Nietzsche, politics, history (Namur/Louvain)

Nietzsche, politics, history

29 and 30 November 2022

UNamur (Academic Hall) and UCLouvain – Academic Senate

This scholarly event aims to shed light on the role of history in Nietzsche’s philosophy, not only from the point of view of the interpretation of texts and the history of ideas, but also from the point of view of its implications for contemporary philosophy of history and critical theory. . It will first explore the connections and tensions between Nietzschean thought and the tradition of philosophies of history. Consequently, we will also question the political dimension of Nietzsche’s thought and its relation to history, especially within its theoretical reception in the 20th century and its contribution to the development of new critical genealogies. Finally, we will question the usefulness of the conceptual tools developed by Nietzsche for understanding and analyzing contemporary historical and political dynamics. The objectives of this colloquium will be to replace Nietzsche’s idea of ​​”history in the history of ideas”, emphasize its political dimension and discuss its implications for contemporary philosophy.

Throughout his work, Nietzsche tries to demonstrate the need for “historical philosophy”.[1], a merely detailed statement of a historical thought to touch the heart of a philosophical inquiry. The philosophical tradition has indeed long pitted philosophy against history.[2]. This classical distinction, which opposes the search for “eternal truths” to the knowledge of what is singular and contingent, is challenged by Nietzsche, according to whom reality can only be seriously conceived in the mode of transformation. It is in this spirit that Nietzsche regularly criticizes the philosophers who came before him for their ignorance of “historiography.”[3], and their inability to fully measure the historical character of the realities presented to philosophical investigation: “Lack of historical meaning is the original sin of all philosophers; many, without realizing it, even assume the fixed form from which the latest figure of man must begin […]. But everything is the result of a being; there is no more eternal knowledge than absolute truths”[4]. Finally, says Nietzsche, “what most radically separates us from Platonism and Leibnizism is that we no longer believe in eternal concepts, eternal values, eternal forms, eternal souls; and philosophy, being scientific and not dogmatic, is only the widest extension of the concept of “history” for us.[5].

“The last three millennia,” writes Nietzsche, “probably continue to live with us in all the nuances and all the brilliance of their civilization: they only want to be discovered.”[6]. Because we carry “petrified levels of civilization” within us.[7] the highest task that a philosopher-historian can engage in is to study the “history of moral feelings.”[8]”exit story”[9] modes of knowledge and therefore essentially a history of values[10]. Thus, we understand that the interpretive activity of “historical philosophy” is not only historical in the sense understood by the traditional demarcation of disciplines, but also psychological: it is the history of “soul”, mind, ideas and feelings.[11]. Since man is not an ontological singularity distinct from the natural realm, but a living body embedded in a biological environment, the history of ideas and values ​​is also the history of “organisms.”[12], that is, about the body understood as a hierarchical set that determines the nature of different human types and cultures born and transformed over time. In this sense, a “history of moral feelings” is also a “natural history of morality” that identifies typologies that can be combined to form more complex wholes.

Therefore, the philosopher of the future will have to make himself not a “son of the present time”, but a “student of the past”.[13]. It will fall to him to survey the vast continents of the past and present in order to explain the historical splendor of the processes of combining values, and this aims “to prepare the conscious wisdom of men.” we need for world government »[14]. It’s the “big question: Where did the ‘human’ plant grow most spectacularly?” In this regard, a comparative historical study is needed.[15]. To assign this study to the values ​​and interpretations that define subjectivities and form “human types,” Nietzsche will use the word “genealogy,” linking his philosophical vocabulary to The Genealogy of Morals (1887), and translating the double genealogy. dimension of philosophic-historical inquiry as he envisions it: to combine descriptive and explanatory approaches with the aim of critical evaluation, allowing for a hierarchy of values ​​in the perspective of civilizing action.[16].

