Volte face

After all these helpful comments, I’ve done more reading and thinking about Nz’s politics. One good collection of essays I recommend is Nietzsche, godfather of fascism? (Princeton). The introduction, and essays by Golomb and Conway were especially illuminating. The volume also includes a partial defense of sister Elisabeth, which will probably make me go back and edit out many of the unkind things I have written about her.

Anyway, I have rethought the way to see Nz’s politics. Now I think it makes sense to look first at what he wants to see emerge from society. He’d like to see an elitist structure of classes, which allows for the “greater in spirit” to be in control, and the “mediocre” to lead happy little lives, providing the wealth and materials for everyone. This is why he hates the liberalism and socialism of his day: he sees that they are both driving toward a classless society, or a class society oriented along the wrong axis (like wealth or, God forbid, public service). Instead he wants some sort of society which will allow for the emergence of classes oriented along an axis of intelligence, strength of spirit, creative vision, and appetite for conflict, change, and challenge.

It may be that a range of different political structures could in fact allow for such an emergence. In the end, though, the structure will be somewhat fascistic in form, inasmuch as the mediocre ones will have no meaningful role in political governance, and will be kept in check by any means necessary. (We wouldn’t want another slave revolt, now, would we?) But, generally, the mediocre will be treated gently, since the drones need to be fairly happy and secure in order to produce. The elite, on the other hand, will be in a state of war among themselves, since that’s what they want and need in order to flourish. They wouldn’t fight over who is in political control, since they all recognize the necessity of the mediocre. But they’d fight over … what? Ideas? Anything, for thrills? Maybe they’d step into the roles vacated by the Olympian gods, playing chess with one another, using the plebs as the pieces. A good war now and then might help production, and it would all be in good fun (for the elites). This, obviously, is the scary part of the vision Nz advocates, the one he boasts about and warns us about.

I find it interesting that Nz’s politics, if this is right, would be based upon the same principle as Plato’s republic: a natural division of labor. Somehow, people need to be sorted out into the two main classes on the basis of their spirit, or nature, or potential. And the plebs need to be kept happy. But the elites look very different. Plato’s are serene, while Nz’s are in turmoil with themselves and one another. And the objectives are different. For Plato, the the state is the way it is for the sake of justice. For Nz, it’s for the sake of producing the highest/strongest specimens.

To the extent that Nz thinks is value of “health” is grounded in some sort of biological structure, his thinking is probably racist — though racist in a unique way. He probably thought that, through eugenics, you could get better over time at producing a race of elites (here again he echoes Plato). I don’t think he thought the races identified in his day or ours (Jewish, Aryan, etc.) were divided along useful lines. Meaning: he probably believed these races really exist, but thought they had evolved under conditions which did not yield anything like the race he wanted to see developed. Under scientific care, such a race could develop.

I think this view fits many of Nz remarks. (Please, shout out again if you disagree.) And it has plenty of gaps in the right places, for Nz did not develop detailed views of political structures. I think he had a hazy vision of what he would have liked to have seen, and it was elitist, scary, and opposed to the morality of liberals.

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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44 Responses to Volte face

  1. Kleiner says:

    I think you are right to see the connection with Plato, and I just echoing what you have said here with a bit more detail on Plato (I’m teaching a course on the Republic so am thinking of it all the time).
    As you suggest, the difference is that Plato’s Republic is meant to produce aristocrats/kings who would have moderate and just souls (souls which have not only moderated desire but even eliminated unnecessary desires). On the other hand, Nz’s politics would produce (to use Plato’s terms) perfectly democratic souls – souls that say yes to every desire and make no distinction between necessary and unnecessary desires, he ‘lives, always surrendering rule over himself to whichever desire comes along’ (561b).
    I say democratic soul instead of tyrannical because the tyrannical soul has too much fear and he holds on to the status quo (his power) too tightly. I am inclined to think that Nz would accuse the tyrant of not being ‘playful’ enough.


