ISSN: 1705-6411
Volume 8, Number 1 (January 2011)

Sourcing the Un-sourced: Tracing Baudrillard’s References to Nietzsche

[Updated at 13.2 (a) and 27 (a) on August 1, 2011]

Dr. Paul Mahoney
(Dublin, Ireland)

There is nothing worse than this obligation to do research, to seek out references and documentation… (Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories, 1990:115).

I. Introduction

Baudrillard’s resistance to the established norms of academic citation resemble Plato’s Socrates quoting Homer: almost wholly from memory, and consequently, often incorrectly. Plato’s misquotations of Homer might reflect not merely forgetfulness but Plato’s intention as Benardete (1963:173-8) contends. Machiavelli is also well known for lack of attention to exact referencing. Baudrillard could add a layer of mischievousness as evidenced in his absurd attribution of an invented reflection on the nature of the simulacrum to Ecclesiastes – which, by serving as epigraph to the opening and longest essay of those collected in Simulacra and Simulation, inevitably sets the tone for the work. There is a similar resonance in the opening epigraph of The Illusion of the End, but there, recourse to a favourite passage from Canetti concerning a “drop-out point” in history, serves a considered purpose. The tongue-in-cheek gesture in Simulacra and Simulation may simply leave the reader affronted. The lack of accuracy in referencing is an especially interesting aspect of the Baudrillard - Nietzsche relationship because of Baudrillard’s frequent assertions that Nietzsche was a major early influence on his thought.

The purpose of this paper is to supply, wherever possible, the sources of Baudrillard’s references to Nietzsche (especially the direct quotations). It has been conceived of as a supplement to “The Baudrillard Index” accessible on the opening page of the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies website (Coulter, 2006). My purpose is not to advance argument or original interpretation of Baudrillard’s relationship to Nietzsche, much less of Nietzsche’s work, but merely to source the un-sourced. I do however offer an observation (Section III). Occasionally Baudrillard’s loose paraphrasing means that providing a source may not necessarily provide much enlightenment. In these cases I have provided exposition of references (this was most required for some references in Symbolic Exchange and Death). A few references of course overlap and I have put discussions or expositions of such references wherever I feel their occurrence is most significant.

I have organized Baudrillard books in English translation by title in alphabetical order.  I use the abbreviations in Coulter’s Index with one exception (I treat Forget Baudrillard as a second part of Forget Foucault [FF] (see the list of Baudrillard’s books and abbreviations for the titles just above the bibliography in this paper). I make no claim to completeness and have little doubt that there exist references which are shaded by Nietzsche. For example: to the “vital illusion”; “bad conscience”; “amor fati”; the Eternal Return; or ressentiment – which are unaccounted for below. However, what follows is a useful guide for the reader who comes upon Baudrillard’s references to Nietzsche.

II. Sourcing the Un-sourced

1. America

(a) page 72: Santa Barbara is “the predestined site of an eternal return”. But “the very possibility of the eternal return is becoming precarious”. “Today’s eternal not the exaltation of a will, nor the sovereign affirmation of an event, nor its consecration by an immutable sign, such as Nietzsche sought...”.

This is a somewhat bizarre reflection from a strange book. It seems to combine two elements of Nietzsche’s treatment of the eternal return: first, his view that it represented an almost unbearable thought, and hence the ability to accept it represented a supreme test of character; and second, his desire to have it confirmed as a scientific hypothesis.

As regards the former element, it is most famously contained in Zarathustra’s description of the eternal return as his “most abyssal thought”. He challenges the Spirit of Gravity who is depressing his spirits with it in “On the Vision and the Riddle”. The first appearance of the concept is almost equally famous: introduced in Gay Science § 341, where a demon is imagined creeping up to a person in a moment of solitude and planting the thought in his head. Compare Will to Power § 55. In his last book Nietzsche calls the thought a “formula for affirmation”. Ecce Homo “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” I (69)

As to Nietzsche’s desire to see it confirmed, see the testimony of Lou Salomé quoted in Pierre Klossowski, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (Continuum, 2005:74) and subsequent discussion. Both elements are evident in the late fragments and passages in The Will to Power §§ 1053-1067, collected under the heading of the Eternal Recurrence. The final section of Zarathustra is “The Sign”. Klossowski speaks frequently of the eternal return and the “sign” of the vicious circle: e.g., 50-52, 76, 95-7.

2. Art and Artefact

(a) page 7: Baudrillard writes: “[P]erhaps repentance and resentment constitute the ultimate phase of art history, just as, for Nietzsche, they constitute the ultimate phase in the genealogy of morals”. A reference to Nietzsche’s treatment of ressentiment begun in On the Genealogy of Morals. Compare 16 (a), 17 (b), and cf. 29 (c) below.

(b) page 18 A reference to the “vital illusion” (See Appendix I).

3. Baudrillard Live

(a) page 21: Hölderlin’s influence was “in the line of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and writers like that”.

(b) page 36: “It is true that I talk about the power of illusion, but you will find plenty of that sort of thing in Nietzsche”.

(c) page 40: “In Nietzsche’s works, the intertwining [of ‘theoretical’ elements and elements of personal or journal-style reflection] is very striking.”

(d) page 53-4: See 23 (a), (b)

(e) page 121-2: See 13.2 (a)

(f) page 136: From the moment you have gone beyond good and evil, one can play a game with this amorality. To say “God is dead” was far more interesting than to say he didn’t exist or never existed (See Appendix II).

(g) page 137: A continuation of the above point. By saying “God is dead” Nietzsche is issuing a challenge to God, or seducing him.

(h) page 142: “ my opinion semiology will never be able – to adopt a coinage of Nietzsche – to go beyond its shadow”. Appears to be a reference to the scene described in Zarathustra, “The Shadow”.

(i) page 159: “The style of the fragment, particularly since Nietzsche, has always stimulated me”.

(j) page 177: “I read a lot of Nietzsche thirty years ago, but I haven’t read him since”. (Compare on this point “Interview with Jean Baudrillard” in Paul Hegarty, Jean Baudrillard: Live Theory (Continuum, 2004:148-9). 

(k) page 180: “Brecht, like Nietzsche, became part of my practice. I will never read them again, but their influence remains with me in other ways. Their effectivity is like a watermark.”

(l) page 203: Nietzsche as an influence on Baudrillard, a constant presence. Compare with the reference to Situationism at 12 (c).

(m) page 209: Nietzsche said one should “push that which wants to fall”. A reference to Zarathustra “Of Old and New Law Tables” § 20. References also to ressentiment [cf. 29 (c) and amor fati (cf. 11(a)].

4. The Conspiracy of Art

(a) page 112: See 2 (a)

(b) page 129: See 2 (b)

(c) page 153: Nietzsche included with thinkers such as Klossowski who employ an extreme logic in their thought, a rising spiral or raising of stakes – which wishes to “push that which wants to fall” (cf. 3 (m) above).

(d) page 217: Art belongs to a secret sphere for Baudrillard, like Artaud or Nietzsche.

(e) page 218: The same point as 3 (j) above.

(f) page 227: Nietzsche meant the “death of God” as a symbolic challenge. cf. 32 (b) below, and Appendix II.

(g) page 235: Nietzsche’s “parabolic logic” leads to the Eternal Return. Similar to (c) above, and see 1 (a) on the Eternal Return.

5. The Consumer Society

(a) page 44: Cited quotation from Will to Power § 650; in fact it joins this passage to one from the late notebooks, not collected in Kaufmann/Hollingdale. From Notebook 34, April – June 1885 [208] cf. Nietzsche, Writings from the Late Notebooks: 13

6. Cool Memories I

(a) page 113: “Nietzsche is right: the social is a concept, a value made by slaves for their own use, beneath the scornful gaze of their masters who have never believed in it”. A reference to Genealogy III:18.

(b) page 183: A reference to Nietzsche’s ‘last man’, linked to “the solution offered by science to the insoluble despair of the difference between men”. cf. 26 (a)

(c) page 186: “Nietzsche grappled with the death of God, but all we have to deal with is the disappearance of politics and history”. Compare with 3 (f), (g). See Appendix II.

(d) page 223: An indictment of contemporary ideologies: “Human rights, dissidence, antiracism...are ‘after the orgy’ ideologies for an easygoing generation which has known neither hard ideologies nor radical philosophies...soft values harshly condemned by the Nietzschean, Marxo-Freudian age...” Clearly evocative of the ‘last man’, compare also with 26 (a).

7. Cool Memories III

(a) page 108: Baudrillard laments “toadying intellectual curs, always wondering how it is possible to be both a genius and politically despicable”. He mentions of such despicable genii Céline, Riefenstahl, Nietzsche, Bataille, and Debord: “Philistinism and Pharisaism mingled, the arrogance of the good cause laying hold of radical thought...” A similar sentiment to 8 (c); 11 (g); 9 (f)

8. Cool Memories IV

(a) page 24: Baudrillard is discussing contemporary, protean man, and alludes to “Nietzsche’s ‘chameleon’”.  Of the works published in Nietzsche’s lifetime, only The Gay Science § 208, it seems, could be a source for this. It more likely refers to the passage discussed below at 17 (d).

(b) page 37: The linking of character and destiny, clearly indebted to, even if not referencing, Nietzsche. “...character is destiny...” cf. 20 (d) below. See Appendix III.

(c) page 64: Endorsement of a complaint by Fukuyama about European intellectuals who champion various antidemocratic writers while claiming themselves democrats. Worth quoting: “Fukuyama is right about the imposture of European intellectuals. They make reference to Nietzsche, Bataille, Sade or Artaud, while adhering to a democratic morality which absolutely contradicts the radicality of those writers’ analyses. None of these great immoralists would have signed a single one of the petitions doing the rounds today.” For a complementary criticism of those who would call themselves Nietzscheans without following above all the style of his writing, see Slavoj Žižek, The Puppet and the Dwarf (London and Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2003:180 n. 23).

9. Cool Memories V  

(a) page 27: “The judgement of God? No: God is dead, but He has left us His (last) judgement”. For the death of God, see Appendix II. Compare with 3 (f), (g).

(b) page 32: Nietzsche quoted: “It is not true that the unconscious goal in the evolution of every conscious being (animal, man, mankind, etc.) is its ‘highest happiness’: the case, on the contrary, is that every stage of evolution possesses a special and incomparable happiness neither higher nor lower but simply its own”. From Daybreak § 108; source provided by Turner.

(c) page: 44 “To live in such a place [as Saas Fe, where Baudrillard was a member of the faculty of the European Graduate School], you need an inner flame, such as Nietzsche had”.

