Wie Man wird, was Man ist/ How one becomes what one is

Ecce Homo, the last book written by Nietzsche (1844-1900) before he lost his reason in early 1889, adopts an unusual megalomanic tone. At a certain point he declares: „I am not a man, I am dynamite“. For long many philosophers didn´t consider this specific work when analysing the german author´s corpus. Only recently, given several translations in the english language, the work has received more extensive attention.

In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche proposes to write his own biography, but doing so in a very unorthodox way, deliberately subverting the conventions of the genre. As observed in the introduction he fails to speak of periods of his life and is not accurate when it comes to dates. But this only happens because Nietzsche is speaking more about his ideas than about himself, and in a tone of exagerated self-esteem purposefully choosen in opposition to socratic humiliation.

Nietzsche wrote Ecce Homo as a sort of explanation for the overall of his work, in order to make some points clear enough just before the work he was projecting, which was supposed to be the major work of his carrer but never saw the day of light.

„Wie Man wird, was Man ist“, „How one becomes what one is“ is Nietzsche´s central thesis here. There´s a passage where the german philosopher states that he never fought for things in a combative manner but just learned to accept them as they came into his life. I was surprised to read this, for Nietzsche was frequently sick and achieved little recognition during his life time, which would lead one to think that he could have felt miserably.
But somehow he endured, and this is connected with his theory of the eternal recurrence and the idea of amor fati, which speaks of the acceptance of the events that occur in one´s life, despite all the suffering and pain. One needs to live life in such a way that one could accept its eternal repetion, cheerfully.

As a coincidence, I just saw Aeschylus´ “Oresteia” on stage this week. A theater play that speeks of the ethic of revenge, revenge being exactly the opposite of accepting one´s life calmly. In Aeschylus´ play, our deepest sense of any possibility for enduring justice in our community is deeply violated, we are submitted to a never-ending cycle of retributive killing and over-killing. And this had the interesting effect on stage, of making me think how theater is sometimes stronger than life itself.
Thought written before the advent of Christianismus but ruled by a similar metaphysical logic, the “Oresteia” seeks to come in terms with it. Aeschylus proposes that traditional goddessess of vengeance be incorporated in the justice system and not ruled out. He also says that though justice should move beyond pure personal emotion, ultimatelly it will not work if it doesn´t take our personal feelings into consideration somehow.

While Aeschylus is convinced that we cannot remove the Furies from our lifes, Nietzsche´s cut is of course of a radical kind, as he proclaims himself as the Antichrist for announcing what is to come, the transvaluation of all values. Interesting and coincidentilly, they seem to share the same view that we must move beyond our brutal and unworkable traditions. And this point revealed very important to me, as lately I am wondering about how one can be free, think and act freely.

3 Comments

  1. A thoughtful post. It has been a long time since I read either author, but I think that I should go back through my bookshelf to discover them again. Many of the German philosophers hinted at the freedom within regulation, but this was more of thought. Freedom of act is another matter. I just do not see all actions being acceptable, and I do not forsee how they can be.

  2. in a physical perspective all universe is connected. It’s not possible to make an action without having an effect in the neighborhood that will react… in that sense freedom is difficult…

    in a more human perspective, it’s for me clear that we have to live in a community so that god’s work has some sense…we share information and commodities with each other, we try to influence others so we can maximize our utility (utility depends on our life perspective: some people goes towards money, others towards power, others want fame or just other human values). all these activities makes difficult to have total freedom…at the end we always have an image to protect, a shadow that rules our life…

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