auerhalb unserer selbst sind, und das sind wir immer und wesentlich. HGA 43, S. 117.
Nachlass Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 14[127], S. 309; 14[124], S. 305 f.; 14[120], S. 299.

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rung (Streifzge 10, KSA 6, S. 117 f.) und in Ecce Homo (Die Geburt der Tragdie 3, KSA 6, S. 112 f.) wiederholt darauf zurckkommt, weist Heidegger lediglich in seiner 1937 gehaltenen Vorlesung Die ewige Wiederkehr des Gleichen ein
einziges Mal auf dessen Gegnerschaft zur Aristotelischen Zweckbestimmung
der Tragdie hin,98 ohne daraus die fr die Frage des Rausches flligen Konsequenzen zu ziehen. Wenn es in Nietzsches Denken der Kunst etwas gibt, das sich
der Direktive der abendlndischen sthetik entzieht, so ist dies zweifellos seine
zunehmend schrfer gefasste Skizze des dionysischen Rausches. Ist es Heidegger auf den ersten Blick um die Aufdeckung der Mideutung der Kantischen
Lehre vom Schnen durch Nietzsche zu tun, so dient ihm die ber Kant gelenkte Auseinandersetzung mit dem Rausch in Wirklichkeit dazu, dessen dionysische Dominanz zu entmachten99 und ihn in einem ansonsten Nietzsche zugeschriebenen, bis zur Geschmacklosigkeit reichenden Verfahren der
Umkehrung (N I, S. 39) auf den vermeintlich ursprnglicheren Bereich des
Apollinischen zurckzuverweisen.100
In seiner Mideutung von Kants Lehre des Schnen steht Nietzsche freilich in den Augen Heideggers nicht alleine. Mit Schopenhauer als seinem in dieser Sache am meisten befehdeten Gegner und Schiller als demjenigen, der immerhin Wesentliches begriffen habe, stellt er die Wirkungsgeschichte der Kritik
der Urteilskraft zwischen diesen beiden Polen insgesamt in den Zusammenhang
einer ununterbrochenen Serie von Fehldeutungen. Namentlich die Paragraphen
2 5, in denen Kant eine Unterscheidung der drei Arten des Wohlgefallens
des Vergngens, Gefallens und Schtzens bzw. der drei Triebfedern in Bezug
auf das Denken der Neigung, der Gunst und der Achtung vollzieht, um die
Besonderheit des Geschmacks als Beurteilungsvermgen durch ein freies
Wohl- oder Missfallen ohne alles Interesse hervorzuheben, seien bislang den
grbsten Entstellungen und Irrtmern ausgesetzt gewesen. Weder habe das freie
und interesselose Wohlgefallen etwas mit Gleichgltigkeit zu tun, noch auch mit
dem Aushngen des Willens und dem reinen Verschweben in der Teilnahmslosigkeit, wie Schopenhauer annahm. Nietzsche stellt freilich die Mglichkeit

98

99

100

Nietzsches Einsicht und Ahnung, dass die Kunst mehr wert sei als die Wahrheit, ordnet Heidegger in seiner Vorlesung Der Wille zur Macht als Erkenntnis aus dem Sommersemester 1939 unter
Missachtung aller Invektiven Nietzsches gegen die Poetik eben dieser zu, um einmal mehr Nietzsches Grundstellung als der letzte Metaphysiker zu zementieren (N I, S. 500). Nach Auskunft von Otto Pggeler ist Heidegger andernorts niemals mehr auf die Poetik zu sprechen gekommen.
Dieter Bremer (Platonisches, Antiplatonisches, a. a. O., S. 73, Anm. 137) sieht in Heideggers
Nietzschedeutung nicht den Versuch einer Entmachtung des Dionysischen, sondern eine Ignoranz gegenber dem Dionysischen als Inbegriff der vormetaphysischen Daseinsauffasssung
und leitender Gegenbegriff gegen die platonische Metaphysik am Werk.
Insofern ist die Schnheit das die Grundstimmung des Rausches Bestimmende. HGA 43,
S. 143.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

149

eines interesselosen Wohlgefallens berhaupt in Frage.101 Doch interessieren


Heidegger die von diesem im Einzelnen gegen Kant vorgebrachten Einwnde
nur wenig. Den Nachweis einer angeblichen Fehldeutung ohne jede ernsthafte
und systematische Auseinandersetzung mit den dafr einschlgigen Argumenten erbringen zu wollen, stellt allerdings eine grobe Verletzung jener Leidenschaft der Redlichkeit dar, die Nietzsche sich selbst im Unglauben an die Mglichkeit eines interesselosen Anschauens als Gerechtigkeit gegen sich, gegen
die Dinge und gegen Andere auf dem Weg einer Sublimierung der intellektuellen
Triebe bis hin zur zartesten Emotion zur Aufgabe gemacht hatte.102 Gilt es fr
ihn als ausgemacht, dass mit dem Schnen stets ein Interesse und ein erotisches zumal im Angesicht von gewandlosen weiblichen Statuen verbunden
ist (GM III 6, KSA 5, S. 347), so liegt es jedoch nicht unbedingt als ein unmittelbar nacktes Interesse vor: Auch wenn das (kulturell-historisch verschiedene)
Schne als in jedem Wortsinn verkleidete Sinnlichkeit103 jederzeit zu unsren
Trieben [redet], so geht es bei dem im Schnen jeweils Ansprechenden fr
Nietzsche um die Darstellung oder Verkrperung eines Ideals eben dieser
Triebe selbst wie Reichthum, Glanz, Frmmigkeit, Machtausstrmung, Ergebung (Nachlass 1886/87, KSA 10, 7[154], S. 293) und in den Fustapfen seiner Tragdien-Schrift durchaus weiterhin darum, sich den Anblick der Dinge
ertrglich zu machen, sie nicht zu frchten und ein scheinbares Glck in sie hineinzulegen. Das Schne als Umdeuten des Thatschlichen ins Glckliche
Gttliche oder als dcadence-Symptom der Selbst-Verschnerung des Menschen in der Moral (Nachlass 1884, KSA 11, 25[101], S. 35) ist auch unter der
historischen Voraussetzung seiner apollinischen Vereinseitigung, wie Nietzsche
mit Stendhal gegen Kant (Nachlass 1883, KSA 10, 7[154], S. 293) hervorhebt,
une promesse de bonheur (GM III 6, KSA 5, S. 347) und damit ein Versprechen auf das Leben. Heidegger ignoriert nicht nur vollstndig das fr Nietzsches
Verstndnis von Schnheit und Kunst entscheidende Gewicht der Sublimierung
der Sexualtriebe104 und deren Korrelat, nmlich eine immer e ntf le ischte r e
101

102

103

104

Heidegger zitiert vor allem den 1883 niedergeschriebenen Satz Nietzsches: Seit Kant ist alles Reden von Kunst, Schnheit, Erkenntnis, Weisheit vermanscht und beschmutzt durch den Begriff
ohne Interesse. Nachlass Frhjahr Sommer 1883, KSA 10, 7[18], S. 243. Siehe N I, S. 128.
Zur Interpretation dieses Nachlasstextes und zu den einzelnen Etappen der Genese der Leidenschaft der Redlichkeit siehe Brusotti, Marco: Die Leidenschaft der Erkenntnis. Philosophie
und sthetische Lebensgestaltung bei Nietzsche von Morgenrthe bis Also sprach Zarathustra. Berlin, New York 1997. S. 112 f.
Nietzsche unterscheidet verschiedene Verkleidungen der Sinnlichkeit (als Idealismus, in der
Religion, der Liebe) und in der Kunst, als schmckende Gewalt: wie der Mann das Weib sieht,
indem er ihr gleichsam alles zum Prsent macht, was es von Vorzgen giebt, so legt die Sinnlichkeit des Knstlers in Ein Objekt, was er sonst noch ehrt und hochhlt dergestalt vollendet er
ein Objekt (idealisirt es). Nachlass Sommer 1887, KSA 12, 8[1], S. 324.
Was die Ignoranz gegenber dem fr Nietzsche beraus zentralen Begriff der Sublimierung
nicht nur im Feld der Kunst angeht, fr dessen Urheber Freud flschlicherweise Wilhelm Fliess

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Iris Drmann

Form des Schnen (Nachlass 1870/71, KSA 7, 7[1], S. 137), sondern auch die
darin implizierte unaufhebbare105 Verknpfung von Sinnlichkeit und Schnheit,106 die Nietzsche mehr als einmal gegen die Mglichkeit eines interesselosen
Wohlgefallens ins Treffen fhrt. Was Heidegger in dieser Hinsicht lediglich zu
ertragen bereit zu sein scheint, ist die im Symposium und Phaidros erffnete desexualisierte Verbindung von Schnheit und gttlichem eros. Die interpretatorische
Strategie, der sich Heidegger in der Abwehr der fr ihn problematischen Konzeptionen Nietzsches (wie auch etwa des unvermeidbaren Anthropomorphismus des Schnen107) bedient, ist eine doppelte: Zum einen lsst er Nietzsches
vernichtendes Urteil ber das interesselose Wohlgefallen jederzeit als berechtigte Kritik an Schopenhauer durchgehen, die Kant jedoch niemals betreffen soll
(N I, S. 130, 132).108 Zum anderen gehen fr ihn sowohl die Missdeutung
Kants als auch die des des Schnen auf das verhngnisvolle Konto von Nietzsches physiologisch-biologischen Interpretation der Kunst109 (N I, S. 134 f.).

105

106

107

108

109

ausgab, so steht Heidegger freilich nicht alleine. Eine ausfhrliche Diskussion von Nietzsches
Triebtheorie, die der Freudschen nicht zuletzt hinsichtlich der Mglichkeit einer Sublimierung
der Destruktionstriebe durchaus berlegen ist, findet sich bei Gasser, Reinhard: Nietzsche und
Freud. Berlin, New York 1997. S. 313 ff.
JGB, Viertes Hauptstck 75, KSA 5, S. 87. Grad und Art der Geschlechtlichkeit eines Menschen reicht bis in den letzten Gipfel seines Geistes hinauf.
D as Ver lag en n ach Ku n st u nd Schnheit ist ein indirektes Verlangen nach den Entzckungen des Geschlechtstriebes, welche er dem Cerebrum mittheilt. Die vollkomme n g e wo rd en e Welt , durch Liebe . Nachlass Sommer 1887, KSA 12, 8[1], S. 325 f. Vgl. dazu
auch bereits die frhe Bemerkung: Der Schnhe itssinn zusammenhngend mit der Zeugung. Nachlass Sommer 1872 August 1873, KSA 7, 19[152], S. 467.
Fr Heidegger ist der Anthropomorphismus des Schnen, das Schpferische und Schaffende,
das Nietzsche angeblich zum Wesen des Menschen erklrt, Ausdruck und Kennzeichen einer
neuzeitlichen, in Wahrheit bereits rmischen Wesensbestimmung des Menschen als des sichauf-sich-selbst-stellenden Subjektes, durch das erst alle Objekte als solche in ihrer Objektivitt
bestimmt sind. Dass der neuzeitliche Mensch sich als den Schaffenden will, impliziert
zwei zusammengehrige Entfaltungen: der Schaffende im Sinne des schpferisch Ttigen und
der Schaffende im Sinne des Arbeiters. HGA 50, S. 110 f. Nietzsches Untersuchung der Bedeutung des asketischen Ideals fr den Knstler und Wissenschaftler im Sinne des Arbeiters in
der III. Abhandlung Zur Genealogie der Moral und der fr ihn zentralen Frage nach einem gegnerischen Ideal zeigen freilich, in welchem Mae er gerade diese neuzeitliche Interpretation des
Menschen problematisiert (GM III 23, KSA 5, S. 395 ff.)
Auf der Linie dieser Strategie Heideggers, die die sachliche Berechtigung der Einwnde Nietzsches gegen Kant verkennt, bewegt sich auch Heftrich, Ulrich: Nietzsches Auseinandersetzungen mit der Kritik der sthetischen Urteilskraft. In: Nietzsche-Studien 20 (1991). S. 238 266.
Nietzsches Ausflle gegen die angebliche Interesselosigkeit, Unpersnlichkeit, Allgemeingltigkeit und den Erkenntnischarakter des sthetischen Wohlgefallens bei Kant zielen durchweg
an Kant vorbei, treffen aber dafr mit umso grerer Przision Schopenhauer.
Zur Physiologie der Kunst 1. der Rausch als Voraussetzung: Ursachen des Rausches. 2. typische
Symptome des Rausches 3. das Kraft- und Flleg efhl im Rausche: seine ide alisire nde Wirkung 4. das thatschliche Mehr von Kraft: seine thatschliche Verschnerung. Erwgung: in
wiefern unser Werth schn vollkommen anthropocentrisch ist: auf biologischen Voraussetzungen ber Wachsthum und Fortschritt (Nachlass Mai Juni 1888, KSA 13, 17[9], S. 529).

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

151

In der Hast gewaltsamer Verkehrung ist es Heidegger ersichtlich darum zu


tun, die schrfste Gegnerschaft zu Kant in der Bestimmung des Verhaltens zum
Schnen, in die Nietzsches Ansetzung des Rausches als eines sthetischen Zustandes gestellt zu werden verlange (N I, S. 128), dadurch zu entkrften, wenn
nicht zu Fall zu bringen, dass der Rausch selbst auf den fr ihn mageblichen Bereich der schnen Form verwiesen und damit als ein wie immer auch geartetes
interesseloses Wohlgefallen zum Zuge zu kommen vermag. Die Fragwrdigkeit
dieses Unterfangens kann auch durch die von Heidegger eigens ausgesprochene
Warnung nicht ausgerumt werden, es sei grundverkehrt, Nietzsches Auffassung von der Schnheit und dem Schnen auf die Kantische zurckzufhren
(N I, S. 131). Beschreibt er damit doch recht przise sein eigenes Vorgehen. In
einer an Husserls Prinzip aller Prinzipien gemahnenden bersetzung spricht
Heidegger in der Kant durchaus fremden Sprache der Anforderung davon, dass
die freie Gunst eine Begegnungsweise mit dem Schnen gebiete, die es gerade
in seinem eigenen Rang und seiner Wrde vor uns kommen lasse, wie es wiederum mit Schillerschen Anklngen heit:
Wir mssen das Begegnende als solches freigeben in dem, was es ist, mssen ihm das lassen und gnnen, was ihm selbst zugehrt und was es uns zubringt. (N I, S. 129)
Aus dem Augenwinkel Heideggers erffnet das interesselose Wohlgefallen
jedoch nicht nur den wesenhaften Bezug zum Gegenstand, der als reiner
einzig im Schein des Vorscheins des Schnen zur Erscheinung gelange (N I,
S. 130). Ebenso schwer wiegt fr ihn der Umstand, dass Kants Auslegung der
Lust der Reflexion [] in einen Grundzustand des Menschen vor[dringt],
in dem der Mensch erst zur gegrndeten Flle seines Wesens kommt. (N I,
S. 133). Mag dieser Satz schon wenig mit Kants harmonischem Spiel von Einbildungskraft und Verstand zu tun haben, das anlsslich einer schnen Form
in Gang gesetzt wird und eine negative Lust des Denkens offenbart, so bleibt
er Nietzsches wundervollem Phnomen des Dionysischen, das dieser
noch 1888 als das Erste begriffen (EH, Die Geburt der Tragdie 2, KSA 6,
S. 311) wissen wollte, allerdings umso ferner vor allem dann, wenn es sich
im Interesse einer erhhten Deutlichkeit darum handeln soll, das Schne
selbst als dasjenige auszuweisen, was in das Rauschgefhl versetzt (N I,
S. 133):
Wenn das Schne jenes Magebende ist, was wir unserem Wesensvermgen
zutrauen, dann kann das Rauschgefhl als der Bezug zum Schnen kein bloes
Brodeln und Wallen sein. Die Stimmung des Rausches ist vielmehr eine Gestimmtheit im Sinne der hchsten und gemessensten Bestimmtheit. So sehr
Nietzsches Darstellungs- und Redeweise nach Wagners Gefhlstaumel und dem
bloen Versinken im bloen Erleben klingt, so gewi will er in der Sache das
Entgegengesetzte (N I, S. 134)

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Rechtfertigt Heidegger diese seine Austreibung des Dionysischen110 mit dem


Hinweis, dass namentlich Nietzsches Rckgriff auf die physiologisch-biologische Sprache des Willens zur Macht zu einer Verdunkelung seiner eigentlich
Kant nahen Auffassung des sthetischen Zustandes als Rausch beigetragen
habe, so irritiert es ihn jedoch kaum, dass Nietzsche, auch da, wo er in anderen
Sprachen spricht, durchaus niemals das gesagt hat, was er ihm hier in den Mund
legen will. Im Gegenteil: In gewagten Manvern sucht Heidegger nicht nur den
sthetischen Zustand des Rausches auf den fr ihn mageblichen Bezirk des
Schnen zurckzufhren, sondern auch das Schaffen des Kunstwerks selbst.111
Sofern es als seine unumgngliche Voraussetzung des Rausches bedarf, msse es
in den grndenden Wesensbereich der (schnen) Form und weitergehend in den
des Werkes eingeschrieben werden.112 So setzt die fr Heidegger signifikante
Operation der Verkehrung mit dem Rausch als formschaffende Kraft ein (N I,
S. 135), um mit der Grndung des Rausches durch die Form zu enden (N I,
S. 140).
Heideggers berlegungen gravitieren um die plastische Geste, kraft derer
der apollinische Knstler den Dingen im Rausch gewaltsam eine Form aufntigt. Mit oder in dieser von Nietzsche konturierten vergewaltigenden Geste
der Idealisierung, die ihm ein ungeheures H e r a u str e ibe n der Hauptzge
(GD, Streifzge 8, KSA 6, S. 116) bedeutet, erodiert die abendlndische sthetik
oder, was dasselbe ist, findet sie laut Heidegger ihre extremste Aufgipfelung
(N I, S. 135 137), die freilich auf einen bestimmten Platonismus der Gestalt und
Gestaltung zurckfllt (N I, S. 139).113 Insofern der Schaffensrausch auf
Hauptzge, d. h. auf ein Gezge und Gefge bezogen sei, knne das knstlerische Tun nicht nur auf leiblich-seelische Ablufe und schon gar nicht auf eine
110

111

112

113

Im Rckblick auf die Geburt der Tragdie notiert Nietzsche: in der Vernichtung auch des schnsten Scheins kommt das dionysische Glck auf seinen Gipfel um damit der in der Tragdie
geschehenden Vershnung des Dionysischen und Apollinischen eine anderes Dionysisches entgegenzusetzen, das in der pessimistischen Zerstrung der Illusion auf eine der Tragdie berlegene sthetische Rechtfertigung des Daseins stt (Nachlass Herbst 1885 Herbst 1886,
KSA 12, 2[11], S. 116).
GM III 6, KSA 5, S. 346. [W]as ich allein unterstreichen will, ist, dass Kant, gleich allen Philosophen, statt von den Erfahrungen des Knstlers) aus das sthetische Problem zu visiren, allein
vom Zuschauer aus ber die Kunst und das Schne nachgedacht [hat]. Wenn die Originalitt
der Konzeption Nietzsches nicht zuletzt darin besteht, die Kunst vom Schaffenden aus in der
Blick zu nehmen, dann sieht Heidegger darin nicht nur den geeigneten Anlass, die Kunst als diejenige Sphre zu begreifen, in der der Wille zur Macht am sichtbarsten wird, sondern auch in
Anlehnung an Nietzsches Vorrede zur Tragdien-Schrift von 1886 die Kunst im Sinne Nietzsches
als metaphysische Ttigkeit auszuweisen, und zwar ohne seinem Versuch einer Selbstkritik in
dieser Hinsicht Beachtung zu schenken. HGA 43, S. 84 f.
Das Schaffen schafft das Werk. Das Wesen des Werkes aber ist der Ursprung des Wesens des
Schaffens. HGA 43, S. 133.
Zum Platonischen Gestaltbegriff, der noch fr Jnger mageblich sei, siehe Heidegger: Zur
Seinsfrage. 4. Aufl. Frankfurt am Main. S. 15.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

153

blinde und ungebundene Rhrung [] schwimmendenden Behagens reduziert


werden. Der bloen Zustndlichkeit des Schaffenden msse vielmehr jenes
Einfachere und Strkere [] am Begegnenden selbst gegenbergestellt werden, welches der Knstler im Idealisieren herausshe (N I, S. 139). Whrend
fr Nietzsche der Vorgang des rauschhaften Schaffens eine verschwenderische
Entuerung der durch den Rausch bewirkten Kraftsteigerung und Flle an die
Dinge selbst darstellt, die durch die gewaltsame Aufntigung einer Form gleichermaen verwandelt und verschnt114 nichts anderes als die Macht
des Schaffenden wiederspiegeln (GD, Streifzge 8, KSA 6, S. 116), insistiert
Heidegger hingegen auf einer im Begegnenden selbst beschlossenen Form vor
ihrer rauschhaft-visionren Formierung (N I, S. 139). Wenn schlielich im gewundenen Gang dieser verkehrenden Auslegung die Form als dasjenige bezeichnet wird, was das Begegnende aufscheinen lt, ist zum wiederholten Mal der
Moment gekommen, in dem Heidegger wie unter Zwang die orgiastische Radikalitt des Rausches und seine visionre Kraft glaubt unwirksam machen zu
mssen, indem er die Form ausdrcklich als jenen Bereich ausweist, der den
Rausch erst begrndet. Der Rausch sei von jeder Trunkenboldigkeit des bloen Sichgehenlassens und Taumelns weit entfernt und heie fr Nietzsche
nichts anderes als hellster Sieg der Form. (N I, S. 140 f.)115 Auch wenn Heidegger schlielich aufgrund des in diesem Sinne przisierten oder besser: verflschten Rausches das Zugestndnis machen kann, da der Rausch als Gefhlszustand [] gerade die Subjektivitt des Subjektes [sprengt] und Nietzsches
Denken der Kunst, im Unterschied zu Kants sthetik, nicht in den Schranken
des neuzeitlichen Subjektsbegriffs gefangen bleibe (N I, S. 145)116, so ist unstrittig, dass Heidegger in seiner durchdringenderen Besinnung (N I, S. 168)
nicht nur hinter Nietzsche zurckdenken mchte, sondern ihn das Gegenteil
dessen sagen lsst, was er geschrieben hat. Die fr dieses Vorgehen der Nachgekommenen magebliche Rechtfertigung findet Heidegger bekanntlich in
dem Gedanken, dass jeder grosse Denker [] immer einen Sprung ursprnglicher [denkt ], als er unmittelbar spricht , so dass die ihn betreffende dankende
Auslegung sein Ungesagtes zu sagen versuchen msse (N I, S. 158),117 um ihn
von der nicht zureichenden Durchsichtigkeit seiner eigenen Bestimmungen
zu befreien (N I, S. 168).

114

115

116
117

Nachlass Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 14[117], S. 293. Fr Nietzsche ist die Verschnerung und
Formung zweifellos eine Folge der er hhten Kraft, die der Rausch hervorbringt.
Heidegger steht hinsichtlich der Abtreibung des Rausches in der Tat unter Wiederholungszwang, vgl. auch N I, S. 148.
Vgl. auch HGA 43, S. 143.
In Was heit Denken? (a. a. O., S. 72; S. 94) bestimmt Heidegger vor allem mit Blick auf Nietzsche
das Ungedachte als das hchste Geschenk, das ein Denken zu vergeben hat. Diese hchste
Gabe zu denken, bedeutet dann nichts anderes als zu danken.

