*On Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics

 

 

*(follows on *’my (anti-) metaphysics’…)

*I. – Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics between
‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ and The Birth of Tragedy.
—Nietzsche’s early Schopenhauerian—anti-Schopenhauerianism…

(*On ‘intuition’ and the laceration of the concepts of the intellect:
—Nietzsche’s early ironic anti-Schopenhauerianism…

*On the Undivided Continuity of States:
—the ‘primal unity’ & ‘duration’.

*Conclusion. …
*—on the will to power. …).

 

*            *            *

 

*right at the very outset of The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche frames his reading of Attic tragedy through a contentious but, I think, absolutely crucial claim. …

—making a characteristically subtle and modest statement about advancing what he dubs ‘the science of aesthetics’

*(‘science’ in that (late-)nineteenth century usage, of course, as any ‘organised system of knowledge’, —‘aesthetics’ as the creation and reception of art. …

—an organised system of knowledge regarding the creation and reception of art. … —and well, hell,—that’s what we’re all about here, after all…),

Nietzsche distinguishes between proceeding, on the one hand, via ‘logical inference’, which he dismisses in flatly pejorative terms, and what he clearly champions on the other as ‘the immediate certainty of vision’. …

Hellenic culture, he argues, represented the ‘profound mysteries’ of its ‘view of art’ in the ‘intensely clear figures’ of its gods.

 

—in particular, he (famously) singles out the figures of Apollo and Dionysus as embodying the two opposing artistic ‘tendencies’ of the plastic and ‘nonimagistic’ arts, respectively.

these, he argues, find an analogy in the physiological phenomena of ‘dreams and ‘intoxication’. …

what I think is crucial here is that Nietzsche (somewhat emphatically) contrasts this physiological and mythological foundation for the comprehension of Hellenic culture to that of (abstract) ‘concepts’.[1]

though, on first appearances, this might seem a,… what?,… —a slightly… —oracular, unsubstantiated and, frankly, at least as I understand it, *Romantic opening gambit,… it seems to me that the clear privileging made here of immediate (and ‘intensely clear’) ‘vision’ over the conceptual and logical inference, underpins the key claims about art (with tragedy as its apogee) that Nietzsche makes in Birth.

these hinge in particular, as I will argue (and go on to consider in detail), on the relationship between art and language and, ultimately, the idiosyncratic philosophical naturalism in the early stages of its formation in the text…

*. I originally read Birth for a course on ‘Tragedy’ on my Masters course, sat, on night shifts, in a small, (too) brightly lit and hot porta-cabin on a Northampton commercial estate. (oh-hh… good God.,—those heady, hal-cyon days (etc.—Christ.)… ).

I had already been introduced to Nietzsche as an undergraduate, by Dr Simon Malpas (who continues to be a personal hero of mine, and for whom I feel a great deal of gratitude…).—I had even attempted to write on him, in that sort of misguided, dismal, pretentious way that undergraduates have of doing that sort of thing (with such naïve and idealistic abandon)… (oh those. … (etc.)…).

in particular, I think, I was drawn to the terms in which Nietzsche discusses music and privileges it as primary among the arts in the text.

over the course of my Master’s degree, I think I began to understand that those terms had something to do with the sublime (particularly as Kant and Schopenhauer define it).

—I wrote a dissertation, shot through with some, honestly, thoroughly pish ideas and misreadings, on the subject. (—it scraped by on the ‘quality’ of the writing, I remember (—mark: yes.—a gen-u-ine proud boast, there)…).

I used that dissertation (—the subject.—shorn of the pish, if that manoeuvre is indeed possible (how does/would one,—sheer pish?)—hmm. …), as part of the groundwork for my doctoral thesis…

over the course of the three hundred years it actually took me to write that bastard thesis,… —of re-drafting and refining my reading—(time well spent.—indeed…), it became clear to me that my reading of Birth—of the relationship between the Dionysian and the Apollinian—was really, in essence, about artistic inspiration and the self-(re-)creation of the artist.

and so, (to get, circuitously, to the point),—that’s how I want to read the opening sections (§§) of Birth:

*—as an account, by an emerging artist, thinker and writer of the process of inspiration and of composition-creation. …

 

I think that Nietzsche, here, at the beginning of his career, is mired in the influence and legacy of Romanticism and of Schopenhauer (certainly not in itself a controversial critical claim).—I think that he is enthralled by the terms of Romantic accounts of inspiration, but struggling to get (intellectually, artistically) free of Romantic concepts (particularly those of ‘Nature’, ‘freedom’ and the ‘Absolute’…).

I think that he ironically appropriates the terms of Romantic inspiration to a philosophically and artistically thoroughgoing anti-Romanticism.

I want to perform (so to speak) what might seem like a quite convoluted and certainly pretentious series of moves in setting up my reading of Birth

*—I want to begin by attempting to unpack and clarify the opening gambit of the text…

—the terms ‘logical inference’ (‘concepts’) and the ‘intensely clear’, ‘immediate’ ‘vision’, that in themselves here, as I say (to me at least) are ambiguous and give off a distinctly incense-scented, dewy-eyed, syphilitic waft of Romantic—fragrance, I want to argue, are echoed and clarified in the later essay ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ (1873).[2]

here, in terms (sharper, cleaner and somehow more caustic-seeming) much more characteristic of his later writing, Nietzsche sets out a critique of language and of the intellect (and its concepts), to which he clearly contrasts a mode of experience he calls—*‘intuition’. (—Anschauung)…

by offering what I hope will be a simple and straightforward reading of ‘On Truth’, in particular drawing out the parallel between Nietzsche’s contrasting of ‘intuition’ (as a projected new philosophical method) to the concepts of the intellect, and the analogous terms of the opening of Birth (—using the latter to illuminate the former),  I want to analyse the terms of Nietzsche’s early rejection of Kantian and Schopenhauerian philosophies, linking ‘On Truth’ to the earlier critique in ‘On Schopenhauer’ (—a fragment from 1868).

