Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, Part Four

Part Four of Beyond Good and Evil is Epigrams and Interludes. There is some good stuff here, but for me, as a reader, it tends to get overshadowed by the many problematic things Nietzsche has to say about women. Nietzsche could be a radical in many ways, but was also deeply conservative in his misogyny and elitism. Nietzsche’s view of women is more complicated than it sounds in what follows. To take just one example, he is the rare male philosopher who uses imagery of pregnancy and birth to describe philosophical and artistic creation. A recent book makes the case that “Nietzsche’s texts eliminate ‘man’ and ‘woman’ altogether” (ix), creating a space for the overcoming of binary sex and gender difference. I personally wouldn’t go that far, but there’s no question that feminists (like Luce Irigaray who said that her Marine Lover was “not a book on Nietzsche but with Nietzsche, who is for me a partner in a love relationship.” For more click here.) have found in Nietzsche both an ally and an antagonist. If you’re interested, here’s the reference:

Nietzsche on Gender: Beyond Man and Woman. By FRANCES NESBITT OPPEL. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005.

And there’s the classic from a well-regarded Penn State series:

Kelly Oliver, Marilyn Pearsall, Feminist Interpretations of Friedrich Nietzsche, Penn State Press, 1998.

And for fun:

“Are you visiting women? Do not forget your whip!” –from Thus Spake Zarathustra

(That’s a photo of Nietzsche and Paul Ree pulling a wagon carrying the whip-wielding Lou Andreas-Salome. More on the complex relationships between the three here.)

84

Woman learns to hate to the extent to which her charms — decrease.

86

Women themselves always still have in the background of all personal vanity an impersonal contempt — for “woman”–

114

The enormous expectation in sexual love and the sense of shame in this expectation spoils all perspective for women from the start.

115

Where neither love nor hatred is in the game, a woman’s game is mediocre.

131

The sexes deceive themselves about each other — because at bottom they honor and love only themselves (or their own ideal, to put it more pleasantly). Thus man likes woman peaceful — but woman is essentially unpeaceful, like a cat, however well she may have trained herself to seem peaceable.

139

In revenge and in love woman is more barbarous than man.

144

When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexually. Sterility itself disposes one toward a certain masculinity of taste; for man is, if I may say so, “the sterile animal.”

145

Comparing man and woman on the whole, one may say: woman would not have the genius for finery if she did not have an instinct for a secondary role.

And a few others:

153

Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil.

161

Poets treat their experiences shamelessly. They exploit them.

166

Even when the mouth lies, the way it looks still tells the truth.

167

In men who are hard, intimacy involves shame — and is precious.

185

“I don’t like him.” — Why?– “I am not equal to him.” — Has any human being ever answered that way?

10 responses

  1. The phrases are nuanced differently in my translation.

    84 Woman learns to hate to the extent to which her charms — decrease.

    84. Woman learns how to hate in proportion as she—forgets how to charm.

    When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexually. Sterility itself disposes one toward a certain masculinity of taste; for man is, if I may say so, “the sterile animal.”

    When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is generally something wrong with her sexual nature. Barrenness itself conduces to a certain virility of taste; man, indeed, if I may say so, is “the barren animal.”

    Women themselves always still have in the background of all personal vanity an impersonal contempt — for “woman”–

    86. In the background of all their personal vanity, women themselves have still their impersonal scorn—for “woman”.

    114 The enormous expectation in sexual love and the sense of shame in this expectation spoils all perspective for women from the start.

    114. The immense expectation with regard to sexual love, and the coyness in this expectation, spoils all the perspectives of women at the outset.

    131 The sexes deceive themselves about each other — because at bottom they honor and love only themselves (or their own ideal, to put it more pleasantly). Thus man likes woman peaceful — but woman is essentially unpeaceful, like a cat, however well she may have trained herself to seem peaceable.