  2. Rob says:

    This reading finds plenty of textual support, but there seem to me to be other moments when Nietzsche is less concerned about the optimal structure of society at large — because he takes the rise of democracy to be inevitable — and more concerned about how the best kind of individuals can flourish within a culture dominated by “modern ideas”… Against the contrast with Plato, it may be worth noting how much Nietzsche couches his anti-egalitarianism in terms of justice, as well as his genealogy of justice in terms of power relations in GM 2… Ultimately, I think the difficulty Nietzsche had in articulating, if not also in sustaining much interest in articulating, detailed views of optimal political structures has to do with his celebration of “self-overcoming” or, as Zarathustra puts it: “what is great [and] lovable about human beings is that they are a *crossing over* and *going under*”. This strikes me as under-determining what is the most conducive political structure in the direction of liberal-democracy.


  3. Rob says:

    “…Nz’s politics would produce (to use Plato’s terms) perfectly democratic souls – souls that say yes to every desire and make no distinction between necessary and unnecessary desires, he ‘lives, always surrendering rule over himself to whichever desire comes along’ (561b).”

    This doesn’t squares with Nietzsche’s frequent insistence that tension, inner chaos, and — especially — self-contempt are necessary for greatness, and salutary prophylactics against complacency. Though it might well describe the “well turned out” person whose desires are, by nature or discipline, coordinated with what is conducive to his or her flourishing.


  4. Huenemann says:

    Rob – when you say…

    “what is great [and] lovable about human beings is that they are a *crossing over* and *going under*”. This strikes me as under-determining what is the most conducive political structure in the direction of liberal-democracy.

    … are you suggesting that, since Nz thought humans are a temporary stage, he didn’t see the use in working out clear notions of what political structure would be best? I agree with your earlier observation that, in many places, he tried to work out the right attitude one should have while in “trapped” a liberal democracy.


  5. Kleiner says:

    The reason I am drawn to the democratic constitution, at least on Plato’s account of democracy, when I think of Nz is that it is full of tension and inner strife. In fact, it is the only constitution (aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny) that accepts strife as a ‘way of life’ – all of the other constitutions try to order the soul by saying ‘yes’ to one thing (wisdom, honor, money, lust) at the permanent expense of everything else.
    But the Plato-Nz connection is not central here, so I won’t quibble over it.


  6. Rob says:

    I’m suggesting that his privileging of the very capacity itself for self-overcoming — as what distinguishes humans from the rest of animals and is the source of its unique glory (and misery) — might be at odds with any particularly developed notion of what the best political structure would be. And maybe democracy, with the kind of “historical sense” (BGE 223, 224) it promotes, is the most stable source of the most various materials for the most interesting instances of self-overcoming?

    My thoughts on these matters are chronically spacey and unsettled. It’s not only that I can’t figure out what the preponderance of textual evidence supports in the way of a Nietzschean politics, but I don’t know how to apply the value he sets on truthfulness to the task of establishing that preponderance.

    (By the way, and totally off-topic: is the donkey picture next to your name an allusion to Bresson’s ‘Au hasard Balthasar’ or is there some other significance to it? Just curious.)


  7. [Nietzsche’s] privileging of the very capacity itself for self-overcoming — as what distinguishes humans from the rest of animals and is the source of its unique glory (and misery) — might be at odds with any particularly developed notion of what the best political structure would be.

    I think that’s right. My impression is that Nietzsche is systematically hostile to political structures; it’s enough for him that “higher” types be able to resist the sort of “bad conscience” that is bound to be ambient in whatever structures are likely to develop.


  8. Huenemann says:

    Does anyone have any texts to support this view, that Nz is hostile to all political structures? Clearly he doesn’t like democracy, liberalism, or socialism, but does he anywhere rail against the state as such? My impression is that he seems to favor aristocracy, and glows over Frederick the great.


  9. Rob says:

    I think it’s clear that Nietzsche doesn’t like (many of) the *values* which he thinks democracy, liberalism, or socialism express and/or promote because of what he believes to be their actual and potential inhibiting effects on the flourishing of “higher types”. But when he praises political aristocracies or glows over Frederick the Great, I take his true object of praise to be their pathos of distance. And because I take for granted that his intended readers are secular liberal democrats — the kind of people who score liberal on Haidt’s moral foundations test, and therefore stand specially in need of Nietzsche’s assistance in appreciating the more fundamental conservative ones — I further assume that Nietzsche is trying to salvage some form of pathos of distance that is “ripe and sweet” (GM 1.5), with a perhaps ever more attenuated relation to the wider political structure… This rash reading aside, TI, “Germans” 4 might be one source for the proposal that the very nature of Nietzsche’s central concerns inhibits the project of developing in any serious detail an optimal Nietzschean political structure, yet inviting the idea that liberal democracy might be the least bad context in which those concerns can be most assuredly secured and developed.


