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Untread and Untried

AvitAl Ronell
A dozen false starts. —Vicki hearne, nervous Horses

nietzsche reads derridemocracy

This may be a long stretch. I am trying to figure the advent, the derridean exhortation of a “to come,” together with the nietzschean adventure—the turn or terminal by which Nietzsche scrambles essential democratic codes, gets a running start on political exigency, and then falters. Calling upon Nietzsche to stand with Derrida on democracy is no doubt perverse. Still, the perverse allure of a political front based on a Nietzsche-Derrida ticket is part of what makes the provisional pairing irresistible to me, especially if, in principle, democracy should let in all sorts of improbable combinations and classes of thought, socially dissident splices, politically aberrant complicities. Ever attempting to land the experiment of disjointed political moods or conflicting social attitudes, democracy invites the strange exuberance of implausible hubs. Nietzsche, in many ways democracy’s most innocent naysayer, offers his ever untimely word on the prospects for a future democracy. Though miles apart from what Derrida proposes or appears to advocate, he offers a link by which to explore some of Derrida’s more concealed utterances on the related subjects of futurity, political formations, the will to fiction, acts of promising, and, in particular, a way to monitor the call of technology, which includes transgendered mutations—or at least underscores the corrosive measures by which we consider sexuated bodies that are politically activated. As with any couple so fatefully at variance, there are, of course, differences to be accounted for. Nietzsche’s word, scattered as well as contradictory, climbs down the social ladder of abuses; disdainful of the democratic impulse and skeptical of its intention, he manages nonetheless to deliver a punch that probably finds its historical target range only today. The ability to absorb Nietzsche’s measured allotment of violence to democracy may have been given to us by Derrida’s works on and off the Nietzschean charts. Thanks to Derrida’s revival of some of Nietzsche’s less-connoted statements, we can now consider a possibility that would allow for the accumulation of the “dangerous perhapses” to support the unavoidable fragility of democracy. When Nietzsche offers the thought of the “dangerous perhaps,” he disrupts the solidity of, among other things, any dogmatism, replacing it with the perpetual pursuit of rupture or endless hypothetical tryouts. To think or live the dangerous perhaps, the gefährliche vielleicht, involves uprooting all sorts of metaphysical strongholds and achieving a tensional scansion that can at any moment blow up or mutate into unrecognizable life-forms. The premise of the “dangerous perhaps” leaves much open, indicating among other qualities that its embrace is wide enough to include relapse and regressive disorder. The “dangerous perhaps” comes with no guarantees, requiring, to keep it going, infinite adjustment, the flex of interpretive prowess and a taste for essential tentativeness. Strongly resistant to a definitive “yes” or “no,” this condition or projection or even promise—not sure which one to choose, and this may be part of its structure, in any case Nietzsche doesn’t make matters easy for us here—is energized by the pull of differences, ever more aggravating pos-


diacritics 38.1–2: 158–71

Censorship is coming at us from all sides. At this point. but also because it has not said “no” or repelled what we call the unconscious—the posited turf that allows for no “no. Brought on by internalized downscaling. When made to speak. [“This Strange Institution Called Literature” 37] I would surmise that literature has earned this place of honor not only because it dispenses with an identifiable “sender” or decidable “addressee” or fixable origin or any number of other departures that it routinely takes from canonic discursive formations or political tacts. surveillance. in the most open (and doubtless itself to come) sense of democracy. there are no “alibis” to catch the fall. At the same time. even if it depends for its license on systems of determined pressure. (This is why. in order to accord. In Derrida’s idiom. in its relatively modern form. their demise could come about less spectacularly. Religion isn’t there to justify and soothe. against most types of bullying or belittling. the considerable weakening of the left. new forms of censorship and control reflect the dumbing down that appears to be required of a nation in pumped-up crisis. it is in literature’s nature to sting and bite and kick its way through restrictive barriers. diacritics / spring–summer 2008 159 . but it seems inseparable to me from what calls forth a democracy. yet the nature of the literary usage of language is such that it distorts. he conjectures a shelter for political risk-taking in the light of Apollonian sobriety. Nietzsche sticks to the double affirmation clause. Nietzsche is building a home for a good democracy—I have switched on the transvaluating machine and opened the channels for a double registry of values—which is to say. See especially volume 1. to smooth over life’s rude bruises with its own seal of future recompense—there is no sissy margin for posting an ultimate one-time-only “yes” or final “no” in Nietzsche. one reaches for another scale of the “to come” to which Derrida points when imagining the democratic expanse. and doubtless too to the modern idea of democracy. Only Psychoanalysis Won the War. like democracy.” indeed the best of them. Nietzsche makes it dangerous to live in the region and regime of the perhaps: it is always on the brink of collapse. but because. it says that it is about its own survival against the odds. demonstrates how all the “good guys. every time inevitable