Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Project

I am ostensibly writing a thesis these days (that is, when I'm not watching mediocre episodes of Big Bang Theory and YouTube clips of Cristiano Ronaldo and his beautiful... footwork). It finally has a title: "Dionysian Distance: Reading Nietzsche with Jean-Luc Marion".

The first chapter addresses Marion's explicit account of Nietzsche's project in his early work The Idol and Distance. Following Heidegger, Marion finds that although Nietzsche opens up the possibility of the manifestation of the divine in absence by "sounding out" the idolatry of the metaphysical tradition, he nonetheless remains idolatrous because he privileges presence. In a much less Heideggerian vein, Marion insists that although Nietzsche understands and is even sympathetic to the Christic figure - he who would pour himself out for the revaluation of all values - he cannot imagine the possibility that, in this abandon, one might be met by a divine who enacts a similar abandon.

The second chapter continues with Marion's conceptual pair, idol and distance, to suggest that the presence of the former does not necessarily exclude moments of the latter. I do not disagree with Marion's accusations of idolatry, but show that Marion himself, in his recognition of the dramatic element in Nietzsche's work and his attention to the nature of writing generally, allows the accusation of idolatry to function as the beginning and not the end of an interesting reading of Nietzsche. This chapter remains the fuzziest at this point (read: non-existent), but will definitely examine Nietzsche's use of aphorism and poetry to suggest that distance belongs to the character of the writing.

The third chapter, like the first, is predominantly exegetical (which makes that middle chapter really pesky - it's real purpose is to explain why chapters one and three are in the same thesis). I examine Thus Spoke Zarathustra using Marion's terms in order to find moments of abandon and self-sacrifice (which are everywhere, really), and to suggest that, quite often, Zarathustra does expect an encounter in these moments. I look particularly at the appearance of a feminine other and song at so many key moments in the text. Although the name Dionysus never appears in the text, Nietzsche clearly considers Thus Spoke Zarathustra his most Dionysian of works (he even insists that if Zarathustra is the question, Ariadne is the answer), precisely because of the risk it demands and the expectation it contains. Hence "Dionysian Distance".

The whole project is propelled by several convictions. First, that Christian thinkers read Nietzsche poorly when they seek to find the fatal flaw which will allow them to dismiss his work. This is probably a bad way of reading anyone, but especially someone who wrote to incite and not to establish a contained and self-enforcing system. We should allow ourselves to be challenged and shaped by Nietzsche even if we don't agree with all he has to say. Second, that Nietzsche's interest in musicality and myth is simply the best sort of philosophy, a philosophy that leaves open the possibility of radical encounter in a way that is rarely found in writing at all.

I like this project. Unfortunately, I don't have the skill or dedication to do it credit.

Please, if you're reading this and have any relevant thought at all, do add a comment or question. I need some feedback.


  1. After some Googling and very superficial reading I think I have a vague sense of what your project is about. Knowing pitiably little about most of Nietzsche's work, it is the statement of your underlying convictions that has the most resonance for me. I hope you'll make these apparent in your writing.

    I'm afraid that's about all the feedback I can offer!

  2. This seems really interesting. I suppose I'd be curious about what counts as an encounter -- it would be enough, i think, to have something other. Why must this other be divine (and what does that mean), why cannot it be feminine/Ariadne? This, to me, seems the essential question rumbling beneath the interpretive moves you're suggesting. (You might see a nice essay by Deleuze, in _Essays Critical and Clinical_, on this, called "Mystery of Ariadne".)

  3. Why tie yourself up in knots with all of these speculative maybes.

    As an alternative to all of that why not study the Luminous Wisdom Teaching of this Radiant Being instead--a Radiant Being who knows exactly what He is talking and writing about.



    But then again such a Radiant Being is (and always was) completely unacceptable to the Western power and control seeking mentality--including its "religious" establishment.

    Which is WHY Saint Jesus of Nazareth was executed with the approval of the then ecclesiastical establishment---he was a threat to their power and privileges.

  4. Interesting project, AF. Perhaps you recall that section in "The Genealogy of Morals" having to do with the "beasts of prey" who engage in orgies "of murder, arson, rape, and torture" and consider it a fraternity prank. That might make an stimulating musical theme, even Wagnerian (Nietzsche did not care for Wagner, but he still sounds Wagnerian at times)...which is to say, cue Elmer Fudd...Kill Da Wabbit


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