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Introduction

  • C. Heike Schotten
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Abstract

It is by now a commonplace that Nietzsche’s philosophy is characterized by contradiction, a deceptively simple observation aptly summed up by the title of Wolfgang Müller-Lauter’s study, Nietzsche: His Philosophy of Contradictions and the Contradictions of his Philosophy.1 Müller-Lauter concisely indicates here both that Nietzsche is a philosopher of contradiction— a thinker who praises contradiction and welcomes adversity, opposition, and struggle—and yet also that Nietzsche’s thought is plagued by contradiction, inconsistency, and paradox. It is my contention that this dual set of conditions reveals not only Nietzsche’s most basic philosophical consistency (whatever this word can mean in the face of his attack upon it) but also his most important teaching.

Keywords

Political Theory Political Theorist Philosophical View Important Teaching Ecce Homo 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    John Richardson, “Introduction” in Nietzsche: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, ed. John Richardson and Brian Leiter (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 18.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Ken Gemes, “Nietzsche’s Critique of Truth,” in Nietzsche: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, ed. John Richardson and Brian Leiter (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 40–58.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Maudemarie Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990);Google Scholar
  4. Brian Leiter, “Perspectivism in Genealogy of Morals,” in Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality: Essays on Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, ed. Richard Schacht (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994);Google Scholar
  5. Alexander Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Maudemarie Clark, for example, has argued that we must take a revive and rescue position with regard to Nietzsche’s truths if we are “interested in maintaining Nietzsche’s stature as an important philosopher.” Maudemarie Clark, “Nietzsche’s Doctrines of the Will to Power,” in Nietzsche: Oxford Readings in Philosophy, ed. John Richardson and Brian Leiter (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2001), 140.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For different versions of this view, see Ofelia Schutte, Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche Without Masks (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984)Google Scholar
  8. and Mark Warren, Nietzsche and Political Thought (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Wendy Brown, “Democracy Against Itself: Nietzsche’s Challenge,” in Politics Out of History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 121–37;Google Scholar
  10. William Connolly, Identity\ Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991);Google Scholar
  11. Lawrence Hatab, A Nietzschean Defense of Democrary (Chicago: Open Court Press, 1995);Google Scholar
  12. Bonnie Honig, Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993);Google Scholar
  13. Chantal Mouffe, The Return of the Political (London: Verso, 1993). A slightly different case for a Nietzschean democracy is made by Dana Villa’s critique of this foregoing literature and his connection of Nietzsche with Arendt in “Democratizing the Agon: Nietzsche, Arendt, and the Agonistic Tendency in Recent Political Theory,” in Why Nietzsche Still? Reflections on Drama, Culture, and Politics, ed. Alan Schrift (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  14. 9.
    See, for example, Babette Babich, “Nietzsche and the Condition of Postmodern Thought: Post-Nietzschean Postmodernism,” in Nietzsche as Postmodernist: Essays Pro and Contra, ed. Clayton Koelb (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990);Google Scholar
  15. Jacques Derrida, Éperons/Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles, trans. Barbara Harlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978);Google Scholar
  16. Sara Kofman, “Baubô: Theological Perversion and Fetishism,” in Nietzsche’s New Seas: Explorations in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Politics, ed. Michael Gillespie and Tracy Strong (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988);Google Scholar
  17. David Farrell Krell, Postponements: Woman, Sensuality, and Death in Nietzsche (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986);Google Scholar
  18. and Kathi Weeks, Constituting Feminist Subjects (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998). For a persuasive argument demonstrating Nietzsche’s relationship to post-structuralism in general and deconstruction in particular,Google Scholar
  19. see Alan Schrift, Nietzsche’s French Legacy: A Genealogy of Poststructuralism (New York: Routledge, 1995).Google Scholar
  20. 10.
    Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990) and Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits ofSex” (New York: Routledge, 1993).Google Scholar
  21. 11.
    Daniel W. Conway, “Das Weib an sich: The Slave Revolt in Epistemology,” in Nietzsche, Feminism, and Political Theory, ed. Paul Patton (New York: Routledge, 1993).Google Scholar
