There has been no shortage of readers who take Nietzsche as educator (cf., for a by no means exhaustive list: Allen, 2017; Aviram, 1991; Bell, 2007; Cooper, 1983; Fairfield, 2017; Fitzsimons, 2007; Gordon, 1980; Havenstein, 1921; Johnston, 2005; Lemco, 1992; Löw, 1984; Murphy, 1984; Peters, Marshall, & Smeyers, 2001; Rattner, 1994; Rosenow, 2000; Solms-Laubach, 2012, 139f, etc.). Thus the phrase appears as part of the editorial essay that prefaces Why Nietzsche Now? ‘The Prophet of Our Laughter: Or Nietzsche — as Educator’ (O’Hara, 1981), the disjoint force of the title depends upon the thought slash — to render the German Gedankenstriche in place of what we call a ‘dash.’
In Nietzsche circles thinking about the ‘as’ in the case of Schopenhauer or Nietzsche is old hat, thus Arthur Danto talks about the little comparative term ‘as’ in his title (Danto, 1980, referring to the 1965 edition), in a preface that begins with one of analytic philosophy’s self-references, to wit: ‘arthurdantist’, citing an analytic trade cookbook or ‘philosophical lexicon’ compiled by Daniel Dennett and Karel Lambert: ‘Little Friedrich used to say the strangest things before we took him to the arthurdantist’. (cited in Danto, 1980, p. 7, cf. Danto 2005 and Syrjämäki, 2009) The comment on analytic self-inspection is apropos here, especially in the context which was for Danto a claim to priority, looking back 15 years and ignoring Hans Vaihinger’s (1902) Nietzsche als Philosoph.
In German, Karl Jaspers names Nietzsche educator during the interregnum between two world wars (Jaspers, 1997 ; cf. Hoyer, 2002, also crucial or Jacob Taubes and Günther Anders), and still more globally, but going back to the same era, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker emphasizes educational ubiquity (von Weizsäcker, 1999). In more complicated fashion, Heidegger’s university years were undertaken in the presence of Nietzsche’s books as so many mascots, and he used Nietzsche as educator, as he claimed, contra the Nazis themselves (cf., also for further literature, Babich, 2017a). Heidegger came to rue not his claims of resistance but surely the challenge of wrestling with Nietzsche as he reflected in retrospect: ‘Nietzsche hat mich kaput gemacht’ (Gadamer, 1996, cf. Babich, 1996). Today, given recent and older scandals, Heidegger’s connection with Nietzsche has become something less than salutary (see overall Furness, 2000 and Wolin, 2006 and, from an analytic perspective more tuned to Steven Pinker than Heidegger, Drochon, 2018 but see too Babich, 2017a), Nietzsche’s name is not untroubled (see among others Holub, 2015) and with respect to education, more recently and contrarily, John Gray’s review of an editorial collection published as if or under Nietzsche’s name, Anti- Education (Gray, 2016; Nietzsche, 2015).
In addition, among the existentialists there is Camus (Gordon 2016), certainly Foucault and even, so I argue, Arendt and de Beauvoir in addition to Luce Irigaray (1991; cf. Babich, 2010a). The French surrealist author of the erotic, the librarian by day, Georges Bataille, writes his war diaries On Nietzsche (Bataille 1992), the esoteric secret to Nietzsche’s reception in France, as Bataille reflects on this same theme: ‘Desire: Nietzsche as Educator’ (Babich, 2015a, pp. 282–294). Adding still more convenience, were we to discover ourselves in need of such, today just about anyone can and does count themselves expert on Nietzsche. Hence a reviewer of a collection on the theme of Nietzsche, Culture, Education (Hart, 2008) pronounces what he assumes to be gospel: ‘it is not hard to reflect on what Nietzsche would have made of’ one of the contributions, ‘ponderous’, ‘demonstrating’ ‘erudition’ ‘through references to such luminaries as Pindar, Heraclitus, Hegel, and Heidegger’. (Duke, 2010, p. 918)
Thus we know—we ‘free spirits’ of the middle period Nietzsche currently popular—that Nietzsche loves the light step, loves dancing in the air, hiking and climbing mountains. Thus he is opposed to whatever we imagine the ponderous to be (that’s anything hard for us to wade through, that will—I will come back to this at the end—include both Nietzsche’s Greeks, as he read them, and Nietzsche’s Schopenhauer, as he read him). In practice, this can mean that when Nietzsche turns out to have had his ponderous depths in addition to those we attribute to him, we can be inclined to discount those in advance. So we know, so we say, that he was a classicist, but immediately undo that attribution reflecting that he left it behind, that his fellow classicists judged him badly, so what could he have really had to say to his own discipline? Thus he switched to being everybody’s favorite bad boy philosopher, winning the insistence, beginning with Bertrand Russell that he was no philosopher, only, to use Nietzsche’s own contrast, as Nietzsche himself anticipated this denigration, a poet. Here, speaking of the acrimony that attends the writing of reviews, we can think of Nietzsche’s key reviewer: note that most commonly reviews tend to be written by enemies or else those with their own axes to grind. This is, to be sure, because should ‘reviews’ be written by friends or ‘constructively’ or ‘supportively’, they are not technically reviews as much as praise, book blurbs, encomia. But so far from praise, Ulrich Wilamowitz-Möllendorff insisted to us, and scholars, especially Nietzsche experts, have believed him ever since, unswerving, that Nietzsche’s work was proof of a lack of erudition (Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, 2000). Of course Wilamowitz-Möllendorff had reasons to discount Nietzsche’s erudition, he was himself ambitious and one can argue, per contra, that Nietzsche’s work reflects no shortage of erudition including unprecedented scholarly discoveries and so on (Babich, 2016; Barnes, 1986; Benne, 2005; Brobjer, 2008; Whitman 2017, etc.).
