Nihilism, Neonihilism, Hypernihilism: ‘Nietzsche aujourd’hui’ Today?

Ashley Woodward (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    Nietzsche’s fortunes have since undergone some dramatic shifts in France, but there are signs that he is once again on the ascendency, in particular the 2016 edited collection Pourquoi nous sommes Nietzschéens (a direct riposte to the 1991 Pourquoi nous ne sommes pas Nietzschéens). Taking a bearing from the French readings, I want to explore the question of what ‘Nietzsche today’ might mean for us today. At Cerisy in 1972, the meaning of Nietzsche was centred on the twin critiques of humanism and capitalism. While these issues persist, several articles in the 2016 collection indicate that they are now inflected through the vast contemporary significance of technology. One of the key debates here is Nietzsche’s significance for transhumanism. For Bernard Stiegler, transhumanism is the culmination of nihilism, understood as the reign of big data and the total quantification of the self. In this regard, he alludes to a ‘hypernihilism’ of the contemporary era, characterised by the quantifying effects of information technologies, which work in conjunction with capitalism to produce an ultimate ‘averaging’ force. I will argue that Stiegler gives an essential corrective to the largely critical engagements with neonihilism of the Nietzscheans of the previous generation, but that his emphasis on the value of negentropy risks reaffirming the logic of the transhumanism he critiques. Nietzscheanism today, I will argue, requires an appreciation of the dual tendencies of nihilism – identified here as neonihilism and hypernihilism – such that we must draw on contributions from both generations of French Nietzscheans in order to think and respond to the problems of our contemporary era.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number21
    Pages (from-to)244
    Number of pages264
    Issue number1
    Early online date21 Nov 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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