Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (1844-1904)

Born in Rocken, Germany, Nietzsche studied classical philology at the Universities of Bonn and Leipzig (1864-5). He became professor of classical philology at the University of Basel, Switzerland in 1869 at the age of 24, but resigned from the post ten years later owing to ill health, having been granted a pension. Nietzsche's creative life spanned from the publication of The Birth of Tragedy in 1872 to the production of Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist (a vehemently polemical attack on Christian belief) in late 1888. In January 1889 Nietzsche suffered a mental collapse from which he never recovered. He was cared for by his mother, and subsequently by his sister, until his death in 1900. The apparent ease with which it is possible to read Nietzsche's books is deceptive. Stylistically, he is one of the most approachable of philosophers, but the complexity of his ideas and their development defies simple exegesis. What follows merely selects some of the more influential aspects of his thought and places them in the context of their effect upon recent philosophy and critical theory.

Nietzsche's writings have had a significant impact on philosophy, literature, critical theory, and even theology. Figures as diverse as Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger (who views Nietzsche primarily in the context of his own critique of western metaphysical thought), Jean-Paul Sartre, D.H. Laurence, Thomas .Mann, Georg Lukacs, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Francois Lyotard have all been subject in one way or another to his influence. In the twentieth century Nietzsche's name has had a chequered history: it has been associated by various critics of the times with the German militarism of the 1914-18 war and the Nazism of the 1939-45 war—an association primarily caused in the latter case by the unscrupulous exegetical attitudes of Nazi "intellectuals," and by his sister's own Nazi sympathies. In the English-speaking world Nietzsche's postwar rehabilitation was in large part due to Walter Kaufmann's classic study, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (1950; fourth revised edition 1974) which challenged many widely held misconceptions about his philosophy.

Nietzsche was initially influenced by the thought of Schopenhauer, and also by his association uith the composer Richard Wagner, and his early writings (principally The Birth of Tragedy (1872) and two of the four Untimely Meditations, "Schopenhauer as Educator" and "Richard Wagner in Bavreuth," published in 1874 and 1876 respectively) pay homage to these figures. The Birth of Tragedy is a remarkable text which attempts to reinterpret the significance of Greek tragedy by understanding it as a sublimated expression of the inherent violence of ancient Greek culture. Nietzsche's analysis introduces the aesthetic categories "Apollinian" and "Dionysian" as a means of decoding the meaning of Greek tragedy. The Apollinian represents the formal constraints and structures necessary for artistic expression: "the form-giving force, which reached its consummation in Greek culture" (Kaufmann, 1974 p 128). The Dionysian, on the other hand, embodies violent and chaotic forces of becoming. These forces, Nietzsche argues, were harnessed and sublimated by the Apollinian element to make possible the production of the classical Greek cultural legacy. Wagner's music is presented in The Birth of Tragedy as a means for attaining a rejuvenated contemporary German national culture akin to that achieved by the Greeks. By the time he wrote Human, All Too Human (1878), however, Nietzsche had turned away from Wagner, seeing him not so much as a source of hope for the future of culture as a symptom of contemporary decline. Likewise, Nietzsche came to view Schopenhauer's pessimistic philosophy in a more critical light, while his attitude toward nationalism steadily hardened (a tendency already hinted at in the first Untimely Meditation, devoted to attacking the "cultural philistinism" exemplified by David Strauss's The Old and the New Faith).

Nietzsche's books spanning 1878-82 mark what some scholars have termed his "positivistic" period (Habermas, 1981). Whether or not such a term can adequately serve to define the approaches Nietzsche experimented with in Human, All Too Human, Daybreak (1881), and The Gay Science (published in 1882, with Book V added in 1885), many of the themes and concerns which are taken up in his later works receive their prelirninary airings in these books—for example, an increasing epistemological skepticism, a growing interest in psychology and physiology, the development of a power theory, the famous announcement of the "death of God," and the recasting of ethical issues in terms of these ideas. Equally, Human, All Too Human marks a turn to the aphoristic style of expression which Nietzsche was to adopt in most of his later works.

The production of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (parts I and II, 1883; part III, 1884; and part IV 1885) marks the beginning of Nietzsche's most productive period. An often rhapsodic text, Zarathustra takes the form of a philosophically oriented biblical parody. Most significantly, it announces the need for the "overman" (‹bermensch) as the supreme goal of human activity. The overman represents for Nietzsche the highest expression of human potential, a creative being able to give meaning to a universe which can no longer be adequatels explained in terms of the outmoded metaphysical postulates and religious beliefs of Christian ontology.

In his mature thought Nietzsche developed a holistic view of the cosmos in which all identities are the product of relations of force (The Will to Power, 1968, section 1067). This notion forms the basis for his contention that life itself can be comprehended in terms of an interplay of power relations: "power" as such does not exist, but "power-relationships between two or more forces" do (ibid., 631). All living beings are an expression of this network of contending forces. All life, Nietzsche holds, seeks to enhance its own feeling of power, which is none other than an expression of its "will to power." The pursuit of power can have many forms of expression, ranging from the tyrannical desire to control others to the ascetic's will to self-denial and self-discipline, which enhances his or her feeling of power by subjugating the demands of the body.

