Monday, December 31, 2018

Nietzsche's Notebooks: Part Two

Here are some select quotes from The Will to Power as translated by Walter Kaufmann.  As acknowledged in the previous post, cherry-picking is not the best way to approach Nietzsche, his arguments are often far more subtle.  But, these give a representation of what his notebooks are like.  Kaufmann chose to keep Elizabeth's original four-section organization of the work even though the notes were not originally written this way at all.  It does make it easier to reference and discuss the content of the notebooks.  For context, I have included the approximate dates when these notes were written. 

From Book One – European Nihilism

Essentially, this section reveals that Nietzsche saw nihilism as an inevitable symptom of our times, a necessary reaction to humanity's need to transition from its old culture and manner of understanding to a new "evaluation" of human experience.

Our pessimism: the world does not have the value we thought it had.  Our faith itself has so increased our desire for knowledge that today we have to say this.  Initial results: it seems worth less; that is how it is experienced initially.  It is only in this sense that we are pessimists; i.e., in our determination to admit this revaluation to ourselves without any reservation, and to stop telling ourselves tales – lies – the old way.

“That is precisely how we find the pathos that impels us to seek new values.  In sum: the world might be far more valuable than we used to believe; we must see through the naiveté of our ideals, and while we thought that we accorded it the highest interpretation, we may not even have given our human existence a moderately fair value.” (Aphorism 32, Summer-Fall 1888)

“Waste, decay, elimination, need not be condemned: they are necessary consequences of life, of the growth of life.  The phenomenon of decadence is as necessary as any increase and advance of life: one is in no position to abolish it.  Reason demands, on the contrary, that we do justice to it.” (40, March-June 1888) 

“The multitude and disintegration of impulses and the lack of any systematic order among them result in a ‘weak will’; their coordination under a single predominant impulse results in a ‘strong will’: in the first case it is the oscillation and the lack of gravity;  in the latter, the precision and clarity of direction.” (46, March-June 1888)

“Principle: There is an element of decay in everything that characterizes modern man: but close beside this sickness stand signs of an untested forces and powerfulness of the soul.  The same reasons that produce the increasing smallness of man drive the stronger and rarer individuals to greatness.” (109, 1885)

Overall insight. - Actually, every major growth is accompanied by a tremendous crumbling and passing away: suffering, the symptom of decline belong in the times of tremendous advances; every fruitful and powerful movement of humanity has also created at the same time a nihilistic movement.  It could be a sign of a crucial and most essential growth, of the transition to new conditions of existence, that the most extreme form of pessimism, genuine nihilism, would come into the world.  This I have comprehended.” (112, Spring-Fall 1887)

From Book Two – Critique of Highest Values

Nietzsche felt religion and traditional morality were irrelevant to modern human experience.  Of all the religions, Buddhism was preferable, though nevertheless misguided.  A "higher man" was possible only through a transformation of human values.

“Moralities and religions are the principal means by which one can make whatever one wishes out of man, provided that one possesses a superfluity of creative forces and can assert one’s will over long periods of time – in the form of legislation, religions, and customs.” (144, 1885)

Buddha against the 'Crucified.'  Among the nihilistic religions, one may always clearly distinguish the Christian from the Buddhist.  The Buddhist religion is the expression of a fine evening, a perfect sweetness and mildness – it is gratitude toward all that lies behind, and also to what is lacking: bitterness, disillusionment, rancor; finally, a lofty spiritual love; the subtleties of philosophical contradiction are behind it, even from these it is resting: but from these it still derives its spiritual glory and sunset glow. (- Origin in the highest castes -)” (155, Spring-Fall 1887)

“The higher man is distinguished from the lower by his fearlessness and his readiness to challenge misfortune: it is a sign of degeneration when eudaemonistic valuations begin to prevail (- psychological fatigue, feebleness of will -), Christianity, with its perspective of ‘blessedness,’ is a mode of thought typical of a suffering and feeble species of man.  Abundant strength wants to create, suffer, go under: the Christian salvation-for-bigots is bad music to it, and its hieratic posture an annoyance.” (222, Nov. 1887 – March 1888)

“Through the long succession of millennia, man has not known himself physiologically:  he does not know himself even today.  To know, e.g., that one has a nervous system (- but not ‘soul’ -) is still the privilege of the best informed.  But man is not content not to know in this case.  One must be very humane to say ‘I don’t know that,’ to afford ignorance.” (229, March-June 1888) 

Nietzsche's late philosophy believed that modernity fundamentally a psychological problem.  Human beings assign meaning to life, either as individuals or, more likely, as cultures.  Because humans are the source of all meaning, all meaning is relative and completely fragmented.

My purpose: to demonstrate the absolute homogeneity of all events and the application of moral distinctions as conditioned by perspective; to demonstrate how everything praised as moral is identical in essence with everything immoral and was made possible, as in every development of morality, with immoral means and for immoral ends - ; how, on the one hand, everything decried as immoral is, economically considered, higher and more essential, and how a development toward a greater fullness of life necessarily also demands the advance of immorality.  ‘Truth’ the extent to which we permit ourselves to understand this fact.” (272, Spring-Fall 1887) 

“The great crimes of psychology:

“1. That all displeasure, all misfortune had been falsified with the idea of wrong (guilt).  (Pain has been robbed of innocence);

‘2. That all strong feelings of pleasure (wild spirits, voluptuousness, triumph, pride, audacity, knowledge, self-assurance and happiness as such) have been branded as sinful, as a seduction, as suspicious;

“3. That feelings of weakness, inward acts of cowardice, lack of courage for oneself has been overlaid with sanctifying names and taught as being desirable in the highest degree;

“4. That everything great in man has been reinterpreted as selflessness, as self-sacrifice for the sake of something else, someone else, that even in the man of knowledge, even in the artist, depersonalization has been presented as the cause of the greatest knowledge and ability;

“5. That love has been falsified as surrender (and altruism), while it is an appropriation or a bestowal following from a superabundance of personality.  Only the most complete persons can love; the depersonalized, the ‘objective,’ are the worst lovers 9- one has only to ask the girls!)  This applies also to love of God or of ‘fatherland’; and one must be firmly rooted in oneself.  (Egoism as ego-morphism, altruism as alter-ation.

“6. Life as punishment (happiness as temptation); the passions as devilish, confidence in oneself as godless.
“This whole psychology is a psychology of prevention, a kind of immuring out of fear;  on one hand the great masses (the underprivileged and mediocre) seek to defend themselves by means of it against the stronger (- and to destroy them in their development -), on the other all the drives through which they best prosper, sanctified and alone held in honor.  Compare the Jewish priesthood.” (296, Spring - Fall 1887) 

“It seems to me important that one should get rid of the all, the unity, some force, something unconditioned; otherwise one will never cease regarding it as the highest court of appeal and baptizing it ‘God.’  One must shatter the all; unlearn respect for the all;  take what we have given to the unknown and the whole and give it back to what is nearest, what is ours.” (331, 1883-1888)

“”No egoism at all exists that remains within itself and does not encroach – consequently, that ‘allowable,’ ‘morally indifferent’ egoism of which you speak does not exist at all.  ‘One furthers one’s ego always at the expense of others;’ ‘Life always lives at the expense of other life’ – he who does not grasp this has not taken even the first step toward honesty with himself.” (369, 1885 - 1886)

From Book Three – Principles of a New Evaluation 

A new evaluation requires an entirely new way to think about things.  Physical biology, including human sexuality, should be honored above metaphysical hope and wishful thinking.  Even science itself is not a privileged system.  It is another form of human interpretation and should be subject to the same critique as religion.

