Sunday, January 15, 2017

Euphoria: 1888

“For the summer he went to Sils-Maria and stayed there until the 20th September, when he returned to Turin.  Apart from a relapse in the middle of the summer, he was feeling his health had improved; his spirits were lighter, and he experienced a joy in working which exceeded anything he had known before.  Had his ‘medical knowledge’ been what he claimed, he might have recognized the symptoms and perhaps, even at this late stage, done something to prevent or retard the ultimate consequences: but he did nothing and, in all probability, failed to realize there was anything to be done.

“His decline into insanity took the form of an increasingly intense feeling of euphoria culminating at last in megalomania. As early as February his letters revealed that the overcompensation of previous years was beginning to assume a somewhat heightened coloring: writing to Seydlitz on the 12th, for instance, he says:

“’Between ourselves – it is not impossible that I am the first philosopher of the age, perhaps a trifle more than that,…something decisive and fateful standing between two millennia.’

“By May he was experiencing a sensation of well-being which sent him into cries of rapture: ‘Wonder of wonders,’ he wrote Seydlitz on the 13th, ‘I have had a notably cheerful spring up to now.  The first for ten, fifteen years – perhaps even longer!’ There was no worsening of his condition until the late autumn…” (Hollingdale, page 194)

Spring and autumn were Nietzsche’s least favorite seasons because the weather conditions were so unpredictable no matter where he tried to reside.  In April 1888, he decided to try a new location, Turin, Italy.  The initial trip to Turin from Nice was a disaster. But ultimately he was pleasantly surprised by Turin and declared it to be the “solution for autumn and spring.” The trip auspiciously began with misfortune.

“Early on Easter Monday (2 April) he set out on what he fancied would be a relatively short train-trip. Instead, it turned out to be the most confused and catastrophic of any he had so far undertaken.  At Genoa he had to change to another train.  Just what happened next is not clear. Probably aided by a porter, he had his hand luggage stowed away in a compartment the then wandered off, perhaps in search of refreshment.  Returning, he absentmindedly climbed into the wrong train and soon found himself headed in the wrong direction….This mishap so unnerved him that he suffered a breakdown and had to spend the next two days in a hotel bedroom, while telegrams were dispatched to various points asking the stationmaster to recover the wayward bags. Fortunately the heavy trunk, stuffed as usual with many books, had been registered in Nice and made it safely to its destination, where is was waiting patiently to be claimed by its owner when, utterly exhausted and feeling stupid, the ‘half-blind’ professor finally reached Turin, the proud capital of the kings of Sardinia, Piedmont and Savoy who had contributed so much to the Risorgimento and the recent unification of Italy.

“It was three more days before Nietzsche was sufficiently recovered from his nerve-racking upsets to be able to write a long letter of thanks to Heinrich Koselitz in Venice.  And in what glowing terms! ‘But Turin!’ he began ecstatically. ‘Dear Friend, may you be congratulated!  Your guess is after my own heart. This is really and truly a city I can now use!’ – even though he had been greeted on his arrival by intermittent showers of icy rain.” (Cate, page 514)

“Not far from the Royal Castle, on Piazza Carlo Alberto (named after the father of the present King of Italy) Nietzsche found what he wanted – in a corner house belonging to a newspaper and bookstall vendor named Davide Fino, who was also the superintendent of the public writing-room.  The four-story room he was offered – in a house that boasted a piano! – was small but so well situated that from it tiny balcony Nietzsche could see the green hills of la collina to the south-east, and, on clear days, the Alps to the north-west.  All for a moderate price of 25 francs per month; which, as he wrote to Franz Overbeck on 10 April, enabled him to eat his main meal – usually a minestra (soup) with a meat course – in an elegant restaurant.” (page 515)

“This fortuitous change of habitat galvanized Nietzsche’s creative energies, which in Nice had begun to flag.  So too did his exchange of letters with Georg Brandes, who was so impressed by his perusal of Nietzsche’s books that he decided to give a series of lectures to the professors and students of Copenhagen University.  Astonished that a non-German should wish to honor a ‘vir obscurissimus’ like himself, Nietzsche’s wrote Brandes a long letter of appreciation, accompanied by a biographical summary of his life and works, in which he stressed the ‘indescribably close intimacy with Richard and Cosmia Wagner’ and the ‘boundless trust’ that had existed between them during the years spent at Tribschen, near Lucerne.” (pp. 515-516)

“’I am in a good mood, working from early morning to evening,’ Nietzsche wrote on 20 April in another letter to Koselitz, as full as ever with rhapsodic praise for this ‘capital discovery’ (Turin), where booksellers peddled books in three languages, and where, in an excellent trattoria, for 1 franc and 25 centimes (half the price he had to pay at Sils-Maria) he was offered a tasty meal of risotto, a sizeable roast, vegetable and bread.  Turin, moreover, was nothing less than a ‘Musik-Ort’ (music-spot), boasting twelve theaters, an academia philharmonica, a Lyceum for Music, twenty-one officially registered composers, and a multitude of teachers for different instruments.  Yes, he continued, ‘a small pamphlet on music keeps my fingers busy, I digest like a demigod despite the fact that at night the carriages rattle past: all of them indications of Nietzsche’s eminent adaptation to Torino’.” (page 516)

“As if designed expressly for his needs, Turin possessed over a kilometer of covered arcades through which he could walk in all weathers.  And the sight of the Alps, the mountain air and water, the bookshops, well-stocked in three languages, the excellent food – cheap on account of the many young people attending the university and the military academy – the serene river Po bounding the city to the East with parkland and a shaded boulevard on the other side, all occasioned ecstasies of praise.  ‘Evenings on the Po bridge’, he wrote, ‘heavenly! Beyond good and evil!!’  He loved the café life (as he had as a student in Leipzig), became a connoisseur of gelato, which he found to be ‘of the highest culture’, and loved the palm court orchestra which sometimes accompanied it.

“Nietzsche loved Turin’s rich musical life.  He listened to Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Goldmark (‘a hundred times better than Wagner’), and congratulated the city for extending Carmen’s run at the Teatro Carignano to two months at the expense of three other operas.  And he loved the fact that operetta was available almost all the time due to the existence of two competing operetta companies.  In Turin his taste for light music became ever more indiscriminate, to the point where he loved almost anything, as long as it was the opposite of Wagnerian portentousness.” (Young, page 487)

It is noteworthy that (for various reasons): “By the beginning of 1888 Nietzsche has all but exhausted his capital, and his friends began to rally round to assist him: Deussen sent him 2,000 marks (possibly with the help of Paul Ree) and Meta von Salis gave him 1,000 francs, and with this money he paid for the publication  in September of The Wagner Case.” (Hollingdale, page 196)

“From Turin, Nietzsche’s correspondence with Brandes continued to flourish.  They agreed that modern civilization is a problem rather than a solution. Nietzsche told Brandes that Part IV of Zarathustra could well bear the title ‘The Temptation of Zarathustra’ and that it is the best answer to his doubts about Nietzsche’s critique of pity.  He told him that ‘the gold-maker’ such as himself, who makes ‘golden’ what mankind most fears and despised, is its greatest benefactor.

“The most exciting news Brandes delivered was that he had held a cycle of five lectures between Aprils 10 and May 8 devoted to Nietzsche’s entire philosophy up to and including the Genealogy, and that it had been a tremendous success, each lecture being attended by over three hundred people. Nietzsche was given to claiming that while composers without fame are like girls no one will dance with, philosophers find fame merely ‘burdensome’.  Nonetheless, bursting with joy, he reported news of the lecture series – with imaginative embellishments – to nearly every correspondent.” (pp. 487-488)

“Brandes persuaded the great Swedish playwright August Strindberg, one of the fathers of modern realistic theater, to read Nietzsche, with the result that he became an ardent fan, parroting Nietzsche’s own judgment that Zarathustra was ‘undoubtedly the most profound book man possesses’. Since Brandes had described Strindberg as ‘a true genius’, even if ‘slightly mad’, this more than anything, perhaps, persuaded Nietzsche that he had finally arrived.  A lively correspondence grew up between the two ‘slightly mad’ writers.  Nietzsche read Strindberg’s play, Pere, a domestic tragedy concerning a power struggle between husband and wife.  ‘I was deeply moved,’ he wrote Strindberg, and was ‘amazed to find a work expressing in such a grand way my own conception of love – the means are war and the ground is deadly hatred between the sexes’.” (pp. 488-489)

“By early June even the fresh air of the Alps could no longer keep the temperature from rising to a hot 31 degrees centigrade.  It was time to leave for the cool highlands of the Engadine.  After saying goodbye to the molto simpatico Davide Fino, to his wife and two daughters (with the younger of whom he liked to play four-handed compositions on the downstairs piano), Nietzsche boarded a train, which, thanks to a new rail connection, could now take him more directly via Como to Chiavenna.” (Cate, page 517)