  10. I don’t think I could make a knock-down case, but to Rob’s citation of TI (that’s a good one, Rob) I’d add GS 377: “We hold it absolutely undesirable that a realm of justice and concord should be established on earth.” Even N’s exemplary aristocratic rulers went in for that sort of thing, so the political structure (or structures) those rulers adopted or imposed probably isn’t the point of N’s appeal to their example so much as their personal nobility (in F II’s case, his “hardness,” godlessness, moderated skepticism, disdain for narrow expertise, and so forth).


  11. Huenemann says:

    I think the TI passage is aimed primarily against German militarism, under the idea that spending on military will mean spending less on cultural stuff. But there’s no guarantee that having a liberal democracy will entail spending for culture. Indeed, the cultural production Nz seems to have admired most occurred under a kind of oligarchy (the Medicis). The GS 377 passage, I think, is more against ‘justice’ and ‘concord’ than against political structure as such.

    But, still, here’s a goodie I found: “Everything a man does in the service of the state is contrary to his nature” (WP 718). Still, I think he was referencing the states of the day, and the aims of public service, promoting the public good, etc. I certainly don’t think he would say the only way to act in accordance with one’s nature is in anarchy! (See WP 753, where he equates the ideal of anarchists with that of socialists.)


  12. Huenemann says:

    Oh, I forgot: the donkey has multiple significations for me. St. Francis referred to his body as his donkey, and I’m a materialist, so etc. Also, there’s the “Song of the Ass” in Zarathustra. And, finally, there’s my overall skepticism as to the power of human reason: I think we’re more donkey than owl, as it were. Or I am, anyway.


  13. Rob says:

    While I agree that in the TI passage Nietzsche is indeed addressing then-contemporary Germany, I also think he’s making a larger and more general point (as I think he tends to do in most of the other sections of TI addressed to contemporary figures and states of affairs) about a basic antagonism between cultural and political interests and values. (His remarks in that passage about France, I think, help fill out this more general point.)

    Of course this might simply support the the notion of a political structure along the lines described in (I think) the penultimate section of the BGE chapter on religion and the section in AC idealizing a tripartite social structure — in which the highest types are insulated from the dirty work of political rule but still somehow occupy the generally-recognized zenith of the political structure. But I think these are transparently nostalgic idealizations Nietzsche’s intended readers are not expected to seriously entertain as possibilities to be striven for; rather, I propose, he wants his intended readers to be stimulated to wonder how such an aristocratic segment can exist and flourish in a liberal democratic culture in which that general recognition of superiority across the entire spectrum of the society can never again obtain.

    That’s interesting about donkeys. I would recommend the Bresson film (well, really, everything by Bresson) even more now, as it sharply resonates with all of those significations.


  14. “GS 377…is more against ‘justice’ and ‘concord’ than against political structure as such.”

    Right, you won’t find Nietzsche explicitly arguing against political structures as such. What I wanted to suggest was that if we take it that aristocrats like F II strive for “justice” and “concord” within the realm (consider that in relation to F I, F II was far less “war-like” and tyrannical and far more enlightened and “progressive”), then (given passages like GS 377), the particular political structures such leaders adopt cannot likely be the reason for N’s esteeming them. To wit, N esteems F II and Napoleon because they are strong, exemplary leaders rather than because they putatively commanded well in a regime that was likely to foster the development of noble types. This dovetails with the fact that N includes nonleaders in his gallery of greats (what is common to them all is something other than political management), as well as the fact that leaders like F II had his own origin in a different political regime.

    Consider in the latter respect BGE 200, where N contends that the “real mastery…in waging war against oneself…[finds its] most beautiful expression…in Alcibiades and Caesar [and perhaps] Leonardo da Vinci.” Such individuals, he says, “appear in precisely the same ages when that weaker type with its desire for rest comes to the fore: both types belong together and owe their origin to the same causes.” But then these causes self-evidently cannot be the material political conditions Alcibiades, Caesar and da Vinci [;-)] themselves brought about. So we see again N’s appeals to their nobility cannot be taken as implicit commendations of the political structures they sought to impose; it is their nobility we admire, and their nobility had its origin in a different set of material political conditions then those that obtained during their rule.

