Nietzsche and Philosophy

Nietzsche and Philosophy

First published in 1962, "Nietzsche et la Philosphie" demonstrates, with a rare combination of scholarly rigor and imaginative interpretation, how Friedrich Nietzsche initiated a new mode of philosophical thinking. A landmark, "Nietzsche and Philosophy" is one of the first books to dispute the deep-seated assumption that dialectics provide the only possible basis for radic...

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Title:Nietzsche and Philosophy
Author:Gilles Deleuze
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Edition Language:English

Nietzsche and Philosophy Reviews

  • Julian Mathews

    Read in conjunction with the Kant book and before Difference and Repetition. This is where we first see “flows” but here they are called “forces”. One also sees glimpses of other later Deleuzian concepts such as the image of thought and his conception of the Eternal Return, as well as Deleuze’s general anti-Hegelianism. As with all the monographs, this more about Deleuze than the given subject.

  • Alex Lee

    Deleuze's admiration of Nietzsche is evident with this book. He systematizes Nietzsche's thoughts, pushing Nietzsche's conclusions in ways are interesting and compelling, but seem to be in line with Nietzsche's criticism of society and human conduct. Nietzsche remains fairly amorphous here as Nietzsche has always been pushed in various ways (by Nazis, and so on).

    I read this book over ten years ago, and have returned to it now and then. Deleuze's thoughts on force are particularly interesting and

    Deleuze's admiration of Nietzsche is evident with this book. He systematizes Nietzsche's thoughts, pushing Nietzsche's conclusions in ways are interesting and compelling, but seem to be in line with Nietzsche's criticism of society and human conduct. Nietzsche remains fairly amorphous here as Nietzsche has always been pushed in various ways (by Nazis, and so on).

    I read this book over ten years ago, and have returned to it now and then. Deleuze's thoughts on force are particularly interesting and have been invigorating for me. In particular is concept of active and reactive can be found in his earlier work

    . In this sense, this book is more about Deleuze than Nietzsche.

    This is a pretty analytical reading of Nietzsche one that brings a great deal of coherency towards Nietzsche as a critic and philosopher... although Nietzsche use of myth and character still remains evident; threatening to undo Deleuze's reading simply because of Nietzsche's intense ambiguity at times.

  • Darren

    Wanted to strangle Deleuze at least 30 times during this book. But it's an inspired and sedulous reading of Nietzsche. If only I could believe what Deleuze believes. How big can one human beings balls be in order to revolutionize human existence? On to Difference and Repetition I go.

  • philosovamp

    Deleuze powerfully interprets some of Nietzsche's concepts, but does something much more than giving a new coat of paint to the eternal return.

    His approach is both crystal clear, explaining Nietzsche's difficult and allusive passages within a step-by-step analysis of his core ideas, and it is also murky, playing with the uncertainties of affirmation and negation in the process of muddying things you thought you know about Nietzsche. Deleuze treats Nietzsche seriously as a philosopher and situat

    Deleuze powerfully interprets some of Nietzsche's concepts, but does something much more than giving a new coat of paint to the eternal return.

    His approach is both crystal clear, explaining Nietzsche's difficult and allusive passages within a step-by-step analysis of his core ideas, and it is also murky, playing with the uncertainties of affirmation and negation in the process of muddying things you thought you know about Nietzsche. Deleuze treats Nietzsche seriously as a philosopher and situates him alongside Heraclitus or Hegel with all the precision of a scholastic metaphysician; but he also identifies what animates Nietzsche, questions of how to live and affirm one's own existence, all whilst side-stepping (overcoming?) Existential despair over meaning and suffering. And like many of his works written in other voices, Deleuze, by exploring another philosopher's thought, discovers what he thinks; he does not regurgitate Nietzsche, he interacts with him and creates a new sense for him.

    "Secondary" philosophy of the first rate.

  • Alex Obrigewitsch

    Deleuze's thinking of difference is a way through philosophy to get outside of philosophy. It always amazes me how Deleuze can utilize another thinker's concepts in such a way that twists their thought into something new; but a newness that grows forth from the original thought.

    Having read Difference & Repetition before this, it was interesting to see how so many of Deleuze's own concepts spring from within his studies of other philosophers.

    While I don't completely agree with his interpretat

    Deleuze's thinking of difference is a way through philosophy to get outside of philosophy. It always amazes me how Deleuze can utilize another thinker's concepts in such a way that twists their thought into something new; but a newness that grows forth from the original thought.