  22. 12.
    Wendy Brown, “Postmodern Exposures, Feminist Hesitations,” in States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995);Google Scholar
  23. Rebecca Stringer, “A Nietzschean Breed’: Feminism, Victimology, Ressentiment,” in Why Nietzsche Still? Reflections on Drama, Culture, and Politics, ed. Alan Schrift (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  24. 13.
    Fredrick Appel, Nietzsche Contra Democracy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998);Google Scholar
  25. Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, eds., Why We Are Not Nietzscheans (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997);Google Scholar
  26. Bruce Detwiler, Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990);Google Scholar
  27. Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Ofelia Schutte, Beyond Nihilism; Mark Warren, Nietzsche and Political Thought.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 14.
    Ofelia Schutte, “Nietzsche’s Psychology of Gender Difference,” In Modern Engendering: Critical Feminist Readings in Modern Western Philosophy, ed. Bat-Ami Bar On (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994) and Beyond Nihilism;Google Scholar
  29. Linda Singer, “Nietzschean Mythologies: The Inversion of Value and the War Against Women,” in Feminist Interpretations of Nietzsche, ed. Kelly Oliver and Marilyn Pearsall (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  30. 15.
    Devoted translator Walter Kaufmann’s interpretation of Nietzsche as an existentialist lover of Socrates managed to introduce Nietzsche into the highly specialized world of academic, English-language philosophy, but at the expense of declaring him to be fundamentally “anti-political.” See Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (New York: Vintage, 1974). Many still argue that Nietzsche is either apolitical or antipolitical; see, for example, Leslie Thiele, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul: A Study of Heroic Individualism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990); Alexander Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature; Google Scholar
  31. William Connolly, Identity\Difference and Political Theory and Modernity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993); and Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Despite this, it is now grudgingly accepted amongst most professional philosophers in the United States that Nietzsche can be read as a political philosopher or, at the very least, that he has views about politics. For two very different accounts of the issues at stake in claiming Nietzsche as a political thinker,Google Scholar
  32. see Daniel W. Conway’s Nietzsche and the Political (New York: Routledge, 1997) and Bruce Detwiler’s Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism.Google Scholar
  33. 18.
    Wendy Brown, “Politics Without Banisters: Genealogical Politics in Nietzsche and Foucault,” in Politics Out of History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 91–120.Google Scholar
  34. 19.
    See, for this argument, Butler, Gender Trouble; Butler, Bodies That Matter; Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997);Google Scholar
  35. Michel Foucault, “Politics and the Study of Discourse,” in The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, ed. Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  36. 20.
    Henry Staten is admirably attentive to this constitutive contradiction, documenting its multiple moments in Nietzsche’s texts through a practice of reading he calls “psychodialectic,” a method that is “as attentive to the logical economy of the text as… the libidinal economy with which it interacts.” Henry Staten, Nietzsche’s Voice (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 8. Yet Staten’s careful and insightful study overlooks the political aspirations that constitute the objects of Nietzsche’s libidinal economy, and the necessarily political uses and meanings of Nietzsche’s use of rhetoric. This book seeks to build on Staten’s work by rectifying this omission.Google Scholar
  37. 22.
    For example, Martha Nussbaum’s criteria for determining whether or not a theory is political are whether or not (or the degree to which) it addresses the specific normative concerns of a multicultural, welfare- or wealth-redistributive liberal state. Martha Nussbaum, “Is Nietzsche a Political Thinker?” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 5, no. 1 (1997), 1–12. Although Brian Leiter does not construe political theory so narrowly, he is clear that Nietzsche has “has no political philosophy” because he has no “theory of the state and its legitimacy.”CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Brian Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality (New York: Routledge, 2002), 296.Google Scholar
  39. 23.
    Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977–1978, ed. Michel Senellart, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave, 1997); cf. The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, ed. Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Indeed, it may well be the case that our presumption of the state as being the primary or only site and origin of power is itself a function of a larger and more diffuse functioning of power relations that Foucault has named governmentality.Google Scholar
