Nietzsche And The Postmodernists

© SRP Publications London 1996 - ISBN 1 871446 03 1 NIETZSCHE AND THE POSTMODERNISTS


Not everyone is happy with the saying that one man's meat is another man's poison. What I feel as pressure to accept obnoxious opinions, is seen differently by those who insist that with fuller understanding my resistance would go, opening me to a happiness and fulfilment that would include and overcome whatever objections I may have. Hegel suggests this approach with his concept of 'sublating', that is transcending and including, ideas that are, on the face of it, in disagreement with him. Nietzsche's concept of will to power offers a rational ground for repudiating such a promise of happiness. Identifying the demand to accept some external standard, presenting itself as truth, with someone else's will to power, its aggressive pretensions are exposed.

Postmodernist theory may be taken as a range of ideas that includes French poststructuralism as well as Rorty's 'liberal ironism'. In the former aspect it comprises a body of argument that may well seem as complex and futile as the Hegelian dialectic. Like Sartre's existentialism for a previous generation, an idea like deconstruction is something that may be picked up and enjoyed as a vital part of contemporary culture. For those used to an older philosophical tradition it can seem irrelevant, a practice it would be irritating to have to learn. For the unconvinced, postmodernist theory may seem as impenetrable as Hegel's writings, and as tedious to read. In much the same way it can present itself as a way of defending objectionable principles. Nietzsche is regarded as one of its central inspirations, though on the view put forward here it is the antithesis of what he was trying to do.

We may think of Nietzsche's primary concern as to rebut the demoralising pressure of what he called morality of the weak. Overcoming the resistance presented by such pressure is his constant aim, and the source of the strength and enjoyment he seeks. Demoralising ideas can be extremely pervasive and hard to escape, spoiling our happiness and inhibiting our desire. They come in such guises as equal rights doctrine, religion of pity, and erotic temptation. For Nietzsche to see his own beliefs as only another point of view, would render him defenceless in times of weakness and depression. To resist he needs to privilege his own position. We may see this as the purpose of the will to power doctrine, rooting his perspective in a claim to truth. While there have been various attempts to explain what kind of truth he has in mind, many commentators argue that he cannot succeed in this, and that the best he can do is to create an 'illusion', in which to look for happiness. I argue that such an idea is completely unstable as well as a radical misunderstanding.

Much is made of Nietzsche's 'perspectivism', a philosophy explicitly held by Ortega y Gasset as well as Nietzsche's contemporary at Basle, Professor Teichmueller, who coined the word, and whom Nietzsche would have read. Perspectivism was one of the ideas floated in Nietzsche's writings. To treat it as his central insight diverges considerably from what earlier generations of readers took from his work. However, such an interpretation of Nietzsche has a respectable pedigree, and is found in the Jesuit historian of philosophy Fr. Copleston, who, conscious of the difficulties in the position, suggests Nietzsche's real significance lies 'in his existence and thought considered precisely as a dramatic expression of a lived spiritual crisis from which there is no issue in terms of his own philosophy'. 1

The dominant interpretation of Nietzsche is expressed by Alexander Nehamas, in the most influential book on Nietzsche to appear in recent years, 'Nietzsche, A Life as Literature', published in 1985. Central for him is Nietzsche's remark that there are no facts only interpretations (Will to Power §481). From this it may seem to follow that truth cannot be asserted, though Nehamas claims to avoid this by arguing that some perspectives are better than others. Even with this qualification perspectivism would seem to cause problems of self reference, leading to self doubt and confusion. He sees Nietzsche's answer to this as to 'make his presence as an individual author unforgettable to his reader', 2creating a fictional personality for himself, like a work of literature. His ideas about the hidden irony behind Nietzsche's style are closely argued and ingenious but they raise the question of why if this was what Nietzsche really meant he did not make it explicit. Would he have a motive for concealing it? Nehamas might also be thought to underestimate the full paralysing potential of the relativism he aims to avoid.

Maudemarie Clark accuses Nehamas of failing to escape the trap of self reference 3. In 'Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy' 1990 she aims to restore truth to a more stable place in Nietzsche's thought. She exposes the misuse of his early treatise 'Of Truth and Lying' by deconstructionists like De Man (who described the viciously regressive arguments he found in Nietzsche as 'the very model of philosophical rigour' 4). Taking issue with Nehamas, she argues that Nietzsche came to see the incoherence of some of his earlier, relativistic, observations on truth. She deliberately restricts herself to Nietzsche's published works, ignoring the Nachlass on which Nehamas largely relied. Influenced by neo-pragmatists like Putnam and Rorty, she rehabilitates the idea of truth in Nietzsche with the help of modern epistemology. One possible objection is that to use contentious philosophical theories to explain Nietzsche's meaning is not the best way of understanding a thinker always seeking the psychological roots of philosophical opinions and who sees them all in terms of a ruthless struggle for power.

Clark does not deny Nietzsche's perspectivism, the idea that raises difficulties if the extreme nihilist, or postmodernist, view that there is no truth is to be avoided. Though it it is commonly asserted without argument that Nietzsche was a perspectivist, such a view is not unanimous. In a review published in 1992 of 'Nietzsche as Postmodernist', edited by Clayton Koelb, Robert C Holub writes:- 'From at least Zarathustra on Nietzsche was a dogmatic philosopher, maintaining at least implicitly that some values were superior to others' 5. He quotes Robert Solomon who argues that 'the mature Nietzsche was not much of a perspectivist, not much of a pluralist and consequently not much of a postmodernist either'. Recently, Schacht has argued persuasively, from a reading of Nietzsche's 1887 prefaces, that the talk of perspectives is concerned with achieving comprehension, rather than the dissolution of the notion of 'truth'. 6

Arguments for the non existence of truth take place on an abstract level. Such postmodernist champions as De Man, Derrida, Deleuze, and in their different ways Foucault and Heidegger all throw into question many accepted concepts, including truth as ordinarily understood. Arguments are sought in Nietzsche's own published writings. One source for the view that Nietzsche believes truth is in no way preferable to error is the section on Plato, 'History of an Error', in 'Twilight of the Idols' which concludes 'We have abolished the real world: what world is left? the apparent world perhaps?..But no! with the real world we have also abolished the apparent world!' 7. On the most natural reading, when he talks about Plato's 'real world', we would not ascribe to him the paradoxical position of attacking truth in favour of error. The Socratic idea that knowledge = virtue = happiness, he earlier describes as the 'bizarrest of equations' 8. This so called truth is not truth at all, rather it is unjustified dogma, a tyrannical expression of Socrates', and then Plato's, own temperaments. The attack is on 'truth' in inverted commas, so called truth. Explicitly rejecting this interpretation writers like Deleuze treat him as attacking the very idea of truth itself.

Nietzsche is seen as the arch opponent of Socrates on precisely this issue. It is argued that Socrates introduced a standard of objectivity, which Plato developed and which Nietzsche wanted to replace with an alternative ideal. Nehamas summarises the position argued in his book as follows 'Nietzsche presented a perspectivist approach, according to which his views were and should be understood to be only views of his own and not reflections of an objective reality.. an approach, that is, that was directly opposed to Socrates' "dogmatist" effort to eliminate the personal element that coloured his own views and values' 9. In 'Beyond Good and Evil' Nietzsche writes that Plato 'stood truth on its head'. I would say that Nietzsche's purpose was precisely to produce an argument that eliminated the personal element that dishonestly pervaded the so called objectivity of Socrates, Plato, Wagner, and so many others.

