What is your best argument for nihilism

Nietzsche as a philosopher

So isn't the book too old, just outdated, to be translated? If you read the book, this suspicion is confirmed by introductory questions that have long been thought to have been settled. Of course, the book has just contributed to such an impression after thirty years. But is that an argument in favor of its translation?

The new foreword to the German edition takes up such a debate, which appeared to be closed: the question of the relationship between Nietzsche's philosophy and violence, which Georg Lukàcs with his thesis "From Nietzsche to Hitler" in the first half of this century was not accidentally about political dimension.

Danto starts with the fact that only recently a group of young people from Pearl River in the US state of Mississippi defended a murderous foray with reference to Nietzsche's supermen and precisely with the fact that they felt far from the crowd, which Nietzsche calls the herd. But they just wanted to give this herd - that is, their teachers, parents and brittle classmates - a lesson. Is Nietzsche's relationship to violence, which inspired Danto's book back in 1965, today whether the Nietzsche debates are over? Danto writes: "While I was following the reports in the 'New York Times' at the time, I realized how pernicious Nietzsche - as a prophet of the superman, as a critic of herd morality and an antichrist by his own grace - can still be for unfounded spirits, for Spirits who believe that they have discovered someone in him who finally knows how to appreciate their worth, who is able to look inside, who is familiar with their pain, who tells them that they are beyond good and evil, and who is ultimately theirs Will to power gives the blessing. "

But since the seventies and eighties at the latest, the left and postmodern, especially in France and Italy, have been celebrating Nietzsche's idea of ​​the superman as a program of liberation from the constraints of a brutal principle of reality - for example, in 1974 the well-known Italian Nietzsche interpreter Gianni Vattimo - since then one has Nietzsche's Thinking is hardly linked to the problem of violence. When neo-Nazis refer to Nietzsche, one deliberately overlooks the fact that Nietzsche has sentences to which they can in fact refer as key witnesses:

"Although in the last four decades enough intellectuals have made an honest effort to transform Nietzsche into a benevolent figure - be it a hermeneutic, a deconstructivist or an analytical philosopher, be it a linguist or a feminist - his The garish imagery and his flaming style still lead some youthful muddleheads to shoot down unruly girls, to stab their nagging mothers or simply to torture animals in order to prove their unshakable strength. The fact that he is generally regarded as a great philosopher ennobles his pithy words, moreover, with a certain authority. "

The philosopher who, in his own words, "philosophizes with a hammer" does indeed have tendencies that should not be trivialized, for example a strange vitalism that gives his thesis that life means killing a touch of normativity, even if this thesis is should only be meant descriptively. He doesn't just talk negatively about the blonde beast and harshly criticizes the Jewish priests. Above all, however, his works are characterized by such an aggressively pathetic language that cannot simply be misunderstood, which above all completely contradicts his own claim not to write out of resentment towards an ugly world. Therefore, Danto also wants to use Nietzsche against himself.

"Thus Spoke Zarathustra" is widely regarded as his best book, both philosophical and literary. Viewed soberly, it is actually indulging in animosity towards the world of ‘last human’, as he calls his contemporaries, with great gestures. For a century this language surely hit the tune of contemporaries who were moved by youth, who rejected this world with all their hearts and of course wanted to improve it. But it was the century of the European civil war, two devastating world wars and countless other acts of violence, almost all of which were meant to be either revolutionary or counter-revolutionary. And wasn't it the time of the great error that Nietzsche has already mentioned, but in which he himself - not least because of the resentment of his language - has a share?

In this respect, one of the main intentions of Danto's 1965 book probably came too early and is by no means outdated today. With his book, Danto is, now as then, about disarming or civilizing Nietzsche. However, Danto wants to do less justice to Nietzsche than to put in a "protective grille" between the aggressive Nietzsche and the "defenseless reader". Because, according to Danto:

"I am (...) Sure that Nietzsche literally meant what he said as the terrorists of Pearl River High School understood it. He would not have liked to have his thinking reduced to a metaphor He wrote clear and biting, and he crowned his texts with luminous pictures so that the mind would be all the better prepared to absorb the sharp and pointed messages that Nietzsche at any cost in the flesh of wanted to plant the soul concerned. "

Whether one can really assume Nietzsche that such acts are outrageous in the sense of his philosophy, one does not necessarily have to follow Danto. But that Nietzschean pathos still corresponds to that of a time that was definitely marked by resentment against the world, a time that could have come to an end since 1989, the German translation of Danto's book, which Burkhard Wolf allows with a certain freedom succeeded in appearing just in time. Because today one could be more ready to reflect Nietzsche's insights into the structure of reason and morality and one does not necessarily have to feast on his harsh criticism of the times. Today one could perhaps appreciate Nietzsche's aggressively pathetic tone less than rethink his concise analyzes of occidental cultural development.

That is exactly the perspective of Danto's Nietzsche book that its title suggests. That makes his translation into German eminently contemporary. Nietzsche drafts Danto not only as a hermeneuticist, deconstructivist or philosophical analyst, but more generally as a philosopher. The title of the book should indeed be the program. Doesn't this perspective sound surprisingly banal? What else is Nietzsche if not a philosopher?

On the one hand, one must bear in mind that Danto belongs to the analytical philosophy, the predominant philosophical direction in the Anglo-Saxon as well as the German-speaking world. Analytical philosophy is based on a strict concept of rationality and methodology, which Nietzsche naturally does not satisfy. Even today, many of Danto's philosophical comrades-in-arms turn up their noses when they hear the name "Nietzsche". They certainly do not want to accept him as a philosopher. In this respect, it is certainly to the merit of Danto's book that Nietzsche has also received recognition as a philosopher in the world of analytical philosophy over the past three decades.

