Nythamar de Oliveira



Große Dinge verlangen daß man von ihnen schweigt oder groß

redet: groß, das heißt, zynisch und mit Unschuld. (WM § 1)




            It would be an impossible task to introduce here the thought of a great philosopher as Friedrich Nietzsche, as the subject-matter of his grand oeuvre resists the classifications and operations of traditional hermeneutics. Even before Foucault sought to rescue a "critique of power" in the Sache of a Nietzschean semiology, Martin Heidegger had remarked, "'Nietzsche' --der Name des Denkers steht als Titel für die Sache seines Denkens."[1] The name of the philosopher coincides, in this particular case, with the very subject-matter of the philosophy in question. To assign a "critique of power" to Nietzsche is, to say the least, a risky procedure. It would be thus impossible to relate Nietzsche's thought to Kant's critical philosophy without caricaturing the originality of the former or the systematic rigor of the latter. As shown by many scholarly studies,[2] Kant and Nietzsche have critical projects that radically differ --despite some points of convergence-- not only in their philosophical formulations but in their very presuppositions and concepts, especially in their views of morality and human nature. In order to avoid the simplistic conclusion that Nietzsche did not understand Kant, I decided to articulate Nietzsche's reading of Kant with the former's philosophy as a whole, especially in its radical critique of modernity and the modern conception of human nature (Menschlichkeit, the humanum). Only in light of a diagnosis of modern man, which Nietzsche undertakes in a quasi-prophetic--albeit non-messianic-- manner, can we understand the true meaning of his critical project, and its implications for our history and culture. What is stake, therefore, is the recasting of what may be termed the Nietzschean problematic of modern subjectivity, to wit, the question of the self-overcoming (Selbstüberwindung) of modern man, conjugated with correlative concepts such as the will to power (der Wille zur Macht) and the eternal return (die ewige Wiederkehr), elaborated in organic, interactive fashion, quasi methodically, within a critical tradition to be overcome by philosophy itself. That the question of human nature steals the scene, as it were, in the staging of a Nietzschean theatrum philosophicum does not demean Kant's philosophy, insofar as the critical thrust of the latter is brought to the foreground. Reminiscent of the tripartite division of Kant's "cosmopolitan philosophy," Nietzsche outlined the second book of his unfinished, controversial work on the Will to Power[3] (II. Buch: Kritik der höchsten Werte):

                        1. Kritik der Religion

                        2. Kritik der Moral

                        3. Kritik der Philosophie

            Such will be the thematic division that will underlie this chapter, as I will seek to elaborate on Nietzsche's genealogical critique of power, starting from his critique of Kant and leading to Foucault's reappropriation of the former. Like Kant's, this threefold criticism is articulated by Nietzsche with a view to rescuing a conception of human nature that avoids the metaphysical impasse of reducing the humanum to a reflex of the divinum, of a transcendens, at the same time as it articulates the historical, immanent presuppositions proper to the human species, qua animal to be distinguished from all the others, by its development and history. If Kant had anticipated Hegel's philosophy of history, it is in the historicizing of human nature that Nietzsche finds one point of rapprochement, in the very conception of an effective historicity, implicit to a genealogy that radicalizes what Hegel called the "science of human experience" (Wissenschaft der Erfahrung des Geistes).[4]

"παvτες αvθρωπoι τoυ ειδεvαι oρεγovται φυσει. σημειov δ'η τωv αισθησεωv αγαπησις (...) All men, by nature, aim at knowledge; a sign of this is [our] affection by the senses." The famous words that open Aristotle's Metaphysics (I,1 980a) indicated already the place of the empeiria in a classical conception of human nature qua rational being: only the human species (τo γεvoς τωv αvθρωπωv) has the faculty to order its experience (εμπειρια), starting from the sensations and memory, to acquire and develop art (τεχvη) and science (επιστημη). When Nietzsche develops the concept of the "will to know" two millenia later, it is still this same human nature which is to be investigated, starting from experience. Nietzsche's psychological inquiry into the nature of human instincts and drives is indeed very reminiscent of the work undertaken by Kant in the Anthropologie. To be sure, it is Kant's refusal to remain on the empirical level of investigation that will prompt Nietzsche's attack upon any future metaphysics of sorts. The question of human nature, the nature in question, "man" as a perennial remise en question, has been a major characteristic of philosophy since Heraclitus sought in thought what was common to all human beings, since Protagoras held man to be the measure of all things, and a fortiori since Socrates denied such measure, allowing for Plato and Aristotle to corroborate the shift from a philosophizing on the nature (physis) of beings to a philosophizing of their formal essence (ousia).It was this teleological, and hence metaphysical, conception of human nature that came under Nietzsche's attack, precisely because of its pretense to know the truth of a human nature, once and for all established. In effect, for Nietzsche --as it was for Heidegger--, the rise of Platonism coincides with the emergence of metaphysics. Although it is beyond the scope of the present study to recapitulate the development of different conceptions of human nature throughout the centuries, it was by deconstructing the history of metaphysics that Nietzsche himself set out to elaborate on a genealogical conception of human nature, beyond good and evil. Therefore, it was in order to recast the modern reformulation of a classical problematic such as "human nature," understood in its Aristotelian correlation between rationality and sociability,[5] that I undertook a brief study of the critical background of Kant's conception of human nature, in its self-constitution within a society of free subjects. The present essay is confined to Nietzsche's "anthropology" and its relation to the critique of metaphysics and morality, as I seek to highlight the central place it occupies in his overall work and how it anticipates Foucault's genealogy of modernity.


1. Critique and Genealogy: Of Truth and Method

            Wahrheitssinn. Ich lobe mir eine jede Skepsis, auf welche mir erlaubt ist zu antworten: "Versuchen wir's!" Aber ich mag von allen Dingen und allen Fragen, welche das Experiment nicht zulassen, nichts mehr hören. Dies ist die Grenze meines "Wahrheitssinn": denn dort hat die Tapferkeit ihr Recht verloren.  (FW § 51)

            What is philosophy? How is philosophy to be opposed to nonphilosophy? This problematic was announced, from the outset, as constitutive of the methodological analysis that has opposed great thinkers such as Kant and Nietzsche, Habermas and Foucault. As Mary Rawlinson has argued, Foucault's conception of philosophy radically departs from a systematic, scientific undertaking to apprehend reality, such as Kant's and Hegel's Wissenschaft or Husserl's Phänomelogie.(KPS 371) And yet Foucault --just like Nietzsche-- did not seek to abandon philosophy to the obscure caprices of unreason, but rather refused to have it confined to a purely logical, dogmatic pattern of rationality, supposedly neutral, transcendental or presuppositionless. That question also underlies Nietzsche's writings in its different stages of evolution --grosso modo, one may speak of three major phases: the early writings, marked by philology, the artistic passion (in particular, music), and the friendship with Wagner (e.g., Die Geburt der Tragödie, 1872, and the four Unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen, 1873-76); the second, after the rupture with Wagner (1878), marked by the disillusionment of reason (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, 1878-80, and Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, 1882); and the third, marked by the masterpieces Also sprach Zarathustra (1883-84, 1885), Jenseits von Gut und Böse (1886), Zur Genealogie der Moral (1887), Die Götzen-dämmerung (1889), and the Nachlaß, Der Antichrist (1895), Ecce Homo (1908), Der Wille zur Macht (1901,1906).[6] In all these works, the question of philosophy is connected to other questions, such as the problems of life, human existence, and truth. And in all these central questions, the Nietzschean experimentalism emerges as the only commonplace that points to a critical,textual pathway, an experimental method of research, at once Experiment and Versuch, the genealogical perspectivism that characterizes Nietzsche's thought. The problem of truth constitutes the principal frontier between art and science, in the very conception of philosophy as a tertium quid, a third genre that resists all systematic classification, for at the same time that it is presented as art (techne) in its ends and productions (poiesis), it is expressed through the mediation of concepts like a science (episteme).[7] For Nietzsche, the philosopher is the man of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow insofar as he always finds himself in contradiction to his today (JGB 212; cf. 211). The philosopher is the physician, the artist, and legislator who says yes (Ja-sagen) to the becoming of man through the active, creative overcoming of himself, the self-overcoming of his own moral values and his systems of truth. Therefore, there is no dialectical or transcendental method appropriate to philosophy, since all methods betray always already a certain will to truth. (JGB §§ 35,36) One can only speak of "methods" in an immanent, practical sense, by turning the very pathways (hodoi) that take one beyond (meta) their safe origins and destination into an effective undergoing of life. To paraphrase Heidegger, human beings are always already unterwegs, en route, in their pre-given relations of appropriation vis-à-vis their being, thinking, and speaking. Thus, Nietzsche places the question of truth on the same level of problematization as the question of method, in particular, the subjectivity that betrays the impartial, impersonal ideal of methodical quests:

            The will to truth which will still tempt us to many a venture, that famous truthfulness of which all philosophers so far have spoken with respect --what questions has this will to truth not laid before us! (...) Who is it really that puts questions to us here? What in us really wants "truth"? (JGB § 1)

