Nietzsche: Memory and Forgetting

nietzsche memory

Against the classical philosophical tradition, which can be described as hypermnesic, Nietzsche poses against Plato’s theory of reminiscence, forgetting that a positive, it is even a condition sine qua non of happiness: forget is to release the past, be able to act. A nostalgic consciousness is paralysed according to Nietzsche.

“Any act requires oblivion”: Excerpts from Nietzsche

“In the smallest as in the greatest happiness, it is something that happiness is happiness: the ability to forget, or to put it in terms most learned, the ability to feel things, as long as happiness lasts, without any historical perspective. The man who is unable to sit on the threshold of the moment, forgetting all past events, which can not, without dizziness and fearless stand a moment while standing as a victory, will never what a happiness, and what is worse, it will never do anything to give happiness to others. Imagine an extreme example: a man who could not forget nothing and would be condemned to see everywhere a becoming, that one would not believe in his own existence, he would believe more in themselves, it would be all dissolve into an infinity of moving points and eventually get lost in the stream of becoming. Finally, a true disciple of Heraclitus, he would not dare even move a finger. Any action requires oblivion, like life organic beings requires not only light but also darkness. A man who wants to feel things like that historically we would force them to refrain from sleep or animal should live than ruminate and ruminate endlessly. Therefore, it is possible to live almost without remembering and live happy, as evidenced by the animal, but it is still impossible to live without forgetting. Or more simply, there is a degree of sleeplessness, rumination, sense, historic night of the living and eventually destroy it, be it a man, a people or a civilization “

Nietzsche – Untimely Meditations

“Failure is not only a screw inertiae as superficial minds believe, rather it is an active power, a faculty containment in the true sense of the word, what faculty must assign that everything that happens to us in life, everything we eat comes as little in our consciousness for a state of “digestion” (we could call it a mental absorption) that multiple process happens in our body while we “assimilate” our food. Occasionally close the doors and windows of consciousness remain insensitive to noise and fight the underworld in our bodies to help each book or destroy each other, be silent, a little to clean slate in our consciousness so that there is again room for new things, and in particular for the functions and noblest servants, to govern, to anticipate, to sense (because our body is a true oligarchy) Here, again, the role of the active faculty of forgetfulness, a kind of guardian, a supervisor responsible for maintaining the psychic, tranquility label. We immediately conclude that no happiness, no serenity, no hope, no pride, no enjoyment of the present moment could not exist without the possibility of forgetting. “

Nietzsche – Genealogy of Morals

 From oblivion to happiness

In his Untimely Meditations, Nietzsche suggests that cow knows no boredom or pain, she is unable to remember. This example suggests that forgetting is not simply a “loss” of memory, but an act of assets, bringing him a power of liberation. Of course, the amnesia is as bad as hypermnesia: Nietzsche says that compared to the past must be balanced: true sorting, forgetting to rationalize our relationship to the past, leaving aside everything that can disturb the peace the moment.

Forget, it is also becoming ahistorical: Plato forgetfulness was a moral outrage and philosophical, as maieutics trying to repair. Nietzsche, on the contrary, history, peoples starched at liberty to create: the story is not, as Hegel does in Reason in History, or Marx in the Manifesto, a principle of unit weight but common, collective gravity preventing people to determine themselves. The meaning is not inherited, he invents. Both collectively and individually. This is the lesson of Nietzsche’s philosophy, which is the backbone of oblivion happiness.

Note: this theory has been illustrated in the superb film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry.

Cite this article as: Tim, "Nietzsche: Memory and Forgetting, March 14, 2013, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, March 14, 2013,

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