Thursday, August 12, 2010


Resuscitating an earlier conversation regarding the problem of past love -- the problem, that is, of whether love can, as time passes, ever retain (or even resuscitate) its very essence, indeed, of whether love must not of necessity contradict and so lose itself the moment it should take leave of the present and become a thing of the past, Amos of KTL has seen fit to expound upon the likeness obtaining between such a past love and a god that has passed away:

If [the god] is gone and dead, how can it have been a god? Certainly, it is not the God who "at every time and in every place,...draws close to man" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1). By withdrawing from me after exacting my promise it has withdrawn its right to be called a god. But a god does not change, so it never was a god. Never to have been a god: this is how a god dies.

The logic of divine death --unmistakably Nietzschean in origin --is in a certain sense deceptively simple. Among the many who have revisited its simplicity since it was first proclaimed through the mouth of a "mad man", in that famous failed attempt to teach the common man the basic principle of a fröhliche Wissenschaft, it is Jean Luc Marion who offers perhaps the most succinct formulation of its general shape:

A “God” who can die harbors already, even when he is not dying, such a weakness that from the outset he falls short of the idea that we cannot not form of a “God.” And is it not the least of courtesies that he should satisfy a propaedeutic concept, even if it is only our own? A “God” who decides to die dies from the beginning, since he undoubtedly needs a beginning –which means that the “death of God” sets forth a contradiction: that which dies does not have any right to claim, even when it is alive, to be “God. (The Idol and Distance)

Omitting for the nonce a consideration of, for example, Marion's conspicuous use of a double negation (" we cannot not..."), we may yet appreciate how crucial the function of temporality is for this logic of divine mortality: a single moment --that moment of terrible epiphany in which it is finally ascertained that god is no longer --this single moment, it is claimed, reveals as so much illusion all the moments, indeed, the entire history, that had lead up to this very moment of revelation. Prior history, as the history of the god who has been, is simply the process by which its own farcical nature has now unfolded. The logic's conclusion thus offers itself straightforwardly: the god never was. If anyone has promised things or himself to such a god, those promises are to be esteemed null and void ---unless, as Rainscape has suggested, it can be supposed or in someway believed that another, this time immortal, god was evesdropping on such promise-making all along. But what if one, upon carefully examining the temporality by which god's life becomes a lie, were to object that somewhere along the way the original problem at stake had become conflated with another, entirely different problem? After all, is the problem of a despondent 'god' the same as the problem of a god who has become despondent? It is Nietzsche himself, who refused to lose sight of the double edged necessity of this logic: the truth of the moment of the death of god required god's previous life precisely to the extent that it would be capable of denying it. The Moment, if it was going to mark the beginning of an eternity in which god never existed, would have to mark it off from an eternity in which he always existed. Thus does Nietzsche have Zarathustra recognize the remarkable and confounding demands such a moment would have to make upon the one who endures it (I shall quote at length):

“Look at this gateway! Dwarf! It hath
two faces. Two roads come together here: these hath no
one yet gone to the end of.
This long lane backwards: it continueth for an eternity.
And that long lane forward—that is another eternity.
They are antithetical to one another, these roads; they
directly abut on one another:—and it is here, at this gateway,
that they come together. The name of the gateway is
inscribed above: ‘This Moment.’
But should one follow them further—and ever further
and further on, thinkest thou, dwarf, that these roads
would be eternally antithetical?”—
“Observe,” continued I, “This Moment! From the gateway,
This Moment, there runneth a long eternal lane backwards:
behind us lieth an eternity.
Must not whatever can run its course of all things, have
already run along that lane? Must not whatever can happen
of all things have already happened, resulted, and
gone by?
And if everything have already existed, what thinkest
thou, dwarf, of This Moment? Must not this gateway also—
have already existed?
And are not all things closely bound together in such
wise that This Moment draweth all coming things after it?
consequently—itself also?
For whatever can run its course of all things, also in
this long lane outward—must it once more run!—
And this slow spider which creepeth in the moonlight,
and this moonlight itself, and thou and I in this gateway
whispering together, whispering of eternal things—must
we not all have already existed?
—And must we not return and run in that other lane
out before us, that long weird lane—must we not eternally
Thus did I speak, and my speech grew ever softer: for I was
afraid of my own thoughts, and the thoughts behind my thoughts.
(Thus Spake Zarathustra)

The moment of the death of god, the moment of eternal contradiction that contains the impossible yet necessary union of two eternities --this moment is extraordinary in its very structure as a moment, its very temporality. Even without asking what truly singular thing is happening in this moment, there is the easily overlooked question of how it is happening. How does this moment itself happen? Zarathustra proclaims at the turning point of his discourse to the dwarf -- the culminating moment of his discourse on the Moment --that "This Moment draweth all coming things after it...consequently—itself also" (bold mine). Nietzsche elsewhere, both through the double of Zarathustra and through his own private letters, refers to this moment as the moment of his "loneliest loneliness". But with this characterization, Nietzsche is not giving some "biographical context" for his thought, as if the moment should be situated within the extensive background of a solitary life; he is rather describing the very intensive structure of the moment and it only. For if god is to die in such a moment, then this moment must take place as the expression of its own impossibility. Of course it is true that the eternity of god's presence can never have been an eternity if it ends, AND the eternity of god's absence will never have been an eternity if it begins. But above all even the moment itself cannot have happened ---and this because of what transpires in it: an event which denies a priori both its past  (god's presence) and its future (god's absence), thereby denying also the possibility its present, namely the moment itself. The moment therefore steals itself away. It is a time not spent but stolen. It is nothing but the moment of its own withdrawal, and it is therefore nothing all the more, indeed emphatically.

But if, then, the moment has this problematic yet emphatic character of preceding itself, along with everything that has come before it and everything that will come after, if it "draweth all coming things", that is all things which come and go, "after it", then it is so unprecedented that it threatens to lose its character as a moment. And again, such a loss would necessarily not be one that occurred at any subsequent time, but would occur in and as the moment. The moment is thus a moment of self-loss; it can never really happen, can never really have happened, at best it is a flash of what is already the case, namely god's presence or his absence. And this is in fact what Nietzsche's German famously calls it, for the English "Moment" does not render the German appropriation of Latin, i.e."Momente", but rather the truly Germanic "Augenblick". The moment under consideration here is a sudden flash, a momentary lapse, a blink of the eye, an Augen-blick. Like the Anglo-Saxon blican, the German blicken signifies "a glance, a glimpse, or a glittering, a shining." Not insignificantly, Blicken itself passes through such terms as blinzen and blinzeln, to wink and to blink, and is found in such expressions as blinz-äugig, that is, blink-eyed or weak-eyed. The term then passes on to designate a complete privation of sight as in Blinde-kuh, or that ancient children's game "blind man's buff".

