Nietzsche’s critique of positivism

The dialectical unity of the existent

Marco Viscomi (Catholic University Center, Rome)

1. The prospective nature of positivism

Between the end of 1886 and the beginning of 1887, the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche notes in his private notebooks a lapidary thesis, asserting that “there are no facts, only interpretations”. Let us consider in the following passage the entire text, from which this notorious affirmation is extrapolated:

In opposition to Positivism, which halts at phenomena and says “There are only facts and nothing more”, I would say: No, facts are precisely what is lacking; all that exists consists of interpretations. We cannot establish any fact “in itself”: it may even be nonsense to desire to do such a thing. “Everything is subjective”, you say; but that in itself is interpretation. The “subject” is nothing given, but something superimposed by fancy, something introduced behind. – Is it necessary to set an interpreter behind the interpretation already to hand? Even that would be fantasy, hypothesis. To the extent to which “knowledge” has any sense at all, the world is knowable; but may be interpreted differently; it has not one sense behind it, but hundreds of senses. – “Perspectivism”. It is our needs that interpret the world; our instincts and their impulses For and Against. Every instinct is a sort of thirst for power; each one has its point of view, which it would fain impose upon all the other instincts as their norm.[1]

The problematic ambit in which the affirmation “there are no facts, only interpretations” is situated consists in a precise attack on positivism. In fact, the latter sustains that there only be “facts”, to which the cognitive process of human subjectivity necessarily refers as much as the empirical givenness of each thing that is. Each reality that can be known is understood as a factuality, present before one’s eyes, lends itself to its very beingness and to a primary knowability, only because that factuality gives itself “in the facts” as the reality that it is. In view of the Kantian distinction, according to which there is a clear difference between the phenomenical knowledge of human subjectivity and the noumenal unknowable of thing in itself[2], positivism reduces the “what it is and is known” to pure phenomenological and positive appearance. To positivism, every reality is a “fact”: it can be known and lends itself to knowledge only inasmuch as positum, which means as objectivity positioned before and by the subjective-transcendental cognitive capacity of the human being.

For positivism, each factum is always a positum, in the sense that each factuality consists implicitly in the position of the knowability and of the same possibility of existence of each reality that factually is. The Kantian phenomenonnoumenon distinction is here overcome in the reduction of the factuality to an “in itself”, in which the reality is made to coincide with veracity.[3] The correct enunciation of a state of fact of the things, knowable by men, is made to rise to the height of “truth”. “True” is now simply what is said with coherence and correctness, with respect to which the human subject is able to know about the objectivities; these latter are placed by men before their eyes, during the process of acquiring positivist knowledge. From this understanding, with respect to a thing that is, there is no longer the possibility to distinguish between our ability to know that thing according to our own canons, in other words as it appears to us, and the fact that a “thing in itself” remains unknowable for us, although it would be implicitly thought (noumenon).[4] With positivism, the thing in itself becomes the same positum of the human-subjective knowledge, as well as of the knowability of each objectivity. This latter is encompassed in its ontic positivity in the manner that man has to know the entities that he approaches, as well as the being of every possible existent.

Nietzsche seems to want to edify a new “scientific” understanding of reality, attacking at the root both the positivistic definition of subjectivistic knowledge (in other words, the modality of knowledge based on the subject-object distinction) and the objectivising understanding of reality. In the name of this intent, the philosopher seems to intend undermining the modern metaphysical assumption, for which the foundation, the subiectum of reality, should be the human “subject”. Nietzsche does this by sustaining that both the factuality of each possible fact and the interpretability of each reality that is lean on something different from the mere human modality of knowing. What modern thinkers mean when they name the “subject”, in fact, is no longer the subtended foundation for the possibility and the modality of being of everything that is, but simply the Archimedean fulcrum upon which we are able to profile for ourselves a precise modality of knowledge – the positivistic one. It is from this latter that follows the reduction of reality to a mere accumulation of given objectivities, manipulable and examinable: the human subject, placed as the foundation of the knowledge process accessible to us humans, results in a “something superimposed by fancy, something introduced behind”. Prior to the object-subject distinction and even before the gnoseological foundation, which forms the basis on which the knowing subject becomes related to the known objects, Nietzsche seems intentional in indicating that there is no anthropological foundation, but rather a principle that could be understood as “human subjectivity”.

Before homo, who considers himself as subiectum, the only foundation, thrown as the basis of the possibility of being and of the modalities of existence of everything that is, is neither the positum of a factual reality, nor the objectivity of a recognisable empirical factuality, nor again the hypostatic subjectivity of a living being capable of saying “I”. According to Nietzsche, all these three, the subject, the object and the posita of the cognitive process (therefore, both the known objects and the entities known as well as they are), do not represent anything other than fruits of the interpretation, that is, products of human beings’ own way of interpreting themselves in their own being in the world. Here, then, is the sense in which there are no facts, but only interpretations: everything that contributes to the foundation of the factuality of what is rests upon a gathering of preconceived and prefigured interpretations, which are composed exactly within the intention of edifying the “factuality” of what there is.[5] These elements, attributable to the general object-subject distinction, are results of the self-interpretation that the human being makes of himself. He comes to perceive himself as the centre of the knowledge process and as the only founding instance of the knowability and of the thinkability of what is said to be reality. In this measure, however, the positivistic modality of understanding reality is invested with such an importance that reality itself fades into a set of factualities. These latter appear recognisable in their intrinsic structuring only in terms of mere interpretations, that is, as interpretative outcomes of pre-comprehension – says Nietzsche – “introduced” (steckten) to reality in order to make it “human, too human”.

Now, assuming Nietzsche’s critical position in a construens meaning, it is possible to consider the question in the following terms. Even if one should maintain the “subjectivistic” foundation of reality, that is, if one should preserve the human subject as guarantor and founder of the knowability of what is, then one could no longer metaphysically assert the sustainability of positivism. It would in fact result as mere perspectivism, the consequence of that sum of interpretations, from which follows the objectivity of the real, the factuality in itself given of each positum, the subjectivistic foundation of the being of every reality that one says or recognises as existent. Positivism, in its circumstances, would for Nietzsche be that sort of perspectivism, according to which the human being interprets the world, posing his own humanity as the basis of the knowability of the real and of the factual modality of understanding and of comprehension of being of what is. As a result of human subjectivism, positivism projects onto the real the long shadow of human necessity to dominate and to control the world surrounding himself, in the name of – let us say – the rightful purpose of allowing people to live with guaranty and security for their own existence amongst all the perils present on our planet. It is therefore with regard to an assurance and to a warranty on its own existence that human subjectivity gives rise to the perspective foundation of the “scientificity” of the real, that is, what renders possible the positivistic manipulability of reality.

