Nietzsche and Phenomenology: Power, Life, Subjectivity

Nietzsche and Phenomenology: Power, Life, Subjectivity


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What are the challenges that Nietzsche's philosophy poses for contemporary phenomenology? Elodie Boublil, Christine Daigle, and an international group of scholars take Nietzsche in new directions and shed light on the sources of phenomenological method in Nietzsche, echoes and influences of Nietzsche within modern phenomenology, and connections between Nietzsche, phenomenology, and ethics. Nietzsche and Phenomenology offers a historical and systematic reconsideration of the scope of Nietzsche’s thought.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253009326
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 06/19/2013
Series: Studies in Continental Thought
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Élodie Boublil is a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at McGill University.

Christine Daigle is Professor of Philosophy and Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence at Brock University. She is editor (with Jacob Golomb) of Beauvoir and Sartre: The Riddle of Influence (IUP, 2009).

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Nietzsche and Phenomenology

Power, Life, Subjectivity

By Élodie Boublil, Christine Daigle

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2013 Indiana University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00932-6


Husserl and Nietzsche

Rudolf Boehm

Just as the same city viewed from different directions appears entirely different and, as it were, multiplied perspectively, in just the same way it happens that, because of the infinite multitude of simple substances, there are, as it were, just as many different universes, which are, nevertheless, only perspectives on a single one, corresponding to the different points of view of each monad. —Leibniz, Monadology

Each point of view limits our view. However, a point of view is needed in order to see anything at all. "All life is taking a position," said Husserl; it is "an engaging."

Philosophers' lives do not seem exempt from this rule. In the end, philosophers are able to reach such a point of view—which is essential for them to see anything at all—only when they "engage," when they "take a position." Nevertheless a philosopher's point of view—as little as any other—does not essentially concern itself with what is uncovered by her gaze, since, although indispensable for seeing, points of views rather indicate the limits within which philosophers are able to grasp what they see.

As clear and lucid as this reflection may seem, it shall here be given a more detailed explanation: to elucidate it is almost my only intention in the following account. As my example, I choose Husserl and Nietzsche. The latter took a position for the right and the power of life—against the insolence of a reason, which is, secretly or openly, an enemy to life, to its right, and to its power. The former advocated a new kind of rationalism, which alone, so he thought, would be able to restore life's meaning. In light of what is raised by such an opposition, there is presumably no other choice but to take a stand for one side or for the other—to take "life's side" or "Reason's side"—if, in the end, one wishes to reach a standpoint or insight on this level. Yet the affirmation still holds that whatever becomes open to view does so only despite the boundaries that are proper to these two opposite points of view. This will become more perspicuous not when we manage to overcome these two divergent points of view (which would mean, at best, adopting a third one) but rather when we intercept the path that links the two viewpoints together at this level. It becomes essential, then, in the following pages, to attempt to delineate, albeit provisionally, the path that links together the two—unarguably opposed—points of view of Nietzsche and Husserl.

However, before we explore this path, let us note that it is always such a "change in position" or such an "entering of a path" that endows a philosopher with a plurality of viewpoints. But this does nothing to change the problem. Let us note also that with precisely such a "change in position" a philosopher exposes herself usually to objections and criticisms from those who take a philosopher's commitment to be the essence of philosophy. Such critique forgets that the fundamental is not what is essential, and that the essential is not the fundamental. The requirement to have gained a viewpoint is fundamental in order to see, yet what is essential is to see.


It seems surprising that the far-reaching analogy—if not the agreement between Husserl's analysis of the crisis of European rationalism, especially in the treatise on The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology and the one developed by Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols, for instance—has been barely noticed. For Husserl, as well as for Nietzsche, what is ultimately at stake in this crisis is the Socratic-Platonic ideal of philosophy and the knowledge inherited and renewed from the modern era by the West. For both Husserl and Nietzsche, this ideal has proven to be abstract and unrealizable; the attempts that have been undertaken—since the beginning of the modern world (defined precisely by these attempts)—to realize this ideal have, on the one hand, engendered merely grandiose constructs, the meaning of which grows more and more distant from a meaning that real life would require. On the other hand, these attempts have brought to light facts and situations that, as seemed evident, would resist all attempts at being subjected to the reign of reason and the relevance of which would in fact make the ideal of rationalism itself appear doubtful, questionable, and even suspicious.

