Affective Aporetics: Complementary Contradictions in the Interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche

PhaenEx 6 (1):121-146 (2011)


In 1971, Wolfgang Müller-Lauter introduced his study of Nietzsche as an investigation into the history of modern nihilism in which “contradiction” forms the central thread of the argument. For Müller-Lauter, the interpretive task is not to demonstrate the overall coherence or incoherence of Nietzsche’s philosophy, but to examine Nietzsche’s “philosophy of contradiction.” Against those such as Karl Jaspers, Karl Löwith and Martin Heidegger, Müller-Lauter argued that contradiction is the foundation of Nietzsche’s thought, and not a problem to be corrected or cast aside for exegetical or political purposes. For Müller-Lauter, contradiction qua incompatibility (not just mere opposition) holds a key to Nietzsche’s affective vision of philosophy. Beginning with the relationship between will to power and eternal recurrence, in this paper I examine aspects of Müller-Lauter’s account of Nietzsche’s philosophy of contradiction specifically in relation to the counter-interpretations offered by two other German commentators of Nietzsche, Leo Strauss and Karl Löwith, in order to confirm Müller-Lauter’s suggestion that contradiction is indeed an operative engine of Nietzsche’s thought. Indeed contradiction is a key Nietzschean theme and an important dynamic of becoming which enables the subject to be revealed as a “multiplicity” ( BGE §12) and as a “fiction” (KSA 12:9[91]). Following Müller-Lauter’s assertion that for Nietzsche the problem of nihilism is fundamentally synonymous with the struggle of contradiction experienced by will to power, this paper interprets Nietzsche’s philosophy of contradiction in terms of subjective, bodily life (rather than in terms of logical incoherences or ontological inconsistencies). Against the backdrop of nihilism, the “self” (and its related place holder the “subject”), I will argue, becomes the psycho-physiological battlespace for the struggle and articulation of “contradiction” in Nietzsche’s thought

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