thus,… whilst it might appear to be ostensibly Schopenhauerian, the fact that these two texts in particular book-end the composition and the publication of Birth, I will argue, thus effectively implicates the text in Nietzsche’s pre-existing and on-going critique of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics and aesthetics.

this will allow me to argue that Nietzsche’s concept of the ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) in Birth is implicitly anti-Schopenhauerian…

*drawing on a parallel between Birth, ‘On Truth’ and the analogous contrast between ‘intuition’ and the intellect (‘analysis’) and conception of time and ‘duration’ in the works of French philosopher Henri Bergson, I will argue that the ‘primal unity’ points, not, as it might appear, to the metaphysical unity of the Schopenhauerian ‘will’ (—Will…), but to a dynamic, hierarchical arrangement of immanent (natural) forces.

this, in turn, will allow me to argue that the ‘primal unity’ is located in far greater proximity to Nietzsche’s own later formulation of the doctrine of ‘the will to power’, read specifically through On the Genealogy of Morality, the material gathered in Nietzsche’s Late Notebooks, and Gilles Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy, than to the terms of Schopenhauerian metaphysics.

*it will also serve as a form of philosophical-historical bridge between Nietzsche and the neo-classical Modernists, (and especially T.E. Hulme, upon whom Bergson was an important and a considerable influence).

and so,…

*On ‘intuition’ and the laceration of the concepts of the intellect:
—Nietzsche’s early ironic anti-Schopenhauerianism…

 

 *in ‘On Truth’, Nietzsche criticises what he sees as the arrogance of the human claim to knowledge, through the intellect, of the value of existence.

—he contests what he argues is the conceit of the intellect and the attempt to extend its remit beyond the realm of human experience.

for Nietzsche, the concepts of the intellect are anthropomorphisms.

—in an ironic inversion of perhaps the most obvious and straightforward valuation of the intellect—as some form of vehicle for ascertaining the truth or the value of existence—Nietzsche characterises it as the very paragon of ‘dissimulation’,—‘allotted to these most unfortunate, delicate, and ephemeral beings merely as a device for detaining them a minute within existence.’ (114-115)

The intellect lies as a sort of a veil over existence as a means for the creation and the preservation of the individual (—the subject).

—Without the intellect, Nietzsche argues, existence itself would be unbearable.

Whilst the intellect appears ostensibly as the means to knowledge and to truth, Nietzsche argues that its primary function is to conceal the plethora of phenomena which threaten to overwhelm the individual. It is not, as it might appear, a means to self-knowledge but, instead, to self-deception:

What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him – even concerning his own body – in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers! (115)

For Nietzsche,… —natural existence constitutes a chaotic flux comprised of natural drives and processes.—The intellect is an epiphenomenal, (prosthetic?) artistic creation, appended to this flux in order to repress this flux and thus to render the individual subject (—subjectivity) possible, in order, in turn, to preserve the organism against the suffering that a conscious awareness of, and inability to escape from, the confusion and contradiction this flux would inevitably give rise to.

—By intimation, for Nietzsche, a thoroughgoing knowledge of the effect of physiological drives on consciousness, which the intellect is engendered precisely in order to prohibit, is necessary for any accurate self-perception and self-comprehension to be possible.[3]

This notion (—of the fiction of individuality), shared by ‘On Truth’, and, though in a different manner, as I will seek to demonstrate, by the Apollinian of Birth, anticipates the more thoroughgoing critique of subjectivity in Nietzsche’s later works, which is intimately tied both to his developing naturalism and to his aesthetic conception of what he will later name the ‘classical’. …

*—In a note from a notebook of April—June, 1885, Nietzsche provides an apposite summary of his critique of the concept of the unified subject:

 If I have anything of a unity within me, it certainly doesn’t lie in the conscious “I” and in feeling, willing, thinking, but somewhere else: in the sustaining, appropriating, expelling, watchful prudence of my whole organism, of which my conscious self is only a tool.[4]

The ‘watchful prudence’ of the ‘organism’ equates with the necessity for the formation of the individual in the formation of the intellect in ‘On Truth’ (and, as I will argue, with the inauguration of the Apollinian in Birth).

—the ‘I’ of the (conscious) ‘self’ here appears as a ‘tool’ for the processes of the sustenance of the ‘organism’: of the incorporation of necessary experiences and energies and the purgation of superfluous experience and energies. Nietzsche argues that language represents the means employed by the intellect toward this end. His critique of the intellect represents a theory of the formation of language. It is concerned with the origins and evolution of words and concepts.

 

In The Beginnings of Nietzsche’s Theory of Language, Claudia Crawford argues that Nietzsche’s account of the formation of words and concepts represents their division into two separate languages.

The first constitutes an ‘unconscious formal language arising as the product of the instincts,’ whilst the latter constitutes ‘the translation of this unconscious language into the conscious language of fixity according to convention’.[5] The formation of this first, unconscious and instinctual language is a two-stage metaphorical process. First, ‘a nerve stimulus is transferred into an image [Bild].’—In an unconscious and instinctual reaction to a sensible stimulus the mind forms an image—a mental picture—of that stimulus. This is the ‘first metaphor’…

In the second, ‘the image, in turn, is imitated in a sound.’ (116)—The process evolves from the translation and transposition of a sensible stimulus into a mental image, to the further translation of this image (and not of the original stimulus itself) into a sound.

This is Nietzsche’s naturalistic account of the emergence of language.

—The word is formed as ‘a purely natural reaction to a stimulus, whether a cry, a scream, or any other sound, it is primarily an action which reduces the tension created by the perception of the stimulus.’ (Crawford, 203) The formation of words is an attempt to articulate and discharge the natural reaction to a sensible stimulus.