“During the second week in August the skies cleared and for the first time in months of wintry weather, marked by rain, wind and snow, the Village of Sils-Maria at last enjoyed a tardy summer.  Nietzsche could return the two extra blankets that Frau Durisch, the grocer’s wife, had kindly lent him to keep the ‘Herr Professor’ from freezing during the chilling nights, and it was in a joyous ‘summer mood’, as he wrote to his mother, that he was now enjoying ‘the most beautiful colors I have ever seen here’ – offered in profusion by soft, snow-powdered mountains, dark green firs and larches, silvery lake waters veering in hue from emerald green and turquoise to somber black and (at sunrise and sunset) rose, scarlet red and crimson, under a sky that was ‘completely pure as in Nice’. Meta von Salis chose this auspicious moment to leave the family castle at Chur and to spend two weeks at Sils-Maria, where the thirty-three-year-old ‘Fraulein Doktor’ – the first woman ever to obtain a degree from Zurich University – accompanied the forty-three-year-old ‘cave-bear’ on long walks, and even volunteered to row her curious mentor to a tiny, insect-rich island near the Chaste peninsula, on the Silser lake. (page 519)

“Given his solitary life, Meta recalls, every interruption of his work-filled days was a special event.  She noticed, she later recalled, no signs of mental derangement at all. Nietzsche’s other walking companion was Julius Kaftan, who visited for the same three weeks in August.  Formerly a close colleague of Overbeck’s, now professor of theology in Berlin, Kaftan had known Nietzsche in Basel.  On their walks they engaged in serious philosophical conversations centering, from their opposing viewpoints, on the topic of religion – conversations which may have stimulated the writing of The Antichrist and possibly, too, Twilight of the Idols, both of which were begun very soon after his departure.” (Young, page 490)

“All summer long, when he was not correcting proofs or adding postscripts to The Case of Wagner, Nietzsche had been wrestling and a new text, eventually entitled Der Antichrist (The Anti-Christian), which was intended to be part of the first volume in a collection of four books attacking established values under the overall heading of ’Umwertung aller Werte’ (Revaluation of all Values).” (Cate, page 519)

“Two other visitors caught Nietzsche’s attention.  One was the Hamburg pianist Karl von Holten, who played a private concert of excerpts from Koselitz’ compositions…They also discussed the influential theory of musical phrasing propounded by Hugo Riemann, which, with its insistence that even the smallest musical element should be stressed and phrased, Nietzsche felt, dissolved the musical whole into its atomic elements, a typical manifestation of Wagnerian decadence.

“He also continued a long intermittent discussion of the same issue with Carl Fuchs, which had started way back in October 1884, the latter writing ten or more pages at a time.  He had become somewhat cool toward Fuchs on account of the latter’s trying to remain in good standing with the Wagnerians. Moreover, Nietzsche suspected (possibly unfairly) that as organist of the synagogue in Danzig (Gdansk), Fuchs had spoken of the Jewish service ‘in the dirties possible way’.” (Young, pp. 490-491)

The euphoria Hollingdale mentions above resulted in Nietzsche tackling several major works more or less simultaneously.  “This new burst of inspiration overpowered Nietzsche during the final week of August, when Sils-Maria was again blessed with blue skies and lovely weather.  On 7 September he wrote to Meta von Salis that his earlier report of this ‘washout’ of a summer had been overly pessimistic. For some days now, ‘driven by the spirit’ (of inspiration), he had been getting up at two o’clock in the morning to jot down the thoughts that kept racing through his head. Often he would hear Herr Durisch, his landlord-grocer, stealthily unbolt and then relock the front door as, armed with a hunting rifle, he set out to see if he could bag himself a chamois.  Unforgettable in particular had been 3 September, when he had sat down to write the Preface to his Revaluation of all Values.  ‘I then went out – and behold! the most beautiful day I have seen in the Engadine, blue in lake and sky, a clarity of air, absolutely unprecedented.’” (Cate, page 520)

“Two records of Nietzsche’s final stay in Sils allow us to step out of the perspective of his letters and catch a glimpse of how local people saw him.  A Frau Fumm recalled, in 1938, that:

“’there were three women from Geneva, a Frau Choindron with her two daughters staying with us in the Fex valley. On account of the Geneva ladies with whom Nietzsche was friendly, he came to us the whole summer twice a week fo drink fresh milk.  The friendly convalescent never spoke a great deal…In the end he sought ever more to be alone.  We had great respect for the strange man with the bushy eyebrows.  Later, he suffered headaches all the time. When he did, he walked without a hat and with large damp leaves on his forehead and head.  He would stand for a long time motionless as if rooted to the spot staring into the sky.  And when he walked, swinging his arms and legs in a strange way, everyone laughed at the poor man.’

“A second perspective is through the cruel eyes of children. A Herr Zuan, son of the local schoolteacher, told the visiting philosopher Theodor Adrono, many years later, that:

“’a band of children, to which he [Zaun] belonged, had fun by practicing throwing stones into Nietzsche’s umbrella, so that as soon as he opened it they all fell on his head.  Then he would run after the children, threatening them with the umbrella, but he never caught them.’

“In another recollection recorded in 1938, Zuan recalls that Nietzsche:

“’walked for hours every day mostly in the direction of Chaste.  There on the huge stone, known now as the Nietzsche-stone, he would sit staring thoughtfully in front of him.  And we children would then make fun of him, teasing him, pulling his red umbrella, and would try to put stones in his pocket without him noticing. For the man with the huge mustache didn’t notice what was going on around him.  We called him just ‘the idiot’.” (Young, pp. 491-492)

“On 20 September Nietzsche was at last able to say goodbye to his friends in Sils-Maria – the sympathetic Herr Durisch and his family, the gruffer manager of the Hotel Alpenrose, who did not realize that they would never again lay eyes on this hard-working, hard-hiking, often solitary luncher.  For the first time in years he did not suffer a nervous seizure during the tiring train-trip, even though, near the flooded town of Como, he had to climb down from the railway carriage and cross a narrow wooden bridge by torchlight before traveling on to Milan, where he spent the night.  He reached Turin feeling worn out, but also overjoyed by the warm welcome offered to him by his landlord, Davide Fino, his wife, his son Ernesto and the two daughters. Nothing, to his delight, had changed – neither the crisp, invigorating quality of the air nor the leafy elegance of the tree-lined avenues and river-bank, along which he liked to stride during his daily ‘promenade’.” (Cate, page 522)

Once again, he found Turin highly agreeable. “'Strange!' Nietzsche reported, 'as before, in a moment everything is in order.  Wonderful clarity, autumn colors, an exquisite feeling of well-being spreading over all things'.  The welcome in the Fino household and in his local trattoria was all that could be desired.  As before, he loved being just two minutes' walk from the magnificent castle on the Piazza Castello, loved the open-air theater where one could eat gelato while watching a performance, loved going to operetta after operetta.  For the first time in his life he had his own tailor.

“Though the weather was bad on arrival, this had no effect on either his health or productivity.  And it soon picked up, developing into a glorious autumn: from the beginning of October until well into November there was 'golden beauty, day after day, da capo'. When not working, Nietzsche played four-handed piano with Fino's twelve-year old daughter, Irene, for whom he had developed the same affection as for Adrienne Durisch.  (Sixteen-year-old Giulia, on the other hand, regarded him as weird and would sit staring at him for long periods.)  He frequently visited the excellent bookshops, browsing through new books, though never buying anything.  And, of course, he was a regular visitor to his favorite cafes, cafe Livorno in the afternoons, cafe Florio, (famous, still, for its gelato) in the evenings.” (Young, page 509) 

“By mid-November Turin’s halcyon autumn – a ‘permanent Claude Lorraine’, Nietzsche called it – was over and winter had arrived.  The Alps were already covered with a ‘light wig’.  Nietzsche acquired his first gas stove, amazed that all one had to do to get it going was light a match.  Completely free for the first tie in twenty years from the appalling attacks of headaches and vomiting, he abandoned giving health bulletins in his letters.  ‘Health’, he wrote Meta von Salis, is a ‘standpoint that had been overcome’.  In the mirror he looked ‘ten years younger’.

“Mental well-being followed the physical. Gratitude for release from pain cast a benign glow over everything. Everyone, it seemed, treated him a ‘a person of distinction’, for example, opening the door for him whenever he entered a building.  To live up to his new dignity he bought a superb pair of English leather gloves and attended the funeral of Count Robilant, the ‘best sort’ of Piedmont aristocrat, he confided to Meta.  For the first time in his adult life he felt completely at home.  His days as a nomad were over.  In Turin he felt (as Socrates did about Athens) that he had discovered ‘a place no one wants to leave, not even to walk in the countryside, a place where it is a joy just to walk along the streets! – Previously I would have held that to be impossible’.” (Young, page 523) 

This period of personal elation was the most prolific of his life, with several short but substantial works completed. “During 1888 Nietzsche worked on six short books: The Wagner Case, written in May and published in September; Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ, written during August and September; Nietzsche contra Wagner, the Forward to which is dated Christmas; the Dithyrambs of Dionysus, some of which are poems dating from the Zarathustra period, and the dedication of which (to Claude Mendes) is dated the 1st January 1889; and Ecce Homo, written during the last quarter of the year.” (Hollingdale, page 199)

This was an extraordinary moment of intense, multifaceted introspective writing, reflecting a passionate but turbulent mind, glowing red hot with ideas and the need for self-expression.  But, Rudiger Safranski points out, the quality of these efforts in some ways failed to match the caliber of the works before them.  These works “ longer developed new ideas, but generalized and particularized familiar concepts.  Nuances, objections, and contradictions fell away.  In the process, the directorial and theatrical lavishness of the presentation expanded.

