Nietzsche and women

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By ERNANI CHAVES*

Thoughts on Scarlett Marton's Newly Released Book

The Brazilian edition of Scarlett Marton's most recent book, Nietzsche and women, which had appeared in France in mid-2021. This book is the result of a long work of reading and research on a topic that has always interested its author. More than that, the book reiterates not only Scarlett Marton's quality as a researcher and specialist in the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, but also the importance of the place she occupies in Nietzsche-Forschung.

Nietzsche and women: this is a theme and an issue that has interested several interpreters, some of them with a great presence in the history of Nietzsche's reception, even if it has not been the object of a concern that considered its relationship with the most central philosophical questions in the thought of the author of Zarathustra. Theme and issue that, in turn, began to occupy a central place in the debates of feminism and feminist philosophy from the 1970s onwards, in the wake of “May 68” and the promises of a “sexual revolution”.

This presence of Friedrich Nietzsche intensified in the 1990s – in the well-known third wave of feminism – intensely incorporated by feminism linked to French post-structuralism. If, on the one hand, accusations of misogyny were still present, on the other hand, especially in the United States, Nietzsche's presence continued to be the subject of an open and often very hard debate among feminists linked to Critical Theory and, therefore, heirs and continuers of Jürgen Habermas's critique of French Nietzscheanism and the heirs and continuers of french theory, labeled as “philosophies of difference”.

That's not what Scarlett Marton is interested in. Its question is not at all to evaluate these debates and these interpretations. Precisely because – and this is more my claim – these polemics left aside or simply ignored a more careful and discerning examination of Friedrich Nietzsche's own texts. By doing so, even supporters of a Nietzsche who was favorable to feminism and women's causes ended up ignoring how much the question of women inhabits the core of Nietzsche's philosophical thought.

Scarlett Marton's position – and here lies one of the most important singularities of her book – goes in the opposite direction. Rejecting with strong arguments the merely psychological and sociological readings, both reductionist in key points, Scarlett Marton intends to do what, in fact, until then had not been done, that is, to incorporate the question of women into Nietzsche's philosophy, to show the as for what the philosopher wrote on the subject, it only gains full meaning when his statements refer not to his person, much less to his own time, but to his work.

In this sense, the book is also a book about the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and its central themes, such as perspectivism and experimentalism, the critique of metaphysics and the struggle against dogmatism, psychology and typology, free spirits and philosophers. of the future, the will to truth and the idea of ​​interpretation, the concept of “will to power” and the notion of “force”, the “eternal return of the same” and the love fati, “modern ideas” and the decadence, as stated by the author in the “Introduction”.

Organized into six chapters and following the trajectory of Friedrich Nietzsche's thought, the book shows Nietzsche's ambivalence towards women, from which various figures, images and types emerge, ranging from “real” women to “idealized”, entirely fictional: the emancipated, mothers and spinsters in chapter 1; the wives and concubines in chapter 2; the artists and actresses in chapter 3; wisdom, life, and eternity in chapter 4; the feminists and dogmatists in chapter 5; the female writers and intellectuals in chapter 6.

Along the way, some books gain prominence, due to the abundant presence of the theme: Human, all too human, the gay science – this, a turning point, because here Nietzsche makes the intersection between the theme of women and his philosophy very clear – Thus spake Zarathustra, Beyond good and evil, Ecce homo. The comments on these passages are complemented, whenever necessary, with references to correspondence, to Nietzsche's sources (in this regard, I highlight the dialogue with John Stuart Mill) and to posthumous notes, thus revealing the reading "methodology" used by the author, to avoid any appropriation that continues to reinforce misconceptions and misunderstandings. As opposed to dithyrambic, facilitative and, worse, “literal” reading, Scarlett Marton has always prized goldsmith work, work that Nietzsche himself demanded of his readers: read a text with the same slowness and patience, with which the goldsmith transforms raw material into a precious jewel.

It is thus, therefore, that Nietzsche's ambivalence takes shape and leaps to the eye from this jewellery. Some examples: from the chapter “The woman and the child”, by Human, all too human, the perfect woman is the one who joins her concubines, both to contribute to her husband's intellectual progress and to the education of her children; in paragraph 59 of the gay science, the love for a woman is as intense as the hatred felt by nature, that is, hatred, repugnance and contempt are the feelings that the menstrual flow provokes in men, in such a way that the love for women is always for a woman “idealized” ”, as if freed from natural impurities; in Thus spake Zarathustra female personifications of abstract entities multiply – wisdom, life, eternity – in frank opposition to human women, all too human; in “The song of the dance” in Part II, still in the Zarathustra, when life asks Zarathustra what wisdom is, the answer is that she resembles a woman because, perhaps, she is “bad and false”, because she is changeable and stubborn; in Beyond Good and Evil, between paragraphs 232 and 239, criticizing the emancipatory movements, he criticizes at the same time the metaphysical commitment of the idea of ​​a “woman in herself”, in such a way that the woman as a gender starts to theorize the woman as a concept; in this way, the critique of the XNUMXth century feminist movement, already quite strong in Germany, goes hand in hand with the critique of dogmatic philosophy. Like dogmatic philosophers, women who want to emancipate themselves seek universals, concepts and essences or even intend to renounce lies, beauty and appearance.

But it is undoubtedly in relation to women who dared to become writers that Nietzsche leaves aside any and all ambivalence, as his judgments about Madame Roland, Madame de Staël and, in particular, George Sand show. Resuming expressions of the Goncourt brothers, whose diaries Nietzsche knew very well, he will call Sand in Twilight of the Idols, of “the 'cash cow' with 'beautiful style'”. What would have bothered Nietzsche about women writers?

For Scarlett Marton, precisely the fact that they write, that they dare to make their texts public, even if it is using a male pseudonym: George Sand was the artistic name of Aurore Dupin. Invading the public sphere, these women would have abandoned what would be, deep down, their natural place: the home, marriage, reproduction, as the cover of the book, so significant and emblematic, points out. From this perspective, these women who dare to write are signs of decadence, a key word for understanding the critique of modernity in Nietzsche's last texts.

In this way, Scarlett Marton ends up introducing us to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche through the philosopher's considerations about women. And she does so without any commiseration, without any regret for the philosopher, to whom she has dedicated her studies and research for so many decades. In this perspective, she positions herself against the current of what is so usual and usual, that it has already “naturalized”: that the philosopher to whom we dedicate a lifetime of studies and research, is treated as an almost deity , as a particular hero or heroine, whose possible failures – when they happen! – are always forgiven and justified with many arguments. The conclusion of the book clearly shows this, because at the end of this journey, ambivalence gives way to exclusion. This moment coincides, not by chance, with the criticism of women who write and who, therefore, want to occupy the public space on an equal basis with men. This gesture of exclusion, in turn, inscribes Nietzsche within the same “modernity”, against which he directed a radical critique.

Scarlett Marton's book, therefore, already constitutes a fundamental milestone within the Nietzsche-Forschung, in a kind of watershed when it comes to this topic. Its inestimable value and its uniqueness, I repeat, lies in the fact that this book is not only a book about Nietzsche and women, but also, and inseparably, about Nietzsche's philosophy.

* Ernani Chaves He is a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at UFPA. Author, among other books, of On the threshold of modern (Pakatatu).

 

Reference


Scarlett Marton. Nietzsche and women. Female figures, images and types. Belo Horizonte, Autêntica, 2022, 220 pages.

 

 

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