The deceptively simple logic of divine death leads to this compound loss: the loss of time in time ---Die Ewige Wiederkunft des Gleichen in der Augenblick. It now becomes apparent that if we hold fast to the demands of this logic, then not only the god but also the death of god withdraws --and with it the very moment in which all of this happens. But this withdrawal of everything --so radical that it requires that everything never have been, that everything be essentially gone --this withdrawal itself, surely it (to return to the conspicuous use of a double negative) is not nothing. It is this peculiarity of the withdrawal, that it is not nothing, even if only (and especially) because it gives nothing ---it is this peculiarity that Heidegger, that one and only speaker of a word still missing, was compelled with gadfly-like insistence, never to cease invoking in our memory. And indeed, not only the death of the divinity or the moment of this death, but also the logic of this death, has a place in our memory that antedates the death itself, a place that stretches much farther back than its Nietzschean variety, a place to be found, then, not only at the Nietzschean end but at the Platonic beginning, and even at that beginning it is imbued with a waning mythical echo:

"The μύθος is that appeal of foremost and radical concern to all human beings which makes man think of what appears, what is in being. Λόγος says the same; μύθος and λόγος are not, as our current historians of philosophy claim, placed into opposition by philosophy as such. On the contrary, the early Greek thinkers (Parmenides, fragment 8) are precisely the ones to use μύθος and λόγος in the same sense. Mύθος and λόγος become separated at that point where neither μύθος nor λόγος can keep to its original nature. In Plato's work, this separation has already taken place. Historians and philologists, by virtue of a prejudice which modern rationalism adopted from Platonism, imagine that μύθος was destroyed by λόγος. But nothing religious is ever destroyed by logic; it is destroyed only by the god's withdrawal." (Was heißt Denken?)

Heidegger is here, as usual, exercising a very particular care over his words. The audience of his lecture is at once the recipient of a daring proposal and of caution as to how it should be understood. Although ontology, if it is to take its first step, must recognize that it does not involve itself in "μῦθον τινα διηγεῖσθαι", in that is, "telling a myth" (Plato's Sophist, 242c) --a phrase famously quoted and insisted upon by Heidegger some 25 years prior to his delivery of the Was heißt Denken? lectures, nevertheless we are here told that μύθος itself "makes man think of what appears, what is in being." Μύθος not only engenders but compels a thinking of what appears, what is in being. We cannot here consider how cautiously Heidegger lays this comma down --more cautiously then if it were a stick of dynamite; for "what appears" precedes "what is in being" not only in the order of Heidegger's sentence. But for the immediate purposes of the question at hand, it is enough to underscore the surprising compulsion of myth upon thinking, the seemingly implausible force that through the "green fuse" of thinking drives philosophy and its logic to flower. It is this unexpected claim that gives the further support for Heidegger to assert that "philosophy as such" is entirely innocent of the crime of making μύθος and λόγος oppose each other; μύθος belongs to a soil altogether subterranean to philosophy, and indeed, one by which its first growth, its first appearance, is made possible and even "compelled". No, not philosophy as such, which is indebted to μύθος, but both μύθος and λόγος themselves are to be held responsible. What is it that they did? They did not, and more precisely could not keep to their original nature. Only thus did they come into conflict in such a way that λόγος was fated to overtake μύθος and to bid it farewell. What is this not-keeping in which a failure of essential proportions takes place? We may gather at least this much en route to an answer: the original nature of μύθος and λόγος are of such a sort that they need to be kept, to be preserved. When they are not kept, they are given, and thus given away, lost. Only in the loss of this their original nature --a nature in which their appearance remained concealed, that is kept, do the two come into opposition. Philosophy as such, before the time of Plato, thought of "what appears, what is in being" but it did not expose the original nature of what it was thinking. The Presocratics could not achieve this, because what they were thinking was of such a nature that they had to keep it in their thoughts; they had to keep thinking about it, for it had not yet ever been thought. But Plato, who, we are told, in some measure had to achieve this exposure, was faced with the vexing problem that he could no longer keep thinking in the way Parmenides had, and therefore he could no longer keep in thought the original, concealed nature of μύθος and λόγος. Such failure was emphatically not Plato's doing --rather it is only the lucidity of Plato as opposed to the chiaroscura of the Pre-Socratics that attests to the fact that "this separation has already taken place." But as nonchalant as Heidegger is in delivering such a "fact", he is at the same time speaking with masterful care: the separation does not take place in Plato's work, but "has already taken place" in Plato's work; indeed, it has taken place as the very condition for the possibility of Plato's work, even though it is precisely this separation that will be problematized in Plato's work. We are thus faced with a curious state of affairs: it did not yet happen in the Presocratics, only to have already happened in Plato's work. When then --at what moment --did such an event take place? Instead, like the death of god, this event of separation in which μύθος and λόγος both fail to keep to their original essence steals away unseen, unexperienced, unsuffered, untranspired, only to be proclaimed later, in a thought out of season. There is no present moment of separation. There is only the time when it has not yet happened, and the time when it has already happened. In the former time, such a separation is not yet conceivable, that is to say, it is not yet possible. In the latter time, such a union is no longer conceivable, that is to say no longer thinkable. The separation testified to by the work of Plato, like the death testified to by Nietzsche, both obey a logic in which the testimony each thinker gives buries the event to which it testifies. Both falsify so completely the past from which they are breaking that even the moment of the break is cast into an enigmatic obscurity. And amidst the ruction of such a break, certain quiet questions slip away unasked and unaccounted for. Why was something like a break ever needed? What can account for this original and long lasting entanglement with μύθος? Why did god need to die? What was this comforting and great illusion of the eternal existence of the god? These were not nothing. Nor were they deliberately decided upon or contrived, as I have had pause to consider elsewhere on this blog:

First, it must be admitted that we do not ever decide to be involved in that dimension in which the divine brilliantly flashes. If the Greek gods were by no means the stupendous, ex nihilo inventions of the poets, still less were they the fruits of a some sort of consensus among the people. Ancient man was pre-committed to hierophany. The failure to recognize this pre-commitment to such a hierophantic realm is what in part characterizes the essential presumption of modern impiety. Ancient piety, understood in terms of this characterization, is not --at least in the first place --a personal decision, since it could only be something fit for the scales of phronetic deliberation if it has beforehand lost all of its gravitas as a compelling, commanding hierophany, i.e. as something quite other than either a fact or a contrivance. Homer himself offers his testimony in this respect:"Far-darting Apollo descended upon the Achaian camp as the night." This is neither contestable nor incontestable. It occurs in a realm whose stillness and purity lies before any possibility of contention. From out of the overwhelming brilliance of such a realm, men find themselves pouring libations and sacrificing in holocausts in accord with a need which they have not yet understood ---a need which has all the same been given for them to attempt to fulfill. Such need, such necessity understood as ἀναγκὴ, is the pulse of the tragic essence of the Greeks, which means of course the Greek essence of tragedy, namely τραγοιδία as the scape-goat's song of sacrifice.

What can account for this pre-given experience of the god? What can eradicate it? If the god once was, yet is now no longer, does this falsify the god? Does it destroy the god? Or is this destruction of the god, like that of myth, one that is preceded by a certain inexplicable concealment? Does all destruction always fall short of truly destroying, since it can never destroy the past that preceded it? Does not this past, not simply as what is past, but as what has indeed once been envelop in perfect remove what is now destroyed? The withdrawal of what once appeared limits the very reach of destruction, and so this withdrawal itself gives testimony to whatever has withdrawn. But the withdrawal is of the god. The god who is asserted to never have existed on the basis of his evanescence, is a fortiori the god who once was. But what god is this whose very flight testifies to his arrival and above all where can such a god be found? As the culmination of Heidegger's Beiträge would have it:

Flight and arrival of gods now together move into what has been and are removed from what is past.
But the futural, the truth of Seyn as refusal, contains within itself the ensuring of greatness, not the empty magnitude of empty and gigantic eternity, but of the shortest pathway.

Is then, the once irresistible love, which, in departing from the heart in which it once had burnt and abandoning it to the tragedy of an inexplicable fragmentation, not all the more undeniable for that fact?


  1. I very much enjoyed these reflections. Thank you. I have at least two, perhaps tangential, thoughts in response to what you have written.

    First, when considering Nietzsche's analysis of the Moment in Zarathustra I am struck by the sense in which realizing the nature of the Moment negates both the Moment and Time. All Time is there in the instant, as if Time weren't temporal at all, and yet the Moment fails to be there, as if it were essentially temporal. It seems as if this isn't just a critique of the metaphysics of presence but also an attempt to demonstrate the connected failure of its alternative. The reason I am thinking along these lines is that your analysis of the Moment moment in Zarathustra put me in mind of Nietzsche's discussion of "How the Real World At Last Became a Myth" in "Twilight of the Idols". There, at the risk of over simplifying, the closing blow is the recognition that doing away with "reality" also does away with the anti-realist alternatives which seem to present themselves from out of the death of realism. Without reality there is no illusion, and so the apparent world dies as well. This being the case it is exceptionally hard, if possible at all, to conceive of a new alternative. I do not believe Nietzsche ever achieved an alternative, but he seemed to struggle with the attempt throughout his work. If what I suggested about time makes sense, then Nietzsche had already problematized the critique of the metaphysics of presence which Derrida would draw out of Heidegger and make so central to his own work.

    Secondly, I am struck by the thought that the division of Logos from Muthos, which you suggest occurs after the pre-Socratics but before Plato, orients the event in the lap of the birth of history as a discipline distinct from myth. This seems very right. If one were to ask me about the origin of the divide between logos and muthos my thought would go first to history, to Herodotus and Thucydides, and not to philosophy. It is even possible that philosophy, at least as practiced by Plato, grows out of this earlier development of the invention of history as distinct from myth.

    Sorry for the lengthy response, hope it was of at least some interest.

  2. William, despite your apology, I cannot pardon the "lengthy response" you have offered, since it is only in the hopes of receiving such responses that this blog finds its raison d'etre. Many thanks for both remarks!

    I want to respond to both, but only the first now. In the opening of your first remark, you write:

    "I am struck by the sense in which realizing the nature of the Moment negates both the Moment and Time."

    I too am struck by this, and I would swiftly add after it the following addendum in order to clarify just what I here find so striking: that this very negation is a temporal one, that it presupposes a past. The logic at work here can perhaps best be likened to Hegel and his Logic, and in fact, I had the inversion or "negative" of Hegel in mind when I wrote these sentences in the above post:

    "a single moment --that moment of terrible epiphany in which it is finally ascertained that god IS no longer --this single moment, it is claimed, reveals as so much illusion all the moments, indeed, the entire history, that had lead up to this very moment of revelation. Prior history, as the history of the god who has been, is simply the process by which its own farcical nature has now unfolded."

    In a certain sense, I am in this post only revisiting what I wrote about Hegelian phenomenology in the (somewhat tongue-in cheek) previous post --that is to say, Hegelian "theo-dicy" and Nietzschean "theo-cide" seem to mobilize similar relations to the past, relations that are themselves re-construals of the relation between reality and illusion. Both require that the real truth about history is an eternal truth about the god (or Geist), while insisting that this truth about history, this truth about what history really is, must happen through history. Thus it is a matter of a sort of darstellung, if you will, it is a matter of allowing history itself to reveal itself as an illusion, whether the source of that illusion be the supposition of a immortal god, or whether it be the self-ignorance of Spirit's own nature, i.e. its own self-knowledge. (cont, in next comment)

