Il nuovo infinito di Nietzsche. La futura obiettività tra arte e scienza by Marco Vozza
One methodological principle that shows the contemporary value of Nietzsche’s thought is the task of “seeing things, as they are!,” for which the only way is “to be able to see them from a hundred eyes, from many persons!” (KSA 9:11). Along with many others, this passage indicates the attitude of a philosopher intent on fruitfully examining multiplicity and difference. In his volume, translatable as Nietzsche’s New Infinite: Future Objectivity between Art and Science, Marco Vozza highlights Nietzsche’s propensity to study multiple, often apparently contradictory phenomena through an analysis that is not comparative but reciprocally penetrating. Such an approach is what the Italian author calls “binocular optics,” although we might speak more of multiocular optics.
From his very brief introduction—whose title, “Why Nietzsche in Times of Realism?,” echoes Hölderlin’s verse “wozu Dichter in dürftiger Zeit”—the author means to situate his work in a dual context. The widest context is explicitly ontological and gnoseological realism, which not only characterizes huge parts of contemporary philosophy but is also generally assumed, often uncritically, as an implicit supposition in the natural, cognitive, and even sometimes social sciences. However, more subtly, Vozza seems to be referring to the milieu at the University of Turin, where he teaches aesthetics and Maurizio Ferraris’s “New Realism” has acquired ever more importance over the past few years, provoking a curious philosophical debate in Italy. One of the goals of Ferraris, also well known for his studies on Nietzsche, is precisely that of attempting to neutralize the idea summed up in the motto “there are no facts, only interpretations” (KSA 12:7).
Vozza counterpoises an interpretation of Nietzsche based heavily on the valorization of the affectivity of the closest things (die nächsten Dinge), thus proposing the philosophical reevaluation of a series of elements anchored to our vital reality, elements that, by their very nature, escape reductionisms and intellectual simplifications. Programmatically, Vozza follows a well-known interpretive model that aims to undermine Heidegger’s five fundamental words (fünf Hauptworte), focusing attention on concepts of “health and illness, affect and pain, profundity and surface, temperament and style” (9). The theoretical intentions of this volume are therefore both interesting and sound.
In the first chapter of the book, Vozza defines the primary objective of Nietzsche’s entire philosophy as the attempt to “free man from the spirit of gravity” (11). After presenting Nietzsche’s most general critique of metaphysical philosophy—according to which the latter has distanced humans from the perceivable sphere and the reality that we can access through posing the real (das wahre Sein) in a deep and essentially unknown dimension—the author stresses how the next step consists in repositioning the human in the immediate world, including its ordinary, daily, epidermal, and therefore superficial elements. The reevaluation of the surface, that is, of the world of the closest things, thus implies a strengthening of affects and an increase in our perception and faculties of knowing. Vozza then attributes, although reductively, Nietzsche’s reflections on the body to the liberation of the human from the spirit of gravity—defining it, with a contribution from Lévinas and Nancy, as “an entity without profound and interior attributes,” as “pure exteriority” (19). In this way, the author means to promote a rearticulation of the human that does not hinge on differentiating between interior and exterior.
These considerations are shifted to an epistemological level in the second chapter, which traces the “features of an affective perspectivism.” In fact, his attention focuses on the link between the perspectivalist theory of knowledge and the affective, passionate, and corporal genesis of thought. At first, Vozza develops arguments—for the most part already well known—regarding the somewhat constructivist nature of perspectivism and the fact that it does not result in a negation of reality. On the contrary, the perspective and interpretive character of existence has, for Nietzsche, a constitutive function toward reality, inasmuch as interpretive operations dictated by interests, passions, and affects allow for the attribution of sense to a scenario of facts that would otherwise be incomprehensible or irrelevant. Furthermore, the author highlights how the intellect underlying [End Page 309] perspectivism is affectively implied, made up of a multiplicity of interpretive forces afferent to the body and consequently is not ascribable to a unitary, pure, and atemporal subject. The multiplicity and difference of such elements constitutes the basis for the famous formula of “future ‘objectivity’ [einstmalige ‘Objektivität’]” (GM III:12)—although Vozza unfortunately omits the important quotation marks, even in the title of the volume.
Considering the central relevance that this passage assumes throughout the book, I would have liked to have seen a more exhaustive interpretation that went beyond the obvious statement that here “objectivity appears as a synonym for the complexity of the real” (42). This is because any reference to the many studies dedicated to this aphorism, even Maudemarie Clark’s widely discussed Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), is missing. At the end of the second chapter, we find an attempt to define the “will to power as affect” or rather a “merely intermediary point” between interpretation and affectivity (46) and applying the perspectivalist method of binocular optics to the apparent hendiadys of health and illness.
