Archive for the ‘Nietzsche’ Category
American Nietzsche, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s lively history of the reception of Nietzsche’s ideas in the United States, from which I have drawn the preceding quotation about the moral life, wisely devotes its prologue to Emerson’s impact on the philosopher: “Nietzsche used Emerson not to get closer to him but to get closer to himself. For Nietzsche, Emerson provided an image of the philosopher willing to go it alone without inherited faith, without institutional affiliation, without rock or refuge for his truth claims.” These themes, encompassing Nietzsche’s persona and ideas, figure prominently in American Nietzsche. The facts of the philosopher’s lonely nomadic life—his books largely ignored upon publication, his genius burdened by ceaseless physical pain and eventually insanity—were, for most readers, inseparable from the scandalous self-described “immoralist” with his emphatically modern “philosophy of the future,” as he called his thinking. And this fusion of life and work made him, especially in the eyes of Greenwich Village radicals in the twentieth century’s opening decades, a prophet and martyr embodying what Ratner-Rosenhagen calls a “cautionary tale about the perilous course of the intellectual in the democratic era.”
If you were looking for a philosopher likely to appeal to Americans, Friedrich Nietzsche would be far from your first choice. After all, in his blazing career, Nietzsche took aim at nearly all the foundations of modern American life: Christian morality, the Enlightenment faith in reason, and the idea of human equality. Despite that, for more than a century Nietzsche has been a hugely popular—and surprisingly influential—figure in American high and popular culture alike.
In American Nietzsche, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen delves deeply into Nietzsche’s thought, and America’s reception of it, to tell the story of his curious appeal. Beginning her account as far back as Emerson, whom the seventeen-year-old Nietzsche read obsessively, she shows how Nietzsche’s ideas first burst on American shores at the turn of the twentieth century, and how they continued to alternately invigorate and shock Americans for the century to come. She also traces out the broader intellectual and cultural contexts in which a wide array of commentators—academic and armchair philosophers, theologians and atheists, romantic poets and hard-nosed empiricists, and political ideologues and apostates from the Left and the Right—drew insight and inspiration from Nietzsche’s claims for the death of God, his challenge to universal truth, and his insistence on the interpretive nature of all human thought and beliefs. At the same time, she explores how his image as an iconoclastic immoralist was put to work in American popular culture, making Nietzsche an unlikely posthumous celebrity capable of inspiring both teenagers and scholars.
A heady examination of a powerful, but little-explored undercurrent of twentieth-century American culture, American Nietzsche dramatically recasts our understanding of American intellectual life—and puts Nietzsche squarely at its heart.
This article explores the afﬁnities and parallels between Foucault’s Nietzschean view of history and models of complexity developed in the physical sciences in the twentieth century. It claims that Foucault’s rejection of structuralism and Marxism can be explained as a consequence of his own approach which posits a radical ontology whereby the conception of the totality or whole is reconﬁgured as an always open, relatively borderless system of inﬁnite interconnections, possibilities and developments. His rejection of Hegelianism, as well as of other enlightenment philosophies, can be understood at one level as a direct response to his rejection of the mechanical atomist, and organicist epistemological world views, based upon a Newtonian conception of a closed universe operating upon the basis of a small number of invariable and universal laws, by which all could be predicted and explained. The idea of a fully determined, closed universe is replaced; and in a way parallel to complexity theories, Foucault’s own approach emphasises notions such as self-organisation and dissipative structures; time as an irreversible, existential dimension; a world of ﬁnite resources but with inﬁnite possibilities for articulation, or re-investment; and characterised by the principles of openness, indeterminism, unpredictability, and uncertainty. The implications of Foucault’s type of approach are then explored in relation to identity, creativity, and the uniqueness of the person. The article suggests that within a complexity theory approach many of the old conundrums concerning determinism and creativity, social constructionism and uniqueness, can be overcome.
I shall discuss, in the first section, the manner in which Gilles Deleuze reads Nietzsche‘s reversal of the tradition; more particularly, I will analyze Deleuze’s understanding of will to power as the non-identifiable differential element. In the second section I shall trace the consequences of this reading by placing Nietzsche and Deleuzes writings in the context of the concept of a double-bind. This concept, as developed by Gregory Bateson, was to have a profound influence on Deleuze and Guattari’s work. More importantly, however, this theme can already be seen in the work of Nietzsche, for in Nietzsche one finds a critique which does not depend upon the logic of either/or, but instead resists this logic. In resisting this logic, this critique affirms the both/and that eludes the logic of either/or, and hence eludes the double bind which presupposes it. In the final section I shall compare my reading of Deleuze’s Nietzschean critique with the work of Jacques Derrida and Phillippe Lacoue-Labarthe. This should show that whereas Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe leave largely unanswered the question of how interpretive critique ought to pro- ceed, we will see that Deleuze and Guattari are very specific and straightforward in answering this question. In short, they set forth a protocol that calls for a critique that affirms and orders the “chaos in oneself’ in a way that prevents this chaos from dying.