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an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

Volume 18, Spring 2021, ISSN 1552-5112



From Cyclops to Cyborg: Nietzsche, Posthumanism and ‘Embodied Perspectivism’



Philip Mills




Against a rigid conception of the human, various strands of posthumanism prefer considering the idea of the human an open concept, which can evolve in almost unlimited ways according to the evolutions of technology for instance.[1] In this context, many Nietzsche scholars have considered the notion of Übermensch to be of central significance to posthuman studies. Although there are some clear connections to be made in this regard, I will rather focus on his notion of perspectivism—that I reconceptualise as an ‘embodied perspectivism’—to account for what I consider to be the metaphorical force of posthumanism in Nietzsche.[2] Indeed, the abovementioned connection between postmodernism and perspectivism—the idea that there is no privileged perspective and that a form of ‘objectivity’ can only be reached through the multiplication of perspectives—brings to the fore a potential connection to posthumanism through the emphasis on the importance of the ‘eyes’ which, as we will see, is central both to perspectivism and to a certain conception of the posthuman Cyborg. In a literal way, multiplying perspectives involves multiplying eyes, and this multiplication of eyes might be what the posthuman Cyborg makes possible.

In this paper, I consider the notion of Cyborg as a metaphor for the perspectival request for a multiplication of eyes. I do not argue that Nietzsche would be in favour of an actual multiplication of eyes by means of technology, but that the posthuman Cyborg as developed by Donna Haraway offers a metaphor for this multiplication of eyes and perspectives. The postmodern shift from grand narratives to a multiplicity of small narratives can be coined in the metaphorical shift from Cyclops to Cyborg. Whereas Nietzsche criticises Socrates’s cyclopean eye and the cyclopic buildings, the Cyborg offers the counter-metaphor to the Cyclops. My paper is divided in three parts: first, I discuss Nietzsche’s critique of cyclopic buildings and the cyclopic monoperspectival view, relating it to the Cyclops episode in James Joyce’s Ulysses to show the relation between a cyclopic building and political ideologies; second, I elaborate on Nietzsche’s perspectivism by showing how it ought to be considered a matter of embodiment and affect rather than one of knowledge and epistemology; third, I use the term of Cyborg as a metaphor for the Nietzschean alternative to the Cyclops, while pointing out the dangers of a literal reading of the Cyborg.


I. Against Cyclopic Ideology

Although the Cyclops is not a central figure in Nietzsche’s works, his references to the ‘Cyclopian eye’ and ‘cyclopic buildings’ build on two of the usual characteristics of the Cyclops: one-eyedness and strength. The first characteristics suggests that the Cyclops’s way of seeing and understanding the world is limited to a single perspective; the second suggests that, maybe in order to compensate this lack of perspectives, the Cyclops relies mainly on its superhuman strength. Both one-eyedness and strength are characteristics that I will relate to political nationalism and patriotic ideology, following Joyce’s reinterpretation of the Cyclops episode in Ulysses. Before moving towards the political implications of the Cyclops, let us explore how this figure appears in Nietzsche’s works.

Nietzsche discusses the one-eyedness of the Cyclops in the Birth of Tragedy, while describing Socrates’s view of tragedy:

Let us now imagine Socrates’ one great Cyclopian eye turned on tragedy, an eye in which the lovely madness of artistic enthusiasm never glowed, let us remember how that eye was debarred from ever looking with pleasure into the abysses of the Dionysiac; what was this eye actually bound to see in the ‘sublime and renowned’ art of tragedy, as Plato called it? Some­ thing quite unreasonable, with causes which apparently lacked effects and effects which apparently lacked causes, while the whole was so varied and multifarious that it was bound to be repugnant to a reflective disposition, but also dangerous tinder for sensitive and easily aroused souls. (BT 14)