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Iris Drmann

Die Abwesenheit des groen Stils und knstlerischen Befehls, mit der
Nietzsche 1888 seine Gegnerschaft gegenber der Wagnerschen Musik erklrt,
wird fr Heidegger zum bestimmenden Anlass, um Nietzsches Verstndnis der
Kunst, sofern diese eine ausgezeichnete Gestalt des Willens zur Macht darstelle (N I, S. 164), auf Befehl, Gesetz und Ma zu verpflichten. Knne die
Kunst mit Nietzsche vor dem Hintergrund seiner anti-Wagnerianischen Invektiven in sich selbst als Gesetzgebung oder, genauer, als das Prinzip der geschichtebildenden, groen Politik bestimmt werden, dann, so Heidegger, habe
Nietzsche, indem er an die eigene uerste Grenze ging, die sthetische Frage
nach der Kunst selbst gesprengt, auch wenn die sthetik damit noch lange
nicht berwunden sei. Das Gesetzgeberische und Gestaltgrndende, das
Nietzsche in Wagners Musik vermisst, erhebt Heidegger zu einer wesentlichen
Bestimmung von Kunst berhaupt (N I, S. 154), die ihn die Einschtzung zu
treffen erlaubt, dass Nietzsches sthetik, in dem Moment, da sie zu ihrem Gipfel gelange und die Kunst an der hchsten Freiheit unter dem Gesetze (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 16[37], S. 497) bemesse, keine mehr ist (N I, S. 161). Die
lngere, aber nicht zitierte Aufzeichnung aus dem Nachlass (N I, S. 152), die
Heideggers Bemhung um eine Verwindung der sthetik Nietzsches und eine
Verwindung der sthetik durch Nietzsche orientiert, scheint die Entbindung der
Kunst vom Rausch als sthetischen Zustand und vom Paradigma der Darstellung in Aussicht zu stellen:
Die Gre eines Musikers mit sich nicht nach den schnen Gefhlen, die
!er" erregt: das glauben die Weiber sie mit sich nach der Spannkraft seines
Willens, nach der Sicherheit mit der das Chaos seinem knstl!erischen" Befehl
gehorcht und Form wird, nach !der" Notwendigkeit, welche seine Hand in eine
Abfolge von Formen legt. Die Gre eines Musikers mit einem Wort wird gemessen an seiner Fhigkeit zum groen Stil. (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 16[49],
S. 502)
Auf dem Weg der Identifizierung dieser von Nietzsche vielfach verspotteten
schnen Gefhlserregungen mit dem Rausch als Voraussetzung des Schaffens,
sieht sich Heidegger zu der Einschtzung berechtigt, dass das Leibzustndliche des Rausches, sobald es unter das aus ihm selbst erwachsene Gesetz des
groen Stils zu stehen komme, Nietzsche zufolge, im Geschaffenen gebndigt, berwunden und aufgehoben werden soll. (N I, S. 152)
Zeichnet sich die sthetische Fragestellung nicht zuletzt dadurch aus, dass sie
das Denken der Kunst auf das sinnliche Vernehmen des Menschen im Modus
seiner schaffenden und empfangenden Erlebnisse reduziert, dann scheint Heidegger mit diesem erneuten Kunstgriff seiner Auslegung die berwindung des
Rausches im Werk und in seiner Mageblichkeit hinsichtlich des Empfanges
des Werkes gelungen zu sein. Insofern Kunst bzw. Stimulans des Lebens mit
Nietzsche nichts anderes heit, als in den Befehlsbereich des groen Stils brin-

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

155

gen, vermag sein Mastbe setzendes philosophisches Denken gar zur Vorgestaltung des Zuknftigen aufzusteigen (N I, S. 152 f.). Dieser berwindung
des Rausches bzw. des sthetischen Erlebens stellt Heidegger bei aller Betonung des nur Entwurfhaften der berlegungen Nietzsches (N I, S. 155) mit
dem Gesetzesbegriff eine berwindung der Darstellung bzw. Mimesis an die
Seite, die fr ihn als zweites entscheidendes Moment der sthetischen Reduktion
der Kunst seit Platon in Frage steht (N I, S. 154). In dem Mae, indem sich das
Chaos jeglicher Darstellung und Nachahmung entzieht und allein dem knstlerischen Befehl gehorcht, sieht Heidegger im groen Stil, mit dem das
Wesen der Kunst wirklich werde (N I, S. 162), die Kunst von der Platonischen
Verpflichtung der homoiosis befreit. Oder, wie es in der ersten Ausarbeitung
der Kunstwerkabhandlung Vom Ursprung des Kunstwerks, aus den Jahren 1931/32
heit:
Das Kunstwerk stellt nichts dar; und dies aus dem einzigen und einfachen
Grund, weil es nichts hat, was es darstellen soll.118
Da Heidegger dem Kunstwerk (und im gleichen Atemzug der staatsgrndenden Tat119) die Erffnung eines Geschichte stiftenden Wahrheitsgeschehens zutraut, das eine Welt auf- und die Erde herstellt, kann es weder an
einer bereits vorhandenen Wirklichkeit noch auch an einer vorhergehenden
Wahrheit (als Richtigkeit oder Gewiheit) gemessen werden. In diesem Sinne
wird auch in der ausdrcklich gegen Nietzsche und mit Hlderlin als Sprachwerk bezeichneten Tragdie nichts auf- und vorgefhrt, sondern der Kampf
der neuen gegen die alten Gtter wird gekmpft.120 Vor dem Hintergrund dieser auf die Sage zentrierten Bestimmung der Tragdie, die weder der ffentlichkeit noch auch der Inszenierung bedarf, um geschichtsgewaltig zu werden
(N I, S. 170), gestaltet sich nicht zuletzt Heideggers Auseinandersetzung mit
dem III. und X. Buch der Politeia, die er im Umkreis seiner berprfung des philosophischen Anspruchs Nietzsches auf eine Umdrehung des Platonismus anstrengt. Heideggers Auslegung der Geschichte eines Irrtums, die in der Gtzen-Dmmerung unter dem Titel Wie die wahre Welt endlich zur Fabel wurde
skizziert ist, nimmt ihren Ausgang von einer auf die Tragdien-Schrift rckblickenden Notiz aus dem Nachlass (N I, S. 167):
ber das Verhltnis der Kunst zur Wahrheit bin ich am frhesten ernst geworden: und noch jetzt stehe ich mit einem heiligen Entsetzen vor diesem Zwiespalt. Mein erstes Buch !war" ihm geweiht; die Geburt der Tragdie glaubt an
die Kunst auf dem Hintergrund eines anderen Glaubens: da es nicht m g-

118

119
120

Heidegger, Martin: Vom Ursprung des Kunstwerks (1931/1932). In: Heidegger-Studies 5


(1989). S. 5 22, hier S. 14.
Heidegger: Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes, a. a. O., S. 48.
Ebd., S. 28.

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Iris Drmann

l i ch i s t , mit d er Wa h rhei t z u le be n. (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 16[40],


S. 500)
Das von Nietzsche zur Bestimmung des Verhltnisses von Wahrheit und
Kunst verwendete Wort des Zwiespalts orientiert Heideggers selektiven Gang
durch Platons Staat und der Ausmessung des Abstands der Kunst (Mimesis)
von der Wahrheit (Idee) (N I, S. 198 ff.). Sollte sich Nietzsches Anspruch auf
die Umdrehung Platonismus bewahrheiten, dann stnde auch eine Umdrehung
dieses Zwiespaltes selbst zu erwarten, wie Heidegger mehrfach betont (N I,
S. 218).
Wenn es um die Beantwortung der Frage geht, wie es berhaupt zu einer
Herabsetzung der Kunst in der Platonischen Philosophie kommen konnte
(und dies bei den Griechen, die doch wie kaum ein abendlndisches Volk die
Kunst bejahten und begrndeten! [N I, S. 191]), dann ist es erstaunlich, dass
sich Heidegger ganz und gar auf eine Errterung der ontologischen Rangfolge
von idea, eidos und eidolon in der Ordnung der Platonischen Mimesis konzentriert,
ohne dabei von dem Umstand Notiz zu nehmen, dass die Verurtheilung der
Tragoedie und der Kunst121 an eine Situation verschrfter Rivalitt zwischen
Philosophie und Kunst rhrt, der Nietzsche freilich um so grere Beachtung
schenkte, je deutlicher er sein Augenmerk auf die stilistische Gestaltung der Platonischen Dialoge und ihre nicht-philosophischen Elemente wie die selbsterfundenen Mythen oder sophistischen Reden richten musste.122 Insofern sich die
Platonischen Dialoge durch Mischung aller vorhandenen Stile unzweifelhaft
Erzhlung, Lyrik, Drama angeeignet haben,123 geht es aus Sicht Nietzsches fr
Platon im Moment der Etablierung der Philosophie nicht zuletzt darum, alle
Konkurrenten auszuschalten: Der Angriff auf die Dichtkunst in seiner ganzen
Strke bleibt unklar, wenn wir nicht [] die ungeheure Begierde als Wurzel
dieses Angriffs uns denken, selbst an die Stelle des gestrzten Dichters zu treten
und dessen Ruhm zu erben.124 Den Platonismus umzukehren, bedeutet demnach nicht nur, nach dem Begehren zu fragen, das Platon zum Terrorismus
(Nachlass 1870/71, KSA 7, 7[113], S. 164) gegen die Kunst ntigte,125 sondern
auch dasjenige Begehren ins Recht zu setzen, das zur Umkehrung des Verhltnisses von Wahrheit und Kunst zwingt. Heidegger ist weit davon entfernt, das
(instituierende) Begehren der Platonischen Philosophie ans Licht bringen und

121
122
123
124
125

Sokrates und die griechische Tragdie, KSA 1, S. 631.


Fnf Vorreden zu fnf ungeschriebenen Bchern, KSA 1, S. 753 792; S. 790.
Sokrates und die griechische Tragdie, KSA 1, S. 631.
Fnf Vorreden zu fnf ungeschriebenen Bchern, KSA 1, S. 788.
Von daher muss man Gilles Deleuze widersprechen, fr den Nietzsches Formel von der Umkehrung des Platonismus abstrakt bleibt, weil sie die Motivation des Platonismus im Dunkeln
[belsst]. Deleuze, Gilles: Simulacre et Philosophie Antique. In: ders.: Logique du sens. Paris
1969. S. 292 307, hier S. 292.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

157

sich an oder auf der Grenze der ontologischen Teilungs- und Differenzierungsoperationen aufhalten zu wollen. Hinter seiner Frage nach Platons Lehre von
der Wahrheit verblasst selbst noch der politisch-orthopdische Mastab (N I,
S. 194 f.), an dem Platon die Kunst misst, wenn er sie mit der bis dahin irrelevanten Wahrheitsfrage konfrontiert und den exklusiven Zugang der Philosophie zur
Ideenwahrheit sicherzustellen sucht. Heideggers Skizze der fr die Abstandsbestimmung von Wahrheit und Mimesis so gewichtigen Rangfolge der Ordnung
der drei Betten (Politeia 597 e) ermisst die Kluft, die zwischen der Idee als
dem eigentlich Seienden, dem Vor- und Urbild, und dem eigentlich Nichtseienden, dem Nach- und Abbild aufgerissen ist, vor allem unter der fr ihn problematischen Frage des reinen Aussehens der zum Paradigma und Ideal126
erhobenen Idea.127 Diese Entdeckung htte Heidegger freilich bereits bei Nietzsche machen knnen:
In Plato hchste Verherrlichung der Dinge als der Urbilder, d. h. die Welt
ganz vom Standpunkt des Auges (Apollos) angesehen. (Nachlass 1869/70,
KSA 7, 3[36], S. 70)
Ist die Entfernung vom Sein und seiner reinen Sichtbarkeit magebend
fr die Bestimmung des Wesens des mimets (N I, S. 215), dann gilt es zwar
einen Abstand, nicht aber einen Zwiespalt zwischen Kunst und Wahrheit
in Betracht zu ziehen dies vor allem dann nicht, wenn die Kunst wie
Platon es will unter die Leitung der Philosophie als des Wissens vom Wesen
des Seienden gestellt wird. Platons Gedanken in dieser Richtung, also auch
den weiteren Inhalt des X. Buches zu verfolgen, behrt nicht hierher. (N I,
S. 217)
Soll man aus dem pltzlichen Abbruch der Diskussion schlieen, dass Heidegger in der gewaltsamen Exklusion der Mimesis und der Austreibung der
(Tragdien-)Dichter kein Problem gesehen hat? Wenn Heidegger die Kunst
1935/36 unter dem Blickwinkel eines grndenden Wahrheitsgeschehens erfasst,
dann verschreibt er sich damit zugleich dem Programm einer konsequenten
Preisgabe der Mimesis und Darstellung, der Aus- und Auffhrung im Bereich
der Kunst und nicht nur dort. In diesem Sinne lsst sich sehr wohl mit LacoueLabarthe festhalten, dass Heidegger und im brigen auch Nietzsche,128 wenn126
127

128

Heidegger: Einfhrung in die Metaphysik, a.a. O., S. 140 f.


Seine sptere Interpretation des Hhlengleichnisses gipfelt bekanntermaen in dem Satz: Die
altheia kommt unter das Joch der ida. Heidegger, Martin: Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit.
Mit einem Brief ber den Humanismus. 3. Aufl. Bern 1975. S. 41. Im Nietzsche-Buch heit es
in diesem Sinne bereits: Die Auslegung des Seins als eidos, Anwesen im Aussehen, setzt die Auslegung der
Wahrheit als altheia, Unverstelltheit voraus. N I, S. 112.
So unterstreicht es einmal mehr Nietzsches Anti-Aristotelismus, wenn er Platos Consequenz in der Frage der Austreibung der Dichter rhmend wiederholt notiert: Plato hat Recht
mit der unmoralischen Wirkung der Tragdie. Nachlass Herbst 1869, KSA 7, 1[43], S. 21;
Nachlass Herbst 1877, KSA 8, 24[1], S. 475; siehe auch MA I, 212, KSA 2, S. 173.

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Iris Drmann

gleich aus einer anderen Warte Platons Vorurteil im Hinblick auf die mimsis
und das Theater teilt.129
Insofern in der Politeia aufgrund der hierarchischen Seinsordnung kein
Zwiespalt, sondern nur ein Abstand zwischen Kunst und Wahrheit ausfindig zu machen sei, wendet sich Heidegger der Platonischen Philosophie des
Schnen nicht zuletzt deshalb zu, weil er hier eine ihrem Rang nach formulierte
Gleichsetzung von Wahrheit und Schnheit anzutreffen vermutet, die die Rede
vom Zwiespalt zur Bedingung haben muss (N I, S. 220). Namentlich der Dialog Phaidros kann Heidegger den Zugang zum Schnen unter der Voraussetzung
der lthe, die er hier mit Seinsvergessenheit bersetzt (N I, S. 225), und in der
Wesensordnung des Aufleuchtens des Seins (N I, S. 227) als jene uns berckende Blickbahn ausweisen, kraft derer die Rckgewinnung und Bewahrung
des Seinsblickes aus dem nchsten Anschein von Platon als einzig mglich ausgegeben werde (N I, S. 229). Es wirft ein symptomatisches Licht auf Heideggers
Auslegung, dass er die den Dialog auszeichnende Situation des erbitterten Wettstreits zwischen Sophistik und Philosophie um die Gunst des Knaben Phaidros
unterschlgt und sich damit eine Analyse jener Verfhrungsstrategien erspart,
die Sokrates mit und in seinen beiden erotischen Reden der mit verhlltem
Haupt gesprochenen berbietungsrede der Rede des Lysias einerseits und ihrer
Palinodie andererseits zum Einsatz bringt, um Phaidros zur Philosophie zu
verfhren. Gilt es doch, ihn zu jener Ikone auszubilden, die erst die vergessene
Erinnerung an das vorgeburtlich geschaute Schne und jene Ideen wiederbringt,
welche im Diesseits nicht sinnlich wahrnehmbar sind. Ist man wie Heidegger daran interessiert, im Phaidros einen Zwiespalt zwischen dem Wahren und Schnen erffnet zu sehen, kann man freilich die im Namen der Anamnesis betriebene bildnerische Arbeit des Sokrates selbst nicht genug herausstellen: Denn als
Ebenbild des Gottes und des Schnen geniet Phaidros den adorierenden Blick
und die Gunstbezeugungen des Philosophen, der ihn ausdrcklich zu einem
heiligen Bilde ausschmckt, um ihm wie dem Gott selbst Opfer zu bringen
(Phaidros 251a, 252d e). Der Zugang zum Wahren muss den Umweg ber die
Anbetung und Bildung des Schnen in allen Wortsinnen nehmen. Der Zwiespalt aber bleibt fr Platon, so Heidegger, ein beglckender. In der Entzweiung berwiegt der Einklang, da das ber die Sinnlichkeit hinweghebende
und in das Wahre zurckversetzende Schne bereits im Voraus in der Wahrheit
des Seins als des bersinnlichen geborgen ist (N I, S. 230).
129

Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe: Heidegger. In: Musica Ficta. (Figures de Wagner). Paris 1991.
S. 161 214, hier S. 206. Heideggers Nietzsche-Interpretation steht fr Lacoue-Labarthe unter
dem Eindruck der Exklusion der Musik durch die abendlndische Philosophie und stellt hinsichtlich der ontologisch-politischen Verwerfung der Musik Wagners seitens Heidegger ein
symptomatisches Ereignis dar, das dem Platonischen Ausschlu der Musik in der Politeia entspricht.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

159

In dem Mae, in dem die zweite Rede des Sokrates gegen Lysias den Beweis
antreten will, dass die Liebe kein bel, sondern ein gttliches Geschick sei, fhrt
sie zur Anerkennung verschiedener Formen der Mania der prophetischen, kathartischen, musisch-poetischen und der besten, nmlich der erotischen , an denen die Rede selbst partizipiert: Indem sie das Schicksal der Seele voraussagt, von
den Verfehlungen der ersten Rede befreit, poetisch-mythologisch verfasst ist und
in Phaidros die Liebe zur Philosophie entfacht, beweist sie durch sich selbst die
wohltuende und schpferische Wirkung dessen, wovon sie spricht.130 Di mana
entstehen uns die grten Gter, der Wahnsinn ist die edelste Kunst (kallste
tchne) (Phaidros 244a c). Nun ist es bemerkenswert zu sehen, dass Nietzsche die
Anpreisung der musisch-poetischen Mania polemisch als passende Schlussworte fr Euripides (Plat. Phaedr. 245, Schleichermacher) (Nachlass 1869,
KSA 7, 1[64], S. 29) ansieht, durch den die Tragdie bekanntermaen ihr suizidales Ende findet. Weiterhin ist in Betracht zu ziehen, dass er die Vertreibung der
Knstler aus dem platonischen Staate mit der Anpreisung des Wahnsinns durch
Plato in einen Zusammenhang bringt, der ihn unzweideutig davon ausgehen lsst,
dass es sich dabei nur um eine ironisiert[e] Anerkennung der poetischen Mania
handeln kann.131 Schlielich bleibt zu beachten, dass die erotische Mania des Philosophen fr ihn lediglich im Abglanz einer entfernten Erinnerung etwas mit
Wahnsinn oder Rausch zu tun hat (Nachlass 1880, KSA 9, 7[242], S. 367). Wenn
sich die Liebe zur Erkenntni und Philosophie einem sublimierte[n] Geschlechtstrieb verdanken sollte, dann bleibt [daneben] seine alte direkte Wirkung dennoch stehen (Nachlass 1881, KSA 9, 11[124], S. 486). Und es ist diese
direkte Wirkung, der Nietzsche die Erregung eines Rauschzustandes zutraut.
Kurzum: Die von Platon bevorzugte Mania hat mit einem Rauschzustand in dem
von Nietzsche skizzierten transfigurierend-visionren Sinne nicht das Geringste
zu tun, so dass man sich ber Heideggers Einschtzung nurmehr wundern kann:
Das Erfassen der Ideen als Ideen ist hinsichtlich seiner Vollzugsmglichkeit,
nicht aber hinsichtlich der Zielsetzung, auf den eros gegrndet, auf jenes, was in
Nietzsches sthetik dem Rausch entspricht. (N I, S. 195)132
130

131

132

Siehe dazu die instruktive Interpretation des Phaidros von Niehues-Prbsting, Heinrich: berredung zur Einsicht. Der Zusammenhang von Philosophie und Rhetorik bei Platon und in der
Phnomenologie. Frankfurt am Main 1987. S. 152 202, hier S. 175.
Nachlass Herbst 1869, KSA 7, 1[7], S. 12. Sowie Sokrates und die griechische Tragdie, KSA 1,
S. 626.
In dem Mae, in dem es der erotischen und zur Philosophie disponierenden Mania Platons aus
Sicht Nietzsches zweifellos an ekstatischer Intensitt gebricht, scheint es anders als es etwa
Dieter Bremer nahe legt durchaus fragwrdig, zwischen einem affektiv verstandenen Willen
zur Macht einerseits und Platons Eros andererseits eine strukturelle Verwandtschaft und vergleichbare Funktion ausfindig machen zu wollen, die beiden Grundbegriffen zudem den Status eines transzendentalen Affekts zuweist. Bremer, Dieter: Nietzsches Dionysos und Platons Eros. In: Patzer, Andreas (Hg.): Apophoreta. Fr Uvo Hlscher zum 60. Geburtstag. Bonn
1975. S. 21 72, hier S. 36. Heidegger entwirft gar eine erotische Ontologie. Fr ihn ist es schlie-

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Wie bereits im Zusammenhang der Kritik der Urteilskraft und der Auseinandersetzung mit Nietzsches Kritik an der Musik Wagners gesehen, so verkehrt
Heidegger dessen Aussagen auch mit Blick auf die Platonische Philosophie (der
Kunst und des Schnen) in einem bis an Flschung heranreichenden Grade.
Dieses Vorgehen aber trgt zwei ineinander verschlungenen Motiven Heideggers Rechnung: Mit der Zurckfhrung des Rausches auf den Kantisch abgesteckten Wesensbezirk der schnen Form und seiner Angleichung an den Platonischen Eros133 hat er keine Schwierigkeiten, Nietzsche in die abendlndische
Geschichte der sthetik einzugemeinden und ihm so die Mglichkeit zu verwehren, deren Geschlossenheit erschttert oder gar durchbrochen zu haben. Damit
aber wird zugleich die Entladung und Fremderfahrung des Rausches, die fr
Heidegger wegen ihrer entgrenzenden, depersonalisierenden und sexuellen Gewaltsamkeit im Geruch uerster Anstigkeit steht, eminent entschrft. Diese
Depotenzierung des Rausches zeigt indes den beharrlichen Aufenthalt eines
Heidegger selbst betreffenden Problems an: Insofern er niemals eine Philosophie am Leitfaden des Leibes entworfen hat,134 steht seine Purgation des Rau-

133

134

lich das Sein selbst, seine erotische Bindungsmacht bzw. Anziehungskraft, die eine berwindung
der Seinsvergessenheit versprechen: Sobald der Mensch sich in seinem Blick auf das Sein durch
dieses binden lt, wird er ber sich hinaus entrckt, so da er gleichsam sich zwischen sich und
dem Sein erstreckt und auer sich ist. Dieses ber-sich-hinweg-gehoben- und vom Sein selbst
angezogen worden ist der Eros. Nur soweit das Sein in bezug auf den Menschen die erotische
Macht zu entfalten vermag, nur soweit vermag der Mensch an das Sein selbst zu denken und die
Seinsvergessenheit zu berwinden. (N I, S. 226)
Heidegger war sich ber das Ausma der ebenso kritischen wie produktiven Auseinandersetzung, in die Nietzsche mit dem Platonischen Eros eingetreten ist, offensichtlich nicht im Klaren,
so die Einschtzung von Kaufmann, Walter: Philosoph, Psychologe, Antichrist. 2. Aufl. Darmstadt 1988. S. 286 298. In jngster Zeit hat James I. Porter in seinem Bemhen, den Gegensatz
Dionysisch-Apollinisch der Tragdien-Schrift zu dekonstruieren, Nachdruck darauf gelegt, dass
das von Alkibiades im Rausch skizzierte Portrt des Sokrates als eines Silenen im Symposion dem
von Nietzsche gezeichneten musiktreibenden Sokrates entspreche, dem es aus konstitutiven
Grnden nicht gelinge, das Dionysische endgltig zu verwinden. Porter, James, I.: The Invention
of Dionysus. An Essay on The Birth of Tragedy. Stanford 2000. S. 110 119. Siehe dazu die Rezension von Mller, Enrico: Neuerscheinungen zu Nietzsches Bild der Antike. Nietzsche-Studien 31
(2002). S. 350 362, hier S. 352. Mit Dank an Werner Stegmaier.
Im Rahmen der Zollikoner Seminare wird Heidegger von den Teilnehmern mit dem Vorwurf
Sartres konfrontiert, in Sein und Zeit nur sechs Zeilen ber den Leib geschrieben zu haben. Heidegger rumt daraufhin ein, da das Leibliche das Schwierigste ist und dass er damals eben
noch nicht mehr zu sagen wute. Bekanntlich ist Heidegger jedoch die Antwort auf die Frage
nach dem Leiblichen berhaupt schuldig geblieben, und auch an dieser Stelle lsst er es bei einer
hchst provisorischen Antwort bewenden: In bezug auf die gesamte Leiblichkeit ist deshalb
dasselbe zu sagen, was bereits in bezug auf das Sehen und die leiblichen Augen erwhnt wurde:
Wir knnen nicht sehen, weil wir Augen haben, vielmehr knnen wir nur Augen haben, weil
wir unser Grundnatur nach sehenden Wesens sind. So knnten wir auch nicht leiblich sein, wie
wir es sind, wenn unser In-der-Welt-sein nicht grundlegend aus einem immer schon vernehmenden Bezogen-sein auf solches bestnde, das sich uns aus dem Offenen unserer Welt, als welches
Offene wir existieren, zuspricht. Heidegger: Zollikoner Seminare 1959 1969. Hg. von Boss,
Medard. Frankfurt am Main 1987. S. 292 ff.

