Monday, May 15, 2017

Ecce Homo: Part Two

The subtitle to Nietzsche's autobiographical work is “How One Becomes What One Is.”  It tells, in often satirical fashion, the story of Nietzsche's philosophical journey; the twists and turns, the mistakes and breakthroughs, that led him to write his 'great task' though, of course, he only completed the first part of the revaluation project.  The rest of it never came to fruition, buried as scattered and unripe thoughts and fragments captured in his private notebooks.

These selections from the work should suffice to give readers unfamiliar with Ecce Homo a taste of its potent prose.

“The last thing I would promise would be to 'improve' mankind.  I erect no new idols; let the old idols learn what it means to have legs of clay.  To overthrow idols (my word for ideals) – that is rather my business. Reality has been deprived of its value, its meaning, its veracity to the same degree as an ideal world has been fabricated...The 'real world' and the 'apparent world' – in plain terms: the fabricated world and reality...The lie of the ideal has hitherto been the curse on reality, through it mankind itself has become mendacious and false down to its deepest instincts – to the point of worshiping the inverse values to those which alone could guarantee it prosperity, future, the exalted right to a future.” (Forward, 2)

“A being who is typically morbid cannot become healthy, still less can he make himself healthy; conversely, for one who is typically healthy being sick can even be an energetic stimulant to life, to more life.  Thus in fact does that long period of sickness seem to me now: I discovered life as it were anew, myself included, I tasted all good and even petty things in a way that others could not easily taste them – I made out of my will to health, to life, my philosophy...For pay heed to this: it was in the years of my lowest vitality that I ceased to be a pessimist: the instinct for self-recovery forbade to me a philosophy of indigence and discouragement...And in what does one really recognize that someone has turned out well!  In that a human being who has turned out well does our senses good: that he is carved out of wood at once hard, delicate and sweet-smelling.  He has a taste for what is beneficial to him; his pleasure, his joy ceases where the measure of what is beneficial is overstepped.  He divines cures for injuries, he employs ill chances to his own advantage; what does not kill him makes him stronger.  Out of everything he sees, hears, experiences he instinctively collects together his sum: he is a principle of selection, he rejects much.  He is always in his company, whether he traffics with books, people or landscapes: he does honor when he /chooses/, when he admits, when he trusts.  He reacts slowly to every kind of stimulus, with that slowness which a protracted caution and a willed pride have bred in him – he tests an approaching stimulus, he is far from going out to meet it.  He believes in neither 'misfortune' not in 'guilt': he knows how to forget - he is strong enough for everything to have to turn out for the best for him.  Very well, I am the opposite of a decadent: for I have just described myself.” (Why I Am So Wise, 2)

“War is another thing.  I am by nature warlike. To attack is among my instincts.  To be able to be an enemy, to be an enemy – that perhaps presupposes a strong nature, it is in any event a condition of every strong nature.  It needs resistences, consequently it seeks resistances: the aggressive pathos belongs as necessarily to strength as the feeling of vengefulness and vindictiveness does to weakness....every growth reveals itself in the seeking out of a powerful opponent – or problem: for a philosopher who is warlike also challenges problems to a duel.  The undertaking is to master, not any resistances that happen to present themselves, but those against which one has to bring all one's strength, suppleness and mastery of weapons – to master equal opponents...Equality in the face of the enemy – first presupposition of an honest duel.” (What I Am So Wise, 7)

“One becomes what one is presupposes that one does not have the remotest idea what one is.  From this point of view even the blunders of life – the temporary side paths and wrong turnings, the delays, the 'modesties', the seriousness squandered on tasks which lie outside the task – have their own meaning and value....For the task of a revaluation of all values more capacities perhaps were required than have dwelt together in one individual, above all antithetical capacities which however are not allowed to disturb or destroy one another.  Order of rank among capacities; distance; the art of dividing without making inimical; mixing up nothing, 'reconciling' nothing; a tremendous multiplicity which is none the less the opposite of chaos – this has been the precondition, the protracted secret labor and artistic working of my instinct.  The magnitude of its higher protection was shown in the fact I have at no time had the remotest idea what was growing within me – that all my abilities one day leapt forth suddenly ripe, in their final perfection.” (Why I Am So Clever, 9)

As Cate pointed in the previous post, Nietzsche goes into great detail about his personal habits in Ecce Homo.  His beliefs and experiences regarding diet, location, hobbies, all sorts of intimate details are shared with the reader.