“The central concerns of Nietzsche's last works are, as we might expect, the will to power in its dual version as politics on a grand scale and the individual art of living, a critique of morality based upon ressentiment, and praise of Dionysian as a means of transcending nihilist superficiality and depression....As he continually pointed out, he had burrowed inside and probed himself, looked out into the world with 'many eyes,' and observed himself in the process, peering at his many eyes with even more eyes.  He had plumbed the depths of his soul to the point of exhaustion and exhilaration.  This 'self' had become a whole uncharted continent, which he sought to explore.  All of his investigations kept leading him to the creative force that forms the basis for practical living, art, morality, and science.” (page 305)

But Hollingdale finds reason for praise, however: “The works of 1888 represent Nietzsche's final victory over the German language: the famous brevity of these last works is an effect of absolute control over the means of expression. If there is a stylistic fault is that the effects are too obviously consciously determined.” (page 199)

Before we examine Nietzsche’s collapse into insanity we will review his final major works in the order they were completed with the exception that I will combine the two works on Wagner and consider them together next.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Into Solitude: 1887 - 1888

Nietzsche wrote his Genealogy, which we have just examined, mostly during his fifth summer at Sils Maria.  At the same time, already increasingly a hermit, Fritz practically faded from the social framework.  He became what he referred to as a "cave bear."  He clung to threads of people through correspondences but now he rarely saw any of them personally.  Perhaps Elizabeth had started it all by moving to Paraguay.  For over a year now, letters were all he had known of his once beloved sister. Overbeck and Koselitz and his few lady friends saw him less and less.  He entertained individual friends and couples now and then, but the lively social Fritz of as recently as 1882 was gone. The persona of “Fritz” (playful, joking, interested in the perspective of others) became “Nietzsche” (the solemn, prophetic philosopher) only.

According to Julian Young, Nietzsche felt gloomy at the beginning of 1887 about the lack of sales of his books, his increased feeling of isolation, and the uncomfortably cold winter weather that chilled him to his bones.  During this time three things elevated Nietzsche’s life, however.

“Towards the end of January…his spirits received a lift from an unexpected quarter: a visit to Monte Carlo to hear the prelude to Parsifal. ‘Leaving aside the question of the use of such music and regarding it purely aesthetically,’ he wrote Koselitz, ‘has Wagner ever done anything better? The highest psychological awareness and definiteness with regard to what should be said, expressed, communicated, the shortest and most direct form thereof, every nuance of feeling reduced to the epigrammatic: a clarity of music as a descriptive art…and a sublime and extraordinary feeling, experience, eventfulness, of the soul at the very heart of the music which honors Wagner to the highest degree.’

“And in the notebooks he calls it ‘the greatest masterpiece of the sublime that I know’. ‘Nothing else grasps Christianity so deeply or brings one to have such intense sympathy with it’, he writes, adding that ‘no painter had painted such a dark, melancholy vision’ as do its final bars, ‘not Dante, not Leonardo’.” (Young, page 450)

“The second event that helped lift the oppression of winter was the discovery, at the beginning of February, of Dostoyevsky….In connection with the Nietzsche-Dostoyevsky affinity it is worth noticing that both men (Dostoyevsky after his mock execution and exile to Siberia) were strong opponents of ‘socialism’, ‘anarchism’, and ‘nihilism’, and that both believed in the retention and restoration of the firm, aristocratic, religiously sanctioned social hierarchy of the past. The difference, however, was that Dostoyevsky believed in a Christian aristocratic society.  This is why Nietzsche writes Brandes that while he esteems Dostoyevsky as ‘the most valuable psychological material that I know’, he is, nonetheless, ‘in a strange way thankful to him that he is quite contrary to my basic instinct’.” (page 451)

“The third, strangely cheering event was a major earthquake which claimed two thousand lives on the French Riviera as a whole….Nietzsche, as a man of Prussian bearing and training, ‘strolled’ through the town, ‘attending to people I knew who were sitting in the open, on benches or in coaches, hoping to escape the danger’. ‘I myself’, he adds, pleased to have acquitted himself well in the face of mortal danger for a second time, ‘experienced not a moment of fear – even a great deal of irony’.

“’We are living in the most interesting expectation of perishing thanks to a well-intentioned earthquake which made more than dogs howl, far and wide.  What a pleasure it is when the old house above rattles like a coffee-grinder! When the inkwell declares its independence!  When the streets fill up with terrified, half-clothed figures with shattered nervous systems.’” (page 451)

Nietzsche visited Zurich through the years as a way-station while transplanting his nomadic self between the mountains in the summer and the coast during the winter in a constant quest for the perfect temperature and humidity.  He was only there for a week at the beginning of May 1887. His social competence thrived in that city but there was little to engage him this time, perhaps reinforcing his journey into solitude.

“Mostly, as we have seen, Nietzsche had had good times in Zurich, times of, for him, unusual sociability. On this occasion, however, though Overbeck came over from Basel for a couple of days, he found it hard to catch up with people.  Meta von Salis was under pressure to finish her doctoral thesis while at the same time needing to help her sister refurbish her house, recently gutted by fire.  He did manage to meet up with Resa von Shirnhofer, but only after she returned from Paris at the end of his stay.  Like him, she had discovered Dostoyevsky, which led to an intense discussion about House of the Dead.” (page 453)

That summer, Nietzsche wrote in short, sharp bursts of energy, much as he had since undertaking Zarathustra in 1883. The Good European provides useful a chronology of Nietzsche’s life.  It has an extended entry for July 10-17: “N composes the bulk of On the Genealogy of Morals, the manuscript of which is mailed to C.G. Naumann on July 17. (The third treatise is revised some weeks later in August.) N is pleased by the news that Johannes Brahms has been avidly reading his Beyond Good and Evil. He works on his final musical composition, “Hymn to Life,” based on his and Lou Andreas-Salome’s “Hymn to Friendship”…the “Hymn to Life,” his only published score, is printed by Fritsch at the end of October.  N takes his noonday meal at the Hotel Alpenrose in Sils, where the group surrounding Meta von Salis (including Fraulein Mansuroff and Mrs. Flynn) provides some companionship.” (page 239)

Curtis Cate offers splendid details of Nietzsche’s life in the autumn of 1887. “On September 20…Nietzsche left the chilly highlands of the Upper Engadine and descended via the familiar route and railway stations of Chiavenna and Como to sea-borne Venice.  Despite an electrifying thunderstorm over Lake Como, the trip was relatively painless, while the Adriatic air of Venice seemed to him on arrival of an ‘elastic limpidity’.  He found his favorite maestro (Heindrich Koselitz, alias ‘Pietro Gasti’) luxuriously lodged, fed and cared for by a noble Venetian family, and so completely recovered from his previous morosity that he was delighted to help Nietzsche correct the proofs of his new book.

“Nightmarish, in comparison, was the next train-trip (from Venice to Nice) – brutally interrupted by a breakdown in a dark tunnel between Milan and Genoa, which unleashed violent headaches.  But these were soon dispelled by the ‘intoxicating’ air of Nice and the warm welcome he received at the Pension de Geneve. For a special price of 5 ½ francs per day (2 ½ francs less than the cheapest rate for others) he was given a north-facing room where it was often so cold that Nietzsche suffered from ‘blue fingers’ in the morning. Heeding his mother’s sensible advice, he finally hired a small stove: or what (in a letter to Koselitz) he called a ‘fire-idol’ and around which, once lit, he ‘leaped and pranced’ in a dance of pagan jubilation.” (Cate, pp. 509-510)

Despite his concern for how poorly his books sold, Nietzsche was slowly becoming more widely known. “Before the month of November was over he received a moving letter of thanks – for gift copies of The Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil - from George Brandes, a Danish literary critic who had read Nietzsche’s two latest books, as well as Human, All Too Human, without recoiling in horror, Brandes declared that he had found the books ‘the breath of a new and original spirit.  I do not yet fully understand what I have read; I do not always know towards what issue you are headed.  But there is much that accords with my own thoughts and sympathies – the contempt for ascetic ideals and the deep indignation against democratic mediocrity, your aristocratic radicalism. Your scorn for the morality of compassion is something I have not yet been able to fathom….You belong to the few people with whom I would like to talk.’

