Translation: Introduction to Nietzsche’s Ontology: Pierre Boudot

Boudot, Pierre. L’ontologie de Nietzsche. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1971.

The following is my translation of the introduction, pg. 5-9.

I like the total renewal of Nieztsche’s thought in each one of his books. Its creative requirement moves in a counter-current, but I consider it able to release to our time the individual sources of genius in the environment of humanity. If our society does not understand that, electronic machines will dictate the laws of writing to us before the end of the century. One who reads Nietzsche does not have to write about all his life in the same book. The freedom that this allows is stronger than its deficits. We are victims of dogmas, of doctrines, even of ideologies which impose an alleged evolution in its cumbersome immobility. On the other hand, those who understand the lesson of Nietzsche will not be “Nietzschean’; instead each of their creative acts will have to be considered different in kind from the preceding one. The painful alchemy of these disavowals forces us into silence, modifies our remarks or retains it without solidifying it, elaborating a glance which hates that which it skims over, which is from another age, not of a new time.

To hold creation in one hand and death in the other in truth is not simple. Nietzsche, so near to Heraclitus and the Parmenidian One, also had the vocation of an encyclopedist. German, he wanted to be Polish, nourished Greek culture, extolled Latinity, practiced a meticulous philology that sliced into the vastness of metaphysics, identified his thought with a synthesis, did not want to give up the analytical inventory, sought the simultaneous achievement of thought and action, declared himself a historian, and concerned creation with the destruction inherent in its nature. It was impulsive, but it gives us the inclination to grant this violence to traditional form. It invites us to a festival of the intellect, to a pleasure of the genius which leaves behind any trace of bitterness or trouble because its love is too vast. It has entrusted a new language to ontology and grace to which it proposes a method making it possible not to yield to the whims of fashion. He is the only thinker of our time capable of simultaneously untying interior and exterior alienations. He is, in my view, the only one not to render man captive of his fight against any slavery. He helps us detest the resentment of such processes which, after having disappeared, lack any complacency in the effort which overcame it or in the way in which one will speak about it.

In the midst of all that: Zarathoustra: fascinator, irritator and liberator. If I had a reproach to make to him, it would be that I have enjoyed too passionately what he believed was necessary to separate. If I had to summarize to myself I would say that his best lesson is in the voluntary art which lacks its own happiness. The glare of this failure reveals the range of it: being given the world to which he addressed himself, he did not want to succeed because it would have been the end of creative freedom that he wanted to rescue from every one of us. Its victory would have forever overwhelmed us. But it has shown the way. One should simply read the first page of the Prologue of Zarathoustra. The Sun is stronger than the sea, fire is victorious over water which is not its opposite but a horizon, a material bridge making it possible for the thought to disappear without destroying itself. What the light became at night, Zarathoustra was to men. When it goes from itself towards them, the Sun declines while the light remains. Where this spark appears in the middle of the crowd, it is Zarathoustra, who is also the first to vanish into darkness. The book thus opens on an ontological wager based on the freedom of men and on a trick of the light triumphing over the night which radiates around it. This trick is what I call hope.

From all sides, with men of all conditions, one feels today an immense aspiration to express negatively: we want to survive, sometimes positively: we want to live. The extreme misfortunes that struck our civilization, our culture and the depths of our nature since the beginning of this century have modified our relation to the world. We adults, and with us on every land most of the youth, are not certain that there is still a “world.” The structures of everyday life do not allow more to our action or to the judgment which we relate to it in order to recognize ourselves in them. They are compromised too much by the centuries and the generations which forged the impossibilities of being happy. We are exhausted from making an inventory of negative morals, of feeling our back against the wall, not to be bound to the positivity of the human, to what in the action has raised itself to the rule, to what in the rule has allowed chance to emerge. We are exhausted to think in the same way apart from the assumption of a planetary war, which we are likely to die from without having known happiness. Therefore Nietzsche’s reflection on creation, in spite of its ambiguity and because of its dead ends, appears resolute to me today. I wanted, in this book, to show his single character without dissimulating what it sometimes has of the arbitrary, without hiding what I did not know how to bypass. Nietzsche is, with Marx and Freud, one of the three thinkers whose work is particularly necessary for us. On the one hand, it clarifies some of our needs and, on the other hand, it enlightens us on the connected risks to our effort. Better than any other he shows that in human thought there are mixed to the point of appearing identical good and evil, life and death, creation and destruction, synthesis and analysis, love and hatred.

