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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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March 20, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

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

March 06, 2019

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

António Marques, What We Owe to Each Other (excerpt)

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

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January 29, 2019

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

January 23, 2019

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January 23, 2019

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with Emily Wardill and Michael Marder

December 17, 2018

Manuel Garcia Carpintero's talk - 14 December, 2PM - Auditorio Aud. 001, Edif Torre A, Piso -1

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December 14, 2018

3rd NOVA Doctoral Conference in Epistemology

Knowledge, Morality and Society

December 05, 2018

Topografias Imaginárias /5

A cidade como estúdio | 5 a 8 de dezembro…

December 05, 2018

Chrysi Rapanta, 4 Dec 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Bewilderment as a predictor of different…

December 04, 2018

António Guerreiro, A gramática generativa da cidade

CultureLab | Fragmentação e Reconfiguração: a experiência da cidade

November 28, 2018

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Filipe Faria, "The New Darwinian Naturalism in Political Theory"

November 21, 2018

The Mechanistic Approach in Biology and Cognition (Inter-University workshop), 9h-19h, 20th Nov

An Inter-University Workshop held on the 20th of November organised…

November 20, 2018

Jornada de estudos sobre Giacomo Leopardi

Jornada de estudos sobre Giacomo Leopardi

November 16, 2018

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Pedro Abreu, "Deliberation and agreement"

November 07, 2018

I-Debate - EUROPE FOR CITIZENS

Event organized by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the…

October 29, 2018

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Javier de Prado Salas, "Moral Testimony"

October 24, 2018

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October 10, 2018

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

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October 10, 2018

Problematising reality - encounters between art, cinema and philosophy 3

with Maria Augusta Ramos and Patricia Mourão

September 10, 2018

Problematising reality - encounters between art, cinema and philosophy 2

with Alberto Toscano and Simon Thompson

July 10, 2018

Ciclo temático "Leituras críticas sobre a experiência da cidade" | Sessão IX: Susana Duarte e Maria Filomena Molder

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

July 05, 2018

Book Launch: Schizophrenia and Common Sense: explaining the relation between madness and social values with Thomas Fuchs

Schizophrenia and Common Sense: explaining the relation between madness and…

June 25, 2018

O Euro e a soberania económica

Conferência internacional

June 22, 2018

Workshop: Misunderstanding, disagreement, manipulation

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June 22, 2018

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Giovanni Damele, "Another Italian thought: elite theory and political realism"

June 21, 2018

Art of Living / Art of Dying: Philosophical and Literary Perspectives

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June 21, 2018

Katharina Stevens, 18 June 2018, 14h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Argument-Design through Role-Taking"

June 18, 2018

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

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June 06, 2018

Ciclo temático "Leituras críticas sobre a experiência da cidade" | Sessão Especial "Double Bill: Apropos London"

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

June 04, 2018

Workshop: Communication and metaphors for health. An educational challenge

The workshop discusses the importance of communication and metaphors in…

June 01, 2018

Problematising reality - encounters between art, cinema and philosophy 1

with Renee Green and Ute Holl

June 01, 2018

Inês Hipólito, 30th May 11:00 - 12:00

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"Perception as Cognition: Beyond…

May 30, 2018

International Symposium Cinema and Philosophy: Critical May 68

CineLab | IFILNOVA - FCSH / PhD Research Project of…

May 29, 2018

Ciclo temático "Leituras críticas sobre a experiência da cidade" | Sessão VIII: Ana Mira e Susana Ventura

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

May 29, 2018

Dima Mohammed, 28 May 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Proposals for the examination of networked…

May 28, 2018

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Erich Rast, "Value Disagreement and Two Aspects of Meaning"

May 24, 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

Jakob Krebs, 16 May, 15h to 16h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"Pictorial Models, Imagination, and…

May 16, 2018

Rules, normativity and values: revisiting the Kantian perspective and its critics

EpLab Conference

May 14, 2018

Mehmet Ali Üzelgün, 14 May 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Level, focus, and force of argumentative…

May 14, 2018

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

John Gibbons, "Things That Make Things Reasonable"

May 10, 2018

"The Phantasy-Subject: Phenomenology of Image and Aesthetic Experience"

International Workshop

May 09, 2018

EPLAB Masterclass Series

Santoni de Sio

May 04, 2018

Ciclo temático "Leituras críticas sobre a experiência da cidade" | Sessão VII: Paulo Catrica e Nélio Conceição

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April 24, 2018

Virtualism and the Mind: Rethinking Presence, Representation and the Self

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning Workshop "Virtualism and the Mind"

April 23, 2018

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Gilbert Harman, "Moral Realism is Moral Relativism"

April 19, 2018

The Derivative Machine: Life Cut, Bundled and Sold

held by Jonathan Beller (Pratt Institute) | CineLAB Seminar

April 19, 2018

João Leite, 16 April 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "An Online Social Debating System"

April 16, 2018

Ethics and Political Theory Reading Group

Berit Brogaard, "Moral Contextualism and Moral Relativism"

April 05, 2018

CultureLab | General Seminar

Seminário mensal do culturelab, Humberto Brito

April 03, 2018

Workshop: "Cuidado de Si: Perspectivas Antigas e Contemporâneas"

CultureLab | Questões de Subjectividade: Filosofia e Literatura

March 23, 2018

Ciclo temático "Leituras críticas sobre a experiência da cidade" | Sessão VI: Bruno Duarte & Alexandra Fortes

CultureLab | Arte, Crítica e Experiência Estética

March 22, 2018

Erich Rast, 16.3., Sala 1.05 ID, 16h

Value Seminar Session with Erich Rast, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 16, 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

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