In view of what has been said thus far, it does not seem to me that the Nietzschean speech should be assumed as a mere demolition of the subjectivistic capacity of the human being to speak of himself in the first-person singular. The “I” does not immediately represent a fallacy, a danger for humankind or for the world that surrounds it. The specific form of the self-consciousness of the human being becomes pretentious and farsighted from the moment in which it retains itself capable of becoming the basis of the entire reality. When, instead, the human being remembers that his prominence within the world is a result of his own exasperated self-comprehension, human subjectivity begins to exist far away from his own absolute will to dominate and to control. The refrain of Nietzsche must therefore be read as a radical comprehension of the perspectivistic and not as an absolute trait of whichever subjectivity that could be instituted. The subiectum of reality can in fact coincide with the human subject only if one forgets that every factuality, which exists as subjectivity and as gnoseological positivity, is fruit of the interpretative act of the human scientist. The foundation placed at the roots of the cognitive process is certainly the knowing subject, when one intends the entirety of the understood “facts” as a set of defenceless posita, which thereby appear manipulable and employable. But, if one were to bring an ontologically original comprehension of the foundation, which is proper for both the knowability of what is and the givenness of each entity as that precise “thing” that gives itself to me as being before my eyes, we arrive at the point where human subjectivity no longer suffices. When the fulcrum of our attention points to the original focus of being’s foundation of both the factuality and the possibility to profile every possible interpretation, that to which we are going to address the interrogation is Being itself and not someone or something given to be like man, woman, animal, plant, object, instrument.

2. There are no interpretations if not in a single fact

In Nietzsche’s words cited above, everything that one takes as real is reduced to a basic interpretability, to which the entire existent is deferred. Each thing that is results here “real” only because it lends itself to the specific entity that it is. The reality of each entity lies instead on this statement, according to which beings indicate not a fact, but a simple sum of representations. Upon understanding Nietzsche’s note, the entire reality is not ultimately constituted of any de facto objectivity, nor by the mere subjectivistic arbitrarity of an understanding about what is real: everything that is, rather, precisely is, because it is subject to interpretability. This latter represents the constitutive and former figure of the more or less objective foundation of a reality recognised as actual, as well as the radicalization of subjectivity to fundamental instance for the comprehension and the constitution of an entity’s being.

To sustain that there are in general no given facts, but only interpretations, does not dispose reality to the mere arbitrarity of the gnoseological and ethical relativism, but instead radicalises relativity itself in an order of understanding not completely pertinent to the ontological statute of the question here on-topic. This relativity does not in fact constitute the legitimising term for the arbitrarity of human interpretations and the legitimacy of whichever consideration attributable to contingent states, into which one stumbles simply by existing. The relative of this which echoes the Nietzschean statement, it seems to me, indicates instead a fundamental instance, one that has to do with the understanding itself of reality. This latter must not serve as series of worldviews (Weltanschauungen) that a human subject can construct for himself in his own personalistic existence, nor should it simply invalidate the authentic possibility of experiencing reality. By saying that “there are no facts, only interpretations”, we should consider the factuality itself of what is not interpretable, but only recognisable in its own being. In other words, we should meditate on the non-interpretability of that reality of being, that which legitimises every possible interpretation in its own intrinsic factuality.

The aphorism here under examination does not legitimise the relativism of the subjectivistic opining and interpreting, but pierces the pretended “objectivity” of the empirical by indicating something essential, that is to say: the fundamental substrate of being itself of the factuality and interpretability of what is real. Nietzsche therefore implicitly suggests the conditions to which the attention must turn when we attempt to express what legitimises every “fact” in its own interpretability and each interpretation in the contingent factuality of its gnoseological-valutative expression. In the direction of this pre-comprehension, we could reformulate the Nietzschean speech, sustaining: there are no facts singular in their own subsistence, since the factuality of Being itself is self-justified; there is no interpretability of the factual, if the factual is not recognised in the unity of its own factuality, interpretable only a posteriori.

The plurality of that which is recognisable as “fact” declines itself according to the order of the multiple interpretations, which we can assign to every event of Being. That said, the eventuality itself, for which the interpretability of every state of fact can exist in its own reality, lies not on the presence of the interpreting subjectivity, nor simply on the subsistence of entities re-composable into presumed “facts”. The fact of being possible of the interpretations is rooted rather in factuality, which consents the overall composition of that which, in the interpretation itself, can call itself a “fact”. It is the possibility of giving oneself both as factuality and as interpretability of the existent, which indicates to us the foundation that subtends the affirmation “there are no facts, but only interpretations”. The reason for the impossibility of being of facts, if facts are not posed beside the interpretations, and of the possibility of interpretations to be composed compared to real things, which from time to time configure a certain factuality does not consist in the ratio of the interpreting subject, nor does it in the realitas adduced as interpreted objectivity.[6] The foundation of the principle, indirectly indicated by Nietzsche, tells of the event of Being in the factual and interpretable possibility of its own reality. It is this which, preceding as much the single facts (inexistent in their singularity, because always legitimised in their being starting from the event of Being itself), as it precedes the possible interpretations (following the emergence of the anthropic perspectivism and its founding presumptions), institutes in the effectivity of their givenness of being both the subject and the object, and also both facts and the interpretations.

The pronouncement “there are no facts, but only interpretations” can therefore represent the basis of relativism only if those words do not become contextualised with respect to their non-subjectivistic nor objectivistic instances. That expression does not seek to sustain the arbitrarity of volition and power of a human subject’s interpreting the real, nor, least of all, does it senselessly enthuse about the inexistence of reality itself. The “facts” that Nietzsche cites constitute not the totality of what exists, but the factual singularity of that which is, that is to say the single existents taken in their objectifiable and interpretable individuality. Framed in this sense, there are no “facts”, because it is only the totality of Being in oneself that, founding the being of everything that lends itself to its modality of existence, consequently legitimises also the singular interpretable factualities. Only because it gives Being rather than nothing, the single entities can exist as that which they are and the single facts can appear in their factual essentiality.[7] This essentiality results as interpretable insofar as it is rooted in the unity of being of what specifically subsists or exists. There are, therefore, no facts, because it gives only one factuality, and this means none other than the unity of giving oneself by Being itself.

