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The Metaphor of Woman as Truth in Nietzsche: The Dogmatist's Reverse Logic or Rückschluß Author(s): BabettePenn State University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20717653 Accessed: 22-04-2015 23:45 UTC REFERENCES Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20717653?seq=1&cid=pdf-reference#references_tab_contents You may need to log in to JSTOR to access the linked references. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/ info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Penn State University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Nietzsche Studies. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 136.145.174.50 on Wed, 22 Apr 2015 23:45:36 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions " id="pdf-obj-0-3" src="pdf-obj-0-3.jpg">

The Metaphor of Woman as Truth in Nietzsche: The Dogmatist's Reverse Logic or Rückschluß Author(s): Babette E. Babich Source: Journal of Nietzsche Studies, No. 12, Nietzsche and Women (Autumn 1996), pp. 27-39 Published by: Penn State University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20717653 Accessed: 22-04-2015 23:45 UTC

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The Metaphor

ofWoman

as Truth

in Nietzsche:

The

Dogmatist's

Reverse

Logic

 

or R?ckschlu?

Babette

E. Babich

Fordham

University

The sage shookhis head and smiled. 'It is men,' said he, 'that corrupt

women; and all

the failings

of women shouldbe atoned by and improved

inmen. For it isman who creates for

himself the imageof woman, and

woman formsherself according ? to this image.' FriedrichNietzsche. The Gav Science

It seems unnecessary,

after

Paul

de Man

and Jacques Derrida,

to repeat the claim

that Nietzsche's

text is a tissue of metaphors, or else redundant, after Angele Kremer-Marietti

and Sarah Kofman,

to emphasise

 

the rhetorical working

of metaphor

in Nietzsche.

For

nearly every commentator

acknowledges

?

and Nietzsche

avers

the propriety of

this hyperbolic

accolade ?

thatNietzsche

is perhaps

themost metaphorical

of philosophers.1

But

an endless

repetition

is necessary

and

no

reminder dispensable

because

the logic

of associative

thinking persistently

works

against

our

knowledge

to reinstall what we

already

'know' ?

Nietzsche

named

the process

a R?ckschlu?,

or

conclusion

a posteriori.2

The

self-elidingly

metaphorical

point

of metaphor

is

lost

on most

commentators,

including Derrida

in all his stylistic topicality but very masculine

self-absorption,

just

as

it is lost

on

the very many

and

the very earnest expositors

of a kind

of feminist

canon,3 ?

as

indeed

it is

lost on

those who

find

an adroitly misogynist

spokesman

inNietzsche.

Reading

Nietzsche

on the question

of woman

and truth, most

readers, unwittingly appropriating

the

routine

dogma,

assume

that Nietzsche

addresses

the

question

of woman

as

that of truth.

Yet

precisely by taking Nietzsche

literally, one reverses his

question:

putting first what only comes

last,

and accidentally

drawing

the very R?ckschlu?

Nietzsche

liked towarn

against. This only means

that

Nietzsche's

literal readers ?

and one should not underestimate

the easy danger of finding oneself

one among

them? miss

the point.

Even when

they move

as sinuously

and as seductively

and

self

involvedly

 

as David

F. Krell,

such

a strait and even philological

devotion

to the letter of

the

texts

proves the very philosophical

point

Nietzsche

sought tomake

about conceptual

philosophy.

Indeed,

I could propose

though

I shall

not

do

so here

that such dense

dedication

to the letter is endemic

to

reactionary but all-too commonplace

readings

of Nietzsche

as nationalist,

as anti-semite

or

misogynist.

 

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Nietzsche

sought to raise the question

of the value

of truth and

that, for a material

world,

raises the

 

question

of the demand

or need answered

by our

deepest convictions.

Nietzsche

does not simply

question

the possibility

of attaining

truth, where

this metaphysical

ideal counts

as the genuine

philosopher's

stone,

as a mere

pastime

on his way

to raising moral

questions,

beyond

good

and evil

or against the living

God.

Instead, by questioning

the truth of

truth, by supposing

there is no

truth,

Nietzsche

is able

to

ask why we

seek truth rather than untruth.

Thus

Nietzsche

questions

the value

 

of our

belief

in grammar,

as

of our belief

in God

and governesses.

It is important

to recall

that

philosophers

who believe

in truth find it reasonable

to renounce God

and atheism

is not the result

of a Nietzschean

madman

keening

in the marketplace.

This

is the easy achievement

of a positivist

humanism well known

in our age of science

and reason.

For Nietzsche,

if one

puts away

a belief

in

God

as one

puts away

the things of a

child, while

yet retaining faith in truth, one finds a way

to save

the poison of thechurch. Equipped with theideal of truth, theatheist philosophergets toGod but

by other means.'

