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Nietzsche and the Becoming of Life

Nietzsche and the Becoming of Life

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    Nietzsche and the Becoming of Life
    Book Description:

    Throughout his writing career Nietzsche advocated the affirmation of earthly life as a way to counteract nihilism and asceticism. This volume takes stock of the complexities and wide-ranging perspectives that Nietzsche brings to bear on the problem of life's becoming on Earth by engaging various interpretative paradigms reaching from existentialist to Darwinist readings of Nietzsche. In an age in which the biological sciences claim to have unlocked the deepest secrets and codes of life, the essays in this volume propose a more skeptical view. Life is both what is closest and what is furthest from us, because life experiments through us as much as we experiment with it, because life keeps our thinking and our habits always moving, in a state of recurring nomadism. Nietzsche's philosophy is perhaps the clearest expression of the antinomy contained in the idea of "studying" life and in the Socratic ideal of an "examined" life and remains a deep source of wisdom about living.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6290-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Throughout his writing career, Nietzsche advocates the affirmation of earthly life as a way to counteract the nihilism and the asceticism he believes are inevitable once human beings begin to orient their lives toward a transcendent source of truth and value. But what Nietzsche means by life on earth, and what the affirmation of such a life entails, is still very much up for discussion. This is in great part due to the fact that the concept of life in Nietzsche’s work takes on a variety of different but not unrelated meanings, which largely correspond to the different periods of...

  6. Part I: Contesting Nietzsche’s Naturalism

    • 1 The Optics of Science, Art, and Life: How Tragedy Begins
      (pp. 19-31)

      Emerson’s five words raise four questions: of our place in the world; of who we are; of the difficulty of discovery; of becoming what one is. Stevens’s poem reminds us that humans are self-impoverished, that they often and for manifold reasons resist living in and being of the world. It is also the case that it is au courant these days in Nietzsche-criticism to label him a “naturalist.”¹ Yet on the face of it this seems a bit off. What ever is meant by “naturalism”—be itepistemologicalin the sense that hypotheses must be explained and tested only by...

    • 2 Nietzsche, Nature, and the Affirmation of Life
      (pp. 32-48)

      Nietzsche’s critique of the Western tradition is gathered in the claim that “the fundamental faith of the metaphysicians isthe faith in opposite values” (BGE2). Our religious and philosophical belief systems have operated by dividing reality into a set of binary opposites, such as eternity and time, permanence and change, reason and passion—which can be organized under the headings of being and becoming. The motivation behind such divisional thinking is as follows: Becoming names the negative, unstable, dynamic conditions of existence that undermine our interest in grasping, controlling, and preserving life (because of the pervasive force of error,...

  7. Part II: Evolution, Teleology, and the Laws of Nature

    • 3 Is Evolution Blind? On Nietzsche’s Reception of Darwin
      (pp. 51-66)

      Nietzsche’s criticism of Darwin’s theory of evolution condenses in the figure of the English naturalist and the great spell that, to this day, it holds on biologists and philosophers when it comes to thinking about life. A final explanation, a “real world”: this is the siren song that seduces with the idea of being able to capture life in the certainty of alogos.Here is the dream of conquest and also the goal of seduction.

      As I illustrate in what follows, through his debate with Darwinian evolution Nietzsche finds a privileged route of attack against the two polemic fronts...

    • 4 Nietzsche and the Nineteenth-Century Debate on Teleology
      (pp. 67-81)

      In 1865 a wave of opposition to German idealism, already present since 1830,¹ becomes overt and widespread with Otto Liebman’s proposal, in hisKant und die Epigonen, to “return to Kant.”² This date marks the fall of German idealism, and with it the fall of “neo-classicist ideals . . . and . . . Romantic attitudes,” leading to “the growth of popular materialism as the world-view corresponding to that new realism” in Germany³ — that is, an interest in science, and above all, an interest in chemistry, embryology, physiology, and comparative anatomy. By shedding light on the characteristics of living organisms,...

