Nietzsche & life’s perspective

I haven’t been posting lately, since I’ve been working on a couple of Nz papers, with quickly-approaching deadlines. Here is a link to one of them through SSRN:

Nietzsche and the perspective of life

It’s a much-revised version of the “Valuing from life’s perspective” paper. In it I try to explain what “Life’s perspective” is, how Nz can get away with recommending it over other perspectives, and what difference it makes when we adopt that perspective. Comments would be most welcome!

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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6 Responses to Nietzsche & life’s perspective

  1. joe chesla says:


    I didn’t know how else to reach you for this question – didn’t know your email/etc. I am looking into the idea of ‘virtual experience as empirical knowledge’. I know this is most directly a neurological discussion, but wondered if you know of a lead to a philosophical angle?

    hope all is well.


  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for the paper. I’ve learned a lot from your writing; it’s been really helpful with my other Nietzsche reading. On p. 11 you say, “The positive task is putting something new in their place, while at the same time knowing that we are not discovering value so much as legislating or proposing it.” It made me think of Rob’s comment in this thread along with the follow up on Nietzsche playing with “the linguistic kinship between ‘finden’ and ‘erfinden’: in the first context, criticizing invention as an impediment to finding; in the second, suggesting invention as necessary preliminary to it.”

    I’m interested in the whole discovery vs creating thing and what we generally mean by the distinction.


  3. Rob says:

    As usual, the synoptic soundness of your grasp of Nietzsche leaves me with little more than the usual low-altitude nit-picking. However, a couple things caught my attention.

    My sense is that your account of ‘morality’ relies heavily on the late works (TI, AC, EH) in which Nietzsche harps with great intensity on its “anti-nature” and “hostility to life” features; whereas in BGE and GM, where he’s more concessive to the life-serving features of morality, it’s clearer, I think, that his true concern is for the preservation, sustenance, and enhancement of an elite threatened by the homogenizing and self-confidence-discouraging influence of a culture dominated by ‘moral’ values. (The Genealogy and BGE fragments of a ‘natural history’ of morality, I take it, are designed to expose how ‘modern ideas’, as the culmination of the slave revolt in morality, draw their coercive power from the deep-seated herding forces developed in humans during the long formative era of ‘morality of custom’.) So, basically, what I’m suggesting is that “life’s perspective” might not be so much at odds with the values of morality. What they are at odds with is rather, for Nietzsche, the flourishing of ‘high’ types — precisely by virtue of drawing upon the group-serving mechanisms and forces developed during the ‘morality of custom’ era.

    The other point of criticism I have concerns perspectivism. Setting aside my rather conservative reading of GM 3.12 (which I think is meant to account for why it is that philosophers in particular remain so aloof from “the real history of morality” [GM P6; 2.4], opposing the ideal of ‘immaculate perception’ with that of an actively multifarious engagement with other emotional economies [which presupposes, I think, largely overlapping ‘ontologies, laws and values]).

    “Thus Nietzsche cannot do more than propose a further perspective to compete with
    existing perspectives. But he can muster a pragmatic argument in favor of his perspective. While he cannot demonstrate that VLIFE is in some sense the ultimate or objective special value, he can argue that the other available special values lead to severe problems, and that his special value provides an escape from them.” (p. 11)

    I’m puzzled as to how such argument can occur or succeed unless there’s some significant overlap of sharing of ‘ontologies, laws, and values’, and I think Nietzsche (in GM)may be on the winning side of a Davidsonian argument against the idea that there the ontologies, laws, values among the different perspective he’s negotiating are either particularly discrete. Nietzsche’s ontology explains the Christian in terms available from the Christian’s perspective (power, resentment, revenge, etc.); the Christian ontology explains the Nietzschean in terms the Nietzschean doesn’t accept (sin, devil, etc.). (Also note how Nietzsche repeatedly decries in GM the ‘masterstroke’ of the slaves, and their anti-semitic and anarchist avatars being to ‘represent justice’, which indicates the legacy they share from the era depicted in GM 2… Anyhow, I bet stop before this gets any sloppier!


  4. Rob says:

    Good grief: somehow, what was meant to be said was grossly mangled…


  5. Huenemann says:

    Thanks for these comments, Rob. I definitely will have another close look at GM 3.12.

    I do think that there has to be overlap in perspectives in order to argue over them — though this does not mean that any two perspectives do overlap (there may be incommensurable perspectives). I think Nz is indeed trying to appeal to the Xian’s concern for health (nascent though it may be). If someone is so far gone that Nzean health has no appeal whatsoever, the argument is futile.

    On your first point: I think concern for health is pretty consistent throughout the works from GS on. I’m not sure he ever thinks of slave morality as exactly healthy. For a long time it has allowed its members to gain powers over others, but in a sick, underhanded way, and not in a way that promotes health. He’s walking a fine line here, for he has to say that (a) the slaves exerted power over the masters, and (b) the slaves were nonetheless sick. This works out, I think, because the slaves rose to power by “infecting” the masters and making them equally sick (and so no longer masters). Finally, he has to say that the sickness leads in the end to greater health, or will do so, since upon recovery we’ll be even stronger than we were before we were sick. The “flourishing of higher types” is an indication of health for a society, I think.


  6. Mike says:

    “[L]ife means physical and material motion–in its essence unreasonable and imperfect. And I make it my business to serve life on its own terms.” -Montaigne Why I Travel


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