For Nietzsche, a word becomes a concept at the point at which it transcends its function as referring solely to the unique, original experience ‘to which it owes its origin’:

‘a word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases,’—‘cases which are never equal and thus altogether unequal.’—The word emerges as a response to a particular stimulus (as a vocalisation of the image). It becomes a concept at the point at which a vast field of such experiences are reduced to a small number of similarities and yoked under the aegis of a single word. (117)

For Nietzsche, the concept represents the elision of the differences between diverse experiences (stimuli) and the attempt to equate unequal phenomena.[6]

Utility gives birth to both the word and the concept in response to deeply felt needs.

—The individual word emerges from the need to discharge and articulate a particular sensible experience and stands at two removes from this original stimulus. The concept emerges from a need for this original articulation to be transmitted to and to be understood by others and thus stands at three removes from the original stimulus.

Nietzsche defines this process as the invention of designation: the ‘legislation of language’. It is in this establishment of communal (linguistic) convention, Nietzsche argues, that ‘the contrast between truth and lies arises for the first time.’ In other words, the concept arises from need to reduce the plurality of experience to a finite set of linguistic conventions in order to be able to establish socio-political consensus. (115)

Nietzsche argues that by virtue of their artificiality and elision of difference, all— ‘truths’, or concepts of the intellect, are, in reality, lies. …

—After the advent of the legislation of language, the concept of the ‘liar’ comes to designate the person who misuses the terms sanctioned by consensus for selfish or harmful ends by making ‘something which is unreal appear to be real’. What linguistically enabled human beings avoid, Nietzsche argues, is not deception itself—for this is of the quintessence of language—but being harmed by deception…

‘Truth,’ for Nietzsche, represents ‘the duty which society imposes in order to exist: to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors’. (117) Language is first engendered in order to suppress the chaotic flux and multiplicity of natural drives in order to render the individual possible as a fictitious unity. The intellect, its concepts, and the notions of truth and lies are engendered as a necessary consequence of this individuation, in order to render communal linguistic consensus and thus society itself, possible.

Like the individual, ‘truth,’ for Nietzsche, is an artifice.—‘Truth’ is art (—an artwork)…

What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins. (117)

For Nietzsche, ‘truth’ appears as a projection of epiphenomenal, and purely human, utilitarian physiological, psychological and social fabrications. What is crucial for Nietzsche is that this act of artistic projection, and the subsequent artificial legislation of language to which it gives rise, are not recognised by their human progenitors as works of art. The original linguistic act of creation is inevitably followed by an act of forgetting: ‘Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions’. The forgetting of the artistic origin and nature of language allows for the hypostatisation (the poetic or rhetorical intensification) of concepts and the false belief that they correspond absolutely to things as they are in themselves. Through an ironic inversion, Nietzsche argues that truths are revealed as lies.

The condition of the possibility of ‘truth’, then, is seen to rest on a foundation of falsehood, upon which it is utterly dependent.

For Nietzsche, ‘truth’ emerges from lying, which both temporally and (ironically) ontologically precedes it. It is only through the forgetting of the artistic nature of language, he argues, that the ‘will’ or ‘drive’ to truth (the formation of an intellectual conscience), which he identifies as characteristic of the intellect, is at all possible. It is this which gives birth to the unavoidable structural irony within the will to truth: when the will to truth unfolds itself fully through history (is carried to the extreme limits of what it is able to do) it must inevitably reveal, through its own stringent conscience and integrity, that its own foundation lies in falsehood.

*(and, in essence, it is this account which evolves,—remaining always at stake in Nietzsche’s writings—into his later account of the (fate of the) ‘will to truth’ (—especially in Christianity) in On the Genealogy of Morality. …).

Thus, for Nietzsche, ‘truth’ and the will to truth must, ultimately, inevitably undermine and overcome themselves. It is the unconscious nature of lying which allows for the concepts of the intellect to become ‘fixed, canonical and binding’ and to appear to extend beyond their true anthropological (anthropomorphic?) scope, to a correspondence to things as they are in themselves.

 

*—The object of Nietzsche’s analysis is to demonstrate the artistic genesis of language and the fundamentally artistic nature of the concepts of the intellect. For Nietzsche, language is, in essence, purely metaphorical. It neither corresponds to, nor affords access to things as they are in themselves: ‘we possess nothing but metaphors for things – metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities.’[7] Nietzsche argues that ‘nature is acquainted with no forms and no concepts and likewise with no species, but only with an X which remains inaccessible and undefinable for us.’ (117) For Nietzsche, knowledge of the thing as it is in itself (the thing = X) is impossible. This claim alludes to, and constitutes a criticism of, Schopenhauer’s appropriation of Kant’s distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal, and serves as an implicit refutation of Schopenhauer’s concept of the ‘Will’ (as a metaphysical unity). …

 

*—Schopenhauer followed Kant in distinguishing between the phenomenon and the thing-in-itself: ‘Kant’s greatest merit is the distinction of the phenomenon and the thing-in-itself, based on the proof that between things and us always stands the intellect, and that on this account they cannot be known according to what they may be in themselves.’[8] For Kant all that can be known of an object is that which appears within the limits of the human intuition of space and time.[9] Space and time constitute the appearance’s form: allowing the manifold of appearance to be ordered according to certain relations. They constitute the condition of the possibility of the realm of appearance and sensible knowledge, but have no meaning if applied beyond it. For Kant, the thing-in-itself is conditioned by neither space nor time. Our understanding cannot transcend the limits of sensibility and therefore we can attain no knowledge of things as they are in themselves.[10] That which is not an appearance cannot be an object of experience.