    Having read Difference & Repetition before this, it was interesting to see how so many of Deleuze's own concepts spring from within his studies of other philosophers.

    While I don't completely agree with his interpretation of Nietzsche, this book is very useful in expanding one's ways of thinking through Nietzsche. I especially enjoyed the affirmation of affirmation, and its explicit use in being set in opposition to Hegel's negation of negation. Classic Deleuze.

    If you like Nietzsche or Deleuze then you can't go wrong. An interesting work of philosophy for certain.

  • William West

    This is one of Deleuze's earliest published works. In this radically creative interpretation of Nietzsche, Deleuze is, I think, using Nietzsche's oeuvre as the phenomenon through which to express his own fledgling philosophy. This is not, therefore, a book “about” Nietzsche's work in the sense of an explication, but rather an attempt at a wholly original statement that “possesses” Nietzsche's works, those writings that bear his trace. I will thus refer to this work's “protagonist”, the “Nietzsch

    This is one of Deleuze's earliest published works. In this radically creative interpretation of Nietzsche, Deleuze is, I think, using Nietzsche's oeuvre as the phenomenon through which to express his own fledgling philosophy. This is not, therefore, a book “about” Nietzsche's work in the sense of an explication, but rather an attempt at a wholly original statement that “possesses” Nietzsche's works, those writings that bear his trace. I will thus refer to this work's “protagonist”, the “Nietzsche” that Deleuze claims to explicate, not as Nietzsche but as Deleuze's Nietzsche (DN henceforth).

    Deleuze defines Nietzsche's philosophical project as an attempt to define a thought that is wholly affirmational, one that negates nothing. Deleuze contrasts what he formulates as Nietzsche's mission to Hegelian dialectics, in which otherness is gradually but inevitably subsumed to the same (thesis+antithesis=synthesis). Hegelian synthesis is seen by Deleuze, then, as the negation of difference as such. DN seeks to affirm everything in its own difference.

    DN defines a phenomenon as the sign or symptom of the force(s) which express themselves through it. Every phenomenon, according to DN, has as many senses as it does forces acting upon it. The relation between one force and another DN calls a “will to power” and, at other times a “body”. (Deleuze's uses of the two terms seem to me to be more or less interchangeable.) Active forces are that which, in the “natural” state of things (a reoccurring, though I think problematic, starting point for Deleuze), are dominant- are obeyed by other forces within the order of a “natural, healthy” body. Such forces are responsible for the creative aspects of being, of imposing forms in relation to concrete conditions.

    Reactive forces are “naturally”subservient within a “healthy” body. Reactive forces are in charge of the administrative aspects of life- the regulative accommodations that make life sustainable. Reactive forces are not naturally weaker than affirmative forces. Rather, reactive forces are separated from their own ability to create. They can only assert themselves by limiting the affirmational power of other forces. The hierarchy of forces determines the historical outlook and destiny of a will.

    “Consciousness”, be it that of a healthy or unhealthy will to power, is always that of a greater force by a lesser force that has been seized or incorporated by the stronger. Weaker forces, which are naturally reactive, are, for DN, necessary for the life of the body, but they can only know themselves in relation to a stronger, more creative force which is always outside consciousness. Consciousness, then, can be described as the limitation imposed on active force by reactive force in the former's ability to affirm. The more reactive force manages to limit active force, the less ability a will has to affirm anything beyond itself.

    (I want to add at this point that many followers of Deleuze, indeed Deleuze himself, fancied him the philosopher of his generation that broke finally and fully with Hegel and Marx. But Delueze's notions of will as a relations of forces sounds to me quite a bit like those of Althusser's “totality of contradiction.” I am certainly not saying that Deleuze was in any sense a Marxist, but that he was, like so many French philosophers of his generation still in the intellectual shadow of Althusser, and thus, indirectly, of Maoist thought.)

    One can say, then, that a will, a body be it individual or societal, is not a being, but rather a becoming, a series of forces or points acting upon one another, a shifting constellation of powers. “Being”, however, is not an invalid concept. Becoming must itself have a form of being and this, DN defines as “return.” That force which returns as part of something else, that becomes, that alone is being. DN defines the eternal return as the process of critiquing forces. Forces that are found to be reactive are not selected for return, only active, affirmational forces may be reborn, may continue to become. This selective process of critique is itself an affirmation, for in destroying the reactive forces it creates a new combination of forces.