The interpretations, for their part, can be enunciated only in the sense that they refer to that same factuality that the single facts do not embody in their specificity. Namely, what we call “fact” does not subsist in itself[8], since it is present only from the moment in which it generally gives as Being rather than nothingness. The interpretation crosses the circumstantial factuality of the single entities, exactly in its own constant reference to the unitarity of the event of Being. It is at this last pole to which the interpretations point, legitimised in their interpretative act. Such an act, though specific to the human being, does not however find itself corroborated by the interpretative arbitrariness of the knowing and acting subject. Subjectivity does in fact legitimise both the objectivity and the arbitrariness underlying the sentences professed by singular man.[9] What founds the factuality of the possible interpretations and the possibility itself of the interpretation of that which is factual does not however indicate anything of “subjective” or “objective”. The term, which forms the basis of every single fact in the general factuality of being, and which institutes the possibility to interpret reality, consists in the eventuation itself of Being, in other words the previously considered givenness of Being and not nothing.

Locating the Nietzschean discourse in this speculative context, the multiplicity of the possible interpretations does not project itself in the direction of a gnoseological and cultural relativism. In other words, there is no subordination of the act of interpretation to the pure conflict between the interpreting actors and between their schools of thought. There is not even any legitimisation of the dominant interpretation, considered preferable to the others simply because it has won over the adversaries. In no case, in short, does it appear to me that the words of Nietzsche could properly invite to the destructive conflict of opinions, inasmuch as the phrase at issue here does not seem to refer to the Greek δόξα (the “opinion”, indeed), but to the “truth”, the λήθεια[10]. This latter is not brandished like a weapon in the act of interpretation, towards the goal of having the upper hand in the process of debate. The ἀλήθεια attempts rather to express the original basis, on which both the unity of the factuality of the existent and the intrinsic possibility of interpretation find their foundation. The act of interpretation cannot in fact become the arbitrary and belligerent action of the conflict of human subjects, but must reawaken the attention for the meditation that is concerned with the common foundation of every interpretable and of every purported “factual”. The focus to which reflection must interest itself, in my opinion, is the unitarity of the event of Being.

3. The unitarity from which the interpretations and the facts follow

There can be no interpretation if one does not begin from a single and indisputable “fact”, that is to say the sole factuality given at the root of every existence. Everything that can be expressed as a fact takes root in the reality of such a factuality, which is prerogative neither of a single fact nor of a precise interpretation. The unit, to which the possibility to be actual “fact” of what there is refers, as well as the possibility that all possible interpretation can in general be given, consists in the fact that Being is and there is not – there cannot be – “nothing”. This is the only fact that is given to be: Being is and cannot non-be, non-Being is not and cannot be.[11] It is from this one, singular fact, that the reality of factuality is realised in the circumstantial contingency of single, plural facts. It is always on the basis of that one fact that the possible interpretations of Being’s unique factuality lend themselves, for the human, to a subjective-objective explanation.[12]

Therefore, there are no facts, but only interpretations, inasmuch as both the factuality and the interpretability of what there is rest on the only givenness of one event, in other words, the fact it is given as Being and not rather nothingness. The ascertainment of this fundamental reality indicates that which we could call “ontological transcendental”[13]: it legitimises, in their statute of being, both the circumstantial factualities of the world and the possible interpretability of that which is. Both the givenness of various interpretations on the single contingencies of the real (entities, situations, relations, etc.) and the possibility to be articulated of any possible interpretation in general rely on the fact of Being’s givenness. The single facts in themselves lend themselves neither as possible nor as real, if not so much that they refer to the foundation of that same unity, which reverberates in the interpretation of the human subject, but which is not decomposable by men. The unity of foundation, which allows for both the exposition of the interpretation to some real factuality and the appearance of the effective reality of that which is interpretable, reminds us of the necessary and of the initial givenness of Being itself. It is indispensable to ensure that every factuality and every interpretability exist, or better, that these latter can lend themselves in the particularity of their own essences.

Martin Heidegger attempts to expose the complexity of this bipolar root, having emerged from the Nietzschean saying, using the particular word “Ereignis”, the enowning. That unique fact, which founds and renders possible and justified the factuality of whichever formable interpretation, besides the reality itself of each factual in itself (that is, in the actual being of a thing that exists), presents itself precisely as a unitary event of the givenness of Being itself. It is exactly in these terms that, since it is given to Being and not to nothingness, every factuality is real in its own possibility of becoming interpreted and, on the other hand, every possible interpretation results intimately related to the existent factuality, to the point that each act of interpretation defines Being in a way of its own reality.[14] Reality consists therefore intimately in this fundamental and dialectic unity between the happening of Being itself and the givenness of being of the entities, which exist and are abled by the unity of the Ereignis to be what they are, in their own effective “be” and “be interpretable”. If any reality admitted as “factual” results interpretable, then we can understand this as being possible inasmuch as the real refers uniquely to the fundamental unity of Being. It is this latter which legitimises the existence and the essence of every interpretable factuality, both only possible and effectively present.

The state of things described up to now and understood as “event” is by itself a fact, being fruit not of any interpretation, but if anything of speculative recognition. The poles that intervene in this dialectic dynamic are not simply the interpreting subject and the “factual”, empirical object, deemed worthy of interpretation. The indiscriminate interpretability of reality constitutes not at all the absolute protagonist of a dynamic, which instead obliges the meditation to let be and to let speak the entities of the factūs and the non-personalistic, nor positivistic instances of Being itself. In the attempt of consenting to the unfolding of a similar ontological complexity, Heidegger suggests not to bend the dialectic moments of Being for the idealistic needs of an absolute conciliation.[15] The thinker therefore suggests an alternative path to the Hegelian Versöhnung, being convinced that every absolute reconciliation of the factual, of the interpretable and of the existing in their unity inevitably conduces either to a misconception or to a misunderstanding.[16]

On the one hand, there is the risk of taking subjectivism to extremes, which retains as legitimate the establishment of reality solely since it is thought and lived by the human being. In this case, the knowing subject is made to rise from its own epistemological and metaphysical voluntarism to become the only fundament that legitimises the contingent and knowable givenness of every possible entity.[17] The extreme outcome of this position does not consist simply in the lucubrations following the subjectivistic solipsism, but rather represents the symptom of a much more radical deficiency: the will not to recognise reality as founded by something other than sole “factuality” and mere interpretability. What is misconstrued by absolute subjectivism is the irreducible, non-absolute and conflictual, aporetic and vital unitariety of the entire existent and of Being itself, which we shall understand as the enowning.