“There exists neither ‘spirit,’ nor reason, nor thinking, nor consciousness, nor soul, now will, nor truth: all are fictions that are of no use.  There is no question of ‘subject and object,’ but of a particular species of animal that can prosper only through a certain relative rightness; above all, regularity of its perceptions (so that it can accumulate experience) –

“Knowledge works as a tool of power.  Hence it is plain that it increases with every increase in power –

“The meaning of ‘knowledge’: here, as in the case of ‘good’ or ‘beautiful,’ the concept is to be regarded in a strict and narrow anthropocentric and biological sense.  In order for a particular species to maintain itself and increase its power, its conception of reality must comprehend enough of the calculable and constant for it to base a scheme of behavior on it.  The utility of preservation – not some abstract-theoretical need not to be deceived – stands as the motive behind the development of the organs of knowledge – they develop in such a way that their observations suffice for our preservation.  In other words: the measure of the desire for knowledge depends upon the measure to which the will to power grows within a species: a species grasps a certain amount of reality in order to become master of it, in order to press it into service.” (480, March-June 1888)

“A world In a state of becoming could not, in the strict sense, be ‘comprehended’ or ‘known’; only to the extent that that the ‘comprehending’ and ‘knowing’ intellect encounters a coarse, already-created world, fabricated out of mere appearances but become firm to the extent that this kind of appearance has preserved life – only to this extent is there anything like ‘knowledge’; i.e., a measuring of earlier and later errors by one another.” (520, 1885)

“That which becomes conscious is involved in casual relations which are entirely withheld from us – the sequence of thoughts, feelings, ideas in consciousness does not signify that this sequence is a casual sequence; but apparently it is so, to the highest degree.  Upon this appearance we have founded our whole idea id spirit, reason, logic, etc. (- none of these exist: they are fictitious synthesis and unities), and projected these into things and behind things!

“Usually, one takes consciousness itself as the general sensorium and supreme court; nonetheless, it is only means of communication: it is evolved through social intercourse and with a view to the interests of social intercourse – ‘Intercourse’ here understood to include the influences of the outer world and the reactions they compel on our side; also our effect upon the outer world.  It is not the directing agent, but an organ of the directing agent.” (524, Nov. 1887 – March 1888)

“Essential: to start from the body and employ it as guide.  It is the much richer phenomenon, which allows of clearer observation.  Belief in the body is better established than belief in the spirit.  ‘No matter how strongly a thing may be believed, strength of belief is no criterion of truth.’  But what is truth?  Perhaps a kind of belief that has become a condition of life?  In that case, to be sure, strength could be a criterion; e.g., in regard to causality.” (532, 1885)

“The ascertaining of ‘truth’ and ‘untruth,’ the ascertaining of facts in general, is fundamentally different from creative positing, from forming, shaping, overcoming, willing, such as is of the essence of philosophy.  To introduce a meaning – this task still remains to be done, assuming there is no meaning yet.  Thus it is with sounds, but also with the fate of peoples: they are capable of the most different interpretations and direction toward different goals.  On a yet higher level is to posit a goal and mold facts according to it; that is, active interpretation and not merely conceptual interpretation.  Ultimately, man finds in things nothing but what he himself has imported into them – the finding is called science, the importing – art religion, love, pride.  Even if this should be a piece of childishness, one should carry on with both and be well disposed toward both – some should find; others - we others! – should import!” (605-606, Spring-Fall 1887, 1885-1886)

“…the value of the world lies in our interpretation…every elevation of man brings with it an overcoming of narrower interpretations; that every strengthening and increase of power opens up new perspectives and means believing in new horizons – this idea permeates my writings.” (616, 1885-1886)

“The will to power can manifest itself only against resistances; therefore it seeks that which resists it – this is the primeval tendency of the protoplasm when it extends pseudopodia and feels about.  Appropriation and assimilation are above all a desire to overwhelm, a forming, shaping and reshaping, until at length that which has been overwhelmed has entirely gone over into the power domain of the aggressor and has increased the same.” (656, Spring-Fall 1887)

“The fundamental mistake is simply that, instead of understanding consciousness as a tool and particular aspect of the total life, we posit it is as the standard and the condition of life that is of supreme value: it is the erroneous perspective of a parte ad totum (From a part to a whole) - which is why all philosophers are instinctively trying to imagine a total consciousness, a consciousness involved in all life and will, in all that occurs, a ‘spirit,’ ‘God’.” (707, Spring-Fall 1887)

“In Dionysian intoxication there is sexuality and voluptuousness: they are not lacking in the Apollinian.  There must also be a difference in tempto in the two conditions.  The extreme calm in certain sensations of intoxication (more strictly: the retardation of the feelings of time and space) likes to be reflected in a vision of the calmest gestures and types of soul.  The classical style is essentially a representation of this calm, simplification, abbreviation, concentration - the highest feeling of power is concentrated in the classical type.  To react slowly; a great consciousness; no feeling of struggle.” (799, March-June 1888)

“The feeling of intoxication, in fact corresponding to an increase in strength;  strongest in the mating season; new organs, new accomplishments, colors, forms; ‘becoming more beautiful’ is a consequence of enhanced strength.  Becoming more beautiful as the expression of a victorious will, of increased co-ordination, of a harmonizing of all the strong desires, of an infallibility perpendicular stress.  Logical and geometrical simplification is a consequence of enhancement of strength: conversely the apprehension of such a simplification again enhances the feeling of strength.” (800, March-June 1888)

We have need of lies in order to conquer this reality, this ‘truth,’ that is, in order to live - That lies are necessary in order to live is itself part of the terrifying and questionable character of existence….man must be a liar by nature, he must be above all an artist.  And is as one: metaphysics, religion, morality, science – all of them only products of his will to art, to lie, to flight from ‘truth,’ to negation of ‘truth.’  This ability itself, thanks to which he violates reality by means of lies, this artistic ability of man par excellence - he has it in common with everything that is.  He himself is after all a piece of reality, truth, nature: how should he not also be a piece of genius in lying!

“Art…the great means of making life possible…the great stimulant of life…the only superior counterforce to all will to denial of life…the terrifying and questionable character of existence, who want to see it…but live it, want to live it…suffering is willed, transfigured, deified, where suffering is a form of great delight.

“But truth does not count as the supreme value, even less as the supreme power.  The will to appearance, to illusion, to deception, to becoming and change (to objectified deception) here counts as more profound, primeval, ‘metaphysical’ than the will to truth, to reality, to mere appearance,: - the last is itself merely a form of the will to illusion.  In the same way, pleasure counts as being more primeval than pain: pain only as conditioned, as a consequence of the will to pleasure of the will to become, grow, shape, i.e., to create: in creation, however, destruction is included).  A highest state of affirmation of existence is conceived from which the highest degree of pain cannot be excluded: the tragic-Dionysian state.” (853, 1886)

From Book Four: Discipline and Breeding

The "higher" human being will express specific attributes of nobility and greatness as opposed to the understandings of the "decadent" masses.  Inner strength or character and resilience in the face of the utter decay and loss of meaning of humanity's "original systems of value" is essential.  The will to power is both the force creating this change and that which grows as an influence on the earth as more people harness it.  We must become who we genuinely are as individuals and work toward a transcendence of  traditional human society and norms. 

