Translated by Greg Johnson
Czech translation here
The following interview of Guillaume Faye is from the Nietzsche Académie blog.
How important is Nietzsche for you?
Reading Nietzsche has been the departure point for all values and ideas I developed later. In 1967, when I was a pupil of the Jesuits in Paris, something incredible happened in philosophy class. In that citadel of Catholicism, the philosophy teacher decided to do a year-long course on Nietzsche! Exeunt Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Marx, and others. The good fathers did not dare say anything, despite the upheaval in the program.
It marked me, believe me. Nietzsche, or the hermeneutics of suspicion. . . . Thus, very young, I distanced myself from the Christian, or rather “Christianomorphic,” view of the world. And of course, at the same time, from egalitarianism and humanism. All the analyses that I developed later were inspired by the insights of Nietzsche. But it was also in my nature.
Later, much later, just recently, I understood the need to complete the principles of Nietzsche with those of Aristotle, the good old Apollonian Greek, a pupil of Plato, whom he respected as well as criticized. There is for me an obvious philosophical affinity between Aristotle and Nietzsche: the refusal of metaphysics and idealism, and, crucially, the challenge to the idea of divinity. Nietzsche’s “God is dead” is the counterpoint to Aristotle’s motionless and unconscious god, which is akin to a mathematical principle governing the universe.
Only Aristotle and Nietzsche, separated by many centuries, denied the presence of a self-conscious god without rejecting the sacred, but the latter is akin to a purely human exaltation based on politics or art.
Nevertheless, Christian theologians have never been bothered by Aristotle, but were very much so by Nietzsche. Why? Because Aristotle was pre-Christian and could not know Revelation. While Nietzsche, by attacking Christianity, knew exactly what he was doing.
Nevertheless, the Christian response to this atheism is irrefutable and deserves a good philosophical debate: faith is a different domain than the reflections of philosophers and remains a mystery. I remember, when I was with the Jesuits, passionate debates between my Nietzschean atheist philosophy teacher and the good fathers (his employers) sly and tolerant, sure of themselves.
What book by Nietzsche would you recommend?
The first one I read was The Gay Science. It was a shock. Then Beyond Good and Evil, where Nietzsche overturns the Manichean moral rules that come from Socrates and Christianity. The Antichrist, it must be said, inspired the whole anti-Christian discourse of the neo-pagan Right, in which I was obviously heavily involved.
But it should be noted that Nietzsche, who was raised Lutheran, had rebelled against Christian morality in its purest form represented by German Protestantism, but he never really understood the religiosity and the faith of traditional Catholics and Orthodox Christians, which is quite unconnected to secularized Christian morality.
Oddly, I was never excited by Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For me, it is a rather confused work, in which Nietzsche tried to be a prophet and a poet but failed. A bit like Voltaire, who believed himself clever in imitating the tragedies of Corneille. Voltaire, an author who, moreover, has spawned ideas quite contrary to this “philosophy of the Enlightenment” that Nietzsche (alone) had pulverized.
Being Nietzschean, what does this mean?
Nietzsche would not have liked this kind of question, for he did not want disciples, though . . . (his character, very complex, was not devoid of vanity and frustration, just like you and me). Ask instead: What does it mean to follow Nietzschean principles?
This means breaking with Socratic, Stoic, and Christian principles and modern human egalitarianism, anthropocentrism, universal compassion, and universalist utopian harmony. It means accepting the possible reversal of all values (Umwertung) to the detriment of humanistic ethics. The whole philosophy of Nietzsche is based on the logic of life: selection of the fittest, recognition of vital power (conservation of bloodlines at all costs) as the supreme value, abolition of dogmatic standards, the quest for historical grandeur, thinking of politics as aesthetics, radical inegalitarianism, etc.
That’s why all the thinkers and philosophers — self-appointed, and handsomely maintained by the system — who proclaim themselves more or less Nietzschean, are impostors. This was well understood by the writer Pierre Chassard who on good authority denounced the “scavengers of Nietzsche.” Indeed, it is very fashionable to be “Nietzschean.” Very curious on the part of publicists whose ideology — political correctness and right-thinking — is absolutely contrary to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.
