Traditional metaphysics is constructed around the dualisms of permanence and change and of appearance and reality. The permanent is identified with Being, which is said to be a reality that lies beyond the world of appearances, the world of change, the realm of becoming. Nietzsche seems to overcome these dualisms by collapsing the distinctions between permanence and change, appearance and reality, Being and becoming. Therefore, Nietzsche seems to go beyond metaphysics.
How, then, does Heidegger establish Nietzsche as the last metaphysician of the West? Another way of putting this question is: How does Heidegger establish that Nietzsche’s attempt to overcome metaphysics is a failure? What does Heidegger think that a genuine overcoming of metaphysics requires?
When Heidegger uses the word “metaphysics” pejoratively, he refers to the metaphysics of presence: “These positions take the Being of beings as having been determined in the sense of permanence of presence” (p. 162). Another word for the metaphysics of presence in the Heidegger lexicon is “Platonism.” Platonism is a view that cannot necessarily be identified with Plato’s own views. Platonism, rather, is the pervasive interpretation of Plato’s views in the tradition. Platonism identifies Being with permanence as opposed to change, presence as opposed to absence, identity as opposed to difference.
The latter terms of these pairs—change, absence, difference—are identified with non-being. In the world around us, rest and motion, presence and absence, identity and difference are all mixed together.
Thus the Platonist concludes that this world is not the true world; it is not the realm of Being, but the realm of becoming, which is a mere blurred image or decayed manifestation of Being. Becoming is merely a veil of appearances which cloaks and hides that which is real, namely Being.
The Platonic realm of Being is identified as the place of forms or essences. The world of becoming is the world in which we find individual men, individual dogs, individual chairs, individual tables. All of these individuals come into being, change, and pass out of existence. The world of Being contains not individual men, but the essence of man, or “manhood.” It does not contain individual dogs, but the essence of dog, “doghood.”
Forms or essences, unlike individuals, do not come into being; they do not change; and they do not pass away. While particulars that become exist in time, forms of essences exist outside of time in eternity. Because particulars in time are infected with change, absence and difference, we cannot have certain knowledge of them; at best, we can have only tentative opinions about things in the world around us. We can have certain knowledge only of the forms or essences that make up the realm of Being.
Heidegger holds that the metaphysics of presence—the interpretation of Being as presence—and also the Platonic distinction between the world of Being and the world of becoming is retained in Nietzsche’s allegedly post-metaphysical doctrines of the Will to Power and the Eternal Recurrence of the Same. What is the Will to Power? And what is the Eternal Recurrence of the Same?
Nietzsche claims to have abolished metaphysics because he abolishes the dualism between appearance and reality, Being and becoming, presence and absence, identity and difference, etc. All of these pairs of opposites are found blended together in the Will to Power and the Eternal Recurrence of the Same. There is no realm of pure presence, pristine identity, total rest, and separate essences, lying behind the world that appears to us.
Heidegger’s critique of this claim is twofold. First, he argues that the basic elements of Platonism are still at work in Nietzsche. Second, he argues that Nietzsche really does not understand what it would take to overcome metaphysics.
Will to Power and the Eternal Recurrence of the Same, in short, think Being in terms of presence too, by making becoming itself permanent, by making becoming recapitulate the identical, by making the motion of becoming circular, thus bringing a kind of eternity into time itself.
Heidegger claims that this distinction is “co-extensive” with the basic distinction that defines and sustains metaphysics. “What-being” or “whatness” refers to the identity of beings. “That-being” or “thatness” refers to the existence of beings. To talk about the identity of a thing is to talk about what it is in contrast to the identity of different things, the things that it is not. When we talk about the existence of something, we are talking about the fact that it is, as opposed to the idea of its non-existence.
Now, in Platonism, the identity of a particular being is endowed by its form. A particular dog has its identity as a dog because it is related to the Form of dog, or “dogness.” A particular man has his identity as a man because he is related somehow to the essence of man, or “manhood.” A particular dog has his existence as a concrete individual dog because a bit of the material world has been informed by the essence of dog. So, for Platonism, the identity or whatness of a particular being is explained by its essence and its individual existence or thatness is explained by its materiality.
Heidegger holds that this Platonic distinction is present in the distinction between the Will to Power and the Eternal Recurrence of the Same. Will to Power names the whatness or identity of all beings. Therefore, it corresponds to the Platonic form. Eternal Recurrence names the thatness or existence of beings. Therefore, it corresponds to the instantiation of the Platonic Form in a bit of the spatio-temporal world. Will to Power is the principle of identity. Eternal Recurrence is the principle of existence. This dualism, Heidegger claims, is not overcome by Nietzsche, so Nietzsche does not overcome metaphysics.
