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The Plurality of the Subject in Nietzsche and Pessoa

Bartholomew Ryan

Sponsered by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) - EXPL/MHC-FIL/1514/2013

This project’s theme, “The Plurality of the Subject”, is one of the most fundamental and pertinent issues in modern philosophy and literature which Friedrich Nietzsche and Fernando Pessoa penetrate and embody most deeply and whose paths cross over in various ways and aspects. Nietzsche’s critique of the subject, or man’s subjectivity, and in what sense man’s identity can or cannot be understood in terms of the concept of an “I” or “subject” has had a massive influence on certain thinkers (Deleuze, Foucault, Derrida) in the second half of the twentieth century that ended in the debate of “the death of the subject”. However, what is only now being acknowledged in the last two decades in Nietzsche research is that the critique of the subject or subjective thinking in Nietzsche’s philosophy, rather than being dead, is itself a plurality. 

Nietzsche’s critique of the subject implies the rejection of the “Cartesian theatre” and suggests a more complex conception of consciousness and a subject that embodies plurality and multiplicity. What is especially important and new in this project is the juxtaposition of Nietzsche with the twentieth century Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. In exploring subjective thinking as plurality, juxtaposing Pessoa with Nietzsche is an incredibly productive way to exploring this theme for a number of reasons.

First, Pessoa, like Nietzsche, is always preoccupied with the issue of the subject in both literature and philosophy and which he tries to transpose and transfer more than any other writer onto the page. As the infinite, self-multiplied traveler, Pessoa wrote on a scrap of paper in the same year that he created his three most famous heteronyms (Caeiro, Reis and Campos) to “be plural like the universe”, and his “will to power” was manifested in his endless creating of various personas and styles.

Second, there are various points of convergence under the project theme of “the plurality of the subject” between Pessoa and Nietzsche that today demand research and study in order to understand more deeply these two very complex writers, such as in their abiding interest and exploration of consciousness, the relation between genius and madness, truth as metaphor, the various forms of travel, the mask and/or the artist as liar, the boundary between philosophy and poetry, becoming what you are, the question of identity (remembering the opening two words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Who’s there?”), the relation between fate and free-will, and creativity as multiplicity.

Third, as part of the first generation after Nietzsche in Europe, Pessoa thought about and appropriated Nietzsche and even incorporated some of Nietzsche’s thinking and styles into his own work which is yet to be fully explored. Obvious examples are in Álvaro de Campos' manifesto of Nietzschean parody - “Ultimatum” (1916), his intoxicated and emancipated epics - “Triumphal Ode” (1915) and “Maritime Ode” (1915). Campos (as Pessoa’s super-ego) shares his birthday (15th October) with Nietzsche, which is taken very seriously by Pessoa. Also, we witness the shadow of Nietzsche in Ricardo Reis’s reflections on paganism, fate, and the problem of Christianity, António Mora’s “Return of the Gods” and writings on Germany culture and metaphysics; and the “superior God-man” and “poet of nature” in Alberto Caeiro.

With the orthonym Pessoa himself, we discover the influence of Nietzsche in Pessoa’s  reflections on the “Will” in modern German philosophy, the concept of creativity in the artist, the problem of epistemology in his philosophical writings, and his fervent votary of a spiritually bombastic political ideal that subverts Old Testament mythology (in this case, the Book of Daniel, chapter 2) such as his doctrine of the “Fifth Empire” which will be an “imperialism of poets” led by a community of great souls. Finally, Pessoa’s cultivation of his solitude and loneliness especially in his final years harks back to the life-philosophy of solitude and the higher man in Nietzsche’s last years.

Fourth, in investigating the “plurality of the subject”, it is vital to show why Nietzsche and Pessoa are “fingidores” or feigners par excellence in their highly conscious endeavor to continually deceive and surprise the reader, to reveal the problem of truth which is a “dynamic void” (Campos) and “mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms” (Nietzsche). If there is any chance of finding this elusive self as subject, we must lose that self first, in the total dilution of the self as subject in the quest for the self as subject. This project will explore the idea that Nietzsche and Pessoa’s desire is to create forms which would capture a multiple self, the self as process rather than product.

The Plurality of the Subject in Nietzsche and Pessoa brings together leading international specialists in Nietzsche and Pessoa studies for the first time. Consultants committed to this project and who will deliver seminars during the project range from decorated Pessoa specialists such as Richard Zenith, António Feijo and Eduardo Lourenço; and top Nietzsche experts such as John Richardson, Robert Pippin, Glenn Most, Guiliano Campioni and Ken Gemes. Other members and consultants committed to the project include Bartholomew Ryan, João Constançio, Maria Filomena Molder, JD Mininger, Nuno Nabais, Fernando Ribeiro, Maria José Branco, Pietro Gori, Paolo Stellino, Benedetta Zavatta, Katia Rodgers, Mariana Gray de Castro, and Luís Sousa. The goal of the project alongside the monthly seminar is to hold an international conference in 2015 and edit a volume on Nietzsche and Pessoa both in English and in Portuguese on the plurality of the subject, as well as generate further links and research in the project’s theme along the borders of philosophy and literature in modernity including also the analysis of writers such as Kierkegaard, Pirandello, Leopardi, Yeats and Joyce.