Knowing that, in The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche considers Socrates to bring tragedy to its demise, giving him ‘one great Cyclopian eye’ can hardly be considered a positive evaluation. Socrates’s one-eyedness makes him miss the point of tragedy, as his eye can never experience ‘the lovely madness of artistic enthusiasm.’ One-eyedness therefore means for Nietzsche an incapacity to view and live the world in a perspectival manner. Socrates can only see the world through his sole optics of rationality—an optics that fails to understand tragedy because the latter precisely appears to lack rationality—and is therefore limited in his worldview. Unlike Nietzsche’s philosopher of the future who, as we will see, must ‘be able to look with many kinds of eyes,’ (BGE 211) the Cyclops remains imprisoned in a single perspective. Socrates’s one-eyedness prevents him from experiencing the ‘lovely madness’ of tragedy, prevents him from experiencing various perspectives, imprisons him in the tunnel vision of his ‘one great Cyclopian eye.’ It is worth noting that Nietzsche’s philosophical project in The Birth of Tragedy is—at least in the retrospective account he gives in his ‘Attempt at Self-Criticism’—opposed to Socrates’s one-eyedness insofar as he consider his work to manifest the perspectival task ‘to look at science through the prism of the artist, but also to look at art through the prism of life.’ (BT, ‘Attempt at Self-Criticism’, 2)


The first characteristics Nietzsche attributes to the Cyclops therefore shows its limitation in seeing, its incapacity to change perspective, its imprisonment in its one-eyedness. To compensate these mental, spiritual, and intellectual limitations, the Cyclops possess a great strength. This second characteristics brings Nietzsche to value the Cyclops somewhat more positively.

We must always set the cult of culture beside the cult of genius and of might, as its comple­tion and cure: for it knows how to grant a sympathetic assess­ment to what is material, humble, inferior, misunderstood, weak, imperfect, one-sided, partial, untrue, apparent, even to what is evil and frightful, conceding that all of this is neces­sary; for the harmony and continued resonance of all that is human, which has been attained by astonishing labors and lucky accidents, and which is as much the work of Cyclopses and ants as of geniuses, must not be lost again: how could we dispense with the common, deep, often uncanny ground bass, without which, of course, melody could not be melody? (HH 2, 186)

The move from The Birth of Tragedy to Human, All Too Human shows a slight shift in the evaluation of the Cyclops. In this paragraph, Nietzsche suggests that Cyclopes are as needed as geniuses to build a culture, in his attempt to revaluate what is often considered inferior. Although the Cyclopes are dangerous insofar as their view is limited, they are also needed to build a culture and to build the harmony of all that is human. Nietzsche considers that the cult of culture acknowledges the necessity of ‘what is material, humble, inferior,’ etc., in the constitution of a harmonic culture. Nietzsche warns against two dangers here: first, the danger of overlooking the ‘nearby things’ (WS 5), of falling into the attitude of a philistine such as David Strauss whom Nietzsche criticises in the first Untimely Meditation. This danger amounts to considering the ‘higher culture’ perspective to be the only and the best possible one, thus falling into the one-eyedness of philistines and into the traps laid by the metaphysicians and the priests who value rationality in a way similar to Socrates.[3] Second, the opposite danger of considering ‘what is material, humble, inferior,’ etc. as the only perspective. As we will see in the next section, art is precisely one way of avoiding such a trap. The two dangers opposed here are, on the one hand, considering the ‘higher culture’ as reality itself, thus overlooking the ordinary and everyday aspects of our lives and, on the other hand, of considering quotidian life, i.e. ‘what is closest at hand and most vulgar,’ (GS 78) as being the whole of reality. Both dangers amount to a failure to encompass different perspectives and therefore to be imprisoned in a single one.

Nietzsche further develops the relation between Cyclopes and force in his discussion of cyclopic buildings. Architecturally speaking, these buildings are called so because they are made of stones so large that they are considered, mythically, to have been built by the Cyclopes themselves.