and even warranted by Nietzsche’s thinking of this failure-prone zone of being. the “yes. are irrevocably programmed for unremitting nazification. incinerated. as in the famous scorpion fable. there is a sense in which only literature can be trusted to break through censorial barricades—not necessarily because it thematically assumes an openly “political” strategy. laurence Rickels’s astounding 1000-page work. even in Mr.sibilities and molting probabilities. Still. This is how Derrida puts it. disturbs. Not all risk-taking. Some exceptions sparkle on a dimming horizon. those rattled by any number of outrageous takeovers and social betrayals tend to back off from the open pursuit of intellectually frayed trails. there is always the threat that literature. and defeats any referential pressure zone. of course. Literature may pay off the intrusive mafia of corporate or political bosses that punctually closes in on it. Nietzsche’s works. is prey to such a turn.) In a sense. how it corroborates a democratic impulse when it spills and sears and sings. not that it depends on a democracy in place. though democracy. could be extinguished. nazi Psychoanalysis. is linked to an authorization to say everything. The brighter side of literary survival involves what literature can and does do.” for no contradiction to rule out or tidy up the daily 1. including the insides. according to another algorithm of encounter: the institution of literature in the West.1 Scanning current American shutdowns of civil liberties and world-ranging programs for social justice. implies a fascisoid maneuver or instant nazification. or word counts. Or. I don’t think that Hannah or Rosa or Gramsci or even Marx would be published in the nation today. as we see today. yes” of which Derrida persistently writes.

Literature does not stand firm on its presumed innocence. and assume a hint of meaning. It should have been dropped at once. bloat. more giving than any act of affirmation.” the “come. If we did not have art to talk us down from the scientific ledge. whether its place or atopos is provable or not.” the “be free. An instance of unconditional hospitality. It even says “yes. He himself breaches the name. his name at one point gets stamped as “J’accepte”—Jacques resignified as the affirmation of acceptance. has set up its own autoimmune lab.”3 The adventure of the advent—what derrida calls l’á-venir—presupposes the capacious hospitality of affirmation. which is intimately entwined with the experience of the yes. embraces evil. on another level. like democracy. it is Jacques Derrida. absorbing a trace of readability. * * * So maybe it started out in my unconscious. Understanding why he put the brakes on name engineering. Let me put it this way. For. of which it is sometimes an instigator or custodian. In order to make this point I am provisionally discounting the important critiques that have been made of this quasi-concept of the unconscious.” even to manifestations of evil. something primed for us still today by the thinking of the unconscious. Art prepares us for the traumatic detachment from truth on which science stands firm. There’s nothing like it. Let me back up to 2. it endures with an excessive capacity for affirmation. the most reliably rebellious articulations of being. literature. but I was imprinted. total acceptance: like a package you sign for without knowing what it contains. defiles. I would say that literature is inextricably linked to principles of “freedom of speech” and “freedom of thought. 3. yes” to the dangerous perhapses for which Nietzsche fronts. Consider in this light the argument in “Passions: ‘An oblique offering. watches over the spread of malevolence. as Bataille has repeatedly asserted. A lot can be said when a name proves able to switch semantic gears. Literature can never stand for the simplifications that back up so many regimens of moral meaning. it goes on creating artificial paradises out of evil flowers and sinister surfeit. run through discursive barriers to a place where Nietzsche encouraged the colloquy of science and art with the poetic word. To limit the scope of unconscious complicities and democratic inroads supported by the literary authorization. Unable to say “no. cower. The critiques notwithstanding—they offer comments on the metaphysical attributes of the Freudian discovery—the effects of the unconscious. are undeniable and continually renew crucial trajectories of thought. Still. or where to situate my uncs. rolling over into unlikely accounts with little accountability. “the rebellious form of affirmation. if anyone teaches us to desist from tampering frivolously with the proper name. we would all have committed suicide—this bit about suicide he says verbatim. even as it reflects a superior capacity for material detachment and offers. I was nonetheless powerless to stop a morph from entering my head or hands—I’m not sure which receptors where catch his meaning. signs off at whim.”2 a freedom so radical that it is not buttoned up or bound by a discernible “no. Heading for trouble. The affirmation for which Jacques signs allows me to clear some abysses. he sort of says. In the Carte postale. See The Other Heading: Reflections on Today’s Europe 50.” In this way it is parented to the promise of a democracy to come.’” 160 . Or maybe “J’accepte” refers to an inflection of destiny before which one surrenders—more passive. remains severely exposed to the liquidation sales sponsored by leading partisans of the cognitive and discursive rule. watches it respell itself. or maybe there’s room enough now for my uncs. a writing bloc in league with the democratic sweep. Maybe a selective acceptance.acquisitions of athetic pile-ups or tracings. without blinking. perpetually contaminates itself. literature. Literature. Science receives its power pills and toxic spills from poetry and art.