“What is noble?  Care for most external things…guards against confusion…a stoic severity and self-constraint…slowness of gesture and of glance…endurance of poverty and want, also of sickness…Avoidance of petty honors and mistrust of all who praise readily…doubt as to the communicability of the heart…solitude not as chose but as given…duties only to one’s equals…experience oneself as one who bestows honor…always disguised…pleasure in forms…mistrust of letting oneself go in any way…ability to keep silent…lack of east reconcilability…disgust for…’being cozy’...collection of precious things…slow to generalize.  The individual case…we love the naïve…as spectators…one has constant need of poses…one leaves happiness to the great majority…one instinctively seeks heavy responsibilities…one knows how to make enemies everywhere…one constantly contradicts the great majority no through words but through deeds.” (943-944, 1885, Jan.-Fall 1888)

“A great man…a long logic in all his activity…being able to extent his will across great stretches of his life…he is colder, harder, less hesitating, and without fear of ‘opinion’…if he cannot lead, he goes alone…he wants no ‘sympathetic’ heart, but servants, tools…a solitude within him that is inaccessible to praise and blame, his own justice that is beyond appeal.” (962, 1885)

“In contrast to the animals, man has cultivated an abundance of contrary drives and impulses within himself: thanks to this synthesis, he is master of the earth. – Moralities are the expression of locally limited orders of rank in his multifarious world of drives, so man should not perish through their contradictions.  Thus a drive as master, its opposite weakened, refined, as the impulse that provides the stimulus for the inactivity of the chief drive.  The highest man would have the greatest multiplicity of drives in the relatively greatest strength that can be endured.” (966, 1884)

“This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end;…does not expend itself but only transforms itself; …a play of forces…eternally changing…with tremendous years or recurrence…the simplest forms striving toward the most complex…turbulent…self-contradictory…the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord…self-creating…self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my ‘beyond good and evil,’ without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal; …This world is the will to power – and nothing besides!  And you yourselves are also this will to power – and nothing besides!” (1067, 1885)

It is precisely thoughts like this one that Julian Young contends changed in Nietzsche's mind.  Although The Will to Power ends forcefully with this selected note, Nietzsche had come to moderate this definitive tone in favor of other considerations as indicated in my previous post.  The world as "a monster of energy" is probably an idea he continued to uphold and is an excellent phrase representing the powerful yet chaotic nature of human existence.  This is a fine example of how the notebooks are definitely Nietzsche's writings (and they can be insightful into Nietzsche's philosophy) but they are more his experimental musings than his final judgment. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Nietzsche's Notebooks: Part One

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Nietzsche devoted much time during the last years of his sanity to writing multiple outlines and drafts for a project roughly titled The Will to Power, which he originally conceived of as the pinnacle of his life’s work.  Beginning in 1885 he experimented with various ideas for a work with shifting titles, beginning with an “Attempt at a new Explanation of all Events.”  Later this evolved into “A Reevaluation of All Values” although there were other conceptual approaches considered in addition to these.  All of his work for the project was contained in his notebooks from 1883-1888.  The only aspect of this project to be published was The Antichrist, a fragment of the original concepts.
According to Julian Young, Nietzsche was driven by the realization that he had yet to write a book to rival philosophers whom he respected.  “That Nietzsche had to an extraordinary degree a yearning for greatness is beyond doubt.  Ambition verging in megalomania that became a central feature of his madness was already present in 1884: Zarathustra, he said – yearning disguising itself as prophecy – would ‘split history into two halves’.

“To become ‘great’ in the nineteenth century Germany was to write a ‘big’ book.  None of Nietzsche’s publications prior to the projected ‘masterwork’ fitted the bill – brevity alone disqualified them.  So the task which came to absorb all his energies after the completion of the Genealogy of Morals in August, 1887 was to produce something which would equal, indeed surpass, the Critique of Pure Reason, the Phenomenology of Spirit, and – particularly - The World as Will and Representation.” (page 536)

Yet his attempts to flesh out and shape the basic ideas for The Will to Power proved a dead end.  Ultimately, he stated with some resignation that it was all contained in The Antichrist, which was only an introduction to what he originally intended.  Why did Nietzsche abandon The Will to Power?  Was it a precursor to his onset of madness, only a few weeks away?  Young suggests that it was primarily due to a fundamental internal conflict.

“What we see, then, is that, at the beginning of 1888, Nietzsche was in a state of spiritual turmoil caused by a clash between, on the one hand, his will to greatness, greatness in the traditional mould, and, on the other, his intellectual integrity, which was in danger of being compromised.

“In Nietzsche’s published works intellectual integrity – ‘honesty’, the ‘intellectual conscience’, ‘intellectual cleanliness’, the ‘will to knowledge’ – is presented time after time as the highest personal virtue of both himself and thinkers he admires.  And in the end – a fact greatly to his credit – after a long and agonizing struggle, it is his will to intellectual integrity, his will to truth, that wins out over his will to greatness and causes him to abandon the original project.” (page 543)

Young points out that Nietzsche’s primary areas of inquiry for The Will to Power were cosmological, biological, and psychological. During the course of working through various issues on these general topics Nietzsche met more problems than he originally anticipated.  He grew uninspired about the work, especially in the light of successfully completing Twilight of the Idols and Ecce Homo, among other works at the time.  He decided whatever he found most successful about The Will to Power project was sufficiently contained in The Antichrist, from this same period.

According to Young, Nietzsche’s late works do not express any of the would-be underpinnings of The Will to Power notebooks simply because Nietzsche had already abandoned the work in favor of a wider perspective of human impulses.  “Intellectual integrity, then forced Nietzsche to abandon both the cosmological and the biological doctrines.  Neither is even mentioned, let alone endorsed, in the published works of 1888….he becomes open to the rich variety of human motivations and no longer tries to force them all onto the procrustean bed of the will to power.  In discussing ‘the psychology of the artist’, for instance, Twilight of the Idols recognizes three fundamental impulses:  Apollonian ‘intoxication’, which excites the eyes and inspires great visual art, Dionysian ‘intoxication’, which inspires music and dance and ‘the highest feeling of power’, which inspires great architecture – but, it seems, none of the other arts.  Throughout 1888, moreover, sexual intoxication (as distinct from marriage which is viewed as a power struggle) is viewed as a cause of perception and action alongside, and not reducible to, will to power: a note from the spring of the year, for instance, itemizes the ‘yes-saying affects’ as ‘pride, joy, health, sexual love, enmity and war, reverence…the strong will’ as well as ‘the will to power’ as affects which transfigure things, make them golden, eternal and divine.’” (page 546) 

He simply could not work out some fundamental underpinnings for his projected ‘revaluation’.  “The late works abandon the reductive psychological doctrine and allow human motivation to blossom into the richness it actually has.  Yet beneath this richness Nietzsche detects an underlying pattern.  This pattern, however, abandons the monism of ‘will to power and nothing besides’ in favor of a dualism between two kinds of human life, a dualism which, I think, is intended to gather human motives into two camps.  On the one hand, there is healthy of ‘ascending’ life, the governing ‘principle’ of which is the will to power.  Healthy life, says The Antichrist, is ‘an instinct for growth, for accumulation of force, of power’.  But as a counterbalance to the will to power, there now appears what Freud would later call the ‘death instinct’. ‘Where there is no will to power’, The Antichrist tells us – note the explicit rejection of the psychological doctrine – ‘there is decline’, ’decadence’.  ‘Decadence’ makes its first appearance as a significant philosophical term in Nietzsche’s published works in 1888.” (page 547)

“In the late works, Nietzsche abandons each of the three elements that had constituted the grand vision of the world as ‘will to power and nothing besides’.  This should not, however, be understood as returning the will to power to the modesty of its role in the works of the 1870’s – no more than a useful tool for uncovering the depth psychology of selected kinds of human behavior.  For the will to power remains, to the end, the governing ‘principle’ of healthy life.  What really happens to it in the final works is that it is transformed from a principle of universal explanation into a principle of demarcation, demarcation between the healthy life and decadent life.  Healthy life, that is, remains the insatiable quest for power – or ‘growth’ – remains ‘that which must always overcome itself’.  Moreover, Nietzsche assumes, health is the highest desideratum.  Even the decadent would prefer to be healthy, and only become decadent when the capacity for health deserts them.” (page 548)

Young calls attention to the fact that a lot of what Nietzsche was working out in his notebooks for The Will to Power is not advocated in his published works.  Nietzsche’s late works are dissimilar to the notebooks in much of their content.  This fact should serve as guidance to anyone considering the notebooks.  They were Nietzsche’s tinker shop, where he could express himself extravagantly and contradict himself and explore both ideas that are included in his published works and, importantly, ideas that appear nowhere in his written works.  