On the other hand, there is the case that the excessive concentration on objectivity, attributed to the empirical, may misrepresent its sense, following which we could still understand what “Being” means. When we interrogate one another on the unitary and fundamental instances of that dialectic, which weaves between Being and non-Being of the Heideggerian Ereignis, there is no longer the question of conceiving the existing entities in their logical or empirical positivity. When we talk about the unity, implicit in the totality of existence and in the particularity of each existing entity, what we are dealing with is the foundation itself of each possible and definable “objectivity”. If this latter is not traced back to its dependency from subjectivity, and if the human subject is not contextualised with respect to the unity of the enowning, then the misunderstanding to which one arrives is the following: to retain that there be no dialectic internally to Being, nor that any relation among the entities could be retraced, except for the indiscriminate usufruct of the will of power and of dominion.

Heidegger shows he has these issues well in mind when he thinks of the enowning of Being. He refuses to acknowledge the dialectic of the Ereignis in an absolute resolved way, since he supports that it is precisely this attitude (in his opinion, demanded by ratio) to drop the meditation in the two overexposed cases of impasse. The philosopher suggests to speak about a kind of oscillation (Erschwingung) and vibration (Erzitterung).[18] They are constant and lately non-conciliatory, never fixed nor capable of being able to stop themselves, at least as long as Being is and non-Being is not. The event mentioned by Heidegger indicates exactly Being’s factuality, which is understood, indicated and considered prior to any other interpretation of the entities. The “what it is” can certainly be fragmented into a multiplicity of facts, which can subsequently be subjected to the interpretation and “established” by it. Having said this, however, a similar entirety of facts does not unquestionably corroborate the specific existence of every single considered fact, but conversely deconstructs the same being’s trait of facts, inasmuch as it makes Being dependent on human interpretation. The interpretation, for its part, concerns the “what is this or that” and not Being itself. It is exactly for this order of reasons that neither the human interpret nor the act of interpreting can be considered as preferential conduits to let be the enowning. This latter is in fact anterior to both the factuality of every possible “fact” and the eventual interpretability of each act of human consideration.

The unity that is called on in this ontological precedence, which founds both the factuality of the possible interpretations and the subjectivist interpretability of the “objective” factualities, is precisely the above-considered unity of Being. This kind of unity is expressed in Heidegger’s keyword “Ereignis” as a figure of the enowning’s unity; the Unit that declares the ontological precedence of Being over entities and existents. Therefore, existence – had, experienced and understood in the unity of being’s manners of realities that there may be – indicates in the direction of a term, which results as non-thingly, neither subjectivist nor existent as an interpretable or as a factual. This element, which in the neo-Platonic context is called “One”[19], is none other than Being in its givenness to occurrence. This event reveals itself as “eventual”, namely real, given its unique fact in itself-being, and necessary, given its ability to make possible any subjective-objective interpretation.

4. The speculative demand at the root of philosophising

Nietzsche’s motto “there are no facts, only interpretations” seems to suggest, ultimately, the dialectical and non-absolute unitariness of Being’s event. What the maxim here on-topic expresses does not concern the human faculty of arbitrariness, nor the possibility that reality has to be understood in a positivistic and objectifying approach. In my view, Nietzsche tries to call attention to the truth of Being itself, that is, to the λήθεια that refers to the essential foundation on which the reality for the existents to be possible and to be real depends. The real itself indicates this first indisputable fact, from which follows both the non-existence in himself of each individual “fact” (inasmuch as every factuality has its own reason of being only in something other than itself, namely in the enowning’s unity) and the arbitrariness of any interpretation (since each interpretation is always dependent on subjectivism and on its own perspectivism, that is to say on the non-fundamental substrate of the human being, who thinks of himself as promoting rational knowledge).[20] Therefore, there are no facts, since only one fact is: it gives Being and not rather nothingness. There are in general interpretations only since the interpretability itself of that which occurs in a subjective-objective manner stands on a single reality: the dialectical – but for Heidegger – non-absolute unitariness of the event of Being itself.

Being mentioned here cannot be understood in the manner of a monolith, as the allegorical sphere of Parmenides could be. In fact, Being’s unitariness does not consist in an absolute ontic uniqueness, whereas Being itself is not an entity, nor something existent as ens. Being gives itself in the totality of what exists as a unitary event, which simultaneously expresses both the constant fundamental-ontological trait of Being and the continuous becoming of things that exist as subject to the unique event of Being itself. Saying concurrently what classical metaphysics considers as “Being” and “becoming”, so the thought of the Ereignis meditates on the dialectic that breaks the peremptory character of Nietzsche’s sentences. Because of the abysmal, vital and never ultimately conciliatory character of dialectic, it builds up the possibility to liberate thought and to render fruitful meditating. On the stratum that one can thin out in this level of consciousness, it creates space for erecting the fundamental bulwarks to preserve the entire existent by the logic of power and by will of the indiscriminate exploitation. What we must try to pursue, through the reference to the untimely – and therefore always timely, urgent, inevitable – meditating on Being itself, is the intention of returning to reciprocate, in our thinking and existing, to what Heidegger calls “Ereignis”, that is the truth itself of reality. In this our corresponding is given for ourselves, the everlasting possibility to exist in harmony both with Being itself as a whole and with the dialectical unitariness of all reals, which arise from time to time in front of our eyes.[21]

This latter kind of dialectic is possible on the basis of the interpreting act, which constitutes each subjectivity in the specificity of its fundamental characteristic, namely the character that founds any interpretation objectifying reality. Such a dialectic is however successive to the much more original type of irreducible oscillation-vibration between the terms of Being and non-Being. The poles of this dialectic, which is essential and never absolutisable in an idealistic sense, imply and are presupposed by any subjectivist action of dialogicity and interaction; actions of real’s factual interpretation of what is real and of effectual relation with the world, interpreted in a subjectivist manner. What gives the possibility to realize itself in dialectic’s specific nature to the existent’s factuality and interpretability is always the unity of Being. It is this latter that always and everywhere reveals itself as a dialectical dimension founding every reality that there is. It is always this unitariness that legitimizes both every possible interpretable factuality and any interpretation performed by the human subject on the basis of gnoseological perspectivism.