    Now combine this argument with N’s contention that “[t]he highest and strongest drives, when they…drive the individual far above the average and the flats above the herd conscience, wreck the self-confidence of the community” and so “arouse[] mistrust.” (BGE 201) N’s main thread here is the emergence of the concept evil, but his discussion arguably reflects a concern for what happens “[a]fter the structure of society is fixed on the whole and seems secure against external dangers” — to wit, when a stable political structure is in place. It might be overgeneralizing N’s point, but the argument would be that any stable political structure will allow the fears of the “herd” to congeal around the “enemies of the community,” viz., those (such as N’s higher types) who brook the moral standards of the community; as such, all stable political structures are inhospitable to higher types — though some less than others.


  15. Huenemann says:

    That’s a very interesting argument, Michael, and I’ll need to reflect on it some more. So the overall view is this: that Nz esteems aristocracy and monarchy because they at least allow for castes and ranks (even if the castes and ranks are not always grouped according to Nzean criteria), and he values strong leaders because they are strong, and he doesn’t have any clear vision of establishing a state with the aim of producing noble types. I think there is something to this, since when Nz writes about nobility, his take on it seems very functionalistic: to be noble is to act in ways that separate oneself from the herd. Nevertheless … I think that at least sometimes Nz does get himself excited over the prospects of a new civilization, where true nobles are in charge, and the whole point is to cultivate greatness. At the very least, he spends more effort in that direction than in any sustained argument aimed at the irrelevance of political structures.


  16. “I think that at least sometimes Nz does get himself excited over the prospects of a new civilization, where true nobles are in charge, and the whole point is to cultivate greatness.”

    Yes, that’s true. It might that be that he’s silent on political structure merely because his ideas on what prepossessing political structures might look like are inchoate. On the other hand, maybe he simply thinks that the best kinds of civilization (whatever they might look like) will take root ineluctably once his new philosophers have shuffled of bad conscience, and that their command will transcend any particular political structure. Maybe!


  17. Rob says:

    As I’ve indicated already, I still prefer the Nietzsche who knew which way the wind was blowing — towards a broadly democratic order of things — and whose best thoughts are to be understood as in acceptance of this fact. And I think this Nietzsche find its best general expression in the Genealogy, but particularly in GM 1.9.


  18. Rob says:

    Don’t know if this would be of any use in getting a fix on Nietzsche’s sister:

    “Wagner and Nietzsche: The Beginning and End of Their Friendship”
    Author: Elizabeth Foerster-Nietzsche
    The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Jul., 1918), pp. 466-489


  19. Mike says:

    This is a great discussion. I don’t have much of an opinion on Nietzsche’s politics but I’ve been able to glean a lot from what’s been said here.

    I like Rob’s Nietzsche-as-prophet reading.


  20. Huenemann says:

    I like Rob’s reading, too. I think that if Nz had forced himself to think through any sort of genuinely practical strategy for giving political advice, he would have done what Rob says he’s did. But, still, there’s a lot of wild ideas in his later notes that seem to go far beyond merely inspiring liberals to install some aristocratic components into their society.


  21. Mike says:

    It’s not accuracy that makes me like Rob’s reading. Just to be clear.

    I’m way out of my depth here.


  22. Rob says:

    If by later notes you’re referring to unpublished material, then I wonder why we shouldn’t regard the wild political ideas therein as it is by now (I presume) conventional to treat the unpublished material in which eternal recurrence is apparently treated as a cosmological or metaphysical view. I’m not fluent in German, so my only exposure to the late unpublished stuff is in the Kauffmann and Sturge translations. (Alas, one of the co-editors of the Stanford project recently informed me that few, if any, of the volumes are likely to appear before 2010.) My limited impression is that there’s much more — and more unambiguously –proto-fascist material to be found there, and its appearance in the published work lends itself to various qualifications (performative, rhetorical, contextual).

    […merely inspiring liberals to install some aristocratic components into their society.]

    If the dominance of the “democratic order of things” and its “modern ideas” is as deep, pervasive and unavoidable in its growth as Nietzsche seems to believe (at least in what I take to be his most realistically fruitful moments), then I would scale this down to the preliminary task of: (merely) shocking liberals into recognizing the pathos of distance within themselves, and ratcheting up its antagonism with the order of their values as hitherto recognized.