The notebooks were published by Nietzsche’s sister after his death, edited and arranged with her commentary, under the title The Will to Power.  Elizabeth pitched it as her brother’s masterwork when it is, in fact, a hodge-podge of notes on similar topics, a lot of which contains strands of thought that he never intended to publish, intellectual dead ends.  While these notebooks are still very much Nietzsche’s writings, they are more like his playground.  There is some profundity here.  But nothing in these notebooks should be read out of context compared with his published works; that is, where the notebooks expound and even contradict his published works, the latter should always prevail.  He simply never intended much of the notebooks for anyone other than himself.  He, in fact, abandoned the very act of fleshing out The Will to Power in favor of The Antichrist and his other late works.  So, one should keep that in mind when placing importance on what one reads in the notebooks.

Walter Kaufmann, in the introduction to his updated translation of The Will to Power offers insights as to its history.  “Two false views of The Will to Power have had their day, in turn.  The first was propagated by Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche, the philosopher’s sister, when she first published the book after his death: for a long time, it was widely held to represent Nietzsche’s crowning systematic achievement, to which one had to turn for his final views.” (page xiii)

Young’s contention that Nietzsche ideologically abandoned The Will to Power (or at least changed his original emphasis) is supported by Kaufmann’s specifics as to which aspects of the notebooks had no parallel with his published works from this same time period.  “…the book contains a good deal that has no close parallel in the works Nietzsche finished; for example, but no means the only, much of the material on nihilism in Book I, some of the epistemological reflections in Book III, and the attempts at proofs of the doctrine of eternal recurrence of the same events – and scores of brilliant formulations.” (page xiv)  These “formulations” are to a large degree what make the notebooks worth reading, but, in most cases, they nevertheless do not find specific connection with the ideas he presents in his published works.

“Nietzsche himself had contemplated a book under the title The Will to Power.  His notebooks contain a great many drafts of title pages for this and other projected works, and some of the drafts for this book suggest the subtitle: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values.  Later on Nietzsche considered writing a book of a somewhat different nature (less aphoristic, more continuous) under the title Revaluation of All Values, and for time he conceived of The Antichrist, written in the fall of 1888, as the first of four books comprising the Revaluation of All Values.

“In 1901, the year after Nietzsche’s death, his sister published her version of The Will to Power in volume 15 of her edition of his collected works, arranging 483 notes under topical headings.  In 1904 she included 200 pages of additional notes ‘from The Will to Power’ in the last volume of her biography of Nietzsche, to help its sales.  And in 1906 another edition of collected works offered a new version of The Will to Power in two volumes: the new material was mixed in with the old, and the total number notes now came to 1,067.” (page xvii)

“To arrange the material, Frau Forster-Nietzsche chose a four-line draft left by her brother, and distributed the notes under its four headings.  Nietzsche himself had discarded this draft, and there were a dozen later ones, about twenty-five in all; but none of these were briefer than this one which listed only the titles of the four projected parts and thus gave the editor the greatest possible freedom.”  (page xviii)

Still, Young points out, Elizabeth’s arrangement and presentation of her brother’s notebooks reflected her personal agenda to control and direct Nietzsche’s philosophy.  She selected which notes to include and, perhaps more importantly, which ones not to include.  The commentary she offered in the first editions of the work reflected her prejudices about Nietzsche’s thought, including interjecting her own anti-Semitism as if it were her brother’s perspective. In doing so, she not only directed the reader into ideas that Nietzsche demonstrably did not share, but she also promoted the inaccurate idea that The Will to Power was a unified intellectual work. 

“One of the many bad things about Elizabeth’s Will to Power is that, by arranging her brother’s aphorisms thematically rather than chronologically, she disguises the fact that the notebooks are notebooks, a confused and often contradictory jumble of experiments in the laboratory of thought, not ex cathedra pronouncements of final doctrine.  Like most philosophers, Nietzsche jots down an idea but then sets it aside for a period of time while haring off a different, often opposing, direction.” (page 544)

For his part, Kaufmann has no qualms about how the notebooks were reorganized.  “…for all its faults, this arrangement has the virtue of making it easy for the reader to locate passages and to read straight through a lot of notes dealing with art or religion or the theory of knowledge.  Provided one realizes that one is pursuing notes and not a carefully wrought systematic work, the advantages of such an arrangement outweigh the disadvantages.” (page xv)

Elizabeth’s excesses have long-since been unmasked and today we understand her motivations largely thanks to the excellent research of such classic Nietzsche scholars as Kaufmann.  “One wonders how her success was possible and why the many learned men who produced monographs on various aspects of Nietzsche’s thought deferred so humbly to this woman.  Of course, she reaped the belated sympathy which many people suddenly felt for her brother, but it was her handling of Nietzsche’s Nachlass that constitutes the decisive factor.  She jealously established and guarded her authority by first gaining exclusive rights to all her brother’s literary remains and then refusing to publish some of the most important among them, while insisting doubly on their significance.  Nobody could challenge her interpretations with any authority, since she was guardian of yet unpublished material – and developed an increasingly precise memory for what her brother had said to her in conversation.  Finally, she blended all these considerations with a shrewd business sense.” (page 5)

“All this may seem academic.  Yet it is significant that The Will to Power was not, as is so often supposed, Nietzsche’s last work; and that it was abandoned by him before The Antichrist was written; and that this, like most of Nietzsche’s later books, was based in part on notes which were later included, uncritically, in the posthumous edition of The Will to Power.  Moreover, The Antichrist, however provocative, represents a more single-minded and sustained inquiry than any of Nietzsche’s other books and thus suggests that the major work for which it constitutes Part I was not meant to consist of that maze of incoherent, if extremely interesting, observations which have since been represented as his crowning achievement.  While he intended to use some of this material, he evidently meant to mold it into a coherent and continuous whole; and the manner in which he utilized his notes in his other finished books makes it clear that many notes would have been given an entirely new and unexpected meaning.” (page 7)

In the introduction to his (far more accurate) translation, Kaufman not only corrects the misconceptions fostered by Elizabeth’s misappropriation of Nietzsche’s philosophy, but he offers some sage advice for reading Nietzsche in general.  This applies to any of his printed works but even more so to his posthumously published notebooks: 

“On the surface, Nietzsche seems easy to read, at least by comparison with other philosophers.  In fact, however, his style poses unusual difficulties, and anyone who has taken the trouble to compare most of the existing translations with the originals must realize how easy it is to miss Nietzsche’s meaning, not merely occasionally but in section upon section.  The reasons are not difficult to find.

“Nietzsche loved brevity to the point of ellipsis and often attached exceptional weight to the nuances of words he did put down.  Without an ear for the subtlest connotations of his brilliant, sparkling German, one is bound to misunderstand him.  Nietzsche is German’s greatest prose stylist, and his language is a delight at every turn like a poet’s – more than that of all but the greatest poets.

“At the same time Nietzsche deals with intricate philosophical questions, especially but not only in The Will to Power, and whoever lacks either a feeling for poetry or some knowledge of these problems and their terminology is sure to come to grief in trying to fathom Nietzsche, sentence for sentence, as a translator must.” (pp. xx – xxi)

The Will to Power, then, is Nietzsche’s private notes and writings edited and rearranged by his sister Elizabeth, originally with additional commentary provided by her with which Nietzsche would not have agreed.  The first editions from 1901 – 1906 cannot be taken very seriously and will lead to misconceptions about Nietzsche, including that he was a proto-fascist philosopher.  More recent translations show The Will to Power as filled with robust and diverse thought-experiments and sketches; ideas Nietzsche considered, but did not necessarily finalize.  His notes are filled with thoughts in various stages of appropriation, discourse, or dismissal. 
Having mentioned all that as a cautionary tale, The Will to Power has some wonderful passages. And I’ll share some of my favorites in my year-end post.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Nietzsche's Journey to Sorrento

Note:  This post can be considered an addendum to my previous post entitled Sorrento Days.