In his division of the world into ‘will’ and ‘representation’, Schopenhauer retains Kant’s distinction of the thing-in-itself and the appearance. However, he refutes the method by which, he argues, Kant arrives at his deduction of the thing-in-itself. Kant refutes what he argues is ‘the absurd conclusion that there can be appearance without anything that appears’.[11] In the criticism of Kant which he appended to The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer accuses Kant of contradicting his own idealist distinction, by claiming that the thing-in-itself has an objective foundation, independent of subjective representation. He argues that Kant reached his account of the thing-in-itself via an erroneous application of the law of causality: that empirical perception and, more fundamentally, sensation, from which the former arises, must have an external cause. In contrast, Schopenhauer emphasises what he argues is the subjective foundation of both causality and empirical perception. (Schopenhauer, 435-436) In opposition to what he claims is Kant’s attempt to locate the objective foundation of the thing-in-itself, Schopenhauer seeks to derive his own conception from the introduction of the element of self-consciousness:

[Self-consciousness is a] knowledge which everyone possesses directly in the concrete, namely as feeling. This is the knowledge that the inner nature of his own phenomenon, which manifests itself to him as representation both through his actions and through the permanent substratum of these his body, is his will. This will constitutes what is most immediate in his consciousness, but as such it has not wholly entered into the form of the representation, in which object and subject stand over and against each other. (109)

Schopenhauer argues that the thing-in-itself lies on the side of the subjective. The body is that of which the subject is most immediately aware. It represents, for Schopenhauer, the manifestation of the subject’s ‘inner nature’ (—? hmm…), but is also an object for the subject. As both subject and object it constitutes the most immediate form of representation. Through the body, Schopenhauer argues, the subject becomes aware of their ‘inner nature’: the force which precipitates their actions.[12] As this precedes, and is the source of consciousness of the body and its actions, and therefore of the relationship of the subject and the object, for Schopenhauer it must thus exist prior to and outside of representation.  He argues that the consciousness of this ‘inner nature’ of the subject’s ‘will’, known both directly and indirectly, can be extended to phenomena known only indirectly, as representations. As such, it becomes for him the ‘key to the knowledge of the innermost being of the whole of nature.’ (109) This, he argues, allows him to extend his understanding of the ‘will’ as the motive ‘force’ underlying subjectivity, to all vegetable and animate life, as well as mineral development and phenomena such as electro-magnetism and gravitation, all of which he thus portrays as phenomenal expressions of  a unified and universal inchoate striving ‘force’.

In contrast to Kant’s attempt to locate its foundation in objectivity, Schopenhauer extends his analysis of the subjective ‘will’ to the thing-in-itself. He argues that the willing of which the subject is conscious is the most immediate and adequate phenomenal expression of the noumenal. As such, he adopts the name of the subjective phenomena of the will in order to name the thing-in-itself. The ‘will’ is, for Schopenhauer, the ‘magic word’ which reveals ‘the innermost essence of everything in nature’. (111)

 

In a fragment of 1868 (thus pre-dating the publication of Birth by four years), and usually now referred to as ‘On Schopenhauer’, Nietzsche offers a critique of what he identifies as the problematic nature of Schopenhauer’s conception of the thing-in-itself.[13]

 

—Nietzsche follows Schopenhauer in refuting Kant’s method of arrival at his conception of the thing-in-itself, but, in his own terms, in a more thoroughgoing way, offers a critique of the deduction of thing-in-itself of both Kant and Schopenhauer.

Nietzsche criticises Schopenhauer for not taking the ‘necessary’ step of going ‘beyond Kant’ and his thing-in-itself. He characterises Schopenhauer’s derivation of the thing-in-itself as will as having been ‘born with the help of a poetic intuition’ and argues that the logical proofs which Schopenhauer offers are, at best, unsatisfactory. (25) For Nietzsche, the Schopenhauerian ‘will’ is a work of art. …

 

At the outset of the fragment, he identifies the fictional, or projected artistic nature of the ‘will’ with what he sees as Schopenhauer’s reluctance or incapacity to ‘feel’ ‘the dark contradictoriness in the region where individuality ceases to be.’ (24)

This point is crucial for Nietzsche’s later argument concerning ‘intuition’ in ‘On Truth’ and also for clarifying the nature of the concept of the ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) in Birth, and I want to return to it in due course…

—What I want to draw specific attention to here is that, for Nietzsche, to use the concept or phenomenon of the ‘will,’ as Schopenhauer does, to characterise the ‘region’ prior to, and beyond, individuation, is to project a false identity onto what is essentially a chaotic and contradictory flux.

 

Nietzsche takes issue in particular with Schopenhauer’s claim that, in order to think the thing-in-itself (and he retains Kant’s expression as what he describes as a ‘standing formula’) objectively, it is necessary to ‘borrow’ (the term is Schopenhauer’s, the emphasis is added by Nietzsche) ‘its name and concept from an object, from something in some way objectively given, and therefore from one of its phenomena.’[14]

Nietzsche argues that Schopenhauer illegitimately drapes what must necessarily remain ‘a completely dark and ungraspable x’ with predicates, drawn from the world of phenomena, which is, ultimately, irresolvably distinct from it.[15] He argues that through his ‘borrowing’ of phenomenal predicates, Schopenhauer effectively (and illegitimately) transforms the thing-in-itself into the ‘will’, which already belongs to the phenomenal realm. Schopenhauer ‘allows himself the human and completely non-transcendental use of the unity of the will, and really only then goes back to that transcendence where the holes in the system present themselves as obvious to him.’ (Nietzsche, ‘On Schopenhauer,’ 27) Both the will and its (metaphysical) ‘unity’ are, for Nietzsche, artistic projections.—The ‘dark drive’ of the Schopenhauerian ‘will’ already belongs to the realm of representation. In contrast to its supposed status as thing-in-itself, Nietzsche argues that the (Schopenhauerian) will is ‘brought about’ through a ‘representation mechanism’. (24)