With

Nietzsche's

triangulation of reference beyond

the traditional opposition

 

between

religion and science,

precisely

by invoking

our belief

in proper grammar

(logic)

and

in

governesses,

the question

of

the value of truth has

everything

to do with woman.4

The metaphoricity

of

taking truth as a woman

is

the subject

of this essay.

Reading

Nietzsche's

 

provocative

declarations,

it is important to remember

the rhetoric (or verbal

'English')

Nietzsche

 

liked to add to his pronouncements,

as

the very twist which made

them his aphorisms.

As

a way

to sidestep humanism with any of its many

faces, Nietzsche

was

fond of animal metaphors

and spoke mythically

of Lynceus'

demonic

eyes. To deliberately

repeat a translator's error we may

 

identify

these eyes

of night as

lynx eyes.

Recalling

a feline affinity with Nietzsche's

ecstatically

 

proposed

sphinx

eyes,

precisely

where

as Nietzsche

says,

'Es

giebt

vielerlei

Augen,5

such

multifarious

eyes can be

seen as

elective ocular fetishes. For

it is only with such metaphors

thatwe

can understand what Nietzsche

has

to tell us about

the philosophic

underpinnings

of creed

or race

or nationality, and sex. Nietzsche

emphasised

the blindness

of our perception

as groping

about on

theback of a tiger, andKofman remindsus thatthe image of thefeline (and indeedof animality, the

demonic,

and the night of grey indistinction)

offers a traditional way

to suggest

the feminine.6

For Nietzsche,

the use of a metaphor

begins

in tradition and he invoked classical

denominations

of

the human

in its animality,

its bestial plight: seeing or hearing

too much

or

else

too

little. To

speak

of this condition,

Nietzsche

used the metaphors

of Oedipus'

eyes and

(more

ambivalently)

Odysseus'

 

ears.7 We

might add

that it is no

accident

that both classical

figures are linked with

the destiny of

woman.

Oedipus,

as scholars

tell

us, betrayed by the metonymic

cadences

of his name,

is the bearer

of masculine

devastation;

Odysseus,

the comedy

of themasculine

disappointment of

the feminine

in each

and every one

of its guises, Circe, Nausicaa,

Penelope.

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In the case

of Oedipus,

this is a doom

that he himself

causes through his own life. Bringing doom

and himself escaping,

like the phallus, Oedipus

brings

this fate upon

thewomen

he

leaves

to die

in

theswathe cut by his life, fromthe sphinx'sshrieking recoil intothe abysshearing the talehe tells

of

the gift of crawling,

walking,

limping that is mortal

life born of woman,

to the suicide

of his

mother

and wife.8

The

impossible

tragedy of Oedipus

is that borne not as masculinist

imitation

in

Jean Anouilh

and

Bertolt Brecht or commentators

such as George

Steiner imagine. The

tragic figure

beyond

Oedipus

is not Creon?who

 

is celebrated

for nothing more

than an unwise

edict:

the stuff

not

of

tragedy but farce, underscoring

his incompetence

in contrast with Oedipus

as king?but

 

Antigone herself whose

impossible

destiny works

its melancholy

fury in rarely

remarked

contrast

with Oedipus' own, gentled, divinely sanctifying death.

 

Odysseus's

tale of violation

and destruction

is mapped

by the names

and images

but not the whole

persons of thewomen

and the goddesses

who people

the seas

of his

life and homeward

 

travels like

fantastic illuminations, and by his wife who lives thewhole

lifeof marriage alone, deferring a

consummate

life in her own

image and

defining

a distaff

ideal

and life-program for the entirety of

Western

culture, by keeping her pledge

to an

absent husband who

returns, like so many

in his

line,

barely recognizable

at

the end

of a

life lived

elsewhere.

 

In

the

sections

to follow

I discuss Nietzsche's

epistemological

critique of what

he regards

as

the

essence

of logic in metonymic

association,

by which

I mean

to invoke

the image and

to employ

the

language Nietzsche

uses

to describe

the metonymic

drag or associative

transfer inherent

in metaphor

when

one supposes

or

takes truth as a woman.

 

Language and Logic:

Getting at theWorld

Speaking

of truth, Nietzsche

turns to the role of language and grammar,

the rule or basis

of

logic

as

metaphor.

Speaking

of logic as metaphor,

as suggested

just above, works

by way

of the metonymic

chaining of thought. Nietzsche argues that logical (or modem scientific thinking), followserroneous

patterns of largely a-perspectivalist

 

conviction.

Beyond

the critique

of metaphorical

thinking,

Nietzsche

locates

the principle

of

identity at

the basis

of

logical

and

causal

thinking, further

articulated

as

the ideal of simplicity.