Maybe Nietzsche is more complicated than he seems, but taking Nietzsche hiking seems far more fun and by definition, backpacks set weight limits, Nietzsche on a hike is a less demanding Nietzsche, no need for reading precision (Johansson & Schumann, 2017), or asking, as if for a change: what would Nietzsche do? (Weeks, 2017) catchier than the born-again evangelist’s empty question (both queries presume one already knows the answer): what would Jesus do?
The most ponderous thought
One of the consequences of ponderous erudition is that it tends to weigh on both the writer and the reader. This is a point Nietzsche emphasized in his inaugural lecture, delivered upon taking his appointment at the University of Basel (Nietzsche, 2017; cf. Benne, 2005; Borsche, Gerratana, & Venturelli, 1994; Heit & Jensen, 2014; Whitman, 2017) The weight of such knowledge would lead Nietzsche himself to ask how much truth can one bear?—and, not utterly unlike Socrates’ daimon, which last impetus Nietzsche characterized as a negative, non-affirmative force, emphasizing that such a weight can hold one back, leading one at the very least to think that perhaps one might think twice and again. One wonders what Nietzsche ‘meant’ (Morgan, 1965) or what he ‘really said’ (Solomon & Higgins, 2012). Even books dedicated to ‘misReading’ Nietzsche helpfully offer claims for the right way to interpret his texts (Clemente & Cocchiara, 2018, cf. Renaut & Ferry, 1997; Hummel, 2009ab; Schotten, 2009, and very useful: Del Caro, 1989; Müller-Lauter, 1971, etc.).
But scratch our dime store Nietzsche and we find, and the more we learn of him, the plainer this becomes, one of the most erudite scholars of the last two centuries. Thus Nietzsche as educator seems more than merely an apt epithet, stolen as many titles for studies of Nietzsche are stolen from his own work. For, let us recall, Nietzsche steps down from teaching after 10 years at university, the same period of time he has his Zarathustra spend on the top of his mountain before he descends, but afterwards he, Nietzsche, in his writings does little other than teach (Löw, 1984, and, again, Gordon, 1980; Thiele, 1990). Nietzsche’s writerly ventures are seemingly didactic and even qua physician of culture he seems to be speaking of education (Hart, 2009, p. 113). Thus he writes, for example, The Gay Science—published in two parts, beginning with The Gay Science, Books 1-4, ending with the thought Nietzsche names his most ponderous: das grösste Schwergewicht—the greatest heavyweight.
One typical way to deal with all this very ponderous erudition is to declare it no such thing. Thus, the reader who has trouble thinking dismisses it, designates it contradictory or as leading to this or that unreasonable, illogical, fascist/terrible consequence (to will the eternal return of the Nazis, for a common example). Yet it is Nietzsche himself who insists in the last book of the first edition of The Gay Science that this thought—thought in just this way—is his heaviest thought: so he titles it, and, as if to match the challenge, promptly ends the book.
Nietzsche goes on to publish the first book of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and then, followed by the publications of book II, and book III, issued seriatim, wherein the thought of recurrence is hinted at but presumably too difficult, too heavy to bear. This essay does not permit us to review Nietzsche’s habit of publishing and republishing his books as often as possible, first in parts and then together, and then reissued yet again. But at the very least we can note that Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is less a prophet, ‘parodying’ the gospels or else proclaiming nihilism to a nihilistic age that would only presage the most nihilistic era of all that would be the coming century, and as we now increasingly see, our own century, than a teacher (cf. Lambert, 1986), giving lecture after lecture while musing on his lack of perceived success, thus his complaint that the ears of those listening to him are not the ears for his message.
Das grösste Schwergewicht—the greatest heavyweight is self-announced as Nietzsche’s most ponderous thought. The aphorism is one may submit, among the best laid out of Nietzsche’s descriptive aphorisms, outclassing the madman who declares ‘God is dead,’ crying in the market-place with the laughter of onlookers, his shattered lantern, defeated peroration, finally breaking into churches to play a requiem for the deceased. Here, we have a pensive vignette: moonlight framed by trees, spiders, loneliness, a demon, etc. The mood set, the aphorism finds us at evening, in ‘loneliest loneliness’. Nietzsche’s demon makes this a thought experiment starring the philosopher’s familiar (again, recall Socrates’ cautionary daimon, or else Descartes’ genie malin or else Maxwell’s demon, as Lord Kelvin calls him, a ‘sorting demon’ who re-arranges—no creative claims are made—bits here and there to argue in 1867 for a potential exception to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and thus a perpetual motion machine). Nietzsche’s Gay Science demon is not that kind of demon, but the more ordinary kind, who pursues you in your loneliest loneliness to predict a future to you that strips you of all future, and, most notably, includes no new news. This is the eternal return of the same.
The reference to cosmology, noted via Maxwell and Lord Kelvin, matters not least as I argue (Babich, 2010c) because one may find it in Nietzsche’s own text, and scholars ought to take account of that (this is done vastly less than one would assume) but also because the mathematician Émile Poincaré offered a wonderfully stochastic proof of nothing less than the Eternal Return (cf. for further literature Babich 2010b), quite independently of Nietzsche and together with the assumption that the universe was, for example, closed or finite. This was the going assumption for Nietzsche and his contemporaries (key to note for historians of science), and some scientists assume it to this very day.
The philosophic question of the selective sameness of the eternal return of the same is echoed in eternity not in time (and thus, as we explore this below, Gilles Deleuze tells us we are not talking about things coming back as they were, the same, again, to be experienced, the same, again).
Again, we note that The greatest heavyweight constitutes the penultimate section of the first edition of The Gay Science, the ultimate section being a replication of the beginning of Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Incipit tragoedia [GS 4, §342]). The standard English translation cuts ‘heaviness’ in Das grösste Schwergewicht, perhaps as it is too ponderous to read: thus ‘the greatest weight’ is one’s own past repeated, no chance of rebirths, no heaven, no hell, the same everything already lived through, great and small, da capo, no alteration.
