BOSTON UNIVERISTY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES

Thesis

SOCRATES AND NIETZSCHE: EROS, FREE-SPIRITEDNESS, AND THE FREE SPIRIT

by

JAMES W. MARVEL A.A., College of the Redwoods, 2005 B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 2008

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts 2010

Approved by

First Reader

__________________________________________________________ David Roochnik, PhD Professor of Philosophy

Second Reader __________________________________________________________ Matthew Meyer, PhD Lecturer in Philosophy

Acknowledgements I would like to thank the following professors who over the years of my education have, in one way or another, helped me understand the topics that this thesis addresses: Daniel Coffeen, Daniel Dahlstrom, Garth Green, Matthew Meyer, Krzysztof Michalski, David Roochnik, Allan Silverman, and Hans Sluga. I would like to thank all of my family and friends for their unconditional love and support.

For Laura.

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SOCRATES AND NIETZSCHE: EROS, FREE-SPIRITEDNESS, AND THE FREE SPIRIT JAMES MARVEL ABSTRACT This paper claims that Socrates is above all else, a lover. In order to argue for that claim I turn to Plato’s Symposium to explore the claims that Socrates makes about love, and why I am justified in calling him a lover. In addition, I discuss Alcibiades’ speech from the Symposium and argue that Alcibiades’ speech is an essential argument of the Symposium. In the Symposium, we are given three key characteristics of Socrates, as told by Alcibiades: Socrates inspires self-reflection, Socrates is ironic, and Socrates is unique. I attempt to explain why these three characteristics are a part of what constitutes Socrates as a lover, why Socrates the lover is one of, if not the main argument of the Symposium and why Alcibiades’ speech about Socrates is a true representation of Socrates. If we accept my claims about Socrates as a lover, I go on to argue that while Socrates’ practice of love exhibited a kind of free-spiritedness, Socrates’ practice of love is distinct from the kind of lover that we find with Nietzsche’s free spirit. In doing this I conclude with an account of what I take Nietzsche’s free spirit to be: like Socrates, at bottom a lover, but with a different kind of passion and a different object of love. Socrates’ love is a love motivated by lack and with wisdom as its object of affection, whereas the free spirit’s love is motivated through abundance and has life itself as its object of affection. iv

Table of Contents Introduction 1 Socrates 2 Socrates Through Nietzsche 3 Nietzsche On Socrates 4 The Free Spirit Works Cited Bibliography 1 4 26 33 42 55 57

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Introduction “The only valid tribute to thought such as Nietzsche’s is precisely to use it, to deform it, to make it groan and protest. And if commentators then say I am being faithful or unfaithful to Nietzsche, that is of absolutely no interest.” –Michel Foucault1 The Foucault quote is not intended to simply be provocative, but to serve notice toward the kind of paper I hope to produce in discussing Nietzsche’s free spirit. Not only to serve notice, but to serve as a guiding principle, to help the structure of my own thoughts, and remind the reader of the particular way in which I am approaching the topic of the free spirit. The aim of my investigation is not to correctly interpret Nietzsche’s texts, but to determine what kind of meaning his texts might elicit by way of an analysis of Socrates as found in Plato’s Symposium dialogue, and how a certain understanding of Socrates can help in an elucidation of Nietzsche’s free spirit. I consider Foucault’s quote to serve as a kind of signpost for myself and my audience, to help us situate ourselves within this particular topic, and to hopefully experience a type of freedom of thinking while analyzing Nietzsche’s free spirit. As to why I am adopting this Foucauldian approach, it is due to the lack of a definition of the ‘free spirit’ in Nietzsche’s corpus. There are hints as to what the free spirit is, but there is no clear definition. Though I am not attempting an exhaustive definition of what the free spirit is, I will offer an argument as to what I think a free spirit, at its core, very well might be.
1

Foucault, Michel. “Prison Talk: Interview with J.-J. Brocier.” Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings. Ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, (1980): 53-54.

2 Most of Nietzsche’s writings concerning Socrates are critical, in the same way that most of Nietzsche’s texts are understood as a critique. Despite Nietzsche’s critical stance towards Socrates, there is an identified admiration of Socrates.2 What exactly was Nietzsche admiring about Socrates? I claim that Socrates, even with all of the Platonic baggage that Nietzsche so despised, exhibited a free-spiritedness that Nietzsche admired and to an extent, adopted. What was it about Socrates that Nietzsche admired? What characteristic did Socrates exhibit that could be interpreted as free-spirited? What was important about Socrates for Nietzsche was that Socrates was a lover. Socrates was a philosopher, literally a friend or lover of wisdom. Socrates’ love was a love that drove Socrates to live his life in a way that can be described as unique, if not strange. Socrates’ love of wisdom compelled him to live his life in almost a type of service to wisdom. In loving wisdom above all else, Socrates abandoned conventional values and sought to value wisdom in all that he did. Now, it is easy to conclude that Nietzsche disagreed with what Socrates took to be wise (or what Plato took to be wise), but the abandonment of convention, driven by a love for wisdom is what piqued Nietzsche’s thinking. Whatever can be said of the ‘real’ Socrates, we may be able to conclude things such as his adherence to the existence of an immortal soul, an afterlife, the good, and so on.3 These ‘otherworldly’ features of
2

Walter Kaufmann devotes an entire chapter to this topic in his book Nietzsche called ‘Nietzsche’s Admiration of Socrates’. After citing a passage from The Birth of Tragedy (76), Kaufmann writes, “Nietzsche’s conception of Socrates was decisively shaped by Plato’s Symposium and Apology, and Socrates became little less than an idol for him” (393). Furthermore, in a footnote Kaufmann adds that a young Nietzsche called the Symposium his Lieblingsdichtung, roughly in English: his favorite poem. 3 It is hard to decipher what Socrates’ views are versus what Plato’s views are in regard to these

3 Socrates’ wisdom are what Nietzsche despises, as well as Socrates’ value of wisdom above all else, but the way in which Socrates threw himself into the search for wisdom, a search founded in love, is what inspires Nietzsche to both argue with and admire Socrates. I have claimed that Socrates was above all else, a lover. In order to back up my claim I will turn to Plato’s Symposium to explore the claims that Socrates makes about love, and why I might be justified in calling him a lover. In addition, I will discuss Alcibiades’ speech from the Symposium and argue that Alcibiades’ speech is an essential argument of the Symposium. In the Symposium, I think we are given three key characteristics of Socrates, as told by Alcibiades: Socrates inspires self-reflection, Socrates is ironic, and Socrates is unique. I will attempt to explain why these three characteristics are a part of what constitutes Socrates as a lover and why Alcibiades’ speech about Socrates is a true representation of Socrates. If we accept my claims about Socrates as a lover, I will go on to argue that while Socrates’ practice of love exhibited a kind of free-spiritedness, Socrates’ practice of love is distinct from the kind of lover that we find with Nietzsche’s free spirit. In doing this I aim to conclude with an account of what I take Nietzsche’s free spirit to be: like Socrates, at bottom a lover, but with a different kind of passion and a different object of love.

topics. But for the purposes of this paper I will be assuming the views of Socrates as his own, at least in terms of these views belonging to the character of Socrates that we are presented with.

Socrates “You don’t appear to me to know that whoever comes into close contact with Socrates and associates with him in conversation must necessarily, even if he began by conversing about something quite different in the first place, keep on being led about by the man’s arguments until he submits to answering questions about himself concerning both his present manner of life and the life he has lived hitherto. And when he does submit to this questioning, you don’t realize that Socrates will not let him go before he has well and truly tested every last detail.” − Nicias (Laches 187e6-188a2) There are two places where Socrates makes explicit statements about love in the Symposium that I want to examine. One is prior to the beginning of the speeches that are made in praise of love, the other is at the end of Socrates’ speech on love, where love is spoken about through a story, though it is not altogether clear whether Socrates is retelling an event in his life or if he is making up a persuasive fictional justification for his idea of what love is. The first instance is toward the beginning of the Symposium where Socrates addresses the proposal for each person present to give a speech in praise of love. Socrates says this: “How could I vote ‘No,’ when the only thing I say I understand is the art of love [τὰ ἐρωτικά]?” (177d6-e1). Here we have Socrates admitting to something that is rare in the Platonic dialogues: an understanding of something. The Socratic motif

5 throughout the Platonic dialogues is that what makes Socrates wise is that he knows that he is not wise. Yet in the Symposium we find Socrates making the claim that above all else, the only thing he understands is the art of love. A more emphatic example of this is found when Socrates concludes his speech with the following exhortation: This, Phaedrus and the rest of you, was what Diotima told me. I was persuaded. And once persuaded, I try to persuade others too that human nature can find no better workmate for acquiring this [true virtue, άρετὴν
ἀληθῆ] than Love. That’s why I say that every man must honor Love,

why I honor the rites of Love myself and practice them with special diligence, and why I commend them to others. Now and always I praise the power and courage of Love so far as I am able. (212b1-c1) With these passages we find a Socrates who states that the only thing he understands is the practice of love and furthermore that love is the best ‘workmate’ or ‘helper’ in acquiring ‘true virtue’. My purpose for examining these passages is not to show what Socrates thinks love is, but to show that Socrates was, above all else, a lover. However, I think in order to show that Socrates is in fact a lover, it is imperative that we try to understand why Socrates is a lover, why being a lover is valuable, and what the object of Socrates’ love is. Socrates claims that the only thing he understands4 is the art of love. As mentioned before, this is a rare phenomenon for the Socrates found throughout the Platonic dialogues: Socrates making a positive claim pertaining to knowledge about
4

ἐπίστασθαι, from the passive verb ἐπίσταμαι: to understand, to know, or have insight (in), can also mean to be skilled or experienced (in) (Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary).

