- Arte e niilismo. Nietzsche e o Enigma do Mundo by João Constâncio
Lisbon: Tinta-da-China, 2013. 388 pp. isbn: 978-989-671-166-5. Paper, €18.
The theme of nihilism has been the object of interpreters’ reflections since Nietzsche’s works were first published, and recent work has placed nihilism at the center of Nietzsche’s philosophical project (Bernard Reginster, The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006]). João Constâncio’s Arte e niilismo. Nietzsche e o Enigma do Mundo (Art and Nihilism: Nietzsche and the Riddle of the World) sheds new light on the problem of nihilism by relating it to many key concepts and themes in Nietzsche’s thought. The author starts from the Schopenhauerian perspective according to which what really matters to philosophy is giving an answer to the “riddle of the world”: “the world is puzzling because the way it is given to us raises the question ‘why something instead of nothing?’” (p. 57). This question from Leibniz’s philosophy reaches an existential dimension in Schopenhauer, since it is not just about asking what things are, but knowing the value that we are supposed to ascribe to them, in such a way that the question concerning the reason of the world’s being changes considerably based on the approach we have to it. This is the starting point from which Constâncio approaches Nietzsche’s philosophy in order to uphold the main thesis of his book: “Nietzsche’s philosophy intends to be a fight against nihilism and a new experience of the riddle of the world that results in a fusion of the critical spirit of science and the affirmative spirit of art” (45).
The book is composed of fourteen chapters and divided into five parts. In the first two chapters of the book’s first part, “Nihilism as a Problem” (“Niilismo como problema”), Constâncio starts from the Schopenhauerian definition of the world as riddle in order to indicate the existential dimension in Nietzsche’s thought (63). In this process, he demonstrates that, for Schopenhauer, only art and especially philosophy are able to ask about the meaning of existence in a radical way (73). Constâncio claims that Nietzsche’s [End Page 136] interpretation of Schopenhauer’s pessimism is the key to understanding his concept of nihilism: the fact that the world cannot be justified (80) does not imply for Nietzsche its complete lack of value, but something that the author calls the “innocence of becoming” (83). This expression was coined by Nietzsche as a clear rejection of a transcendental evaluation of the world, which was used to condemn life for not having any purpose that transcends it. The question of the world’s purpose is completely empty and is not suitable for the world’s denial or affirmation. Everything that exists is therefore just the innocence of becoming. In this way, Constâncio presents nihilism as a psychological and physiological phenomenon (84), and he develops this idea by discussing nihilism’s relation to the conceptions of the “will to truth,” the ascetic ideal, and decadence.
In the three chapters that form the book’s second part, “The Will to Power as Hypothesis” (“A vontade de poder como hipótese”), Constâncio discusses the epistemological bases upon which Nietzsche advances his project of the Selbstaufhebung of the will to truth. The author presents the will to power as an anti-metaphysical psychological hypothesis, which Nietzsche uses to overcome the threat of nihilism. On the basis of his will to power hypothesis, the German philosopher asserts that our drives, as perspectives, are the ground of our knowledge, and consciousness constitutes just its surface (119). The organization of our different drives and affects depends upon the hierarchy among them, where decadence is precisely a drive’s inability to coordinate other drives hierarchically (142–43). The will to power hypothesis brings forth in the last resort “an image of nature which is not just the image of a universe without God (or the universe after ‘God’s death...