What returns is nothing but the everydayness, the routine time of the everyday: just what was, the stone fact that, like Mozart’s stone guest, attests to the persistence of the past, that is what has been. Es war—which we also encounter in Freud’s theory of the unconscious where sameness resides, the same. ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it …’ (GS 4, §341)
I am still concerned to explore the question of Nietzsche as educator. This led me to consider questions of ponderous kinds, weighty notions, the greatest heavy weight as Nietzsche speaks of it: eternal recurrence. This indeed recurs in the more uncanny than beautiful word scene or painting that Nietzsche gives us in Zarathustra’s conversation with the dwarf in Of the Vision and the Riddle, claiming that the dwarf could not bear the weight of the thought itself. It is at this moment that Zarathustra himself is no longer weighted down with the burden of carrying the dwarf but lightened. The dwarf literally takes a load off, springing to the ground from Zarathustra’s shoulder where he had been pouring thoughts of lead into his ear. The allusion for Nietzsche is to leaden type, this too recurs, in addition to Wagner, the most obvious, as an allusion to the many dwarves among philologists and philosophers as Nietzsche saw them, just as one should not forget the obstacles made by the dead weight of everything they write. Yet one way to do this, and many scholars find it useful is to skip references to other scholars or even the fact of their existence, all so many leaden drops. (eg, for a reading with minimal engagement with the literature, although there are many who write on Deleuze and Zarathustra, see Tubbs, 2005, and for a more general engagement with Deleuze and education, still surprisingly narrow in breadth but at least with a subtitle reminiscent of Nietzsche, the contributions to Carlin & Wallin, 2015). The gateway of the blink of an eye, moment, Augenblick, has, as Zarathustra goes on to say, two aspects: two colliding, opposing, aspects: two paths along which no one has ever travelled to their end. ‘The lane behind us’, Zarathustra says to the dwarf, ‘an eternity, the long lane ahead of us, another eternity’. (Z 3, Vision, §2) It is important to underline as scholars concerned with Nietzsche and science do (overall see Babich, 2010 as well as Mongré [Felix Hausdorf] 1897; cf. on Hausdorf, Stegmaier, 2002 and more specifically: Epple, 2006, etc.) counting with Cantorian dimensions. Thus, and hence the reference to Mongré/Hausdorff, Zarathustra asks a geometer’s question, because the point is a matter of mapping the points along the path—tracing the path, namely supposing that one were to ‘follow them further and ever further’, he asks, ‘do you think, dwarf, that these paths would be in eternal opposition?’ (Z 3, Vision,
- 2) The geodesic thought of the circle is evident here, but the key to the problem is the problem of the parallel postulate that shatters Euclidean geometry. And the circular answer is the answer given, disdainfully, if we remember, by the dwarf: ‘All truth is crooked, time itself is a circle’ (Z 3, Vision, §2)
The question, the riddle Zarathustra poses the dwarf, is a cosmological one, the domain of Ernst Mach’s concern and it was Schrödinger’s (see Babich, 2013). This is the riddle of the Timaeus, the riddle of Kant’s antinomy concerning the eternity of the world. (See Brisson & Meyerstein, 1995. Here, permit to underline my gratitude to the late Patrick Aidan Heelan for first bringing this book to my attention as an illustration of axioms, which physical axiomaticity he connects with quantum mechanics in The Observable, Heelan, 2015, and see too Heelan, 1983.)
The solution to the riddle of the crossroad of past and future, fore and aft, is the howling dog, Hecate’s dog (see Babich, 2010b, 97, cf. Kingsley, 1995 who does not to be sure refer to Nietzsche, though he ought perhaps to have done so), Cerberus, and so on, for guides, like Nietzsche’s companions to the underworld, and ‘stillest midnight, when even dogs believe in ghosts’. Thus Zarathustra finds himself, in an almost repetition of our encounter with the demon at the end of the 1882 edition of The Gay Science ‘alone, desolate, in the most wild moonlight’. (Z 3, Vision, §2)
Zarathustra sees what agitates the dog: ‘a young shepherd, writhing, choking, convulsed, his face distorted; and a heavy, black snake was hanging out of his mouth’. (Z, Vision, §2) The man, so Zarathustra muses, had perhaps been asleep, think of the Orphic tradition which Nietzsche also follows as this features the Orphic egg, and Phanes wrapped round with a snake (cf. Wohlfart, 1999; Biebuyck, Praet, & Poel, 2005), the same snake that encircles the head of Dionysus’ maenads, but here, down to earth the matter is more practically a matter of memory and the past and the hold it can have on us, thus the title of Vision and Riddle. Thus Zarathustra muses the snake, perhaps, ‘crept into his throat—and there it had bitten itself fast’. (Z 3, Vision, §2)
Like Pythagoras who, so Nietzsche reminds us in his Basel lecture courses, kills snakes by biting them (although not Schopenhauer’s citation, remember the epigraph to his Fourfold Root), Nietzsche’s Zarathustra proposes a ‘cure’ — and we read: ‘a voice cried from me — “Bite! Bite!”’ (Z 3, Vision, §2). The remedy counters ‘disgust and pallid horror’, paralyzed or frozen, with action against the biting snake: biting back. This is the riddle, ‘Who is the shepherd? … who is the man …’ (Z 3, Vision, §2)
Zarathustra indulges in a few nautical rhapsodies—directed to ‘those of you who have embarked with cunning sails upon undiscovered seas!’ (inspiring the contributions to or at least the title of Strong & Gillespie, 1998)—but he also reports the shepherd’s response who ‘bit as my cry had advised him; he bit with a good bite! He spat far away the snake’s head—and sprang up’. (Z 3, Vision, §2)
Biting is how selection selects and this may also be read as what Deleuze calls an ‘active power of affirmation’. (Deleuze, 2005, p. 88; cf. Deleuze, 1986) Thereby yielding what Deleuze names the doubled selection, that is, ‘selective Being’. In this way we see, the shepherd trans- formed, transfigured: ‘surrounded with light, laughing’ a human being like no other Zarathustra had ever seen and the result is an other-human laughter: ‘Never yet on earth had a human being laughed as he laughed’. (Z 3, Vision, §2) And Deleuze explains this selectivity, which guarantees that we will prefer his reading to any other, as it also gives us back anything the teaching of the death of god might have seemed to take away from us: ‘only what can be affirmed comes back, only joy returns. All that can be negated, all that is negation, is expelled by the very movement of the eternal return’. (Deleuze, 2005, p. 89; cf. Strong, 2000, pp. 276–277)
Affirmation as Zarathustra’s Pythagorean ‘cure’ offers us this remedy is and must be active, as Deleuze will speak of it. The mischief is the same: you have to bite clean through the snake, you have to incorporate it, in order to free yourself. The poison of reaction cannot be avoided by recoil/refusal or shuddering/disapproval but only what is active, that is, given just this circumstance, having been bitten on the tongue by a snake, by biting. Only such a positive action can free one from what otherwise chokes, comes back continually, ressentiment, heart of the triumphant, transcendent efficacy of the reactive, slavely moraline, for most of us today.