“...these little things – nutriment, place, climate, recreation, the whole casuistry of selfishness – are beyond all conception of greater importance than anything that has been considered of importance hitherto.  It is precisely here that one has to begin to learn anew.  Those things which mankind has hitherto pondered seriously are not even realities, merely imaginings, more strictly speaking lies from the bad instincts of sick, in the profoundest sense injurious natures – all the concepts 'God', 'soul', 'virtue', 'sin', 'the Beyond', 'truth', 'eternal life'...But the greatness of human nature, its 'divinity', has been sought in them...All questions of politics, the ordering of society, education have been falsified down to their foundations because the most injurious men have been taken for great men – because contempt has been taught for the 'little' things, which is to say for the fundamental affairs of life....My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be other than it is, not in the future, not in the past, not in all eternity.  Not merely to endure that which happens of necessity, still less to dissemble it – all idealism is untruthfulness in the face of necessity – but to love it...” (Why I Am So Clever, 10)

“My time has not yet come, some are born posthumously. - One day or other institutions will be needed in which people live and teach as I understand living and teaching: perhaps even chairs for the interpretation of Zarathustra will be established.  But it would be a complete contradiction of myself if I expected ears and hands for my truths already today: that I am not heard today, that no one today knows how to take from me, is not only comprehensible; it seems to me right.” (Why I Write Such Good Books, 1)

“I shall at the same time also say a general word on my art of style.  To communicate a state, an inner tension of pathos through signs, including the tempo of these signs – that is the meaning of every style; and considering that the multiplicity of inner states is in my case extraordinary, there exists in my case the possibility of many styles – altogether the most manifold art of style any man has ever had at his disposal.  Every style is good which actually communicates an inner state, which makes no mistake as to the signs, the tempo of the signs, the gestures - all rules of phrasing are art of gesture.  My instinct here is infallible.” (Why I Write Such Good Books, 4)

At this point Nietzsche proceeds to make a critique and assessment of his work up through The Wagner Case.  It is interesting to note how much analysis (in some cases how apologetic) he devotes to each volume in his body of work. The Birth of Tragedy receives a little over five pages.  The Untimely Essays a bit less than five pages.  Human, All Too Human about six pages.  Daybreak gets two and a half pages. Surprising to me is the fact that he devotes only one page to The Gay Science, one of his best overall works.  The famous Thus Spoke Zarathustra receives nine pages, the most of any work.  My favorite Nietzsche work, Beyond Good and Evil gets only a page and a half. Genealogy of Morals, considered by many to be his best philosophical effort – one page. Twilight of the Idols is worthy of two pages. The Wagner Case merits six and a half pages, which perhaps reflects Nietzsche's struggle to balance his personal anguish regarding Wagner in comparison with the wider achievements of his other works and particularly with respect to the revaluation project.

Nietzsche summarizes The Untimely Meditations as “altogether warlike”.  Daybreak is cast as the beginning of his “campaign against morality”, specifically “the struggle against the morality of unselfing” by which Nietzsche means the “decadence” that manifests itself as “resistance to the natural instincts” of ourselves as persons. His extremely brief review of The Gay Science declares that “in practically every sentence of this book profundity and exuberance go hand in hand”.  He sees the “positive” aspects of these books undergoing a transformation into the next phase of his life's work found in Beyond Good and Evil. He writes: “The task for the immediately following years was as clear as it could be.  Now that the affirmative part of my task was done, it was the turn of the denying, the No-saying and No-doing part: the revaluation of existing values themselves, the great war – the evocation of the day of decision.”

There is nothing particularly insightful or new, even in summation, offered for the freshly completed Twilight of the Idols or The Wagner Case, nor in his brief thoughts on the Genealogy. Rather it is with the sections devoted to The Birth of Tragedy and Thus Spoke Zarathustra that Nietzsche brings more substantive thinking to bear, perhaps achieving his best writing for the section of his autobiography dealing with his body of work.

