When Nietzsche attempts to justify his new method metaphilosophically, he sometimes claims that genealogy cuts through deceptive appearances until it sees the phenomena as they really are. This realist claim appears to fall back into metaphysics when the principle of will to power is posited as that which lies behind every phenomenon. Nietzsche sometimes makes this claim by drawing an analogy between genealogy and philology, where by philology he means close, accurate reading. In the preface to the Genealogy he states that the third essay is a paradigm of his own method of reading, and thus an example of how to read him. Presumably the readers of a genealogical analysis will themselves have to practice genealogy in the act of reading. Nietzsche may have developed his own aphoristic style because it requires readers to practice the genealogical method of reading:
An aphorism . . . has not been "deciphered" when it has simply been read; rather, one has then to begin its interpretation , for which is required an art of interpretation. I have offered in the third essay of the present book an ex-
ample of what I regard as "interpretation" in such a case. . . . To be sure, one thing is necessary above all if one is to practice reading as an art in this way, . . . something for which one has almost to be a cow and in any case not a
This passage shows the intimate connection for Nietzsche between genealogy and the process of reading and interpreting in general, a connection that is anticipated by sections 373 and 374 of book five of The Gay Science . Here he attacks both Spencer's moral philosophy and materialist, mechanistic philosophy of science. He thinks both divest existence of its "rich ambiguity" by trying to reduce it to frameworks that not only are simplistic and "meaningless" but also fail to recognize that "science" is only one possible interpretation of the world, and a "most stupid " one at that (GS 373).
What grounds does Nietzsche have, however, for preferring his own readings and interpretations to those of Spencer and the positivists? He wrestles with this question in section 374, "Our new 'infinite'. " Here he raises all the difficulties his genealogical theory of reading implies, but elusively and without taking the stand we would expect. After rejecting the reductionists who insist that "mechanics is the doctrine of the first and last laws on which all existence must be based as on a ground floor," he asks whether we need to think that there is any ground floor for our perspectives or interpretations. Since we could not get out of our own conceptual framework to ask how reality would be independent of that framework, he infers that whether reality exists independently of our interpretations, or even whether the very idea of uninterpretable reality makes sense "cannot be decided." That is, we cannot decide either that "existence without interpretation, without 'sense,'" is "'nonsense,"' or that all existence is interpretive in essence.
Why does he insist on this undecidability when he seems already to have decided? That there is no ground floor to interpretation, but only interpretation all the way down, should be a liberating thought. He knows, however, that to claim the essence of existence is such that there are only interpretations would be tantamount to saying paradoxically that the essence of things is not to have an essence. Moreover, if we cannot say anything about things as they are independently of our interpretations, then he recognizes that a Kantian would insist that we also cannot deny that the things might involve relations other than those we attribute to them. The next few lines give us a clue to why he lets himself get caught in the Kantian dilemma when he clearly believes in the richly interpretational character of our cognitive and moral capacities. Instead of speaking mainly about interpretations in these lines, he speaks about perspectives, thus suggesting (mistakenly, I will argue) that the terms perspective and interpretation are
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