Translation: Appendix to Boudot’s Reading in Nietzsche aujourd’hui: Round Table Discussion

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French Translation / marxism / Maurice de Gandillac / method / Nietzsche / Nietzsche aujourd'hui / nihilism / ontology / Pierre Boudot / Zarathustra


Boudot, Pierre. “Discussion de la méthode dia-critique: une méthode de lecture de Zarathoustra.” Nietzsche aujourd’hui (2 vols.). Pierre Boudot et. alia. Publications du centre culturel de Cérisy-a-Salle (Paris: UGE, 1973),vol. 1, pp. 384-393..

This is the discussion following Pierre Boudot’s essay in the Nietzsche aujourd’hui volume translated by Taylor Adkins [9/28/07].

Robert Sasso: I am surprised to hear you presenting your lecture program without many references, some allusive, to works already devoted to readings of Nietzsche, his relations with other authors, the civilization of his time, for example, those of Andler or, more recently, of Morel. It is certainly not about ignorance, but a setting between brackets of which I would like to understand. In addition, when you propose a collective task, extremely vast moreover, how do you conceive the execution of it?

Pierre Boudot: It is quite obvious that I do not ignore the importance of the work of Andler and Morel, nor that of many other books written on Nietzsche. But to each its own character! Some clarify obscurity by requiring the thought of others to be used as a springboard or method. They do the necessary work of historians. Still others—including myself—seek to advance all alone. I know the work of others, but your problem addressing my communication relates to that of the sources which would have influenced my work or inflected my thought. This is not the place to discuss it. I however can specify that I never forgot a meeting that I had with Bataille in 1961, a few months before his death. I had spoken to him about the impossibility of reflecting on Nietzsche without including his will to create silence and death. Bataille had agreed with me. With this double illumination, it seems to me that the works that have accumulated have led us to a point where we will no longer be able to write on Nietzsche except according to default options already rejected by him. Thus now we must use what was known so as to go beyond, to try to know finally what Nietzsche’s logical discourse is to the extent that—you will grant me this much—Zarathustra, which is his fundamental book, has not explained what it wanted to say. To clear the ground for thematizing Zarathustra’s logical discourse is a task that includes part of a research whose program appears too vast to you: on Nietzsche’s logical madness in relation to our heritage, on the thematization of all his books (edited or aphoristic), on metaphor (in the sense already brilliantly engaged by Sarah Kofman), etc I have the impression that, compared to Nietzsche, we remain prisoners of propaedeutics, especially when we try to explain his work in its totality, and I believe that we understand better if we wondered why are we only at this stage of propaedeutics.

Norman Palma: You developed, starting from Nietzsche, a whole negative ontology which seems important to me on several points. First of all, Nietzsche does not cancel out the opposition of contraries; he tends rather to accentuate them. Then, you insisted on Nietzsche’s perspectivism; I would not be completely in agreement on your identification of nihilism with the determined negation of the Hegelian type. But what is essential is that you had seen that the Nietzschean perspective cannot be understood if one does not take account of the reason why Nietzsche criticized the universe of his time. Nietzsche bids us to recreate the world, to build a new house, but the question is about knowing whether this house is repressive and uncomfortable or, on the contrary, comfortable and not repressive.

Pierre Boudot: No one can have that knowledge.

Norman Palma: Of course. Then it is absolutely clear: it is a question of restructuring domination. Contrary to Marx, who tends to the suppression of the dialectic, Nietzsche goes toward stressing the dialectic.

Pierre Boudot: I was perhaps badly understood. Jean-Nöel Vuarnet very clearly showed us that in fact there are no oppositions end to end, even if the words are doubles. For my part, I believed to have said that, when Nietzsche still uses antinomies, it is not a question of what you call a stressing of the dialectic, but of explanatory processes from which, in my sense, the antithetic value of the terms, as a value, disappears. Moreover, I did not make a Hegelian reading of Nietzsche.

Norman Palma: Insofar as you make nihilism the force of the negative, it is almost a negative ontology that you develop from your reading of Nietzsche.