2003. giving them rights and existence. The force of improvisation available to Derrida. The reading pact configured by Derrida and Nietzsche. but Derrida also makes it necessary to reconfigure Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s flair for experiment conjugates well with Derrida’s sensibility for improvisation. testers. experimenters). Let us stay with this hand. of outfitting futurity. * * * 4. belongs to a moment in the culture of experiment announced by Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche projects. that Heidegger most likely would have disapproved4) and set it up against Nietzsche’s abyssal proving grounds. Inviting danger. “a mere attempt” that. diacritics / spring–summer 2008 161 . July 17. licenses probes that scour the rhetorical unconscious and rewrite the word on the street. Nietzsche saw it through his futureseeing night goggles: religion is a veto on science. Nowadays the state is openly attacking science. On the one hand. The very act of conjuring and naming the future philosopher belongs to the species of which Nietzsche speaks. to those who are willing to risk themselves on the versuch: “A new species of philosophers is coming up: I venture to baptize them with a name that is not free of danger. The untread and untried in Nietzsche continue to agitate in a work that is set up with specific triggers for what Nietzsche saw as a scientific culture. is vulnerable to its own destruction. Some of the exploits of Nietzsche’s risk taking are still on Derrida’s watch. put a search on him as he formulated the roadmap for a future philosophy. to shake up some of the old philological certitudes and shake out some of the unsaid that continues to hide out in the open spaces of an ever-unfinished oeuvre. constructed as a test. One need only consider Nietzsche and Derrida on the elements of testing to see where functional features of their thought are crucially linked. and by which such acts as naming can be altered. The philosophy of the future. belongs to the testers and attempters. if you will. insofar as they allow themselves to be unriddled—for it belongs to their nature to want to remain riddles at some point—these philosophers of the future may have a right—it might also be a wrong—to be called attempters (versucher: tempters. Nietzsche installed his thought as a test site. as he establishes them. Colloquium organized around Derrida’s work on the future of democracy at Cerisy-la-Salle. As I unriddle them. My temptation would be to put Derrida’s thought on aporia in there (about which he said. for he has ventured to take the risk of positing. a space where the “hardest tests” can be tried and where failure is part of the semantic and historical adventure to be undertaken. by a Nietzsche read and shot through with Derrida.explore these assertions in terms of Nietzsche’s unfinished business with Derrida and the affirmations that they share. Nietzsche equally inserts the code authorizing their refutability. This name itself is in the end a mere attempt and. The future philosophers that Nietzsche calls forth in this passage have a right that “might also be wrong. it’s a good hand. Often the Nietzschean unsaid bears a feminine trace.” which is to say that. requires us to consider how Nietzsche called for Derrida. His peculiar brand of scientificity encourages morphs and mutations: science. a temptation” [52]. for Nietzsche. he tests the name and brings on the future by means of an experiment in positing. in conversation with a group of philosophers. Where to locate their points of entry today? Nietzsche puts his mark on Derrida.

