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  • Nietzsche and the New Image of Thought
  • Brook M. Blair


Only by forgetting that primitive world of metaphors, only by the hardening and stiffening of an original mass of images pouring forth as fiery liquid [hitziger Flsigikeit] out of the primal faculty of human fantasy, only by the invincible faith, that this sun, this window, this table is a truth in itself; in short only by the fact that man forgets himself as subject, and what is more, as an artistically creating subject: only by all this does he live with some repose, safety, and consequence. If he were able to get out of the prison walls of this faith, even for an instant only, his “self-consciousness” would be destroyed at once.

NIETZSCHE, “On Truth and Falsity in Their Extramoral Sense”1

It is up to us to go to extreme places, to extreme times, where the highest and deepest truths live and rise up. The places of thought are the tropical zones, not temperate zones or the moral, methodical or moderate man.

DELEUZE, Nietzsche and Philosophy2

We owe a considerable debt to David Farrell Krell and Donald L. Bates for their fascinating treatment of Nietzsche in The Good European: Nietzsche’s Work Sites in Word and Image. There is obviously much to recommend in this lavish collaboration, but it is the attention brought to “the relationship between work and work site”3 that interests us most immediately here, thus serving as our initial point of departure. As those familiar with this book will know, it is replete with an almost dreamlike intermingling of biographical material, carefully selected excerpts from Nietzsche’s own writings, and an accompanying array of closely related photographs taken from both Nietzsche’s time and our own. What is perhaps more evocative still, however, is the manner in which each of these individual threads continually acts as commentary on the others, in the process refracting just enough light to allow for some fresh insight into that unique blend of life, expression, and milieu for which Nietzsche’s writings are by now so well-known. The treatment developed in these pages by Krell and Bates therefore does immeasurably more than any other existing study for situating Nietzsche within a palpable landscape of “larch and pine, grass and wildflower, sea air and cityscape”;4 “their odors, colors, sounds, silences, virtually everything that goes into the feel of them”5 is carried forth in this collage of word and image with great interest and vitality, once again leaving us to ponder the Nietzschean “art of thinking”6 and, as I would like to suggest below, potentially affording us yet another passage into what Gilles Deleuze was wont to describe as the “new image of thought”7 at work in his writings.

Indeed, one would be hard pressed in the entire history of philosophy to find any figure even roughly parallel to Nietzsche in his profound capacity for merging work and work site into metaphors of the most astonishing range and order; and yet, as Krell and Bates are quick to remind us, “[t]he influence of work site on the work cannot be reduced to the site’s serving as a reservoir of available metaphors,” for the function of the metaphors is “highly complex” and the “sites themselves...inexhaustibly rich.”8 The ways in which such often extraordinary surroundings “feed Nietzsche’s writing and thinking” thus “resist easy depiction.”9 Consequently, it is not merely the fluctuating relationship between life, expression, and milieu that merits our attention here, but the almost hallucinatory nature of Nietzsche’s own peregrinations, the measure of which still remains problematic to this day: For while Nietzsche did, in fact, manage to see more than a few choice parts of Europe, his most significant journeys were in no way limited to the precious little territory on which he actually set foot during his lifetime; rather, he seems almost always to have used his various work sites as if they were bowstrings for launching himself into the outermost perimeters of thought itself — a territory well beyond what was immediately given in his physical surroundings. “Nature propels the philosopher into mankind like an arrow...

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