- Nietzsche. His Philosophy of Contradictions and the Contradictions of His Philosophy
Since this work first appeared in 1971, Wolfgang Müller-Lauter has been at the forefront of German Nietzsche scholarship. The long overdue appearance in English translation of this important work is a welcome addition to the Nietzsche literature and, although dated in some respects, it remains an important work that warrants careful attention. As Richard Schacht notes in his foreword, the original publication of this work was a significant event in the history of Nietzsche studies in Germany. Coming ten years after the publication of Heidegger's massive two-volume Nietzsche, Müller-Lauter's book "provided a much-needed counterweight" to Heidegger's idiosyncratic treatment (ix). Aside from proferring a significant rejoinder to the Heideggerian interpretation, Müller-Lauter also responds to a vast array of German Nietzsche scholars, some well-known (K. Löwith, K. Jaspers, E. Fink, K. Schlechta), but many much less familiar. As such, this book is an important piece of historical scholarship, offering the contemporary English-speaking reader an interesting picture of German scholarship on Nietzsche before Heidegger's work took center stage as the dominant (unfortunately, some would say only) German work worth engaging.
But Müller-Lauter's book is not just of historical interest; it offers a powerful and profound reading of Nietzsche's corpus focused on the question of contradiction, both the contradictions readers find amidst Nietzsche's various works and Nietzsche's own philosophy of contradiction, namely, that contradictoriness is in some sense constitutive of the world. For Müller-Lauter, contradiction, the unresolvable conflict between essentially antithetical perspectives, grounds Nietzsche's philosophizing in wills to power. Emphasizing the plurality of conflicting wills to power, Müller-Lauter offers in successive chapters interpretations of Nietzsche's views on history as the "concrete occurrences" of these conflicting wills to power; nihilism as the process by which an organized system of forces (physical, social, intellectual, cultural) disintegrates into an antagonistic multiplicity of competing wills; morality as demanding truths that, once discovered, it can neither face nor accept, fleeing instead into a fictitious world of its own creation; Christian truthfulness as a destruction of truth that presents a "multiplicity of mutually opposing untruths" (72). All of these interpretations are shown to rest upon a contradiction at the heart of Nietzsche's own account of will to power, namely, that the strong will to power both affirms the multiplicity of perspectives and yet imposes its perspective as absolute.
This is the paradox of the overman, a paradox Müller-Lauter addresses in his final chapter on "the doctrine of eternal recurrence." Not surprisingly, the eternal recurrence reveals itself to be essentially contradictory. But this contradiction is not self-refuting; rather "since the eternal recurrence is only as a thought and a doctrine, its meaning remains insurmountably split into a duality" (121) reflected in two ultimately incompatible types of overman. There is, on the one hand, the "powerful overman" who sees the entirety of what is as necessary for his own existence; to affirm eternal [End Page 453] recurrence is to understand everything that has been as a necessary series of events that ends with himself at its apex. But there is also the "wise overman," who understands the totality of what has been and is as necessary for his having arrived at the present moment in which he transcends himself and becomes other. Where the meaning of the powerful overman's affirmation of eternal recurrence resides in his appearance as the being who is dominant, the meaning of the wise overman's affirmation lies in understanding and accepting what has been as the precondition for both what he presently is and what he can become. Although both types of overman want recurrence, Müller-Lauter concludes they want something different in it and by it: the wise overman "is concerned with dissolving in the stream of...