Perspectivists may conclude that Nietzsche is not concerned to dispute the claims to truth made by rationalist philosophers, such as Plato, or Hegel, but that finding them uncongenial he seeks refuge in 'fiction' or in undermining the concept of truth altogether. If on the other hand we see him as denying Plato's claim to have discovered truth, then it is Plato who is the spinner of fictions, and resistance to his authority has, at least potentially, truth on its side. Scientific honesty emerges from a clash of wills, placing limits on the previously unhindered power of an intellectual despot, to establish 'truth' by virtue of his 'wisdom'. Knowledge comes out of the competition between ideas, the revelation of perhaps ugly psychological truths, uncomfortable realities the despot needs to deny, and which his adversaries therefore have an interest in demonstrating.

Another source of controversy is Nietzsche's questioning of the value of a will to truth, as in the opening sections of 'Beyond Good and Evil', and his linking it to the ascetic ideal in the third essay of 'Genealogy of Morals'. That Nietzsche sees such a will as unnecessary to establish truth, need not entail the redundancy of the concept. He says that the will to truth is only a manifestation of the will to power. We no more need a will to truth than evolution needs a will to evolve in Darwin's theory.

Clark rehabilitates a will to truth. She cannot accept the will to power as a general characterisation of the world, since this is something Nietzsche has explicitly ruled out in his attack on metaphysics. Accordingly she treats it like eternal recurrence as an ideal that does not pretend to truth:- 'though he presents it as if it were true, …it is actually his "creation of the world", a construction of the world from the viewpoint of his own ideal' 10. She sees him as advocating a new will to truth on a basis of this, rather than the ascetic ideal. While rescuing Nietzsche from nihilism, this view does appear to downgrade the significance of a concept that he came to see as the keystone of his thought, as well as underlying his understanding of truth:- '..the "Will to truth" would have to be examined psychologically: it is not a moral power, but a form of the Will to Power'. ('Will to Power' §583).

Much recent interpretation sees him as rejecting both truth and a will to truth altogether. A case could be made for an antinomian interpretation of Nietzsche as the foundation of the post modern school. As Clayton Koelb puts it:- '..few would argue with the proposition that Nietzsche initiated many of the basic ideas which stand behind the broad concept of postmodernism as expounded by Lyotard and others'. 11

Postmodernist views are supported by the idea that by altogether destroying the concept of truth one promotes liberation. Nietzsche's exposure of 'power' suggests to some that one idea is as good as another. Detach 'power' from the idea of 'truth', and we have a free for all in which it seems that anything goes, according to the liberating motto of the Assassins:- 'Nothing is true. Everything is permitted', quoted approvingly in 'Genealogy of Morals' 12. With a deconstructed Nietzsche every new idea claims equal rights for itself, not on the basis of an old uncertainty, but of a new Nietzschean assumption. Elsewhere Nietzsche suggests the Assassins' motto is no more than a tonic for certain moods. Taken too seriously it is the very nihilism he was most concerned to surmount:-

'A philosopher recuperates his strength in a way quite his own… he does it, for instance, with nihilism. The belief that there is no such thing as truth, the nihilistic belief, is a tremendous relaxation for one who, as a warrior of knowledge, is unremittingly struggling with a host of hateful truths. For truth is ugly'. ('Will to Power' §598).

Total liberation of every viewpoint is a self referential paradox that advances us nowhere. Such paradoxes may strike us as an unanswerable objection to any form of relativism. This is not conclusive, however, for relativism retains a strong attraction for many people, and always finds defenders. One way forward is for each newly liberated discourse to see itself as a fulfilment of a value, in Nietzschean terms as a manifestation of power. However, with the abolition of truth the original underpinning of the Nietzschean position has been removed. There is no basis except inclination for preferring the Nietzschean valuation above any other. Then the original problem returns of how to repel obnoxious opinions. For what basis can be given for preferring inclination above whatever else makes a claim on us?

On Nietzschean principles, ideas are justified as will to power. The effect of denial of truth is to give a sense of justification parasitic on Nietzsche's actual position, to any position whatever. The idea that truth is in no way preferable to error is obviously nonsensical in everyday life. A serious attempt to apply it would soon bring disaster. To take only the most modest example, it will not help you to catch a train if you cannot believe the times in the timetable are true. So are we to treat it as a philosophical paradox, on the level of Berkeley's denial of matter? In that case this somewhat metaphysical concept that is being denied, would be irrelevant to the concept of truth applied in everyday life. Poellner in 'Nietzsche and Metaphysics', 1995, interprets Nietzsche as denying only the metaphysical concept of truth, something which does not affect everyday truth, though he admits inconsistencies 13. However, like adherents of the more radical thesis, he still regards this denial as causing problems for his assertions of psychological truths.

Grimm in 'Nietzsche's Theory of Knowledge' 1977, writes :'Truth like everything else is a function of power. I call something true if it increases my will to power…Conversely something is false if it decreases my will to power' 14. If this really were Nietzsche's main point it would either be an unsubstantiated dogma or a complex epistemological thesis needing a lot of philosophical elucidation.

I want to argue that the everyday concept is sufficient to carry Nietzsche's point, and that those who would deny its application involve themselves in absurd paradoxes. Falsehood and ignorance are among the most basic concepts in everyday usage. Ideas are undermined when exposed as involving falsehood and ignorance, and it is hard to see how speculations about the non existence of truth can prevent this, unless among groups of people with no interest in undermining each other's opinions.

Nietzsche's assertion that there is a universal will to power is intended to be incompatible with certain positions that he opposes. From his viewpoint the claim made by these depends upon their concealing realities. It is not difficult to conceive the sort of realities that might be concealed. Someone may try to persuade us of the truth of his own opinions by concealing the possibility we have of taking an opposing position. He may deceive both us and himself about the massive suppression that would result from the consensus he proposes, as well as about the schadenfreude he would feel about this. There would be some raw facts here, whatever interpretations are put on them, and whatever lengths are taken to explain them away. The claim is that the interpretations brought about by the will to power perspective are more adequate to raw reality than any of its rivals.

For Nietzsche's theory to have the universal significance that he intends, allowances sometimes have to be made for an apparent crudity of expression. However, this is not to say he only wants to be taken metaphorically. 15

'Life itself is essential assimilation, injury, violation of he foreign and the weaker, suppression, hardness, the forcing of one's own forms upon something else, ingestion, and - at least in its mildest form - exploitation. But why should we always use such words which were coined from time immemorial to reveal a calumniatory intention?….. "Exploitation"…..belongs to the nature of living things, it is a basic organic function, a consequence of the will to power which is the will to life. Admittedly this is a novelty as a theory- as a reality it is the basic fact underlying all history. Let us be honest with ourselves at least this far!' ('Beyond Good and Evil' §259)

The will to power theory sees every state of affairs in terms of other possibilities which have been suppressed. Its import is primarily for human desires and beliefs. Every desire is in its full implications a desire for the overcoming and suppression of alternative views. What anyone desires is describable as power, because it excludes other things that are or may be desired by other people. Each viewpoint therefore expresses a desire for power. In willing what one wills one necessarily wills power. Power achieved involves trespass on other people's desires for their own power. This is more of a logical than a directly psychological thesis, a conceptual framework which is held to reveal truths which are otherwise hidden. Concealment of suppressed possibility is the essential falsification of human nature, whether perpetrated by rancorous revolutionaries like St Paul or by spiritual tyrants like Plato and Wagner. Acknowledging the will to power is the way to dispel such error.