  3. (Cont)
    Following through with this parallel, it can readily be observed that, in Hegelian phenomenology, all past history as it leads up to and is therefore other than Absolute Knowing is an illusion, an appearance. The key however, is that it is no mere appearance, since the Absolute Knowing to which it leads Knows this appearance to be nothing but it itself, only undeveloped, insofar as it does not yet know itself to be this Absolute Knowing, and therefore ISN'T. So to put it in the most general terms the illusion of history is necessary, and this necessity is precisely revealed at that moment when the illusion is dispelled: Absolute Knowing and the End of all history. Now what about Nietzsche's history? The time prior to the moment: what is its phenomenological significance? Is it a "mere appearance" in the sense used, if not by Kant then by some Kantians? To be sure it is an illusion, but is it a NECESSARY illusion, is it, in other words, a true illusion, an illusion without which the truth could not be? Without complicating things further by speaking of Nietzsche' own more famous remarks regarding truth as a "necessary lie for life" or "truth as woman", I think that the answer to the question is hinted at in the way Nietzsche characterizes this moment, emerging from along history of illusion, of truth: for he characterizes it as death, death, the death of god. This is a clue to how we must think of the past. The past, in a manner different from Hegel, is necessary, since the truth of god's death can only be revealed if god *ONCE* did live. And only, then, if god once did live, can the truth that he has never lived be established, since this depends on his death. There is then a sequence to the logic (which I will state according to the order of discovery): 1. God is dead. 2. God, in no longer living, could never have been god. 3. God's life, as the eternity of past history was an illusion.

    Now the interest of my entire post concerns the condition for the transition from point 1 to point 2, since I believe that determines how you interpret point 3 --namely is 3 talking about mere appearance or not? How necessary is the life of god to the final truth that it was just a lie? And this question is not the same as the important insight that follows, namely, that if the very source of so called "reality" dies, then not only does it falsify itself and disprove its claim to be an ´0ντως ὄν, but it also, in disproving the very possibility of this claim to the "really real", disburdens all falsity of being false.

    This leads me back to your consideration:

    "...the closing blow is the recognition that doing away with "reality" also does away with the anti-realist alternatives which seem to present themselves from out of the death of realism. Without reality there is no illusion, and so the apparent world dies as well."

    Indeed the apparent world does die and even the world of sense loses any sense and becomes senseless, or again, the story of how the true world became a story reaches it most convincing terminus. But why was the beginning of such a story necessary --OR in other words, what is this beginning now, in so far as it has withdrawn? Is it really gathered successfully in the end or is there a forgotten remainder ---even and especially when all the end gathers is nothing?

    Hopefully these guiding remarks are even half as fruitful for further thinking as they are tedious to read through, circuitous as they are.

  4. @William (again)...

    I think my most recent, roving response, if it succeeds at all in its intentions, is indicative of how I would respond succinctly to your original comment. But let me offer the courtesy of that brevity explicitly.

    1.) I would agree with you that Nietzsche does indeed succeed through his Augenblick, or more generally, through his Ewige Wiederkunft, in exhausting "in advance" all possible responses to or refutations of such thoughts. Neither the realist nor the anti-realist, nor (what probably must amount to the same) the metaphysics of presence or its alternative, is capable of posing an adequate response to Nietzsche's thought. But I do not think, contra how some would read Derrida, that any of these 'positions' can include the thinking of Heidegger. (I don't mean to suggest I lack respect for Derrida --I think his De L'esprit, among other things, is brilliant!But I would also say that Heidegger towers over Derrida like a master does an apprentice ---though I would never call Derrida a Heideggerian!). But as for the much rehearsed critique of the metaphysics of presence, I think it is misbegotten from the outset if it fails to understand itself as an immanent critique which not only must err, but also --and this is another way of saying the same thing --MUST be a metaphysics of presence, with a certain inevitability that exceeds all mere metaphysics of presence. In other words, it is bound not less but MORE rigorously to the epochality which has conditioned the prior history of metaphysics. If Derrida does indeed part company with Heidegger on the issue of epochality, then he does so only at the expense of lapsing back into what Heidegger may indeed have eluded: Nietzsche.

  5. In the section in TSZ with the Dwarf, Nietzsche asserts his notion of eternal recurrence, right. We might read the E.R. as a type of metaphor--perhaps in terms of historical cycles: the return of spring, etc (given that Schopenhauer was one of Nietzsche's mentors...I suspect that Nietzsche's notion may be read as a sort of update of Schopenhauer's quasi buddhist ideas on reincarnation...the wheels of karma, Pseudi!).

    Literally speaking, the doctrine of E.R. seems rather...preposterous, not to say incompatible with Nietzsche's essential naturalism. There would no...empirical way of confirming, or even estimating a future existence, at least as in one's individual self (assuming it exists) persisting before, and beyond death. Rather obvious. So I tend to think Nietzsche meant something along the lines of....historical epochs, the cycle of birth and death, family dynasties, humans trapped in "maya"--similar to Schopenhauer (and/or some readings of traditional buddhism)--and yes, apparently without a monotheistic Being in charge (at least in traditional form....perhaps Brahma might stand in, however). Nietzsche's moment is one of ..sublime disgust at contemplating the notion of repeating epochs, warfare, dynasties: he quivers, as does Kurtz in Conrad's Heart of darkness: the Horror, the horror

  6. "In the section in TSZ with the Dwarf, Nietzsche asserts his notion of eternal recurrence, right. We might read the E.R. as a type of metaphor--perhaps in terms of historical cycles: the return of spring, etc"

    I think that this is a nice way of summing up the sort of vague impression that a title like "Eternal Return of the Same" leaves on us when we first become acquainted with it. And I definitely don't dismiss it --I think that there is some general truth in it. But as it seems to me, the most important question at hand is not one concerning the general context and broad influence of an idea such as the Eternal Return, but concerning instead the very specific way that Nietzsche comes upon it, appropriates it, and re-contextualizes it, so that it obeys a certain peculiar logic that is everywhere operative in Nietzsche. Of course, before even such a question can be posed, one must catch sight of the fact that there is such a peculiar Nietzschean logic and, one must steadfastly adhere to the pursuit of its explicit discovery. (It is precisely at this presupposition that someone like Derrida takes aim, when he criticizes Heidegger's portrait, as it were, "Nietzsche: Metaphysician," which was subsequently and in many cases thoughtlessly accepted on a wide-scale. But I think that Derrida actually did Heidegger's Nietzsche a service by bringing out its violent features --for this only sharpens the question: SHOULD we read Nietzsche as a metaphysician?" and even more importantly: MUST we read Nietzsche as a metapysician? I do not think that one understands Heidegger's proposal regarding how Nietzsche is to be read, unless one understands the real reason WHY these questions both of them require an affirmative answer).