Thus

the axiomatic

essence

of logic

is founded

on

the fiction

that 'there are

identical

cases.1

(XI,

633)

Strictly taken (i.e.,

in reality) identical cases

are never

identical but only similar cases.

Similar

things insofar as they resemble one another,

that is, insofar

as

they are only

similar

things, are inevitably

unequal

and

as

such exactly

non-identical.

In a

variation

on

this point of plain

identity, but with more

vehemence,

Nietzsche

refuses

the truism,

"'All

truth is simple,'"

with

the mocking

alternative:

"'?Is

 

that not a twofold

lie?'"9

The

trouble

with

simplicity

for Nietzsche

is

that it requires

a

simple,

unchanging,

self-identical

 

essence

or

fundament

in reality

and

exactly

this

is not

given

in the real

world

of multiple

registers and

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reciprocally

implicated

dependencies.

Thus,

for Nietzsche,

what

we

call

'simple,

is just

plain

imaginary, not true.' (XIH, 478)

As

it presupposes

the idea of a plain

essence

or ultimate nature, the

idea of the simple requires a metaphysical

framework

that has been surpassed

in all other respects

by the contemporary scientific vision of the world. Yet the same metaphysical

recidivism

which

speaks

in such claims

as

'all truth is simple'

is preserved

in the assumption

of identical cases.

There

are no identical cases because

there are, as Nietzsche

says, no identities between

things in truth, that

is, in reality. Dependent

upon quaintly

unexamined,

falsifying truisms or prejudices,

the 'will

to

logical

truth can be carried through only after a fundamental falsification

of all events

is assumed.'

(XI, 634) Contradictionis thusbuilt into logic as contrariety withwhat is thecase (falsification) and

is coordinate

with,

or

the very exact

ground

condition

for, the will

to logical

truth.

 

Past

the esoteric

 

and

ultimately

tragic and beautiful

mystery

of becoming,

what Nietzsche

 

summarizes

as

the problem

of truth as an epistemological

issue which

he examines

throughout his

life's work may

be expressed

in general

terms as the problem

of logic and causality.

Here

all traces

of selective

emphasis

tend to vanish.

The

question

of self-knowledge

has absorbed

scholarly

attention

as

simple

 

solution

to Nietzsche's

problem

of causality

as

indeed

the substance

of

Nietzsche's epistemological

concern and that in turn routinely means philosophical

relevance.

Thus

we

read again

and again

that here Nietzsche

rather than being concerned

with

the philosophical

 

problem

of

truth, as such,

ismuch

rather a great psychologist

of the human

spirit, more

poet than

philosopher. What

 

he has

to tell us concerns

our understanding

of our internal order, our affective

dimension.

In thiswe

ignore Nietzsche's

critical discussion

of

logic and

take his words

as

so much

literary criticism

 

or

even

as

literature rather

than as philosophy.

We

ignore Nietzsche's

 

phenomenalism

of

the self, his phenomenological

and physiological

critique of psychology,

and

instead convict him of almost

every kind of romantic

individualism.

 

Thus

the

question of Nietzsche's

 

position on truth and the question

of Nietzsche's

epistemology

are

exactly

those questions

routinely

suborned?perhaps

particularly

for Nietzsche

scholars?to

Nietzsche's

questions

concerning

the truth of morality,

his attacks

on ascetic

religion, his pleas

for

musical

taste, his views on table manners

and diet, indeed: just about anything but epistemology

or

the problem of truth. As a result of such interpretive strategies we effectively miss

or lose

themost

fundamental, certainly themost prototypically philosophical

question Nietzsche

himself poses,

and

thereby fall victim to what Nietzsche

warns

against

in all his writing.

 

The

remainder of this essay

attempts to take Nietzsche's

critique of the provenance

of (the

invention of)

the concept

of truth at

its epistemological word by considering the philosophic

counterpoint

between

truth and woman.

 

To express Nietzsche's

typology of science and philosophy,

I have suggested

the term hyperrealism10

but not in its postmodern

parsing as Jean Baudrillard

uses

it to reflect the quasireal

or the manifestly

 

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or virtually unreal.

Rather

century

experience

of the real, Nietzsche's

hyperrealism emphasises

ambiguity,

and constant flux:

in a thoroughly modern

sense,

hyperrealism

the reality of theworld precisely

the world which Nietzsche

to power and nothing besides.'

reflecting the photorealism

of

the

19th

is plus

quam

or overmuch.

Nietzsche's

in its least details,

its abundant

confusion,

also

and more

famously

defines

 

as

'will

Somewhat scientistically minded (I thinkof JohnWilcox but I could also be thinking ofRichard

Schacht

or Robert

Solomon)

Nietzsche

scholars?presumably

intending

to save Nietzsche

 

for

philosophy

by aligning him with

the science

he named

the ruling religion or asceticism

of our day

?

erroneously

take this hyperrealism

as evidence

for Nietzsche's

'positivism.*11

Speaking

of

Nietzsche's

positivism,

these interpreters cannot mean

his declared

opposition

to positivism.

