Nietzsche’s Argument Against Re-presentation Through The Lenses Of Deleuze And Heidegger


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Title: Nietzsche’s Argument  Against Re-presentation Through The Lenses Of Deleuze And Heidegger

“The notion of representation poisons philosophy (Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 81)


The early 1960’s were a monumental time in the history of Nietzsche studies, as two philosophers who would go on to be considered, arguably, the most important continental philosophers of the twentieth century, Deleuze and Heidegger, both published their major book length interpretations of Nietzsche at that time.  Their approaches are very different.  Deleuze takes the Nietzschean image of the playful dice throw and necessity of chance to help re-interpret beings as non-representational symptoms of an underlying play of forces.  Heidegger, on the other hand, interprets Nietzsche in the traditional metaphysical light of eternal return as existentia and will to power as essentia.  Though these two approaches to the core of what Nietzsche was trying to do are very different, this essay attempts to show both Deleuze’s and Heidegger’s interpretations are very complimentary in the way they invoke Nietzsche’s thought to dismantle re-presentational philosophy.

Key Words: Re-presentation; Deleuze; Heidegger; Nietzsche; Criteria; Interpret; Evaluate


This essay is meant as a critique of representational philosophy, the tradition of philosophy that has its beginnings with the Greeks.  Representation is Heidegger’s schema for organizing the history of Western Philosophy.  Representational thinking is so ingrained in the way we look at life, that any attempt to argue against it has some steep cliffs to climb.  For instance, Dutilh Novaes says

“In particular, arguments that threaten our core beliefs and our sense of belonging to a group (e.g., political beliefs) typically trigger all kinds of motivated reasoning (Taber & Lodge 2006; Kahan 2017) whereby one outright rejects those arguments without properly engaging with their content. (Dutilh Novaes, 2021)”


First, we look at the Greek understanding of the essence of present beings as being re-presented in the light of their Being, with the critique of Antisthenes.  Next, we see the birth of Modern representational philosophy with the turn to the subject with Descartes.  Finally, we see representation expanded with Kant’s transcendental idealism.  Given this background/context, we will then look at how Nietzsche is going to disrupt this re-presentational philosophy.  Firstly, Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche will center around how things and phenomena are actually non-representational symptoms of an interplay of forces (also see Deleuze, Nietzsche’s Burst, 129): “The artist in general must treat the world as a symptom (Deleuze, On Nietzsche, 140).”  After presenting Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche contra representation via radical empiricism, Heidegger will be shown in his reading of Nietzsche how eternal return wipes the canvas of beings clean to then allow will to power to stamp becoming with Being.  In both these cases, Deleuze’s and Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche, a powerful critique of the philosophy of “essence” is proposed: substituting out “what is” for “which one” with Deleuze, and substituting out knowing for schematizing out of utility for Heidegger (Also see Deleuze, “Nietzsche” in Pure Immanence, 65ff).   


(i)               Plato’s laugh

Heidegger points out that Antisthenes denied the possibility of addressing something as something, or, more specifically, something as something else (cf Aristotle's Topics A, chapter 11). In other words, Antisthenes denies the possibility of addressing something in the form kataphasis (affirmation) and apophasis (denial), in the 'as' form, which also implies there can not be a contradiction, since a mere phasis (showing) cannot be false. The only manner Antisthenes allows for addressing things is by tautological naming, man is man. In this regard, Antisthenes denied the possibility of delimiting the essential content of a thing in a definition, because the definition is macro, containing many words, so it attempts to exhibit one thing in terms of many things, in that the thing itself as a one is not addressed but rather is addressed in terms of what it is not.   Antisthenes thought a being cannot be properly exhibited in a definition.  We shall now make this more explicit and show how the birth of representational philosophy is to be found here.


The kind of logos under discussion, as Aristotle understands it, can have two possibilities. It is either the definition that supposedly properly shows the being, or one of the manifold determinations of beings, "[fjor in a certain sense every being coincides with itself as itself and with itself as it is qualified (Heidegger, Plato’s Sophist, 350)." The latter manner is in a sense derivative because it involves a synthesis, a joining together with that which already is in itself to something it is not in itself.   Antisthenes, Aristotle says (cf Metaphysics, V, chapter 28, 1024b32f ), believed only in addressing a being in the logos proper to it because he did not distinguish between addressing the thing in itself and addressing the thing 'as' something. For Antisthenes, a definition was not possible because it did not, following what was said above, address the thing, and hence a tautology, positing one and the same thing in relation to itself, was the only proper logos. Hence, the addressing of something as something (else) is excluded in Antisthenes doctrine.


Plato, in the Sophist, called Antisthenes doctrine "the most laughable, katagelastotata (252b8)," because it denied that something was to be understood by appealing to something beyond the thing itself, while Antisthenes himself tacitly adopted a whole slew of ontological structures even in mere naming that go beyond the mere entity at hand, such as einai, Being, choris, separate from, ton allown, the others, and kath auto, in itself.  Thus, to be a being for Plato means something is what it is in its specificity (eg a bachelor), and not what it isn’t (a tree), and not nothing at all. This is the birth of metaphysics: ta meta ta physica, beings understood in their Being.  So, for Plato man must always have Being in view by the mind’s eye. Hence, we could not have the experience of beings that we do unless we had in view such things as variation/equality by the mind’s eye in order to encounter various things; a view of sameness/contrariety to encounter ourselves as self-same in each case; a view of symmetry and harmoniousness allow us to arrange and construct things; etc. It is also specifically understood by Aristotle from the point of view of a being’s “what being (the table as hard),” and its “how-being (the table as badly positioned),” this second sense of Being referring both to how the observer encounters the being (it looks badly positioned) and the context of the being. In this second sense, a table is (i) at-hand if we need to resolve a dispute about its colour, and (ii) badly positioned in the corner of the lecture hall during a lecture vs well positioned in the corner of the stadium when the game is going on.