In fact, the pseudo-Nietzscheans have committed a grave philosophical confusion: they held that Nietzsche was a protest against the established order, but they pretended not to understand that it was their own order: egalitarianism based on a secularized interpretation of Christianity. “Christianomorphic” on the inside and outside. But they believed (or pretended to believe) that Nietzsche was a sort of anarchist, while advocating a ruthless new order. Nietzsche was not, like his scavengers, a rebel in slippers, a phony rebel, but a revolutionary visionary.
Is Nietzsche on the Right or Left?
Fools and shallow thinkers (especially on the Right) have always claimed that the notions of Left and Right made no sense. What a sinister error. Although the practical positions of the Left and Right may vary, the values of Right and Left do exist. Nietzscheanism is obviously on the Right. The socialist mentality, the morality of the herd, made Nietzsche vomit. But that does not mean that the people of the extreme Right are Nietzscheans, far from it. For example, they are generally anti-Jewish, a position that Nietzsche castigated and considered stupid in many of his writings, and in his correspondence he singled out anti-Semitic admirers who completely misunderstood him.
Nietzscheanism, obviously, is on the Right, and the Left, always in a position of intellectual prostitution, attempted to neutralize Nietzsche because it could not censor him. To be brief, I would say that an honest interpretation of Nietzsche places him on the side of the revolutionary Right in Europe, using the concept of the Right for lack of anything better (like any word, it describes things imperfectly).
Nietzsche, like Aristotle (and, indeed, like Plato, Kant, Hegel, and Marx, of course — but not at all Spinoza) deeply integrated politics in his thinking. For example, by a fantastic premonition, he was for a union of European nations, like Kant, but from a very different perspective. Kant the pacifist, universalist, and incorrigible utopian moralist, wanted the European Union as it exists today: a great flabby body without a sovereign head with the Rights of Man as its highest principle. Nietzsche, on the contrary, spoke of Great Politics, a grand design for a united Europe. For the moment, it is the Kantian view that has unfortunately been imposed.
On the other hand, the least we can say is that Nietzsche was not a Pan-German, a German nationalist, but rather a nationalistic — and patriotic — European. This was remarkable for a man who lived in his time, the second part of the 19th century (“This stupid 19th century,” said Léon Daudet), which exacerbated as a fatal poison the shabby petty intra-European nationalism that would result in the terrible fratricidal tragedy of 1914 to 1918, when young Europeans from 18 to 25 years, massacred one another without knowing exactly why. Nietzsche the European wanted anything but such a scenario.
That is why those who instrumentalized Nietzsche (in the 1930s) as an ideologue of Germanism are as wrong as those who, today, present him as a proto-Leftist. Nietzsche was a European patriot, and he put the genius of the German soul in the service of European power whose decline, as a visionary, he already sensed.
What authors do you see as Nietzschean?
Not necessarily those who claim Nietzsche. In reality, there are no actual “Nietzschean” authors. Simply, Nietzsche and others are part of a highly fluid and complex current that could be described as a “rebellion against the accepted principles.” On this point, I agree with the view of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Locchi, who was one of my teachers: Nietzsche inaugurated “superhumanism,” that is to say the surpassing of humanism. I’ll stop there, because I will not repeat what I have developed in some of my books, including Why We Fight and Sex and Perversion. One could say that a large number of authors and filmmakers are “Nietzschean,” but this kind of talk is very superficial.
On the other hand, I believe there is a strong link between the philosophy of Nietzsche and Aristotle, despite the centuries that separate them. To say that Aristotle is Nietzschean is obviously an anachronistic absurdity. But to say that Nietzsche’s philosophy continues Aristotle, the errant student of Plato, is a claim I will hazard. This is why I am both Aristotelian and Nietzschean: Because these two philosophers defend the fundamental idea that the supernatural deity must be examined in substance. Nietzsche looks at divinity with a critical perspective like Aristotle’s.