Rausch als sthetischer Zustand

161

sches seinerseits in dem Verdacht, der Metaphysik anzugehren, zumindest in


Nietzsches Verstndnis des Begriffs.135
Sind fr Heidegger die Frage der Wirkung sowie die fhlende Subjekt-Objekt-Beziehung die mageblichen Kennzeichen der abendlndischen Geschichte
der sthetik, dann kann Nietzsches sthetik ihr zweifellos nicht mehr angehren. Dass der Rausch die Subjekt-Objekt-Beziehung aus den Angeln hebt,
musste Heidegger bereits selbst einrumen. Wenn er die Kunst als durchsichtigste und bekannteste Weise des Willens zur Macht136 ausweist, dann sieht er
dabei durchaus von der wissenschaftlichen und dionysischen Perspektive ab,
die Nietzsches berlegungen orientieren. Beide Perspektiven kulminieren in
der Aushebelung der Hypothese des Willens-zur-Macht und in dem Satz:
es giebt keinen Willen137 weder im gewhnlichen Sinne als Seelenvermgen
und allgemeines Streben (NI, S. 48) noch auch, wie Heidegger annimmt, im
Sinne eines metaphysischen Prinzips, das den Grundcharakter alles Seienden
ausmacht. So erlangt die Willen-zur-Macht-Hypothese unter wissenschaftlichen Gesichtspunkten eine unerwartet dionysische Reichweite, wenn es 1888
heit: der Wille zur Macht nicht ein Sein, nicht ein Werden, sondern ein
Pathos ist die elementarste Thatsache, aus der sich erst ein Werden, ein Wirken
ergiebt. (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[79], S. 259)
Der irreduzible Ereignischarakter, den Nietzsche mit der pathischen Dimension des Machtwillens formuliert, trgt dem Gedanken Rechnung, dass e in
G esch e h e n [ ] weder bewirkt noch bewirkend [ist] (Nachlass 1888,
KSA 13, 14[98], S. 275). Die Frage nach der Wirkung, mit der Heidegger die
abendlndische sthetik insgesamt und damit auch Nietzsches sthetik identifiziert, ist fr diesen freilich mit der Sprach-Metaphysik (GD, Die Vernunft 5, KSA 6, S. 77) des Willens und der tuschenden Causalitts-Inte r pre t a t i o n (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[98], S. 275) belastet. Whrend die
sthetik als angewandte Physiologie aus wissenschaftlicher Perspektive probeweise nach Herkunft und Wirkung des Kunstwerks fragt, hat ihre sthetische
Deutung mit der Mythologie von Ursache und Wirkung und der Wille-zur-

135

136

137

Nietzsches Skizze seines Verstndnisses von Metaphysik als M issve rst ndnis des Leibes
findet sich bekanntlich in der Vorrede zur zweiten Ausgabe von FW 2, KSA 3, S. 348. Karl Lwith hat bereits in seiner (zuerst in: Die neue Rundschau 64 [1953] erschienenen) Rezension der
Nietzsche-Vorlesungen Heideggers dessen Seinsgeschichte aus der Perspektive von Nietzsches
Metaphysik-Verstndnis kritisiert: Lwith, Karl: Heideggers Auslegung des Ungesagten in
Nietzsches Wort Gott ist tot. In: Ders.: Heidegger. Denker in drftiger Zeit. 2. Aufl. Frankfurt
am Main 1960, S. 72 105, hier S. 83.
Heidegger: Nietzsche. Seminare 1937 und 1944. Aufzeichnungen und Protokolle. HGA, Bd. 87.
Frankfurt am Main 2004. S. 11. Siehe dort auch die fnf aufgestellten Leitstze zur Kunst
und ihre Systematik.
Nachlass Sommer 1883, KSA 10, 13[1], S. 420; Nachlass November 1887 Mrz 1888, KSA 13,
11[73], S. 36.

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Iris Drmann

Macht-Hypothese gebrochen: Wo die Physiologen nach der existenzverleihenden Ursache der Kunst und ihrer Wirkung fragen, setzen sich hingegen die
Artisten dem Ereignis (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14 [34], S. 235) des Rausches in seiner unverminderbaren Fremdheit aus.138 Denn alles vollkommene
Thun ist gerade unbewusst und nicht mehr gewollt (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14
[128], S. 310). Und in diesem Sinne findet sich der aesthetische Zustand
(Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14 [119], S. 296) tatschlich nur da realisiert, wo es keinen Willen gibt und niemanden, der will.139 Als diejenige Sphre, in der der
Choc von Leiden und Leidenschaften (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13, 14[157],
S. 341), nicht aber ein kommandierender Wille herrscht, ist der Artist ganz
ebenso wie der Liebende140 ein Jasager ersten Ranges, der das, was ihm im
Rausch widerfhrt, vor jedem ausdrcklichen Ja oder Nein auf unumgngliche
Weise bejaht.141 Ein solcher Jasagende[r] Affect (Nachlass 1888, KSA 13,
14[11], S. 222) verpflichtet auf das Leben nicht zuletzt in dem, was es an Fragwrdigem und Fremdem zu bieten hat. In der tragischen Entladung entdeckt
Nietzsche unter dem Eindruck des Gedankens der ewigen Wiederkehr142 eine
aus der Flle, der berflle geborene Formel der hchsten Bejahung, ein Jasagen ohne Vorbehalt, zum Leiden selbst, zur Schuld selbst, zu allem Fragwrdigen und Fremden das Daseins selbst.143
Zu einem solchen Ja aber konnte Heidegger sich offenkundig noch nicht einmal entschlieen.

138

139

140

141

142

143

Die Einsicht in die Herkunft eines Werks geht die Physiologen und Vivisektoren des Geistes
an: nie und nimmer die sthetischen Menschen, die Artisten! GM III, 4, KSA 5, S. 343. Vgl.
dazu auch Schmid: ber die Tragweite der Artisten-Metaphysik, a.a. O., S. 440.
Vgl. bereits die unter der Voraussetzung des Ureinen formulierte Ablehnung des wollenden
Subjekts als Urheber und Verursacher des Kunstwerks in GT 5, S. 47. Auch Heidegger stolpert
ber Nietzsches Satz: Ich lache eures freien Willen und auch eures unfreien: Wahn ist mir das,
was ihr Willen heit, es gieb t kein en Wille n. Nachlass November 1887 Mrz 1888,
KSA 13, 11[73], S. 36. Aber er stolpert ber diesen und hnlich lautende Stze nicht in dem Mae
(siehe N I, S. 48), dass er in Zweifel ber seine eigene Bestimmung des Willes zur Macht als
eines metaphysischen Prinzips und Grundcharakters alles Seienden im Ganzen gert. Siehe
HGA 50. S. 97. Vgl. auch Heidegger, Martin: Nietzsches Lehre vom Willen zur Macht als Erkenntnis. HGA, Bd. 47. Frankfurt am Main 1989. S. 268.
Nachlass Frhjahr 1888, KSA 13, 14[120], S. 299 f.; Nachlass September 1888, KSA 13, 17[5],
S. 536 f.
Fr Heidegger ist die Bejahung hingegen deshalb die hchste, weil sie noch das uerste
Nein, die Vernichtung und das Leid als zum Seienden gehrig bejaht. Heidegger, Martin: Nietzsches metaphysische Grundstellung im abendlndischen Denken. Die Ewige Wiederkehr des
Gleichen. HGA, Bd. 44. Frankfurt am Main 1986. S. 30.
Zu Heideggers unterschiedlichen Bestimmungen der ewigen Wiederkehr vgl. HGA 50,
S. 158 f.; N I S. 160; HGA 44, S. 172; S. 195; HGA 87, S. 88; HGA 47, S. 3; S. 277 ff.; S. 284 ff.
EH, Die Geburt der Tragdie 2, KSA 6, S. 311 f; GD, Was ich den Alten verdanke 4, KSA 6,
S. 159 f.

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PETER SEDGWICK
VIOLENCE, ECONOMY AND TEMPORALITY.
PLOTTING THE POLITICAL TERRAIN OF
ON THE GENEALOGY OF MORALITY

all great ages must be paid for 1

Recent years have seen what Herman Siemens has called a surge of interest [] especially in the Anglo-American world in the political relevance of
Nietzsches thought.2 This increased interest has been accompanied by anxiety.
Daniel Conway, for example, has written insightfully of a Nietzsche who poses
political questions that leave us facing the stark, possibly despotic consequences
of his immoralism.3 Equally, interpretations that seek to figure Nietzsche
within a democratic agenda for instance, the work of Mark Warren, Laurence
Hatab and Alan D. Schrift have provoked troubled responses. On the one hand,
there are those who respond by refusing to acknowledge any political dimension
to Nietzsches philosophy. Such a view is propounded by commentators such as
Thomas H. Brobjer and Brian Leiter. According to Leiter, Nietzsche has no
political philosophy, in the conventional sense of a theory of the state and its
legitimacy []. He is more accurately read [] as a kind of esoteric immoralist, i. e.,
[as] someone who has views about human flourishing, views he wants to communicate to the select few.4 For Leiter, Nietzsches emphasis upon a transformation of the individual renders questionable the legitimacy of associating
any project of political change with him.5 Such an approach epitomises the
1

4
5

Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Will to Power. Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. New
York 1968, section 864.
Siemens, Herman: Nietzsches Political Philosophy: A Review of Recent Literature. In: Nietzsche-Studien 30 (2001), pp. 509 526, here p. 509.
Conway, Daniel W.: Nietzsche and the Political. London 1997. Nietzsche, Conway argues, dares
to raise a calamitous, and previously unapproachable, question of political legislation: what ought
humanity to become? (p. 3). Asking what we ought to become raises the founding question of
politics. Such a question, when combined with the fact that nothing Nietzsche says definitively
rules out the illiberal political regimes with which his name has been linked (p. 4) should make
us anxious, for the path we might thereby be tempted to follow may lead to tyranny.
Leiter, Brian: Nietzsche on Morality. London 2002, p. 296.
Ibid., p. 302. Of course, there are immediate objections to this kind of approach. It seems
strange, for example, to think that a project of individual transformation is devoid of political

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Peter Sedgwick

hardly defensible strand of Nietzsche studies that Don Dombowsky has


singled out for criticism (specifically in relation to Thomas Brobjer).6 But Dombowsky is also wary of overtly political approaches to Nietzsche that tend to read
him as being compatible with a radical democracy or radical democratic ethos.7
Such readings never proceed without notable exclusions, and thus, their arguments are seriously compromised.8 Pro-democratic readings of Nietzsche cause
Dombowsky unease because they conceal aspects of Nietzsches work that ought
to worry anyone with democratic sympathies. For example, his lack of sympathy
with egalitarianism, or his affirmation of the necessity of domination and exploitation. The question Dombowsky poses is simply: how is it possible to reconcile
democratic ideals with a thinker whose praise of agonistics is basically compatible with the commitment to perpetual war or permanent confrontation characteristic of fascist ideology?9 Although critical of aspects of Dombowskys interpretation of Nietzsche10 for Christa Davis Acampora, too, Nietzsches radical
questioning of authority poses a serious problem to any democratic rendering of
him, for it is a questioning which she doubts any political order (in so far as it remains an ordering) could sustain.11
From these briefly cited examples it should be clear that worries about
Nietzsche and politics take on a specific form. The political ramifications of
Nietzsches thought cast a questioning shadow over the terrain of political theory and above all its central concern with the legitimacy of political authority. In

8
9
10

11

implications. Equally, it is unconvincing to hold of someone, as Leiter in effect does of Nietzsche, that if they do not have an explicitly articulated theory of politics this necessarily means they
do not have a politics. One might add to this the fact that the assertion that Nietzsche lacks any
theory of the state is contradicted by the fact that the Genealogy offers an explicit account of the
origins of state and civil society (GM II, 17 see also the discussion below).
Dombowsky, Don: A Response to Alan D. Schrifts Nietzsche for Democracy?. In: NietzscheStudien 31 (2002), pp. 278 290. For a critical account of Brobjers approach see Dombowsky,
Don: A Response to Thomas H. Brobjers The Absence of Political Ideals in Nietzsches Writings. In: Nietzsche-Studien 30 (2001), pp. 387 393.
Ibid. The people Dombowsky has in mind here include not only Alan Schrift, but also William
Connolly, Laurence Hatab and Mark Warren. See Connolly, William: Political Theory and
Modernity. Oxford 1989; Hatab, Lawrence J.: A Nietzschean Defense of Democracy. An
Experiment in Postmodern Politics. Chicago, Il. 1995; Warren, Mark: Nietzsche and Political
Thought. Cambridge, Mass. 1988.
Ibid., pp. 278 9.
Ibid., p. 287.
Acampora, Christa Davis: Demos Agonistes Redux. Reflections of the Streit of Political Antagonism. In: Nietzsche-Studien 32 (2003), pp. 374 390. According to Acampora, Dombowsky
is guilty of the same selective attitude to textual exegesis that he criticises the likes of Schrift for,
namely stitching [texts] together in a rather haphazard manner (p. 377).
Ibid., p. 375. Acampora nevertheless remains open to being persuaded, in so far as it might,
following Hatab, be possible to situate this agonism at the margins of a democratic polity.
Such a view, of course, presupposes an agonism that somehow respects the notion of boundaries
and stays where it is supposed to

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this regard, the views expressed by Conway, Dombowsky and Acampora find
resonance in Jrgen Habermass contention that Nietzsche is to be counted
as one of [t]he black writers of the bourgeoisie.12 This is the Nietzsche who
unmasks the rationality of bourgeois liberalism in such a way as to question the
very basis of democratic societies. A Nietzsche who looks likes this is bound
to cause anxiety in a readership who understandably find much of value in his
books and yet whose liberal-democratic outlook is more or less presupposed.
The urge to recuperate Nietzsche for democracy may have more in common
with the desire to deny him any political significance at all than at first appears.
We should be sensitive to the possibility that both tendencies may be expressions
of the same anxiety. In both instances, what is significant concerns not Nietzsches thought (not the content of his books) so much as the fact that he is rendered acceptable as an object for intellectual consumption within a contemporary, democratic environment. A Nietzsche who can be enlisted in favour of
democracy stands out from that environment almost as little as a Nietzsche who
has nothing to say about politics. In either case, one has a Nietzsche who is, in
the narrowest of senses, environmentally friendly in so far as he cannot in a
serious manner pose dangerous, even unthinkable questions about the value of
the kind of politics we effectively endorse. Perhaps we need to discover and
face a Nietzsche who occupies a rather different plane: a Nietzsche who disturbs
us; a figure whose thinking we ought not feel the need to erase or sanitise, the
thinker akin to that hinted at by Conway, Dombowsky and Acampora. This
would be a Nietzsche who has an, at best, unsettling effect upon our political
presuppositions.
I should say at the outset that I endorse the view that there is an inexorably
political aspect to Nietzsches writings. Whatever Brobjer or Leiter may say,
Nietzsche, for one, seems to have been in little doubt concerning his own political destiny: Only after me will there be grand politics on earth.13 The problem is
how to approach the question of this political significance. In this regard, Derek
Hillard has offered valuable insights on Nietzsches conceptions of exchange,
power and history. According to Hillard, exchange is at the heart of Nietzsches
concept of historical transition.14 He shows how Nietzsche employs a concept
of economy that operates by way of the interaction between a formal exchange
12

13

14

Habermas, Jrgen: The Entwinement of Myth and Enlightenment: Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. In: The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Trans. Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge, Mass. 1987, p. 106. Nietzsche is contrasted here with those dark bourgeois thinkers
(Machiavelli, Hobbes and Mandeville) who, unlike Nietzsche, were constructive rather than destructive critics of bourgeois thought.
Nietzsche, Friedrich: Ecce Homo. Trans. R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth 1986, Why I am a
Destiny, 1.
Hillard, Derek: History as Dual Process. Nietzsche on Exchange and Power. In Nietzsche-Studien 31 (2002), pp. 40 56, here p. 40.

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Peter Sedgwick

principle that provides [] an interpretative framework for meaningful content and an indeterminate element of domination through which a current
interpretation replaces one previously in existence. The central point to grasp
about Nietzsches notion of economy, Hillard argues, is that it is taken by him
to be the more or less immutable15 structural precondition of all forms of discourse. Human society and history in all its diversity emerge from this condition.
In what follows I shall concentrate on just one of Nietzsches books, On the
Genealogy of Morality.16 I develop Hillards position, but seek also to supplement
and thereby go beyond it. Thus, where Hillards interest lies principally in history
and exchange, I focus on the importance Nietzsches notion of economy has for
his articulation of temporality in general (past, present and future possibility)
rather than history alone. This general temporal framework is developed out of
the notion of economy. The pattern this development takes is exemplified by
Nietzsches account of prehistory. Nietzsches conception of prehistory is one in
which a primordial economy of violence sows the seeds of humanitys future
potential. Consequently, violence is a key feature of Nietzsches conception of
economy and cannot be ignored. The linked themes of temporality, economy
and violence form the basis of Nietzsches account of human nature. They are
to be found at the root of his analyses of self-consciousness, value, reason,
and freedom. Taken together, temporality, economy and violence mark out the
political terrain of Nietzsches thought. Their conjunction gives rise to his conception of history, the domain of all human aspiration and hence of grand
politics. An awareness of the manner in which these elements are linked is
necessary for any critical discourse on the politics of Nietzsches philosophy. In
elucidating it I turn first to the question of history and temporality.

1. History and Temporality.


Nietzsche proposes we engage in thinking a real history of morality (GM preface, 7). This historical exposure of values is no mere tourist trip; one does not
pass by this newly revealed landscape like an Odysseus, immune from the effects
of the Sirens call. A history of this kind changes us or ought to. It presents us
with the new demand to evaluate the value of these values . The significance of the
real history Nietzsche extols thereby extends in two directions simultaneously:
backward into the past and forward into the future. From this it should be clear that
not merely the historical past but temporality in general is among the Genealogys
15
16

Ibid., p. 44.
Nietzsche, Friedrich: On the Genealogy of Morality (GM). Ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson. Trans.
Carol Diethe. Cambridge 1994.

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significant preoccupations. Past, present and future taken together are central to
Nietzsches treatment of morality, with the primary significance of history residing in its role as a prelude to thinking about the future. As Nietzsche notes, what
is at stake is not so much uncovering the origin of morality but the larger question of the value of the unegoistic, the instincts of pity, self-denial, self-sacrifice (GM preface, 5).17 The dominance of these instincts, for Nietzsche, characterises the Christian ideal of the good man. Nietzsches rebellion against
these instincts is well known and there is no need to rehearse it here. However,
the manner in which the Genealogy formulates this rebellion is worth considering
for it has important implications for understanding his treatment of temporality.
According to Nietzsche, the good man has been held to be the surest
means of ensuring the future of humanity. Selflessness and pity are thought of as
virtues: they are generally taken to define what is civilised and thereby ensure the
future progress of civilisation. As Nietzsche presents it, therefore, a mode of
temporality (i. e. the future) stands as the guarantor of Christian moral discourse.
Nietzsche can now invert the image he has proffered: what if the purportedly
good person were in actuality a regressive symptom, a danger, an enticement, a poison, a narcotic, so that the present lived at the expense of the future? []
So that precisely [Christian] morality itself were to blame if man, as species,
never reached his highest potential power and splendour (GM preface, 6). A question
mark is thereby placed over Christian morality by invoking the wider framework
of temporality in general (the historical past, the living present, and the possible
future). The future, not the past, invites us to formulate a judgement concerning
the value of Christian morality. What has been the case is important in so far as it
relates to what will be the case. Questions of morality concern questions of time
and possibility rather than timeless conceptions of right and wrong.

2. Time and Economy: Progression and Regression


In so far as the questioning of Christian morality that Nietzsche proposes
invokes time it is also invokes economy, for the framework he articulates here is
at the same time one that concerns questions of profit and loss. What is at stake
in morality, Nietzsche is asserting, needs to be grasped in terms of the limits that
must be placed upon a certain kind of expenditure in order to ensure the future
of humanity. This amounts to claiming that if we wish to attain a genuine under-

17

Nietzsches real history is written as a polemical exposure of the blindness that characterises
our faith in morality. See, Stegmaier, Werner: Nietzsches Genealogie der Moral. Darmstadt
1994, p. 66. As such, it seeks to demythologise ethics. For further reflection on the question of
mythology see section 8, below.

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Peter Sedgwick

standing of the nature and significance of ethics we must use a standpoint that
conjoins temporal and economic concerns. Past, present and future need to be
thought of as economic articulations, of the saving up and profiting from human
potential or squandering and losing it.
Nietzsches use of the phrase symptom of regression (Rckgangssymptom)
to describe the good man demonstrates this connection in stark terms. Most
obviously, the good man is presented as symptomatic. He expresses the realised
power of the unegoistic instincts that become manifest as the morality of pity.
For Nietzsche, the key characteristic of the morality of pity is illusion. What presents itself as objective, naturalised morality is in actuality a concealed desire for
power. Privileging the kind of self-understanding epitomised by the good man
testifies to this desire. The interests the good man indicates by way of his presence in the world are what really matter to Nietzsche. It is because the good
man is indelibly associated with these interests that Nietzsche takes him to signify regression. It scarcely needs to be said that to call something regressive is
to imply that it is in some sense a throwback to an earlier state. Nietzsches use
of the phrase symptom of regression thus also invokes the temporal structure
already discussed. Now, however, this structure is one within which the envisioning of the regression or advancement of humanity becomes the central issue. What is
at stake in morality is nothing less than the future of humanity. From the standpoint of the future, what is regressive is living at its expense. To live according to
the morality of pity, Nietzsche claims, is to do just this: one lives in a smallerminded, meaner manner and, in so far as one lives on credit, one squanders what
has been saved up in the past rather than saving up for the future. A structure
of credit and debit is thereby articulated from the outset of the Genealogy wherein
human futurity springs from a temporality that is organised according to the
logic of profit and loss. In this way, Nietzsche seeks to subsume moral discourse
within a larger, amoral temporal structure that is itself unfolded out of economy.
In this sense, economy has the peculiar power of bestowing upon humanity its
temporal possibilities. How this bestowal occurs is a matter of prehistory and the
subject of the second essay of the Genealogy, to which I now turn.