“It is easy to imagine the thrill with which Nietzsche read and reread this extraordinary letter.  Here, clearly, was an authentic Freigeist who was not afraid to speak his mind, to praise and to avow perplexity, and who, in just two wonders - aristocratic radicalism - had grasped the very essence of his philosophy. Fate, which had treated him so harshly, was now at least beginning to relent, confirming what he had long suspected: that, in accordance with the adage – ‘a prophet is not without honor save in his own country’ – the recognition he so desperately craved would come to him first of all from non-Germans.” (pp. 510-511)

But even as he saw a glimmer of hope for his work to become more widely known Nietzsche felt increasingly isolated, even expressing some regret regarding his lack of intimate companionship.  “He wrote his mother form there on October 18, 1887.  His missive betrayed the effects of protracted solitude, and it included the following barbed words: ‘The fact that ever since my childhood I never heard a profound and understanding word – such is my lot, and I do not remember ever having complained about it’.  On October 22 he departed Venice for Nice, where, however, the sense of isolation only increased.  His final, desperate effort to salvage his friendship with Erwin Rohde, in a letter written on November 11, 1887, ended with the words, ‘I now have forth-three years behind me, and I am every bit as alone now as I was when a child’. The next day he wrote to Overbeck:

“’When I exclude Richard Wagner there is no one who ever came to me with a thousandth part of passion and pain in order to reach ‘an understanding’ with me.  I was alone in this respect even as a child, and am still so today, in my forty-fourth year of life.  The terrifying decade I have now put behind me gave me a generous taste of what it means to be alone, of reclusion to an extreme degree: the isolation and defenselessness of an infirm man who has no means of protecting himself, or even ‘defending himself.’…The best thing I can say about is that it made me more independent; perhaps also harder and more contemptuous toward my fellows than I would like to have been.  Fortunately, I have enough of the esprit gaillard in me to laugh at myself concerning these reminiscences, as I laugh at everything that touches only me; further, I have a task that does not allow me to worry much about myself (a task or destiny, call it what you will).  This task made me ill, and it will make me healthy again; not only healthy but also friendlier toward my fellows, and whatever else pertains to that.’” (The Good European, pp. 201-202)

Music was still vital to Nietzsche's life and one of his few remaining social pleasures.  He frequented concert halls and maintained a special affinity for Bizet's great opera. “Shortly before Christmas, Nietzsche had attended his fourth performance of Carmen in the Nice Opera’s newly opened Italian theater.  Once again it was a ‘true event – I learnt and understood more in these four hours than in the previous four weeks’, he wrote, sounding his often-repeated theme that music, or at least musical mood, emotion, gives birth to thought.  Reflecting on the same experience a month later, he wrote Koselitz: ‘Music now gives me sensations as never before.  It frees me from myself, it sobers me up from myself, as though I survey the scene from a great distance, overwhelmed.  It strengthens me…and every time, after an evening of music, I am full of resolute insights and thoughts the following morning.  It is very strange. It is as though I had bathed in some natural element. Life [and evidently thought] without music is simply a mistake’.  Notice, once again, Nietzsche’s continuing attachment to the experience of self-transcendence through music.” (Young, pp. 458-459)

1887-88 seems to be the time he became more self-critical, something that would culminate in his work Ecce Homo in late 1888.  “Among Nietzsche’s many preoccupations during the final winter in Nice and spring in Turin was the fear – which we have already seen in a letter to Overbeck – that he was becoming too hard-of-heart, too harsh in his judgments.  Even though Zarathustra had counseled ‘Become hard!’ Nietzsche feared the excess of hardness, the advance of brittleness, that he sensed in himself.  On February 1 he confided to Koselitz:

“’To lack health, money, reputation, love, protection – and for all that not to become a tragic growly bear; this is the paradox of my current situation, its problem.  A state of chronic vulnerability has come over me, on which, in my good moments, I take my revenge in a way that is not really that flattering, namely, though an excess of hardness. Witness my last book [On the Genealogy of Morals].  Even so, I take all this with the cleverness of an astute psychologist without the slightest moral prejudice: oh, how instructive it is to live in so extreme a state as mine! Only now do I understand history; I’ve never had such profound eyes as in the past few months.’” (The Good European, page 203) 

It was during this time that Nietzsche's plan for his primary life work took more concrete form, which he felt almost as a weight upon him - his life's 'task.' “The year 1888 began, as its predecessor had finished, cold. Sitting in his room in the Pension de Geneve, redecorated with his own choice of dark, reddish-brown wallpaper, Nietzsche found the stove imported from Naumburg ‘de rigueur’ with respect to the otherwise intractable ‘blue-finger’ problem. Seated at his large writing table he had begun serious work on what was intended to be the main event of his life, the production of his ‘systematic masterwork’, The Will to Power, to which all his previous works were the mere prelude.  This was to be a four-volume work of ‘extreme’ and ‘rigorous seriousness’ that would provide a grounding and synoptic exposition of his entire philosophy.  By February 13 he had completed the first detailed plan (with the title now altered to Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values).  But though he continued to work steadily, he suffered from diarrhea and insomnia, with his spirits – not improved by failing to win the half-million-franc prize in the Nice lottery – under the weather.

“Since many of his fellow guests were, like him, hoping the Nice climate would ameliorate their various conditions, dinner-table conversation in the pension centered on climate and health.  A lady from Berlin, for example, suffering from ‘a kind of melancholic desperation’ at home and scarcely able to leave the house, had, she claimed, been completely cured by the dry air of Nice.  A short sharp ‘change of air’, Nietzsche agreed, had much to recommend it.

“As well as the right climate, a rigorous and unchanging daily routine was, he felt, essential: to bed at nine, up at six-thirty, tea with two rusks, an hour’s walk in the morning, lunch at noon, three hours walking in the afternoon, always the same route, dinner at six, no wine, beer, spirits, or coffee, always the same, day after day.

“To relieve the monotony, at the beginning of January he took himself off to another concert in Monte Carlo. This, however, proved a disaster: César Franck and other ‘modern French music or, to speak more clearly, bad Wagner…nervous, brutal, insufferable, demanding, and boastful – and so tarted up’.  It was, he concluded, pure ‘decadence’, just like Baudelaire – ‘libertine, mystical, ‘satanic’, but above all Wagnerian’. A couple of months later, on the other hand, he was charmed by three pieces by Offenbach, ‘buffoonery but in the form of classical taste, completely logical…wonderfully Parisian’, a comment manifesting the ever-increasing taste for light music that marked the final year of his sanity.” (Young, pp. 485-486)

“The four months Nietzsche spent in Nice, from early December of 1887 to the end of March 1888, were the happiest he had yet known at the Pension de Geneve. For the first time in eight successive winters he was spared the ‘blue-fingered’ torments of early morning frosts, thanks to the crackling benevolence of his ‘fire-idol’ stove.  There was a notable improvement in the quality of the food he was offered in the pension’s dining-room, where his most stimulating conversational partner was Baroness Plankner. Related to a court chamberlain serving with the Crown Princess Victoria, she kept Nietzsche well informed of the frail health of imperial Germany’s greatest political hope for the future: the anti-Bismarkian Crown Prince Friedrich, who spent this winter at nearby San Remo, trying to recover from a throat-cancer operation.

“Thanks to a strict diet – no wine, no beer, no alcoholic spirits, no coffee – thanks to long walks (one hour in the morning, three in the afternoon), and thanks to many bright, cloudless days, Nietzsche’s physical sufferings (with headaches and vomiting) were relatively mild.  But, as he confessed to his mother in mid-February, spiritually he was a ‘brave’ but also ‘sick animal’, apt to display a ‘ridiculous and wretched vulnerability’ to shameless superficial reviews of his books.  Equally upsetting was the ‘unbearable tension’ from which he suffered ‘night and day, brought about by the task that lies upon me and the absolute ill-will of all my previous acquaintances towards the solution of such a task.’

“The daunting task Nietzsche had imposed upon himself was nothing less than the completion of a four-volume work intended to supply the crowning arch or dome to the philosophical ‘temple of the future’ he wanted to erect, of which (as he had once written to Malwida von Meysenbug) the Zarathustra ‘trilogy’ was merely an ornamental ‘entrance hall’. This new series, as later planned, was to appear under the overall title, ‘The Will to Power’ (Wille zur Macht) – with the subtitle, An Attempt at a Revaluation of all Values.  Each volume was to consist of three parts, thus resembling The Genealogy of Morals.  In this first, entitled ‘What is Truth?’, Nietzsche proposed to analyze the ‘psychology of error’, to judge the relative worth of ‘truth’ and ‘error’, and finally to demonstrate how the ‘will to truth’, when properly understood, helped to justify the positive ‘yes-value of Life'.  In the second book, devoted to ‘The Origin of Values’, he proposed to deal, more thoroughly than ever before, with 1) his old enemies, the ‘metaphysicians’, 2) the ‘hominess religiosi’ (by which Nietzsche meant persons who are genuinely religious and not merely robed or bearded ‘dispensers of the faith’, and 3) ‘The Good Ones and the Improvers’ – a diatribe against Christian optimists naively bent on improving a wrecked world.  (A fragment of his thinking on this question was later incorporated in Gotzen-Dammerung – Twilight of the Idols.  The third book, aggressively titled ‘The Battle of Values’, would begin with ‘Thoughts on Christianity’ (later developed by Nietzsche in The Anti-Christian); would continue with a study of the ‘physiology of Art’ (i.e. an analysis of ‘healthy’, as opposed to ‘sickly’ art); and would be rounded out with a ‘History of European Nihilism’. The series would then rise to the majestic climax of the fourth volume (‘The Great Midday’), the first part of which hammered home the unpalatable truth that every genuine culture and civilization depends upon accepted Rangordnung (Order of Rank) between power-wielders and subjects.” (Cate, pp. 511-512)

But as this great 'task' took generalized form, Nietzsche, already in a mode of self-critique, hesitated. “Throughout the cold but sunny winter weeks Nietzsche wrestled with his self-imposed ‘task’, torn between an impatient desire to ‘get on with the job’ and a monitory feeling that, in trying to go too fast, he would undermine the solidarity of what he was trying to build.  So disturbing were these contradictory forces that he kept altering the initial outline of March 1887.  He even decided to scrap the overall title, Der Wille zur Macht (The Will to Power), realizing that in the super-patriotic climate of the Second Reich, with its intoxicating ‘Deutschland! Deutschland uber Alles!’ rhetoric, his four-volume magnum opus would be misinterpreted as a philosophical endorsement of Bismarck’s Blut und Eisen (blood and iron) policies.” (page 513)

In the spring of 1888, he visited Turin for the first time.  It would profoundly affect him and would ultimately lead to an explosion of writing - much of which was directed away from the weight of his self-appointed task.  It was as if he dreaded fleshing out the grand ideas forming in his mind or he was simply distracted as his mental abilities took a turn toward megalomania.  Before examining the prolific nature of his final works, we will take a closer look at Nietzsche in Turin and the final, prolific summer at Sils-Maria in my next post.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Nietzsche's Genealogy: Feelings, Knowledge, and Beautiful Fictions

We resume my review of Christopher Janaway’s detailed analysis of On the Genealogy of Morals from his book Beyond Selflessness.  Here Janaway points out Nietzsche’s examination of the ascetic ideal as a manifestation of will to power, clarifying what he intends by the concept of will to power in a distinctive way.