    • 5 Nietzsche’s Concept of “Necessity” and Its Relation to “Laws of Nature”
      (pp. 82-102)

      In a much-cited passage fromThe Gay Science335, Nietzsche calls on us to become self-creators and self-legislators on the basis of what he calls “physics”: knowledge of “all that is lawful and necessary in the world” (GS335).¹ This passage is important because it illustrates the entanglement of Nietzsche’s concept ofnecessitywith his concept oflawfulnessor “laws of nature,” and the entanglement of both withmoralconcerns (self-legislation) andartisticconcerns (self-creation). These entanglements are characteristic for Nietzsche, yet they are hard to understand. It is not just that necessity and lawfulness would seem to exclude creative...

  8. Part III: Justice and the Law of Life

    • 6 Life and Justice in Nietzsche’s Conception of History
      (pp. 105-120)

      In this famous essay dedicated to a consideration of the value of history,¹ Nietzsche claims to have detected in the superfluity of historical knowledge (Erkenntnis-Überfluss), a sickness and consuming fever that has befallen his contemporaries (HL“Preface”). What his contemporaries and, in general, modern man are lacking is an awareness of the genuine necessities (Notwendige), needs (Bedürfnisse), and requirements (Nöthe) of life (HL“Preface”). Nietzsche’s thesis is that history is needed solely for the sake of life and action and insofar as it serves and is employed in view of the building of future life. As long as modern man...

    • 7 Life, Injustice, and Recurrence
      (pp. 121-136)

      Thus Spoke Zarathustrareaches its climax at the end of the third part, where Zarathustra finally confronts what he terms his “abysmal thought” and whispers his wisdom to the figure of Life (ZIII “The Convalescent”;ZIII “The Other Dancing Song”). Readers of Nietzsche are in almost universal agreement that the thought Zarathustra slowly confronts and then whispers to Life is the doctrine of the eternal recurrence. Here I argue that this position is mistaken. It is not the eternal recurrence that torments Zarathustra, but instead a pessimism that arises from confronting what I will call the injustice of...

    • 8 Heeding the Law of Life: Receptivity, Submission, Hospitality
      (pp. 137-158)

      In this essay, I attempt to make sense of the conclusion of Nietzsche’sOn the Genealogy of Morals,¹ which was written and published in 1887. In doing so, I direct my focus not to the final section of the book, whose contributions are by no means trivial, but to the penultimate section of the book, which is Section 27 of Essay III. I further restrict my focus to the concluding sentences of this unusually dense section.

      My reason for restricting so severely the focus of my investigation is that I am interested in charting the various endings that Nietz sche...

  9. Part IV: The Becoming of a New Body and Sensibility

    • 9 Toward the Body of the Overman
      (pp. 161-176)

      This paper is (pre) occupied with two bodies: the body of the last man and the body of the overman. Finding, with Nietz sche, that the overman will appear only when the last man has disappeared, it examines the body of the last man to discern what this disappearance might entail. It finds that the body of the last man, as the embodiment of the ascetic ideals of Christianity and Platonism also embodies the misogyny of these Western traditions. The body of the last man is the paradigmatic masculine body. It is a self-possessed autonomous body; a body unsullied by...

    • 10 Nietzsche’s Synaesthetic Epistemology and the Restitution of the Holistic Human
      (pp. 177-193)

      In opposition to the orthodox philosophic, religious, and aesthetic conception of the senses, in Nietzsche’s epistemic order, every sense is not only positively valued but also often “crossed” with other senses. If three of the just four scholars who actually address Nietzsche’s conception of synaesthesia assert that his depiction and use of it is strictly meta phoric,³ in fact, it is often if not as a rule precisely the opposite—Nietzsche conveys the phenomenon as something real, actual. Nietzsche was knowledgeable of synaesthesia through medical, aesthetic, and philosophic sources and a persistent engagement with it can be traced throughout his...

    • 11 Nietzsche’s Naturalist Morality of Breeding: A Critique of Eugenics as Taming
      (pp. 194-213)

      Nietzsche’s endorsement of a “morality of breeding” (Züchtung), which he opposes to the morality of “taming” or “domestication” (Zähmung), invites worry that his philosophy may be compatible with ethically dangerous forms of eugenics and, consequently, with the historically associated practices of discrimination, racism, and genocide.¹ While there is a general consensus that Nietzsche does not actively or directly endorse racial discrimination or political violence, the failure to clearly exclude such egregious views would be sufficient reason to seriously question any major positive contribution Nietzsche might make to ethical philosophy.²

      In this paper, I directly oppose Nietzsche’s morality of breedings to...

