Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Rutherford on Nietzsche on Freedom
I was pleased to see that Donald Rutherford's important paper on Spinoza, the Stoics, Nietzsche and the idea of freedom has now appeared in Inquiry.
Posted by Brian Leiter at 12:40 PM
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I found it a real success of Rutherford's paper that it points out quite clearly a main disagreement between Spinoza and Nietzsche with respect to freedom. The general similarity is common enough: Spinoza and Nietzsche both share a conception of freedom which integrates deterministic featues with a form of autonomy. Yet where they differ, according to Rutherford, is in terms of knowledge of nature: "The emphasis that the Stoics and Spinoza place on the lawful order of the universe and its comprehension by rational minds is an obvious point on which Nietzsche diverges from them" (535).
Rutherford explains that Nietzsche's understanding of nature and the cosmos simply doesn't match up with how Spinoza's understanding of nature and its laws. But why does Nietzsche reject this view? Indeed he contends that reason is an overemphasized faculty, but why? The difference here might be the simple fact that Nietzsche is more interested in "free spirits" than some of Spinoza's aims (self-preservation or the love of God). Consider a passage from BGE 213:
"[T]hey [artists] are the ones who know only too well that their feeling of freedom, finesse and authority, of creation, formation, and control only reaches its apex when they have stopped doing anything 'voluntarily' and instead do everything necessarily, - in short, they know that inside themselves necessity and 'freedom of the will' have become one."
Here the artist's notion of freedom seems to be a mere acceptance and welcoming of necessity. Voluntary action can be more a hindrance to the artist than a help. Moreover, causal knowledge might have the same effect. Knowledge of nature or its laws is not necessary for the artist to reach her apex. Unfortunately though, this acceptance of necessity or amor fati must be more complex than it sounds and hence cashing out what it involves is difficult. As Rutherford notes, "Exactly what is involved in this assent, and in the related amore fati, remains obscure" (535).
Any thoughts on what more can be said about "necessity and 'freedom of the will'" becoming one in the moment of artistic excellence?
Anyone else puzzled by the absence of Schopenhauer in an otherwise so helpful discussion of Nietzsche on freedom and fate? (That Nietzsche's conception of assenting to fate is deeply mediated by his struggle against Schopenhauer is pretty signficant, I would have thought.)
I think Nietzsche is saying that when artists try to be "artists", like when a painter tries to be "a painter", or when this same painter tries to be "himself" as a painter, they won't produce genuine art.
Genuine art taken as a clean representation of some inner condition.
What is it that we are doing when we try to express something as artists?
We are trying to represent the effect which the imprint of the inner and outer world produces on us.
These representations materialize as something we can see, hear, touch, etc.
Our contact with these works of art might be comforting at some level to us: we might be recognizing something of ours in them: our inner-self, maybe. We might want to think that.
This process, including the resulting work by the artist, is similar to what we see when the light of the sun hits the bottom of a pond, echoing outwards a different pattern of light.
The artist, with its natural ability and educated hand, is able to faithfully capture this echoing on its canvas: like if he was on a trance, hearing the sounds of his inner stars.
This is where he concentrates: in his inner music.
Not in the final product that he is supposed to produce.
He closes his eyes, and tries to hear the music.
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