Nietzsche’s Journey to Sorrento by Paolo D’Iorio offers us an intimate look at Nietzsche's time in that Italian town at the beginning of the formation of thinking that would turn him away from his past with Richard Wagner and The Birth of Tragedy toward the future of his “positivist period” where concepts such as the “free spirit” took root and flourished.  It spans his notebooks and correspondences of late-1876 into 1877 to reveal the circumstances of his life and thought that lead to the profound period of philosophical development which resulted in Human, All Too Human.

The subtitle for the work is apt: “Genesis of the Philosophy of the Free Spirit.”  The books does address the intricacies of his free spirit philosophy.  Rather, it is an account of its birth and early development during and immediately following his time in Sorrento.  The author relies heavily on Nietzsche’s notebooks of this time, among other sources.

"This notebook contains twenty fragments that directly concern ' the way toward the freedom of the spirit' and judge that 'a man who thinks freely experiences the evolution of entire generations ahead of time.'  It is affirmed here that the free spirit lives for the future of man, inventing new possibilities of existence and weighing the old ones.  These fragments divided humanity into free men and slaves....It is also a matter of the way to make life easy and light: 'Every man has his recipes for enduring life (partly to let it be easy, partly to make it easy, if it has once revealed itself as hard), even the criminal.  This art of living applied everywhere must be reconstructed.  Explain what the recipes of religion actually achieve.  Not to lighten life but to take life lightly.  Many want to make it harder in order to offer afterwards their supreme recipes (art, aesthetics, etc.).'  The conclusion of the book, which was to be called Das leichte Leben, The Light of Life, had to connect freedom of spirit and love of truth to life made light and easy according to the double-meaning of leicht in German: 'We can live like the gods who live who live lightly if we learn to stand before the truth in vivid rapture....In conclusion: free spirits are gods who live lightly.'  Other fragments reveal the desired effect of these meditations on the reader: 'Goal: to put the reader in such an elastic state that he stands on his tiptoes....Free thought, fairy tales, lasciviousness lift man onto his tiptoes.'" (page 16)

It will be remembered that Nietzsche traveled with his friend Paul Rée and one of his pupils Albert Brenner to Sorrento at the invitation of Madam von Meysenbug.  As usual, travel was difficult for Nietzsche and he to fight against the various maladies that plagued him for most of his productive life.  This entourage initially formed in Naples and we know a bit of Nietzsche’s intimate experience during this time from a letter by Brenner.

"Finally, at one o'clock in the morning on Wednesday, October 25, the three friends arrived in Naples, where Malwida von Meyesenbug is waiting for them...Albert Brenner, Nietzsche's young student, testifies to the adventurous testifies to the adventurous circumstances of the arrival in a letter to his family:

"'We arrived at the port last night (Wednesday), at one o'clock in the morning and were foolish enough to push on to Naples instead of staying on the ship.  We therefore found ourselves in a narrow boat, rowed by four sailors from the port.  It was dark night, no sound could be heard any longer except for several incomprehensible words exchanged now and then between our suspicious oarsmen.  I began to see ghosts and gripped my dagger under my cloak, cursing the elegance of my top hat, which I would have readily seen at the bottom of the sea.  We landed in a small, secluded port illuminated by hardly any light.  Several seaside customs officers approached us, looking even more like thieves, and demanded a tip.  The four oarsmen divided up our two suitcases and dragged them along the narrow street....Nietzsche, Rée, and I had to oversee our luggage carriers: they walked at a distance of around twenty or thirty paces from one another.  I hardly doubted that they were leading us astray, to some remote boutique in order to abduct us...

"The following day, however, the four friends remain in Naples and find time to take a long coach ride in the city's streets, which Nietzsche will remember later.  For the moment, Milwida is the one who, in a letter to her adoptive daughter, captures the magic of Nietzsche's ecstatic contact with the South:

"'On the evening of the day before yesterday, I traveled through Posillipo in a coach with my three gentlemen; the light was divine, truly fairylike, Mount Vesuvius was majestically crowned with thunderclouds, and from the flames and the gloomy black-red glow there rose a rainbow.  The city gleamed as if made of gold while the other side, the deep blue sea extended; they sky, covered with bright, glistening clouds was translucent green and blue and the glorious islands stood among the waves as in a fairy tale.  It was so marvelous that the gentlemen were drunk from ecstasy.  I have never seen Nietzsche so lively.  He laughed for joy.'" (pp. 21 - 22) 

By coincidence, Wagner had repaired to Sorrento following the first Bayreuth festival.  Nietzsche had more or less worshiped Wagner since their friendship began in 1872.  But he began to feel disillusioned by Wagner when Nietzsche encountered the atmosphere of Bayreuth.  Things did not turn out as either of them had envisioned, though Nietzsche was far more affected by this than was Wagner.  By the time at Sorrento, Nietzsche saw Wagner in a completely different light and was less enchanted with the great composer’s artistic vision.  

"...Nietzsche and Wagner met for the last time, attracted by melodies and passions henceforth radically different.  IT was probably during these few days when they lived near one another that he experienced when the thought of the Holy Grail and the Eucharist.  This was, for Nietzsche, the last straw...for a man who, already, had not withstood the disillusionment of the festival at Bayreuth and who, well before, had begin to take the first steps in the direction of his own path.  The beautiful friendship and intellectual solidarity, the brotherhood of arms at the heart of the Bayreuth project for the rebirth of the Hellenic civilization in Germany thanks to the magic of Wagner's musical theater were extinguished at Hotel Vittoria.  Without a scandal.  Their relations cooled, their paths diverged: everything was clear from then on, and everything was over.  The philosopher and the musician would thereafter attack one another publicly - Nietzsche in Things Human, All Too Human, Wagner in an article  in the Bayreuther Blatter titled 'Public and Popularity" - but without naming one another explicitly." (page 32)

"'It was a moment when I began, in secret, to laugh at Richard Wagner" at the time when he was preparing to play his final role and appeared before his dear Germans with the gestures of a thaumaturge, a redeemer, a prophet, and even a philosopher.  And since I had not ceased to love him, my own laughter gnawed at my heart: such is the story of all those who become independent from their masters and at last fine their own way.'  But how to find his path, how to learn to walk alone, without Schopenhauer and Wagner and, potentially, even against them?  Despite the bad condition of his health and his suffering eyes, Nietzsche begins to write again and realizes that the moment has come to make his subterranean reflections, not only by allusions and fragments, as he had done before in Birth of Tragedy and in the Untimely Meditations, but as a whole and in coherent fashion, developing and completing them with the new ideas that settled day after day on the pages of his notebooks, thanks, in part, to a dialogue with a series of books that he had bought throughout the previous months and which he was reading with Paul Rée and with his little circle of friends at Villa Rubinacci." (page 34)

The foursome of Brenner, Rée, Nietzsche and von Meysenbug now entered a comfortable, idyllic, stimulating, leisurely yet frugal life together.  There was a schedule. Malwida explains: "'Our life in Sorrento organized itself very comfortably.  In the morning we were never together; everyone attended to his own occupations in total freedom.  The midday meal was the first to reunite us, and sometimes un the afternoon we would take a stroll together through the enchanting surroundings, among the gardens of orange and lemon trees as tall as our apple and pear trees and whose branches, covered in golden fruit, bent over the garden walls and cast their shadows along a path; or we would climb up gently sloping hills and pass by farms where lovely girls were dancing the tarantella - not the contrived tarantella that bands of decked-out ladies dance in hotels for foreigners these days, but the rustic dance full of natural and innocent grace.  Often, we would take longer excursions, riding on donkeys, which are reserved there for mountain paths, and out laughter and merriment on those occasions knew no bounds; the young Brenner especially, with his awkward, schoolboyish manner and his long legs that nearly trotted alongside those of the donkey, was the target of many good-natured jokes.  In the evening, we reconvened for dinner and then in the sitting room, for animated conversation and communal readings.'" (page 37)

