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Lorenzo Spezia

Was Nietzsche an anti-realist?

1. Introduction ^

M. Ferraris is an Italian philosopher who recently acquired a reputation worldwide, mainly for his theoretical support to the school of thought seeking to return to a new realism in philosophy.1 He claims that Nietzsche is the very father of the typical postmodern anti-realist thought, an indeed easy statement to demonstrate: did not he wrote the famous sentence «there are no facts, only interpretations»?2 more clearly than that… The problem with this apparently peaceful instance emerges when we try to contextualize the Nietzschean affirmation, decisive if taken in isolation, in the entire history of Western thought: then appears, in my view evidently, that Nietzsche is not an anti-realist nor an anti-metaphysical thinker at all.3 Thanks to him a genuine metaphysical, and so realistic, instance made its appearance on the horizon of Western thought. Already M. Heidegger, in his lectures on Nietzsche,4 had declared him «the last metaphysician» but framing him in his vision of the history of philosophy and then declaring him exceeded by his own post-metaphysical thought.5 In this paper I aim to show how Nietzsche was indeed a metaphysical philosopher, but not the last: he was the brilliant rethinker of a certain metaphysical tradition, and then the first contemporary renewer of metaphysics itself.

Let us begin from metaphysics. Nietzsche’s statements about the end of metaphysics concern the particular mood that Plato has imprinted on the history of thought (imprinting that gave rise to what we call metaphysics) and not metaphysics in all its expressive possibilities. It is true that Plato was the inventor of that kind of thinking that will be called metaphysics; 6 and it is also true that subsequent authors, dealing with metaphysics, have always made reference to Plato; but it is equally true that in the Neoplatonic era metaphysics, revived after the Hellenistic break, took on a new coloring which dramatically changed its characteristics. And it was precisely this new metaphysics that, by joining the Christian religion, originated the season of patristic and scholastic philosophy, forge where modern thought took shape and life; and from which it detached himself gradually assuming its completion in its two fundamental expressions of rationalism and empiricism. And it’s precisely this gap that Nietzsche complained with mixed feelings of joy and deep anguish, symbolizing it in the pregnant image of the death of God (thus opening the season of contemporary thought). 7 I will try to show how, paradoxically, with this extraordinary intuition, Nietzsche also opened up a new possibility for metaphysics, certainly not in the classic sense (indeed strongly counterposing to it), nor exactly in the Neoplatonic sense: in a new way that is, in some respects, close to the second one. So much so that Heidegger before and then Derrida, in the hermeneutic wake of Nietzsche, were getting closer to what was apophatic thinking, a typical Neoplatonic metaphysical form.8

We said that metaphysics and epistemological realism are closely linked together, so that metaphysical thought is necessarily realistic, and vice versa. Classical metaphysics was in fact created with Plato’s trying to overcome sophistic nihilism -- ontological and epistemological at a time -- which constituted the end of first philosophical season, that of physics. In it thought tried to seize the ἀρχή of reality, believing to be able to know, through it, reality in its totality (which is why the first thinkers were also the first realists); Sophists instead, for various reasons, including contradictions produced by the first thinkers, denied this claim. Plato, starting from inner epistemological experience,9 pointed at the suprasensory Idea as the new center-ἀρχή of reality; it became a resolution both of the ontological problem posed by the first philosophers and of the epistemological one posed by the Sophists; and it became the starting point of a new realism, understood as a possibility for reason to grasp the totality of reality. But history did not stop to Plato: metaphysics and realism ran together through a complex path leading until Nietzsche (and beyond). I’m going to start this article precisely explaining in broad this path, in order to better understand and frame metaphysical and realistic aspects of Nietzsche’s thinking.

2. Classic and Neoplatonic metaphysics, and modern research ^

2.1. Metaphysics and realism in the classical period: the foundation ^

Metaphysics comes on the scene thanks to Plato, although neither he nor Aristotle have coined this lucky term. Plato had the genius to collect and genuinely revive the great challenge launched by Parmenides, whose thinking intensely radical was diluted by pluralists and dissolved by the Sophists.10 With Parmenides suddenly appeared in history, and in the strongest possible way, the onto-logy (in the original sense: λόγος about the ὄν): so Plato found himself, on the one hand, in face of the hard criticism the Sophists had moved against Parmenidean ontology (and therefore against every possibility for knowledge to focalize around an onto-epistemological center of reality), and on the other hand he’s facing the prosecution of physical thought (at the time significantly aporetic), both realities with which his teacher Socrates too meets and clashes.

Plato devised an ingenious solution that allowed him to overcome on the one hand, as already the first physicists tried to do, the contradictions inherent to multiplicity and becoming11 while saving the phenomena (which failed to Parmenides); and on the other to pass from inside the nihilistic deadlock in which the Sophists had closed philosophy. Plato transferred, as far as possible, the imperishable solidity of the Parmenidean ὄν to the Ideas of things, outlining the multifaceted and becoming world of experience not as unreal hallucination, but as a fallen and imperfect picture of the ideal world. So what actually is, in itself and by itself, eternally present and unchanging, is the Idea; while the world of experience (from which the pre-Socratic reflection started), the perpetually mobile world of the φύσις, remains with Plato only a distant image of what really is: what in Parmenides was simply ontology was enriched by Plato of a meta-physical dimension. So the platonic metaphysics is science of what is placed over the φύσις (that’s the world of Ideas).12 Parmenides, while completely denying sensory experience, remained inside the φύσις, Plato instead carries the founding principle of φύσις over and out of it, getting the result to save the phenomena and give reason to them, so realizing, thanks to meta-physics, the ancient dream of the first philosophers13 denied by the Sophists.

This Platonic and Aristotelic metaphysical bubble,14 that somehow continued Parmenidean thinking in a new and fruitful direction, didn’t convince at all post-Aristotelic thinkers, falling in an almost total disrepute in the long run of the Hellenistic philosophy, to re-emerge later in a unexpected and extremely effective mode that we attempt to sketch briefly below. Metaphysics in fact, thanks to Neoplatonism, arose from its ashes deeply changed and enriched.

2.2. Metaphysics and realism in the Neoplatonic era: the rebirth ^

A peculiar current of Hellenistic thought: Skepticism, charismatically represented by Pyrrho of Elis, argued that no form of knowledge is able to grasp reality, but it is necessary to suspend judgment on everything (the attitude of ἐποχή), since this same suspension allows the achievement of imperturbable serenity of the sage.15 This can happen especially since, according to Pyrrho, a total suspension of judgment allows to grasp the divine nature, which is placed beyond every possibility of rational understanding: this was the very essence of Pyrrhonian Skepticism.16 It seemed therefore placed an end to any possibility for a Platonic-kind realist metaphysics, since Pyrrho strongly denied any possibility of rationally knowing reality, let alone to grasp its onto-epistemological principle.17

It was thanks to the genius work of Philo of Alexandria if this genuinely Skeptical instance could become the fulcrum on which metaphysics, and therefore realism, revived with the energy necessary to face and overcome the challenges that successive centuries proposed them.18 I’ll try to explain in more detail how this phenomenon, seemingly paradoxical, could take place. Philo came out from the same cultural melting pot of Pyrrho, the Hellenistic one, in which religion played an essential role in the problem of happy existence and was inextricably linked with philosophy, which was not a mere rational exercise as opposed to religious belief, but was often a kind of meditated expansion of it.19 Philo was not influenced by the Far Eastern religions, as Pyrrho, but by the religion of his fathers that he accepted with conviction, as many Alexandrian Jews of his time. Without requiring much exegetical explanation, but only with reference to a common understanding of the biblical message, we know that God in the Pentateuch is presented as a person and as creator of all, different from every other creature and wrapped by a mysterious unknowable cloud: for this characteristic could satisfy the Hellenistic spirit, who felt so strongly a divine mystery, rationally unfathomable, underlying all of reality, as we have exemplified with Pyrrho.

