Nietzsche and the Creative Act
"A style is not superficial but deep, not word play but itself a worldview, a profound expression of who one is. A style is itself a philosophy, or, to turn it around, philosophy is first of all a matter of style."
I am intrigued by the question of what Nietzsche is exactly doing or attempting to do with his works, insofar as we suppose he was struck by some certain impetus for creation and that he conceived of some certain outcome for his toils. As I find myself reading him more often for the frolicsome writing itself and less for the concepts it tackles, and as I consider some of his personal effusions, I suspect that writing was a complete act for him. That is to say that writing not only embodies many of the values and ideals he treated in his thinking, and not only that very often his form mirrors his content, but also that writing itself as it related to Nietzsche the man was a comprehensively therapeutic act, the closest thing he could attain to a completely uplifting, completely draining engagement for his soul. I can imagine his career as an author being a long ritual of catharsis punctuated by jouissance.
Considering that Nietzsche’s thought was formed in an intellectual environment that was questioning the nature and validity of the endpoint, of the final say, and that many of his anti-consciousness, anti-systematizing sentiments reveal a similar disdain for the supposedly intrinsic worth of the proclamations of judgment and knowledge, it comes as little surprise that his writing should assume a style that often frustrates itself within a single passage; one that doubles back upon itself in order to make palpable the very tension of multiple narratives that his perspectivism was seeking to describe. As R.J Hollingdale relates in the introduction to his translation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, one of Nietzsche’s posthumously published notes read, “As soon as you feel yourself against me you have ceased to understand my position and consequently my arguments! You have to be the victim of the same passion!”
I feel that this is a rich vein (yet one made easily suspect once such topics as narrative intent or authorial preconception are broached) simply because the act and implications of writing as undertaken by Nietzsche, considered along with the (eventual) audience he anticipated, seem to mesh so perfectly with the attitudes, philosophies and musings expressed therein. Consider the Dionysian paradigm; the value placed on fecundity and generative madness. What better example of such notions being carried out to their practical fruition could be found than Nietzsche’s own writings? Conceived in the rapture of a philosophically-dancing mind, promulgated in a daringly abundant fashion, and eventually making their way to sometimes deeply disturb but to uniformly arouse the minds of their readers, Nietzsche’s writings could be considered the first fruit of the very new philosophy they herald; though perhaps their mechanism is best described as one of the perennial rediscoveries- of the force of an act of creative violence that unsettles what is ponderous and stagnant in order to stimulate new growth.
In this sense I would like to speculate that perhaps Nietzsche himself wore the cunning smirk of the tempter god while he was writing, that he did not conceive of his efforts as falling within the traditional paradigm of sober assimilation of information and its release into the intellectual discourse of the larger world in hopes of attaining a stable position amongst the legitimated beacons of the time. Perhaps he conscientiously desired to make a spectacle of himself, knowing deeply and within his own soul that he was a rare sort whose phenotypical lifestyle could be of value to mankind, if only properly transmitted.
It is very apparent from most of the passages we examined in class that he is not in the least bit concerned with settling matters in the same way that some ancient philosophers hope to demonstrate through arguments that some condition is the case, period.
On the other hand, Solomon asserts that “The point of Nietzsche’s philosophy is how to live not how to write, and to confuse Nietzsche’s verbal playfulness with his moral seriousness is simply to misunderstand him.” Yet I can’t help but feel that in Nietzsche the moral seriousness and the outrageously frolicsome are harmoniously married.
I will, however, insist that Nietzsche’s sense of life informed his writing, and vice versa, even though he sometimes claims the contrary himself. Considering the opening passage to “On Truth and Lie in an Extra Moral Sense”, considering its stunning ability to strengthen skepticism toward the inherent validity of human thought in its readers while simultaneously celebrating it through a wicked playfulness and joyously overcoming doubt through a force of will, it seems apparent that Nietzsche’s style was at once elucidating a new sense of life while also attempting to cope with it. I readily admit that the opening sentence could not easily be construed as anything less than damning, but the opening of the second paragraph affords an example of the subtle blend of exasperation and daring that I am hinting at:
“One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature.”
This is indeed a painful sentiment, but it is also a cathartic one. This same notion must have tormented Nietzsche’s mind as he strove through the dusty halls of academia and at various points throughout his life, and the symbolically relieving act of releasing it from the mind onto paper simply had to serve some personal and immediate psychological function beyond the far more vague aspiration for future publication. Additionally, he is condemning the very thing he used exhaustively to tinker with and polish his writings until they had this very power and impact. Furthermore, now that it has been discharged, it begins to present itself as a remedy to the same distress from which it originated. The price paid for such knowledge is security, but the reward is a strange kind of conceptual freedom, one which riddles Nietzsche’s writings. The pattern of an expression of a problem and the attempt to digest it successfully constantly recurs in his writings.
I think it would be fair to say that, in this sense as well, Nietzsche’s writings were ends in themselves, especially for him. Nietzsche wrote of his own style, affirming the sense of that word as described by Solomon,
“To communicate a state, an inward tension of pathos, by means of signs, including the tempo of these signs- that is the meaning of every style; and considering that the multiplicity of inward states is exceptionally large in my case, I have many stylistic possibilities- the most multifarious art of style that has ever been at the disposal of one man.”
He is describing his affect, the visceral and immediate feeling of a philosophy as experienced by its holder. It is clear that he was at least partly enamored with his own internality as it expressed itself to him in an overwhelming entirety. I would state again that this very absorption, the pleasure and relief of it, accounted for a great deal of Nietzsche’s inclination to write. Consider the thought he uses to close out Beyond Good and Evil:
"Alas, what are you after all, my written and painted thoughts!...And it is only your afternoon, you, my written and painted thoughts, for which alone I have colors, many colors perhaps, many motley caresses and fifty yellows and browns and greens and reds: but nobody will guess from that how you looked in your morning, you sudden sparks and wonders of my solitude, you my old beloved- wicked thoughts!"