Nietzsche, Friedrich. "The Gay Science."

Blanchot, Maurice. 1993. “Reflections on Nihilism.” Pp. 136-170 in The Infinite Conversation. Translated by S. Hanson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Original edition, L'Entretien infini (Gallimard, 1969)

Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,”


book 1

1. "Indulge thy best or thy worst desires"
"The race is all, the individual is nothing"

4. "The strongest and most evil spirits have hitherto advanced mankind the most: they always rekindled the sleeping passions"
"in reality the evil impulses are just in as high a degree expedient, indispensable, and conservative of the species as the good: only, their function is different."

7. "Hitherto all that has given color to existence has lacked a history: where would one find a history of love, of avarice, of envy, of conscience, of piety, of cruelty?"
[this is why genealogy is needed]
"the most critical of all questions... whether science is in a position to furnish goals for human action"

19. "The poison by which the weaker nature is destroyed is strengthening to the strong individual - and he does not call it poison."

20. "virtues... are mostly injurious to their possessors"

21. "the 'neighbor' praises unselfishness because he profits by it!"

23. "it is when 'morals decay' that those beings whom one calls tyrants first make their appearance; they are the forerunners of the individual"

29. "people imposed false reasons on themselves on account of which those laws ought to exist, merely for the sake of not acknowledging to themselves that they had accustomed themselves to the authority of those laws" [laws in this case referring to 'the unity of Aristotle in France']

book 2
57. questioning/poking fun at realists/realism

58. "unspeakbly more depends upon what things are called, than on what they are."
'I fear indeed that we shall never rid ourselves of God because we still believe in grammar' from Blanchot below]

93. Nietzsche the romantic, the artist: "I am always vexed and abashed by writing; writing is a necessity for me... I have found no other means of getting rid of my thoughts."

book 3
108. "God is dead: but as the human race is constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show his shadow."

109. "Let us be on our guard against saying that there are laws in nature. There are only necessities: there is no one who commands, no one who obeys, no one who transgresses. When you know that there is no design, you know also that there is no chance: for it is only where there is a world of design that the word 'chance' has a meaning."
[perhaps there is no god but Nietzsche sure seems commanding...]

112. "Cause and effect: there is probably never any such duality; in fact there is a continuum before us, from which we isolate a few portions;"
[breaking down of binaries]

241. "This artist is ambitious and nothing more; ultimately however, his work is only a magnifying glass, which he offers to everyone who looks in his direction."

book 4
300. "Do you believe then that the sciences would have arisen and grown up if sorcerers, alchemists, astrologers and witches had not been their forerunners; those who with their promisings and foreshadowings, had first to create a thirst, a hunger, and a taste for hidden and forbidden powers?"

335. "that you hear this or that judgment as the voice of conscience, consequently, that you feel a thing to be right - may have its cause in the fact that you have never thought about your nature, and have blindly accepted from your childhood what has been designated to you as right"
"What? You admire the categorical imperative in you? this 'persistency' of your so-called moral judgement? This absoluteness of the feeling that 'as i think on this matter, so must everyone think'? Admire rather your selfishness therein! And the blindness, paltriness, and modesty of your selfishness! For it is selfishness in a person to regard his judgment as universal law"
"Let us confine ourselves therefore, to the purification of our opinions and appreciations, and to the construction of new tables of value of our own"

book 5
343. God's death "begins to cast its first shadows over Europe."
"confidence seems to have changed into doubt"
"what must collapse now that this belief has been undermined, - because so much was built upon it... for example, our entire European morality."
"we philosophers and 'free spirits' find oursleves irradiated as by a new dawn by the report that the 'old God is dead'... At last the horizon seems open once more"

344. "convictions have no civic rights in the domain of science: it is only when a conviction voluntarily condescends to the modesty of an hypothesis.. that its access to the realm of knowledge.. can be conceeded"
"it remains to be asked whether, in order that this discipline may commence, it is not necessary that there should already be a conviction, and in fact one so imperative and absolute that it makes a sacrifice of all other convictions. One sees that science also rests on a belief: there is no science at all 'without premises'."
premises of science = will to truth
"whence then should science derive the absolute belief, the conviction on which it rests, that truth is more important than anything else, even than every other conviction?"
"a belief a millennium old, the Christian belief, which was also the belief of Plato, that God is truth, that truth is divine...."

347. "How much faith a person requires in order to flourish... is a measure of his power (or more plainly speaking, of his weakness)."
"bid farewell to every belief, to every wish for certainty"

380. "In order for once to get a glimpse of our European morality from a distance, in order to compare it with other earlier or future moralities... presuppose a position outside of morality, some sort of world beyond good and evil"

381. "One not only wants to be understood when one writes, but also - quite as certainly - not to be understood."
"It is best to do with profound problems as with a cold bath - quickly in, quickly out."