But how could the God of Philo underlie all reality with philosophical dignity, going a step beyond some biblical expressions more mythological in character, who did not eventually meet the markedly Hellenistic expressions of Alexandrinian culture? Here the brilliant idea of Philo: the reality is like Plato had thought it, namely the manifestation in matter and time of a world of Ideas; these Ideas, however, do not exist in themselves, but are the thoughts of God’s mind. So Plato-Aristotelian metaphysics could revive, renewing thanks to the reception of the most genuine Hellenistic topics, and could impregnate the thought of centuries to come, even the Christian one.

After Philo in every philosophical and spiritual experience three basic elements meet, collide and intertwine in search of balance: the Platonic, the Aristotelian and the apophatic one; it is precisely their combination that characterizes the essence of the Neoplatonic thought. In the Platonic element, the onto-epistemological center of reality is placed in archetypal Ideas separated from empirical objects; in the Aristotelian element it is placed in a formal (i.e. essential) act permeating empirical objects; the apophatic element underlines the fact that the archetypal Ideas of reality are rooted in a divine dimension that transcends absolutely every rational capacity.20 Of these three instances, seemingly conflicting, a synthesis it is often tried.

This balance began to break a few years after the death of Thomas Aquinas in the context of difficult absorption, by medieval intellectual environment, of the reintroducted major works of Aristotle. We can observe in this regard a resolute break in the year of publication of the Aristotelian thesis condemned by the bishop of Paris (1277), simply by looking at the specific portion of a timeline (see fig. 1) that takes into account the thinkers who lived in that period. The turning point is clear: the realm of faith and reason (or science) are separated; and while Bonaventure, Thomas, Albert had attempted a synthesis recognizing to the two fields a partial overlap, Eckhart, Scotus and Ockham proceed having for fundamental hypothesis their heterogeneity.21

2.3. Metaphysics and realism in the modern period: in search for a foundation ^

This very event, in my opinion, established modernity in all his characteristics -- though obviously doesn’t coincide with its maturity: it was only over the centuries that Platonic element turned into the rationalist mood, while Aristotelian one became the empiricist trend; both looking for their foundation, disappeared with the Neoplatonic God.22 It was, before, this God to act as a liaison between the three distinct elements of thought and to provide their valid foundation; collapsed, it remained a task of pure human rationality finding this foundation, a very difficult one: ideas that grant to thought its grip on reality cannot be based on simple empirical experience, as empiricists wanted (since the senses deceive and never offer universal and necessary data as ideas do); nor can they be based on their innateness (we would not satisfactorily clarify their origin, leaving knowledge open to many uncertainties).23 In this regard it is significant that the philosopher who magnificently closed the modern era, Hegel, seeking for the foundation, approached a form of thought very similar to Neoplatonism -- all reality is a dynamic and triadic self-manifestation of an absolute spirit -- without of course identifying the absolute spirit with the God of the Christian faith (rather, reabsorbing the latter in that). Thus rationality is still absolute master: Hegel famously indentified rationality and reality. Now, bringing the words with wich Nietzsche describes the phenomenon of the death of God near to the path of thinking so far outlined, it is evident that the moment of the divine death coincides with the birth of the modern thought, resulting in the disappearance from philosophy and science of Neoplatonic Christian God, irrational (or over-rational) foundation of reality and rationality itself.24

2.4. Metaphysics and realism in the contemporary period: beyond rationality ^

As seen in the previous section, rationality, while deployed in its full intensity on all fronts, it was unable to find a satisfactory ultimate foundation of reality; so the irrational element again burst: this very movement is the essence of contemporary thought. Looking at the chronological table showed in fig. 2 one immediately notices, after Hegel and Comte, the name of Schopenhauer: the first one of the «masters of suspicion», or those who suspected that rationality deceives the intellect wanting to reach the ultimate foundation of reality. Other names are those of Nietzsche, Freud and Jung, Heidegger, Kuhn and Feyerabend, Derrida, that we can consider, albeit for different reasons, members of the contemporary irrational mood. But even among those we commonly think as the prosecutors of positivism, stands the name of Wittgenstein, whose notorious sentence «what we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence» transformed the founding treaty of the contemporary analytic philosophy in a mystical text.25 That’s why we can say that, albeit in different ways, the appearance (or, somehow, the reappearance) of the irrational dimension in contemporary thinking characterizes our postmodern era, having a hub in Nietzsche.

But was not a similar gesture that allowed the creation of a new kind of metaphysics, thanks to the intuition of Philo? Metaphysics, in Neoplatonism, not only revived, but was enriched with additional values that deepened his being placed μεtὰ τα φυσικά: as we have seen, Philo rescued Plato by founding his system in the over-rational divine principle. It will therefore be interesting to see more exactly, in the next section, for what reasons Nietzsche criticizes metaphysics, and in what sense instead could be present in his thinking some elements that may constitute a kind of adherence to a metaphysics -- or refer to the foundation of a new form of metaphysics, perhaps enriched with further meanings.

3. Metaphysics and realism in Friedrich Nietzsche: refusal or renewal? ^

I agree with Ferraris in arguing that Nietzsche is to be placed among the founding fathers of contemporary thought; all later thinkers26 are essentially explicable by referring to him and E. Husserl. So looking more closely at its relationship with metaphysics and realism, without reducing it (like Ferraris) to a crystal clear rejection, not only helps us to better understand the true nature of Nietzsche’s and the entire hermeneutical thought, but it is also a very good indicator to understand what place yet metaphysics, and therefore realism, can play in the contemporary post-modern or post-postmodern time. It is certainly appropriate, as New Realism tries to do, to ask again and in more detail about our relationship with reality, for not give in to an oversimplified hermeneutics (well delineated by Ferraris in a number of passages of the Manifesto); but it is also true that one must not give in to an oversimplification of realism (as sometimes Ferraris himself does),27 if really wants to return to reality: as we have seen, realism and metaphysics, down history, have enriched with always more appropriate and complex meaning, trying to answer to difficulties posed by more and more elaborate ways of think. We’re going to look then, in the next sections, in what sense precisely Nietzsche criticizes metaphysics (and therefore realism), and we’re going to try to establish a better interpretation of the most notorious consequence of Nietzsche’s criticism: nihilism, be it ontological or epistemological (or both).