(d) page 65: Refers to the image of “the last man, talking to himself while shaking his head incredulously” cf. 26 (a) below.

(e) page 76: In Weimar, “you are protected by a chorus of tutelary divinities (Goethe, Luther, Nietzsche and the others)...”

(f) page 79: Nietzsche quoted: “When we try to examine the mirror in itself we discover in the end nothing but the things upon it. If we want to grasp the things we finally get hold of nothing but the mirror. – This, in the most general terms, is the history of knowledge”. From Daybreak § 243; source provided by Turner.

(f2) page 79: Another quoted passage: “Whoever has a will of their own to invest in things will not be mastered by things; in the end, even chance events arrange themselves to meet our most personal needs. I am often surprised to see how little power even what is seemingly the most unfavourable destiny has over a will! Or, rather, I say to myself: how necessary it is for the will itself to be a destiny for it always to get the better of destiny itself”. I have not been able to source this quote anywhere in Nietzsche, though it certainly does read like him. Its sentiments are suggested in the youthful essay “Freedom of the Will and Fate”, but it is not a very likely source. It seems in part to resemble some reflections in a letter of Nietzsche’s to Karl von Gersdorff of February 20th 1867.

(g) page 100: “It isn’t the racism of the little people that poses a problem for the ‘enlightened’ minds. That can easily be explained by their inferior condition. It is the symptoms of racism among the ‘higher’ minds that presents an insoluble contradiction, since, in the humanist dream, genius is supposed to be associated with moral grandeur and just causes...Nietzsche, Céline, Kazan, Riefenstahl...Heidegger, Saul Bellow: all condemned by universal consciousness on the grounds of intelligence with evil”. An extended rehearsal of 7 (a); cp. 8 (c); 11 (g)

(h) page 110: A reference to “Nietzsche’s parable about objects and mirrors” cf. (e) above

10. The Evil Demon of Images 

(a) pages 37-39. See 3 (f), (g)

11. Exiles from Dialogue
The shadow of Nietzsche hangs over the conversations that make up the book. Enrique Valiente Noailles invokes Nietzsche more often than Baudrillard.

(a) page 26: Noailles refers to amor fati, elaborating: “There’s only one possibility: that of accepting the world tragically.” Amor fati (love of fate) is Nietzsche’s coinage. It is introduced at Gay Science § 276 – the beginning of Book IV, and resonates throughout the book and Zarathustra. The phrase itself is further employed in Ecce Homo “Why I am so Clever” 10:37) and “The Case of Wagner” 4 (page 94); in the Epilogue § 1 in The Case of Wagner in The Portable Nietzsche, and at Will to Power § 1041.

(b) page 42: Noailles’ reference: Nietzsche said that when you have faith, you can afford yourself the luxury of scepticism. Twilight IX:12, a passage on Thomas Carlyle. 

(c) page 48: Noailles’ reference: for Nietzsche, “consciousness is an organ, like the stomach” – and it is the last to evolve, and the most delicate in the organism. Apparently a conflation of disparate but thematically connected remarks. From Nietzsche’s notebooks of 1884, 27 [26]. „Das Bewußtsein ist ein Organ, wie die Magen”. Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente: Frühjahr bis Herbst 1884, herausgegeben von G. Colli & M. Montinari (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1974: 282. cf.). Writings from the Late Notebooks: 29, 38; see also Gay Science § 11; Genealogy II:16; compare Beyond Good and Evil § 230 on the “spirit”.

(d) page 56: Quoted by Noailles: “The infinite is the primordial fact, the only thing to explain would be the origin of the finite”. From a posthumous notebook of early 1873 19[39]. cf. Nietzsche, Writings from the Early Notebooks: 134

(e) page 63: Baudrillard’s reference: Nietzsche said of causes in relation to effects that they are there as a bonus. Appears to be derived from Gay Science § 360. e.g.: “People are accustomed to consider the goal (purposes, vocations, etc.) as the driving force, in keeping with a very ancient has mistaken the helmsman for the steam. Is the “goal,” the “purpose” not often enough a beautifying pretext, a self-deception of vanity after the event that does not want to acknowledge that the ship is following the current into which it has entered accidentally?” Also compare Twilight, VI:1 ff., Will to Power § 551

(e2) page 63: Noailles’ reference: Consciousness, in Nietzsche’s words, is “an instrument of knowledge that wants to know itself. The stomach that digests itself”. cf. Writings from the Late Notebooks: 29, 38 with Genealogy II:1.

(f) page 64: Noailles’ reference: According to Nietzsche, the pathos of distance, the sense of hierarchical distance, lies at the heart of any morality.

The “pathos of distance” is the instinctive sense of distance felt by higher types or classes toward the lower. It is inherent in strong peoples or cultures, and is what the many forces of modernity – representative democracy, Christian morality (even in a secularised form), socialism and doctrines of egalitarianism – seek to abolish. Introduced at Beyond Good and Evil § 247, it is – like the “slave revolt in morals” of Beyond Good and Evil § 195 – developed in Genealogy. cf. I:2 and III:14. It is perhaps less correct to say that the “pathos of distance” lies at the heart of any morality than that the impulse to rank does. Originally, this was the aristocratic impulse, but it is present also in “slave moralities” – the difference being that the setting-apart is based on an opposed set of championed values, opposing conceptions of what is good (e.g. Will to Power § 315). But the “pathos of distance” as Nietzsche conceives it seems to be the preserve of the aristocratic class. See also Twilight IX:37; The Anti-Christ § 43; compare Will to Power § 898.

(f2) page 64: Baudrillard’s reference: According to Nietzsche, it isn’t true that the ideal of the human race lies in its highest happiness. This is probably a reference to Twilight I:12: “If you have your why? for life, then you can get along with almost any how? – Man does not strive for happiness; only the English do that.” (A disparaging reference to the prominence of utilitarian ethics among English philosophers). At IX:38, in full flight, Nietzsche writes: “Freedom means that the manly instincts which delight in war and victory rule over other instincts, for example the instinct for ‘happiness’. The liberated man – and the liberated spirit even more so – tramples over the contemptible kind of well-being that shopkeepers, Christians, cows, women, Englishmen and other democrats dream about.” Also, VI:8: “No one is the result of his own intention, his own will, his own purpose; no one is part of an experiment to achieve an ‘ideal person’ or an ‘ideal of happiness’ or an ‘ideal of morality’...”

(g) page 85: Another endorsement of Fukuyama’s complaint. cf. 8 (c) above.

(h) page 86: Noailles’ reference. Again obscure, so worth reporting fully. “There seem to be two parallel universes: the universe of Good and Evil in capitals, and that of good and evil lower-case. Nietzsche himself said that. You may feel beyond Good and Evil in capitals, but not at all beyond lower-case good and evil. In a word, you can transgress in upper case, while conforming in lower case.” This is apparently a very loose paraphrase, the construction of which doesn’t make Nietzsche’s meaning transparent. It refers to Will to Power § 132, which begins: Good Europeans that we are – what distinguishes us above the men of fatherlands? – First, we are atheists and immoralists, but for the present we support the religions and moralities of the herd instinct: for these prepare a type of man that must one day fall into our hands, that must desire our hands. Beyond good and evil – but we demand that herd morality should be held sacred unconditionally.  The passage is very much in the spirit of a “prelude to a philosophy of the future” (the subtitle of Beyond Good and Evil), and should be compared with Will to Power § 898; also § 893-4.

(i) page 105: The claim is attributed to Nietzsche that language shapes our value-system and governs our morality. Again, a definite single source is difficult to discern. As exemplary of this idea cf. Beyond Good and Evil § 20; Twilight III:5, VII:1. It is prominent in Genealogy, for example in the treatment of Schuld (guilt/debt) and in various etymological analyses.

(j) page 132: Noailles’ reference: for Nietzsche, nihilism is the devaluing of all values. Again a common theme in the late work; probably a specific reference to Will to Power § 2: “What does nihilism mean? That the highest values devaluate themselves. The aim is lacking; ‘why?’ finds no answer.”

12. Fragments  

(a) pages 1-6: Sundry reflections on Nietzsche’s influence on Baudrillard and discussions and the legacy of the character of his thought.

(b) page 10: Nietzsche was part of “another lineage” that came into play when Baudrillard began to get into theory.

(c) page 19: A remark on Nietzsche’s endurance, or the perpetual timeliness of the untimely man:  he is not a “dead star” like Situationism. Compare 3 (l).

(d) page 22: Nietzsche, like Sade or Hölderlin, can’t be read in a continuous, constructive way.

(e) page 35: A reference to the eternal return, and to the link emphasised by Nietzsche between character and destiny.  cf. 1 (a) above and Appendix III.

(f) page 40: Nietzsche, along with Bataille and Artaud, are the thinkers to whom Baudrillard always comes back. 

(g) page 56: Nietzsche’s curious lack of influence on sociologists, who read him without anything rubbing off. Where the aftershocks of the Nietzschean critique should have profoundly shaken the discipline, sociology behaves as if nothing had happened.

(h) page 63: A reference in passing to amor fati, distinguishing it from what Baudrillard is discussing – the need to push against general safety, to allow evil to break through occasionally (see 11 (a) above).

(i) page 83: A reference to becoming and the Nietzschean horizon of the eternal return (see 1 (a) above).

(j) page 107: Expresses a similar thought to (h): something that is of the order of Evil must break the hegemony of Good, or this hegemony would be unbearable. One such “something” suggested is the will to power as it functions in Nietzsche’s work.

13.1 Forget Foucault

(a) page 23: “We need to do a critique of sexual reason, or rather a genealogy of sexual reason, as Nietzsche has done a genealogy of Morals – because this is our new moral system.” This reflects a one-time intention of Baudrillard’s made explicit in SD: 137: “We must write the ‘Mirror of Desire’ as we have written The Mirror of Production.” He gave up the idea eventually, feeling the moment for the critique had passed, and the work had been done sufficiently by Deleuze and Guattari and others (cf. BL: 58).

(b) page 30: Psychoanalysis represents “the loveliest hallucination of the world unseen, as Nietzsche would say.” cf. 14 (b) below, on “hinterworlds”. 

(c) page 31: “Foucault doesn’t want to talk about repression: but what else is that slow, brutal infection of the mind through sex, whose only equivalent in the past was infection through the soul (see Nietzsche – the infection through sex is nothing anyway but historical and mental reversal of the infection through the soul under the sign of materialist parousia!”)  This is a reference that could well cause bafflement. The sentences could profit from reconstruction – they require analysis, in the root sense of the word. The modern infection of the mind through sex is equivalent to the historical infection of the mind through the soul: it results in a comparable “repression”. The infection through sex is the historical and mental reversal (or: reversal of the historical and mental) infection through the soul. The latter “infection” of the mind was one target of Nietzsche’s critiques of moral systems based on “hinterworlds”.