For The Birth of Tragedy, his most popular work during his lifetime due to its Wagnerian connections, he writes: “The book's two decisive novelties are, firstly the understanding of the dionysian phenomenon in case of the Greeks – it offers the first psychology of this phenomenon, it sees in it the sole root of the whole Hellenic art.  The other novelty is the understanding of Socratism: Socrates for the first time recognized as an agent of Hellenic disintegration, as a typical decadent.  'Rationality' against instinct. 'Rationality' at any price as dangerous, as force undermining life!” (BOT, 1)

Nietzsche attempts to disconnect Wagner and Schopenhauer from this work, but his attempts are unconvincing. Nevertheless, he contextualizes his first book as the beginning of a meaningful process of self-discovery. He quotes from Twilight of the Idols (his intention is to connect his first book with his latest efforts): “'...beyond pity and terror, to realize in oneself the eternal joy of becoming – the joy which also encompasses joy in destruction...'  In this sense I have the right to understand myself as the first tragic philosopher - that is to say the extremist antithesis and antipodes of a pessimistic philosopher.  Before me this transposition of the dionysian into a philosophical pathos did not exist: tragic wisdom was lacking – I have sought in vain for signs of it even among the great Greeks of philosophy, those of the two centuries before Socrates.  I retained a doubt in the case of Heraclitus, in whose vicinity in general I feel warmer and more well than anywhere else.  Affirmation of transitoriness and destruction/, the decisive element in a dionysian philosophy, affirmation of antithesis and war, becoming with a radical rejection even of the concept 'being' - in this I must in any event recognize what is most closely related to me of anything that has been thought hitherto.” (BOT, 3)

Nietzsche contextualizes Zarathustra as a work primarily dealing with “the idea of eternal recurrence, the highest formula of affirmation that can possibly be attained.”  He continues, rather boastfully: “This work stands altogether alone.  Let us leave the poets aside: perhaps nothing at all has ever been done out of a like superfluity of strength. My concept 'dionysian' has here become the supreme deed; compared with it all the rest of human activity seems poor and conditional.  That a Goethe, a Shakespeare would not for a moment have known how to breathe in this tremendous passion and solitude, that Dante is, compared with Zarathustra, merely a believer and not one who first creates truth, a world-ruling spirit, a destiny – that the poets of the Veda are priests and not even worthy to unloose the latchet of the shoes of Zarathustra – all this is the least of it, and gives no idea of the distance, of the azure solitude, in which the work lives.” (Z, 6)

“I walk among mean as among fragments of the future: of that future which I scan.  And it is with my art and aim to compose into one and bring together what is fragment and riddle and dreadful chance.  And how could I endure to be a man, if man were not also poet and reader of riddles and the redeemer of chance!  To redeem the past and to transform every 'It was' into and “I wanted it thus!' - that alone I would call redemption.

“I emphasize one final point: the italicized line provides the occasion.  Among the decisive preconditions for a dionysian task is the hardness of the hammer, joy even in destruction,  The impressive 'become hard', the deepest certainty that all creators are hard, is the actual mark of a dionysian nature.” (Z, 7)

One aspect of Ecce Homo is that Nietzsche takes every opportunity to stitch his collective body of work together as always having dealt with themes that were actually only fully fleshed out in his later efforts. It is true the undercurrents of what Nietzsche later called “decadence” and the “dionysian” perspective occasionally graced his early and middle works, but not to the degree of emphasis we find in his 1888 writings.  So, perhaps somewhat disingenuously or at least self-deceptively, Nietzsche connects The Birth of Tragedy with Twilight of the Idols

For all its satire and poetry and insightful musings, Ecce Homo shows patterns in the evolution of Nietzsche's thought that are more convenient in the name of metaphysical consistency than they are accurately portraying his earlier works and the development of his philosophy. Nietzsche writes of “wrong-turnings” (existential and philosophical investigations that don't pan out and cause one to back track to their “main” path) on the path of self-discovery throughout Ecce Homo but in reality he fails to apply any personal wrong-turning specifically to his works.

