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Nietzsche And Philosophy (European Perspectives)
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2006
i first picked up nietzsche and philosophy in 1989 and couldnt make it past the first chapter which discusses theories of forces,semiotics, and other unintelligable things..i regarded the book as 'hyper abstract'..
I returned again to it in 1996 after reading deleuze's interviews, and, with a more general understanding of his ideas,the book became a revelation for me.
Deleuze presents a systematic and coherent philosophy for nietzsche, one which grounds his rather paradoxical and sometimes enigmatic writings. deleuze clearly expresses nietzsche's core concerns, showing the sanity and genius of this sometimes denigrated 'mad' philosopher.
Its a pity this book will never find itself in the self help section because thats where it belongs..Feeling depressed and worthless? A bit burnt out or indifferent? read this book! While most philosophy falls to the side with abstractions, nietzsche and philosophy goes after life itself , attacking every nihilistic habit in our psychic, social, and cosmological repetoire. Deleuze traces nietzsche's assertions on how we are reactive and despicable creatures and goes on to show why and how we can overcome, well, all those things that make humanity "the skin disease of earth'.....
so...since we all suffer from nihilism and its ailments, Nietzsche and philosophy provides antidotes and cure for our human condition...

below are some less than praiseworthy comments on this book..deleuze appropriates nietzsche, for example...or deleuze says simple things in a complicated manner...this is nonsense..
readers, this is not an easy book to grasp..its takes a few readings to fully understand whats being said..people who dont like this book just simply fail to understand it...or havent read it through at least once..
that may be the books fault..but if simple ideas are what one seeks, then try simplistic books. ..this isnt one of them
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2012
This is one of my very favorite books so this is going to be a very long review. I do, however, give some recommendations for supplementary reading for those who are struggling with this work at the end of my review so if you are looking for secondaries on Deleuze's reading of Nietzsche you can skip my lengthy review and go right to the end. There is not a lot of material on Deleuze's reading of Nietzsche in English but I have listed what I think are the best resources I have come across so far.

Nietzsche and Philosophy is meant to be a systematic examination of the work of Friedrich Nietzsche but, as with nearly all of Deleuze's commentaries on other philosophers, it winds up being just as much about Deleuze's own ontology as it is about Nietzsche. In fact, this book is probably the best place to begin a study of Deleuze's often obscure ontology.

The fact that this book is as much about Deleuze as it is about Nietzsche does not mean that it is without value considered purely as a commentary on Nietzsche. In fact, I think Deleuze gets a great deal of Nietzsche right in his interpretations. If one ignores some of Deleuze's more controversial interpretations, like his interpretation of the eternal return, this book is one of the best and most profound systematic reconstructions of Nietzsche's philosophy around. No one will be able to claim after reading this book that Nietzsche was not a serious philosopher. The old image of Nietzsche simply throwing out random aphorisms without any systematic intent will not survive even a cursory reading of this book.

In terms of understanding Deleuze's ontology there are a number of key notions in this work that can be "mapped" onto Deleuze's own ontology: sense, genealogy, active and reactive forces, affirmative and negative will to power, critique, and anti-dialectics. I will attempt to summarize these aspects of Deleuze's book in as concise a way as possible.

I will begin with active and reactive forces and affirmative and negative will to power since these are the bedrock on which the other notions are built. It is important first to realize that for Deleuze there are no "things" in the ordinary sense. Deleuze's ontology is an ontology of becoming so it is more accurate to talk about things in terms of forces than of things. However, it would be a mistake to attempt to view forces as metaphysically distinct from things, or, as constituting a metaphysical realm beyond the world of appearances. Deleuze follows Nietzsche in his attempt to dismantle any kind of "other world" beyond the world of appearances whether this be a realm of pure Ideas in the Platonic sense or a world of force. It is the fiction of positing force as separate from their expressions that lies behind the triumph of reactive forces, but I am getting ahead of myself.

