Info

describes. Whatever Nietzsche touches here turns to blood. We can avoid indulging our own sadism only be rejecting what is described as distant from us. But to do so is to fall into Nietzsche's trap, to indicate that we ourselves can observe cruelty only with a bad conscience. And if the Genealogy describes an earlier history when good conscience accompanied joy in cruelty, its reminders of our own guilt make good conscience, the basis of the desirable master morality, all the farther from us. No enterprise is spared contamination by blood pollution. Our most spiritualized desires were paid for with somebody's blood.

But in arousing the reader's guilt feelings, Nietzsche also effects a second degree of poisoning. For he incites our defenses by attacking us so aggressively. We internally pursue defensive trains of thought that might counter what Nietzsche has told us. But we are unlikely to think our way out of the trap he sets. He has foreseen the strategies we will use to evade his accusations, and seen to it that our strategies themselves will demonstrate the very force of what he alleges. In this, Nietzsche himself seems to instantiate the cruel voyeurism he considers a symptom of Christian hatred. He seems to take pleasure in envisioning the efforts we will make to extricate ourselves from the psychological morass he describes, only to succumb again to some other part of it.

Let us consider the ways we get stuck in the Genealogy's various accounts. Reading the First Essay, we want to deny that we are slavish in our morality. We are inspired to introspect, in an effort to demonstrate that ours is not a slave morality. But as soon as we do so, we are succumbing to slavish tendencies. We care too much what Nietzsche says about us. Moreover, our attempts to deny his charge are likely to conform to the very behaviors that Nietzsche associates with the slave mentality: we compare ourselves to others in order to feel better about ourselves; or we attempt to beat Nietzsche's rap by means of cleverness or concealment.

Nietzsche's accusation in the First Essay itself spurs us to display the very traits that he accuses us of. We see our orientation through his frame, and in this way we see ourselves as impotent. We see ourselves as trapped in patterns dictated by others—and we see ourselves this way by virtue of Nietzsche's own discussion.

We have already considered how Nietzsche makes us see ourselves as guilty as we read the Second Essay. We are guilty of cruelty; for presumably we do discover guilt when we read Nietzsche's lurid, sadistic depictions.

It seems to me that the delicacy and even more the tartuffery of tame domestic animals (which is to say modern men, which is to say us) resists a really vivid comprehension of the degree to which cruelty constituted the great festival pleasure of more primitive men and was indeed an ingredient of almost every one of their pleasures. (GM II:6)

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment