Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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The Doer and the Deed

Sometimes Nietzsche sounds like a fool. And sometimes he sounds like a genius. More often than not, the two extremes co-exist in the same paragraph. This one from the Genealogy of Morals is my personal favorite, not to mention the passage from his work that has most powerfully influenced post-structuralist theory:
To demand of strength that it should not express itself as strength, that it should not be a desire to overcome, a desire to throw down, a desire to become master (Herrwerden-Wollen), a thirst for enemies and resistances and triumphs, is just as absurd as to demand of weakness that it should express itself as strength. A quantum of force is equivalent to a quantum of drive, will, effect (Trieb, Wille, Wirken) -- more, it is nothing other than precisely this very driving, willing, effecting, and only owing to the seduction of language (and of the fundamental errors of reason that are petrified in it) which conceives and misconceives all effects (Wirken) as conditioned by something that causes effects (durch ein Wirkendes), by a "subject" ("Subjekt"), can it appear otherwise. For just as the popular mind (das Volk) separates the lightning from its flash and takes the latter for an action, for the operation of a subject called lightning, so popular morality (die Volks-Moral) also separates strength from expressions of strength, as if there were a neutral substratum (Substrat) behind the strong man (hinter dem Starken), which was free to express strength or not do so. But there is no such substratum; there is no "being" ("Sein") behind doing, effecting, becoming (hinter dem Tun, Wirken, Werden); "the doer" is merely a fiction added to the deed -- the deed is everything ("der Täter" ist zum Tun bloß hinzugedichtet). The popular mind in fact doubles the deed; when it sees the lightning flash, it is the deed of a deed: it posits the same event first as cause and then a second time as its effect. Scientists (Naturforscher) do no better when they say "force moves," "force causes," and the like -- all its coolness, its freedom from emotion notwithstanding, our entire science still lies under the misleading influence of language and has not disposed of that little changeling (Wechselbälge), the "subject" (the atom, for example, is such a changeling, as is the Kantian "thing-in-itself"); no wonder if the submerged, darkly glowering emotions of vengefulness and hatred exploit this belief for their own ends and in fact maintain no belief more ardently than the belief that the strong man is free to be weak and the bird of prey (Raubvogel) to be a lamb -- for thus they gain the right to make the bird of prey accountable for being a bird of prey.
Reading this passage, I'm torn between the desire to continue deconstructing the subject and the desire to eat a T-bone steak.

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