What is “set under the sign of materialist parousia” here – the construction is ambiguous – is the historical reversal of the infection of the mind through the soul. In other words, as affairs of the soul (in the Christian tradition) have as their ultimate reference and source of coherence the faith in the parousia (the Second Coming), sexual liberation, the injunction to the discourse on and use of sex and sexuality, orients itself toward (or is “set under the sign of”) a materialistic parousia – presumably, the banishment of the “bad conscience” in relation to sexuality, the delivery from neurosis, and the “Second Coming” of instinct and good conscience. Baudrillard is obviously critical of the idea: the insistence on liberation turns into the injunction to embrace liberation, and results in a new form, if not of repression, at least of paralysis and melancholy.

These remarks should be compared with those at IE: 94 on the “transfiguration of an ideal” aimed at in the works of Stirner, Marx and Nietzsche, all of which wish for an emancipation of the human and a “beyond” which is no longer that of religion but remains within the human sphere.

13.2 Forget Baudrillard

(a) page 120: “The Italians have a long tradition of this [i.e. a situation in which the political is a kind of game and simulacrum] with the Jesuits and the Church – in the way that Nietzsche meant.” At Human, all too Human § 55, Nietzsche discusses the peculiar strengths of the Jesuits, which is overlooked by those who dismiss them as cunning and untrustworthy, or peddlers of Christian sophistry. At § 441, he mentions how unbelievable the “secret tactics” of Jesuits have already become, and predicts that the subordination demanded by militaristic states will soon become similarly incredible. Nietzsche links this to the decline in reverence for authority. If these are the passages Baudrillard has in mind, he seems to derive from them the idea that action does not require conviction, or that the game can continue to thrive even when many of its players no longer believe in it (compare Baudrillard’s remarks on Italy at FS: 76). This reminds one of a statement in Mann’s Doktor Faustus (the central character of which, composer Adrian Leverkühn, is based largely on Nietzsche): his friend questions whether the gravity that marks the German temper is not after all a kind of immaturity – reflected in the need to spark Reformations in response to the corruption of Rome. In contrast, he asks, is maturity not the Italian who every Sunday takes his hat from the stand and remarks: “Now, let us make our weekly bow to common error”. Nietzsche alludes to the proverbial craftiness of Jesuits in Twilight III:2, 4

Update of August 1, 2011: (a): Forget Baudrillard p. 120:

“The Italians have a long tradition of this [i.e. a situation in which the political is a kind of game and simulacrum] with the Jesuits and the Church – in the way that Nietzsche meant.”

I expressed some reservation about the sources adduced for this quote in the original article, as Baudrillard’s quote could have been only a very loose paraphrase. Since the original article, however, a passage of Nietzsche’s has come to my attention which I believe is the correct source.

The crucial reference here seems to be an entry in a notebook of 1883 (in the German standard edition, reference KGW VII 16 [23]) still, as far as I can tell, unpublished in English. Nietzsche’s comment runs: “Hinter meiner ersten Periode grinst das Gesicht des Jesuitismus: ich meine: das bewusste Festhalten an der Illusion und zwangsweise Einverleibung derselben als Basis der Kultur...” ( Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente: Juli 1882 bis winter 1883-1884 Eds. G. Colli and M. Montinari (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1977): 533 ).

It may be translated: “Behind my first period smirks the face of Jesuitism; I mean: the conscious holding fast to illusion, and forcible incorporation of the same as the basis of culture”.

Considering the context in which it appears, this remark of Nietzsche’s is certainly in line with other of Baudrillard’s remarks about Italy at e.g. FS: 76; BL: 46, 209

14. Fatal Strategies 

(a) page 104: Seduction begins with Christianity – it is a “diabolical curse that comes to fracture the divine order – or else it is Christ himself, according to Nietzsche, Christ come to seduce people to his own person, come to pervert them with psychology and love?” Refers, it appears, to Genealogy I:8. Compare Will to Power § 172.

(b) page 144: Psychoanalysis is the bad conscience of the sign...[it] absolutely participates in the misfortune, in the bad conscience that Nietzsche identified as the source of all backward worlds...”. Anglophone commentators do not as commonly speak of “backworlds” or “hinterworlds”, but in French criticism the idea of arrière-mondes as a specifically Nietzschean concept is common. It may be construed as meaning “worlds beyond”, as indeed Turner translates it at IE: 94. Its currency presumably derives from the earliest appearances of a complete translation of Zarathustra in France. The first, Henri Albert’s, appeared in 1892 (remarkably early: Nietzsche might well still have been sane when he started it). The third of Zarathustra’s discourses is called „Von den Hinterweltlern”. Hollingdale translates it as “Of the Afterworldsmen”. He explains it thus: “Hinterweltler is a coinage meaning ‘those who believe in an afterlife’ (sic). It gains its force from its similarity to the word Hinterwäldler (backwoodsmen).” See Thus Spoke Zarathustra: 339 n. 5. Albert’s Ainsi Parlait Zarathoustra translated this as «Des hallucinés de l’arrière-monde» – approximately, “Hallucinators of the hinterworld”. Albert’s translation was revised in 1947 by Maurice Betz, who changed the title of the discourse to «Des visionnaires de l’au-delà» We may assume “visionaries of the beyond” was intended to dispel misunderstandings about what “backworldsmen” or “hinterworlds” might mean, but may equally presume that the time-lag between the translations – precisely a lifetime, for the translated author – resulted in the canonicity of Albert’s rendering. It would hardly be the only case of infelicitous translation dominating Francophone thought. The most famous case is probably Henri Corbin’s rendering of Heidegger’s Dasein as la réalité humaine – something Derrida characterises as a “monstrous” translation, which became canonical owing to the authority of Sartre. cf. Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (University of Chicago Press, 1982:115). To adapt a Nietzschean phrase, the history of this error remains significant: Kojève obviously adopted the translation in his lectures, and now English readers of his famous Introduction to the Reading of Hegel are confronted with constant reference to “human-reality” as a common noun, with no hint provided as to its Heideggarian provenance. 


15. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place

(a) page 77: A quote: “We no longer believe that the truth is true when all of its veils have been removed.” From Gay Science, Preface to 2nd Edition, § 4. Kaufmann’s translation runs: “We no longer believe the truth remains truth when the veils are withdrawn: we have lived too long to believe this” (38).

16. The Illusion of the End  

(a) page 24: A discussion of the compulsion to resurrect figures and celebrate centenaries; Baudrillard diagnoses a “suicidal” attitude in “the compulsion on the part of the cultural and intellectual elite to exalt thinkers who have only scorn for that elite and are its living condemnation: Celine, Artaud, Bataille, Nietzsche”. It combines thoughts expressed in 20 (e) and 8 (b), 11 (g). Nietzsche is said to have diagnosed the failure of instinct which lies at its root a full century before.

(b) page 26: Slight variant of 2 (a)

(c) page 93: Begins a series of related references. One of the options open to a humanity which is delivered from belief is that “ will shift its sights to the Superman, through a transvaluation of the values of the species – this is the path marked out by Nietzsche, who argued that the human race cannot be left to itself, but must aim beyond itself and discover the great metamorphosis, that of becoming”. A couple of references seem compressed here. Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of all values” characterises his project generally. Umwerthung aller Werthe was considered as a title of four projected volumes, some of which material was published as Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ and some of which made it into Will to Power. Nietzsche uses the phrase in the first paragraph of Twilight, and again in the last lines, when he connects his future project to his first major work – claiming The Birth of Tragedy was his “first attempt” at a transvaluation. 

The “great metamorphosis” humankind must discover seems to refer to the discourse “Of the Three Metamorphoses” – the first of Zarathustra’s discourses proper after the Prologue. The metamorphoses of man are the camel, lion and child: the third stage is the restored innocence required to create new values. Restored innocence is a delivery from guilt, or the shadow cast by “hinterworlds”. To say it is “that of becoming” connects it to Nietzsche’s phrase “the innocence of becoming”. To restore “the innocence of becoming” sums up another of Nietzsche’s aims – an element of or prologue to his transvaluation. The restoration would mean that man is delivered of purpose, and of guilt – no one can be held accountable for man, for his mere existence. He diagnoses as characteristic of common morality the compulsion to posit a higher, ordained purpose to human life, to “explain it”, and – proposing in turn that man falls short of this or fails in his purpose – to create a reason for God to take revenge on man. See for example Twilight VI:7-8; Human, all too Human § 107, Will to Power §§ 552, 765, 787; Writings from the Late Notebooks: 23, 156. Die Unschuld des Werdens was the title of a two-volume collection of Nietzsche’s notes not published in Der Wille zur Macht.
The “aiming beyond” required by and of mankind is here in part the restoration of the innocence of becoming, but also that of the “Superman” most famously elaborated in Zarathustra. For a note on this see (e) below.


(d) page 94: Nietzsche has written magnificently of the vital illusion, the illusion of appearances (see Appendix I).

(d2) page 94 “Needless to say, this transvaluation of which Nietzsche speaks has not taken place, except precisely in the opposite sense – not beyond, but this side of, good and evil...” This is something that distinguishes Baudrillard’s vision of postmodernity from Nietzschean modernity: the transvaluation which Nietzsche desired is no longer possible – value-systems have declined, as predicted, but with resultant apathy and indifference.

(e) page 95: “The boundaries of the human and inhuman are indeed blurring, yet they are doing so in a movement not toward the superhuman, but towards the subhuman, towards a disappearance of the very symbolic characteristics of the species. Verklärung des Untermenschen. Transfiguration of the subhuman.”  Connects the points at (c) and (d2). The “trans-devaluation”, as Baudrillard calls it elsewhere, points to the emergence not of Nietzsche’s Übermensch, but the Untermensch.

The Superman or Overman is one of Nietzsche’s most famous ideas. It is really only relevant to Zarathustra. In posthumous notes and later books Nietzsche usually reverts to speaking of “higher men”, though Zarathustra distinguishes his Superman from various types of so-called “higher” men, who are assembled in Book IV. It has not been emphasised enough that the Übermensch is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra’s idea – a concept which only receives any real elaboration through his invented character. We may call Zarathustra Nietzsche’s “mouthpiece”, but one should heed the fact that Nietzsche begins his discussion of “Why I Write Such Good Books” in Ecce Homo by declaring: “I am one thing, my writings are another” (39).