    Reactive forces are, in the process of the eternal return, directed against themselves. (Self-destruction is the only affirmational act, according to DN, of which reactive forces are capable.) The eternal return, the ultimate affirmation that reproduces multiplicity, is also the purest nihilism, nihilism at its limit. (This sounded to me dangerously close to negation of negation.)

    So, if this is how “healthy” bodies “naturally” evolve, then why is every society not in a constant state of creative (re)becoming? Looking around, this does not seem to be the case. Indeed, bodies, natural or societal, seem to generally try to resist change. For DN, it is the exception to the rule that a body is, in fact, healthy, and this has led to a society that is anything but in accord with “nature.”

    One of Deleuze's earliest critiques of psychoanalysis comes in “Nietzsche and Philosophy” in the form of Deleuze's championing of forgetting. To forget, for Deleuze, is to create, indeed it is to select a memory for return or destruction and to oversee the reproduction of the multiplicity that is the self. In insisting on recovering memory, in Freudianism's struggle against what it deems “repression” or “denial” psychoanalysis is trying to stop the process of critique and return. It is trying to keep the subject where it has already been (in the past). In this way, psychoanalysis acts like many other training techniques of a sick society. (More on this later.)

    The will that cannot forget cannot create. It can only obsess over that (the past) which it cannot act on and transform. This leads to what DN calls “resentment,” the fear of difference, that which DN defines as being, and the insistence that everything be identical. It seems that what we have come to know as society was created by and for such unfortunates. The resentful posit that since the strong and creative will could choose not to unleash its power, then the weak and reactive must also have the option of unleashing their power, but simply choose not to do so out of virtue. Through this myth and/or fallacy, resentment has thus seduced the active will against itself. It has made the creative will yearn for virtue, and build for the resentful all that we know as society and its identifying representations.

    In a passage strikingly reminiscent of both Foucault and Althusser, Deleuze describes the process by which society selects traits and trains its subjects through punishment, or what society refers to as “justice.” Society bestows memory, and therefor resentment, in its creation, consciousness, through language, the tool that will allow consciousness to carry the past into the future. This consciousness is what society deems the “free individual”.

    The resentful, who insist on identity, must think themselves absolutely right. They insist on a “truth” that is on their side. Deleuze defines truth as the unit of reactive thought. He throws all the sciences and humanities into this category of identifying representations, saying that they are always deployed to affirm the truth subscribed to by the powers that be. A truly affirmational thought, says DN, will have nothing of truth. (This broadside against the sciences and humanities strikes me as one of Deleuze's clumsiest moves in this book. Has not scientific discovery destroyed entire regimes of “truth”? Was Galileo not a creator and destroyer?)

    DN identifies three stages of historical nihilism. The first is negative, or religious nihilism. In the history of philosophy, this impulse goes back at least as far back as Socrates and his spawn, Platonic Idealism. Idealism places the “truth” of phenomenon outside of the world. Life and the world are posited as the inferior imitation of Truth/ Divinity. Classical philosophy thus denies its own creativity. It claims that the “Ideal” it invents is outside of it, waiting to be reached and uncovered by its practitioners. The classical impulse to redeem life by subsuming it to the Ideal found an even purer manifestation in Christianity in which human being is redeemable only through self-destruction in the name of the Ideal- the loving, forgiving Father. The formerly cruel God of the Old Testament manages to put humanity into His debt through the Crucifixion. Humanity is obliged towards negative nihilism.

    To be a Christian, then, is to think that one has already killed God. This leads one to another form of nihilism, the reactive. Kantian critique is imagined by modernity to be a rejection of faith in favor of reason. But, DN argues, Kant only anoints humanity as the interrogator of claims to knowledge, morality and truth. Kant does not critique knowledge, morality and truth as concepts. Indeed, he assumes their validity as such. Kant thus asks reason to judge (absolve?) itself and makes docility the “choice” of “reasonable men”. Kant places the moralistic mediator inside the individual but, DN asks, does that make subjectivity any less subjugating? If God is dead this was only so the nihilistic tradition of culture could take on the more dangerous, insidious form of rationalistic progress.

    The ultimate form of nihilism DN defines as the passive. Here, humanity takes the place of an already dead God. The philosophical incarnation of passive nihilism is Hegel. Difference is ultimately subsumed into synthesis, and humanity is all that remains, living in its own values like a slug subsisting in its own excretions.

