On November 14th, 2011 Professor R. K. Hill from Portland State University gave a lecture, Books that Exist and Books that Do Not: The Curious Case of "The Will to Power," on behalf of the Philosophy Club and Phi Sigma Tau. The talk focused on the task facing Dr. Hill as primary editor and translator of the forthcoming Penguin edition of Nietzsche's work Will-to-Power. Nietzsche's 'book' remains controversial, not only for its content, but for its origins as a book. It is a collection of unedited and unpublished writings, assembled by his profiteering sister, later to become both heralded as a great work of thought, and dismissed as a forgery and exploited by Nazism. Dr. Hill's Ph.D. is from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also holds the J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Among other works, he is the author of Nietzsche's Critiques: The Kantian Foundations of His Thought (Oxford, 2003) and Nietzsche: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum, 2007). The Philosophy Department would also like to acknowledge generous support from the Office of the Deans of the College of Arts and Sciences in bringing Dr. Hill to campus.
Please feel free to read more from Professor R. K. Hill, below:
Please feel free to read more from Professor R. K. Hill, below:
Books That Exist and Books That Do Not: The Curious Case of “The Will To Power”
I mistrust all systems and systematists, and avoid them: still, perhaps one will discover behind this book, the system which I avoided . . . The desire for a system: for a philosopher, morally speaking, a refined form of depravity, a disease of character; immorally speaking, the willingness to appear stupider than one is — Stupider, that is: stronger, simpler, more imposing, more untutored, commanding, tyrannical . . . I no longer respect the reader: how could I write for readers? . . . But I make notes for myself. Notebook W II 1. Autumn 1887, KGW VIII, 2.114-5, KSA 12.450-1.
Though I am a Nietzsche scholar, what follows is not so much about Nietzsche as it is about perceptions of Nietzsche. Perhaps it is not quite a piece of scholarship, but a story. Of course, if the perceptions are held by Nietzsche scholars, and are utterly wrong, that might tell us something.
The story of Nietzsche himself is well enough known. Born in 1844, he lived to see both his brother and his Lutheran minister father die before him; his mother and sister would ultimately care for him as an invalid and his sister would outlive him. In college, he changed his course of studies from theology to philology (classics) and not long after discovered the central influence on his thought, the atheist philosopher Schopenhauer. Though this is not fully appreciated now, classics as a field of study was often an attractive choice for those ambivalent about religion and respectability, for it licensed immersion in the heathen world; Nietzsche was by no means the first or last German thinker to position himself in this way. His studies were unusually successful, and after only four years of post-secondary education, he found himself a professor of philology at a Swiss university (Basel). He also found himself in a personal friendship with the most revolutionary composer of the age and noted anti-Semite, Richard Wagner, a man who would’ve been exactly his father’s age had his father not died at exactly the point in Nietzsche’s childhood that Sigmund Freud would later theorize that young boys would most like to see their fathers dead.
Nietzsche was expected to produce important but respectable scholarship in his new position as professor; instead he produced The Birth of Tragedy, a bizarre but brilliant Romantic mess of a book, part quasi-Schopenhauerian metaphysics, part cultural critique of modernity, part speculation that the serene achievement of Greek tragedy was rooted in the agonizing and the orgiastic, and part propaganda for the Wagner movement (for movement it was). Nietzsche lingered on in academia for a decade in poor health and finally retired on disability at the ripe old age of 35. This was convenient because Nietzsche had been planning a literary career of sorts instead, and had in the preceding year released a book of aphorisms, Human, All-too-human, modeled on French literary psychologists (though the debt to Schopenhauer’s own similar efforts is still insufficiently appreciated). Nietzsche had tried to turn on a dime into Enlightenment Anticlericalism, and in the process openly betrayed most of Wagner’s Romantic (and nationalistic) ideals, thus destroying their friendship. Among the signs of betrayal were aphorisms in which Nietzsche openly celebrated Jewish culture, as in the following passage:
they have had the most painful history of all peoples, not without the fault of all of us ... one owes to them the noblest man (Christ), the purest sage (Spinoza), the most powerful book, and the most effective moral law in the world. Moreover, in the darkest times of the Middle Ages, when the Asiatic cloud masses had gathered heavily over Europe, it was Jewish free-thinkers, scholars, and physicians who clung to the banner of enlightenment and spiritual independence in the face of the harshest personal pressures and defended Europe against Asia. We owe it to their exertions, not least of all, that a more natural, more rational, and certainly unmythical explanation of the world was eventually able to triumph again, and that the bond of culture which now links us with the enlightenment of Greco-Roman antiquity remained unbroken. If Christianity has done everything to orientalize the Occident, Judaism has helped significantly to occidentalize it again and again: in a certain sense this means as much as making Europe's task and history a continuation of the Greek.