3.1. The critique of metaphysics ^

Nietzsche is notoriously a very severe critic of Plato and his metaphysics;28 the point he mostly calls into question can be effectively summarized in these few words of Heidegger: «For Plato the super-sensible is the real world. It is above as what is decisive. The significant is below as apparent world.»29 It is here clearly pointed out the central node for which Nietzsche rejects metaphysics, which identifies in toto with Platonism:30 his criticism is not to be read as an oversimplification of Plato’s thought, but rather as an essential and profound insight on the roots of the first explicitly metaphysical research. However Heidegger points out31 that Nietzsche, in his critique of metaphysics, wants actually to hit more Platonism than the great Athenian himself, which looks in a more positive light;32 yet, who ever, if not Plato, thought that ideas (or Ideas) for which the material world, underestimated, it is opposed to the intelligible world, risen to the dignity of the one true world? It is for this very reason that Aristotle too criticized Plato: maybe exaggerating, especially for theoretical motivations,33 but certainly with good reason -- we should point out here that Aristotle had not just read Plato, but had took part passionately and for many years in his lectures.

After all, Nietzsche did not act too differently from Aristotle: he departed from Plato, while retaining a certain reverence sometimes deep,34 he too criticizing Plato and founding his own metaphysics. In this sense, I think that Heidegger has been right in considering Nietzsche a metaphysical philosophers;35Aristotle, in his controversial departure from Plato, remained largely platonic, Nietzsche too remains in some way Platonic, while his detachment is deeper than that of Aristotle: this statement, that probably sounds surprising, is nevertheless strikingly confirmed by Nietzsche himself. Even Nietzsche, like Aristotle, accused Plato (and even more the Platonic) of having invented a fabulous super-sensible world and having made of it the real world, contrasting it to what actually is the only real world: the sensible one, the one of experience, the φύσις from which the first pre-Socratic philosopher started to think, and that anyone who loves life and earth cannot deny. Paradoxically this Nietzsche’s critique, according to what he himself said, is actually a reversed Platonism:

Plato delivers to Nietzsche, as seen, an «amazing» idea [i.e. Plato’s conception of the idea!]. Nietzsche welcomes it and set it upside down (umgedrehter Platonismus): the real world is the sensible one, the false world is the super-sensible.36

Trying to understand in what sense Nietzsche’s thought could be said «Platonism», albeit reversed, it seems illuminating a section of Nietzsche in which Heidegger made some acute observations on a particular section titled How the «real world» eventually became fable (from Twilight of the Idols), which is often considered a simple ironic attack to Plato; the passage is composed by six points that show step by step the gradual decline which leads to the false idea of the real world (defined as the ideal immaterial world) on which all platonic thought is based. Heidegger could see, in the first step, an original and strong appreciation for the Athenian philosopher:

«1. The real world, reachable by the wise, the pious, the virtuous -- he lives in it, he himself is this world.» Here is the foundation of the doctrine by Plato. … The supersensible is ἰδέα; in the eyes of the Greeks, in their thinking and in their existence, this entity that is glanced is truly seen and experienced, this simple view, as what gives each being … the power to be himself. That’s why Nietzsche inserts, between brackets, a clarification: «(the earliest form of the idea, relatively smart, simple, persuasive. Transcription of the thesis 'I, Plato, am the truth')» [VI, III, 75]. The thought of ideas and interpretation of being so set are in itself and by itself creative. Plato’s thought is not yet Platonism. The «real world” is not the subject of a doctrine, is the power of life, what is present and shining, the pure splendor without veiling.37

Plato then, in the most genuine of his thought, according to Nietzsche himself, was able to grasp the original reality of the φύσις, while expressing it with the name and the concept of Idea. The charge that Nietzsche turned to Plato and Platonism, increasingly strong and deep with the progression of the points of the quoted passage, was to have then fossilized the Idea alienating it from existence and paradoxically turning it in the only true existing thing, at the expense of the material world, which despite being the real one ended up being considered the false one (up to the sixth point, where Nietzsche accuses this false «real world» of having dragged in its disastrous collapse, when it is understood its falsity -- here’s the death of God -- even the world really true). We must therefore observe that the accusation that Nietzsche (according to Ferraris the prince of Anti-realists) turned to Plato (crowned by history undisputed king of Realists) was, ultimately, to not having been able to grasp the true reality of φύσις: an accusation that denies, of course, the views of platonic metaphysics, but absolutely realistic and metaphysical in character. So we can righty call the whole thought of Nietzsche as an attempt, pushed up to the spasm, to grasp the true reality in which the φύσις, despite appearances, consists: just like Parmenides, Heraclitus and any other pre-Socratic realist,38 Nietzsche searched the ἀρχή of the φύσις; and knowing the ἀρχή it means, in epistemological terms, to possess the means making possible to penetrate the knowledge of reality.39

3.2. Nihilism: the steep of nothingness ^

From this standpoint, again the question from which all Western thought had been inspired is open: determining the ἀρχή, the heart of the φύσις, to make understandable the reality that, based on experience, is made by relentless annihilating and becoming. Nietzsche, of course, had no intention either to move the ἀρχή out of the vortex of φύσις -- it would be a Platonic metaphysical gesture -- nor to reduce what in the φύσις is a problem (multiplicity and becoming) to absolute and insubstantial appearance, as Parmenides did (if Nietzsche must be recognized in a pre-Socratic, should be rather Heraclitus with his conception of logos as coincidence of opposites).40 The heart of φύσις is, with no doubt in Nietzsche, inside the φύσις itself: more exactly, it is the very same φύσις resolved in its truest essence, let’s call for now will to power. Nietzsche interpreted φύσις as endless sea of vital energy in motion, movement determined by the will to power, thanks to which focal and relatively stable points are condensed, which we call beings.41 Will to power is the essence of the life of the beings as such, the cause of their appearance, as existing and present, on the horizon of the phenomena. Will to power is the energetic creating movement of the life of the φύσις itself that perpetually flows, and of course it doesn’t identify with the will of a single individual, which at best is only an expression of it.42

Plato’s (and especially Platonists’) fundamental error was to mistakenly interpret the reality of φύσις, forgetting that beings are productions of the will to power and, consequently, making them the absolutely immortalized beings standing in the hyper-uranian (false) reality: this idea is nihilistic because, attributing the fullness of ratio entis to what is only a fantastic projection, gives life to what is actually nothing. The first phase of nihilism began precisely at this point and then the Western thought, from Plato onwards, is just a long speech about ideal beings, that is, about nothing:43 Platonism is therefore, in Nietzsche’s view, the most tragic form of nihilism, introduced with the illusion of defeat Gorgian nihilism, making Idea the being par excellence. This Platonic nothing was then received and strengthened by Christian religion, that made it the universal thought of humanity, spreading the nihilistic infection in all strata of society and cultures.44 This first phase of nihilism lasted as long as God died: as we have seen, with his death modern thought was born, which although dtook its distances (to a greater or less degree) by the Platonic-Aristotelian metaphysics, it was also nihilistic because sought surrogates to compensate the absence of God, that’s escapes from reality (licentiousness, drugs and alcohol) or ideologies (socialism or nationalism, summarizing in themselves the possible modern political positions, or religious ideologies) which became quasi-metaphysical entities in support of thinking and acting no longer supported by the hyper-uranian God of Christianity.45

Nietzsche, just like a religious prophet,46 felt the task of showing humanity that all the masks worn after the death of God hide in truth the horrible void of nihil: they are steeped in that awful stench of rotting corpse --;the more terrible the more hugely impressive is the body -- which he mentions in The Joyful Science (125). That being the case, revealed by the Prussian prophet the nihil consequent to the death of God, man is now hanging precariously on her dizzying precipice, and a dark demon comes to visit:

