- Im Angesicht des Unendlichen: Zur Metaphysikkritik Nietzsches by Damir Barbarić
This book collects ten separate essays concerned with the problem of the infinite, or eternal becoming, which Damir Barbarić sees as “Nietzsche’s fundamental philosophical intuition” and, indeed, as almost his “only problem” (10; quotations from Barbarić are my translations). Barbarić’s aim is to read Nietzsche as a metaphysician in the classical sense—that is, as a systematic philosopher concerned with reality as a whole, with being and becoming. In this respect, Barbarić follows Heidegger’s lead, although his conclusions differ significantly from Heidegger’s. In order to investigate the nature of the infinite, Barbarić pursues several approaches: he studies and interprets some recurring metaphors in Nietzsche’s work, such as the “silence” and the “night” that follow the sunset of Christianity with its “diurnal” system of values, and the “sea” into which all human knowledge seems to sink in the time of nihilism; he analyzes in detail the meaning and role of specific concepts in Nietzsche’s philosophy, and particularly “Dionysian Rausch,” “Heimatlosigkeit,” the “death of God,” and the “will to truth”; and, finally, he compares aspects of Nietzsche’s thought with aspects of the thought of other figures in the history of metaphysics, such as Hegel, Schelling, and the ancient Greeks. In so doing, Barbarić moves across the whole of Nietzsche’s writings, from the published works to the Nachlass and letters.
According to Barbarić, the primary function of Nietzsche’s notion of the infinite is critical: it shows the limits of thinking and language. The infinite cannot be objectified and understood through the traditional categories of metaphysics, morality, and knowledge, such as “unity,” “subject,” “cause,” “thing,” “soul,” “purpose,” and “will.” Rather, it is experienced through a feeling or sensation, which Barbarić connects with the ancient sense of thaumazein: “Nietzsche considers the soul’s opening in the encounter with the new, the foreign, the unexperienced, and the unknown as the essence of astonishment” (20). This experience is both stimulating and frightening (16), liberating and annihilating (33); the individual experiences its “falseness,” and especially that of its consciousness. If the infinite shows the inconsistency of words, should one then conclude that silence is the most true and perfect stage of existence? According to Barbarić, Nietzsche does not simply aim to abandon the realm of the thinkable and the speakable—that is, the realm of consciousness. His main concern is rather to deal with the limit-experience of the infinite (47). But in which terms is it possible to approach such an experience, which is unconscious by definition?
For Barbarić, the answer to this question lies in the interpretation of Dionysian Rausch, which he understands as a state of metamorphic tension with a double nature: on the one hand, productive and creative, on the other, constantly lacking and unsatisfied. The Dionysian expresses life in its purest form: “For Nietzsche, life is overabundance of being that turns itself into its opposite, into nothing, in order to become and to be able to affirm itself in becoming over and over. The last word of Nietzsche’s philosophy is neither for being nor for nothing, nor even for becoming, but rather only for becoming that always overcomes nothing and thereby is” (81). This claim synthesizes Barbarić’s attempt to read Nietzsche as a “metaphysician” while marking his distance from both those interpretations that read him more as a “philosopher of being,” such as Heidegger’s, and those that read him exclusively as a “philosopher of becoming,” such as Deleuze’s.
This claim also provides a guiding principle for Barbarić’s detailed analysis of the experience of the infinite. At first, this experience seems to be impossible, because the infinite shows itself as a constant change that breaks the unity of the experiencing subject—every single individual appears as something completely new in every briefest moment of time (95). According to Barbarić, Nietzsche [End Page 228] encounters here the ancient problems of the ineffability of the individual and the aporias of infinity, discussed...