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Friedrich Nietzsche
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Archives > Genealogy of Morality: Preface: using "shared inquiry"

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message 1: by Clark (new)

Clark Wilson | 154 comments Mod
This topic will be for reading some work of Nietzsche in a structured way in a group using the method of "shared inquiry." People who don't want to work within the method, or who want to post things that don't fit within the method, can post in the unstructured Nietzsche topic.

message 2: by Clark (last edited Dec 02, 2018 02:15PM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 154 comments Mod
Right now we're acting as though we'll be reading On the Genealogy of Morals. I picked the edition at random. Some of us may be reading it in other languages. We'll work it out somehow. I haven't read it, or any Nietzsche. I'm working on a question to post.

Here is a free English translation (epub / mobi):

(For now, discussion of which book to read should be in #philosophy on the KOA Discord server.)

message 3: by Clark (last edited Dec 29, 2018 06:59AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 154 comments Mod
[This question has been superseded. The intervening discussion may be useful, but the revised question is:]

Here is a question to gnaw on: "Based only on the work's title and the preface text, why does Nietzsche class this work as a 'polemic'?"

"The preface text doesn't give us enough information to answer that." is a perfectly valid answer.

Remember, answers are to be based exclusively on the text at hand; with the exception that one can also use general reference materials like a dictionary. But not the translator's introduction, or Wikipedia on Nietzsche, etc., etc.

message 4: by Marta (new)

Marta (mcheloous) Based on paragraph 6 of the preface, he classes this work as polemic because he questions the values that humanity is built upon, thus inverting them. He asks himself about the origin of morality, criticizes the concepts of morally "good" and "evil", its manifestations —compassion, guilt, punishment, justice...— and the ascetic ideal.

message 5: by Clark (last edited Dec 09, 2018 10:37AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 154 comments Mod
Okay, I'm going to start trying to answer my own question, building on Marta's post.

It's not a very good question, but we can run with it.

I suppose there are two obvious levels at which the question can be asked/answered. The first level is the generic meaning of "polemic," which is an attack on or disputation against some position or idea.

Merriam-Webster's definition is: 1 : a an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another ; b : the art or practice of disputation or controversy —usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction

In this case Marta's answer fits well: He is attacking a set of opinions or principles and hence "polemic" is an appropriate label.

message 6: by Clark (last edited Dec 09, 2018 10:51AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 154 comments Mod
The second level is the one I was actually thinking of: In English, "polemic" usually is an aggressive atttack, one including a good bit of vitriol and not paying attention to philosophical niceties. Some of the Oxford English Dictionary example sentences on this page show that meaning. For instance, "‘They're not interested in discussion, but polemics."

"Polemic" or "polemics" is often a pejorative. I am engaged in refutation; however, my opponent is doing polemics. :-)

The German is: Zur Genealogie der Moral: Eine Streitschrift. A random online German-English dictionary defined it: "polemic [in writing]; polemic paper; polemic pamphlet" and it used the title of this work as its example. "Schrift" seems to mean "document or paper or handwriting" -- something written. "Streit" gets translated "argument," "quarrel," "squabble," "fight," "feud," "dispute." So "Streitshrift" seems to be "verbal-fight document" or similar.

So it seems to me appropriate to ask and to answer the question at this more combative level of the word "polemic".

message 7: by Clark (last edited Dec 09, 2018 11:09AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 154 comments Mod
Now it's time to say why I think this is a poor question. It asks us, based only on the text in front of us, to figure out why the author did something, and there is no plain statement by the author stating why he did it. That is, his motives or reasons aren't in the text. We could infer that he did it because he feels strongly about it; but that's not textual and we could infer lots of swamp gas using that approach.

So I might revise the question to be,

Nietzsche subtitles this work "a polemic." Let us assume that the preface is a sample of what Nietzsche means by the word "polemic." Use the textual features and content of the preface to infer what Nietzsche means by "polemic." What are his "rules of engagement"? What literary devices does he use or eschew? What kinds of proofs does he use?

message 8: by Clark (last edited Dec 09, 2018 11:17AM) (new)

Clark Wilson | 154 comments Mod
The first thing I notice is that in section 5 he says: "The issue for me was the value of morality, and on that subject I had to place myself in a state of abstraction, in which I was almost alone with my great teacher Schopenhauer, to whom that book, with all its passion and inherent contradiction (for that book also was a polemic), turned for present help as though he were still alive."

Hence, a polemic has (or can have) "passion and inherent contradiction." This differs from (say) a logical proof or a mathematical one, in which passion is irrelevant and to which inherent contradiction is fatal.

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