To understand what Deleuze means by force it is better to think in terms of his distinction between the virtual and the actual. The virtual is a tendency, or what a force is capable of, and the actual are the actual manifestations of that tendency. So we can think of love, for example, as a tendency and marriage between a man and a woman as one possible actualization of this tendency. Deleuze believes that to understand what something really is we need to move from the actual back to the virtual and this is because the triumph of reactive forces tend to separate forces from what they can do so that we wind up defining forces in terms of their actualizations rather than in terms of their tendency. I chose the example of love on purpose because reactive forces have, in our culture, often defined loved purely in terms of a single form of its actualization, i.e. marriage between a man and a woman.

Reactive force separates force from what it can do by placing limits on active forces (the force of love). Deleuze wants us to move back from these actualizations to the active forces (the virtual) behind them, i.e. to make reactive forces active. We should not define any force (love, thought, science, philosophy, etc.) purely in terms of what it is but in terms of what it can do and we often do not know precisely what a force can do. This allows us some room for experimentation. Deleuze's ontology is a radically creative ontology. We should not be defined by our current limits. Thought should not simply be a matter of reflecting what is (the dogmatic image of thought) but should be a way of creating new possibilities of life.

It is important to get Deleuze's interpretation of active and reactive forces right because the way Deleuze (and Nietzsche) often talk about them can lead to confusion. Deleuze, for example, refers to Nietzsche's example of the lamb and the eagle. The lamb does not want to be eaten by the eagle so it creates a fiction by separating the eagle from what it can do and making it morally responsible for its actions. This example makes it sound like Deleuze and Nietzsche are advocating for a view where the "strong" can simply go around preying on the "weak" either by killing them or enslaving them. But as Deleuze (and Nietzsche) point out the desire for power over others is always reactive. When Deleuze talks about the "strong" he does not mean those who enslave or dominate others, he means those who are active (and he uses the term active in a very precise sense). It is not a matter of quantity; in other words, a weak force is not weak because it is weaker than another force but because it places limits on what it can do. So the world Deleuze (and Nietzsche) are describing is not a world in which "strong" human beings are enslaving or dominating the "weak". The world Deleuze (and Nietzsche) are describing is a world in which everyone's creativity is expressed to its maximum, where there are no undue restrictions placed on active forces (like love).

The will to power is not identical to forces but is a principle of the synthesis of forces. This can be understood in this way: every "thing" in the world is a synthesis of forces. There cannot be a singular force because in order to know a force there must be another force acting against it. In this relation there will always be one dominant and another dominated force. But there are different ways of synthesizing these forces. When active forces are allowed to triumph over reactive forces we have an affirmative will to power (a will to power which affirms becoming and the virtual without placing undue restrictions on active forces). A negative will to power is one in which reactive forces triumph, not by creating a force superior to active force (that would make them active), but by creating a fiction in which active force is separated from what it can do and becomes morally responsible. This leads to ressentiment, bad conscience, the ascetic ideal, and the other-worldliness of religion. This is the negative will to power which negates this life and creates the fiction of another life. There is a whole psychology built around this negative will to power and it is the psychology that has dominated Western history. In fact, Deleuze believes that Nietzsche presents a psychology of the unconscious which is rival to that developed by Sigmund Freud. I do not have the space to explain the details of Nietzsche's psychology of the unconscious but Deleuze's interpretation of it is quite interesting. Stated briefly we can say that the affirmative will to power is the becoming-active of forces, and the negative will to power is the becoming-reactive of forces which leads to nihilism.

This ontology (and psychology) of active and reactive forces lies behind Deleuze's notion of sense. Another one of Deleuze's radical ontological claims is that nothing has an essence. We can only understand a thing if we understand the forces that have appropriated it. It is impossible, for example, to provide a single definition of something like religion. What religion is depends on what forces appropriate it. Religion can be appropriated by reactive life denying forces in which case it becomes reactive and nihilistic, or, it can be appropriated by more active life affirming forces in which case it can be something relatively life affirming (I say relatively because Deleuze believes that things have more of an affinity with one kind of force, and he believes that religion has more of an affinity with reactive forces; I am not sure I agree with him but I do not have space to examine this question in detail). This might sound like a strange notion but it actually makes perfect sense. We cannot apply a single definition to religion that would apply equally to the religious zealot and the saint, or to the bigot and the zen master. Religion can be many things, including as Marx said, the opium of the people, depending on what forces appropriate it. But it would be wrong to say that religion simply is "the opium of the people" or attempt to offer one definition that would apply to all cases. This is what Deleuze means when he says that we cannot understand something unless we understand the forces that appropriate it.