3. Economy, Futurity and Prehistoric Violence


For Nietzsche, we have seen, the proper analysis of morality requires that it
be articulated within a temporal framework of past and current costs and future
benefits. As such, the value of any conception of the good concerns its effect
on human futurity. The future, however, is not something that is simply given to
humankind. Futurity does not flow inexorably from an objective temporal order
within which humans just happen to be situated. Futurity does not precede hu-

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manity. Rather, the future was something that first had to be attained by it. This
attainment is linked in important ways to the development of human nature
before history, to the realm of prehistory that precedes the ancient conflict
between noble and slave outlined in the first essay of the Genealogy. That is why
the real problem of humankind (GM II, 1) is, for Nietzsche, a prehistoric problem. It is the problem as to how humans ended up being able to make promises
an ability that distinguishes us from all other animals. For Nietzsche, the key to
this riddle lies in the insight that prehistory, as a mode of temporality, is tied into
economy. Nietzsches commitment to this view is shown by the fact that when it
comes to constructing a story explaining how we came to be the promising animal he once again deploys a language of costs and benefits.
Our ability to make promises is an endowment, i. e. the consequence of a
considerable, long-term prehistoric investment. A specific kind of memory is
presupposed by promising: a way of thinking that can draw distinctions between
past undertakings, present situations and future states. There must be a subject
that remembers in such a way that he or she feels obligated by the act of promising. A memory of this kind is not given by simply having a nature that is
human drop out of the sky fully formed. Rather, such a memory is made; it is
an achievement. The feeling of obligation presupposes a subject who has an active
desire not to let go of the moral imperatives taught them. The phrase prehistoric era therefore denotes the period of the actual labour [Arbeit ] of man
upon himself during the longest epoch of the human race, his whole labour before history (GM II, 2). One should note the economic references at work here.
Even prior to history man is already a labourer. To be human is always already to be
a creature whose identity is inextricably bound up with a world of work. Work
stands at the point of emergence of the human race and its original work consists
in the (unconscious) manufacturing of its own identity. What this labour involved is equally significant. Unrelenting pain and suffering were the tools used
to create in the individuated communal being (now a debtor) the memory
required to suppress actions detrimental to the survival of the communal body
(the creditor) (GM II, 3). This prehistoric economy is an economy of violence enacted in a primeval workplace. Members of the prehistoric social body learned to
observe imperatives on the basis of costs and benefits. The benefit of communal
life is security, its cost the unrestrained violence turned on the individual who
threatens that security. Such horror, Nietzsche holds, is explained and justified
on a grand scale, for out of autochthonous violence comes human futurity. This
is because the ability to promise means nothing less than having control over
the future since one who promises is answerable for his own future ! (GM II,
1). A prehistoric economy of violence thereby bestows futurity upon humanity.
Only because of this violent economy does man become a temporal being and
only through the invention of temporality is he made responsible for himself.

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The logic of exchange this bestowal implies is not hard to extrapolate: futurity is a form of credit that is gained on our behalf at the cost of past agonies. Although there was no altruistic motive at work within our prehistoric forbears,
their necessary economy of violence became the unconscious force which was to
forge the human soul, coining its dual nature, debased and yet gleaming with potential for future splendour:
[M]an must first have learnt to distinguish between what happens by accident and
what by design, to think causally, to view the future as the present and anticipate it,
to grasp with certainty what is end and what is means, in all, to be able to calculate
and compute and before he can do this, man himself will really have to become
reliable, regular, automatic [nothwendig: necessary], even in his own self-image, so that he,
as someone making a promise, is answerable for his own future! (GM II, 2)

According to this account, right from the start human development exhibits
futurity: any individual is an individual only in so far as their behaviour will conform to certain persistent characteristics (i. e. be reliable, regular and automatic).
Human nature consists in the ability to calculate a world of future possibilities
purchased at the cost of primeval violence.

4. Violent Economy and the Prehistoric Origins of the Self: Creditor and Debtor
Out of prehistoric economy concepts are crystallised, selves are manufactured. No surprise, therefore, that the contractual relationship between creditor
and debtor (GM II, 4) is the most primitive personal relationship there is
(GM II, 8). Selves initially encounter one another on the basis of calculation:
here person met person for the first time, and measured himself person against
person (GM II, 8). A person discovers whom he or she is by finding how he or
she stands with regard to someone else. Identities are based on assessments of
like and unlike cases, on judgements that spring from the notion of equivalence
(GM II, 4). The primeval belief that a damage suffered has its equivalent in the
form of a penalty is central to the concept of personhood. We cannot think of
what it means to be human (an I) without thinking according to the terms engendered by this notion. The I exists only in so far as it must always stand in
relation to its Other, a you.18 The relation between self and Other is, in turn,
only possible in so far as both arise from a social world that is thinkable in terms
18

See Nietzsche, Friedrich: Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Trans. R. J. Hollingdale. London 2003. I, Of
Love of Ones Neighbour: The You is older than the I; the You has been consecrated, but
not yet the I: so man crowds towards his neighbour. The You, in other words, is already
a piece of social currency to speak in mercantile language whereas the I still awaits transformation into legal tender. The culture of the masses thus remains the dominant social force in
modern times.

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of possessions secured through the economic practices of defining, measuring,


and the like. I, in short, am my possessions rather than my private thoughts;
I is a concept produced within a web of economic practices.
Nietzsche elaborates these economic practices by way of mercantile imagery
again permeated with a sense of violence. Buying and selling in the prehistoric
market place, it is contended, formed the basis for the later development of abstract notions of individual accountability (GM II, 5). The debtor had to guarantee the promise. Failure to repay the debt brought a forfeit. The I, understood
as its possessions (including its body) was subject to the demands of the creditor
or, alternatively, staked its claim over the Other as a creditor. From such a standpoint, I exist to the extent that I have power over the Other, or to the degree
that the Other has power over me a power traditionally expressed in the creditors right to make the debtor suffer. A dominant mode of interpretation is revealed in this way: one believes that one suffers because one has done something
wrong, because one is responsible to an individuated Other. This sense of responsibility is the basis of all relationships. Violent economy, in other words, is the
basic condition of civilisation,19 a condition that extends into the prehistoric origins of civil and political society and the modes of subjectivity associated with
them.
5. Self-Consciousness, Bad Conscience and Futurity
Nietzsches account of the origins of civil society is straightforward enough.
Constituted initially through communal violence, the subject is subsequently reconstituted as a specifically political being by the further violence of colonisation.
At some juncture in the shrouded world of prehistory primitive human populations living according to the dictates of the creditor-debtor relationship were
invaded by some pack of blond beasts, a conqueror and master race, and subordinated by them (GM II, 17). Out of the desire of these artists of violence and
organizers to extend their power the rudimentary form of the state was born.20
In this way, the oldest state that emerged was a colonial tyranny that worked
on the raw material of a communal humanity that was half-animal until it rendered it not just kneaded and compliant, but shaped . The creditor-debtor relationship, a relationship older even than the beginnings of any social form of organization or association (GM II, 8), was in this way reinterpreted through the
imposition of formalised (i. e. legal) social order.
19

20

Even our ability to think, the basis of all culture, is inextricably linked to the creditor-debtor
relationship (GM II, 8). As Hillard puts it, exchange is culture (Hillard: History, op. cit., p. 44).
Civil society and state hence began with an act of violent oppression. Contra Leiter, it is plain
that Nietzsche does here offer a theory of the origins of civil society and legality.

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From its communal beginnings to its formalisation in the civil realm,


Nietzsches self-avowedly speculative (GM II, 6) prehistoric narrative envisages society as being constituted through economies of pain. At every step in
this narrative we see a subjectivity emerging that is shaped by violent economic
procedures. This violent articulation of subjectivity creates the terrible consequence that self-understanding is essentially linked to suffering. A subjectivity
created in this way is not simply susceptible to enduring the imposition of social
regulation as if beset by something that is relentlessly external to it. Social regulation penetrates deeply into the subject, so much so that such regulation is in
part constitutive of subjectivity, since the demands of social life pattern the self s
relationship to its own bodily desires and inclinations. This would not be a problem if all these desires were themselves social, but they are not. Although subsequently restricted by communal mores, like any other animal the primitive
human was once used to acting on instinct. Under the yoke of subjugation, our
now socialised and formalised primitive forbears were obliged to curtail these instincts to a degree hitherto unknown, with the consequence that consciousness
replaced instinct as the basis of action and judgement (GM II, 16).
The new domination of consciousness forced the instincts to find new paths
to discharge themselves. These paths lead to the violent redistribution of drives
now channelled by political forces.21 Under such circumstances the economy
of violence is turned against the very subject who is enacted through it: obliged
to exist within a straightjacket of formalised conventions and customs, man
impatiently ripped himself apart, persecuted himself, gnawed at himself [].
Socialised, formalised and legalised man is, in other words, spontaneously
masochistic.22 Such violence is nevertheless productive. An inner world is thereby
created: man suffering from himself creates the bad conscience as a consequence of a forcible breach with his animal past, a simultaneous leap and
fall into new situations and conditions of existence, a declaration of war against
all the old instincts. This event is momentous, for with it humanity ceases to
be as one with the rest of the animal kingdom.23 Political subjugation, it follows,
21
22

23

This is what Nietzsche refers to as the internalization of man (GM II, 16).
Such masochistic violence is not merely a matter of thought; it is a matter of action: Moral selfknowledge [] is not simply contemplation. Man does not merely turn toward himself, he turns
against himself. Nietzsches genealogy of the conscience tries to make this clear. Mller-Lauter,
Wolfgang: Nietzsche. His Philosophy of Contradictions and the Contradictions of His Philosophy. Trans. David J. Parent. Urbana, Chicago, Il. 1999, p. 37.
It is worth pointing out here that my reading differs from that offered by David Owen. See,
Owen, David: Is There a Doctrine of the Will to Power? In: International Studies in Philosophy,
32/3 (2000), p. 100. According to Owen, the blond beasts that initiate state-formation []
are already themselves subject to bad conscience. This is because the pack of invaders who
Nietzsche holds responsible for bad conscience must, in order to subjugate a community,
already be able to make promises. Owen cites Aaron Ridley to make his point: [T]he basic form
of imposing a custom, after all, must be Do this, or else (a threat, a promise). And this means

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was the key to prompting the development of a new and decisive importance
for consciousness. Political subjugation, in other words, is what gave rise to
subjectivity in the sense that we now understand it: as a consciousness capable
of dwelling on its own inner world, of reflecting, criticising, imagining, and creating.
With the invention of bad conscience humankind now suffered from itself
(GM II, 18). But the meaning of such suffering is, for Nietzsche, active24 and

24

that the imposer of customs must himself have a memory of the will and have become calculable,
which in turn means that he must have been subjected to custom and punishment (Ridley,
Aaron: Nietzsches Conscience. In: Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 11 (Spring 1996), p. 3). However, one should note that for Nietzsche punishment and bad conscience are not intrinsically
linked. As he says in GM II, 14, one thing punishing does not do, as is often supposed, is to make
the wrongdoer feel guilty. On the contrary, the evolution of a feeling of guilt was most strongly
impeded through punishment. Hence, Bad conscience, the most uncanny and interesting plant
of our earthly vegetation, did not grow in this soil []. On the interpretation offered here, one
should add, the problem to which Owen, via Ridley, alludes does not arise. As GM II, 14 implies,
a subjectivity constituted through communal customs and punishments does not of itself engender bad conscience. Custom and punishment give rise to a subject capable of promising. But
promising in this sense does not presuppose the kind of self-reflexive guilt that characterises bad
conscience. Rather, bad conscience originates in the subsequent refashioning of subjectivity that
occurs through the formalisation of social relationships: it presupposes an imposition of power
subsequently codified in the form of the state and legality that one community of promisers
brings to bear on another. In this regard, one could draw a distinction between the effects of
internal and external modes of subjugation. As a member of a community one is a promiser
to the extent that the practices constitutive of personhood are intrinsic to ones community. The
customs one observes and the punishments one may be obliged to accept for wrongdoing do
not originate in something extrinsic to the communal field of social relations. The wrongdoer, in
this sense, is a victim of how things are in so far as how things are is how we do things here.
To be subordinated by those from another community, however, implies the emergence of a different relation between personhood and social order. In this case, social order takes on the appearance of something relentlessly external. The Self-Other relationship of creditor and debtor is
now restructured by the superior power of a third party, an other that does not do things the way
we do them, but impels us to do things the way they oblige us to for example, to petition
in their language rather than the one spoken in the community.
I use the occurrence of the word active here to raise a point concerning Gilles Deleuzes interpretation of Nietzsche. Deleuze makes much of the dichotomy between active and reactive primordial qualities of force. This dichotomy, he argues, is important for understanding the
nature of consciousness, abstract thought and habit: Consciousness [for Nietzsche] merely expresses the relation of certain reactive forces to the active forces which dominate them. Consciousness is essentially reactive []. And what is said of consciousness must also be said of
memory and habit []. What happens is that science follows the paths of consciousness, relying
entirely on other reactive forces; the organism is always seen from the petty side, from the side of
its reactions (Deleuze, Gilles: Nietzsche and Philosophy. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson. London
1983, p. 41). If the reading I am offering here is convincing, then this observation is problematic
in at least two ways. First, Nietzsche, we have seen, argues that consciousness arises from a long
prehistory that begins with a moral memory first springing from a violent economy of habits
(i. e. practices: the morality of custom). In the primitive community, it is the reactive social demand for survival that gives rise to practices that in turn constitute the subject as a promiser.
This fashioning of the subject in its own turn implants the potential for the higher self-consciousness that is realised in the aftermath of (active) colonial intervention (GM II, 17). Speak-

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positive: it creates an inner realm of meaning, imagination and beauty as a means


of compensating for the inability of the drives to express themselves externally.
Likewise, selflessness, self-denial and self-sacrifice all belong to this realm and
emerge from this condition. In other words, the instincts, as Nietzsche calls
them in the preface to the Genealogy, associated most closely with Christian
morality are on his own account produced by social forces. Bad conscience is an
expression of humanity suffering from itself as a result of being compelled to inhabit a formalised and regulated world. Bad conscience is expressed in nausea,
the feeling of disgust at ones own embodied humanity. As such, it is a sickness
[] but a sickness rather like pregnancy (GM II, 19). As the metaphor of pregnancy implies this suffering is a prelude to the future. It, too, exemplifies economy since it represents a kind of investment: prehistoric suffering accrues credit
in the form of future potential. Out of the sickness of bad conscience the conscience that characterises the self-understanding of sovereign individuality is
born.25 At the same time, however, bad conscience is replete with another and
very different potentiality that is capable of blocking the workings of economy
and hence undermining futurity.

25

ing like Deleuze, we are thereby presented with a reactive series (survival-habit-promisingconsciousness) that operates without any reference to an active element. With regard to this
last point, one should note that even the active colonising forces that later gave rise to the internalisation of man must themselves have been produced by the same reactive series in order
to first be rendered a community of promisers. Deleuze might, of course, counter that the active
element is always already there in the shape of the body: The bodys active forces make it a self
and define the self as superior and astonishing (ibid, p. 42). However, this presupposes that it is
possible to summarise what a body is by speaking purely in terms of its active components.
Necessarily, bodies are also reactive. The second problem concerns the significance of consciousness for Nietzsche. What Deleuze refers to as the petty and reactive element of consciousness is something of great import for Nietzsche. The sovereign individual, after all, is characterised not so much by unconscious activity as by the confident consciousness engendered by
self-possession. For the sovereign individual promising is a second instinct, but it is the awareness that this engenders (the kind of consciousness) that Nietzsche values. The story the Genealogy tells, in other words, is one wherein consciousness is envisaged as passing through stages: to
start with it looks constituted (reactive), but subsequently, and especially with regard to the
sovereign individual, it is constitutive of identity (active). The text of the Genealogy thus charts
a transformation of forces: the passage from reactive to active. This transformation, one might
add, is sketched out on the template of economy.
To be a sovereign individual is to have a self-image that is rooted in a sense of responsibility toward oneself, to be ones own master. As such, the uniqueness of the sovereign individual amply
justifies the conditions that gave rise to it by escaping from them (GM II, 2). In this way, the prehistoric imposition of uniformity is interpreted as the necessary precondition of the individuality
that signals its negation, and does so with a seemingly organic inevitability, as is witnessed by
Nietzsches choice of metaphor when he discusses this: the tree of violent imposition bears
the fruit of emancipation from external compulsion. As Stegmaier notes (Stegmaier: Nietzsches Genealogie, op. cit., p. 149) the sovereign individual needs the social straightjacket in
order to become what he or she is.

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6. Economy Blocked: Christian Self-Consciousness as Self-Loathing


Bad conscience may be a kind of pregnancy, but pregnancies can go wrong.
The sickness of bad conscience is prone to become interminable. This, for
Nietzsche, occurred when the creditor-debtor relationship was for a second
time transformed through interpretation. This new interpretation concerns
the perceived relationship between present and past generations in a tribe. Here,
the living generation always acknowledged a legal obligation towards the earlier
generation, especially to the founders of the tribe. This is expressed in the belief
that the tribe exists only because of the sacrifices and deeds of the forefathers,
who continue to exist as mighty spirits. These sacrifices must be compensated
for by further sacrifice. Belief in the gods, it follows, originates in fear of indebtedness to the ancestor. One is successful because the gods are favourable
and one is thereby indebted to them; this is the basis of the feeling of guilt. The
maximal god yet achieved, Nietzsche tells us, is the Christian God (GM II, 20).
Unsurprisingly, therefore, the God of Christianity brought with it the greatest
feeling of guilt on earth. Guilt conjoined with religious presuppositions is a
deadly mixture. Feelings of duty and indebtedness are moralised, bad conscience
becomes permeated with religious feeling and the possibility of paying off
debts, a central feature of the development of bad conscience, is circumvented
(GM II, 21). The rendering of concepts of guilt and duty in moral terms represents a retroactive step in which the economy of meaning, of compensation
through equivalence, that flows from the creditor-debtor relationship is turned
back on itself.
With the conjoining of the concepts of bad conscience and God the possibility of paying off the debt is permanently forestalled. The individual is rendered
eternally in debt, eternally guilty, born into a state of sin that cannot be overcome
and condemned to eternal suffering. In the end, the creditor, too, becomes
enmeshed within this aporia. The progenitor of humanity, the ancestor, is now
the source of a curse: Adam commits the act of original sin. Alternatively,
the natural world or existence in general comes to be regarded as inherently
worthless or even evil. That it finds a means of relieving the suffering created by
the diabolization of creditor-ancestor or nature is Christianitys stroke of genius: God sacrifices himself for guilty humanity. A will to self-torture is revealed
(GM II, 22). Unable to allow the natural drives their fullest expression the person of bad conscience turns to religious presuppositions in order to torment
himself: Guilt towards God: this thought becomes an instrument of torture.
In this way, the animal instincts become interpreted as evidence of sin, as the
embodiment of rebellion against the order of things. In this manifestation of
religious belief Nietzsche thinks that he has unearthed a sort of madness
wherein humanity wants to feel guilty and condemned without hope of re-

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prieve. We are faced with a humanity that exists in a state of eternal guilt where
the punishment itself is never equal to the crime, where the debt can never be annulled. The Christian concept of God becomes in this way susceptible to being
interpreted as symptomatic of the dominance of a desire to feel worthless. This
desire engenders inactivity and the values that emanate from it reflect this by
placing the highest value on passivity and self-abnegation. Christian morality is
in this way rendered an expression of the human capacity to suffer from itself
transformed into its guiding purpose.
A humanity suffering in the manner just outlined suffers from the sickness
Nietzsche rails against at the outset of the Genealogy. Morality is the danger of
dangers because the desire that motivates it is no longer the desire for futurity
but for nothingness, for loss of self. Practices come to dominate that fashion a
self incapable of escaping from its animal nature yet simultaneously incapable of
being reconciled with it. Nietzsches account of prehistory thus ends up by identifying in Christian morality a moment wherein the economy of credit and debit
is retained but shorn of the essential notion of equivalence. Self-loathing now
becomes the prime virtue. Nothingness, in the shape of a purportedly better
afterlife, becomes the prime goal. In effect, this signals an interruption of the
prehistoric economy that endowed humanity with its futurity. For, the desire to
escape from our bodily nature is ultimately no more than the socially created desire to escape from what we are. Christian values and the practices that characterise it sanctify this desire. Their significance resides in their being an expression of this desires will to mastery in a naturalised and illusory form. The
good man is the goal of this form of desire. He represents the outcome of a
sustained attempt to interpret personhood in negative terms and, through interpreting it, to fashion it according to these terms.

7. The Political Terrain of Violent Economy


Leiter has commented that what Nietzsche values above all else is precisely
what the marketplace of politics violates [since] great things (and great people)
are to be found far from the realms of politics and economics.26 This is, at best,
a half-truth at worst misleading. It is certainly the case that Nietzsche is consistently critical of the politics of his time. This is the politics of a by now burgeoning liberalism that understands democracy in terms of the satisfactions the
marketplace can provide for a mass culture where individualism means conforming to a norm far removed from the I of sovereign individuality. In such
a world, what is consecrated as the I is the You presented in illusory form
26

Leiter: Nietzsche, op. cit., p. 296.

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a being akin to Heideggers concept of the they-self .27 This is where the halftruth mentioned lies. At the same time, Nietzsche in no way turns his back on the
realms of politics, economics, or the market. As we have seen, in the Genealogy the
conditions out of which individual sovereignty emerges are themselves possible
only in virtue of the violent economic practices that characterise the prehistoric
marketplace. Indeed, such practices taken together are, for Nietzsche, the essential precondition of temporality and hence of humanity having any future possible greatness whatsoever. Given the essential violence of economy, to write
as Leiter does of politics violating the purity of a noble Nietzschean vision of
greatness pertains to an unintentional irony. To call politics a violation of
Nietzsches highest hope is to condemn the very means whereby this hope itself
is made possible. To put it another way, the concept of violation is a central
one in Nietzsches methodological arsenal. The colonial violation that, for
Nietzsche, initiates politics (the realm of state and law) is the unconscious act
that leads to bad conscience. Without bad conscience there is no inner realm of
the self, and without that there is no possible future greatness for humankind.
Politics and economics, therefore, are essential features of Nietzsches account
of the development of the human race. There is, in other words, a contrast to be
drawn between the politics Nietzsche condemns and the political vocabulary
he employs and values. Evidence of Nietzsches objecting to the politics of the
liberal-democratic market does not license the further misleading inference that
he condemns politics as such, or is a-political. Two responses to Nietzsches
achievement in the Genealogy are outlined below as a means of constructively
grasping the political potential of his thought. Both seek to think in terms of the
notion I have already employed of the political terrain of Nietzsches thought.
The first response is critical, the second more positive.

8. First Response
Nietzsches view of human potential, we have seen, is linked inexorably to
futurity. Futurity has its origins in an economy of equivalence and exchange.
Through violence, economy articulates a humanity capable of individual autonomy. In turn, the good man of Christian virtue is judged as wanting not by a
history patterned by conflict between competing interests, but by prehistory,
which is where these interests find their temporal precondition. This is because
the good man represents an undermining of the futurity that defines our nature. He is the betrayal of our endowment from prehistory, the regressive turning
27

See Heidegger, Martin: Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. Oxford
1980, pp. 68, 163ff.