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Events

All Events

Gratuitous Violence & Free Will in a Nihilistic Age

International Conference on Gratuitous Violence & Free Will in a…

September 19, 2019

Workshop - Nihilism and Values

Encontros do grupo de estudo sobre Nietzsche

September 18, 2019

EPLab Masterclass Series

Jeff McMahan - "Future People, Climate Change, and War"

September 12, 2019

THE STATUS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM

International Conference THE STATUS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM

September 10, 2019

Seminário Nietzsche

Leituras Contemporâneas. Nietzsche na Espanha

September 09, 2019

7ª sessão do Seminário Permanente em Cinema e Filosofia

André Silva Santos apresenta Moses und Aron (Straub-Huillet, 1975) e…

July 23, 2019

Kant Reading Group

António Marques, "Kant against the Animals"

July 19, 2019

1st International Conference on Cinema, Philosophy and Children’s World

Co-organized by Ifilnova | CineLab - Laboratory of Cinema &…

July 09, 2019

1st Film Program on Lives in Transition: Exodus | Migrations | Exile

Co-organized by CineLab - Laboratory of Cinema & Philosophy, EPLab…

July 08, 2019

The Art of Feeling: Emotions Across Disciplines and Genres

Art of Living International Workshop/1

July 01, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Olivier Chassaing, "The Expressive Function of Punishment"

June 26, 2019

EPLab Masterclass Series

Nuria Sánchez Madrid, "Linhas de fuga da comunidade estética e…

June 21, 2019

Kant Reading Group

Nuria Sánchez Madrid, "Oeuvre de l'Art et Oeuvre d'Art"

June 21, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Per Algander, "Needing and Necessity"

June 05, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Regina Queiroz, "European Liberalisms: An Essay in Comparative Political Thought"

May 23, 2019

Art of Living

Culturelab Workshop 3/2019

May 22, 2019

O que é o Arquivo? Laboratório 3: cidade / arquivo

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

May 15, 2019

Dina Mendonça, 15 May, 2019, 15.00h to 16.00h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | Why Immersion is…

May 15, 2019

Figuras Conceptuais da Fragmentação e Reconfiguração | Bruno C. Duarte e Nuno Fonseca

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

May 14, 2019

Nietzsche&Nihilism Project Seminar

Carlotta Santini, "Nihilism and Mithology The Case of Nietzsche"

May 13, 2019

Jorge Durán Solórzano, 7 May 2019, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Competing narratives for change"

May 07, 2019

Ruas de Sentido Único - Programa de Rádio

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

May 03, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Roberto Merrill, "Ethically justifiable? Free riding versus fair shares"

May 02, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Dina Mendonça, "Kant on the Moral Cultivation of Feelings"

April 17, 2019

Figuras Conceptuais da Fragmentação e Reconfiguração | Bartholomew Ryan e Gianfranco Ferraro

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

April 11, 2019

4ª sessão do Seminário Permanente em Cinema e Filosofia

Sérgio Dias Branco apresenta “Os Lugares da Esperança”

April 10, 2019

EPLab Masterclass Series

Theory and Practice of global governance: topical issues

April 05, 2019

3ª sessão do Seminário Permanente em Cinema e Filosofia

Diego Hoefel apresenta "Reinvenções Dramatúrgicas do Melodrama no Cinema Contemporâneo:…

April 02, 2019

Catástrofe e deterioração

Culturelab Workshop 2/2019

March 27, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Luís Miguel Simões, "The Double Mouvement in Polanyi and Hayek:…

March 20, 2019

Seminário Permanente de Pensamento Antigo

CultureLab | Ars Vivendi

March 15, 2019

Frank Zenker, 12 March 2019, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Why replication is your problem, too"

March 12, 2019

Robert Clowes, Postponed To be Re-Arranged

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | Postponed

March 07, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Jorge Gonçalves, "A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value"

March 06, 2019

Problematising reality - encounters between art, cinema and philosophy 6

with Jean-Gabriel Périot and Alain Brossat

February 28, 2019

Problematising reality - encounters between art, cinema and philosophy 5

with Albert Serra and Alexander Garcia Düttmann

February 21, 2019

Figuras Conceptuais da Fragmentação e Reconfiguração | 2. Arquivo e Atlas: João Oliveira Duarte e Nélio Conceição

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

February 20, 2019

A catarse em Nietzsche

Aula/Palestra do prof. Ernani Chaves (Univ. Federal do Pará)

February 14, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Giovanni Damele, "On the Rationality of Democratic Choice"

February 06, 2019

Erich H. Rast, 5 Feb 2019, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Multidimensional ‘better than’"

February 05, 2019

Arte e Tradução

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

January 29, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Erich Rast, "How to accept the transitivity of better than"

January 23, 2019

Figuras Conceptuais da Fragmentação e Reconfiguração | 1. Colecção e Memória: Maria João Gamito e Claudio Rozzoni

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

January 22, 2019

2nd ERB Project Lecture

Wagner Teles de Oliveira

January 14, 2019

Book Symposium

Nuno Venturinha's Description of Situations

December 10, 2018

Seminário “Figuras da Subjectividade na Filosofia e na Literatura” | 9ª Sessão: Ana Falcato

CultureLab | Questões de Subjectividade: Filosofia e Literatura

June 06, 2018

International Symposium Cinema and Philosophy: Critical May 68

CineLab | IFILNOVA - FCSH / PhD Research Project of…

May 29, 2018

Seminário Nietzsche | Anthony Jensen

CultureLab | Lisbon Nietzsche Group

May 23, 2018

Seminário “Figuras da Subjectividade na Filosofia e na Literatura” | 8ª Sessão: Antonio Moretti

CultureLab | Questões de Subjectividade: Filosofia e Literatura

May 16, 2018

EPLAB Masterclass Series

Santoni de Sio

May 04, 2018

Seminário “Figuras da Subjectividade na Filosofia e na Literatura” | 4ª Sessão: Ana Kiffer

CultureLab | Questões de Subjectividade: Filosofia e Literatura

January 31, 2018

Seminário livre: “Figuras da Subjectividade na Filosofia e na Literatura”

CultureLab | Questions of Subjectivity: Philosophy & Literature

October 18, 2017

Institutions

FCT
FCSH