His sister Elisabeth, in an introduction to Zarathustra, opined that the idea of the Superman was forming in Nietzsche’s mind for a long time before Zarathustra, providing evidence with passages from his earlier Untimely Meditations and the essay “We Philologists”. But the word truly belongs to Zarathustra (the protagonist and his book), and with the word, the concept. Nietzsche himself wrote that it was “a word which, in the mouth of Zarathustra, the destroyer of morality, becomes a very thoughtful word...” (Ecce Homo “Why I Write Such Good Books” I:41); first emphasis mine). Nietzsche complains in the same passage that the idea has been habitually misunderstood: either as championing a ‘hero cult’ – a position that would conflate Nietzsche with the one he attributes to Carlyle, whose “Great Man” theory of history he seems to be rejecting at Will to Power § 968, Daybreak § 268 and Twilight IX:44 (and which at least makes problematic the occasional thesis that the shadow of Emerson is cast over Zarathustra) – or else, more perversely, the kind of “higher type” championed by the values Zarathustra is trying to overthrow; or, finally, as advocating Darwinian-inspired eugenics. 

This latter idea (one of those advanced, says Nietzsche, by “learned cattle”), reminds us in part of why this is one of the most notorious areas of Nietzsche’s thought. Combine ideas like the “master morality” of natural masters that was opposed by a Judaeo-Christian “slave morality”, and the “blond beast” that appears at Genealogy I:11 (also I:5, II:17) and Twilight VII:2, with that of the Übermensch, and one has the grounds for Nietzsche’s appropriation by Nazi ideologies of Aryan racial superiority. That the Nazis actually employed the word Untermensch in propaganda – many years after the coinage and Nietzschean popularisation of Übermensch – inevitably reinforced the link.

It is common to defend Nietzsche in respect of this appropriation, arguing that he could not have foreseen and would have despised Nazism. Still, Camus for one has rapped him on the knuckles for a species of unbearable political naivety, writing: “Nietzsche prayed for a Roman Caesar with the soul of Christ. To his mind, this was to say yes to both slave and master. But, in the last analysis, to say yes to both was to give one’s blessing to the stronger of the two, namely the master. Caesar must inevitably renounce the domination of the mind in order to rule in the realm of fact. ‘How can one make the best of crime?’ asks Nietzsche, a good professor faithful to his system. Caesar must answer: by multiplying it. ‘When the ends are great,’ Nietzsche wrote to his own detriment, ‘humanity employs other standards and no longer judges crime as such even if it resorts to the most frightful means.’ He died in 1900, at the beginning of the century in which that statement was to become fatal.” (Camus, The Rebel, trans. Anthony Bower (Penguin, 1971: 68-9).

This image of the Roman Caesar with Christ’s soul leads one to the second element of the notoriety of the Übermensch in Nietzsche’s work: the obvious, and oft-repeated, question: What would a Superman be like, according to Nietzsche’s conception of it? To say he “prayed for” this figure is surely an inapposite translation, given Nietzsche’s stance. Rather, all his vows called for – or called forth – such a man. («Nietzsche appelait de tous ses voeux un César romain avec l'âme du Christ»). But the general point stands: who knows what a Superman would look like? – Zarathustra indeed insists there has never been one.

Nietzsche’s only hint, when denouncing the images summoned by his interpreters, is that they should have looked to Cesare Borgia before Parsifal – to a figure so maligned that Rousseau concluded from Machiavelli’s choice of such an “execrable hero” that Il Principe was satirical or subversive in intent (Du Contrat Social, III:6 n.). His only further hint is that the only template is Zarathustra himself (not necessarily his creator) – against whom, even in his language, apparently, not a Goethe, a Dante nor a Shakespeare could stand. (“Thus Spoke Zarathustra” 6:76). Of course, most readers take such passages as evidence of the madness that would shortly cripple Nietzsche. This question perhaps cannot be resolved. However, the following passages might be considered as suggestive of real-world templates. 

The Roman Caesar with the soul of Christ is mentioned at Will to Power § 983; at § 1027, Nietzsche suggests that man when he progresses is “beast and superbeast” (Untier und Übertier), which echoes the description of Napoleon as “synthesis of the inhuman and superhuman” (Unmensch und Übermensch) at Genealogy I:16. Consider also the reference at Twilight IX:37 to Cesare Borgia, and IX:49-51, on Goethe. All of whom are influential and divisive figures – perhaps we can gauge the effect of the Superman from the short section 156 of the Gay Science: “Who is most influential. –  When a human being resists his whole age and stops it at the gate to demand an accounting, this must have influence. Whether that is what he desires is immaterial; that he can do it is what matters”.

(e2) page 95: “Which [i.e., all of that discussed above] shows Nietzsche in one sense to be right: the human race, left to itself, is in fact only able to reduplicate or destroy itself”. The point here is that the human being will destroy not only his environment or basis for biological life, but also his symbolic spaces – his vital illusions, those things which make life bearable. In their absence, one needs something like the Superman – something which is “beyond” but remains within the human sphere – to aim toward: something that is not mere life. I am not sure that Nietzsche made this point, except indirectly, in presenting the contrasting images of the Superman and the last man. It does resemble some of the recurring points in “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life” second of the Untimely Meditations, especially perhaps sections VII and IX.

17. Impossible Exchange   

(a) page 7: “Nietzsche analysed the stratagem of God in these terms: in redeeming man’s debt by the sacrifice of his son, God, the great Creditor, created a situation where the debt could never be redeemed by the debtor, since it had already been redeemed by the creditor”. On this idea cf. Genealogy II:20-22, especially § 21.

(b) page 46: The denial of self becomes the last stage of individuality, as ressentiment was for Nietzsche the last stage of the genealogy of morals (compare 2 (a), 16 (b); cf. 29 (c) below). 

(c) page 52: “...the Nietzschean prophecy of the transvaluation of values has been fulfilled for the worse – not in our passing beyond Good and Evil, but in our falling back this side of Good and Evil” (cf. 16 (d2) above).

(d) page 78: A quote: it is condensed from passages in Nietzsche’s posthumous notes, not collected, I believe, in The Will to Power. Baudrillard may have originally known it from Pierre Klossowski’s influential 1969 work Nietzsche et le cercle vicieux, where it is cited and discussed. Klossowski, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, op. cit., 69. As the subject of a discussion it becomes a more prominent thought than it might appear in the notebooks themselves. Cf. Writings from the Late Notebooks: 262. 

(e) page 79: An interesting passage expressing a poetic interpretation of life: “Each individual life unfolds on two levels, in two dimensions – history and destiny – which coincide only exceptionally. Each life has its history, the history of its successive events, its twists and turns – but elsewhere, in another dimension, there is only one form, that of the absolute becoming of the same situation, which occurs for everyone in the form of an Eternal Return. The form of destiny, which Nietzsche also calls ‘character’, to distinguish it from any psychology of the ego and its successive changes”. On the eternal return, 1 (a) above; on the linking of character and destiny, see Appendix III.

(f) page 131: General references to the eternal return (cf. 1 (a) above) and the death of God (see Appendix II). Also a quote: “There is no individual, there is no species, there is no identity”. Appears most likely a paraphrase of the message of Will to Power § 521. Alternatively it may be a rather garbled recollection of § 480 – a passage that is also dealt with by Klossowski (79; and see ibid, 107, 118). Compare Will to Power § 90: “Mankind does not advance, it does not even exist”, and § 785 on the concept of the individual as an error. 

18. The Lucidity Pact, or The Intelligence of Evil                         

(a) page 25: Epigraph to the chapter: “We have abolished the real world: what world is left? The apparent world perhaps?...But no! with the real world we abolished the apparent world!” Twilight IV:6. The passage ends: “(Noon; moment of the shortest shadow; end of the longest error; pinnacle of humanity; INCIPIT ZARATHUSTRA)” (Large translation). Nietzsche reverts to his original introduction of Zarathustra in Gay Science § 342 (titled: Incipit tragoedia). In a sense, he offers a summary in one sentence of the labour of thought that leads him to introduce Zarathustra – going some way toward realising his infamous ambition “to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book – what everyone else does not say in a book...” (Twilight IX:51).

(a2) page 25: The first sentence: “If we are not to believe that truth remains truth when we lift its veil, then truth has no naked existence” (cf. 15 (a) above).

(a3) page 25: “Once the real world has been lost, at the same time as the world of appearances, says Nietzsche, the universe becomes a universe of fact, a positive universe, a universe ‘as is’, which no longer even has any need to be true”. Possibly a specific paraphrase of Twilight IV:5-6 (as with (a), above); again, more probably a paraphrase of a general principle – and phrased in a way that appropriates it to Baudrillard’s position.  

(b) page 42: see 9 (e) A quote from Daybreak § 243, source given by Turner n. 7.

(c) page 68: A reference to the “death of God” (see Appendix II).

(d) page 72: “The Overman and the Eternal Return are...visions and they have the sovereignty of a hypothesis. If we try to turn them into acts or faits accomplis, they become monstrous and ridiculous”. An obvious reference to Nietzsche, and a particularly perceptive point.

(e) page 75: “By the abolition of distance, the ‘pathos’ of distance, everything becomes undecidable”. On the “pathos of distance” )cf. 11 (f) above).

(f) page 133: Another reference to the “pathos of distance”, again very loose.

(g) page 148: A rephrase of 12 (j)

(h) page 151: A reference to ressentiment. cf. 29 (c) below

(i) page 159: Baudrillard writes that “evil” in its reversible sense consists in diverting things from their objective path, their reversal, and writes: “I wonder if we might not even interpret Nietzsche’s ‘Eternal Return’ in this sense – not as an endless cycle, not as a repetition, but as a turning about, as a reversible form of becoming – die ewige Umkehr”.

(j) page 162: “It is one thing to reject morality in the name of a vulgar immoralism, another to do so, like Nietzsche so as to pass beyond good and evil”.

(k) pages 177-8: A quote from Gay Science § 20, and a comment on it; source provided by Turner.  

(l) page 208: “This is the secret meaning of the Eternal Return: all forms are both distinct and singular, but bound together in a chain. And if you can manage to place yourself on this cycle of becoming, you can snake back endlessly from the one to the other and have control over them all”. On the Eternal Return (see 1 (a) above).

(m) page 209: “Nietzsche, like Holderlin, gives himself all the names of history, Dionysus, the Crucified one. He does not identify with them (that is madness), nor does he equate himself with them or measure himself against them (hubris and immoderation). He becomes all the Gods and Heroes and Rivers: anamorphosis, metamorphosis.”

