Friday, June 25, 2004


fait accompli begin the day out of notebooks:

  • notebook: 8/9/87

    Exerience only apparently repeats itself. Because this is one
    of the most comforting illusions of all, that it does,
    we can so easily forget how fortunate we were that things
    came together they way they did. No doubt fate did this,
    but it also took a tremendous effort of will- or so it seemed-
    not to throw it all in the air, moments before, in total

Yesterday I read Human, all too Human. The "human, all-too-human" is Nietzsche's ordinary concept for "psychological observation." Nevermind that he often operates through paradox, seems to overturn reliance on psychological observation in later works--even in his following work, Daybreak. His paradoxes, I think are allowed signs concerning his desire never to live the same moment twice. Would be too easy to call his self-contradiction folly or play or confusion.

Re-reading Emerson with Nietzsche is a rewarding experience. Eye-opening, really. I like the notebook entry above. Something about the posts lately there; also strange associations at Never Neutral: both fitting companions to my reading.

[textual comparison to Nietzsche this weekend: Emerson's Second Series of essays were published in 1844, many existed earlier in lectures. Nietzsche's trilogy of aphoristic works--Human, All too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science--were published beginning in 1878.]

From Emerson's "The Poet":
  • ...umpires of taste are often persons who have acquired some knowledge of admired pictures or sculptures, and have an inclination for whatever is elegant; but if you inquire whether they are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish and sensual. Their cultivation is local...some study of rules and particulars, or some limited judgment of color or form...excersized for amusement or for show.

  • There is no doctrine of forms in our philosophy. We were put into our bodies...

  • [E]ven the poets are contented with a civil and conformed manner of living, and to write poems from the fancy, at a safe distance from their own experience.

  • [T]he poet is representative.

  • Criticism is infested with a cant of materialism, which assumes that manual skill and activity is the first merit of all men, and disparages such as say and do not, overlooking the fact that some men, namely poets, are natural sayers, sent into the world to the end of expression, and confounds them with those whose province is action but who quit it to imitate the sayers.

  • For poetry was all written before time was, and whenever we are so finely organized that we can penetrate into that region where the air is music, we hear those primal warblings and attempt to write them down, but we lose ever and anon a word or verse and substitute something of our own, and thus miswrite the poem.

  • For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument that makes a poem--a thought so passionate and alive that like the spirit of a plant or an animal it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The thought and the form are equal in the order of time, but in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form.

  • Every line we can draw in the sand has expression.... All form is an effect of character; all condition, of the quality of life; all harmony of health; and for this reason a perception of beauty should be sympathetic....

  • [W]e use defects and deformities to a sacred purpose, so expressing our sense that the evils of the world are such only to the evil eye. In the old mythology, mythologists observe, defects are ascribed to divine natures, as lameness to Vulcan, blindness to Cupid, and the like--to signify exuberances.

  • The poet knows that he speaks adequately then only when he speaks wildly, or "with the flower of the mind"; not with the intellect used as an organ, but with the intellect released from all service and suffered to take its direction from its celestial life; ...not with intellect alone but with the intellect inebriated by nectar.

  • The poet did not stop at the color or the form, but read their meaning.... Here is the difference betwixt the poet and the mystic, that the last nails a symbol to one sense, which was a true sense for a moment, but soon becomes old and false. For all symbols are fluxional; all language is vehicular and transitive, and is good, as ferries and horses are, for conveyance, not as farms and houses are, for homestead.

From "Experience": "But the definition of spiritual should be, that which is its own evidence."

Nietzsche, in Human, All too Human, addresses Emerson's concerns in what can appear as a response, amplifies the tenor of Emerson's call to a more heretical pitch. The blasphemous or heretical is present in Emerson, for the poet is a divine creator, stands in for the whole of "man", but Nietzsche denies the existence of the transcendental completely. His literary craft is man-made; moreso, it is neither product of machine or nature but of a free spirit that has evolved from a traceable though always disordered past. I'll get to (what I find) interesting comparisons, when I have my text of Human, All too Human handy this weekend.

But their vocabulary is undeniably similar--Nietzsche even coins terms in German that apparently align his ideas with Emerson's speech. They are definitely, and I am well aware the point has been made, in conversation. One of my philosophy professors, Tim Gould (himself a student of Stanley Cavell), hammered this into my imagination--Ralph Waldo and Friedrich bumbing elbows in style. And I do not quite agree with Derrida on Nietzsche's style (see D's Spurs); I'll save that, too, for a future post.

Some similarities--not identicalities, nor recurrences; but uses, choices, and recognitions, possibly recollections: color, form, beautiful/ugly soul, words/deeds/actions, private/public, expression/spectacle, history, say-ing, names, concepts, spirit, put/place...

This weekend, reading along with HATH, DB, & GS:
  • The New Nietzsche, edited by David Allsion, MIT: good anthology of lasting critical work.
  • Nietzsche: Life as Literature, Alexander Nehamas, Harvard: great so far; refreshing, actually.
  • Poetry from Keats, Wordsworth, Donne, Mary Robinson, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Holderlin

I liked Nehamas right away, confronting and aptly tackling the too often and incorrectly applied definition for eternal recurrence:
  • Nietzsche, I argue, does not claim that the history of the world repeats itself in an eternal cycle, or even that it is possible that it might do so. Rather, he believes that the world and everything in it are such that if anything in the world ever occurred again (though this is in fact impossible) then everything else would also have to occur again. This is so because Nietzsche accepts the view that the connections that constitute everything in the world, and in particular the connections that constitute each person out of its experiences and actions are absolutely essential to that person.

[notebook entry from fait accompli, above, seems to apply.]

If we were ever to live our lives again, necessarily everything and all connections to everything would have to be identical to what has occured so far or we would not be justified in referring to it as our life. Eternal recurrence explains that our lives are only justified--purposeful--if we live such that we would want it to be exactly as it has been already. Eternal recurrence is an important quality for any principium individuationis.

I believe that much misunderstanding about eternal recurrence exists because important critics, like Walter Kaufmann, consistently under-value Nietzsche's work before Beyond Good and Evil.

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