Genealogy proceeds by positing the will to power as guarantor of the correlation between evaluation and a world that is only insofar as it is evaluated: the will is at once evaluating and evaluated, the agent of evaluation as well as its patient. Accordingly, for Nietzsche, the pivotal moment in the history of nihilism occurs at that juncture when the will’s drive to eradicate value from the world in the name of truth exposes truth itself as just another value.
This is the point at which the negative will to truth converts itself into the affirmative and evaluative will to lie; into a will which is willing to fabricate the value it bestows upon becoming:
Our ‘new world’: we have to realize to what degree we are the creators of our value feelings – and thus capable of projecting ‘meaning’ into history. This faith in truth attains its ultimate conclusion in us – you know what that is: that if there is anything that is to be worshipped it is appearance that must be worshipped, that the lie – and not the truth – is divine!
Ultimately then, Nietzsche’s axiological transcoding of the cognitive crisis generated by the untrammelled potency of the will to truth, and the ensuing suggestion that transvaluation is the key to ‘twisting free’ (Herausdrehen) from nihilism, are predicated upon a generalized irrealism that denies autonomy to becoming as well as to being. Thus, Nietzsche’s defusing of the will to nothingness depends upon his irrealism about becoming: since becoming is nothing in-itself, an act of evaluation suffices to transform it into something worthy of affirmation.
But why should the thought that becoming aims at nothing and achieves nothing make a difference in the becoming that it affirms, effectively splitting it into a ‘before’ and an ‘after’? Nietzsche’s responseis: because becoming is reflected into itself through this affirmation – since the will to power is at once evaluating and evaluated, becoming evaluates itself through the act that affirms its recurrence and bestows being upon it. This provides the conceptual underpinning for the claim that the eradication of value concomitant with the will to truth can be converted into a will capable of creating new values.
However, whether it is interpreted as the affirmation of identity, or as the affirmation of difference, Nietzsche’s attempt to characterize the affirmation of recurrence as focal point of becoming faces insuperable difficulties. First, Nietzsche’s irrealism about becoming threatens to restrict eternal recurrence understood as repetition of the same to the repetition of the present, for if the being of becoming orbits around its affirmation then it makes no sense to invoke a past or future dimension of becoming subsisting in-itself independently of the moment of its affirmation. The only sense in which the past and future of becomingrecur is as fixed correlates of the nunc stans, the eternal now, of affirmation.
Consequently, the affirmation of recurrence would render all the moments of becoming equivalent only insofar as it reduced them to this perpetually subsisting moment of affirmation. Second, the thought of eternal recurrence implies that becoming has never started or stopped; it is always repeating itself as what has already recurred an infinity of times. How then can history still harbour the possibility of a decisive turning point which divides the ‘before’ from the ‘after’ if every moment, and therefore this moment in which we are invited to affirm the repetition of the entire series of moments, has already recurred, and is already repeating itself, an infinity of times? What possible difference can affirmation make if it has already recurred an infinity of times?
No doubt these and other difficulties attendant upon the interpretation of recurrence as repetition of the same tend to encourage the Deleuzean interpretation of the doctrine as repetition of difference. However, aside from the fact that there seems to be little support for it in Nietzsche’s own texts, Deleuze’s interpretation is vitiated by conceptual inconsistencies of its own – inconsistencies which are not just peculiar to Deleuze’s Nietzsche, but inherent in any philosophy that would privilege becoming over stasis and creative affirmation over representation.
Thus, third and finally, if recurrence is construed as the repetition of difference, then being must be inherently self-differentiating. But if being is essentially active, affirmative, creative, and productive, then why does it ever become alienated from itself in reactivity, negation, sterility, and representation? The claim that the history of nihilism pivots around truth’s turning against itself invites the obvious retort: whyshould the affirmative will to illusion require the negative will to truth to come into its own and attain its maximal potentiation?
Moreover, why does affirmation need to make a difference between identity and difference if being as such is nothing but differentiation? The answer to both questions, as we have already suggested, is a direct corollary of Nietzsche’s irrealism: becoming requires affirmation because it is nothing until it is reflected into itself via the intercession of an affirmative act. In this regard, Deleuze’s characterization of Nietzsche’s overcoming of nihilism amounts to an inverted Hegelianism, which pits the power of the positive against the labour of the negative only in order to convert difference-in-itself into difference-for-itself. Even so, a fundamental difficulty persists, for though affirmation distinguishes itself from negation, and difference from indifference, it was the hybridization of activity and reactivity that provided the precondition for the necessity of this distinction.