How can the thought of ‘what is heaviest and blackest’ work as Nietzsche says it does and what does it mean to emphasize the Pythagorean cure of biting into it? How would this ‘thought of thoughts’ as Nietzsche’s Zarathustra names it, change one’s life?
The frozen temporal tableau of the ‘Moment’ in Vision and the Riddle is itself an echo, not only of the moonlight vision at the close of The Gay Science, but mirroring the dynamism of a lifetime, as Nietzsche sets the same insight into the tightrope walker—better said, tightrope dancer [Seiltänzer]—the performing acrobat who falls to his death in the middle of Zarathustra’s first speech. (Z, Prologue, §6)
The figure of the tightrope dancer is essential. Following the death of God—as Hegel puts it explicitly in the wake of Kant, as Nietzsche muses in dialogue with the poet Heinrich von Kleist, all of us find ourselves dancing, Kierkegaard will use the metaphor, suspended in our human, all-too-human lives as Nietzsche puts it: an interval, a breath, ‘a hiatus between two nothingnesses’. (KSA 12, 473)
Zarathustra pays no mind to the rope dancer. And why should he? He could hardly have noticed him. The scene, the setting is key: as positioned, speaking to the crowd, Zarathustra can- not see the rope dancer above and behind him. The crowd, on the other hand, were we in need of a reminder of Plato’s cave given the first allusion to downgoing, is preoccupied with the dancer as they came to see him dance above the market place. For his self-absorbed part, Zarathustra prefers to assume the crowd is there to hear him, he descended from his mountain to speak to them. Hence, as if in Plato’s cave, the drama is played out above and behind the speaking Zarathustra (Z, Prologue, §3). The dwarf we will meet again later is already there, this time as evil hunchback, causing all manner of trouble, jumping over the dancer which causes him to lose his balance and thus his footing, crashing to the marketplace below.
Zarathustra, who goes to the side of the broken performer, comforts the dying man by telling him what follows from the Enlightenment, rationalistic and naturalistic and scientific account: ‘… there is no Devil and no Hell. Your soul will be dead even before your body; therefore fear nothing anymore!’ (Z, Prologue, §6). No part of what Zarathustra says comforts the crushed man: ‘If you are speaking the truth,’ he said, ‘I leave nothing when I leave life. I am not much more than an animal which has been taught to dance by blows and starvation’. (Z, Prologue, §6)
The affirmation redoubled, as Deleuze speaks of it, is a selection that transforms. Let us consider that just a little more closely. What returns is exactly what was: and there will be nothing different in it. You have to bite and thus affirm the past as it was, or it will always encumber you. The point of it all is ressentiment, that is the dominion of the reactive.
If this essay were to continue, we might take this reading as a discussion of Beyond Good and Evil inasmuch as the problem of Beyond Good and Evil is nothing other than the problem of truth, considered as a problem and just as Nietzsche also raised the problem of science viewed in the same light and questioned as a problem. After all, Nietzsche himself tells us to raise the question he pronounced himself the very first to raise, namely the very radically and in the spirit of the first critique, the very critically Kantian question of science, as such as a question (see Babich, 2010c as well Babich, 2010b, 2014).
But I don’t have more time. Key to this reflection in Nietzsche is that none of us do. Thus the thought Zarathustra calls his ‘most abysmal thought’ echoes the ponderousness of the conversation with the demon in The Gay Science.
As noted this is the thought of death. And The Gay Science has an aphorism of the same title, suggesting that ‘the brotherhood of death’ that we share as mortal beings is the only brother- hood there is for living subjects of consciousness, for subjects of desire, for subjects such as our-selves, born to mortality and bound to die, whether we think about it or not: we will in any case. ‘— du wirst es jedenfalls’. (KSA 9, 505, emphasis added.)
For his part, we may recall that Schopenhauer reflected that life was a business that did not cover its costs, a business that from an economic point of view made absolutely no sense ‘as an enterprise’, and therefore was the only thing that really compelled reflection. Nietzsche added more biology and more thermodynamic statistics to the same reflection, recognizing that abundance and waste was the way of life—and of death. Hence he could argue with the best of 19th century cosmology that a dancing star was born of chaos, excess, confusion. Not that it mattered given that that dancing star too would have to die.