More interesting, and more scrupulously documented, is the third chapter dedicated to the complex problem of “comparing art and science.” First, Vozza stresses how Nietzsche again uses binocular optics, looking at science from an artistic perspective and vice versa. On the one hand, we see that both develop on the same terrain: both express the human capacity to shape and organize reality and both correspond to two different interpretive activities in the world. On the other hand, however, their relation is far from being purely coextensive: in many places in Nietzsche’s writings, art is called to correct the theoretical attitude of science by introducing elements of creativity and fantasy in a world that is otherwise reduced to mere calculation; similarly, science is entrusted with the task of limiting the irrational attitude found in art. Certainly, the science to which Nietzsche is referring each time he uses the term “Wissenschaft” should be specified, and therefore it should not be taken for granted, as he himself did not, that there is essentially only one science. For example, he might be referring to hard sciences like physics and mathematics or to philological scholarship or to the ironic and gay science of “fröhliche Wissenschaft,” and so on. In any case, the basic approach is fundamentally correct.
Next, Vozza dedicates a few interesting pages to the definition of “great style [großer Stil]” and to the influence of classical-romantic culture on the German philosopher. Here, the author meticulously describes Nietzsche’s progressive detachment—after an initial phase of youthful exaltation—from Schiller’s thought and, above all, from his more hostile assertions against science. Yet, according to the author, important traces of Schillerian aesthetics, able to arouse doubt in his more trenchant judgments against the author of Don Carlos, persist throughout Nietzsche’s work. Less problematic is his proximity to Goethe, regularly idealized and highly esteemed by Nietzsche. According to Vozza, it is precisely Goethe, supporter of a fundamental unity between the laws of art and science, who represents the incarnation of the union of the two disciplines for Nietzsche. On the basis of these elements, the author appropriately suggests that (1) it is not the scientific approach tout court that Nietzsche criticizes but the metaphysical ambition of science to reveal ultimate and definitive truth; (2) such ambition can be mitigated if the natural proximity of science to artistic practice is recognized; (3) it would then follow that science can thus effectively oppose nihilism, generating interest for the perceivable sphere to the detriment of the hereafter. In brief, Vozza accurately affirms that Nietzsche promoted an idea of science far from ontological realism.
The fourth chapter then moves on to analyze Nietzsche’s relationship to Hume’s empiricism, where, according to Vozza’s interpretation, the author of The Gay Science proposes a radicalized understanding in a nominalist-conventionalist vein. In fact, it is impossible to maintain that for Nietzsche sensorial impressions represent a given or ultimate truth since they are, from the very beginning, subject to a kind of cognitive elaboration—or precomprehension—determined, again, by interpretive activity. Thus, according to the author, the skepticism already present in Hume is radicalized in Nietzsche, insofaar as he uses it to question not only the principles of reason but also the final proof of sense impressions. On this point, it is interesting to note how Vozza, on the one hand, sees an evolution of Hume’s sensations-habits-ideas triad in the relationship between [End Page 310] metaphor and concept explored above all in “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense,” and, on the other hand, bases a conventionalist-nominalist interpretation of Nietzsche on the intersubjective nature of metaphoric language. Instead, he fittingly identifies a more linear continuity between the English and German philosophers when they are most critical toward the notions of causality and subject. Nonetheless, here the task of “fulfilling” (111) the deconstruction of such concepts and integrating them into a more complex interpretive-perspectivalist paradigm falls upon Nietzsche.
The last chapter of the book is a kind of appendix of “comparisons with other interpretations,” specifically those of Karl Löwith, Martin Heidegger, Lou Salomé, Gottfried Benn, Albert Camus, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Klossowski, and Didier Franck. Although the attempt to trace a historical continuity in one’s own interpretive approach is justified, it nevertheless seems out of place to consider one’s own interpretation of Nietzsche to be on the same level as the above-cited thinkers. Furthermore, five and a half pages are not sufficient to adequately deal with Heidegger, and a serious “comparison” with Löwith or Jaspers cannot happen in four and two pages, respectively.
In general, the eclecticism of the topics addressed in the five chapters and the absence of a solid common denominator lead more to a collection of essays than a monograph. The theses presented by Vozza are for the most part sound, but the book itself promises more than it offers and, in terms of new ideas, does not constitute, in my opinion, a significant contribution to Nietzsche studies. Considered instead as an introductory guide, it is definitely worth a read because it effectively confronts topics that often pass unobserved among nonspecialist audiences.