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19 1 How to De-Nazify Nietzsche’s Philosophical Anthropology? Jacob Golomb Most Nazi readings of Nietzsche’s thought justify their acts of misappropriation by referring to his key notion of the will to power in terms of a violent, overpowering, and physical force, which, if used effectively and efficiently, will secure a convincing military victory and material conquest.1 Ironically, the first to interpret the will to power in terms of military imperialism was Max Nordau, a leading cultural critic and subsequently Herzl’s most important convert to political Zionism, who passionately warned his readers against this “degenerate” thinker whose influence was likely to bring havoc to the cause of “enlightened” and progressive European culture.2 This essay, in tune with Nietzsche’s philosophical anthropology as delineated in his published writings, will draw some fundamental distinctions between two of his central notions—those of Kraft against Macht. It will also introduce the main psychological typology delineated in his major writings between what I will henceforth refer to as “positive ” versus “negative” power patterns. Consequently it will become clear that what Nazis referred to when using the so-called Nietzschean idea of a military and physical Macht was actually what Nietzsche understood to be Kraft and Gewalt. Moreover, even within the conceptual domain of Macht, it will become apparent that its violent and aggressive manifestations were confined by him, in most cases, to the behavioral patterns of persons who suffered from and expressed the psychological phenomenon of “negative” power. By the end of this essay it 20 䡲 jacob golomb should become clear that Nietzche’s notion of power and his typologies are not based on crude naturalism or on the biological and eugenic distinctions that were the sine qua non of Nazi racism.3 The key to the meaning of the will to power is Nietzsche’s notion of self-overcoming. Selbstüberwindung is a concept originating in Nietzsche ’s recognition of the role of sublimation. Sublimation, as the mental mechanism that orders and subdues instinctual drives, is responsible for the attainment of “self-mastery” (D, 109).4 As a perpetual willing, the will to power negates the already formulated (Apollonian) forms and replaces them with other creations. Dialectical self-overcoming is the clue, then, to Nietzsche’s mature philosophizing .5 It can be construed in part as an indirect “confession” of his triumph over the negative (in his eyes) elements of his character and culture.6 Certain parts of Nietzsche’s personal and intellectual biography are transformed by his mature philosophy, some are preserved intact , others are eliminated, while still others are elevated beyond the merely biographical. Thus, Nietzsche’s notion of self-overcoming also contains the meaning of maturity and spiritual growth. In the later stages of character development one must have vanquished whatever elements are alien to the inner, organic personality—the elements precluding authentic creativity and freedom. If one were to ask Nietzsche, “What is the purpose of this self-overcoming?” he could have succinctly answered, “To achieve maturity and power.” In this respect the will to power is similar to the will to selfhood—namely to become an autonomous person capable of devising and effectuating values. The optimal will to power is realized in the ideal Übermensch. On the other hand, if this will is diminished in quality, one’s tendency to escape from one’s individual self and to identify with the “herd” will intensify. Individuals with a sound psychic make-up and personal authenticity are endowed with a will to power of higher quality and greater vitality.7 Their will expresses the master morality, in contrast to the slave morality typical of those possessing lesser power or Macht, although the latter may be endowed with greater physical force or Kraft. The distinction between Kraft and Macht is crucial to any understanding of Nietzsche’s mature doctrine of power: it represents his philosophical emphasis on the transition from physical force to mental and spiritual power. Power (Macht) versus Force (Kraft) in Nietzsche Nietzsche’s notion of Kraft refers to a primitive energy, to a latent and indefinite state that functions only when activated within a concrete situation.8 The transition from Kraft to Macht is thus a transition from philosophical anthropology 䡲 21 the potentiality of force to its actualization. Blind Kraftquellen are transmuted and become mächtig (powerful) through a concrete expression in a specific cultural and historical context. The transition from a primal, inchoate driving force into...


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