Confronting the Janus Head

If post-modern philosophy has a spiritual father, this is surely Nietzsche. The great revival of interest in his thought parallels our period’s discomfort with foundational, “metaphysical” thinking. He appeals to our disquiet with talk of essences. Many find his “deconstruction” of science and morality liberating. Above all his doctrine of “perspectivism” has found a general appeal. The pluralism that is its apparent result is attractive to everyone from feminists to defenders of multiculturalism. There is, however, a darker side to Nietzsche. There is the Nietzsche who speaks of the advance in women’s rights as “one of the worst developments in the general uglification of Europe.”[i] This is the same Nietzsche who teaches that “almost everything we call ‘higher culture’ is based on the spiritualization and intensification of cruelty,”[ii] the Nietzsche, who in answer to his question “whither must we direct our hopes,” speaks of preparing “for great enterprises and collective experiments in discipline and breeding so as to make an end of that gruesome domination of chance and nonsense which has hitherto been called ‘history’...”[iii] As much as we would like to forget the fact, this Nietzsche became the icon of the Nazis
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