Université Paris Ouest - Nanterre La Défense, Francia
Estudiante de doctorado
Master in philosophy at the University Marc Bloch of Strasbourg, with a thesis on Nietzsche’s
eternal return of the same. Currently in second year of doctorate at the University of Paris X Ouest – Nanterre, working on a thesis whose subject is the problem of science in Nietzsche’s philosophy.
What is Consciousness Worth? A Study of the §§11 and §§354 of the Gay Science
It is principally the §§11 and §§354 in the Gay Science that discuss the problem of the reflexive consciousness (Bewußtsein). In both aphorisms, the question approached by Nietzsche is the one of the nature of consciousness and its interest in the development of life. Here, Nietzsche doesn’t simply transpose the thesis of the «physiologists of the consciousness» (which he certainly knew about), but rather raises the philosophical problem of the possible function of consciousness: a problem which is at the same time an epistemological and a biological one, that Leibniz began to understand and that, later, science would bring to light by showing the autonomy of unconscious mental processes.
For Nietzsche, consciousness appears to have been «absurdly overestimated» by most previous philosophers. He does not deny that there are any events or processes to which the notion is applicable, but he supposes it to be an error to consider consciousness as the «kernel of man, what is abiding, eternal, ultimate, most original in him!» (GS 11). From this point of view, consciousness appears in Nietzsche’s philosophy only to be an epiphenomenon of the mental life, which includes instincts, impulses, affects, etc. His point is that one can think, feel, will, etc. without at the same time having a second-order awareness of doing so. Consciousness is thus construed to be a merely biological process and an entirely unconscious or subconscious event. Nietzsche shows the readers that the mental state of being conscious (more precisely self-conscious) is extremely misleading and that no being lies beneath. This metaphysical concept of consciousness can be regarded both as being useful, from the perspective of its social origins or its utility for the herd, as well as useless, from the perspective of an individual existence or a true knowledge of reality. When consciousness is put back among the instincts (both from a biological and epistemological point of view), the question remains: what is the value of this (self-) consciousness for life? Its value seems to reside in its capacity to transcend its social-utilitarian limitations and contribute to the transformation of individual existence.