    DN's only hope is that nihilist society will reach a level of such negative extremity that it will seek to negate itself and thereby partake in the critique that all of society has been founded to avoid. Having killed God and then taken God's place, human consciousness will then seek (DN hopes) to kill itself. DN's term for this will to transcendence of the nihilistic will is the “Overman”. The only path towards the Overman is an affirmational philosophy. For consciousness, being itself reactive, can not know the truly affirmational. But philosophical thought can imagine an affirmational critique/ destruction of consciousness-as-it-is.

    The resulting affirmational thought would not oppose reactive thought, which is to say the entire history of philosophy and society. Affirmational thought would differ from reactive thought, just as, indeed, it would differ from itself. For affirmation of being is being itself, which is to say difference.

    I don't necessarily buy into Deleuze's interpretation of Nietzsche. For one thing, while “On the Geneology of Morals” is a fine and disciplined work of philosophy, I don't think one can defend the claim that Nietzsche was as ruthlessly systematic a thinker as Deleuze wants to imagine him as having been. Also, I think Nietzsche viewed language as more liberatory, but perhaps less all-powerful than did Deleuze. For the latter, language and the bad memory it represents, is the bedrock of society. For Nietzsche, I think, language and philosophy were a means to reinvention and rebellion, but were not the absolute bedrock of anything. The physical body and its gestations remains an important site for Nietzsche whereas for Deleuze, for all of his talk of bodies, the body seems not even solid, but just points to be shifted by the greater powers of social discourse.

    This is still a helluva book though. Regardless of its relationship to anyone's understanding of Nietzsche, it remains a vital entry point into Deleuze's exceptionally provocative if (I think) sometimes philosophically problematic body of work.

  • Jibran

    Provide details about Nietzsche philosophy and helps to understand how he views the world.

  • Steve

    I am glad that Deleuze emphasized Nietzsche's incompatibility with dialectics, but sort of unimpressed by the book as a whole, which is basically just a summary (not critical at all), and even more in need of clarification than Nietzsche's own writings. I'm not sure that certain Nietzschean concepts (esp. the eternal return and will to power) are really concepts rather than poetic images, and when Deleuze tries to formulate these concepts with the 'precision' he thinks they intrinsically held fo

    I am glad that Deleuze emphasized Nietzsche's incompatibility with dialectics, but sort of unimpressed by the book as a whole, which is basically just a summary (not critical at all), and even more in need of clarification than Nietzsche's own writings. I'm not sure that certain Nietzschean concepts (esp. the eternal return and will to power) are really concepts rather than poetic images, and when Deleuze tries to formulate these concepts with the 'precision' he thinks they intrinsically held for Nietzsche, he ends up unwittingly exposing how vague and incomprehensible the terms are if you try to make them part of a philosophical system.

    For all his talk of anti-dialectics, his book seems to owe it's ordering of ideas to the straightforward Genealogy of Morals, while incorporating relevant images and the climactic ending rhetoric (the happy end of nihilism defeating itself) from the more poetically inclined Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in a perfect synthesis.

    This kind of stuff in his discussion of the eternal return I found incomprehensible: 'It is not being that returns but rather the returning itself that constitutes being insofar as it is affirmed of becoming and of that which passes.' We lose all sense of what 'returning' could possibly mean in this optimistic configuration in which it miraculously precedes 'being'. I think when he writes 'the returning itself' he really means 'differing forces'. In any case, it's vague, especially considering that he prefaces this section with claims that the eternal recurrence is a very precise concept.

    He doesn't manage to defend some key points in his argument about the nature of reactive forces/nihilism, and how they are ‘completed’ and turned into affirmation by Nietzsche. 'If nihilism makes the will to power known to us, then conversely, the latter teaches us that it is known to us in only one form, in the form of the negative which constitutes only one of its aspects, one of its qualities.' The final step of his argument, through which he achieves the happy ending of nihilism defeating itself, turns on the claim in this quote, but he doesn't defend it. He presents it as a theorem that he will then prove, but instead he leaps on to his next claim: 'The other side of the will to power, the unknown side, the other quality of the will to power, the unknown quality, is affirmation.' How we get from the former claim to the latter is mysterious; apparently both claims are meant to be taken as self-evident axioms. So the happy ending of nihilism's overcoming seems forced, even though the entire book builds up to it with exquisite pacing.

    I think Nietzsche's concepts are ambitiously broad ('nihilism' as the law of human history, 'will to power' as the essence of being-as-becoming), which I suppose is part of their appeal, but which leaves them open to millions of inquires into their precise nature, none of which Deleuze chooses to pursue, though he claims already to have found their precise nature. So that was disappointing. Also, he's not as much fun to read as Nietzsche himself.