In conclusion, we can observe that the philosopher of Messkirch allows for the understanding that behind the Nietzschean critique of positivism lurks a very high speculative necessity. This need is the ultimate question on that unique “fact”, which appears as reality, facticity and truth. This fact is precisely the enowning of Being, that is, the fact that there is something rather than nothing, as Leibniz was surprised to have to observe. This Heideggerian conception allows us to read in detail the adage of Nietzsche, as has been attempted in this paper. Through the understanding of this reflective contribution to the problem of foundation it becomes possible to operate in two distinct directions. On the one hand, it is permissible to rethink the human existence, that is, our own being, in the light of reflection on the One, namely the foundation. Now, it has become an essential philosophical task to return to speak about the human being not simply in an anthropological or sociological sense, nor for simple psychologistic or pedagogical purposes. It becomes imperative to reflect about every single man or woman, existing in the specificity of his/her life in relation to the unitary foundation of all human existents.[22] On the other hand, it keeps open the possibility to authenticate philosophy’s essence in its own charter, which consists in the speculation on the entire existent with respect to the foundation. In this way, the need – connatural to the philosophical thought – of understanding the existent and all forms of Being (including men and women of this Earth) on the basis of their unique foundation is preserved. In short, it would take the traits of the ineluctability for us to return to reflect on that unity, which does not refer to the mere human ability to establish knowledge and scientific notions, but rather allows for every existent to identify itself with what legitimizes its life and founds its very own existence.


