Discussion of Nietzsche II

For our second discussion of the Beyond Good and Evil, I would like us to focus on three themes that are central to understanding the relationship between Nietzsche’s thinking and political theory. Yes, I agree with Abbey and Appel that it would be a distortion of Nietzsche’s writings to regard him as an apolitical thinker. In particular, I want to investigate those recurring themes in the book that could have distinct political implications. I say this, of course, knowing full well that Nietzsche would claim that the contemplation of politics is beneath him.

  1. Enlightenment. Is Nietzsche really rejecting the traditions that
     we associate with Enlightenment thought? The answer to this
     question depends on how we view his attitudes about truth,
     morality, and freedom. Nietzsche likes to portray himself as a
     “debunker” of old faiths and a “master” of a new morality. But,
     wasn’t the spirit of the Enlightenment era one of debunking and
     mastering? What might these attitudes mean for political life?

  2. Development. I almost used the word “Progress,” but I held back.
     The connotations of this latter term would seem blasphemous to
     connoisseurs of Nietzsche’s thought since one of the Master’s most
     compelling concepts—the “eternal recurrence”—is meant to divest
     human beings of the illusion that things will change fundamentally
     and to persuade them instead that only the strong and the noble
     will have the capacity to love their personal fate (amor fati).
     Nevertheless, if there is no concept of human “development”
     (“progress”?!?!) in Nietzsche’s thinking, why does he prophecy the
     coming of a new generation of hero philosophers? Does he really
     want us to embrace “the melancholy of everything finished” (sec.
     277)? Or is there more to come? How might such developments have
     political implications?

  3. Rulers and ruled. There is clearly a sense of hierarchy that
     runs throughout Beyond Good and Evil, especially in “What is
     Noble?” Are there elements of this elitism that remind you of
     other writers we have considered, such as Hegel and Marx, who are
     equally persuaded that the fittest should rule? Also, consider a
     related question: Is there a difference between saying that
     Nietzsche’s reflections on these matters have political
     implications and arguing that he is political? See Abbey/Appel’s

As you reflect on these themes, return to the central comparative theme of this seminar: Does Nietzsche cross the line between ordinary philosophy and authoritarianism? A related question might be: Does he tempt a successive generation of philosophers to cross this line? This leads us to our discussion of Carl Schmitt's approach to political theory.