    • 12 An “Other Way of Being.” The Nietzschean “Animal”: Contributions to the Question of Biopolitics
      (pp. 214-228)

      The text of the epigraph refers to Isis and her metamorphoses: transformed into a cow by Horus (and into other animals, according to the various myths), the goddess, who was able to resurrect her brother-husband Osiris, preserved something of the animal in her manifestation. In some way, the mode of “being human” implies a continuous “transformation” of the living animal for the sake of “humanization.” The process of culture, understood as “spiritualization,” means not only moving away from the living animal but above all, to dominate it, to enslave it, to gain usufruct over it, to “mechanize” it, to negate...

  10. Part V: Purification and the Freedom of Death

    • 13 Nietzsche and the Transformation of Death
      (pp. 231-244)

      Death needs to be reinterpreted(Der Tod ist umzudeuten)!” Th is is what Nietz sche demands in a posthumous fragment from the fall of 1881 (KSA9: 11[70]). Our senses tell us that the so-called dead world (toteWelt ) is something external, indifferent, and immovable. However, this conclusion is flawed (KSA9: 11[70]). One can identify in Nietz sche three claims justifying his rejection of the typical understanding of death: the first involves the forces operating in the so-called dead world; the second concerns the eternity of the so-called dead world; and the last addresses the impossibility of error...

    • 14 Becoming and Purification: Empedocles, Zarathustra’s Übermensch, and Lucian’s Tyrant
      (pp. 245-262)

      “Who is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra?” Heidegger once asked, reminding us as he sought to pose this question that qua advocate,¹ Zarathustra takes the part of, or speaks on behalf of, others. Heidegger’s question permits us to ask about Zarathustra’s style as a “rhetor,” an orator, a speaker. When we readThus Spoke Zarathustra, what does it mean that Nietzsche tells us that his Zarathustraspeaks? What does it mean that he tells us that Zarathustra conscientiously, deliberately speaks “otherwise” to his disciples and to the general public than he does to himself (ZII “On Redemption”)? And what is the role of...

  11. Part VI: The Becoming of the Soul:: Nomadism and Self-Experiment

    • 15 “Falling in Love with Becoming”: Remarks on Nietzsche and Emerson
      (pp. 265-279)

      One day, a certain Frank Bascombe overheard a colleague three cubicles away talking about his business behavior. She said: “I’m sure he would never do or say that.” This remark somehow stuck with him when he “went off to sleep that night.” Here is what he thought “of those words ‘Mr. Bascombe would never . . .’ ”:

      It occurred to me that even though my colleague . . . could say what Mr. Bascombe would never do, say, drive, eat, wear, laugh about, marry or think was sad, Mr. Bascombe himself wasn’t surehecould. She could’ve said damn...

    • 16 “We Are Experiments”: Nietzsche on Morality and Authenticity
      (pp. 280-302)

      Epicurus famously writes that the arguments of a philosopher that do not touch on the therapeutic treatment of human suffering are empty. The analogy is made with the art of medicine: just as the use of this art is to cast out sicknesses of the body, so the use of philosophy is to throw out suffering from the soul. It is in the texts of his middle period (1878–1882) that Nietzsche’s writing comes closest to being an exercise in philosophical therapeutics, and in this essay I focus onDawnfrom 1881 as a way of exploring this. I am...

    • 17 States and Nomads: Hegel’s World and Nietzsche’s Earth
      (pp. 303-318)

      What is Nietz sche’s concept of the earth? While “earth” is often taken in a general way to refer to embodied life, tothisworld rather than to an imaginary and disastrousotherworld, I propose that the term and concept also have a significant political dimension—a geophilosophical dimension—which is closely related to the radical immanence so central to Nietz sche’s thought. I shall argue that he often and pointedly replaces the very term “world” (Welt) with “earth” (Erde) because “world” is tied too closely to ideas of unity, eternity, and transcendence. “World” is a concept with theological...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 319-384)
  13. List of Contributors
    (pp. 385-388)
  14. Index
    (pp. 389-400)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 401-406)