This was Plato’s thrown gauntlet: The addressing something as something, the very entity-hood of the entity, implies a kataphasis/apophasis, because it addresses a being in terms of what is beyond it, namely its Being. To be present as a being means to be present in such a way that it is “re-presented” in the light of Being.   And, following what was said about Plato, a being, something as something, shows the mind schematizing beings in something like the form of a predicative judgement.  “To be” means to be re-presented.


(ii)             Descartes and Re-presentation as Subject-hood

Initiating the modern period of re-presentational philosophy, Heidegger argues the inception was with Descartes’ interpretation of the subject: 

“Because [with Descartes] man essentially has become the subjectum, and beingness has become equivalent to representedness, and truth equivalent to certitude, man now has disposal over the whole of beings as such in an essential way, for he provides the measure for the beingness of every individual being (Heidegger, Nietzsche vol 2, 121).”


Heidegger argues thinking or cogitare for Descartes is more specifically percipere (per-capio), a term Descartes does substitute for cogitare, the seizing or taking possession of something so as to place it before oneself or presenting it to oneself, re-presenting.  So we have the two poles of representation as (i) represented and (ii) representing, just as we have perceptio as percipere and perceptum.  For Descartes every ego cogito is a cogito me cogitare, every “I represent something” simultaneously “always already represents myself.”  Human consciousness is self-consciousness, though not that the self is an object for consciousness like the tree or house, but rather the essence of the subject is re-presenting in the light of the essence of truth.  What does this mean?


Lifeless nature in principle is interpreted as res extensa as a consequence of the Sum res cogitans, which is a principium or ground, meaning self-representing representation.  This stands in relation to truth.  Let’s explain this.

Since the ancients, truth meant agreement of knowledge with beings.  But this understanding is quite fluid and varies depending on what is understood by “knower” and “beings.”  Consequently, Descartes’ interpretation of knowledge only recognizes as [recall the ‘as’ with Antisthenes and Plato] a true being that which, in relation to cogitare/percipere, is secured in re-presentation that presents it to a subject as indubitable and can be reckoned with as such at all times.[1]


Specifically, the res extensa or extended substances are re-presented in terms of shape and motion as what is “really real” in them, location and mobility, that which makes the res extensa predictable and controllable.  For Descartes this made us “the masters and possessors of nature (Descartes, Opp. VI, 61 ff).”  This is made possible for Descartes via the structure of the cogito as that which, in re-presenting, unconsciously creates for beings the conditions for presentability: indubitability and certitude.  On the basis of this error is possible, when in re-presenting, something is presented to the one representing that does not satisfy the conditions of presentability: indubitability and certitude.


For Nietzsche, inasmuch as representing re-presents beings as fixed (predictable and controllable), it denies the reality, the realm of becoming.  The fixed is seen as what “is,” while becoming is what “is not.”  Cartesian truth for Nietzsche is an error some beings cannot survive without.

(iii)            Kant and Transcendental Idealism as Re-presentation

The next great figure of representational thinking for Deleuze is Kant.  Deleuze says:

“We recognize here the development of a mystification which began with Kant.  By making will the essence of things or the world seen from the inside, the distinction between two worlds is denied in principle: the same world is both sensible and super-sensible (Deleuze, NP, 83).”


Let us consider Kant’s philosophy of Will, which is not what we usually mean by Will, but rather unconsciously self-legislating rules that make scientific experience/judgments possible, as well as moral experience/judgments possible.  Kant says his critical period was sparked by Hume’s skepticism.  For instance, Hume said we only ever experience an ever-changing manifold of thing following upon thing (one ball hits and moves another) or state following upon state (steam following upon heating liquid water).  We simply experience a constantly changing manifold: this, then this, then this, etc, not B following A necessarily, that is, according to a rule.  Therefore, for Hume we don’t experience cause and effect, just the mind associates A with B as cause and effect because we see them together all the time.

Kant agreed, but then made a distinction between sense and experience, saying that while we only ever sense a manifold of thing following upon thing or state following upon state, the mind re-presents this manifold from sense to itself as “understanding experience,” and so we understandingly experience cause and effect as the manifold presented in sense re-presented in something like the form of a language, re-presented to us in terms of the framework of the rule of temporal irreversibility of the varying degrees of the experienced causal sequence: So, we experience temporal irreversibility (1) Positively as change of place where form is unchanged  (one ball hits another and moves it); (2) Comparatively Greater as temporary change of form (boiling water, that then returns to starting form when the heat source is removed); and (3) Superlatively creating a self-standing new form (the cooked egg can’t be uncooked).  We do indeed understandingly experience the various degrees of the irreversibility of the causal sequence even if we don’t sense it.  For Kant, obviously Hume was right that we don’t “sense” the “according to a rule,” but do “understandingly experience” it.


Heidegger says in his lecture course on Kant’s practical philosophy that Kant redefines Descartes “I Think” as “I Will,” in that through the unconscious self-legislation of rules the Will re-presents the world and self to itself out of a causality of freedom (man being founded on himself), which Heidegger says is not a freedom-from, but a freedom-for that “makes possible”:  So, man unconsciously legislates to himself that he morally accompanies all his actions, making moral judgments/moral experiences possible, which can be phenomenalized in contrast to certain mentally challenged people, or animals, who are not attached to their actions morally in the way we are (the dog isn’t evil because he bites you).  Similarly, the way man re-presents the sensory manifold to himself in understanding experience makes scientific causal experience and causal judgments possible.  Man unconsciously obeys these self imposed rules/imperatives categorically, which is to say as a function of being human.