Nietzsche continued to write in this vein for another three years, producing some of the most brilliantly lucid prose the German language had ever seen.
In the summer of 1881, he had a strange epiphany: if the world was deterministic, finite in its contents but infinite in time, shouldn’t world states eventually form a circle and perpetually recur? If there is no immaterial soul that is the seat of identity, if we are only our bodies, wouldn’t that imply that eventually, when our bodies reassembled in exactly the same configuration, we ourselves would find ourselves reawakening into an exact repetition of our lives? For as with general anesthesia, the absolute unconsciousness of death, though it would persist for aeons, would seem but a moment between death and birth. Subjectively, our lives would endlessly repeat themselves. Suddenly forgotten religious thematics reassert themselves: a kind of immortality is ours after all, but is it an immortality of eternal reward or punishment? Thoughts of eternal reward and punishment had been known to shape behavior before...
The pose of the French literary psychologist was insufficient to convey the enormous implications of this thought, and so Nietzsche wrote his most widely read book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a novel-length prose-poem, an exposition of his central ideas in a style parodying Biblical-prophetic texts, the narrative arc a self-dramatizing autobiography culminating in the discovery, and more importantly, the acceptance and willingness to communicate, this idea of perpetual recurrence. Most of the central points are made in the prologue: modern humanity is headed toward nihilism if we don’t replace our passion to submit to a perfect deity with a passion to perfect ourselves and become superhuman. For only being superhuman can render Nietzsche’s new conception of immortality worthwhile instead of devastating. Among the obstacles to individual self-perfection is political distraction, and it is here that Nietzsche’s hostility toward nationalism in general and German nationalism in particular come into focus.
Along with the doctrine of recurrence was his notion that our desire for self-perfection is a manifestation of a universal drive within all things for empowerment. Nietzsche’s ‘desire for power’ would be his replacement for Schopenhauer’s ‘desire to live’; what place morality could have in a world in which everything is so motivated we shall see shortly. It may not seem a part of this story if I mention that I first read Zarathustra when I was an adolescent, a time when I found its peculiarly religious anti-religiosity, its lonely pathos and its call to specialness and self-perfection intensely compelling. What is a part of my story is that I cannot help but imagine that I have not been alone in this experience.
Nietzsche’s New Man required a New World; a clean sweep would have to be made. Nietzsche had long supplemented an Enlightenment critique of religion with an Enlightened critique of morality in naturalistic, historical and psychological terms, but somewhere along the way, he had come to see that the Enlightenment is hoist by its own petard: the problem with Christianity is not that it obstructs the emergence of Enlightenment egalitarianism, but that modern egalitarianism is the culmination of Christianity’s desire to have the meek inherit the earth. If an Enlightened history of morality reveals this, then the cognitive Enlightenment destroys the moral Enlightenment. Though the insight is at first dizzying, it is only through the destruction of both religious and secular egalitarianism that the way can be cleared for the inegalitarian striving for distinction and self-perfection.