The extension of the theory from the human sphere to the whole of nature comes with reflections on our understanding of causation. This leads him to look for confirmation of his thesis in the fields of biology and physics.

'From a psychological point of view the idea of cause is our feeling of power in the act of willing - our concept of effect is the superstition that this feeling of power is the force which moves things….

'If we translate the notion cause back into the only sphere which is known to us, and out of which we have taken it, we cannot imagine any change in which the will to power is not inherent. We do not know how to account for any change which is not a trespassing [Ubergreifen] of one power on another'. ('Will to Power' §689). Instead of trespassing Kaufmann has 'encroachment'. (See also 'Beyond Good and Evil' §36).

As a perspective this has to be universal and not admit of exceptions. It purports to have no interest in falsification, uncovering a range of psychological facts which other perspectives distort. This interpretation differs from that of Poellner, who sees the truth claim of will to power as relating to 'cautious and qualified Cartesianism' 16. He interprets the theory psychologically, as the hypothesis that, once self deception was dispelled, everyone would experience the sense of power in all their mental activity. He proposes a counterexample and concludes Nietzsche is wrong on straightforward empirical grounds.

On my view, the will to power theory is intended to be factually true, though not to be overthrown by single examples. Its truth is like that of the Copernican theory. Cosmology might be thought a field in which there are no facts but only interpretations. Geocentrism and heliocentrism are only perspectives on the same raw data. The former theory, however is now accounted false, having proved inadequate to the accumulating evidence. It broke down as it became ever more complicated, generating epicycles etc. to counter every new objection.

In trying to communicate these ideas we easily run into linguistic ambiguities. We want to differentiate Nietzsche's point from anything that would be acceptable to our postmodernist opponent. What is said is easily misinterpreted. The idea of will to power is meant to rule out the demoralising claims of the morality of the weak. Although every position expresses will to power, not all are compatible with its recognition. As morality of the weak, Nietzsche would want to include a number of leftist, communist and feminist arguments which he hopes to undermine. Yet these very opinions might defend themselves on what are supposed to be Nietzsche's principles. A feminist claiming to be oppressed by patriarchy could appeal to Nietzsche as some have done. Ofelia Schutte 17 is one example, much as she detests some of his attitudes, which she argues as inconsistent with his driving theme. Irigaray's erotic fantasy 18 is another. One might speculate whether or not his male ego would have been gratified at the thought of the posthumous sexual attentions of postmodern womanhood, concerned to deconstruct part of his achievement.

The idea of universal will to power is clearly not intended to justify absolutely everybody in their beliefs. Nietzsche is most explicit about his own intolerance. 'My taste is the opposite of a tolerant taste', he writes in 'Twilight of the Idols' ('What I Owe to the Ancients' §1). It should be a platitude to say that an idea rooted in blindness to the will to power is not compatible with recognition of it. Acceptable diversity is not to be unlimited. How to limit it? By showing that of two perspectives, one is more compatible with reality. Nietzsche says this over and over again, but it is not sufficient to carry his point if one has been led by abstract arguments to believe there is no such thing as truth.

'Nitmiur in vetitum: in this saying my philosophy will triumph one day for what one has forbidden so far as matter of principle has always been - truth alone'. ('Ecce Homo' p219)

'In the knowledge of truth what matters is having it, not what made one seek it, or how one found it. If the free spirits are right, the bound spirits are wrong, whether or not the former came to truth out of immorality and the others have kept clinging to untruth out of morality.

'Incidentally, it is not part of the nature of the free spirit that his views are more correct, but rather that he has released himself from tradition, be it successfully or unsuccessfully. Usually, however, he has truth, or at least the spirit of the search for truth on his side: he demands reasons, while others demand faith'. ('Human all too Human' §225)

There is a notorious problem with Nietzsche interpretation, in that he can be quoted, even more glaringly than the Bible, to make contradictory points. Even the selfsame passages constantly reappear in illustration of quite different theses. As a thought experiment, suppose we could by some form of necromancy invoke his spirit and ask him to settle our disputes and judge between different interpretations. Surely we could marshal evidence in support of what he would say, for all that the school of Derrida would regard his judgement as of no privileged status? Given the abiding interest of his writings we might expect that what he would say would be more interesting than the other interpretations. We have to be selective in what we treat as important in Nietzsche if we are to make anything coherent out of him. Perhaps the real point is what of interest and originality can be constructed out of him, taking account of his intentions and the time and place when he wrote. Solomon describes the question 'is there a postmodernist Nietzsche? as neither interesting nor important 19. Schacht, as against the deconstructive view, commends a more traditional interpretation as 'philosophically more fruitful' 20.

We might interpret Derrida in 'Spurs' as arguing for a certain kind of impotence, Nietzsche's inability to communicate his intention into his writing. According to Derrida 'there is no such thing as the truth of Nietzsche or of Nietzsche's text' 21. He treats Nietzsche's fragment 'I have forgotten my umbrella' as paradigmatic of his whole oeuvre in its obscurity and indeterminacy of meaning. Impotence as a state has its own conditions of being. It is closely connected to a successful state. Derrida helps to transfer the one into the other. Again he is like the irritating person in a debate who is always bringing up points of order.

Part of the purpose is to invoke Nietzsche in support of the kind of egalitarianism he was most concerned to resist. Doing away with a central standard of truth and rationality is a way of dispersing authority to whoever can lay hold of it, so promoting the power of the pundit, the guru, dogmatic, arbitrary authority. Where this conflicts immediately with one's own independent ambition such power is felt as offensive and tyrannical. It is a tyranny of the weak, because it paralyses strength, the combative confidence of being able to win a fair argument if only all possible standards of fairness had not been removed. Such petty tyrants may claim to express freedom as loudly as any Hegelian. In this respect, as in others, postmodernism is the successor to Marxism.

To explain how postmodernism is objectionable is to show how its interpretation of Nietzsche is not just something less interesting than others which might be constructed, but something to be vigorously resisted, precisely the kind of idea he was determined to refute. This makes more insistent the question of why such deeply opposed positions should be be found in the same body of writing.

Having given the subject exhaustive consideration Nietzsche concludes (in 'Nietzsche Contra Wagner') that he and Wagner are antipodes. Nevertheless, Nietzsche's works are one of the most accessible sources for Wagner's own ideas. Nietzsche is always measuring himself against Wagner. So Wagnerism, or its equivalent, is something people can pick up from Nietzsche. This is all the easier when they decline to take seriously Nietzsche's objections, and therefore his distinction of his own position from Wagner's. Sometimes people take from Nietzsche what what he regarded as Wagner's ideas, which is to say they take from him what he saw as his own antipodes. Much the same could be said for his relation to Herbert Spencer. We see how close he can seem to ideas he attacks. He tried to show that his attack has some objective correlate, but if he was unsuccessful, it reduces to personal taste.