This leads us to the method of genealogy. The genealogist is engaged precisely in attempting to ask this question, i.e. what forces have appropriated this thing? Deleuze presents this as a difference between asking the question, "what is it?", which has been the standard philosophical question since Socrates, and asking "which one?". The answer to the latter question is not a personal question, i.e. the answer is not going to be "George" or "Susanne". The answer will be either an affirmative or negative will to power. This is what the genealogical question attempts to answer: is this thing (thought, phenomenon, system of philosophy, etc.) the result of an affirmative or negative will to power? Is it a result of a noble or a base form of life? Is it the result of love or hate?

This question is tied to Deleuze's transcendental empiricism. Deleuze is not looking for general conditions of possibility but the real conditions of genesis of things. These real conditions are not wider than the phenomenon which they condition. So, to give one example, if we ask "what are the conditions of philosophy?" we first have to say, "philosophy can mean different things based on what forces appropriate it". If we then narrow the question and ask, "what were the conditions of Platonic philosophy?" then our question becomes more specific. Deleuze will not answer this question by providing a general condition like "the human faculty for thought", or "an innate desire for metaphysical knowledge". Deleuze is not looking for general conditions which can apply to any particular philosophy but the real conditions of something like Platonic philosophy, and he might answer that the real conditions for Platonic philosophy were present in Athenian democracy which required a method for determining the validity of opinions, or, of separating valid from invalid opinions. Plato's theory of Forms responded to this precise problem (this is an example Deleuze gives in What Is Philosophy?). Whether this particular answer is right or not is not important. What is important is that Deleuze is not looking for a general condition for human being's philosophical activity in general. Deleuze believes that thought is always a response to actual problems so Plato's theory of Forms is not a result of a general human faculty for thought but is a specific response to a specific problem. We can then ask whether this philosophy expresses an affirmative or negative will to power which is the genealogical question.

One of Deleuze's ultimate goals is to critique a dogmatic image of thought which he thinks has been dominant in the history of Western philosophy. The problem is that thought has been determined as having a natural affinity with values like truth. Deleuze believes that Nietzsche is attempting a radical critique of values like truth by asking questions such as: who is it that desires truth? what is the will to power behind the search for truth? Deleuze (and Nietzsche) will answer that it is the reactive human being who desires truth. This reactive image of thought winds up separating thought from what it can do. Thought is capable of simply reflecting reality but this is not all that thought can do. Thought is creative. It can create new possibilities, new ways of living and thinking, and if we limit thought to simply reflecting reality truthfully we wind up separating thought from what it can do, and ultimately we wind up leading a reactive life. Deleuze (and Nietzsche) will, therefore, submit these heretofore highest values (like truth) to a critique through the genealogical method I outlined above. Deleuze believes that we should not simply be asking whether a thought is true or false. There are plenty of "base" truths. We should also ask whether a thought is noble or base, or a result of love or hate. These latter values are just as important (if not more so) when examining thought as the value of truth. This critique leads to a transvaluation of all values, which means, a new principle for determining the value of all values. It is necessary to submit values themselves to an evaluation to determine their value, and this value will be determined based on whether they express an affirmative or a negative will to power.

I want to briefly say a word about Deleuze's anti-dialectical stance in this book before bringing this overly long review to a close. Deleuze is opposed to dialectics because he believes it exchanges a purely external difference for an internal difference. For example, my table cloth is blue and my shirt is red. Red, as a particular determination, includes negation (i.e. red includes the determination not-blue). This is an example of the famous slogan "determinatio est negatio". The problem is this kind of determination does not get to the most profound differences. Differences between colors, for example, are simply differences of degree for Deleuze (they express the same universal or the same tendency). If we take examples like this and attempt to work out a theory of difference from that standpoint we will wind up with a superficial understanding of difference (Deleuze attempts to work out a more adequate concept of difference in Difference and Repetition). We wind up confusing differences in kind and differences in degree. This, in a nutshell, is Deleuze's critique of dialectics (and Hegel). Hegel begins with these differences and attempts to determine being from the standpoint of these kinds of differences without realizing that these differences are merely the expressions of more profound differences which cannot be grasped by the dialectic.

