Tamsin Shaw on Michalski’s “The Flame of Eternity: An Interpretation of Nietzsche’s Thought”

POSTED — October 13, 2013 — Quotes

Some excerpts from the review that resonate with me:

Michalski follows Heidegger in holding that concepts, which we ordinarily employ to make sense of our world, in fact provide us with a very limited form of understanding, one that not only fails to capture the inexhaustible richness of experience and meaning but also shuts down our potential receptiveness to it …

Michalski, on the other hand, reads Nietzsche as a poet and enlists him as an ally in showing us not only that our experience of the world is indescribably complex, fractured, and deeply fissured, but that through the fissures God might be revealed to us.

We discover these fissures, Michalski claims, when we confront something that utterly defies our understanding, something we cannot adequately conceive of. Our concepts fail us*. Death is the most important example for Michalski but on his view love, too, both resists our understanding and may be revelatory. From the point of view of transfiguration, love and death, as Michalski describes them, are in a sense the same device, for love is seen as something obliterating, a preparation for death. It is accompanied by a form of shame, he tells us:

    It is the shame that, though I am with you under the apple tree, I am still Krzysztof, and you are Jadwiga, that we were born, and that we will die. That love will not burn us up completely, that something of us will remain: the ashes of the earth.

… The trouble with transfiguring devices is their ephemerality, their tendency to prove evanescent in the face of our lived lives. Thomas Buddenbrook, waking the morning after his (Schopenhauer) epiphany, finds that his ordinary bourgeois world immediately closes in around him again and remains his sole horizon until the moment of his ordinary death, falling in the street with his hands in their white kid gloves outstretched in a dirty puddle. That is Mann’s verdict on Schopenhauer

 

… Michalski’s art of transfiguration is in essence an old and timeless one. Death as he portrays it is both eternal fire and paradise. It offers us precisely that mixture of fear and beauty that makes us feel a miracle might happen.

The full review is available here.

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* This is Spinoza's definition of Wonder.

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