Nietzsche and women

Supposing truth to be a woman…I sometimes think of Nietzsche and his relation to La Femme

Nietzsche’s great predecessor, Schopenhauer, when discussing this topic, was always full of the most blackhearted vitriol and vituperation. Nietzsche, for the most part, has none of this. His approach is to tell jokes and rhymes.

From a certain perspective, this is itself an advance over the lumbering system-builders of German idealism. Humour refutes a philosophical system without   necessitating being caught in said system’s dialectical snares. A proto-analytic account of a philosopher’s motives and effects achieves much the same thing. (Nietzsche, in his maturity, takes this approach repeatedly against Kant).

Buona femmina e mala femmina vuol bastone.” A motto for hysterics, perhaps. Except that we know that the bastone, whichever way you take it, doesn’t cure hysteria. From which it follows that its purpose is principally for our philosopher rather than the femmina.

Derrida undertook a very difficult task – as with Heidegger – and tried to absolve Nietzsche of charges of misogyny, on the grounds of textual heterogeneity, and Nietzsche’s approval of the femmina in her ‘artistic’, creative and fertile guises. In other words, Derrida shows that Nietzsche has reverence for woman qua mother. But who ever heard of a misogynist who didn’t love his mother?

Nietzsche himself says that every philosophy is an involuntary confession. We should take him seriously, and ask what he is confessing here. Further, we should recall what he said of Shakespeare, and ask what he must have suffered, to have found it so necessary to play the buffoon.*

All of which is to say that if truth is a woman, both truth and woman are a symptom for Nietzsche,. Both are the locus of a very singular suffering and very singular jouissance. Perhaps all of this symptomatic suffering and jouissance is perfectly obvious, and above all to the femmina to whom the bastone is administered.


* In the original, the buffoon is a ‘Hanswurst‘, John the Sausage, a player in a comedic wurst fest.



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