6 something.5 How does this understanding about the art of love not contradict the wellknown wisdom of Socrates that he knows that is not wise or at least that he knows when he does not know something? I think we can find the answer to this problem in the speech that Socrates gives in the Symposium in which he questions Diotima about people who love wisdom: ‘In that case, Diotima, who are the people who love wisdom, if they are neither wise nor ignorant?’ ‘That’s obvious,’ she said. ‘A child could tell you. Those who love wisdom fall in between those two extremes. And Love is one of them, because he is in love with what is beautiful, and wisdom is extremely beautiful. It follows that Love must be a lover of wisdom and, as such, is in between being wise and being ignorant.’ (204b1-7) Here ‘Love’ is portrayed anthropomorphically as being neither ignorant, nor being wise. ‘Love’ loves what is beautiful, and wisdom is ‘extremely beautiful’. Yet, ‘Love’ itself is not wise, it loves that which it does not have or has not yet attained, namely wisdom or the state of being wise. It is because of the love for wisdom that ‘Love’ is not ignorant, and yet its love for wisdom keeps ‘Love’ in between the extremes of ignorance and being wise. A bit later in the speech Diotima says that being a lover of wisdom is “…the nature of the Spirit called Love” (204c1). ‘Love’ in this case may simply be understood as that which provides a passion or desire for wisdom.
5

It should be noted this is not the only time Socrates claims to know something, e.g. in the Apology Socrates says, “I do know, however, that it is wicked and shameful to do wrong, to disobey one’s superior, be he god or man” (29b5-7). I do not intend to assimilate this example into my discussion, but it might be worthwhile to think through in regards to my topic, given that these positive knowledge statements by Socrates are so rare.

7 Now consider the nature of Socrates’ wisdom: he knows when he does not know something.6 If Socrates knows nothing, then surely he cannot be wise. But Socrates does know something: he knows that he does not know anything. Knowing that one does not know something may be a type of wisdom, but it is far different from the sense of being wise where one knows everything; I think this ‘knowing everything’ is the sense in which being wise is the extreme on the opposite end of the spectrum from ignorance. So if Socrates has any wisdom, which he does claim to have, but he is not wise, then Socrates must fall somewhere between being ignorant and being wise—much like ‘Love’ from the speech in the Symposium. Incorporate this with Socrates’ claim that the one thing he does understand is the art of love, and we can see how Socrates’ wisdom of not knowing anything follows from the position of someone who is a lover. Socrates’ wisdom is a product of his practice of love, whereby claiming not to know anything is a result of his love of wisdom: a wisdom that is neither wise nor ignorant. In any case, what motivates Socrates, what compels him, what he understands, what he honors, what he praises, what he practices, and what he persuades others to do, is to practice the art of love. For Socrates being a lover of wisdom leads one to discover what is most valuable about human life: to give birth to true virtue. This is revealed through the speech that Socrates gives in the Symposium, where Diotima ends her instruction of Socrates with the conclusion that for anyone who is a lover, because of their love for wisdom, the
6

This meaning of Socratic wisdom is derived from the Apology. G.M.A. Grube translates the passage this way: “I do not think I know what I do not know” (21d5-6). Allan Bloom translates it this way: “All I know is that I know nothing” (Love and Friendship 431). What is important about Socratic wisdom for this paper, whether the passage I cite is understood through Grube’s or Bloom’s translation, is that it is a kind of honesty. When one does not know something, one does not pretend to know what one does not know.

8 possibility for them to see beauty (or the beautiful) itself is generated, and hence give birth to true virtue (211d2-212b1).7 Why is giving birth to true virtue so valuable? We will need to examine what is called the ascension of eros that takes place in the Symposium, and situate this ascension within the story that Socrates is telling about eros. Prior to giving his speech Socrates engages Agathon in some questioning of what Agathon thinks love is. It is imperative to consider this exchange, as it sets the stage for the account of love that Socrates goes on to provide in his speech, specifically in regard to love being a desire for something that is lacked. Socrates asks Agathon whether someone has already has something that they love, or not. Agathon answers that it is likely that someone does not have the thing that they love (200a5-7). Socrates responds thus: “‘Instead of what’s likely,’ said Socrates, ‘ask yourself whether it’s necessary that this be so: a thing that desires desires something of which it is in need; otherwise, if it were not in need, it would not desire it’” (200a9-b2). Agathon agrees that it is necessary that someone does not have the thing that they love. This is the introduction of love being a desire for what is lacked. Socrates then goes on to question what is happening when people say they desire what they already have, using the examples of riches and health and strength as things that one has, yet one loves. Socrates explains the phenomenon this
7

I do not intend to evaluate the arguments of whether or not love of wisdom actually can produce true virtue, I only want make my audience aware of the seriousness that Socrates placed on being a lover, such that being a lover was the quintessential characteristic of who Socrates was. If we can imagine all of the various aspects that we are given of Socrates in the Platonic dialogues it seems plausible to be able to view all that Socrates does and says as actions and words of a lover of wisdom. The Symposium provides us with some explicit statements about love itself, but in other dialogues Socrates can be found praising philosophy in general and encouraging others to pursue it as a way of life. The meaning of the pursuit of philosophy cannot be underestimated: it literally means to love wisdom. In light of what Socrates says about love in the Symposium, to pursue philosophy is to be a lover in the way that Socrates practices it: to love wisdom, yet not be wise, to practice the art of love, and not be ignorant.

9 way: “Whenever you say, I desire what I already have, ask yourself whether you don’t mean this: I want the things I have now to be mine in the future as well” (200d4-6). Agathon agrees to this as well. This builds on love as a desire for what is lacked, where even when someone has something in the present, what they actually desire is to possess the thing they have now into the future. In other words, they do not yet have the thing in the future and that is what they desire: they cannot desire what they have in the present; instead they desire to possess what they have into the future, which is a kind of lack.8 Literally, one does not possess the things in the future, so the desire to posses something into the future is the desire for something that one does currently not posses. The two main points that are given about love in this exchange is that love is a desire for something that is lacked, and love is a desire to possess that which one does have into the future. These two points are the building blocks that Socrates employs as the foundation of his speech. Diotima tells Socrates that what Love wants is not beauty, but reproduction and birth in beauty (206e2-4). Diotima claims that all beings strive for reproduction because reproduction goes on forever, which is meant to show that the desire for reproduction is really a desire for immortality. Now, there are two senses in which love is a desire for immortality. The first is a kind of bodily love that leads to sex and offspring. The second is a kind of soul love that leads to giving birth to true virtue and possessing the good forever: “A lover must desire immortality along with the good, if what we agreed earlier is right, that Love wants to possess the good forever. It follows from our argument that
8

This is the idea that Socrates builds on when he says that love is the desire for immortality. That is, in his speech Socrates adds that it is not just that one desires something into the future, but that one desires to possess the objects of desire forever.

10 Love must desire immortality” (207a1-4). The desire for immortality is a proposed solution to the problemitization of time. That is, one has a finite amount time of being alive, and Diotima is presenting immortality as a way in which all beings, at least in a very basic sexual level, seek to confront their mortality with the desire of immortality. I want to claim that while love may be a desire for immortality when we are talking about love of bodies, the ultimate object of affection for the lover of wisdom is not immortality, but the good. What follows is what I take to be a roadmap of the ascension of love. Take a lover as starting out as a lover of bodies, desiring immortality through reproduction. If a lover loves bodies in the right way, it leads to a recognition of the beauty of bodies. In loving beautiful bodies one realizes that what they really love is the beauty of the bodies, not the bodies themselves, so one seeks to love a form of beauty that makes all the bodies beautiful (210a6-b5). This leads a lover to think that the beauty of a person’s soul is more beautiful than the beauty of a person’s body. So much so that the lover no longer cares about the beauty of a person’s body, but will be content to love a physically ugly person if their soul is beautiful. Through loving a person’s soul, one begins to focus on the beauty of a person’s activities, their customs, and their knowledge; and through loving a person’s soul, the lover is lead to what is most generally beautiful within a person’s soul: wisdom (210b6-e2). One begins by loving bodies, turns to loving a person’s soul, and through loving a person’s soul, the lover is exposed to the expressions of a person’s soul, which in turn are more beautiful than the person’s soul. These expressions (activities, customs, and knowledge), allows the lover to discover that wisdom is the most beautiful

11 expression of person’s soul, and the lover focuses their love on the pursuit of wisdom, leaving bodies and souls behind. By turning all their love towards wisdom, pursuing wisdom above all else, one is able to encounter beauty itself (211c1-d1). This encounter with beauty itself is what allows the lover to give birth to true virtue (212a5-7). Giving birth to true virtue is so ‘valuable’ because it fulfills the longing for immortality, much like the basic sexual urge that produces offspring is an example of the desire for immortality for a lover of bodies. Now, Diotima does not say that when someone does give birth to true virtue that they actually become immortal, instead she says that, “…if any human being could become immortal, it would be he [he who has given birth to true virtue]” (212b1). But giving birth to true virtue (analogously with giving birth to children), is what would allow a lover to become immortal and pursue the ultimate object of eros: the possession of the good forever. A base eros desires reproduction because it is seen as an immortal act. A base eros desires immortality itself, but a higher eros exists within the same problem of time, yet views immortality not as the ultimate object of affection, but as a means to an end. Immortality is what would allow one to obtain the ultimate object of affection: the good. In analyzing human behavior and explaining the reproductive sex act as an expression of a desire for immortality, Diotima gives us a succinct explanatory answer to why it is that beings reproduce. Human beings who become lovers of the higher sort still have a desire for immortality too, but instead of engaging in sexual intercourse with other human beings, these lovers seek to mix with beauty itself and give birth to true virtue. The analogy between a lover of bodies and a lover of wisdom ends here though, as a lover of wisdom does not seek immortality for the

12 sake of being immortal (as a lover of bodies does), a lover of wisdom seeks possession of the good forever. Possession of the good forever does require immortality, but if immortality is the ultimate object of affection, then the lover of wisdom would not continue to strive for the possession of the good. That is, when a lover of wisdom gives birth to true virtue they ‘become’ or ‘are able’ at that point, to be immortal. If the lover of wisdom sought immortality for the sake of immortality, then the ascension of love would end with giving birth to true virtue and being immortal. However, as Diotima has told us, the ascension has another, higher step, that of an immortal possession of the good itself. The good then, and not immortality is the ultimate object of erotic affection. Although it may seem obvious, it is worth analyzing what the object of Socrates’ love is: wisdom. Socrates is a lover of wisdom, but why? As Socrates outlines in his speech on love in the Symposium, loving wisdom garners results for the lover. That is, being a lover of wisdom is meant to facilitate the possession of certain objects of desire. In other words, loving wisdom is necessarily a practice in which one aims to possess what one lacks. In the case of Socrates, loving wisdom allows one to view not only beautiful things, but the beautiful itself. In the words of Socrates via Diotima: “… a man finds it truly worth while to live, as he contemplates essential beauty” (211d2-3). The lover of wisdom, through ‘contemplating essential beauty’ or encountering the beautiful itself, is able to give birth to true virtue. Now the lover of wisdom, through his/her contact with the beautiful itself, breeds true virtue and through breeding true virtue the lover of wisdom becomes immortal (212a7-10); and through this mixture of viewing the beautiful, breeding true virtue, and becoming immortal, the lover of wisdom gains

