Thursday, July 03, 2008

Returning to The Eternal Return, Part II

As we have seen The Eternal Return is neither repetition without difference (the naivistic interpretation) nor the cyclical return which Nietzsche himself warns us against,

One should not as a false analogy use the cycles that arise and perish as for example in stars, or ebbs and flows, day and night, the seasons, as a characteristic of The Eternal Return.

In another note he comes closer to a definition,

To IMPRINT(my emphasis) upon the character of becoming as being – that is the highest form of the will to power.

That everything returns is the most extreme approximation of a world of becoming (eine Welt des Werdens) to a world of being (die des Seins) – the summit of reflection!
(my translation).

Ontologically speaking The Eternal Return announces there is only one world, one reality = the one that IS (continuously changing) and that human beings must return to in order to avoid nihilism.

It is also a critique of the whole project of The Enlightenment (very apt for this blog) of viewing history as a series of progress and spreading light and celebrating, in Kant’s words, “man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity”.

Nostalgia as well as utopianism are rejected by Nietzsche as illusionary. Man must be fully present in every single Moment of his existence. The Eternal Return is the ultimate affirmation of the Now, as the formula of the German "das Werden" = the continuous creation, the eternal becoming, the flowing dialectics of active and reactive forces.

The Eternal Return is Nietzsche’s call for the endless “repetition” or “return” of every single moment simultaneously fulfilling and renewing, ending and beginning in the fullness of The Moment. The return in the form of the eternal presence of the Now. Ever new.

In Nietzsche and Philosophy Deleuze writes,

From afar we can hardly see the summit. The eternal return is the being of becoming. But becoming is double: becoming-active and becoming-reactive, becoming-active of reactive forces and becoming-reactive of active forces. But only becoming-active has being; it would be contradictory for the being of becoming to be affirmed of a becoming-reactive, of a becoming that is itself nihilistic. The eternal return would become contradictory if it were the return of reactive forces. The eternal return teaches us that becoming-reactive has no being. Indeed, it also teaches us of the existence of becoming-active. It necessarily produces becoming-active by reproducing becoming (p. 71f.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To IMPRINT(my emphasis) upon the character of becoming as being – that is the highest form of the will to power."

When I at an earlier time encountered this comment, I think it was one factor which threw me off track. Nietzsche here seems to be endorsing the hylemorphic model which is precisely one of the models I want to overthrow,( but in my way of looking at things, to overthrow really only means to get an angle on it.)

That I took it that way made Deleuze's interpretation all the more startling. As you quoted earlier, Deleuze takes the eternal return to be about difference, the thinking of difference.

I think it is also confusing that in the quote above Nietzsche does not say "eternal return"-- he says "will-to-power." You appear to expect the reader to equate the two. I was never on my own able to do was through Heidegger's interpretation, and it was brilliant, that I was ever able to guess will-to-power and eternal return were so intimately related.


12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment, Yusef.

Like you I have been thrown off the track several times in the past in trying to get a grip on The Eternal Return. But then I haven't really gone deeper into the concept, simply, I guess, because it just seemed so alien to Nietzsche's general life-affirming project.

Now I see it much more clearly - in all its majesty.

I haven't read Heidegger's interpretation, but would very much like to. Could you give me a hint to where in his work he's discussing this?

Best wishes,


PS: For the next four weeks I'll be in the U.S. but won't be taking along my books (I'll probably be buying some!) so I won't be able to contribute much, I guess. I will be checking the blog often, though.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While the 'eternal return' may not be repetition without difference, the 'Eternal recurrence of the Same' *is*.
Therefore a distinction must be made between them [even if Nietzsche was not so rigorous on that issue].

5:40 AM  

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