Elsewhere I note the parallels to be made beyond Nietzsche, to the philosophical problem of consciousness and personal identity but also with eastern philosophy. (See Babich, 2014; further on Schrödinger and Indian philosophy, see Bitbol, 1998) Thus there is (and for the Stoics it was essential to reflect that there could be) no difference between the you that says I and the universe. You are already everything and you do not know it, with the one crucial exception that we can come to know that we are those who have figured out that we are figures in the dream of a god who dreams. (Cf. Nietzsche, KSA 7, 165)
In any case, no matter whether one is able to contain or fails to contain in one soul ‘the oldest, the newer, losses, hopes, conquests, and the victories of humanity … and crowd it into a single feeling’ (GS 4, 337), what remains significant is the long run and the highest feeling.
When Nietzsche writes contra the usual promises of the afterlife in an early unpublished note, he explains the inexorable force of his imperative, again we may remember the force Deleuze names a selective force: ‘My teaching says, Thus to live that you would wish to live again is the task—you will do so in any case’. (Nietzsche, KSA 9, 505) The appended reflection can take us to Schrödinger and the cosmic necessity Nietzsche asks us to counter with love, the becoming we are to bless, that is affirmation, amor fati.
To say this again: no matter what, you will be reborn, again and again and again. But Deleuze comforts the modern reader by telling us, and we can read between Nietzsche’s reflection on the constellations and of Stoics joining forces with Epicureans such that Caesar can be killed again, per contra, for Deleuze, nothing comes back. Nor is Deleuze in contradiction with Nietzsche. As reborn, your consciousness is no more connected to the consciousness of any past lives’ consciousness than your consciousness is identical with the consciousness of drinking this morning’s cup of coffee, assuming you were conscious enough to remember to have a cup of coffee to begin with. Thus we scarcely remember our own present lives as we live them now, we are barely conscious of them (the window, Nietzsche says, of consciousness is small) how would we remember lives past and past and past? Indeed, even less than coffee here or there, one’s past lives, themselves the same, by definition, could not be ‘remembered’ as such, this is the greatness of the Heraclitean great year, as that would introduce a difference: what recurs is not an ancient cosmogenesis, cycling Empedocles or like the Herclitean eternal fire, kindling and rekindling, the sun new again each day, but a thermodynamic system: eternally the same.
Nietzsche illustrates the mechanics of selection as we experience it by reflecting in an aphorism on pride and memory: ‘“I have done that” says my memory. That I cannot have done—says my pride and remains inexorable. Finally—memory yields’. (BGE §68) You are not only no longer present to the past self that you were, but you have good reason to forget that self, those actions, those promises: there is no past present to you for you to be able to be conscious of unless you undertake, as opposed to the active forgetting Nietzsche recommends, an active remembering of the past.
Thus we retell ourselves to ourselves such that, on the story we tell, the wretched things we have done can be laid to someone’s else’s account, attributed, ascribed to some other cause, be it fate, destiny, God, genes, whatever. This is the ‘dangerous perhaps’ (BGE §2), this is why we baptize our ‘convictions’, as Nietzsche calls them, our prejudices as fact or ‘truths’ (Cf. BGE §5). This is the reason Nietzsche suggests that ‘every great philosophy has hitherto been: a confession on the part of its author and kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir’. (BGE §6)
In place of the antinomies this is also why Nietzsche proposes so many ‘questions of con- science for the intellect, namely, “Whence do I take the concept thinking? Why do I believe in cause and effect? What gives me the right to speak of an “I,” and even of an “I” as cause of thought”’? (BGE §16)
Nietzsche’s demon as it sidles up to one to shift nothing but tell only the details of what is and must be does not say as per Revelations, ‘Behold, I make all things new’. Nietzsche’s emphasis on life, and the revenge that we mean to take on life, is an emphasis on created things, (Hebrews 12:27): ‘what can be shaken’. This foregrounds all the things we condemn as Parmenidean thinkers as he writes of our opposition to becoming in Twilight of the Idols, ‘They see death, change, and age, as well as procreation and growth, as objections—refutations even’. (TI, Reason, §1)
But Deleuze writes:
»eternal return.selective Being.« How can reaction and nihilism, how can negation come back, since the eternal return is the Being that is only said of affirmation, and becoming in action? A centrifugal wheel, »supreme constellation of Being, that no wish can attain, that no negation can soil.« The eternal return is repetition; but it is the repetition that selects, the repetition that saves. The prodigious secret of a repetition that is liberating and selecting.” (Deleuze, 2005, 91)
Nietzsche’s imperative, amor fati, calls upon us to love what becomes, to consecrate becoming by highlighting, by restoring (this has to be done, this is the reason for action, for what was above named a bite, a selection) contra the Parmenidean vision of being, contra Plato: this is the innocence of becoming. This blesses what changes, including old age and death. This works because selection (i.e., saying yes to one thing, it can be anything at all) also means, given necessity, that everything else is also necessary: nothing can be dispensed with: everything must be affirmed, blessed. Nietzsche shares this insight with Heraclitus and Empedocles and even, despite the ethical, Anaximander (cf. Caygill, 1993 as well as with reference to Kant and Fichte—and Zoroaster—Lachterman, 1989, pp. 16–24).
Like a speck of dust, as the demon says, the hourglass of existence is turned upside down, again and again. So Nietzsche argues at the end of his nineteenth century and so Schrödinger argues the point in his own mid-twentieth century argument for eternal recurrence and the cycling in question is already a very old story, arguably dating back even before the tragic age of the Greeks: if it is Empedoclean, it is Heraclitean, it is also Anaximandrean and Pythagorean but it is also, as Schrödinger emphasized, a Vedic notion, also resonant in Buddhism.