  7. I only mention this "hermeneutic consideration" because people today, taking Derrida's lead, are in the business of liberating Nietzsche from Heidegger. I think such an effort fruitful only if and when it leads to a rebounding re-assessment of WHY Heidegger read Nietzsche in the (controversial) way he did. But to return to your comment, I reject the vague notion of repeating cycles or Karma only because I think Nietzsche was far more specific: The "Eternal Return" can ONLY be understood in terms of two other thoughts that lies at the concealed center of Nietzsche's thinking: the Will to Power and the Death of God. For this reason, I could not simply add this connection as an afterthought, as it seems you are doing when you say: "So I tend to think Nietzsche meant something along the lines of....historical epochs, the cycle of birth and death, family dynasties, humans trapped in "maya"--similar to Schopenhauer ...yes, apparently without a monotheistic Being in charge." It is not just that the Western, "christian" god is not "in charge", it is the excruciating moment of the loss of this god that ignites the very movement of eternal return. I think that this reading is highly tenable for many reasons, but I emphasized in the post above one of the most essential aspects: Zarathustra's description of two eternities contradicting in a moment's crossroads is in fact a description of the death of god and the self-effacing history it necessitates.

  8. I actually prefer the romantic readings of Nietzsche (and...19th century german thinkers as a whole...including Hegel), and would agree the section in TSZ should be considered...sub species aeternum if you will (scuzi if my scrawling's not sufficiently sublime or something, Pseudita).

    It's Heidegger & the postmods who in a sense demolish the heroic ...and sublime aspects of a scribe such as Nietzsche. Heidegger was so profuse that ...well... I am reminded of Bierce's comment on philosophy: a road leading from nowhere Some Heideggerian moments I respect (like QCT..)...but my sense is that his metaphysics leaned more to Plato and pre-socratic mystics than to Aristotle (regardless of what he claimed). For that matter I read that quaint Stagirite as 95% naturalist for lack of a better term (as did Nietzsche tho' FN doesn't care for the...patriotic or "virtu"...which probably says more about Nietzsche than Ari.)

    I'm not a...buddhist but do feel many readers of Nietzsche don't generally understand Schopenhauer's influence (including the "will"--related to those ancient cycles and dynasties of hindus and boodhists-- and death of God...Schopenhauer would not have put it in such dramatic terms, can the supposedly unified Being die...when its unity was ...illusory from the start or something)

  9. "Heidegger was so profuse that ...well... I am reminded of Bierce's comment on philosophy: a road leading from nowhere"

    I could not have said it better myself! I think this characterization is particularly fitting for the case of Heidegger's Nietzsche. The entire 4 volume effort of the Nietzsche lectures of the late 30's is profuse if it is anything --but then, again, that is the risk: it could be nothing. What I mean is, among other things, that Heidegger's auseinandersetzung with Nietzsche is concerned above all with this Nothing and whether it, though not a being, is ONLY nothing. What I am talking about is how these '30's lectures are an attempt to wrest the Nihilism with which Nietzsche was both pre-occupied and entangled from the fated path of its inevitable destination, to bring it to such an extreme that it can no longer maintain itself as Nihilism at all.

  10. I have read only a few sections Of Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche. MH seems to consider the Will to Power and Eternal Recurrence as fundamental to Nietzsche's "metaphysics"--and in brief, both of these views entail Being as becoming . That's probably familiar to you.

    However I believe Heidegger, in his quest for the metaphysical core of Nietzsche , overlooks the romantic and heroic aspects of Nietzsche's thought--as well as the naturalistic elements--FN took much from Darwin, for one--tho' his thought obviously differs from strict Darwinist mechanism...probably due to the influence of Schopenhauer.

    The Schopenhauerian roots to Nietzsche's thoughts (including TSZ) also may be seen in the anguish, fear, vertigo typical of his works---not quite the pessimism and negation of Schopenhauer, but related. Spengler also noted something like this: Nietzsche does not affirm historical progress as was Hegel (who often sounds nearly preacher like), but saying, ala Kurtz...the horror, the horror-- and calling for strength, valor, even a certain martiality: "Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker”--a statement of a type of faith, even in a G*dless reality--and that also means prevailing over the "chandala", the masses ensared by slave morality (and Nietzsche detested socialists as much as he did jews and christians).

    The nazis tended to read that "Starker" in nationalist terms--why shouldn't they, assuming they agreed that any sort of universals--Christian, Kantian, democratic etc.-- were meaningless? Thus Im tempted to read Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche as...related to the rise of the nazis. Not exactly goosestepping but providing a certain ideological ammunition.

  11. I am going to have to respond at length to you first paragraph, which to my mind does a very nice job capturing the general shape of Heidegger's interpretation in broadstrokes.

    For the moment, however, I would like to touch on two sticking points in your assessment above.

    The first:

    "I believe Heidegger, in his quest for the metaphysical core of Nietzsche , overlooks the romantic and heroic aspects of Nietzsche's thought--as well as the naturalistic elements"

    I would have to emphatically agree. Heidegger's interpretation not only does this, but does it quite deliberately. In fact this is his entire strategy in Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche. As I have mentioned a while back in a discussion over at "Working Notes", Heidegger's strained and serious portrait of "Nietzsche, Metaphysician" is a highly contrived --or at least re-arranged and re-emphasized --rendering. But it is in his Nietzsche lectures and no where else that Heidegger is most explicit about this very fact. Heidegger's slight of hand at work in his Nietzsche interpretation is not only deliberate but kenspeckle. And this is no doubt because Heidegger is very clearly making a surprising statement about the texts of Friedrich Nietzsche: you cannot read them with full understanding unless you approach from the outset with certain very particular presuppositions, presuppositions that can only be claimed to be shared by Nietzsche himself in a manner that Nietzsche was not fully alive to. Is this hermeneutic merely whim? Is it arbitrary textual violence? Or is there a certain strict necessity to such a reading --is it a methodical reading? These question ABSOLUTELY must be dealt with very carefully if one really is interested in knowing what Heidegger is up to with Nietzsche (of course perhaps one is not, or perhaps one does not have the patience, stamina, or time, etc.). ON the other hand, I would go so far as to claim that if you do not see how Heidegger justifies his Nietzsche interpretation, you do not understand Heidegger at all, since it is, for very important reasons, the most exaggerated example of his Destruktion. But for all that I would also add that Heidegger did not entirely shy away from characterizing Nietzsche with heroism and, for sever lack of a better word, romanticism. Allow me to offer in the following comment (below) an instance of this from "Was Heisst Denken?" --although many others abound.

