On Nietzsche

I

Madness in Context[1]

 Nietzsche, a dead man walking

“God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him!”[2] Nietzsche is dead, he remains dead, and may have been wished to be struck dead even before his thoughts became written as texts. There have been many criticisms against him, even by those who have not read him. And, although there are also some who have come to defend him, the lies against him are so overpowering that one immediately believes them to be true. Here we see that Nietzsche’s thought-provoking texts refuse to die, Nietzsche’s philosophy continues to haunt us, and Friedrich Nietzsche still lives on.

Madness, a critique of context

In a time when there have already been a lot of criticisms against Nietzsche, one has to decide to risk, to plunge into Nietzsche, or “to even just touch the fringe of his cloak,”[3] and be prepared to be branded unclean for touching a madman. But, after all, this is not madness, and he is not a madman, he is not against God, but against us who have been against God.

Nietzsche, towards putting context in perspective

“I have come too early…my time is not yet.”[4] According to him, the philosopher is neither eternal nor historical but ‘untimely’, always untimely.”[5] What I think, though, is that, more than “putting Nietzsche into context”, we must realize that, as a madman lights his lantern in the marketplace in a bright morning, Nietzsche, neither too early nor too soon, is putting the context in perspective.

II

On Hegel and Nietzsche[6]

There is an affinity that exists between Hegel and Nietzsche, especially in how they have been “both critical of the Modern tradition and want to overcome it,”[7] and that they broke “away from this tradition by their historic philosophizing.”[8] For Nietzsche, however, “Hegel is still struggling with the shadow of a dead God.”[9]

In Hegel, we find an eduction, an opposition: “God is dead, God has become Man, Man has become God.”[10] Nietzsche, however, “does not believe in this death,” i.e., “he does not make this death an event possessing its meaning in itself.”[11]

We can see this as consistent with Hegel’s unhappy unconsciousness, a “duplication of the master and slave in one,” where he can only begin with human experiences as starting point. God may have changed and become man. But with the reversal, man still brings with him the slave mentality, no longer wanting to follow a transcendent, Supreme Being, and eventually just declares himself God.

The death of God is a grand, noisy, dialectical event; but an event which happens in the din of reactive forces and the fumes of nihilism.[12]

III

Otherwise Than the Death of Man[13]

            Though they have existed at different times, Nietzsche and Camus have rallied against man who has become too comfortable with his own existence. Both thinkers are significant even, if not especially, to our present time. Their characters, too, although wildly imagined, have kept waking man up to consciousness. But man sleeps on, comatose, unconcerned of the existence of everything else, fearing to wake up to the same absurdity of life.

Man killed God. Camus and all his characters run to him, reminding him that he is to go next, unless he does something. Nietzsche and the madman, too, approaches him, in their hands the lamp, alight even at high noon. But man never listened, wouldn’t care even, but just laid back, enjoying life’s meaninglessness.

But the madman is here, and he pounds at the door. Man must refuse meaninglessness, must rise up to consciousness, must affirm life, and must move from solitude to solidarity. He must respond to the call of his basic humanity, to recognize everyone else, to see their faces, to help them in their deficiency, to pull them out from anonymity, to see the world again for the first time, to find meaning in all their existence, to be one in preserving the dignity of every man, and to realize that he is responsible even for the responsibility of his fellow human being. These, man must do to prevent the negation of the world of his ownmost existence, and to refuse to hear the declaration: Man is dead.

IV

Abstraction, Reification, Truth[14]

I can still remember the item on my testpaper marked with an X because I defined “Truth” as “that which we are after.” My Epistemology professor told me that it was not the right definition, what he preferred is the scholastic definition already provided in the lectures – that…my mind wouldn’t even want to recall. That was years ago.

“Truth is that which are after.” “Truth” here means that which all our knowing leads to, or just a conventional definition of something, wherein when what we say as our description of it is congruent with that which is conventional, then it is true, false if otherwise.

Being otherwise is crucial, even deadly. If one fits into a description, then one falls into the category where such description is conventionally listed. For example, when one doesn’t go out as often as everyone else, then he is an introvert and non-sociable–that can even be considered as two categories, based only on one description. Some great thinkers and philosophers who may have been easily labeled as introverts perhaps are more extrovert than the typical extroverts. Nobody studies or thinks for himself alone, and to think that they are great thinkers, they must have done a lot of going out, of going beyond even. So they are also more social than the “social”. Dictations also of descriptions of a crime suspect to a cartographer have lead to the capture of mistaken identities. “If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck,” says Sec. Delima, “then it must be a duck.” But, in fact, it is not.

Our misuse, abuse, and confusion of the process of abstraction and too much familiarity with metaphors already separated from what they originally mean only reified concepts which should have not been, even mermaids have taken on a standard form, such that romantics would even refuse to accept images of them where the halves are inverted, half-woman, half-fish, where the top half is the head of a fish and the bottom half the lower part of a woman’s body. But what really is a mermaid? And does it even exist?

V

From Transcendence to Immanence[15]

We do not even know what a body can do, we talk about the consciousness and spirit and chatter on about it, but we do not know what a body is capable of, what forces belong to it or what they are preparing for.[16]

We have been taught by way of Thomism and Aristotelian tradition of a transcendent morality that the real world is elsewhere, and that we have to prepare for that next life, to sell everything we have and give to the poor so that we may be able to store up riches in heaven. With such morality, we came to have a duality of body and soul, where the body is mortified, repressed, separated from what it can do for the benefit of the soul. The material world is only passing, what awaits us is the life beyond. Here the body is just separated from what it can do.