I would also like to briefly recommend some works that I think are helpful in elucidating Deleuze's book on Nietzsche (which is not always an easy book to understand). Unfortunately there is not an overwhelming amount of scholarship on Deleuze in English yet (I think his time is still coming). But there are two books that I think provide helpful commentaries on Deleuze's reading of Nietzsche. The first is Gilles Deleuze: An Apprenticeship in Philosophy by Michael Hardt, and the other is Deleuze and Guattari (Critics of the Twentieth Century) by Ronald Bogue. Both of those books have chapters on the Nietzsche book which are quite good. And there is one article that I think is absolutely essential reading for anyone struggling with Deleuze's Nietzsche book. It is called, "On the Presence of Bergson in Deleuze's Nietzsche" and it is by Giovanna Borradori. It originally appeared in Philosophy Today, 1999, vol. 43. Most commentators do not explicitly attempt to tie Deleuze's reading of Bergson in with Deleuze's reading of Nietzsche because Deleuze's book on Nietzsche was written before his book on Bergson. But as Giovanna Borradori rightly points out Deleuze had already written an important article on Bergson called, "Bergson's Conception of Difference" which predates the Nietzsche book. It is very difficult, in my opinion, to understand Deleuze's reading of active and reactive forces in the Nietzsche book without understanding his reading of Bergson and Giovanna Borradori does an excellent job providing the necessary background. I will also add that the essay on Bergson by Deleuze was apparently unavailable in English when Borradori wrote her article but it is now available in Desert Islands: and Other Texts, 1953--1974 (Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents) for anyone who wants to read it.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2000
contrary to some beliefs, gilles deleuze was NOT a psychoanalyst. in fact, neither was (strictly speaking) felix guattari. if anything, the "anti-oedipus" was set to univocally destroy without remission any notion of the psychoanalyst and his couch. nevertheless, it wouldn't be inaccurate to read nietzsche as a psychologist since he himself prided himself in that dimension among philosophers.
the amazing thing about "nietzsche and philosophy" is how deleuze does a nietzschean reading of nietzsche: basically in gathering the force of nietzsche's writings, appropriating them, and extending them without corrupting the radical implications of nietzsche's philosophy. here, deleuze remarkably reinterprets many of nietzsche's key concepts (the will to power, the eternal return, active and reactive forces) and creatively channels them into what was the initial stages of his own philosophical project. what would be striking to readers familiar with deleuze's later works (especially those with guattari) is the lucidity and rigour of his meticulous presentation here.
"nietzsche and philosophy" is illuminating precisely because it allows us to situate poststructuralist theories/thinkers and their relationship to nietzsche's writings. in particular, this book had a huge influence on michel foucault of which his debt to deleuze is outstanding, especially seen in his genealogical work from then till the end of his life.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2003
Nietzsche was not a systematic thinker and so it is very difficult to construct a book on his difficult thought. Deleuze has, however, successfully accomplished that. A combined reading of this work and Pierre Klossowski's "Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle" would provide an understanding of Nietzsche that is well beyond what is presented in most books on the author. It is sad, but we english speakers have collectively written most of the bad literature on Nietzsche. It was the french after WWII that picked-up the mantle set forth by Nietzsche after the embarrassing abuse of his thought by the Nazis.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I was putting together my thesis on Nietzsche and, after pouring through the traditional secondary texts, was directed to Deleuze. Roughly twelve years later, I finally felt like I was able to make some sense of the damn thing.

Nietzsche wrote "for those with ears to hear". Deleuze heard and wrote in the same voice. Or, at least, with the same timbre. Brilliant, insightful, powerful, dense, abstract, chock-full of enough neologisms to make Webster blush. This book might be a complete departure from Nietzsche. But that is the point. While many might read closer to the letter of Nietzsche, no-one evokes the spirit. Not even close.

It is one of those ultra-rare literary experiences that challenges you to your utmost limit - never giving you a step of ground, but always hinting (seductively) at the glory at the top of the mountain.