  23. Huenemann says:

    Well, I agree with what I take to be your concealed point: that neither the half-baked cosmological arguments for the eternal return nor the fascist stuff should be taken very seriously — just as ideas Nz was trying on and exploring. And I’ve come to agree also with your “scaled down” view. Here is what I ended up saying, in conclusion:

    “… But lest we rest easy with this characterization of Nietzsche as a fascist, we must remember that Nietzsche’s “political philosophy,” if it deserves the title, is at most a amplification, so to speak, of his own anthropology. He took his smaller-scale ideas about human beings and turned them up loud, generating the impressionistic roar of a political state. He did not dedicate any effort toward fine-tuning that roar, or shaping it into any plausible political reality. Maybe he only wanted to shout out against the liberal ideals of his day, or assault the democrats in their smug assumptions. It is very hard to believe that he would cheer on the efforts of anyone wishing to base a real political state on the handful of notes and observations he had made. It is extremely likely that, if he had devoted sustained attention to the task, he would have made more cautious, careful, and sensible recommendations. It is regrettable that the historical fascists, who claimed to be inspired by his thought, were not also inspired by the seriousness and integrity with which Nietzsche approached the task of thinking.”


  24. Rob says:

    Sounds pretty judicious to me — and, as usual, very well said.


  25. Rob says:

    The latest issue of JOURNAL OF NIETZSCHE STUDIES (Autumn 2008, 35/36) has finally appeared. I’ve never been particularly thrilled by its quality, but I’m cautiously optimistic about the recent addition of Clark, Leiter, Janaway, Richardson and Gemes to its editorial board — though, unfortunately, this issue does not appear to reflect their influence. Anyhow, some of the articles appear to touch on contemporary political thought (and includes an essay by Conway on GM). I don’t have access to the full text at this time, but only the citations and abstracts from EBSCOhost. Maybe this link will work:



  26. Kleiner says:

    Regarding Nz and the political, I’ve been doing some Heidegger research, and came upon this book:
    Alfred Baeumler, ‘Nietzcheder Philosoph und Politiker (Nz the philosopher and politician). I don’t know if it is translated or not. There is some discussion of it on p21 of Volume I of Heidegger’s 4 volume set ‘Nietzsche’, and some discussion of it by Krell in the analysis section at the end of the book. From this and a few other sources, I gather that Baeumler (a Nazi philosopher) places emphasis on the will to power (interpreted in a biological way), and that he then shows how this ties in with Nazi politics.
    Heidegger thought of his lectures on Nz as being in some ways political. In an interview in Der Speigel, now known as ‘Only a God Can Save Us’, Heidegger refers to his Nz lectures as a ‘confrontation with National Socialism’ and he claims that those Nz lectures were under surveillance by Nazi officials when he gave them.
    Since the connection between Nz and politics is difficult to sort out, I thought this might be of some interest.


  27. Rob says:

    Happy to discover Janaway appears in the latest JNS:

    >> If Nietzsche’s provocations leave you cold or harden your allegiance to the post-Christian virtues you have inherited, then, it might be argued, there is no reason for you to change, or seek to change, to different values. One possible line is that it is solely, or especially, those in whom Nietzsche awakens newly ambivalent feelings, feelings of admiration for “noble” values and suspicion or embarrassment toward “slavish” and “selfless” values, who may come to see themselves as having reason to call their existing moral values into question. Considerable space opens up here for future work. <<



  28. Huenemann says:

    I’ll check out the issue when I’m on campus next. (Easier link to electronic journals.) I think the Janaway quote is right in the sense that, if Nz’s provocations leave you cold, he would recommend that you stick to your perishing ways. (I dimly recall some passage about those who help bring about the overman — some by becoming him, others by perishing. Something like that.)


  29. Rob says:

    The Janaway piece is worth reading. The rest of the issue is, I think, characteristically poor. Thankfully, he seems to have concerned himself more with Leiter’s NDPR review of “Beyond Selflessness” than with Owen, Hatab, and Conway.


  30. Rob says:

    Don’t ask why I did this, but here are the results of a search on “nietzsche’s political thought” at Walmart.com:



  31. Huenemann says:

    Wow! You get the same results for “Kant’s political thought.” I wonder what this proves?


  32. Rob says:

    I don’t know, but the same applies to Spinoza’s, Hume’s, Mao’s, Hitler’s — but, thank god, not Mickey Mouse’s or George Bush’s political thought.