What would happen if one day or one night, a demon crept stealthily into the most isolated of your loneliness was saying to you, «This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will need to live again and again countless times, and there will not be anything new in it, but every pain and every pleasure and every thought and sigh, and every unspeakably small and great thing in your life will have to return to you, and all in the same succession and sequence. … The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!» Wouldn’t you reverse on the ground, gritting your teeth and cursing the demon who spoke? Or perhaps you once lived an immense moment, when this would be your answer: «You are a god and I never understood a more divine thing?»47

If the reality of the φύσις is the eternal movement of the will to power, it necessarily leads to the eternal return of the same, that is, to the exact repetition of the whole incessant ontological willing movement of the φύσις.48 This theory, which at first seems absurd or at least extravagant, was very dear to Nietzsche, who made it a center of his thought:49 to understand the reason of this choice, instead of simple considering it a kind of «Nietzsche’s myth», is an essential move to clarify his thought. Nietzsche himself gave an almost scientific justification: because the φύσις consists of a finite set of «quanta of power» and time is infinite, it is necessary that the different energetical combinations of quanta repeated infinitely.50

How perfectly outlined at the end of the quoted passage, there may be two opposite reactions to such a very harsh truth. The first is a terrifying despair: the eternal return of the same is the most horrible nihilistic circumstance one can imagine, especially from the point of view of those who wait for some supercelestial reality, giving the world its (alleged) sense. They will consider as absolutely unacceptable the vacuum caused by the vision of the cosmos as will to power causing nothing else but the eternal return of the same, and react alterning desperate moments (passive nihilism) to times of exaltation, as well disastrous if absolutized (active nihilism). The second reaction, surprisingly, has a quite contrary effect: an ecstatic deification of the man understanding that what really is nihilistic is the hyper-uranian belief, while realizing the truth of the eternal return is the most liberating knowledge. The übermensch is precisely the one who realizes this very essence of reality and lives in accordance with it, knowing that every concrete moment lived, be it the happiest or the most painful, has infinite and full value in itself and not in reference to his other alleged truth, Platonically metaphysical, which would reduces it to nothing.51So, what the metaphysician considers fullness, the übermensch knows to be void, and vice versa, what the metaphysician considers void, the übermensch knows to be fullness of life and meaning. As shown by B. Williston,52 even this happy state is for Nietzsche a form of nihilism (the «complete nihilism»), and in the following paragraphs we’re going to better understand its sense.

3.3. Nihilism: abyss of the whole ^

The sensible becomes, so to speak, abyssal53

Keeping in mind this conception of übermensch and his complete nihilism, a good number of questions can arise: from where does that ecstatic feeling of fullness of life and meaning, subsequent to joyful acceptance of true reality, come to light, if reality is the awful eternal recurrence of the same? How, we wonder, could the adhesion so desperately faithful to daily earthly experience, in all its very poor or painful details, bring the redemption promised by Nietzsche? Is it not just to escape the tragic impact of blind forces of nature, that give life and also death, healing and also disease, or to escape long years of empty nothingness, that philosophy-rationality sought to grasp the true sense of reality? And is it not just to look for what could give maximum sense to reality, that philosophy has always thought of its ἀρχή as maximally rational, at the cost of creating a fictitious reality?

The answer to all these questions is that the übermensch is precisely the one who understands and lives the fact that the truth, even before will to power or eternal return,54 is Dionysus: a divine irrational or over-rational mystery, which we no more experience outside the φύσις as in the old metaphysics, but at the very heart of it. "If Apollo is the god of individuation, Dionysus is the original One."55

In The Birth of Tragedy already resonate accents that are unlikely to be part of Schopenhauer’s plan: from the first chapter, to the horror that, according to Schopenhauer, seizes man when he sees falter the principium individuationis, Nietzsche adds «the ecstatic rapture that, for the same violation of the principium individuationis, arises from the depths of man, even from nature» (The Birth of Tragedy, 1). This rapture comes from the fact that «under the spell of the Dionysian … narrows the link between man and man … alien, hostile, subjugated nature, again celebrates its feast of reconciliation with its lost son, man. … Now the slave is a free man, now are breaking all rigid, hostile boundaries that need, the will or the 'blatant fashion' have established among men»(ibid.); and «man is stimulated to the maximum potential of all his symbolic power» (ibid ., 2).56

And it’s this unknown and mysterious heart of reality, divinely over-rational, what gives to him that understands the ability to embrace, as a liberating ecstasy, the fullness of reality that appears to Platonic as nihilism, because he accepts this world as a full divine revelation. The «complete nihilism» is not at all a resigned acceptance of the fact that reality is, in its essence, nothing; but it is the ecstatic joyful state resulting from union with divine whole that is reality in its true essence, which is over-rational. The ultimate over-rationality of reality is expressed mainly by artistic poiesis, that is creation of additional symbols that do not match the linguistical ones:

We can say that Nietzsche, with the concept of tragedy and tragic civilization, is trying to define a way for man in relation to symbols -- which is also a way of being with himself, with others and with nature -- alternative to the one implemented in language and in conception of language as a system of signs. … Nietzsche’s belief that we can get out from decay through the art should therefore not be confused with any kind of estetic late romantic myth. This is not to «escape» into the world of myth and art; rather, to recognize that, throughout the history of Socratic-decadent civilization, has remained somehow a privileged «place» in which … the Dionysian spirit, the free symbolic inventiveness kept alive.57

Thought and language are the expressions of the Apollonian principium individuationis: they separate natural elements from each other, choose, put in contrast, classify and so build the edifice of rationality. The full legitimacy of this whole system is given by Plato’s world of ideas, by placing its principles in the alleged unchanging reality set outside of matter and of physical becoming; and the form and the result of this construction is the entire Western thought as deployment of rationality in its fullness, which expression are relations of power and not of truth (On the Genealogy of Morality). Western thought is, in this sense, essentially meta-physical. Therefore truth, or rather what we commonly call truth, for Nietzsche is at best a socially acceptable lie (On Truth and Lies in Extra-Moral Sense, 1): because it is the result of choosing and systematizing the concepts, which are nothing more than small fragments, individuated and rationalized, of an over-rational and ineffable reality.58 Therefore the overcoming of rationality does not mean at all its destructive negation, but its contextualization in this truth that precedes and founds.59 The same Nietzsche writes:

I want to know you -- you, the Unknown,

which penetrate deep into my soul,

like a storm you shake my life,

elusive and yet close to me!