Now is the age of cyclopic buildings! Finally, there is certainty about the foundations, so that the entire fu­ture can build upon them without danger! Impossible hence­ forth for the fields of culture ever again to be destroyed overnight by wild and senseless mountain waters! Stone dams and protective walls against barbarians, against plagues, against physical and spiritual enslavement! And all of this at first under­ stood literally and crudely, but gradually in an ever more ele­vated and spiritual way, so that all of the measures mentioned above seem to be the clever composite preparations of the highest artist of horticulture, who can turn for the first time to his own real task once the other tasks have been completely accom­plished! (WS 275)

The cyclopic buildings offer a security which allow society to prosper and develop itself in a safe environment. However, in this paragraph from The Wanderer and his Shadow, Nietzsche praises this safety in an ironic way. He is criticising the democratisation of Europe, and the impossibility to stop this process. The cyclopic buildings offer, as it were, the architecture on which democracy can arise. It is well-known that Nietzsche is rather critical of democracy and this criticism transfers onto cyclopic buildings.[4] Nietzsche’s use of irony can be understood as a criticism of the ‘certainty about the foundations’ which suggests that this consideration of the cyclopic buildings as the safe ground to build democracy is ill-thought. To the contrary, Nietzsche might be indicating that the democratisation of Europe is built on unsafe grounds. The cyclopic buildings offer only a sense of safety, a sense of a danger-free future, whereas Nietzsche points out that the greatest danger might in fact come from within these cyclopic walls. If Nietzsche anticipates postmodern themes, we can consider that the whole idea of having safe and certain foundations is not only questionable but also a logical inconsistency as these foundations for the development of human culture are themselves unfounded.

These foundations, to the contrary, might be rather detrimental to human culture as they create the grounds for the development of a single-eyed perspective, a cyclopic perspective, which takes the form, within democracy, of nationalism and patriotic ideology. They would therefore lead to the decline rather than the thriving of human culture. In this context, the Cyclops, with its one-eyedness and its force, represents the figure of such political and ideological tendencies. This metaphor of the Cyclops as figuring the single-mindedness and the single-eyedness that leads to nationalist ideologies is aptly used by James Joyce in Chapter 12 of Ulysses, the Cyclopes episode, in which Bloom encounters ‘the Citizen,’ a nationalist and xenophobe. Like the Cyclops, the Citizen is single-minded and considers force a central criterion to evaluate political views. Vincent Sherry relates the Citizen’s confrontation with Bloom to an opposition between man and woman which, as we will see in section III, is central to Donna Haraway’s conception of the Cyborg:

However righteous these indignations may be, they seem, like the Citizen’s, chiefly to feed and sustain and accelerate the cycle of offense and retribution. How Bloom counters this dire liability shows the full force and effect of Joyce’s feminization of epic, which here opposes the Citizen as Cyclops, as gigantistic cartoon of male consciousness, to Bloom’s womanly Odysseus. The Cyclops, his one eye bulging in the middle of his forehead as caricature of phallocentric single vision, promotes a politics of xenophobia, a patriotism premised on intolerance of the other. (Sherry 2004, 53)

In this sense, the Citizen represents an old-fashioned way of thinking, the one Nietzsche criticises in the metaphysicians and the priests, the one that is incapable of changing perspective.

In Joyce’s Ulysses, Bloom therefore becomes the counterpart of the Citizen by showing a perspectival way of seeing the world. He considers life to be completely opposite to what the Citizen believes:

—But it's no use, says he. Force, hatred, history, all that. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that that is really life.

—What? says Alf.

—Love, says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred. I must go now, says he to John Wyse. Just round to the court a moment to see if Martin is there. If he comes just say I'll be back in a second. Just a moment. (Joyce 1984, 2:716)

Against the single-eyedness of the Cyclops-Citizen, Bloom remains open-minded and tries to adopt a broader perspective. Love and tolerance are therefore privileged over hatred and force. The Citizen, who is openly nationalist and anti-Semite, represents a line of thinking (or rather not thinking) that leads to political troubles. In other words, the Citizen represents the ideological gaze with its single eye and single mind.

The cyclopic buildings on which democracy is built, while rejecting external dangers (floods, barbarian, illnesses as Nietzsche argues) contains and feeds an internal danger, that of patriotic ideology, that of cyclopic thought. Nietzsche’s embodied perspectivism, because of its relation to affects (to this extent similar to Bloom’s focus on love), offers the conceptual grounds to oppose patriotic ideology.

