Nietzsche and Heidegger

June 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

Text: Who Is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra? (Heidegger)

Heidegger identifies the subtitle to Nietzsche’s work Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One as a reference to Nietzsche’s concern with Being as an existential, metaphysical and ontological question. Everyone refers to every man for whom his essential nature has become worthy of his thought, and no one to the everyday man, the idle curious who merely intoxicate themselves with aphorisms. Heidegger identifies Zarathustra the character as an advocate or spokesman. A spokesman for what? For that of and for which he speaks. Zarathustra is the ‘convalescent’: that which returns home. Zarathustra is the man who collects himself to return home, to turn into his own destiny. Zarathustra makes a threefold claim of what he advocates: life, suffering and the circle. This is Nietzsche primary set of concerns. These three things are one and the same. The advocate Zarathustra is a teacher of two things: the eternal recurrence and the superman.

Heidegger claims that Nietzsche is the first thinker to recognize, in view of the emerging world-history, for the first time the question as to whether man, as man in his nature until now, is ready to assume dominion over the whole earth. This is the position of the superman: a man sufficiently brought beyond himself but not a product of an analysis of the modern age. The superman surpasses previous and contemporary man, and is therefore a bridge. We as readers need to observe three things:

1) That from which the person passing over departs
2) The bridge itself
3) The destination of the person crossing over

“Metaphysics calls the permanent Now ‘eternity’. Nietzsche, too, conceives the three phases of time from the standpoint of eternity as a permanent Now. But, for Nietzsche, the permanence does not consist in something static, but in a recurrence of the same.” (p418)

“For modern metaphysics, and within its particular expression, the Being of beings appears as will.” (p422)

Heidegger on revenge: Revenge is the bridge to the highest hope for Zarathustra.

Nietzsche has Zarathustra say: “For that man be delivered from revenge, that is the bridge to the highest hope for me and a rainbow after long storms.” (N in H, p418)

Revenge?

Heidegger asserts that Nietzsche’s meaning is that Zarathustra intends to serve a spirit which is free from vengefulness and therefore precedes all mere brotherhood relations, all peace secured pacts. The superman is man without the spirit of revenge, who pre-dates the spirit of revenge, and so who is also part of the eternal recurrence. This is related to Nietzsche’s extensive writings on punishment in the Genealogy of Morals:

“The spirit of revenge, my friends, has so far been the subject of man’s best reflection; and wherever there was suffering, there punishment was also wanted.” (p419)

Reflection is that thinking in which man’s relation to what is, to all beings, is attuned. According to Nietzsche, this thinking has thus far been determined by the spirit of revenge. Revenge is opposing, degrading persecution. Nietzsche claims that revenge is ‘the will’s aversion to time and its ‘It was’.’ Note that he leaves out It is, and It will be, suggesting he characterizes revenge as particular to one aspect of time. The will has no influence over ‘It was’, and constantly runs up against it.

“For Nietzsche, the most profound revenge consists of that reflection which posits eternal Ideals as the absolute, compared with which the temporal must degrade itself to actual non-being.” (p423)

Therefore, man cannot assume dominion over the earth until revenge vanishes, and along with it eternal Ideals and the degradation of the temporal. With the disappearance of revenge, and thus the eternal and lost past, the Being of beings can be represented to man as the eternal recurrence of the same. Man can cross the bridge and become the superman.

“The highest will to power, that is, the life-force in all life, is to represent transience as a fixed Becoming within the eternal recurrence of the same, and so to render it secure and stable. This representation is a thinking which, as Nietzsche notes emphatically, ‘impresses’ upon being the character of its Being. This thinking takes becoming under its care and protection – becoming of which constant collision, suffering, is a past.” (P426)

Heidegger’s response to this exposition:

Is the spirit of revenge overcome by this thinking?

By fixing transience as Becoming under the protection of the eternal recurrence (remembering that transience is the seed from which the spirit of revenge grows), does not Nietzsche somehow suggest an aversion to transience? Therefore, could there not be a supremely spiritualized spirit of revenge?

It seems here that thought up to this point has been metaphysics, and Nietzsche brings it to a completion.

“Metaphysical thinking rests on the distinction between that which truly is, and that which by comparison does not constitute true being.” (428)

This is a distinction between the sensible and the super-sensible, but not necessarily an opposition. Heidegger claims that Nietzsche merely reverse the order of this distinction: The Dionysian, the inexhaustible permanence of becoming, as to which the will to power wills itself in the eternal recurrence of the same.

“‘Eternal recurrence of the same’ is the name of the Being of beings. ‘Superman’ is the name of the human being who corresponds to this Being.” (p429)

“In what respect do Being and human being belong together? How do they belong together, if Being is neither of mans making, in man’s power, nor man only a special case within being?” (p429)

Essentially, Heidegger acknowledge’s Nietzsche as the end-point of Western metaphysics, but also points out that Nietzsche himself thought metaphysically.

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  1. Initial notes and sketches on Chris Marker and La Jetee (1962) « Academic Notes and Academic Quotes - August 7, 2014

    […] “Metaphysics calls the permanent Now ‘eternity’. Nietzsche, too, conceives the three phases of… (p418 – Who Is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra? {Heidegger}) […]

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