I want to know you, and serve too.60

This Unknown is certainly no longer any kind of metaphysical Platonic entity: he has nothing to do with any archetype world of Ideas; and, in any case, Plato’s Ideas, in contrast to Nietzsche’s Unknown, arise from rational process and have the character of absolute rationality. In addition, as Miyasaki points out,61 the very conception of Nietzschean will to power, considered simply as ontological element without any more «mystical» connotation (to which anyway, as seen, Nietzsche opens the doors), is defined only by negation, as a tool to criticize traditional metaphysics: it is not a cause, not a purpose, not a willing subject, not rationality… and yet it is all of these things.62 As we have seen, exactly in Neoplatonic period the ultimate reference of reality assumed a similar distinctly and explicitly apophatic character, although its relations with Platonic metaphysics are still strong; and, since Neoplatonic God is something absolutely unthinkable and unspeakable in its true essence, you cannot tell if its place is meta-physical in the Platonic sense of «true reality placed in the super-sensible world» (in this case it would be totally rejected by Nietzsche), or simply in the sense of «transcending the φύσις because different from rationally experible reality» (in this case, it would be somehow similar to that divine principle Nietzsche called Dionysian). It is true that, in this Neoplatonic principle, the place for Platonic element is still important, so much so that it looks more like a distillation than a negation of Platonic hyper-uranium;63 but here I’m quoting in full the more strongly apophatic passage of Neoplatonism (the conclusion of the Mystical Theology of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite) to appreciate in its full extent the disruptive force of apophaticism, in respect to classical rationalism:

Again, ascending yet higher, we maintain that it is neither soul nor intellect; nor has it imagination, opinion reason or understanding; nor can it be expressed or conceived, since it is neither number nor order; nor greatness nor smallness; nor equality nor inequality; nor similarity nor dissimilarity; neither is it standing, nor moving, nor at rest; neither has it power nor is power, nor is light; neither does it live nor is it life; neither is it essence, nor eternity nor time; nor is it subject to intelligible contact; nor is it science nor truth, nor kingship nor wisdom; neither one nor oneness, nor godhead nor goodness; nor is it spirit according to our understanding, nor filiation, nor paternity; nor anything else known to us or to any other beings of the things that are or the things that are not; neither does anything that is know it as it is; nor does it know existing things according to existing knowledge; neither can the reason attain to it, nor name it, nor know it; neither is it darkness nor light, nor the false nor the true; nor can any affirmation or negation be applied to it, for although we may affirm or deny the things below it, we can neither affirm nor deny it, inasmuch as the all-perfect and unique Cause of all things transcends all affirmation, and the simple pre-eminence of its absolute nature is outside of every negation -- free from every limitation and beyond them all.64

It’s very difficult to assimilate «something» of this type to any kind of concept or idea: speaking as Nietzsche, if we can’t say it -- without fear to be wrong -- «Dionysian», certainly we cannot even say it «Apollonian». Surely we can say it nothing compared to all that exists and it’s thought («nor anything else known to us or to any other beings of the things that are or the things that are not»), but a nothing so full of life to be the source of everything. In this sense also the übermensch is somewhat nihilistic,65 but not because he (or she) empty of meaning the experience of the φύσις, as Platonists did; on the contrary: because the concrete present he lives is so always full of meaning that he finds it all within itself, without any external reference but to a Dionysian life that supports and vitalizes from inside the entire manifestation of φύσις. This is the only way in which Nietzschean Dionysus can be a metaphysical principle. The one of übermensch is the only desirable form of nihilism, precisely because it allows access to this higher -- metaphysical -- dimension.66

If we refer to the great speech of Zarathustra in «The Convalescent», the eternal return of the same is rather to identify with the other sense … : the animals of Zarathustra give this interpretation, where they say «things themselves dance for those who think like us: they come and give hands each other and laugh and flee -- and come again. Everything goes out, everything comes back; eternally turns the wheel of being. … In every instant the being begins; around every 'here' rotate the sphere of 'there'. The center is everywhere. Recurve is the path of eternity.» … The final conclusion that, in this circular process, «the center is everywhere,” emphasizes the eternity of becoming in a sense pregnant of theological implications.67

So Nietzsche actually elaborates a refined theological metaphysics, certainly not Platonic, indeed expressly anti-Platonic, but still a theological metaphysics; and not the last outdated one, as Heidegger argued, but the most advanced, and still unsurpassed, form of it. Nietzsche’s thought «goes beyond» the φύσις in two ways: first, because he tries to think what stands behind and within the experience of φύσις, traversing and founding it.68 Just as Aristotle’s metaphysics arose from the desire to bring into the world of experience Plato’s metaphysics (then necessarily transforming it), so Nietzsche’s philosophical gestures actually brings into the world of experience a Neoplatonic kind of metaphysics (necessarily transforming it). In performing this operation (and here’s the other way in which Nietzsche is a metaphysician) he actually shows how the transcendent is not a reality other than the φύσις, but just transcends the rational human experience of it. Meta-physics, therefore, in the sense of what «transcends any rational experience of the φύσις.»

Deep similarities between Nietzschean and Neoplatonic metaphysics are confirmed not only by what all along this paper I have tried to show, but even by the most significant developments of hermeneutical thought,69 which decisively turns toward outcomes similar to those of negative theology, a typical expression of Neoplatonic metaphysics. And the hermeneutical will to extricate the knowledge of reality out of the labyrinthine game of multiple interpretations which forms thought and language,70 trying to find its sense and heart -- not rationally analyzable but yet somehow experible -- should not be viewed as a provocative and disruptive anti-realism, as Ferraris does, but as the most healthy and meaningful expression of λόγος today possible, as I have tried to show briefly exposing the historical path at the beginning of the paper. So I hope I have clearly showed that Nietzsche’s sentence «there are no facts, only interpretations» cannot in any way be taken as founding absolute anti-realist positions: on the contrary it means, already in the intention of Nietzsche, that rational analysis of reality can’t lead to the heart (ἀρχή) of the real, which is constitutively Unknown, yet existing and real.

Copyright © 2016 Lorenzo Spezia

Lorenzo Spezia . « Was Nietzsche an anti- realist? ». Dialegesthai. Rivista telematica di filosofia [in linea], anno 18 (2016) [inserito il 30 dicembre 2016], disponibile su World Wide Web: <https://mondodomani.org/dialegesthai/>, [52 KB], ISSN 1128-5478.

Note

  1. Often called the New Realism. <

  2. Ferraris writes: “It is in this place [i.e. Nice] that was written a famous fragment: 'There are no facts, only interpretations.' That is the key to the postmodern: reality is socially constructed, there is nothing outside the text, knowledge is only an effect of power, we look at the world from infinite perspectives that correspond to our vital needs in conflict with each other, there are not things in themselves, but only in relation to observers. Here are the words, literally, written in the Unpublished Fragments 1886–1887 , 7 [60]: ‘Against positivism, which stops to the phenomena: «There are only facts,» I say: no, the facts do not exist, but only interpretations. We cannot see any facts «in itself»; it is absurd to want something similar. «Everything is subjective», you say; but this is already an interpretation, the «subject» is nothing given, is only something added with the imagination, something tacked on later.’ 'Finally, must you still give interpretation after interpretation? Already this is an invention, an hypothesis. As the word «knowledge» makes sense, the world is knowable; but it is interpretable in different ways, it has not behind itself just a sense, but countless ones. «Perspectivism.» Our needs interpret the world: our instincts and their pros and cons. Every instinct is a kind of thirst for power, each has his perspective, that it wants to impose as standard to all other instincts'. (Ferraris, Spettri di Nietzsche). See also Ferraris, Manifesto of New Realism. I made all translations from italian. <

  3. Metaphysics, as I will show in this article, is closely connected with epistemological realism since its first appearance in the history of Western thought. <

  4. Heidegger, Nietzsche, 1991. <

  5. "At least as portrayed by Heidegger, Nietzsche is simultaneously the greatest critic of metaphysics and its 'last' practitioner. Inextricably ensnared in the tradition of Western metaphysics, Nietzsche was unable finally to confront 'the essence (Wesen) of nihilism'" (Conway, "Heidegger, Nietzsche, and the Origins of Nihilism," 11). <