Ultimately, all of this autobiographical and intellectual self-analysis manifests itself in the beautiful egoism that makes up the last section of the work.  Here Nietzsche discusses his legacy as if he knew Ecce Homo was the end of his sane life.  

“I know my fate.  One day there will be associated with my name the recollection of something frightful – of a crisis like no other before on earth, of the profoundest collision of conscience, of a decision evoked against everything that until then had been believed in, demanded, sanctified.  I am not a man, I am dynamite....I do not want 'believers', I think I am too malicious to believe in myself, I never speak to the masses...I have a terrible fear I shall one day be pronounced holy: one will guess why I bring out this book beforehand; it is intended to prevent people from making mischief with me...I do not want to be a saint, rather even a buffoon...Perhaps I am a buffoon....the truth speaks out of me. - But my truth is dreadful: for hitherto the lie has been called truth. - Revaluation of all values: this is my formula for an act of supreme coming-to-oneself on the part of mankind which in me has become flesh and genius. It is my fate to have to be the first decent human being, to know myself in opposition to the mendaciousness of millennia...I was the first to discover the truth, in that I was the first to sense - smell - the lie as lie...My genius is in my nostrils...I contradict as has never been contradicted and am none the less the opposite of a negative spirit....For when truth steps into battle with the lie of millennia we shall have convulsions, an earthquake spasm, a transposition of valley and mountain such as has never been dreamed of.  The concept politics has then become completely absorbed into a war of spirits, all the power-structures of the old society have been blown into the air – they one and all reposed in the lie: there will be wars such as there have never been on earth.  Only after me will there be grand politics on earth.” (Why I Am A Destiny, 1)

“...the over-valuation of goodness and benevolence by and large already counts with me as a consequence of decadence, as a symptom of weakness, as incompatible with an ascending and affirmative life: denial and destruction is a condition of affirmation.” (Why I Am A Destiny, 4)

“In the concept of the 'selfless', of the 'self-denying' the actual badge of decadence, being lured by the harmful, no longer being able to discover where one's advantage lies, self-destruction, made the sign of value in general, made 'duty', 'holiness', the 'divine' in man!” (Why I Am A Destiny, 8)

As explained in our review of the Genealogy selfishness is more authentic to the free spirit than selflessness.  Being-for-others is decadence - only actions that are meaningful of our own choosing (our intimate Being-in-myself) are authentic.  So selfishness in this sense, at least, is superior from Nietzsche's perspective.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ecce Homo: Part One

Ecce Homo is Nietzsche's most enigmatic and problematic work, and the student who reads it  must do so with caution.  Much of it self-evidently belongs to the time Nietzsche no longer had control over his fantasies;  on the other hand, much is not only rational but quite consonant with the outlook already familiar from the other post-Zarathustra works.

“The extreme claims concerning his own importance in the history of European civilization – 'One day my name will be associated with the recollection of something frightful – with a crisis such as there has never been on the earth before' (EH IV 1)  and so on – may be discounted as examples of the his letters and personal writings of 1888 and earlier; where he is writing not about himself but about other people, or reiterating his philosophy, Ecce Homo shows no trace of unbalance. There is no intellectual degradation: the mind is as sharp as ever and there is, above all, no decline in the stylistic control of language; on the contrary, the book is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in German.  Many passages are a non plus ultra of richness combined with economy...To find a just comparison one must go outside literature altogether: Ecce Homo is the Jupiter Symphony of German letters.” (Hollingdale, page 216)

Ecce Homo shows how a modern man can defend himself against those disintegrating forces which threaten his personality and his life.  Nietzsche, modern to the core, counsels psychological insight, for moral and social prescription only mislead spiritually becalmed men and women further.  He urges self-determination while simultaneously underscoring the chaos of existence: the individual must create himself though he is existentially worthless.”  (Chamberlain, page 159)

“Here for the first time were publicly exposed many of Nietzsche's physiological characteristics, hitherto known only to close friends and acquaintances: his unusually low pulse rate, his poor eyesight, which improved every time his 'vitality' increased, his never having suffered a fever – he quotes a doctor who, after examining him, remarked, 'No, it's not a question of your nerves, it's only I who am nervous' – and has discovery that sickness can be an 'energetic stimulus' to life.