It is at this point that we can understand why Heidegger thinks that Nietzsche is not only a metaphysician, but the culmination of metaphysics. Metaphysics thinks the Being of beings, but does not think the meaning of Being, the clearing of Being, etc. Nietzsche is the culmination of metaphysics because Nietzsche’s metaphysics not only fails to think that which grants Being, but actually makes this altogether impossible because it fosters the illusion that metaphysics has been finally overcome.
A further reason for regarding Nietzsche as the culmination of metaphysics can be appreciated by examining Heidegger’s definition of nihilism. Heidegger defines the modern technological age, the age of nihilism as “the age of consummate meaninglessness” (p. 174). Consummate meaninglessness is equivalent to the interpretation of Being in terms of man’s own subjective needs: Being as certainty; Being as intelligibility; Being as availability and deployability for human purposes. The world is meaningless because wherever we look, we only encounter projections of our own overweening subjectivity and will to power.
(...) Modernist literature sees fragmentation and extreme subjectivity as an existential crisis, or Freudian internal conflict, a problem that must be solved, and the artist is often cited as the one to solve it. Postmodernists, however, often demonstrate that this chaos is insurmountable; the artist is impotent, and the only recourse against "ruin" is to play within the chaos. (...)
Derrida admires the reflexivity and abstract analyses of structuralism, but argues that these discourses have still not gone far enough in treating structures as free-floating (or 'playing') sets of relationships. In particular, he accuses structuralist discourses of holding on to a "center": a privileged term that anchors the structure and does not play. Whether this center is "God", "being", "presence", or "man" (as it was at the colloquium), its function is the same, and the history of structures is a history of substitutions, one center after another, for this constant position. Derrida suggests that this model of structure will end—is ending—and that a newer and freer (though still unknown) thinking about structures will emerge.
"It is because we have at the present moment everybody claiming the right of conscience without going through any discipline whatsoever that there is so much untruth being delivered to a bewildered world."
"I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson: to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmitted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmitted into a power which can move the world."
"Literary education should follow the education of the hand —the one gift that visibly distinguishes man from the beast. It is a superstition to think that the fullest development of man is impossible without a knowledge of the art of reading and writing. That knowledge undoubtedly adds grace to life, but is in no way indispensable for man's moral, physical or material growth."
"The distinguishing characteristic of modern civilization is an indefinite multiplicity of human wants. The characteristic of ancient civilization is an imperative restriction upon and a strict regulating of these wants."
"One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole."
"Individual liberty and interdepdence are both essential for life in society."
"Whenever you ar ein doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, try the following expedient: Recall the face of the poorest and most helpless man you have ever seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he be able to fain anything by it? Will it restore to him control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to.. self-rule for the hungry and spiritually starved millions of our countrymen? The you will find your doubts and your self melting away."
"In my humble opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good."
"My patriotism is not an exclusive thing. It is all-embracing and I should reject that patriotism which sought to mount upon the distress of the exploitation of other nationalities. The conception of my patriotism is nothing if it is not always, in every case, without exception, consistent with the broadest good of humanity at large."
Political power means capacity to regulate national life through national representatives. If national life becomes so perfect as to become self-regulated, representation becomes unnecessary. There is then a state of enlightened anarchy. In such a state everyone is his own ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never a hindrance to his neighbor. In the ideal state, therefore, there is no political power because there is no state. But the ideal is never fully realized in life. Hence the classical statement of Thoreau that the government is best which governs least."
"Liberty never meant the license to do anything at will."
"In mass civil resistance leadership is essential; in individual civil resistance every resister is his own leader."
"It is no nonviolence if we merely love those that love us. It is nonviolence only when we love those that hate us. I know how difficult it is to follow this grand law of love. But are not all great and good things difficult to do? Love of the hater is the most difficult of all. But by the grace of God even this most difficult thing becomes easy to accomplish if we want to do it."
"This is in essencia the principle of nonviolent non-cooperation. It follows therefore that it must have its root in love. Its object should not be to punish the opponent or to inflict injury upon him. Even while non-cooperating with him, we must make him feel that in us he has a friend and we should try to reach his heart by rendering him humanitarian service whenever possible."
"Although non-cooperation is one of the main weapons in the armory of satyagraha, it should not be forgotten that it is, after all, only a means to secure the cooperation of the opponent consistently with trust and justice..."
"Avoidance of all relationships with the opposing power, therefore, can never be a satyagrahi's object, but transformation or purification of that relationship."
"Strentgth of numbers is the delight of the timid. The valiant in spirit glory in fighting alone."
"Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end up by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning."
"I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another."
"If we will take care of today, God will take care of the morrow."
"I believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world. I believe that they are all God-given and I believe that they were necessary for the people to whom these religions were revealed. And I believe that if only we could all of us read the scriptures of the different faiths from the standpoint of the followeres of these faiths, we should find that they were at the bottom all one and were all helpful to one another."
"Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize its oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism."
"If there were no greed, there would be no occasion for armaments. The principle of nonviolence necessitates complete abstention from exploitation in any form."
"As soon as the spirit of exploitation is gone, armaments will be felt as a positive unbearable burden. Real disarmament cannot come unless the nations of the world cease to exploit one another."
"I do believe that all God's creatures have the right to live as much as we have. Instead of prescribing the killing of the so-called injurious fellow creatures of ours as a duty, if men of knowledge had devoted their gift to discovering ways of dealing with them otherwise than by killing them, we would be living in a world befitting our status as men —animals endowed with reason and the power of choosing between good and evil, right and wrong, violence and nonviolence, truth and untruth."
A few quotations from Gilles Deleuze, a philosopher that I discovered way too late, back in 2004 or so. Although many consider him a postmodern thinker, I'd say the label (which he himself rejected) is debatable. He definitely writes from a postmodern moment and thinks in the middle of postmodernity. Now, whether he has a connection to so many other facets of what has come to be known as postmodernity is a very different thing.
Often, Deleuze talks about "machines". Everything is a "machine" that can easily be rearranged, transformed into something else. In this sense, he views everything around us (including ourselves!) as Lego sets that can (as a matter of fact, are) be eternally rearranged. But is there a better term that we could use, instead of "machines"? "Systems", perhaps? Everything is a system linked to other systems. Our bodies are systems linked to other systems. Everything is laid out like a huge fractal of systems.
A few quotations follow.
"Philosophers introduce new concepts, they explain them, but they don't tell us, not completely anyway, the problems to which those concepts are a response (...). The history of philosophy, rather than repeating what a philosopher says, has to say what he must have taken for granted, what he didn't say but is nonetheless present in what he did say."
"The problem is no longer getting people to express themselves, but providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don't stop people from expressing themselves, but rather force them to express themselves. What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare or ever rarer, the thing that might be worth saying."
"A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window."
"Underneath all reason lies delirium and drift."
"The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?"
"Art is not communicative, art is not reflexive. Art, science, philosophy are neither contemplative, neither reflexive, nor communicative. They are creative, that's all."
"The self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities."
"It's not easy to see things from the middle, rather than looking down on them from above or up at them from below, or from left to right or right to left: try it, you'll see that everything changes."
"Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with landsurveying or cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come."
"The philosopher creates, he doesn't reflect."
"I have no admiration for culture. I have no reserve knowledge, no provisional knowledge. And everything that I learn, I learn for a particular task, and once it's done, I immediately forget it, so that if ten years later, I have to get involved with something close to or directly within the same subject, I would have to start again from zero, with some few exceptions."
"It is not the slumber of reason that engenders monsters, but vigilant and insomniac rationality."
"The plane of consistency is the abolition of all metaphor; all that consists is Real."
"Belief is necessarily something false that diverts and suffocates effective production."
"As for being responsible or irresponsible, we don't recognize those notions, they're for policemen and courtroom psychiatrists."
"Evaluation, in essence, are... ways of being, modes of existence of those who judge and evaluate."
"Shit on your whole mortifying imaginary, and symbolic theater!"
Although pretty much everyone knows Bruce Lee as a martial artist, not so many people are also aware that all his life he also studied philosophy. A few quotations. Here is an interesting article on the topic.
"You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend."
"Flow in the living moment. We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you'll be flexible to change with the ever changing. Open yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo."
"The moment has no yesterday or tomorrow. It is not the result of thought and therefore has no time."
"Listen. Can you hear the wind? And can you hear the birds singing? You have to hear it. Empty your mind. You know how water fills a cup? It becomes that cup. You have to think about nothing. You have to become nothing."
"There is another bit of Chinese philosophy that has a bearing on problems to all humankind. We say, 'The oak tree is mighty, yet it will be destroyed by a mighty wind because it resists the elements; the bamboo bends with the wind, and by bending, survives.'"
"The law of harmony, in which one should be in harmony with, and not in opposition to, the strength and force of the opposition. This means that one should do nothing that is not natural or spontaneous; the important thing is not to strain in any way."
"Instead of dedicating your life to actualize a concept of what you should be like, actualize yourself. The process of maturing does not mean to become a captive of conceptualization. It is to come to the realization of what lies in our innermost selves."
"An intelligent mind is one which is constantly learning, never concluding —styles and patterns have come to conclusion, therefore they [have] ceased to be intelligent."
"Gather materials. Masticate the facts. Relax and drop the whole subject. Be ready to recognize and welcome the idea when it comes. Shape and develop your idea into usefulness."
"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."
"A teacher is never a giver of truth —he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. A good teacher is merely a catalyst."