  6. Although, as we will try to show more precisely later, the metaphysical thought of Plato can only come in the context of a complex intellectual journey that is a prelude to the founding gestures of Platonic metaphysics. <

  7. We immediately think to the madman’s speech in The Joyful Science, II, 125. <

  8. See Law, "Negative Theology in Heidegger’s Beiträge Zur Philosophie"; Bradley, Negative Theology and Modern French Philosophy; Derrida, "How to Avoid Speaking: Denials"; Yannaras, On the Absence and Unknowability of God. <

  9. See e.g. Reale, Plato and Aristotle; Natorp, Plato’s Theory of Ideas; Ross, Plato’s Theory of Ideas. <

  10. By means of gestures no less radical and intense: just try to read from a Parmenidean point of view Gorgias Περὶ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος ἢ Περὶ φύσεως -- even just the title. <

  11. The whole philosophical research has begun looking for the ἀρχή, the principium of the phenomena appearing in a manner so often traumatic and contradictory (becoming, lack of unity, death: all the failings of beings clearly identified by Parmenides, causing to humans that wonder, not only joyful but also dramatic, which Aristotle identifies as the source of philosophy). This ἀρχή was conceived as the pivotal point from which to observe the whole of reality and give it meaning. <

  12. I write the word Idea with a capital initial when referring to this Platonic metaphysical reality, not simply being idea as a subjective thought, as we usually think today. <

  13. The realist dream: to determinate the onto-gnoseological principle of reality, what in Plato is the Idea. <

  14. One often emphasizes the contrast between Aristotle and Plato, that indeed even Aristotle emphasizes with a certain satisfaction; more hardly one notices what he himself hardly admits: its dependence on Plato. Without Plato, the core of the Aristotelian theory would remain incomprehensible: the hylomorphic composition of reality, that’s the Platonic Idea structuring reality -- now from within and no more from an external supercelestial place -- by means of energy or act. But, even with a far more attentive appreciation to the world of phenomena than Plato’s, Aristotle needs, at the end, to crystallize the forms of things in a timeless full presence similar to that of the Ideas. <

  15. This is precisely the final goal common to all Hellenistic philosophies, despite their diversity. <

  16. Pyrrho, among other things, attended some Hindu teachers (the Gymnosophists) during his participation in the expedition of Alexander the Great (cfr. Reale, Systems of the Hellenistic Age). <

  17. Epicurean and Skeptical epistemologies, though seemingly realistic, have as their purpose the support of the respective dogmatic ethical systems, and not an authentic desire to understand reality as Presocratics, Plato or Aristotle. <

  18. Philo’s significance in Western philosophical path is especially underlined by Berti, In principio era la meraviglia; Ferraris, Storia Dell’ontologia; Reale, The Schools of the Imperial Age. <

  19. It is worth noting here, in support of the analogy between Neoplatonism and Nietzsche, that Nietzschean philosophy too is difficult to separate from a strong religious emphasis: just think, for example, to the style of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. <

  20. Therefore this ultimate reality is irrational, in the sense of "what is placed over the possibilities of rational knowledge." <

  21. This happens because the magisterial document (available in Piché, La Condamnation Parisienne de 1277), condemning the use of the Aristotelian categories in theology, had the effect of separating the field of scientific studies (for which Aristotelianism was essential) from that of the theological reflection. <

  22. Bianchi traces critically (Il Vescovo E I Filosofi, 14ff.) the historical path of the idea that the condemnations of 1277 are the gesture that opens modernity, from Duhem through Gilson. He is of the view that this statement is not true, poorly understanding, in my opinion, what exactly the revolution originated by the document consists in: not a real revenge of the Platonism against Aristotelianism, but a clumsy attempt to realize it, getting as undesired effect to free a space for pure rational exercise from the bond of catholic faith. <

  23. An example is the Cartesian solution: in order to justify the presence, in the I-think, of truthful and clear ideas, he must call in the scene a God absolutely ex machina. <

  24. So Heidegger: "Nietzsche uses the name 'nihilism' to indicate the historical movement which he acknowledges for the first time, but that already dominated the previous centuries and which will give the impression to the next, and of which he summarizes the most essential interpretation in the short sentence: 'God is dead.' That is, the 'Christian God' has lost his power on beings and on destination of man. The 'Christian God' is at the same time the representation-guide that stands for the 'supersensible' in general and for its various interpretations, for the 'ideals' and the 'norms,' for the 'principles' and 'rules,' for the 'purposes' and the 'values' established 'over' beings, to give beings as a whole a purpose, an order and -- as they say in short -- to 'give things a sense.' Nihilism is the historical process by which the 'supersensible' dims and its dominion is destroyed, and therefore the being itself loses its value and its meaning. Nihilism is the history of the being through which comes to light, slowly but ineluctably, the death of the Christian God. It may be that one still believes in this God and that his world is considered 'real,' 'effective' and 'decisive.' This resembles the process by which the appearance of a bright star turned off from thousands of years continues to shine, but it remains, with its shining, a mere 'semblance'" (Heidegger, Nietzsche, 2013, 564–65). See, in the same line, the very clear exposition by Tassi, "Nietzsche teologo: 'Dio' come apice istantaneo della volontà di potenza," sec. 2. <

  25. Even the American pragmatism, which comes with Peirce, a contemporary of Nietzsche, is characterized by a marked anti-essentialism that effectively relegates the ultimate dimension of reality in the field of the irrational, while the rational is determined by relations between forces that have practical purposes. <

  26. At the very least those belonging to the greatest current -- the hermeneutics which Ferraris aimed his criticism and that, for better or worse, gives a theoretical support to post-modernity. <

  27. May be an example the series of banalities put in place in the slipper experiment (in Ferraris, Manifesto of New Realism), where the author think premises and get conclusions already widely thought, criticized and (at least partially) resolved during the centuries. <

  28. We can safely say, with Haar, that the question of Nietzsche’s philosophy is to exceed Platonic metaphysics (Nietzsche and Metaphysics); and other powerful studies prove that Nietzsche is a metaphysical philosopher: Poellner, Nietzsche and Metaphysics; Doyle, Nietzsche on Epistemology and Metaphysics; Richardson, Nietzsche’s System. <

  29. Heidegger, Nietzsche, 2013, 197 This brief statement belongs to a section of Nietzsche where Heidegger studies in detail the relationship of Nietzsche with Plato and Platonism. <

  30. Haar points out that, while Heidegger tries a very accurate survey of what is metaphysics before criticizing it, Nietzsche gives it almost for granted: "metaphysics is the belief in 'another world,' in a world that is ideal and true in itself, or in his own term, it is 'Platonism'." Following Miyasaki "Nietzsche’s Will to Power as Naturalist Critical Ontology," 256ff.), in this a closer interpreter, we have to say that, although the essence of Nietzsche’s critique is the "belief in another world," however, analyzing more carefully Nietzsche’s works, one can find more detailed criticisms to various fundamentals of classical metaphysics (substance, agent cause, potentiality, final cause). <

  31. But also see the careful examination performed by Dri, Nietzsche legge Platone, 16ff. <

  32. Some essays study in depth the issue of the complex relationship between Plato and Nietzsche (they converge in a much sharper way than the surface of some Nietzche’s declarations might conduce to think): the ones by Dri (Nietzsche legge Platone) and Anderson (Plato and Nietzsche), which are well documented and have a complete bibliography on the subject. <