How does the critique of morality work? There are many facets, but the most memorable is Nietzsche’s claim that there are two sorts of morality, a “master morality” that valorizes the socially dominant class’ experience of itself and, secondarily, expresses contempt for those who do not measure up, and a “slave morality” which demonizes these very same masters and only secondarily celebrates its own lack of wickedness. What hides in plain sight (for us, but surely not for Nietzsche’s contemporaries) is that while there are countless ancient examples of the former, there is only one ancient instance of the latter: the Jews. The Jews alone create slave morality, and through their creation, Christianity, it conquers the world. What is more, Nietzsche’s description of slave morality veritable seethes with what were once quite familiar anti-Semitic stereotypes. That we can no longer recognize them is deeply strange, but explicable in light of what has occurred between then and now. One last set of facts about Nietzsche and our story will begin to come into focus.
After Zarathustra, Nietzsche thought to write a magnum opus. Its earliest projected title was “The Philosophy of the Perpetual Recurrence” and its final projected title was “The Re-Appraisal of All Values.” But for much of the time that he wrote notes and plans for it, it was to be called “Der Wille zur Macht,” “The Desire For Power.” In English, we know it as The Will To Power. Or more precisely, we know something as The Will To Power. Nietzsche had accumulated notes for this project all the way up to his final productive summer, in 1888, when he had intended to make an attempt at his usual summer lodgings in Switzerland to pull the notes together into final form. By the end of the summer he felt that this attempt was not succeeding and he set the task aside. He left his papers there, presumably intending to return the following summer (there is absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise); he also left some printers’ proofs there which he no longer needed and indicated that his landlord could dispose of them.
Though a succession of short works were produced and appeared, and though Nietzsche continued to imply in print that some great work was to come, the great work never materialized. The penultimate gesture concerning the Hauptwerk was to indicate that the text we know as The Antichrist (or: The Antichristian) was to be the first of four parts of it. No other parts were ever assembled, and all that remained were... remains, Nachlass. His final gesture was to indicate that the Re-Appraisal was complete, to be identified with The Antichristian. His sanity had lasted through the fall and winter, but by the new year, it was gone, and apart from some bizarre letters dispatched after his mental collapse in Turin, Italy, his authorship was at an end. In these letters, he seemed to believe that he was God, and expressed some hostility toward Germany in general, for not paying him more mind, and toward anti-Semites in particular, whom he said he was having “shot,” perhaps because he was annoyed at being confused with them, as was already starting to occur. His reception, however, was only beginning.
After Nietzsche’s breakdown, and the passing of control over his literary estate to his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, Nietzsche’s friend Heinrich Köselitz (“Peter Gast”) conceived the notion of publishing selections from his notebooks as if they were this magnum opus, using one of Nietzsche's simpler outlines as a guide to their arrangement. It would appear that his justification for this was that Nietzsche’s late conception of The Antichristian as the completed Re-Appraisal ought not to be credited. As Gast explained to Elisabeth in 1893:
“Given that the original title appears as: The Antichristian. Re-appraisal of all values (and therefore not ‘The first book of the re-appraisal of all values’), you may think that your brother at the time of his incipient madness, thought the book completed. [. . .] Notwithstanding, the consequences of this re-appraisal must also be explicitly illustrated in the field of morality, philosophy, politics. No one today is able to imagine such consequences — that’s why the vast preparations by your brother, the other three books of the Re-appraisal, must be ordered according to my suggestion and gathered in a kind of system.” November 8, 1893, cit. in David Marc Hoffmann, Zur Geschichte des Nietzsche-Archives. Chronik, Studien und Dokumente, Berlin-New York, De Gruyter, 1991, p. 15.