  33. Rob says:

    I’ve lately been quite haphazardly picking through TPZ, comparing the the feel of the Del Caro, Clancy and Parkes translations. I’m not fluent in German, but Parkes’ is my favorite, followed closely by Del Caro, because, in addition to forcing me to be more attentive to rhythm and tempo (qualities the appreciation of which Nietzsche valorizes), there are moments (the location of which I can’t exactly recall at the moment (perhaps because I’m still re-emerging from the first dose of Valium I’ve ever taken) when Parkes seems to rightly respond to the context by opting for terms like ‘contempt’ or ‘despise’ instead of Del Caro’s ‘hate’, and I consider Nietzsche’s work to be, among other things, an immensely sophisticated schooling in the art of contempt.

    Anyhow, I was recently struck by section 9 in the penultimate section of TSZ Part IV (“The Drunken Song” [a.k.a. “The Night-Wanderer Song” or “Sleepwalker Song”]):

    Woe says: ‘Be gone! Away, all woe!’ But all that suffers wants to live, that it may become ripe and joyful and full of yearning,
    — yearning for what is farther, higher, brighter. ‘I want heirs,’ says all that suffers. ‘I want children, I do not want *me*.’ —
    But joy does not want heirs, nor children — joy wants itself, wants eternity, wants recurrence, wants all-eternally-self-same.

    My first impression of this is that Zarathustra is contrasting his current eternity-wanting joyful self with his earlier suffering self (of Part 1, 2, and most of 3) who sought heirs and children. In other words, he would seem to be repudiating the world-historical, quasi-political, eschatological grandiosity that one might have invoked as evidence of Nietzsche’s interest in developing ideal political structures. Is this merely a fanciful reading on my part? I suppose it might be contracted by the book’s conclusion in which Zarathustra declares “my children are near”, but when he leaves his cave, there’s no indication that’s “going-under” as at the book’s beginning, but “glowing and strong, like a morning sun coming from dark mountains.” Some kind of elevation, instead. I remain deeply puzzled by this book!

    Unrelated: I hope, Charlie, that new image at the upper right winds up as the author photo on the dust jacket of your Nietzsche book.


  34. Huenemann says:

    I will check out the Parkes translation. I agree that the whole of Z 4 is kind of weird. Z goes out in search for the higher man, and brings a whole crew back to his cave, and refers to them as higher men, but it is equally clear that he didn’t find what he was looking for. That, in the end, he no longer pities himself and sheds tears of joy, does indicate to me that he has come to terms with his solitude. In some ways, that struggle is the theme of the entire work: he begins alone, but feels the need to shine for others; he has to overcome his disgust with the rabble, recognizing that they too are necessary, and frequently retreats into his loneliness. But by the end, he has returned again to an overfull, sunlike status.

    Thanks for the suggestion about the picture! I have assumed you’ve seen “Jerry and Charlie’s Southern Utah Adventure” on YouTube. The Lone Nietzsche Scholar shows up in parts 2 and 3.


  35. Rob says:

    Pretty funny… Since I chanced upon your blog not too long ago, plenty of its depths remain to be plumbed. Funny, too, that your plight at the Nietzsche table touches on the question I raise above… That landscape out there is marvelous. I could sit for hours endlessly absorbed before a movie screen consisting of nothing other than a static long take set in a desert. (Notwithstanding the fact that he’s my favorite living film-maker, I seem to be one of the few who consider his “Twentynine Palms” to be a work of genuine brilliance, repaying innumerable reviewings. If you’ve ever seen on of his films — “Humanite” is my pick for the best film in the world of the past fifteen years — it is hardly surprising to learn that he once taught philosophy.)


  36. Rob says:

    Oh, and it may be worth mentioning, while I’m promoting Dumont, to note that his next film — is a modern-day retelling of the story of a religious mystic:


    It will debut, I think, at Cannes in May.


  37. Rob says:

    Random question: Did Nietzsche finish Part IV of TSZ before working on BGE? I understand that some private editions of the former were circulated in 1885, and that BGE was published the following year, but that in itself, which is all I know about their publication history, would still leave open the possibility that they were separate projects alternately occupying (at least partially) the same period of time.