So, with representational thinking, we have some of the cornerstones of western thought.  Beings are substances with properties, standing over and against a person, whose mind unconsciously and rationally organizes experience for her.  It is precisely this moral, rational person and her world that will be argued against in the next two sections.

1 Deleuze’s Nietzsche And The Critique Of Re-presentation

·         This section is not meant as a presentation of Deleuze’s philosophical position, but rather his interpretation of Nietzsche (mainly in his “Nietzsche and Philosophy”)


Deleuze’s general orientation toward Nietzsche is the point of view that things and phenomena are not the ontos on / alethos on, the really/truly real, but are in fact signs or symptoms that express interior and exterior forces and interactions between forces (Deleuze, NP, xvi).  Traditionally in Western thought, inquiry into Being is divided between what-being, essentia, and how-being or existentia.  With Nietzsche, Deleuze says the question of essence or “what is” is transformed into the question “which one is,” such as “who is capable of uttering such a proposition,” although no personalism is implied here.  The “which one” is Will to Power.  So, for instance, we might ask of the Christian position of “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25” what reactive forces are at play in such a statement.


Deleuze argues thinking for Nietzsche progresses beyond the dichotomy of truth/falsity as criteria and instead concerns itself with interpretation/weighting of forces and evaluation of power (Deleuze, Conclusions, 118).  So, the issue is not “For Descartes truth is certainty, in the sense of freedom from doubt,” but genealogically uncovering how Descartes’ conception of truth was birthed in the tradition stretching from Thomas and realized in Luther that what needed to be certain as freedom from doubt for Luther was the salvation of the soul, and the consequences of such a conception of truth being our basic stance toward the world.  Heidegger noted elevated levels of anxiety in moderns because life is being lived as securing against doubt, which of course exacerbates anxiety/doubt just as obsessing about eating healthy when you are on a diet can easily exacerbate the problem because you are thinking about food all the time.  As Foucault said,  “[T]ruth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power: contrary to a myth whose history and functions would repay further study, truth isn’t the reward of free spirits, the child of protracted solitude, nor the privilege of those who have succeeded in liberating themselves. Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint (Interview, “Truth and Power” 131).”  Foucault isn’t being particularly controversial here, and is just elaborating on Nietzsche’s point that assessment and evaluation criteria (such as the sour grapes criteria of slave morality used in assessing and evaluating actions as Good vs Evil) don’t simply appear ready made from heaven, but are historical and reflect culture, taste, bias, evolutionary history, preference, power dynamics, etc (cf. Deleuze NP, 94ff; 103ff).


Key to Deleuze’s exposition of Nietzsche is that evaluations are given of phenomena using criteria of assessment and evaluation, but further there is evaluation of those criteria themselves are also made – the principles according to which judgments are made (Deleuze, NP, 1-2).  Deleuze argues things are sometimes this, sometimes that (eg., The sense “good” has depending on whether you are looking at it from the point of view of master (the good bird of pray), or slave (the good, meek missionary), morality.  Analogously, Deleuze gives the example of a factory door that is sometimes for entering, others for leaving; sweet freedom; gateway to mind numbing tedium; and these senses can be multiplied in a way that is only limited by our imaginations (eg, what it means for a local film crew doing a documentary on local businesses, etc): a multiplicity of aspects.  The object is not the really real, but an expression of ever-changing forces. Similarly, considering the woman as beautiful is grounded, not in a static characteristic of the woman, but in her “becoming beautiful” as she emerged from a cute or ugly duckling child into adulthood, the charms of which, as Marilyn Monroe said, will eventually fade.   Deleuze argues forces for Nietzsche are threefold: A dominating force, dominated force, and distance as the differential element.  Forces are essentially relational,[2] what Nietzsche calls Will, Will being the differential element, in distinction to atomism which posits simple unities with no way to account for interrelation.  Nietzsche sees the most usual understanding of atomism as the ego, and posits instead forces that have multiple switching masks as their expression (eg., some days feeling adamantly liberal, others adamantly conservative - also see Holland, Deleuze and Psychoanalysis, 307). 


As a simple example, regarding beings (a “being” meaning anything that “is” in some way or other) as expressions of forces rather than self-contained atoms, educators now know on submitted student products there is no such thing as a “B” level student essay in isolation, but rather a grade of “B” is an interpretation of a child’s skill level or collection of skill levels, the essay being a symptom or sign that expresses a child’s level of skills which are being interpreted and evaluated as belonging within or measuring up to certain criteria in a rubric, the criteria themselves standing in differential relation with other criteria [usually criteria at level 1, 2, 3, 4] in the rubric.  Let’s clarify and unfold this:


At one time educators said, for instance, a student narrative paper is at a “75%” level because that’s “what it feels like,” a simplistic reward/punish assessment/evaluation model,[3] whereas now teachers say “The paper is 75% level if interpreted in the light of various criteria in a rubric, such as the famous 6+1 Traits of writing criteria.[4]  This promotes student learning/metacognition and facilitates further teaching and student next steps.  Theoretically, there is no end of the number of criteria you could come up with to analyze the student’s performance in terms of.  The rubric presents the criteria as a hierarchy of levels that the student was trying to achieve – The criteria are not absolute, but are ideally created with the students and depend on what you want to assess/evaluate.  As teachers, in terms of our Philosophy of Education, we're really pushing for an (i) active meaningful feedback (so the students really understand where they are), (ii) "Next Steps" model of teacher/student assessment and evaluation interaction, rather than the traditional reactive Reward/Punish interpretation of marks and grades, and the Nietzsche/Deleuze model really provides a helpful philosophical foundation for this progressive, postmodern interpretation of education.  We also want students to become metacognitive about these issues, so they can become their own advocates about their learning.