It is to nothing else but the "life-world" (Husserl's concept of Lebenswelt) that any rationalism remains abstract and ultimately blind; that is precisely the world in which rationalism should take its roots in order to implement itself. For both Husserl and Nietzsche, this life-world is the "only real world." However, since the life-world constitutes a unique system of subjective relativities, it will never be able to conform to an actual rationalization nor to serve as ground for the merely theoretical construction of a truly rigorous science or philosophy. What is real in this life-world is so not depending on whether it is more or less "true" or "false"; in this world, everything is expression, realization, and effectivity. What truly causes effects in this life-world is that which gains access to the motivations of this world's life. What in particular—if one can here speak of something merely particular—determines the effective course of events in the domain of the history of ideas is not the "objective" meaning, objectively "true" meaning, of any fact or situation, but rather it is the conception, analysis, or interpretation of a fact or situation that will successfully establish itself independently of its "truth" or "falsity."

On this plane of the real history of life, it is completely useless to ask oneself, for instance, whether or not the dominant Renaissance conception of the meaning of Antiquity really and objectively expressed the "true" and "genuine" meaning of Antiquity itself. Insofar as the meaning of Antiquity is indeed still determined for us by the image of Antiquity, which the Renaissance conveyed, Antiquity acquires its meaning from it: it is that meaning.

One can say in general that the historical life-world, the only real world, is the world of absolute meaning if one understands by "absolute" meaning one that is simply and entirely independent from any "objective" ground, since, as a matter of fact, every meaning escapes as such the reign of the principle of noncontradiction and therefore escapes being grasped by genuine knowledge. Indeed nothing satisfies the demand of signifying and not signifying the same thing at the same time and in the same respect if one does not add: for someone, for us Europeans, for our time, and so on. But such an addendum precisely reduces the principle of noncontradiction—as Husserl showed like no one else—into a merely empirical judgment about psychical facts.

However, it is well known that for Nietzsche the crisis of rationalism, which breaks out when the latter is confronted with the realities of the life-world, is more than a mere crisis: it is the definitive ruin of this ideal. For Husserl, on the other hand, the contemporary crisis of traditional rationalism can and must initiate a reflection from which a renewed rationalism would have to emerge, at last truly absolute, truly all-encompassing, and really concrete. According to Husserl, this new rationalism will have to give up on settling on the ground of the life-world itself, which has shown itself to be simply unable to support the construction of absolute knowledge—and must rather be founded on a basis that it would first have to make for itself: namely, the basis of absolute subjectivity, upon which the relativities of the life-world must be traced as phenomena of relative subjectivity.

Here an opposition between the perspectives of Husserl and Nietzsche already opens up, one that seems insurmountable. But as soon as we attend to a reflection offered by Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols, this impression fades away. Nietzsche ends the famous passage where he recounts the "History of an error" and which is entitled "How the 'True World' Finally Became a Fable" by asking the following question: "The true world—we have abolished. What world has remained? The apparent one perhaps?" To which he answers: "But no! With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one." For Nietzsche, this conclusion means—as he continues within brackets—"Noon; moment of the briefest shadow; end of the longest error; high point of humanity; INCIPIT ZARATHUSTRA." What does this mean for us?

It is obvious that when Nietzsche talks here about the Abschaffen (Abolishing) of the wahren Welt (true world) and of the scheinbaren Welt (apparent world), he means something different each time with the same word abschaffen. Yet indeed, if the "true world" of the Reason of the old rationalism is to be disposed of as an illusion, since the apparently, or perhaps assumed "apparent" world proves to be the "only real world" (Husserl), then no "rational ground" will any longer justify referring to the life-world as the "apparent" world. Dismissing the illusory idea of a "true world" of which rationalism dreamed, one has thereby also dismissed the illusion of thinking of our life-world as merely an "apparent" world. Our life-world is throughout and absolutely constituted by what the rationalist notion of truth forces us to take as "mere appearances," but it is therefore not an apparent world. Rather, these appearances themselves and their life-world-constitutive system are the whole reality and, consequently, in this sense of reality, the entire truth even if the latter is quite different from the one imagined by traditional rationalism: if the truths of the life-world are no longer to be measured according to their degree of correspondence to the truth of a "true world" (because this exemplary world proves to be inexistent), then truth and appearance—and incidentally appearance and phenomenon (Schein und Erscheinung)—cease to stand against each other and instead merge into each other.