Yet once affirmation has successfully separated itself from negation, and activity from reactivity, not only does it become impossible to account for the necessity of their intrication, this separation cancels it own precondition, since the very difference through which eternal recurrence affirms the unity of becoming obviates the recurrence of this very unity. Thus the affirmation of recurrence retroactively negates the indivisibility of becoming which was supposed to provide its motivation. For it was precisely the premise of the indivisibility of good and evil, noble and base, activity and reactivity, that provided the condition for the affirmative redemption of becoming.
Ultimately, the claim that the affirmation of recurrence marks the turning point in the history of nihilism generates more difficulties than it can possibly resolve. The conclusion to be drawn here is that being is no more susceptible to affirmation than to negation: there is no more reason to opt for its differentiation through affirmation than its identification through negation. Being-in-itself – which we characterized in Chapter 5 in terms of a degree-zero of being (being-nothing) – cannot be construed as an object of representation, but this is no reason to try to construe it as a power of affirmation instead.
Once we have jettisoned Nietzsche’s irrealist postulate that being can be the correlate of an affirmative act, it is clear that the becoming that ‘aims at nothing and achieves nothing’ is as heedless of affirmation as it is of negation. It is precisely the realist commitment to the truth of the in-itself, and the concomitant extension of the appearance–reality distinction into the phenomenal realm carried out by the science of cognition (cf. Chapter 1), which countermands the legitimacy of the axiological register with which Nietzsche would disarm the will to nothingness.
In this regard, Nietzsche’s claim that life cannot but be privileged over knowing, since it remains its precondition, underestimates the profundity of the challenge posed to life by the will to know. For as Nietzsche himself recognized, the allegedly absolute difference between life and death is among the metaphysical absolutes shaken by the untrammelled will to truth. Yet Nietzsche sides with vitalism in seeking to incorporate death into life, even going so far as to identify living and being: ‘Being – we have no idea of it apart from the idea of “living.” – How can anything dead “be”?’ (Nietzsche 1968: §582).
However, if knowing undercuts the difference between life and death, it is not by reducing the former to the latter, or by privileging entropy over negentropy – a metaphysical gesture as arbitrary as its vitalist antithesis – but by identifying difference and indifference, life and death, without synthesizing them ontologically, as Heidegger and Deleuze do through finite transcendence and psychic individuation respectively. As we saw in Chapter 5, the knowing that is determined by its object can be characterized as a structure of adequation without correspondence; one which does not seek to make a difference in becoming, as Nietzsche sought to via affirmation, but rather to identify the objective matrix of order and disorder while unbinding the ontological syntheses which would reduce the latter to correlates of thought.
Thus, there is a knowing of the real (objective genitive) which repudiates the subordination of knowledge to vital and/or organic interests, but also the need to redeem or otherwise justify reality in order to render it compatible with the putative interests of reason – or ‘rationality’ – as construed within the bounds of the manifest image.
We saw in the previous chapter how vitalism – specifically Deleuze’s vitalism – characterizes the relation between death and time as a locus for the production of temporal difference: death is not the cancellation of vital difference, but rather its expressive intensification. For Deleuze, intensive death is a gateway onto a virtual realm of creative individuation suffused with pre-individual singularities. Ultimately then, vitalism pits the ineradicable difference of creative time against the physical erasure of annihilating space, which, as we saw in Chapters 2 and 6, is perceived as a threat to the life of the mind. In this regard, the privileging of time over space goes hand in hand with the spiritualization of death as a more rarefied form of life.
Against this vitalist sublation of physical death, it is necessary to insist on the indivisibility of space and time and the ineradicability of physical annihilation. These provide the speculative markers for an objectification of thought that can be identified with afigure of death which is not the cancellation of difference but rather the non-dialectical identity of difference and indifference, of negentropy and entropy. We begin to broach the latter through questions such as:
How does thought think a world without thought? Or more urgently: How does thought think the death of thinking?