Die ewige Wiederkehr des Gleichen

The Eternal Recurrence of the Same

In the first section of this Summer Semester 1937 lecture course that was published in Nietzsche I, Heidegger sketches the four divisions he intends his course to have. The first is a preliminary presentation of the doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same in terms of its genesis, configuration, and domain. In the second division, the essential nature of a metaphysical position is defined, and such positions in prior metaphysics are discussed. The third division is an interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s metaphysics of the will as the last possible one. In the fourth division, the end of philosophy and the other beginning of commemorative thinking are discussed. As is often the case with Heidegger, only the first division receives full treatment. The conclusion of the course is a brief sally into the second division.

Heidegger interprets the doctrine of the eternal recurrence as the fundamental thought of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Nietzsche stands in fundamental opposition to Platonism and Christianity. Nietzsche communicated the thought of the eternal recurrence reluctantly, because it is the hardest of all thoughts to bear. It is important to note the fundamental shift in Heidegger’s interpretation. In his preceding lecture course, The Will to Power as Art, he understood the will to power as the being of entities and the eternal recurrence as the temporal meaning of being. In this course, he interprets the being of an entity in its essence as will to power and in its existence as eternal recurrence.

Heidegger’s interpretation centers on the death of God and the humanization of the being of entities. Humanity, and not God, is the center of the eternal return of the becoming world. What returns eternally is neither God nor the Platonic idea, but the will to power as constant presence.

The guiding question of philosophy, “What is being?” is answered in metaphysics without developing it as the basic question: “What makes the unconcealment of being possible?” The question “What is being?” is always answered by naming an entity as the ground of the beingness of entities. Nietzsche’s philosophy is the last possibility of metaphysics, because he answers the guiding question by interlocking the answers of Parmenides and Heraclitus in his doctrine of the eternal recurrence and the will to power. He insists that being “is” by virtue of becoming. In this sense, his philosophy is inverted Platonism, and the grandest and most profound gathering of all essential fundamental positions of philosophy.