            In order to show that genealogy can be regarded as a critical principle of interpretation in Nietzsche, it is important to place it first within the broader context of Nietzsche's thought, and then proceed to see to what extent it constitutes the central problematic of his philosophy. This means, before anything, that some unity has been presupposed, not necessarily a systematic one, but a certain coherence of thought in the aphorismatic work of an original thinker such as Nietzsche. The first great interpreters of Nietzsche, such as Karl Jaspers (Nietzsche: Einführung in das Verständnis seines Philosophierens, 1936) and Karl Löwith (Nietzsches Philosophie der Ewigen Wiederkunft des Gleichen, 1935), had already to face up to the "contradictions" inherent to the Nietzschean thought, and they offered solutions that strike us today as leaving much to be desired, such as the resort to a "real dialectic" or a primordial return to the Presocratics, respectively. Walter Kaufmann was one of the first to refute such facile solutions, in a book that would become a bestseller, in spite of all its shortcomings --(Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, 1950).[8] It was then established that in order to fully understand and do justice to the work of Nietzsche one had to take into account not only the exegetical work on the whole of his writings (including Der Wille zur Macht and the entire collection of Nachlaß), but also its interpretation as Nietzsche himself supposedly expected to be read (a Nietzschean hermeneutics). With the publication of Heidegger's polemic Vorlesungen (1936-40) and Abhandlungen (1940-46) in 1961, the importance of a self-interpretation of Nietzschean texts --in particular, the Will to Power-- was once again emphasized. As in the Talmudic and Lutheran traditions, Nietzsche was to be read in the light of the whole of its own textuality, scriptura sui ipsius interpres. It was only following its post-Heideggerian reception in France (with Pierre Klossowski, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Sarah Kofman, Jacques Derrida, Eric Blondel, Michel Haar, and others), that a genuine interest in an interpretative "principle" arose. It has become since then insufferable the misreading of existentialist and dialectical features into Nietzsche, and even Heideggerian glosses have become rather dispensable. The "New Nietzsche," as David Allison remarks, "asks the reader to consider the general conditions of life --its prognosis for advance and decline, its strength or weakness, its general etiology --as well as that of its sustaining culture and values."(NN xiii) In order to approach the Nietzschean corpus, the careful reader needs both "a theory of interpretation understood as a general semiotics" and a "genealogical analysis."(NN xvi) As it will be seen throughout the next sections, Foucault was such a reader of Nietzsche, both as a hermeneute of suspicion and as a genealogist of modernity.

            To paraphrase Gadamer, it could be said that the hermeneutic problem in Nietzsche could be formulated in terms of truth and method, considering that it was Nietzsche, as Deleuze has pointed out, the first thinker--even before Frege and Husserl, and long before the analytical schools of language-- to have introduced in philosophy and in a correlative manner the concepts of meaning (Sinn/Bedeutung) and value (Wert).[9] According to Deleuze, it is precisely in Nietzsche's philosophy and not in Kant's that we find the means, both theoretical and practical, to carry out the critique tout court.Such was the very thesis appropriated and reformulated by Foucault, undoubtedly one of the greatest interpreters of Nietzsche in the last decades. As Gadamer himself has remarked in response to Habermas's charges, our experience of language --including its systematic aspects of rationality-- and our experience in the world --including the Lebenswelt--are co-originary and simply cannot be dissociated.[10] As will be shown, that constitutes a fundamental thesis of Nietzsche's philosophy, and failing to understand it may result in misunderstanding his perspectivism and aestheticism. I am following Allan Megill's usage of the term "aestheticism," as applied to both Nietzsche and Foucault, as it refers "not to the condition of being enclosed within the limited territory of the aesthetic, but rather to an attempt to explain the aesthetic to embrace the whole of reality."[11] In light of many passages where Nietzsche spouses this aestheticist view of reality (i.e. GT "Attempt at Self-Criticism" § 5, WP passim), we can better understand Nietzsche's critique of Kant's désintéressement in the third Critique.(GM III § 6) Long before Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida, Nietzsche attacked the hypostatizing conceptualization of fictions such as Man, Culture, or History, to account for the bridging of nature and spirit, phenomena and noumena. And yet, I will argue that Nietzsche's aestheticism differs from Heidegger's precisely because of the former's refusal to yield to new forms of mysticism or eschatological expectations. Not even a god can save us, according to Nietzsche, not even the overcoming of metaphysics would deliver us from the completion of nihilism. Heidegger's aestheticism conceives of the will to power as an artwork, so as to comprise all that Nietzsche understands by truth. I will question this reductionist formulation, insofar as it eclipses other important aspects of the will to truth that Foucault has appropriated in his own genealogy of modernity and, in particular, in an aesthetic conception of the relationship between ethics and politics. 

            As opposed to Kant's reduction of truth to a propositional correspondence of the categories to the cognitive faculty of understanding, Nietzsche sought to rescue a pre-theoretical, nontranscendental aesthetics that allows for the appearing of beings to remain on the surface of being, without any resort to a suprasensible, noumenal realm that accounts for the possibility of their cognition. In JGB § 11, Nietzsche recognizes the tremendous influence that Kant exerted on German philosophy --tainted with the comical niaiserie allemande-- by the very introduction of the cognitive faculties of the mind. Above all, it was the suprasensible --which, as Nietzsche rightly remarked, inspired Schelling's "intellectual intuition" (and Hegel's critique of Kant)-- that betrayed the veritable virtus dormitiva ("sleepy faculty") of Kant's attempt to base truth on transcendental grounds--"Vermöge eines Vermögens" ("by virtue of some virtue"). In order to awake the senses once again, and anticipating Foucault's overcoming of Kant's "anthropological slumber," Nietzsche calls for new philosophers to create, with the hammer, new values and new truths: "Genuine philosophers, however, are commanders and legislators: they say, 'thus it shall be!'" And he adds, "Their 'knowing' is creating, their creating is a legislation, their will to truth is --will to power."(JGB § 212) Nietzsche's antidote is their remedy, just as the real and the true are the appearing of what is always a shadow, a false reverse. Nietzsche had already addressed the question "what is truth?," in an oft-quoted paragraph from an 1873 Nachlaß, Über Wahrheit und Lüge im aussermoralischen Sinne, that unmasks the perspectivism of every knowledge:

            What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms --in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seems firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are...

            Commenting on this passage and comparing it with classical definitions of rhetoric, Derrida has shown how Nietzsche sought to take his distances from philosophical interpretations of the concept of truth and conceptual philosophizing --as metaphor subverts the generative role of philosophical concept.[12] As over against the rule of the Aristotelian-Hegelian metaphor of the intelligible (ousia, geistig) over the sensible (phainomena, sinnlich), according to which certain philosophemes conquer a conceptual privilege, Derrida finds inspiration in Nietzsche to propound metaphoricity as nonconcept --an effect of différance-- expressing thus "what is proper to man," in this perpetual metaphorein (transposing, transferring, transforming, "la relève de la métaphore") of appropriating and expropriating what is his own--language, rationality, thinking. Hermeneutics is thus radicalized into "deconstruction," so that every meaning is always already (toujours déjà, immer schon) an effect of interpretations. Although I do not intend to examine how Derrida's reading of Nietzsche (and Heidegger) leads us to the Abbau of metaphysical traditions to be re-interpreted, I must signal the relevance of the metaphor and the correlation between semiology (or semiotics) and ontology for a full understanding of Foucault's reading of Nietzsche. That will be fully elaborated in the third chapter, by invoking Foucault's essay on "Nietzsche, Freud, Marx," at the threshold of the era of the hermeneutics of suspicion in post-existential France, in the 60's and 70's.

            In the above-mentioned essay on truth, Nietzsche articulates also the "drive to truth" in terms of the instinctive need that makes possible for human beings to survive as social beings, out of "the obligation to lie according to a fixed convention,to lie herd-like in a style obligatory for all." However conventionalist and relativist, this Nietzschean formulation, very reminiscent of the Hobbesian pactum, should not be taken prima facie, as some sort of irrationalist creed but as an expression of his philosophical perspectivism, thoroughly consistent with his view of the world as human interpretation. That modern, European man, after thousands of years has reached a certain state of self-consciousness, in which his existence makes sense, according to Nietzsche, proves nothing else than the all-too human wish that such a sense is true and founded. After all, nothing can assure us that the human species will be preserved forever --that the fate of humans will be different, say, from that of the dinosaurs or other extinguished species. If rationality --and sociability, for that matter-- distinguishes us from other species, that remains all the same an effect and not a cause, "a means for the preservation of the individual"(§ 1) and not an end in itself. In effect, Nietzsche does not advocate any promise of "improving" humankind (EH Preface § 1), for in this consists what has been called thus far morals (cf. Twilight of Idols "The 'Improvers' of Humankind" § 2). The taming, breeding, weakening, sickening, and catechizing of the human beast, which Christianity so arrogantly acclaims as a civilizing "improvement" of humanity, anticipates in Nietzsche what Foucault would later develop as the practices of subjectivation that, through normalizing and disciplinary techniques, consolidates the formation of modern subjects. The Nietzschean genealogy, as a radical critique that problematizes the epistemological delimitations of a method and of a system of universal truths, stems thus from a calling into question (remise en question), historically and culturally situated --decadent Europe of fin de siècle--, philosophically formulated around the old question: "Who are we?" Even a superficial reading of Nietzsche's major texts brings to the fore the theme of the human condition and humankind, in its relation to all the other themes of his works, even if such a thematization takes on a grave timbre, that is, as a theme to be unmasked, demythologized, and overcome. Not without reason, Nietzsche has been more known for the metaphor of the "Overman" (Übermensch) than any other concept. In effect, the transvaluation of values, nihilism, the death of God, the eternal return, and the will to power are all thematically related with the problem of the self-overcoming of man (die Selbstüberwindung des Menschen). Thus, the anti-humanism of Nietzsche's critique of religion, morals, and metaphysics is rooted in a philosophy directed towards the future, without delineating, however, any utopian, eschatological, or messianic horizons. "Who, then, amidst these dangers besetting our age, will pledge his services as sentinel and champion of humankind[Menschlichkeit]?,"