Claudia Crawford presents the structure of the relationship of the ‘dark contradictoriness’ (in terms of Nietzsche’s later coinage of the Ur-Eine: ‘primal unity’), the ‘will,’ appearance, and representation, diagrammatically:[16]

Crawford (edit)

The ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) is split between ‘Being,’ its intuition of itself (self-Anschauung) as being at rest in its own self-identity, and ‘Will,’ through which it views itself as the perpetual becoming and dissolution of the world of appearances through the ‘representation mechanism’. The realm of appearances constitutes the endless striving of the ‘primal unity’ to form ‘symbols’ by which to represent itself (as will). The human intellect here forms representations much in accordance with the limits of the human intuition of space and time, which constitute the appearance’s form: allowing the manifold of appearance to be ordered according to certain relations, as I discussed above in relation to Kant’s distinction of the thing-in-itself and the appearance. Crawford argues that Nietzsche ‘creates the split nature of the Ur-Eine as being (thing in itself) and will (will acts which create the phenomenal real world of appearances) in order to demonstrate the position that what is real is not the thing in itself, which is no concern of ours, but that reality consists of appearances.’ (218. Cf. 158-178) For Nietzsche, Schopenhauer’s ‘will’ belongs to the realm of appearances, and can tell us nothing of the thing-in-itself, which, to reiterate Nietzsche’s later argument in ‘On Truth,’ constitutes ‘an X which remains inaccessible and undefinable for us.’ (27)

 

Already, in the ‘On Schopenhauer’ fragment, then, Nietzsche can be seen to be positioning himself against metaphysics, the transcendental and what he dubs the ‘otherworldly world’,… —a rejection which he thus reiterates in his critique of the thing-in-itself in ‘On Truth’. These two, patently anti-Schopenhauerian, texts (the one composed four years prior to the publication of Birth, the other, originally intended to form the latter portion of a companion piece, a year later) effectively book end Birth.

 

Paul Swift has argued convincingly that, as such, any attempt to regard Birth itself as unproblematically Schopenhauerian (particularly any account which would seek to argue for an understanding of the ‘primal unity’ as thing-in-itself or for an unproblematic access to the thing-in-itself in the Dionysian) renders the text an unaccountable anomaly in Nietzsche’s bibliography.[17]

Birth is inextricably located within Nietzsche’s existing and continuing critique of Schopenhauerian metaphysics and it is this fundamental and ineluctable anti-Schopenhauerian, anti-metaphysical understanding of Birth which will underpin my own reading of the account of artistic inspiration and creation at stake within the text.[18]

 

In the ‘Attempt at a Self-Criticism’ (appended to Birth 1886), Nietzsche argues that in Birth he attempted ‘to express by means of Schopenhauerian and Kantian formulas strange and new valuations which were basically at odds with Kant’s and Schopenhauer’s spirit and taste!’[19] These ‘strange and new valuations’, I would argue, point to Nietzsche’s naturalism and implicit anti-metaphysical stance in Birth, and establishment of an ironic Schopenhauerian—anti-Schopenhauerianism.

This conception of the ironic appropriation of Schopenhauerian terms and concepts to an ostensibly anti-Schopenhauerian philosophical and aesthetic project refutes the critical position, of which Julian Young can be seen to act as a representative, that Birth ‘incorporates without qualification Schopenhauer’s metaphysics’.[20]

—Young argues that Nietzsche’s career can be divided into ‘four main periods’, ‘distinguished from each other by sharply contrasting attitudes to and about art’, hinging his argument particularly on Nietzsche’s relationship to Schopenhauer’s pessimism. (1)

Describing the ‘circular’ path which he argues the development of Nietzsche’s thought maps out, Young argues that the work of Nietzsche’s early period was uncomplicatedly and uncritically Schopenhauerian and correspondingly pessimistic. Young argues that in his ‘middle period’ (the ‘free spirit trilogy’: Human, All Too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science): ‘Nietzsche turned against pessimism and against Schopenhauer. But in the end, reluctantly and making every rhetorical effort to disguise this from us and, more importantly from himself, he came back […] to pessimism.’ (3)

—Reading Birth as implicitly anti-Schopenhauerian undermines the precision of Young’s neatly compartmentalised chronology of Nietzsche’s works. If, from the very start of his published career, Nietzsche was already (ironically) at odds with Schopenhauer’s metaphysical pessimism, and, indeed, was pursuing an implicitly anti-Schopenhauerian project, then this undermines any conception of a straightforward rejection of Schopenhauer in Nietzsche’s subsequent works (whether or not we continue to seek to divide them into distinct periods), for Birth is already engaged in the criticism of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics observable both in earlier (posthumously published) fragments and in his later writings.

In contrast to Young, then, (though the nature of pessimism will play a key role in my reading of Birth) I want to contextualise Nietzsche’s relationship to Schopenhauer, not in terms of pessimism, but in terms of the contrast of his nascent naturalism to metaphysics.

Therefore, though the text may appear ostensibly Schopenhauerian and late-Romantic, acknowledging and foregrounding its anti-metaphysical philosophical naturalism will allow me to argue that, even while Nietzsche can be seen to appropriate the terms of Romantic accounts of artistic inspiration, the aesthetic of Birth is implicitly fundamentally opposed to Romantic and post-Schopenhauerian late-Romantic metaphysics, and that its terms are therefore much closer to Nietzsche’s own later account of the ‘classical’ (from Human, All Too Human onwards). This, in turn, will allow me to argue that the aesthetic of Birth is located in far greater proximity to the claims of neo-classical Modernism (in particular that of Joyce and of T.E. Hulme) than extant criticism of the text has (as far as I am aware) thus far acknowledged.