  1. F. Nietzsche, Werke, Band VIII/1, Nachgelassene Fragmente. Herbst 1885 bis Herbst 1887, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin-New York 1974, fr. 7 [60], p. 323; Eng. trans. A.M. Ludovici, The Will to Power, Oscar Levy, London 1910, § 481.
  2. Kant is interested in the scientific modality in which man can know. In particular, the philosopher is concerned with understanding the conditions of possibility that makes human knowledge possible. The type of knowledge of which Kant speaks is therefore of a specific modality: the knowledge that intends its cognitive judgments in a positivistic manner, namely in the way afferent to a precise and univocal content of cognition. However, using this terminology in association with the human modality of knowledge, the philosopher of Konigsberg does not speak about knowledge in general, but about the phenomenological way in which things appear and are knowable by humans. The thinker is speculatively correct in affirming that the thing in itself remains un-knowable to man; in fact, the thing in itself appears here as something that can be simply thought as different from that which the human being knows. Nevertheless, despite this, he reduces the philosophical dimension of knowledge to the phenomenological determination of synthetic a priori propositions. In this sense, the transcendental idealism of Kant limits the knowability of things to the dimensions of the cognitive “I”, at the same time remaining emblematically open to the problematic of un-knowable thought, expressed in the “in itself” of things, in other words the νοούμενoν. Cf. I. Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernuft, Hartknoch, Riga 1787; It. trans. C. Esposito, Critica della ragion pura, Bompiani, Milano 2004, A 1-6, 130-147, B 1-10, 169-187. Also M. Ferrari, Categorie e a priori, Il Mulino, Bologna 2003, pp. 26-55; H. Cohen, Werke, Band 5, hrsg. vom Hermann-Cohen-Archiv am Philosophischen Seminar der Universität Zürich unter der Leitung von H. Holzhey, G. Olms Verlag, Hildesheim-Zürich-New York 1984, pp. 58-68, 97-113; G. Bird, Kant’s Theory of Knowledge: an outline of one central argument in the Critique of pure reason, Humanities Press, New York 1973, pp. 18-35, 65-81; P. Natorp, Philosophie. Ihr Problem und ihre Probleme Einführung in den kritischen Idealismus, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1918, pp. 27-41, 52-61.
  3. The Kantian proposal consists ultimately in the reduction of the thing’s truth to the veracity of the human saying something about objects. In this sense, the original being in itself of things is apostrophised as thinkable but not knowable (νοούμενoν is indeed the middle-passive present participle of the Greek verb νοεῖν, which means, “to think”, “to mean”, “to grasp with the intellect [νοῦς]” rather than with the discursive and predicative reason). The outcome of this discussion is two-fold. On the one hand, it founds the phenomenological human knowledge as “scientific” and able to force knowledge’s contents in the transcendental form of the a priori synthesis. On the other hand, this order of veracity’s foundation of propositions excludes from its argument – and, in some sense, claims to invalidate in its cogent metaphysical desires – the genuinely philosophical attempt to direct reflection to the thing’s “in itself” and “of itself”, namely to the Platonic Idea. Cf. I. Kant, Critica della ragion pura, A 252-289, B 306-345; M. Ferrari, Categorie e a priori, pp. 57-75; A. Brunner, Erkenntnis und Überlieferung, Berchmans, München 1976, pp. 52-54; P. Natorp, Philosophie, pp. 13-20, 70-71.
  4. This consideration of the distinction between phenomenon and noumenon recalls Arthur Schopenhauer’s reflection. He objects to the Kantian lecture in a simple and direct way: if reality, knowable by the human being, is only that which appears in those modalities which are transcendentally congenial to us, and then we can be sure that the world as known by the human being will never be identical to the real tout court. The world as known by man is not the existent world in itself, but simply the representation of this same world that the human being can form from itself in an assertive and positivistic way. Kant’s transcendental Ich makes it possible for the strictly human knowledge, given that scientific manner in which it is established, to be made inaccessible to that same human being, who allegedly recognises the world, in order to access the original reality that surrounds him. Essentially, “real” does not consist of a set of statements and scientific judgements, but of the same reality that it gives in and of itself. The world, that Kant considers knowable in accordance with truthfulness, is therefore nothing more than a mere representation of the real world. This is the sense in which Schopenhauer attacks the Kantian ego’s world, reproaching it as a mere representation of reality. Gdańsk’s thinker ultimately opposes the veracity of statements to the truth of the Idea; the phenomenological knowledge to the noumenal existence of the thing in itself. What he does, of course, is to lean towards the second terms of these two opposing pairs. Cf. A. Schopenhauer, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, F.A. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1819; It. trans. P. Savj-Lopez e G. De Lorenzo, Il mondo come volontà e rappresentazione, Laterza, Bari 2009, §§ 8-12, 48-50. One will find references also in A. Schaefer, Die Schopenhauer-Welt. Wie aus der Welt Wille und Vorstellung wurden, Junghans, Cuxhaven 1996, pp. 12-29; H. Cohen, Werke, Band 5, pp. 101; G. Bird, Kant’s Theory of Knowledge, p. 160.
  5. Cf. F. Correia, B. Schnieder, Metaphysical Grounding. Understanding the Structure of Reality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2014, pp. 4-6; P. Natorp, Die logischen Grundlagen der exakten Wissenschaften, Sändig Repr. Verl. Wohlwend, Vaduz (Liechtenstein) 2002, pp. 4-34; A. Schaefer, Die Schopenhauer-Welt, pp. 227-246.
  6. The principle that acts in the interpreting (knowing) work of the human subject, and in recognition of the phenomenological reality, which is assigned by humans to the specific objects that they consider, is the Principium rationis. With it, it is argued that each entity possesses its own reason for being, that is a fundamental ratio according to which that precise entity is as it is and nothing than that what it is. Enunciated from a human perspective, this principle attempts to oblige the existent towards the human being’s cognitive modality. It assumes to bring the “logical” reality (that is relative to the λόγος) of reality to the factuality, expressible in a rationalistic sense from the human faculty of knowledge. This is the way according to which the Principium rationis renders itself incapable of understanding the fundamental link between Being and thinking, reducing this connection to an exploitable function of human rationality. It is in fact the ratio understood in these terms which establishes its own principle in order to legitimise and to found the truthful coherence of its cognitive and methodical-procedural modality. Certainly, the reason for being that it adduced to the existence of a thing does not produce this precise thing, but simply renders it graspable to the human being in its actuality, known as present and phenomenologically analysable. Cf. C. Mercer, Leibniz’s Metaphysics: its Origins and Development, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2001, pp. 63-93; M. Ivaldo, Fichte e Leibniz. La comprensione trascendentale della monadologia, Guerini e Associati, Milan 2000, pp. 269-329; G. Zingari, Leibniz, Hegel e l’idealismo tedesco, Mursia, Milan 1991, pp. 15-49; J. C. Horn, Monade und Begriff. Der Weg von Leibniz zu Hegel, Oldenbourg, Wien-München 1965, pp. 11-50.