asks Nietzsche, "Who will raise the image of man [das Bild des Menschen] when everyone feels in himself the worm of selfishness and a jackal terror, and has fallen from that image into bestiality and even robot automatism?"(Third Unmodern Observation, "Schopenhauer As Educator" § 4) Nietzsche seems to be thus engaged in a prophetic mission, with the conviction of a Daniel or a Jeremiah, predestined to announce the tragic fate that is about to assail nations and tribes. However apocalyptic it may sound, like many other of his texts, Nietzsche's atonality forbids any stylistic harmonization in function of a determinate literary genre or philosopheme. Hence the apparent oppositions (e.g., the Apollinean vs. the Dionysian, the Socratic vs. the tragic) which will only be overcome by the affirmation of the amor fati, the Nietzschean formula for greatness in a human being: "that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary...but love it."(EH "Why I am so clever" § 10) Such is, wihtout doubt, the only sollen of human nature, which Nietzsche translates in autobiographical manner in the Ecce Homo: "How to become what one is." The aphorisms of the Nachlaß "Die Unschuld des Werdens," dedicated to the composition of Zarathustra[13] reveal the "anthropological" character of the will to power, conceived as that which makes both cosmology and ontology possible, correlate to the eternal return of the Same.

            It is important to add that, in this Nietzschean context, "anthropology" cannot be mistaken for a metaphysical, philosophical conception of human nature, for the place of the anthropos vis-à-vis the kosmos is not that of a cognitive opposition between subject and object (Kant's Gegenstand), since human-being is always displaced by its becoming-in-the-world. For the world itself, according to Nietzsche, "the world viewed from the inside, the world defined and determined according to its 'intelligible character'" --to parody Kant-- is "'the will to power' and nothing else."(JGB §36) If one discounts the dangerous rigor of formulas of proportionality, one may say that the will to power is for being what the eternal return is for the becoming of the same. Being human is to become in the world what one should be in one's self-overcoming. "Der Mensch ist etwas, das überwunden werden soll"-- "man is something that ought to be overcome" --, such is the motto of Nietzsche's magnum opus, Thus Spake Zarathustra (see, for instance, Z Vorrede 3, Vom Krieg und Kriegsvolke, passim), and of the Nietzschean opera in general (cf. JGB § 257; GM II 10, III 27; EH Z 6, Z 8, IV 5; WM 804, 983, 1001, 1051, 1027, 1060). The will to power itself is decisively introduced as will to overcome oneself (cf. Z Part II, esp. "Von der Selbstüberwindung"), not as the psychological will à la Schopenhauer, but as the cosmological expression of the eternal return (cf. Z Parts III and IV, esp. "Von alten und neuen Tafeln") and from this follows all understanding of Nietzsche's philosophy. Thus, method and truth in the Nietzschean conception of the humanum cannot be dissociated from the sense and value assigned to human existence itself, both in ontological and cosmological terms. As we will see, genealogy fulfills the triple task of critique as applied to the analysis of Western European culture, and can thus be seen as a method of cultural, historical diagnosis.


2. Human Nature and the Will to Power

            Was es mit unsrer Heiterkeit auf sich hat. Das größte neuere Ereignis --daß "Gott tot ist," daß der Glaube an den christlichen Gott unglaubwürdig geworden ist-- beginnt bereits seine ersten Schatten über Europa zu werfen. (...) In der Hauptsache aber darf man sagen; das Ereignis selbst ist viel zu groß, zu fern, zu abseits vom Fassungsvermögen vieler, als daß auch nur seine Kunde schon angelangt heißen dürfte... (FW § 343)

            The death of God is, for Nietzsche, the greatest of all the monumental events of European modernity, the most significant of all, and this is to be taken both in a metaphysical and cultural-historical sense. It must thus call into question a Heideggerian reading that concludes --for reasons intrinsic to Heidegger's ontological hermeneutics-- that "Nietzsche himself interprets the course of Western history metaphysically and in truth as the ascension and development of nihilism."[14] Now, Heidegger reduces the Nietzschean work to an immanent critique of metaphysics which, precisely because it remains within its historicity, cannot overcome metaphysical thinking, in its very ontotheological, nihilistic constitution. The "will to power," according to Heidegger, must thus figure among the greatest metaphysical motifs of Western philosophy, such as the Platonic eidos, the Cartesian substantia, and the Kantian Ding an sich. Just as Marx could not do away with Hegelian dialectics, Nietzsche would have at most reversed the transcendental epistemology of Kant, without succeeding in thinking its essence in a post-metaphysical gesture. To a large extent, Foucault's work has challenged these blind spots of Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche, ultimately guided by a reduction of the "will to power" to the Sein des Seienden. For the purpose of the present study, there is still another aspect that marks off Foucault's reading of Nietzsche from Heidegger's, and that deserves our attention. Commenting on the famous passage on the death of God (FW § 125, Der tolle Mensch, comlemented by § 343), Heidegger signals the sense of "madness" on the part of the man who proclaims the death of God, to be distinguished from the "foolishness" of denying God as an unbeliever. As for Foucault, he is rather concerned with madness as a broader phenomenon of subjectivation, so that a psychiatric reading of this passage should not exclude a theological one, nor the social analysis minimize its juridical aspects, but the very definitions of madness (Wahnsinn) and unreason (Irrsinn) are to be called into question, since they were also constituted in the historical process of subject-formations.[15]  At any rate, the expression "madman" is used by Nietzsche as a parody to the allusion by the Psalmist to the "fool" who says in his heart: "There is no God" (Psalm 14:1). In the original context --which Nietzsche metaphorically transposes in grand style--, the word of the Psalmist (in Hebrew, naval) refers to the unrighteous and to the unbeliever --whoever does not believe in God, turns out to be a fool, a madman. This is the same sense that will be later transvalued (umwerten) by Paul to contrast, in a world of unbelievers, the "folly of God" with the "wisdom of men"(1 Corinthians 1:18-25) and, on the eve of modernity, by Luther and Pascal, in the radical opposition between theology and philosophy ("Le dieu d'Abraham, d'Isaac et de Jacob n'est point le dieu des philosophes"). The madman who in a bright morning lit a lantern and ran to the market place, screaming "I seek God!," cannot be thus identified with Nietzsche himself or even with the character "Zarathustra" --as Heidegger seems to suggest.[16] To be sure, the madman appears as the messenger of an event (the death of God), that he himself interprets as a metaphysical problem:

            The Madman. Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, "I seek God! I seek God!" As many of those who do not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Why, did he get lost? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

            "Whither is God?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him ‑‑you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while?  Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. (FW § 125)