In the end, the older title The Will to Power was preferred, and the project was born. The first thing to say here is that Gast’s points are not separately unreasonable. When the text was completed, in September of 1888, it was still being represented as the first fourth of Re-Appraisal. The first sign that Antichristian was to be taken as coextensive with Re-Appraisal occurs in mid-November. Nietzsche’s collapse in Turin comes on January 3, less than two months later. Furthermore, since it is plain from both the notes and plans that the originally projected book was to contain three more parts on subjects other than Christianity, there is some independent interest in seeing what he had to say about these subjects. That this material should be ordered in a way to make it accessible to a reader is difficult to dispute either. Everything hinges on how this was to be done, and how it would be represented.
Now the publication of notebook material no longer under the author’s control into some accessible form is not a crime to be avoided. If it were, we would not be in possession of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. The questions should be: how useful is the material? How well has it been edited? How “transparent” is the editorial activity? And how has the finished result been represented to the public? In the example of Wittgenstein, we do have a text for which there is a continuous manuscript (Philosophical Investigations, “Part One”) which Wittgenstein set aside at a certain point and never returned to, but which can be with some justice regarded as the masterwork of his later period. But assuming that it should be preserved and published, what form should that publication take? Ideally, there would have been a complete historical-critical edition by now of Wittgenstein’s corpus, and the manuscript we now call “Part One” of the Investigations could have been published as the appropriate volume of such a larger project. However, there is some merit in the road taken, which was to clean up the manuscript and publish it in more accessible form as a free-standing book, though even here “mistakes were made” (the appending of another manuscript as “Part Two” was unwarranted and misleading, and in the most recent English translation, though this text continues to be included for tradition’s sake, it is no longer labeled this way).
But there are important differences in Nietzsche’s case. There was no continuous manuscript that merely needed tidying up. Nietzsche had something of a plan to produce one, and a numbering system he had used for many his notes, but while some (not all) of these numbered notes were used, the numbering system was ignored. Furthermore, a great number of notes were included in The Will to Power which Nietzsche had not selected for this project. Worse, some of these notes were subjected to forms of editorial creativity that go beyond “tidying up.” (The case more closely resembles that of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Grammar, a “book” cobbled together from various manuscripts to convey the impression of a non-existent unity.)
Eight years after Gast’s suggestion, in 1901, a first version of the text appeared, with 483 numbered notes arranged under topical headings derived from one of Nietzsche’s plans. After another five years, in 1906, a second edition appeared containing 1067 numbered notes organized using the same plan. With only slight divergencies introduced in later editions within a few individual notes, this is what we could call the “canonical” Will To Power. This is the text that Anthony Ludovici translated into English in 1909-1910, and which Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale translated in 1968 and which Michael Scarpitti is translating with my assistance and I am editing for Penguin Classics now. But some events transpired in the meantime.
The first event was that in 1930 Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche became a supporter of Nazism, and the Nazis in turn became advocates of Nietzscheanism as they understood it, or wanted to understand it. Now one can make too much or too little of the following arithmetic, but please note that 1930 is twenty-four years after 1906, the publication date of the second, canonical edition of The Will To Power. It is thirty-seven years after Gast suggested the project to Elisabeth (not, note, the other way around). A lot can happen in so many years.
Nazi sympathizers like Alfred Bäumler reinterpreted Nietzsche’s dismissiveness toward German nationalism as a dismissiveness toward the very same bourgeois Germany, both cultural and political, the Nazis themselves sought to revolutionize. Nietzsche’s favorable remarks about the Jews, his Francophilia, his Enlightenment stance and his “antipolitical” individual perfectionism during his middle period were ignored or discounted as superseded by his mature phase. His perfectionism lent itself to misunderstanding, as Nietzsche had never claimed that the promotion of human perfection was not to be understood as a collective project, and given his naturalism, no reason to suppose that any such perfection was to be understood as purely psychological as opposed to biological, as if that were an antithesis that would’ve made any clear sense to him. Nietzsche’s metaphysical claims in the notes, and occasionally in his published works, that gave special status to a desire for power in nature and in human beings certainly lent themselves to Nazi use. And his comments about slave morality, its origin in the Judaism of antiquity and its rather disgusted and disgusting characterization needed no modification at all. All one needed to do was to ignore the fact that Nietzsche had regarded Christendom as ancient Judaism’s heir, unsurprisingly but for his negative characterization of both, and had seen positive qualities in medieval and modern Judaism. Nietzsche’s published texts were bewildering inkblots in any case, scarcely lending themselves to use for refutation of any particular interpretation, and so it was not difficult to present them, and The Will To Power, as Nazi scripture.
