Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rationality and Totality, Part VIII

I’m not one hundred percent sure I any longer know what our conversation is about, or where it might with benefit go.

I will take a stab at reorienting myself by making a question of this,

“Ressentiment and bad conscience express the triumph of negative forces in humankind, and even constitutes the human, i.e. the human-slave. This shows precisely to what extent the Nietzschean conception of slave does not necessarily designate someone who is dominated, whether by destiny or by social condition, but characterizes both dominant and dominated, ruler and ruled, whenever a regime of domination works through reactive forces rather than active ones…”- Gilles Deleuze, from Two Regimes of Madness, preface to Nietzsche and Philosophy, American Edition.

This is a relatively straightforward statement and I think we all agree with both Deleuze and Nietzsche that ressentiment and bad conscience are not creative, life-giving energies, and we would do well to not give them expression, if possible. It is not actually clear, however, whether we mean the same thing when we speak of ressentiment and bad conscience. Additionally, the question arises whether, if ressentiment and bad conscience are truly constitutive of the human being, we can in fact avoid being constituted by them. In other words, we may disagree about how ressentiment and bad conscience are to be overcome...How we might become active. If we are constituted by ressentiment and bad conscience, our attempts to not be constituted by them, in the form of celebrating affirmation, etc. could be nothing more than a further intensification of these reactive forces. Furthermore, by situating a claim to be affirming and active within the philosophy of Nietzsche (and Deleuze’s, at the time he authored Nietzsche and Philosophy,) one is proclaiming oneself a superman, an ubermensch—this is indeed an audacity, one which I believe both Nietzsche and Deleuze would have shunned for themselves. We may disagree on whether this is an affirmation anyone at Enlightenment Underground is entitled to make.

Nietzsche claimed to be prologue to the ubermensch, not that he actually was ubermensch himself. Why would we be when he was not? Because we come after Nietzsche?

If we believe we are supermen because we have triumphed over the negative forces which had previously triumphed over humankind, I suggest we take another look at this purported triumph. What does it consist of? Can the positive content of this purported triumph be pointed out? Or does it not instead consist of ignoring the negative, avoiding it, pretending it doesn’t exist-- thus making it a "negative" triumph?(If there even could be such a thing as a negative triumph.) If our triumph is negative, I think we are last men, not supermen...All the more firmly established as last men-- further than ever from being active or affirming. Yes, we are last men, and our superficial attempt to be supermen merely confirms this fact.

I don’t think Nietzsche’s vision of the nature of the negative forces contains any such superficiality. Take this as an example,

“Music and Tragedy? The Greeks and dramatic music? The Greeks and pessimistic art? The Greeks: this most beautiful and accomplished, this thoroughly sane, universally envied species of man—was it conceivable that they, of all people, should have stood in need of tragedy—or, indeed, of art? Greek art: how did it function, how could it? By now the reader will have come to suspect where I had put my mark of interrogation. The question was one of value, the value placed on existence. Is pessimism inevitably a sign of decadence, warp, weakened instincts, as it was once with the ancient Hindus, as it is now with us modern Europeans? Or is there such a thing as a strong pessimism? A penchant of the mind for what is hard, terrible, evil, dubious in existence, arising from a plethora of health, plenitude of being? Could it be, perhaps, that the very feeling of superabundance created its own kind of suffering: a temerity of penetration, hankering for the enemy (the worth-while enemy) so as to prove its strength, to experience at last what it means to fear something?” --Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, from the later added “A Critical Backward Glance.”

A strong pessimism….In other words, a pessimism which is not a negative force or the result of weakened instincts. A pessimism which is in fact a sign of superabundance, and which may expose all that crazy happy-camper optimism as thoroughly negative, the symptom of weakened instincts par excellent. To hastily assign as negative all that which our European culture regards as negative, according to who knows what convention, is to be weak, superficial,unthinking, unphilosophical-- even anti-philosophical.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Yusef for another inspiring post taking us into a new direction.

This lead me back to re-reading chapters in Deleuze's 1962 book "Nietzsche and Philosophy".

I'll return in a couple of days when I have more time with a more detailed response.

The reason I posted the quote from Deleuze's preface to the American edition of the book was that I have always had difficulty coming to terms with Nietzsche's concept of the Eternal Return and I thought Deleuze's take was interesting.

BTW, "a strong pessimism" is a powerful concept.


6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a gracious response, Orla.

"This lead me back to re-reading chapters in Deleuze's 1962 book 'Nietzsche and Philosophy'."

There is an enormous amount in this book which has been left dormant-- as if no one in the world, even though this is a famous book, saw it was there.


12:01 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Orla wrote: "I have always had difficulty coming to terms with Nietzsche's concept of the Eternal Return"

I think most who have understood this theme find it difficult to reconcile with. Maybe that means that it is not meant to be reconciled at all.

The eternal return means that every thing that you have done and not done, will come back and play itself out again, exactly as it occured. If you say yes to one joy in your life, you say yes to everything in your life. If you say yes to do one thing again, then you will do everything again. There is no change in the eternal return. To think that it represents a "transmutation" is to become an idiot. It is not a force that can somehow be "overcome".

The important question now reveals itself as, where the hell do we go from here.

2:07 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

I have not read Deleuzes' take on Nietzsche, so I cant say if Orla has misread it, misrepresented it, or maybe it is just Deleuze that suck.

In any case I think it is vital that if this blog is to move forward in any direction at all - that we introduce other ways of talking about becoming, creativity, repetition, difference, rationality, totality, myth. etc.

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In any case I think it is vital that if this blog is to move forward in any direction at all - that we introduce other ways of talking about becoming, creativity, repetition, difference, rationality, totality, myth. etc."

This is an excellent suggestion, and I intend to embrace it.

I have been wanting to discuss what I consider broadly perceived and perhaps broadly misconceived connections between creativity and rationality versus creativity and myth, and so on, but as so often, I move very slowly and circuitously.


1:30 PM  

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