  12. The quote as promised:
    "...a man who teaches must at times grow noisy. In fact, he may have to scream and scream, even though the aim is to make his students learn so quiet a thing as thinking. Nietzsche, most quiet and shiest of men, knew of this necessity. He endured the agony of having to scream. In a decade where the world at large still knew nothing of world wars, when faith in "progress" was virtually THE religion,Nietzsche screamed out into the world "The wasteland grows, woe unto him ho hides wastelands within".
    Nietzsche is here at one a visionary and a hero in the midst of a blind world.

  13. As to the second "sticking point", you write:

    "The nazis tended to read that "Starker" in nationalist terms--why shouldn't they, assuming they agreed that any sort of universals--Christian, Kantian, democratic etc.-- were meaningless? Thus Im tempted to read Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche as...related to the rise of the nazis. Not exactly goosestepping but providing a certain ideological ammunition."

    The question that presses upon me as I consider your remark here lunges at a single word: "Thus". Why does the allegedly Nazi rejection of the meaning of "universals" (and I will simply presume that this is true for the sake of my question) "tempt" you to think that Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche offer ideological ammunition to the third reich? I fail to follow your logic here. Are you claiming that Heidegger rejects universals out of hand as meaningless? A significant amount of the Nietzsche lectures preoccupy themselves with a fascinating interpretation of Plato ---one which does not simply, for example, fail to discriminate between the Platonic εἶδος and the "uppermost values" which Nietzsche claims have fallen as the night of European nihilism has set in.

  14. Danke for response. I don't have MH's lectures on Nietzsche, just material available online. The few pages I have read stress the eternal recurrence and will to power, and relate them to ...Becoming, in the sense of Heraclitus (one of Nietzsche's heroes as well). The Heraclitean does not rest easy next to the platonist. Heraclitus relates to early physics and engineering, with a few enigmatic metaphysical sayings (and also conservatism).

    Plato is quite dreamier--and Nietzsche rejects Plato. Perhaps somewhere (Genealogy of Morals?) he suggests that even the decadence of the Athenians was preferable to outright democracy (headed to socialism, in FN's time, in many areas--one of his bugaboos), yet I don't think Nietzsche cares for the order and rationality of the Republic, whether in terms of politics or metaphysics, or geometry, etc. In spirit Nietzsche's quite Machiavellian (Im sure one could point out differences...but cousins in a sense. see Gen. of Morals). Becoming--process, historical destiny even--allows for action, force, and aggression--the will to power. The reflective contemplative Platonic idea, not so much.

    One might read the Republic in conservative, even ultra-conservative terms. But I think Plato was too dedicated to truth,justice, order, etc. to be a complete totalitarian (contrary to what Popper said). And Plato opposed the sort of traditional greek aristo. dynasties based on military might. He's against Sparta as well, isn't he? Socrates and pals mock Alcibiades the sort of macho-general.

    I think Nietzsche would defend Alcibiades (even his libertine-ish ways). He always defends ...strength, power, conquest (again evident in Gen. of Morals, as well as other late works--such as Anti-Christ). He defends Caesar--indeed, worships him.

    Insofar that Heidegger approves of Nietzsche's eternal recurrence, and the will to power, he approves of Becoming...rather than platonic stasis (including...statecraft in a sense...or Justice, for lack of a better term).

    Thus Heidegger defends martiality, soldiering, heroics, at least implicitly. And that would have appealed to the nationalists (including the nazis). And note the lack of emphasis on the earlier concepts, even Dasein (also seen in his praise of Hegel in the 30s...the younger MH did not generally approve of Hegel)---ontology...becomes Becoming for MH in the 30s (This is a bit sketchy, but ....I believe it can be substantiated).

  15. Some good points, worthy of consideration, J. I'll tackle one for now ---responding is always a labor of selection is it not?

    If one allows the simplifying schema of version and inversion to take hold of their articulation of the history of metaphysics --and their are good reasons for such an allowance, then he discovers that the struggle and perplexity of living in the flux of Becoming as finally surmounted or, alternatively, shied away from, in Platonism. The eventual inversion of this surmounting and harnessing is of course the dismounting and unharnessing whereby the stable and abiding is at once granted and at the same time subordinated to the flux it was supposed to overcome: Being itself is a happening within the stream of Becoming; the former now obeys the latter. Now, keeping this in mind, I agree with you when you write:

    "Insofar that Heidegger approves of Nietzsche's eternal recurrence, and the will to power, he approves of Becoming...rather than platonic stasis (including...statecraft in a sense...or Justice, for lack of a better term"

    I say, I agree with you, but only because of your careful wording, whose care is concentrated in the single word "Insofar". How far? Can Heidegger, who gives us this understanding of the history of metaphysics as a history of its own inversion, and who claims that precisely because of this inversion, metaphysics is no longer possible ---can this same Heidegger consider himself to be engaged in the task of inverting metaphysics? We would do well to keep in mind that oft-quoted derision of Sartre that Heidegger puts forth in his Letter on Humanism: "The inversion of a metaphysical statement yet remains a metaphysical statement." We may even go further (for this what Heidegger had in mind) and say: Inversion indeed PROPER to metaphysics. This point could be unfolded elsewhere and at another time. But for now let it suffice to underscore that Heidegger did not claim, despite what we might want to conclude from first glances at, e.g., an opus that situates the question of Being in the "transcendental horizon of Time", the already proclaimed Nietzschean mantra of Becoming stamped with Being, nor did he claim with Hegel's Logik that Becoming was "Being in its Truth." Rather, he claimed that all such claims were metaphysical inversions of metaphysics ---and that means that they were still indebted in an irresponsible way to the great beginning of metaphysics, in all its inceptual surreptitiousness.

