‘A Chain of Necessary Rings of Culture’: Nietzsche and the Ability of Science

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aesthetics / culture / Eternal Return / Human All Too Human / Nietzsche / religion / Science / Mathematics / Technology / universal politics

In sections 4 and 5 of Human All Too Human, Nietzsche develops a non-linear train of thought that attempts to analyze and reconstruct the experiences and concepts of religion, art and science. There are developmental factors and connections among these three, for “art raises its head when religion relaxes its hold,” and the “scientific man is the further evolution of the artistic” (150; 223). Poets, for example, construct bridges to distant ages and dying religions, creating metaphysical alleviations that only serve to quell the truly revolutionary energy flowing beneath the surface of the social body (148). Also, artists are the notorious “glorifiers of the religious and philosophical errors of mankind,” and even though this has granted us the signification of a beautiful world, we have to ask ourselves the question: if Nietzsche tells of the death throes of art and religion, what does science inherit from these projects and how can their insights and creations be carried on in an affirmative project for the creation of necessary rings of a universal culture of free spirits (220)?

Art’s expansion transforms religious sensations and expressions, lending them profundity and an increased capacity for articulating these sensations—and science (the Enlightenment) is responsible for the dispersion of religious feelings into other areas, even politics (150). But if art is dying, then we must posit that the transformations of these metaphysical and religious sensations through art must also become invested into a new sphere, namely science. This is true because, when one organ of culture has weakened, another organ “has to discharge not only its own function but another as well” (231). Science inherits from art its ability to “look upon life in any of its forms with interest and pleasure, and to educate our sensibilities so far that we at last cry: ‘life, however it may be, is good!’” and has even made this affirmation “an almighty requirement of knowledge” (222). Thus, we can give up art without losing the capacity and sensibility that art and religion has prepared for us.

Science has to cultivate these capacities and seize upon its true calling as the project of achieving an objective by the appropriate means (256). Nietzsche’s science, gifted with the premonition of the Eternal Return, will assert that “every action performed by a human being becomes in some way the cause of other actions, decisions, thoughts, that everything that happens is inextricably knotted to everything that will happen,” that motion is enveloped in an immortality that is the total union of all being (208). Science also must recognize that everyone is “determined by such systems and representatives of different cultures” in a necessary but alterable fashion (274). This power to alter our cultural “determinations” means that we are responsible for our experiences and life experiments, that these are to be fused into a “goal without remainder” that has as its aim the will to distinguish ourselves as forming “a necessary chain of rings of culture and from this necessity to recognize the necessity inherent in the course of culture in general” (292). We are cultural artifacts composing necessary links to a universal culture that, even if it exists only potentially, must be achieved by the labor of free spirits, the kind that seem “to be the opposite of that which is profitable to their country or class” (227). Of course, the dominant culture and the established authority will resist the required degeneration of its stability, but the development of a de-centered, non-hierarchical, universal culture can only begin through the process of weakening the fetters of state culture. This will allow for the generation of lines of flight for new social organizations and/or assemblages.

To conclude, there are three possible factors for the birth of a global culture: absolute music, the scientific analysis of symbolic gestures, and a new language for all. The first two are closely linked, and they require an understanding of how poetry produces a superimposition of immediate feelings in music to the point where the music itself is rendered immediately symbolic for our internal life (215). The development of absolute music for the social ear means that music’s symbolism is understood without further assistance—likewise, the science of cultural tones in vocal patterns that are indicative of mood, feelings and expressions will be necessary to uncovering the vastness of operations at work in unconscious modifications of body and voice. Furthermore, linguistics and philology, as the two dominant sciences of language, can then dedicate their study of the laws of individual languages to the forms of non-verbal thought in a synthesis that has as its goal the creation of a “new language for all—first as a commercial language, then as the language of intellectual intercourse in general” (267). Given that this is merely a preliminary overview of an undercurrent in Human All Too Human, the next step in continuing this line of thought has to navigate the role of the state, the relations of states among themselves, and the relations among the responsibilities that we all bare to our composition of immortal vibrations in the links of a universal cultural chain.

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