Friday, December 30, 2005

A Decent Overview of Nietzschean Indecency

Ian Johnston's "There's Nothing Nietzsche Couldn't Teach Ya About the Raising of the Wrist" : A Lecture in Liberal Studies deserves a note.

Eye-Catching passage #1:
And throughout the nineteenth century, the rising success of the new science seemed to be delivering on the promise of an exact description of the world. And the application of this spirit of empirical observation and precise, unambiguous description to an understanding of history and morality, of the sort offered by Karl Marx, set up the hope of a triumph of the language of philosophy (as defined earlier) over the language of poetry (in spite of the objections of the Romantics).

It was an alluring vision, because it promised to lead, as Hannah Arendt points out, to the end of traditional political argument. Since we would all have a full and shared understanding of the way a just state really does work, we wouldn't need to argue about it (any more than we argue about the Pythagorean Theorem). Anyone could govern, since governing, traditionally the most challenging task in human affairs, would be simply a matter of applying known and agreed upon rules, something a technician could do. As Lenin observed, governing would be for cooks, because the truths of political life would be expressed in a language coherent to anyone, a language which did not require interpretation of any sort.

Eye-Catching Passage #2

First, the constant emphasis on individualist self-assertion through new metaphors has made much art increasingly esoteric, experimental, and inaccessible to the public, for the Nietzschean imperative leaves no room for the artist's having to answer to the community values, styles, traditions, language, and so on. Hence, the strong tendency of much modern art, fiction, and music to have virtually no public following, to be met with large-scale incomprehension or derision.

The article lead me to John Dewey's essay Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy and Canadian Tory political thinker George Grant, the further study of which could bear good fruit.

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