            Madness appears here as a limit-experience of a rationality in crisis, with the secularizing collapse of the belief in a foundation that bestows meaning to human existence, the belief that there must be transcendent grounds for ultimate values. Kant's transcendental criticism, as a true representative of the aufgeklärte philosophy, was decisive for this event, with its refusal of dogmatic, metaphysical solutions to the antinomies of cosmology, psychology, anthropology, and theology. But Nietzsche also questions Kant's critique of reason precisely at the systematic level that accounts for a practical assurance of pure reason, following the critique of theoretical reason. Even if one cannot prove God's existence or even if God never existed, human reason can always create one and live as if there were such a being. That reason cannot account for its other, that it cannot transgress its theoretical and practical uses, is a clear symptom of its incapacity to judge its own fateful breakdown. It takes a madman to proclaim, however naive it may sound, that God is dead. It takes a madman to proclaim, despite all nonsense, the greatest triumph of modern reason in its endless wars against fear, superstition, and dogma. Nietzsche is certainly using a metaphorical language, but the rather raw description of the putrefaction of a divine corpse signals the proximity and historicity of this tremendous cultural event. After all, we modern men are the ones who killed God. We --the legitimate heirs of the Judaeo-Christian tradition that built up the scenarios of Western civilizations-- are the very ones who submitted ourselves to the yoke of a divine creator and judge. Nietzsche's transvaluation cannot thus be reduced to a mere reversal of values, such as Feuerbach's antitheological manifesto (homo homini deus est) or Marx's critique of ideology (camera obscura, Wirklichkeit versus Vorstellung),not even to a Heideggerian Umkehrung of metaphysics or self-proclaimed Überwindung of Western metaphysics.[17]  It is, therefore, an effect of the self-overcoming (Selbstüberwindung) of humankind, as the outcome of civilizing processes, with religion appearing as the major expression of this "experience of the history of humanity as a whole" taken individually, above all in the Judaeo-Christian conception of a Heilsgeschichte ("history of salvation"). "This godlike feeling," writes Nietzsche, "would then be called --humaneness" ("Dieses göttliche Gefühl hieße dann--Menschlichkeit!" (FW § 337 "Die zukünftige 'Menschlichkeit'"). The modern feeling for one's own participation in universal history, the humanist sense of historical belonging, is what Nietzsche's "history of the present" seeks to unfold in his critique of idealism. The genealogy of Christianity occupies an important place in this radical critique of modernity, although the critique of religion in Nietzsche does not lead to the foundation of a new secular kingdom (Feuerbach) or to a positive critique of politics (Marx), but rather to the self-fulfillment and serenity (Heiterkeit), which is the true meaning of the "joie de vivre" of a creative, free spirit and of the Gay Science.(cf. §§ 290, 343)  For Zaratustra, "God is a conjecture [Mutmaßung]," but because it cannot be limited to what is thinkable (begrenzt sei in der Denkbarkeit) it deserves to be dealt with as a sickness and vertigo. The Übermensch, on the other hand, can be thought and it is within our reach to create it out by willing our self-overcoming. "Willing liberates [Wollen befreit]: that is the true teaching of will and liberty."(Z II "Upon the Blessed Isles") Still in the same passage, Zaratustra exclaims: "Away from God and gods this will [to create] has lured me; what could one create if gods existed?" And he adds, "But my fervent will to create impels me ever again toward man; thus is the hammer impelled toward the stone." For Nietzsche, creation, in the broader sense of poiesis, is the true vocation of human beings in the full exercise of their freedom, through their will to power, in an active manner, not reactive, without the resentment that characterizes religious man. As will be seen, Foucault's interpretation of Nietzsche does full justice to the latter's aestheticism without reducing it to a passe-partout hermeneutics but rather stressing the poiesis of "giving style to someone's character" [seinem Charakter "Stil geben"], in a self-stylizing, polyphonic aesthetics of existence that multiplies ad infinitum the relations of codification and decodification of every experience --taken as fact or human interpretation. The death of God is, therefore, a paradigm of such a critical gesture, at the levelling of facts and interpretations, in the same historical event.

            On the other hand, the death of God may be interpreted as the sign of times of modernity, as the triumph of autonomy and the emancipation of human reason announce the imminence of the Great Noon, the fullness of the three great metamorphoses of the camel, the lion, and the child (cf. Z II "Von den drei Verwandlungen" and IV "Das Zeichen"). The collapse of rationality --understood as "the discipline of their minds [die Zucht ihres Kopfes]"-- would be, for Nietzsche, nothing less than "the eruption of madness [Irrsinn],... the eruption of arbitrariness [Belieben] in feeling, seeing, and hearing, the enjoyment of the mind's lack of discipline [Zuchtlosigkeit des Kopfes], the joy in human unreason [die Freunde am Menschen-Unverstande]."(FW § 76) Humankind up to our days has lived in full agreement, like friends, with the "healthy common sense" (gesunder Menschen-verstand)--a question of survival. The man of the future, according to the same paragraph, since he is even more aware of this conventionalism, is led to suspicion and unbelief. Thus, neither truth nor certainty are the opposite of unreason or madness, but "the universality and the universal binding force of a faith [die Allgemeinheit und Allverbindlichkeit eines Glaubens]; in sum, the non-arbitrary character of judgments [das Nicht-Beliebige im Urteilen]." Therefore, if Nietzsche celebrates madness in the carnival of the death of God, it is because it inaugurates a new dawn of the "de-deification da nature":  When will we complete our de-deification of nature? When may we begin to "naturalize" humanity in terms of a pure, newly discovered, newly redeemed nature?[Wann werden wir die Natur ganz entgöttlicht haben! Wann werden wir anfangen dürfen, uns Menschen mit der reinen, neu gefundenen, neu erlösten Natur zu vernatürlichen!" (FW § 109)

            The project of reintegrating human nature into cosmological nature --different, say, from the humanization of nature proposed  by the young Marx-- cannot be dissociated from the Nietzschean motif of the death of God. The paragraphs 108 through 125 of the Gay Science constitute, in effect, the immediate context that culminates with the death of God, namely, the dedeification of nature, whose religious context is clearly articulated in cosmological terms and not exclusively historico-ontological --as would result from a reading that privileges the history of metaphysics in the Will to Power.  We see thus that the question of rationality and modernity refers to a complex anthropological problematic, where the critique of value and meaning requires a careful exam of different correlative aspects --including the problems of an epistemological, political, and ethical order. I will conclude this section with an allusion to the critique of religion in the Will to Power.

            After the composition of the Twilight of Ídols in 1888, in the last year of his literary production prior to his mental collapse, Nietzsche seemed to have abandoned the project of publishing a collection of aphorisms called Der Wille zur Macht, and decided to write a book, Versuch einer Umwertung aller Werte (subtitle of WM), composed of four essays, of which only one, the Antichrist was completed, together with the preface. The final edition of over one thousand notes by Nietzsche (1883-1888) that compose this majestoso Nachlaß was carefully undertaken by his friend Peter Gast in 1906. It is interesting to recapitulate the division of the work into four books:

            I. European Nihilism

            II. Critique of Highest Values Hitherto

            III. Principles of a New Valuation

            IV. Discipline and Breeding

            The first subdivision of the Second Book, "Critique of Religion," as Kaufmann remarked, provided great part of the material for the composition of the Antichrist. The Nietzschean critique of religion is itself divided into three parts,

            1. Genesis of Religions

            2. History of Christianity

            3. Christian Ideals

            The correlation between power and the formation of subjects (WM § 135), the themes of priestly religiosity, slave morality, pessimistic nihilism (§ 156), ressentiment (§ 167), the transition from Judaism to Christianity (§ 181, passim), the herd morality, Paul's psychology (§§ 171, 173), castration (§ 204), self-denial, to sum up, the transvaluation of values, is developed according to the same logic found in Beyond Good and Evil and in the Genealogy of Morals. It must be noted, however, that the context stresses the social-historical aspects of the evolution of religious phenomena in relation to nihilism. This historical-metaphysical background may thus favor a Heideggerian reading as long as we do not fall prey to a structuralist imposition of a grille de lecture to the textual totality of the Nietzschean work, as in a methodical formalization.[18]

            No doubt, the clear connection between the death of God and the collapse of the cosmic order (FW § 125) --understood as an interpretation of human nature-- indicates that Nietzsche is invoking here the Judaeo-Christian God the Creator of heavens and earth, the causa prima, the metaphysical God of theism --with the transition from the Hebrew to the Greek constituting the cultural background to the transvaluation of religion.(cf. AC §§ 37-45) In another aphorism (FW § 343), opening the Fifth Book ("We Fearless Ones") added to the second edition of the Gay Science in 1886, Nietzsche affirms "that God is dead" to mean "that the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable" --giving sequence to the incipit tragoedia of the last paragraph of the Fourth Book, identical to the first chapter of the Prologue of Zarathustra. The death of God signals, therefore, the threshold of tragedy, to be rediscovered in the infinite horizon of seas never sailed before --cf. FW §§ 124, 281, 283, 289, 291, with allusions to Columbus and Genoa. Zarathustra, the solitary archaeologist of meaning, begins his ministry under the sign of the death of God as he set out to discover and explore a decodified humanity, in light of past civilizations, leading to its decomposition and whose tragic fate has already been announced in the very negation of tragedy by religious belief. The tragic fate of tragedy in the Western world was, in effect, a theme that Nietzsche had already explored in his GT, and inspired much of Foucault's interest in the cultural diagnosis of civilizations. According to certain versions of the death of God, since nihilism itself may be either "active" or "passive" (WM § 22), Nietzschean atheism would likewise be necessary and plausible of being overcome (überwinden). In this case, neither theism nor its dialectical negation would suffice to solve the Nietzschean problematic. Thus as the project of an Umwertung with reference to the Geschichte / Geschick of European nihilism, Nietzsche's sentence "Gott ist tot" would point to a quasi-transcendental deconstruction of the "history of God." Hence, among Hoffnung, secularization, and liberation theologians, Nietzsche's name is ineptly associated with Feuerbach and Marx in the celebration of a dedeified world, as a cultural, dialectical process.[19]


