Future, Present, & Past:

~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.

Oυδεὶς άμουσος εἰσίτω

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New paper up

Posted a new paper of mine at Scribd. Actually it's partly an old paper, on Nietzsche, with some considerable expansion especially towards the end. Dy0genes will recognize a lot of it from a class we once took together (from the late, great Fred Hagen). He may not remember all of the critique he gave me at the time, but I sure do, and I hope I have done it justice.

The title of the paper, incidentally, is "The Will to be God." But the name of the file, much more prominently displayed than I had anticipated, is "The Will to be God Formatted," which strikes me as a potential weird and techno-theological heresy in a pseudo P.K. Dick scenario, if only I could think of what it would entail.

Comments are always welcome. All papers up are of course drafts and (in the unlikely event that anyone is tempted) should not be cited without permission; they could change at any time.


  1. That is an excellent paper. It may be a trick of the mind but I get the sense that I understand better now what I thought I understood well long ago. I don't know if that is a happy conceit of age or a real phenomenon. Thanks for posting it.

  2. I haven't read the paper but I do really love the K. Dick/God formatting connection. The will to be God formatted I think deserves some real treatment, and strikes me as Spinozist.

  3. kvond,

    thanks for the comment, and welcome to the blog! Someday I will post on P.K. Dick; a read on him via Spinoza would be fascinating-- but I think you're better qualified to offer that than I.

  4. Thanks for the essay. Below are a few thoughts indicating how divergent our readings of Nietzsche are...

    A goodness that does good not because of some Eternal Reward ('who would want to immortalize that?' Nietzsche spits, while pointing at humanity) and a joy that gives without thought of return. Yes, that too is Nietzsche! On a first reading of the Antichrist one is invariably astounded by how much there is that Nietzsche admires in the person of Jesus. And also how he admits that the 'type' of Jesus is always possible... - But we must not ever forget this either.

    For Nietzsche the will-to-truth is dangerous, I think, firstly, on two levels: first, what it reveals of the human psyche; and also, the Inhuman Indifference it reveals of the Whole (Nature or Cosmos) towards both human suffering and greatness. It is in light of both these dangers alone that Nietzsche is justified to ask, 'why not untruth?' And secondly, as you indicate, there is the problem of perspectivism, that whatever 'we' know is all that we can know. That is, it is merely our perspective.

    And lastly, for myself, when we step back we see that the will-to-truth is not only 'endless', it is beginningless too. That is, every (supposedly known) 'truth' can be exposed as a lie, every past can be rewritten. "Who taught the Will to Will Backwards?" Well, Nietzsche did, when he wrote his Genealogy. The history of any culture, regime, religion, or world-view can be rewritten in a time of crisis by following the pointers Nietzsche generously provides in this horrible essay.

    There is a passage of Merleau-Ponty's that I have never been able to escape:

    "History never confesses, not even her lost illusions, but neither does she dream of them again."

    This is the historical dialectic; the ever-forward flow of dialectical thought/experience. But, if as Nietzsche demonstrates, the past can indeed be rewritten, then History will never know if she is 'dreaming again'. Recurrence has now become the permanent possibility...

    Where were we? You say that Nietzsche seeks, "not, like Kant, for how knowledge (synthetic, a priori) is possible , but how it would have arisen." That is not exactly right, Nietzsche wants to know why it was necessary to arise in precisely the manner it did. Nietzsche is first a philosopher, and only a genealogist or historian when it is useful to his task. Oh yes, one of these 'untruths' is the classical logic of which you speak. Always assume Being, Substance, Identity, Eternity; and all this for the sake of human life, that is, the survival of our species...

    But you know that I do wonder how anti-Platonic all this really is! Or, rather, we need to distinguish between Plato and Platonism. After all, Plato has his Eleatic Stranger speak both of Being as Power (Sophist, 247e - 250) and of 'Due Measure' (Statesmam, 283bff) as merely a useful tool. ...We are all (even Nietzsche!) merely footnotes to Plato.

    But noting many possibilities is not the same as doing a single thing. Plato and Nietzsche may 'agree' regarding the possibilities of philosophy, but they undeniably do different things. ...Is this because they were in very different circumstances?

    Yes, I would say so. That is why all the speculation that goes on regarding Nietzsche and his theses regarding becoming, lack of substance, logic as myth, no subject, etc.; -well, I try not to let that worry me very much. Nietzsche tells us (in Ecce Homo) that Zarathustra was the 'Yes-saying' part of his work and that all the post-Zarathustrian books were the 'No-saying' part. The latter is for the sake of the former. Now, after the rise of the Nietzschean world-to-come when one no longer expects there to be subject, substance, and so forth, one will cease to be perturbed by their absence.

  5. (Previous comment continued...)

    But I haven't addressed your point. Why 'difference'? Because of the permanence of different human types. "Psychology is once again the Queen of the Sciences". Zarathustra is only one book but is meant for everyone (except philosophers). People interpret it in many ways:
    1. Spiritually (however one is pleased to define that!) insofar as one feels one is called to identify with the Whole understood either as Becoming or Eternal Return or Amor Fati.
    2. Politically (or secularly), by pursuing greatness in this world whether as businessman, scientist, scholar, warrior or politician.
    3. The Body. Nietzsche is the first great philosopher to see the utility of sex revolution! You will, of course note (and not be shocked), that he did not live it...
    Number one and two (but most especially two) are almost exclusively for the exceptions. The third is absolutely and emphatically for all. 'Books are Mirrors', Nietzsche said. And "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is the greatest mirror since late antiquity....

    From this point of view (I mean the POV of philosophical psychology), the history of philosophy can be divided in three. The ancient (and medieval) way was the attempt by philosophy to turn exceptions into philosophers (or saint/sages). The modern way, beginning with Machiavelli and Hobbes, was the opposite attempt to turn the exceptions into ordinary people. With Nietzsche, we are done with all that. He says that the exceptions are with us always. In a thousand years, when it is time to overthrow the various Nietzscheanisms (still yet to be born), those philosophers will say (perhaps even with some bitterness) that it was precisely here that Nietzsche first learned of the necessity of Amor Fati...

    So you see how different my understanding of Nietzsche is compared to yours, - and almost anyone else! What attracted me to Nietzsche is what attracted me, three decades ago, to Marx. It is what the old Averroists called Necessity and today I would call the inertia of institutions. The institutions that Marx followed were the institutions of Capitalism. What was interesting to me was the inevitability of its transformation into socialism. I loved the discussions of the interactions of market, technological and political forces. And I basically regarded the utopian and revolutionary rhetoric as but result-oriented speeches for the rubes.

    But what institutions do I see in Nietzsche!?! The permanent types discovered by philosophical psychology: philosopher, exception, herd. You know, I have come to believe that Leo Strauss has utterly ruined our ability to read Nietzsche! By insinuating that there was an esoteric truth hidden in the exoteric philosophical text we (I mean we readers aware of philosophical esotericism) scour Nietzsche's texts in search of it. But there isn't anything there in or behind that mirror but ourselves...

    We don't know what Nietzsche thinks, but we can speak of what he did. Zarathustra is the Yes-Saying part of his task and the later works are the No-Saying parts of his task. That is, they were both written to get certain results. That is, they are also for the rubes...

    (Okay fine, an exaggeration; but not only an exaggeration.)

  6. Man oh maaaaan, Joe, was I not just saying how the comments on this blog are where things get interesting? This is just what I'm talking 'bout. Let's see if I can even remotely begin to do you justice.

    Naturally, the most interesting point to me is your postulate of close alignment betw. Plato and N. On this, at least, you and I are not so far from each other, though I am not sure N. would agree w/ either of us.

    I am also intrigued by yr comparison betw. N. and Marx. In fact, I was very recently reading Stanley Rosen's essay on "Nietzsche's Revolution" (in The Ancients & the Moderns) and was struck by the parallel betw. these same two (though this is hardly R.'s main point). They are, for instance, currently the two most influential philosophers on the current scene (which is not to say that either of them is being read "accurately"!)

    Rosen, of course, does think there is an esoteric to N., and I more or less think so too; or rather, I think there is an exoteric which diverts attention-- encouraging his readers to see themselves as above the herd, and obscuring the difference betw. what you are calling exceptions and philosophers. Mirrors, indeed.

    Thank you for the compliment of thinking the paper worth your time. These few responses will do, I hope, to keep the conversation going.