- Nietzsche. L’antiphilosophie I. 1992–1993 by Alain Badiou
Paris: Fayard, 2015. 336 pp. isbn: 978-2-213-68616-5. Paper, €19.
It is common knowledge that Nietzsche is very critical of traditional philosophy and strongly opposes a number of (if not all) philosophers, but Alain Badiou goes beyond this claim to interpret and classify Nietzsche as an “antiphilosopher.” As such, Badiou’s interpretation belongs to the [End Page 123] vast literature focusing on Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysics and truth. However, Badiou goes a bit further and develops a notion of “antiphilosophy” that not only is critical but also has a positive impact: Nietzsche is not only a critic of metaphysics, but he is also an antiphilosopher like Pascal or Rousseau. Nietzsche. L’antiphilosophie I is the transcript from a seminar Badiou gave in 1992–93 and, as the title suggests, is the first of a series of seminars on antiphilosophers (which includes Wittgenstein, Lacan, and Saint Paul). Badiou’s interpretation of Nietzsche is a first step in establishing his concept of “antiphilosophy,” which he introduces by posing three interrelated questions: “My strategy in this seminar will be to intertwine three interrogations: topical, on the status of the Nietzschean text; historical, asking whether the century was Nietzschean and in what sense; and generic, on the germane question of art” (16, unless noted otherwise, my translations throughout). Even though these “interrogations” are indeed intertwined, the first half of the book focuses more on the first question, and the second half focuses on the third. Badiou’s first task is to define Nietzsche’s philosophy—and that means to define what the Nietzschean text is—in order to establish and stabilize his notion of “antiphilosophy.” Badiou does not give a clear definition of “antiphilosophy” in this book but builds it through his comments on Nietzsche. In another of his books, Wittgenstein’s Antiphilosophy, Badiou defines “antiphilosophy” as three joint operations: (1) “It deposes the category of truth,” (2) “Philosophy is an act,” and (3) “This act without precedent destroys the philosophical act, all the while clarifying its noxious character. It overcomes it affirmatively” (Alain Badiou, Wittgenstein’s Antiphilosophy, trans. Bruno Bosteels [London: Verso, 2011], 75–76). “Antiphilosophy” would therefore be an act of overcoming the philosophical act; “anti-” is to be understood as an overcoming rather than a destroying or an opposing. How does Badiou understand Nietzsche’s philosophy, and how does he fit under these three operations? His interpretation, Badiou announces, focuses mainly on the later texts, from 1887–88, as their critical character is more germane in elaborating the notion of “antiphilosophy.”
For Badiou, Nietzsche’s philosophy is above all a philosophy of (e)valuation and transvaluation, which is not surprising, as Nietzsche’s later works aim toward a “revaluation of all values.” But if a revaluation of values must take place, philosophy cannot remain unchanged, and Nietzsche represents a rupture in philosophy. The revaluation of values is not limited to the field of morality—philosophy itself must be revaluated. This revaluation [End Page 124] of philosophy is what gives birth to “antiphilosophy.” Antiphilosophy is thus both a critical term and a metaphilosophical notion that reflects on the nature of philosophy and philosophical works. A first characteristic of this rupture is Nietzsche’s identification with his text: whereas traditional philosophers attempt to eliminate themselves as subjects from the text, Nietzsche does the opposite, and by doing so he becomes the center of the evaluating process. The whole of Nietzsche’s critique of systematic philosophy can thus be seen as an attempt to bring subjectivity back into philosophy, and the use of the term “mask” to designate the systematic form of Spinoza’s philosophy is a clue to this lack of subjectivity: Spinoza hides himself behind a system (BGE 5). If all philosophy is the philosopher’s “unconscious memoir” (BGE 6), Nietzsche brings this subjective side to the fore.
Looking at his text reveals that Nietzsche works to deconstruct traditional argumentation; for Badiou, his texts are not arguments but declarations. This view could lead to a reflection on the performative dimension of Nietzsche’s texts and the effects...