3. Nietzsche's Critique of Kantian Morality

Die christliche Moralität selbst, der immer strenger genommene Begriff der Wahrhaftigkeit, die Beichväter-Feinheit des christlichen Gewissens, übersetzt und sublimiert zum wissenschaftlichen Gewissen, zur intellektuellen Sauberkeit a jeden Preis. Die Natur ansehn, als ob sie ein Beweis für die Güte und Obhut eines Gottes sei; die Geschichte interpretieren zu Ehren einer göttlichen Vernunft, als beständiges Zeugnis einer sittlichen Weltordnung und sittlicher Schlußabsichten; die eignen Erlebnisse auslegen, wie sie fromme Menschen lange genug ausgelegt haben, wie als ob alles Fügung, alles Wink, alles Heil der Seele zuliebe ausgedacht und geschikt sei: das ist nunmehr vorbei, das hat das Gewissen gegen sich, das gilt allen feineren Gewissen als unanständig, unehrlich, als Lügnerei, Feminismus, Schwachheit, Feigheit --mit dieser Strenge, wenn irgend womit, sind wir eben guter Europäer und Erben von Europas längster und tapferster Selbstüberwindung... (GM III § 27; FW § 357)

            The long citation --self-citation of an author that overcomes himself-- is invoked by Nietzsche as he formulates the "law of life" (das Gesetz des Lebens) as "a law of necessary 'self-overcoming' that is in the essence of life [das Gesetz der notwendigen "Selbstüberwindung" im Wesen des Lebens]," to wit, that "[a]ll great things bring about their own destruction through an act self-overcoming [Alle großen Dinge gehen durch sich selbst zugrunde, durch einen Akt der Selbst-aufhebung]." (GM III § 27) This great Nietzschean thesis is certainly implicit in his doctrines of the will to power and of the transvaluation of all values --as Nietzsche himself saw it in allusion to the "work that he was preparing [ein Werk, das ich vorbereite: "Der Wille zur Macht." Versuch einer Umwertung aller Werte]." In the three essays explicitly dedicated to the critique of morality --the critique of the morality of ressentiment (Christianity), critique of the self-conscious, autonomous morality (Kant), and the critique of the ascetic ideal (nihilism) (cf. EH GM)--, Nietzsche undertakes in a quasi-methodic fashion his project of transvaluation as a new demand for the self-overcoming of "modern man": "we need a critique of moral values, the value of these values themselves must first be called into question."(GM Preface § 6) And, in order to accomplish this, one needs a "genealogy," a formulation of the knowledge of the conditions and circumstances of the birth of morality, as a wirkliche Historie der Moral, "gray" --as the document, in opposition to the pristine, spiritual "blue"(§ 7)--, in brief, a historical critique and a critical history that are immanent or, in Foucault's words, "a form of history which can account for the constitution of knowledges (savoirs), discourses (discours), domains of objects, etc., without having to make reference to a subject, which is either transcendental in relation to the field of events, or runs in its empty sameness throughout the course of history."(FR 59). Genealogy is thus presented as the climax of a critique of morals, already outlined and partially elaborated in Beyond Good and Evil(1886), though in these two books Kant's morality is approached in a more systematic fashion than in the Gay Science. The critique of morals emerges not so much as the logical moment that follows the suppression of religion, but as being adjacent to the very genealogy of modern man. Modernity cannot conceal, therefore, the moral character that constitutes itself as such, in that "'autonomous' and 'moral' are mutually exclusive," according to Nietzsche --contra Kant.(GM II § 2)  On the other hand, Nietzsche seeks to rescue a positive conception of modern man in the anticipation of the Übermensch that must be celebrated today, in the ought of this innocent becoming that is the self-overcoming of man. Thus, whatever is "moral" is precisely what ought to be overcome in the conception of humanity that culminated with German idealism. The atheist, creative thinking of the modern "free spirit" is to be thus opposed to theistic, metaphysical thought, no longer guided and limited by religious belief. In this Kant and Nietzsche share the same conviction that it is necessary to use one's own understanding, sapere aude, so that the spirit of freedom be fulfilled --despite all the divergences as for the meaning of such ideal of freedom, overall in the concepts of "will" and "free will." Rousseau, Voltaire, and French enlightened philosophes would have been a common source for both Nietzsche and Kant, in their undertaking of a critical philosophy. Nevertheless, Nietzsche's attitude toward the Aufklärung --frequently cited as an example of his supposed irrationalism and anti-modernism-- differs from Kant's not only in its political implications, but also in its historical, philosophical presuppositions. The question of morals is thus decisive for a correct evaluation of these divergences.

            In principle, Kant is upheld by Nietzsche as the great champion of the philosophical struggle against the optimism of naïve realism, precisely by having raised phenomena to the status of reality --just as Schopenhauer transvalue them into Vorstellungen (cf. GT §§ 18,19). In 1886, in the preface to the second edition of Morgenröte, Nietzsche denounces the seduction of morals in Kant, the belief that cannot be founded upon its own conception of history and nature (M Pref. § 3). In the same book, Nietzsche criticizes Kant for the dichotomy of sensible and non-sensible in the conception of moral man (M §§ 132,481), but seems to remain faithful to the ideal of Aufklärung:

            This Enlightenment we must now carry further forward: let us not worry about the "great revolution" and the "great reaction"  against it which have taken place --they are no more than the sporting of waves in comparison with the truly great flood which bears us along! (M § 197) 

            Nietzsche identifies himself, therefore, with the critical thrust of Kant's philosophy, to the extent that it does not fall back into an ascetic ideal, typical of Christian morality (M § 339), which would have been supposedly overcome in Kant's own critique of metaphysics. In effect, it is precisely against the Kantian idea of "progress," reappropriated by Hegel, that Nietzsche undertakes his genealogical critique, already anticipated in the Second Unmodern Observation ("Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für Leben," 1874). What is at stake, therefore, is the articulation of historicity and humanity so as to avoid the subordination of human development to the logic of progress and the transcendental foundations of morals. As Nietzsche criticizes the utilitarianist conception of Paul Rée (GM Preface § 4,7), it is not only the evolutionist historicism that he seeks to combat but above all the metaphysical, supra-historical perspective that subtly guides historiography. Thus, one of the greatest contributions of Nietzsche consists in having denounced a conception of history that presupposes a transcendental unity --typical of the soteriological reading of Christianity. Nietzsche unmasks, therefore, Kantian morality as the return to what had already been overcome by the Aufklärung, namely, faith in whatever cannot be thought--for religion itself, according to Kant, does not seek to know God in the same way one claims to know nature. This is outlined in the second part of the Second Book of WM (§§ 253-405, "Critique of Morality"):

                        1. Origin of Moral Valuations

                        2. The Herd

                        3. General Remarks on Morality

                        4. How Virtue is Made to Dominate

                        5. The Moral Ideal

                        6. Further Considerations for a Critique of Morality


            The entire question of morality, according to Nietzsche, has been reformulated as a question of faith, as the subtle, dogmatic ideal that remains faithful to the "beyond" --from Plato to Kant and Hegel. Nietzsche's main thesis, following the equivalence between Leben and Wille zur Macht (WM § 254), is thus enunciated: "there are no moral phenomena, there is only a moral interpretation of these phenomena. This interpretation itself is of extra-moral origin."(WM § 258) We are thus transposed into the semiological problem of the metaphor --what may well be discarded as a vicious circle in an ontological hermeneutic, depending on the perspective adopted. I have adopted a critical, textual hermeneutic that simply refers us back to the context of the previous discussion on truth and metaphor: there are no universals in the Nietzschean lexicon.  The "extra-moral origin" is only the reversal of morals, the immorality of resentment and of all other desiderata of ideals forged for humanity (WM §§ 266, 373, 390), supposedly meant for a "better" humanity. Such is the great pia fraus of the Christian religion. The critique of religion and the critique of morals presuppose the conception of sense and value --such as in the formula "good and evil"-- that should not escape the boundaries of critique, as if it were some sort of "immaculate conception."[20] The evacuation of the divine, contrary to a Hegelian kenosis that finds its fullness through the positive work of the negative, does not suscitate any hope of reconciliation. The nihilism is a radical, irreversible event: 

            What does nihilism mean? That the highest values devaluate themselves. The aim is lacking; "why?" finds no answer.

            Radical nihilism is the conviction of an absolute untenability of existence when it comes to the highest values one recognizes; plus the realization that we lack the least right to posit a beyond or an in‑itself of things that might be "divine" or morality incarnate. This realization is a consequence of the cultivation of "truthfulness" ‑‑thus itself a consequence of the faith in morality. (WP § 3)

            The radical critique that Nietzsche undertakes against Christian morality provides us with the methodological clue and the very Sache of his experimentalism, still in the "Versuch einer Umwertung aller Werte." Simply by not having nothing (nihil) beyond God, once the true, the good, and the beautiful are necessarily transvalued with the death of God. The same fate is, in effect, reserved for the socialist and democratic systems. God is dead, therefore, there is nothing to be grounded in, neither in moral nor in ontological terms. It is not so much the question of having nothing beyond God, but of having no fundamental "beyond" at all. All we have been left with is the immanence of the world, co-originary with the innocent becoming of human nature. Nothing else, nothing beyond, above or underneath us. Nothing is given as principle or end, cause or reason to give meaning to what we are. To the Kantian Paukenschlag that opposes "the starry sky above me" to "the moral law within me" (KpV A 288), Nietzsche proposes a gaya scienza that transgresses the very boundaries of whatever is "outside" and "inside," by the affirmation of a law without purity or end:


Vorausbestimmt zur Sternenbahn,

Was geht dich, Stern, das Dunkel an?