By 1935, Elisabeth was dead, and by 1945, so was Hitler. For much of the English-speaking world, Nietzsche was regarded as the patron saint of half a century of German imperialism and racism and thus something of a lightning rod for accusations of imperialism and racism more generally (nota bene: there has been such a thing as British imperialism and racism). But very quickly after the end of the war, Walter Kaufmann began a lifelong career of Nietzsche rehabilitation; most of the exonerating remarks I have made today are traceable to his influence.
Now Kaufmann had always maintained that the texts of The Will To Power were interesting in their own right, and surely there was nothing objectionable to publishing selections from a famous author’s notebooks if these are presented honestly. And so this is what he did when he produced with Hollingdale his own translation in 1968. This is a stance with which I agree, though my own research has revealed difficulties with the text and the dating of the individual notes which Kaufmann was not aware. However, since 1968, a number of other developments transpired. The first was that Kaufmann’s campaign to rehabilitate Nietzsche in the English-speaking world at some point could be declared successful. A couple of indicators of this: in 1983, one of his former dissertation advisees, Richard Schacht, had published a large book on Nietzsche with Routledge in a book series devoted to discussion of historical figures using the toolkit, or at least the sensibility, of analytic philosophy (for example, the phrase “naturalized epistemology” occurs as a section heading, indicating to the reader that Nietzsche anticipates Quine). Another of Kaufmann’s advisees, Alexander Nehamas, presented a rather different account in 1985 that represents Nietzsche as something of an aesthete with echoes of Rortyan pragmatism; this rather complacently bourgeois Nietzsche-image appeared in a book from the eminently respectable Harvard University Press. In the meantime, French post-structuralists had rediscovered Nietzsche as precisely the opposite: an attractive replacement for Marx as a source for radical critique, after Marx’s stock fell somewhat when the French Communist Party discredited itself by opposing the student movement in 1968. Nietzsche’s de-Nazification was almost complete.
Another quarter played an even more important role: during the 1950s, Mazzino Montinari and Giorgio Colli began to prepare an Italian translation of Nietzsche’s works, and in the course of this task, ended up producing the first truly adequate historical-critical edition of Nietzsche’s writings and letters, including all the Nachlass material. Volumes began appearing in 1967 and by 1988 a paperback edition of the writings was available. This edition transcribed Nietzsche’s texts as found, including spelling and punctuation errors, and provided for the first time adequate dating of each manuscript (or folder contents). The Will To Power was no longer necessary for access to the Nachlass. What is more, it was now possible to see the extent to which the canonical Will To Power represented Nietzsche’s intentions. And it was this which led Montinari to publish his book The Will To Power Does Not Exist and to say in print that it was “a historic forgery.”
The confluence of these tendencies is what explains statements like the following, found on Wikipedia not for truth but as evidence of a widely shared perception: “edited by Heinrich Koeselitz, Ernst Horneffer, and August Horneffer, under the influence of Nietzsche's anti-Semitic sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche”; “Mazzino Montinari and Giorgio Colli, who edited the complete edition of Nietzsche's posthumous fragments from the manuscripts themselves, have called The Will to Power a ‘historic forgery’ artificially assembled by Nietzsche's sister and Peter Gast”; “The Will to Power was not written by Nietzsche”; “With Peter Gast, she claimed that Nietzsche had died before completing his magnum opus, which he allegedly wanted to name ‘The Will to Power, an Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values’”; “fragments, which Förster-Nietzsche had cut up, mixed and pasted together, according to her own antisemitic views.”