Paul Rée offers some insight into these days in a letter he wrote to Nietzsche’s sister, Elizabeth: "Here is the daily timetable.  At seven in the morning, your brother drinks milk, a beverage that agrees with him particularly well.  Over tea, he dictates something or other until lunchtime, usually.  The food is always simple and hearty, thanks to the care of Miss von Meysenbug, that wise lady with the goodness of an angel.  After lunch, the great, general siesta, then a communal stroll.  Lately, your brother has been capable of walking for hours on end, even on mountain paths, and this is doubtless the main reason why he has been spared headaches since his last seizure, which was brief, but still extremely violent.'" (page 38)

"The daily schedule includes, in the evening, at least two hours of communal reading in the sitting room, by the fireplace.  Malwida's letters give us a description of the atmosphere during these evenings shared by the little community in Sorrento: 'In the evening, at home once again, Rée reads to us for about an hour before dinner and for an hour after dinner.  At nine o'clock we go to bed.  We are currently reading Voltaire's Zadig and Le siecle de Louis XIV, by which we are entranced.  Nietzsche and Rée especially are fervent admirers of old French literature.'" (page 38)

Malwida wrote: "Rée with his readings, is quite simply my my armchair by the fireplace, the splendid readings, with spirited remarks, often interrupted by hearty laughter - no, truly, I only dread the time when it will end....When we are reunited this way in the evening, Nietzsche sitting comfortably in the arm chair behind his eyeglasses, Dr. Rée, our beneficent reader, at the table where the lamp burns, the young Brenner by the fireplace next to me and helping me peel oranges for dinner, I often say jokingly: 'We truly represent and ideal family.'" (page 40)

Nietzsche thrived under these circumstances, though still often bedridden for days.  But, more days than not, he was fully experiencing life in Sorrento as his own thoughts began to take shape.  Wagner was now reprehensible to him.  The direction of his previously published works no longer interested him.

"The profound change that Nietzsche is in the process of living is the distancing from his recent past: the Basel years, the friendship with Wagner, and the whole constellation of ideas of The Birth of Tragedy and of the Untimely Meditations  seem to him, now, to be very far away.  This change digs deep into his soul and produces something like a reversal: it exhumes earlier states of mind and buries those that are recent.  It is not by chance that Nietzsche had written during the summer of 1876, the first kernel of the thoughts of Things Human, All Too Human, was title Die Pflugschar, 'The Plowshare,' a technical term designating the piece of iron in the plow that serves to chop and turn over clumps of earth." (page 47)

The origin of Human, All Too Human started out as another part of his recent series of published meditations.  It was only after his thought deepened and broadened that he realized what he had to say could not be captured in a mere essay.  The essay he started writing remained unfinished, the last gasp of his former perspective.  Parts of it were eventually rewritten into a major new philosophic work. 

" the beginning of the journey South, in Bex, Nietzsche was indeed working on the fifth Untimely; he spoke of it to the enthusiastic Isabelle on the train and he had dictated parts of it to Brenner.  He even announced to his sister that it was finished, and his friends were already talking about it.  And the subject of his fifth Untimely, the free spirit, could well have served as a transition toward a new phase in his philosophy.  But Nietzsche no longer had either the strength or the desire to write it, for it retained the Wagnerian schema of the fight against the timeliness for a reform of German culture, and Nietzsche's thought now definitely exited the magic circle of this strange untimeliness, deeply connected to the present.

"A new style, a new book, a new phase of thought...For many of Nietzsche's friends, it was not easy to follow the philosopher in this rapid intellectual evolution.  Mawilda was the first to detect this profound change and was horrified by it." (page 66)

"The preliminary drafts of Things Human, All Too Human mark, above all, an antimetaphysical turn.  In The Birth of Tragedy (1872), Nietzsche had constructed a metaphysics of art and the artist affirming that existence is worth living only from an aesthetic perspective. Among the Sorrento papers, there is a very explicit passage on this subject: 'I want to declare expressly to the readers of my earlier works that I have abandoned the metaphysical aesthetic views that essentially dominated them: they are pleasant, but untenable.'" (page 68) 

Nietzsche wrote Wagnerian Mathilde Maier about his new point of view: "'It cannot be changed: I must create distress for all my friends - precisely as I finally express how I saved myself from distress....If you could only feel the pure air of the altitudes that I live in now, the sweet sentiment toward the people who still dwell in the mist of the valleys, more than ever devoted as I am to all that is good and active, a hundred steps closer to the Greeks than I have ever been; and how I myself now live striving for wisdom to the smallest detail, while before I only worshiped and idolized the wise - in short, if you could undergo as I have this transformation and crisis, then you would have to desire to live something like it.

"'It was during the summer in Bayreuth that I became fully conscious of it: after the first performances that I attended, I fled to the mountains and there, in a small village in the forest, the first draft came into being, approximately a third of my book, at the time titled 'The Plowshare.'" (pp. 72-73)

"From the terrace of the Villa Rubinacci, Nietzsche sees, every day, far off in the distance, in the sea between Mount Vesuvius and Capri, the rugged silhouette of the Isle of Ischia.  As he reflects upon the school of educators, on the civilization of free spirits and the project of creating a place for the training of higher men, he has before him this volcanic, fertile island, rife with history.  This image, which is not mentioned in the Sorrento manuscripts, remains, however, imprinted in his mind and reemerges over the course of the following years, in an extremely important passage in his body of work.  Nietzsche will say so himself, seven years later.  In the summer of 1883, at Malwida's suggestion, Nietzsche had planned to go and live on the Isla of Ischia with his sister, but on July 28, a violent earthquake had destroyed a considerable portion of the island..." (page 79)

Nietzsche departed Sorrento a changed person but he was still very sickly.  In a pivotal moment of his life, he decided not to continue being a professor teaching philology at Basel.  To his fellow professor and confidante in Basel, Overbeck, he wrote the day before he left: "'My health is ever worse, to such a degree that I must depart as soon as possible - I am bedridden every three days. Tomorrow, I am leaving by boat; I want to try a cure in Pfafers, Near Regaz. [...] It is not to be thought that I will recommence my courses this fall: therefore! Please help me a little and advise me to whom (and with what title) I should make my demission  request.  This remains, for now, your secret; the decision was very difficult for me, but Miss von Meysenbug maintains that it is absolutely imperative.  I must expect to live with my suffering for a long time to come, perhaps years.  I cannot help but afflict you with this.'" (page 91)

"If Nietzsche's life is in his thoughts, the true biographical event that details the philosophical meaning of this first journey South is contained in a few lines written in pencil in one of the notebooks that he has with him during the sea crossing.  Even if in Sorrento he had been inclined toward the acceptance of life and retained in his memory the words of Spinoza...('The free man thinks of nothing less than death, and his knowledge is not a meditation on death but on life'), he still had a long path to travel.  The Sorrento papers he carries with him in his suitcase and the plan for a new book, still untitled, constitutes a promise of freedom, but also an imposing task." (page 95)

Nietzsche’s Journey to Sorrento is about the personal, physical as well as spiritual journey of Nietzsche’s early travels in Italy.  It gives us a few intimate details about what his life was like at this time, illness and all.  While it is also about his philosophical journey, it draws no major conclusions about Nietzsche’s thought other than to note how it was transforming.  And that is all the book needs to do to justify being studied.  Human, All Too Human had not happened yet.  He was breaking from Wagner and taking a new path from the previous direction of his own published ideas.  Essays and Greek mythology were no longer enough.  There was a philosophy of a free spirit to discover.  It was found during a five-month sabbatical in Sorrento.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Making of Friedrich Nietzsche: Part Two

