Category Archives: phenomenology

Nietzsche and Phenemenology: Egological vs. Non-Egological

I have never heard Nietzsche mentioned in the context of phenomenology but he says several things in The Genealogy of Morality which seem to be relevant to the phenomenological debate concerning egological versus non-egological conceptions of the self in support of the latter position. To provide some background for anyone who has never encountered the aforementioned concepts, phenomenology, broadly, is the study of the structures of consciousness from the first person perspective. Phenomenologists who support an egological view of the self posit the existence of an ego or an “I” that stands behind or pervades all of conscious experience to account for the unity/continuity of our conscious experiences. Phenomenologists who support a non-egological view of the self, by contrast, suppose the positing of a pervasive ego or “I” to be unnecessary; conscious experiences, they claim, are self-unifying and the ego or “I” only appears reflectively . Subsequently, Nietzsche famously claims that “there is no being behind the doing, effecting, becoming; the doer is simply fabricated into the doing -the doing is everything”. Nietzsche seems to reject the introduction of a pervasive “I”, thus I wonder if, from a phenomenological perspective, he could not be said to be supporting a non-egological account of the self. He says several things in the first section of the preface which also seem to support this idea. He compares conscious experience, for instance, to the toll of a bell which we only hear after the final stroke has fallen; only after the experience has already occurred can the “I” appear in reflection and take possession of the latter, deciding what it was or what it meant: “[like a] self-absorbed person onto whose ear the bell has just boomed its twelve strokes of noon suddenly awakens and wonders “what did it actually toll just now?” so we rub our ears afterwards and ask, completely amazed, completely disconcerted, “what did we actually experience just now?” still more: “who are we actually?” and count up, afterwards, as stated, all twelve quavering bell strokes of our experience, of our life, of our being- alas! and miscount in the process…” In addition, Nietzsche, like proponents of the non-egological perspective, leaves room for the potential of misinterpretation and/or alienation from one’s experiences which can arise in reflection; we remain “unknown to ourselves, we knowers…strangers to ourselves, we do not understand ourselves”. 

What do you think? Would Nietzsche support a non-egological view of consciousness?