Roll selig hin durch diese Zeit!

Ihr Elend sei dir fremd und weit!

Der fernsten Welt gehört dein Schein:

Mitleid soll Sünde für dich sein!

Nur ein Gebot gilt dir: sein rein![21]



4. Nietzsche and the Critique of Subjectivity


Es ist, wie man errät, nicht der Gegensatz von Subjekt und Objekt, der mich hier angeht: diese Unterscheidung überlasse ich den Erkenntnistheoritikern, welche in den Schlingen der Grammatik (der Volks-Metaphysik) hängenge-blieben sind. Es ist erst recht nicht der Gegensatz von "Ding an sich" und Erscheinung: denn wir "erkennen" bei weitem nicht genung, the auch nur so scheiden zu dürfen. Wir haben eben gar kein Organ für das Erkennen, für die "Wahrheit": wir "wissen" (oder glauben oder bilden uns ein) gerade so viel, als es im Interesse der Menschen-Herde, der Gattung, nützlich sein mag... (FW § 354)

            The Provençal accent of the "gaya scienza" translates and betrays the "ideal of a free spirit," cultivated by Nietzsche in that year of transition (1882, 1st ed. of FW): the troubadour, dancer, and poet that rediscovers the telluric philosophy, the philosophy of body and surface. Gaya is the goddess Earth, the only one to whom fidelity is due.(FW §§ 362-377) Thus, Nietzsche invokes the theme of the Great Navigations (Genoa, Columbus, the seas that defy us to explore infinity). The humanity of the future is doomed to be guided by this new sense of historicity (FW 337, "Die zukünftige 'Menschlichkeit'"), as if we could sense the history of the entire humanity as our own history, "wer die Geschichte der Menschen insgesamt als eigne Geschichte zu fühlen weiß..." Historicity, together with "the knowledge of physiology" and "a goal in the future," is placed among the things that are lacking in a philosopher.(WM § 408) The "Critique of Philosophy" outlined in the Will to Power (WM §§ 406-465) follows, therefore, the philosophizing with the hammer that characterizes all the work of a critical project of transvaluations: "naturalization of morals"; instead of sociology, "a theory of the forms of domination"; in lieu of society, "the cultural complex"; in lieu of epistemology, "a perspectival theory of affects"; in lieu of metaphysics and religion, "a theory of eternal return."(WM § 462) When Nietzsche wrote the preface to Jenseits von Gut und Böse in June 1885, the project of a "philosophy of the future" --explicitly announced in the subtitle--, had already been undertaken forty years earlier by a compatriot, Ludwig Feuerbach. Over une century earlier, Kant had published his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics(1783). However, the Nietzschean alternative to Kant's critique and to Right- and Left-Hegelianisms could not be merely reduced to an ambitious overcoming of the philosophy of his time, as if Nietzsche preached just another gospel of "beyond."  Beyond Good and Evil is, in effect, presented by Nietzsche himself as the aphoristic manifesto of the "good European," comprising the critical typology and social psychology of the aufgeklärt man that questions himself as "free spirit," sehr freien Geister:

            But we who are neither Jesuits nor democrats, nor even German enough, we good Europeans and free, very free spirits --we still feel it, the whole need of the spirit and the whole tension of its bow. And perhaps also the arrow, the task, and --who knows?--the goal (JGB Preface)

            It seems, therefore, that in spite of all metaphoricity and of dissemination of signifiers, the text offers us the interpretative project of a human existence. The fact that he speaks in the first person of the plural(wir),including, "with cynicism and innocence," the very author of this philosophical prelude, already reveals the ethical, political relevance and the polemical character of this collection of thoughts. The enigmatic style of Nietzsche should not obfuscate our understanding of the subject-matter, to wit, whatever constitutes the ultimate object of metaphysics, truth in the apprehension of concepts of the world (cosmology), God(theology), and the self(psychology/anthropology). It is not by chance that Nietzsche introduces in the preface the theme of the book with the enigmatic, phallocentric words: "Supposing truth is a woman..." The metaphor could not be more aestheticist: that philosophers, from Plato through the German idealists --all of them "men" (i.e. males),-- had failed in the art of seducing a woman who never allowed to be conquered --truth as woman-object, la femme-vérité. The radicalism of Nietzschean aestheticism does not reside, however, in the reduction of philosophy to an aesthetic relation of appropriation and expropriation of the beautiful and the true, but in the critical immanentism of his perspectivism. If the philosopher is taken for an artiste manqué, his failure consists precisely in seeking to transcend the world as artwork, devaluing it as such. The Platonic opposition of sensible to the intelligible, of which the mimesis-episteme opposition is the particular case, permeates, according to the Nietzschean diagnosis, all the development of a metaphysics of values that bridge the Aristotelian realism to Kantian idealism:

            Consider any morality [Moral] with this in mind: what there is in it of "nature" teaches hatred of the laisser aller, of any all-too-great freedom, and implants the need for limited horizons and the nearest tasks --teaching the narrowing of our perspective [Verengerung der Perspektive], and thus in a certain sense stupidity, as a condition of life and growth. "You should obey --someone and for a long time: else you will perish and lose the last respect for yourself" --this appears to me to be the moral imperative of nature which, to be sure, is neither "categorical" as the old Kant would have it (hence the "else") nor addressed to the individual (what do individuals matter to her?), but to people, races, ages, classes --but above all to the whole human animal, to man.(JGB § 188)

            Thus, in the first chapter, when dealing with the "Prejudices of Philosophers," Nietzsche unmasks the "will to truth" (der Wille zur Wahrheit) by calling into question the value (Wert) of this will: "The fundamental faith of the metaphysicians is the faith in opposite values."(§ 2) The great question for Nietzsche is to determine the motivation, the interest, the value of opposing a "no" to each "yes," the opposition to the innocent becoming of the world, where man is only a vector in a complex field of forces (§ 36, 230, 257). The reason why Nietzsche's conception of agency is here reconstituted, together with its correlative view of subjectivity and power, is to place the valuation of the human being within a whole play of forces (Gesamtspiel), where the will to power is defined as praxis, pathos, physis, interpretation, self-reflection, and history. And yet the will to power should not be reduced to the very becoming of being just as it cannot be identified with a psychological substratum,[22] as though Nietzsche were falling back into a naïve reformulation of the metaphysical prima causa. To be sure, the tension between a modern conception of the domination of nature (Hobbes) and the Romantic conception of the harmonic return to nature (Rousseau) seems to persist in the Nietzschean elaboration of the will to power --perhaps because of his reading of Heraclitus and Parmenides. A careful reading of JGB §§ 4, 10-12, and 16-19 leads us to the reformulation of the Nietzschean question in the following terms: since the history of metaphysics cannot provide us with a theory of power that isn't itself just another effect of this history, i.e., of the reactive nihilism that underlies Western thought, a critique of power must be placed elsewhere, so as to account for the subjectivity of these theories and practices. Nietzsche proceeds thus to critique the  metaphysical conceptions of agency (soul, free will, and will) so as to rescue classical notions of rationality, freedom, and the will in one single, historicized concept of human becoming. In effect, the will to power and genealogy are complementary concepts, insofar as all cultural, historical genesis is effected in human acting.  The action-historicity correlation is, in effect, recognized by Nietzsche as the two great legacies of the German Aufklärung (WM § 1058):

            The two greatest philosophical points of view (devised by Germans):

            a) that of becoming, of development.

            b) that according to the value of existence (but the wretched form of German pessimism must first be overcome!)

            To be sure, one does not find in Kant the articulation between religion as a moral, cultural phenomenon, and the historical self-consciousness --as we find it, say, in Hegel, largely due to influence of Kant's writings on history.[23] Once we understand the appropriation and reproduction of historical determinations, action must be deteleologized, evacuated of all metaphysical logic of progressus (GM II § 12). "let us say that in all willing there is, first, a plurality of sensations, namely, the sensation of the state "away from which" [von dem weg], the sensation of the state "towards which," [zu dem hin] the sensation of this "from" and "towards" themselves."(JGB § 19) The world is, before anything, given to us through relation and affection, the world is effected through our human existence that acts in the world and through the world. Nietzsche conceives of the will to power, therefore, as the pathos of personification, of incorporation, defying the very opposition of "active" and "passive." In the same text (JGB § 19), Nietzsche adds the interpretative aspect of the will to power, and besides the complex of this feeling and thinking, the "affect of command" that unveils the self-reflective character of the will to power. Action is never an end in itself, but the means for the self-experience of agency through the incorporation (Einverleibung) and appropriation (Aneignung) of experiential, interpretative worlds. Hence the resulting historicity of human practices: the subject is always an historical effect, without presupposing determinism or teleology --"necessity is not a fact but an interpretation."(WM § 552). Acting is always already temporal, historicizing, insofar as it is effective (wirklich) and not originally efficient (in the Aristotelian sense of causality). If modern metaphysics relates every cause to the third --in the Aristotelian classification of the four causes--, reducing thus the effect to a fact, the Nietzschean transvaluation seeks to rescue the effectivity of the fact in a radical critique that is regarded above all as interpretation.

