Epiphany and/or Politics? Nietzsche

  • Susan McManus
Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)

Abstract

The figure of Nietzsche stands at the center of this book, interrogating what has gone before, anticipating other and different ways of thinking and being and becoming to come. I have so far explored the ways in which political theory that seeks to ground its legislative impulse in epistemologically privileged ways, in knowledge of nature or of the real, is always-already fictive thought. It is, however, fictive thought that must (and can only attempt to) efface, negate, and forget its contingency and its creative power in favor of its need for truth and universality, and thus its juridical, legislative, and authoritative power. Eliciting the traces of this necessarily incomplete effacement and negation was the subject of exploration of part I of this book. There, I explored the foundational paradox of the substitution of the (actually) imaginary for the (illusory) real in the state of nature narratives of Hobbes and Rousseau. In Hobbes, the programmatic Leviathan was disrupted; but more positively in Rousseau, I suggested that the contours of a different modality of theorizing could be discerned. In the excursus on Kant, I explored his “brilliant satire” on state of nature narratives; and suggested that the explicitly fictional logics of Kant’s “Conjectures …” creates an estranged perspective by which his Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals can be read. Just as the chronology of nature was inhabited by a narrative imaginary that provided the conditions of intelligibility, so to, in the deduction of the Categorical Imperative, a narrative and fictive moment is indeed necessary. Two important metaphysical distinctions, between nature and narrative, and between philosophy and fiction, were shown to be resistant to such separation.