“What distinguishes Ecce Homo above all else is its fresh, uninhibited tones, and the careless ease with which, in describing his personal experiences and his highly idiosyncratic likes and dislikes, Nietzsche managed to give them a universal, but also, alas, easily misunderstood significance.” (Cate, page 535)

“One of the charms of Ecce Homo - for despite its strident imperfections (glaringly apparent towards the end) this is a charming book – is its rambling character. It is a peripatetic monologue in which the author takes the reader on a guided tour through his past, paying little heed to strict chronology but much to matters of geography, climate, food and drink.” (Cate, page 538)

“If all of Ecce Homo had been on this superior level, this little book of pungent reminiscences would have been a masterpiece.  But of a sick genius this is probably asking too much.  And the sad truth of the matter is that, as the book progressed, Nietzsche's worst habit – for a habit it had become – became stridently apparent.  This was his self-infatuated, subterraneanly nourished by frustration at having so long been ignored by German readers who refused to recognize his philosophical significance.  His observations about the successive books he wrote, the reasons why he wrote them, the responses they elicited (all too briefly suggest) are full of fascinating insights and valuable information; but every now and then he yielded to his inner demon and indulged in exaggerations unworthy of a thinker who detested histrionic exhibitionism and histrionic ostentation.” (Cate, page 541)

"Ecce Homo has aged in the shadows, and its sorry life consists of neglect, misunderstanding, and disparagement. As far as I can tell, the last person to comprehend and gain merriment form its farraginous form was its author, Friedrich Nietzsche. Instead of laughing at this cheerfully cynical book, a legion of grave scholars has found it oddly distressing at best and pathetic madness at worst....I contend Ecce Homo is a satire. As a trained classicist, Nietzsche was familiar with this ancient genre, and he wrote a parody of autobiography to skewer not only not only the inherent pretensions of self-reflection and unvarnished truth, but the larger historical pretensions of philosophy to procure timeless wisdom....What is the value of a life lived painfully? Could prolonged suffering be overcome and transformed, or would his authorial output always stand in spite of it? Ecce Homo became Nietzsche's last effort to transform enduring pain into something valuable, and to unify and communicate the essence of his philosophical corpus as he saw it.” (More, pp. 2-3)

Ecce Homo is Nietzsche's most unique major work.  It was written at a time when, if Nietzsche was not already going insane, his sanity was wavering.  As we shall see in a future post, he was exhibiting symptoms of megalomania when this work was written.  So a great deal of controversy surrounds the work.  Does it exhibit raving madness?  Is it cleverly insightful?  Is it brilliant poetic prose...or a megalomaniac's attempt at comedy?  There is less consensus about Ecce Homo than with any of Nietzsche's other published works. Despite some merits, Julian Young sees it as a “flawed work.”

“A weapon in his 'war against the present' which Nietzsche regarded as even more potent than The Antichrist was, in the order of composition, his last work, Ecce Homo.  Begun on his birthday, October 15th, he regarded it as, in principle, finished by November 4, though he continued to make alterations up until January 6, 1889. 

“In the Preface, Nietzsche writes that 'Since I plan shortly to have to confront humanity with the heaviest demand that has ever been made on it, it seems indispensable to say who I am'.  The reference, here, is to the immanent appearance of the master work and its urgent demand that we 'revalue all values'. Since he anticipated the masterwork being even more 'black and squid-like' than Beyond Good and Evil, he felt it imperative first to abolish the notion that its author was a sadistic misanthrope, a 'pathological' case.  The idea that he is a 'bogey man' or 'moral monster', he says in the Preface, someone who 'strives to abolish all decent feelings', is completely mistaken. By presenting a human, even intimate, portrait of himself as someone with a normal human background, who has had to struggle every step of the way with ill health, and who has himself been infected with the decadence he criticizes, he wants to show, I think, that the fundamental impulse of his work is 'not hardness but the opposite, a true humanity which strives to prevent needless disaster'.” (Young, pp. 518 – 519)