“Will to power may manifest itself in healthy or unhealthy ways, creating either unity or conflict in the psyche. The ascetic is sick, because he is split against himself by his need to locate ultimate value in despising and denying himself.  Opposed to this are those ‘rare cases of powerfulness in soul and body, the strokes of luck among humans’ (GM II. 14), whom Nietzsche portrays as well-formed and healthy expressions of will to power. Yet Nietzsche’s thought tracks the intricacies of psychology with a subtlety that strains the boundaries of such classifications.

“Nietzsche calls the ascetic a paradox and a self-contradiction, meaning not that the ascetic in an impossibility, but that he genuinely grows in power (over himself) as he dissociates from and destroys his natural strength.  The ascetic ideal gives its proponent a unity of purpose and strength of will, so that there is a real ‘triumph’ and ‘victory’, not a mere illusion of one.” (page 146)

“…a general theory of will to power…consists in something’s ‘becoming lord over’ something else, it involves something’s giving meaning or ‘purpose’ to an extant thing, and it is ‘the essence of life’ that ‘plays itself out in all happening’.

“First, the will to power belongs to the nature of human beings; it belongs to them qua members of the ‘organic world’.  It is in our nature that we tend to act, think, and feel in ways which enhance mastery over something.  But secondly, our nature is continually reinterpreted by culture. Culture institutions of punishment, for example, are set up to fulfill diverse surface objectives, but can be explained more fundamentally by their function of providing opportunities to take pleasure in being master over someone on whom one can legitimately inflict suffering.” (page 148)

“The overwhelming evidence is that in his mature writings Nietzsche’s aim was to undermine the enterprise of transcendent metaphysics, conceived as knowledge of a real, enduring essence of the world that lies beyond its representation in experience. Nietzsche’s stance toward metaphysics is so forcibly presented in texts such as ‘On the Prejudices of the Philosophers’ (Part One of Beyond Good and Evil) and the section of Twilight of the Gods entitled ‘How the Real World Finally Became a Fable’ that anyone championing a literally meant Nietzschean metaphysics of the in-itself around the time of the Genealogy has a virtually impossible task.  We may proceed, then, on the assumption that the will to power is meant at most to be something empirical, something inhabiting ‘this’ (the observable, scientifically tractable) world, and playing some kinds of explanatory role in it.” (page 153)  

“The ascetic ideal requires the positing of objects whose value transcends that of one's own ordinary existence or of human existence in general. It involves a kind of self-denial or self-belittlement, in which one considers oneself of low worth by comparison with the external entity whose value is supposedly absolute and unconditional. But it also contains an aspiration to rise above oneself: provided that one operates a severe self-suppression, killing off many instincts and drives, one can improve upon the meager value of one’s existence and be brought closer to the thing that has transcendental value. Many apparently diverse cultural manifestations have, according to Nietzsche, been driven by a need thus to devalue ourselves by comparison with some ‘higher’ realm.” (pp. 165-166)

This clarification of Nietzsche's will to power leads to a utilitarian application when considering the fundamental meaninglessness of our humanity.  Will to power is the well-spring from which the "affective" meaning that "we fearless ones" create for our lives emerges within the residue of human feelings.

“Nietzsche claims to have enticed the reader into acknowledging an awful truth: that the real pain of suffering lies in the dread of its having no meaning. The reader is to be unsettled by the progress of this piece, into which Nietzsche transposes his struggle with the life denying philosophy of his ‘great teacher’ Schopenhauer, his disillusionment with the artistic genius and father figure Wagner, his isolation and exaltation in the ‘desert’ where the true philosopher belongs, his vivisection of the atheism and glorious scholarship that are his own inheritance.  On my view the treatise is about what is says it is about, the many guises and unique power of the ascetic ideal, and is at the same time the opportunity to demonstrate the art of exegesis, to show how ‘meaning’ emerges from a process of potentially endless diagnostic analysis.” (page 182)

“It is the affects – the very mental states that for the philosophical orthodoxy ‘twist, color, and distort’ judgment and perception – that Nietzsche portrays as enabling and expanding knowledge.  These points are hammered home in the last half-page of section 12: ‘To have one’s pro and contra on one’s power’ is to make one’s knowledge more ‘objective’; the plurality of affects, the greatest possible difference in affective interpretations, is ‘useful’ for knowledge and makes it more ‘complete’.

“What is an affect? At times, we have seen, Nietzsche talks simply of ‘inclinations and aversions’, ‘pro and contra’, or ‘for and against’ – descriptions that parallel Schopenhauer’s vocabulary and his view that all affects are positive or negative stirrings of the will. It seems that for Nietzsche too all affects are at bottom inclinations or aversions of some kind.  But their range is extensive.  In the Genealogy and Beyond Good and Evil alone he explicitly uses the term for the following: anger, fear, love, hatred, hope, envy, revenge, lust, jealousy, irascibility, exuberance, calmness, self-satisfaction, self-humiliation, self-crucifixion, power-lust, greed, suspicion, malice, cruelty, contempt, despair, triumph, feeling of looking down on, feeling of a superior glance towards others, desire to justify oneself in the eyes of others, demand for respect, feelings of laziness, feeling of command, and brooding over bad deeds.  Affects are, at the very least, ways in which we feel.” (pp. 205-206)

“Some affects are beneath accurate apprehension by ourselves, and some are unconscious.  But all seem to be feelings of one sort or another.  And if we respect the fact that Nietzsche gives such prominence to affects in his discussion of perspectival knowing, we shall have to surmise that for him the inbuilt constraint upon knowledge that makes it ‘only perspectival’ lies in the knowing subject’s affective nature.  So Nietzsche’s perspectivism about knowledge must involve two claims: (1) that there is only knowledge that is guided or facilitated by our feelings, and (2) that the more different feelings we allow to guide our knowledge, the better our knowledge will be.” (page 206)

Of course, this last important point about the growth of knowledge through the accumulation of diverse perspectives is a fundamental tenet of the mature Nietzsche and is echoed by Julian Young’s analysis in a previous post. For me, it is one of the distinctive qualities of the genealogy that merits its appreciation as an insightful work of both psychology and philosophy. It also humanizes Nietzsche because he is talking about human feelings. Rather than objects for control and sublimation, human feelings are the root of authentic human understanding.  This is a profound insight into the importance of the Genealogy

“For him, feelings make knowledge possible.  They are not ineliminable occupational hazards for the knower, but constitutively necessary conditions of the knower’s knowing anything at all.  We may recall that he decries the would-be pure, will-less subject of knowledge as a ‘contradiction’. ‘absurdity’, and ‘non-concept’ – something strictly impossible, not just practically unrealizable.  This strong reading of the first claim is also borne out by the fact of Nietzsche making the second claim, that multiplying different affects always improves knowing.” (page 212) 

Taken a step further, however, Nietzsche not only explores the accumulation of knowledge through feeling but he simultaneously shows us how an close examination of human feelings leads to a profound inquiry as to who we are as persons.  The short answer, as we have seen before, is that you and I are a collection of "drives and affects."

“But faced with the questions ‘Who knows?’, ‘Who thinks?’, ‘Who interprets?’ Nietzsche’s official position is that there is no such subject as ordinarily conceived.  He repeatedly urges that we should be suspicious towards the concept of a subject of ‘I’. The I is ‘just an assumption or opinion, to put it mildly’, it has ‘become a fairy tale, a fiction, a play on words’, and enjoys ‘a mere apparent existence’. Instead we are to think of ‘soul as subjective-multiplicity’, and view the self as a plurality of sub-personal elements in competitive interaction with one another, elements that, as we have seen, are well-like in character (‘’under-wills’ and under-souls’”).