Keywords

Dust Manifold Coherence Assure Stratification 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Douglas Thomas, Reading Nietzsche Rhetorically (London and New York: Guilford Press, 1999), p.3.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Keith Ansell-Pearson, An Introduction to Nietzsche as a Political Thinker: The Perfect Nihilist (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p.7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    J. Hillis Miller, “The Disarticulation of the Self in Nietzsche,” in, The Monist, 64, 2 (April 1981), pp.247–261, 261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 8.
    My reading is therefore compatible with, e.g., Ofelia Schutte’s reading, which traces the ways in which “whenever Nietzsche followed the authoritarian mode of reasoning, both the resentment and the nihilism that he sought to overcome become reinstated in his own thoughts and teachings.” See, Ofelia Schutte, Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche Without Masks (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1984), p.4. A central concern of much of the literature on Nietzsche is the coexistence of two such irreconcilable faces: see alsoGoogle Scholar
  5. Tracy Strong Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration, expanded edition, with a new introduction (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000);Google Scholar
  6. Mark E. Warren Nietzsche and Political Thought (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1988); Keith Ansell-Pearson, Nietzsche Contra Rousseau, and An Introduction to Nietzsche.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Bernd Magnus, Stanley Stewart, and Jean-Pierre Mileur, Nietzsche’s Case: Philosophy and/as Literature (London and New York: Routledge, 1993) argue that Nietzsche’s work is “self-consuming,” but my reading of this is a productive one.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Later in this chapter I refer to the “political economy of the gift.” This is connected to dispersal. In the wake of, e.g., Derrida, Irigaray, and Cixous, to name the most prominent and important theorists here, these methods have been characterized respectively as the economy (or logic) of the proper/gift: conceptualizing, naming, restricting, or engaging in the play or multiplicity of identities and language beyond an either/or logic (gift/proper) cannot, however, be understood themselves in terms of oppositions, as I imply. On this, see Derrida, who writes, “But—if the form of opposition and the oppositional structure are themselves metaphysical, then the relation of metaphysics to its other can no longer be one of opposition,” Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles/Éperons: Les Styles de Nietzsche, trans. Barbara Harlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), pp.117–119. That Nietzsche gives rise to thought in this area almost goes without saying: particularly in Zarathustra, a concern with “holding on” versus “letting go” can be sketched that parallels the above schematic and that can be traced through a series of thoughts (the comedy that results after the death of the paradigm of tragedy; the Dionysian, or the abyss that is productive after the destructive impact of the “death of God” is worked through) all of which point toward the ways in which the economy of the gift plays a crucial a-foundational role in thought after Nietzsche. Zarathustra also calls “unnameable” the “gift-giving virtue” (Thus Spake Zarathustra, III, “On the Three Evils,” 2). These concerns are especially prevalent in “continental” feminist approaches, which tend to engage at an epistemological level. It is with regret that I do not engage with the work of Georges Bataille—that would have to be a project for a different time. However, he is another exemplar of the rethinking of the status and task of theory: asGoogle Scholar
  9. Arkady Plotnisky writes, “Nietzsche’s revolutions—his ‘reevaluations of all values,’ and his ‘reasons other than hitherto’—can serve and have served as a ‘model,’ interactively, for theoretical and political subversions, for a complex and exuberant, and at times dangerous, play. The ‘model,’ however tentative and preliminary, is also powerful and productive. In the intersection of Nietzsche and Marx, Bataille’s vision remains perhaps the greatest, if in turn a not always unproblematic example of a theory— general economy—of the intersection of the political and theoretical, and the artistic or Dionysian,” Reconfigurations: Critical Theory and General Economy (Florida: University Press of Florida, 1993), p.191. See also note 45 to this chapter.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Walter A. Kauffman Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (Cleveland and New York: Meridian Books, World Publishing Company, 1956), pp.62, 204. “Monodialogic” is defined to “crystallize the tendency of each aphorism to be self-sufficient while yet throwing light on almost every other aphorism.” An interesting characterization, which does justice to the interrelated and juxtaposed concerns of Nietzsche, but avoids the “problem of the order of rank.” I suggest that this problem is not resolved by the single principle of will to power acting as foundation.Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    Diana H. Coole, “The Politics of Reading Nietzsche,” in, Political Studies 46 (1988), pp.348–363. Reviewing: Warren, Nietzsche and Political Thought, Ansell-Pearson Nietzsche Contra Rousseau, An Introduction to Nietzsche; andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daniel Conway, Nietzsche and the Political (London: Routledge, 1997).Google Scholar
  13. 21.
    Jean-Michel Rey, “Commentary,” trans. Tracy B. Strong, in, Nietzsche’s News Seas: Explorations in Philosophy, Aesthetics and Politics, ed. Tracy Strong and Michael Gillespie (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1988), pp.91–92n2. “Classical commentary” in my reading is equivalent to “coherent existential meaning,” which is the reconstruction of a particular narrative logic of beginnings and endings into which Nietzsche in no way fits. In On The Genealogy of Morals, to point out just one instance, the very idea of beginnings and ends is subject to a complex genealogical critique (itself a form of reading and rewriting). The “violence” for which I argue in reading Nietzsche does not mean coercing him into the very paradigm he is questioning, probing the limits of, effectively deconstructing.Google Scholar
  14. 23.
    Gary Shapiro, Nietzschean Narratives (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989), p.3, emphasis mine.Google Scholar
