Wednesday, September 21, 2016

And tears and sighs and groans

"To read for one's own overthrow is an unusual strategy. It differs equally from the rejection of a text as mistaken or immoral and from the assimilation of a text as compatible with one's own being. Reading like a loser means assimilating a text in such a way that it is incompatible with one's self.

"The interpretative challenge presented by the doctrine of predestination is in important respects similar to the one Nietzsche offers his readers. The underlying presupposition of both is that many are called, and few are chosen. One might suppose that the majority of those faced with the doctrine would deduce that they are more likely to be among the many than the few. But, just as almost all of Nietzsche's readers identify themselves as being among the few who are honest, strong and courageous, so generations of Christians have discovered themselves to be among the few who are 'called'. The alternative, although seemingly logical, was so rare as to be considered pathological. People were not expected to survive in this state. [...]

"Reading like losers, we may respond very differently to the claims Nietzsche makes on behalf of himself and his readers. Rather than reading for victory with Nietzsche, or even reading for victory against Nietzsche by identifying with the slave morality, we read for victory against ourselves, making ourselves the victims of the text. Doing so does not involve treating the text with scepticism or suspicion. In order to read like a loser you have to accept the argument, but turn its consequences against yourself. So, rather than thinking of ourselves as dynamite, or questioning Nietzsche's extravagant claim, we will immediately think (as we might if someone said this to us in real life) that there might be an explosion; that we might get hurt; that we are too close to someone who could harm us. Reading like losers will make us feel powerless and vulnerable.

"The net result, of course, is that reading Nietzsche will become far less pleasurable. When we read that 'Those who are from the outset victims, downtrodden, broken - they are the ones, the weakest are the ones who most undermine life', we will think primarily of ourselves. Rather than being an exhilarating vision of the limitless possibilities of human emancipation, Nietzsche's texts will continually remind us of our own weakness and mediocrity, and our irremediable exclusion from the life of joy and careless laughter that is possible only for those who are healthier and more powerful." - Malcolm Bull, Anti-Nietzsche

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