13 possession of the good forever. Again, in the words of Socrates via Diotima: “In a word, then, love is wanting to possess the good forever” (206a11). Loving wisdom ultimately allows one to make the good itself theirs forever (as opposed to good things in passing). The lover of wisdom is not wise (or lacks an allknowing wisdom), and the lover of wisdom lacks the good itself. These two instances of lack seem to be what motivate the practice of the art of love, the erotic desire for wisdom that leads to possession of the good. The idea that what a Socratic lover loves is something he lacks is, I think, a key difference between the kind of lover that Socrates is and the kind of lover that Nietzsche’s free spirit is. But before I get to Nietzsche I want to turn to the conclusive speech of the Symposium: the speech of Alcibiades. What are we to make of Alcibiades’ speech at the end of the Symposium? Is it simply a throwaway piece of dramatic set-up, or perhaps only an entertaining exposé about the personality of Socrates? I will argue that Alcibiades’ speech itself contains an essential argument of the Symposium. That is, if we are told that the only thing that Socrates knows is “the art of love” (τὰ ἐρωτικά), I take it that we, as readers, must be given an argument that Socrates is a lover somewhere in the dialogue. In making this argument, I will also be making a further point that the Symposium is itself not a praise of love nor is the Symposium meant only as a celebration or introduction to the conceptual articulation that Socrates makes through the avatar of Diotima. Rather, the Symposium is a celebration of, and introduction to, Socrates himself; in Alcibiades’ speech we get to meet not an image of Socrates, but perhaps the true Socrates. “…if I say anything that’s not true, you can just interrupt, if you want, and correct

14 me; at worst, there’ll be mistakes in my speech, not lies” –Alcibiades (214e12215a1). Before Alcibiades begins his speech, Erayximachus informs him that each person present has given a speech in praise of love, and invites Alcibiades to do the same. Alcibiades refuses to give a speech in praise of love for two reasons: for one, he is drunk and secondly, he is afraid Socrates will beat him up if he praises anyone else, even a god (214c9-d6). So instead of praising love, Alcibiades agrees to give a speech in praise of Socrates. The first point that Alcibiades makes about Socrates is Socrates’ ability as a speaker. Alcibiades remarks that when people hear Socrates speak they “…are all transported, completely possessed” (215d3). This produces a particular effect in Alcibiades, ultimately producing a feeling of shame concerning his own life. I take this to be the first point about Socrates the lover: Socrates’ words inspire a person to examine their own life. The next point Alcibiades makes about Socrates is that Socrates appears a certain way in public. Alcibiades describes Socrates as constantly following around beautiful boys “in a perpetual daze” and also mentions Socrates’ self-describing idiom that “he’s ignorant and knows nothing” (216d2-4). Although Socrates does follow beautiful boys around in a daze, he does not really care about their beautiful looks. Alcibiades claims that Socrates is even contemptuous towards a person’s looks, their wealth, or their fame. Alcibiades sums up Socrates’ actions in public this way: “his whole life is one big game —a game of irony” (216e4). The second point about Socrates the lover is that he is ironic, at least in the sense that he seems to value things of convention, but actually has a disdain

15 for them; but also in the sense that he projects an image of himself that is not a true reflection of himself. Irony is an embodiment of the middle ground of wisdom that Socrates occupies; irony is the performance of not being ignorant and not being wise. The third thing that Alcibiades points out about Socrates is Socrates’ endurance and bravery. Alcibiades recites instances of Socrates’ indifference to cold weather, his ability to drink and not get drunk, his ability to operate with little or no sleep, and his bravery during battle. Alcibiades sums Socrates’ qualities up in this way: “You could say many other marvelous things in praise of Socrates…But, as a whole, he is unique; he is like no one else in the past and no one else in the present—this is by far the most amazing thing about him” (221c1-4). The third point about Socrates the lover is his particular uniqueness. That is, it seems in all that Socrates does, he sets himself apart from others in a way that makes him conspicuous. As stated in the introduction, we have three characteristics of Socrates, as told by Alcibiades: Socrates inspires self-reflection, Socrates is ironic, and Socrates is unique. I will attempt to explain why these three characteristics are what constitute Socrates as a lover, and why Alcibiades’ speech about Socrates is a true representation of Socrates. “…I honor the rites of Love myself and practice them with special diligence” – Socrates (212b5-6). Socrates gives a speech about love; specifically a speech intended to show what love is. In his speech, Socrates provides an outline of how a person can be a lover, which consists in identifying what the object of a lover should be.9 In short, Socrates defines
9

Again, I am not interested here in discussing the veracity of Socrates’ claims about love. I am interested in Socrates’ claim that he is a practitioner of the kind of love that he defines in his speech.

16 love as a means to a certain kind of life, a life that through a love of wisdom is able to see beauty itself, give birth to true virtue, become immortal, and ultimately possess the good. How do the three characteristics of Socrates that Alcibiades described, correspond to the kind of love that Socrates laid out in his own speech? So, Socrates’ words inspire people to reflect upon their own lives, but not any kind of general principle of self-reflection; there seems to be a specific kind of critique that Socrates encourages others to use in their self-reflection. Alcibiades speaks in detail about the kind of self-reflection that Socrates’ words inspire: “…he makes me admit that my political career is a waste of time, while all that matters is just what I most neglect: my personal shortcomings, which cry out for the closest attention” (216a4-7). Here we see a self-reflection that focuses on what might be aptly described as defects in one’s character. The self-reflection that Socrates inspires seems to be congruent with the production of a life of virtue. That is, self-reflection allows one to acknowledge defects in character and to provide, at the very least, the option of changing the defects in character due to the acknowledgment of them. Moreover, Alcibiades tells us that Socrates gives instruction on what Alcibiades ought to do to be a lover himself (although Alcibiades admits that after Socrates is no longer around he goes back to his old ways). The selfreflection that Socrates inspires can be seen as an instrumental tool in living a virtuous life, which is a necessary aspect of being a lover. What is to be made of Socrates as an ironic figure in the context of Socrates as a lover? Why does Socrates present himself in a way that does not seem to be consistent with how Socrates actually is? If we take Socrates to be a practitioner of love, and if we

17 accept that self-reflection is one of the practices of being a lover, then it follows that Socrates not only inspires self-reflection through his words but is also involved in the practice of self-reflection himself. If Socrates has engaged in self-reflection and has corrected the defects in his own character, thus producing a virtuous lifestyle, we are left with a Socrates that needs to communicate with others who have not yet engaged in selfreflection. In order to communicate with those who have not begun to practice selfreflection, Socrates must take on a form of communication that others can understand. In this sense, when Socrates presents himself in a way that is not a true reflection of himself we can gather that Socrates is doing this only in so far as it is a requirement in order for other people to understand him. Thus, when Socrates is following beautiful boys around, or spending his time with the wealthy and political elites of society, he is engaged in a discourse with them that they can understand: he obeys convention to allow for communication. Of course when employing irony one is reliant upon another person to understand the irony. That is, one might, say, misinterpret irony as sarcasm. In this sense irony does not always serve the purpose of clear communication, instead it may even confuse some listeners. In a way Socrates’ irony is intended for those who have ears to hear, those who can properly interpret Socrates as ironic, something that Alcibiades has correctly recognized in Socrates. The other aspect of irony that Alcibiades describes is Socrates’ disdain for the conventions or trappings that everyone engages in, including Socrates himself. When Socrates begrudgingly engages with others via social convention, he may even appear to appreciate them, but the true Socrates holds contempt for many of things that others

18 value. A nice illustration of this is found in the beginning of the Symposium where we find Socrates getting ready for a visit to Agathon’s house by bathing and putting on his fancy sandals—both very unusual events (174a2-3). Socrates gives an explanation for his odd behavior this way: “…naturally, I took great pains with my appearance: I’m going to the house of a good-looking man; I had to look my best” (174a8-9). Socrates’ response can be read in a variety of ways as ironic, but in particular it can be seen as an appeasement of social convention so that Socrates will best be able to communicate with Agathon and the others who are present. But why would this serve as a helpful tool in communication? I take it to be an appeal to the kind of erotic desires that Socrates judges Agathon to have, and that by appealing to those erotic desires Agathon will be more apt to listen to the words that Socrates will utter. In other words, Socrates does not underestimate the power of conventions and the way in which people love things of convention just as much as he loves wisdom. So when Socrates bathes and puts on his fancy sandals in order to elevate himself within a social circle, Socrates sees himself as lowering himself to their standards, but for the sake that he may better educate them concerning the true nature of love. Alcibiades seems to give an accurate account of Socrates’ life when he says that it is one big game of irony. I think Alcibiades has put his finger on something important that the other people at Agathon’s house may very well fail to notice. So far I have looked at how irony is used by Socrates as a peculiar means of communication, one that allows Socrates to communicate the wisdom he has with others, but at the same time can conceal the truths that Socrates seeks to express. That is, if being

19 ironic is an acting-out of Socrates’ wisdom, Socrates might seem to his listener to be ignorant or wise. Yet Socrates rejects the notion of being ignorant or wise, instead having a wisdom that is in-between being ignorant or wise. This ‘in-between-ness’ of wisdom is what produces the ironic speaking and acting of Socrates. But how is Socrates’ ironic stance an instance of Socrates the lover? If we grant that Socrates’ conception of love is right, and that Socrates is a lover according to his own account of love, we can accept that Socrates is intent on leading a life through a love of wisdom that aspires to knowledge of the beautiful, true virtue, and the good. If all of this is true, it begs the question: how ought a lover of the Socratic sort conduct oneself? Socrates may very well be a lover, but he is still interlocked with a world that does not share his conclusions when it comes to the subject of love. In order to be a lover and proliferate love, Socrates assumes the only position available towards things that are not worthy of love: irony. While Socrates does disdain things that are not worthy of love, he takes a position that allows him to continually engage with the very things that he disdains. He could take a straightforward position of disdain that could be likened to anger, but that would seem to defeat his stance as a lover. That is, who would want to talk to an angry person? If Socrates’ disdain took the form of anger, it seems he would have a terribly hard time engaging with people about love. Socrates’ irony is highly effective, in that even though Alcibiades recognizes that Socrates disdains many things about him, Alcibiades still proclaims that Socrates is one of the best speakers he has ever heard.10 It seems that irony
10

Although, while Alcibiades praises Socrates in spite of Socrates’ ironic stance, it should be noted that Socrates’ ironic positioning was not appreciated by everyone and could be seen as a kind of arrogance. Perhaps the kind of thing that led to his conviction in the court of Athens. But just imagine if Socrates spoke his mind freely without the use of irony; imagine how arrogant Socrates would sound then.

