Nietzsche's Will to Power and Heidegger's Metaphysics of Pain: A Response to Mitchell

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Erik Pomrenke looks at Andrew J. Mitchell’s “Entering the World of Pain: Heidegger” from Telos 150 (Spring 2010).

Heidegger’s thinking of pain allows for a positive revaluation of pain as openness, not closure, to the world. Andrew J. Mitchell contends in his “Entering the World of Pain: Heidegger,” that “pain is the surest sign that we wholly belong to this world; in fact, pain is nothing other than our contact with the world and our ‘openness’ to it.” Mitchell situates Heidegger against two popular accounts of pain: Freudian psychoanalysis and the humanist interpretation of pain as articulated by Elaine Scarry in her book The Body in Pain. Both models oppose pain and openness to the world and therefore see pain as a withdrawal from meaning. Within psychoanalysis, this takes place in the disengagement of cathexis—divestment of libido from love objects. Within the broadly humanist account, world and body are opposed. When the body demands attention, it necessitates a withdrawal from and contraction of the world. Scarry’s thought is structured by such binary oppositions as pain and meaning, interiority and exteriority, and it will be the task of Heidegger’s thinking of pain to reconfigure these oppositions by holding up pain and language as co-original phenomena—a task that Mitchell illustrates by reading Trakl.

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Values, Virtues, and the Language of Morality

In “Values or Virtues, Nietzsche or Aristotle?” Jay Gupta outlines the way that value discourse stifles normative intention and the ethical imagination. The aim of the paper is to “suggest that the language of values disguises a deeper, normatively richer language of virtue, and . . . point[s] to the importance of recovering that language in the modern age, as well as the difficulties that must attend such a recovery.” Before exploring the merits of the article, I wish to offer a few clarificatory notes. Recently, there has been a conspicuous number of thinkers that have advocated a return to virtue ethics. Perhaps the most notable among these is Elizabeth Anscombe, who, with the paper “Modern Moral Philosophy,” uncovers the supposed banality of modern moral philosophy and points to the ways in which moral discourse has retained elements of the Christian ethical tradition.

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Carl Schmitt and the Conservative Revolutionaries

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Linas Jokubaitis looks at Joseph Bendersky’s “Carl Schmitt and the Conservative Revolution” from Telos 72 (Summer 1987).

In his last book, Political Theology II, Carl Schmitt wrote that some books are fated to become academic legends, but contrary to the etymological meaning of the word Legende, they are not read, only cited. He knew that his persona was surrounded by many mythologies and that after his death an even greater complex of mythologies would develop around his personality and works. Today there seems to be no end to the multiplication of legends about Schmitt. Joseph Bendersky’s essay “Carl Schmitt and the Conservative Revolution” is a meticulous attempt to understand if there is any truth in the popular legend, according to which Schmitt belonged to a diverse group of intellectuals who were labeled as conservative revolutionaries.

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Contingency and Necessity in the Genealogy of Morality

Paul di Georgio’s “Contingency and Necessity in the Genealogy of Morality” appears in Telos 162 (Spring 2013). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our store.

This article evaluates the relationship of the concepts of contingency and necessity to the historical developments and power relations in Nietzsche’s Genealogy. Both Nietzsche and Foucault maintain that, contra Herder, their genealogies are not grounded in originary investigation. Thus for their sort of genealogy to be a philosophically useful method, the force of interpretive analysis must be located elsewhere. The analytic force, I argue, is based in the relationship of values, events, and moral beings. Specifically, I maintain that the progression of moral stages in Nietzsche’s study is ordered in such a way that the failure of each stage is logically and structurally necessary, and that each failure structures the resultant system or paradigm. However, we must also note that the historical manifestation of moral paradigms which coincide with predicted or projected theoretical structures remains contingent upon a multitude of other historical factors, most importantly, human involvement. The conclusion is that systematic internal failures of moral stages allow for but do not cause successive events, since the structural scope of possibility within which a value may be held is best explained in terms of a “middle space” characterizable in both contingent and necessary terms.

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Is There a Christian Nietzsche?

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Michael Bacal looks at Daniel Pellerin’s “Nietzsche’s Affirming Negation of Christianity,” from Telos 124 (Summer 2002).

Could there really be such a thing as a “Christian” Nietzsche? Superficially, of course, there couldn’t be a thinker less Christian than Nietzsche. His savage critiques and well-known aphorisms about the servile, masochistic, and ugly character of Christian life have had a decisive influence on contemporary Western thought. His proclamations of God’s “death” and his analyses of ressentiment have even managed to lodge themselves firmly into popular culture. Nietzsche’s brutal hostility toward everything Christianity stands for is, for better or worse, one of the best-known aspects of his philosophy. It is, thus, rather fascinating that, in spite of this (or perhaps because of it), many theologians and philosophers have tried to answer this seemingly paradoxical question about a Christian Nietzsche in the affirmative.

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