Nietzsche's Polemic

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Nietzsche is inherently polemic. This is a characterization that Nietzsche has applied to himself; the book that both informs, and is informed by every other book Nietzsche has written on the subject of revaluation of existing values, On the Genealogy of Morality, is subtitled simply A Polemic. It is clear that in this context, Nietzsche’s polemic is derived from the extent to which Nietzsche’s argument will invariably conflict with the existing system of valuation, to which the book is meant to serve as an arrow. However, absent is any indication that there exists an internal polemic derived from any form of logical incompleteness. The same may not be said for Thus Spoke Zarathustra, an introduction to which, written by one of its earliest modern translators, RJ Hollingdale, reads: “The book’s worst fault is excess.” Its excesses here, I will argue, derive from Nietzsche’s attempt at metaphysics, which constitutes Nietzsche’s true polemic, inasmuch as it in turn makes Zarathustra vulnerable to logical incompleteness.

This vulnerability may be best observed when contrasted with his other works, such as the Genealogy of Morality; Hollingdale continues to write in his introduction: “As it happens, excess is the one fault no one could impute Nietzsche’s subsequent works: there concision, brevity, directness of statement are present to a degree not even approximated by any other German philosopher.” Such discipline may be said to characterize the Genealogy, and ultimately results in an overarching logical completeness to the book, which will here be defined as the ability for an argument to safely be brought to its logical conclusion through reason alone. In fact, this is likely the book’s greatest strength. To summarize, the first essay of the Genealogy introduces the dichotomous relationship between the master morality, which characterizes the strong-willed, also referred to those who create values, whereas the slave morality characterizes the weak-willed, and feel resentment towards the week, and thus refer to them as “evil,” which would justify their own meekness as “good.” The second essay argues that guilt and bad conscious are merely a societal extension of the slave morality, or in other words, the repression and incarceration of the will to power, to the point wherein it is only “able to discharge and unleash itself only against itself.” The third essay argues that the ascetic ideal is the further extension of the slave morality, and thus the dichotomy between the slave morality and the master morality then becomes a dichotomy between the will to truth and the will to power. Even in the absence in faith in God, the ascetic ideal leaves behind an artifact of the slave morality; in other words: “there is a new problem as well: that of the value of truth. – The will to truth needs a critique.”

In sum, the flow of Nietzsche’s logic is clear and decisive. The entirety of The Genealogy of Morality is merely the logical extension of that which preceded it. Nietzsche’s only attempt to stretch this any further is in The Gay Science, wherein Nietzsche uses the grandiosity of the metaphoric style that is closely associated with him to announce the death of God in “The Madman.” Yet even this is merely a representation of the logical conclusion of Nietzsche’s argument, rather than an example of his excesses. On the subject of Nietzsche’s use of metaphor, scholar and professor, JP Stern, speaks thus: “if I ask myself where it [Nietzsche’s metaphoric style], derives from, I think it derives from a strange invention… of placing his discourse, his language somewhere halfway between metaphor and literal meaning.” Uses of grand metaphor in itself do not constitute excess, but there is a meaningful distinction to be drawn between uses of metaphor in Nietzsche’s other books, and the excesses of Zarathustra. As opposed to the above example of The Gay Science, metaphor is not used in Zarathustra as the logical conclusion of the...
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