  40. 24.
    It is in this spirit that Foucault declares it is necessary “to cut off the head of the king” in political theory and begin to think about power as operative in ways other than that of the solely prohibitive, sovereign law; Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. I: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1978), 88–89, and “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France 1975–1976, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 1997).Google Scholar
  41. 25.
    As Mark Warren rightly notes, Nietzsche “shows how subjects are possible as historical achievements. He shows us how capacities of the self evolved together with domination, and how they might be reconceived to go beyond their origins.” Mark Warren, Nietzsche and Political Thought (Cambridge: MIT University Press, 1988), 2.Google Scholar
  42. 27.
    As Foucault argues, “Philosophers or even, more generally, intellectuals justify and mark out their identity by trying to establish an almost uncrossable line between the domain of knowledge, seen as that of truth and freedom, and the domain of the exercise of power. What struck me, in observing the human sciences, was the development of all these branches of knowledge can in no way be dissociated from the exercise of power … generally speaking, the fact that societies can become the object of scientific observation, that human behavior became, from a certain point on, a problem to be analyzed and resolved, all that is bound up, I believe, with mechanisms of power.” He continues: “Truth is no doubt a form of power. And in saying that, I am only taking up one of the fundamental problems of Western philosophy when it poses these questions: Why, in fact, are we attached to the truth? Why the truth rather than lies? Why the truth rather than myth? Why the truth rather than illusion? And I think that, instead of trying to find out what truth, as opposed to error, is, it might be more interesting to take up the problem posed by Nietzsche: how is it that, in our societies, ‘the truth’ has been given this value, thus placing us absolutely under its thrall?” Michel Foucault, “On Power,” trans. Alan Sheridan, in Politics, Philosophy, Culture—Interviews and Other 1977–1984, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman (New York: Routledge, 1988), 106–7.Google Scholar
  43. 28.
    This means that I do not see Nietzsche as a political thinker because he devotes himself to the political goal of the enhancement of the type man, which Bruce Detwiler, for example, argues is Nietzsche’s primary political project in Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990) or because he asks the fundamental question of politics, “What ought man to become?” as Daniel W. Conway argues in Nietzsche and the Political (New York: Routledge, 1997). The first reading strikes me as inconsistent with Nietzsche’s revolutionary tendencies (to be discussed in a moment) insofar as it is accompanied by the claim that only a few of those men will be enhanced— i.e., this reading of Nietzsche’s political project is one of aristocratic radicalism, whereas I see Nietzsche’s politics as fundamentally revolutionary and thus mass-based. The second reading of Nietzsche as a political thinker strikes me as potentially reliant upon a historical construal of either the nature of human beings or the nature of power.Google Scholar
  44. 29.
    I owe this point—and the interpretive approach underlying it—to Daniel W. Conway’s marvelous and methodologically groundbreaking study of Nietzsche , Nietzsche’s Dangerous Game: Philosophy in the Twilight of the Idols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 30.
    In this, I in part follow Bernd Magnus, Stanley Stewart, and Jean-Pierre Mileur (Nietzsche’s Case: Philosophy as/and Literature [New York: Routledge, 1993]), who have made a forceful and persuasive case for overlooking all of Nietzsche’s unpublished writings.Google Scholar
  46. See also R. J. Hollingdale, Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965)Google Scholar
  47. and Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (New York: Vintage, 1974).Google Scholar
  48. 31.
    Maudemarie Clark (Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy), Bruce Detwiler (Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism), Tracy Strong (Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration [Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000]), and Mark Warren (Nietzsche and Political Thought) all take this approach.Google Scholar
  49. 32.
    Brian Leiter, “Perspectivism in Genealogy of Morals”; Müller-Lauter, Nietzsche: His Philosophy of Contradictions; John Richardson, Nietzsche’s System (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 34.
    Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche. 4 vols. Trans. David Farrell Krell (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991).Google Scholar
  51. 35.
    Pierre Klossowski, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, trans. Daniel W. Smith (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).Google Scholar

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© C. Heike Schotten 2009

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