The emphasis on power in Nietzsche's thinking forms the basis for his critique of conventionally accepted moral codes, and forms the core of On the Genealogy of Morals (1887;1968). Ethical systems, according to Nietzsche, can be divided into two different camps representing contending interests, "master morality" and "slave morality." Master morality evaluates the world from the perspective of attained domination and power. In consequence, Nietzsche argues, master morality is primarilv affirmative in character since it emanates from the standpoint of a dominant social grouping which first affirms itself as "good," and only after that conceptualizes those of a lower rank as "bad." Slave morality, on the other hand, is generated from the perspective of the oppressed. The slave feels him or herself to be the helpless victim of a superior force and, unable to take practical action to rectify the situation, labels that force "evil." The slave's conception of "good" is a secondary, "reactive" (Deleuze, 1983) consequence of this negative judgment. In Nietzsche's terms, Christian culture is a prime example of slave morality, while ancient Roman culture exemplifies master morality Modernity finds itself caught between the two ethical forms: "today there is perhaps no more decisive mark of a 'higher nature'. . . than that of being a genuine battleground of these opposed values" (Nietzsche, 1968, part I, p. 16). Nietzsche's concern with modernity, that is, with what he came to see as the nihilistic heritage of a Christian tradition which had reached the point of self-destruction, marks him out in the eyes of many critics as the, progenitor of postmodernism. According to Gianni; Vattimo, for example, "It could be legitimately argued that philosophical post-modernity is bornt with Nietzsche's work" (Vattimo, 1988, p. 164). 2

During the postwar period Nietzsche's thought exerted a marked influence upon philosophers and theorists in a variety of ways. Within the Frankfurt school, the neo-.\larxist tendencies which. epitomize the approaches of Nlax HORKFIELMER,; Theodor .4DoR.~o, Herbert .\L`Ra SE, and Walter~ BE.NJ.~ur.N are frequently tempered by elements' of Nietzschean skepticism. For example, the force~ of Nietzsche's critique of rationalist principles~ contnbutes a significant element to Adorno and, Horkheimer's Dialeetic of Enlightenment (1944),4 N\hich charts the development of the enlightenment in terms of a struggle for power which, in its attempt to banish prescientific mythologies, recoils = into creating a new mythological structure of~ rationalist tenets to replace them. Adorno's later~ development - especially in Minima Mora/ia

(1951), which uses the aphoristic style favoured by ~ .\ietzsche, and 4gainsl Ep~stemology (19;6)- fre-; quentlv- exhibits a Nietzschean turn of thought,6 whereby the foundational principles of critical reason are consistently revealed as having an all too human, and hence questionable, basis. ~

Imong those thinkers within the structuralist, and poststructuralist traditions, Nietzsche's impact is most obviously evident in the work of Nfichel FOUCAU(T, Gilles DELEt ZE~ Paul DE .\I.~N, Jacques DERRrDA, and Jean-Fran,cois LYOTARD. Foucault s attempt at elucidating a "genealogical" model of history self-consciouslv- draws upon Nietzsche's analysis of power and his critique of the "subject" in a way which seeks to overturn both liberal and

F .\larxist presuppositions about knowledge and politics. For Foucault, as for Nietzsche, knowledge is not composed of an autonomous body of abstract theorems that exist independently of prevailing~ social forces. On the contran, the st~iving for knowledge is in fact a striv-ing for mastery over reality; hence "kno'A-ledge" is in fact a term which can be thought of as being synonv-mous with "power."

For Gilles Delenze, Nietzsche is a thinker worthy of close and careful interpretation (see Deleuze's Vet-<ehe aml Philosophy, first published in 1962) and the source of a number of key terrns in his own philosophical v-ocabulan-. Deleuze sees Nietzsche as a "nomadic" thinker who spurns the dualistic institutional and state structures which dominate

modern life in favour of a monistic and yet polymorphous philosophy of becoming. Perhaps the most interesting example of Nieusche's influence -on Deleuze is to be found in A Thot~sand Plateans (Deleuze and Guatarri, 1980), which draws upon Nietzsche's psychological and physiological accounts of power relations in its formulation of a highlv problematic critique of authoritarian discourse, replete with an essentialism consisting of "nomadic

essences." ~

Nietzsche also casts his distinctive shadow over a the deconstructive work of both Paul de Man and | Jacques Derrida. For de Man (1979), Nietzsche's 3 texts are PAMDIGM cases of self-deconstructing ar- = guments which destabilize their own structure. Derrida too sees Nietzsche as a precursor of the deconstructive techniques which he himself has used to criticize the "logocentric" tendencies of the ~'estern tradition. I lowever, N'ietzsche is also a much more problematic figure for Derrida than he is for Deleuze. For example, Derrida's analysis of the "left" and "right" tendencies of Nietzschean DlscocrRsE in The Ear of the Other (1982) demonstrates a critical concern with the "destinational" structures of justification supplied by Nietzsche's own writings, and theu subsequent appropriation by seemingly opposed positions. Jean-Francois Lyotard's postmodern discourse is marked by a -cross-fertilization of l\ ietzschean and K^NTian influences in its advocacy of both an agonistic view of human relations and the role of an aestheticaHy oriented AV.~NT-GARDE (see The Postmodern Condition, 1979). Lyotard's position, hov,-ever, has been modified by his reading of philosophers from the analytic tradition (poncipally Kripke and WITTGKNSTEIN). In The Differend (1983) he constructs a formalistic philosophy of language in w-hich the term postmodern is rendered a potentially problematic manifestation of Nietzschean discourse: "a goal for a certain hurnanity . . . (A bad parody of Nietzsche. ~h!-~)" (section 182).

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