The Journal of Nietzsche Studies 30 (2005) 22-48
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Creating on the Crest of the Timepoint
North Hennepin Community College
"Settling on the Threshold of the Moment"
Since the translation and publication of Nietzsche's fragment from 1873 called the Zeitatomenlehre, Time-Atom Theory, we find that the fundamental interpretations "for life" that Nietzsche reveals lie at a level removed from social and political readings per se and belong more fairly to the speculations of the sciences of physics and bodily perception. I will argue that Nietzsche develops, throughout his philosophy, time-conceptions that urge us to live more unhistorically and superhistorically.
Nietzsche's Zeitatomenlehre first came to light in Alwin Mittasch, Nietzsche als Naturphilosoph (Stuttgart: Alfred Kroner Verlag, 1952). Mittasch was familiar with this aspect of Nietzsche's work as editor of volume 10 of the Grossoktavausgabe edition of Nietzsche's works. Then in 1962 the Zeitatomenlehre was given (alongside Nietzsche's original handwriting) in Karl Schlechta and Anni Anders, Friedrich Nietzsche: Von den verborgenen Anfangen seines Philosophierens (Stuttgart-ad Bal, Cannstatt: Friedrich Fromman Verlag). It was then made available in volume 7 of the Colli-Montinari Kritische Studienausgabe, Band 7 (Berlin and New York, 1988) (KSA 7: 26). An English translation is available in volume 11 of Stanford's Complete Works (1995). Nietzsche's Zeitatomenlehre had not been seriously considered until about 1990. For the reader's convenience, I give my own translation here.1
I would like to interpret the major points in the Zeitatomenlehre and offer an interpretation that can help with lacunae others have found in Nietzsche's theory of time and the eternal recurrence of the same. This discussion is essential to understanding an interpretation of Nietzsche's mature ideas of will to power, eternal recurrence of the same, and especially Nietzsche's conception of the overhuman.2
Translation of Nietzsche's Time Atom Theory
(Zeitatomenlehre) Early 1873
Movement in time
Spacepoint A effects spacepoint B and vice versa.
Consecutive timepoints would fall into one another.
A would no longer encounter the B of the first moment with its effect.
That would mean above all that A is unchanged and exactly the same in that and in this timepoint. Then, however, A is not an effective force, because it can no longer be the same; because that would mean it had not created an effect.
Suppose we posit effective being in time, it would be a different one in each tiniest effective time moment.
That means, time proves the absolute noncontinuance of a force.
All laws of space are then to be thought of as timeless, that means, they must be simultaneous and immediate.
The whole world at a stroke. Then, however, there is no movement.
Movement labors under the contradiction, that it is constructed according to laws of space and through the acceptance of time makes these laws impossible again; that means, it simultaneously is and is not.
Here it is helpful to accept that either time or space = 0.
If I take space as infinitely small, all spaces in between the atoms would be infinitely small; that means all atom points fall together into one [and the same space] point.
Since, however, time is infinitely divisible, the whole world is possible as purely time phenomena, because each timepoint can be occupied by the one space point [my emphasis] and can be so posited an infinite number of times. One would have to think the essence of a body as distinct timepoints, that means, the one [space] point placed in specific intervals. Between each time-interval, more infinite timepoints can be placed: then it is possible to think a whole material world, with the one [space] point supplying the means [my emphasis], but in such a way that we can resolve...