Now this is fascinating to me because I have just spent the past year and a half preparing a historical-critical edition and translation of The Will To Power, and one aspect of this task is that I have had to re-visit every single one of Peter Gast’s editorial decisions. First consider what it might mean for something to be “edited ... under the influence of [his] anti-Semitic sister.” Similarly for editing a text “according to [one’s] anti-Semitic views.” This, on the face of it, is what is ordinarily called a “smear.” In other words, we are given no information about what this influence involved, or in what way, if any, it expressed or promoted anti-Semitism. This is like saying “the Declaration of Independence, drafted by the notorious slave owner and rapist, Thomas Jefferson.” Second, without knowing what precisely the relationship between the manuscripts and the edited Will To Power text is, we have no way of telling what precisely is meant by “historic forgery,” since this could be a fair characterization of a text not one word of which was written by Nietzsche, at one extreme, or a text which, like Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Grammar, is entirely composed of paragraphs written by Wittgenstein but never edited for publication by him in the form we find them. Ditto for “The Will To Power was not written by Nietzsche.” Almost as insinuating as the references to anti-Semitism is the remark “she claimed that Nietzsche had died before completing his magnum opus, which he allegedly wanted to name ‘The Will to Power.’” For consider: Nietzsche had intended to write a magnum opus for six years, and his final attempt to do so was the summer before he collapsed, mere months later, in Turin. And not only is it fair to say that he had at one time intended to call it “The Will To Power, an Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values” but he actually said so in print in 1887, in Genealogy of Morals, Essay Three, Section 27.
So what do we actually find? The first point to make is that it is misleading to suggest that The Will To Power is the all-but-completed magnum opus in something like the way Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations is. My question, however, is: how misleading does the text become if we instead say that it is selections from the materials from which Nietzsche hoped to construct a magnum opus, but didn’t? Well, that is precisely what it is.
Second point: how misleading and unrepresentative are the selections themselves? For reasons that are obvious on reflection, it is almost impossible to prove this, but my impression is that they are not unrepresentative at all. Nor do the principles of selection seem to involve a desperate attempt to search high and low for things which anticipate Nazism while vigorously suppressing the overwhelming majority of the material which is grossly incompatible with Nazism. Viewing the selection process without anachronism, all one can say is that the selections were made on the grounds of interestingness and nothing else. Are there things suppressed? To be sure. And without being certain, I am comfortable with speculating that Elisabeth was responsible for suppressing genocidal-sounding comments like “There are even unfit peoples” which occurs close to the text that became WP §872.
The suppressions I have seen fall into the following categories: (1) Elimination of material which is shocking, which could scarcely be characterized as an attempt to make Nietzsche more congenial to the Nazis; (2) Elimination of profane language; (3) Elimination of defamatory remarks about contemporaries and near contemporaries; (4) Elimination of elements from a text which clearly reveal the text’s purpose as incompatible with its presence in a magnum opus, for example if a note is flagged for use in some other book. It is impossible to characterize these preceding editorial choices in meaningfully ideological terms.
However, there was more to the editorial activity than selection and suppression, and perhaps it is here that we find the malign influence? How much of the material could be alleged to be not Nietzsche’s at all? Of The Will To Power’s 1067 notes, all but 16 can be traced to source texts in Colli and Montinari’s historical-critical edition of Nietzsche's writings, Kritische Gesamtausgabe: Werke. I have come across one sentence of which I am suspicious, but apart from that, I see no reason to regard this 1% of the text as inauthentic. I should also note that one note which does not appear in the edition was later found, in Nietzsche’s hand, among his letters. As far as we can tell, the text is, in essence, Nietzsche’s representative words on various subjects. The question then becomes, did the editors do anything to these notes that goes beyond the occasional, honest transcription error, or light editing for punctuation, capitalization, spelling, etc.?
