Journal of the History of Philosophy 58 (4):755-778 (2020)
AbstractMany commentators have claimed that Nietzsche views the “sublimation” (Sublimierung) of drives as a positive achievement. Against this tradition, I argue that, on the dominant if not universal Nietzschean use of Sublimierung and its cognates, sublimation is just a broad psychological analogue of the traditional (al)chemical process: the “vaporization” of drives into a finer or lighter state, figuratively if not literally. This can yield ennobling elevation, or purity in a positive sense—the intensified “sublimate” of an unrefined original sample. But it can also yield drives that are attenuated or otherworldly, in a pejorative sense. One (but only one) kind of Nietzschean sublimation is the “translation” of drives to “imaginative and spiritual” (Imaginative und Seelische) modes of expression. I conclude that, despite certain appearances to the contrary, Nietzsche ultimately values basic drives’ powerful expression, without preferring either that this occur specifically as “higher culture” or as “savage” natural impulse.
Archival historyFirst archival date: 2019-12-21
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