20 is a necessary style for a lover to employ, in order to maintain communication with others in the service of love, but also to be a lover. That is, Socrates’ ironic stance is not only towards others, it is also towards himself. The erotic desire for wisdom, a wisdom that is both not ignorant and not wise, produces the ironic stance of Socrates that allows him to engage in activities that do not seem to conform to the ‘higher’ things of love. By engaging with others who are not lovers, and by obeying social conventions in order to engage with them, Socrates has to view some of his own actions with disdain. By bathing and putting on his fancy sandals Socrates is apparently a lover of the same sort as Alcibiades. But, in order to maintain his status as a lover—in his own way—Socrates views himself with the same disdain that he holds for others. Irony is a position used as an external projection for communication, but it is also used as an internal mirroring that captures the paradoxical nature of a Socratic lover who does things that are not attuned to the dictates of Socratic love. In these two senses we can see how irony is utilized as a practice of the lover. Alcibiades explains the uniqueness of Socrates explicitly through various feats of endurance and bravery. But Socrates’ uniqueness is implicit throughout most of Alcibiades’ speech. Whether it is Alcibiades speaking about Socrates as an orator, a thinker, a drinker, an abstainer, or as an arguer—in almost every respect in which Alcibiades speaks of Socrates—Socrates is represented as set apart from everyone else. I do not think that Socrates is striving to be unique in all that he does, rather I take it that being unique just necessarily follows from the first two practices of self-reflection and ironic game playing. That is, by being a lover one will engage in practices that place a

21 strict emphasis on living a life with a love for wisdom geared towards knowledge of the beautiful, true virtue, and the good. When one engages in the practices of being a lover— in the Socratic sense—one will necessarily be unusual in comparison to the conventional practices of love that others are engaged in. It even seems plausible that the extent to which Socrates is unique could be a type of measurement of how well he is practicing the art of love. That is, the extent to which Socrates is seen as unique is a way of confirming the extent to which Socrates is practicing self-reflection and ironic game playing. From the picture that Alcibiades paints, it seems that Socrates is practicing self-reflection and ironic game playing almost constantly. “I’ll try to praise Socrates, my friends, but I’ll have to use an image. And though he may think I’m trying to make fun of him, I assure you my image is no joke: it aims at the truth” –Alcibiades (215a4-b1). Alcibiades enters Agathon’s house after all of the other speeches have been made; the particular point being that Alcibiades has not heard Socrates’ articulation of what love is. And yet Alcibiades’ speech in praise of Socrates provides us with a detailed account of how Socrates is the kind of lover that he outlined in his own speech. Why? Here we have to take into account Plato as author of the dialogue and try to posit an answer to this question. I hold that there are two main arguments of the Symposium: Socrates’ speech on and articulation of love, and the argument that Socrates is a lover, which is found within Alcibiades’ speech. The distinction here is important in respect to whether Socrates is simply giving another glorious account of love in his speech, or if Socrates is making a serious attempt at sharing some knowledge that he has with regard to love. Without

22 Alcibiades’ speech, which itself is an argument that Socrates is a lover in the way in which Socrates defines love, Socrates’ speech would be susceptible to the criticism that it is just another fancy-sounding myth about love. Instead, Plato has chosen to give us a glimpse of Socrates as a lover in the world. That is, whether or not Socrates’ articulation of love is correct is irrelevant for us here. What is relevant is that Socrates, by being recognized as employing the practices of love in his life, is consistent with the articulation that he has given concerning love. By showing us that Socrates is a lover, especially through the dramatic effect of a speech by someone who was not present for Socrates’ speech about love, Plato is pointing us to the importance of being a lover, not simply of knowing what love is. If the Symposium ended after Socrates’ speech, we could know what love is, but then what? Alcibiades tells us about a man who is so amazingly gifted and unique in so many ways, and it turns out that at bottom the reason Socrates is so gifted and unique is because he is a lover. “Socrates the lover” is meant to show that it is possible and worthwhile to pursue the lifestyle of the lover. What makes Plato’s dramatic use of Alcibiades so strong is that Alcibiades is unaware of the fact that he is confirming the conception of love that Socrates gave, by giving an honest account of Socrates’ life. By having Alcibiades being unaware, Plato is attempting to remove any skepticism that one might have about Socrates’ ability to be the kind of lover that he outlines in his speech. This is because Alcibiades has no reason to say things about Socrates to make him look a certain way, to make Socrates’ life map on to the account of love that Socrates has given. Instead, Alcibiades unleashes a torrent of truth that he even intends to be critical and

23 harsh towards Socrates. What we end up with is an objective account of Socrates that just so happens to align with the conception of love that Socrates had just finished giving. If we read the Symposium as a dialogue whose argument is only that love is such and such a thing, and that one must do this and that in order to be a lover, I think we miss an integral argument of the Symposium. Socrates’ articulation of love in his speech is a conceptual framework that may, or may not be correct. It is a story about a conversation between a young Socrates and Diotima, a woman who taught Socrates about love. But, that is all it is, a story. Perhaps even compelling, but without Alcibiades’ conclusive speech it can easily be placed alongside the other speeches in the Symposium, with the unique thing about it being its claim to giving an account of what love is, instead of only being a praise to love. However, Alcibiades’ speech is a radical departure from the previous speeches, in that his speech is in praise of a person, namely Socrates. Within the context of the dialogue I think it is fair to say that Alcibiades gives us an objective account of Socrates.11 Of course, we are always subject to the devices of Plato and what he thought of Socrates. But Alcibiades’ speech—and the intimate details that are shared there about his attempts at seducing Socrates—serves as the kind of writing that engenders a readership to see that honesty is taking place. When Alcibiades gives us a ‘warts and all’ account of Socrates the philosopher, we are allowed into the particularities of Socrates’ life (real or not) that give us a greater context with which to understand the figure of Socrates, a figure who is known for correcting others in their speeches, yet even at the prompting of Alcibiades to correct any part that may not have
11

I take it this is an objective account of Socrates, not in the sense of who the actual historical person was, but at least an objective account of a character within the dramatic scene of the dialogue.

24 been true, Socrates was silent. If we accept Socrates’ statement that the only thing he understands is the art of love, and if we accept that the art of love and its practice is the basis for Socrates’ wisdom “I know when I do not know something,” a further question needs to be asked: Does Nietzsche think that Socrates is free-spirited at all? And if the answer to this question is yes, is it Socrates’ practice of the art of love that Nietzsche might recognize as what is free-spirited about Socrates? In trying to answer these questions, I ask my audience to reflect upon the Foucault quote at the beginning of this paper. Nietzsche’s claims about Socrates as a free spirit are so bare that it may seem impossible to come to any conclusions on the matter; but I want to argue that from the few explicit statements that are available, we can fill out a view of Socrates that is consistent with the analysis of Socrates I have given thus far, and a plausible representation of how Nietzsche understood Socrates as free-spirited. In this sense, I may wander away from any textual support, and hence some may say from a true representation of Nietzsche’s thought. I am at ease with this, as what I am after is the spirit of Nietzsche’s thinking, using the texts as a jumping-off point to explore what the free spirit could be.

25

Socrates Through Nietzsche “Socrates … stands so close to me that I am almost always fighting with him.” (Twilight of the Idols pg. 207, cited from Wissenschaft und Weisheit im Kampfe) Nietzsche makes allusions to Socrates being free-spirited—see for example this aphorism named after Socrates’ wife, ‘Xanthippe’ in Human, All Too Human: “— Socrates found the sort of wife that he needed—but even he would not have sought her had he known her well enough: the heroism of even this free spirit would not have gone that far” (233-234). In this part of the aphorism Nietzsche suggests that if Socrates had known Xanthippe better, he would not have married her: that even Socrates’ freespiritedness would not be enough to counter Xanthippe as a wife if he had known better. Nietzsche goes on in the aphorism to say that the home that Xanthippe kept was so ‘inhospitable and unhomely’ that it forced Socrates out of the house and into the streets. Hence, Xanthippe was exactly the kind of wife that Socrates needed, one that led him to the marketplace on a regular basis. Now, whatever we think of Nietzsche’s claims about Xanthippe and the home that she kept are irrelevant for us. What is important is that here we find Nietzsche explicitly calling Socrates a ‘free spirit’. Again, in an aphorism entitled ‘Finally’ from Human, All Too Human we find another allusion to Socrates as a free spirit: “There are many sorts of hemlock and fate usually finds an occasion for placing a cup of this poisonous drink to the lips of a free spirit—in order to ‘punish’ him” (235). Here Nietzsche’s reference to Socrates’ fatal cocktail gives us another example of Nietzsche identifying Socrates as a kind of free

27 spirit, but the question about how or why Nietzsche views Socrates in this way remains unanswered. I have argued that Socrates, in all that he does, is primarily a lover: primarily a lover and specifically a lover of wisdom. I want to argue that what is freespirited about Socrates (in the Nietzschean sense) is his practice of the art of love. In order to argue this I will analyze some of Nietzsche’s passages regarding Socrates and try to understand them in relation to passages on the free spirit. By doing this analysis I will try to show that Socrates’ practice of the art of love maps onto an understanding of Nietzsche’s free spirit. Finally, I will try to show the difference between Socrates’ freespirited practice of the art of love and Nietzsche’s free spirit, who I claim is, like Socrates, at bottom a lover, yet with a different articulation of what it means to love and with a different object of affection. I have tried to show that Socrates is primarily a lover and now I want to show that this aspect of Socrates is what Nietzsche most admired. In The Gay Science12 Nietzsche expresses his admiration for Socrates in the following way: “I admire the courage and wisdom of Socrates in everything he did, said—and did not say. This mocking and enamored monster and pied piper of Athens, who made the most overweening youths tremble and sob, was not only the wisest chatterer of all time: he was equally great in silence” (272). Here we have Nietzsche admiring the courage and wisdom of Socrates. There is no explicit mention here of Nietzsche admiring Socrates as a lover, but with a little work I think it will be fair to conclude that underneath Nietzsche’s explicit statement, there is an implicit admiration for Socrates’ practice of the art of love. An

12

All citations from The Gay Science are cited by page number.