Nietzsche arrived at Bonn with his good friend Paul Deussen.  It was partly because Deussen wanted to attend Bonn himself that Nietzsche chose that institution.  Not long afterward he became a fraternity “party” boy.  “Finding himself rootless and ignorant in a new city, Nietzsche, together with Deussen, sought out former classmates and found that a host of these had joined fraternity called Franconia.  On October 23, the Sunday after their arrival, the two young men were invited to a tavern and given a recruitment pitch by Georg Stockert, their former dorm-mate at Pforta.  Drinks were surely served, and the bar setting would have encouraged camaraderie and group dynamics.  By the day’s end Nietzsche, Deussen, and six others had signed up as pledges.  The recruiter no doubt stressed what the neophytes needed to hear – that the fraternity promised continuity, community, and enlightenment on the local scene.  Given the tavern setting, he probably did not need to describe the more roughhewn aspects of the fraternity – that they were notoriously rowdy and associated with drinking, fencing, and all kinds of festivity.  Frat boys got together nightly with their pipes to vie in beer contests, speeches, and song.” (pp. 183-184)

Soon after beginning his studies at Bonn, Nietzsche discovered a philosopher to who had a major impact on his life, Arthur Schopenhauer.  “He states that the aftermath of reading The world as will and representation he berated himself in ‘bitter, unjust, and unrestrained’ reproach and prescribed himself bodily penances.  For fourteen days in a row he never went to bed before 2 a.m. and then rose exactly at 6.  Later he would admit, only ‘the seductions of life, of vanity, and enforced regular study’ saved him from becoming ascetically unhinged.” (page 222)

Schopenhauer brought, among other things, the idea of philosophy as a possible life path and alternative to philology.  “Of course Nietzsche had read quite a bit of philosophy before but in a desultory fashion as shown by the influences to which he had been exposed: Christian apologetics, contemporary materialism, Feuerbach, Strauss, a few dialogues by Plato, and insights gleaned from the histories given by Schaarschmidt and Fortlage.  This collection lacks unity and suggests proportionately little sense of commitment or opportunity for progress.  By contrast, Nietzsche committed himself almost religiously to Schopenhauer, and even if he shortly saw through various aspects of his master, he did not shy from fundamental allegiance and single-minded investigation of his doctrines, Schopenhauer gave him a philosophic center of gravity, and the increasing sophistication he displays in both reading and letters suggests a confidence and burgeoning ability which he probably owed to development along a single path.” (pp. 222-223)

At Bonn, Nietzsche most admired the professorship of Friedrich Ritschl though he only took one or two classes under him.  They struck up a personal association and Nietzsche’s interest in philology peaked.  His life seemed to take on more definition. “Schopenhauer had given him a sense of spiritual foundation.  Ritschl offered a practical path and a career.  The Philological Society provided a ready source of suitable friends, and the household of his professor conferred a second family, inducting him into a more good-humored but disciplined world than any he had known.  Only a passionate relationship – or, at least, an intense male friendship – was lacking, and that too was soon to come.” (page 229)

Erwin Rohde became that close friend that, somehow, Deussen never quite was.  Nietzsche soon fell out of interest in the “party” fraternity activities as quickly as he had fallen into that lifestyle.  Apparently, it was just another life experiment for him.  More importantly, he was disappointed with the University of Bonn.  Both himself and Rohde felt the University if Leipzig had a stronger philology department, especially since Ritschl just accepted a position on the faculty there.  It turned out that Nietzsche, Rohde and Ritschl all moved more or less together to the University of Leipzig in 1866. 

“The two men had moved separately to Leipzig, and Rohde joined the Philology Society in mid-August 1866, although he and Nietzsche began to socialize the month before.  While the men were frequently together over the following months, they seem not to have been close until March 1867…Rohde records that they then had a breakthrough of sorts, which depended in June when they took horseback riding lessons together.  The following months were among the personally richest in both men’s lives. ‘We led an amazing existence all summer,’ Rohde wrote, ‘as though in a wandering magic circle, not closed outwardly in an unfriendly way, but associating almost exclusively with one another.’

The friendship with Rohde grew stronger.  “On the surface the two had much in common.  Rohde too had been smitten with Schopenhauer, and the men shared with that philosopher a saturnine temperament and a skeptical view of the so-called pleasures of life.  Both were emotionally labile – it was in defense against this instability that Nietzsche exerted so much discipline – but Rohde was perhaps more directly passionate, as his literary interests suggest.” (page 249)

But the change in schools did not generate renewed interest in philology.  Though he excelled at that scholastic discipline, it did not satisfy him.  “In fact, Nietzsche was not a ‘true philologist’ at all, as he would himself acknowledge in the future and as he must have known in 1866.  He might be a good one and he might enjoy its practice, but he hardly qualified as once who was ‘called’ to that profession.  Rather, he would observe, he had chosen it as an interim measure which would bring discipline and order to his life. ‘I longed for a counterweight to my shifting and restless nature of my earlier inclinations, for a field that would be advanced with cool sobriety, with logical iciness, with steady work, without the results directly touching the heart.  All of this I then thought to find in philology.  His ‘calling’ was not his ‘life’s task,’ but a substitute for one, a pose that he tried to make good.” (page 253)

As mentioned in part one, throughout his youth and into early adulthood, Nietzsche did not live in a solitary fashion as he did late in his life.  He was a social person who preferred few special friends.  Rohde remained of singular importance. “Nietzsche was not averse to festivities, and he enjoy himself considerably that spring and summer [1867].  He, Rohde, and members of the Philological Society frequented the Schutzenhaus, a spacious dining establishment with multiple decks, both indoors and outdoors, where they drank, dined, and listened to concerts.  Along, the two young men took walks in the Rosental, a park south of the university, where they sat on the banks of the river Pleisse and baptized an especially placid spot ‘Nirvana.’  They also spent evenings in the theater and later would exchange letters regarding notable actresses.  Rohde recalled that during the summer the pair spent half and even full days in ‘real laziness,’ idle times that in his eyes brought ‘the richest profit.’  Profitable or not, all this entertainment, coupled with Nietzsche’s preparation for a lecture to the Philological Society on Homer and Hesiod, took its toll.  As August 1, the deadline for the Diogenes Laertius paper approached, Nietzsche found himself seriously behind.  Fortunately, he was adept at quick composition, and late into the deadline’s eve and ‘with not another hour to be lost,’ he wrote down his findings and ran with the manuscript to the home of his friend.  Rohde was waiting with glasses and wine.” (page 267) 

In late 1867, increasingly disenchanted with his field of study, Nietzsche signed up for one year of military service in a Prussian artillery unit near his mother and sister at Naumberg.  “One might expect Nietzsche to dislike military service, since it was unsuited to his talents and it removed him from his friends.  Instead, in the beginning at least, he proved acquiescent and even appreciative.  This partly reflected as admiration for the army that had begun in childhood when he enjoyed watching soldiers at their drills.  This esteem was reinforced in 1866 when he cheered the Prussian troops during war.  In the aftermath of that conflict, he wrote [Carl von] Gersdorff, who was under arms, that to switch to military life after academia seemed a healthy alternative, for it offered ‘an effective contrast’ to school.” (page 271)

“He had been assigned to a cavalry artillery unit, and although he frequently wrote about horses and even kept a little list of equine anatomy in his notebooks, he rarely mentioned munitions in his letters and not at all in his private papers.  With his poor eyesight, he was unlikely a good shot, and if he had been skilled with powder and shells he would have said so.  He did claim to be liked – ‘Everyone here from the captain to the gunners wishes me well’ – and he was told that as a horseman he had the best seat in the unit, a compliment of which he was understandably proud.” (page 272)