Was the task of the "transvaluation of all values" (Umwertung aller Werte) that Nietzsche posited at the end of his intellectual journey—and the solution of which was supposed to be provided by his major work—not precisely the task that, evidently, emerged because of the lucid reflection with which he concludes in Twilight of the Idols the story of the "longest" error of humanity: "With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one"? We must content ourselves here with posing this question. In any case, as is well known, Nietzsche was not able to finish this work and, moreover, left behind only outlines of a draft for a transvaluation of the truth-value of the "apparent world." The task, if indeed it was Nietzsche's task, was enormous, as we can now concretely assess in light of the dimensions of Husserl's work, which become slowly perceivable while remaining utterly impossible to take in with one glance. We should demonstrate indeed that the Husserlian conception of a new rationalism grounded upon a reference back to absolute subjectivity—the Husserlian conception of a new "first philosophy" that would not be metaphysics anymore but "transcendental phenomenology"—corresponds, in its essentials, exactly with the task of the transvaluation, as we have indicated it following Nietzsche's conclusion to the history of the "longest error" of mankind. For Husserl, the point is to grasp and ground the Absolute implied by the life-world's system of relativities; it is as such that subjectivity concerns him. Or, put differently, Husserl needs to "make true" (wahrmachen) what skepticism has so far objected to and opposed to the rationalist ideal of truth: to force antirationalist skepticism, by leading it back to its ultimate consequences, to admit and to reveal what must be "true" about antirationalist skepticism itself. This is even one of the definitions Husserl gives for the method of "phenomenological reduction"—which he considers "the most fundamental of all methods"—and for "the original Cartesian motif," which guides this method.

As we know, this method is supposed to bring to light the constitutive intentionality of consciousness and thereby the sense of everything and everyone that can be constituted for us as an object. This ambition stands in analogy to the task that emerges in the realm of propositions and that requires an analysis of the sense of the terms of each proposition before making any judgment. It essentially aims at freeing our questions and problems from all abstract criteria stemming from preconceived ideas about "truth," "objectivity," or "being" ("in-itself")—criteria and ideas that are merely ungrounded postulates and cannot consequently pretend to serve as measures for what is genuinely a phenomenon. Let us recall here only one of the most famous examples of Husserl's procedure: his analysis of the apparent or so-called problem of knowledge in the Cartesian Meditations.


One still wonders today about the very meaning of this Husserlian notion of "constitution" of an object "through" "transcendental" consciousness. For instance, is the constitution of a thing through consciousness, in the Husserlian sense, the same as the "creation" of that thing? Or is it only its "unveiling"? The answer is that none of those describes the constitution of a thing. The being of a thing cannot have any other meaning for us; or more precisely, what we call the being of a thing can very simply have no other meaning than the one it derives from the way we constitute, and can generally constitute, this "concept" of being-a-thing (Dingseins). First and fundamentally, the problem of constitution concerns only the constitution of a thing—and of anything generally—as an object for us. Although every question, which would relate to the ontic genesis of what we are able to recognize and approach as an object only thanks to this constitution, can receive a verifiable meaning only from this very constitution, it does not follow that this genesis is equivalent to the becoming of the thing itself that we consider an object. Nevertheless the constitution of objects, which interests phenomenological research, is not to be reduced to a pure epistemological problem, which would concern only the "unveiling" of things that "are" already "there," simply awaiting to be "unveiled." Formally, every constitution is, in the phenomenological sense, an interpretation insofar as every constitution is—in accordance with the common use of the term—a constitution of "something" as "something." We know that the Husserlian theory of phenomenological constitution is originally founded upon a distinction between hyle and morphe, between "sensuous content [Inhalt]" and "intellective form" or "noetic apprehension [Auffassung ]." This distinction goes back in turn to the one to be made, according to Husserl, between "sensation" and "perception" in general, since one and the same "sensation" can awaken many different "perceptions," whereas many different "sensations" can be grasped by one single "perception." When introducing this distinction (which Husserl did not invent himself) in the Logical Investigations, he talks about a "surplus" of "interpretation" and "meaning" that the perception has over the sensation. This phenomenon of interpreting sensuous content by and through perception is at the core of Husserl's problem of the constitution of objects. But, precisely, an interpretation is neither a simple "unveiling" nor a simple "creation" of something in the objective sense of the word. It is a shedding of light, but not of a thing that would be already there or given as revealed by the interpretation. It is creation not of the object that it presents but of its meaning.