If you read Nietzsche and felt that somehow all of the commentaries were a little "off", a little simplistic, then buy this book and give it a read.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2002
After having reading much of Neitzsche over the years, it was not until I read this little book by Deleuze that he really came alive for me. Deleuze's guiding notion is that "force" lies at the heart of interpretation. Force also lies at the heart of Nietzsche's Will to Power. Like Wittgenstein's "games" or Derrida's "play," force is always with us. But not just in language, discourse and text, unless you consider our need to "order" the world in these terms (which you can). For force is the play of forces, of greater and lesser forces -- like Derrida's differance. But differance can be torpid and sluggish (whatever happened to the "white mythology" that lay "inscribed in the palimpsest -- active and stirring"?). In Nietzsche's The Will to Power he has a long section on chemistry and refrences to science. He equates the phyisical forces at work in the sciences as "moral." Why? -- Deleuze asks. Because it is our innate need and desire to order the universe -- to make things greater and lesser -- in science as well as morality. Thus Neitzsche writes a Geneology of Morals, with greater and lesser morals. And so it goes, with each force affecting other forces in infinite regression and progression. "Is this a kind of Hegelian dialectic?" -- you might ask. Maybe, but it seems far too messy to me. You see forces do not play within privileged paradigms. They are all about unintended consequences. There is Nietzschean repitition here but more of a mindless extrapolation of power. Like Deleuze's writings on "Nomadology" and "Rhizomes" we cannot keep track of the connections, the diversions, the diggressions. This is a kind of metaphysical madness.
Kind of like life.
A brilliant book.
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on January 26, 2014
As Michael Hardt says in the forward, we discover here the concepts and positions that become central to Deleuze's later work. "...There is no identity from which all the differences in the world emanate, nor any unity to which they fall back..." Deleuze's preface to the translation begins with Nietzsche's "posthumous fate... was his thought a forerunner of fascist thinking? And was this thought itself really a philosophy or was it an over-violent poetry, made up of capricious aphorisms and pathological fragments?"
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on December 6, 2014
An outstanding book. Deleuze's reading of Nietzsche is remarkable and for the most part profoundly faithful. Perhaps my only real outright disagreement with Deleuze on Nietzsche is Deleuze's understanding of the Eternal Return. But even then I must follow Derrida and allow Deleuze to "read philosophy in a certain way". Deleuze sets up a lot of his own thought in this, so if you are familiar with Nietzsche and are interested in Deleuze this is a must read.
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on April 27, 2015
I was greatly pleased with this order. The book arrived promptly and it was packaged carefully and thoughtfully. The price was reasonable and, of course, the book itself is excellent - Deleuze is both an insightful thinker and a fruitful reader of Nietzsche. Thank you, Kitab.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2014
If being a philosopher relies heavily on the creation of intense critiques; we must not approach their work as an objective observer. We should pick up the tools which were formed, and put them to task with the machine they create. Gilles as a historian has immersed himself in Nietzsche, and brought forth the systematization of his work. Is Gilles the arbiter of wrestling with the overall incoherence of all attempts at understanding Nietzsche? If Nietzsche was the arbiter of history, and his revelation of the impending destruction nihilism would bring; we need to get abreast of his task. Gilles' polemic shows us that his task is just that (standing side-by-side with Nietzsche). By reading this work, we do become abreast to the whole machine of a great philosopher...dare we turn it on and put it to use! The question then becomes...what tasks did Nietzsche leave to be taken up by his future disciples? We can look no further than the work Gilles Delueze endeavored.

Nihilism is still pervasive in our culture, and has been drawing nearer to the ugliest of conclusions (passive acceptance of meaninglessness). We can either pick up the tools Gilles created and turn on his machine, or pessimistically deny his task and move along to other suitors. This is a mere prequel to his grander polemic (this being 1 of 3). Philosophers are known because of the polemics they put to task, in-order to create and repute...but you need to know whom you arguing with before you start setting out your tools. Will you choose to wrestle the monster who thinks it is a God, or prostrate yourself before it? The hardest tasks are those that wrestle with profound minds!

Hopefully this review enables you to be motivated to move on to the other two systems of Deleuze's prequel...possibly his magnum opus (Difference and Repetition). Maybe you would rather Nietzsche remain obscure, radical, and incoherent, but then you would miss the mark on a Philosopher focused upon his polemic!
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