    131. The sexes deceive themselves about each other: the reason is that in reality they honour and love only themselves (or their own ideal, to express it more agreeably). Thus man wishes woman to be peaceable: but in fact woman is ESSENTIALLY unpeaceable, like the cat, however well she may have assumed the peaceable demeanour.

    145 Comparing man and woman on the whole, one may say: woman would not have the genius for finery if she did not have an instinct for a secondary role.

    145. Comparing man and woman generally, one may say that woman would not have the genius for adornment, if she had not the instinct for the SECONDARY role.

    167

    In men who are hard, intimacy involves shame — and is precious.

    167. To vigorous men intimacy is a matter of shame—and something precious.

    Okay, I skipped ahead just to see where you were at. Going back now

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  2. Jessica, I find the differences in translation fascinating because it further solidifies in my mind how difficult communication is. Words mean different things to different people. While I may specifically chose a word because it resonates with me; its meaning completely clear in my mind on what it is that I’m trying to convey. That word may have a different connotation entirely to the person who is receiving it. Or a different word may resonate with the receiver instead of the one I intended.

    So when we talk about ‘truth’ and perception as well as our own biases, how do we account for the biases and perceptions of those who do the translations? Even if we could read the original language ourselves, time and the true nuances of his meaning might be lost to us. So what is truth? Is it ever possible or is it really nothing unless the individual gives it value and/or meaning?

    The translation above was done by Helen Zimmern (Gutenberg edition)

    I just picked up this one from the library yesterday. Marion Faber is the translator.

    84. Women learn to hate to the same extent that they—unlearn how to beguile.

    86. Behind all her personal vanity, a woman still harbours her own impersonal contempt—for ‘women’.

    114 The tremendous anticipation of sexual love and the shame in this anticipation spoil any sense of perspective in women from the start.

    131. The sexes deceive themselves about one another: as a result, they basically honour and love only themselves (or their ideal of themselves, to express it more kindly—). Thus men want women to be peaceable—but women especially are by their very nature unpeaceable, like cats, however well they have learned to give the impression of peacefulness.

    144. When a woman has scholarly tendencies, there is usually something wrong with her sexuality. Barrenness in and of itself predisposes to a certain masculinity of taste: form if I may so, the man is the ‘barren’ animal.

    145. Comparing men and women in general, you might say that women would not have their genius for adornment if they did not have an instinct for the supporting role.

    167. In harsh people, tender feeling is a cause for shame—and something precious.

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  3. I just had one other thought.

    When I read something like an op-ed or a speech, the narrator in my head tends to be me. I chose the emphasis, I nuance the meaning, I… it is all about me, my worldview, my biases and whether or not I am opening to new information, challenging my own preconceptions or defending my own ‘truths.’

    When I listen to the creator of the op-ed or the speaker of the speech, I’m forced to at least consider they emphasis they use, I also tend to look at their point of view or their background (if it is presented). I look for body language and tonality. I may still hear what I want to hear or give nuance to where it doesn’t exist.

    Even so with writing like Nietzsche I am much more on my own or I am dependent on ‘others/experts’ to provide context/richness. If I rely on others with or without knowing their biases/training (their expertise as it were), does that help me find ‘truth?’ Or am I finding their ‘truth?’

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  4. This is fascinating to read – all the Nietzsche posts have been. Now I am wondering about translators perhaps seeking to make concepts more palatable to readers by choosing the gentler word option. Suggesting that being aware of the dates of translations is important because as AQ says, what worldview and experiences are in play for the translators bringing Nietzsche out of German and into English?

    It also reminds me of the discussions I have heard about what the loss of languages means for us as all – that we lose a way of seeing and experiencing and knowing the world when that happens and are diminshed by that because.

    In my circle we have a joke that ‘if it is in The Age (our respected local broadsheet newspaper), it must be true’. There is something about seeing the words on a page that makes them true or real or certain. What I am taking away from your posts is that you can’t read someone like Nietzsche just from the words on the page, you have to know who he was his times and accept that in English we have a rendering of his concepts not his precise thoughts. I wonder if they do concordances of different versions as they do for bible study?

