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Nietzsche, Artistic Intoxication, and the Overcoming of Nihilism: The body As an Ontology of Practice
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By: Mo Mbaye Email Article
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What is ugly about God’s murderer, the ugliest man, is his will to embrace the collapse of old idols as a reason to introduce a reactive set of values that further depreciates life and that demands our own creative intervention: "the ugly is the form things assume when we view them with the will to implant a meaning, a new meaning, into what has become meaningless: the accumulated force which compels the creator to consider all that has been created hitherto as unacceptable, ill-constituted, worthy of being denied, ugly!-" (WP 416). God’s murderer is ugly because he deepens the meaninglessness of our world, so that if we are to defeat nihilism, we will have to transfigure his ugliness and introduce a more authentic set of values. The ugliest man experiences a visceral sentiment of spiritual nakedness that panics him into seeking a false compensation to the collapse of traditional values. He wants to escape nihilism without overturning old metaphysical habits. He now relies on the values offered through the practices of commercialized mass culture, social-utopian movements, political parties, and other secular value systems that pursue the will to truth.# Nietzsche writes, "the ways of self-narcotization.- deep down: not knowing whither. Emptiness" (WP 29). The will to action of the ugliest man is basically a form of negation, not positive construction, for he further pursues the metaphysical faith of the ascetic outlook; he acts on the basis of the notion that the traditional values have failed to produce the absolute truths that should guide our life. He expresses a will to impose on the lives of others meaning schemes that actually degrade their personal needs, impulses, and styles of life. This debilitating character in the perspective of the ugliest man is formative to nihilism: the death of God as the clash of competing, reactive, secular perspectives on human existence.

II. In ways unforeseen by the modern subject, the body proves to be a powerful force in our ability to transform and reinterpret the aspects of becoming that we find objectionable. Qualities in the disposition of the body directly affect the nature of the becoming around us because both the body and becoming constitute a continual matrix of forces, and whether we subsist in nihilism or achieve an emancipated world depends on the nature of the pertinent direction these forces take. Nietzsche notes, "I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: you still have chaos in you" (Z, Ibid, 5). Nietzsche sees the will itself as an excessive force, and the forces whose excess the will configures are overwhelmingly those of the body, as opposed to purely cognitive and psychological elements, for only in the will as a bodily balance of forces can we understand Nietzsche’s claim that value depends on our ability to organize the chaos that structures the modern self. The disparate physiological and psychological structure of the will must be released, though in a regulated fashion if anything valuable is to take root in our culture. Nietzsche has in mind something akin to the great Romantic poets‘ notion of creativity as "controlled emotion." # By referring to the "chaos" in the self, Nietzsche means to draw attention to the need to sublimate the multiplicity in the structure of the will. We learn that that the multiplicity of the bodily will cannot be "explained mechanistically" (Ibid). For Nietzsche the forces of the will do not rationally structure themselves in a way that allows the mind to intuitively intent and represent the world, independent of the influence of the body because the will configures itself as will only as a result of forces spontaneously clashing. Consciousness cannot function as an interpretive force detached from the bodily realities of the self. Nietzsche believes that the Cogito functions as a conscious, mediating expression of a body structured as an unconscious self with its own hermeneutic powers.# Rational concepts can help interpret the modalities of the self, as an agent immersed in the practical events of life, but only after subterranean, bodily dynamics of willing give coherence to these rational concepts. Thus Zarathustra notes, "You say ‘I’ and you are proud of this word. But greater than this-although you will not believe in it-is your body and its great intelligence, which does not say ‘I’ but performs ‘I’" (Z, I, "Of the Despisers of the Body"). The modern subject is conscious of its own categories, but it fails to realize how much more significant is their real origin. A disembodied mind cannot grasp the real nature of the world it wants to interpret because emotions, personal temperament, behavioral habits, and our brute interactions with the material processes of the everyday life contribute to the ability of mind to accurately grasp what it wants to interpret. Our representations of the world take place as a continual matrix of rational and personality processes. In practical everyday life, Nietzsche is telling us, part of the reason why our interpretations of the world satisfy us is that they emotionally and temperamentally satisfy us; that is, such interpretations have grasped the metaphorical (symbolical) reality of the body since they draw on the latter’s multiplicity and continuity with the practical forces of becoming to impose perspectives on the world.

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Name: Mohamed Mbaye; Education: MA Philosophy; Occupation: College instructor; Interests: Philosophy, History, Arts

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