In letters (often laconic notes) of 1889, following his collapse (most written in one day), Nietzsche signed off behind a variety of “masks”: ‘The Crucified’ (e.g. letters to Peter Gast, Georg Brandes, King Umberto of Italy, Cardinal Mariani, the Vatican Secretary of State, Jan. 4th 1889); Dionysus (e.g. to letters to Jacob Burckhardt, Paul Deussen, Erwin Rohde, Franz Overbeck, Cosima Wagner, Jan. 4th 1889); ‘Nietzsche Caesar’ (e.g. to Strindberg, dated Dec. 31st 1888). The antithesis of Dionysus and the Crucified emerges in late works and notes. See e.g., famously, the last line of Ecce Homo; Twilight X:5 (“I, the last disciple of the philosopher Dionysus”); Will to Power §§ 401, 1034, especially 1052.

It was Nietzsche himself who wrote – to Burckhardt – that he was “all the names of history”. To interpret all this as not simply reflecting Nietzsche’s madness – as Baudrillard seems to – would appear to derive from how Klossowski interpreted the “euphoria in Turin” in Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle.

Note also the common use in The Lucidity Pact of “hinterworld(s)”: 25, 27, 39, 43, 87 (cf. 14 (b) above on arrière-mondes).

19. The Mirror of Production

(a) page 70: An apparent sponsorship of Nietzsche as a corrective of Marxist anthropology and political economy. Marxist themes such as the “laws of dialectic” and “mode of production”, etc., are articulated according to a critical perspective, a critical illusion – they generate their own concepts of “history” and “nature”, which they treat as givens. This critical perspective is not a perspective in the Nietzschean sense, “which consists in deconstructing the imaginary universality of the solidest conceptual edifices (the subject, rationality, knowledge, history, dialectics) and restoring them to their relativity and symptomality ...The logos and the pathos of production must be reduced according to this radical perspectivism”. For some of Nietzsche’s own representative remarks which explicitly mention perspectivism, see Will to Power §§ 259, 272, 293, 48, 518, 548, 568, 602, 616, 636, 637, 678, 730, 789. Writings From the Late Notebooks 7 [60]:139.

(b) page 155: “Nietzsche is right: the workers have elevated into a cardinal value the very sign of their slavery, just as the Christians did with suffering”. Apparently a reference to Twilight IX:34

20. Paroxysm

(a) page 2: “The great Nietzschean idea of the transvaluation of all values has seen itself realized in precisely the opposite way: in the involution of all values. We have not passed beyond Good and Evil but fallen short of Good and Evil...Diesseits von Gut und Böse. Requiescat Nietzsche.” cf. 16 (d2) above; compare 17 (c). (Nietzsche’s work, of course, is Jenseits von Gut und Böse). 

(b) page 14: Philippe Petit mentions Nietzsche’s ‘last man’: cf. 26 (a) below. 

(c) page 27: A brief reference, suggesting we live in, or after and with the consequences of, a “Nietzschean age of suspicion”. 

(d) page 47: The linking of destiny and character. An interesting passage, where

Baudrillard expresses his reluctance to lay emphasis on the fatal or destiny in his work, as it has been the source of much misunderstanding. “Only the play of destiny is interesting, but it isn’t a religious fate we’re talking about. It means simply that, as against cause-and-effect logic, the event is there first...This is akin to the meaning of character in Nietzsche. More than in politics or anatomy, destiny is registered in character”. See Appendix III. To get an idea of the importance of “character” in Baudrillard’s reflections, note how it has dislodged the key concept of “seduction”: the final sentence here should be compared with one of the last lines in Seduction: “Anatomy is not destiny, nor is politics: seduction is destiny” (180). What is being opposed here is in part, of course, the famous maxim of Freud “anatomy is destiny” (cf. Baudrillard’s invocation of the maxim at S: 9 in response to a passage by Irigaray); the insistence that “politics is destiny” is, as far as I am aware, popularly attributed to Napoleon.

(e) page 61: Passing reference: Nietzsche, like Van Gogh, Heidegger and others has been the subject of “commemorative necrophagy” characteristic of the contemporary west. Compare 16 (a).

(f) page 62: Use of the word ressentiment; cf. 29 (c) below.

(g) page 82: Nietzsche referred to in a way suggesting that his legacy has haunted Europe in a manner it has never haunted America. “With us (i.e. in Europe), all the Nietzschean themes are experienced philosophically; over there (i.e. America), even theory becomes once again what it is: a fiction”. This claim might be compared with Alan Bloom’s contention that American Nietzscheanism was “nihilism with a happy ending”. Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (2nd Ed., New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987:147).

21. Passwords  

(a) page 35: As Nietzsche spoke of a vital illusion of appearances, we might speak of a vital function of corruption in society. On the vital illusion, see Appendix I.

(b) page 75: “Nietzsche, I believe, speaks of redeemed debt. This is God’s stratagem: he sent his son to redeem man’s debt, with the effect that man will never be able to redeem it”. See 17 (a)

22. The Perfect Crime  

(a) page i: A reference to the “vital illusion” cf. Appendix I.

(b) page 5 A reference to the “will to illusion”; it recurs in a more expanded form with a full quotation just pages later. cf. (d). 

(c) page 7: The “vital illusion” cf. Appendix I.

(d) page 9: “Nietzsche writes, ‘truth cannot be regarded as the highest power. The will to semblance, to illusion, to deception, to becoming, to change (to objective deception) is to be regarded here as deeper, more original, more metaphysical than the will to truth, to reality, to being – the latter is itself merely a form of the will to illusion”. From The Will to Power § 853 (III)

On the “will to truth” that leads to error, Genealogy III:24 – this section contains a remarkably prescient objection to a philosophical approach that resembles Husserlian phenomenology avant la lettre. In Nietzsche, the will to truth becomes conscious of itself as a problem. Genealogy III:27.  Also Gay Science, Preface § 4. For more on the “will to illusion”, Will to Power § 617.

(e) page 13: “According to Nietzsche, this drive [i.e. the need to desire] is so great that, for fear of desiring nothing, [man] will prefer the desire for the nothing.” A reference to Genealogy III:1, and III:28 (the latter the final sentence of the book). A popular quote, it is more commonly seen in English as “man would rather will nothingness than not will”. Nietzsche takes the trouble of quoting the line when briefly reviewing the work in Ecce Homo.

23. Revenge of the Crystal

(a) page 20: One must break with the past in analysis – “Not out of contempt, but in order to find, as Nietzsche would say, a radical pathos, a pure distance ...only then does modernity appear in a different, more lively, more violent and more radical light”. Suggests the “pathos of distance” (see 11 (f) above), but this is not really an analytic attitude (and in its original, most aristocratic form, is somewhat instinctual). I am not sure what exactly Baudrillard has in mind here. The distinction between pathos and ethos drawn at Gay Science § 317 would seem pertinent in the context of assuming a somewhat ahistorical attitude, or one that is “in the moment” and a transitory state. 

(b) page 21: Nietzsche’s influence is in Baudrillard’s work in the concept of metamorphosis. A reference made to the eternal return (see 1 (a) above), and linking of the theme to Hölderlin (compare 12 (i) above).

24. Seduction  

(a) page 37: “We need a critique of sexual reason, or rather a genealogy of sexual reason, similar to Nietzsche’s genealogy of good and evil, for it is our new morality” (see 13.1 (a), slightly variant translation.

(b) page 59: A quote, probably from memory: “We do not believe that the truth remains once the veil has been lifted.” Slight variant of 15 (a).

25. Simulations

(a) page 115: see 13.1 (a), 24. (a)

26. Screened Out  

(a) page 67: “The individual we have produced [in the contemporary west], the absolutely self-regarding individual we glorify, the individual we protect in his impotence with the whole legal panoply of human rights is the ‘last man’ Nietzsche speaks of”. The figure of der letzte Mensch is introduced by Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Prologue § 5. Hollingdale translates it as “the ultimate man”. The figure gained some prominence in philosophical debates on the back of Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man (London: Penguin, 1992). Fukuyama’s treatment of each of the phrases in his title is entirely indebted to others. The “end of history” he contemplates is that considered in Kojève’s lectures on Hegel, and the idea that such an “end of history” as Kojève proposes would result in Nietzschean “last men” is inherited from Leo Strauss. For Leo Strauss’s invocation of Nietzsche’s figure, see letter to Kojève of August 22, 1948, reprinted in Strauss, On Tyranny (University of Chicago Press, 1961: 239): “If I had more time than I have, I could state more fully, and presumably more clearly, why I am not convinced that the End State as you describe it, can be either the rational or the merely-factual satisfaction of human beings. For the sake of simplicity I refer today to Nietzsche’s ‘last men’”; and, ibid, 208. Also Allan Bloom’s remark (Bloom is the most prominent epigone of Strauss) in his introduction to the English translation of Kojève, on Nietzsche’s image as objection to the account: “ wonders whether the citizen of the universal homogenous state is not identical to Nietzsche’s Last Man, and whether Hegel’s historicism does not by an inevitable dialectic force us to a more sombre and more radical historicism which rejects reason.” Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the “Phenomenology of Spirit”, assembled by Raymond Queneau, trans. James H. Nichols, Jr. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980: xii. Also cf. Strauss, “Existentialism” Interpretation Spring 1995, Vol. 22 No. 3: 314-15; “German Nihilism” Interpretation Spring 1999, Vol. 26 No. 3: 359, 362; “The Three Waves of Modernity” An Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ten Essays by Leo Strauss, Ed. H. Gildin (Wayne State University Press, 1989: 81-98, esp. 94-98). The problematic of the “last man” may be fruitfully compared with Baudrillard’s various reflections on the “perfect crime”. This philosophical strand of meditation on the last man should be distinguished from an alternative literary tradition. The representative text in the latter tradition is Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four; in it, O’Brien tells Winston Smith, during torture, “You are the last man”, and The Last Man was among the first titles Orwell considered for the novel. What this “last man” represents – the human spirit – is more akin to what has been lost by Nietzsche’s “last men”.

(b) page 117: “One should not believe that truth remains truth when you remove its veil” (see 15 (a) above).

(c) page 127: “There are events, said Nietzsche, which take a century to reach us, truths that we dare not face up to, which remain stuck in a kind of purgatory”. The second part of the statement is a common sentiment in Nietzsche; the first appears to be a paraphrase of Beyond Good and Evil § 285. It echoes the remarks of the madman in Gay Science § 125 who says the death of God is an event that still underway or “on its way”, still arriving. 

(d) page 200 ff. A reference to the eternal return; 201 repeats almost verbatim the point made in America (see 1 (a) above).