“Given that Nietzsche's collapse came right on the heels of Ecce Homo, the question inevitably arises as to whether, or to what extent, the work is infected by the approaching madness.  What sharpens the question is the fact that the work contains what look to be manifest delusions: that he was descended from Polish aristocracy, that even in childhood he never took the Christian God seriously, that the influence of Schopenhauer on The Birth of Tragedy was minimal, that he never had any enemies, that his greatness is obvious to everyone he meets, and many more.” (page 519)

“The claim to descent through his father from Polish nobility, to be sure, allows him to find nothing redeeming about the Germans, allows almost every page to drip – in the end it has to be said, tediously – with bile against these 'vulgar' 'cattle' who have perpetuated all the cultural crimes of the last four hundred years.  But given that he is supposed to be a picture of psychic health, he ought to be free of ressentiment and should not, therefore, have had any bile to spit in the first place.  Ressentiment is, it should be noted, exactly the right word here.  For, far too obviously, the bitterness that is read, as he thinks, 'by nothing but choice Vienna, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, and New York, everywhere except in Europe's flatland, Germany, betrays the fact that the readers who really matter to him are none other than his fellow Germans – who, however, either ignore him or dismiss him as a madman.

“What, moreover, has to be recognized is that a great deal of the hyperbole has a megalomaniac character which is directly continuous with themes in the letters he wrote as he was unmistakably losing his mind. The claim, for instance, that 'wherever I go, here in Turin, for example, every face grows more cheerful and benevolent at the sight of me...the old market woman take great pains to select together for me their sweetest grapes' appears several times in the so-called 'crazy letters', as does the claim to be God: the idea he is related to his mother and sister is Ecce Homo claims, in a passage Elizabeth managed for many years to suppress, a 'blasphemy against my divinity'.

Ecce Homo is, then, a flawed work. Other signs of Nietzsche's failing powers are repetition, wandering organization, self-questioning at disproportionate and self-indulgent length, and, when he comes to review his earlier works, a lack of sense of their relative importance: whereas the Genealogy receives less than a page, The Wagner Case receives six. For all this, however, Nietzsche still being, for the most part, Nietzsche, it remains a book full of interesting and sublime moments.” (page 519 – 520)

“Without rejecting the importance of role models, Ecce Homo expands on the techniques of self-discovery in an interesting way:

“'That one becomes what one is presupposes that one does not have the remotest idea what one is.  From this point of view even life's mistakes have their own meaning and value, the occasional side roads and wrong turns, the delays, the...seriousness wasted on tasks that lie beyond the task.'

“To, as it were, discover who one is by discovering who one is not, one must keep the 'surface of of all the great imperatives' and 'big words', otherwise one will 'understand oneself too early'; one's self-definition will run down worn, all-too-worn, paths.  To become a 'higher' type, something new and unique, one must preserve a kind of passivity while, 'in the mean time, the organizing, governing idea' that is the 'meaning' of one's life 'keeps growing deep inside'.  Soon it 'starts commanding and slowly leads back from out of the side roads and wrong turns'. In a word, 'self-seeking' is, through a process of trial and probably lots of error, a matter of finding rather than creating oneself, rather as the sculptor 'finds' rather than creates the figure 'slumbering' in the marble.

“The idea of allowing one's 'self' and 'destiny' to emerge through one's mistakes provides the narrative structure of the work, a narrative that centers, inevitably, on Wagner. The 'most affectionate and profound' relation of his life, Nietzsche says, was with Richard Wagner.  'None of my other personal relationships amounts to much, but I would not give up my Tribschen days for anything'.  But then came the Bayreuth festival:

“'Where was I?  I did not recognize anything.  I hardly recognized Wagner.  I sifted through memories in vain. Tribschen – a distant Isle of the Blessed: not a shadow of similarity.  The incomparable days when we laid the cornerstone [of the opera house – notice Nietzsche still endorses the original enterprise a small society of people who belong there...What had happened?

“What had happened was that Wagner had been 'translated into German', had allowed himself to be captured by the Wagnerians and in the process become Reichsdeutsch, and anti-Semite German chauvinist.” (page 521)

“Wagnerian decadence, the impulse to world-denial, is, Nietzsche emphasizes, 'in' rather then 'outside' his nature. Becoming ,what one is' is more a matter of ordering the inner world than of resisting alien influences.