méphistophélique” [qtd. There is something about the experimental cast of the future that threatens the democratic century with pain and disruption.” 162 . it is immediate and urgent” [251]. The implications of the new epoch of experimentation squeezes one’s politically correct shoes. Nietzsche asserts in the section “We Scholars. Nietzsche set physics close to religion. often more decadent but possibly more replenishing interpretive behaviors. Nietzsche spoke of physics as just another interpretation of the world: “It is perhaps just dawning on five or six minds. or at least along the lines of a reconfigured notion of nation? Derrida offers: “Today the acceleration of technicization concerns the border of the nation-state. is only an interpretation and exegesis of the world (to suit us.” Derrida addresses the hyperethical procedure of genealogy. technicization” [245]. which has Nietzsche dissociating from the Greeks. if unquestionably neurotic. His tone. . effecting a linguistic parentage for which both German and English allow. not in order to sound the death-knell of democracy. Answering this call. By no means intending to underwrite a mere dismissal. with the way. remains emphatic about the task at hand: “this rethinking . He proposes a thought of political singularities that exceed the structure of the nation-state. In Beyond Good and evil Nietzsche in fact situates science close to conscience. despite some dead moments and fallow poses. . lending it an ethical stamp. without a recognizable state formation. but to rethink democracy from within these conditions” [“Nietzsche and the Machine” 251]. interpretation of the world.” he calculates. in Nietzsche 133]. . ironique. participating in the Olympiad of the Nietzschean stammer. The philosophers of the future.in Beyond Good and evil.”5 This issue needs “to be completely reconsidered. let us link what Der5. one wonders. it will allow itself to unpack the future. He repeats the presumptive daring involved in naming the experimenters: “With the name in which I dared baptize them I have already stressed expressly their attempts and delight in attempts: was this done because as critics in body and soul they like to employ experiments in a new. too. concerning the bold experimenters: “Does their passion for knowledge force them to go further with audacious and painful experiments than the softhearted and effeminate taste of a democratic century could approve?” [134]. perhaps wider. “that physics. observing that. must not be postponed. . for Nietzsche. for his part. Derrida is concerned with the stakes of a democracy to come. “the trial of democracy is also a trial of . Nietzsche once again returns to the essential qualities with which he identifies the philosophers of the future by means of what Michelet calls “cet esprit fataliste. if not altogether apocalyptic. a book that was supposed to wrap it all up for him following the extravagance he had permitted himself with Zarathustra. Nietzsche asks. It is worth our while to focus on the way democratic formations—despite the rants—belong to the experimental exigency of which Nietzsche writes. there are many hiding places where one can exploit fragile political structures or duck and decay into one or another form of accepting complacency. Otherwise we might as well be in our slippers and not at the tryouts. In a text that bears the title “Nietzsche and the Machine. Derrida. winning out over other. Following the cartographies of political utterances drawn up by the last philosopher. but that should not inhibit us: we need to go to where Nietzschean indecency takes us and makes us wince. perhaps more dangerous sense?” [134]. if I may say so!) and not a world-explanation” [§14 21]. which he understands as another. this is also a theme of a colloquium in Cerisy-la-Salle (2002) organized around the political thought of Jacques Derrida under the title “the Coming of Democracy (regarding Jacques Derrida). According to this engagement with democracy.” “will be men of experiments” (Menschen der experimente) [134]. stumbling and staggering. suggests that “the name of Nietzsche could serve as an ‘index’ to a series of questions that have become all the more pressing since the end of the Cold War” [253]. Can democracy thrive. Until now science has been the bad conscience of our era.

to the experimental culture from which his work takes off. In short. ethical questions arise concerning the usability of results stemming from these experiments. has made use of experimental practice and the tropes of testing. If democracy increasingly depends upon an understanding of incessant tryouts and continual self-testing. makes it inadequate to itself” [251]. posited. from the genuine philosophers. even though Nietzsche can be seen as an anti-democrat. implemented. For Nietzsche. even when the heart bleeds. among other things. whom Nietzsche also calls “these severe spirits. The coming philosophers will no longer lean on “Truth” or feelings of disinterested pleasure in order in the end to reconcile “Christian feelings” with “classical taste. and which he links to an affirmable democracy—that is to say.rida calls the trial of democracy to the name of Nietzsche—another name for an indefinitely unsatisfied justice—and to the timing of the democracy for which he calls: “this democracy to come is marked in the movement that always carries the present beyond itself. alone in his desert. Nietzsche makes us ask about the relationship between science and contemporary formations of power—more specifically. just as there is a Hegel—or marx—of the left and of the right [see the ear of the other]. Politically constellated atrocity is fastened onto the technological grid. saw at least three sides of the coin and tried to navigate between the horror and the fascination that experimental culture provoked in him. and scientific men generally. It is scheduled for the future and is still coming at us. about the suspicious partnership of so-called advanced democracies and high technology. He wants to separate out. on the contrary. they will have little faith that truth of all things should be accompanied by such diacritics / spring–summer 2008 163 . and to a certain levelheaded cruelty that knows how to handle a knife surely and subtly. part of whose devastation consisted in setting up the camps as massively unrestricted laboratories—the most unregulated scientific sites in modern history. his aim here seeks out another target. A number of his other works pivot on the “experimental disposition” and treat themselves as experimental efforts. the mere philosophical laborers. was already picking up signals from a future pockmarked by Nazi experimentation. What makes these forces match up with each other? What allows these structures mutually to hold up? Let us bring our focus to an aspect of science that Nietzsche more or less discovered. As Derrida has elsewhere argued. reactionary modernity. they admit to a pleasure in saying no and in taking things apart. they will be harder (and perhaps not always only against themselves) than humane people might wish. a perpetual test case. The rhetoric and practices of testing go far beyond what one was willing to see. Nietzsche’s text incorporates the history of lab culture. the ability to stand alone and give an account of themselves. a largely unprobed dimension of his thought provides a rigorous grid for evaluating political formations and exigencies. Let us try to move on and travel along the edges of what Nietzsche massively designated as the experimental disposition.” will demonstrate a shrewd courage. with characteristic ambivalence. there is a Nietzsche of the left and of the right. they will not dally with “truth” to be “pleased” or “elevated” or “inspired” by her. or for one or two of the signatories in Nietzsche. which is linked to political innovation. His first appointment is with the philosopher. never off the hook of its purported levels of achievement.” The coming philosophers. Thus. To this day. Even though he announces in Beyond Good and evil the coming of an unprecedented era of a grandiose politics. The conduit for establishing a progressive political science in Nietzsche is circuited through his understanding of scientific structures and their material implications. Democracy is itself viewed in terms of a trial. that which exemplarily carries the present beyond itself is science. too. Nietzsche. Nietzsche. indeed. Nietzsche sets up a lab in Beyond Good and evil rather explicitly.

