The Brave Immoralist

Nietzsche Volume One: The Will to Power as Art

by Martin Heidegger, translated by David Farrell Krell
Harper & Row, 263 pp., $12.95

Nietzsche's Gift

by Harold Alderman
Ohio University Press, 184 pp., $5.50 (paper)

Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche; drawing by David Levine

David Krell, in a note to his translation of Heidegger’s lectures on Nietzsche, describes the changing history of Nietzsche’s image. This strange genius, who believed he could destroy all previous philosophies, was first seen primarily as a poet and essayist; then as a legendary and tragic symbol of the times; and only later as a serious philosopher.

What, one may ask, does Nietzsche, the opponent of transcendental metaphysics and of positivism, who undertook nothing less than the “revaluation of values,” signify for philosophy today? The question sounds reasonable but cannot be answered as it stands because there is no one thing that is “philosophy today.” Nor is this merely a ritual nod in the direction of diversity. Instead of one movement in which the Zeitgeist can be discerned there are, even within Western philosophy, two schools of thought so alien to each other that historians of some distant future lacking incidental clues might be tempted to deny that they were contemporaneous. What Nietzsche is for the philosophy of phenomenology and existentialism—for Jaspers for instance, or Heidegger—is one matter: what he is for the descendants of Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein quite another.

It follows that a review of Heidegger’s lectures on Nietzsche which would do them justice, and would reflect the importance of this work in the development of Continental philosophy, must be given from within this tradition. That the approach is very different from that of anyone in analytic philosophy is easy to see: even a single sentence will tell one in which part of the philosophical world one is. Thus Heidegger, whose text was the collection of notes posthumously arranged and published as The Will to Power, opens his discussion of the will to power by announcing that the “question as to what being is seeks the Being of beings,” and he goes on to say that for Nietzsche all Being is a Becoming, and since a Becoming is a willing and all willing is will to power, Becoming is a will to power. This language is quite alien to the analytic philosopher, who demands plainness and clear sense: no one of this school would be ready to discuss the Being of beings, or say that all Becoming was or was not willing before the component ideas were explained. How, for instance, is willing to be understood if it is to make sense to say that willing is found even in a merely mechanical or chemical process? The analytic philosopher would insist on questioning Heidegger, Nietzsche, and their predecessors about such things, before starting any argument; as a builder surveys his blocks and beams before construction begins.

The American philosopher Harold Alderman, much influenced by Heidegger but avoiding on the whole the jargon of Continental philosophy, criticizes in Nietzsche’s Gift another typical Heideggerian discussion of Nietzsche. In this instance the question turns on Nietzsche’s doctrine of “eternal recurrence”—his idea that everything…

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