“Under the guiding spirit of Voltaire, Neitzsche continues, he made, in Human, All-Too-Human, the turn from Wagnerian romanticism to Enlightenment thinking....Shortly after, through the fortunate intervention of sickness and fading eyesight, he had to give up the bookwormish life of philology – another wrong turning – and began writing his own philosophy. 

“And that, essentially, is that: the end of Ecce Homo's, in fact, rather meager narrative.  Since the rest of Nietzsche's life was writing books, all that remains is to review the books.  With the turn away from Wagner, the turn away from decadent, life-denying romanticism and towards health and life-affirmation, Nietzsche had essentially become 'what he was'.  But exactly what was that?  Who did he become?” (page 522)

“To adapt and grow, we know, a people must 'give birth to a star', to a 'free spirit': in my language, a 'random mutation'. Ecce Homo identifies 'superman' as just another name for this bearer of the future: the superman 'is a superman specifically when compared to the good - he stands 'super', above, their morality. Nietzsche adds, recalling the Genealogy's point that most free spirits will be 'martyred' by the forces of social conservatism, that 'the good and just would call [Zarathustra's]...superman a devil.'

“What will a 'superman' propose in the way of cultural reform?  In a nutshell, 'the imminent return of the Greek spirit'.  Community will be once more created, gathered together, an preserved by the authentic collection of art work, 'the supreme art in the affirmation of life, tragedy, will be reborn'.  And this takes us back, yet again, to Wagner, to a Wagner purified of cheap showmanship, anti-Semitism, German chauvinism, romanticism, Christianity and life-denial: 'the idea of Bayreuth [will have] transformed itself into...that great noon...who knows? The vision of the festival that I will live to see someday'.

“If, however, we are to abandon the Christian worldview what are we to do about that most problematic of all life's features, its finitude, to which, it has to be admitted, Christianity provided a solution?  The answer, again, is 'Dionysus': entering into the 'psychology of the tragic poet' in which 'over and above all fear and pity one is oneself the eternal joy of becoming', 'the will to life rejoicing in its own inexhaustibility through the sacrifice of its highest types'. To become fully healthy, to enter the Dionysian state, is to be able to rejoice, inter alia, over the eventual 'sacrifice' of one's own, everyday self. Through transcending the illusion of individuality, through realizing one's identity with the totality of existence, one not merely overcomes death but achieves a positive 'affirmation of [in particular, one's own] passing away'.” (pp. 522-523)

Walter Kaufmann called Ecce Homo “one of the treasures of world literature.”  But, he also qualified his praise.  “Of Nietzsche's last works, none has proven harder to understand than Ecce Homo.  The self-portrait is not naturalistic; hence, it is widely felt, it is clearly insane and to be disregarded.  This prevalent view is doubly false.  The lack of naturalism is not proof of insanity but a triumph of style – of a piece with the best paintings of that time.  And even if what might be interpreted as signs of madness do occasionally flicker in a passage, that does not mean that the portrait can therefore be ignored.  In both respects Nietzsche should be compared with Van Gogh.

Ecce Homo does not fit any ordinary conception of philosophers.  It is not only remote from the world of professional or donnish philosophy, from tomes and articles, footnotes and jargon – in brief, from the modern image.  It is equally far from the popular notion of the wise man: serene, past passion, temperate, and Apollinian.  But this is plainly part of Nietzsche's point: to offer a new image – a philosopher who is not an Alexandrian academician, nor an Apollinian sage, but Dionysian.” (from Kaufmann's introduction)

With Ecce Homo Nietzsche achieves his final victory of stylistic prose.  His ramblings and advocacy are more effective than reasoned substance.  In some respects, it is as if he were writing for himself alone.  The author and the audience have melded into a passionate farewell to his “great task”, farewell to critique and psychological insights, farewell to higher culture, farewell to making himself clear. Instead, we say hello to the philosophy made manifest, the Logos made spirit, the ridiculous made sublime.  The Birth of Tragedy reasserted the importance of Dionysus.  In this final work, Nietzsche becomes Dionysus and serves as an example for the rest of us to love all fate, become a free spirit, and relax into the weight of eternal return.