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away from the freedom of the sovereign individual. However, the notion of prehistory that the Genealogy deploys in order to criticise Christian morality should
give us pause. If morality stands judged by prehistory then it is called to account
on the basis of a narrative of human development that is, as we have already
noted, on Nietzsches own admission a matter of conjecture.28 The development
of an economy of violence is a thought experiment. It also has a persuasive
power because the prehistory it aims to account for is developed into a narrative.
Stories, however fictitious, always pertain to the possibility of such power.
Philosophers, of course, have always found themselves obliged to tell stories
of one kind or another. In Nietzsches there is an inextricable link between
how humans became what they are, coercive economic practices and the abstract
conceptions of equivalence, exchange, credit and debit, that flow from these
practices. In effect, this means that the concept of economy operates in the
Genealogy as an interpretative tool allowing an array of notions relating to
humanity (instinct, community, self , society, law, and state) to be
conjoined through the invocation of a pattern that is claimed to be common to
them all. In this way, the logic of equivalence and exchange is envisaged as
fashioning a personhood that is grasped in terms of obligations entailed by
material possessions. Subjectivity thereby emerges in the wake of economy as
the embodiment of a primitive and violent distribution of property. The notion
of economy thus serves to naturalise an inherent violence engendered by possession. Possession constitutes the terms in which human relations are formulated in the primitive community. It also underlies the development of society,
legality, state, and the further transformations and refinements of the individual
through colonisation. Such developments are, at the same time, situated by
Nietzsche within a narrative that is guided by the notion of the possibility of
human perfectibility understood as individual autonomy. The highest expression
of subjectivity, in other words, is self-possession. Violent economy, in this sense,
teeters on the verge of becoming a godless theodicy. It justifies the violent and
possessive prehistory of humanity through invoking the as yet unfulfilled potential of its futurity.
In Nietzsches account of prehistory the initial and violent distribution of
property which gives rise to humanity is the condition in virtue of which all
meaning is rendered possible. Economic practices are envisaged as the persistent
feature of all forms of human life: no level of civilisation, Nietzsche tells us, has
ever been discovered that does not exhibit the economic relationship (GM II, 8).
The becoming of community, self, society, ethics, politics, and state is governed
by the rule of economy. It is the transcendental precondition of historical and
28

What Nietzsche has spoken of must, he says, be a matter of thoughtful guesswork since it concerns what is concealed and such subterranean things are difficult to fathom out (GM II, 6).

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cultural diversity. However, in resorting to the notion of an economy whose


animal violence frames and thereby escapes the domain of history Nietzsche
naturalises historical conflict in all its possible forms. The violence engendered
by prehistory now stands as the timeless, but hitherto forgotten, condition of
human endeavour. It is a violence that frames those centuries before the history
of mankind (GM II, 14) as the genuine and decisive historical period which
determined mans character (GM II, 9). At the same time, however, it exists at
all times or could possibly re-occur (GM II, 9). Violence, in other words, is universal. Violence delivers humankind into temporality, but in doing so it creates
its own specific debit structure: the original violence that characterises human
becoming leaves us eternally susceptible to being returned to it. Violence abides
not only as the condition of the human past but of the future, too. Violent economy is therefore the prerequisite of a properly human existence. Becoming, animal nature and economy stand outside history, while the moralistic philosophies
of being that are formulated within that history now stand open to the charge of
forgetting and eliding the animal nature from which they emerged.
The economy of violence Nietzsche narrates falls prey to the threat of becoming pure mythology. Mythology, one should remember, means both the
exposition of myth and the construction of a fictional discourse in the form of a
parable or allegory. The Genealogy deals in mythology in both these senses. On
the one hand, it seeks to dispel what is asserted to be the specifically Christian
mythology. It seeks to achieve the disenchantment of Christian values by revealing them as a body of practices symptomatic of a specific and narrow conception
of interest intent on denying our violent animal origins. On the other hand, however, the very exposure of this mythology brings with it a demand that must
be satisfied. If the disenchantment of myth is to be successful one must offer
in its place something else to authorise it. It is here that the Genealogy threatens
to cease to be a text of disenchantment and become, instead, one of enchantment. In invoking the notion of future individual autonomy as the fulfilment of
our prehistoric beginnings, Nietzsche seeks to persuade us that a court of judgement fit to assess Christian morality is possible.29 The logic of costs and benefits
that gave rise to the human soul becomes the means of standing in judgement
over the products of that soul. The reader is, in effect, expected to suspend
judgement concerning the legitimacy of the economic notions themselves. Disenchantment with Christianity is achieved at the expense of enchantment with
violent economy.

29

Recall here that Nietzsches question is: in so far as we are moral do we live with a view to
the future or do we live at its expense? In other words, do we live according to the dictates that
established our nature or have we failed to do so?

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Such enchantment necessitates suspending a political question concerning


economy itself. The question is simply: is the notion of economy that Nietzsche
deploys susceptible to, and has it even perhaps been a symptom of, activities of
reinterpretation beyond his control. Nietzsche must suppress this question if the
Genealogys economic narrative is to be allowed to do its work. In order to generate concepts like temporality, human nature, the subject, and in turn history, the
meaning of economy must exist independently of these spheres. Nietzsche needs
to ignore the possibility that, rather than being a purely prehistoric precondition
of human development, the economy of violence deployed in the Genealogy
might be tainted by forces associated with a narrower historical and political
field. When, in the Genealogys third essay, Nietzsche characterises of our whole
modern existence (GM III, 9) as manifesting a contradiction between avowed
Christian piety and actual hubris he points, however vaguely, in direction of this
field. In whatever way we moderns might like to think of ourselves, Nietzsche
notes, life today is in reality nothing but hubris and godlessness, in so far as it
is strength and awareness of strength. Significantly, such strength is evident
in our attitude toward nature, which is assaulted with the help of machines and
the completely unscrupulous inventiveness of engineers and technicians. The
modern attitude to nature is, in short, one of economic exploitation. The violent
use of nature alluded to at this point in the text is not a matter of prehistoric import. The violence in question is a social phenomenon, something possible only
in virtue of the existence of a complex, technologically proficient society organised along economic lines. The logic of equivalence and exchange at work in the
background here need not be interpreted as a prehistoric phenomenon scarring the present. It is no less open to being read in political terms: as the contemporary manifestation of a specific form of social organisation. Here economy may point not so much toward the prehistoric past as to a current society
and culture that functions according to the dominance of economic practices
produced historically.
In simplest terms, the problem here is to be found in the absolute impossibility of extricating a primeval meaning from the concept of economy, i. e. a
meaning immune from recuperation according to the dictates of current social
demands. Any idea, including Nietzsches conception of economy, is socially and
hence politically mediated. In using the notion of economy as a means of elaborating the distant past of humanity and, in doing so, taking it to signify the conditions wherein humanity is bestowed with futurity, Nietzsche falls prey to assigning to an array of practices that dominate the present the status of timelessness.
The economy of violence presented in the form of a tale that concerns both the
origins of the human and its possibilities thereby projects modern practices into
past and future alike. As a projection of the present, any speculative narrative
of prehistory is prey to becoming a figural realm. The story of modern social

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conflict is retold as allegory. In Nietzsches case, the pasts noble and slave, creditor and debtor, are figural representations of todays possessors and possessed,
exploiters and exploited. To treat this allegory as if it concerns a primeval past is
to fall prey to thinking in mythical terms. It is to take a speculative narrative formulated in and out of the present as signifying something timeless and natural, to
find in the past the mirror image of the present and thereby legitimate it.
Someone intent on providing a defence of Nietzsche could reply to the
above criticisms by pointing out that the sovereign autonomy of the individual
he advocates in II, 10 of the Genealogy actually necessitates breaking from the
conditions that have endowed humanity with its future. The power of the sovereign individual is expressed though the self-sublimation of justice, i. e.
mercy. To show mercy is to be just in the most affirmative of senses in that
no compensation is demanded from the wrongdoer. Through sublimation the
most powerful man, like the society of great power, transforms the terms of
the economic relationship that served to make him or it possible by eschewing
revenge. A humanity of this kind is to be numbered amongst the highest
achievements. Paid for in advance, in prehistory, at the cost of suffering
beyond measure, mercy expresses Nietzsches conception of human perfectibility as the actual overcoming of the logic of equivalence, compensation and
revenge.
This vision of the overcoming of the logic of economy, however, points at
the same time to the limitations of that logic as an explanatory model. Economy
is overcome by the power of sublimation: justice ends like every good thing on
earth, by sublimating itself (GM II, 10). Sublimation, however, is not inherent in
economy and cannot be derived from it alone. The latter concerns only the practices of weighing and measuring that delimit the realms of society and subjectivity as spheres of possession. What sublimation represents is that within us which
resists economy, something that engenders the transformation of human
relations in new and unpredictable ways. If the credit-debit structure of justice
is sublimated this nevertheless occurs because of something other than itself.
Nietzsche understands this other in terms of power. To embody the greatest
possible power would be to transcend the bad feelings engendered by damage, to
show mercy through forgiveness because one is sufficiently strong to be forgiving. At that moment an essential characteristic and limitation of the economic relationship is thrown into relief by the Genealogy itself. The text argues that the supremely powerful society and individual alike overcome the logic of equivalence
and exchange through a refusal to understand value to be a matter of weighing
and measuring. Value, it turns out, is not simply a question of things as the economic relationship presupposes. In the economic relationship the polarity of Self
and Other, creditor-debtor, is secured in terms of things. The Others relation
to the I is that of a thing, of a body and its possessions whose thing-like nature

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signifies an instrumental value in so far as they are primarily grasped as a means


of satisfying the Is desire for domination. Mercy, however, is marked by the ability not to take the Other to signify a mere thing. Mercy shows us that we need not
be constrained by the economic relation. In so far as it does this, mercy also reveals that the economic relationship need not be the only one, that there are
modes of recognition and action that surpass it.
The question is does this other mode of relationship pertain to a status any
less primeval than that of the violent economy of prehistory that Nietzsche
privileges? Does the economic relationship itself perhaps presuppose another
form of relationship that, even if not prior to it, is coterminous with it? This
is not the place to go into this issue in any detail, but it is worth recalling that the
work of Emmanuel Levinas points in the direction of an economy of meaning
that finds in the Self-Other relation a mode of indebtedness that flows from
discourse rather than thing-hood.30 Transferring this to Nietzsches account,
we could say that the relationship between creditor and debtor presupposes
linguistic practices that do not merely involve weighing and measuring but,
amongst other things, moments of silence, pauses that establish all speech
as dialogue. Dialogue presupposes someone who speaks, who is like me: a
someone, not a something on the basis of which exchange is rendered possible. Such an approach does not eliminate questions of power and domination,
of conflicts of purpose, but it does tell us how practices inextricably linked
to domination might subvert themselves, how the mercy Nietzsche so values is
possible.
Is a politics of mercy perhaps the basis for a contemporary articulation of
Nietzsches political legacy? It is certainly the case that through mercy the limits
of economy are revealed in their starkest form. This of itself indicates the inevitable dimension of political economy that the Genealogy must inhabit, ruminate
upon and deploy in order to construct a critique of its own times. The political
terrain of Nietzsches thought, in other words, is the very domain he sometimes expresses the deepest wish to escape from, the domain of the everyday,
the apparently petty, small and mean things which he so often also reminds us
lie at the bottom of our highest ideals. A properly critical reading of the Genealogy is driven to reflect upon what the text shows as much as what it says. The
arguments already raised in this section are intended to demonstrate this last
point: the terrain of the politics of Nietzsches genealogical investigation is
necessarily staked out in terms of economically determined patterns derived
from the very social order he wishes to criticise. Although this indicates the
potential danger of prehistory recoiling into mythology in Nietzsches text, this

30

See Levinas, Emmanuel: Totality and Infinity. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh 1998.

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possibility does not of itself exhaust the question of the politics of Nietzsches
thought. It does, however, indicate that in Nietzsches philosophy political
categories, such as civil society, state and subjectivity, are tied to the notion of
violent economy. Thinking about Nietzsche and politics, in other words,
involves at some point thinking about economy and its limits. Bearing this in
mind, in what follows, I consider briefly a further argument concerning the
political value of Nietzsches philosophy.

9. Second Response
For the purposes of this paper I have, up to this point, confined myself to the
Genealogy alone. The reason for this was to bring the issues of economy, violence
and temporality to the fore, and to show how, taken together, they constitute
a politically charged space without which Nietzsches criticisms of Christian
morality and his account of human development would not be possible. An
awareness of the central role these notions play in Nietzsches critical discourse
is necessary for any consideration of the politics of his thought, especially
bearing in mind the, for some irresistible, temptation to derive a politics from
the concept of genealogy. The presence of these notions also indicates that
any thorough account of Nietzsches philosophy will at some point be obliged to
engage with its political register.
That said, when it comes to human futurity, at least, the Genealogy also points
beyond itself. Take, for example, Nietzsches discussion of the man of the future.
Such a being redeems humanity from the dominance of old ideals and the nihilism that arises from them. As opposed to the good man, the man of the
future [] gives the earth purpose and man his hope again [] he must come one
day (GM II, 24). Rhetorically, the text transforms a hope into a necessity: the
desire for purpose slips into a demand concerning what must be the case. If the
reference to earth were not enough to remind us, the next section of the Genealogy confirms where the satisfaction of such a demand might lie. Nietzsche
points us to another work of his own: the future belongs to another, younger
man, one with more future, one stronger than me something to which Zarathustra alone is entitled [] (GM II, 25). Reflecting the language of economy
that dominates the Genealogy, futurity itself is here rendered a possession, something that can be held like a piece of property. There is also the matter of entitlement to consider, of legitimacy, when it comes to who is the futures rightful possessor. But does Nietzsche therefore believe that giving purpose to the earth is a
matter resolvable purely in terms of mastery? Does entitlement here denote
nothing more than possession? Laurence Lampert has made the following interesting claim that is enlightening in this connection:

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Nietzsches politics lays claim to the past. It is the local politics of a good European
who affirms his European home as heir to Christianity and Greece, to hardness and
intellect. But that politics broadens out as this particular past makes possible the
recovery of the whole of the human and natural past; a local loyalty that expands into
loyalty to the earth. Nietzsches politics lays claim to the future. It is a global politics
that arose in Europe [] it spreads out as a future global politics of loyalty to the
earth, [an] ecological or green politics that has only begun to formulate its agenda
but that finds in Nietzsches thought a comprehensive means of affirming the earth.31

We come here to the question of grand politics. For Lampert, a Nietzschean


grand politics would be a global one that begins with an affirmation of the
environment, a politics that makes its progress through outlining an agenda
of value based upon love of the earth itself. The justification for this resides in
the fact that without such love futurity is impossible. In support of this, one can
note that if violent economy remains a constant within the narrative of the Genealogy so, too, do the notions of earth and embodiment. Economy would be
nothing without an environment in which development, conflict and violence
were enacted upon bodies. Affirmation of futurity, likewise, would be impossible
without the persistence of an environment that is worth affirming. That the
Genealogy itself invokes Zarathustra at the very least gives us leave to do the same
and recall, as Lampert does, that texts demand that we remain loyal to the
earth.32 Loyalty is not the same as possession. The earth, in the sense that we
might understand it here, cannot be possessed since it is the earth itself that is
presented as demanding our loyalty. This is not the place to pursue the task of
investigating the possibility of whether an alternative, and possibly complementary, economy might be at work in Thus Spoke Zarathustra;33 or whether a natural
economy can be found here capable of being synthesised with the Genealogys
violent economy in such a way as to deflect the criticisms I have raised in the previous section.34 It is, however, possible to follow Lampert and assert that in so
31

32

33

34

Lampert, Laurence: Nietzsche and Modern Times. A Study of Bacon, Descartes and Nietzsche.
New Haven, London 1993, p. 432.
Stay loyal to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue! May your bestowing love and
your knowledge serve towards the meaning of the earth! [] Lead [] the flown away virtue
back to earth yes, back to body and life: that it may give the earth its meaning, a human meaning! [] Truly, the earth shall yet become a house of healing! (Z I, Of the Bestowing Virtue, 3).
The notion of self-possession that I have noted here is certainly detectable in Zarathustra.
As Volker Gerhardt has noted, Zarathustra wants new Law-Tables with new values that spring
from the self-legislation of free and self-possessing individuals. See Gerhardt, Volker: Selfgrounding: Nietzsches Morality of Individuality. Trans. Peter Poellner. In: The Future of the
New Nietzsche. Eds. Keith Ansell-Pearson and Howard Caygill. Aldershot 1993, p. 298.
Likewise, there is a question to address concerning the relationship between the economic terrain of the Genealogy and its relation to Nietzsches philosophical output as a whole. Stegmaier
(Nietzsches Genealogie, op. cit., chapter 2) has argued that the Genealogy illuminates aspects of
both Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil. Thus, for example, we can envisage the Gen-

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185

far as it is currently enacting possibly catastrophic damage on the environment,


global-capitalist economy increasingly takes on the form of a gross squandering
of human futurity. It certainly seems plausible to envisage a Nietzsche who
stands as a critic of this squandering. This would be a Nietzsche whose work
inspires us to question the hubris of modern economy by raising the question of
futurity. Although this approach may, like that of violent economy, have a role
in plotting the terrain of a Nietzschean politics, it does not follow that such a
politics would lead us back down the avenue of liberalism, or even to the affirmation of democracy. In the theory of violent economy Nietzsche formulates in
detail the kind of agonistic approach that, as we have seen Dombowski note,
does not sit comfortably with democratic practices and values. What Conway
has called the question of political legislation35 in Nietzsche cannot be addressed without reference to this economy.

35

ealogy as seeking to chart in persuasive terms the historical emergence of dominant morality
outlined only sketchily in parts of Beyond Good and Evil. The question as to how the concept of
economy operates in this latter text can thus further illuminate its role in the Genealogy. Likewise,
an understanding of the development of Nietzsches thought as a whole, exploring the notion of
economy as it is manifest at different levels, is probably essential for a more satisfying articulation of the concept in the Genealogy. Given that Nietzsches thought begins with Schopenhauer
and pessimism, subsequently embraces a positivistic engagement with the sciences, moves on to
emphasising concepts of practice, action, value, and will to power, and reaches its finale in the
unrestrained symptomatic period cut short by his mental collapse, it is likely that a highly complex articulation of economy would be unearthed in the pursuit of such a survey.
See footnote 3, above.

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Michael V. Ure

MICHAEL V. URE
STOIC COMEDIANS
NIETZSCHE AND FREUD ON THE ART OF ARRANGING
ONES HUMOURS1

Knowing ones individuality [Einzelheit ]. We forget too easily that in the eyes of people
who see us for the first time were something quite different from what we take ourselves to be usually nothing more than a single trait which strikes the eye and determines the whole impression. In this way, the gentlest and most reasonable person, if
he wears a big moustache, can sit in its shade and feel safe ordinary eyes will take
him to be the accessory of a big moustache, a military type, quick to fly off the handle,
sometimes even violent theyll behave themselves in his presence. (D 381)2

Friedrich Nietzsche here pokes fun at his own use of defensive masks, a joke
that turns not only on his willingness to tease himself, but on his characteristic
love of punning: his big moustache (Schnurrbart) becomes what it is: nothing
other than a funny tale (Schnurre). Nietzsche, then, makes light of his own defences in both senses of the phrase: he illuminates his defensive strategies and
reduces their weighty seriousness through comic relief. His gentle self-irony illustrates a positive, comic self-relation. This is not a Nietzsche we easily recognise. Nor is it a slant on becoming who one is that we readily identify as Nietzschean.
This paper presents Nietzsche, at least in his middle period, as a Stoic comedian. In order to explore Nietzsches comedy it first examines his account of the
psychological fuel of the raging fires that make us unjust and the analytic work
1

This research was undertaken with the generous financial assistance of the Landesstiftung BadenWrttemberg and the support of the Universitt Heidelberg. The inspiration for the title derives from
Montaignes brilliant distillation of Hellenistic and Stoic wisdom in his Essais. (I) learn
to arrange my humours, Montaigne writes, by reading the finest and most profitable parts
of Plutarch and Senecas work, especially the Epistulae Morales; see: Montaigne, Michel de:
Essays, II, 10, Of Books. In: The Complete Works of Montaigne. Transl. Donald Frame. London 1958.
Daybreak (D). Transl. R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge 1985. Nietzsche perhaps recalls and illustrates here Schopenhauers observation that the comedy of life lies in the details: The life of
every individual [Einzelnen], viewed as a whole and in general [] is really a tragedy; but gone
through in detail [Einzelnen] it has the character of a comedy [] in the broad detail of life [we]
are inevitably the foolish characters of a comedy; see: Schopenhauer, Arthur: The World as Will
and Representation Volume 1. Transl. E. F. J. Payne. New York 1969, p. 322.

Stoic Comedians. Nietzsche and Freud on the Art of Arranging Ones Humours

187

on the self that might cool this spirit of vengeance (HAH 1, 637).3 It frames
Nietzsches analysis of the comedy of self by drawing on the psychoanalytic concept of narcissism.4 Section one explores Freuds analysis of one of the earliest
modulations of narcissism: viz., the incipient egos attempt to restore a phantasised condition of majestic plenitude. Freud suggests, as we shall see, that the
infantile ego accomplishes this phantasy through vengeful projection. For the
sake of explaining and clarifying Freuds psychology of revenge, the paper recalls
his famous vignette on the fort-da game, which he analyses as an infantile strategy
to establish an illusion of sovereignty. Freud shows that the rage for securing
this illusion is symptomatic of a fear which accompanies the discovery of the
independence of the other, the fear of annihilation.
The second section argues that Freuds analysis of the psychological connections between this first narcissistic wounding and vengeful projection illuminates Nietzsches critique of heroism. In this regard, it subverts the notion that
Nietzsche lionises pre-Platonic heroes and their manic, triumphant laughter in
the face of tragedy. Rather like Suetonius, the deadpan chronicler of the Emperors follies, and Seneca and Epictetus, Nietzsche satirises the overblown pathos
of heroism.5 In the middle period Nietzsche treats the hero as material fit only
3

Human, All Too Human. A Book for Free Spirits (HAH). Transl. R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge
1986. Quotes from the two parts that Nietzsche added to the original version of Human, All
Too Human, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (HAH 2) and The Wanderer and His Shadow (WS), are also
taken from this source.
For the two most comprehensive treatments of the relationship between Nietzsche and Freud
see: Lehrer, Ronald: Nietzsches Presence in Freuds Life and Thought. On the Origins of a Psychology of Dynamic Unconscious Mental Functioning. Albany 1995; and Gasser, Reinhard:
Nietzsche und Freud. Berlin, New York 1997. It is beyond the scope of this paper to address all
of the salient philosophical and historical issues in this field; rather it attempts to enrich our
understanding of Nietzsches and Freuds conception of the art of the self and its therapeia, especially their shared understanding of dynamic psychological mechanisms. It also qualifies the
conventional view that, as Joel Whitebook expresses it, Freud tended to view narcissism in a
predominantly negative light as the opponent of object love and reality testing and as a source
of severe psychopathology. Rather it shows that Freud himself, like Nietzsche, gave us a more
differentiated picture of this thoroughly ambivalent phenomenon, a picture which, as we shall
see, stands out in relief in his theory of humour; see: Whitebook, Joel: Perversions and Utopia. A
Study in Psychoanalysis and Critical Theory. Cambridge 1995, p. 5.
By contrast, Mark Weeks argues that Nietzsche evinces an anxiety toward laughter because
it subverts his ethos of heroic vitalism and its grandly tragic Promethean striving. According
to Weeks, this anxiety leads Nietzsche to the rhetorical gambit of willing a new kind of
laughter, which Weeks rather loosely describes as mythical, transcendental, superhuman
and sacred. However, as we shall see below, it is erroneous to uncritically assume, as Weeks
appears to, that Nietzsche frames his account of laughter in terms of such heroic vitalism. Rather,
if the argument of this paper is correct, in the free-spirit trilogy Nietzsche develops his theory of
humour and its therapeutic function in the context of a very different ethical project: viz., the reclamation and renovation of Stoic moderation; see Weeks, Mark: Beyond a Joke. Nietzsche and the
Birth of Super-Laughter. In: The Journal of Nietzsche Studies 27 (2004), pp. 117, pp. 1, 56,
9, 11. Thomas H. Brobjer calls for a careful examination of Nietzsches whole relation to Stoicism
in his essay: Nietzsches Reading of Epictetus. In: Nietzsche-Studien 32 (2003), pp. 429434.

