Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nietzsche and Klossowski

For the last few months I've been poring over Pierre Klossowski's Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle. I had heard about it as one of the great Nietzsche interpretations, but I was unprepared for how great it is. What first intrigued me was the translator's quoting Michel Foucault's letter to Klossowski after the publication of the book in French in 1969. Foucault wrote: "It is the greatest book of philosophy I have read" and that in its quality it is "with Nietzsche himself." That's high praise! But it's true. I don't think I've ever read a book a second time right after finishing it the first time. I've told myself I would with some books, but never did. I'm just finishing it a second time and may start a third. I don't use it to derive arguments or know what Nietzsche really said. I experience it. It elaborates pretty precisely a proto-Freudian vision of existence and the world in which all that we take for granted as what makes things happen as they do are actually secondary or tertiary epi-phenomena or froth on the waves of reality. So consciousness, reason, the will, the self, distinct things, order all are plausibly, acutely and convincingly dismantled and seen as the result of an underground world of forces and impulses.

Recently a friend asked his standard question when I tell him about a thinker I'm reading: "What is the essence of the thinker's view in one sentence?" In one way it's absurd to try to summarize someone's thought in one sentence, but in another way it's an interesting challenge. He asked me to summarize Nietzsche and I thought my answer pretty good. I said: "Existence is a cacophonous melody."

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