Some interpretations of Nietzsche bear more relation to Nietzsche's Wagner than to Nietzsche himself. This could be said of the nazi Nietzsche, and the postmodernist Nietzsche which is partly descended from that, through ex nazis such as De Man 22 and Heidegger 23. Heroic triumphalism is already present in Wagner. To take away from Nietzsche what he saw as the critical, rational basis of his claim on us, treating him as an irrational prophet, or a mere artist or poet, is to turn him into an alternative Wagner. Making his message too abstract and making it too concrete are two sides of the same coin. Failing to identify the achievement he is really aiming for, his authority is attached to some specific cause, some definite doctrine favoured for extraneous reasons, usually one which enjoys enough worldly success to dispense with the support of closely reasoned argument.

Fascist and nazi interpretations of Nietzsche are less defensible than many people suppose. The Nietzschean who became a nazi was as much a dupe as was the conservative, the socialist, or the nationalist. A modern westerner with mainstream political opinions can read 'The Genealogy of Morals' in such a way as to strengthen him in his own, non fascist values. He reads Nietzsche as encouraging him to achieve what he wants, and a fascist state is not what he wants. It may be argued that to encourage individual desire will result in a lot of people wanting fascism, but other people have as much reason for disliking that system of government. It is not that one picks and chooses from Nietzsche, it is that the main thrust of his thought is not fascist at all and to think otherwise is to misunderstand him fundamentally.

What gives us inspiration, what charges the will, is not to determine its object. If there is pleasure in contemplating the orgies of the ancient world, the beyond good and evil of the Russian revolution 24, the cruelties of the Italian renaissance, even the terror regimes of modern dictators, it is in that it serves to free us from the false interpretations we are trying to get away from, the demoralising straightjacket of the here and now, the pretension to universality and finality that constrains and depresses. That such understanding should take us where we do not want to go is far from what he has in mind, wherever some of his own thought experiments may have taken him. Nietzsche is not for self destruction, or suicide (which cannot be said unequivocally of Deleuze, or Foucault, or Bataille).

Nor is there a conflict between what we want and what is good for us, unless we suffer from the kind of decadence which Nietzsche aims to cure with his ideas. Crucial to the mature Nietzsche is his explicit rejection of the antithesis of reason and instinct, the splitting of will or desire into a criminal part called will or desire and a rational component which restrains it. His original Dionysus/Apollo antithesis changed as the Dionysian absorbed the Apollonian 25. To confound his early and his late views can generate some interesting speculations, presumably not quite what he had in mind.

Staten, in 'Nietzsche's Voice', 1990, accuses him of 'tyrannophilia', arguing that the dialectic of his position leads him to take up cruel attitudes. He suggests that the will to power implies sadism 26. In a slightly different vein, he finds in 'Genealogy of Morals' the exciting idea of a great will in which we might get caught up, some daemonic future will born of the ascetic impulse 27. It is a tribute to Nietzsche's creative powers that he can conjure up and inspire fascinating forms of will (the myriad 'interpretations'). His criticisms of Wagner, suggest he is far more concerned to resist such fascination, however exciting, than to yield to it. To take as essential to Nietzsche's message the most shocking things he felt like saying, is to treat all those who found him compatible with their own liberalism as naive. Staten is saying Nietzsche ought to think and feel differently, if only he understood better. Yet many people accept Nietzsche without feeling a need to support slavery. They are happy to assimilate his views into their own opinions.

That Germans such as Thomas Mann and Heidegger considered Nietzsche dangerous should be hardly surprising, given the catastrophe of the nazi era. In that situation even love of country could be seen as an evil and destructive idea. Nietzschean immoralism might be thought positively wholesome in a stable cultural context, where it coincides with the love of liberty, and where accordingly, following John Stuart Mill's doctrine, even the expression of outrageous opinions has a healthy effect on the whole. This has practical implications for the current enthusiasm for his philosophy in the post communist world, from the Czech Republic to China 28.

Trying to imagine a politics that does not employ morality of the weak we soon come to see that it is hardly reasonable to expect people to renounce such an effective weapon. We can at best hope to purge our own attitudes, whatever they are, of such poison. This could be done for many kinds of politics. We could easily conceive, for example, a proletarian trade unionist, whose socialism is in no conflict with his Nietzscheanism. Any opinion might have its its day of triumph, though some employ methods which may suggest to us they do not deserve one. Established power clashes with rebellious ambition. Perhaps here is the explanation for the observation that, as far as 'the art of the possible' goes, Nietzsche seems to be a mirror in which people only find themselves, what Tracy Strong calls 'Nietzsche's political misappropriation' 29. Nietzsche is not especially concerned to tell people what they ought to want.

Whatever I want expresses my will to power, though to someone else it might suggest something negative. What ground can Nietzsche have for expecting others to share his own judgments? The dualism suggested by the conclusion to 'Ecce Homo' ('Have I been understood?- Dionysus versus the Crucified') leads to interpretations of Nietzsche as setting up a standard of judgement for all ideas. Schrift, for example, sees him as advocating 'a standard (affirmation vs. negation) which could be used to adjudicate the multiplicity of interpretations occasioned by perspectivism' 30. Perhaps Nietzsche would like to persuade us to reject what he is against by proving it fits into some generally undesirable category. Some beliefs may indeed be life denying, but the attempt to prove the objectivity of such valuations would be a hugely complicated task that could hardly avoid dishonest methods of argument. The same goes for his distinction between values that express declining and those that express ascending life. Nevertheless, if my view depends on concealing the nature of my desire then I am vulnerable.

Ansell-Pearson argues that Nietzsche's reflections have important political implications, seeing 'overcoming nihilism' as a political task 31. He regards Nietzsche as raising the most basic questions about the foundation of society, questions which now have to be addressed. Against this view it might be said that it seems to presuppose the historical clean slate envisaged by some Chinese Emperor. My will does not depend on Nietzsche for its definition. While his ideas may help me to overcome obstacles to my desire, making me try to desire something else is an entirely different business, practical politics, which subsists in its own sphere in which many stronger interests operate than Nietzsche's theories. Nietzsche was less concerned to introduce new motives than to reinterpret what is present.

'Transvalue values- what does this mean? It implies that all spontaneous motives, all new, future, and stronger motives, are still extant; but that they now appear under false names and false valuations, and have not yet become conscious of themselves.

'We ought to have the courage to become conscious, and to affirm all that which has been attained, to get rid of the humdrum character of old valuations, which makes us unworthy of the best and strongest things that we have achieved'. (Will to Power §1007).

It is said that people say morals are necessary when they mean only that the police are necessary. Though Nietzsche liked to think of his ideas as dynamite, they remain only arguments and hypotheses. If the moralistic interpretation is a misrepresentation of human motivation, then nearly all motives remain in place once it has been dispelled. Sometimes people write as if he was trying to be much more than a theorist, unravelling confusions, clarifying ideas and making them consistent. They see him as behaving as if politics, science, language, culture and all mundane life could hardly go on without him, treat him as a titan who wanted to make himself responsible for everything. Inevitably they conclude he was a failure, and that he must have been either mistaken or ironic when he spoke of his success. Also this licenses them to continue where he left off.

Nietzsche warns against such misunderstandings in the preface to 'Ecce Homo':- 'Hear me! For I am such and such a person, Above all do not mistake me for someone else.