Here matters become trickier, because only about 80% of the notes have been subjected to nothing more than light editing as just described (though consider for a moment how misleading it is to call the text a “forgery” if somewhere between 99-100% of it is Nietzsche’s words, and 80% of it is Nietzsche’s words with no modification beyond light editing for spelling and punctuation?). OK, what about that 20%? This is where the problems arise. We see three distinct phenomena in Gast’s editing, which I will call (1) Patchworks, (2) Tear-works, and (3) Compressions and Transpositions. Of these, patchwork texts are of course the most problematic. Here what we find are passages of several paragraphs, in which it turns out that a paragraph from another manuscript has been tacked onto a note because it shares the same topic. For example, WP §386 consists of two paragraphs, taken from the same manuscript and written during the same period; the fact that Nietzsche has numbered the first paragraph “267” and the second paragraph “297” should make clear the problem: there are thirty other notes in the manuscript between the two paragraphs and nothing in the book to indicate that this is so. They are brought together by Gast because they make related points on related topics. “Tear-works” if I may are cases of very long notes which Gast has simply split into a longish first half and a longish second half, and then assigned different WP numbers to them with no indication of having done so. For example, the first half of one long note is made into WP §667 while the second half becomes WP §260; their connection to each other is thereby erased. At the risk of tendentiousness, most of the patchworks and tear-works seem to have very little effect on meaning and are motivated by the need to assign a body of text to some category or other, given the topical arrangement of the outline the book as a whole follows. The last sort of difficulty is compression and transposition. An example is WP §959, which reads, “The jungle-growth ‘man’ always appears where the struggle for power has been waged the longest. Great men. The Romans--jungle animals.” However, if we look at the manuscript, the phrase “The Romans--jungle animals” does not appear after “The jungle-growth ‘man’ ... Great men” but instead after the text of WP §996, after a discussion of the fragility of the sublime man. Since the relevance of the jungle-like quality of the Romans is unclear in the context in which it is found, Gast has moved the phrase, apparently for no other reason than because now two references to jungle-like human beings are brought together. Since the sensible decision here would’ve been to simply not use the text of WP §996, I suspect that this was driven by a need for material (recall that the first edition of The Will To Power had only 483 sections whereas the second edition had 1067). Though we cannot be sure this is the case, it may shed light on the question of misleading selectivity: it may be that Gast used as much usable material as he could possibly find, and them some. Undergraduates who have written terms papers will know exactly what I am talking about.
If the result of this research had been to show that the editorial activity so thoroughly modified the texts as to make them useless as sources of information about Nietzsche’s thought and writing, then we would never have decided to translate and publish a new edition of The Will to Power. But from that extreme to the other (that the text is only a slightly cleaned-up version of a pre-meditated magnum opus), we find the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In many cases, the breaking up of manuscripts into fragments and their re-arrangement did little harm, as did the minor tidying of punctuation, paragraphing and the like. While there are continuous discussions which have been broken up, we have tracked these in the endnotes so that readers so inclined can recreate the experience of the continuous discussion. However, in other cases, the editors were more creative. The worst of this consists of combining sentences and paragraphs from different manuscripts into single, apparently continuous notes, modifying sentence order within a note, and, rarely, interpolating sentences of their own without indicating this. Another problem is the editors’ failing to note that a passage is merely Nietzsche copying out passages from other authors (many of Nietzsche’s remarks on the difference between the ethics of Jesus and the culture of the Church are merely reader’s notes on Tolstoy, and express Tolstoy’s rather than Nietzsche’s views). We have, to the best of our ability, tracked down, documented, and eliminated as many instances of this as we can. It is only in this way that the shadow of complete unreliability which hangs over the text can be eliminated. Happily, only a small fraction of the notes cannot be sourced at all (thirteen out of one thousand and sixty-seven). Though this translation should not serve as an adequate substitute for scholarly exploration of the original texts (and, indeed, no translation should ever be regarded as such a substitute), when you read something here, you will be reading a fair rendition of something Nietzsche at one time wrote. The endnotes refer the more scholarly reader to the original German materials, where we have attempted to report every difference between the manuscripts and the published text (with the exception of spelling and punctuation).