28 important quote to bear in mind throughout this analysis is from Twilight of the Idols, where Nietzsche writes: “Socrates was also a great erotic” (32).13 Here we have Nietzsche’s explicit acknowledgment of Socrates as a great erotic, or in other words a great lover; this is an important point in my analysis, as I will try to marry these two statements in order to make sense of my claim that Nietzsche admired Socrates because he was a lover.14 Nietzsche admired Socrates for “the courage and wisdom that he employed in everything he did, said—and did not say”. I think here we find Nietzsche admiring Socrates for the type of wisdom that Socrates had. That is, a wisdom that knows when one does not know something. This is a type of wisdom that provides one with the ability to know when to speak and when not to speak in regard to things that are known or unknown. It is a kind of wisdom that is between being ignorant and being wise. Nietzsche, in his familiar, sometimes hard-to-decipher style, is simply praising Socrates for the well-known Socratic wisdom: “I know when I do not know something”. This admiration of Socrates should not be underestimated, especially in light of Nietzsche’s

13

Nietzsche also identifies Socrates as ‘the true eroticist’ in this passage from The Birth of Tragedy: “But that a sentence of death rather than one of exile only was passed seems to have been brought about by Socrates himself, with complete clarity and without the natural horror in the face of death: according to Plato’s account, he approached death with the calm with which he left the symposium in the early dawn as the last of the revelers; while behind him on the benches and on the floor his fellow carousers remained behind asleep, dreaming of Socrates, the true eroticist” (76). 14 For the sake of clarity and to provide some context for the quote that I am citing where Nietzsche identifies Socrates as a great erotic, it is helpful to know that Nietzsche was engaged in a section in which he was trying to understand why Socrates fascinated the people of Athens. Note, that this ‘fascination’ hearkens back to the third criteria that I proposed as part of what makes Socrates a lover, namely Socrates’ uniqueness. Nietzsche’s identification of Socrates as a lover is how he concludes/summarizes the section in trying to explain the people of Athens fascination with Socrates.

29 sustained argument throughout his corpus against many of the things that Socrates said in Plato’s dialogues. For Nietzsche to write that he admired everything that Socrates did, said and did not say, because of the courage and wisdom that Socrates employed in all that he did, said and did not say, is an astounding moment in understanding Nietzsche’s relationship with Socrates. Citing the quote that begins this section, Nietzsche characterized his relationship with Socrates this way: “Socrates … stands so close to me that I am almost always fighting with him” (Twilight 207, cited from Wissenschaft und Weisheit im Kampfe). Nietzsche was clearly engaged with Socrates in an ongoing argument, but it was an argumentative stance based on respect and admiration for Socrates’ wisdom. In Twilight of the Idols, under the chapter titled ‘The Problem of Socrates,’ Nietzsche, in trying to explain why the people of Athens were fascinated with Socrates, identifies Socrates as a great erotic (32). That is, Nietzsche recognizes Socrates as a lover, or as I have put it earlier, Nietzsche sees Socrates as a practitioner of the art of love. If we accept my analysis of what it means for Socrates to be a lover—that the basis for Socrates’ wisdom is Socrates’ practice of the art of love—then it seems fair to conclude that what Nietzsche really admires about Socrates is that Socrates is, at bottom, a lover. If we accept this claim, that what Nietzsche most admired in Socrates was his practice of the art of love, the next question to propose is this: how is Socrates’ practice of the art of love free-spirited? We know that Nietzsche thought Socrates was free-spirited in some way. As pointed out previously, Nietzsche makes allusions to Socrates as a free spirit in a couple

30 of aphorisms in Human, All Too Human. I do not want to claim that Socrates is a free spirit, but that there is a free-spiritedness to Socrates. This is due, in part, to Nietzsche’s own assertion in the preface of Human, All Too Human that, “…I invented for myself the ‘free spirits’ to whom this heavy-hearted, high-spirited book with the title Human, All Too Human is dedicated: such ‘free spirits’ do not and did not exist” (6-7). Nietzsche makes clear that whatever the free spirit means to him has not yet existed. How does the non-existence of a free spirit square with Nietzsche’s allusions to Socrates as a free spirit? I take it that this question highlights the importance of the distinction of understanding Socrates as free-spirited rather than as a free spirit. I want to further show that Socrates’ free-spiritedness is what influenced Nietzsche to dwell on and invent the free spirit. But for now let us turn back to Socrates’ practice of the art of love and how it is possible to understand Socrates as free-spirited. In Ecce Homo Nietzsche says the following about the free spirit: “The term ‘free spirit’ here is not to be understood in any other sense; it means a spirit that has become free, that has again taken possession of itself” (283). I want to suggest that one of the facets of Socrates’ practice of the art of love was his self-control; or as Nietzsche says of Socrates: his self-mastery (Twilight 33). We see one example of this played out in Alcibiades’ speech, where Alcibiades relates the story of when he tried to seduce Socrates, even getting into bed with him. Alcibiades is incredulous that Socrates is impervious to his sexual advances (219a-e). Alcibiades is an extremely attractive young man, and the fact that Socrates does not respond to his advances displays a very real way in which his self-mastery is put to the test. There are many other examples of Socrates

31 displaying self-mastery, but I think it is fair to say that what we are talking about when we say self-mastery is a kind of mastery over (at least in the case of Socrates) instinctual impulses. At least this is the way that Nietzsche views Socrates’ self-mastery, as a mastery over the instincts: A foreigner passing through Athens who knew how to read faces told Socrates to his face that he was a monstrum—that he contained within him every kind of foul vice and lust. And Socrates answered merely: ‘You know me, sir!’— … When that physiognomist had revealed to Socrates what he was, a cave of every evil lust, the great ironist uttered a phrase that provides the key to him. ‘That is true,’ he said, ‘but I have become master of them all.’ How did Socrates become master of himself? (Twilight 30, 33) This self-mastery that Socrates had was part of the uniqueness of his character, one of the things that Alcibiades was in awe over, and as argued above, this uniqueness was a characteristic of Socrates’ practice of the art of love. If the free spirit is one who has taken possession of oneself, I want to claim that Socrates’ free-spiritedness is exemplified in his self-mastery, and thus what makes Socrates free-spirited is ultimately the fact that he is a lover: the trait that Nietzsche most admired in Socrates. Now it could be that there are other things about Socrates that might allow us to call him free-spirited, but I take it that for my purposes here this single aspect of self-mastery can serve to be a sufficient reason for understanding Socrates as free-spirited. Another reason I am relying on selfmastery as a way of showing Socrates as free-spirited is simply for the fact that we can

32 find self-mastery as a key to understanding Socrates in one of Nietzsche’s texts; Nietzsche explicitly says that Socrates’ admitting to being master over every lust ‘provides the key’ to understanding Socrates. I agree with Nietzsche that in understanding Socrates as having a kind of self-mastery we are getting to the core of who Socrates is: a self-mastered, free-spirited practitioner of love. This self-mastery may be the place where we can look to find Socrates’ freespiritedness, and I think Nietzsche thought self-mastery was (in whole or in part) what makes a free spirit free, but while it is precisely Socrates’ self-mastery that allows for his practice of the art of love to be understood as free spirited, it is still distinct from Nietzsche’s free spirit. That is, there are reasons that Socrates can only be free-spirited and not a free spirit, namely that while Socrates the lover might give rise to freespiritedness, there is a point at which Nietzsche ‘the critic’ takes issue with the type of self-mastery Socrates employs, what Socrates loves, and the way in which Socrates loves. It is at this point we must turn to Nietzsche’s critique of Socrates the lover, which will serve to further differentiate Socrates’ free-spiritedness from the free spirit, and lead to a discussion of what Nietzsche’s free spirit might be.

Nietzsche On Socrates “…a profound delusion, which first came into the world in the person of Socrates—the unshakeable belief that, by following the guiding thread of causality, thought reaches into the deepest abysses of being and is capable not only of knowing but also even of correcting being.” (The Birth of Tragedy pg. 82) Nietzsche, as stated previously, deeply admired Socrates. I have claimed that we can understand Nietzsche’s admiration for Socrates through a single, yet overarching aspect of who and what Socrates is: a lover. The erotic drive is what fueled Socrates. Nietzsche’s understanding of this simple fact is what drove Nietzsche to be fascinated with Socrates, much like the people of Athens were. Nietzsche recognized in Socrates that to be, at bottom, a lover was the only worthy way of living one’s life if one were to undertake a philosophic investigation, i.e. to be a philosopher. This is what made Socrates such a formidable intellectual adversary for Nietzsche: Socrates had understood what it means to live life right. Nietzsche was stimulated to think deeply by the challenging figure of Socrates, and Nietzsche did think deeply. The result: Nietzsche thinks that Socrates ultimately made a miscalculation in his understanding and application of love. How does Socrates love? Socrates loves passionately; of this there is no question. Socrates’ pursuit of wisdom is a pursuit that, I think, Nietzsche readily agrees is an erotic pursuit. Why does Socrates love? The answer to this question is really another question:

34 what is Socratic love? In asking ‘why does Socrates love,’ we end up with another question, because with love the why is the what. Socrates cannot tell us why he loves before giving an account of what love is. As was described previously, Socrates’ understanding of love is that it is a passionate desire for something that one lacks. What Socrates believes he lacks is wisdom. Socrates’ lack of wisdom, coupled with Socrates’ story about love’s ascending nature, ultimately fuels a desire for something else that he lacks: the good itself. The nature of Socrates’ love, that it is a passionate desire for something he lacks, is the first point where Nietzsche has a disagreement. For Nietzsche, love is not a passionate desire for something that one lacks; rather love is a passionate possession of something. That is, for Nietzsche, to be a lover is to have abundance. To be a lover is not just to have enough, but to have too much. Nietzsche provides a rather beautiful expression of this kind of love in ‘Zarathustra’s Prologue’, when Zarathustra is engaged in a conversation15 with the sun: Behold! I am weary of my wisdom, like a bee that has gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it. I should like to give it away and distribute it, until the wise among men have again become happy in their folly and the poor happy in their wealth. To that end, I must descend into the depths: as you do at evening, when you go behind the sea and bring light to the underworld too, superabundant star!

15

I use the word conversation, though it seems clear that Zarathustra is actually soliloquizing.