The desire to create a “historical philosophy” and the use of genealogical and interpretive tools developed by Nietzsche marked the history of 20th century philosophical thought, which is inseparable from the 20th century itself. Nietzsche then serves as a point of reference for a series of diagnoses of modernity, a comprehensive panorama of which would be difficult to draw. These attempts almost never completely overlook the sociological (Weber, Simmel) and existential (Heidegger) analyzes of the death of God. It is clear that a certain Marxism, when faced with such an arrangement, would retreat or lose itself in deep misunderstandings. But it is probably more interesting to understand how Nietzsche productively breaks with this critical tradition. This is especially true of the Frankfurt School, one of whose nodes is the rejection of progressive dialectics. Nietzsche positions himself as a paradoxical interlocutor in the “sad knowledge” produced by critical theory.[17]. If we were to formulate the indictment that this raises against him, ultimately his quite legitimate cruelty to the narrowness of the bourgeois world lacks the materialist and dialectical support to really feed a “real historical tendency.”[18]. The innocence of Nietzsche’s French covers contradicts this position. Following the work of Bataille and Klossowski, the genealogy opens up a fiercely anti-Hegelian perspective to mobilize. It will reinforce counter-histories and minority transformations, especially brilliantly twisted by Foucault, Mascolo or Deleuze. Even when Nietzsche loses his revolutionary fervor, he remains the main weapon for complicating the plot of history, filling it with difference or doubt (Derrida, Ricœur). In relation to these intrusions into the thought of history, Nietzsche finds himself a timeless companion whose relevance we have not yet finished questioning. Whether it is sad or joyful, Nietzschean knowledge can still serve us as “mutual poison”.[19].


29 November 22: UNamur – Academic Hall


– 9:30 Nicolas Monseu (UNamur): Welcome
Pieter De Corte (UCLouvain – Sorbonne University) and Vivien Giet (UNamur – Paris 8 University): Nietzsche confronts history. Stakes and issues of political acceptance


– 10:00 a.m. Patrick Wotling (University of Reims-Champagne-Ardenne): Information baselessness. According to Nietzsche, the role of history in the task of the philosopher
– 10:45 Paul Slama (FNRS – Bergische Universität Wuppertal): Psychology and history in Nietzsche and Weber
– 11:30 Break
– 11:45 Jean-Claude Monod (Ecole Normale Supérieure): What is the way out of philosophies of history? Nietzsche and Substitute Religions
12:30 Lunch break


– 14:00 Vivien Giet (UNamur – University of Paris 8): Nietzsche, Foucault and Deleuze reader: rethinking the negative in politics
– 14:45 Quentin Dubois (Paris 8 University): Manage Semiotics: Klossowski, Nietzsche’s Reader
– 15:30 Break
– 15:45 Martine Prange (Tilburg University): Nietzsche and the Necessity of a New Question of Truth in Post-Truth Times
– 16:30 End of work

30 November 22: UCLouvain – Academic Senate


– 10:00 Martin A. Ruehl (University of Cambridge): Nietzsche’s New Order: Towards a Post-Christian Politics
– 10:45 Vanessa Lemm (University of Melbourne – Universidad Complutense de Madrid): Nietzsche’s Agonist Politics Reconsidered
– 11:30 Break
– 11:45 Pieter De Corte (UCLouvain – Sorbonne University): Nietzsche and “The Time of Cyclopean Constructions”. Democratic period as a transitional period
12:30 Lunch break


– 14:00 Antoine Daratos (Free University of Brussels): Movements and counter-movements: the question of political transformations in Nietzsche
– 14:45 Daniele Lorenzini (University of Pennsylvania): Nietzsche’s Genealogical Perfectionism
– 15:30 Break
– 15:45 Carlotta Santini (EHESS – CNRS): Revolution and Reaction: Comparative Historical Paradigms between Nietzsche and Burckhardt


– 16:30 Pieter De Corte (UCLouvain – Sorbonne University) and Vivien Giet (UNamur – Paris 8 University): Nietzsche, politics, history: results and perspectives

[1] HTH, I, § 2.
[2] See Aristotle, poetic, IX, 1451 b 2-11; Schopenhauer A., The World as Will and RepresentationAppendices, XXXVIII.
[3] CA, § 26; EH, III, “The Wagner Case”, § 2.
[4] HTH, I, § 2.
[5] FP June-July 1885, 38 [14]. See FP April-June 1885, 34 [73] and FP June-July 1885, 36 [2].
[6] OSM, § 223. Cf. FP end 1876 – summer 1877, 23 [48].
[7] OSM, § 223.
[8] HTH, I, title of second section.
[9] HTH, I, § 16; A, § 1; PBM, § 192.
[10] GS, § 345.
[11] HTH, I, § 37; PBM, § 45.
[12] HTH, I, § 10.
[13] UIHV, Foreword.
[14] FP Summer-Autumn 1884, 26 [90]. See VO, § 189.
[15] FP April-June 1885, 34 [74].
[16] GM, Preface, § 6-7.
[17] Quote from Adorno TW, Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged LifePayot, 2003.
[18] Adorno TW, Horkheimer M., Gadamer H.-G., “Nietzsche and we”, Gadamer H.-G., Nietzsche’s antipode. Zoroastrian dramaParis, Allia, 2000.
[19] Astor D., Nietzsche. The stress of the presentParis, Gallimard, 2014.

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