II. Nietzsche’s Embodied Perspectivism

It has become rather common to consider perspectivism as the epistemological doctrine according to which ‘there are no facts, only interpretations.’ (Danto 2005, 59)[5] This focus on epistemology has however overshadowed two aspects of perspectivism that are of central importance to my interpretation: first, that perspectivism is primarily related to vision before knowledge and, second, that perspectivism is not an abstract and theoretical doctrine, but must be lived and experienced. The first aspect presents what I would call an ‘aesthetic perspectivism’ in which seeing is central and therefore relates to notion of eyes.[6] The second aspect relates to the embodiment of perspectives that, as we will see, connects to the posthuman Cyborg, following to some extent Pierre Klossowski’s interpretation of drives as operating within us as perspectival agents. (Klossowski 1997, 44) This suggests that perspectivism qua shifts in vision reflects the internal constitution of our drives: perspectivism as a perceptual doctrine—an epistemological one only at a second stage—relies on the ‘embodied perspectivism’ that constitutes us.

According to Paul Katsafanas, this perspectival constitution of ourselves can be understood in the sense that the interpretation of our drives is necessarily perspectival, and hence there is no unique way to understand them:

When we put this claim together with the perspectivist thesis that there is no way to say that one of these ways is the “right way,” we end up with the following result: even if we could acquire concepts that were maximally specific, the meanings of these concepts and the interconceptual relations would be determined in a holistic fashion, as part of a framework of concepts, foundational beliefs, and standards of justification. So the concepts would be maximally specific from the standpoint of a series of beliefs and standards of justification, but there are always other foundational beliefs and standards of justification that we could adopt, and doing so would lead to a different set of maximally specific concepts. (Katsafanas 2016, 53–54)

If we follow Nietzsche’s perspectivism, we can understand ourselves only in a perspectival way, as we interpret our drives from a certain conceptual framework. Using a Wittgensteinian vocabulary, we could say that the interpretation of our drives is dependent on our form of life. Changing perspective would therefore not only require changing our perception within our form of life but also experiencing another form of life. This idea of changing our form of life comes back to the perspectival drives and the embodiment of perspectivism. To be trapped within one perspective is therefore to be trapped in a conceptual framework, to be trapped in a form of life, to be trapped in a certain interpretation of drives.

In The Gay Science, Nietzsche argues that this trap is the trap of the banal and that only theatre can overcome the banality of the common perspective:

Without this art [of theatre] we would be nothing but the foreground and live entirely in the spell of that perspective which makes what is closest at hand and most vulgar appear as if it were vast, and reality itself. (GS 78)

The idea is not that theatre is the only or the best way of multiplying perspectives, but that the conscious and explicit staging that is at play in theatre reveals the perhaps unconscious and implicit staging that pervades our everyday life. As we have seen, Socrates’s ‘great Cyclopian eye’ prevents him from experiencing tragedy, prevents him from overcoming the spell of his perspective, that of rationality. Even though Nietzsche argues, as we have seen in the previous section, that we must pay attention to ‘nearby things,’ to the ‘common, deep, often uncanny ground bass, without which, of course, melody could not be melody’ that the Cyclopes build, we must not remain within this perspective. Unlike Socrates, Nietzsche suggests that taking art (and here theatre) seriously involves being able to experience various perspectives.

The experiencing of many perspectives, as already mentioned in the previous section, is the reason why Nietzsche considers that the philosopher of the future:

needs to have been a critic and a sceptic and a dogmatic and an historian, and in addition a poet and collector and traveller and puzzle-solver and moralist and seer and ‘free spirit’ and nearly all things, so that he can traverse the range of human values and value-feelings and be able to look with many kinds of eyes and consciences from the corners into every wide expanse. (BGE 211)

In contrast to the Cyclops, the philosopher of the future must ‘be able to look with many kinds of eyes and consciences.’ These many eyes and consciences are ways of escaping the ideological perspective that the Cyclops and Joyce’s Citizen follow. Whereas the Cyclops has only one mode of living, the philosopher of the future has multiple possibilities. These possibilities arise from the capacity to multiply points of view. But more than a mere multiplication of points of view, perspectivism requires one to embody different ways of being, not just to see through various lenses. To be able to look as a historian for instance requires to experience the way of life of the historian, to embody the historian’s perspective. The philosopher of the future is therefore not only the one with most eyes, but her many eyes represent the many lives she experiences and embodies.