27. Symbolic Exchange and Death  

(a) page 61: “Nietzsche said, ‘Down with all hypotheses which have allowed belief in a real world’”. This is very odd, and not, to my knowledge, yet explained. By its presentation it looks very much like a direct quote, but I am not aware of Nietzsche having used these precise words or even ones so certainly approximate as to be a recognisable corruption or paraphrase. It is presumably a throwaway remark summing up a general position. We read: «À bas toutes les hypothèses qui ont permis la croyance en un monde vrai» disait Nietzsche. And suspect: Baudrillard should have written dirait, not disait. It might cause problems for some readers: Nietzsche expended much energy denouncing “hinterworlds”, precisely those belief-systems which devalued life by denying the reality of the everyday world of becoming – most consistently Christianity, but also (though many would contest his interpretation) Platonism – and which posited a truer or more real world beyond.  For this reason, and for the reason of its obscurity, it demands a little explication.

There is a probable origin, Will to Power § 12 – the lengthiest of the work’s early passages.  Nietzsche is at pains in these passages to promote a positive form of nihilism; nihilism results from values devaluating themselves: the nihilist has rejected popular deceptions and given up on self-deception. Hence, it can be a position of strength. See for example §§ 21-3, 28. In § 12, Nietzsche discusses “psychological nihilism”. We read there:  “ soon as man finds out how that world [i.e. a constructed world beyond the world of becoming as a “true world”] is fabricated solely from psychological needs, and how he has absolutely no right to it, the last form of nihilism comes into being: it includes disbelief in any metaphysical world and forbids itself any belief in a true world. Having reached this standpoint, one grants the reality of becoming as the only reality, forbids oneself every kind of clandestine access to afterworlds and false divinities – but cannot endure this world though one does not want to deny it.” The form of nihilism that “forbids itself any belief in a true world” fairly approximates Baudrillard’s ‘quote’. For clarification as to how this standpoint has a positive dimension, I quote § 15 in its entirety:

What is a belief? How does it originate? Every belief is a considering-something-true.
The most extreme form of nihilism would be the view that every belief, every considering-something-true, is necessarily false because there simply is no true world. Thus: a perspectival appearance whose origin lies in us (in so far as we continually need a narrower, abbreviated, simplified world). That it is the measure of strength to what extent we can admit to ourselves, without perishing, the merely apparent character, the necessity of lies.  To this extent, nihilism, as the denial of a truthful world, of being, might be a divine way of thinking.

Update of Augsut 1, 2011: (a) Symbolic Exchange and Death p. 61:

“Nietzsche said, ‘Down with all hypotheses which have allowed belief in a real world’”.

In the original article, I suggested this as a paraphrase culled from Will to Power §12. It is more likely a paraphrase of the first of a pair of sentences given in the Kaufmann/Hollingdale Will to Power § 583 (B): “War on all presuppositions on the basis of which one has invented a true world. Among these is the presupposition that moral values are the supreme values”.
The original is from a notebook entry of 1888 14 [103].2. It runs: “Krieg gegen alle Vorraussetzungen, auf welche hin man eine wahre Welt fingirt hat. Zu diesen Vorraussetzungen gehort, dass die moralischen Werthe die obersten sind.” (The Nachlass has been digitised, and is available at the excellent Nietzsche Source website:,14%5B169%5D (May 2011).

(b) page 89: “Does fashion recover the innocence that Nietzsche noted in the Greeks: ‘They knew how to the surface, the fold, the skin, to believe in forms, tones words... Those Greek were superficial – out of profundity’” Gay Science, preface, 2nd Ed., § 4. The lines come from the same section as that about truth and veils of which Baudrillard is fond (15 (a) above). 

(c) page 141: The subject is alienated only when he internalises an abstract agency issuing from ‘the other world’ as Nietzsche said. This “other world” is the “hinterworld” (see 14 (b) above).

(d) page 144: A quote: “To the gods, death is only ever a prejudice”, which serves as one of the epigraphs to the section. It is from “The Ass-Festival” in Zarathustra. Zarathustra is reprimanding companions for relapsing into idolatory. The words are spoken by the repentant Wanderer and Shadow.

(e) page 152: A quote: “The concept is only the residue of the metaphor”. From the essay “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral sense” – see the following note for details.

(f) page 203: A direct quotation, apparently from The Philosopher’s Book. Of course no such book exists in English. Le livre du philosophe, styled as an aborted early work, was published in France seven years before SD, with an introduction and notes by Angèle Kremer-Marietti. cf. Le livre du philosophe: études theoretique (Paris: Flammarion, 1969). A revised edition appeared in 1978. This is a translation of Nietzsche, Das Philosophenbuch. Theoretische Studien (1872-1875). There is an English translation: Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870’s, Ed. & trans. D. Breazeale (NJ: Humanities Press, 1979). cf. a note to Kremer-Marietti’s essay “Nietzsche’s Critique of Modern Reason” in Nietzsche and the Sciences: Nietzsche, Theories of Knowledge and Critical Theory, Ed. B. E. Babich & R. Sonné Cohen (NY: Springer, 1999: 100 n. 9).
The quote is from an essay that will be most familiar to English readers under the title “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense”. It is available in The Portable Nietzsche.

(g) page 204: A brief quote, speaking of “‘the maximal energy of signs’ of which N. spoke”. Refers to Twilight X:1. Nietzsche is expressing his admiration for Sallust and especially Horace.

(h) page 206: “Although [Saussure] made this hypothesis [concerning the anagrammes] in connection with a precise point and subject to assessment, there is nothing to prevent us developing it and drawing out its ultimate consequences. In any case, the radicalisation of hypotheses is the only possible method – theoretical violence being the equivalent, in the analytic order, of the ‘poetic violence which replaces the order of all the atoms of a phrase’ of which Nietzsche speaks.”

Another reference rendered opaque by its garbled quality. It is not unimportant, as it is relevant to the methodological point Baudrillard is making. As such, it perhaps requires a degree of explication in direct proportion to its opacity. First, the passage in question – quite well known and often quoted – from The Case of Wagner § 6:

For the present I merely dwell on the question of style. –  What is the sign of every literary decadence? That life no longer dwells in the whole. The word becomes sovereign and leaps out of the sentence, the sentence reaches out and obscures the meaning of the page, the page gains life at the expense of the whole – the whole is no longer a whole. But this is the simile of every style of decadence: every time, the anarchy of atoms, disintegration of the will, “freedom of the individual,” to use moral terms – expanded into a political theory, “equal rights for all.” Life, equal vitality, the vibration and exuberance of life pushed back into the smallest forms; the rest, poor in life. Everywhere paralysis, arduousness, torpidity or hostility and chaos: both more and more obvious the higher one ascends in forms of organization. The whole no longer lives at all: it is composite, calculated, artificial, and artifact. This has long been recognised as being modelled on a passage elaborating a “théorie de la décadence” in Paul Bourget’s study of Baudelaire. The extent to which Nietzsche relies on a model here is remarkable. A notable difference is that Bourget goes from the general question of decadent society to literary style, while Nietzsche – as if to compensate for the “atomisation” – goes from literary style to social movement. Bourget’s passage goes:
...les organismes qui composent l'organisme total subordonner leur énergie à l'énergie totale, et l'anarchie qui s'établit constitue la décadence de l'ensemble. L'organisme social n'échappe pas à cette loi. Il entre en décadence aussitôt que la vie individuelle s'est exagérée sous l'influence du bien-être acquis et de l'hérédité. Une même loi gouverne le développement et la décadence de cet autre organisme qui est le langage. Un style de décadence est celui où l'unité du livre se décompose pour laisser la place à l'indépendance de la page, où la page se décompose pour laisser la place à l'indépendance de la phrase, et la phrase pour laisser la place à l'indépendance du mot. Les exemples foisonnent dans la littérature actuelle qui corroborent cette hypothèse et justifient cette analogie. (Bourget, Essais de Psychologie Contemporaine (7éme Ed., Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1891:25). Nietzsche praises Bourget as an acute or ‘delicate’ psychologist in Ecce Homo (“Why I am so Clever” 3:27).

In the preface to The Case of Wagner, Nietzsche noted: “I am, no less than Wagner, a child of this time; that is, a decadent: but I comprehended this, I resisted it. The philosopher in me resisted.” This is important: his point is in part that it is the goal of the philosopher to transcend his time, not simply to reflect it – at least to comprehend and to reject, in the hope of transcending, its regressive habits of popular thought or harmful tendencies. Yet, he not only acknowledges that this is a struggle, he also implicitly admits of a limit imposed on every intellect by the circumstances of its time and place (Nietzsche would famously write in Ecce Homo: “Setting aside the fact that I am a décadent, I am also its antithesis” “Why I am so Wise” 2:10). He thus links his aphoristic style to a period of social upheaval and disintegration – suggesting that in choosing it he shows himself somewhat in tune with his time. His work is inevitably shaded by decadence: it is not insurmountable, but he does imply that the form of his thought – his style – is that appropriate to his time.

We may well guess why the question preoccupied Nietzsche. What if he were, unconsciously, lowering himself to the tastes and tendencies of his age? Here it is helpful to consider a passage from a thinker for whom Nietzsche reserves nothing but scorn and regards as a purveyor of ressentiment and decadence. Rousseau had written: “Every artist loves applause. The praise of his contemporaries is the most valuable part of his recompense. What then will he do to obtain it, if he have the misfortune to be born among a people, and at a time, when men of learning, who have become fashionable, have enabled frivolous youth to set the tone; when men have sacrificed their taste to those who tyrannize over their liberty? ...This is that he will do. He will lower his genius to the level of the age, and will rather submit to compose mediocre works, that will be admired during his lifetime, than labour at sublime achievements which will not be admired till long after he is dead. Let the famous Voltaire tell us how many fine, powerful, masculine passages he has sacrificed to our false delicacy, and how much that is great and noble, that spirit of gallantry, which delights in what is frivolous and petty, has cost him.” “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences” in The Social Contract and Discourses, trans. G.D.H. Cole (Everyman, 1998:19. The observation that artists require applause echoes “Of the Poets” in Zarathustra: Zarathustra, a poet himself, wearies of poets, whose spirit requires spectators. Nietzsche claimed Rousseau himself was only possible after a decline in French taste (Twilight IX:6). For further reading on the relationship between these passages from The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche’s style and method, see ch. 2 “Nietzsche’s Method” in Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (Princeton University Press, 1974).

