Interpreting Signatures (Nietzsche/Heidegger): Two Questions

Philosophy and Literature 10 (2):246-262 (1986)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Jacques Derrida INTERPRETING SIGNATURES (NIETZSCHE/HEIDEGGER): TWO QUESTIONS T1HE first question concerns die name Nietzsche, die second has to do with the concept of totality. Let us begin widi chapters 2 and 3 of Heidegger's Nietzsche — dealing with "The Eternal Recurrence of the Same" and "The Will to Power as Knowledge," respectively. We will be turning especially to the subsection on chaos ["The Concept of Chaos," I, pp. 562-70] and to "The Alleged Biologism of Nietzsche" ["Nietzsches angeblicher Biologismus"]. In view ofme fact mat the same interpretation is regularly at work throughout, the risks involved in choosing diis strategy are, I hope, quite limited. In each instance, a single system of reading is powerfully concentrated and gadiered together. It is directed at gadiering togedier the unity and the uniqueness of Nietzsche's diinking, which, as a fulfilled unity, is itself in a fair way to being the culmination of occidental metaphysics. Nietzsche would be precisely at the crest, or ridge, atop the peak of diis fulfillment. And thus he would be looking at both sides, down both slopes. What about diis unity — diis doubled unity? What is its connection to the name — or rather, the signature — of Nietzsche? Does Heidegger take any account of this question — which others might call biographical, autobiographical, or autographical — of the singularity of a signature ostensibly the proper name of Nietzsche? To put the matter anodier way, if one can glimpse behind Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche the foundations of a general reading of Western metaphysics, men die question Translated by Diane Michelfelder and Richard E. Palmer. 246 Jacques Derrida247 arises: To what extent does this interpretation of metaphysics in its totality and as a whole contain an interpretive decision about die unity or singularity of thinking? And to what extent does this interpretive decision also presuppose a decision about die "biographical," about the proper name, the autobiographical, and about signature — about the politics of signature? ' Heidegger's position on this subject I will indicate first ofall widi a summarizing and simplifying statement, which one could, I hope, demonstrate is not wrong: there is a unity in Nietzschean thought even if it is not that of a system in the classical sense. This unity is also its uniqueness, its singularity. A thesis explicidy advanced by Heidegger is that every great thinker has only one thought. This uniqueness was neither constituted nor threatened, neither gadiered together nor brought about, through a name or proper name — nor by the life of Nietzsche, either normal or insane. This unique unity is something it draws from the unity of Western metaphysics which is gathered together mere at its crest, which one could also compare to the simple unity of a line created by a fold. The result of all this is that biography, autobiography, the scene or the powers of the proper name, of proper names, signatures, and so on, are again accorded minority status, are again given the inessential place diey have always occupied in the history ofmetaphysics. This points to the necessity and place of a questioning which I can only sketch here. Such would be a simplified version of the question. Now let us read Heidegger a little more closely and seek to confirm the strongest coherence of his interpretation or, beyond its coherence, his deepest thought. As a provisional concession to die classical norms of reading, let us take this book at its beginning, or even before its beginning at the beginning ofthe preface. Naturally, diis preface was, like so many odiers, written later. As we know, the book goes back to a series of lectures given between 1936 and 1940, and to some treatises written between 1940 and 1946. One should take most careful note of these dates if one is to bring this interpretation, as a whole and in detail, into connection with the historicopolitical and institutional field of its presentation. The preface, however, dates from 1961. The intention of the two pages in mis case, as almost always, is to justify the publication of this collection by reference to the essential unity ofits totality: "This publication, rethought (nachgedacht) as a whole (als Ganzes) should provide a glimpse ofthe path ofthought...



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