Importantly, the rubric and its criteria for assessment/ evaluation are not neutral, and so a “C” level performance criteria can either be phrased reactively (reacting to the faults), such as “student performs poorly at …,” or the “C” can be expressed in the criteria out of affirmation, healthily phrased “the student is beginning to” if the focus is active in the sense of interpreting in terms of (i) what the child can do and (ii) next steps (rather than what the student is struggling with): “Every thing is referred to a force capable of interpreting it (Deleuze, NP, 22).” 


The crucial elements in scholastic assessment and evaluation rubrics of criteria are that the interpretations/evaluations are referred back to linguistic modifiers of quantity and quality (in linguistics: quantifiers and qualifiers). So, in terms of evaluation using criteria, a “B” level of achievement for a grade one student in writing may include the phrase that “the student routinely [quantity] and effectively [quality] creates simple sentences in subject/predicate form in line with the achievement standard for that grade level.”[5]  Analogously, the criteria we use to evaluate the relative health/sickness in master vs slave morality isn’t based on an assessment of a state of affairs, but rather considering how the positions stand in relation to forces.  Hence, regarding employing evaluative criteria Deleuze argues: “This is why we cannot measure forces in terms of an abstract unity, or determine their respective quality and quantity by using the real state of forces in a system as a criterion … Strength or weakness cannot be judged by taking the result and success of struggle as a criterion.  For, once again, it is a fact that the weak triumph (Deleuze, NP, 58-61).”    


Another helpful example of how this works is hermeneutics.  Regarding hermeneutics, in order to see the inherent polysemy it is helpful to see the problems currently going on in religious studies trying to reconstruct and retrodict a portrait of the historical Jesus based on New Testament evidence.  The field has gone so far as to even have a series of criteria of authenticity trying to separate the historical Jesus from the textual elements that can’t be reliably considered as historical (eg the criteria of embarrassment: Jews of that time wouldn’t have invented a crucified messiah; the disciples being violent at the arrest; etc). 


The issue here with hermeneutic historical reasoning is quantitative, since the reasoning is probabilistic, in that historian are trying to construct the “most likely” accurate portrait of the historical Jesus (as most hermeneutics aims at a “most likely” interpretation).  The problem is that there is little consensus about the various historical Jesus portraits, and often readers are accused of simply projecting their theology, or lack thereof, on Jesus.  There is little scholarly agreement on the portraits, or the methods used in constructing them.  The problem isn’t a shortage of portraits, but an embarrassment of riches.  The portraits of Jesus that have been constructed in the quest for the historical Jesus have often differed from each other, and from the image portrayed in the gospel accounts.  These many attempted portraits include that of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, charismatic healer, Cynic philosopher, Jewish Messiah, prophet of social change, and more recently even as a mythical being who was later historicized (euhemerized).  New Testament scholar Dr. Richard Carrier has rightly accused the religious studies field of the possible therefore probable logical fallacy, that is, concluding from the fact that one’s interpretation is a possible construction of the evidence to the conclusion that it is therefore a probable construction.  The problem is that there is ambiguity inherent in the evidence, as in all such textual evidence, and so it can be seen in multiple ways.  In general traditional hermeneutics aims at “the most likely message the author was trying to convey,” while a more contemporary approach is to interpret and evaluate from pre-established criteria searching for themes such as Marxist, Feminist, Psychoanalytic, etc., but it is still generally probabilistic (eg., what is the “most likely main” psychoanalytic theme to be taken away from the reading).


But if hermeneutics is probabilistic, what is the core of what probabilistic reasoning is doing?  Deleuze gives the Nietzschean example of probability in a dice throw (Deleuze, NP, 22ff).  Common understanding sees probabilities as real features of things and processes, and science supposedly bears this out.  So, the likelihood of flipping tails with a coin is ½, and in fact experiments have been done with massive amounts of flips and the result is generally around 50/50.  So, where’s the problem?  For example, you can have a list tallying the results of 10 000 previous coin tosses, but this list is completely useless in predicting the outcome of the next specific toss you are going to make because there is no connection in reality between this toss right now and anything that has come before (also see Holland, Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, 18). 


Probability is a useful rule of thumb used to make predictions at the macro level, that is “in general,” but shows itself to be an illusory fiction in the here and now.  So, Deleuze says “Not a probability distributed over several throws but all chance at once (Deleuze, NP, 27; cf. 44; 50).” Eternal return is interpreted/affirmed here by Deleuze as eternal return of the same difference (Williams, Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, 212), the dice throw is always new and an event unto itself.