  7. The statement to which we implicitly refer here is that which affirms in an interrogative manner the fact that something is given to Be rather than nothing. The one who thematised this question is Leibniz, who asks “Pourquoy il y a plutôt quelque chose que rien?”, that is precisely “Why is there something rather than nothing?”. Cf. G. W. Leibniz, Principes de la Nature et de la Grace fondés en raison (1714), “L’Europe Savante” IV, La Haye 1718, pp. 100-123; It. trans. S. Cariati, Monadologia, § 7, Bompiani, Milan 2001, p. 47. However, the first that formulated this question was Siger of Brabant, who asks “quare magis est aliquid in rerum natura quam nihil?”. Cf. Siger de Brabant, Quaestiones in Metaphysicam, ed. W. Dunphy, Éditions de l’Institut Supérieur de Philosophie, Louvain-la-Neuve 1981, p. 170; A.G. Conte, Opera morta: tre temi emergenti in deontica filosofica, in Filosofia del linguaggio normativo III. Studi 1995-2001, Giappichelli, Turin 2001, p. xxx. For a discussion on the interpretative bond, that approaches Heidegger to Leibniz, cf. M. Heidegger, Wegmarken, Gesamtausgabe, Band 9, ed. F.-W. von Herrmann, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1976, ss. 79-101; It. trans. F. Volpi, Segnavia, Adelphi, Milan 2008, pp. 35-57; Id., Seminare: Kant – Leibniz – Schiller (SS 1931 bis WS 1935/36), Gesamtausgabe, Band 84.1, ed. F.-W. von Herrmann, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 2013, pp. 393 sgg.
  8. Every empirical reality has in itself only the reason of its finitude, which is the fact that the hour of its birth is the hour of its death (cf. G.W.F. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik, Schrag, Nürnberg 1812-1816, s. 117; It. trans. A. Moni, Scienza della logica, Laterza, Bari 1924, vol. I, p. 128). The individual finite entities cannot have in their own finitude another sense than to finish, to die, to pass away. Through the phenomenological consideration of the finished, however, it is possible to recognise, in a contrasting manner, the fundamental trait on which the individual finished entities are rooted. The aforementioned phenomenon-noumenon distinction says exactly this: that the “in itself” of a thing is neither phenomenologically knowable, nor simply situated in a thought, humanly unknowable, of ownership of the thing. In fact, the noumenon is not something that is not yet known, but which in the future will be discovered by science. It is rather the essence of the thing “in itself”, which remains only thinkable and always unknowable to the human phenomenological knowledge. In this capacity of human knowledge, it is meant to say that phenomenology is not based nor can even be established in a fundamental sense on itself. The phenomenon is indeed that same finished thing that embodies in itself the sole reason to finish and that only in its being “in itself” allows for a glimpse of the foundation of all finitude of each finiteness. The noumenal reach of every phenomenon is the reference to which every phenomenology must implicitly follow in order to be truly “fundamental”. Any research that seeks to concern the foundation should be understood as in turn owned by the foundation (ἰδέα), and not rather likely to be committed in the mere discussion on the foundation or on the grounded realities (the entities, namely the positive items of Sciences). Cf. A. Schopenhauer, Il mondo come volontà e rappresentazione, §§ 25-35; M. Ferrari, Categorie e a priori, pp. 75-85; A. Schaefer, Die Schopenhauer-Welt, pp. 97-112.
  9. Cf. T. Moretti-Costanzi, La filosofia pura (1959), in Opere, E. Mirri, M. Moschini (eds.), Bompiani, Milan 2009, pp. 340-374.
  10. Cf. Parmenides, frr. 1, 2, H. Diels,W. Kranz (eds.).
  11. Cf. Parmenides, frr. 3, 6.
  12. Cf. M. Viscomi, La dialogica del poetare. Heidegger interprete di Hebel, in Logoi.ph – Journal of Philosophy», III, 9 (2017), pp. 206-220.
  13. The use that is made here of the term “transcendental” has no gnoseological valence and goes in the opposite direction compared to the Kantian or Husserlian phenomenological manner of understanding that keyword. The transcendental that is here expressed constitutes the properly originating trait of what is here discussed, speaking about it as the only “fact” of Being, that is to say: the same factual givenness of Being in general. The term in question seems to me to be here reused in a medieval classical sense. The transcendental may be intended, in line with the Heideggerian speculation, as figure of the condition of the ontological possibility, which is fundamental and indispensable in order that something could be given in its real facticity. It is in this sense that here and below I use the term “transcendental”. Cf. H. Rickert, Der Gegenstand der Erkenntnis. Einführung in die Transzendentalphilosophie, VDM, Müller, Saarbrücken 2006, pp. 158-186, 228-244; M. Ferrari, Categorie e a priori, pp. 176-195, 279-301; G. Stelli, La ricerca del fondamento. Il programma dell’idealismo nello scritto fichtiano “Sul concetto della dottrina della scienza”, Guerini e Associati, Milan 1995, pp. 215-229; G. Bird, Kant’s Theory of Knowledge, pp. 110-125; M. Viscomi, La formazione di un concetto. Temporalità autentica e tempo originario in Martin Heidegger, Città Nuova, CnX/Filosofia, Rome 2014, pp. 123-141.
  14. Aristotle writes: “There are many senses in which a thing may be said to ‘be’, but all that ‘is’ is related to one central point, one definite kind of thing, and is not said to ‘be’ by a mere ambiguity. Everything which is healthy is related to health, one thing in the sense that it preserves health, another in the sense that it produces it, another in the sense that it is a symptom of health, another because it is capable of it” (Aristotle, Metaphysic, Γ 2, 1003 a 33-35). A similar assertion holds that the possible ways, in which it claims Being, are nothing more than the specific entities determined in their being, that is, those things of which we say: “it is this one, it is that one”. In fact, the entities are preached, in the first place, starting from their essential determination (οσία), namely from their fact of being present, and subsequently they are enunciated in a categorical sense, on the basis that their precise existence allows to enunciate their characteristics. Now, however, before being called in the entities as their “being”, Being gives itself: it must give itself – we would say – “a priori” for the individual entities, namely in a transcendental sense with respect to them. In fact, Being does not precede the entities and their particular existences only in a temporal or causal line, but even more in the already understood transcendental sense: it is in fact the same Being that renders possible the entities in their being present as well as they are. Cf. E. Berti, Struttura e significato della Metafisica di Aristotele 10 lezioni, I. Yarza (ed.), EDUSC, Rome 2006, pp. 60-68; Aristotele: Dalla dialettica alla filosofia prima, Bompiani, Milano 2004, pp. 608-610; Aristotele nel Novecento, Laterza & Figli, Rome-Bari 1992, pp. 15-43; M. Ferrari, Categorie e a priori, pp. 269-279; M. Viscomi, La formazione di un concetto, pp. 69-83.
  15. Heidegger proposes to preserve the actuality of the problematic, which questions Being’s ultimate sense and essential foundation, that appears insurmountable in a speculative sense. In fact, Messkirch’s thinker is convinced that one cannot solve the fundamental question, neither conclusively nor surreptitiously, that asks about Being and that is of Being itself and not of the human who raises the question about Being (namely the being human). In this sense, what must be avoided are two sets of possibilities. On the one hand, the possibility of reducing the issue of the foundation’s question in the subjectivist order of the one who raises this question. Starting from this eventuality, the question could be reduced either to a single reflection on human existence, which remains, however, devoid of a fundamental contextualisation and therefore unable to justify the ultimate meaning of its problematic character (Sartre). Alternatively, the same questioner “I” could set itself in a fictitious way as the absolute term of each possible query and essential foundation (Fichte). On the other hand, the question about Being could be raised to the supreme order of the Idea. This latter case, though endorsed by a long philosophical tradition of thought that was born with Plato and passed from Plotinus and Augustine, up to Cusanus, would have a problematic place in Hegel, against which Heidegger inveighs. The thought of the Absolute Spirit could represent, according to the philosopher of Messkirch, an illicit attempt to definitively conclude – although phenomenologically endlessly protracted in the direction of the transient figures of the Spirit – the problematic, implicit in the finished. That is to say: it is the problem that suggests the entity as essentially transitory, but which on the other hand shows the need of thematising the connection between the existent and the Being in a differential manner and in a never conciliatory sense. Cf. J.