Nietzsche's rhetoric on the grounds of philology and hermeneutics

Philosophy and Rhetoric 37 (2):101-122 (2004)
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Abstract

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Nietzsche’s Rhetoric on the Grounds of Philology and HermeneuticsAdrian Del Caro"The philosopher believes the value of his philosophy lies in the whole, in the structure: posterity finds it in the stone with which he built."Human, All Too Human, 1.201"All science only achieved continuity and constancy when the art of correct reading, that is philology, reached its height."Human, All Too Human, 1.270The complexity of Nietzschean rhetoric demands first a basic working definition of rhetoric. In the etymological sense of Greek rhe¯torike¯, the art of oratory, and extrapolated to include the art of communicating effectively through writing, Nietzsche's rhetoric is a highly stylized, deeply self-aware manner of expression designed to convey meaning and to appeal. In the more limited sense of my essay, Nietzschean rhetoric is furthermore a discourse whose communicative and appealing aspects are aimed at the earth for the purpose of grounding human beings. By "rhetoric" I do not mean the negative connotation associated with "insincere or grandiloquent language" (Webster's), though it is certainly the case that Nietzsche's rhetoric frequently takes flight and requires grounding. It is to be expected that a classical philologist by training, and both a teacher and a writer by profession, would have a close understanding and practiced application of rhetoric; the particular challenge in explicating Nietzsche's rhetoric lies in the task to which his rhetoric is put, as well as in the zeal with which he pursued his task. I am not primarily concerned with what Nietzsche had to say about rhetoric while lecturing at the University of Basle, though I agree that Gilman, Blair, and Parent are right to emphasize the importance of rhetoric for the interpretation of Nietzsche's writings and in its own right as a competitor with philosophy (1989, xii, xvi, xx), rather, I am concerned [End Page 101] with the practice of rhetoric that distinguishes Nietzsche's writings from the early 1870s until the so-called Wahnsinnszettel (postcards and letters of madness) written in early January 1889. I also agree with Moore, who analyzes the specifically biological and medical idiom of Nietzsche and concludes "that new light can be thrown on [Nietzsche's] thought by situating it within the historical context of nineteenth-century theories of evolution and degeneration" (Moore 2002, 1-2).1In an early aphorism entitled "Origin of faith" Nietzsche concluded: "Habituation of spiritual principles [Grundsätze] without grounds [Gründe] is called faith."2 I provide the German to demonstrate that whenever possible, Nietzsche drew on the Germanic Grund in his discussions of grounding, even though he was keenly aware of Greek and Latin alternatives and could have used them. So for example Nietzsche's translator (say Holling-dale) could have chosen to use English "grounds" for German Gründe, but chose instead to use "reasons," which is also correct though not exactly in the spirit of Nietzsche's etymological nuance.3 Grundsätze, literally "grounding propositions," given idiomatically as "principles," has no comparable etymology in English. What one becomes accustomed to or adopts as a habit based on faith versus grounds, cannot by definition be grounded, whether or not it is a principle. Based on this example, living with grounds or reasons is living with foundation, with base and support. Living without grounds is simply acquiring habits, living by faith, living groundlessly. A similar usage is involved in English "grounds for dismissal," whereby "grounds" equals "reasons." Even the words founded and unfounded preserve some of the strength of "grounded" and "ungrounded" as I use them. In German "unfounded" is unbegründet or grundlos, participle and adjective respectively, and Nietzsche availed himself whenever possible of German expressions based on ground.The aphorism immediately following "Origin of faith" relies even more on Grund, and its translation into English deserves close attention. "Aus den Folgen auf Grund und Ungrund zurückgeschlossen" becomes "Reasons judged a posteriori on the basis of consequences,"4 which I would render as "grounds and ungrounds retroactively concluded from consequences." Nietzsche uses Grund twice already in the title, and in the body of this "aphorism" of thirty lines a variation of Grund occurs six more times (Gründe, Gr...

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