Guest Post by Adam Dorsey on Nietzsche and Contest

There are some issues involved in closely aligning Dewey and Nietzsche, which must be addressed. For example, it has been argued that, through the call for those who are capable, to relentlessly seek out contestation in order to perpetually ‘self-overcome’, this continuous process can be seen to lead to an unrestrained and anti-political ‘agonism’. In relation to Dewey, one may recall that the ‘public’ was vital; in that only through the formation of a ‘public’, could the types of ‘concerted’ action required in a democracy be realised (Dewey, 1927, p. 211). Now, if individuals are in a continuous state of contestation with one another, then the ‘subject’ can be said to be in a state of constant de-stabilization, which results in the nullification of the possibilities for such a ‘public’ to emerge (Arendt, 1956, cited in Villa, year, p. 288).

However, Nietzsche was aware that, in order for the agon to continue in its creative argumentative form and not to become dominated by a certain party, person, or discourse, which by definition results in its destruction, restraints were necessary. This is evidenced by, as Honig (1993, p. 530) and others (Schrift, 2001, p. 157) have pointed out, Nietzsche’s endorsement of ‘ostracism’ in the essay ‘Homers Contest’ (Nietzsche, 1976, p. 32). Here, he argues that when a particular ‘genius’ grows to dominate the ‘space’ of contestation they must be, forcibly is necessary, removed from it in order to ensure the voices of other ‘geniuses’, with their disparate perspectives, can continue to be given an equal hearing, thus securing the possibilities of those involved to ‘self-overcome’ (Nietzsche, 1976, p. 38).

If one takes the points surrounding Nietzsche’s endorsement of ‘ostracism’ seriously then they seem to imply that, not only are subjects locked in the contest between themselves in the private realm, but also that the public level relations that define what is legitimate in terms of the ‘power’ possessed by those within the agon are also up for constant dispute. Whilst I am sympathetic to Arendt in that this multi-level conflict does seem to be detrimental to the formation of any notion of a ‘public’ and the concerted action such a formation entails. I think she overlooks the fact that in order for the agon to remain in its ‘positive’ form, a great deal of concerted and imaginative effort is required from those who are involved in it.

Indeed, those within the agon are not only required to constantly monitor themselves as well as others in order to retain their position, but must also be able to ‘cooperate’ when a person, party, or discourse has grown too powerful (Honig, 1993, p. 530). Therefore, far from diminishing the possibilities for the emergence of a ‘public’ the agon can in fact be said to offer the very opportunities for concerted action that is required. For although, individuals may be locked in contest with one another, this conflict is not pernicious but constructive, and when the agon is no longer constructive then all those involved, or the citizens, must come together against the oppressive element, or they must ‘reconstruct’ the very terms of the agon itself.


First Boook Review of Atheism Reclaimed

Matt’s blog gives a nice review of Atheism Reclaimed.

Atheism Reclaimed released today!

Atheism Reclaimed is released today! First Amazon review compares me to the Archbishop of Canterbury! 

Atheism and Egalitarianism

Levi Bryant here provides a nice synopsis on what a different type of atheism might look like. Atheism is not about the divine, it is not about the supernatural, nor the existence or non-existence of some kind of objects. By extension it is not about proving this or that.  It is about the delimitation of mastery and sovereignty. For Bryant, any atheism worthy of the name requires the leveling. While I am not sure I could fully endorse Bryant’s equation of atheism and anarchism, at least up to this point, his core point remains valid. Atheism, if it is to at all be relevant, must bring the question of egalitarianism into its register. Otherwise, and indeed as it stands, it remains pitifully localized,  insipidly identitarian and hopelessly irrelevant. If atheism does not apply to everybody, then what the point…

Atheism Reclaimed available for Pre-Order

Very pleased to see Atheism Reclaimed available for pre-order on and

Ch. 5 – The Common

Utilising insights from Karl Marx, Jacques Rancière, Sartre and Paolo Virno, this chapter intends to express an idea of ‘the common’ as essential to atheist thought.  If atheism expresses anything, it must articulate the common and generic conditions of humankind, those conditions in which our existence is enmeshed, and what the stakes of this might be for humanity as a whole.  The aforementioned thinkers are decisive for discerning universal conditions that make human existence possible and liveable, and are valuable in that they offer an alternate narrative on the means by which humans can depersonalize themselves. This starkly diverges from conventional atheism which relies on questions of individual belief in evidential claims. Thus, these thinkers elevate atheism into wider and more meaningful questions of belonging, meaning, human potential, all of which are firmly grounded on shared life as founded on concepts of sensuous life, species-being, language and amenable life.

Ch. 4 – Being is Time

Traditionally, theology is focussed on eternal life. It is surprising therefore that the question of temporality is not more prominent in atheist discourse. This chapter attempts to remedy this situation by arguing that notions of life and death are radically entwined, and that mortality and finitude should be place to the fore in any worthy atheist discourse. Following insights primarily gained from Martin Heidegger, Martin Hägglund and Jean-Paul Sartre I argue for the value of reconfigured notions of time, death, immanence, transcendence, and love. The stakes of atheism must thus re-focus itself on an understanding of human reality as determinable in confronting the changing nature of our lived environment.

Ch. 3- A Violent Truth

This chapter offers a commendation of an existential theory of truth for atheism. Rather than traditional notions of truth such as correspondence or coherence, which remain wedded to the empirical and epistemic world view, I will here propose the question of truth as important for a renewed atheist thought. Here I argue for a notion of truth that places the human in the wider context of its history, world and cosmos. Truth is a reasonable reflection on the reasons for existence, emerging as it does within the dimensions of its shapes, structure and forms, rather than a detached and dispassionate empiricism.  The fact that reality is organized simply as it is, demands a reflection on why it is there and how it coheres as it does, in the face of the violent events comprising it. Thinkers featured in this chapter include Plato, Pascal and Nietzsche.

Ch. 2 – Transparent Things

This chapter progresses with a reflection on the nature of objects and things. The task is to present a philosophical reflection on how humans can have a meaningful relation to the objects of their world.  Atheist reflection must begin with what is before its eyes as part of the wider environment. Using insights from Plato, Sartre and Blanchot, a revitalization of atheism will I argue remain committed to questioning the perpetual fragility of objects. This will in turn demonstrate the possibility of an atheism without reification and objectification, and furthers the argument that a radical atheism can offer a meaningful response to negation and nihilism.