On the other hand, presenting Nietzsche as a philosopher is primarily related to the book's intention to domesticate Nietzsche for the inexperienced reader - from the predator Nietzsche, who can haunt confused minds dangerously, into a usable pet. It is precisely for this reason that Danto contrasts the philosopher Nietzsche with Nietzsche as the prophet of the superman. He does not want to domesticate the prophet, as the great postmodern Nietzsche interpreters Deleuze and Vattimo may have undertaken, a restraint whose prospects for success Danto considers as questionable as it is inappropriate. If the book rather presents Nietzsche as a philosopher, then it does not want to cover up the dangerous side of Nietzsche, but rather to point to it, to defuse it and nevertheless not to give up the philosophically innovative side of Nietzsche.

In the appendix, which contains Danto's three later essays on Nietzsche and which thus extends the original English edition to include relevant texts, Danto intensifies this critical perspective on Nietzsche. Danto now defines the ‘philosopher’ Nietzsche more precisely as a semantic nihilist ’, who dismisses God and the question of the possibility of truth as a language problem. Danto refers to a famous passage from Nietzsche's text "The Happy Science", which says: "There is no doubt, the true one, in that bold and ultimate sense, as the belief in science presupposes, thus affirms another World as that of life, nature and history; and insofar as he affirms this 'other world', how? Does he not have to negate its counterpart, this world, our world? "

Modern science wants to explain the world as it really is. She wants to formulate true statements about the world. But their methods - for example, calculation, experiment, observation - may have been useful in the struggle for survival. But they are mere inventions of the human spirit, of which one cannot know whether they grasp nature as nature really is. With the orientation towards the truth, science animates an old obsession. Nietzsche continues: "But you will have understood what I'm getting at, namely that it is still a metaphysical belief on which our belief in science rests - that we knowers of today, we godless and anti-metaphysicists, too to take our fire from the blaze that was kindled by a thousand-year-old faith, that Christian faith, which was also Plato's faith that God is the truth, that the truth is divine. "

For Danto, Nietzsche is a nihilist because he rejects the great models of world explanation of religion and science, because he rejects the idea of ​​truth, which, according to Nietzsche, unites the two and thereby mutually disavows them. Scientific truth, too, is not based on real life, but on its principles and methods, thus remaining on the other side. But through the concept of truth - Danto quotes Nietzsche further - science does not escape the fate of religion after the death of God. Nietzsche: "But how, when this is becoming more and more implausible, when nothing turns out to be divine, unless error, blindness, lie - when God himself turns out to be our longest lie."

Nietzsche is therefore a nihilist because he dismisses both God and the idea of ​​truth as a lie. But why does Danto Nietzsche describe a "semantic" nihilist? To answer this question, Danto resorts to the early essay "On Truth and Lies in the Extra-Moral Sense", not published by Nietzsche himself, which, according to Danto, suggested the concept of deconstruction in the current postmodern debate. The truth, like God, is a lie because language does not present the world as it really is, but because, according to Nietzsche, language consists only of an army of metaphors. The meaning or the semantics of a word does not express the world, but only refers to other words, to other meanings that are condensed in the metaphor. Nietzsche therefore not only negates God and truth, but also the correspondence between language and the world, so he is a semantic nihilist. However, Danto really doesn't want to follow this anymore; for this semantic nihilism leads to dangerous postmodernisms.

"One can ask whether the claim that all language is metaphorical is not itself metaphorical," says Danto. (...) "If so, there is no reason to believe it, but if it is not a lie, because it is not metaphorical, then it is simply wrong - and again there is no reason to believe it. The foundation of deconstruction deconstructs itself, but of course leaves the question open as to what a metaphor is and what is not. "

The basic idea of ​​the book, namely to turn Nietzsche into a philosopher, or to separate the philosophical content of his thoughts from the prophetic in order to deprive them of their potential danger, is learned in the three essays in the appendix, which the original book was supplemented with a contemporary affirmation that has included the discussion since 1965 - a clear broadening of the perspective compared to the original English version.

Even if one does not want to follow Danto in all its conclusions, the book represents a comprehensive examination of Nietzsche, which not only deals with the essential aspects of his work that have shaped the Nietzsche renaissance of the last decades: namely the subjects of art and psychology , Religion, superman, eternal return and the will to power, to which individual chapters are dedicated. The book also catches up with the current debates because in the appendix it deals with those Nietzsche texts that shaped the postmodern debate about language and ethics, namely Nietzsche's writings "Morgenröte", "Zur Genealogie der Moral" and " The happy Science". It quotes practically all passages from Nietzsche's work that are important for the most recent Nietzsche renaissance. Danto read Nietzsche himself only partially in German, namely only the papers that had not yet been translated in 1965. So now there is a text with original quotations and not just with translations from German.

But the book does not only include the Nietzsche debate, which he himself was involved in. Retrospectively in the foreword and in the appendix, Danto also reviews his own theses to what extent they need to be revised after thirty years. But anyone who hoped for exciting revocations will be disappointed. It would have been astonishing for such a solidly working analytical philosopher like Danto. At least Danto admits that in 1965 he underestimated the literary quality of Nietzsche's texts. At that time he considered them to be writings composed of aphorisms that were basically arbitrarily composed and that could have been arranged differently. In the meantime he recognizes her literary formation. This opens up the possibility for him in the appendix to interpret Nietzsche as a writer - for Danto also a chance of domestication, because literature - according to Danto - does not represent an invitation to action.

On the other hand, Danto repeats his provocative and brilliant thesis from 1965: "Strangely enough, not a single one of Nietzsche's works 'presupposes anything other than known.' Thus, one can easily read his writings in any other order without losing comprehension of one's thoughts With all my regrets - that is still my view. None of the most recent text finds seem to me as such to really question the conceptual context that I tried to establish in Nietzsche as a philosopher. "