35 Like you, I must go down—as men, to whom I want to descend, call it. So bless me then, tranquil eye, that can behold without envy even an excessive happiness! Bless the cup that wants to overflow, that the waters may flow golden from him and bear the reflection of your joy over all the world! (39) Here, I think we can understand this soliloquy as reflecting the type of love I claim Nietzsche embraces. Zarathustra is loaded down with wisdom, such that he needs to give it away. Zarathustra compares himself to the sun, the ‘superabundant star,’ that even when it sets—or goes down—never ceases to shine. Such is the kind of love that Zarathustra has, a love that is superabundant and always possesses more, which he claims along with excessive happiness. Then we have the metaphor of the overflowing cup, again symbolizing the never-ending bounty of love. A problem with my interpretation of this soliloquy is that love is nowhere to be found within it. Yes, the soliloquy does seem to be describing the type of love that I claim Nietzsche embraces, but how am I justified in using it as an example or description of love? The weight of my interpretation of this soliloquy rests on the first words that Zarathustra utters after coming down off the mountain and entering the forest, where an old man/saint recognizes Zarathustra and questions him16. The words that Zarathustra responds with are thus: “I love mankind” (40). These first words are the answer to the old man/saint’s line of
16

The actual questions that the old man/saint asks Zarathustra are not important for us here, but for context’s sake, he recognizes that Zarathustra has changed, and then proceeds in a type of questioning that could be summed up as: what are you doing back here?

36 questioning: what are you doing back here? Zarathustra’s first articulation of why he has come down off the mountain is an expression of love for mankind. Given the soliloquy on desiring to share his wisdom, comparing himself to the superabundant sun and the overflowing cup, I take it these metaphors give us a loose definition of what Zarathustra takes himself to be doing when he answers the old man/saint: loving mankind. The purpose of teasing a Nietzschean love out Zarathustra’s soliloquy is not to show that Zarathustra is a lover per se (though I think he is), but simply to provide some textual support for what I take to be the kind of love Nietzsche has in mind. Why does Nietzsche think love is a passionate possessing of something rather than a passionate desire for something one lacks? Nietzsche thinks Socrates’ love for something he lacks is simply a misunderstanding of what love is. That is not to say that Socrates is not a lover because of his misunderstanding, but it is to say that Socrates’ error in loving is what results in him being free-spirited rather than a free spirit. How do we know that Socrates is mistaken about what love is? To answer that question we have to view the results of Socrates’ love, i.e. the objects, and discuss Nietzsche’s response to what they mean. The Nietzschean critique of Socratic love is clearest working backwards, so to speak, from the desired objects to the nature of erotic desire. The good itself is the ultimate object of desire for Socrates: a desire to possess the good forever. Of course to possess the good forever requires that one attain immortality through the birth of true virtue. The birth of true of virtue comes from viewing or seeing the beautiful itself, which, in turn, is a result of the initial love of wisdom. Take the pursuit of the possession of the good itself: the result of the Socratic practice of the art of

37 love. What is Nietzsche’s objection to this? And what are we really talking about when we say ‘the good itself’? I take the main thrust of Nietzsche’s criticism of the good itself to be that when Socrates says ‘the good itself’ he is talking about that which gives value to life. That is, the good itself is the highest value, and value-giving entity, which life is judged according to. The argument against the good itself is rather simple and can be phrased in the following question: how can we judge life (that which we already possess) according to the good itself (that which we do not possess)? And if the good itself ever was in Socrates’ possession forever, it seems his love would be fulfilled. But love for Socrates is a desire for something that one lacks. It seems that if Socrates ever did gain possession of the good itself forever, he would no longer be capable of love. This is a problem for Socratic love that I am not going to attempt to resolve here, but simply point out that Nietzsche thinks this problem has no solution. That is, the ultimate object of Socratic love, the good itself, is shown to kill the love that desires it. The other aspect of the good itself that Nietzsche is at odds with is its ‘otherworldliness’.17 That is not to say that it is not of our world, but that it actually devalues life in the world. If one were to judge life (that which we possess) by the good
17

In Section 24 of On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche describes this ‘otherworldliness’ by citing one of his own passages (section 344) from The Gay Science while critiquing the belief that compels one to the ‘unconditional will to truth’: “…—it is the belief in a metaphysical value, a value in itself of truth as it is established and guaranteed by that ideal alone (it stands and falls with that ideal)…the truthful one, in that audacious and ultimate sense presupposed by the belief in science, thus affirms another world than that of life, nature, and history; and insofar as he affirms this ‘other world,’ what? Must he not, precisely in so doing, negate its counterpart, this world, our world? … It is still a metaphysical belief on which our belief in science rests—we knowers today, we godless ones and anti-metaphysicians, we too still take our fire from that great fire that was ignited by a thousand-year old belief, that belief of Christians, which was also Plato’s belief, that God is truth, that truth is divine … But what if precisely this is becoming ever more implausible, if nothing proves to be divine any longer, unless perhaps error, blindness, lie— if God himself proves to be our longest lie?” (110).

38 itself (that which we do not possess), then one would be valuing life according to something that is essentially unknown. Yet Nietzsche claims that Socrates went ahead and valued life according to the good itself, despite not possessing or knowing the good itself. This left life valueless for Socrates, a theme that Nietzsche repeats in dwelling upon the death scene of Socrates when he tells Crito that he owes a cock to Asclepius (Phaedo 118a2-3).18 Nietzsche is positive that this is a sign that Socrates, the great lover, carried out his love for wisdom and the good until the end, and that Socrates convinced himself through his practice of the art of love that life is a sickness only cured by death.19 An aphorism to sum up the way in which Nietzsche thought of the practice of the art of love in distinction from Socrates is this: “Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil” (Beyond Good and Evil 90). That is, for Nietzsche love does not take into account good or evil in the objects that it possesses, and love does not pursue only good things rather than evil things, instead love simply possesses in abundance. There is much more that can be said about Nietzsche’s disdain for the good itself, and striving for immortality20 for that matter, but I would like to move on to the first step
18

One gave a cock to Asceplius on recovering from an illness: Socrates seems to be saying that life is, or his life has been an illness (Twilight 29). 19 Quoting Nietzsche from Twilight of the Idols: “—Did he himself grasp that, this shrewdest of all self-deceivers? Did he at last say that to himself in the wisdom of his courage for death? … Socrates wanted to die—it was not Athens, it was he who handed himself the poison cup, who compelled Athens to hand him the poison cup. … ‘Socrates is no physician,’ he said softly to himself: ‘death alone is a physician here. … Socrates himself has only been a long time sick …’”(34). 20 For a brilliant discussion of a comparison between Plato and Nietzsche’s conception of the good and immortality/eternity see Laurence D. Cooper’s book entitled Eros in Plato, Rousseau, and Nietzsche. There he writes: “The thing that signifies the perfection of both will to power and eros—and therewith life’s highest fulfillment, both for Nietzsche and for Plato—is the embrace of eternity…both Nietzsche and Plato speak of the core of philosophic longing and the peak of philosophic attainment in terms of eternity…It is no overstatement to refer to eternal return as the good for Nietzsche” (274, 275, 276). Though I disagree with Cooper’s assessment about

39 in the ascension of Socratic love, namely wisdom.21 The first step in the ascension of Socratic love is where, I think, we find the most common ground between Nietzsche and Socrates, yet still a bit of criticism. For the remainder of this section I want to flesh out in greater detail what the similarities are, especially in regard to self-mastery, which in turn will give us a better insight into the ways in which Nietzsche distances himself from Socrates. I have claimed that what Nietzsche admires about Socrates is that Socrates is a lover. I have also claimed that what is specifically free-spirited about Socrates the lover is his self-mastery. I think that the free spirit is, like Socrates, a lover. And I think that what it is that makes the free spirit a free spirit is also a kind of self-mastery, or as Nietzsche calls it: self-possession. Socrates loved wisdom and sought to master himself according to what the pursuit of wisdom dictated. The free spirit loves life and possesses him/herself through loving life. While there is a similarity between Socratic self-mastery and Nietzschean self-possession, at least a similarity in form, the practice of each is distinct. Socratic self-mastery is, for Nietzsche, an antagonistic relationship between the instincts and reason. That is, for Socrates to master himself he brings his instincts under subjection to reason (reason, which is employed through or instructed by, if not knowledge of the good itself, then through the pursuit of possession of the good itself). To reiterate, Socrates’ self-mastery is an expression of free-spiritedness, in that it is at
Nietzsche’s embracement of eternity and do think it is a big overstatement to equate the eternal return with the Platonic good, it is nevertheless a very thought provoking book on these matters. 21 Unfortunately I am skipping over any discussion of beauty itself and true virtue, though an analysis of these steps in the ascension of Socratic love in the vein of this paper would be a worthwhile endeavor in the future.

40 bottom an erotic practice. However, Socrates’ self-mastery ends up denying his practice of the art of love. Recall that gaining possession of the good seems to eliminate love, because once one gains what one lacks, the love for the lacked object dissipates: one, at least in respect to the object that is now possessed, is no longer a lover. In a similar fashion Socrates’ practice of the art of love, itself a passionate instinctual desire, gives birth to a rational faculty that rules over all passionate instinctual desires. Socrates’ love, the one thing that he claims to know how to practice, is not expressed through reason; love is ruled by reason. Socrates takes us as far as he can in terms of living life as a lover. He takes us to a precipitous understanding of what love is, how life can be lived as a lover, and exhibits a free-spiritedness that is rare amongst human beings. However, the danger of love, the intellectual rigor that is required to practice love and the uncertainty of what love is, ultimately leads Socrates to abandon his greatest practice, and embrace the comfort of false certainty that reason promises. Socrates, for Nietzsche, ends up as a confused person. Socrates gives up his magnificent practice of the art of love, or at least more charitably simply miscalculates in his practice, and tries to find a more stable ground by forcing love to ascend to heights that will make things knowable according to one particular ideal: the good. And yet Socrates was still put to death for his practice of the art of love. Socrates may have pushed farther than anyone else in trying to live a life of love, and in understanding what love is, but came up short. But love is so dangerous when practiced, so misunderstood by convention, so powerful that it forces recognition when displayed, that Socrates puts his reputation at stake by, and ultimately pays with his life for, practicing love. And not just

41 in the sense of being persecuted by the body politic of Athens, Socrates holds his own life in his hands by practicing the art of love and wonders, “I dedicated my life to practicing the art of love, and persuading others to do this also, yet wisdom has left me here with a limp version of love, replaced by the prosthetic of the good, and for this I sit here with my hemlock and wish death upon myself. What a terrible and wonderful thing love must be.”