Kant himself failed to meet Hume’s challenge in this regard on causality, because to say we experience cause and effect, making scientific causal judgments possible, this does nothing to the problem that it is a paralogism to conclude from the fact that water has boiled at 100 degrees in the past that it will do so in the future.  Just as the applicability of the laws of probability/averages and causality break down at the level of the “haecceity/thisness” of a being, so too, as physicist Carlo Rovelli shows (2018), does the applicability of time as a concept break down at the level of the very small (the quantum level).[6]  Traditional descriptive categories such as “substance with properties” become less useful the more empirical and smaller we go (eg., unusualness at the quantum level in physics[7] and the challenge of muons to standard theory[8]). Similarly, while there is “weirdness” at the quantum level appears when we try to describe it in terms of traditional categories like “Temporal” and “Substance with properties,” the less we try to force reality into these schema the less “weird” the quantum world actually is.[9]  The more empirical we become the harder it is to deny chaos through the old way of affirming the super-sensible.  In many respects what makes the usual understanding of science possible is positing “the object in general” as its content, re-presentedness, not the being in its “thisness/haecceity,” and hence we do this to get useful predictions and categorizations in relation to time, cause/effect, probability, morality, etc.


This applies to thinking too.  To think is not to defend sides mindlessly like partisan lawyers and politicians irrespective of the merits of the position, unaware or quiet about what their positions presuppose, but is a dice throw, putting in play to interpret and evaluate (Deleuze, NP, 32; 37): For instance, it is often quite easy to come up with examples and analogies to illustrate incompossible positions, like pro life vs pro choice, and so we watch partisan politicians and lawyers endlessly debating and claiming victory.  Deleuze refers to Nietzsche that “There are no moral facts or phenomena, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena (Deleuze, NP, 90).”  Similarly, ethics understood as using good and evil as criteria to evaluate actions, while useful rules of thumb in general, can break down in terms of usefulness and applicability at the specific level when we try to apply them to actions in their thisness.  There is certainly a logic of mixed opposites, where the holiest is also the most evil, depending on your point of view.  For instance, many regarded 9’11 as an act of pure evil, while many Palestinians at the time celebrated it as the most glorious and holy.  Similarly, the relative value of Christians being fed to the lions in ancient Rome or cultural cannibalism etc depends on the criteria you are using to pass moral judgement on the issue (For Deleuze on Nietzsche and thinking so-called disgusting things, see Deleuze, Nomadic Thought, 258).  Nietzsche gave the example of the sour grapes of the criteria of slave morality used to assess and evaluate actions as good or evil.[10]  The clash between pro life advocating against killing a child just to prevent a mother from going through 9 months of discomfort, vs pro choice arguing the fetus is in no sense a person, is an example of edifices of argumentation grounded in personal taste.  Nietzsche proposed new criteria for valuation beyond Good/Evil, namely, whether something represents a healthy, or rather sickly approach to life.  In the next section on Heidegger’s Nietzsche we will see love as godless agape is paradigmatic here. 


Evaluation criteria are provisional in this way.  For instance, a wine connoisseur can come up with a rubric of criteria to assess and evaluate what makes true wine.  So, the actual glass of wine is not the really real thing in itself, but is a symptom expressing an underlying interplay of forces/criteria such as the absence of off-odors and off-flavors, and in general, the positive aspects of aroma/bouquet, taste/texture, acidity, bitterness, sweetness, astringency, body, and balance.  However, as I said at the beginning of the section, we can ask here, not what wine tastes the best, but who could create such a rubric.  Clearly, if you really don’t like the taste of wine, the rubric is meaningless.  Wine Connoisseurs may respond that you haven’t developed your palate sufficiently enough, but this is empty elitism, since another perfectly normal “way of being” is not liking classical music.  Plato talks about how the idea of the Beautiful shines alongside all other ideas. So, the category “House” may be presencing to you incarnate in the presence of the mansion, less so through the average dwelling, and hardly at all through the shack.  Since the mansion may be appearing magnificently to you, but in a gawdy manner to the next person, the mansion in front of you is not the “really real,” but is a symptom expressing an underlying interplay of forces as assessment/evaluation criteria, which itself is perspectival.  Even in Plato’s time there was an ambiguity in the meaning of essence, so that the essence of “house” may aim at what is general, while the essence of Socrates may aim at what is specific and ownmost (eg, his gadfly-ness).


Heidegger’s Nietzsche

-        “The two fundamental terms of Nietzsche's metaphysics, "will to power" and "eternal return of the same," determine beings in their being in accordance with the perspectives which have guided metaphysics since antiquity, the ens qua ens in the sense of essentia and existentia” …  The essential relation between the "will to power" and the "eternal return of the same" must be thought in this way; however, we cannot yet represent it here directly because metaphysics has neither considered nor even inquired about the origin of the distinction between essentia and existentia. (Heidegger, Nietzsche’s Word God is Dead in “Off The Beaten Track,” 177-8)

(1)   Eternal return as Existentia

- This section is not intended as an interpretation of Heidegger’s Philosophy as such, but rather his interpretation of Nietzsche.


Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence has been subject to a plethora of interpretations.  It is the idea Nietzsche sometimes calls his central idea, and indeed the “heaviest weight.”[11]  Recently, Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence has been interpreted as a hypothetical, in terms of visualizing such a thought to see what impact it would have on us regardless of whether it is true or not (Gillespie 2017/Johnson 2019).  This aspect is certainly in Nietzsche’s writing, but is not the whole story.  It is difficult to understand why Nietzsche would think eternal recurrence to be the heaviest thought and the cornerstone of his Philosophy if it was just a “what if” that, if you actually think it, isn’t really bothersome or burdensome at all:  I can imagine infinite cosmological repetition, but it doesn’t bother or affect me in any way.  Rather, following Heidegger, eternal recurrence for Nietzsche also means the actual twofold circular way in which we experience beings, which is tragic for the weak/sickly, and joyous for the healthy/creative/strong.