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  5. @Merrian:

    In my circle we have a joke that ‘if it is in The Age (our respected local broadsheet newspaper), it must be true’. There is something about seeing the words on a page that makes them true or real or certain.

    I also call this a cultural whisper. I simply used to think if something was non-fiction that it was factual and that the facts or the interpretation of the facts were not disputed. I realize that it wasn’t a really a conscious thought on my part but I do think that I came out of high school with it. Or maybe it’s more ‘true’ to say that I didn’t consciously acknowledge what I believed to be ‘true’ and ‘everyone knew’ without stating it out loud. What’s really sad part is that I knew not everyone agreed on what was fact and still that cultural whisper worked it’s magic on me. I’d even state that it still has power over me unless I’m diligent.

    So what’s my ‘truth?’ (LOL. I do try to tie back in.)

    I do wonder how historians will view us and what we have in our newspapers as they tend to be public record. Then I wonder about the sources that we use from the past to view the past.

    I also wonder how all of our fiction will be used. For example: Harlequin Presents novels tend to present a protestant benevolent noble oblige work ethic of capitalism as the backbone. In general, this is a version of capitalism that hasn’t existed in the US for a very long time. Yes, the whole romantic fantasy isn’t meant to be ‘real life’ and yet these stories do reflect our culture. Or at least a tiny piece of it. (And unfortunately I can’t remember my ‘brilliant’ (LMAO) wrap-it-all in tie in.

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  6. Speaking romance novels: Do we think that any of the items Nietzsche lists are found in romance novels?

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  7. @Merrian:

    What I am taking away from your posts is that you can’t read someone like Nietzsche just from the words on the page, you have to know who he was his times and accept that in English we have a rendering of his concepts not his precise thoughts.

    Yes, I think so. I tend to be very tightly focused on the philosophical tradition when I read philosophy, so I notice things like Kauffman using a term or putting in an explanatory footnote that make Nietzsche sound very much like a proto existentialist. But many commentators don’t read Nietzsche this way, and when they translate bits in their own critical texts, the passages sound different.

    @AQ: Well, I did a goofy post a few years ago comparing Nietzsche’s higher man’s qualities to those of alpha heroes.

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  8. @Jessica:

    I didn’t find the post goofy at all but I do have a hard believing that Nietzsche would’ve thought any of the heroes presented in romance novels as having higher man’s qualities. (I will think longer on all the example presented in the post & comments.)

    Based on today’s focus on the courtship / ‘winning’ aspect of romance and compressed time lines, I rather think that Nietzsche might find romance heroes to be baffoons basking in self-delusion as presented in the imagery of his prologue paragraphs about courtship and truth. (It’s funny I typically find the heroine to be isolated as opposed to solitary. Whereas the men tend to have community. Obviously a sweeping generalization based on my limited romance reading. Limited because of the sheer number of annual releases.)

    I’m rather curious, are romance heroes really driven toward a life’s purpose? I mean that one can actually read on a page as opposed to be told about it. The typical drive I’m used to reading about in romance is a sexual drive. I was rather of the impression that Nietzsche was looking down at the sexual drive of man in Chapter Two.

    Speaking of alpha heroes, does anyone have a really good definition of what makes an alpha heroes? I often feel likes it’s like the definition of ‘porn:’ the I know it when I see it.

    Laura’s comment about the beta hero is pretty interesting to me because the whole alpha / beta definitions in romance would seem to be so very different from real life. I suspect the alpha hero ‘trope??’ becomes a romance genre shortcut onto itself where the reader fills in many of the blanks not on the page.

    All through this article I’m thinking of an article about I recently read about wealth, elitism, drive and believing one pulled oneself up by one’s bootstraps without any help from society and recent studies on empathy. Unfortunately I can’t remember where I read it although I’m sure it mentioned Ayn Rand’s heroes within the article as the supposed epitome of the ‘alpha’ hero. (Sorry, I have not read Rand myself so cannot comment.)

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