Instead,

one must

assume

such readings

advert to Nietzsche's

attention

to corporeity

as

such and

in detail,

in all itsmeasures.

Such

anticonceptualism,

Nietzsche's

life-affection, or concern with

the body's

 

'great reason'

(or sensibility) has been

reviewed

by excellent

and sensitive

scholars, particularly

in

the German

and French

philosophical

traditions.

It is essential

to qualify

this recognition

of

the

body,

important as it is for thinking the question

of woman,

because

the idea of Nietzsche

as a

'Life

Philosopher' remains intrinsically

and misleadingly coordinatewith thescientism that would name

 

his attention

to the real,

as

integument,

as complexity,

as the coursing

of blood

and the whirl

of

intestines, a 'positivist'

tendency.

 

Yet

that said, as articulated

and earnestly

intended as

it is, it remains

nearly

impossible

to follow

Nietzsche's

thought on the question

of truth, or woman,

of scientific

technique

and technology,

of

the body, reality, or causality

(or indeed: anything else) because

of his language

and

that is to say

to

 

bring us back

to the question

of woman

once again?because

of the question

of style.12 If talk about

that style

is talk about

the only

truth we

can have,

it remains

talk of style. Yet

it is here, between

metaphors,

that

as readers,

even

as careful readers

and

exactly as Nietzsche scholars, we continually

runNietzsche's

textuality into the philosophical

issues

he raises.

The result

is inevitably conflated.

To be exact: it is as philosophers (not interpreters) thatwe typically takethe metaphors Nietzsche

uses for the literal substance of his account:

taking the consequence

for

the cause,

taking what

is last

for the first, and thus neatly standing

'truth on her head.'

(BGE,

14)13 In the case of Nietzsche's

style,

as illustrated by the object example

of Derrida's

Platonic

somersault?triangulating

 

spurs, sails,

and

 

the woman

question?we

philosophers

take the metaphor

as

the literal focus

in a comparison

 

(allegory,

analogy).14

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The Miasma of Metaphor: The Woman Question

The

stylisticproblem of metaphor offersan example of the foregoingvulnerability of thinking as

well

as a useful approach

to the subject-metaphor

of cause

and effect. Recall

(it is relevant

that the

example

has been overcited

to the inevitability of oversight)

the very first line of

the Preface

to

Beyond

Good

and Evil,

'Supposing

truth is a woman?what

then?'(BGE,

13) Considering

its

interpretive resonant fortunes from its earliest misogynistic

echo

(an echo

hardly absent

from

its

more

recent deconstructive

staccato or indeed even more

recent feminist apppropriations),

the

metaphor

runs from truth to woman

and?this

is important?there

it remains.

To

catch

this

movement

as a movement

from the question

of truth to its halting at the question

of

woman,

as an

emphatic,

effective distraction

from the question

of

the value

of truth as Nietzsche

poses

it is to

begin

to go beyond good

and

evil:

'Granted we want

truth: why not rather untruth?* (BGE,

1). To

save a connection with the issue of epistemology,

the reader might attempt to balance

the assumption

'that truth is a woman'

in all its metonymic

dimensionality

with

the first line of

the Preface

to the

Genealogy

of Morals,

'We are unknown

to ourselves,

we men

of knowledge.'

In

this connection,

I

will

argue, one might

see

(at least) one

reason

for the troping of truth and woman.

 

The

sentence on truth and woman

is composed

in typically Nietzschean

fashion ?Vorausgesetzt,

 

the text begins

in German,

doss die Wahrheit

ein Weib

ist?, wie!

and translations die on the thought

dash

and

the question

how?,

how

now?, what

then?, what??for

they could

also

go

on

quietly

enough with

a

'So what?'

to take Dan

Breazeale's

lighthearted suggestion,

or a

'Well

then?

is the

suspicion

not solidly grounded

that all philosophers,

when

they have

been dogmatists,

have had

little

understanding

of women?'

 

The metaphor

begins

like a story: Vorausgesetzt,

or in any case with

a reasonable

bit of warning

fan

fare. Here, with

the given

thus presupposed,

presumed,

as pretext, we

are not literally talking about

truth nor indeed, but

this is the beginning

of

so many

subjective

pains,

about women.

Now

supposing

truth to be a woman,

we note the supposition

beginning with

truth.What

is supposed

is

thus supposed

about truth and not about what

is then supposed

about

truth (i.e., being

a woman)

as

if that were Nietzsche's

 

subject.

The

supposition

again

is that truth be regarded

to be,

is given

as

being,