Nietzsche said the teaching of eternal recurrence most definitely brings with it the possibility of driving someone to insanity or suicide (Nietzsche: NL, KGW VII 1:16).  This speaks powerfully against the currently popular interpretation of eternal recurrence as merely being a “what if,” although it is this too.    Heidegger, by contrast, stresses the “terrifying” character of eternal return (Heidegger, 1991 vol2, 21).”  Nietzsche says “Incipit tragoedia,” the tragedy begins, and suggests we will be going after our supreme suffering and supreme hope alike (Heidegger, 1991 vol 2, 29; Deleuze, Conclusions, 121).  The overman will come in response to the last man for whom everything has become universally bland (Heidegger 1991 vol2, 33; On taedium vitae, see Deleuze, NP, 148; also on the last man, see Deleuze, Nietzsche in Pure Immanence, 99). 


Let us consider eternal recurrence as the existentia, the way or manner in which beings as such and as a whole appear to us.  Regarding the potential horror of this eternal infinite, Nietzsche gives the example  of a once free bird that has become so agitated with cabin fever[12] in the confines of its cage that it is banging its head (Nietzsche, GS, 124).   


Regarding this homelessness/homesickness for the land that has vanished for the bird, Heidegger says of Nietzsche’s position that Nietzsche talks about 'this most uncanny of all guests' (Nietzsche, The will to power, Outline. Werke, vol. XV, p. 141). It is called the 'most uncanny' [unheimlichste] because, as the unconditional will to will, it wills homelessness [Heimatlosigkeit] as such. This is why it is of no avail to show it the door, because it has long since been roaming invisibly inside the house (Heidegger, 1998, 292; also cf Heidegger, 1998, 257).  Heidegger says due to its instantiated nature, "[h]omelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world (Heidegger, 1998, 258).”  The ancients called this horror loci, revulsion at one’s place and state of being.[13]   So, analogously, as an explanation of what Nietzsche’s once free, now caged bird was going through, we can consider that simply through confinement, a battery hen will go through listlessness, then anger and self directed violence, finally repetitive and self destructive motor acts and eventually death.   We see similar things from killer whales in captivity.[14]  This underlying state hidden in human life has become quite conspicuous  in people through Covid isolation. 


So, eternal return for Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche thus refers to the manner in which beings appear, which is: they appear as though they’ve been encountered countless times before, and so lose their luster for us simply as a function of our spending time with them, that is unless we are artistic and creative.  Nietzsche knew this experience well even before he articulated eternal return as a concept, and so in a letter to Overbeck he talked about how he was oblivious to the cabin fever affecting his friends at a rainy cottage as he joyously worked on his Third Untimely Meditation (Nietzsche, 1975,: 11.3 382).  And, there are numerous interesting historical analogies for the idea of tragic eternal return.  Nietzsche’s innovation was finding the fundamental joy in it.  Some examples are from (1) Ecclesiastes, (2) Seneca, and (3)Schopenhauer:

(1) “All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes)

(2) “26.  Some people suffer from a surfeit of doing and seeing the same things. Theirs is not contempt for life but boredom with it, a feeling we sink into when influenced by the sort of philosophy which makes us say, ‘How long the same old things? I shall wake up and go to sleep, I shall eat and be hungry, I shall be cold and hot. There’s no end to anything, but all things are in a fixed cycle, fleeing and pursuing each other. Night follows day and day night; summer passes into autumn, hard on autumn follows winter, and that in turn is checked by spring. All things pass on only to return. Nothing I do or see is new: sometimes one gets sick even of this.’ There are many who think that life is not harsh but superfluous. (Seneca ep. mor. 24. 26).”

(3)  “He who lives to see two or three generations is like a man who sits some time in the conjurer’s booth at a fair, and witnesses the performance twice or thrice in succession. The tricks were meant to be seen only once; and when they are no longer a novelty and cease to deceive, their effect is gone.” (Schopenhauer, “Essays on Pessimism”)

- To which (3 above) Nietzsche responds to Schopenhauer regarding the performance from the point of view of the creative and artistic individual:

“56. Anyone like me, who has tried for a long time and with some enigmatic desire, to think pessimism through to its depths and to deliver it from the half-Christian, half-German narrowness and naivete with which it has finally presented itself to this century, namely in the form of the Schopenhauerian philosophy; anyone who has ever really looked with an Asiatic and supra-Asiatic eye into and down at the most world-negating of all possible ways of thinking – beyond good and evil, and no longer, like Schopenhauer and the Buddha, under the spell and delusion of morality –; anyone who has done these things (and perhaps precisely by doing these things) will have inadvertently opened his eyes to the inverse ideal: to the ideal of the most high-spirited, vital, world-affirming individual, who has learned not just to accept and go along with what was and what is, but who wants it again just as it was and is through all eternity, insatiably shouting da capo not just to himself but to the whole play and performance, and not just to a performance, but rather, fundamentally, to the one who needs precisely this performance – and makes it necessary: because again and again he needs himself – and makes himself necessary. – – What? and that wouldn’t be –circulus vitiosus deus? (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil)

Eternal return wipes away meaningfulness from beings, and so this is tragic for the eros of the sick and weakly, but an opportunity for creation for the transfiguring godless agape of the artistic and healthy.  Hence, Heidegger quotes Nietzsche twice: “To stamp becoming with Being, that is the highest form of will to power.”


