Amor fati in Deleuze, Shestov, Fondane and Early Existentialism

The themes of revolt and amor fati are common to Gilles Deleuze, Lev Shestov and Benjamin Fondane, all of whom take their inspiration from Nietzsche. For Shestov and Fondane, amor fati is resignation to things as they are; for Deleuze, it is willing the eternal return that undoes things as they are and allows for a counter-actualization. Partly, this is because Shestov and Fondane identify fate (fatum) with necessity (ananké), especially as manifested in logical necessity and causal determinism. “Love of fate” would then be equivalent to love of necessity and of things as they are. Opposed to both necessity and fate as enemies of human freedom, Shestov and Fondane preach revolt against necessity. Deleuze, by contrast, thinks amor fati through both the perspective of the necessity of how things hang together in the whole (“one is a piece of fate, a part of the whole”—Nietzsche) and that of the eternal return, through which the whole returns as different. Thus, although there is a necessary connection among all the parts of the whole cosmos, such that affirmation of any part implies affirming the whole, that whole is subtended by virtual tendencies which have the possibility of being actualized differently when the whole returns: what returns eternally is difference, not the same. Love of fate as the willing of the eternal return of the whole is not the acceptance of things as they are (the actual), but the willing of a counter-actualization of the virtual. Moreover, the necessity involved in fate is not that of causal determinism or logical necessity. The question is not which interpretation of amor fati is “correct” in the sense of corresponding to Nietzsche’s thought or Stoicism, but which set of attitudes and strategies best promotes human freedom and possibility. The issues raised by amor fati are thus ethical in nature, taking ethics in the sense of how one should best live one’s life.

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