This is not the first commentary in which I have seen Nietzsche associated with postmodernism. I see daylight between him and the core ideas of postmodernism, as represented by the likes of Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Lacan etc, such as negation of objective reality, oppression of power structures, and radical skepticism to the extent of moral confusion.

Is there a missing link I don't see?

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    I don't see the link either, so perhaps it is not a very plausible one. .
    – user20253
    Feb 23, 2019 at 12:47
  • The nihilism, amoralism and skepticism in Nietzsche are rather hard to miss. Even if it is not quite of the postmodernist variety he certainly provided the inspiration (especially, through Heidegger's mediation). SEP spells it out in Postmodernism: Precursors. I would add Freud and Stirner to their list.
    – Conifold
    Feb 23, 2019 at 13:46
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    Paraphrase: all facts are interpretations.
    – Gordon
    Feb 23, 2019 at 14:28
  • Also, with Foucault, studies of power.
    – Gordon
    Feb 23, 2019 at 14:30
  • Finally, G. Vattimo, (Heidegger, Nietzsche) not a counter-example. Book: "Of Reality". Perhaps the advantages of "weak thought"? You will have to read it and decide for yourself.
    – Gordon
    Feb 23, 2019 at 15:50

3 Answers 3


So statements like "We have yet to esteem the power of the lie." and "Even the physicist has his mythology. Your atoms, they are not real." are not about the lack of objective reality? His notion of the domination of the herd over thought is not about the fact that history is continual oppression of everybody else by a succession of hegemonic collectives? And 'The Genealogy of Morals' is not all about the inescapability of social control? The notion that one must "devalue and revalue all transcendent values" is not about radical skepticism to the point of moral confusion?

We see these themes in Neitsche because they are there. His aesthetic notion of morality and his aim at 'Perspectivism', where no viewpoint can be completely wrong, are pretty much modern post-truth.

But he is hostile to Christianity and its aftermath, and thus is not moved by the Left. So he was not as self-destructively caught up in rendering his entire worldview political and converting everyone. But that is not a real aspect of postmodernism anyway, it is just paranoid overreaction to its internal instability and our clinging to the products of our own culture unconsciously whenever we advance relativism.

Moving away from guidance by simple rules toward personal experience is postmodernism, morphing the anti-rule rules into a domineering dogma of guilt for ever having profited from artificial clarity, and pounding the table about it, is leftover Christianity. Recognizing the pervasive mechanisms of social control is postmodernism, seeing almost all social control as oppression and hating it beyond measure so that you feel obligated to trash privilege and worship victimology is leftover Christianity. Knowing that morality naturally eats itself is postmodernism, creating an internally inconsistent yet excessively ardent politics out of the idea is leftover Christianity. In each case, Nietzsche espouses the former and omits the latter.

  • what do you mean by moved by the Left?
    – amphibient
    Mar 11, 2019 at 17:54
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    why are you juxtaposing po-mo with christianity and not enlightenment/modernity? The premodern (mythical/religious) and the postmodern are, in their denial of objective reality and Occam's razor if you will, a lot closer to each other than are they to enlightenment
    – amphibient
    Mar 11, 2019 at 18:00
  • Because I am answering the question not rehearsing or restating the obvious. The question was not about the Enlightenment in any way. I am pointing out what the form of po-mo you hate has in common with Christianity, ways in which both contrast with more modernistic, logical approaches. Leftist Critical Theory minus Christianity equals Nietzsche. Since Christianity is not one of the things postmodernism is in contrast to, subtracting Christianity from 'po-mo' should leave something postmodern. And that is Neitzsche. That is what you asked -- how those two things were related.
    – user9166
    Mar 13, 2019 at 2:36
  • (And in fact it has those things in common with the Enlightenment. The notion of equality being primary and victimhood being a positive aspect of life is all about 'Whatsoever you do to these least of my brothers, that you do unto me.' and the Beatitudes. The Enlightenment rationalized our cultural norms.)
    – user9166
    Mar 15, 2019 at 15:56
  • What I mean by 'moved by the Left' is invested in 'Progressive' Enlightenment projects to arrange ethics according to existing Christian principles of concern for the dignity of the poor, and therefore toward equality. Nietzsche considered the rationalized emphasis on moral equality at a group level misguided -- as domination by the herd and indoctrination into slave morality. He thought slave morality was in neither superior nor inferior, at root, to master morality. So he was not moved along the moral axis that shapes many Enlghtenment writers, neither to the Left or the Right.
    – user9166
    Mar 15, 2019 at 16:07

Is there a missing link I don't see?

Postmodernism came about mostly as poststructuralism. Structuralism at first was taken to be about some inner logic (that of binary opposites). It was seen as overtly anhistorical, so its critics insisted that structuring occurs just because there is some driving factor. The three names Marx-Nietzsche-Freud became a kind of mantra endlessly repeated to protect against its attraction. Althusser and Lacan attempted to cast Marx and Freud as structuralists but Foucault was among the first who thought it better to surrend and became a postructuralist. Actually he added Nietzsche to Marx and Freud and started talking about hermeneutics and interpretations. Deleuze was following close by and openly demonstrated that all three of them strongly advocated some kind of materialism.

Materialism is the background which made most of traditional philosophy appear then as an illusion or eventually, as Nietzsche would have it, as a lie. It is not hard to see a contrast in how the three topics broached by Marx-Nietzsche-Freud, wealth, power and sex, are treated by christian ideology. From Nietzsche Deleuze took the slogan about "overcoming platonism" while everybody remembered the quip from Beyond Good and Evil "christianity is platonism for the masses".

Refs: Foucault Nietzsche-Freud-Marx; Deleuze, Difference et repetition, Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil


I am by not quite a philosopher And there's a good deal of Jordan Peterson in what I say 😇

Generally Nietzsche is misunderstood as follows:

God is dead

is not a celebration but a warning of what it means to do

  • geometry without coordinates
  • physics without measurement
  • music without ears
  • etc

Likewise society/polity without absolutes.

Whereas postmodernism is a foray in exactly that direction... Sometimes careful and ginger, sometimes brazenly conscience-less.

  • The examples you give, suggest a void for god. Nietzsche clearly embraced the godless, unlike Peterson. But, warned of the social consequences. Western thought is still stuck in the idea religious claims are epistemological, not social. Nietzsche understood that.
    – CriglCragl
    Mar 9, 2019 at 2:19
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    @CriglCragl Came back to this post via a more recent question on absolute and ethics philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/61536/37256 And remembered your wise but hard to understand comment on epistemological vs social. Would appreciate if you could expand on that! As for the other "void for god" I'm not so sure... If god and absolute are synonyms one can interchange. If not I am talking of absolute(s) not god(s). [You can consider me a deist I guess... ]
    – Rushi
    Apr 2, 2019 at 6:45
  • Thanks. I had in mind Durkheim's (founder of sociology) definition of religion: "A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden". Habeus corpus, and the right to free speech, are examples of values held sacred which societies' organise around. In that light, we can understand religious ideas as useful collective fictions, like for instance fiat currencies. They can have lived 'realness' in enabling specific new ways of living. More here aeon.co/ideas/…
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 2, 2019 at 17:05

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