For Nietzsche, the higher types are distinguished from the lower types in terms of two different kinds of love/desire, because the higher types do not need to find value in the world, such as in God, “eros,” like the lower types like Ecclesiastes, but rather bestow a healthy meaning onto the world in transfiguring godless “agape.” For Nietzsche, agape allows for a glass half-full amor fati and dancing in your chains.  In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount Jesus redefines love saying “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love (agapēseis) your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love (agapāte) your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Nietzsche said, “‘I have never desecrated the holy name of love’ (1888, LN1 [286]),”  Eros as filling a “lack” nurses on the luster of its object, whereas agape transfigure its object to be loveable.[15]


Nihilism is a problem when we have an "eros/erotic" approach to beings like glory seeking Achilles (eg I love her because she is beautiful), Achilles who was devastated by the tedious, boring and meaninglessness in the Greek interpretation of the afterlife (Achilles needed his obstacles to be overcome in the name of glory) – but rather we need an approach akin to a godless kind of Christian transfiguring agape (eg I have a transfiguring spirit of loving, regardless of whether the other be widow, orphan, stranger, or enemy).  That higher type is what Nietzsche calls “Caesar with a soul of Christ - the overman (KGW VII 2:289).” It is a Christ-like Caesar, conquering not with might but rather love, a transfiguring, glass half-full approach to life.


Nietzsche went so far to say that even the gods struggle against boredom in vain, (TI, Chapter 48) and that the usual approach to life is to avoid boredom any way possible. (GS, First Book, 42. Work and Boredom)  A well known Science Fiction example of this is the Star Trek Voyager episode where the Q continuum Philosopher Quinn (a god-like being) wants to commit suicide because he has been devastated by the boredom of having been everything and done everything countless times.   This God not only died, but wanted to die (there is a similar theme in a play by Karel Čapek).  This TV episode may have been a response to Nietzsche’s call to depict the boredom of God after creation had been finished  (HH: The Wanderer and His Shadow, 56. INTELLECT AND BOREDOM).  Heidegger comments regarding twofold eternal recurrence, “Everything is nought, indifferent, so that nothing is worthwhile – it is all alike.  And on the other side: Everything recurs, it depends on each moment, everything matters – it is all alike … The smallest gap, the rainbow bridge of the phrase it is all alike, conceals two things that are quite distinct: everything is indifferent and nothing is indifferent (Heidegger, 1991 vol 2, 182).”


2 Will to Power as Essentia

Nietzsche’s overcoming of re-presentational thinking is a move away from knowing/learning about the world, to schematizing as imposing form on the chaos.  On Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche will to power forms the chaos into the being of beings as essentia.  Nietzsche says: “The answer to the question ‘What is that?’ is a process of fixing a meaning from a different standpoint. The “essence”, the “essential factor”, is something which is seen as a whole only in perspective, and which presupposes a basis which is multifarious (Nietzsche 168: 556).”  So, as Gericke points out, for instance, Aristotle found it (i) useful and (ii) appropriate in the context of his system of thought to view essence from the point of view of genus; for Porphyry it was essence as species; for Boethius essence vs. existence; for Avicenna essence as quiddity/whatness; for Abelard essence as semantic feature; for Scotus essence as haecceity/thisness; etc.  How does Nietzsche understand this?  Nietzsche says “Not ‘to know’ but to schematize, to impose upon chaos as much regularity and form as our practical needs require WTP 515 (March-June 1888).” Heidegger gives the example of not simply "recognizing" or encountering or abstracting to the category of “living thing,” but imposing it, such as is negatively  phenomenalized when we hear a “living thing” in the forest, only to look down to see we “mis-took” rustling dead leaves in the wind at our feet to be a “living thing.”  In life we are in the business of imposing structure on the chaos, "taking as," as is phenomenalized when we "mis-take:" When will to power fails to usefully stamp becoming with Being (the rustling leaf example), we explicitly see that the default human condition is living as will to power in the schematizing or bringing order to chaos, like a sculptor with his clay.  Similarly, the sexual and romantic qualities of something reflects the way we impose form, as is clear in the case of objectophilia with romantic and sexual attraction to objects such as towers and bridges.  Heidegger quotes Nietzsche that "To stamp Becoming with the character of Being - that is the supreme will to power" (WM 617, 1888).   Heidegger says “for Nietzsche art is the essential way in which beings are made to be beings … the creative, legislative, form-grounding aspect of art (Heidegger, 1991, 131).”  Nietzsche argues the true artist doesn’t imitate Nature but gives form to the chaos: “A man in this state transforms things until they mirror his power–until they are reflections of his perfection. (TI, SKIRMISHES OF AN UNTIMELY MAN, 8-9).”  


So while representational philosophy treats categories like Unity like they belong to beings, either really or ideally, such as when we generalize and abstract, or to use Hegel’s example tearing a sock negatively produces the category of Unity for our mind’s eye “as a lost Unity,” this dialectical sleight of hand is actually like a child who cries after another child takes her toy to play with, one the first child never thinks about or plays with: absence makes the heart grow fonder.


For instance, we see this in the portrayal of love in Dicken’s “David Copperfield” where Dickens plays with the concept of Unity. Dickens poetizes how the category of Unity taken in a strict scientific sense that "a being is one" can evaporate in Love.  He writes "I was sensible of a mist of love and beauty about Dora, but of nothing else ... it was all Dora to me. The sun shone Dora, and the birds sang Dora. The south wind blew Dora, and the wild flowers in the hedges were all Doras, to a bud.  (Dickens, David Copperfield 2015, ch 33, Blissful)."  It is purely  arbitrary will to power that affirms "scientific oneness being" as "most real (ontos on / alethos on)," rather than  Copperfield’s "plurality of a being” when one is in love.  The category of Unity wasn’t always, already there as Hegel would have it, but is produced/invented at the tearing of the sock.


