THE POTENTIAL LOVER OF FATE

LOVES OF FATE

One way of reading this passage would interpret it as presupposing an erotic conception of love according to which we love objects in proportion to their perceived value (hence the need to learn ‘more and more’) and as offering a Platonic solution to the first paradox (amor fati as the love of a repellent object).


The erotic nature of the love in question is made clear by the implicit assumption that the true object of love is beauty and conversely that what is beautiful is lovable, which echoes Socrates’ and Diotima’s views in the Symposium (respectively: ‘love is the love of beauty and not of deformity’, 201b, and ‘love is of the beautiful’, 204b).
The beautiful pulls us towards itself. Consequently the proposed solution consists in educating our eye so that what is necessary progressively ceases to repel us by virtue of our having learned to value it differently. At the end of the process, the perceived negativity of the object (implied at the start by the need of a learning programme) may ultimately turn out to be a mistake due to our original lack of understanding, or at least be diminished to such an extent that fate will on the whole appear as a positive object, which will remove the potential contradiction in our loving it. The imperative ‘let that be my love’ consequently presents amor fati as a desirable (and conceptually sound) ideal, although little is said about how it may be achieved at this point.

 

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On this picture, the potential lover of fate is faced with the dual tasking of finding out a) how far the re-evaluation of fate should go and b) how it may be carried out. Regarding the first, the injunction to learn to see what is necessary as beautiful can be understood in two ways: it may entail learning to see everything that happens as beautiful, or learning to see the whole process as beautiful.
On the first, stronger construal, fate would become a totally beautiful and thus fully desirable object; on the second, it would be desirable on balance only, but lovable nevertheless. Interestingly, this question is central to most theodicies, and arguing in favour of the second, easier option is often the preferred strategy. Thus Leibniz claims that on the whole our world is the best possible and offers various forms of reduction to deny or at least diminish the negativity of perceived evils.
Nietzsche himself sometimes oscillates between the two possibilities: a later passage exhorts us to ‘attain a height and a bird’s eye view, so one grasps how everything actually happens at it ought to happen; how every kind of ‘imperfection’ and the suffering to which it gives rise are part of the highest desirability’. Note that here too, Nietzsche uses an aesthetic vocabulary (‘imperfection’) and implicitly relies on the Platonic association between the beautiful and the good (and conversely the imperfect and the bad).

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The metaphor of height is important in that it suggests that in order to properly reassess the value of the unfolding of necessity, we need a special perspective, one that is both global (bird’s eye view) and detached from our everyday concerns, a point to which I shall come back. There are, however, other passages which emphasise the need to ‘perceive not merely the necessity of those sides of existence hitherto denied, but their desirability; and not their desirability merely in relation to the sides hitherto affirmed (perhaps as their complement or precondition), but for their own sake’ . (WP §1041) This stronger requirement is, I think, the one Nietzsche truly has in mind; this is evidenced by the references to the eternal return established by the next two passages in which he describes amor fati, to which I shall now turn in connection with the second of the two issues mentioned above, namely how we may carry out the required revaluation of fate.
The first passage is as follows:

My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati. That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it ⎯ all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary ⎯ but love it.

Here too amor fati is presented as an ideal (‘my formula for greatness’), although the status of the infinitives in the last sentence is ambiguous (they can be read either as prescriptive, laying out a programme, or descriptive, expanding on the content of amor fati). It is implicitly distinguished from two of the main alternative attitudes towards fate: firstly, ‘bearing’ it, which is the course of action advocated by the Stoa (see for example Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VI : ‘adapt yourself to the environment in which your lot has been cast’).
Significantly, the Stoic option involves the rejection of all emotions towards fate: ‘let no emotions (…) affect the supreme portion of the soul. See that it never becomes involved with them: it must limit itself to its own domain, and keep the feelings confined to their proper sphere’.
The second possibility alluded to (‘still less conceal it’) is most likely the Leibnizian strategy sketched out above, which fallaciously minimises the reality of suffering (hence its ‘mendaciousness’ and idealism as a refusal to face the real world).The notion of ‘what is necessary’ is now unpacked in a manner which points towards the eternal return by shifting from the usually forward-oriented perspective presupposed by talk of causality (past causes generating present or future effects) to a synchronic standpoint which considers necessity in relation to all temporal stances: present (‘nothing to be different’), past to future (‘forward’), future to past (‘backwards’). Note however that at this point the reference to eternity does not entail any claim about things returning (the chain of events could unfold ad aeternitatem without ever repeating itself).
By contrast, the second quote establishes an explicit connection between amor fati and the eternal return. It stipulates that we must:

cross to a Dionysian affirmation of the world as it is, without subtraction, exception or selection ⎯ it wants the eternal circulation ⎯ the same things, the same logic and illogic of entanglements. The highest state a philosopher can attain: to stand in a Dionysian relationship to existence ⎯ my formula for this is amor fati. (WP §1041)

 

 

 

 

 

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