  15. 26.
    Kelly Oliver, Womanizing Nietzsche: Philosophy’s Relation to the “Feminine” (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), p.20.Google Scholar
  16. 30.
    Alan D. Schrift, Nietzsche and the Question of Interpretation: Between Hermeneutics and Deconstruction (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1990), p.173.Google Scholar
  17. 33.
    John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today (London: Pluto Press, 2002), p.50.Google Scholar
  18. 39.
    Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in, The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (London: Penguin, 1984), p.83.Google Scholar
  19. 45.
    Schrift relates this to Cixous’s concern with the possibility of “writ[ing] and liv[ing] within a textual/libidinal/political economy freed from the constraints of the law of return.” See, “On the Gynaecology of Morals: Nietzsche and Cixous and the Logic of the Gift,” in, Nietzsche and the Feminine, ed. Peter Burgard (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1994), p.216.Google Scholar
  20. 62.
    Frances Oppel, “‘Speaking of Immemorial Waters’: Irigaray With Nietzsche,” in, Nietzsche, Feminism and Political Theory, ed. Paul Patton (London: Routledge, 1993), p.92, emphasis mine.Google Scholar
  21. 83.
    “In tragedy, even though the ultimate truth is Dionysian destruction, Apollonian ‘appearances’ offered individuation and beauty so that man could find temporary meaning in the midst of a terrible truth. […] individuation and form allow life to be meaningful and beautiful; but within individuation is a formless flux which persists as a continual destruction of form”: see, Lawrence Hatab, “Laughter in Nietzsche’s Thought: A Philosophical Tragicomedy,” in, International Studies in Philosophy 20/2 (1988), pp.67–79, 69. These tropes negotiate both the creation and the dispersal of meaning.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 92.
    This is only one aspect of injustice: but, as I return to in the political section, it is an aspect that profoundly destabilizes a “justice” of hierarchy and domination. Many commentators have noted Nietzsche’s profound destabilizing of ontology. Derrida, Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles, De Man, Allegories of Reading, Nehamas, Life as Literature, Schrift, Nietzsche and the Question of Interpretation, and Strong, Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration, all accept versions of this. However, what is important in my reading is that I begin to stress the problem of judgment and justice as inseparable from the interpretative problem. As Babich puts it, “Judgment is possible—or, better, unavoidable—on this [perspectival] basis, but such judgment is ineluctably interpretive.” See, Babette E. Babich, Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Science: Reflecting Science on the Grounds of Art and Life (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), p.94. To a certain extent, this defines Nietzschean “injustice.”Google Scholar
  23. 155.
    http://struggle.ws/mexico/ezln/ccri_5_dec_lj_july98.html accessed 10/06/02; Subcommandante Insurgente Marcos Our Word is Our Weapon: Selected Writings, ed. Juana Ponce de León (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002), pp.158–159.Google Scholar
  24. 164.
    To reaffirm: Irigaray’s description of pre-Socratic speech, with which she aligns Nietzsche’s texts (in particular, Thus Spoke Zarathustra) delineates the space within which Nietzsche works: “Would you say that Zarathustra is fiction? For me, it is absolutely not fiction [… but a poetic language] that does not announce the truth but which makes the truth, that acts, but not at all in a fiction/theory hierarchy,” in, Frances Oppel, “‘Speaking of Immemorial Waters’: Irigaray With Nietzsche,” in, Nietzsche, Feminism and Political Theory, ed. Paul Patton (London: Routledge, 1993), p.92, emphasis mine.Google Scholar
  25. 171.
    A classic statement of eternal recurrence is in the chapter of Zarathustra titled “The Vision and the Riddle.” Many of the comments I make can also be made with reference to that more complex and emblematic chapter. For useful surveys of the relevant literature on eternal recurrence, see Magnus Nietzsche’s Case: Life And/As Literature, and David Wood, “Nietzsche’s Transvaluation of Time,” in Exceedingly Nietzsche: Aspects of Contemporary Nietzsche-Interpretation, ed. David F. Krell & David Wood (London and New York: Routledge, 1988).Google Scholar
  26. 175.
    Kathleen M. Higgins, Comic Relief Nietzsche’s Gay Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p.142. Interestingly, modern science can be seen to be very much aware of its own investment in creating and constructing ontological order. For a non-ontological scientific reading that eternal recurrence seems to have anticipated, see Ferguson: if we were able to travel backwards toward what we have been assuming was the beginning, (the singularity) we would find, just short of reaching it, that (in imaginary time) it would become meaningless to talk about the past at all. In a situation where there are four space dimensions and no time dimension, chronological time—with its well-defined past, present and future—would not exist, and with it would go all the vocabulary for describing chronological time. No more yesterday, or always, or past. Discussion about a beginning or before the beginning would also have no meaning …Google Scholar
  27. Kitty Ferguson, Measuring the Universe: The Historical Quest to Quantify Space (London: Headline Book Publishing, 1999), p.286. John McManus directed me to this literature, and helped me understand what is going on here.Google Scholar
  28. 176.
    Phillip Pullman, Lyra’s Oxford (Oxford and New York: David Fickling, 2003).Google Scholar
  29. 179.
    Benjamin Bennett, “Bridge: Against Nothing,” in, Nietzsche and the Feminine, ed. Peter Burgard, p.295. This provides an unusual “application” of Stanley Rosen’s argument that “Zarathustra is […] at once a handbook of revolution and a confession by its author that revolutions must always fail,” The Mask Of Enlightenment: Nietzsche’s Zarathustra (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p.xv.Google Scholar
  30. 181.
    Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (London: Athlone Press, 1983), pp.xiii–xiv.Google Scholar

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© Susan McManus 2005

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  • Susan McManus

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