Spinoza, however, disagrees with the idea of the traditional transcendental mortality (“sacrosanct morality” – Nietzsche), and so shifts the focus to an ethics by way of ethology. The focus is no longer of a transcendent beyond the material world, but of an ethics which starts from within it, i.e., from the bodies within the plane of immanence, where, as Nietzsche would later develop, each body is an assemblage of forces.

In this idea, forces are related to one another in a relationship where one is dominant and the other dominated. Such positions in the relationship develop because of a certain will to power that is added to force. It is that which wills, and by affirming or negating, it is that which makes force active or reactive.

Deleuze affirms this new starting point of ethics. I can only therefore agree with Spinoza, Nietzsche, Deleuze and Bolaños on this point. This “new” ethics makes us perform acts, not because of a transcendent motivation but because it affirms our capacity to will, to create. There would be no more life affirming concept than this.

VI

Rigidity, Thinking, Perversion

            With Nietzsche and Adorno comes the promise of emancipation from the perversion of truth, a discontinuity from rigidity. Traditional philosophy, philosophers, and philosophizing have been dragging us to the discovery of the one, ultimate (freezing) Truth, ever since man began wondering, began fixing a long, devoted, contemplating look at the Truth that awaits him after a dreamlike journey as he thinks on, pondering on that which is still unknown but what he keeps hoping, holding on, as knowable. For Nietzsche and Adorno, however, that which Rodin’s bronze and marble man with a constipated look has always been doing can only be perversion.

The Thinker’s (or ‘The Poet’) wanting to understand everything, to totalize everything as just one intelligible whole has kept him sitting on that piece of rock to this day. While he can go on just thinking, he can also think outside thinking, especially that there are still a lot of things to think about out there—ethics, for example; and he must be able to think beyond ethics, outside the norms, the moral codes, outside ethics.

For Nietzsche and Adorno[17], critical attitude is the new imperative. Man must rise up and act. Man must move from passive rigidity to an active receptivity to difference and change.

Ivan Richard F. Deligero

June-October 2012


[1] A thought piece primarily on the article “Putting Nietzsche into Context: Towards a Philosophy of Man” by Dr. Paolo Bolaños, published in Unitas, 75:3 (September 2002), 374-408, and secondarily, on Deleuze’s Nietzsche & Philosophy, which was published originally in French in 1962 and was translated by Hugh Tomlinson later in 1983. A third reference has also been thought of as necessary by the author of this paper, and whom in this case has rendered it (Nietzsche’s The Gay Science) of equal, or even more, importance than the primary reading material. The third reference became a necessary source as this author who, by seeing the need to remove all pre-judgments about Nietzsche and also the infamous lines attributed or misappropriately tailored to suit him or what remains of him, upon coming in to the course on Nietzsche as subject, saw the need to look up and verify whether he really said things like “God is dead.” or if he really said such line, in what context did he say it, or whether it was just purely madness, and if people insist that it is just madness, how may he defend himself that he is dead, or even as soon as those thoughts became written as texts everyone might have just thought somebody should strike the author dead.

[2] Nietzsche, F., The Gay Science, Williams, B., ed., Nauckhoff, J., trans. (2001), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Book III, par. 125.

[3] See Gospel of Mark, Ch. 6: 56.

[4] Nietzsche, F., The Gay Science, Williams, B., ed., Nauckhoff, J., trans. (2001), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Book III, par. 125.

[5] Deleuze, G. (1962), Nietzsche & Philosophy, Tomlinson, H., trans.  (1983), New York: Columbia University Press, (Preface to the English Translation) p.ix.

[6] A thought-piece on Bolaños, Paolo A., “Hegel and Nietzsche on Modernity, History, and Metaphysics (Some Notes on Elective Affinities),” in Scientia: Research Journal of the College of Arts & Sciences San Beda College, Special Issue on the Liberal Arts (June 2011), 225-248.

[7] Ibid., p. 245.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., p. 246.

[10] G. Deleuze, Nietzche and Philosophy, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. by Hugh Tomlinson (1983) New York: Columbia University Press, 5, 4, p. 156.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., p. 159.

[13] A thought-piece on Bolaños, Paolo A., “Quest for Peace Amidst the Death of God: Perspectives on Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Affirmation and Camus’s Ethics of Solidarity,” in Engaging Philosophical Traditions: Filipino Perspectives on Certain Philosophical Topics, ed. by Rolando M. Gripaldo, et al. (Manila: Philosophical Association of the Philippines, 2007), 44-5.

[14] A thought-piece on Bolaños, Paolo A., “Reification, Metaphor and Pragmatic Notion of Truth.”

[15] A thought-piece on Bolaños, Paolo A., “Nietzsche and the Ethological Conception of Ethics,” in Minerva 11 (2007).

[16] G. Deleuze, Nietzche and Philosophy, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. by Hugh Tomlinson (1983) New York: Columbia University Press, 2, 1, p. 39.

[17] (and P. Bolaños), i.e., the way I understand him while reading “From Rigidity to Receptivity: Articulating an Ethics of Thinking via Nietzsche and Adorno,” in Representation and Contestation: Cultural Politics in a Political Century, ed. by John McSweeney and Ching-Yu Lin (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2010), 167-179.

2 comments
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