It is true that in the works following the Logical Investigations and The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness, Husserl avoids the use of the word interpretation when talking about problems of phenomenological constitution even if he continues to speak of "apprehension" (Auffassung) and "presentation" (Darstellung). But we should specify now that it is only initially, as we said before, that Husserl's theory of constitution is founded upon this distinction between "matter" and "form," which only seems to be truly radical. Even if Husserl continues to use the "content-apprehension" schema for propaedeutic reasons, he gives up and overcomes the latter in principle as early as his first inquiries into the structure of the fundamental constitution of "immanent" time. It seems that, for Husserl, using the word interpretation with regard to the phenomenon of constitution was too closely tied up with that original schema. However, giving up and overcoming the "content-apprehension" schema merely amounts to the recognition that on the fundamental level of the constitution of "immanent" time—and therefore ultimately—there is no "object" of interpretation that could have been considered as pregiven "matters" or "contents." Every "matter" and every "content" are themselves the outcomes of previous "apprehensions" of pregiven "matters" or "contents," which were themselves the outcome of previous accomplishments of apprehension and so on ad infinitum. What is "first" here are not the elements, pregiven in whatever form of "in-itself," but the perpetually moving interweaving of pure perspectives, which, as perpetually flowing, makes itself, constitutes itself, and undoes itself independently from any active interference of our consciousness. And that is precisely what Time ultimately is: the fundamental proof of a perspectivism that is and moves only of itself and in itself. Here the truth is finally revealed, which lies hidden in that whose evidence would have us doubt the possibility of (objective) "truth" as such. And insofar as the sense of "interpretation"—which is peculiar to the constitution—deepens and refines itself, it links itself to the "absolute meaning," which we mentioned earlier.


Excerpted from Nietzsche and Phenomenology by Élodie Boublil, Christine Daigle. Copyright © 2013 Indiana University Press. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
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Table of Contents

Élodie Boublil and Christine Daigle
Part I. Life and Intentionality
1. Husserl and Nietzsche
Rudolf Boehm, Translation by Élodie Boublil and Christine Daigle
2. The Intentional Encounter with ‘the World"
Christine Daigle
3. On Nietzsche’s Genealogy and Husserl’s Genetic Phenomenology: The Case of Suffering
Saulius Geniusas
4. Live Free or Battle: Subjectivity for Nietzsche and Husserl
Kristen Brown Golden
5. Giants Battle Anew: Nihilism’s Self-Overcoming in Europe and Asia (Nietzsche, Heidegger, Nishitani)
Françoise Bonardel, Translated by Ron Ross
Part II. Power and Expression
6. Fink, Reading Nietzsche: On Overcoming Metaphysics
Françoise Dastur, Translated by Ron Ross
7. Nietzsche’s Performative Phenomenology: Philology and Music
Babette Babich
8. Of the Vision and the Riddle: From Nietzsche to Phenomenology
Élodie Boublil
9. The "Biology" To Come? Encounter between Husserl, Nietzsche and Some Contemporaries
Bettina Bergo
10. Originary Dehiscence: An Invitation to Explore the Resonances Between the Philosophies of Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty
Frank Chouraqui
11. Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty: Art, Sacred Life, and Phenomenology of Flesh
Galen A. Johnson
Part III. Subjectivity in the World
12. The Philosophy of the Morning: Philosophy and Phenomenology in Nietzsche’s Dawn
Keith Ansell-Pearson
13. Appearance and Values: Nietzsche and an Ethics of Life
Lawrence J. Hatab
14. The Object of Phenomenology
Didier Franck, Translated by Bettina Bergo
15. Beyond Phenomenology
Didier Franck, Translated by Bettina Bergo

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Louisiana State University - François Raffoul

Investigates the relation between the thought of Nietzsche and the philosophical movement of phenomenology and how it can renew contemporary debates.

University of Richmond - Gary Shapiro

This set of stimulating and provocative essays opens up a variety of conversations between Nietzsche and phenomenology. Questions of perspectivism, consciousness, appearance, embodiment, and philosophical method are illuminated in new ways.

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