 

Against the conventional conception of Nietzsche’s early uncritical adoption of Schopenhauer (as typified by Young), and against the terms of, for example, Aaron Ridley’s argument in Nietzsche on Art that Birth does not wholly refute Schopenhauer but must be read as following either a psychological, or a ‘weak metaphysical’ thesis, the quotations and concepts drawn from Schopenhauer in Birth can, instead, be seen to represent an ironic appropriation of Schopenhauer to an anti-Schopenhauerian naturalism.[21]

As Henry Staten argues, the use of the Schopenhauerian concept of the ‘will,’ enters Birth and becomes problematic only in the later sections of the text (§§16ff.), in which Nietzsche attempts to argue for a modern rebirth of tragedy based on the operatic works of Richard Wagner.[22] The ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) of Birth is anti-Schopenhauerian. As Crawford argues, it belongs to the realm of representation: is itself ‘only one appearance among appearances,’ and does not constitute the thing-in-itself. (Crawford, 218) It represents ‘a sign, a linguistic fiction, rather than a metaphysical reality’ and it is this notion of the thing-in-itself as an artistic projection which is at stake in the critique of the intellect and the problem of the thing-in-itself and the supposed metaphysical correspondence of concepts in ‘On Truth’. (Rampley, 79)

*Nietzsche opposes his thesis of the three stages of: …

(i)—the artistic projection,

(ii)—the repression of the memory of act of projection, and

(iii)—the subsequent hypostatisation of the concepts of the intellect,

to what he argues is the false consciousness that they correspond absolutely to a metaphysical reality:

Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins. (Nietzsche, ‘On Truth’, 117)

Through the gradual process of their hypostatisation, the concepts of the intellect become stale and dead metaphors, which, Nietzsche argues, no longer retain any connection to, or use value for, experience. They are no longer able to capture ‘vivid first impressions’. (118)—They become little more than the mode of expression of a (Platonic) philosophical and of a moral prejudice.

For Nietzsche, existing concepts, as ‘abstractions’ and petrified prejudices, serve to distort human life. In order to overcome the stultification of the exhausted metaphors of the concepts, and in order to revivify the fundamentally artistic drive of the intellect and grasp ‘vivid first impressions,’ Nietzsche opposes ‘intuition’ (Anschauung) to the conceptual:

[The intellect] will now be guided by intuitions rather than by concepts. There is no regular path which leads from these intuitions into the land of ghostly schemata, the land of abstractions. There exists no word for these intuitions: when man sees them he grows dumb, or else he speaks only in forbidden metaphors and in unheard-of combinations of concepts. He does this so that by shattering and mocking the old conceptual barriers he may at least correspond creatively to the impression of the powerful and present intuition. (118)

For Nietzsche, the intensely undergone aesthetic experience—the ‘impression’—of the ‘powerful’ and ‘present’ ‘intuition’, lies outwith the field of possible experience outlined, sanctioned and policed by the concepts of extant linguistic convention. The intellect, he argues, is driven by the need to articulate—to ‘correspond creatively’ to—this experience. In order for this to be possible, it is necessary to lacerate the petrified or stultified surface of the ‘ghostly’ Platonic abstractions of the concepts (the ‘otherworldy world’ of ‘On Schopenhauer’ and of the thing-in-itself), bereft of life and lacking in both substance and any direct, visceral connection to the reality of lived experience.

*—… In the articulation of the intuition, the intellect becomes enmeshed in a process of the bathetic (—‘mocking’) reanimation of the concepts, smashing the ‘framework’ of the concepts ‘to pieces’, throwing it into a state of confusion, and ‘pairing the most alien things and separating the closest.’ (122) In stark contrast to the ‘distortion’ of life, which he argues is implicitly at stake in the forgetting of the act of creation, and false Platonic reification, of the concepts of conventional linguistic experience, ‘intuition’, as a projected philosophical method of the future, is defined, for Nietzsche, by its capacity for self-conscious ‘dissimulation’, enacted with a good (—a clear) conscience.

 

*—Intuition sets the intellect free, and the liberated intellect in turn ‘copies human life’ in its new bathetic, monstrous, hybridised metaphors…

 

In contrast to the hardened veneer of the extant concepts, inaugurated and preserved as a crutch for the ‘needy man’ (the ‘servant’ who requires the legislation of an uncritically accepted linguistic order in order to be able to function and to—persevere)—‘the means by which weaker, less robust individuals preserve themselves’—the intellect, freed through intuition, is enabled to become the ‘master’ of life and of ‘deception’. (122) Freed from its former ‘slavery’, the intellect ‘copies human life, but it considers this life to be something good’ and no longer needing to be redeemed or justified through falsely hypostatised, artistically projected (Platonic) concepts.

 

 

I want to move on in the next section to examine the parallel between Nietzsche’s opposition of ‘intuition’ to the concepts of the intellect in ‘On Truth’ and Henri Bergson’s conception of ‘intuition’ as providing access to the flux of the undivided continuity of states which he claims precedes and subsists beneath the individuated concepts of the intellect and which he calls ‘duration’.

 

I want to be clear that this will not have been an attempt to seek to identify Nietzsche with Bergson’s conception of metaphysics.

As I have already argued here, from his earliest writings onwards Nietzsche is fundamentally opposed to metaphysics.

—Whatever the differences between their respective relationships to, or conceptions of, metaphysics, however, the opposition between intuition and the intellect of ‘On Truth’ is already at stake in Birth, and as such, the parallel between ‘On Truth’ and Bergson’s conception of duration will allow me to draw out what is at stake in Nietzsche’s concept of the ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) in Birth, understood as fundamentally anti-Schopenhauerian and anti-metaphysical.

Instead, I want to use the Bergsonian parallel I will draw here to argue that the ‘primal unity’ of Birth is located in far greater proximity to Nietzsche’s later doctrine of the will to power, as he defines this in On the Genealogy of Morality and the Later Notebooks, than to Schopenhauerian metaphysics and the metaphysical unity of Schopenhauer’s ‘will’.