for Nietzsche ascribes pride and will as well as satisfaction to the yields of the philosophical laborer. the genuine philosopher is powered by the self-threatening wheelworks of performativity. hardly denigrated but rather ennobled. no matter how subject to Heideggerian scorn the laborer’s love of the technological abbreviation will one day become. their creating is a legislation. Spinoza. as if one were not willed to crash against walls or succumb to more speculative points of resistance. and others. is no longer necessarily limited to just one perspective of temporality. The playoffs are subtle. creations of value which have become dominant and are for a time called ‘truths’” [136]. are commanders and legislators: they say. and all that is and has been becomes a means for them. [Beyond Good and evil 134] In order to situate the genuine philosophers. every tough will can certainly find satisfaction” [136]. to abbreviate everything long. intelligible and manageable. 164 . making things happen with decisive positings that are by no means enslaved to what is. Neither sufficiently descriptive nor demonstrably effective. and give them space. while keeping spaces open for reciprocal contaminations. the inescapable ordeals—are. the legislative demand for the disclosable becoming of that which he posits (“Must there not be such philosophers?—”) folds and fizzles into the scarring mark of a dash. he plays the wicked game—” [125]. as if temporality were part of a game in which the fate of positing could be called once and for all. The crash course is part of the deal struck with the game or contract for which the genuine philosopher has signed on. The laborers. “some great data of valuations—that is. With a creative hand they reach for the future. nonetheless fails to account for Aristotle. The split between the laborer and legislator. and in so doing have at their disposal the preliminary labor of all philosophical laborers. In the more contemporary terms of speech act theory. an instrument. or.amusements for our feelings. one that is bound up in the destructive propensities of ironic positing. easy to think over. even ‘time. between the constative curator and performative commander. according to Nietzsche. It is perhaps not inconsequential to point out that such a philosopher is not said by Nietzsche to exist presently. Yet the notion of failure is not so simple as that. Their ‘knowing’ is creating. is a bit of a fiction that. The hundred attempts and temptations—the tests and trials.” whether in the realm of logic or political thought or art. they are also managers of the intelligible—they make everything easy for us: “it is for these investigators to make everything that has happened and been esteemed so far easy to look over. a hammer. The lapse that Nietzsche’s prescriptive typology incurs points among other things to the internal collapse of his experiment. have to determine “and press into formulas. Nietzsche pulls them away from “those philosophical laborers after the noble model of Kant and Hegel” [136]. ‘thus it shall be!’ They first determine the Whither and For What of man. their will to truth is—will to power” [136]. or even for the internal fissures and critical takedowns of Kant and Hegel. nonetheless the legislative powers of the philosophical action hero already raised a fascisoid hand in Plato.’ and to overcome the entire past—an enormous and wonderful task in whose service every subtle pride. Contrasting them with philosophical laborers. Rather than describing and merely computing. The velocities of failure and the noncoincidence that Nietzsche continually reasserts between saying and doing belong to the particular kind of effort that he promotes in this work.’ above all imprudently. In this regard. all who have overcome the past. The genuine philosopher scores failure time and again. however. the genuine philosopher tests the limits of intelligibility. This figure “lives ‘unphilosophically’ and ‘unwisely. philosophical laborers are the heroes of the constative act and assertion. linked to the future. By contrast. Nietzsche writes. former positings of values. and feels the burden and the duty of a hundred attempts and temptations of life—he risks himself constantly. or rather screams: “Genuine philosophers.