A more desperate attempt to delegitimize the materials in The Will To Power rests not on the notion that we cannot know what Nietzsche might’ve done with these notes, or that they ought not to have been tidied up or worse, as we’ve described, but that Nietzsche explicitly repudiated them. The story is that Nietzsche, having tried and failed to write The Will To Power, abandoned the materials with an instruction to burn them. Before delving into that, bear in mind that Kafka also left instructions that his writings were to be burned, so the pyromaniacal anxieties of authorship ought not to be taken as a basis for assessment in any case. The problem with this story, despite its repetition in some even quite prominent texts over the years, is that it appears to not be true. If one follows the story back to the 1893 report by Fritz Kögel of his friend visiting the locale and finding the materials, it turns out that the material Nietzsche disposed of was largely printer’s proofs, precisely the sort of thing one might abandon to destruction. The mere fact that Nietzsche left behind manuscripts at Sils-Maria, if it is a fact (and there is no reason to doubt it), is in any case utterly without significance, for he no doubt left materials there in September after every previous summer he had spent there. To leave it there would not be to abandon it. After all, he would no doubt return, in the summer of 1889, or so he thought. Presumably he wasn’t planning on having a mental breakdown several months later. Did he then tacitly reject the notes by not making use of them? No. It is simply absurd to presuppose that material which did not find its way into the final works was therefore rejected. There simply wasn’t enough time for Nietzsche to formulate and manifest such an intention. But suppose that he had? It might be thought a bit strange to suppose that as Nietzsche approached his final mental collapse, the acuity of his judgment about the worth of his own writings could only improve. Nietzsche’s so-called abandonment of the earlier The Will to Power project rather seems to imply frustration with his inability to fashion them into a coherent whole that particular summer, rather than a rejection of their content.
There is something quite strange about the attempt to de-legitimize The Will To Power in the fashion we have seen, rather than take it for what it is, a mere anthology of selections from a great but controversial writer’s notebooks, an anthology that was rather oversold at one time in something like the way that DVDs which are allegedly “uncut” tend to be oversold. I have seen some Nietzsche scholars insist that their interpretations of Nietzsche are immune from falsification by the notes in The Will To Power because it doesn’t count, and such interpretations are generally sympathetic rather than hostile. Perhaps it is an unfortunate side-effect of the older representation of The Will to Power as Nietzsche’s Bible that it has conditioned how we view these texts, as if the published works were “canonical” and the notebooks “apocryphal,” or vice versa. Matters are not helped by the fact that Nietzsche on occasion says some very distasteful things in these notes, the perception of which was fundamentally different before and after World War II. This has encouraged the tendency by Nietzsche’s advocates to delegitimize the notebooks as if one could confine everything distasteful about Nietzsche within them and then somehow attribute it all to Elisabeth, who bears ultimate responsibility for their publication in this form and who cuts an unattractive figure in any case. This problem is exacerbated by the widespread myth that the Nietzsche of the notebooks is a “traditional” philosopher (whatever that means) while the published Nietzsche is something other than, and perhaps better than, that: a more Derridean, or Emersonian, Nietzsche. The method is to exorcize him of his colonialist and vitalist demons, drive that legion into Elisabeth, and thence off a cliff. One suspects that for these exorcists, Nietzsche simply cannot be permitted to be wrong, lest he be rendered unworthy of being treated as an authority in his criticisms of Christianity. This suggests a certain ambivalence! It is also ironic, for the need to exorcize Nietzsche of some of his anti-bourgeois excesses (like his use of anti-Semitic stereotypes in his critique of Christianity) stems from the fact that these excesses are precisely those which are (rightly) intolerable to his champions, champions who are themselves bourgeois and very much intend to stay that way.