The method that I have called diacritical[1] enabled me to divide certain elements of this thought without separating them. Left to the creation to which Zarathoustra invites us, I walked on his road and noted the simultaneity of work performed and of the work to be made, of the judgment and the interrogation. I do not believe to have created anything that logically expresses the term of this reflection by seeing in it an encounter with death that both challenged and desired it. It is from this point of view that by studying the need to destroy the unnecessary elements, I saw that this effort ends up destroying the essential: man. Along the path on which I discovered the exciting absolutization of this action, I also discovered with sorrow that darkness has its own radiation. My method in addition allowed me to highlight the apparent difficulties by which one writes on Nietzsche. This writing must constantly avoid rolling up its thought around his, and it must take care not to be choked by it. So that if I separated without dividing what is basically dependent on Nietzsche, I would have to include it to link my concern with his, while separating them at the same time. This makes explicit, during the course of reasoning, the passage from hermeneutics to diacritics and vice versa.

To work out my reflection I gained a great deal of support from Georges Bataille during a conversation that I had with him a little time before his death. I spoke to him about my astonishment in the face of the rise of the totality of destruction in desired creation. He approved and answered to me in a voice filled with the most extreme distress and combined with the highest serenity: “If we are right, it is foreboding.” Nietzsche had haunted Georges Bataille, and yet he had analyzed him. He lived his thought in his own way and remained himself throughout this variation. I wished to restore the world of existential interpenetration, calling it the diacritical. Bataille has not spared warning statements more than me. He speaks about “the freedom of Nietzsche who cuts down,” of “doctrines which are the most violent of solvents, ” of ” Nietzsche’s philosophy not of the will to power but of evil.” His concern of returning justice to Nietzsche—and of requiring that he not be betrayed—does not prevent him from writing: “Nietzsche, prophet of the new ways? But for the superman, the eternal return is as empty as the reasons of exaltation or action.” This is no less true than the requirement of creation that I analyze as being lived under a new light in a new world, although it starts, Bataille says, ” like the chance of lovers dedicated to struggle in the night.”

But after this combat, the lovers also agree to lead it into the grandeur of day. In the testing period of love, which must be able to survive its occasional grimaces, beauty installs itself and hope emerges. I spoke about the one and other. The unreality that is given to love by the night will be surpassed by the day, and the lover will learn how from now on not to see the lie in reality. The image that one dreams does not resemble the real object, but if the object appears less beautiful, it is more likely to last longer. It is the same if, to accept it, one should treat it like a dream!

If our world survives its contradictions, perhaps someday one will say that it has, in this century, found a new beginning in the dream. Because, applied to the reality which changes and dies in its duration, a dream seizes it and maintains it in itself, tearing it off with its death and the time of its death. To find the agreement between the reality discovered to be hideous and the one considered to be beautiful and eternally alive, to find this agreement that will make us give up the desire to die and forget the fear of this desire, will carry us above our dreams necessary to the tragic patience of our humanity.

–Taylor Adkins


[1] Diacritical means ‘serving to distinguish’ or ‘capable of discriminating.” [Translator’s Note].

This entry was written by Taylor Adkins and published on Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 5:26 pm. It’s filed under diacritics, French Translation, Georges Bataille, hope, L'ontologie de Nietzsche, Nietzsche, ontology, Pierre Boudot, Zarathustra. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Translation: Introduction to Nietzsche’s Ontology: Pierre Boudot

  1. Pingback: French Translations: Works in Progress « Fractal Ontology

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