as Nietzsche suggests elsewhere in the text. according to another register of being.” Part Two of Beyond Good and evil begins with the utterance. telling. Not to remain stuck to some pity—not even for higher men (höheren menschen) into whose rare torture and helplessness some accident allowed us to look. not to remain stuck to one’s own detachment. what one must not do. The inventory consists of ten items. namely ignorance and sheer stupidity. but nothing takes off or arrives anywhere. on the right timing: “One has to test oneself to see that one is destined for independence and command—and do it at the right time. . not to remain stuck to a fatherland—not even if it suffers most and needs help most—it is less difficult to sever one’s heart from a victorious fatherland. for they disrupt the syntax of doing that they appear to establish and yet fail to yield another horizon. though they may be the most dangerous game one could play and are tests that are taken in the end before no witness or judge but ourselves” [51–52]. The duty-bound imprudence comes up against a mute obstacle. . pulsing from a greater responsibility. this being Nietzsche’s call. And so on. The one who stands up against the ranks of stupidity is one who submits to the test. we have made “everything around us clear and free and easy and simple! . And only on this now solid. . Nietzsche proposes a counterphobic example—something that resumes our discussion of the “unphilosophical” genuine philosopher. what to honor or aim for. to that voluptuous remoteness and strangeness of the bird who diacritics / spring–summer 2008 165 . Rhetorically the ten alternative commandments operate anacoluthically. * * * Dedicated to the “Free Spirit. But. One is faced with an overall summons to withdraw—or maybe one senses the revving of an engine. granite foundation of ignorance could knowledge rise so far—the will to knowledge on the foundation of a far more powerful will: the will to ignorance” [135]. and finally judged without witnesses or administrators of easy intelligibilities. a burden and duty felt by the philosopher who risks everything as s/he plays beyond good and evil (the German sich does not make a gender decision necessary at the moment Nietzsche designates the self-risking test driver). We have contrived to retain our ignorance. It depends. the genuine philosopher runs into the same figure that Flaubert conjures in his reflections on bêtise: the self-pulverizing granite foundation of ignorance. the passage indicates the investment made in retaining ignorance and clearing the way only for simplicity. There is no single moment wherein the one being tested is told. One should not dodge one’s tests. Without effecting simple oppositions or making rash claims for overcoming the rule of ignorance. for instance. These items do not merely comprise the double negative or flipside of the ten commandments but test the commanding force of the philosopher of the future differently. The pervasive spread of stupidity. the source of imprudence is not itself imprudent but comes from a higher place. is the hard rock against which Nietzsche launches his thought on testing. moreover. the swinging movement of a pitcher’s arm as he prepares to throw the ball. “O sancta simplicitas!” Holy simplicity! We tend to live by simplification and falsification. the test is never over or in some reliable sense passable: it needs to be taken and retaken. fueled by a perverted will to knowledge. not to remain stuck to a science—even if it should lure us with the most precious finds that seem to have been saved up precisely for us. Nietzsche produces an inventory of what constitutes it. .Nietzsche insists. Administering the great test. . all of which begin negatively. for the easy listening of lame but sanctioned forms of philosophizing. Since duty prescribes imprudence and unwise risk. In fact. A critique of any foundationalism. in other words.