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Michael V. Ure

for comedy. It demonstrates that he underpins this comic jesting through his
proto-psychoanalytic insights into the heros desperate attempt to use vengeance
as a means of securing a phantasy of omnipotence. In other words, Nietzsche
satirises the heros desire for the illusion of omnipotence as the exemplification
of an infantile method of salving the narcissistic wound.
In the final sections, the discussion of Nietzsches own use of satire opens
onto a broader consideration of his analysis of the psychological significance of
comedy and laughter. For Nietzsche laughter, jokes and humour are privileged
points of access for theorising the intrapsychic world. He maintains that conceptualising the self as a comic genre, or, more precisely, as a series of comic stratagems, can serve as a rich source of self-knowledge. Like other explosive pathos,
he uses laughter as a spy that can help to penetrate our psychic fortifications (see
HAH 2, 54).
This paper shows that Nietzsche analyses a series of comic stratagems as
sources from which we can learn more about the psychodynamics of narcissism.
In doing so, it suggests that he distinguishes between neurotic inflammations of
narcissism and a mature form of individualism that tempers and incorporates
the residues of narcissistic yearning into the work of self-composition and selfcomposure. In exploring the comedies of the soul, Nietzsche identifies three
comic stratagems which he conceptualises as expressions of different responses
to or treatments of narcissistic loss: manic laughter, melancholic humour, and
what he, along with Freud, considers the positive self-humouring of Stoicism.6
Finally, the paper examines what we might call, following Simon Critchley, comic
self-acknowledgement, and demonstrates that Nietzsche treats this as a sign of
mature individualism.7 In the middle period, therefore, Nietzsche understands
the wisdom of suffering to lie in comic, anti-heroic self-recognition of human
finitude.

Fort-Da: The First Revenge


A brief examination of the psychoanalytic account of projection can serve
as background for understanding Nietzsches critique of narcissistic object
relations. In his attempt to account for the genesis of the ego, Freud claims that
a primitive ego-form emerges once repeated experiences of a lack of immediate
6

For two more detailed attempts to place Nietzsches and Freuds notion of the work of the self in
the context of the Hellenistic traditions of therapy see: Gdde, Gnter: Die antike Therapeutik
als Gemeinsamer Bezugpunkt fr Nietzsche und Freud. In: Nietzsche-Studien 32 (2003),
pp. 206 225; and Ure, Michael: The Ethics of Self-Cultivation: Nietzsches Middle Works. PhD
dissertation. University of Melbourne, Australia 2004.
Critchley, Simon: Ethics, Politics, Subjectivity. London 1999, p. 235.

Stoic Comedians. Nietzsche and Freud on the Art of Arranging Ones Humours

189

gratification upset the infants state of primary narcissism or symbiotic fusion


with the mother.8 Only its enforced exile from symbiotic fusion, and with it the
loss of the feeling of narcissistic plenitude, compels the human creature to begin
differentiating between itself and the world, between inside and outside. Freud
calls the psychical agent that negotiates the transition from fusion to separation,
from oceanic plenitude to terra firma, the pleasure-ego.9 Even though the
pleasure-ego must negotiate this blow to infantile narcissism, he suggests, it
nevertheless remains enthralled by the promise of blissful submersion; it is still
seduced by the sirens music, so to speak. In its earliest incarnation, therefore, the
ego attempts to find substitutive means for satisfying the desire for the lost state
of primary narcissism. Its first strategy is to draw the boundaries between itself
and the outside in such a fashion that it retains a feeling of narcissistic plenitude.
It does so by projecting, or literally throwing out, all internal sources of unpleasure into the external world and incorporating or devouring the external sources
of pleasure. The original pleasure-ego Freud writes wants to introject into
itself everything that is good and to eject from itself everything that is bad.10
Projection is thus the egos primordial defence mechanism for restoring
something of the feeling of plenitude that its discovery of the independence of
the object world compels it to abandon. While Freud acknowledges that the
boundaries between inside and outside established by the pleasure egos projections and introjections cannot escape rectification through experience, he believes that the mechanism of projection continues to be active as a means through
which the ego seeks to relieve itself of intolerable internal anxieties.11 Projection
is not just a symptom of pathological paranoia, according to Freud, since it also
appears under other psychological conditions. When we refer the causes of certain sensations to the external world, instead of looking for them [] inside ourselves he writes this normal proceeding, too, deserves to be called projection.12 This mechanism, he suggests, allows the ego to defend itself against an
internal anxiety as though it came from the outside, or from the direction of a
perception. Projection is an attempt to transform an internal anxiety, which the
8

10

11
12

On the contemporary debate in psychoanalysis and social theory about the paradoxical nature of
the primal psychical situation as both monadic and symbiotic, or a dual unity to use Mahlers
formulation, see: Mahler, Margaret et. al.: The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: Symbiosis and Individuation. New York 1975, p. 55; and Whitebook, Joel: Mutual Recognition and
the Work of the Negative. In: Rehg, William / Bohman, James (eds.): Pluralism and the Pragmatic Turn. The Transformation of Critical Theory. Essays in Honor of James McCarthy. Cambrige, Mass. 2001, pp. 110 145.
Freud, Sigmund: Civilization and its Discontents. Transl. Joan Riviere. London 1975, p. 4. Hereafter cited CD followed by the relevant page number.
Freud, Sigmund: On Negation. In: On Metapsychology. The Theory of Psychoanalysis. Transl.
James Strachey. London 1991, p. 439.
CD, p. 4.
Freud, Sigmund: Schreber. In: Case Histories II. Transl. James Strachey. London 1990, p. 204.

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Michael V. Ure

ego is powerless to prevent or to shield itself from, into an external object


against which it can defend itself. [I]nternal excitations which produce too great
an increase in unpleasure, he contends, are treated as though they were acting
not from inside, but from outside, so that it may be possible to bring the shield
against stimuli into operation as a means of defence against them.13 In the case
of a phobia, for example, an external object takes the place of an internal anxiety,
and the ego can thus react against this external danger with attempts at flight by
phobic avoidances.14
Freud conceives projection as one of the means through which the ego can
repeat in relation to the phobic object what he see as its original relation to the
world: viz., the attempt to flee or annihilate the external world with its overwhelming emission of stimuli.15 However, by attempting to maintain itself as a site of
pure pleasure through projection, Freud observes, the ego ultimately only succeeds in creating for itself a strange and threatening outside.16 It is, in short, a
neurotic or pathological solution to the difficulties posed by internally driven
anxieties. The projective defence-mechanism not only fails to dissolve or cure
the anxieties it sought to fend off, it recreates them in new and insidious forms.
In this way, Freud argues, projection can be seen as the starting-point of important pathological disturbances.17
Freud addresses the psychological issue of regaining the pleasure of omnipotence through projection in his famous vignette on the fort-da game. His little allegory affords a compelling insight into the psychological structure that underpins Nietzsches critique of the vengefulness that springs from wounded
narcissism. A brief examination of Freuds analysis of the fort-da game can therefore serve to illuminate the structure of the childish vengeance which Nietzsche
identifies as the core of the heroic ethos.18
13

14

15

16
17
18

Freud, Sigmund: Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Transl. James Strachey. In: On Metapsychology.
The Theory of Psychoanalysis. London 1991, pp. 275 338, p. 301. Hereafter cited BPP followed
by the relevant page number.
Freud, Sigmund: The Unconscious. Transl. James Strachey. In: On Metapsychology: The Theory
of Psychoanalysis. London 1991, pp. 167 222, p. 187.
Freud, Sigmund: Instincts and their Vicissitudes. Transl. James Strachey. In: On Metapsychology. The Theory of Psychoanalysis. London 1991, pp. 113 138, pp. 134 135.
CD, p. 4.
CD, p. 5; see also: BPP, p. 301.
Henry Staten rightly claims the idea of vengeance illustrated by the fort-da game stands at the
centre of (Nietzsches) world explication. However, contra Staten, this paper argues that far from
being complicit in the vengeful strategies of reclaiming the illusion of narcissistic omnipotence,
Nietzsches notion of the work of the self on itself entails acknowledging the immaturity of this
project of omnipotence. Nietzsches acute critique of infantile narcissism and its stratagems escapes Staten, as we shall see below, for two reasons: not only does he fail to adequately address
the middle works, he also misses the ironic tone in Nietzsches analysis of heroism. Indeed,
Staten makes the astonishing claim that despite what is constantly said about him, (Nietzsche) is
in some very deep sense incapable of irony; see: Staten, Henry: Nietzsches Voice. Ithaca 1990, p. 45,

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In the fort-da (gone-there) game, Freud speculates, the infant derives a yield of
pleasure from becoming active in relation to a situation in which he was formerly
passive: the situation of his dependence on his mother for his feeling of selfpresence. According to Freud, the fort-da game, which consists in throwing away
a spool and making it disappear (fort) and reeling it back into view (da), is the
infants imaginary act of vengeance on his mother for going away from him and
the painful feeling of impotence and annihilation that her departure arouses in
him. Through this game, he argues, the child reverses the balance of power between himself and his mother: in fantasy he becomes the active, powerful subject, capable of tossing away and annihilating the mother, and she becomes the
needy, dependent child suffering the pain of being cast into oblivion. On the
plane of phantasy, then, the child uses the fort-da game as a means of compensating himself for the pain of separation and the terrifying discovery of his impotence, and he does so by vengefully inflicting on a symbolic substitute the same
kind of suffering he experiences when his mothers absence threatens him with
annihilation.
Projection is thus central to the Spiel : the infant projects his own needy, dependent self and its painful feelings of loss and separation into an object, and
then vengefully assumes the role of the powerful master who causes the object
to suffer by making it disappear. Freud captures the essence of the vengeful
strategy for regaining the illusion of omnipotence in the infants use of projection to assuage its loss through the imaginary transfer of its pain and impotence
to another. He sees this vengeful artifice at work in many games where the child
creates a Spiel that re-enacts his sufferings, but in doing so makes himself the
master and the other the victim: As the child passes over from the passivity of
the experience to the activity of the game, he hands on the disagreeable experience to one
of his playmates and in this way revenges himself on a substitute.19 If Freud is right, it
is the infantile inability to bear separation and impotence that makes seeing or
arousing suffering in others so addictively pleasurable for human beings, for it is
this vengeance which enables us to assuage our profound fear of annihilation,
rooted in our earliest condition of infantile dependence. Vengeance soothes our
fear of annihilation by restoring to us an illusory feeling of magical omnipotence.

19

emphasis added. Ernst Behler, in stark contrast, and much more plausibly, suggests that because
of his theory of language and his concern for an artistry of living Nietzsche makes irony integral
to his philosophical discourse. Behler sums up the significance of irony in Nietzsches philosophic discourse thus: [I]ronic dissimulation, configurative thinking and writing, double-edged
communication and the artistry of living and philosophising were his response to the irony of
the world; Behler, Ernst: Nietzsches Conception of Irony. In: Kemal, Salim / Gaskell, Ivan /
Conway, Daniel W. (eds.): Nietzsche, Philosophy and the Arts. Cambridge 1998, p. 33.
BPP, pp. 286 87, emphasis added. In this passage I follow Freud in using the masculine pronoun.

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Infantile Heroes
The human thing in itself . The most vulnerable and yet the most unconquerable
is human vanity: indeed, its strength increases, and in the end can become gigantic,
through being wounded. (HAH 2, 46)

In his analysis of the hero, Nietzsche drawing a similar link between the
infantile inability to endure the loss of an imagined condition of omnipotence
and the pathology of revenge. In making this case, Nietzsche brings in to sharper
focus his concern with the dangers that narcissistically driven vengeance pose
for personal and social relations. In some respects, Nietzsche follows the Stoic
argument that anger and vengeance are symptomatic of a failure to properly treat
and cure the painful affects that spring from mortal losses and sufferings. But
Nietzsche establishes his therapeutic analysis of the psychology of revenge, a
therapy that partly works by satirising and lampooning the infantile stratagems
of the hero, on a more sophisticated psychology, one which lays the groundwork
for later psychoanalytic theories of narcissism and its discontents.
Nietzsches first step towards formulating his own philosophical therapy is
to identify and analyse the pathological stratagems for dealing with incompleteness and vulnerability. It is because the pain arising from their dependence on
uncontrollable goods proves intolerable, he argues, that human beings summon
to their aid various means of alleviation. Revenge, he maintains, is prominent
among these consolations. He distinguishes between taking revenge, which he
describes as an intense attack of fever, and the desire to take revenge without
the strength and courage to carry it out, which he claims means carrying around
with us a chronic suffering, a poisoning of the body and the soul (HAH 1, 60).
According to Nietzsche, neither the morality of intention, nor that of utility are
able to expose and analyse the psychological roots of revenge. Both estimations
Nietzsche roundly asserts are short-sighted (HAH 1, 60, emphasis added).
At first blush, it may seem that Nietzsche is therefore insinuating that it is
better to immediately discharge vengeful affects rather than allow them to grow
into a chronic ailment, but, as we shall shortly see, he seriously questions this
position because it is premised on a crude understanding of psycho-dynamic
processes. Nietzsches much more subtle psychology shows that vengeful discharge often only serves to exacerbate the original distemper. Moreover, the notion that Nietzsche elevates a simple revenge morality over subterranean ressentiment is sharply at odds with the fact that he identifies both as products of one and
the same fever or disease.20 His aim is not to defend the absurd position that one
20

Martha Nussbaum qualifies this point thus: In certain ways Nietzsche prefers this simple revenge morality to a morality based on the idea that the human being is, as such, worthless and
disgusting. But he is quick to point out, as does Seneca, that the interest in taking revenge is a

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form of a disease is better than another, but to understand the pathological root
that lies at the source of vengeance in all its various manifestations. In other
words, both moral perspectives are short-sighted in the sense that in their haste
to establish a fixed point of judgement they neglect to investigate how this fever
might be cured. Fixed moral judgements are of little use to the new physicians
of the soul who attempt to understand revenge as a disease that requires medical treatment (D 52). Nietzsche criticises such moral perspectives because they
merely judge such phenomena rather than understand its psycho-genesis, mutations and possible transformations. It is this latter task that Nietzsche tackles
by means of psychological observation. He addresses both the taking of revenge
and subterranean ressentiment as symptoms of a diseased soul for which the philosophical therapist seeks a cure. Nietzsches difficulty on this score, a point we
will examine further, lies in distinguishing between successful and unsuccessful
therapeia.
Nietzsche, then, seeks to understand vengeance as a symptom of wounded
narcissism, and in the first instance he chooses to illuminate this connection by
examining the pre-Platonic hero. Pace Charles Taylor and other critics, Nietzsche
does not see the pre-Platonic hero as emblematic of a transgressive splendour
against which we can measure and condemn the banality and pusillanimity of
modern humanism.21 On the contrary, he conceives heroic destinies as the hapless, human, all too human misadventures that befall those who, lacking the wit
to find other ways of soothing their wounded narcissism, bring disaster upon
themselves and others. Nietzsche satirises rather than lionises the epic heroes,

21

product of weakness and lack of power of that excessive dependence on others and on the
goods of the world that is the mark of the weak, and not of the strong and self sufficient, human
being or society; see Nussbaum, Martha C.: Pity and Mercy. Nietzsches Stoicism. In: Schacht,
Richard (ed.): Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality. Essays on Nietzsches Genealogy of Morals. Berkeley 1994, pp. 139 167, p. 155.
Charles Taylor makes this claim in the context of arguing that Nietzsche is the fountainhead of
a dangerous brand of counter-enlightenment thought that displaces the religious sources of the
self, to use his peculiar hermeneutic terms, onto finitude and death. Nietzsche he asserts
takes up the legacy of pre-Platonic and pre-Christian warrior ethics: their exaltation of courage,
greatness, elite excellence. And central to that, death has always been accorded a paradigm significance.
The willingness to face death, the ability to set life lower than honour and reputation, has always been the mark of
the warrior, his claims to superiority (emphasis added). Taylor suggests that Hegels depiction of
the heroic life and death struggle perfectly embodies what Nietzsche envisages as the paradigm
of an enhanced life. Nietzsches heroic paradigm, he contends, rehabilitates the traditional
honour ethics central to the dialectic of master and slave. In the original struggle for recognition
between warriors, each shows that he is worthy of recognition precisely by setting his life at hazard. The key to dignity is this Daransetzen; Taylor, Charles: The Immanent Counter-Enlightenment. In: Beiner, Ronald / Norman, Wayne (eds.): Canadian Political Philosophy. Ontario 2001,
pp. 386 400, p. 396 & p. 400, fn. 15. For a concise account of the heroic stage of Hegels dialectic of master and slave that Taylor draws on see: Shklar, Judith: Self-Sufficient Man. Dominion
and Bondage. In: ONeill, John (ed.): Hegels Dialectic of Desire and Recognition. Albany 1996,
pp. 289 303.

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lampooning Ajaxs mad vengefulness (or envy, as he later describes it) and his
choice of suicide as a means of assuaging his wounded vanity (GS 135).22 In his
discussion of Sophocles Ajax, Nietzsche makes the following observation:
[T]he tragic element in the lives of great men frequently lies not in their conflict with
their time and the baseness of their fellow human beings, but instead in their incapacity to defer their action for a year or two; they cannot wait (HAH 1, 61).23

One does well in this context to recall Epictetus deflationary jibe at tragic
heroism: Look how tragedy comes about: when chance events befall fools.24 It
is in this vein that Nietzsche sees Ajax not as a tragic hero, but as a tragi-comic
fool. Like Simon Critchley in his recent analysis of comedy and tragedy,
Nietzsche is satirically critical of, rather than overawed by the monstrous
magnitude of the tragic hero.25 Nietzsche treats the great Ajax as a victim of
incontinence: Ajax simply cannot wait.
Taking his lead from Sophocles dramatisation, Nietzsche in Human All
Too Human 61 lampoons Ajaxs enactment of the heroic ethos. For Nietzsche,
Ajaxs decision to fall on his own sword in order to salvage his honour is not a
resolute act of freedom in the face of fate, but merely a risible, childish failure to
contain his passions. He underlines this point by focussing our attention on a
seemingly minor implication of the speech the oracle Calchas makes shortly before Ajax commits suicide. According to Calchas prophecy, Ajax would no
longer have deemed suicide necessary if he had simply allowed his violent selfpity to cool off for one more day (HAH 1, 61).26 (We should recall that for
Nietzsche the single goal that governs the free spirit is to know at all times
which will make him cool and will calm all the savagery in his disposition
[HAH 1, 56]).
Ajax, then, lacks the wit to soothe and overcome the suffering he experiences
as a result of his double humiliation: his defeat at the hands of the wily Odysseus
in their dispute over Achilles armour and the shameful outcome of his attempt
to exact revenge: the mad slaughter of the sheep he hallucinates as his enemies.
22
23

24

25
26

The Gay Science (GS). Transl. Walter Kaufmann. New York 1974.
Nietzsche echoes Senecas therapy for anger: The greatest remedy for anger is delay: beg anger
to grant this at first, not in order that it may pardon the offence, but that it may form a right
judgement about it: if it delays, it will come to an end. Do not attempt to quell it at once, for its
first impulses are fierce; by plucking away its parts we shall remove the whole. Seneca, Lucius
Annaeus: De Ira. Transl. Aubrey Stewart. In: Minor Dialogues. London 1902. XXIX, ll. 1 7.
Epictetus: The Discourses. Transl. by P. E. Matheson. In: Oates, Whitney J. (ed.): The Stoic and
Epicurean Philosophers. New York 1940. 2, 16, l. 31.
Critchley: Ethics, Politics and Subjectivity, loc. cit., p. 230.
Nietzsche alludes to the scene where a messenger reports that the oracle Calchas has advised
Ajaxs half-brother Teucer not to let him out of his view for the whole day, For on this day,
no other, he was doomed / To meet Athenas wrath. Sophocles: Ajax. Transl. E. F. Watling. In:
Electra and Other Plays. Harmondsworth 1980, ll. 758 759, emphasis added.

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As Nietzsche sees it, Ajax is not sufficiently sharp-witted to outfox the fearful
insinuations of his wounded vanity by saying to himself who in my situation has
not taken a sheep for a hero? Is this then something so dreadful? On the
contrary, it is something typically human: Ajax might have spoken some such
words to comfort himself (HAH 1, 61). Instead, his passion takes on a life of
its own, a transformation Nietzsche registers by making this passion an active,
grammatical subject (Passion does not want to wait), and he is swept away by
a wave of self-pity: Aias! Aias! How fit a name to weep with! Who could have
known / How well those syllables would spell my story? / Aias, Aias! Over and
over again / I cry alas! How am I fallen!.27 Ajax loses himself to passion, just as
his name dissolves into the sound of lamentation. He succumbs to the acoustics
of loss.28 By exaggerating the extent of his losses, Ajax exacerbates his wounded
vanity to the point that he can neither staunch the flow of self-pity and self-lamentation, nor endure it for a single day. Overwhelmed by a torrent of self-pity,
Ajax seeks solace in the most radical anaesthetic: death.
In lightly mocking Ajaxs incontinence, Nietzsche suggests that even though
it is universally human (allgemein Menschliche, as Nietzsche stresses) to suffer from
wounded vanity, and to respond to it by splitting the world into sheep and
heroes, Ajaxs exaggerated self-pity betrays an infantile refusal to delay gratification, to wait and reflect, that profoundly damages his object relations. For in
attempting to maintain his self-image as omnipotent, Ajax cannot tolerate the
deprivations the world and others inflict on his mortal, human self, and instead
splits himself and his objects into debased and idealised parts, sheep and heroes.
Ajax not only splits his world in this fashion, he also expels these parts of himself
into others. His mad delusion simply literalises the mechanism of projection. It
also makes manifest the confusion that projective identification creates between
the intrapsychic and intersubjective world: Ajax is at war not with real others,

27

28

Sophocles: Ajax, loc. cit, ll. 460 65. According to Watling, this pun on Aias, the Greek form of
the name, as a cry of woe may also have had a superstitious significance for the Greeks, implying
the name had some kind of necessary connection to the fate of the owner; see: Watling, E. F.:
Notes to Ajax. In: Electra and Other Plays, loc. cit., p. 213.
In mounting his most serious charge against the tragedians, viz., that they corrupt the souls of
even the best characters, Plato specifically stresses that it is the acoustics of grief that awakens and
nourishes the greediest and most unruly lower parts of the soul. When we hear Homer or one
of the tragic poets representing the sufferings of a hero and making him bewail them at length,
perhaps with all the sounds and signs of tragic grief, you know how even the best of us enjoy it and let
ourselves be carried away by our feelings; and we are full of praises for the merits of the poet who
can most powerfully affect us in this way. In Daybreak 157 Nietzsche explicitly repeats Plato
in order to challenge what he calls a modern cult of natural sounds that encourages expressions
of pain, tears, complaints, reproaches, and gestures of rage and humiliation. In this Platonic
moment, Nietzsche interprets this cult as symptomatic of a lack of composure in the modern
soul, and a lack of desire for such composure; see: Plato: The Republic. Trans. Desmond Lee.
Harmondsworth 1974. Bk 10, 605d-e, emphasis added; and D 157.

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but with the objects into which he has projected his own anxieties. The tragic element in Ajaxs life, as Nietzsche puts it, lies not in any fateful conflict with his
time or the baseness of his fellow human beings, but in himself and his incapacity to defer his action. Like the infantile narcissist, Ajax seeks to immediately assuage the trauma of losing his sovereignty through vengefully annihilating the
gods and heroes that he imagines laughing at his impotence, and that he obsessively conjures up as he meditates suicide.29 However, because these sources lie
within him, he is destined to constantly mistake sheep for jeering heroes and
gods, and he can therefore never achieve what he seeks: the definitive restoration
of pure sovereignty. In his vain pursuit of complete sovereignty, therefore, he
must ultimately turn on himself and by destroying himself quell his narcissistic
rage and suffering once and for all.
The implication of Nietzsches satirical gloss is that by splitting and projecting himself in order to protect his sense of self-perfection, Ajax generates a
violent and endless cycle of vengeance that can be brought to a halt only with
his own death or suicide. (The blade so often steeped in Trojan blood will
now stream with its masters own, that none may conquer Ajax save himself!).30 The
heroic ethos thus generates an either / or: either the constant need to project
parts of the self onto others and take vengeance on them for the sake of restoring the phantasy of omnipotence, or when this mechanism finally, and inevitably,
fails to alleviate the feeling of narcissistic loss, to annihilate oneself.
Nietzsche thus conceives revenge, in whatever guise it appears, as a feverish
sickness of the soul that demands therapeutic analysis. His medical description
of revenge carries more than just the overtones of Hellenisms therapeutic conception of philosophy. It is a lexical index of the degree to which Nietzsche
brings to bear a medical or therapeutic gaze on psychological phenomena. His
therapeutic gaze identifies revenge as a pathology whose roots lie in the mortal
creatures anxious awareness of its own insecurity and the precariousness of its
most cherished projects and hopes. Unable to bear the painful defeat of their
longing for omnipotence, he suggests, human beings resort to stratagems for reestablishing for themselves the image or phantasy of their own self-sufficiency
and impermeability:
Discharging ill humour Any person who fails at something prefers to attribute this failure to the ill will of someone else, rather than to chance. His stimulated sensibility is
relieved by thinking of a person and not a thing as the reason for his failure; for we can
revenge ourselves on people, but we have to choke down the injuries of chance. Therefore,
when a prince [or sovereign Frsten] has failed at something, his circle tends to designate some individual as the ostensible cause and to sacrifice that person in the in-

29
30

Sophocles: Ajax, loc. cit., ll. 372, 389, 459


Ovid: Metamorphoses. Transl. Mary Innes. London 1968. XIII, p. 295, emphasis added.