'I am, for example, by no means a bogey or a moralistic monster……The last thing I should promise would be to "improve" mankind. No new idols are erected by me; let the old ones learn what feet of clay mean'.

As a prophet responsible for the future of civilisation was precisely how Wagner presented himself. Wagner's success Nietzsche envied, but did not bid to imitate. He wanted some of that authority, but on a different basis, exposing all such claims for their intellectual dishonesty. The difference is between the desire to control the future and the aim to do something far more limited, yet also greater, because of the nature of scientific discovery. To reject Nietzsche's claim is to see him as a dogmatist, with an ultimately arbitrary vision which he wants to impose on us. This makes him no different from his version of Wagner.

Gilles Deleuze's influential 'Nietzsche and Philosophy' 1962 is open to such criticism. He offers a programme based on ideas culled from 'Will to Power', 'Genealogy of Morals' and 'Zarathustra'. He makes what seems to be a metaphysics out of speculations about active and reactive forces. He advocates an objective, an ideal, of becoming purely 'active' force, which would be to surpass the human and become the creative energy of Dionysus. The dionysian state of play is something to be striven for, an ideal to be attained, rather than simply a sense of the joy that arises from satisfaction of one's projects. On the opposing view, dionysian enjoyment is a piece of good fortune, perhaps the reward of successful activity, not a seductive promise that is held out.

Deleuze does not take much trouble to defend the position he outlines against outside attack. His theory of active and reactive forces is little more than hypothesis, inspired by some of Nietzsche's wilder speculations as he searched for grounding for the will to power. It resembles Wagner more than Nietzsche in that it offers a programme for salvation, call it overcoming man, the human, or whatever, and in that it depends upon uncritical acceptance. Implicitly he would deny alien wills by insisting they are to find their freedom within his own contentious framework. This suggests fascism in some ways though not in its democratic sympathies.

Deleuze invites us to join a common project accepting certain Nietzschean interpretations as authoritative. If one accepted these, new possibilities would open up. One could build a culture, with the most exciting feelings given clear symbolic value. This supposedly Nietzschean type of culture, can be very emotionally alluring but it bears a closer relation to what Nietzsche objected to in Wagner, precisely this assumption of authority, something he must therefore decline himself.

Nietzsche believed he understood Wagner as well as anyone. His break with him may well have had personal roots. Perhaps he even felt inadequate, as Michael Tanner suggests 32, resenting, in a plain English sense of the word, Wagner's power, and wanting to subvert its basis. But through pursuing his motive he makes a higher, more ambitious claim, to have discovered something. He is talented enough to have emulated Wagner, he believes he understands the psychology of redemption and salvation, with all the emotional excitement they can bring, and acceding to a mastery of his own, he could play the same game in a different field. He declines to do so, refusing to deceive and seduce.

The point of being a Nietzschean free spirit or a hyperborean aristocrat would be to pursue your own will. However there could obviously be cases where your will conflicts fundamentally with Nietzsche's discovery, and the theoretical reorientation it was his life's work to effect. On too abstract an interpretation of will to power, it is easy to argue that Nietzsche is saying nothing about the opinions you might hold. It can seem as if one may support any opinion by claiming it expresses will to power under threat from demoralising ideas. On this view everything is totally relativised to the individual. Then any post modernist frivolity would be acceptable. Against this, we might say that overcoming demoralising ideas, is not something entirely subjective, it cannot be meant to isolate the individual, confident in his own opinions. For some of these opinions must contradict each other. If I am to have confidence in myself, then someone whose self belief depends upon my not having confidence is to be demoralised, and this is not something entirely reciprocal. Equal validity for every opinion is precisely one of the demoralising ideas that would make what Nietzsche wants to say impossible.

In trying to understand Nietzsche, it is useful to focus on the power and strength of his original appeal, the depression he seems able to get us out of, the hope he holds out, and how one can invoke him to attack some other people's sense of their own power. We can look at his motive, see what he wants, what his thought is trying to achieve. Much of the time he means to make an individualist point. As a source of inspiration, we can focus on what is really hateful in the demand to conform, that seems quite essential to some people, the desire to be part of a movement, gregarious enthusiasm.

We can relate him to others who expressed a similar motive. William Blake as inspired by Milton's Satan is commonly recognised as one of Nietzsche's precursors, though having no direct influence on him. Some of his 'Proverbs of Hell' were 'among the bricks from which Nietzsche's philosophy was to be builded' 33. He railed against 'One faith one god one law'. He denounced the spirit of conformism, which he found in the Christian God, Nobodaddy, the Ialdabaoth of the gnostics. Nietzsche praised the 'fight against milleniums of Christian ecclesiastical pressure' (which was the same as Plato's authority) as creating in Europe 'a magnificent tension of spirit such as had not existed anywhere before' ('Beyond Good and Evil'- preface). He described himself in 'Ecce Homo' as characterised by 'the will to power as no man ever possessed it' 34. A lot of people read Nietzsche and a lot of people feel inspired by him, but unless they sympathise with this satanic aggression they will not know what to make of him. They will respect points of view that are entirely alien to his own without appreciating his need to destroy and overthrow them. Tolerating and embracing all kinds of view that are remote from his own, he becomes hard to understand.

Nietzsche is for the individual against collective pressure to conform. In this special sense we might call his position individualist, and his opponent's collectivist. This is far from tying his thought to some conceptual framework called 'individualism', itself only a counter in the universal battle of interests. The most fundamental point he was trying to make was to do with individual dissidence. If he seems to make an opposite point, then he has not managed to communicate what he wants to say. To say what his opinions and prejudices are upon this matter, is not to make him out a purely literary figure, to be heeded as a guru, take him or leave him. He is making a judgement about human nature, happiness and fulfilment, strength and weakness. This comes out of his essential aim to emancipate individual strength against the collective. This aim is the perspective that is claimed to be superior to others. If his words can be twisted to give them an opposite meaning from that intended, then they have not been fully successful in pinning down his meaning.

Of course one of the main themes of structuralist and post structuralist thinking, from Durkheim, through Levi-Strauss and Althusser, to Derrida and Foucault, has been to expose the concept of the individual as a historically contingent, and predominantly Anglo Saxon, aberration 35. In 'Daybreak' §132, Nietzsche dates a deplorable attack on the individual from the time of the French revolution:- '..the demand that the ego has to deny itself until, in the form of adaptation to the whole, it again acquires its firmly set circle of rights and duties - until it has become something quite novel and different. What is wanted - whether this is admitted or not - is nothing less than a fundamental remoulding, indeed weakening and abolition of the individual..' Whatever Nietzsche meant by his later questioning of concepts of self and individualism, it seems implausible that he would have retracted this.

The collectivist versus the individualist represent two opposed camps. Each desires to persuade the other. The one's morale is incompatible with the other's morale. In this clash of opinions it can well be that both sides pay homage to Nietzsche, claim to derive from his thought, both to understand and accept the will to power. If I am an individualist I would want to argue that the collectivist's morale depends on a false premise. I might say that he denies my own feelings and wishes to suppress me. I only wish to suppress him, insofar as he desires to suppress me. I want to say the difference is that he desires to suppress me essentially. But this invites the reply 'tu quoque'. How to get out of this paradox? He might feel his self respect demands a collectivist position. Can I say this is weakness?