[52] The inventory prescribes extreme forms of detachment. he makes it clear that he has strapped himself into this text and also that its articulation should not be limited to the disseminated indications of this or that biographeme. The act. If the inventory is set up in terms of serial “nots” this is no doubt because Nietzsche needs to enact the complicity of the Versuch with its linguistic appointees: the tester or attempter must desist from adhering to the temptation that calls. Nonetheless the test run that he proposes bears the weight of his history. roped in by its grim allure. which brings together attempter with the tempting. The test site circumscribed by this text occupies a zone between negation and projected reconciliation. and can only come about by the negation of dependency. including his never-ending break-up with Richard Wagner. The problem with testing one’s independence—the test for Nietzsche is bound up with the possibility of independence—is that it copies the word that tries to describe the freeing perspective for us: in-dependence. Elsewhere Nietzsche states that pity toppled the gods. does not fall purely into the zone of action or its purported other—passivity—but engages both at once. even when the patriotic introject wants and calls you. as do “benevolent racism” 166 . the inventory goes on to name the urgency of breaking with one’s country. Thus the first self-testing command says: “Not to remain stuck (hängenbleiben) to a person—not even the most loved—every person is a prison. of desistence is not as such a negative one. (This does not mean that Nietzsche advocates the vulgarity of some forms of indifference. Independence can never be stabilized or depended upon.” always awkward and slightly wrenching. pity can make us crumble and christianize. and even if we are not gods. as Derrida has argued in his reading of LacoueLabarthe: “Without being negative. We are tempted and tested by pity. This could be a resting place. But Nietzsche. if such it is. But dependence comes first and always squats in any declaration of independence. so-called independence can never shake loose its origin in dependent states. Not to remain stuck to our own virtues and become as a whole the victim of some detail in us. Already the locution “being tested. A superpower nation-state should be the easiest to sever with. This way of skating on the rim of negativity is typical enough of the Nietzschean maneuver that. it both organizes and disorganizes what it appears to determine” [“Desistance” 41].flies ever higher to see ever more below him—the danger of the flies. and exaggerate the virtue of generosity into a vice. so that independence and the ability to command are properly tested. like the other guy. the most dangerous affect. The un or in of what depends and hangs onto has to undo the core dependency and produce a nonaddictive prospect. Only that action and intervention should not eventuate from pity. invites the intervention of the passive where action or at least some activity is indicated. even in times of war or need. remember. pity. nearly naturally. in which Nietzsche says that every philosophical work installs a biographical register. whether a prison or shelter. even to the extent of urging the detachment from detachment. a shelter and solace overseen by the friendly protectors of the pleasure principle. almost indifferently. or being subject to a dialectic. attracted. Un-abhängigkeit. Being tested. takes the test beyond the pleasure principle. In other words. The “nots” that Nietzsche enters into the decathlon of testing are also a way of signing his own name by courting and swerving around the nihilistic threat: Nicht/Nietzsche. counts for the one to which we are most prone. such as our hospitality. which is why it has to submit punctually to the test of its own intention and possibility. keeping up its stamina. This is the text. endeavors not to trigger a dialectical takeover. also a nook” [52]. which is the danger of dangers for superior and rich souls who spend themselves lavishly. it carves a hole in any possible synthesis. Beginning with the necessity of wrenching oneself loose from a beloved person. independence depends on dependence. The test takes one through the magnetizing sites to which one is spontaneously.

science fascinates. one should not multiply indifferently. A true temptress. The effort of halting the effort—the principle of self-conservation. take over. this view diverges from some of nietzsche’s earlier pronouncements on the nobility of overflow that marked. moreover. So even if it invites the blindness of fascination and the sum of addictive returns. the noble. stopped the flow in order to ensure self-conservation. the superior soul gives itself away. “generosity and kindness are benedictions bestowed on others not in response to the imperatives of duty or as gifts in a structural economy of exchange. and generosity soon becomes a depleting burden. exhausted. is turned into a vice. science needs to be released if only to go under. For nietzsche and for the Greeks. Of course nowadays.” the valorization of self-expenditure. Virtue can enlarge itself. no matter how generous or exemplary. exhausting the power. too repressive and dependent on what presents itself. (It is appropriate only to disappropriate. or loving enough. on the requisite resorption of semen. sparkling reflection. He keeps the tested being in the vehicle of the dis-. It captivates and often enough gives one a high. great-souled individual is compelled to and is capable of an diacritics / spring–summer 2008 167 . perhaps seduces and lulls. The inclusion of science in the subtle athletics of the “not” may reflect the way Nietzsche had to break away from his scientific niche of philology. to trace one’s own expropriation from a site that persistently beguiles with the proper. As the other term in the partnership. Liberal pity policies would be nauseating to Nietzsche. science itself stands to lose from too tight a grip and needs eventually to loosen the bond. For science not only curates the test from a place of superiority. strong. one should not multiply—or. can trip up the one being tested. it is vulnerable to imperial acts of expansion. to dissolve its substantial mask and be turned over to fresh scientific probes. One can become enslaved to one’s virtue.and the like. Virtue itself. I would even take liberal pity. like a star’s shining exuberance. Yet science itself is implicated in the relation thus structured. 