Pierre Boudot: I accept “negative ontology” insofar as Nietzsche’s manner of recreating the world according to the eternal return supposes a negativity of becoming.

Maurice de Gandillac: Going beyond the dialectic is visible in a title like Jenseits von Gut und Bösen, which is to say: ”Beyond the Good and the Evil,” understood as abstract entities. Gut and Böse are adjectives in the nominative here: “Beyond good and evil,” i.e. of two concrete qualifications. This “beyond” is neither a Böhmian[1] Ungrund[2], before the separation of two fires—that which lights and that which burns,—the lost paradise of an original innocence, nor a Hegelian (or Marxist) synthesis founded on the work of the negative. It is a position completely specific to Nietzsche and with which Boudot tries to conduct an attack by one of the possible ways of approach, but as much as we have an interest, in spite of the charges of historicism which one will make of us, to seize Nietzsche in his time—and Vivien was not wrong to evoke a Baudelairian modernity and even the fate of the bacteria of the “good Europeans” of the 20th century,—I believe it is dangerous to want to bring our problem back to a permanent confrontation either with Marx, or with Freud because, besides having different languages, they also propose different fundamental problems and goals.

Norman Palma: It is however essential to understand why Nietzsche criticizes the bourgeois universe.

Maurice de Gandillac: He never employs this word in its Marxist sense.

Norman Palma: No, but he speaks about merchants. Why does he criticize this universe in which the merchants have seized power, and which perspective does he propose to destroy it?

Maurice de Gandillac: You will find the criticism of the merchants in all the moralists since Antiquity. At least since Aristotle, who hardly understood the role of big business in the economy of his time, the contempt of the “chrematistic[3]” became a commonplace. But he is not a critic of capitalism!

Pierre Boudot: Indeed, Nietzsche is not located in the field of production or of a merchant economy and, more than Marx, it is Flaubert with whom he would join because of his aversion to stupidity and hideousness.

Norman Palma: In the Prologue of Zarathustra, he speaks about a universe of slaves who seize power, and who will create the universe of the last man. Nietzsche wants to accentuate the opposition between master and slave.

Pierre Boudot: It is very contestable. In Űbermensch, über- corresponds rather to trans- than to super-.

André Flécheux: My question addresses the relation between the title of your monographs and the style in which you have presented. On the one hand you maintain the concept of a program and, on the other hand, you propose the organization of a collective work that preserves for the university its traditional role.

Pierre Boudot: It can be done at the university or elsewhere.

André Flécheux: Nevertheless the problem is about the university and that, on this point, Nietzsche expressed himself in 1872 very well. I ask myself to what extent do you not fall under an accusation that Nietzsche carries himself contrary to a certain style. Since you spoke about Zarathustra as the text to decipher, and in which finally would be the secret to an enigma that we still have in front of us, how do you interpret, at the end of The Gay Science (§ 342), the title of that aphorism on the “tragedy” that begins? Nietzsche does not say that it only “recommences,” which would return us to the perspective of The Birth of Tragedy, i.e. to a political function of the spectacle, which was, to an age where the classical Greek city, hardly constituted, threatening to explode again,—to maintain a communal bond, a morality, an aesthetic sublimation. When you say that we should read Nietzsche from the point of view of a program which would reveal levels of truth, I wonder whether you do not cancel the explosive side of Nietzsche, if you do not present it as too easily integrated in a culture of the university type, where there would be an over-language, a meta-language, whereas its major force coincides with an aristocratic culture where one will not communicate perhaps any more with others, with all the others. And there, I return you to the fragment (1) of Heraclitus on the logos; finally the political game that the Platonic logos plays has nothing to do with the logos of Heraclitus, irrational to the others and perfectly rational to himself. Perhaps it is necessary to recognize a whole space of Nietzschean discourse that is about the plot, the secret, an internal reason, and a space of the outside which, it seems to me, would be equivalent to nihilism. It is thus unrealistic to seek to reconstitute a Church, to make the university a place where the Nietzscheans would be the Kantians or Hegelians of the 20th century!