“In early March, 1868, five months into his service, Nietzsche suffered a serious accident.  He had been housebound throughout the winter and when spring arrived, he was anxious to resume horseback riding.  One day, while working with what he called ‘the most fiery and unruly animal in the battery,’ he tried to leap upon its back and missed, his chest striking the front of the saddle.  He sensed a quivering tear on his left side but tried to ignore it.  After a day and a half of mounting pain he twice fainted; and on the following day he found himself ‘almost nailed to the bed’ with severe pain and high fever.  The military doctor discovered that he had torn a couple of muscles and bruised the breastbone.  It was soon evident that he also suffered from internal bleeding and infection.  For ten days Nietzsche endured pain, fever, and eventually enterogastritis.  Not only was the bleeding internally, but the pus exuding from the infection was subcutaneous as well and had no way to exit.  The doctor had to cut repeatedly through the skin in order to leech it, and eventually a drainage canal was installed so that the liquid could discharge externally.  During this time Nietzsche received morphine nightly so that he could sleep, and his letters indicate that he occasionally passed out.  Writing Ritschl, he stated that he had to relearn how to walk.  Worse, his wounds did not heal, and eventually physicians diagnosed damage to the sternum." (page 286)

His thirst for knowledge remained strong and he was published in a minor scholarly journal.  “On April 1, a little over a month after the accident, he received his only military promotion, from private to private first class.  Such an advance might be viewed as ironic since, given his pain and weakness, Nietzsche was surely incapable of performing any military duties.  Instead, he seized the opportunity to rechannel his sufferings into an extraordinary burst of productivity.  Unaware of the accident, Rohde had sent him a study ‘The ass,’ a work at the time attributed to Lucian and he asked for comments.  Despite his medical condition, Nietzsche obliged, writing a half a page critique, while citing authorities and correcting infelicities in his friend’s presentation.  During the following month (between April 3 and May 12), he read a dissertation on Kant’s view on freedom of the will,” reviewed and edition of Hesiod’s Theogony for a Leipzig journal, added an addendum to his Diogenes Laertius article, gathered materials for a proposed dissertation, ‘The concept of the organic since Kant,’ and he reworked his Simonides essay into an article for the Rheinisches Museum.” (pp. 286-287)

Nietzsche met Richard Wagner, the man who would most influence is late-youth, following his military service and return to the University of Leipzig.  Wagner highly-regarded the young philology student.  “Wagner could be extraordinarily entertaining, and he charmed Nietzsche that night, making fun of effete conductors, the Leipzig dialect, and university philosophers, even as he confided that he too was an aficionado of Arthur Schopenhauer.  He also played and sang passages from Meistersinger both before and after dinner, and at the evening’s end he read autobiographical accounts of his student life in Leipzig – stories that so amused Nietzsche that he could not think of them afterward without laughing.  Wagner also invited the young man to visit him at his villa on Lake Lucerne…” (page 300)

As Nietzsche gravitated toward Wagner and Schopenhauer, his fading interest in philology, despite already being a published scholar, manifested itself aggressively as distaste toward Professor Ritschl.  “Within two weeks of that dazzling evening, he was reading Opera and drama, a manifesto by the composer; and at the end of January 1869 he would attend a performance of Die Meistersinger in Dresden.  He further found in Schopenhauer characterizations of ‘the genius’ which be believed eminently suited to Wagner.  He may not at the time have envisioned meeting the great man again, but his imagination had been inflamed.  He may also have begun subtly to reconsider his loyalties, for this was a period in which his anger with Ritschl boiled over so badly that for the first time he made his displeasures known even to the professor himself.” (page 301)

“Ritschl’s shock during the meeting with Nietzsche shows that he was largely and perhaps wholly unaware of the distance his pupil had traveled over the preceding fifteen months.  In his eyes, the young man was still his loyal student.  He certainly did not know that the latter had recently referred to him as ‘a pander for philology,’ an insult referring to his habit of wooing students through praise and interesting projects.  Nietzsche’s process of disenchantment have developed largely in the lonely precincts of Naumberg – far from the reach of the teacher.  When, as would shortly occur, Ritschl would warmly endorse this pupil, he would be unaware of the latter’s recent disillusionment.” (page 302)

Nietzsche’s verbal diatribe against Ritschl did not lessen the professor’s appreciation for Nietzsche’s talent in philological scholarship.  “One month after the confrontation with his protégé, Ritschl received a letter from Adolf Kiessling, a former student who taught classical philology at the University of Basel.  Kiessling had accepted a job [and] brought up the name of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose articles he had seen in the Rheinisches Museum, and Ritschl commended hi pupil in the strongest terms.” (page 303)

“Ritschl had believed himself obliged to inform Nietzsche of his possible appointment, for Basel needed to know whether he was amenable before proceeding.  Nietzsche, hearing the news, believed that he had no real choice but to consent.  However, his emotional response was from the beginning mixed – he describes himself as both pleased and dismayed – and ultimately negative.  He was flattered by the expected stroke of good fortune.  He was also shocked and eventually angered by this early and to him premature promotion into the grim world of professional responsibility.  At the very point when, in his own mind, he had stepped onto a grander stage, outgrowing philology as currently practiced, Ritschl had remanded him to a world he found pinched and dreary.”  (page 305)

Carl von Gersdorff also became close to Nietzsche during this time, often socializing with Rohde as well.  “A letter to Gersdorff is more revealing.  ‘My dear friend,’ it begins, ‘the final deadline has arrived, the last evening I will spend in my home; early tomorrow it’s out into the wide wide world…in a difficult and oppressive atmosphere of duty and work.’  The writer worries that he will become a ‘philistine,’ a dull and blinkered member of the adult world that students like to mock.  Nietzsche believes that his philosophic seriousness will preserve him from so dire a fate, but certain forms of professional deformation will take their toll.  He is clearly aware of doors about to close, and the best he can hope is to communicate this sense of ‘the true and essential problems of life and thought’ to his students. ‘[L]et us try to use this life so that when we are happily redeemed from it, others will bless it as worthwhile.’” (page 312)

This last acclamation betrays that Nietzsche still sought to be “redeemed” in his life, to strive for and attain something that would allow him to live so others would “bless” his work as “worthwhile.”  Philology was a clear talent, Nietzsche was remarkably gifted in classic literature, totally competent in Greek among other languages.  Philology provided Nietzsche with a pursuit other than theology, the profession his family expected him to pursue.  But this act of rebellion ultimately failed to satisfy him.  He was more interested in music and poetry and philosophy than he was ancient languages.

Yet, before he could escape the promise of his great talent, he was offered a professorship in philology.  It was too good of an opportunity to turn down.  So, he entered his profession as a rising star, never having written his dissertation nor even taken his exit exams.  Seemingly in a flash, he was Herr Professor, Dr. Nietzsche, wonder student made teacher.  He still quested for some purpose in his life.  The path he took was not the Christian path, but he needed something to fill the void that his former religion once filled in his life.  He thought he might have found it in Wagner and his music and Schopenhauer and his philosophy but something still wasn’t right.  The void left by Christianity remained, and that void would remain for almost a decade to come.  

Of course, that last part is merely my personal perspective and remains beyond the purview of The Making of Friedrich Nietzsche.  But Blue’s research and perspective brings Nietzsche’s youth into sharper focus.  He was very different in many ways from who he would become, but the groundwork for his ultimate inward quest was already laid and his passion for truth and its application to life was burning bright with youthful exuberance in spite of his acceptance, due to mere circumstances, of a career that ultimately failed to satisfy him.  We can thank Daniel Blue for showing us this.