Blanchot 1

"Nietzsche's fatal sister, who had not delayed in hoisting the flag of her brother over the battlements of Hitler's millennial empire" (137)
"falsification (Hitler had not the least notion of Nietzsche and cared very little about him)" (137)
"The Will to Power is therefore not Nietzsche's book. It is a work fabricated by its editors and it is a false work, in the sense that what Nietzsche had written at various moments over the course of years traversed by the most diverse intentions, without order or system, is presented to us as the material of a systematic work that he had prepared and intended as such." (137-138)
"But (Nietszche) also said: 'Every profound thinker is more afraid of being understood than of being misunderstood.'" (138)

"The essential movement of Nietzsche's thought consists in self-contradiction; each time it affirms, the affirmation must be put in relation with the one opposing it: the decisive point of each of its certitudes passes through contestation, goes beyond it, and returns to it." (140)
"The incomparably instructive force of Nietzsche's thought is precisely in alerting us to a non-systematic coherence" (140)

"Every interpretation of Nietzsche should, then, remain faithful to these principles:
remain unsatisfied until one has found that which contradicts what one has asserted about him; maintain amidst the contradictions the exigency of the whole that is constantly present, though constantly dissolved by them; never conceive of this whole—which is non-unitary—as a system, but as a question, and as the passion of the research in its impetus toward the true, one with the critique of all that has been acquired in the course of the research; grasp anew "the real dialectic": thought as the play of the world, text as fragment."
"Whoever reads Nietzsche with this restless, suspicious gaze will not be tempted to make use of Nietzsche." (140-141)

Nietzsche self described as "the last philosopher"

Nietzsche as romantic

"showing not what in this world is mediocre and weak, its beliefs and its prejudices, but what in it is strong and essential: its concern with the true, its demand for knowledge, and the universal mastery toward which it tends. Those who want science must also want the consequences of science, and must therefore in the end want nihilism; this is the warning Nietzsche gave his contemporaries, who used the
Nietzsche myth in order not to hear it." (143)

Blanchot 2

"What is nihilism?"
"That the highest values devaluate themselves." ->
"God is dead."

"God means God, but also everything that, in rapid succession, has sought to take his place— the ideal, consciousness, reason, the certainty of progress, the happiness of the masses, culture: everything that, not without value, nonetheless has no value of its own; there is nothing man can lean upon, no thing of value other than through the meaning, in the end suspended, that man gives to it.
This analysis can no longer move us, so familiar has it become." (144)

"Nietzsche, with a joy only he felt so purely and expressed so fully, saw in this movement of infinite negation that withdraws from us every solid foundation the sudden opening on a space of unlimited knowledge"

"nihilism is an event accomplished in history that is like a shedding of history—the moment when history turns and that is indicated by a negative trait: that values no longer have value in themselves. There is also a positive trait: for the first time the horizon is infinitely open to
knowledge, 'Everything is permitted.'"(145)

"what alone can overcome the disorder of this void is the cautious movement of science; its power to give itself precise rules and to create meaning, but of a sort that is limited, and in this sense operational"

"At the moment when nihilism shows us the world, its counterpart, science, creates the tools to dominate it."

"science cannot but be nihilist; it is the meaning of a world deprived of meaning"
"We experiment on truth! Perhaps humanity will be destroyed by it! Well, so be it!" (says the scientist)


"The overman is he who alone leads man to be what he is: the being who surpasses himself, and in whose surpassing there is affirmed the necessity of his passing." (147)
"'the will would rather will nothingness than not will.' The overman is he in whom nothingness makes itself will and who, free for death, maintains this pure essence of will in willing nothingness. This would be nihilism itself." (148)

"± ± The thought of the overman does not first of all signify the advent of the overman, but rather the disappearance of something called man." (155)

the eternal return

circles in philisophical thought/life

"represents the logical vertigo that Nietzsche himself could not escape."
"the thought by which nihilism surpasses itself absolutely by making itself definitively unsurpassable." (148)

"Let us think this thought in its most terrible form: existence, as it is, without meaning or aim, yet recurring inevitably without any finale of nothingness: the eternal recurrence"-"the most extreme form of nihilism." [reincarnation]

"when we think nothingness we are still thinking being. Nothing ends, everything begins again"
"Nihilism thus tells us its final and rather grim truth: it tells of the impossibility of nihilism."
what does this return mean? It means what it affirms: that the extreme point of nihilism is precisely there where it reverses itself, that nihilism is this very turning itself, the affirmation that, in passing from the No to the Yes, refutes nihilism, but does nothing other than affirm it, and henceforth extends it to every possible affirmation." (150) [catch 22]

blanchot 3 - fragments


"the aphoristic form is the form in which Nietzsche excels: 'The aphorism, in which I am the first master among Germans, is a form of eternity; my
ambition is to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book—what everyone else does not say in a book.'" (152)