            We arrive thus at the anthropological problem, displaced by the effective history of metaphysics, after the unmasking of the great philosophies that disguised the human phenomenon. As Plato by the mouth of Socrates approached the problem of genre (genos) to classify in logical fashion what distinguishes the sophist from the philosopher, and what is just and true, so Nietzsche resorts to a classifying method, without however, arriving at any particular paradigm of classification. The Platonic idea of the Good, according to Nietzsche's reading of metaphysics, would be subsequently disguised as final cause in Aristotle, substance in Descartes, or thing-in-itself in Kant, without ever succeeding in explaining what unites and opposes by analogy human beings vis-à-vis all other beings. Hence the Socratic aporia of knowing that one knows nothing, for the will to know always betrays the belief that there must be meaning for all this endless network of signifiers. Man cannot constitute a superior class, nor his reason a class of classes. All we are left with is the fictionality of our human interpretations. Nietzsche uses thus typologies and comparative observations on peoples, races, and nations of Antiquity, the Renaissance, and Modernity not only to illustrate his doctrine of the will to power but also to account for its historical, immanent grounds, proper to the becoming of the human species. The very imposition of character of being to becoming constitutes, according to Nietzsche, the supreme will to power.(WM § 617) But the character of being is not, as one might expect, stability and permanence; on contrary, "that everything recurs is the closest approximation of a world of becoming to a world of being."(WM § 617) In this consists the amor fati (WM 1041, EH II,10), the Dionysian self-affirmation of man that wills all his/her life and the whole world happening exactly as it did happen --the eternal return of the same. "The destination of human nature resides," as runs the Heraclitean fragment, "in its character" --and vice-versa, ηθoς αvθρωπω δαιμωv (Frag. 119).

5. Conclusion: The Critique of Modernity

Critique of modern man (his moralistic mendaciousness): --the "good man" corrupted and seduced by bad institutions (tyrants and priests); --reason as authority; --history as overcoming of errors; --the future as progress; --the Christian state ("the Lord of hosts");--the Christian sex impulse (or marriage); --the kingdom of "justice" (the cult of "humanity");--"freedom"(WM § 62)   That the man to be overcome is "modern man" can be inferred from the incisive association between the Übermensch and the Zukunft, the future, the Nietzschean yet-to-come of the becoming. On the other hand, the concept of modernity remains problematic in the study of Nietzsche's thought, insofar as it only serves to envision radical projects --whether futurist or anarchist, nihilist or post-modernist. It is indeed unwarranted, if not impossible, to reconcile Kant's ethics with Nietzsche's radical critique of morals, as shown by the studies by Mark Warren (post-modern political philosophy) and William Connolly (radical liberalism).[24] It was not the intent of the present work to examine the political, social implications of Nietzsche's philosophy and his conception of modern man. All I tried to show is that Nietzsche's genealogy is a continuation of the critical project of modernity, although it breaks away from the philosophical presuppositions of the Aufklärung, by radicalizing and suspecting its conceptions of rationality and critique. The rupture with "modernity" may be understood as the inauguration of "post-modernity," but its ethical and political implications remain to be seen. Foucault's contention, in the inaugural address at the Collège de France, that the main difference between genealogy and critique is perspectival and strategic rather than objective or thematic, bring us back to the questions of method that have guided us in our inquiry into the nature of the modern ethos.

            Genealogy and critique, truth and method, art and science, meaning and valor, ontology and semiology --these are some of the fundamental concepts in Nietzsche's philosophy that proved useful in the formulation of his anthropological problematic. To grasp the Nietzschean "genealogy" as a radical "critique" that defies the metaphysical method adopted by the Kantian Kritik in philosophical and historical terms constitutes not only a thesis but also the prelude to a project that articulates the genealogical discourse of modernity. The anarchic, immoral anti-humanism and the anti-democratic aristocracy generally associated with Nietzsche's name--even if we discount here all the unwarranted speculations about an anti-semitic protofascism[25]--, may easily mislead us to the conclusion that the Nietzsche's aestheticism had nothing to contribute to a debate on human nature, let alone to ethics and politics.  Nevertheless, it is precisely in this mined field of misunderstandings that we can redirect the Nietzschean critique in a "post-metaphysical" sense that does justice to its original project of the transvaluation of all values through the self-overcoming of human nature. The critique of religion that culminates with the death of God translates, in effect, the historical irreversibility of human advancements in her/his constant search of herself/himself and the meaning of existence, without any resort to grounds that transcend her/him. The impossibility of founding the meaning of existence outside of the human jurisdiction, beyond her/his historical experiences, is what makes Nietzsche's philosophy the paradigm of our modern condition. To be sure, thinkers such as Kant, Hegel and Feuerbach had already unmasked metaphysical conceptions of human nature. The greatest difference between Nietzsche and these philosophers is that he questions the very possibility of formulating a conception of human nature, insofar as there have been and will always be some subjective, power-effected interest behind every search for identity. Whoever asks questions or lies behind them takes part in the codification of moral truths, always bound to power relations. Nietzsche has shown that all philosophical discourses of modernity have to presuppose, in their cultural, historical articulation of ethics and politics, a metaphysics of subjectivity. Nietzsche has thus undermined both the supra-historical and the metaphysical standpoints that have allowed for modern historicism and criticism to proclaim the autonomy of human freedom and reason. It is a matter of rescuing philosophy rather than saving humankind. Hence the philosophical discourse of modernity must unveil its nonphilosophical, lowly genesis, where the very creation of modern man is effected by the will to truth and the will to power. In Beyond Good and Evil --particularly, in chapters 6 through 9 -- we find out that, besides all the anthropological, psychological, and genealogical analyses --undertaken in chapters 1 through 5--, there is indeed what we may call an "ethnological" dimension to Nietzsche's. To be sure, the word "ethnology" cannot be taken here in the modern sense "cultural anthropology," of a science that studies, from a cultural standpoint, so-called "primitive peoples" and compares them with the social, historical formations of the great Oriental, Mesopotamic, and European civilizations. In fact, as much can be said about anthropology and psychology in Nietzsche, in that they remain on the boundary between the philosophical and the nonphilosophical, as they seek to elucidate our knowledge of human nature without reference to any specific empirical science (Fachwissenschaft). Therefore, the Nietzschean discourse on races, civilizations, and cultural values can be examined within the philosophical perspective that characterizes his cultural, historical background of late Aufklärung. On the other hand, the originality of Nietzsche's project not only resists the previous classifications of what had been then formulated as anthropology, psychology, and genealogy, but questions all the scientific aspirations of these doctrines that never dissimulated their essentially metaphysical foundations. It is precisely in his antimetaphysical démarche that Nietzsche can be considered one of the great precursors of contemporary studies in cultural anthropology, inasmuch as it touches upon the social, historical articulations of civilizing processes with the problem of otherness.[26] It must be noted in passing that the problem of the cultural identity of a given tribe, nation, or people, whatever constitutes them as an ethnos or genos to be differentiated from others, cannot be thought without referring us back to a certain genealogical analysis of the moral, cultural values (ethos) that bind them together as a social group. It is in this articulation of historicity and sociability within one single discourse that resides, in the last analysis, Nietzsche's original contribution to a nonmetaphysical conception of human nature, understood as the indeterminate, plastic becoming constituted by the will to power, in its ontological regionalities and rationalities of self-overcoming. The source of such a discourse is found, as we have seen, in Nietzsche's conception of active and reactive forces at play in the historical effectiveness of the will to power. The ethnological task outlined in JGB can be also elucidated in function of the key concept of the will to power, as opposed to modernist formulations of anthropology.