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terest of all courtiers; for otherwise, the ill humour of the prince would be vented on
all of them, since he cannot take revenge on the goddess of fate herself (HAH 1, 370,
emphasis added).31

Nietzsches tone here carries something of Suetonius deadpan humour, and


in composing this aphorism Nietzsche may well have recalled one of this Roman
chroniclers most dryly entertaining anecdotes about Nero. We can see a monstrously bloated expression of the narcissistic pathology that Nietzsche sets
about deflating in the following report from Suetonius:
Nero was no less cruel to strangers than to members of his family. A comet, popularly
supposed to herald the death of some person of outstanding importance, appeared
several nights running. His astrologer Babillus observed that monarchs usually avoided
portents of this kind by executing their most prominent subjects and thus directing the
wrath of heaven elsewhere; so Nero resolved on a wholesale massacre of the nobility.32

On the theoretical plane, Nietzsche implies that projection is a means of defending against and warding off the pain we experience in glimpsing the radical
limits on our sovereignty. In effect, he constructs this aphorism as a comic satire
of infantile narcissism. Nietzsche treats the vain project of sovereignty as material fit only for comedy. As we shall see later, he also conceives comic selfacknowledgement of ones finitude and powerlessness as integral to the therapeutic treatment of wounded narcissism.
In the aphorism noted (HAH 1, 370) Nietzsche argues that the failure to
comically acknowledge the limits of ones own sovereignty has troubling repercussions. The childish way the ego uses illusions to reclaim its feeling of narcissistic omnipotence may be risible, but the consequences are no joking matter. We
31

32

Interestingly, Nietzsche chooses the figure of the sovereign or prince to discuss narcissism and
vengeance rather than the slave, which is what one is led to expect by those who confine their
interpretation of Nietzsche to a few passages from the first book of the Genealogy of Morals and
the unpublished notes Elisabeth Frster-Nietzsche gathered together under the title of The Will
to Power. For Nietzsche vengeance is evidently a psychological phenomenon that potentially afflicts all human beings qua humans, not a pathology that belongs to a physiological type. Even
the most cursory glance at the critique of narcissistic omnipotence that he undertakes here is sufficient to indicate the patent absurdity of the often repeated claim that the Masters or blond
beasts of the Genealogy of Morals represent Nietzsches conception of a healthy, cured soul; on this
point see: Nussbaum: Pity and Mercy, loc. cit., p. 166, fn. 44.
Suetonius: Twelve Caesars. Transl. Robert Graves. Harmondsworth 1957, p. 36. The choice of
the deadpan Suetonius to illustrate Nietzsches point is not an idle one, for reasons which we
shall consider below. Nietzsche certainly knew Twelve Caesars. Indeed in The Gay Science 36 he
quotes from the last words Suetonius attributes to Emperors Augustus, Nero and Tiberius. It is
also worth noting here that Nietzsches style and tone in the middle works distantly echo Suetonius. We need only consider Michael Grants description of Suetonius style in the foreword
to Graves translation: With him, we have moved away from the traditional eulogistic treatment
(of Roman rulers) and entered a much more astringent atmosphere, in which the men who he
is describing are looked at with a much cooler and disenchanted eye. [] He gathers together, and lavishly inserts, information both for and against them [] without introducing [] moralisations; see:
Grant, Michael: Foreword. In: Twelve Caesars, loc. cit., pp. 7 11, p. 8, emphasis added.

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can see this in Nietzsches analysis of the sovereigns clownish attempts to regain
his majesty. Because the princely or sovereign ego wants to sustain its omnipotence, he observes, the accidents of fate arouse its intense ill humour and aggression. Hence the sovereign seeks to eject or repel all the painful stimuli that
register the limits of his power to command and regulate his dominion, but he
cannot achieve this aim by accepting the superior power of chance. For if he acknowledges the goddess of fate as a higher power, he merely reminds himself of
his own impotence and his powerlessness to prevent further loss and suffering.
His Majesty the Baby, as Freud might say, cannot abide fates lse-majest.33 The
prince therefore needs his courtiers to act as nurse-maids and find ways to appease the humiliation his narcissistic grandiosity has suffered. His courtiers must
reinstate the illusion of his omnipotence lest this humiliation vent itself in indiscriminate acts of infantile rage; his majesty the baby must be consoled. Their task
is to insure that the baby remains sufficiently illusioned, or confirmed in its experience of omnipotence, to borrow from Winnicott.34
Nietzsche identifies strategies of projection as the means which facilitate this
consolation. The sovereigns courtiers project his ill-humour into another, and
construct this other as the external cause of his inner suffering. Through this
projection they enable the sovereign to discharge his irritation with himself over
his own impotence by victimising another, and they thereby also spare him the
difficult task of confronting his sovereignty as a mere illusion. Nietzsche brilliantly captures the very essence of projection as a means of unburdening oneself
of painful affects:
There are not a few who understand the unclean art of self-duping by means of which
every unjust act they perform is re-minted into an injustice done to them by others
and the exceptional right of self-defence reserved to what they themselves have done:
the purpose being to greatly reduce their own burden (HAH 2, 52).

If we understand Nietzsches aphorism in this way as a satire of infantile narcissism, it becomes apparent that he underscores another point: that the sovereign ego is the dupe of its own courtiers or undersouls (BGE 19).35 While the
33

34

35

Freud, Sigmund: On Narcissism. Transl James Strachey. In: On Metapsychology. The Theory of
Psychoanalysis. London 1991, pp. 65 97, p. 85. Hereafter cited ON followed by the relevant
page number.
Winnicott, Donald W.: Transitional Objects and Transitional Experience. In: Playing and Reality.
London 1971, pp. 1 30, esp. pp. 11 17.
Beyond Good and Evil. Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Transl. Walter Kaufmann.
New York 1966. Nietzsches account of the dynamics of the internal world draws extensively on
Platos political metaphor of the psyche. Nietzsche often recycles Platos conception of the
psyche-as-polis as a means of thinking about the structure and dynamics of the intrapsychic
domain. For a brilliant and detailed analysis of these links between Plato and Nietzsche see:
Parkes, Graham: Composing the Soul. Reaches of Nietzsches Psychology. Chicago 1994,
pp. 320, 346 62, esp. pp. 355 59; see also: Thiele, Leslie Paul: Nietzsches Politics. In: Interpretation 17, 2 (Winter 1989 90), pp. 275 290.

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sovereign takes himself to be the master of his kingdom, Nietzsches analysis


suggests that he is in fact deluded by his undersouls into believing that his omnipotence remains inviolable. They dupe him for the sake of protecting the commonwealth from his indiscriminate wrath. For these undersouls the sovereign is
merely the channel through which they flush out the poisons of the body-politic.
The egos majesty is thus doubly compromised: it is governed by the forces of
the underworld and the goddess of fate. Nietzsches parable, one might say, construes the sovereign as a point of intersection between the unconscious and
necessity. On Nietzsches interpretation, therefore, if the ego fails to acknowledge unconquerable necessity and seeks instead to sustain the illusion of its omnipotence, it becomes little more than a sewer for the souls toxic affects:
Cloaca of the soul. The soul too has to have its definite cloaca into which it allows
its sewage to flow out: what can serve as these includes people, relationships, classes,
or the Fatherland or the world or finally for the truly fastidious (I mean our dear
modern pessimists) God (WS 46).

Only by ejecting from itself all of the bitter affects that spring from the painful and unavoidable violation of its omnipotence does the ego establish a fragile
simulacrum of sovereignty. It projects these affects into another and soothes the
souls wounded narcissism by taking revenge against its scapegoats. Revenge is
thus a feverish attack of infantile narcissism.
For Nietzsche, then, the narcissistic wound, or wounded vanity as he calls
it, gives rise to various forms of pathological vengeance (HAH 1, 61).36 Rather
than accepting that losses are inevitable, that the project of sovereignty is beyond
human capacities, the subject attempts to assuage its sufferings and restore its
sovereignty through revenge. The pathology of revenge consists in imagining a
persecutor against whom the subject can then discharge its painful feelings of
being persecuted and violated. Seen in light of the subjects inescapable submission to the greater power of fate, however, such revenge can only establish a
dreamlike illusion of omnipotence. Nietzsche recognises that without coming to
terms with the goddess of fate, without finding another way to master or temper
its own drive to omnipotence, the subject finds itself ensnared in a cycle of vengeance: faced with constant defeat by the mercurial powers of chance, it must
constantly pacify its wounded vanity by creating new scapegoats whose sacrifice
serve as momentary alleviations. As Nietzsche makes clear in his analysis of Ajax
and his comic satire of the duped sovereign, the real other who is the target
of his vengeance is a shadowy projection through whose sacrifice he restores a
phantasy of omnipotence.

36

Here Nietzsche uses the phrase der verletzten Eitelkeit in the context of his observations
about Ajaxs madness.

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Comedies of the Soul


Applause. In applause there is always a kind of noise even when we applaud ourselves (GS 201).37

In the theatre of the self, as Nietzsche imagines it here, the applause of selfcongratulation we summon up for our triumphant performances is always based
on a degree of unclarity regarding ourselves.38 In congratulating ourselves as
victors or heroes we deceive ourselves about ourselves by failing to hear the nonsense, the lack of discrimination, the sheer stupidity in the applause with which
we flatter ourselves. Remarking upon the fact that choices of vocation are often
made without sufficient self-knowledge, Nietzsche observes:
The problem is largely that of making good, of correcting as far as possible what was
bungled at the beginning. Many will recognise that their later life shows a sense of purpose which sprang from fundamental incompatibility: it makes living hard. But at the
end of life one has gotten used to it then he can deceive himself about his life and
applaud his own stupidity: bene navigavi naufragium feci [When I suffer shipwreck I have
navigated well]. And he may even sing a hymn of praise to providence.39

As we have seen, Nietzsche satirises the heros vanity, suggesting that he does
everything in his power to conceal from himself his own haplessness, not only
when he suffers misfortune, but perhaps even more so, as he quips, when he is
victorious:
The denial of chance. No victor believes in chance (GS 258).

Strangely, Nietzsches comic tickling of human vainglory is entirely lost on


almost of all of his critics.40 Even Nehamas, who makes a point of exploring
37

38

39

40

Nietzsches idea of applauding ourselves as we applaud actors on the stage is in line with his notion that we stage ourselves for ourselves. In Human, All Too Human 624, for example, Nietzsche
claims that in relation to their higher self human beings are often actors of themselves insofar as they later imitate over and over the self of their best moments. We need only think of
any aging satanic rock star to understand Nietzsches point.
This phrase is borrowed from Human, All Too Human 164 where Nietzsche describes the unclarity with regards to oneself and that semi-insanity super-added to it that is necessary to believe in oneself as a genius. Nietzsche devotes this aphorism to mocking Wagners and Napoleons insanely vain belief in themselves as bermenschliches.
We Philologists. Quoted in Arrowsmith, William: Nietzsche on Classics and Classicists (Part II).
In: Arion 2, 2 (Summer 1963), pp. 5 31, p. 14.
For recent treatments of Nietzsches use of comedy and satire see: Higgins, Kathleen: Comic
Relief. New York 2000; and the essays by Kathleen Higgins, Laurence Lampert, and John Lippitt
in Lippitt, John (ed.): Nietzsches Futures. London 1999. In his discussion of Ecce Homo, Daniel
Conway argues that Nietzsche engages in an ironic, self-parodying critique of heroic idolatry;
see: Conway, Daniel: Nietzsches Doppelgnger: Affirmation and Resentment in Ecce Homo. In:
Ansell-Pearson, Keith and Caygill, Howard (eds.): The Fate of the New Nietzsche. Aldershot
1993, pp. 55 78. In the same volume, see also Ansell-Pearson, Keith: Toward the Comedy of
Existence. On Nietzsches new justice, pp. 265 281.

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Nietzsches multifarious styles, remains largely oblivious to his penchant for


humorously deprecating vanity and its masks and self-deceptions; and Staten,
who, perhaps more than any other interpreter, attempts to listen carefully to the
tonality of Nietzsches texts remains deaf to his sardonic wit and self-parody.41
Nor should it be thought that Nietzsches comic turns are merely literary devices
of no particular philosophical consequence. Rather, Nietzsche uses black humour as an anti-depressant that enables us to laugh at ourselves rather than raging against ourselves and others.
However, not only does Nietzsche employ comedy, he also analyses it, and in
doing so reveals it as a strategy that human beings use to defend themselves and
assuage their narcissistic sufferings. We can distinguish, then, between Nietzsches use of jokes to demonstrate and participate in their tonic, anti-depressant
effects, on the one side, and his analysis of several types of comedy that human
beings use in their struggle to assuage their suffering: manic laughter as release,
Schadenfreude as pleasurable ridicule, and self-humouring as soothing consolation.
The objective of Nietzsches analysis of these types of comedy is to reveal how
we use them to counter, conceal or compensate for our human, all too human
haplessness and ineptitude. In pursuing this analysis, Nietzsche develops what
we might call a comic acknowledgement of the childish methods we employ to
sustain our narcissistic phantasy of grandiosity and omnipotence. His theorisation of these clownish ruses and self-deceptions brings with it a sorrowful
smile that acknowledges the suffering that drives human beings to employ desperately funny measures.

Manic Laughter
In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche observes in passing that comedy is a therapeutic art which affords us the opportunity of discharging or releasing painful
affects of fear and terror. Comedy he writes is the artistic discharge (Entladung)
41

Nehamas, Alexander: Nietzsche. Life as Literature. Cambridge 1985, pp. 18 21; and Staten:
Nietzsches Voice, loc. cit., p. 5. Even though Staten often misses the comic, ironic and sometimes almost jocular tone of some of Nietzsches aphorisms, arguably his broader point about
the significance of tone has some validity: Tone is just as much a property of the written text as
are grammar and figuration [] and it is in the tone of a voice/text that the libidinal forces motivating utterance are most clearly revealed (p. 5). Based on his close reading Nietzsches 1886
prefaces, Keith Ansell-Pearson argues that Nehamas portrait of Nietzsche suffers from a fatal
deafness to Nietzsches tone. He astutely notes that Nietzsches self-mocking humour is charged
with anxiety: What is missing from the portrait of Nietzsche we find in Nehamas is any
appreciation of the anxiety informing Nietzsches authorship [] and above all, the mocking tones of
self-parody in Nietzsches presentation of his authorship; see: Ansell-Pearson, Keith: Towards the bermensch. Reflections on the Year of Nietzsches Daybreak. In: Nietzsche-Studien 23 (1994),
pp. 123 145, p. 145, emphasis added.

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of the nausea of absurdity (BT 7).42 He sees the art of comedy as soothing the
painful affects generated by a chaotic world that mocks our sovereignty (BT 7).
If a piercing gaze into this chaos triggers a nausea with existence, comedy
saves us from this illness by discharging our pain through manic laughter (BT 7).
Nietzsches clarifies this rudimentary observation about comic catharsis in
Human, All Too Human.43 Wherever there is laughter, he observes, there is nonsense. According to Nietzsche, manic laughter is a symptom of the relief that ensues from a temporary liberation from the painful constraints of necessity:
The overturning of experience into its opposite, of the purposive into the purposeless, of the necessary into the arbitrary, but in such a way that this event causes no
harm [] delights us, for it momentarily liberates us from the constraints of the
necessary, the purposive and that which corresponds to our experience, which we
usually see as our inexorable masters; we play and laugh when the expected (which
usually makes us fearful and tense) discharges itself harmlessly. It is the pleasure of the
slave at the Saturnalia (HAH 1, 213).44

Like the slave temporarily freed from bondage during the Saturnalia, he suggests, our laughter is merely symptomatic of a temporary release from the fear
and suffering that dominates our experience. We explode with manic laughter,
Nietzsche observes, when we unexpectedly find ourselves free from the tyranny
of pain or when an unexpected stroke of good fortune delivers us from constant
suffering.45 It is for this reason that we can barely distinguish it from the tearful
42
43

44

45

The Birth of Tragedy (BT). Transl. Walter Kaufmann. New York 1967.
George Duckworth discusses the theory that in his lost discussion of comedy, Aristotle developed a notion of comic catharsis. Duckworth also concisely sums up the two competing classical
theories of comedy: the Platonic superiority theory and the Aristotelian contrast theory and their
influence on all later theoretical developments; see Duckworth, George E.: The Nature of
Roman Comedy. A Study in Popular Entertainment. Princeton 1952, pp. 304 314.
See also Human, All Too Human, 160. During the Roman Saturnalia, which began on December
17th, the state sanctioned and funded a period of unrestricted license and festivities in which
slaves were given temporary freedom to do as they liked. Commenting on the Saturnalia, Seneca
derides the hollowness of this unrestricted license. Remaining dry and sober he writes takes
a good more strength and will when everyone about one is puking drunk; see: Seneca, Lucius
Annaeus: Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium. Transl. Robin Campbell. Harmondsworth 1969.
XVIII, 4, ll. 18 20. For Seneca, that we seek to dull our pain through the manic dissoluteness of
the festival merely reflects the extent to which in ordinary life we have yet to conquer the pain
caused by necessity. It is precisely this manic laughter that Stoics must resist if they are to conquer pain and necessity, rather than merely seeking release from it through the illusion of its temporary cessation. In epistle XVIII Seneca fears that rather than fortifying us against misfortune,
Saturnalian laughter addicts us to finding relief in escapism and that in doing so it sows the seeds
of vengefulness and depression. It is in this context that Seneca famously introduces his analogy
between the Stoic work on the self and military maneuvers undertaken in peacetime.
Freud explains manic laughter or exultation in exactly the same manner. Such manic states,
he argues, depend on certain economic conditions: What has happened here is that, as a result
of some influence, a large expenditure of psychical energy, long maintained or habitually occurring, has at last become unnecessary, so that it is available for [] discharge when for instance
some poor wretch, by winning some large sums of money, is suddenly relieved from chronic

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sobs of relief that follow in the wake of a release from intolerable suffering. Pain
remains the groundbass of such laughter:
Upside down world of tears. The manifold discomforts imposed upon men by the
claims of higher culture at last distort nature so far that they usually bear themselves
stiffly and stoically and have only tears for the rare attacks of good fortune so that
many indeed, are constrained to weep merely because they have ceased to feel pain
only when they are fortunate do their hearts beat again (HAH 2, 217).

Melancholic Humour: Cruel Jokes


Laughter. Laughter means schadenfroh but with a good conscience (GS 200).

As Lampert notes, many of Nietzsches jokes seem wounding and cutting, but
his sharp wit is not in the service of Schadenfreude.46 In fact, Nietzsches psychological acuity illuminates how Schadenfreude, the malicious laughter at anothers
downfall, is something that we can turn back on ourselves in the form of selfridicule and self-mockery. And just as Schadenfreude is a comic anti-depressant that
works its magic cure through the illusion that we are elevated above our neighbour, self-ridicule performs precisely the same function in the intrapsychic space.
In order to theorise this melancholic discomfort, Nietzsche introduces concepts that Freud later systematised in his psychic topography, namely the conceptual distinction of opposed psychical agencies: the superego and the ego. It
is this self-splitting, Nietzsche shows, that makes it possible for human beings
to adopt the stance of Schadenfreude towards themselves and cruelly laugh at their
own misery. Etymologically, of course, melancholia literally means black bile,
which is to say, assuming its identity as one of the four humours, black humour.47
Now, black humour, as Nietzsche sees it, also shares the same psychological
structure as melancholic self-abasement, but experienced from the position
of the super-ego rather than the hapless ego. That is to say, in self-ridicule we establish an imaginary identification with the super-ego and through this identification we are able enjoy its mortification of the ego. Punning on the Nietzsche
epigraph, self-ridicule, we might say, means laughing with a good conscience.
By identifying with the ber-Ich, Nietzsche shows, we restore our illusion of sov-

46

47

worry about his daily bread, or when a long and arduous struggle is finally crowned with success ; see: Freud, Sigmund: Mourning and Melancholia. Transl. James Strachey. In: On Metapsychology. The Theory of Psychoanalysis. London 1991, pp. 251 268, p. 263. Hereafter cited
MM followed by the relevant page number.
See Lampert, Lawrence: Nietzsches Best Jokes. In: Lippitt (ed.): Nietzsches Futures, loc. cit.,
pp. 65 81.
See Klibansky, Raymond / Panofsky, Erwin / Saxl, Fritz: Saturn and Melancholy. Studies in the
History of Natural Philosophy, Religion, Art. New York 1964.

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ereignty; it is a perverse means of reclaiming our omnipotence through selfabasement. It follows that this kind of black humour becomes more pleasurable,
and its paroxysms of laughter more intense, the greater the degree to which the
ego is mortified and abased. Nietzsche sees this anti-depressant, self-ridicule at
work in the pleasures of the ascetic:
There is a defiance of oneself of which many forms of asceticism are among those most
sublimated expressions. For certain men feel so great a need to exercise their strength
and lust for power that in default of other objects or because their efforts in other directions have always miscarried, they at last hit upon the idea of tyrannising over certain parts of their own nature, over, as it were, segments and stages of themselves []
they behave like high-spirited riders who like their steed best only when it has grown
savage, is covered with sweat and is tamed This division of oneself, this mockery
(Spott) of ones own nature, spernere se sperni [] is actually a very high degree of vanity
man takes a real delight in oppressing himself with excessive claims and afterwards
idolising this tyrannically demanding something in his soul (HAH 1, 137, emphasis added).

On this point, Simon Critchley provides an illuminating preliminary understanding of the psychological structure and purpose of melancholic humour.
Drawing on Freuds Nietzschean inspired conception of self-splitting, he claims
that this splitting not only produces the self-laceration of depression (melancholia) and the self-forgetfulness of elation (mania), but a dark, sardonic, wicked
humour. Black humour, as he explains, has the same structure as melancholic depression, but it is an anti-depressant that works by the ego finding itself ridiculous.48
However, there is a slip in Critchleys analysis, and it is one that leads him
astray: for it is not the ego finding itself ridiculous, but the superego ridiculing
the weakness of the ego. If Nietzsche is right, this ridiculing by the superego
does not, as Critchley claims, recall us to the modesty and limitedness of the
human condition.49 On the contrary, through idolising this cruel superego the
ego surreptitiously restores to itself a degree of vanity. Freud himself is unambiguous on this point: he stresses that in melancholic self-abjection, which can
take the form of cruelly laughing at oneself, the yield of enjoyment derives from
satisfying the sadistic, annihilating impulse. When we take delight in lacerating
ourselves, so he believes, we repeat our original infantile reaction to our discovery of our powerlessness before the object world. In this case, however, as
Nietzsche already demonstrates in his analysis of the ascetic, the sadism which
relates to the object is turned back upon the ego. Importantly, then, for
Nietzsche and Freud what we discover in the phenomenon of melancholia is the
ego as object (or, better still, as abject object) rather than as a subject. Freud explains the abjection of the ego thus:
48
49

Critchley, Simon: On Humour. London, New York 2002, p. 101, emphasis added.
Ibid., p. 102.