We might try to define tyranny as a refusal to recognise other routes to the same goal, the demand for exclusivity of a point of view. The tyrant defines a route in such a way that it involves denying other individual routes. His route has logical possibility. What I do not accept is the tyrannical grip of certain positions, though I accept that someone can think them. The tyrant's route may be so mapped out that to accept it means denying every other. He expects us to see the world only through his eyes. We might call this a route of wilful blindness. In his own perspectivism, Ortega y Gasset excluded only perspectives that claimed exclusivity.

If all opinions are motivated by a will to power, some are to be rejected because they deny this. But some claim to accept this truth, and are also to be rejected. What is it that is wrong in those cases? Shall we say that a rejected position fails to acknowledge will to power as it should be understood? What is fully accepting will to power and what is not accepting it? Admitting one's own desire for power is a way in which one might hold virtually any opinion. But this does not exclude the possibility of an opinion being shown to be false.

'The world is will to power and nothing besides' ('Will to Power', last page §1067). The assertion of universal will to power is meant to be of assistance to individuals oppressed by tyrants, not to tyrants prevented from expressing their tyranny. The assertion that there is a will to power comes from one who does not possess authority. He aims to defeat and demoralise established views of the world by this assertion.

Our adversary would respond with the claim that with the will to power idea it is possible for him to raise his own morale. What we want to do with it is to overturn his self confidence, showing that as resting upon illusion concerning human nature. His doctrine is like a pretension to metaphysical truth, something he expects other people to accept, when they can see there are alternatives. To what we say he constructs another, more sophisticated alternative and argues that we are denying this. On top of all the existing ideas in the world he devises others to cope with every objection we put forward, interpretations that relate less and less to anything beyond themselves. All we can really maintain is that the perspective he creates will, with mounting evidence, ultimately break down as inadequate to reality, much as did the geocentric theory of the universe, for all its epicycles.

We dispute the idea of power by which he restores his morale. Perhaps his morale depends upon self deception about other people, or about human nature. Perhaps our original motive to expose this is that we envy and resent his authority because it is something we do not have, and we want to overthrow it. That this attitude is deplorable by no means follows from Nietzsche's principles. We can see it as healthy ambition, the good Eris on which Nietzsche quotes Aristotle as quoting Hesiod in 'Homer's Contest'. We want to overthrow arbitrary authority and replace it by a view of universal will to power, which compels acceptance because expressing a better understanding of reality. Mutual envy and suspicion, rather than any high minded commitment, are what should prevent a move away from this. We deny the validity of any knowledge which does so deviate. Daniel Conway appears to hold that Nietzsche's own envy and resentment vitiate his project 36. But unless they can be shown to involve self deception, it has not been established why this should be so. Such envy is the root of all philosophy, including sound Nietzsche interpretation. Without it is a complaisant acquiescence in received dogmas.

Who looks for guidance to Nietzsche, who can obtain it? Consider the person trying to realise his potential as a tyrant. What ever he has achieved, we can appreciate and recognise as successful will. In that sense it is workable and coherent. We have a description for everything he does and is likely to do. We can describe all his beliefs and feelings in our own terms. His own description we do not accept, because it it does not correspond to reality as we know it. He talks of something that we are trying to suppress. Suppose his desire were brought under our description, then we hope people would see through it.

Triumph comes with fulfilment of the will. Whatever will is formulated faces the resistance of all that is opposed to it. Nietzsche's analysis does nothing to rule out the existence of even the most tyrannous, most deceitful will. If you are consciously trying to deceive me, then there is no philosophical problem. If you deceive yourself, and I show you that you are doing so, then I undermine you. Whether or not you are guilty of self deception comes down to what you want to think and what you want to do. Nietzsche regards the desire to cheat oneself as springing from weakness. Consider what is quite obviously a will to self deception, such as a will to believe in fairy stories, in happy endings. This will faces opposition. What are demoralising ideas in face of this?

One criticism of the somewhat logical interpretation of will to power presented here might be that people are looking to Nietzsche for a short cut, a simple demonstration of the truth of their own opinions. It may seem I want to argue that my own perverse and rebellious attitudes get support from logical factors, that the fact I can think them, their very possibility, demonstrates their reality. These could seem to be elementary logical fallacies, trying to prove something more than that something can be thought or felt. This would be a misunderstanding. The framework of possibility conceived in the will to power theory is not purely logical or linguistic, what goes beyond that is open to the impact of experience.

So we need to look more closely at what Nietzsche felt, and the possibilities he wanted to protect. His motive remained in an important respect the same as Schopenhauer's. The will itself for Schopenhauer was what morality of the weak was for Nietzsche. Schopenhauer's view of the will as essentially evil, and his consequent denunciation of life, expressed only a particular condition, what can be characterised as genius as bad temper. Schopenhauer's life negation was a refusal of the paths to satisfaction that appear to be on offer, of the promise of happiness on other people's terms. If life is what it means in Hegel's all embracing philosophy, if affirmation means finding fulfilment in Hegel's optimistic values, then he will negate. Making affirmation versus negation the central issue is to miss out the essential sympathy between Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. Going for affirmation at all costs, one fails to see the relative triviality of the difference between simply saying yes and saying no. It is more important not to be a slave than to say yes.

Love of life, desirable as it was, was not what Nietzsche considered his or anyone else's primary motive force:- 'Man has one terrible and fundamental wish; he desires power, and this impulse which is called freedom, must be the longest restrained' ('Will to Power' §720).

According to Schopenhauer, the universal symbol of life affirmation is the phallus 37. The erotic sphere is one field in which an ideal of affirmation unanalysed in terms of power can be downright oppressive. One does not always want to affirm other people's sexuality, especially where this conflicts with one's own. Erotic desire is itself is a trap where it is harnessed to undesirable values. If the only promise of happiness on offer is sexual involvement with unacceptable people, then one feels entitled to refuse it, whatever the promise one might come to feel differently. The mature Nietzsche would say that, rather than rejecting affirmation, this is rejecting a demoralising idea. The affirmation one is looking for is of one's own power.

In the battle against oppressive forces erotic pleasure can bring, while it lasts, the exhilaration of victory. This is a question on which Foucault, in his guise as genealogist, can be illuminating even for many out of sympathy with his more bizarre theories. In his 'History of Sexuality' he develops a Nietzschean view of sex as power, writing of the ars amatori found in other civilisations, as a form of affirmation that justified life in the face of death 38. Sex is a field in which a battle for power between different values rages fiercely. To interpret sex as the innermost expression of the personality, opens unsuspected freedom and opportunity. Within society much pressure is directed against this in the effort to reduce it to a single meaning, a pattern into which we are all expected to fit. Foucault's work suggests how even modern doctrines of liberation can be seen in these terms.