“Nietzsche commonly calls such elements ‘drives’.  In the case of the philosopher, for example, who he is is equivalent to ‘what order of rank the innermost drives of nature’ stand in, and thinking itself is ‘only a relation between these drives’ (BGE 6, 36).  But it is evident that drives are closely related to affects, for he also says that the social construction that is the self is built out of ‘drives and affects’ (BGE 12), and talks elsewhere of ‘our drives and their for and against’.” (page 213)

“If the drives and the affects are all there is to the self, and if the self is to do anything called ‘knowing’, then drives and affects must be capable of representing something outside themselves.  Nietzsche appears to think that this can be achieved through a notion of willing (or striving) combined with one of resistance (or obstruction).  He thinks of will to power as expressing itself towards resistances, and illustrates the process with a model of the protoplasm sending out pseudopodia and feeling around for something it might assimilate into itself.  A sub-personal drive likewise comes up against something other than itself, which it feels as a resistance to its own activity.  It either overcomes the resistance or is overcome by it, giving rise to affects of (roughly) gratification, exhaustion, or reinvigoration – feelings of increase or diminution in power.” (page 217)

But here Janaway sees a “problem” for Nietzsche. “Although the ‘under-wills’ are not to be conceived as consciously willing or consciously representing, we must at least envisage a likeness in kind between the activity of the lower-level components of the multiple self and the states conventionally ascribed to subjects, such as believing, desiring, and feeling emotions.  But Nietzsche does little to enlighten us further on the nature of that likeness.” (page 218)

“A single drive can empower itself by subordinating many other drives to its own activity, and Nietzsche sees organization by a dominant drive as giving unity to one’s character and actions.  That I will to resist my addictive cravings is not ‘up to me’, is not the resolve of an ‘I’ that is external to the complex of drives and affects, but is itself the activity of a strong drive within me.  There is no controlling self that determines ex nihilo what my ends, purposes, and values are.  Fair enough.  But I have to be, in my own self-conception, a sufficiently unified self that I can ‘take sides’ between the various drives that (though I did not originally will them) I find within myself.” (page 220)

“This raises the prospect that Nietzsche’s eliminativist picture of the self may be out of step not only with his re-evaluative project, but also with his diagnosis of the origins of our metaphysical errors.  If only a unified self can make these metaphysical errors, and only a unified self can have the goals and perspectival adaptability that lead to healthier knowing and valuing, then, though we can learn not to think of ourselves as pure metaphysical subjects, Nietzsche’s philosophy as a whole demands that we do not regard ourselves only as complex hierarchies of drive and affects.” (page 221)

“…in support of the view that our interpretations are saturated and constituted by a plurality of feelings he dissolves the self into a multiplicity of affects and drives. But his aims of improving our capacity for knowing and skillfully using our affects demand more of a self than that: he needs his enquirer to be an active and sufficiently unified self that can represent its subject matter truly, that rides on top of the inner multiplicity, and that can self-consciously adopt attitudes towards it.” (page 222)

It is important to consider the basic important mechanical nature of drives in manifesting the will to power on this earth.  Whatever "the second revaluation" might become, it would be built out of the competition of human drives and out of our abilities to (like the ascetic) control our drives. Janaway highlights the fundamental contradiction of this situation for Nietzsche. We are a collection of drives and yet, somehow, we can come to control our drives. So, apparently, our ability to be self-aware and distinguish and address specific drives must reveal that we are something more than just a collection of drives.  He never resolved this circular philosophic quandary. We don’t even know if he thought the apparent contradiction even mattered.  

Near the end of his book, Janaway considers Nietzsche’s genealogy in the context of the ascetic person and human meaning and truth; while Nietzsche is critical of the aims of the religious ascetic, he nevertheless views the ascetic as an example of will to power in the world.

“We have seen that Nietzsche consistently laments the loss of vitality and self-affirmation, the waning of healthy, plural instincts that results from valuing selflessness, but is liable at the same time to admire certain successful transformations of values for their creativity, their impositions of new forms upon the material of humanity, in short their discharge of power and attainment of mastery. In the case of the ascetic priest the element of admiration is at its most intense, because the priest is a threefold embodiment of will to power.  He successfully overturns the prevailing tendency to value the simpler warrior-like virtues and creates new conceptions of the good, achieves command over the weak to whom his priestly interpretations minister, and (most impressively) gains mastery over himself.” (page 224)

“In unleashing such powerful counter-forces the priest makes an unparalleled achievement of the kind Nietzsche admires, yet the values created in the process are those of life-denial which Nietzsche decries as a decline into sickness.  This ambivalence, far from being a defect in Nietzsche’s positions, is close to being its central point.  He refers to the ascetic life as a ‘self-contradiction’, as ‘life against life’, an ‘incarnate will to contradiction and anti-nature’, ‘an attempt…to use energy to stop up the source of energy’.” (page 225)

From a will to power perspective, the ascetic is effective to the extent that he is able to create an illusion of control. It is the creative abilities of ascetic, rather than the specifics of what the ascetic believes or practices, that make him a useful example for the rest of us would-be "philosophers of the future." The bottom line is that we must not allow common morality to interfere with our free and creative discovery of a new (modern and relevant) basis for our personal system of values. 

“We could not live without carving up the world of our experience into causes and effects, measurable quantities, reidentifiable substances as opposed to properties, and so on.  To ask in what sense these categorizations are false raises difficult questions for Nietzsche interpreters….belief or judgments can be valuable ‘for life’ and for the various purposes of human beings, despite their being false; the truth or falsity of beliefs can matter less than what the holding of beliefs allows us to achieve.

“Another common thought in Nietzsche is that there is value in deliberately created fictions, false pictures that are valuable to us not despite, but in virtue of, their falsity.  An example is the well-known aphorism ‘Truth is ugly: we possess art lest we perish of the truth’.  In the Third Treatise, Nietzsche states that ‘art, in which precisely the lie hallows itself, in which the will to deception has good conscience on its side, is much more fundamentally opposed to the ascetic ideal than is science.’ (GM III. 25).” (pp. 232-233)

“Either we discover the truth that the world is nasty, uncaring, and destructive; or we discover the truth that what we are doomed to consider as the truth about the world is forever an illusion.  Both outcomes give rise to pessimism or disillusionment, one over the world’s value for us, the other over our own epistemic impotence.  The central idea either way is that the acquisition of truth needs to be tempered – on pain of despair – by the artistic fashioning of beautiful fictions.” (page 235)

“Only because our values have been and still remain moral ones can the drive to truth be strong enough to question our values.  So we find Nietzsche acknowledging not only that he is included in the ascetic truth-ideal, but that his own formation through the core values of morality itself is a prerequisite of his ability to call the value of moral values into question. Indeed Nietzsche appears here as the instrument of a process that morality is inflicting upon itself.

“If religion, morality, philosophy, academic learning, and science have all been re-formations of the same basic ascetic material, driven throughout by a need to devalue ourselves, to diminish our own particular, transient, and vulnerable existence by comparison with some superior and unconditionally valuable entity of state, the question arises: Why?  Nietzsche’s answer is, in short, that the ascetic ideal enables our existence to be meaningful.” (page 239)

“Where, then, is the arrow of Nietzsche’s longing directed? The close of the Genealogy is not explicit on this point. But his claim that the ascetic ideal is dominant ‘for want of anything better’ (faute de mieux) must surely provoke us to find a more positive alternative, an attitude to one’s existence that keeps the will alive without the self-destruction of willing nothingness.” (page 242) 

At root, Nietzsche’s genealogy elevates the value of the human "self."  For Nietzsche, it is unhealthy to attempt to deny or restrict or minimize the self. Rather, the self is elevated as something worthy of discovery and artistry and affirmation, not subdued or made compassionate (although sublimation and empathy are not strictly ruled out, only questioned.  It is the overman’s place to creatively find the balancing act of all things human, conflict and flow).  Our morality must be revalued for just this reason. We must affirm ourselves on our own terms and find meaning through self-affirmation. 

“Placing high value upon compassion, guilt, and the suppression of our more aggressively expansive instincts, believing everyone’s well-being to be of equal kind and importance, expecting everyone to be a subject of rational free choice capable of acting similarly and blamable for failure to do so – these are not absolute, eternal, or compulsory attitudes for human beings to hold, but attitudes invented and perpetuated to fulfill a host of functions and needs.” (page 246)

“But the Genealogy encourages us to think that there is an alternative: that we could in principle escape from these predispositions, and that, if we could arrive at a place where our attachment to morality was suspended and where we might choose it or not as our system of values, some of us at least might find other values more worthy of our allegiance.  The enormous challenge of finding a evaluative space outside morality itself is continually apparent to Nietzsche, as witness his evocations of the discomfort and danger, the ‘seasickness’ and ‘dizziness’ that his kind of enquirer should be expected to feel before the ‘immense new vista’ opened by his works.  Nietzsche is clear that such a revaluation demands a wholesale suspension of theory, intuition, and accustomed emotional polarities.  It may be that we would find this revaluation ultimately an undesirable or unbearable prospect, or one impossible for us to accomplish.  But to have raised the question of its possibility at all is already a powerful and original achievement.” (page 249) 

“…the goal of attaining a maximally positive attitude towards oneself as an individual, considered as standing apart from others.  Having no otherworldly characteristics and no otherworldly aspirations, Nietzsche’s individual would ideally find positive value in that totality of empirical acts, states, and drives that composes him-or herself.  But this kind of positive attitude, which in general we might call self-love, has two principal manifestations, which deserve separate consideration: they are self-affirmation, or saying yes to one’s life in its entirety and in every detail; and aesthetic (or quasi-aesthetic) self-satisfaction, the shaping of one’s character so that every part of it contributes to a meaningful whole in the manner of a work of art.” (pp. 253-254) 

“Nietzsche’s affirmative ideal is to ‘own’ oneself without remainder: to be so intimately attached to everything about oneself – for no other reason than its simply being oneself – that no imagined possibilities are wished for in preference to the actuality.” (page 259)

“But what is important for Nietzsche is not whether one ever reaches a point of absolute certainty concerning one’s well-dispossedness to oneself, rather that one longs for such a confirmation, aspires towards an ideal of self-affirmation in which one is able to affirm all of the particular parts of one’s life until these affirmations amount to an affirmation of it all.” (page 260)

“…Nietzsche is clear that what constitutes the individual is a composite of hierarchically related drives.  That is what I am, whether I like it or not…The process of ‘giving style to one’s character’ begins with something called ‘surveying all the strengths and weaknesses that one’s nature has to offer’.  This implies not only that there is a ‘pre-artistic’ self, a raw material waiting to be given form, but that, in order to highlight or disguise the elements in one’s character appropriately, one has to have apprehended a great deal (in principle everything) about one’s nature, knowing it accurately enough to grasp whether some particular part is a weakness, attractive or ugly, and if ugly, whether it will respond best to removal, concealment, or viewing from a distance.” (page 263) 

The Genealogy challenges us to transcend unquestioned assumptions regarding cultural values, to create our own foundations for what is 'good,' and to master the plurality of drives and affects thereby manifesting will to power in the world. This is the existential foundation for the "second revaluation" that Nietzsche believes is necessary to find relevant meaning in an otherwise meaningless and indifferent universe.