  33. G. Reale says, "I can tell it from experience, that is, for having spent long years to translate, interpret and comment the Metaphysics of Aristotle, who actually Aristotle, for polemical reasons, presented the Platonic doctrine of Ideas in the worst possible way. … Plato, detects Natorp, did not start from things, understood as givenness, to draw from them the basic concepts; on the contrary, he has proceeded along the opposite path, starting from noetic laws to hypothetically build the concrete reality. And Aristotle did not accept this approach and rejected it in its entirety , with the consequent controversies" (in the Introduction to Natorp, Dottrina Platonica Delle Idee, XXIV). <

  34. Sometimes deeper than that of Aristotle (philosopher that Nietzsche loved less than Plato, despite the affinities). <

  35. In my view, the fundamental error Heidegger makes, and that deforms also considerations about Nietzsche and his metaphysics, is to think himself as the first philosopher who manages to break free from the metaphysical oblivion of Being: how I tried instead to show in the previous section, in fact the whole Neoplatonism is based on the consideration of Being as the original source of the beings, so different then from any other being. As well as Neoplatonists realized a certain advancement of metaphysics, while remaining metaphysicians, both Nietzsche and Heidegger do the same thing, in my opinion. The fact that Nietzsche already exceeds metaphysics, before Heidegger, remains amply demonstrated by Haar in Nietzsche and Metaphysics; see also Vattimo, "Friedrich W. Nietzsche," 22, in footnote 24, where he describes the übermensch as exactly the man who carries the overcoming of metaphysics. <

  36. Dri, Nietzsche legge Platone, 21. He continues: «Both of them also seem to believe that man and world are inseparable: one can find neither in Plato nor in Nietzsche a subject-object problem. … Nietzsche acknowledges that Plato does not have a naive view of reality, rather it is in his eyes extremely problematized. … Then the theory of Ideas of Plato is not dogmatic, not final, is not a theory in the modern sense of the term, and the fact that it represents, instead, a proceeding further, leads us to think that this interpretation was, to some extent, very close to the interests of Nietzsche, for which the proceeding further has a paradigmatic value, is the over of overcoming, that goal never reached in which one takes home as a wayfarer, and where one has arrived only in proceeding. The theory of Ideas, for Nietzsche, is a specious working hypotheses in philosophy, the center of which is the soul. … We have found an indisputable warning of Nietzsche, perhaps the key to his relationship with Plato: the theory of Ideas as a laboratory of the soul» (21–23). For this the hypothesis of Ideas (as indeed Plato himself calls it) it is defined by Nietzsche an amazing gain. Gentili, Nietzsche, 259ff., relates «reversed Platonism» with art, as the artist tries to capture the truth where it really is: in the real world that Plato reverses. See also Haar, Nietzsche and Metaphysics, 47ff. <

  37. Heidegger, Nietzsche, 2013, 199–200. It’s impossible not to see in those ideas the roots of what Natorp will endorse in his famous and well documented book, namely that Plato is the prototype of all subsequent idealism (Natorp, Plato’s Theory of Ideas). <

  38. Nietzsche recognizes himself especially in the pre-Socratic, precisely because their research of the ἀρχή, contrary to Plato, takes place inside the φύσις. S. Mati well thematizes this problem in the preface to La nascita della tragedia. <

  39. "To overcome metaphysics for Nietzsche amounts to shedding this illusion, moving entirely within immmanence, returning fully to the earth, reaffirming the uniqueness of the world as the Greeks had done before Plato and Socrates" (Haar, Nietzsche and Metaphysics, xi). See also Sena, "Nietzsche’s New Grounding of the Metaphysical" <

  40. See Meyer, Reading Nietzsche through the Ancients. <

  41. Heidegger’s interpretation of will to power as the essence of beings, which is the core of his Nietzsche, always conflicts with "a significant consensus on many sides that, if the will to power is intended as an ontology, it is inconsistent with his antimetaphysical stance, implausible from a contemporary scientific perspective, and very poorly supported, based only on wild metaphysical speculation or sloppy, pseudoscientific generalization" (Miyasaki, "Nietzsche’s Will to Power as Naturalist Critical Ontology," 251 -- he cites a substantial literature supporting the thesis). But, in the same paper, Miyasaki shows that "Nietzsche’s published works contain a substantial, though implied, argument for the will to power as an ontological theory that is consistent with a naturalist methodology" (251). Also Richardson write it very clear: "in his early manuscript on the first philosophers, Nietzsche speaks of 'a metaphysical doctrine, which has its origin in a mystical intuition and which we meet in all philosophies, together with ever-renewed attempts to express it better – this proposition that "all is one"' [Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks 3]. And we meet it, apparently, in Nietzsche himself. He says many times, in many ways and many contexts, that things are will to power [Wille zur Macht]" (Richardson, Nietzsche’s System, 18). See also Miyasaki, «Nietzsche’s Will to Power as Naturalist Critical Ontology», a complete and documented paper that shows how will to power is in Nietzsche an «ontopoietic force» defined more by denial (to criticize classical metaphysics) than by affirmation; in particular on p. 252 Miyasaki emphasizes that all the thought of Nietzsche loses consistency until you consider the ontological value of will to power. <

  42. See Richardson, Nietzsche’s System, 18ff. The reading of the will to power as the simple desire of the individual to be powerful, and not as a constituent force molding the φύσις, "hasn’t been yet replaced with a full enough positive conception of the will to power. We must work to grasp this notion, … on the basis of his most grounding, philosophical remarks" (ibid., 19) Miyasaki ("Nietzsche’s Will to Power as Naturalist Critical Ontology," 261ff.) shows very well how Nietzsche, using the concept of will to power, doesn’t want to mean that the will of an individual could create reality, but he wants to indicate an ontological force structuring reality, from which even individual wills depend. However, contrary to what Miyasaki seems to argue in the same paper, the will to power, as it is a will, has a direction: Richardson does in fact note (Nietzsche’s System, 21) that "Nietzsche, despite his repeated attacks on (what he calls) 'teleology', really has such a theory himself: the beings or units in is world are crucially end-directed" (such a conception makes Nietzsche once more similar to Aristotle). Miyasaki himself quotes Nietzsche’s Will to Power (1067): “[the will to power] characterizes a world «without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal» ("Nietzsche’s Will to Power as Naturalist Critical Ontology," 263). <

  43. For this reason Bunta ("Annihilation of Nothing?") repeatedly writes that (Platonic) metaphysics, for Nietzsche, is characterized by the fact to be "unable not to think of being as nothing." A substantial part of Heidegger’s Nietzsche (563ff.) is dedicated to deepening the problem of "european nihilism," in great detail. <

  44. This is why Nietzsche is so fiercely opposing the Platonism for the people (as he calls Christianism); on the other hand, it is known that Nietzsche blame on Paul of Tarsus such a deviation, often reserving words of great appreciation to Jesus, as a realization of the übermensch (see Gentili, Nietzsche, 246). Even Nietzsche’s most ferocious attack against Christianity, The Anti-Christian, it’s not interpetrable as a negation of the message of Jesus in itself, but it is all directed to the Christian Platonism (ibid., 335; even if I am not agree with Gentili’s thesis, that one of the main keys of interpretation of Nietzsche is the aversion to Christianity -- see e.g. 312: I think it is rather aversion to Platonism, and then to Christianity just in reflex). <

