Nietzsche, the Kantian Self, and Eternal Recurrence

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2004


Clark University Press


Nietzsche’s concept of the self grows out of Kant—and then attempts to subvert Kant. Nietzsche agrees that a unified subject is a necessary presupposition for ordered experience to be possible. But instead of a Kantian unified self, Nietzsche develops a conception of the self of the sort that we have come to call postmodern. He posits a composite bundle of drives that become unified only through organization. This subject is unified, it is just that its unity is forged, constructed, brought about by domination. But if the self is a bundle of struggling and shifting drives, how could it remain unified over time? Nietzsche’s concept of the self requires his doctrine of eternal recurrence, which promises that I will remain the same, exactly and precisely the same, without the slightest change, not merely throughout this life, but for an eternity of lives.