“A more Nietzschean position is that there is no ‘one way’ to value oneself: facing the truth about oneself has value in the quest for a positive meaning to individual existence, but so too does the fictionalizing or falsifying of self that can be learned from artists. The same duality accords well with Nietzsche’s perspectivism: it is fitting that one should, as it were, have in one’s power both one’s ability to confront oneself full-on and one’s artistry in falsifying oneself, and be able to shift in and out.” (page 264)

“Nietzsche has a radical message for philosophers and ‘scientific’ investigators: your conception of your own activity is at fault because you picture yourselves falsely. There is no primary drive towards knowledge and truth.  We philosophers are composed of many affects and drives, and the notion of a rational self or knowing subject engaged in a self-validating exercise of pure dialectical truth-seeking is as much an insidious illusion as the notion of a realm of timeless objects waiting to be discovered.  Disinterested, detached knowing is a fiction, but a persistently tempting one that we must struggle to guard ourselves against.” (page 265)  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nietzsche's Genealogy: Revealing "the inheritor of affects"

Of all the books regarding Nietzsche I have read and reread since beginning this blog, few have impressed me as much as Beyond Selflessness by Christopher Janaway.  The book is subtitled “Reading Nietzsche’s Genealogy” and offers some significant and precise insights into understanding not only Nietzsche’s great work but his philosophy as a whole.  It is so chocked full of insights into understanding Nietzsche that I will quote extensively from it in the next two posts.

In contextualizing On the Genealogy of Morals, Janaway writes: "...the work has come to be regarded, especially in the English-speaking world, as his most sustained philosophical achievement, his masterpiece, and the most vital of his writings for any student of Nietzsche, of ethics, or of the history of modern thought." (page 1)

"Nietzsche's genealogy is an attempt to explain our having those beliefs and feelings that constitute our moral values in the here and now, by tracing their casual origins to generic psychological states - typically drives, affects, inclinations, and aversions - that we reconstruct as having existed in certain types of human beings in the real past, and as having caused types of human being in the real past, and as having caused our present attitudes through the meditation of interpretations and conceptual innovations made by successive developments of culture." (Page 12)

Janaway points out how the polemic is not only against the origins of western morality but also against the, to Nietzsche, faulty analysis of morality specifically in the work of Paul Rée and Arthur Schopenhauer, two powerful figures in Nietzsche’s past who he had fallen out of respect for in his later years.  Most striking, perhaps, is the importance Nietzsche placed on applying his insights to human feelings, the emotive and instinctual aspects of living.

"His most fundamental point of disagreement with Rée is over the assumption Rée shares with Schopenhauer: that 'the unegoistic' is constitutive of morality and is something of positive value....Nietzsche charges such thinkers with allowing their inherited conception of value to govern their conception of method and their own self-understanding as enquirers." (page 40)

"It seems clear that the revaluation of values Nietzsche ultimately seeks is not just a change in judgments but a revision at the level of affects too. After we have learned not to make judgments using the standard vocabulary of 'good', 'evil', 'compassionate', and 'egoistic', we finally may come, says Nietzsche, to feel differently - an even more important attainment, it seems....If my understanding of the origins of my moral prejudices is to be genuinely transformative of my attitudes, it must proceed from and work upon my feelings, not consist in merely holding certain hypotheses about myself. But the arousal of affects could be even more embedded that this in Nietzsche's project.  It could be, I want to argue, that the very task of arriving at truths about the origin of my values demands activation of my own feelings." (page 48)

"So we have found two Nietzschean objections to Schopenhauer's morality of compassion that do not depend upon criticism of his metaphysics and cannot obviously be deflected by the charge that they attack only non-Schopenhauerian attitude of pity.  The two objections are: (1) that the morality of compassion is founded upon a questionable notion of a universal equality in value between individuals; (2) that feeling compassion is not in itself a good and beneficial attitude, because it can divert one from attending to one's own life and rob one of the sense of a right to one's own well-being." (page 67)

"Nietzsche's fundamental shift is towards differentiating concepts according to the individuals or classes who use them, and who thereby control and create values.  So Nietzsche alleges that 'the judgment "good" does not stem from those to whom "goodness" is rendered'.  Rather 'the noble, powerful, higher-ranking, and high minded' laid claim to the description of themselves as good, and by virtue of the 'pathos of distance' regarded as bad 'everything base, low-minded, common, and vulgar' (GM I. 2)" (page 81)

"Nietzsche's mature writings, and the Genealogy in particular, aim to release the reader from the 'illness' allegedly manifest in adhering to moral evaluations of a Christian or post-Christian nature. The first part of the therapeutic process is to diagnose the functions that such evaluations (concepts, beliefs, desires, emotional attachments, and aversions) fulfill for those who make them.  In describing these functions Nietzsche typically uses the terminology of drives and affects whose activity is furthered by the adoption of evaluation attitudes.  The second part of the therapeutic process is to overcome the need to hold the evaluation attitudes one has inherited, and to create new evaluations which are expressive of one's own strength, unity of character, or affirmation of life." (page 91)

The questioning of compassion and the elevation of the morality of the noble class are difficult to relate to with our contemporary democratic welfare-state ethics and values. But it is this difficulty that Nietzsche brilliantly guides the reader into the very frame of mind he wishes to invoke. His writing is intended to affect the reader.

"At least some of these uncomfortable passages are uncomfortable because the writing is openly concerned with probing the affects of the reader. To this end the literary violence is an effective means. Nietzsche's project of revaluing moral values contains as an essential part the uncovering of a multifarious affective life beneath our moral judgments. By provoking a range of affects in the reader, Nietzsche enables the reader to. Locate the target for revaluation, the 'morality' which comprises a complex of attitudes of his or her own, central to which are affective inclinations and aversions." (page 96)

"Earlier we saw that Nietzsche's end was to make us 'feel differently', changing or reversing our inclinations and aversions, losing our habitual or inherited attachment to the attitudes that comprise the morality of selflessness. How, then, would Nietzsche think that his envisaged end could be brought about, and how might his own writing contribute to that end? Here is a program that would at least make sense: Detach people from their practice of making moral judgments, thereby enabling them to feel non-moral inclinations and aversions.  How to detach people from making moral judgments? Show them the inherited affects of which these judgments are the ex post facto rationalizations. How to show people the affects they have inherited? Provoke affective responses in them, and invite them to reflect on the explanation for their having them." (page 99)

"The pair of concepts 'good' and 'bad' originally existed, forming the basis of a noble or aristocratic form of evaluation: the good are those who are capable, strong, powerful, those to be admired for what they have and are; the bad are simply those who no one would have wanted to be if he or she had the power - the weak, the incapable, the subservient.  In the story that Nietzsche tells morality was an invention in human history, and the driving force behind this invention was the class of people who were weak and marginal according to the aristocratic value system.  Morality resulted from the Judaeo-Christian 'slave revolt' which creatively fashioned a new pair of values, and finally convinced even the powerful that to exercise their power over others weaker than themselves was 'evil', and that to be powerless - not to exercise power - was 'good'." (page 99)

Janaway shows that Nietzsche used his writing style in the Genealogy to jolt and shock the reader with the specific intent of revealing to the reader, through style as much as words, where the reader’s morality resides within.  Thusly identified, Nietzsche proceeds to address morality as feeling and, having pointed out the location of such feelings, allows the reader to reflect upon what Nietzsche is saying in the context of their internal feelings.  This creative use of philosophical style is typical of Nietzsche, dating at least back to the “God is dead” proclamation of The Gay Science but it is perhaps expressed at its height within the Genealogy.