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House, 1967) (hereafter, BT), §1, 33

[2] Nietzsche, ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ (hereafter ‘OTL’), trans. Daniel Breazeale, in The Blackwell’s Nietzsche Reader ed. Keith Ansell Pearson and Duncan Large (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006), 114-123.

*—Nietzsche originally intended to form part of the second, ‘theoretical’ half of his projected Philosophenbuch, itself intended as a ‘“companion piece” to The Birth of Tragedy’. (Breazeale, Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the early 1870s, trans. and ed. Daniel Breazeale [New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1979], xxv-xxvi. Cf. xliv-xlv). See also Writings from the Early Notebooks, ed. Raymond Guess and Alexander Nehamas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), xiii-xiv and Wayne Klein, Nietzsche and the Promise of Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 56-58. As such Birth and ‘OTL’ can already be seen to stand in an intimate relationship to one another.

[3] Nietzsche reiterates and expands upon this point in On the Genealogy of Morality, (trans. Carol Diethe, ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003]. Hereafter OGM):

We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers, we ourselves, to ourselves, and there is good reason for this […] like somebody divinely absent-minded and sunk in his own thoughts, who, the twelve strokes of midday having just boomed into his ears, wakes with a start and wonders ‘What hour struck?’, sometimes we too, afterwards rub our ears and ask, astonished, taken aback, ‘What did we actually experience then?’ or even, ‘Who are we, in fact?’ […] We remain strange to ourselves out of necessity, we do not understand ourselves, we must confusedly mistake who we are, the motto ‘everyone is furthest from himself’ applies to us forever,—we are not ‘knowers’ when it comes to ourselves… (‘Preface,’ §I, 3-4: emphases Nietzsche’s own)

Nietzsche argues that by virtue of the nature of our conception of ‘knowing’; that is, the nature of the intellect and its repression of the flux of natural drives, we must remain unknown to ourselves and alienated from ourselves.

In this passage Nietzsche implicitly reiterates the notion of the necessity of this alienation. True self-knowledge and self-identity must remain impossible if the individual (the subject), and thus morality, are to be maintained. It is possible, at least to a certain degree, to read Nietzsche’s claim that no genealogist prior to himself has yet enquired as to the true origins and evolution of morality, as a claim that each has had an ineluctable stake in the maintenance of the illusion of subjectivity.

[4] Nietzsche, Writings  from the Late Notebooks, trans. Kate Sturge, ed. Rudiger Bittner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2003), 34[46], 2-3 [2]. As I will argue, this conception of the fiction of the ‘I’ is crucial to understanding Nietzsche’s analysis of the process of artistic inspiration and creation in what I will call the fold of the self-creation of the artist in Birth. The philosophical naturalism of the notion of the selection, incorporation and purgation of reality underpins Nietzsche’s later definition of the ‘classical’ poetry of the future:

[T]he good poet of the future will depict only reality and completely ignore all those fantastic, superstitious, half-mendacious, faded subjects upon which earlier poets demonstrated their powers. Only reality, but by no means every reality! – he will depict a select reality! (‘Assorted Opinions and Maxims’ (hereafter HH IIa) in Human All Too Human, trans. R.J. Hollingdale [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996], §114, 239-240)

—I’ll return to Nietzsche’s definition of the ‘classical’ both in defining the nature of the conjunction of the Dionysian and Apollinian artistic drives in Birth and in analysing the terms of self-styled neo-classical Modernist criticism. For now, what I want to note is that I believe that the ‘fantastic, superstitious, half-mendacious, faded subjects’, which Nietzsche derides here, equate to the late-Romantic, and particularly Schopenhauerian and Wagnerian metaphysical aesthetics from which Nietzsche sought to emancipate himself.

—The ‘selection’ of reality, it seems to me at least, equates to the naturalism and ‘classicism’ that Nietzsche is beginning to establish in Birth, and which I will argue are intimately intertwined.

What is significant here is the demonstration that these later categories are already at stake within Birth and ‘On Truth and Lies’. Unfortunately, there will not be sufficient room to address the development of this theme in Nietzsche’s writing in the depth that it deserves. On the ‘self’—the ‘I’—as a fiction, especially in relation to the doctrine of the will to power, the reader is directed to the following material in the Late Notebooks: 34[54]-34[55], 4; 34[131], 9-10; 35[35], 20-21; 37[4], 29-30; 38[8], 36-37; 40[42], 46; 1[58], 59-60; 1[87], 61; 2[91], 77; 2[152], 91; 2[158], 92; 2[193], 96-97; 5[3], 106; 7[1], 127-129; 7[63], 140; 9[91], 154-157; 10[19], 178-179; 11[73], 212-213; 11[113], 221-222; 11[120], 223-224; 14[79], 245-247).

[5] Claudia Crawford, The Beginnings of Nietzsche’s Theory of Language (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1988), 202

[6] 117. Nietzsche gives the example of the concept of the ‘leaf’. In a parody and rejection of the Platonic Idea or Form, he argues that the concept of the leaf is formed by arbitrarily discarding—by forgetting—the differences between individual leaves:

This awakens the idea that, in addition to the leaves, there exists in nature the “leaf”: the original model according to which all the leaves were perhaps woven, sketched, measured, colored, curled, and painted – but by incompetent hands, so that no specimen has turned out to be a correct, trustworthy, and faithful likeness of the original model. (ibid.)

For Nietzsche, the claim to know that such a self-identical Idea or ‘original model’ (the concept) inheres in things is a projection and false hypostatisation.

[7] 116 (cf. Crawford, 203). On Nietzsche’s rejection of the ‘metaphysical correspondence theory’, see Maudemaire Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), esp. 22. Clark argues that Nietzsche (in the works of his early and middle periods) commits himself to a rejection of metaphysical truth because he ‘accepts a theory of truth such that all truth is metaphysical, that is, is correspondence to things as they are in themselves’ (emphasis added).