  16. Heidegger may have insisted that Nietzsche was "metaphysical" yet I'm not sure that's accurate. Late Nietzsche has nothing but contempt for Plato, Kant, theology as a whole, and while the eternal recurrence may be important, the will to power's just as important (and many philo-types sort of idealize eternal recurrence, that is...misread it. It's more akin to something a steady state theory I believe, and has nothing to do with the possible immortality of the soul...) . Nietzsche may not accept Darwinism across the board but the naturalistic elements to FN's writing can hardly be denied . Now naturalism might itself be metaphysical to some (as is any ism)--yet I don't think Nietzsche really accepts Being, as in some uniquely human spirit or something. Recall the...Raubtier, the discussion of the blond beast, wolves, etc. There's a certain...totemism, and yes primitivism to Nietzsche's writing--the "power of the blood", per Spengler-- which Heidegger the metaphysical psychologist seems to overlook (or downplays...tho may hint at it occasionally)--even the fiendish Freud picked up on that.

  17. Hahaha! I am quite taken by your insistence on Heidegger as both metaphysical and as a psychologist, J! I know you have had more than one occasion on this blog and elsewhere (e.g. KTL and Enowning) to slap that epithet on good ol' Martin, but I think now may be the time to start justifying it. Why NOW, you ask? Because the answer is not only relevant but urgent to the present post: for Heidegger himself, the task of leading Nietzsche's thought into the fullness of its proper understanding (something, again, that H thinks --and not on the grounds of mere opinion --that N did not achieve for himself) is completely contingent upon WHETHER a non-metaphysical, and ipso facto non-psychological thinking is possible. When, therefore, you say "Heidegger may have insisted that Nietzsche was "metaphysical" yet I'm not sure that's accurate" I say "Bingo!" Heidegger would say: you CANNOT be sure that it is accurate! Why? Because of the following fundamental ambiguity that I will explain in the following manner. If we really understand Nietzsche --as indeed Heidegger does --we will have to say 2 things which when thought in conjunction yield the very paradox of Heidegger's reading. The first is: By the time of Nietzsche's thought (which means also with the efficacy of its arrival), metaphysics is over. Put bluntly, Heidegger is perfectly willing to say, and indeed, he even presupposes, that with Nietzsche, metaphysics has "left the building". Ok, great. So what's all this about calling Nietzsche a metaphysician? This brings us to the second point: How does something like metaphysics leave the building? Nietzsche surely does not write treatises on oneness, matter and form, or --heaven forbid --the θέος as an "unmoved mover" or "final cause". Nietzsche is manifestly NOT doing metaphysics. But he is NOT doing metaphysics in a very specific way. What do I mean by that? Simple. He is not doing physics, or any other positive science, nor, despite the inseparable poetics of his style, is he trying to pass himself off as a serious poet. In fact, Nietzsche is still making claims about truth and even about Being (most famously "Being is the last fleeting vapor of an evaporating reality"). His claims are not contributing to the field of metaphysics but are rather statement that that very field is closed, over, non-existent. And not only that, but it must be replaced, by genealogy or, as in Zarathustra, fable and mythology --since all truth oriented statements lie through their teeth anyway. So where, you ask, is Heidegger's point in all this? It is as follows: metaphysics, even when it is denounced, is denounced metaphysically. If metaphysics has evacuated its place of residence in Western history, than its very vacancy remains metaphysical. And this is because metaphysics embrace everything that is insofar as it is --"beings as a whole as such". In for example biology, when studies thing precisely in so far as they relate to life --i.e. in so far as they are living OR non-living. But in metaphysics, one studies things precisely as they relate to Being, that is, in so far as they ARE or ARE NOT. Even when Nietzsche is NOT doing metaphysics in the way that I have described, he IS doing metaphysics --and this because of the nature of metaphysics itself.

  18. You or Heidegger or Heideggerians might insist on that view (that ... metaphysics!) but Nietzsche probably wouldn't. In some sense I might agree, however. To say...there is no immortal soul (a bit...raw, but will do for present purposes) does make a claim of sorts about reality, so I guess that's metaphysics. But in a sense you sound like some religious people who insist that not believing in...judeo-christianity is itself a belief, and thus faith. I don't really agree with that. Non-belief, doubt, or withholding assent--whether in God, or Being, or platonic noesis, ghosts, etc-- does not in itself equal another type of faith. That would take a bit more work to flesh out but it seems prima facie evident. If I don't agree with the spookhunter or "paranormal" buff Im not thereby saying I have a faith in a world with no ghosts, or loch ness monsters. Im saying...ghosts or Netties don't exist. Faith isn't really involved...(perhaps not exactly what yr saying, but least if Herr Dasein's given a transcendental reading).

  19. I like the way you drew out this point, and I think it is an important one. I do think however, that I had already anticipated it in the previous comment --but let me be less esoteric.

    The real problem we are speaking about right now is that of negativity. The question is, does Nietzsche NOT engage in metaphysics in a manner that is yet still metaphysical? Now one can NOT do metaphysics in many ways, just as one can NOT believe in a religious deposit of revelation or a professed creed in many ways. One way is by ignorance: one can NOT do metaphysics because, for example, he lives in, let us say, some undiscovered tribe in New Guinea for which the enterprise of Western thinking is not only radically foreign but altogether unknown. Thinking conceptually or syllogistically is not a possibility that has emerged for such a manner of existence. Now in this case, the New Guinea native is NOT doing metaphysics, but not because he seeks to refute the possibility of metaphysics. He is NOT doing metaphysics in such a way that he has never yet (and may easily never at all) raise the question "Just what is anything at all considered only insofar as it is?". This does not mean that he is ignorant of Being, or that he has never encountered any beings --both of which would be quite impossible. It only means that he has never attempted to press into language and express understanding of them. In this case, we could say with Kant, that such a "primitive" is nevertheless a metaphysician but only POTENTIALLY, that is, only in Kant's sense of a metaphysica naturalis.

    But this is not the case of Nietzsche. Now we could expand further and speak, for example, about how the physicist is also NOT doing metaphysics, since qua physicist he depends upon and presupposes without explicitly investigating the metaphysical presuppositions in terms of which the field of physics is opened in advance (for example --and this only one among many --the concept of causality is not itself investigated by the physicist, but it is certainly understood and employed by him). Now he is NOT doing metaphysics in the sense that he is presupposing the results of metaphysics in order to ground his particular undertaking withing the larger aim of science as a whole.