"Readers will be indignant about the nobles as Nietzsche describes them.  They will react with fear and disquiet, and moreover a disquiet that, on behalf of the imagined victims, gives rise to a desire to judge the nobles' behavior wrong.  Nietzsche must know this because he knows that the value system that originated with those who feared and recoiled from the nobles 'has become victorious' (GM I. 7)." (page 100)

"Thus Nietzsche prompts the reader to become conscious of himself or herself as an inheritor of affects whose origin is 'slavish'.  But he does not leave matters there.  In particular, note two further effects on the reader that he provides for in GM I: (1) The reader is given the opportunity to become conscious of himself or herself as the inheritor of some attitudes more in line with a noble mode of evaluation. (2) The reader is encouraged to recognize that slave morality shares the same ultimate origin as the noble mode of evaluation, and to reorient his or her feelings accordingly." (page 101)

"Section 14 of the First Treatise is a good example of Nietzsche's use of artistic methods in pursuit of his diagnostic and therapeutic aims.  He invents a character with whom the essay's narrative voice suddenly enters into comic dialogue.  It is like calling for a volunteer from the audience: 'Would anyone like to go down and take a look into the secret of how they fabricate ideals on earth? Who has the courage to do so?' The supposed volunteer is addressed as mein Herr Vorwitz und Wagehals - rendered by translators variously as Mr. Rash and Curious, Mr. mosey Daredevil, Mr. Daredevil Curiosity, or Mr. Wanton-Curiosity and Daredevil. The narrator affects to send this member of the public down into a fetid, cavernous workshop, reminiscent of Wagner's Nibelheim, where morality is cobbled together by shadowy, stunted creatures brimming with ressentiment. The authorial voice receives reports from the front-line emissary as if from the safety of surface daylight, goading him on until what he witnesses becomes unbearable and he demands to be returned to the open air.

"This is a striking, virtuosic piece of writing, but also perhaps a good example of the embarrassment commentators can feel through apparently having no purchase on why it might benefit Nietzsche to write in this way. I assume that virtually everyone who writes about Nietzsche, form undergraduates on, has read this passage. It has scathing humor, deadly similes, a novel dramatic structure, and great rhetorical power." (pp. 102 - 103) 

"I suggest (1) that Nietzsche here completes the transformation of his treatise from a past-directed enquiry into a critique whose focus is the here and now, the present attitudes of his reader; (2) that his emotive rhetoric aims at harnessing the reader's own disquiet over the untrammeled exercise of power by the overtly powerful - a disquiet he elicited and carefully nurtured earlier in the text - and converting it into a still greater disquiet over the covert desire to exercise power that drives Christianity and the post-Christian moral attitudes which are likely to persist in the reader. Nietzsche uses this dramatic characterization to enact disgust on the reader's behalf." (pp. 103 - 104)

"Nietzsche's thought is that prior to the invention of the idea that we are free to be other than we in fact are - that our essence resides elsewhere than in the sum of our behavior and underlying drives - we could not have believed in accountability or blame in the manner required to maintain the moral practice of judging actions good and evil.  The notion of a radically free subject of action is required in order to make human beings controllable, answerable, equal, and in particular to redescribe inaction as a virtue of which all are capable and dominant self-assertion as a wrong for which all are culpable. Note the role of feeling's in Nietzsche's explanation. It is the reactive affects of the weak, described as 'hiddenly glowing', that drive the need to assign blame and call to account.  This accords with the wider tendency of Nietzsche's genealogical explanations to trace moral beliefs and conceptual distinctions back to more basic feelings. Present-day adherents of morality have inherited affective habits because of the prevalence of the system of concepts good, evil, blame, guilt, and so on, and that system of concepts came to exist because of ressentiment, hatred, revenge, fear, joy in inflicting cruelty, at earlier historical stages." (pp. 112 - 113)

"The salient point is that the redescription of the agent as existing in isolation from the pressures of nature, culture, and circumstance is already a moralized description, one you would make only if you already thought in terms of moral goodness and responsibility, and hence sought a target for blame. The human being naturalistically described, as the product of actual physical and cultural forces, does not provide a proper target for blame, so we resort to metaphysics." (page 113)

"There is a vagueness in Nietzsche's evocations of what future values and future individuals will be once they have liberated themselves from moral self-descriptions.  We may excuse the vagueness to some extent: Nietzsche is writing of a mere aspiration that he thinks has rarely, if ever, been realized....the following is an approximation to Nietzsche's sovereign individual: someone who is conscious of the strength and consistency of his or her own character over time; who creatively affirms and embraces him - or herself as valuable, and who values his or her actions because of the degRée to which they are in character; who welcomes the limitation and discipline of internal and external nature as the true conditions of action and creation, but whose evaluations arise from a sense of who he or she is, rather than from conformity to some external or genetic code of values. This is a glimpse of the sense in which fRée will might be attained or regained for Nietzsche." (page 119)

The second treatise in the genealogy analyzes the place of guilt in human culture and experience and its relationship to human cruelty.  "...Nietzsche takes himself to have shown that guilt came to be regarded as a good in the Christian world-view because the conception of our natural instinctual selves as an ultimate transgression against God allowed us the most powerful guarantee of being able to vent our inbuilt drive towards cruelty upon ourselves. Nietzsche evaluates this state of self-torture as 'the most terrible sickness that has thus far raged in man' (GM II. 22). But then he offers us the healthy alternative, 'a reverse attempt...namely to wed to bad conscience the unnatural inclinations, all those aspirations to the beyond, to that which is contrary to the senses, contrary to the instincts, contrary to nature' (GM II. 24) - though he doubts that any but the most exceptional human being of the future, the redeeming, creative spirit of great health, will be able to accomplish this." (page 121)

"Feeling guilty is insidiously, incriminatingly, related to cruelty, and is even the same as it is essence.  The Second Treatise is structured around two central thoughts concerning cruelty and its 'turning back' against the self. The first, which Nietzsche calls 'an old powerful human-all-too-human proposition' (GM II. 6) might be put as follows: (A) Because of an instinctive drive, human beings tend to gain pleasure from inflicting suffering. 

"We might call this the 'pleasure-in-cruelty' thesis. The second thought, which I shall state also in my own formulation, posits a psychological process which Nietzsche calls Verinnerlichung or internalization (see GM II. 16): (B) When the instinctive drives of a socialized human individual are prevented from discharging themselves outwardly, they discharge themselves inwardly, on the individual him- or herself

"Nietzsche's 'own hypothesis' concerning the origin of 'bad conscience', a pivotal hypothesis in the whole essay, makes use of both of these thoughts and might be expressed thus: (C) Because human beings have an instinctual drive that leads them to gain pleasure from inflicting suffering, human beings subjected to the restrictions of civilized society, and so constrained to internalize their instincts, satisfy their instinctive drive by inflicting suffering on themselves

"In Nietzsche's own words: 'Hostility, cruelty, pleasure in persecution, in assault, in change, in destruction - all of that turning itself against the possessors of such instincts: that is the origin of 'bad conscience' (GM II. 16)." (pp. 125-126)

"'The feeling of guilt...had its the oldest and most primitive relationship among persons there is, in the relationship between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor' (GM II. 8). One of the main sources of explanatory energy for the whole essay is the repeated play on Schuld, Schulden, Schuldner (guilt, debt, debtor), at its most salient in Nietzsche's thought that 'that central moral concept 'guilt' had its origins in the very material concept 'debt' (GM II. 4). But if this is the origin of the consciousness of guilt, why give us also the apparently quite separate hypothesis that consciousness of guilt originates in internalization of the instincts of hostility?" (page 132)

"...the consciousness of guilt is a means of punishing oneself, and punishment originates in the debtor-creditor relationship; hence it makes sense for Nietzsche to say that consciousness of guilt originates in the debtor-creditor relationship.  But self-punishment is also a form of self-cruelty or self-persecution, and outlet (or inlet) for the instinctive drive of living beings to dominate over something. Hence, if consciousness of guilt is a form of self-punishment, then Nietzsche can intelligibly claim both that it originates in internalization of the instincts and that it originates in the debtor-creditor relationship." (page 134)

"We are being cruel to ourselves because, given our instincts as living beings, we are driven to be cruel to something, but we interpret the self-cruelty as deserved and rightful, as punishment of ourselves by ourselves. We give ourselves permission to despise and maltreat ourselves. Why should we do this? Because of a further need thematized in the Genealogy as a whole, the need to give meaning to suffering." (page 135)

“It is, I suggest, the supposed goodness of feeling guilty that Nietzsche thinks requires metaphysical underpinning. This provides a clearer sense in which moralization of guilt presupposes an ‘entanglement with the concept of god’, as Nietzsche says in section 21.  It is a good thing to punish myself if I deserve punishment in principle and essentially. And the Christian conception of the self and its place in the world – the infinite all-valuable divine order and the pernicious animal self in perpetual transgression against it – provides the guarantee of punishments being wholly deserved.  Moralization is the elevation of feeling guilty into a virtue, it incorporation of the kind of person one should want to be, by means of the rationalizing metaphysical picture in which the individual’s essential instinctual nature deserves maltreatment, because it stands in antithesis to an infinite creditor.” (page 141 - 142)

“Without a doubt Nietzsche presents the nobles in the First Treatise as human animals instinctively striving for conditions in which to express their strength and gain a maximum feeling of power, and therefore as manifesting will to power.  And similarly in the Second Treatise cruelty represents a basic human tendency to release one’s power to the detriment of another and temporarily at least ‘become master’ over them.  But there is a shock in each essay: the salves’ invention of good-evil opposition and labeling of themselves as good is driven by the need to overpower the powerful in a more subtle and underhand way, and the imposition of guilty bad conscience on ourselves is an inward deflection of cruelty, the instinct to release at the expense of something else.” (page 144)

I will pick up with Janaway’s interpretation at this point in my next post and proceed through his analysis of the critical undercurrent of the will to power and personal “affects” to his work.