Thus Deleuze defines the Overman, and this is the Deleuzian Ideal: ‘The Overman refers specifically to the gathering of all that can be affirmed, the superior form of what is, the figure that represents selective Being, its offspring and subjectivity’. (Deleuze, 2005, p. 91)
Future education and the principle of sufficient reason
Here we return from reflection on eternal recurrence and the necessity of amor fati as this may allow us better to understand: the future Nietzsche’s demon proclaims is accordingly a future of the past: nothing beyond the individual as received, no cycling of recycled stars nor the afterlife of an unknown day laborer as Odysseus tells us Achilles longed for such a minimal chance at life once more, elegized in Plato’s dream of Homer’s underworld, Greek eternal recurrence contra Greek eternal recurrence: many lies, we remember this: tell the poets. The thought itself is shrouded in hypotheticals, if one were able to think it, if one could allow it to take hold of one, we are informed that it would be more than ponderous: it would transform or maybe, the alter- native is never vanquished, crush us.
Oh, no! really?
Most Nietzsche scholars and not just the analytic ones we are inclined to cut where they can: nothing too ponderous, and thus they make short work of such things. Thus thinking the eternal return seems easier than the 2nd Pythian, freebie as written, Castor song, or (as some say) a twin of the original poem Pindar wrote for Hieron who commissioned a victory ode, and went on to win the prize for which the song would be needed to be sung, but opted for another poet’s encomium instead, leaving the un-selected poet to add the resentful and brooding supplement: ‘Become the one you are’. Thinking through this phrase, Nietzsche drops the key educational word: ‘having learned’.
The poet Hölderlin renders this lahx’m a matter of journeying, become as you are experienced, and discussing this in connection with Nietzsche annoyed at least one reader (see Duke, 2010 in response to Babich, 2009). Here it is to the point to note that experts, unburdened by erudition, nota bene, not unlike Wilamowitz, have for their part accused Nietzsche of getting his Greek wrong (Babich, 2009, pp. 15–17). Don’t we know that he abandoned his profession, with all its ponderous, dust-laden scholarship?
When we read Nietzsche as educator, we seem to be keen to read not the Nietzsche who knew Greek (rather a lot of it, Nietzsche 2016), we read Nietzsche as David Allison tells us to do, as a friend and not a teacher, nothing too heavy, just a buddy: ‘Nietzsche writes exclusively for you. Not at you, but for you’. (Allison, 2001, p. vii) Nietzsche, as Allison goes on to explain, is a critic who taught his followers to be free spirits contra everything heavy and thus went on to pen his Zarathustra. How much need one know to run riot as a free spirit, as Nietzsche himself suggests in Twilight of the Idols in his ‘Short History of an Illusion’?
Recall the range of those who have written on Nietzsche ‘as Educator’ we began by noting these many accounts, listing them, just by name alone. And there are variants on the project, borrowing the language even for other thinkers, like ‘Wittgenstein as Educator’, (Stickney, 2017) patterned on Nietzsche’s usage with reference to Schopenhauer. Yet what is meant by this, and what does it mean that Nietzsche’s particular educator or ‘exemplar’ as Tracy Strong among others argue for their own part—Strong brilliantly speaks of ‘philosophical cruising’ (Strong, 2000, xxx) in order to focus on the search for exemplar (see also the contributions to Hart, 2009, Fairfield, 2011, etc) — turns out to be Arthur Schopenhauer? What do we make of the thinker Nietzsche took for his Augustinian moment (cf. for the difficult turns of the reading and not less for the fluidity of the moment, or the history of philology, Pierre Hadot, 1995)?
In particular, and this is part of the reason I have sought to argue that the book and film character of Professor Severus Snape, as played by Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter franchise was an exemplar of a teacherly kind (Babich, 2017c, cf. too Babich, 2015b). Thus quite as one might choose, as I have done, to write about Snape, others might prefer the teacherly ideal of McGonigal or others, this being rather more likely, Dumbledore, or Sirius Black, and so on as you personally might prefer. The point is not to talk about Harry Potter, though that too is about school, than it is to reflect on the care one may take to choose a certain educator, after selecting between a number of options. Thus I cited Strong’s provocative language of ‘philosophical cruising’, and I do not think this is far off as a description of the educators Nietzsche ‘tried on’ as he tells us, as possibilities to be further explored: he mentions a range of those he settles on, in his journeys to the past, the underworld of dead interlocutors, companions, teachers, matched in this case one against the other, as paired thinkers: ‘Epicurus and Montaigne, Goethe and Spinoza, Plato and Rousseau, Pascal and Schopenhauer’. (HH II, §408). But, and here the parallel to Descartes’ Meditations (following, again, Hadot’s allusion to Pierre Courcelle and his reading of the Greek context behind Augustine’s Confessions, Hadot, 1995, pp. 53–55), is not off base. Nietzsche waits until he has found the philosopher in question and until he has the time (cue Descartes but also that first ‘meditator’, Marcus Aurelius who sets the pattern for such waiting and such attention), in order to dedicate himself to that same educator.
Here what may be worth noting is that Nietzsche does not seem to choose the exemplary educator we might have chosen for him. Most notably Nietzsche chooses one of the most ponderous authors of the German language, if also a brilliant stylist, so we are told, favorite of both Wittgenstein and Freud, but by no means a ‘free spirit’. This alone should catch us up a bit. Why Schopenhauer, who for all the insistence of his commentators over the years (from the genial insights of Coppleston to the more limited arguments of Janaway, see especially the analytic contributions to Janaway, 1999, cf., more recently Jonas, 2016) has yet to shake the legacy of being author of The Fourfold Root (Schopenhauer, 1974), the author who goes on to point out that of all the arts, only music would have the power to escape the limitations of both Kantian and Hegelian aesthetics, representing nothing other than itself: the phenomenon an sich.