Nietzsche further connects eyes and feelings, perspectives and embodiment, in considering that:

Perspectival seeing is the only kind of seeing there is, perspectival ‘knowing’ the only kind of ‘knowing’; and the more the feelings about a matter which we allow to come to expression, the more eyes, different eyes through which we are able to view this same matter, the more complete our ‘conception’ of it, our ’objectivity’, will be. (GM III, 12)

Objectivity for Nietzsche does therefore not rely on a dismissal of feelings, but rather on the multiplication of them. It is only by multiplying feelings, i.e. by embodying multiple perspectives, that we can reach a form of ‘objectivity.’ Against the idea of objectivity being a God’s eye perspective, i.e. a perspective that overlooks everything and is unique, Nietzsche’s perspectivism suggests that there is no such overlooking perspective. The subject, in order to reach a form of ‘objectivity,’ must experience, i.e. embody, these various perspectives. Multiplying our perspectives is not only a matter of multiplying our eyes, but also of multiplying our feelings, multiplying the ways in which we interpret what our eyes see. Multiplying our eyes, in contrast to the Cyclops, is therefore to enhance our body and our mind. But what is this enhancement if not a cyborgisation of ourselves? From the postmodern injunction to multiply perspectives in order to overcome the limitations of what Lyotard calls the ‘metanarrative,’ we move to the posthuman ideal to multiply our eyes.


III. The Postmodern Cyborg as Metaphor

The Cyborg, insofar as it enhances the human body, can be seen as an attempt to physically and cybernetically enhance the human, to give it more eyes, against the Cyclops’s single-eyedness. Interestingly, most popular representations of Cyborgs include an enhancement of the eye, be it as an external device (a third eye for instance) or as internal programme. Enhancing the possibilities of sight seems to be central to the Cyborg. As we have seen however, if the Cyclops’s one-eyedness reflects an ideological single-mindedness, does the enhanced cybernetic eye overcome it? In order to explore how the Cyborg might offer a metaphorical figure for Nietzsche’s perspectivism and a possible overcoming of patriotic ideology, I will mainly focus on Donna Haraway’s famous ‘Cyborg Manifesto’, because her conception of the Cyborg interestingly relates the initial idea of the Cyborg as brute (military) force to a potential revolutionary Cyborg. Against the reading of the Cyborg as a military and ideological force, Haraway’s posthuman Cyborg is a revolutionary force that works against the military order from which it originates.

Haraway defines the Cyborg as follows: ‘A Cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction.’ (Haraway 2015, 149) Because it is a hybrid between social reality and fiction, the Cyborg can act upon the former. Against the view that the Cyborg would be the guardian of ideology, in the sense that the Cyclops is, Haraway considers that the Cyborg has a role to play in revolution, in changing how the world is viewed and thought: ‘So my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political work.’ (Haraway 2015, 154) The Cyborg becomes a ‘world-changing fiction’ by acting upon social reality. By transgressing the norms, the Cyborg offers an alternative, which originally offers to overcome the dualistic and binary thinking, especially regarding the man-woman dualism, offers a way to act upon this social reality which is, in fact, a political fiction.[7] The Cyborg’s original aim to overcome dualisms connects to the heart of Nietzsche’s philosophy, namely the attempt to overcome the metaphysical dualisms that have plagued the history of philosophy since Plato.[8] The Cyborg presented in such a light is therefore a revolutionary force acting to overcome the fiction of dualisms, this much too old philosophical, social, and political construct.