This has clear implications. 


We can see a whole series of arbitrary, groundless presuppositions that must be in place for analytic judgments to retain their force:  Heidegger argues analytic or tautological judgments, the so- called purely formal judgment which supposedly contains no more in the predicate than is in the subject, also imply metaphysics and our being with beings because, following Plato’s critique of Antisthenes mentioned above, addressing a being can’t be mere naming because this ignores that something is to be understood by appealing to something beyond the thing itself, whereby Antisthenes argues for mere naming, but himself tacitly adopted a whole slew of ontological structures that go beyond the mere entity, such as  Einai, Being, choris, separate from, ton allown, the others, and kath auto, in itself (also cf Heidegger, Nietzsche 1, 193).  What is the application?


Heidegger says analytic judgments are not purely formal as is commonly supposed, but implicate our being with beings.  Why?  In “A is A,” like “All bachelors are unmarried,” “A” is not unspecified, because then it would mean “anything is anything,” in which case “A is B” could be analytic.  Rather, the analytic judgment tacitly implies that, for instance, the first term bachelor carries with it the additional metaphysical presuppositions that a bachelor is being considered/viewed from the perspective of its specificity and unity, and is not what it isn’t (eg., a tree), and is not nothing at all.  These are all very particular metaphysical projections from representational philosophy and interpretations of what it means to be a being within the context of a particular understanding of the question “what is a being.”  And, “How” a being is, which is as I argued above implied as also belonging with the “what question of essence,” is also simply ignored.  The representational/metaphysical foundation analytic judgments like “All bachelors are unmarried” must rest on in order to maintain their apodicticity is illusory: smoke and mirrors. 




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[1] Note here there is an ambiguity in the concept of “truth,” such as a “true” judgment vs a “true friend.”  We will consider this below when we question what it means to be a “true” glass of wine.  For instance, a child may memorize a true/correct multiplication sentence, but it will remain opaque for them until modelled or dis-closed (“a-letheia”) to them with manipulatives.  So, there is an un-veiling to truth, like when you struggle with a hidden gestalt picture until suddenly you see the hidden image, and then can’t unsee it.

[2] As we will see below with the way linguistic modifiers of quality and quantity function in rubrics of assessment/evaluation criteria.

[3] The mark served no further purpose than to reward good work and punish bad work, and so when the child brought the mark home they either got rewarded with a video game if the grade was good or had their toys taken away if the mark was bad.

[4] Traditional educational judgements simply evaluate without grounding the evaluation by saying "The child is reading at a B level" because that’s what it “feels like” to the teacher.  Such grading is the reward/punishment model of giving grades.  Proper educational judgments interpret the student product in light of criteria as a symptom or sign of what is going on with the student’s skill level, and then spatially plotting the child on a developmental continuum to then decide future teaching and next steps.  In this regard a child’s actual narrative writing piece in itself is a matter of indifference from an educational point of view, and only functions as something to be interpreted to identify the child’s skill level and plan next steps.  In this regard, many different types of “Multiple Intelligence” products can be used to demonstrate the same skills, such as student theatre, gamification, or mind/concept maps, etc.  See, for instance .  For a helpful example of a grade 6 rubric, see here:

[5] The quantifiers and qualifiers give the rubric of criteria sense, although, for instance, the quantifier by itself is meaningless in that it can both present itself and its opposite.  So, for example, if in making my rubric I choose the quantifiers  “sometimes; usually; practically always” – there is no inherent hierarchy: eg. I could counterintuitively say I “sometimes was my hands,” meaning maybe a few times a day, and “practically always get dentist check ups,” meaning once a year. Here, “sometimes” is much more frequent than “practically always.” Quantity is often represented as a fiction, such as getting a child to know 3X2=6 by rote without showing them with manipulatives this means having groups of 3, and 2 groups of these, and count these to make 6 total things.  Qualifiers alone are similar and reference sense independently of the actual state of something.  So, we can speak of a “genius” painting by a 4 year old, as opposed to an uncharacteristically “shoddy mental abortion” painting by a great Master, even though the Master’s terrible painting still far outshines the 4 year old’s genius painting.

[6] For a short blog post on "The Physics and Philosophy of Time with Carlo Rovelli, Heidegger, and Aristotle" see:

[7] See “The quantum world is mind-bogglingly weird” :

[8] See “New experiment hints that a particle breaks the known laws of physics” :

[10] Moral preferences are aesthetic, like listing reasons for preferring a cabernet to a merlot.  And this makes good sense neurologically, since Aesthetics and morality judgments share cortical neuroarchitecture.  See:

[11] The idea has been interpreted as cyclical time cosmological speculation from Simmel [1907] 1920 to Jaspers [1936] 1965, a line of interpretation that has found equally long criticism from Soll 1973; to Anderson 2005.  Catanu in “Heidegger’s Nietzsche” wrongly argues with eternal recurrence in Nietzsche Heidegger primarily understands a naturalistic/cosmological notion (Kindle loc 446).

[12] A similar state can be induced with a child sitting facing the corner in a time out.

[13] For a 2021 blog post outlining the history of the horror loci, see


[15] See also Deleuze, NP, 143-4 on what is admirable in Jesus and how Paul poisoned Christianity by declaring the agape teaching moot in that if Christ is not raised, Christian faith is useless.  For the meaning of Nietzsche’s question “Have I been understood?  Dionysus versus the crucified,”: see


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