  45. See Williston, "'Complete Nihilism' in Nietzsche," 358ff., relating to Human, All Too Human (I, 480). Williston article describes the three types of nihilism that, in Nietzsche’s opinion, alternates in history, starting from the time of the death of God. The first type, called "passive," is the attitude of those who abandon themselves to despair. The second type, "active nihilsm," is symbolized by the lion, when man shakes off the weights recognized as false charges and struggle to transform the world according to his will, however, not reaching results. At this point it takes over the third and final phase, symbolized by the child (an evident reference to Gospel), that of "complete nihilism": according to the interpretation of Williston is the condition of liberating harmonic alternation of the two previous nihilisms, one of which states and the other denies, in a mutual and endless cycle in which neither of them takes over. <

  46. Nietzsche : übermensch = John the Baptist : Jesus (Gentili, Nietzsche, 292). <

  47. The Joyful Science, 341. <

  48. Heidegger fully shows the essential connection between eternal return and will to power, thus emphasizing the absolute centrality of the discourse on the eternal return: e.g. Nietzsche, 2013, 33ff. On pp. 36ff. he examines the opinion of some authors, such as Baeumler, which strongly underestimating the role of eternal return, irreparably impairs the understanding of the whole Nietzsche’s system. <

  49. Markov, "Heidegger and Nietzsche." <

  50. "In a finite system, with an infinite time, every combination can be repeated infinite times"; for example, pulling endless times three six-sided dice, each of the 216 combinations will appear countless times (see Unpublished Fragments 1881, 11 [316]). On quantum theory in Nietzsche: Poellner, Nietzsche and Metaphysics, 276ff. <

  51. "To understand … the relationship between the overman and eternal recurrence means opening up the way to understand the meaning of the philosophical work of the last Nietzsche" (Vattimo, "Friedrich W. Nietzsche," 28); Nietzsche thought the übermensch especially in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I prefer to use the original German term, finding the translation by Vattimo, "overman," the most correct but not very elegant. I hope that even just reading the few pages of this paper one can understand how the combination of this feature of Nietzsche’s philosophy with Nazi ideology is totally misleading, result of a significant distortion of Nietzsche’s thought; to understand more adequately the term one can rather refers to apophatic tradition and its typical language designating God and his propriety, always beginning with the prefix ὑπερ (see e.g. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, "The Mystical Theology," chap. 1). <

  52. In the above cited paper: "'Complete Nihilism' in Nietzsche." <

  53. Miyasaki, "Nietzsche’s Will to Power as Naturalist Critical Ontology," 254–55. <

  54. It is perhaps appropriate to reiterate here that, as we have seen, the will to power is not arbitrary subjective expression of the individual, but is an expression of the over-rational (that’s why is a will) essence of reality. See in regard Haar, Nietzsche and Metaphysics, xii. <

  55. Vattimo, "Friedrich W. Nietzsche," 9. This conception of an irrational and divine principle at the heart of reality accompanies Nietzsche since the founding text oh his thoughts, The Birth of Tragedy, and reaches up to the last Nietzsche (see ibid., 8ff.; 19). It is felt by himself as an absolute novelty in the philosophical context, even compared to Kant and Schopenhauer: "the Dionysian not only is more original than the Apollonian like the will of Schopenhauer, by whose will one must be free; what, albeit obscurely, begins to make its way in the writing about tragedy is that, for Nietzsche, one must accomplish not a liberation from the Dionysian, but a liberation of the Dionysian" (ibid., 9). What is then felt from Nietzsche as a disruptive innovation is the ecstasy resulting from the return to the original One, place beyond rationality (this basically means the title Beyond Good and Evil: traditional morality is an expression of the rationalization of reality. The fact that the divine is placed beyond good and evil is a valuable indication to understand the concept that Nietzsche has of it: see Haar, Nietzsche and Metaphysics, xi). Even all kinds of art, especially music and tragedy, acquire its strength from the fact that bring us back, beyond rationality, to the original One (Vattimo, "Friedrich W. Nietzsche," 10). <

  56. Vattimo, "Friedrich W. Nietzsche," 9. Following Vattimo (ibid., 18) I completely reject the idea that Nietzsche was an atheist (see also Gentili, Nietzsche, 330; Haar, Nietzsche and Metaphysics, 131; Tassi, "Nietzsche teologo: 'Dio' come apice istantaneo della volontà di potenza," sec. 1; 9). <

  57. Vattimo, "Friedrich W. Nietzsche," 10; 12. This ideas are present only in a nutshell in The Birth of Tragedy and then are developed throughout the main Nitzschean works (see ibid., 11ff.). See also Gentili, Nietzsche, 302. <

  58. Vattimo, "Friedrich W. Nietzsche," 11ff. <

  59. Ibid., 16ff.; especially we find these ideas in Human, All Too Human and The Joyful Science. <

  60. Poetry of 1863 cit. in Gentili, Nietzsche, 251. <

  61. Miyasaki, "Nietzsche’s Will to Power as Naturalist Critical Ontology," 265ff. <

  62. "The will to power is a critical description of what reality is not, rather than a positive theory, intended not to explain but to reveal and reject the common metaphysical presupposition that underlie many commonsense, philosophical, and scientific explanations of reality, such as freedom of the will, ratonal and moral motivation, physical atomism, and the concept of natural law" (ibid., 252). Miyasaki (ibid., 254–55) also points out, taking The Genealogy of Morality (3, 12), that all knowledge is for Nietzsche always a partial perspective; but his perspectivism assumes a whole, be it unknowable in its full and total objectivity, and especially unanalyzable by logical-mathematical language (ibid., 255; Twilight of the Idols, "reason," 3). Every language, and then all thoughts are, on the other hand, structurally metaphysical (Twilight of the Idols, "reason," 5). <

  63. Derrida sometimes tries to distance itself from the "allegations" of apophaticism, supporting the view of this underlying Platonism (cfr. Derrida, "How to Avoid Speaking: Denials"). <

  64. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, "The Mystical Theology." <

  65. Cfr. Williston, "'Complete Nihilism' in Nietzsche." In this regard Haar (Nietzsche and Metaphysics) is extremely lucid, mixing explicitly Nietzsche to apophatic theology: "For Nietzsche, neither the immanence of a god in the world nor the coincidence of the lived experience and of the divine are absurd. In this he is heir both to the Greek tradition … and to certain mystical tradition, or one of negative theology, that conceives the coincidence of the soul and of the divine principle in a happy ecstasy. … The paradoxical theme of "tragic joy" exalts a sacred link to the world, a re-ligio in the strong sense, yet without worship and dogma – a faith, yet without a creed" (149). <

  66. Heidegger points out (Nietzsche, 2013) that for Nietzsche the principle of non-contradiction, logically valid, is precisely the sign that logic is constitutionally unable to grasp the richness of reality. <

  67. Vattimo, "Friedrich W. Nietzsche," 29. <

  68. Τα μετὰ τα φυσικά: μετα doesn’t mean just "beyond," but as well "inside," "in the middle." <

  69. We already mentioned Heidegger and Derrida, but think also about Lévinas, Marion, Merleau-Ponty, Lacan. <

  70. And then, at least quod nos, reality. <

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