Event Title

Nietzsche’s amor fati: concealment and truthfulness

Session Title

Nietzsche: Fate, Politics and Psychology

Location

FS 220

Start Date

1-9-2011 11:30 AM

End Date

1-9-2011 1:00 PM

Abstract

The opening of book four of Nietzsche’s Gay Science provides an extended reflection on the question of how philosophy, more specifically the philosopher, is to relate to that other which Nietzsche variously conceives of as the “chaos” of existence or as “life”: both one’s own life and life in general. These sections bring together a number of themes prominent in contemporary Nietzsche studies, and thus provide an ideal context for their discussion; here these issues cluster around the idea of amor fati, love of fate, which Nietzsche introduces in this text for the first time. Amor fati is concerned with a particular affirmative relation towards the self and its history (and also by extension, as Nietzsche makes clear, an affirmative relation towards existence as a whole). The theme of this relation resonates through a number of passages in book four and comes to a culmination in the scene of the demon’s test, where Nietzsche also reveals for the first time his notorious concept of “eternal recurrence”: one might therefore understand the whole of The Gay Science’s fourth book as revolving around the theme of an affirmative relation to oneself and the world. In this paper I will focus on the opening of this book and the issues it raises concerning truthfulness, the relation to self and an artistic model of agency.

Nietzsche’s demand that we love our fate and affirm our lives as a whole raises a series of questions which have received attention in the literature: for example, the question of whether we are required to affirm not just our lives as a whole but every single event in our lives in itself, no matter how humiliating or painful it may have been. The question on which I wish to focus is: why does Nietzsche’s affirmative attitude to the self entail not only a kind of artistic “styling” but also a “Wegsehen”, a “looking away”, (GS 276) which suggests something other than a full and honest confrontation with life? Further, what kind of agent is implicated here, as one who acts with a specific kind of “freedom” but nevertheless also with a consciousness of “constraint”?

Such questions bring us into the ambit of certain recent discussions in the scholarship: Christopher Janaway’s evocation of a tension between the demand for absolute truthfulness and the need for an artistic attitude which involves distortion and “concealment” of certain features of life; Aaron Ridley’s suggestion that Nietzsche’s discussions of freedom are most helpfully seen as promoting a form of agency closely resembling Kant’s notion of artistic agency; and further developments of these themes around an “expressivist” account of agency in texts by David Owen and Robert Pippin.

I will demonstrate that Nietzsche’s account of amor fati already implies an expressivist conception of will, and poses the question of truthfulness versus artistry in a uniquely revealing way. I intend further to pick up on some helpful remarks made by Lawrence Hatab, Ridley and Owen, proposing that thinking about the phenomenon of art might provide resources in addressing Janaway’s question concerning truthfulness, although I do not believe that their accounts completely dispel the tension this question evokes. I will develop the suggestions they make further into an account of how artistic truth can be seen essentially to involve elements of concealment and distortion, and how the kind of revealing that happens in the work of art may well be essentially bound up with distortion and concealment. Finally, I want briefly to raise the question of whether it is plausible for all of Nietzsche’s philosophical projects to be seen in terms of the model of truth which arises from these discussions.



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Sep 1st, 11:30 AM Sep 1st, 1:00 PM

Nietzsche’s amor fati: concealment and truthfulness

FS 220

The opening of book four of Nietzsche’s Gay Science provides an extended reflection on the question of how philosophy, more specifically the philosopher, is to relate to that other which Nietzsche variously conceives of as the “chaos” of existence or as “life”: both one’s own life and life in general. These sections bring together a number of themes prominent in contemporary Nietzsche studies, and thus provide an ideal context for their discussion; here these issues cluster around the idea of amor fati, love of fate, which Nietzsche introduces in this text for the first time. Amor fati is concerned with a particular affirmative relation towards the self and its history (and also by extension, as Nietzsche makes clear, an affirmative relation towards existence as a whole). The theme of this relation resonates through a number of passages in book four and comes to a culmination in the scene of the demon’s test, where Nietzsche also reveals for the first time his notorious concept of “eternal recurrence”: one might therefore understand the whole of The Gay Science’s fourth book as revolving around the theme of an affirmative relation to oneself and the world. In this paper I will focus on the opening of this book and the issues it raises concerning truthfulness, the relation to self and an artistic model of agency.

Nietzsche’s demand that we love our fate and affirm our lives as a whole raises a series of questions which have received attention in the literature: for example, the question of whether we are required to affirm not just our lives as a whole but every single event in our lives in itself, no matter how humiliating or painful it may have been. The question on which I wish to focus is: why does Nietzsche’s affirmative attitude to the self entail not only a kind of artistic “styling” but also a “Wegsehen”, a “looking away”, (GS 276) which suggests something other than a full and honest confrontation with life? Further, what kind of agent is implicated here, as one who acts with a specific kind of “freedom” but nevertheless also with a consciousness of “constraint”?

Such questions bring us into the ambit of certain recent discussions in the scholarship: Christopher Janaway’s evocation of a tension between the demand for absolute truthfulness and the need for an artistic attitude which involves distortion and “concealment” of certain features of life; Aaron Ridley’s suggestion that Nietzsche’s discussions of freedom are most helpfully seen as promoting a form of agency closely resembling Kant’s notion of artistic agency; and further developments of these themes around an “expressivist” account of agency in texts by David Owen and Robert Pippin.

I will demonstrate that Nietzsche’s account of amor fati already implies an expressivist conception of will, and poses the question of truthfulness versus artistry in a uniquely revealing way. I intend further to pick up on some helpful remarks made by Lawrence Hatab, Ridley and Owen, proposing that thinking about the phenomenon of art might provide resources in addressing Janaway’s question concerning truthfulness, although I do not believe that their accounts completely dispel the tension this question evokes. I will develop the suggestions they make further into an account of how artistic truth can be seen essentially to involve elements of concealment and distortion, and how the kind of revealing that happens in the work of art may well be essentially bound up with distortion and concealment. Finally, I want briefly to raise the question of whether it is plausible for all of Nietzsche’s philosophical projects to be seen in terms of the model of truth which arises from these discussions.