[8] ‘Appendix: Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy’ in Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, 2 Vols, trans. E.F.J. Payne, (New York: Dover, 1966) (WWR), I, 413-534 (417-418).

[9] See Dale Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (Chesham: Acumen, 2005), 19

[10] Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) A 30/B 45. Cf. 85 A 45/B 62 (on the ‘transcendental object’), and also A 128. See Howard Caygill, A Kant Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), esp. 79-80 and 393.

[11] Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 27.

[12] See Bryan Magee, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, Revised Edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997): ‘The movements of the material object which is my body are known to me not only through external sense, as are the movements of other material objects, but also directly, non-sensorily, non-intellectually from within, as acts of will.’ (137) See also Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, 73-74.

[13] Nietzsche, ‘On Schopenhauer,’ in The Blackwell’s Nietzsche Reader ed. Ansell Pearson Large, 24-29. An alternative translation is provided in Christopher Janaway, Willing and Nothingness: Schopenhauer as Nietzsche’s Educator (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 258-265.

[14] Nietzsche, ‘On Schopenhauer,’ 27. See Schopenhauer, WWR, I,  §22, 110.

[15] Nietzsche, ‘On Schopenhauer,’ 27.  Schopenhauer, WWR, I, 112

[16] Crawford, Beginnings, 161-162(n).

[17] Paul Swift, Becoming Nietzsche: Early Reflections on Democritus, Schopenhauer, and Kant (Oxford: Lexington Books, 2005), 43-50. 

[18] This reading is positioned against the claim to Nietzsche’s early uncritical adoption of Schopenhauer. See Bowie, Aesthetics and Subjectivity, 261 (see also 282, 288, 296); and Ivan Soll, ‘Pessimism and the Tragic view of Life: Reconsiderations of Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy’, in Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins, eds., Reading Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 104-131 (104-107).

By contrast, I want to align my position with the opposing critical trend to problematise and resist this influence. See Martha Nussbaum, ‘The Transfigurations of Intoxication: Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Dionysus’, in Salim Kemal, Ivan Gaskell, and Daniel W. Conway, eds., Nietzsche, Philosophy and the Arts (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998), 36-69 (esp. 38-39) (see also Nussbaum, ‘Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Dionysus’ in Janaway, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer [Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid: Cambridge University Press, 1999], 344-374 [esp. 344-345]).

[19] Nietzsche, BT, 17-27 (24). See 15n. on the appended title page/flysheet, added in 1886: ‘In the first edition of 1872 the title was The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. A second edition with very slight textual changes was printed in 1874 and appeared in 1878. In 1886, the same year that saw the publication of Beyond Good and Evil, the remaining copies of both editions were reissued with the new title [The Birth of Tragedy: Hellenism and Pessimism].’ The original title was retained, but now followed the ‘Attempt at a Self-Criticism’.

[20] Julian Young, Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Art (Cambridge, New York, Victoria: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 26

[21] See Aaron Ridley, Nietzsche on Art (London: Routledge, 2007),—esp. 21-31. …

*—Admittedly, I was lucky enough to meet Professor Ridley (in late 2011), and at that time he said that he had changed his mind and recanted on the reading of Nietzsche presented in this text. Nevertheless, I hope that he wouldn’t mind me citing it in order to contextualise my own argument here…

[22] Henry Staten, ‘The Birth of Tragedy Reconstructed’ in Nietzsche’s Voices (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 187-216 (esp. 192). According to Staten’s reading it is Nietzsche’s relationship to Wagner that proves problematic to a clear conception of his relationship to Schopenhauer and Schopenhauerian metaphysics.

It is not within the scope of what I want to do here to address Nietzsche’s relationship to Wagner, and, as such, I will not address the argument of the latter, patently Wagnerian, sections of Birth. Nor will I address Nietzsche’s argument concerning the death of tragedy at the hands of Socrates and Euripides. Instead, I will focus on a close reading of Nietzsche’s definition of the Apollinian and Dionysian and of the phenomenon of the Lyric Poet in the earlier part of the text (§§1-8). For a clear biographical study of the intellectual and artistic influence of Wagner on Nietzsche, see Dieter Brochmeyer’s influential essay, ‘Wagner and Nietzsche,’ in Ulrich Müller and Peter Wapnewski, eds., Wagner Handbook, trans. John Deathridge (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), 327-342 (—on Birth in particular, 329-335).

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9 thoughts on “*On Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics

  1. […] *(follows on from ‘Intuition, Flux, & Anti-metaphysics’…). […]

  2. […] anti-Schopenhauerianism and anti-metaphysics in the previous string-thread of fragments *(—in *‘Intuition, Flux, and anti-metaphysics’, onward…), in re-examining the Apollinian, the Dionysian, and the relationship between them. […]

  3. […] I argued in the first chapter-string-thread of fragments here *(—on ‘Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics’…), Schopenhauer follows Kant’s argument in the ‘Transcendental Aesthetic’ that space and […]

  4. […] as I’ve already sought to define these in the previous thread-string of fragments *(—‘On Intuition,  flux, & anti-metaphysics’ […]

  5. […] ‘Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics’, in discussing Nietzsche’s early rejection of Schopenhauerian metaphysics, I’ve already gone […]

  6. […] and really, honestly, quite crude, partial, and… dilettantish) work on subjectivity, the emergence of the ego (= “I”) from language and an underlying pre-linguistic flux, in relatio…. […]

  7. […] and an underlying pre-linguistic flux, in relation to Nietzsche’s early writing, and especially The Birth of Tragedy and the ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ essay. […]

  8. […] following is taken from: … *I. – Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics between ‘On Truth and Lies [in a Nonmoral Sense]’ and The Birth of Tragedy.—Nietzsche’s early […]

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