The Free Spirit “Indeed, we philosophers and ‘free spirits’ feel, when we hear the news that ‘the old god is dead,’ as if a new dawn shone on us; our heart overflows with gratitude, amazement, premonitions, expectation. At long last the horizon appears free to us again, even if it should not be bright; at long last our ships may venture out again, venture out to face any danger; all the daring of the lover of knowledge is permitted again; the sea, our sea, lies open again; perhaps there has never yet been such an ‘open sea.’— (The Gay Science pg. 281)

“All great problems demand great love, and of that only strong, round, secure spirits who have a firm grip on themselves are capable. It makes the most telling difference whether a thinker has a personal relationship to his problems and finds in them his destiny, his distress, and his greatest happiness, or an ‘impersonal’ one, meaning that he can do no better than to touch them and grasp them with the antennae of cold, curious thought.” (The Gay Science pg. 283)

43 “Once a human being reaches the fundamental conviction that he must be commanded, he becomes ‘a believer.’ Conversely, one could conceive of such a pleasure and power of self-determination, such a freedom of the will that the spirit would take leave of all faith and every wish for certainty, being practiced in maintaining himself on insubstantial ropes and possibilities and dancing even near abysses. Such a spirit would be the free spirit par excellence.” (The Gay Science pg. 289-290) In this last section I will attempt to give an account of what the free spirit might be. This will include a discussion of what I take to be the free spirit’s ultimate object of affection: life itself. In doing this I will not necessarily be giving what I take to be Nietzsche’s account of what a free spirit is. Rather I will propose three necessary, but perhaps not sufficient, criteria that I think Nietzsche may or may not agree with. I will be borrowing from Nietzsche and using his thoughts to guide my own. I will briefly address my reason for avoiding trying to place the free spirit as a consistent concept alongside the will to power, the eternal return of the same, and the Übermensch.22 After an analysis of what the free spirit might be, I conclude with a definition of eros. What is the free spirit? An invention. Nietzsche says he created the idea of free spirits because he “…needed their companionship […] in order to remain in good spirits amid terrible things (sickness, isolation, foreignness, acedia, inactivity): as brave
22

In this paper I maintain that the free spirit cannot, or should not, be understood as part of a coherent whole in combination with the will to power, the eternal return of the same, and the Übermensch.

44 companions and ghosts with whom one can chatter and laugh when one wants to chatter and laugh” (Human, All Too Human 7). While Nietzsche claims to have invented the free spirit, it is obvious that the free spirit is, if not modeled on Socrates (which very well may be the case), then at least inspired by Socrates. Nietzsche might have harsh words for Socrates (calling him monster, refers to how ugly Socrates is, etc.), but it is not because Nietzsche disagrees with Socrates point for point, it is because Socrates pushes Nietzsche in ways that are terrifying. Nietzsche describes philosophers in this very way in the world of Ancient Greece: “…the philosopher is a comet, incalculable and therefore terrorinspiring. When all is well, he shines like a stellar object of the first magnitude in the solar system of culture” (Philosophy in the Tragic Age 34). When one is pushed to their limit, compelled to unrestrainedly pursue a life of love, one realizes the superficiality and emptiness of the life they once led. Nietzsche’s thought is not a simple break from Socrates’ thought: it is more of a continuation. Nietzsche has refined the practice of the art of love that we find Socrates practicing. The free spirit, Nietzsche’s invention, finds its lineage in Socrates. In that sense Socrates’ erotic desire did give birth to something: through his erotic practice of self-mastery, Socrates inspired a freedom of living that Nietzsche recognized as the core of what a healthy life might look like: freedom of expression, freedom of one’s thinking, and freedom from convention and dogma. And most importantly the freedom that one lives through self-possession; through loving life itself one loves that which one has in abundance: life. There is a certain straightforwardness to it: the free spirit is one who is free from all values that s/he has not created. But underneath the straight forwardness is something

45 else, a poetic undertone to the free spirit, one that echoes uncertainty, danger, solitude, joy, truth … a kind of love of life. The free spirit as embodied in Socrates is a sliver of Nietzsche’s free spirit. Socrates loved in earnest and lived his life according to what he loved. Socrates loved wisdom, but so much so that wisdom became more important than life itself. Instead the ‘good’ life became the object of Socrates’ love, a life that was ruled by reason and injected with a value that de-valued life itself. For Socrates, life was subjected to the domain of reason, instead of reason being subjected to life. For Nietzsche this was a form of decadence. In trying to overcome the decadence of Athens through reason, elevating reason to a height above life became just another form of decadence. But even reason, something that Nietzsche praised,23 cannot be valued over and above life itself. To guide one’s life by reason is to say that there is something higher in value than life. But if life is all we know, all that we have, how can we rightfully posit anything above life to guide it, to master it, to tame it, to understand it? “Judgments, value judgments concerning life, for or against, can in the last resort never be true: they possess value only as symptoms, they come into consideration only as
23

symptoms—in

themselves

such

judgments

are

Walter Kaufmann provides a good analysis of how Nietzsche thought of reason in his chapter ‘Sublimation, Geist, and Eros’: “Rationality, on the other hand, gives man mastery over himself; and as the will to power is essentially the ‘instinct of freedom’ (GM II 18), it can find fulfillment only through rationality. Reason is the ‘highest’ manifestation of the will to power, in the distinct sense that through rationality it can realize its objective most fully… Reason is extolled not because it is the faculty that abstracts from the given, forms universal concepts, and draws inferences, but because these skills enable it to develop foresight and to give consideration to all the impulses, to organize their chaos, to integrate them into a harmony—and thus to give man power: power over himself and over nature. Foresight and patience, and above all ‘great selfmastery’ (which, under un-favorable circumstances, also makes possible dissimulation)—that is, according to Nietzsche, of the very essence of Geist (G IX 14)” (Nietzsche 230).

46 stupidities. One must reach out and try to grasp this astonishing finesse, that the value of life cannot be estimated. Not by a living man, because he is party to the dispute, indeed its object, and not the judge of it; not by a dead one for another reason.” (Twilight of the Idols pg. 30) Life is a value-less value, the one thing that man cannot evaluate. We are born, full of life, and have life until death. Life itself is not sensitive to our judgments, to our actions, our fears, our knowledge, or our truths. Our lives are susceptible to all these things, but life itself is indifferent. Life cannot be judged, it simply is. The free spirit loves life. Does life itself have value? While we cannot evaluate life itself, or give life itself value, we do value life itself by loving it. In this sense, if one wishes to escape the nihilistic systems of thought that love anything other than life, the one thing that cannot be given value is of the utmost value. There is only one thing that is priceless, invaluable, worthy of all our devotion, and that is life itself. Not reason, not love, not beauty, but rather life itself is what the free spirit loves. When the free spirit loves life itself, all the other attributes of a life can be fulfilled. That is, all of the other values of a life can be evaluated, given value, and used to live a life. Perhaps the fundamental mistake of philosophy since Socrates has been to try and give life value. All of religion would be guilty of the same mistake, but simply performed by other means. In both cases, by trying to evaluate and give life value, philosophy and religion end up valuing non-life, or rather valuing the values that are mistakenly attributed to life. How are they mistaken? How do we know that they are mistaken?

47 Because life, if it is simply that which is, which we experience as our being, is imperceptible to our human capacities of cognition and sense. Yes, we can know we are alive, we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell, and from this we know that there is life, but life itself is impervious to any of our faculties. We can know that there is life, but we cannot know life.24 The fact that life cannot be known, judged, or evaluated would render any attempts at valuing life absurd. Instead, we love the one thing we cannot know, but at the same time the one thing we cannot know is the most real thing we know to exist. We are proof of life. We do not place value on the thing we love; we love it for its inability to be evaluated and its non-value giving nature. Life itself does not give our lives value, we alone give our lives value, but life itself is recognized as an un-governing principle of our lives. That is, while Socrates sought out wisdom to provide a governing principle of life (that principle being the good), Nietzsche gives us life itself as a principle that has no mandates on how one ought to live. How one ought to live is a decision for the individual, a self-possessed individual, and for Nietzsche perhaps the only individual who is really capable of making these kinds of decisions is one who is free spirited. Let us take an example of an attempt to place value on life itself: God. I think Nietzsche works hard to show that this is not just a simple case of replacing God with life, though because of the impingement of religion on our thinking, it may seem to be the case. Instead, it is a reversal of what originally transpired, when life was replaced with God: that was the simple move! Nietzsche’s reconstruction of how that simple move took place is part of the difficulty of following Nietzsche’s thinking. Life cannot be evaluated, but God can!
24

Just to be clear, I take that at this point in my analysis I am no longer interpreting Nietzsche, but rather outlining how a free spirit might differ with the Nietzschean conception that life is will to power; though Nietzsche heavily influences my thinking here.

48 God is a creation, a fabrication of those who sought to give life a value. When life confronts a thinker with its imperceptibility, one can love it, or create a value like God to love instead. God is not the only value that has been thought up to render life perceptible: Reason, Nature, Science, Truth, the list goes on. This is not to say that these are bad creations, but they are incorrect in so far as one is talking about created values that attempt to give life value. When one loves life itself, it is entirely possible that God, Reason, Nature, Science, and Truth are all valuable things that contribute to the health of a life. However, any time one tries to value life itself according to these principles, one will end up with a life that is unhealthy. That is, in order to have a chance at a life of health one must first love life itself, and then evaluate the values of a life on their own merits, according to the values created during a life instead of trying to evaluate values against a single value that stands in for life itself. I have so far purposefully avoided any discussion of what I think are the three socalled ‘doctrines’ that Nietzsche leaves us with and their relation to a discussion of the free spirit: the will to power, the eternal return of the same, and the Übermensch. First, I am limited by the constraints of space and time, and second I am not sure that any of these three ‘doctrines’25 have any bearing on the free spirit (I will attempt to explain this later). In his book Eros in Plato, Rousseau, and Nietzsche, Laurence Cooper does not go
25

I want explain the scare-quotes here. I do not mean to relegate these ‘doctrines’ as inconsequential in understanding Nietzsche’s philosophy. On the contrary, these three powerful concepts are nothing short of works of genius and it is a worthwhile pursuit to understand them if one wants to make any sense of Nietzsche’s writings. I remain a bit skeptical about calling them doctrines myself, but use the term for the ease that it provides in grouping the concepts together as key components of Nietzsche’s thought. I am skeptical in calling them doctrines because I don’t think they apply universally to everything that Nietzsche has written, e.g. the free spirit. Though this just brings to light my own intuition (or suspicion) that a doctrine is a universal rule, which I suppose is not necessarily the case.