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The self-tormenting in melancholia, which is without a doubt enjoyable, signifies [] a


satisfaction of trends of sadism and hate which relate to an object, and which have
been turned around on the subjects own self The analysis of melancholia []
shows [] that the ego can kill itself only if [] it can treat itself as an object if it is
able to direct against itself the hostility which relates to an object and which represents to objects in the external world.50

Taken to its logical extreme, the Spiel of melancholia generates fort! , but
no da! . It follows that Critchley is wrong to treat the pleasures of masochistic
identification with the superego as if it were a tempering of our narcissistic
grandiosity and a source of self-cognition.51 Nietzsches and Freuds point,
by contrast, is that this masochistic identification is a means of compensation
for the egos lack of power, a compensation that perversely takes the form of
50
51

MM, pp. 260 261, emphasis added.


Simon Critchley claims to deduce from Freuds metapsychology the idea that the melancholic
has deeper self-knowledge than other people. He cites Freuds passing comment in MM to defend the link he draws between melancholia and self-knowledge:
When in his heightened self-criticism he describes himself as petty, egoistic, dishonest, lacking in independence, one whose sole aim has been to hide his weaknesses of his own nature,
it may be, so far as we know, that he has come pretty near to understanding himself; we only
wonder why man has to be ill before he can be accessible to a truth of this kind (MM, p. 255).
But, Critchley confuses Freuds mordant joke which, like Nietzsches jokes in the middle works,
plays in the gap between our ideal self-image and the human, all too human, with a theoretical
statement to the effect that self-knowledge flows from self-laceration. This should be obvious
from the caveat Freud adds in the sentence following this joke:
For there can be no doubt that if anyone holds and expresses to others an opinion of himself
such as this [] he is ill, whether he speaks the truth or whether he is being more or less
unfair to himself. Nor is it difficult to see that there is no correspondence, so far as we can
judge, between the degree of self-abasement and its real justification. A good, capable, conscientious woman will speak no better of herself after she develops melancholia than one
who is in fact worthless; indeed, the former is more likely to fall ill of the disease than the
latter, of whom we too should have nothing good to say. (MM, p. 255)
Freuds point here is exactly the opposite of that which Critchley claims to find in his metapsychology: for what Freud suggests is that melancholic self-laceration is not driven by a desire
for self-cognition and that there is in fact no necessary connection between its judgements and
the truth of the matter. Freud, it should be noted, claims that it is good, conscientious individuals
who are more likely to fall ill of melancholia. It follows, therefore, that when we hear melancholics engage in extreme self-criticisms more often than not their statements will be false. But
the link between melancholia and self-misrecognition goes deeper than this since a certain kind
of self-misrecognition is in fact the cause of the disease. That is to say, if Freud is right melancholia is distinguished from mourning by the fact that in the former we remain unconscious
about the loss that has generated our condition. By definition, therefore, in melancholia we do
not know ourselves. Moreover, according to Freud, by directing their lacerating aspersions at
themselves, melancholics conceal from themselves and others that these are in fact disguised
reproaches of others. In sum, Freud claims that melancholics are doubly blind to themselves:
they do not know what the loss is from which they suffer, nor do they know that the plaints they
direct at themselves are disguised attacks on another. Martin Jay develops a balanced critique of
the contemporary exaltation of the abject in his paper: Abjection Overruled. In: Jay, Martin: Cultural Semantics. Amherst 1998, pp. 144 156.

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Michael V. Ure

participating in its own abasement. In other words, contra Critchley, this mocking
self-abasement is the means by which we restore, not temper, our vanity.52 As
Freud is at pains to demonstrate, the melancholics ill-temper proceeds from a
constellation of revolt which passes over into the crushed state of melancholia.53
In a characteristically pithy jest, Nietzsche sums up the covert self-inflation
of the melancholic: Whoever despises himself still respects himself as one who
despises (BGE 78).54 Nietzsches analysis of the vain striving to restore omnipotence through the desperate measure of identifying with the inner tyrant, the
cruel superego and its mocking laughter, succeeds in revealing how we use selfridicule as a counterweight to the feeling or experience of haplessness and impotence. According to Nietzsche, the melancholic entertains and gives himself
pleasure, not enlightenment, through self-ridicule (HAH 1, 141).
Those paradoxical phenomena, like the sudden chill in the behaviour of an emotional
person, or the humour of the melancholic [] appear in people who harbour a powerful
centrifugal force [Schleuderkraft] and experience sudden satiety and sudden nausea.
Their satisfactions are so quick and so strong that they are followed by weariness and
aversion and flight into the opposite taste. In this opposite, the cramp of feeling is resolved by sudden chill, in another by laughter (GS 49, emphasis added).

Here Nietzsche analyses melancholic humour as a flight from the feeling of


nausea and weariness that ensues from a massive expenditure of force, or an
52

53
54

A measure of the extent to which Critchley has gone astray on this point is his use of Groucho
Marxs black humour as an illustration of the positive function of the superego in supplying us
with the anti-depressant of humour. In such humour, he argues, the superego does not lacerate
the ego, but speaks to it words of consolation. This is a positive superego that liberates and elevates
by allowing the ego to find itself ridiculous; Critchley: On Humour, loc. cit., p. 103, emphasis
added. As we shall see, however, for Freud humour works its anti-depressant magic not by
ridiculing the ego but by allowing it to tame a threatening reality by treating it as a matter of jest,
a mere childs game that cannot touch it. Moreover, although there can be no doubt that Grouchos humour is an anti-depressant, it seems somewhat odd to claim, as Critchley does, that his
black humour achieves this end by consoling the ego in the manner of a comforting parent, for parents
hardly console by enabling their child to laugh at its own abjection. It seems far more plausible to
suggest that Grouchos humour is an anti-depressant tonic because it discharges the superegos
cruelty through abasing the ego, not comforting it. It is instructive to compare Critchleys claim with
E. L. Doctorows reflections on his childhood reception of Grouchos comedy: Groucho we
acknowledged was the wit [] But there were moments when we felt menaced by Groucho, as if
there were some darkness in him, or some inadvertent revelation of the sadistic lineaments of adulthood that was perhaps premonitory of our own darkness of spirit as when we laughed guiltily
at his ritual abasement of the statuesque, maternal Margaret Dumont; see: Doctorow, E. L.:
Introduction. In: Marx, Harpo (with Rowland Barber): Harpo Speaks about New York. New
York 2000, pp. 7 13, pp. 8 9, emphasis added.
MM, p. 257, emphasis added.
Gilles Deleuze echoes Nietzsches point in his penetrating account of the masochists relation to
the law as essentially humourous and rebellious: The masochistic ego is only apparently
crushed by the superego. What insolence, what humour, what irrepressible defiance and ultimate
triumph lie hidden behind an ego that claims to be so weak; see: Deleuze, Gilles: Coldness and
Cruelty. In: Masochism. New York 1991, pp. 15 138, p. 124.

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orgy of feeling (GS 49). What Nietzsche depicts as a Schleuderkraft is analogous


to the superego: it is an instrument that is generated by and which also discharges psychical tensions, and in the case of the melancholic it does so by abasing the ego. But like any other orgy, according to Nietzsche, the melancholics
orgy of self-violation simply generates another pathology: nausea or weariness.
Melancholic humour is thus a sick laughter, or the laughter of sickness; an orgiastic, impatient yielding to the opposite impulse in a desperate attempt to escape self-revulsion.

Humoring Ourselves
Yet, as Nietzsche recognised, self-ridicule does not exhaust our comic potential. We can see in Nietzsches work the same distinction between cruel joking
and humour that Freud draws in his paper On Humour. This humour has quite
a different psychological structure to the sadistic ridiculing that merely inverts
the melancholic split. We can briefly unpack the psychology of humour by examining Freuds discussion. According to Freud, we soothe and console ourselves
for our powerlessness in the face of the traumas of the external world by denying
or wishing away its impact on us; this, he believes, is what it means to humour
ourselves. He illustrates this with an example of gallows humour: A criminal
who was being led out to the gallows on a Monday remarked: Well, the weeks
beginning nicely.55
Freud maintains that such humour has something of grandeur and elevation which, as he writes:
[] clearly lies in the triumph of narcissism, the victorious assertion of the egos
invulnerability. The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let
itself to be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of
the external world.56

Freud distinguishes between the cruel joke in which we ridicule ourselves and
this species of humour in which we make light of the threats, dangers and harshness of reality, and in doing so he conjures up something of the tranquil, untraumatised spirit of Stoicism. In the former we take pleasure in diminishing the ego, but
in the latter we preserve and protect the ego by deflecting reality. Freud, in short,
sees humour as a triumph of narcissism over the painful threats of reality. Nietzsche also pokes fun at the way we retain our good humour through denying the
power of reality over us, instead using such occasions as means of gaining pleasure:
55

56

Freud, Sigmund: On Humour. Transl. James Strachey. In: Art and Literature. London 1985,
pp. 425 433, p. 427. Hereafter cited OH followed by the relevant page number.
OH, p. 429.

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We laugh at him who steps out of his room at the moment when the sun steps out of
its room, and then says I will that the sun shall rise; and at him who cannot stop a
wheel, and says: I will that it shall roll; and at him who is thrown down in wrestling
and says: Here I lie but I will lie here! But, all laughter aside are we ourselves ever acting any differently whenever we employ the expression: I will? (D 124).

Nietzsche evokes laughter here in order to disclose the comical way in which
we triumphantly proclaim our mastery of reality in the face of our palpable impotence. Indeed, Nietzsche treats this risible reversal of the active and passive
poles that, as we have seen, he analyses in his satire of infantile narcissism, as a
blunder universally committed by human beings:
To reassure the sceptic. I have no idea how I am acting! I have no idea how I ought to
act! you are right, but be sure of this: you will be acted upon! at every moment! Mankind
has at all ages confused the active and the passive: it is their everlasting grammatical
blunder (D 120).57

Because such humorous self-deceit runs counter to an unmediated appraisal


of reality, Freud describes it as rebellious rather than resigned, a triumph of
the ego but also of the pleasure principle, which is able here to assert itself
against the unkindness of the real circumstances.58 Explaining this achievement
in terms of his psychodynamic theory, Freud suggests that such self-humouring
consolation is made possible by the superego which cocoons the ego from the
traumas of reality:
[] in bringing about the humorous attitude, the superego is actually repudiating reality
and serving an illusion []. It means: Look! Here is the world which seems so dangerous! It is nothing but a game for children just worth making a jest about!59

At first glance this explanation appears to generate a conundrum for Freud,


since, needless to say, the superego is normally not such an amiable figure. In
order to solve this conundrum Freud adds a comic twist to the tale of his account
of our capacity to humour ourselves:
If it is really the superego which, in humour, speaks such kindly words of comfort to
the intimidated ego, this will teach us that we have still a great deal to learn about the
nature of the superego. [] if the superego tries, by means of humour, to console the ego
and to protect it from suffering, this does not contradict its origin in the parental agency.60

In this closing remark of his paper on humour, Freud gives the clue to dissolving the mystery of how the superego can both mock the ego through lace57

58
59
60

Nietzsche constantly draws on our grammatical blunders as a rich source of insight into the
economy of the soul. These blunders are to Nietzsche what parapraxes are to Freud: viz., symptoms from which we can interpret the dynamics within the household of the soul.
OH, p. 429.
OH, pp. 432 433, emphasis added.
OH, p. 433, emphasis added.

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rating jokes, and console it through humorously cocooning it from those external realities which severely limit its narcissistic wishes. It is seldom noted
that when Freud introduces his famous jest about the narcissist as His Majesty
the Baby he is actually referring to the parents attitude towards their child, not to the
child himself. In fact, Freud derives his notion of primary narcissism not from
direct observation of children, but by inferring this condition from the parents
affectionate attitude towards their children. On the basis of the sheer intensity of
parental affection, he asserts, we can infer nothing other than that it is a reproduction of their own narcissism which they have long since abandoned. Parents,
Freud maintains, invest their abandoned narcissism in their children. He describes this narcissistic investment in the following way:
The child shall have a better time than his parents; he shall not be subject to the
necessities which they have recognised as paramount in life. Illness, death, renunciation of enjoyment, restrictions of his own will shall not touch him; the laws of nature
and of society shall be abrogated in his favour; he shall once more really be the centre
and core of creation His Majesty the Baby, as we once fancied ourselves []. Parental love, which is so moving and at bottom so childish, is nothing but the parents
narcissism born again, which, transformed into object love, unmistakably reveals its
former nature.61

Freuds argument, in other words, is that humour saves narcissism by warding


off the harshness of reality, and it does so by drawing on that aspect of the superego that is formed on the basis of the parents narcissistic investment in the
childs ego and their desire, as he puts it, to protect it from suffering. For
Freud, humour is the egos narcissistic rebellion against reality that it funds with
the resources of its parents narcissistic investments. In humour, then, the superego treats the ego as doting parents treat their child, it spoils and mollycoddles
the ego, pretending that it can suspend the harsh laws of necessity in favour of
His Majesty the Baby.
So Critchley is right when he jokes that the superego is our amigo, but we
must conclude that he is wrong to think that this superego simply replaces or, as
he puts it, takes the place of the ego ideal, the repository of our narcissistic
dreams.62 On the contrary, as Freud shows, the superego that humours the ego
with its words of consolation is built upon the parents narcissism and is thus a
continuation of their desire to ward off the unkindness of reality. Indeed, Critchleys claim that we can dispense with the ego ideal, the heir to our phantasies of
plenitude, is strikingly at odds with the foundations of precisely the Nietzschean
and Freudian meta-psychology that he deploys for the sake of theorising comedy
and humour. At the core of Freuds theory of narcissism, we might recall, is
the claim that we never forgo the desire to take pleasure in ourselves or for the
61
62

ON, p. 85.
Critchley: On Humour, loc. cit., p. 105, emphasis added.

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Michael V. Ure

oceanic feeling, and that the development of the ego consists in a departure
from primary narcissism and gives rise to vigorous attempts to recover that
state.63 (In casting aside the ego ideal Critchley seems to be the unwitting victim
of his own self-humouring: he deceives himself that he can majestically dispatch
the ego ideal with the mere stroke of a pen).
We must, therefore, restate the significance of Freuds remarks on self-humouring: it is true that he unexpectedly finds a positive place for the superego,
but only for a superego onto which our own lost ideal has been projected, and
onto which presumably parents also project their narcissism. The real insight of
Freuds analysis of humour is that it implies that the cruel superego, the agency
formed through the infants introversion of its own wounded vengefulness, is
modified and tempered through the integration or incorporation of the residues
of the feeling of plenitude that precedes this wounding.
In other words, Freud broaches the idea that the turning back on ourselves
that begins with the formation of an ber-Ich agency can only take a healthy form
when this agency is informed by and draws upon the resources, images and
phantasies of our primary narcissism. Humour, we might say, is made possible by
an ber-Ich in which our phantasies of plenitude have tempered the vengefulness
which is ignited and stoked by our loss of plenitude. Humour is a healthy resuscitation of the residues of our narcissism that prevents the superego from becoming, as Freud puts it, a pure culture of the death instinct.64 In the art of humouring ourselves, then, Freud discovers a positive place and function for our
narcissism, as indeed he must insofar as he believes that we can only ever modulate and transform, never abandon our narcissistic wishes. To be their own ideal
once more, as they were in childhood he asserts without qualification this is
what people strive to attain as their own happiness.65
By elevating us above misfortune humour save[s] our narcissism from
disaster, as Ricur puts it, but it does so, Freud believes, in a way that he accords a certain dignity that is lacking in mere jokes, which he criticises for giving
us a pleasure that derives from satisfying our appetite for aggression, either
against others or ourselves.66 Freud stresses humours ability to protect the ego
63
64

65
66

ON, p. 95.
Freud, Sigmund: The Ego and the Id. Transl. James Strachey. In: On Metapsychology. The Theory of Psychoanalysis. London 1991, pp. 350 401, p. 394. Hereafter cited EI followed by the relevant page number.
ON, p. 95.
Ricur, Paul: Freud and Philosophy. An Essay on Interpretation. Transl. Denis Savage. New
Haven, London 1970, p. 334. However, to qualify Ricur, it does not save our narcissism per se.
Rather, to state Freuds point more precisely: in humour, he suggests, the positive or healthy
superego, one in which the residues of our narcissism have been integrated, softens the blows of
a reality for the ego; without this humouring the ego would experience its finitude and impotence as profoundly traumatic. The amicable superego thereby enables it to come to terms with

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from being buffeted by reality as the key to understanding its positive therapeutic effects on the egos capacity to bear the ultimate sign of its impotence, or
the most touchy point in the narcissistic system, its mortality.67
In this regard, Freud implies that self-humouring saves us from defeat in a
manner that makes the ego more amenable to Stoic composure and moderation
in the face of an intractable reality.68 Like the Stoics, Freud argues that the value
of humouring oneself lies in the fact that it enables the ego to economise on its
expenditure of affects. There is no doubt he avers that the essence of humour
is that one spares oneself the affects to which the situation would naturally give
rise.69 In the case of gallows humour, for example, the ego spares itself the affects of anger, fear, horror or despair; an achievement made possible when the
ego airily dismisses the traumas of reality with a jest.70 The egos jesting dismissal
of the otherwise traumatic reality of its impending death, he maintains, prevents
the arousal of anger or vengeance, indeed it transforms the provocations of reality into occasions for it to gain pleasure. For Freud, as Kohut correctly states,
humour is a transformation of narcissism which enables us to tolerate the recognition of [our] finiteness in principle and even of [our] impending death.71
It is the Stoics who develop and illustrate the connection between self-humouring and self-composure that Freud merely hints at in his exploration of humour. Seneca, for example, in a letter recounting his growing awareness of his
own senescence and imminent death, gives a comical rendition of the Stoic
dogma that to fear death is irrational.72 He does so by recalling how a certain

67
68

69
70
71
72

its finitude and impotence without the violent denials of vengefulness or its inversion, self-mortification. In other words, Freud establishes a connection between self-humour and selfcomposure that the Stoics also acknowledge and affirm.
ON, p. 85.
Simon Critchleys neglect of this aspect of Freuds line of thought confirms Heinz Kohuts lament that (o)n the theoretical side [] the contribution of narcissism to health, adaptation and
achievement has not been treated extensively; see: Kohut, Heinz: Forms and Transformations
of Narcissism. In: Self Psychology and the Humanities. Reflections on a New Psychoanalytic
Approach. New York 1985, pp. 97 123, p. 98.
OH, p. 428.
Ibid.
Kohut: Forms and Transformations of Narcissism, loc. cit., p. 120, emphasis added.
This Stoic humour is lost on Hegel and those who uncritically adopt his account of their place in
the history of philosophy. Hegel interprets Stoicism as a distinctly humourless flight from actuality that passes over into a broken gibber of negation. According to Hegel, Stoicism and the
other Hellenistic philosophies, Epicureanism and Scepticism, knew nothing but the negativity of all
that assumed to be real, and was the counsel of despair to a world which no longer possessed anything stable; see:
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich: Phenomenology of Mind. Transl. J. B. Baillie. London 1949,
pp. 502 503; and Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich: The History of Philosophy. Transl. J. Sibree.
London 1900, p. 329, emphasis added. For Hegel the gibber of negation refers to Pyrrhos radical scepticism, which, he argues, is the inevitable dnouement of the Stoic flight from actuality.
It would take us too far afield to consider the long and complex history of the reception of Stoicism since antiquity. For an excellent history of its reception in Christian and Renaissance

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Michael V. Ure

Pacuvius made light of his own death by gathering his admirers together each
night to perform with him his own funeral celebrations. Pacuvius uses this comic
ritual, we might say, to enable himself to confront his finitude without being terrorised by it:73
Pacuvius [] was in the habit of conducting a memorial ceremony for himself with
wine and funeral feasting of the kind we are familiar with, and then being carried on a
bier from the dinner table to his bed, while a chanting to music went on of the words
He has lived, he has lived in Greek, amid the applause of the young libertines present. Never a day passed but he celebrated his own funeral. What he did from discreditable motives we should do from honourable ones, saying in all joyfulness and cheerfulness as we retire to our beds: I have lived; I completed now the course / That
fortune long ago allotted to me.74

Strangely, or at least so it must seem to those who follow Hegel in deprecating Stoicism as an art of solitary mortification, Seneca suggests that Pacuvius
comically self-mocking defiance of the pathos of finitude should inform the
Stoics own acknowledgement of mortality.75 Seneca comes close here to embracing what we might call a comic anti-heroic paradigm that, as Michael Janover
puts it, acknowledges that to face finitude is to flee it, and that only in laughter
and comedy can we touch on the real but ungraspable matter of our mortality
without trumping or troping it in clichs or metaphysics.76
What Freud adds to this Stoic perspective is a psychodynamic account of the
genesis of such humour. As we have seen, for Freud the ego can only manage
this humorous feat of grandeur and elevation by drawing on the resources of

73

74

75

76

thought, see: Bouwsma, William J.: The Two Faces of Humanism. In: Oberman, Heiko A. /
Brady, Thomas A. (eds.): Itinerarium Italicum: The Profile of the Italian Renaissance in the Mirror of its European Transformations. Leiden 1975, pp. 3 30.
I borrow this phrasing from Eagleton, Terry: Sweet Violence. The Idea of the Tragic. Oxford
2003, p. 73.
Seneca: Epistulae Morales, loc. cit., XXII, 8, ll. 10 16. The last line might also be translated as:
What he did through bad conscience (mala conscientia) let us do from a good (bona) one [].
This is C. D. N. Costas translation in: Seneca, Lucius Annaeus: 17 Letters. Warminster 1988.
Costa notes that the familiar memorial ceremony Seneca refers to here is the Parentalia, a Roman
festival in honour of the family dead conducted on February 13 21; the closing line is from
Didos speech in Virgils Aeneid, IV, l. 653. Geoffrey Sumi provides a fascinating and thorough
analysis of the theatrical, carnivalesque quality of aristocratic Roman funerals, and the use of humour in this ritual of mourning, a practice the Romans mediated through the performance of an
actor (or funerary mime) who sometimes mocked and parodied the deceased. Suetonius describes this theatricality and humour in his account of Vespasians funeral, reporting that as part
of the ritual the Emperors mime parodied and poked fun at his well-known penchant for frugality; see: Sumi, Geoffrey S.: Impersonating the Dead. Mimes at Roman Funerals. In: American
Journal of Philology 123 (2002), pp. 559 585.
Taylor, Charles: The Politics of Recognition. In: Gutman, Amy (ed.): Multiculturalism. Examining the Politics of Recognition. Princeton 1994, pp. 25 73, p. 50.
Janover, Michael: Mythic Form and Political Reflection in Athenian Tragedy. In: parallax 9, 4
(2003), pp. 41 51, p. 48.

Stoic Comedians. Nietzsche and Freud on the Art of Arranging Ones Humours

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the friendly superego, the psychical repository of the parents narcissistic investment in it, which enables the ego to dismiss a threatening reality as nothing more
than a game for children.77 Freud explains this achievement as one in which the
subject suddenly hypercathects his [friendly] superego and then, proceeding
from it, alters the reactions of the ego, which, without this protection from its
superego, would normally react with fear, anger, vengefulness.78 In other words,
Freud attributes a positive function to the amicable superegos comic method of
sustaining the ego. It serves a positive function, he maintains, insofar as it
soothes or diminishes the egos bitterness at discovering its own impotence before reality, thereby enabling it to economise in its production and expenditure
of ill-humoured affects and to derive a certain mild pleasure from the misfortunes it confronts. If, then, we can overcome the fear of impending death by putting ourselves, through humour, on a higher plane, we can do so only by drawing
upon our amicable superego, the psychical vestiges of our parents narcissistic
love. Paul Ricur nicely sums up the essential point that Freud drives at in his
analysis of humour:
[] humour [] enables us to endure the harshness of life, and, suspended between
illusio