Nietzsche might agree with Schopenhauer that normal life is largely a painful pressure, but for him this results from imprisonment in the thought patterns of so called modernity, rather than insight into to the nature of things. The attitudes characterised as philistinism, as well as explicit doctrines like utilitarianism and socialism, all purport to embody a form of rationality, which is felt as depressing insofar as it succeds in stifling our emotional resistance. 'Modern pessimism is an expression of the uselessness only of the modern world, not of the world and existence as such' ('Will to Power' §34). Contemplation of art offers a release from this pressure. Schopenhauer interpreted aesthetic pleasure as consisting in denial of the will. Already by the 'Birth of Tragedy', Nietzsche was becoming dubious of Schopenhauer's metaphysical scheme 39, while retaining much of his psychology. The idea of aesthetic enjoyment as escape, whether renunciation of will, or, scrapping some of the Schopenhauerian metaphysics, simply as consoling retreat into illusion, is widely held to have underpinned the 'modernist' programme in twentieth century art and literature.

On clarifying his ideas, Nietzsche concluded that aesthetic enjoyment should be seen neither as renunciation nor as illusion, but in terms of overcoming. ' beauty contrasts are overcome, the highest sign of power thus manifesting itself in the conquest of opposites..' ('Will to Power' §803). To treat it as life negation is rationally defective and morally pernicious. Schopenhauer did not really negate life, but his philosophy led him to espouse dangerous ideas, like the overvaluation of pity ('Twilight of the Idols' pp 79-80). Artistic creation should retain its consoling function, but reinterpreted as affirmation, resistance, successful overcoming.

It is nevertheless necessary to defend any consolation against denial and attack, as against ever more sophisticated versions of the original philistinism. This means asserting the superiority of a particular perspective. One has to prove the reality of what boosts one's own morale, to maintain the solidity of one's own alternative enjoyment, against what one experiences a surrounding pressure to think. One wants to argue that the fact one can feel as one does proves the hostile view is incomplete, that it contains something false within it. When that prevails it suppresses alternative viewpoints, and its strength involves denying the fact that suppression has taken place.

The problem is when this argument is turned on its head, creating a kind of paradox, recalling similar ones about freedom. Our opponent, what of his perspective and its significance? The possibility he is concerned about is that of a total perspective that clashes with ours. On the level of will, of things wanted, it is a simple fact like all other simple facts. On that level it simply clashes with other wills. On the level of a total perspective, we can deny it. On the first level it is more evidence in support of our own position. On the level of something that makes a claim on us it is to be combatted. Distinguishing different logical levels offers a standard way out of paradoxes. In this case this approach is defensible, because it is a question of different meanings which need not be assimilated. Some perspectives are to be rejected because they clash with other perspectives. The opposed perspectives are to be brought down by bringing to light inescapable truths for which they do not sufficiently account.

Post modernists such as Deleuze draw inspiration from the concept of affirmation, amor fati, which was a prominent feature of Nietzsche's later writings, as in the myth of the eternal recurrence. 'My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity". ('Ecce Homo' p258). They may look to 'Ecce Homo', as a model for the life of the future. They respond to the playfulness, irresponsibility, such as also found earlier in the idea of Dionysus from 'Birth of Tragedy' onwards.

Art consoles, it also celebrates. There is a direct connection with sexuality. 'Without a certain overheating of the sexual system a man like Raphael is unthinkable… all creative artists productiveness certainly ceases with sexual potency….a kind of youthfulness, of vernality, a sort of perpetual elation, must be peculiar to their lives'. (Will to Power §800). In the post prandial, post coital state, once resistance has been overcome, then it is that joy overflows into an interest in all kinds of things. But there are still many things one would not want to celebrate, or conspire in celebrating. Nietzsche is not for will as such, not for the triumph and happiness of his enemies.

'Our religion, morality and philosophy are decadent human institutions.

'The counter agent: Art' ('Will to Power' §794).

The relaxation of 'Ecce Homo', may be seen as enjoyment of power achieved, delight in every phenomenon. Zarathustra is unhappy for much of the book, expressing the tension in which his creator lived. Nietzsche himself was unhappy for much of his creative life because there was so much to resist. He looks for a particular triumph and wishes to stop the triumph of another. He was happy when conscious of resistance being overcome. The difference between much of 'Zarathustra' and 'Ecce Homo' is between Nietzsche striving and Nietzsche relaxed. The 'Ecce Homo' playfulness is not something meant to be recommended as a model for everybody whatever their circumstances, nor as a replacement for the idea of art as consolation. It came from what he saw as the accomplishment of his task, the refutation of ideas that had oppressed him. He had been faced with a number of intellectual problems, and he felt he had solved them to his satisfaction with his concepts of will to power and transvaluation of values. His own achievement, he felt, was magnificent, but these were personal demons he had fought. He bequeathed a new framework of ideas to mankind, but its claim was not to make people happier than the old one. It was that it was truer.

If we deny this, we might be tempted by Alan Schrift's view that the French poststructuralists are indeed the 'philosophers of the future' to whom Nietzsche looked forward, 'complementary voices in a chorus that calls for an end to the repression that has heretofore accompanied hierarchical, oppositional thinking' 40.

What could it mean to say he looked forward to such people as his heirs, or that they could continue what he was trying to do? It suggests an image of him as some benevolent uncle delighting in all kinds of people pursuing their wills, or worse, as a patronising agony aunty, advising people how to have sex. Why should he have cared about the enjoyments of people whose aims and tastes hardly relate to his own? Because of his love for humanity? Or because they would be enjoying themselves in his name? Some see Nietzsche as wanting followers, and glorying in the influence he exerts upon culture. To make such superficial vanity his central aim detracts from the seriousness of his enterprise.

Extreme deprivation of the basic necessities of life could make aesthetic consolation in Schopenhauer's sense scarcely workable. Likewise sufficient supplies of such crude objects of will as sex fame and money could make it unnecessary. If overcoming modernism involves the destruction of the escape into the aesthetic, then it appears to be a monstrous act of vandalism, the effort to bring about conformity, on a basis that is supposed to include (one might say sublate) Nietzsche's insights. The motive of complete reconciliation to society, either one that is or one that could be, involves the attempted destruction of art's capacity to offer an alternative. With denial of the problem to which the aesthetic was a solution, comes the deliberate elimination of the aesthetic, the attempt to assimilate it to other forms of experience. One is left with objectives such as sex fame and money. One may aim for these in accordance with whatever values one is given, and if one succeeds in obtaining them one may be happy. Such a scheme only makes sense insofar as it is successful, its satisfactions linked to a social norm, whatever its pretensions to pluralism. If this is postmodernism it has little to offer the more radically malcontented.

The result is as alien to Nietzsche's original inspiration as anything could be. Obnoxious opinions have returned with a vengeance, foreclosing the possibility of any way out. We are back where we started. One would have to launch an assault on this all over again, but with a new weariness, because the old route out has failed, and we have come back full circle. We have returned to the affirmationism of Hegel, rather than Nietzsche, as well as to the same kind of motive that produced Hegel's own philosophy. Postmodernism gives support for precisely what Schopenhauer (and Stirner, and Kierkegaard) hated so much, the claim to have absorbed and transcended all other positions.