Despite this revolutionary component, Haraway suggests that we must not forget the ideological dimension of the Cyborg. As abovementioned, two visions of the Cyborg stand opposite one another: as a dominating force on the one hand and as a revolutionary force on the other hand.  In her attempt to overcome dualisms, Haraway argues that we should envision both perspectives, both domination and revolution in the figure of the Cyborg:

From one perspective, a cyborg world is about the final imposition of a grid of control on the planet, about the final abstraction embodied in a Star Wars apocalypse waged in the name of defence, about the final appropriation of women’s bodies in a masculinist orgy of war. From another perspective, a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints. The political struggle is to see from both perspectives at once because each reveals both dominations and possibilities unimaginable from the other vantage point. Single vision produces worse illusions than double vision or many-headed monsters. (Haraway 2015, 154)

We must avoid single vision, i.e. we must avoid being Cyclopes, and one way to do so is, I argue, to adopt Nietzsche’s perspectivism. Being a Cyborg is precisely a way of envisioning multiple perspectives at the same time, and that means multiple perspectives on the Cyborg itself. The idea of a ‘many-headed monster’ can be viewed, in a perspectival vocabulary, as a ‘many-eyed monster’, a figure that sees through multiple perspectives at the same time, a figure that enacts perspectivism in its physiology and biology. The difficulty, Haraway notes, is ‘to see from both perspectives at once’ because they might seem, and probably are, contradictory to one another. This difficulty is the reason why perspectivism must be embodied and not just considered as a change of optics or lenses: an ‘embodied perspectivism’ is not just a matter of seeing things from different perspectives but integrating these various perspectives in the body.

The Cyborg therefore represents, metaphorically at least, the possibility of this embodiment of perspectivism.

However, there is a danger to the cyborgisation of the world. Overcoming the dualisms is not merely a physical act, but one that engages one’s state of mind, and thus requires precisely overcoming the mind-body dualism that is at play in this distinction between physical acts and state of mind. While remaining in this mind-body dualism, it is possible to remain a Cyclops (mentally) while being a Cyborg (physically), and hence the Cyborg in this Nietzschean sense must be understood metaphorically, as a multiplication of conceptual eyes rather than a multiplication of physical or cybernetic ones. We could easily imagine that the power to cybernetically enhance one’s body could reinforce existing dualisms and structures of power rather than overcome them.


This danger is precisely the one that Achille Mbembe is wary of in discussing the question of race:

In fact, there is good reason to believe that in a more or less distant future genetic techniques will be used to manage the characteristics of populations to eliminate races judgedundesirablethrough the selection of trisomic embryos, or through theriomorphism (hybridization with animal elements) or ‘cyborgization’ (hybridization with artificial elements). Nor is it impossible to believe that we will arrive at a point where the fundamental role of medicine will be not only to bring a sick organism back to health but to use medical techniques of molecular engineering to refashion life itself along lines defined by racial determinism. Race and racism, then, do not only have a past. They also have a future, particularly in a context where the possibility of transforming life and creating mutant species no longer belongs to the realm of fiction. (Mbembe 2017, 21)

The ideological one-eyedness and single-mindedness of the Cyclops is not only a thing of the past, according Mbembe, it has a future. And this future could even be much bleaker than the present as technological ‘progress’ could overcome dualisms not through a multiplication of perspectives, and therefore an embrace of the variety of perspectives, but through the establishment of an absolute domination that would, in time, eradicate variety in favour of uniformity. Mbembe argues that this eradication originates in the change from a medicine that brings organisms back to life to a medicine that enhances and redefines the human. If medicine plays the role of redefining the human, it can do so to make all humans alike (and eradicate those who do not conform to this norm). In this notion of medicine lies the ambiguity of the posthuman, the dream of encompassing all forms of being and the danger of uniformising all forms of being.

This danger of cyborgisation is already here according to Mbembe, we are in a sense Cyborgs with cyclopic minds. Haraway suggests something similar in saying that the becoming Cyborg of the human is already in action, that we are all Cyborgs:

In so far as we know ourselves in both formal discourse (for example, biology) and in daily practice (for example, the homework economy in the integrated circuit), we find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras. (Haraway 2015, 177)

If the Cyborg is to be a metaphorical figure for the posthuman in the postmodern world, it must avoid being a cyclopic Cyborg and to the contrary enact the multiplication of perspectives. This is where Nietzsche’s philosophy connects to posthuman studies: it is not only as a prefiguration of posthuman themes, but as a warning against the dangers of a cyclopic Cyborg. To avoid being a Cyclops, the Cyborg must continually strive to be the ‘thinking against dualisms,’ (Hoquet 2011) to borrow Thierry Hoquet’s title, because as long as the Cyborg does not become a force against dualisms, as long as the Cyborg remains within the perspective of mere domination, it cannot be of use for revolution, but will only serve repression instead.

