Nietzsche’s signatures: On the limits of the subject Cover Image

Nietzsches Signaturen: Zur Grenze des Subjekts
Nietzsche’s signatures: On the limits of the subject

Author(s): Maximilian Giuseppe Burkhart
Subject(s): Philosophy, 19th Century Philosophy
Published by: Ústav svetovej literatúry, Slovenská akadémia vied
Keywords: Signature; Letter; Friedrich Nietzsche; Űbermensch; Artistic subject; Theory of the subject; Enlightenment

Summary/Abstract: In an ideal case a signature is completely invariant – it remains the same. It is based on the idealist concept of identity replication and in this function is the discovery of modernism. The letter becomes a key means for portraying this concept in literature. Nietzsche signs his “insane” letters as Ceasar, Dionysos or The Crucified. His signatures seem to be the last expression of a psychological break-down. The medical diagnosis of his illness was brain softening due to syphilis. However, as an explanation for the phenomenon of Nietzsche’s signatures purely medically based interpretations are insufficient. His entire work can be read as an attempt to overcome limits. The reasons for a dissociated subject manifested in his signatures can be found across his entire philosophical work. Nietzsche is positioned at the end of a development that begins somewhere with Descartes and that experiences its heyday in Kant’s Enlightenment, Fichte’s radical subjectivism and its prolongation in the early Romantics, especially Novalis. Medical interpretations at the same time ignore the fact that Nietzsche in his later “insane” letters in his own consistent way completed a complex philosophical project. Nietzsche’s project of the “Übermensch” essentially means a look into the fragile aesthetic construction of the modern subject. The genesis of the artistic subject completely moved into the area of madness and fiction. The subject, madness and aesthetics cannot be separated. In this same exact constellation can be found his aesthetics and philosophy. The theory of the subject runs like a red thread through his entire oeuvre. Nietzsche’s destruction of the logical and ethical basis of the Enlightenment criticism of rationality is a necessary stop on the way to the “Übermensch”. It is at the same time a consistent continuation of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, one consequence of which is also the indistinguishability of rationality and madness. In the destruction of the subject he penetrates into the depth of corporeality and the mind. As a subject it becomes something separate – an individual. Nietzsche probably knew this before his collapse and was aware of the significance of his awareness.

  • Issue Year: VII/2015
  • Issue No: 4
  • Page Range: 78-98
  • Page Count: 21
  • Language: German