49 into great detail about the free spirit, but does examine eros in contrast with the will to power. One line from this discussion is a parenthetical remark that Cooper makes within his comparison of Plato’s Republic and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: In fact, though Plato and the Republic are invoked even earlier, in the opening line of the preface: ‘Supposing truth is a woman—what then?’ What is this but an invocation of philosophic eros, a theme that figures so prominently in the Republic? Yet unlike the other reference to the Republic, this one—this most important reference, if indeed ‘the beginning is the most important part of every work’ (Republic 377a-b)— expresses agreement with Plato, both in positing the philosopher as a lover and in indicating the primacy of a single psychic force. (But shouldn’t Nietzsche have opened not with eros but with will to power—unless, perhaps, eros somehow is will to power …?) (221). This parenthetical remark, I think, is a theme in this paper brewing just underneath my explanations of Nietzschean love. I want to comment on this topic very briefly and very carefully. I think for Nietzsche love is a passionate drive that is not in conflict with reason (as it is for Socrates), but rather both work in conjunction and act as expressions of will to power. I claim that the free spirit loves in a Nietzschean sense, and the object of the free spirit’s love is life itself. If we take Nietzsche’s claim that “life simply is will to power” (Beyond Good and Evil 203), then the formulation is this: the free spirit loves life itself (which is a practice of self-possession), love is an expression of the will to power, but the will to power simply is life; then the free spirit is expressing the will to power

50 (through practicing love) and loving the will to power through the will to power.26 I want claim that the free spirit cannot be understood through the three ‘doctrines’ of Nietzsche. I realize this claim is sweeping and might be a gross misunderstanding of Nietzsche’s work. However, what I am engaged in here is not an attempt to nail down the specifics of Nietzsche’s positions, but a working out of the weird position of the free spirit within Nietzsche’s thought. Namely, how can a free spirit appearing after Nietzsche’s writings be bound by something that Nietzsche has written? Wouldn’t Nietzsche have recognized that the free spirit, whatever it is, is also free from an adherence to, or agreement with the will to power or the eternal return of the same or the Übermensch? These three teachings, as I see it, are a precursor to the free spirit, not doctrines that we as scholars are meant to force upon an understanding of the free spirit. Nietzsche formed an idea of the free spirit especially through his long philosophical engagement with Socrates. The basic tenets are these: the free spirit is an erotic, practices self-possession through loving life itself, and still clings to the Socratic honesty of admitting when he/she does not know something. Even when Nietzsche gets close to saying that there will someday be an actualization of the free spirit he has invented, he questions himself as to how he has visualized their development: “That such free spirits could someday exist … I would be the very last person to doubt this. I see them coming already, slowly, slowly; and I am perhaps doing something to hasten their coming if I describe in advance the destinies from which I see them arising, the paths on which I see them coming?— ” (Human, All Too Human 7). Here Nietzsche shows us his uncertainty
26

This may be well and good for understanding the will to power in Nietzsche, but I do not think it helps us understand what the free spirit is.

51 about the free spirit. He thinks the free spirit is coming, and he thinks he is on the right path himself in hastening their arrival by announcing and creating new paths on which to take our thoughts. But when it comes down to it, Nietzsche will not draw a line in the sand and say, “This is when the free spirit will arrive, this is how he will come, and this is what the free spirit is!” Though Nietzsche might get close to such declarations, ultimately we have Nietzsche providing us with reasonable insights as to what the free spirit could be. It is our task to question these insights; that is what I take myself to be doing in this project. Now, with Nietzsche’s analysis of the will to power we have claims to certainty with which to pin Nietzsche down to a clearer position. It is my suggestion that the free spirit is a topic that avoids this kind of examination. We cannot even appeal to Nietzsche’s own texts to discover exactly what the free spirit is. Instead, using Nietzsche’s texts as a guide, we must allow our own thinking to develop on this topic: that is how Nietzsche has left it for us. The culmination of Nietzsche’s thought, of Nietzsche’s thinking, of everything that he wrote, is this idea of the free spirit. The importance of tracing how or what influenced the idea of the free spirit for Nietzsche is to try and understand what the free spirit is. I think that I have focused on the beginning influence on Nietzsche’s idea of the free spirit; I believe that it was Socrates, and that Nietzsche found this free-spiritedness in Socrates and developed it himself: this idea of the free spirit that Nietzsche sets up as the philosopher of the future. The important thing to remember about the free spirit, and one of the reasons that I think it is the culmination of Nietzsche’s thinking, is that it exemplifies the duplicity that we find in Nietzsche. Take the three so-called ‘doctrines’:

52 the will to power, the eternal return, and the Übermensch; these concepts might be fixtures in Nietzsche’s thought, and that is well and good, but what we can’t do is make the mistake of trying to have the free spirit be consistent with the things that Nietzsche wrote, and the things that we describe as Nietzsche’s thought, because the free spirit is the philosopher of the future (Beyond Good and Evil 53). Nietzsche is reaching out to the future and saying, “This is what a philosopher is: it is a free spirit.” We must allow for Nietzsche to contradict himself: to give us ‘doctrines’ in his thought that don’t apply to all that he thinks of. That’s the key for me, and one of the reasons that it’s the culmination of Nietzsche’s thinking: he’s going beyond himself. He is making room for the transformation of his own thoughts, in the hands of those who do not yet exist. I think it might not be too bold to think that Nietzsche did not want people to adopt the three ‘doctrines’. Rather Nietzsche had this idea of the free spirit who is not beholden to the socalled ‘doctrines’ of Nietzsche. The free spirit does not need to exemplify the will to power. Nietzsche, I think, might very well accept this kind of thought: that a free spirit could reject, maybe everything, that Nietzsche wrote. This is not a problem in trying to understand the free spirit. I think if you follow the line of Nietzsche’s thought this is where it leads you: it leads you away from Nietzsche to something new, to something that overcomes Nietzsche. Using the title of his work Beyond Good and Evil, in trying to understand what his whole thinking is about, it suggests ideas like: “Beyond the work of Nietzsche.” I think that’s what the value of the idea of the free spirit is. And when we start tracing what we try to understand as the free spirit, we start this natural progression away from Nietzsche’s thought and his thinking (but of course, just as we find so much

53 common ground between Nietzsche and Socrates, so too we find as much closeness as distance with Nietzsche and the free spirit). That’s the direction of the free spirit, I think; I could be wrong. It’s a point that is at least worth considering and a point that I want to put forth. Have I answered my own question: what is the free spirit? To repeat, taking a cue from Socrates and Nietzsche I feel comfortable saying the free spirit is, at bottom, a lover. Beyond that I also feel comfortable in saying that part of the practice of the art of love, is the act of becoming free, or possessing oneself. The last clause I would add is what I call Socratic honesty: admitting to not knowing something when one does not know it. I feel fairly confident in laying out these three clauses of what a free spirit is, only because I have seen them investigated in such care and detail in the thinking of both Socrates and Nietzsche. The key difference between the Socratic lover and the Nietzschean, as I see it (and as I believe Nietzsche sees it), is that Socratic love ends up de-valuing both life itself, by replacing it with a value of the good, and this life, the life we actually live, played out in Socrates’ death scene. For Nietzsche, one must be extremely careful not to de-value life, or even try to give life value. In the end I cannot, in good conscience, say that I have answered the question of what a free spirit is. Despite being led in my own thoughts by these two great thinkers, I am left in a state of aporia when it comes to determining what a free spirit is. But in learning from Socrates and Nietzsche I will offer one definition: a definition of eros. Eros is a passionate possession of an abundance of uncertainty.

54

Works Cited Bloom, Allan. Love and Friendship. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. Cooper, Laurence D. Eros in Plato, Rousseau, and Nietzsche: The Politics of Infinity. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008.

55 Foucault, Michel. “Prison Talk: Interview with J.-J. Brocier.” Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings. Ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, (1980): 37-54. Kaufmann, Walter. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1989. ---. The Birth of Tragedy Or: Hellenism and Pessimism. Trans. Douglas Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ---. Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1989. ---. The Gay Science. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1974. ---. Human, All Too Human: A Book For Free Spirits. Trans. Gary Handwerk. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995. ---. On the Genealogy of Morality. Trans. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998. ---. Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks. Trans. Marianne Cowan. Washington DC: Regnery, 1962. ---. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale. Middlesex: Penguin, 1969. ---. Twilight of the Idols: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale. Middlesex: Penguin, 1968.

56 Plato. “Apology.” Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Trans. G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997. 17-36. ---. “Laches.” Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Trans. Rosamond Kent Sprague. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997. 664-686. ---. “Phaedo.” Compete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Trans. G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997. 49-100. ---. “Symposium.” Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Trans. Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997. 457-505.

Bibliography Books I Read That Were Not Cited I. II. Other Works by Nietzsche Works About Nietzsche

57 III. Works That Inspired Me In Thinking About Nietzsche

I. Other Works by Nietzsche Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Antichrist: A Criticism of Christianity. Trans. Anthony M. Ludovici. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006. ---. Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870’s. Trans. Daniel Breazeale. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1990. ---. The Will To Power. Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Vintage Books, 1968. II. Works About Nietzsche Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche & Philosophy. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. Heidegger, Martin. Nietzsche: The Eternal Recurrence of the Same. Vol. 2. Trans. David Farrell Krell. Ed. David Farrell Krell. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984. ---. Nietzsche: Nihilism. Vol. 4. Trans. David Farrell Krell. Ed. David Farrell Krell. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. Löwith, Karl. Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same. Trans. J. Harvey Lomax. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Nehamas, Alexander. Nietzsche As Literature. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985. Richardson, John. Nietzsche’s New Darwinism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Rosen, Stanley. The Mask of the Enlightenment: Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. 2nd ed. New

58 Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. Salomé, Lou. Nietzsche. Trans. Siegfried Mandel. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001. III. Works That Inspired Me In Thinking About Nietzsche Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Self-Reliance and Other Essays. Ed. Stanley Appelbaum. New York: Dover, 1993. True, Cynthia. American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story. London: Pan, 2005. Vedder, Eddie. “I Am Mine.” Riot Act. Perf. Pearl Jam. Epic, 2002. Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: The First (1855) Edition. Ed. Malcolm Cowley. New York: Penguin, 1986.

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