Early Nietzsche on History, Embodiment, and Value

Dries, Manuel (2018). Early Nietzsche on History, Embodiment, and Value. In: Dries, Manuel ed. Nietzsche on Consciousness and the Embodied Mind. Monographien und Texte zur Nietzsche-Forschung (MTNF) (70). Boston, USA; Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter, pp. 49–70.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110246537-004

URL: https://www.degruyter.com/view/product/119447


"This chapter offers a new perspective on Nietzsche’s important early text On the Use and Disadvantage of History for Life (HL). The centrality of the embodiment of mind, self, and values for the later Nietzsche is widely acknowledged, but I here argue that the “historical sickness [die historische Krankheit]” that is the central concern of HL is diagnosed already in this early text as a failure to understand the embodied nature of human values. In section 3.2, I show that a precursor to Nietzsche’s figure of “the last human” is already the target in HL. In section 3.3, following recent research, I offer working definitions for terms such as “drives,” “affects,” and “values” that are crucial for understanding Nietzsche’s diagnostic framework: Nietzschean selves are best understood as complex, embodied systems of drives with affective orientations, as well as embodied unconscious and conscious values. While this picture of selves as embodied self-systems of drives and affects emerges fully only in Nietzsche’s later writings, I propose that it can be identified and applies already in HL. In section 3.4, I focus on a neglected passage that contrasts the medieval memento mori with a modern memento vivere. I interpret the memento mori as an embodied mechanism of willing and self-control, which Nietzsche claims the moderns have been unsuccessful in replacing. In the final section (3.5), I draw on recent research in embodied cogni- tion to illuminate two hypotheses—I label these “overload” and “semantic embodiment”—that Nietzsche considers as causes of the moderns’ “historical sickness” that undermines their flourishing."

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