-P. Sartre, L’Être et le Néant, Éditions Gallimard, Paris 1943; It. trans. G. Del Bo, L’essere e il nulla, Il Saggiatore, Milan 2013, pp. 113-146; J. G. Fichte, Werke 1794-1796, Band 3, hrsg. von R. Lauth und H. Jacob unter Mitwirkung von R. Schottky, F. Frommann Verlag (Günther Holzboog), Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1966, pp. 291-328; G. W. F. Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes, Gesammelte Werke, Band 9, ed. W. Bonsiepen e R. Heede, Hamburg 1980, pp. 276-277; It. trans. V. Cicero, Fenomenologia dello Spirito, Bompiani, Milan 2006, pp. 682-685; M. Moschini, Il principio e la figura. Ontologia e dialettica nel pensiero di Nicolò Cusano, Carabba, Lanciano 2008, pp. 23-69; R. M. Adams, Leibniz. Determinist, Theist, Idealist, Oxford University Press, New York-Oxford 1994, pp. 75-110; G. Zingari, Leibniz, Hegel e l’idealismo tedesco, pp. 188-208; J. C. Horn, Monade und Begriff, pp. 131-152.
  16. Cf. M. Viscomi, Coscienza della storia o storia della coscienza? La “scienza dell’esperienza della coscienza” secondo Heidegger, in Il Pensare – Rivista di Filosofia, V, 5 (2016), pp. 66-83.
  17. Cf. J.G. Fichte, Werke 1797-1798, Band 4, hrsg. von R. Lauth und H. Gliwitzky unter Mitwirkung von R. Schottky, F. Frommann Verlag (Günther Holzboog), Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1970, pp. 167-208; G. Stelli, La ricerca del fondamento, pp. 231-261; W. Lütterfelds, Bin ich nur öffentliche Person? E. Tugendhats Idealismuskritik (Fichte) – ein Anstoss zur transzendentalen Sprachanalyse (Wittgenstein), Forum Academicum, Königstein/Ts. 1982, pp. 35-50, 64-75.
  18. These two neologisms coined by Heidegger represent attempts of the philosopher to indicate the dynamic born between the terms of the ontological difference (ontologische Differenz), namely the distinction between Being and the existent. Internally to the Heideggerian reflection, in my opinion, this distinction is not considerable as a form of conciliatory and conclusive dialectic between the two differential poles, which may be, respectively, the foundation and the entities. The philosopher of Messkirch is indeed interested in emphasizing the same enowning of that dynamic, which arises in relation – although still in terms of oppositional conflict – between Being itself and separate entities. That is why this thinker does not hypostasize on the dialectic between these terms in a positive sense, i.e. establishing the same event of Being as a mediator point of the two extremes in contrast. He merely enunciates the event in an “eventual” way, that is, catching it in its own ensue. This is the sense in which the event of Being is presented as a constant dynamic oscillation between the conflicting poles of the ontological difference; an original vibration, this one, which gives rise to each one of the conflicting in their mutual relation. This latter shows itself always already present, since it is given in general Being and not rather nothing. Cf. M. Heidegger, Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) (1936-1938), Gesamtausgabe, Band 65, ed. F.-W. von Herrmann, Klostermann, Frankfurt a.M. 1989, ss. 262, 286-287; it. trans. F. Volpi, Contributi alla filosofia (Dall’Evento), Adelphi, Milan 2007, pp. 264, 286-287. See also M. Viscomi, Il sacro in Martin Heidegger. I “venturi” e “l’ultimo Dio”, Orthotes, Naples-Salerno 2018, pp. 186-202.
  19. Cf. Plotino, Enneadi, VI, 4-5, 8-9. For a minimum critical apparatus on the matter, reference is made to M. Marin, L’estasi di Plotino. La filosofia dell’Indicibile eppure Esprimibile, LAS, Rome 2007, pp. 63-101; J.-M. Narbonne, La métaphysique de Plotin, Vrin, Paris 1994, pp. 79-87, 113-133; J.-M. Charrue, Plotin lecteur de Platon, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1978, pp. 85-87, 244-258; N. Baladi, La pensée de Plotin, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris 1970, pp. 47-55; J.-M. Charrue, Plotin lecteur de Platon, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1978, pp. 85-87, 244-258.
  20. In a fundamental sense, the subject can never properly give rise to the foundation of reality. It can represent at most the foundation of human knowledge of reality: this knowledge can indeed be established only on the basis of human subjectivist knowledge, but it can never appear as a fundamental position that grounds reality itself in its being. This is why Heidegger speaks of the human subject as an “impossible fundamentumˮ. Cf. M. Heidegger, Logik als die Frage nach dem Wesen der Sprache (SS 1934), Gesamtausgabe, Band 38, ed. G. Seubold, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1998, s. 149; It. trans. U. Ugazio, Logica e linguaggio, Marinotti, Milan 2008, p. 208; Hölderlins Hymne Der Ister” (SS 1942), Gesamtausgabe, Band 53, ed. W. Biemel, Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1984, s. 112; It. trans. C. Sandrin e U. Ugazio, L’inno “Der Ister” di Hölderlin, Mursia, Milan 2003, p. 83. Man can be called “subject” just because he is by himself as egoity; the ego is in the originarity of its essence only if it understands itself as a self (Selbst). Exclusively as it-self, the ego can generally refer about any subjective-objective distinction. Outside of the appropriative experience of humans as existence (Da-sein), subjectivity represents for Heidegger an improper, non-original and not authentic foundation. Subjectivism regards in fact the ego as ὑποκείμενον, subiectum, after depositing any problematisation on Being itself. Heidegger argues precisely against this human self-absolutisation to the foundation of reality, in order to build a conception – according to his consideration – more originary to understand the essence and the mode of existence of men and women of this world. The Heideggerian deconstruction of modern subjectivity is therefore associated with a fundamental but not substantialist (hypostatic) rebuilding of the human’s being. Cf. F. Valori, Il discorso parallelo. Verità, linguaggio e interpretazione fra Heidegger e Gadamer, Ed. Armando, Rome 2003, pp. 9-18; M. Casucci, Essere, idea, libertà. La dottrina dell’idea in Martin Heidegger, Carabba, Lanciano 2008, pp. 113-142; L’essenza della libertà in Martin Heidegger, Carabba, Lanciano 2007, pp. 101-117; M. Viscomi, Il sacro in Martin Heidegger, pp. 45-58, 73-91.
  21. Cf. M. Viscomi, La concezione di giustizia in Nietzsche secondo la lettura heideggeriana, in La Nottola di Minerva – Journal of Philosophy and Culture. International section, XV (2017), pp. 125-135.
  22. A similar research’s effort proposed here operates a particular torsion of Heidegger’s meditation. In fact, it reverses the route operated by Messkirch’s thinker, reading the masterpiece of 1927 Sein und Zeit as a result and not as a premise of the entire Heideggerian speculation about the event of Being. In other words, the here pursued attempt consists in not thinking the anthropological meditation on human being as a constituent preamble for understanding the foundation of both human and entity. In fact, only starting from the basic reflection that we call “One”, in the sense of foundation, principle, idea, God, it becomes possible to understand properly the human being, namely the existence that we ourselves embody in our persons. It is scilicet starting from the unity of Being that it founds and intends in its authenticity the individual multiplicity of entities and their reason for being, not vice versa. Because existence that ourselves are could be understood in its proper individual mode, in short, the fundamental constitutive reference to the essence of every human being results both imperative and connatural to any reflection that wants to be authentically philosophical. Cf. M. Moschini, La domanda filosofica, Carabba, Lanciano 2015, pp. 22-44, 99-104.


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