"Nietzsche, however, is not unaware that he is obliged to think from where he is, and obliged to speak on the basis of the discourse he is challenging. He still belongs to this discourse—we all belong to it; thus the contradictions cease to be polemical, or even only critical." (153)

"Being is light"

"Light gives pure visibility to thought as its measure. To think is henceforth to see clearly"


"But then what is the Will to Power? 'Not a being, not a becoming, but a pathos': the passion of difference." (161)

"'There are no facts in themselves' Nietzsche says again, 'but one must always begin by introducing meaning in order for there to be facts.'" (164)

"Nietzsche adds, with a profundity that does not cease to surprise us: 'I fear indeed that we shall never rid ourselves of God because we still believe in grammar'" (166)

history of morality (or anything) cannot assume "words have kept their meaning", that desires and ideas have not changed in logic and meaning.
genealogy isolates the places where words, ideas and feelings were viewed differently or did not yet exist.
(genealogy) opposes itself to the search for "origins"

"truth or being does not lie at the root of what we know and what we are, but the exteriority of accidents." (81)

What does Foucault mean by "exteriority"?

Best Answer - Chosen by Voters

1.Exteriority : the source of truth in any statement comes from outside our experience

personal experience v. authoritative canon
truth is produced (by discourse?)

Nietzsche challenging Ursprung - origin - essence
herkunft (descent [foucault], background [google]) (group affiliation)
not a category of resemblance but the sorting out of different traits
association with erbschaft
entstehung - emergence, the moment of arising

genealogy and truth
what is found historically in the beginning is not identity of origin but dissension; disparity

"truth is undoubtedly the sort of error that cannot be refuted because it was hardened into an unalterable form in the long baking process of history." (79)
"history of an error we call truth" (80)
genealogy is not confused with a quest for "origins" - does not neglect the "vicissitudes of history" but rather "cultivates the details and accidents that accompany every beginning" (80)

"What Nietzsche calls the Entstehungherd of the concept of goodness is not specifically the energy of the strong or the reaction of the week but precisely the scene where they are displayed superimposed or face-to-face." (84)

the body (not a body, not his or her body in particular, but the body)
"the body maintains, in life as in death, through its strength or weakness, the sanction of every truth and error, as it sustains, in an inverse manner, the origin - descent." (82)

"the body… is the domain of herkunft. The body manifests the stigmata of past experience and also gives rise to desires, failings, errors… their encounter is an engagement in which they efface each other."
"The body is the inscribed surface of events (traced by language and dissolved by ideas), the locus of a dissociated self (adopting the illusion of substantial unity), and a volume in perpetual disintegration."
( 83)

"humanity installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination."
"the successes of history belong to those who are capable of seizing these rules, to replace those who had used them, to disguise themselves so as to pervert them, invert their meaning, and redirect them against those who had initially imposed them; controlling this complex mechanism, they will make it function so as to overcome the rulers through their own rules."

"nothing in man - not even his body - is sufficiently stable to serve as the basis for self-recognition or for understanding other men." (87)
"knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting." (88) cutting, disrupting continuity

"affirmation of knowledge as a perspective" (90)

modalities un-platonic
"the historical sense gives rise to 3 uses that oppose and correspond to the 3 platonic modalities of history":
1. parody and farce. "the historian offers… the possibility of alternative identities" (93) irony. opposed to recognition, nostalgia
2. "the 2nd use of history is the systematic dissociation of identity" (94) [identity itself is a parody, a plurality; intersection] opposed to continuity, tradition
3. "sacrifice of the subject of knowledge" - dissolution of the false unity of the knowing subject?


and in the end, so what of nihilism, relativism? is it a price worth paying? do we have a choice?
nietzsche, the rebellious one, appeals to our youth but with age vehemence often fades.
where lie ethics in this nothingness? we must build our own frameworks [sartre would say]
but we must cooperate on some level to avoid solipsism, relativism, domination of the weak, ultimately genocide [if we believe these things matter, are "wrong", which I do]
nihilism is a trap, so easy to fall into, so complete, seemingly inescapable
but there are many traps, equally complete
despite his disavowal of seeing nature as a 'machine' (Gay Science, aphorism 109), Nietzsche has engineered quite a system

if we are to indulge our best and worst desires, to pursue pleasure, happiness, is wallowing in nihilism really the best choice? for most a system of ethics and accomplishments within which they can feel satisfied seems the road to maximum happiness...