    In neither the first nor the second example can we say that what is being done is really metaphysics, even if in both cases we may say that metaphysics is potentially being done. The point of saying this would be to make clear that these examples still bear a relation to metaphysics, a realtion of possibility --the primitive has not yet engaged in metaphysics, the physicist has ALREADY engaged in metaphysics --not him personally (for he may or may not have done so), but him QUA physicist, since he presupposes metaphysics in order to have discovered his own non-metaphysical field of inquiry.

    But what about Nietzsche? This is the real question. The claim here being made in that Nietzsche's relation to metaphysics differs dramatically for the two relations of possibility exemplified above. Why? Because Nietzsche is EXPRESSLY not doing metaphysics. His relation to metaphysics, to the philosophic, to the concept of truth, etc, is one that is not merely possible --to Nietzsche metaphysics is neither unknown nor relied upon. It is repudiated. When nietzche says he is unlike all other philosophers because he does not claim to have the truth ---and even the skeptics, Nietzsche acknowledges, had to make such a claim, what Nietzsche is saying is now posed as the most radical form of the possibility of philosophic expression, namely the express denial of an such expression. But is here that Nietzsche despite every last finer of his best intentions, remains metaphysical.

  20. OK. You may be correct, though I think Nietzsche's anti-metaphysics was related to his understanding of physical science and Darwin, etc ( he was not quite a scientist--some say he misread Darwin--but had some understanding of basic physiology, etc). He does consciously reject Kant, as you note. Im not suggesting he's primitive in the sense that zulus are but that he chooses a primitivism, if not a joyous nihilism (not unrelated to his praise of the "beasts of prey" etc). Also recall his statements on fellow "Physiologists" or something. To be honest I don't approve of Nietzsche's macho pep rally rhetoric though I think (as did Bertie Russell) he was talking trash much of the time and wasn't nearly as macho as he sounded, but more of a sensitive literary type (perhaps evident in FN's somewhat sentimental quasi-Schubertian piano music)

    As far as psychology and Heidegger go...note the remarks re "ecological psychology" from the Minds and Brains person on Enowning--. That sounds about correct, though I admit Im not a "Heideggerian" and have not as of yet mastered SZ (most of my knowledge of MH comes from "Basic Writings", with supplements from SZ). I find more value in the later essays, such as the Question Concerning Technology, and the "Dwelling" essay. You probably know more about the "turn" but later Heidegger seems "less transcendental", or dualist than earlier (and perhaps less...angst-ridden)--.

    Perhaps "ecological psychology" describes the writing, but I prefer to call it a holism of a sort (and don't see that much Nietzsche, except with hints of naturalism perhaps...then Hegel's "naturphilosophie" possibly an influence as well), and the later essays do not lack for political implications--not just "ecological" per se, but anti-capitalist, opposed to misuse of Techne (and really anti-stalinist if you will). One might see in QCT some parallels to thinkers such as Feyerabend. Or I do--and some 60s. countercultural types (however vull-gar, or naive, stoned, etc) saw something like that as well--the organicism, or "back to nature" idea, in 'merican terms. Marcuse and his cronies admired QCT (not that I really appreciate Marcuse...) .

  21. I find your characterization of Derrida and Heidegger's relationship illuminating. In that same vein, would you say that Nietzsche towers over Heidegger like a master? Because that's what it seems like to me.

    "If Derrida does indeed part company with Heidegger on the issue of epochality, then he does so only at the expense of lapsing back into what Heidegger may indeed have eluded: Nietzsche."

    What makes you think Heidegger ever moves out of the shadow of his master? If indeed it is the Nietzsche lectures that might be considered the real point of the 'change in my thinking' as Heidegger put it, perhaps it is Heidegger himself who fails to escape metaphysics?

  22. "What makes you think Heidegger ever moves out of the shadow of his master? If indeed it is the Nietzsche lectures that might be considered the real point of the 'change in my thinking' as Heidegger put it, perhaps it is Heidegger himself who fails to escape metaphysics?"

    Thanks for the question, Ahmed. In response, I have have two complementary points to make. The first is that Heidegger, more than most of his readers, is acutely aware that he is in danger of remaining entrapped in NIETZSCHE. What is NIETZSCHE? For Heidegger Nietzsche is not a man or a predecessor in thought. Most properly speaking, Nietzsche is our present historical predicament. Nietzsche the thinker, like his madman, has come to early for his time; Nietsche really comes into his own when he is bequeathed to and thus creative of what Heidegger calls the technological age. Nietzsche is Gestell. Heidegger's entire path of thought is devoted to marking out path from this thicket of Nietzsche, that is, of the exhaustion of history, or again, in a word, of Gestell. Heidegger's thought is therefore preparing for a freedom that is not yet attainable, that is, a free relation to the essence of technology. The necessary turning point in that preparation is the "change in my thinking" that you cite. So I actually would propose an opposite reading at precisely his turning point; instead of considering the Nietzsche auseinandersetzung (indicated in Heidegger's 4 consecutive semesters worth of lectures in the latter half of the 30's --to be confirmation of Heidegger's entrapment, I would consider it as a necessary condition for his --and our --freedom FROM Nietzsche, albeit not one that simply achieves this aim without further ado.

  23. If my first point is one of caution regarding the assumption that Heidegger thought he had escaped Nietzsche simpliciter, my second wish is to indicate one of many possible ways in which Heidegger does indeed, in his own way, possibly escape Nietzsche. In fact, the real point I was clumsily trying to get across in the post above was one such difference. It concerns Heidegger's reinterpretation of Der Augenblick. I actually have a new post to detail this more, but let me just say the Nietzsche's Augenblick, as the insight into Eternal Return, is inextricable from the recognition of the death of god. But Heidegger alter's the Augenblick into signifying, initially in SZ, the possibility of vorlaufende entschlossenheit, that is of running forward and never letting go of a possibility that is not and never can be actual, namely our own death. This non-actual possibility is the key to his later thought of the last god. There he is clear that the god's withdrwal precedes and outlasts his death. God cannot be dead in the straightforward manner Nietzsche thought him to be, because god's death is inherently problematized by its own truth, that is, by the illumination of concealment --indeed concealment of the god.