Thus I am not proposing that we consider reading Nietzsche in connection with other authors’ authors, we have no shortage of that, but and much rather why we do not find that Nietzsche proposes to read Plato as Educator (the Straussians have tried this, cf. however Strauss himself 1973 cf. Lambert, 1997), or Socrates as Educator or even, despite all the proffered claims offered in the wake of Stanley Cavell, Emerson as Educator? If we do not get sidetracked as the reference to Cavell and perfectionism (see, eg, Conant 2001) easily shifts the discussion to one of elitism (Rowthorn, 2017, cf. Owen, 2002), cultural and personal and otherwise (and quite in spite of the fascist dangers of the same, all the way to those who clamour for Nietzschean transhumanism as perfectionism qua education by other means, in this case biohacks or other cyborg upgrades (Sorgner, 2017, esp. 17–19 and see, per contra, Babich, 2017b). Why does Nietzsche refer us, of all the names in history, as he elsewhere writes, to Schopenhauer? Why have we not a reference to Wagner? Or not much rather Goethe, whom Nietzsche himself sets together with Hafiz, for that matter? Why not, and I argue elsewhere that a case could well be made, for Kant or for Hume? Or even, to return to the Preplatonic philosophers, to the Heraclitus to whom Nietzsche attributes the vision of the world artist, the innocence of becoming, the universe as aeon, as a child at play?
Why Schopenhauer? The same Nietzsche who recommends that we might cut all his references to Wagner, replacing them with his own name (yet another reason for noting Nietzsche’s influence on Freud), tells us to do the same with his references to Schopenhauer, so we read in Ecce Homo ‘it is not “Schopenhauer as Educator” that speaks here, but his “antipode” “Lisez: Nietzsche as Educator—and perhaps something more.”’
Nietzsche brings us full circle, why Schopenhauer? And it is certain enough that many Nietzsche scholars play leapfrog in Nietzsche’s text when they come to quotes from Schopenhauer, lightly skipping over these, be these lengthy citations included in The Birth of Tragedy and many others, including, perhaps especially one might argue, our reading of ‘Schopenhauer as Educator’? What did Nietzsche find in his Schopenhauer and what might be there for us? And would this, could this change the way we read Nietzsche? In ‘Schopenhauer as Educator’ we read an analysis not merely of Nietzsche’s Schopenhauer, who he was for Nietzsche, that is to say as many have looked at this issue, but also who educators are, who they serve, complete with series lists of the same, articulating answers and educational kinds.
Quoting Goethe, quoting Meister Eckhart, interiority is the key to the first half of the essay, which Nietzsche articulates in terms of culture, cultivation and for what aim or purpose it should serve as a dedicated means: ‘to promote the production of the philosopher, the artist and the saint within us and without us and thereby to work at the perfecting of nature.’ (SE §5) If to this listing Nietzsche, in the following section adds “the production of the genius” it is only to underline ‘how extraordinarily sparse and rare knowledge of this goal is.’ (SE §6) Thus the trouble as Nietzsche proceeds to assess our cultural, that is to say our educational institutions by counting the motives behind these institutions, driven by in the first instance, ‘the greed of the money makers’,—and we do well to remember to be sure that Nietzsche is writing this as a civil servant of the Swiss educational institution itself. This driving force determines our own educational institutions, which Nietzsche presents in perfectly balanced economic terms, as so many given and chained conclusions, as if we were talking as indeed we are talking about a formula for increasing the gross national product of education per se: ‘as much knowledge and education as possible, therefore as much demand as possible, therefore as much production as possible, therefore as much happiness and profit as possible’. (SE §6) Accordingly, the beneficiary ‘acquires all the ways and means of making money as easily as possible’. (Ibid.) The focus on ‘the greatest possible amount of happiness and profit’ Nietzsche could have observed during his own teaching in Basel but also reading Schopenhauer, for the whom the metaphor of economics was crucial. All the goals of education are served by this model, as opposed to educational goals that are bootless from the point of view of profit: ‘what counts as valid: namely, a speedy education so that one may quickly become a money-earning being, yet at the same time an education sufficiently thorough to enable one to earn a very great deal of money’. (Ibid.) Nietzsche goes on to list ‘the greed of the state’ and to explore the cupidity of those who are aware of (these are the cultural philistines) their own ‘ugly or boring content and want to conceal the fact with so-called “beautiful form”,’ an assessment which permits Nietzsche to talk about some of what can seem the more harmless aspects of cultural imperialism, Germany vis-‘a-vis France after the then-recent Franco- Prussian war, leading to nationalistic cupidity, and then, fourthly, ‘the greed of the sciences’. Nietzsche goes on further to list, by count, the various attributes of the scholar. And looming large in this roster of 13 kinds is the ninth, echoing the four greeds, as it moves the scholar, the motive of breadwinning, that is to say at bottom the celebrated “borborygm of an empty stomach”’. This corresponds to the deciding value of truth to this day: ‘Truth is served when it is in a position directly to procure salaries and advancement or at least to win the favour of those who have bread and honours to distribute’. (Cf. re the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’; Babich, 2017d)
The tenth motive we have still with us, these are recognition and publication cartels which Nietzsche well in advance of the Sokal hoax explores in terms of the position such motivations conferred on the ‘exploding’ of error such that ‘now and again the actual truth is exploded too, so as to make room at least for a time, for obstinate and impudent errors: since here as elsewhere there is no lack of “moral idiocies”, otherwise called roguish pranks’. (SE §6) One may think of Teilhard de Chardin and his hoaxes if one wishes, but one should certainly also think of Alan Sokal and his efforts to take down Jacques Derrida and Bruno Latour. (See Babich, 2017d for a recent overview, though I have been writing about this since the Sokal year of 1996)