To conclude, the Cyclops and the Cyborg represent two metaphors for our ways of being in the world. As we have seen, the Cyborg offers an alternative to the Cyclops, in which many eyes replace the single one. But the replacement of eyes in a purely physical, physiological, or technological manner is of no use to overcome the danger of the Cyclops. The only Cyborg overcoming of the Cyclops is the embodiment of perspectivism. In this sense, to understand the Cyborg in a Nietzschean way is to consider it as a proponent of perspectivism, as enacting perspectivism biologically and physiologically. This embodiment does not necessarily involve a cybernetic enhancement. The Cyborg qua proponent of perspectivism is a metaphor rather than a literal figure. It is worth noting that popular culture often represents the Cyborg as having cyclopic eyes rather than Nietzschean ones. More than a mere cybernetic enhancement, the multiplication of eyes should rather be a multiplication of ways of seeing and knowing. Inasmuch as we are Cyclopes without having one eye, we must attempt to become posthuman Cyborgs without necessarily multiplying our eyes in a literal way. This attempt does less require a change in physiology than a change in our ways of thinking. Inasmuch as the Cyclops is a mythical creature of the past, the Cyborg is the mythical figure for the postmodern and posthuman world. What Nietzsche teaches us about this postmodern and posthuman world is that the work to be done is not to become literal Cyborgs (in the sense of the cyclopic Cyborgs we already are, even more enhanced by means of technology), but to show ways in which we can become posthuman Cyborgs that overcome the Cyclops. It is in this understanding of the Cyborg that we can understand the postmodern, considering it not as a relativistic thought, but as a way of conceptualising the multiplication of perspectives. The posthuman, in this context, is the embodiment of the postmodern multiplication of perspectives and the overcoming of the traditional cyclopic worldview.





an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

 Volume 18, Spring 2021, ISSN 1552-5112



[1] Cary Wolfe, although he agrees that the idea of the human as an open concept is one of the common traits of different strands of posthumanism, considers that the important feature of posthumanism is the way thinking relates to or faces this idea: ‘What this means is that when we talk about posthumanism, we are not just talking about a thematics of the decentering of the human in relation to either evolutionary, ecological, or technological coordinates (though that is where the conversation usually begins and, all too often, ends); rather, I will insist that we are also talking about how thinking confronts that thematics, what thought has to become in the face of those challenges.’ (Wolfe 2011, xvi) In this sense, posthumanism is not just a matter of thinking about the changes the human can go through, but also and above all a way of considering how thinking comes to cope with the changes that occur in the human.


[2] Many of Nietzsche’s concepts seem to pervade in postmodernism and posthumanism. Regarding posthumanism, the notion of the overhuman seems to be the closest to the posthuman project. As Stefan Sorgner notes however, the concept of the posthuman is not a closed concept and he therefore concludes ‘that Nietzsche and the transhumanists share many aspects in their general anthropologies and their values, but Nietzsche’s concept of the overhuman does not correspond to the concept of the posthuman of all transhumanists.’ (Sorgner 2017, 38–39) It is worth noting that Sorgner studies here the posthuman from a transhuman perspective, which is not the only possible one and, as I argue, not the one I adopt. Also discussing transhumanism and although he considers that Nietzsche would probably not agree with transhumanists on the technological enhancement of the body, Yunus Tuncel suggests that Nietzsche’s critique of humanism is central to the posthuman and transhuman projects: ‘Nietzsche’s critique of human being as constructed by the highest values of Europe up to the nineteenth century and all the related cultural phenomena provoked later thinkers to re-think the place of human being in the universe (in relation to animals and other beings) and to search for new conceptions, new “subjectivities,” and new technologies of the self.’ (Tuncel 2015, 84)