Pierre Boudot: Nietzsche wrote that, in his work, Zarathustra holds a place separately, and that “one day, we will create pulpits to explain it.” It is necessary insofar as Zarathustra’s logical discourse is not yet written, but there Nietzsche helps us to admit it…

André Flécheux: The word “logical” obstructs me…

Pierre Boudot: I believe in the capacity of thinking that there is rationality in and behind and beyond Nietzsche’s irrationalism, and I act on Nietzsche’s authority himself to take an interest in Zarathustra, without any chronology, as the center of all the perspectives that it has opened.

Of course it is not a question of constituting a troop of Nietzschean terrorists. Moreover ‘Nietzschean’ and ‘Nietzscheism’ are two meaningless words that I never employ. Why, moreover, challenge the university as my place of research? Our critical possibility gives us the tools of language as well as the means of possibly going beyond the institution. It is not a question “of recovering” Nietzsche—that is a term for ragmen rather than philosophers—and I concede to you readily that it is not a question of building an exclusively logical corpus. Nietzsche’s logic also consists in destroying the logos, but it is necessary to know how it reaches that point, because at this time something again becomes possible which I have called the advent of things. There is a movement of the world, a freedom of the world, a cosmology of freedom also…

André Flécheux: These are words that Nietzsche has crossed out.

Pierre Boudot: How are you so sure?

André Flécheux: The “world”, do you believe that for Nietzsche this exists in the metaphysical sense?

Pierre Boudot: “Like a golden apple, thus the world offers itself to me”…

André Flécheux: This is all a problem of the relation between the poetic text and the critical reading.

Pierre Boudot: The poetic text clarifies the positivity of nihilism, its creative dynamic; it helps to avoid a suicidal misinterpretation for our thought and our civilization. I am more conscious than anyone of Nietzsche’s prophecy and of his apocalyptic perspective, and if I sometimes agree with this perspective, I do not want to die under the ruins of the temple; my instinct of self-preservation is stronger…

André Flécheux: It is a perfectly Christian language!

Pierre Boudot: It is a perfectly human language! I do not ask anyone to console me. I simply ask for the god of the apocalypse to let me live behind it and in front of it insofar as it is possible, since this god is no longer transcendent and since this occurs on our level.

André Flécheux: The Nietzschean form of the apocalypse is anesthesia…

Pierre Boudot: No, it is discovering the logic of hallucination in a world of appearances, without feeling dead or committing suicide, allowing the unthinkable to emerge.

Maurice de Gandillac: Does Flécheux eliminate completely and by principle, like a poetic trap, formulae that are consistent from the beginning to the end of Zarathustra? The Sun has sense only because there are men and animals to receive its gift; similarly, the security which you reject as necessarily Tertullianesque (I do not simply say ‘Christian,’ because Tertullian was almost a heretic), do you deny that he makes visible, in the form of a tenderizing peace, in the last sentences, with the doves, the lion, the tears, the great midday? Admittedly we do not know what this apocalypse is. Pautrat said it very well and others too; something is awaited, perhaps impossible, not the same as Utopia, because the true Utopia always projects a possible reality to come, that is nevertheless a lived or present reality and, in a certain way, a reality of communication, a “being-with” like that of the oarsmen of the raft of the Jellyfish, about which Deleuze spoke earlier. But I agree that the poetic imagery remains rather conventional here, as are (moreover) the melodies of Nietzsche the musician.

Andre Flecheux: I understand well and I agree, but I wonder then, in your point of view, which relation you see between lived experience, poetic language, and thought. Insofar as Nietzsche’s thought is a thought which sometimes bursts into madness, this thought carries over into the relation between lived experience and poetry; lived experience is included in an anthropological diagram that does not have the same dimension of power as the thought which hangs over it.

Maurice de Gandillac: Undoubtedly, but one does not therefore have to dismiss it itself as an experience and as an unreasonable demand.

[1] Jakob Böhme (1575-1624) was a German mystic [Tr. Note].

[2] Groundlessness [Tr. Note].

[3] Of or pertaining to money, from the Greek khréma, meaning riches or possessions [Tr. Note].

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