Nor does Nietzsche fail to summarize, cui bono?, he asks, when it comes to the futures of our educational institutions: the state who institutes these institutions seeks thereby, this will be Max Weber’s point more complicatedly construed in his analysis of the ‘Protestant Ethic,’ but it is very directly Ivan Illich’s point in his Deschooling Society, ‘to further itself and it cannot conceive of a goal higher than its own welfare and continued existence’. So much for state culture. But Nietzsche emphasizes the same again when it comes to profit: ‘What the money-makers really want when they ceaselessly demand instruction and education is in the last resort precisely money’. (Ibid.) The same holds for those ‘who require form’, that is, and the reference is to the first of The Untimely Essays, and its discussion of cultural philistinism in ‘David Strauss the Confessor and the Writer’, and Nietzsche observes that none of these four powers taken singly or and most fatally together—civic, financial, cultural, and scholarly institutions—help matters when what is at stake is ‘the production of the genius’, remarking that ‘Socrates could not have lived among us and would in any event not have attained seventy’. It is not, Nietzsche takes care to underline this, that higher education today does not ‘produce either the scholar or the civil servant or the money maker or the cultural philistine’, lacking in all Nietzsche saw around him, lacking in abundance and which we can still see today, that which led him to take ‘Schopenhauer as educator is actually to educate’. (SE §7) In the following section Nietzsche points to nature’s tremendous profligacy and inefficiency, the very reason one needs care in thinking through the questions he had in the previous section listed for us. ‘Nature is a bad economist: its expenditure is much larger than the income it procures; all its wealth notwithstanding it is bound sooner or later to ruin itself’. (SE §7)
But perhaps the most essential insight for Nietzsche himself, corresponding to his economy of elective affinity and balance, like to like, is that what is really needed is less a gifted artist than a gifted audience. Thus his desideratum, contrary to fact, rather than so many artists, playwrights, authors, actors in search of an audience, what if these creators were limited in number and weak to boot, but and by contrast, and as opposed to what we have in fact, what if ‘on the other hand numerous recipients of art of a stronger and more mighty species than the species of the artist: so that the effect of the work of art in relation to its cause would be a hundredfold magnification’. (SE §7) Here for Nietzsche, the true lament: Schopenhauer like many artists and philosophers seems to exist rarely and by chance, and above all to exist ‘as a hermit or a wanderer who has lost his way and been left behind’. (Ibid.) Nietzsche’s complaint here does not concern Schopenhauer’s reputational fortunes (Nietzsche suggests that at the time Schopenhauer’s name was beginning to outstrip Hegel’s) but the force of culture, a force that was already a juggernaut of distraction, as Nietzsche argues that an age that gives itself over to political themes necessarily excludes dedication to philosophical ones, a point he takes over from his essay ‘On the Uses and Dangers of History for Life’.
Nietzsche details the biographical details that made Schopenhauer Schopenhauer, his mother, his father, his experience with travel and commerce as a result of his relation to the latter, his critical attitude towards the scholars and the scholarship of his day, his unwillingness to flatter or indeed to submit to the academic cartels, to put his finger on the great reason that Schopenhauer remains uninfluential as educator to this day: ‘Of all the offence Schopenhauer has given to numerous scholars, nothing has offended them more than the unfortunate fact that he does not resemble them’. (SE §7) Indeed and to be sure, look at any department of philosophy you will find—unsurprisingly, as philosophers recruit those who teach alongside them as they also self-select their students—remarkable conformity, even amidst different specializations. Even between generations.
In the following section of Schopenhauer as Educator, Nietzsche returns to his Greeks to look at the original conditions that gave birth to philosophy and finds nothing that resembles our modern institutions of higher learning. Above all there are no jobs in antiquity: the philosopher is not paid. Nietzsche had already underlined this point earlier in his essay, as he also makes this point elsewhere, but here he repeats the emphasis as it is as he says not a liberty to be paid to profess philosophy: ‘it is no freedom at all but an office of profit’. (SE §8) The state is afraid of real philosophers ‘and will favour only philosophers it does not fear’. (Ibid.) Thus, for appearance’s sake, appointments are given ‘to those men who bear the name of philosopher and yet are patently nothing to inspire fear’. (SE §8) As Nietzsche goes on to say, the educational institution however constituted claims to be able distinguish good and bad philosophers, the ones it hires being good, all others being bad. But the remedy Nietzsche proposes for getting rid of bad philosophers as these nonetheless wind up being in the majority is not likely to be a popular one: cease to reward them, he proposes, and they will flee. Nietzsche borrows the test for the true philosopher from his favorite author, Lucian and his little dialogue ‘Philosophies for Sale’ (cf., for discussion, Babich, 2013, p. 63):
Let the philosophers grow untended, deny them all prospect of place and position within the bourgeois professions, cease to entice them with salaries, more, persecute them, show them disfavour — you will behold miracles! … Suddenly it will be empty, everyone will have flown the nest: for it is easy to get rid of bad philosophers, one has only to cease rewarding them. (SE §8)
Schopenhauer by contrast with most professional professors of philosophy did not pursue philosophy as part of a university appointment. And for Nietzsche if philosophy has fallen into disrepute or non-regard it is because it offers nothing but ‘lecture-hall wisdom and lecture-hall cautiousness’. What Schopenhauer offered, what Nietzsche intended to offer for his own part was dangerous thought. If most philosophic thinkers ‘cause no alarm, they remove nothing from its hinges’, effectively ‘disturbing no one’, Nietzsche’s Schopenhauer demonstrated as much by what he wrote as ‘by his deeds that love of truth is something fearsome and mighty’. (Ibid.) It is for such a love that Nietzsche found—that he took—Schopenhauer as educator. And it is for such a love that we might discover Nietzsche (as educator) for our part.
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Babette Babich, Fordham University, The Jesuit University of New York City, New York, NY, USA firstname.lastname@example.org