Take away the paradox from Nietzsche — reveal a colossal waste of time


According to Julian Young

But what if – like Nietzsche’s radical followers a century ago – we prefer the extremism and outlandishness that lie on the surface of Nietzsche’s writings to the sensible opinions that may be buried beneath them? “Take away the paradox from the philosopher,” as Søren Kierkegaard once said, “and all you are left with is a professor.” What if the mischief is the message? “One wants to be understood when one writes,” as Nietzsche confessed; but “one also wants – quite as certainly – not to be understood.” If an argument looks rough and murky, it may be best to leave it that way, and interpreters who buff it up till they can see their faces in it may be doing their author a disservice. “This might just have been the intention of the author,” Nietzsche continued: “perhaps he did not want to be understood by ‘anyone’.” He was not very interested in the kinds of truths we have to sit on, like hens hoping to hatch an egg: he preferred those that dance in the sunlight and then disappear – “truths of a peculiar shyness and ticklishness,” as he put it, “truths that must be taken by surprise.”

Regarding an even more overrated philosopher, William Major and Bryan Sinche write

In all likelihood, students will leave Emerson having been immersed in a confused stew of 19th-century occultism offered up in schizophrenic prose. And we, their professors, often act as if their difficulties stemmed from their own lack of imagination.

The fault, though, is that of the author. Because of Emerson’s obscurantist and peripatetic style, his meanings—assuming there are some—are hidden. Consider this koan, one among many: “It is essential to a true theory of nature and of man, that it should contain somewhat progressive. Uses that are exhausted or that may be, and facts that end in the statement, cannot be all that is true of this brave lodging wherein man is harbored, and wherein all his faculties find appropriate and endless exercise. And all the uses of nature admit of being summed in one, which yields the activity of man an infinite scope.”

That is the prose of a crazy person.

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