Monday, April 27, 2009

Maverick Again on Nietzsche

Okay, that's it. I'm calling you out, Maverick.

I don't like doing this. In fact, as a philosopher, I'm supposed to be charitable. I'm supposed to build up the damn reasons as to why I interpret a text T as supporting X. That's one of the very few things I do, and as an aspiring Continental philosopher (such a skill at exegesis surpasses any pejorative division in my discipline), I am practicing all the time. It pains me to see that this is not done in a recent my Maverick philosopher. The blog post takes the following rough form (note this is heuristic only)

1) Nietzsche says X in T.
2) I interpret X in T as supporting National socialism.
3) Cite passage of Gay Science, 325.
4) Proviso: X in T as supporting National socialism cannot be maintained on one passage alone, and mention that there are many passages that fit this bill.
5) Even with the proviso, Nietzsche's saying X in T could support National socialism.

The immediate problem with his post is the purpose of the post equivocates in the sense meant by 2) and 5). We see this in how he refers to Kaufmann's footnote as derisive as well as those that would "scream in protest." He doesn't honestly accept the dialectical challenges of his opponents, or he would present a better case for support of 2). If pressed into a corner, I think he would suggest that 5 is what he is really doing although he wants to conclude definitively 2.

Given 5, he admits that he is not offering a sustained treatment or objecting to reading Nietzsche and his worth as a philosopher. He is only suggesting that Nietzsche can be read this way. Yet, before this humility sets in, he pedals some provocative statements meant to provoke the interpretation he favors without substantial argument mind you--really wanting to pass of 2 from above. First, he is observing the inadequacy of Walter Kaufmann's translation footnote, specifically taken issue with the fact that 325 can be explained by reference to another aphorism "how boldness in expressing one's ideas can cause emotional hurt to those near and dear." Without really offering a reason why we shouldn't accept this footnote, Maverick only points to the possibility that the passage can still be read this why being situating his favored interpretation as an explanation for why this is not the case. This amounts to the stupid undergraduate mistake of reasserting your conclusion as a way to answer an intelligible objection to one's view. Reassertion is not a way out of a dialectic.

Secondly, he implies that Kaufmann's translation of the Übermensch as "Overman" is motivated to stem the interpretation to sliding this way. Über can mean ultimate, above all, and best. In this sense, choosing Over, at least in my eyes, has always been meant to usher in a conception of a certain ethical archetype set over and beyond the current moral conception, essentially someone healthy, self-creative and passionately dedicated to a life-affirming project. The English "Super" seems to suggest not the over and beyond sense that Nietzsche means since super exaggerates something in the here and now. As such, I think the rendering by Kaufmann responsible.

When considering a counter-argument to his interpretation, we are told that LIBERALS do not want to be reminded of certain things, which Maverick fails to prove as objectionable. It could very well be the case that God is dead among the other doctrines:

when one interprets these passages in the light of such key Nietzschean doctrines as the death of God, the Will to Power, the perspectival nature of truth, (which amounts to a denial of truth), the denial of a moral world order, it becomes clear that there are definite links between Nietzsche's philosophy and Nazi ideology. But I can understand why leftists don't want to be reminded of this.

Here's a brief synopsis of my remedy. One way of interpreting Nietzsche is that he is trying to offer an ethic to combat the impending nihilism in the wake of the Death of God since so much meaning is invested in this notion; its collapse would wreak havoc. If this interpretation is true (as I think it very well is), the honest passages of life-affirming values and the myths to reinvigorate this conception prove to establish a remedy to this nihilism, not the support of national socialism. I could even supply those passages I feel warrant this interpretation over the one favored/but-not favored by Maverick (confusing as it is to read his post) Moreover, the biographical observation of his sister's proto-Nazi leanings and meeting of the Fuhrer go unnoticed by Maverick. It's simply that I am a liberal and don't want to think about these things. That's really lame if you want to meditate on the value of Nietzsche's thought.

Well, Maverick, I do think about these things. I also think about exegetically responsible views. Your passing reference to some Nietzsche lovers "in protest" is an attempt to lessen those that read him responsibly. I find this distasteful, and like last time, I invite you to comment--hoping that you find my criticism accurate of how irresponsible your characterization of Nietzsche's view really is.

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