  38. Huenemann says:

    I haven’t been near my books lately, so I haven’t checked on an answer to your question. (Hayman’s biography is where I’d look first.) My recollection is that the two projects overlapped. I’m basing that somewhat on Nz’s method: he wrote continuously in his notebooks, and then pulled together books out of his writings. So he probably already had some of BGE in notebook form while he was writing TSZ4. I have the sense (where did I get it?) that TSZ4 was written without much enthusiasm — he had already seen the failures of 1, 2, and 3, and knew no one would read 4 (the private edition was about 40 copies, sent to friends). He must have felt the need to finish the story, even though the audience had left.

    But that can’t be the whole story, since then it’s hard to imagine him having any enthusiasm for BGE (and yet he did). Maybe he knew ahead of time that TSZ4 would be too personal to be of wide interest.


  39. Rob says:

    Thanks for the tips and suggestions. I’ve been puzzling over what Nietzsche may have felt was lacking in the initial triad that Book 4 is supposed to supplement or amplify. In GM 3.14 he declares that it is the *mating* of “great disgust at man” and “great compassion for man” that would immediately result in nihilism. Since compassion is pretty clearly one of the central concerns of Book 4, and the overcoming of (or, perhaps more accurately, reconciliation with) disgust is a central issue cumulatively addressed by the triad, could it be that it was somewhere between the completion of Books 3 and 4 that Nietzsche reached the view developed in GM about the specific hazard in the conjunction of compassion and disgust? Just thinking aloud.


  40. Rob says:

    Interesting: on page 304 of SELECTED LETTERS OF… (found in Google Books), Nietzsche writes in a July 1888 letter to Carl Fuchs:

    >> …The fourth part of *Zarathustra*: treated by me with that shyness vis-a-vis the public, which I bitterly regret not having shown in the case of the first three parts… More precisely, it is an entr’acte between *Zarathustra* and what what follows (“I name no names…”). The more exact title, the more descriptive one, would be:

    *The Temptation of Zarathustra*
    *An Entr’acte* <<


  41. Rob says:

    FYI: Janaway’s “Responses to Commentators” in the latest EJP:


    One of the commentators is Gemes, whose article is on perspectivism.


  42. Rob says:

    Apropros TSZ4 (again): I just noticed that Nietzsche concludes his ’86 preface to BT with a (slightly altered) quotation from Book 4. The translations I’ve looked at follow it with a parenthetical indication of its source, but the online German language version don’t do so (contrary to what I was hoping). Yet from the few things I’ve picked up from letters he wrote in which he mentions Book 4, the current impression I have is not that he set a relatively low value on it — but rather on the capacity of his contemporaries to properly appreciate it.


  43. Huenemann says:

    I’ve had the chance to look at Hayman’s biography again (pp. 281-2). You’re right about his doubt over his contemporaries’ abilities, I think, and it is also true that in TSZ 4 Nz was producing thinly-veiled satire of several of his friends and acquaintances. As I said earlier, he allowed only 40 copies to be printed, and told Overbeck to keep it quiet, and not let anyone else in Basel see it. So it was too personal. It seems that Nz had planned two more books of Zarathustra, telling the story up to Z’s own death. But, Hayman suggests, he had misgivings about the form in which he was writing, and thought he’d better get back to his less dramatic prose.


  44. Rob says:

    The latest way in which I’ve tried to get a fix on my recent fascination with Book 4 is by thinking of it as a revision of the structural arc of TSZ 1-3. Over-simply put: the latter is pursuing the project defined in the “On Free Death” chapter of realizing a “victorious”/”consummating” death which “consecrates oaths of the living.” In pursuit of this, Z needs to work on himself as well as to discover/create those capable of making such oaths. However, there don’t appear to be any living around whose oaths are consecrated by the the “Seven Seals” song at the end of Book 3. There’s just Z’s unconsummated consummating death. Book 4, though, seems to echo or parody this narrative arc up to a point: there are those around with oaths to be consecrated with a consummating death, but they are ersatz oaths; there’s a “last supper” but Z has already recognized in the previous chapter that those he’s having it with aren’t the one’s he’s waiting for. And, instead of ending Book 4 with a dithyrambic swan song, which would have been a sort of replication of the finale of TSZ 1-3, there’s the final chapter which echoes the first chapter of Book 1… Again, just thinking aloud my expanding newfound fascination with TSZ (thanks to the Parkes translation).


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