  • Maxwell

    Deleuze’s Nietzschean turn, written before

    and

    , recasts Nietzsche's sky-high extravagances as critical philosophy. Nietzsche’s thought is “The creative element of meaning and its values”, which functions “to introduce the notions of meaning and value into philosophy.” Get used to hearing those words a lot as Deleuze imputes value as shape-shifting through the traffic of history and culture, cracking open critical philosophy and beginning

    Deleuze’s Nietzschean turn, written before

    and

    , recasts Nietzsche's sky-high extravagances as critical philosophy. Nietzsche’s thought is “The creative element of meaning and its values”, which functions “to introduce the notions of meaning and value into philosophy.” Get used to hearing those words a lot as Deleuze imputes value as shape-shifting through the traffic of history and culture, cracking open critical philosophy and beginning again washed clean of tongue-tied Kantianism.

    The book tip-toes across Nietzsche’s rejection of truth and falsity as the index for knowledge, emphasizing values, or the value of values, as the locus of thought with repetition as the criteria for legitimation. Nietzsche’s helical method for evaluation is the creative act central to thought and is, for Deleuze, a direct riposte to Kant’s inquiry into the limits of reason (and Hegel doesn’t survive the skirmish either). Kant’s internal critique of reason

    surveys the limits of perception and understanding but, here, has its own hard methodological limits as it “did not know how to pose the problem of critique in terms of values”. The Kantian misfire is implicitly corrected by Nietzsche’s affirmative philosophy of life.

    Values can be challenged by the critical arsenal within Nietzsche’s genealogical method which so often seems to find a value’s origin in conflict with its contemporary instantiation. This uncovering of conditionality and contingency cannot be thought without the sundry flux of multiplicity and immanence. If meaning is given an origin, then origin is given a meaning--of course, Deleuze’s Genealogy of Nietzscheanism reveals that Nietzsche was a Deleuzian all along.

    Nietzsche’s views are arranged into a metaphysical grid; the wrinkles and creases in his thought are smoothed over by Deleuze’s own. He refines the logic of Nietzsche’s work in ways that the man himself may have found surprising. But an internal condition of Nietzsche’s genealogical process is that it requires replenishing in every generation; The Will to Power is distinct from the fascistic will to dominate, it is a generous and creative force eulogizing life, as opposed to the jealous domineering of tinpot overmen. The Eternal Recurrence is not a spiritualist reincarnation but a prioritizing of becoming over being, the foundation for the process ontology that Deleuze will further develop later in his career. These recapitulations are made necessary by the misuse and abuse of Nietzsche in the first half of the 20th century.

    The focus on Nietzsche’s later work, especially the Genealogy of Morals, is a break from antecedent books by Klossowski, Blanchot and Bataille, as Deleuze emphasizes assortative diagrammatics of convergence and divergence, the method more than the findings from Nietzsche’s most systematic book. Very little poetry about myth and extinction; very much philosophical masonry developing a non-dialectical architecture of critique. This is fairly convincing--or at least interesting--but I always find myself thinking that the Negative will smuggle itself in through the back door of any vitalist philosophy. There must be some detrital leftovers in even in the most rigorous philosophy of life. I get that Deleuze was trying to overthrow the Hegelian fashion for the negative, but, I mean, surely you can’t affirm

    ? Isn’t it possible to have a philosophy which incorporates affirmation

    negativity? These dramatic sea changes between obverse primary processes are the fetish object of philosophy--overstatement followed by overcorrection. We prefer revolutions to reforms and corrections. I suppose we consider mitigating compromise to be a form of capitulating weakness. Or just less exciting than a truculent screed.

    The heterogeneous valences which Nietzsche’s thought can carry are troublesome to some readers. For Bataille, Nietzsche is about chance and expenditure; for Deleuze, multiplicities and becoming. If your thought can be deployed in support of

    why did you bother to think it at all? Still, Deleuze remains one of the great pleasures of 20th century philosophy. I get something new every time I read him, even amid the delicious irony of the great anti-identity philosopher encouraging me to read other philosophers as an extension of himself.

  • Andrew

    I wouldn't call Deleuze's book a clarification of Nietzsche, but rather a purification. Nietzsche got such a bad rap that someone needed to pull out his good ideas and mine them. And Deleuze is an awfully good chap for the task. While I don't keep the saintly vision of Nietzsche that G.D. does, I really dig the reinterpretation of the will to power and the extraction of the potential for liberation that Deleuze sees in Nietzsche's texts.

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