All of which by way of preface to grasping the resonance of Baudrillard’s reference. If Nietzsche’s stylistic approach, his “poetic violence”, in some ways presents itself as the appropriate method, or is imposed on him as the best path through his times, Baudrillard is claiming the same for his “theoretical violence” in the analytic sphere: the approach most appropriate to his time – and forced or at the least conspicuously offered by his time – is the “radicalisation of hypotheses”. He is connecting his treatment of Saussure up with the methodological statement in the Preface, where he was more explicit on this point: “Strictly speaking, nothing remains for us to base anything on. All that remains for us is theoretical violence – speculation to the death, whose only method is the radicalisation of hypotheses” (5).

(i) page 223: Again, the “maximal energy of signs” (see (g) above).

(j) page 228: Nietzsche is quoted: “Grasp in what is written a symptom of what has been silenced”. A paraphrase of Beyond Good and Evil § 23

(k) page 236: Baudrillard couples Nietzsche with Heraclitus as purveyors of a common “myth of becoming”.


28. In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities

(a) page 45: “When the political emerged during the Renaissance from the religious and ecclesiastic spheres, to win renown with Machiavelli, it was at first only a pure game of signs, a pure strategy which was not burdened with any social or historical ‘truth’...The cynicism and immorality of Machiavellian politics lay there: not as the vulgar understanding has it in the unscrupulous usage of means, but in the offhand disregard for ends. Now, as Nietzsche well knew, it is in this disregard for a social, psychological, historical truth, in this exercise of simulacra as such, that the maximum of political energy is found, when the political is a game and is not yet given a reason”.

Baudrillard is transferring Nietzsche’s remark about the functioning of literary signs to the political realm, or to the signs of the political. cf. 27 (g) above – words that function purely for their sound, even their space, arranged in a way not subservient to a greater end, achieve maximal energy with minimum number or range. Thus it was, we understand, with the emergence of the political as an independent realm – it was no longer subordinate to a higher authority or any other higher end: it was a game played for its own sake, hence with a disregard of ends.

Of course the point is arguable – is security and prosperity of the state not the end of Machiavellian political theory? – but it is nevertheless well enough understood. What must be grasped is merely that this does not refer to a remark of Nietzsche’s concerning politics, but the functioning of signs. Baudrillard is again, in a way, ‘radicalising hypotheses’, as he did in extending the application of Saussure’s theory of the annagrammes

29. Simulacra and Simulations

(a) page 157: Nietzsche quoted: “One must push what is collapsing” See 3 (h) above

(b) page 159: A passing reference to the death of God and nihilism (see Appendix II). 

(c) page 164: Translator’s note on the term ressentiment, used on page 162; incidentally, Glaser is wrong to direct the reader to Zarathustra; ressentiment is first used in Genealogy I:10-11, and among prior books is closer to the concerns of Beyond Good and Evil. Nietzsche continues to use it in his late works and notebooks. 

30. The Spirit of Terrorism 

(a) page 23: Martyrdom may be said, following Nietzsche, to be the number one enemy of truth. The spirit of the idea is contained in an aphorism at Human, all too Human § 483: “Enemies of truth. Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.” The passage Baudrillard has in mind is the lengthier one on martyrdom in The Anti-Christ § 53. Compare also the first part of Genealogy III:24; Will to Power §§ 457, 532; and a corollary point at Human, all too Human § 53.

31. The Uncollected Baudrillard

(a) page 26: A passing reference, including Nietzsche among great German exiles: “The greatest Germans have judged Germany from the depths of their exile...Goethe from Weimar, Hölderlin from Greece, Heine from Paris, Nietzsche from Genoa and Nice...”

(b) page 106: A quote: “‘The more woman is woman,’ Nietzsche said, ‘the more she defends against any kind of right.’” Reference to Ecce Homo “Why I write such good books” § 6 (46). Given the general context of the passage, this line can be compared with Gay Science §§ 66, 363

(c) page 122: Nietzsche was well aware (and had to pay the cost of the insight) that the cause of an event is always imagined after the fact. A common enough Nietzschean trope, the precise source, if Baudrillard has one in mind, is uncertain. Most likely refers to Twilight VI:4-6. Possibly also a reference Gay Science § 127; perhaps (also) to § 217, which probably sums up something of Baudrillard’s Nietzschean-tinted attitude to causality: “Before the effect, one believes in different causes than one does afterwards”.

32. The Vital Illusion  

(a) pages 20-21: “The limits of the human and the inhuman are in the process of being worn away – but the human does not give way to the superhuman, as Nietzsche had dreamed, with his transvaluation of values. Rather, it gives way to the subhuman, to something not beyond but underneath the human, to an erasure of those symbolic marks that make up the species. A fact that proves that Nietzsche was right after all when he said the human race, left to its own devices, is capable only of redoubling its efforts, of redoubling itself – or of destroying itself.” A compressed rehearsal of the point(s) at 16 (c) above.

(b) pages 61: “Murder of the real: it sounds like Nietzsche proclaiming the death of God. But this murder of God was a symbolic one, and it was going to change our destiny...but the Perfect Crime no longer involves God, but Reality, and it is not a symbolic murder but an extermination”. See Appendix II; on the “death of God” as challenge, compare 3 (f), (g), above.
(c) page 80: A reference to the “vital illusion” that gives the book its title. See Appendix I.

33. Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?

(a) page 25-6: the discussion of the “disappearance” of God – “God disappears, but his judgement remains” – makes it clear that it is not mere disappearance that is meant, but the provocative, Nietzschean “death of God” This is the same point as is made at 9 (a) repeated. 

III. An Observation

It is difficult to know which of Nietzsche’s books left the deepest impression on Baudrillard. On the balance of references, it was probably a combination of The Gay Science and Zarathustra, works which not only followed one another, but which Nietzsche took care to link (the final sections of part IV of The Gay Science originally closed the book, introducing the thought of the eternal return and the character of Zarathustra) – however, the collection of notes and reflections published as The Will to Power also looms large. What Baudrillard absorbed from Nietzsche was a general approach, a stance and a style – the opportunity, perhaps, to play to one’s natural strengths or preferences, of benefitting from an aphoristic bent. Though Nietzsche’s corpus loomed large in the background of Baudrillard’s thought, the single most influential book is surely Mauss’s Essai sur le don.

Paul Mahoney has taught philosophy at University College Dublin and Dublin Business School. He has published on Baudrillard and Plato. Many of the ideas and reflections in this essay were developed in correspondence with Kim Charnley of Plymouth University.

Abbreviations (and bibliography) of Baudrillard’s Books

A = America (1986). New York: Verso, 1988. Translated  by Chris Turner.

AA = Art and Artefact. New York: SAGE, 1997.

BL = Baudrillard Live: Selected Interviews – 1982-1993 (1993). Edited by Mike Gane,  London: Routledge, 1993.

C1 = Cool Memories, 1980-1985 (1987). New York: Verso, 1990. Translated by Chris Turner.

C3 = Fragments: Cool Memories III, 1990-1995, New York: Verso, 1997. Translated by Emily Agar.

C4Cool Memories IV: 1995-2000. New York: Verso, 2002. Translated by Chris Turner.

C5 = Cool Memories V (2000-2005). New York: Polity, 2006. Translated by Chris Turner.

CA = The Conspiracy of Art. New York: Semiotext(e) / MIT, 2005. Edited by Sylvere Lotringer.

CS = The Consumer Society, (1970), London: Sage, 1998. Translator unknown.

ED = The Evil Demon of Images. (1987). Sydney: Power Institute Publications

F = Fragments: Conversations with Francois L’Yvonnet (2001). New York: Routledge, 2004. Translated by Chris Turner.

FF = Forget Foucault, Forget Baudrillard. New York: Semiotexte, 1987.

FS = Fatal Strategies: Revenge of the Crystal (1983). New York: Semiotext(e)/ Pluto Press, 1990. Translator unknown.

G = The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1991) Bloomington, University of Indiana Press, 1995. Translated by Paul Patton.

IE = The Illusion of the End (1992) Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1994. Translated by Chris Turner.

IX = Impossible Exchange (1999). New York: Verso, 2001. Translated by Chris Turner.

LP = The Lucidity Pact Or The Intelligence of Evil (2004). New York: Berg, 2005. Translated by Chris Turner.

MP= The Mirror of Production. (1973), St. Louis, Mo: Telos Press, 1975. Translated by Mark Poster.

P = Paroxysm: Interviews with Philippe Petit. (1997) New York: Verso, 1998. Translated by Chris Turner.

PC = The Perfect Crime. New York: Verso, 1996. Translated by Chris Turner.

PW = Passwords. New York: Verso, 2003. Translated by Chris Turner.

R = Revenge of the Crystal: Selected Writings on the Modern Object and its Destiny, 1968-1983. Translated by Paul Foss and Julian Pefanis.

S= Seduction (1979). Montreal: New World Perspectives, 1990. Translated by Brian Singer.

S2 = Simulations. New York: Semiotexte, 1983.

SC = Screened Out (2000). New York: Verso, 2002. Translated by Chris Turner.

SD= Symbolic Exchange and Death, (1976), London: Sage Publications, 1993. Translated by Iain Hamilton Grant.

SM = In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities (1978). New York: Semiotext(e), 2007.

SS=Simulacra and Simulation (1981). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1994. Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser.

ST = The Spirit of Terrorism. 2nd Edition, New York: Verso, 2003 . Translated by Chris Turner.

U = The Uncollected Baudrillard. Edited by Gary Genosko. London: SAGE, 2001.

V = The Vital Illusion (The 1999 Wellek Lectures at the University of California at Irvine). New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. Edited by Julia Witwer.

W = Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared (2009). London: Seagull Press.

Bibliography: [For Baudrillard’s books see above]

Note: The following bibliography lists only those works of Nietzsche’s in English that are referred to; bibliographical details of other texts referenced appear with their first reference in the main text. For ease of use, Nietzsche’s works in English are referred to by title (sometimes informal or shortened), rather than by year of publication.

Keith Ansell-Pearson and Duncan Large (Editors, 2006). The Nietzsche Reader. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Seth Benardete (1963). “Some Misquotations of Homer in Plato” Phronesis, Volume 8, Number 2: 173-8).

Gerry Coulter (2006). ‘Never Travel On An Aeroplane With God’: The Baudrillard Index – An Obscene Project:

Walter Kaufmann (Editor, 1977). The Portable Nietzsche. Harmondsworth: Penguin

Paul Mahoney (2010). “The Wanderer in a Shadow: Reading Nietzsche and the Problem of Nihilism after Baudrillard” International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Volume 7, Number 1 (January):

Christopher Middleton (Editor, 1996). Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1968). Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1968b). The Will to Power. New York: Vintage.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1974). The Gay Science. New York: Vintage.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1975). Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1981). Beyond Good and Evil. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1992). Ecce Homo. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1994). Human, all too Human. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1996). On the Genealogy of Morals. Oxford University Press.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1997). Daybreak. Cambridge University Press

Friedrich Nietzsche (1997b). Untimely Meditations. Cambridge University Press.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1998). Twilight of the Idols. Oxford University Press.

