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?

2 thoughts on “Nietzsche and Phenemenology: Egological vs. Non-Egological

  1. jessew

    It’s such an interesting question, and the automatic response would certainly be, non-egological. I wonder though, if there isn’t room for a ‘strategic’ play of egological thinking in his work.

    Nietzsche would most certainly agree with Foucault, when he says that our concept of (wo)man is a “face drawn in the sand at low-tide” – but, for Nietzsche this might mean a proliferation of faces rather than an empty beach, more masks to choose from, more room for expressing a will to power, more play between ego’s instead of a subtraction?

  2. Christina Hendricks

    I agree that if we’re going to try to characterize Nietzsche in these terms, non-egological makes more sense. The no “doer” behind the “deed” part of the GM is certainly strong support for that. I have also read elsewhere that Nietzsche has something like a “bundle” view of the self, that the self is just a bundle of drives (see, e.g., Rex Welshon, The Philosophy of Nietzsche, chapter on “Pscyhology.”). There’s also an interesting passage in Daybreak, aphorism 109. There, he is describing how we might engage in self-mastery by combating certain drives within us. But at the end, he says:

    “… that one desires to combat the vehemence of a drive at all, however, does not stand within our own power; nor does the choice of any particular method; nor does the success or failure of this method. What is clearly the case is that in this entire procedure our intellect is only the blind instrument of another drive which is a rival of the drive whose vehemence is tormerting us: whether it be the drive to restfulness, or the fear of disgrace and other evil consequences, or love. While ‘we’ believe we are complaining about the vehemence of a drive, at bottom it is one drive which is complaining about another; that is to say: for us to become aware that we are suffering from the vehemence of a drive presupposes the existence of another equally vehement or even more vehement drive, and that a struggle is in prospect in which our intellect is going to have to take sides.”

    This quote is from here:

    So there’s no “self,” really, mastering the drives; only another drive. This came up in class and I hadn’t read that Daybreak aphorism at that point, and I said I thought we could consciously control the drives. Well, maybe not, for Nietzsche.


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