            Just as the Kantian project --and the philosophy of the Aufklärung in general-- has been fairly characterized by an anthropocentric preoccupation, Nietzsche outlined the true "critique of modern man" (WM § 62, quoted above) and completed it with a "genealogy of modern man." For Nietzsche, however, it is a matter of examining "modernity in the perspective of the metaphor of nourishment and digestion"(WM § 71), i.e., the culture of fast food --Nietzsche speaks of "time of influx prestissimo"!--, the incapacity to digest, ruminate, meditate, and even think, that characterizes the decadent man of a modernity that totally lost the Renaissance sense of virtù and authenticity (WM §§ 74-78). In a nutshell, the advent of the reactive, pessimist nihilism that characterizes our modernity of fin of siècle --as Nietzsche's Zeitgeist--, only can be overcome in the becoming of its taking place (geschehen), interpreted and transvalued in active fashion. Thus, what has become a code of conduct and truth for one epoch can be decodified in the sense of a radical reversal of values, without losses or gains, but in the simple preservation of quanta of forces. For instance, the codification of morals and whatever is assimilated into the culture of a people, is always accompanied by decodifications, hence the interpenetration of the Apollinian and Dyonisian principles in the cultural formation of peoples and nations. To the cultural ethos of a people, to their mores structured by habituation and socialization, correspond instincts of self-preservation, self-affirmation as species, genos that generates and reproduces itself in the genesis of a common destiny. It would be, therefore, important to separate, in our reading of Nietzsche and, in particular, in our reading of a genealogical critique, what is relevant to our understanding of a Nietzschean interpretative principle from whatever refers to his idiosyncrasies, in a peculiar context of fin de siècle Germany.  Whatever suggests anti-Semitism, misogyny, anti-socialism, and even misanthropy in the Nietzschean text can always be decodified in favor of a polyphonic, pluralist, non-exclusive reading --as attested by the diverse appropriations of Nietzsche by anti-racist, feminist, socializing, and liberationist movements. But the great question remains as for the foundation of ethics today, following Nietzsche's critique of Kant's and modernist conceptions of morality. Isn't the post-modern condition, following the Nietzschean radical hermeneutics of modern subjectivity, doomed to sheer ethical relativism? How can a self-overcome conception of human nature be invoked in a concrete situation of ethical crisis? After all, is it possible to found an ethics without metaphysics? Is it possible to have an ethics without a conception of human nature?

            I have to conclude this chapter in provisional terms, as I am confined to elaborating on Nietzsche's contribution to the problem of human nature. As Deleuze and Guattari observed, Nietzsche's lasting contribution to the ethnological debate consists in the formulation of a fundamental problem of primitive socius in terms of code, inscription, trace: society is inscription-based rather than exchange-based, the trace (on the body, on earth) is what defines culture in its relations of contract and debt.[27] If Kant was the first to have formulated the anthropological problem in a pragmatic perspective --where  abound the idiosyncrasies and stereotypical views on gender, sex, ethnicity and social divisions-- Nietzsche had the merits of suspecting and problematizing the Kantian distinction between morals --that can be historically and socially reconstituted-- and the moral law that makes possible, out of a transcendental foundation, the moral actions of human beings. On the other hand, Nietzsche did not seek to reconcile the universal and the particular in one single anthropogenesis, nor did he content himself with a mere reversal of a theological model --as Feuerbach did, in his conception of man as Gattungswesen. Nietzsche does not provide us with a social theory, not even a theory of power that may help us reformulate a social critique. His legacy is an aphoristic collection of problems that enjoins us to revise and rethink our methods of classification and representations of whom we claim to be, at an age of uncertainty and false expectations.


* . Originally published as Chapter 3 of On the Genealogy of Modernity: Foucault’s Social Philosophy. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science, 2003.

[1].. M. Heidegger. Nietzsche, vol. 1, Berlin: Neske, 1961, p. 9.

[2].. Cf. Bernard Bueb, Nietzsches Kritik der praktischen Vernunft, (Stuttgart: Ernst Klett, 1970); Siegfried Kittman, Kant und Nietzsche: Darstellung und Vergleich ihrer Ethik und Moral, (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Verlag, 1984); Olivier Reboul, Nietzsche critique de Kant, (Paris: PUF, 1978); Keith Ansell-Pearson, "Nietzsche's Overcoming of Kant and Metaphysics: From Tragedy to Nihilism," Nietzsche-Studien 16 (1987) 310-339.

[3].. According to the Kröners Taschen edition (vol. 78, 1930); I am using the ET by Walter Kaufmann, The Will to Power, (New York: Vintage Books, 1968).

[4].. Subtitle of the original outline for Hegel's Phänomenologie des Geistes.

[5].. That is, that man is the only animal endowed with the logos (speech, discourse, reason) and the zoon politikon by nature. Cf. Aristotle's Politics I.i.

[6].. The years refer to the date of publication. Undoubtedly, WM cannot be regarded as a "book" in the same sense as AC and EH are regarded as "nachgelassene Werke". In the present study, I have avoided both extreme positions of either discarding WM as a work rejected by Nietzsche himself (as proposed by Bernd Magnus) or turning it into the Hauptwerk containing the quintessential philosophy of Nietzsche (as Heidegger does).

[7].. Cf. F. Nietzsche, "Le Philosophe. Considérations sur le conflit de l'art et de la connaissance," in La naissance de la philosophie à l'époque de la tragédie grecque, (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), 194.

[8].. 3rd. revised, augmented ed.,(New York: Vintage Books, 1968). Some of Kaufmann's comments and editorial remarks were simply outrageous --e.g., Nietzsche's notes on women and race.

[9].. To be sure, there were other philosophers who had previously dealt with the problems of meaning and value, without however the modern interest in critically submitting such formulations to a self-criticism of the very method employed. Cf. G. Deleuze, Nietzsche et la philosophie, (Paris: PUF, 1962), 1: "Le projet le plus général de Nietzsche consiste en ceci: introduire en philosophie les concepts de sens et de valeur. Il est évident que la philosophie moderne, en grande partie, a vécu et vit encore de Nietzsche...Nietzsche n'a jamais caché que la philosophie du sens et des valeurs dût être une critique. Que Kant n'a pas mené la vraie critique, parce qu'il n'a pas su en poser le problème en termes de valeurs, tel est même un des mobiles principaux de l'oeuvre de Nietzsche."

[10].. Cf. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method [Wahrheit und Methode, 1st. ed. 1960; 2nd. ed. 1965], (New York: Crossroad, 1986), p. 495. The debate between Gadamer and Habermas, moderated by Paul Ricoeur (Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, ed. J.B. Thompson, Cambridge University Press, 1981), may to a large extent be regarded as anticipating the Foucault/Habermas "debate."

[11].. Cf. A. Megill, Prophets of Extremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 2.

[12].. J. Derrida, "La mythologie blanche: La métaphore dans le texte philosophique", in Marges de la philosophie, Paris: Minuit, 1972.

[13].. In Kröner's edition, vol. 83, §§1208-1415.

[14].. M. Heidegger, "The Word of Nietzsche: 'God is Dead'" [Nietzsches Wort "Gott ist tot", 1943] in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, tr. W. Lovitt, (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 54. Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche, insofar as historicity, metaphysics, and nihilism are concerned, has been also elaborated in the essay "Zur Seinsfrage", on the "line" of completion for the fulfilling (Vollendung) of nihilism, in response to Ernst Jünger's essay, "Über die Linie," in Wegmarken, (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1967).

[15].. Cf. M. Foucault, Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique (Paris: Plon, 1961; 2e. ed. Gallimard, 1972); "Nietzsche, Freud, Marx" in Cahiers de Royaumont No. VI, VIIe. Colloque, (4-8 juillet 1964), Paris: Minuit, 1967, pp. 183-200. When he was inquired whether Nietzsche underwent the experience of madness ("que de grands esprits comme Nietzsche puissent avoir l'expérience de la folie"), Foucault replied with a double yea, "oui, oui!"

[16].. Cf. M. Heidegger, "The Word of Nietzsche: 'God is Dead'", op. cit., 111-112; id., "Who is Nietzsche's Zarathustra?", in David B. Allison (ed.), The New Nietzsche, op. cit., 64-79.  

[17].. In fact, Heidegger himself problematizes the question of the overcoming (Überwindung) of metaphysics in terms of a Verwindung (verwinden, venir à bout de, to cope with), esp. in the essay "Zur Seinsfrage", op. cit. Cf. supra.

[18].. Such is in effect the great post-structuralist thesis --and even anti-structuralist-- that Foucault would oppose to the Heideggerian reading of Nietzsche and its fundamental-ontological appropriation of the genealogy.

[19].. Cf. Excursus Two infra.

[20].. Cf. Jacques Derrida's critique of the Hegelian conception of the concept in Glas, (Paris: Galilée, 1974).

[21].. FW Prelude §63: "Called a star's orbit to pursue,/ What is the darkness, star, to you?/ Roll on in bliss, traverse this age--/ Its misery far from you and strange./ Let farthest world your light secure./ Pity is sin you must abjure./ But one command is yours: be pure!" (Kaufmann' trans.)

[22].. Such are the readings of Heidegger, Nietzsche, op. cit., vol. 1, The Will to Power as Art, and Lukács,The Destruction of Reason.

[23].. Cf. I. Kant, On History, ed. Lewis White Beck, (New York: Macmillan, 1973).

[24].. Mark Warren, Nietzsche and Political Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988); William Connolly, Political Theory and Modernity (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988).

[25].. Esp. Nietzsche's relationship with Wagner and the speculations about his sister, Elisabeth, married to the leader of an anti-Semitic, German movement, Bernhard Förster. Cf. Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, 3rd. edition, (New York: Vintage, 1968); Jacques Derrida, The Ear of the Other, (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1985).


[26].. Cf. Tzevan Todorov, Nous et les autres, (Paris: Seuil, 1989).

[27]..  Cf. 2nd. essay of the GM; Anti-Oedipus, trans. R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. Lane, (New York: Viking, 1977), 234-241.


Pós-modernidade para otários (PostModernity for dummies)




Email: [email protected]
1 1