Friedrich Nietzsche (2000). The Birth of Tragedy. Oxford University Press.

Friedrich Nietzsche (2001). The Pre-Platonic Philosophers. University of Illinois Press.

Friedrich Nietzsche (2003). Writings from the Late Notebooks. Cambridge University Press.

Friedrich Nietzsche (2009). Writings from the Early Notebooks. Cambridge University Press.


* * * * * *


Each of the three Appendices deals with one aspect of Nietzsche’s thought either frequently referenced or present as a recurring theme in Baudrillard’s work: the Vital Illusion, the Death of God, and the connection between character and destiny. For further elaboration of certain aspects of Baudrillard’s relationship to Nietzsche, I direct the reader to Mahoney (2010).

Appendix I: The Vital Illusion

The idea becomes so prominent in Baudrillard’s late work that its occurrences often obscure its Nietzschean pedigree. I have not found any direct equivalent in Nietzsche (a ‘lebenswichtige Illusion’ or anything similar). It appears, again, to be a paraphrase of a central idea. If there is one direct source, the phrase is probably a gloss on Gay Science § 121. 

Life no Argument. We have arranged for ourselves a world in which we can live  –  by the postulating of bodies, lines, surfaces, causes and effects, motion and rest, form and content: without these articles of faith no one could manage to live at present. But for all that they are still unproved. Life is no argument; error might be among the conditions of life.

In the phrase “vital illusion” – occasionally rendered as “the vital illusion of appearances” – one must read the term ‘vital’ in its most literal sense. Nietzsche’s position is that man quite literally could not bear life without illusion. No values can be considered provably true or enduring, and thus we are condemned to illusion if life is to be borne. Thus, error is in the strongest sense a condition of life. The quoted passage may be the source of Baudrillard’s phrase; however, the idea that error is a condition of life is commonly expressed in Nietzsche’s work. One could probably multiply pertinent references indefinitely; the following are sufficient to grasp the idea: Gay Science §§ 110-12, 115, 344; Beyond Good and Evil § 4; Daybreak § 90; Will to Power §§ 262, 532, 525 and compare 157 on the refutation of religious doctrine.

Appendix II: The Death of God

It seems almost inevitable that, out of an oeuvre full of redoubtable, quotable lines, “God is dead” would become the most prominent of Nietzsche’s pronouncements. The phrase Gott ist tot first appears in Gay Science § 108, and is famously elaborated at § 125 in the image of the madman looking for God as the cynic Diogenes reportedly sought an honest man – with a lit lantern in daytime. It is repeated at § 343, and is prominent in Zarathustra, introduced there in the Prologue § 2 – shortly before the idea of the Übermensch. Zarathustra proclaims that “all gods are dead” (“On the Bestowing Virtue”), but the idea obviously has particular reference to and resonance for a Christian west.

“God is dead” unites a number of claims or points. In the first place, it is shorthand for the decline in religious, particularly Christian, faith, and the attendant decline of the values associated with or supported by that faith. This is the crisis with which Nietzsche predicts his name will be associated (Ecce Homo “Why I am a Destiny” I:96).

For Nietzsche, the decline in religious faith is quite inevitable, and he is insistent that its natural consequence is that the values espoused by its adherents become untenable. He is scornful of any attempts to separate the God from the value-system, discarding the former but retaining the latter – or in short, of secularised Christianity (see the criticism of George Eliot at Twilight X:5; compare Will to Power §§ 18, 253).

The inevitability of the decline of the Christian faith is posited for a few reasons. First, very simply – as Nietzsche reflects while adopting a tone of amusing bemusement at Human, all too Human § 113 – proof of its truth is wanting. Secondly, it is based on a god that is not strong enough to sustain the allegiance of human beings indefinitely; the Christian God represents a “decline in the concept of god” – it is a god who dies of his pity for mankind. (On this weak concept of a god see particularly Zarathustra’s discussion with the ‘last pope’ in the discourse “Retired from Service”; Human, all too Human § 114; The Anti-Christ § 16-17; Will to Power § 54 (“One should not use the name of God in vain”); and compare § 874-5 with the hypothetical account of the genesis of the godhead in Genealogy II:19).

Further, Christianity is inherently nihilistic, and – according to the famous distinction drawn at Will to Power § 22 – in the mode of “passive nihilism”. It cannot offer the remedy of “active” nihilism, the going beyond forms of nihilism which are destructive of life, which Nietzsche seeks. Finally, by insisting on cultivation of honesty and “truthfulness”, placing a high value on the truth, it undoes itself: faith in morality, and the morality of truthfulness, eventually compels one to be truthful and to consider the falsehood or admit the unlikelihood of religious doctrine (see Will to Power § 1:3 and § 3 for a brief statement of this position). In the Preface to Will to Power Nietzsche writes “What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism. This history can be related even now; for necessity itself is at work here”. 

Baudrillard refers to the formula “God is dead” as a challenge: in its fashion, a challenge to God to exist, just as theory represents a challenge to the real to exist, or to become comprehensible. “God” in the formula is in a way shorthand for all that has been propped up by the concept, all beliefs sustained by and action consecrated to it. It thus describes a crisis in the root sense of the word: a break – and a traumatic one – with a whole set of sustaining illusions which are no longer tenable. The formula also represents a challenge in that it wishes to precipitate or hasten this collapse – to “push that which wants to fall”. When these values disappear, and with them the comfort derived from them, it becomes the burden of great men to legislate for the future, or to introduce new tables of laws and values. In this respect Nietzsche sometimes welcomes the general decline of man, or encourages it, apparently wagering that general stupidity and cowardice will ultimately compel greater natures to arise. For a clutch of men endowed with such greatness to have arisen will justify the spiritual “dwarfishness” of modern man. (See e.g. Will to Power §§ 890-91, 898, 902, 973, 979, 981, 987)

Appendix III: The connection between fate/destiny and character

A popular reference, and a curious one. At least in these precise terms, not as prominent a theme in Nietzsche as its recurrence in Baudrillard might suggest. In Baudrillard’s scheme, destiny often appears, paradoxically, as a kind of deliverance from history, from predictable cause-and-effect – hence as chance (something pointed to by Nietzsche in Daybreak § 130). Geschick and Schicksal – craft or talent and fate – are linked in German, and the question of character seems to unite these elements. There seem to be two possible sources for the idea (as Baudrillard treats it) in Nietzsche.

i) It may refer above all to a principle adopted by way of an interpretation of Heraclitus, particularly the famous fragment 119: ēthos anthrōpōi daimōn; “Man’s character is his daimon.” In his lectures on Heraclitus Nietzsche says, before quoting this fragment: “The destiny of the individual is his inborn character”. Nietzsche, The Pre-Platonic Philosophers: 73.

These lectures were not published in French until 1994, as Les philosophes preplatoniciens, trad. Nathalie Ferrand (Paris: Editions de l’éclat, 1994), so – if this is indeed the source – Baudrillard must have known them from German. These Basel lectures, from 1872, 1873 and 1876, had been circulating as Die vorplatonischen philosophen from about 1913.

For further reading on the fragment and its context in Heraclitus’ thought, cf. G.S. Kirk & J.E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers (Cambridge University Press, 1980: 182-215; the fragment in question is on page 213). Shirley Darcus Sullivan provides an excellent treatment of the fragment and its terms. See S. Darcus, “‘Daimon’ as a Force Shaping ‘Ethos’ in Heraclitus” Phoenix, Vol. 28, No. 4. (Winter, 1974:390-407). A typically idiosyncratic interpretative translation and treatment is famously given in Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism”.

Baudrillard evokes Heraclitus in respect of Nietzsche in F: 84; he couples them when referring to “the Heraclitean and Nietzschean myths of becoming” at SD: 236. Nietzsche valorises Heraclitus in Twilight III:2

ii) Among the better known works published in Nietzsche’s lifetime, two brief references come to mind. The first is Pindar’s injunction (from the Second Pythian Ode) to “become who you are” – implying that a person’s character is in a decisive way formed before they attain it, or that one has some particular virtue in potentia which, if one is to become who one truly is, must be actualised: thus attaining one’s (naturally ordained) fate. (One can connect the idea to Eigentlichkeit, “authenticity” in Heidegger). The Pindarian exhortation appears at Gay Science § 270 and § 335. It is most prominent as the subtitle of Ecce Homo (although Nietzsche uses was rather than wer: how one becomes what (not who) one is) – see particularly “Why I am so Wise” 9. 

The second reference is the apophthegm at Beyond Good and Evil § 70. Baudrillard may here have been tapping into interpretative precedents concerning the line. Most instructive in this respect is Walter Benjamin’s posthumously published meditation on “Fate and Character”, which begins: 

Fate and character are commonly regarded as causally connected, character being the cause of fate. The idea underlying this is the following: if, one the one hand, the character of a person, the way in which he reacts, were known in all its details, and if, on the other, all the events in the areas entered by that character were known, both what would happen to him and what he would accomplish could be exactly predicted.

Benjamin goes on to quote and consider the line: “Considered in this way character and fate, far from being theoretically distinct, coincide. Such is the case when Nietzsche says ‘If a man has character, he has an experience [Erlebnis] that constantly recurs.’ This means: if a man has character, his fate is essentially constant. Admittedly, it also means: he has no fate – a conclusion drawn by the Stoics”.

Nietzsche’s line is: „Hat man Charakter, so hat man auch sein typisches Erlebniß, das immer wiederkommt” – one could translate it as “If a man has character, he also has his typical experience, which always recurs”. This can be compared with remarks in Will to Power § 235. Nietzsche writes: “After all, very few actions are typical actions and real epitomes of a personality; and considering how little personality most men have, a man is seldom characterized by a single action...There are actions that are unworthy of us: actions that, if regarded as typical, would reduce us to a lower class of man. Here one has only to avoid the error of regarding them as typical...” The passage in question is titled “Against remorse”; its point in this respect may be compared with surrounding passages and with Twilight I:10, and Ecce Homo “Why I am so Clever” I:21). On character, see also the notebook passage 9 [105] from 1871. Writings from the Early Notebooks: 62-3. Character and destiny are also linked at Daybreak § 115. The early essay from 1862 on “Freedom of the Will and Fate” reflects that “fate appears to man in the mirror of his own personality”. The Nietzsche Reader:16.

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