'Postmodernist theory' embraces a number of diverse thinkers, but they have enough in common to permit a sympathetic commentator to dismiss the animosity between Foucault and Derrida, or Baudrillard and Deleuze, as 'essentially faction fighting' 41 It may be that one should not regret the demise of a modernist project which had long forsaken Nietzsche, while leaving behind such monuments as brutalist architecture. On the credit side, postmodernism is concerned to teach something of the variety of possible viewpoints, and to liberate us from the narrow constraints of time and place, as well as acknowledging the importance of Nietzsche. As Solomon observes:- Nietzsche envisioned a post modern culture….but ours is certainly not it..' 42

An alternative to Derrida and co. is the traditional way of the magician and the theosophist, from Iamblichus to Aleister Crowley. The magician pursues what is most attractive in postmodernism, notably the empathic enjoyment of alien cultural values and the exploration of the spiritual treasures of untapped possibility. He seeks all hidden wisdom, strives to transcend the limits of culture and language, to experience the unsayable, to understand every state of mind. He pursues all these riches from an aristocratic, individualist standpoint. Postmodernists would say that as such he is still constrained by rigid presuppositons, therefore they themselves are the freest spirits. They may see themselves as mischievous little pucks, overthrowing the fixed, deconstructing patriarchy and the concept of the individual. Others see them as sterile dogmatists, backed up by a mass of pedantry, gregarious and mediocre. The traditional motives of the continental left, from Hegel to Sartre, have been joined to an irrationalism derived from the extreme right.

The French revolution and its aftermath, was a time when France expected the whole world to participate in its current political enthusiasms. Such attitudes were once comprehensively systematised and defended by Hegel. Nietzsche was not especially concerned to attack Hegel, he regarded him, prematurely as it turned out (think only of Fukuyama), as simply out of date 43. Schopenhauer's criticisms were almost taken for granted, so he could afford to be generous. The ideology associated with 'the New Nietzsche' suggests a new cultural imperialism, in some ways repeating what went before, the emotions of 1968 replacing those of 1789. The appeal of much postmodernist theory is essentially in terms of this imperial, gregarious spirit, French trendiness, feelings that for some people are very enjoyable. It presents itself as liberation and intellectual adventure. For those who prefer to see it as self indulgence and intellectual masturbation, a careful reading of Nietzsche can supply ammunition.


1 Copleston:- A History of Philosophy vol 7 part II. p194

2 Nehamas p4-5

3 Clark p155-158

4 De Man:- Allegories of Reading. p116

5 Holub:- article in Postmodernist Culture. Jan 1992

6 Schacht Nietzsche's kind of philosophy Cambridge companion to Nietzsche ch 5

7 Twilight of the Idols p41

8 Twilight of the Idols p33

9 Nehamas:- from abstract to paper presented to 5th annual conference of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society, University of Herts. 1995

10 Clark p242

11 Koelb p5

12 Genealogy of Morals 3 §24

13 Poellner p110

14 Grimm:- p19

15 As is, e.g., the view of Ofelia Schutte, ch 4, pp76-104.

16 Poellner p228

17 Schutte:- Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche without Masks

18 Irigaray:- A Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche

19 Koelb p293

20 Schacht:- article on Nietzsche in Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy

21 Derrida:- Spurs p 53

22 See Hamacher, Hertz and Keenan:- Responses, De Man's Wartime Journalism Lincoln 1988

23 Ott Hugo:- Martin Heidegger, a Political Life

24 see Rosenthal:- Nietzsche and Soviet Culture

25 see Kaufmann:- Nietzsche, Philosopher Psychologist Antichrist p245

26 Staten pp86-107

27 Staten p 50

28 Graham Parkes:- Nietzsche in East Asian Thought:- The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, chapter 11

29 Tracy Strong:- Nietzsche's Political Misappropriation, ibid chapter 4

30 Schrift:- In Cambridge companion to Nietzsche p345

31 Ansell-Pearson:- Nietzsche as a Political Thinker

32 Tanner p21

33 Grierson:- A Critical History of English Poetry p296

34 Ecce Homo p275

35 Harland:- Superstructuralism pp9-10

36 Conway:- in The Fate of the New Nietzsche ed Ansell-Pearson & Caygill, p68

37 Schopenhauer:- World as Will and Representation I p330 II p513

38 Foucault:- History of Sexuality vol 1 p57-8

39 Staten p192

40 Schrift:- in Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche p345

41 Harland p176

42 Koelb p281

43 see Joyful wisdom §357


Books and articles on Nietzsche

Ansell-Pearson & Caygill (ed):- The Fate of the New Nietzsche. Aldershot, 1993
Ansell-Pearson:- An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker, the Perfect Nihilist. Cambridge, 1994
Clark:- Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy. Cambridge, 1990
Copleston:- A History of Philosophy vol 7. New York, 1965
De Man:- Allegories of Reading. Yale, 1979
Deleuze:- Nietzsche and Philosophy. trans Hugh Tomlinson New York 1983
Derrida:- Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles. trans Barbara Harlow, Chicago, 1979
Grimm:- Nietzsche's Theory of Knowledge. New York & Berlin, 1977
Holub:- Review of Nietzsche as Postmodernist. Postmodern Culture, Jan 1992
Irigaray:- A Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche. New York, 1991
Kaufmann:- Nietzsche Philosopher Psychologist Antichrist. Princeton, 1974
Koelb (ed):- Nietzsche as Postmodernist, Essays Pro and Contra. Albany, 1990
Magnus and Higgins (ed):- The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche. Cambridge, 1996
Nehamas:- Nietzsche a Life as Literature. Cambridge Mass. 1985
Poellner:- Nietzsche and Metaphysics. Cambridge, 1995
Rorty:- Contingency Irony Solidarity. Cambridge 1989
Rosenthal (ed):- Nietzsche and Soviet Culture. Cambridge, 1994
Schacht:- Nietzsche. London, 1983
Schrift:- Nietzsche and the Question of Interpretation. New York, 1990
Staten:- Nietzsche's Voice. Cornell, 1990
Stern:- Nietzsche. Glasgow, 1971
Tanner:- Nietzsche Oxford, 1993

Books by Nietzsche

The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals. trans Golffing, New York, 1956
Untimely Meditations trans. Hollingdale, Cambridge, 1983
Human All too Human. trans Faber and Lehman, Lincoln, 1984
Human All too Human vol 2 trans Cohn, Edinburgh and London, 1911
Daybreak. trans Hollingdale, Cambridge, 1982
The Joyful Wisdom. trans Thomas Common, New York 1960
Thus Spoke Zarathustra trans Hollingdale, Harmondsworth (Penguin), 1961
Thus Spake Zarathustra trans Tille & Bozman, London, 1933
Beyond Good and Evil trans Cowan, Chicago, 1955
Twilight of the Idols and Antichrist. trans Hollingdale, Harmondsworth (Penguin), 1968
The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner. trans Kaufmann, New York, 1967
On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo. trans Kaufmann, New York, 1969
The Will to Power. trans Kaufmann & Hollingdale, New York, 1968
The Will to Power. trans Ludovici 2 vols. Edinburgh and London, 1909-1910
The Portable Nietzsche. Trans Kaufmann, New York, 1954


Audi (ed):- The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge 1996
De Man:- Wartime Journalism. Ed Hamacher Hertz & Keenan Lincoln 1988
Foucault:- A History of Sexuality vol 1 trans Hurley Harmondsworth (Penguin) 1990
Grierson:- A Critical History of English Poetry London 1947
Harland:- Superstructuralism. London, 1987
Newman:- The Life of Wagner vol 4 new York 1946
Ott:- Martin Heidegger, a Political Life. London 1993
Schopenhauer:- The World as Will and Representation. trans Payne New York 1966

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