Heidegger’s Nietzsche Vol. 1. Ch. 24: Nietzsche’s Overturning of Platonism

Nietzsche’s Overturning of Platonism

For Plato the supersensuous is the true world. It stands over all, as what sets the standard; it is therefore what is desired. After the inversion — that is easy to calculate in a formal way — the sensuous, the world of appearances stands above; the supersensuous, the true world, lies below. With a glance back to what we have already presented, however, we must keep a firm hold on the realization that the very talk of a “true world” and “world of appearances” no longer speaks the language of Plato.

But what does that mean — the sensuous stands above all? It means that it is the true, it is genuine being. If we take the inversion strictly in this sense, then the vacant niches of the “above and below” are preserved, suffering only change in occupancy, as it were. But as long as “above and below” define the formal structure of Platonism, Platonism in its essence perdures. The inversion does not achieve what it must, as an overcoming of nihilism, namely, an overcoming of Platonism in its very foundation. Such overcoming succeeds only when the “above” in general is set aside as such, when the former positing of something true and desirable no longer arises, when the true world — in the sense of the ideal — is expunged. What happens when the true world is expunged? Does the apparent world still remain? No. For the apparent world can be what it is only as counterpoint of the true. If the true world collapses, so must the world of appearances. Only then is Platonism overcome, which is to say, inverted in such a way that philosophical thinking twists free of it. But then where does such thinking wind up?

The six divisions of the history of Platonism, cumulating in emergence from Platonism, are as follows: (Quote FN, BGE no. 213)

“1. The true world, attainable for the wise, the pious, the virtuous man — he lives it, he is it.”

“2. The true world, unattainable for now, but promised for the wise, the pious, the virtuous man (‘for the sinner who repents’).”

“3. The true world, unattainable, indemonstrable, unpromisable, but even as a thought, a consolation, an obligation, an imperative.”

“4. The true world — unattainable? In any case, unattained. And as unattained also unknown. Consequently, also, not consolatory, redemptive, obliging: To what could something unknown oblige us?”

” 5. The “true world” — an idea which is of use for nothing, which is no longer even obliging — an idea become useless, superfluous, consequently, a refuted idea: let us abolish it!”

6. “The true world we abolished: which world was left? The apparent one perhaps?…But no! Along with the true world we have also abolished the apparent one!”


What is needed is neither abolition of the sensuous nor abolition of the nonsensuous. On the contrary, what must be cast aside is the misinterpretation, the depreciation, of the sensuous, as well as the extravagant elevation of the supersensuous. A path must be cleared for a new interpretation of the sensuous on the basis of a new hierarchy of the sensuous and nonsensuous. The new hierarchy does not simply wish to reverse matters within the old structural order, now reverencing the sensuous and scoring the non sensuous. It does not wish to put what was at the very bottom at the very top. A new hierarchy and new valuation mean that the ordering structure must change. To that extent, overturning Platonism must become a twisting free of it.


Meditations: I find Heidegger’s discussion from here on to be obtuse. My impression of the conceptual sequence is:

Plato: Underlying reality is Being as Ideas; Truth is underlying reality grasped.
Kant: Underlying reality is unknowable — and Truth impossible.

From here, Hegel reasons: Being reveals itself in process; Truth as revelation, as Being manifesting, is knowable. Grasping world processes is grasping Truth.

From here, Nietzsche reasons: Being, as the underlying reality, is, in a sense, an illusion. The unifying principle of the world is Becoming. Humans as a manifestation of Becoming create ideas e.g., of Being. As creations, these ideas are not underlying reality but as creations they are also revelations of the principle of existence which is becoming, creating. These creations, then, in a sense, are Truths as ἀλήθεια.

[Alternatively: Underlying reality is re-understood a continual cosmic seething. Humans are one of the many curious configurations that churn up in the vat. The world of ideas is understood as re-presentations by living beings of lived experiences and thus as mimesis as copying. This is the first inversion: the world of ideas is cast as a copy of what was, hitherto, cast as a copy of the world of ideas. The second inversion — which leads to counter-position, and, by way of this a freeing from the structure of Platonism — is the re-understanding of Truth as ἀλήθεια as mimesis (art, copying, creation) as revelation. With this second inversion, the world of ideas becomes, once again, True, in a sense. On the one hand it is a creation of living beings. Thus it is not true Being in a classic sense, a sense which has always equated Being with that upon which all else is contingent i.e., underlying being, that which is foundational, etc.. On the other hand, it is, nonetheless, the product of creation — the making of curious configurations — which is the very principle of the world. It is thus the essence of the world revealed and therefore Truth as ἀλήθεια.

Note: Heidegger draws a somewhat different conclusion, focusing on the juxtaposition between “Truth” as error and Art as creation. By my reading, “Truth” as error is Art for N, just of a different genre (e.g., Plastic versus Musical).]

Generally, both Hegel and Nietzsche are dissatisfied with Kant’s project as it leads to the impossibility of Truth as ἀλήθεια. As such, they both embrace revelation. For Hegel, underlying reality is still Being; Being reveals itself in change and historical development. Nietzsche replaces Being with Endless Becoming as the underlying principle. Becoming is revealed in creation. Ideas, Ideals, Art, Values are all creations and therefore all revelations of the primordial. A notable difference between Hegel and Nietzsche is the latter’s rejection of othertimelyness, a philosophical orientation which, arguably, forsakes the now. Hegelianism, with its historicism, lends itself to innumerable progressive interpretations, all of which envision some ideal state being realized at some future point in time. It’s not difficult to imagine — since they abound — vulgarized Hegelians simply following a variant of Nietzsche’s six step path back to a Platonism for the masses:

“4. The True world — unattainable? In any case, unattained. But knowable. Consequently, consolatory, redemptive, obliging!

” 5. The True world, the future world — an idea which we can work towards, which we can realize. Which we must realize.
“6. The True world, the Future world attainable for all to live in — once we bring it about.”

Nietzsche anticipated this progressivism, recognized it as an othertimelyness, and rejected it just as he rejected otherworldyness. The rejections takes the form of the Doctrine of Eternal Reoccurrence: “existence as it is, without meaning and goal, yet inevitably recurring; existence with no finale to sweep it into nothingness.” The world as Eternal Becoming leaves no room for such other-nesses. The True world as the Future World is just as illusionary as the True world as the Other World. Both are True insofar as they are creations — ideals (for some) — and therefore revelations of the primordial. But both are potentially life-negating delusions — and they become so when the hierarchy of reality — creator and created — is forgotten and life is made subordinate to this or that stale ideal. (Of course, Nietzsche proposes his own other-ness and conjures up his own dichotomy: the over-man who embraces the here and now and the last-man who clings to the Other. But he is very conscious of this creation as creation.

(The deep problem here is that we are left with a counterposition to philosophical liberalism become progressive-egalitarianism….imagine modus vivendi liberalism become presentary-elitism. Applying Nietzsche’s perspective to political philosophy merely results in a masculine version of what we have. Something is still missing…..)

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One Response to Heidegger’s Nietzsche Vol. 1. Ch. 24: Nietzsche’s Overturning of Platonism

  1. K.L.Anderson says:

    Here is my take on the subject.
    Deeper Aspects of the Philosophy of Theological Materialism

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