This post, from back in early December of 2004, seems to speak in what is almost already a foreign register, but one that is neither mechanical nor exotic. It makes this rather unworthy prone-to-sensational-scribbling author vaguely, soberly nostalgic. Maybe for something like an opportunity or an opening that may have pased, and while he mostly doodled. In any case, it is untimely advice that accurately describes, one must emphatically agree, the philosophy-turned-to-sloganeering of a resentful, rhetorically imperialistic, often impatient and hollow, mimetically very sick and superficial era, also sometimes known to those in academica especially, as the present. And as "theory." An era yearning for resistance but seemingly incapable of desistance, perhaps would be one way to put it, and for those who catch the reference.
All of which is saying very little, almost nothing, and still in words too vainglorious for any blog (as impossible as this may seem).
The Parable of the Dwarf
And lo, when Zarathustra came to a fork in the road he turned to his followers and said unto them. “This fork in the road is the choice that lies ahead of you. Decide wisely because you cannot turn back. One way continues up the mountain, and one way leads to the plains, only it is not clear at the outset which is which.” And he continued,
‘There was once a leader of men who was actually a dwarf. The townspeople, especially the young, worshipped this dwarf, because they had been without a leader for many years. They lapped up the words he spoke, undernourished as they were in beautiful language, or foreign-sounding phrases, or words which had anything other than a trivial meaning. Everything this dwarf spoke and wrote (and he was prolific) they cited and eulogised, for it was sweet to find one who could animate the power of words to paraphrase the tall people, to express their resentment at not quite understanding the tall people, to make them feel they were not alone. This dwarf made a living out of paraphrasing and borrowing from the tall people, he was forever tugging at the coat-tails of giants (when he was not tugging at his own beard). But because the dwarf’s followers were shorter even than he, more like puppets, they never really questioned his words. They could not see beyond him to the giants behind, and who in comparison with which the dwarf was a pale parvenu. But then one day the dwarf became tired of their worship and he spoke angrily to them, “I have become like a father to you, my young naïve children. You have seen only my good side and not my faults. I want no uncritical followers. ‘Have the courage to use your own reason,’ says the philosopher. But this means also, have courage to question the philosopher who defends reason, even though all about is unreason. Question even the father who is actually but a dwarf, oh ye children of dwarves. I want no followers, no disciples, but wish instead to discourse with my friend the Fire-Dog, for we see eye to eye. And we are both tired of being fathers.”’
And saying this Zarathustra motioned his followers towards the fork in the road, urging them to choose a path.
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"'Have the courage to use your own reason,’ says the philosopher. But this means also, have courage to question the philosopher who defends reason, even though all about is unreason."
Someone I know likes to say that Nietzsche is the black sheep of the Kantian family. His critique of enlightenment is of a piece with it, drawing out its implications ('But this means also...').
The Young Hegelian said...
Certainly some of Nietzsche's pronouncements mirror the early post-Kantian response to Kant's philosophy, especially to the idea of the thing-in-itself. Likewise there is in Nietzsche a feeling that Kant had not secured philosophy against scepticism, though for Nietzsche this is not the problem it was for, say, Jacobi.
But it wasn't Kant (despite the Kant quote) I was intending with my parable...