[3] See David Strauss the Confessor and the Writer: ‘[David Strauss] simply assumes without further ado that everything that occurs in the world has the highest intellectual value, in other words, that it is ordered in an absolutely reasonable and purposive manner, and hence that it embodies a revelation of eternal goodness itself.’ (DS 7) And The Wanderer and his Shadow: ‘Conversely, the high estimation for the ‘most important things’ is almost never wholly genuine: the priests and metaphysicians have admittedly gotten us completely accustomed to a hypocritically exaggerated use of language in these areas, and yet not changed the tune of our feeling that these most important things are not to be taken to be as important as those disdained nearby things.’ (WS 5)


[4] The relation between Nietzsche and democracy is however a much more complicated matter in which various positions have been defended, from considering Nietzsche’s remarks on politics as a defense of democracy to a critic of it and a radical aristocrat. For an overview of Nietzsche’s ambiguous relation to democracy, see Herman Siemens’s article ‘Yes, No, Maybe So… Nietzsche’s Equivocations on the Relation between Democracy and “Grosse Politik”’ (Siemens 2008) This ambiguous relation reflects to some extent the two abovementioned dangers regarding ‘nearby things’: overlooking them and considering them to be all of reality.


[5] According to Maudemarie Clark, Nietzsche’s perspectivism ‘constitutes his most obvious contribution to the current intellectual scene, the most widely accepted Nietzschean doctrine.’ (Clark 1990, 127) However, considering perspectivism an epistemological doctrine entails an important problem, namely that perspectivism is self-refuting. Indeed, if perspectivism is absolutely true in all perspectives, it means that there is at least one absolute (i.e. non perspectival) truth. If perspectivism is not true in all perspectives, then why are we following a false doctrine? Steven Hales and Rex Welshon consider this problem to follow a conception of ‘strong perspectivism’ and they suggest adopting a form of ‘weak perspectivism’ to avoid such a contradiction. (Hales and Welshon 2000, 22) But another and more interesting move in discussing the cyborg is the idea that perspectivism is not opposed to absolutism, but rather constitute an alternative to it. Rather than being another epistemological doctrine, it would be, as Tracy Strong suggests, an attempt at replacing epistemology. (Strong 1985, 165) A step towards this alternative is suggested by Alan Schrift who considers that: ‘Nietzsche’s perspectival account does not provide a theory at all; it is a rhetorical strategy that offers an alternative to the traditional epistemological conception of knowledge as the possession of some stable, eternal “entities,” whether these be considered “truths,” “facts,” “meanings,” “propositions,” or whatever.’ (Schrift 1990, 145)


[6] The notion of ‘aesthetic perspectivism’ has been put forward by Kathleen Higgins who argues that ‘This term [aesthetic] is appropriate, I think, because it gets at the root and range of the perspectival variables that are relevant to a true picture of the situations in which we apprehend. An additional advantage of the term is that Nietzsche's images drawn from the sphere of art and aesthetics more narrowly conceived usually reverberate, illuminating features of life, broadly conceived. Nietzsche dethrones “traditional” epistemology from its queenly place in philosophy in favor of aesthetics, the study of perception and value within the perceptual sphere.’ (Higgins 2000, 52) Higgins argues that relating perspectivism to aesthetics brings perspectivism back to its original ground of sensation and perception, following the etymology of aesthetics, aisthesis.


[7] Haraway’s conception of the cyborg as overcoming dualisms is very influential in attempts to overcome the man-woman dualism. Her Cyborg has now become an unavoidable figure for re-thinking the gendered body, see for instance the collection of articles The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader (Hovenden et al. 2013) and Anne Balsamo’s book Technology of the Gendered Body. Reading Cyborg Women (Balsamo 1999).


[8] See for instance Nietzsche’s attempt to overcome the ‘true world’-‘world of appearances’ metaphysical dualism in his famous chapter ‘How the true world became a fable’ in Twilight of the Idols. In this chapter, he shows the ‘history of an error’, i.e. the history of this metaphysical dualism, and considers that he is bringing it to an end, not only discarding the ‘true world’, but the ‘world of appearances’ as well.





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