Most writers who call themselves admirers of Nietzsche are impostors. Paradoxically, I link Darwinism and Nietzsche. Those who actually interpret Nietzsche are accused by ideological manipulators of not being real “philosophers.” Even those who want Nietzsche to say the opposite of what he so inconveniently actually said. We must condemn this appropriation of philosophy by a caste of mandarins who proceed to distort the texts of the philosophers, or even censor them. Aristotle has also been a victim. One can read Nietzsche and other philosophers only through a scholarly grid, inaccessible to the common man. But no. Nietzsche is quite readable by any educated man. But our time can read only through the grid of censorship by omission.
Could you give a definition of the Superman?
Nietzsche intentionally gave a vague definition of the Superman. This is an open-ended yet clear concept. Obviously, the pseudo-Nietzschean intellectuals were quick to blur and empty this concept by making the Superman a sort of airy intellectual: detached, haughty, meditative, quasi-Buddhist—the conceited image they have of themselves. In short, the precise opposite of what Nietzsche intended. I am a partisan not of interpreting writers but of reading them, if possible, with the highest degree of respect.
Nietzsche obviously linked the Superman to the notion of Will to Power (which, too, has been manipulated and distorted). The Superman is the model of the man who fulfills the Will to Power, that is to say, who rises above herd morality (and Nietzsche thought socialism was a herd doctrine) to selflessly impose a new order, with two dimensions, warlike and sovereign, aiming at dominion, endowed with a power project. The interpretation of the Superman as a supreme “sage,” a non-violent, ethereal, proto-Gandhi of sorts is a deconstruction of Nietzsche’s thought in order to neutralize and blur it. The Parisian intelligentsia, whose hallmark is a spirit of falsehood, has a sophisticated but evil genius in distorting the thought of annoying but unavoidable great authors (including Aristotle and Voltaire) but also wrongly appropriating or truncating their thought.
There are two possible definitions of the Superman: the mental and the moral Superman (by evolution and education, surpassing his ancestors) and the biological superman. It’s very difficult to decide, since Nietzsche himself has used this expression as a sort of mytheme, a literary trope, without ever truly conceptualizing it. A sort of premonitory phrase, which was inspired by Darwinian evolutionism.
But your question is very interesting. The key is not having an answer “about Nietzsche,” but to know which path Nietzsche wanted to open over a hundred years ago. Because he was anti-Christian and anti-humanist, Nietzsche did not think that man was a fixed being, but that he is subject to evolution, even self-evolution (that is the sense of the metaphor of the “bridge between the beast and the Superman”).
For my part — but then I differ with Nietzsche, and my opinion does not possess immense value — I interpreted superhumanism as a challenge, for reasons partly biological, to the very notion of a human species. Briefly. This concept of the Superman is certainly much more than Will to Power, one of those mysterious traps Nietzsche set, one of the questions he posed to future humanity: Yes, what is the Superman? The very word makes us dreamy and delirious.
Nietzsche may have had the intuition that the human species, at least some of its higher components (not necessarily “humanity”), could accelerate and direct biological evolution. One thing is certain, that crushes the thoughts of monotheistic, anthropocentric “fixists”: man is not an essence that is beyond evolution. And then, to the concept of Übermensch, never forget to add that of Herrenvolk . . . prescient. Also, we should not forget Nietzsche’s reflections on the question of race and anthropological inequality.
The capture of Nietzsche’s work by pseudo-scientists and pseudo-philosophical schools (comparable to the capture of the works of Aristotle) is explained by the following simple fact: Nietzsche is too big a fish to be eliminated, but far too subversive not to be censored and distorted.
Your favorite quote from Nietzsche?
“We must now cease all forms of joking around.” This means, presciently, that the values on which Western civilization are based are no longer acceptable. And that survival depends on a reversal or restoration of vital values. And all this assumes the end of festivisme (as coined by Philippe Muray and developed by Robert Steuckers) and a return to serious matters.