HEIDEGGER'S NIETZSCHE: Being and Becoming by Paul Catanu

Hammering, bombastic, poetic, mystic Nietzsche as seen through the mind of the great ontologist Martin Heidegger is what Dr. Catanu delivers in this new volume. Nietzsche’s thought dissected, critiqued and delimited by the author of “Being and Time” one of the most influential modern philosophers of our day, is explored in this insightful new volume, containing never before translated passages from the Nietzschean Nachlass Heidegger's Nietzsche re-assesses Nietzsche's metaphysics of Becoming and extends Heidegger's line of thought into areas the ontologist neglected. Providing fresh insight into the minds of these two great Western thinkers, "Heidegger's Nietzsche: Being and Becoming" is a must read for today's discerning scholar and thinker.


This book is a product of impressive erudition and scholarship.  It makes a comprehensive survey of Nietzsche’s texts on Becoming, and shows how that idea is entangled with all of the others that are most important to him, including will to power, eternal recurrence, nihilism, and the overman.  The book also shows the author’s acquaintance with an impressive amount of the secondary literature, on both the continental and the Anglo-American sides.  It delves deeply into most of the relevant issues and throws helpful light in many places.

This book’s objective is to explicate Nietzsche’s idea of Becoming, holding that ‘Nietzsche’s philosophy can be explained entirely in terms of this concept’.  More particularly it argues ‘that through the withdrawal of teleology from within Becoming, Nietzsche manages to both complete and deconstruct metaphysics as onto-theology’ , contrary to Heidegger’s famous claim.  The book begins by examining philologically Nietzsche’s treatment of ‘becoming’, then reviews secondary scholarship, in turn by Heidegger, by (later) Continental, and by Anglo-American interpreters, and finally  ‘situates this notion of Becoming in the context of Nietzsche’s thought’.
— John Richardson, Professor of Philosophy, New York University

Effectively tracing the concept of Becoming from the early period through the middle, and into the later periods [of Nietzsche’s writings, Ed.], Catanu defends the systematicity of Nietzsche’s thought, argued by Heidegger, together with a kind of unitary will that “is referred to a multiplicity of wills to power that de-center will to power as a purely metaphysical principle.” Clearly, that is how the deconstruction of metaphysics comes to pass from within, as Catanu also argues following Müller-Lauter; but the risk implicit in such a position is one of a certain bricolage, rather than a philosophy.  Whenever Catanu insists upon the fundamental coherence of the thematic of Becoming in Nietzsche, then, he must lean on Heidegger and his argument for a unified, systematic philosophy of “subjectivity of will to power.” The attempted, partial, reconciliation of Müller-Lauter and Heidegger is better than intriguing; it is courageous and difficult.

Paul Catanu is clearly well versed in the Nietzsche literature, from the published to the unpublished works.   He demonstrates a solid, impressive competence in the pertinent secondary literature and does not limit himself to the Analytic literature versus the Continental literature. He has a strong sense of the development of Nietzsche’s thought.
—Bettina G. Bergo, Department of Philosophy, Université de Montréal

Nietzsche has been many things for Heidegger, an inspiration, an adversary, a most privileged interlocutor as the culmination of metaphysical thought, a fellow German and, like him, a misunderstood prophet of his time. He also proved to be quite an agile adversary. “Nietzsche hat mich kaputt gemacht”, Heidegger famously quipped:  “Nietzsche sure knocked the daylight out of me”.

Philosophically, he was his titanic predecessor, far more than Husserl and Dilthey, on whom Heidegger wrote much less. Heidegger’s entire philosophy can indeed be viewed as an answer to Nietzsche. But who is Nietzsche? It would be ingenuous to think there is a simple answer to this question, but Heidegger believed, rightly, in my view, that Nietzsche was the thinker of nihilism. Heidegger’s reply to this challenge was to raise anew the question of Being, which Nietzsche seemed to dismiss in The Twilight of the Idols as “the final wisp of an evaporating reality”. The meaning of Heidegger’s question was to ask: what is the sense of Being which dominated the metaphysical tradition which has led to this understanding of Being and, hence, to nihilism? Nihilism was not seen here as the repudiation, but as the consequence of metaphysics. Metaphysics, according to Heidegger, could only recognize as Being that which it could see and master, i.e. the beings to the extent that they are subjected to our rationality. It would thus be pervaded by a “will to power” which erases the sheer eventful and incomprehensible character of Being and becoming, including our own. The will to power and its endless repetition, the eternal return of the same, are thus not crazy fancies of Nietzsche’s unstable mind, but the signature of metaphysics, i.e. the Western tradition itself.

Heidegger wanted to go beyond Nietzsche by resurrecting  the question of Being and situating Nietzsche in the continuity of metaphysics. He even intended to give his Nietzsche book of 1961 the title “Nietzsche’s Metaphysics”, but was discouraged to do so because it sounded too strange to the average Nietzsche reader. Heidegger’s Nietzsche is thus at the same time an account of Nietzsche’s place in history and of Heidegger’s own counterproposal, which lies, discreetly, in an attempt to think “beyond” metaphysics.

But does this account do justice to Nietzsche? This is one of the questions raised by Paul Catanu’s inquiry. A thorny question, to be sure, since it presupposes one has a better understanding of Nietzsche. This is why this study is not content with the flood of literature which dissects Heidegger’s readings to show how philologically inaccurate they would be. Paul Catanu knows that one cannot treat Heidegger like the average graduate student. Here it is to Heidegger and his challenge that one isn’t doing justice. What distinguishes this book is that it takes seriously Heidegger’s reading, his “metaphysical” interpretation, to which so many readers seem allergic. Thankfully, Paul Catanu doesn’t share this sophomoric aversion to metaphysical thinking. His argument is rather that it is Nietzsche’s own metaphysics that Heidegger misses, i.e. his metaphysics of Becoming. This inquiry is thus more a study of Nietzsche’s thinking of Becoming than it is of Heidegger’s Nietzsche, on which so much has been said. It is, as it were, an introduction to “Catanu’s Nietzsche”, about which I hope much will be said in the future.

— Jean Grondin, Professor of Philosophy, Université de Montréal.