6. such as hospitality. In this ward. as Nietzsche does. by means of a redescription of Aristotle’s “great-souled man. sich bewahren—is linked by Nietzsche to the hardest of all in this battery of tests. they are not radical. at the end of the day. Virtue tips into its other. as in other Nietzschean wings. possibly more allegorical register. strong and superior beings encounter the danger of infection. at least getting away from biblical commands. and rigorously refuses to issue a permit for sticking to any moment or structure of being that would seem welcoming or appropriate. draining the will. of unreal shining glory. an intoxicating sense of one’s own capacity for mastery. one should not be hospitable to those indiscriminate and parasitic demands that utterly destroy the one being tested. the gold of light. coextensive with hospitality. In other words. Babich. The offerings turn into sacrifice.6 On another. writes Babette e.) Thus one must desist even from becoming attached to one’s own virtues. the greatness of will or benevolence cannot be withheld. Rather. Nietzsche thwarted the spermatic economy. but there is more to it. a weakening. finding that it is spent. Increasing the dosage of desistance to the level of turning on itself. the hardest test concerns expenditure. the squandering of the self that gives itself away too readily. like the sun dripping gold. The movement of dislocation and disappropriation continues even to the point of disallowing sheer detachment. and turn oneself into a hospital for the vampirizing other. Thus the virtue of generosity. bringing together the withholding power of testing and testicles. Nietzsche proposes that one should not remain dependent on one’s experience of voluptuous detachment. They give too much and spend themselves as if they were infinitely capable of the offerings for which they are solicited. attend to it immoderately. It is not just a matter of releasing oneself from a scientific commitment in order to pass the Nietzschean test. Why would conserving oneself constitute the most difficult test? It is as if expenditure were an instinct that needed to be inhibited: in this regard we are reminded of Nietzsche’s pronouncements on nonejaculatory practice.) Science belongs to the list of the desisted—“resistance” would come off as too strong a term. but is itself subject to the rigors and renewals of testing.

It is not clear to me how Nietzsche establishes the limit: when. culminating in the crescendo that actually takes itself back—the hardest test places one close to the refusal of test. does generosity go overboard. the recourse where precisely none presents itself. given that one is driven to swerve from the absolute risk that the imperative excess that makes its own measure” [178]. Nietzsche calls for an independent testing system—so independent. one is in sum commanded to test one’s own aptitude for assuming command. monitor one’s resolve and submission without relying on witnesses or judges other than oneself. check the ambient conditions. unless Nietzsche’s intervention requires us to think the safety valve. All the aporias and paradoxes we indicated notwithstanding. Extreme submission to the test—this is what the test requires—runs the risk of wearing down to the point of obliterating the one being tested. self-conservation—the only flash of truth (wahr) that the testing ground will license. however. Is there a test that could call itself off without renouncing itself? In a more lab-oriented sense. for example. a duty has been signaled. it consists in something that one gives oneself. a test. for one must give oneself this gift. Independence does not result from the test or get scored merely on its grid. The ostensible issue in section 41 is how to test one’s independence. on the willingness to submit oneself to the test.Nietzsche points to a tendency in the very structure of testing. Whoa! Hold your horses! Something has happened to nietzsche that makes him want to rein in the unfettered drive. This peril advisory comes close to the current Nietzschean cliché. is in the end the assumption itself of the test. One must take it at the right time. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. asking that one conserve oneself on the hinge between extreme effort and effortlessness—one inescapably encounters the danger of dissolution. The test comes as a kind of gift to oneself. calibrates the level of submission to the test. In order to determine one’s capacity for being independent and taking command. even to the “hardest” test which Nietzsche associates with sich bewahren. independence depends on testing. sets the bar and disrupts the unregulated flow of a self-offering that too soon turns into sacrifice. Yet—assuming this peculiar perspective to be viable—one needs to come close to the killing point before suddenly desisting. In this passage on testing. one is dutybound to offer oneself up to the gift of the test. the test of independence. or even administering. To the extent that one is commanded to hang onto this shred of truth and conserve oneself. in fact. as the passage appears to demonstrate. Yet it is not a matter solely of taking. that it will never fully constitute a coherent protocol. time oneself. a self-inflicted one. which is to say. Split into the one who must give and the one who takes the test. one must give oneself one’s tests. To evoke an old Nietzschean blockbuster. Taking command means giving oneself over to the test. Nietzsche perhaps indicates here another logic of the test that manages to maintain the integrity of the object or material submitted for testing—something on a more philosophical level that reflects the way in which PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) technically has changed the scene of DNA replication. then we are no longer dealing with the ordeal that Nietzsche calls a test. The test site that Nietzsche installs in this instance is. just as independence implies submission to the test. at what point is hospitality over the top. or mark designates the point of no return? Can one know ahead of time when the expenditure will have been too great? If such knowledge is predictable or programmable. or what event. At this point the other Greek value. The battery of tests is watched over by the hardest test that. The taking of the test in itself constitutes an act of independence. so to speak. Thus. 168 . moderation. one can take a turn into a Dionysian danger zone. One gives oneself the test: “man muss sich selbst seine Proben geben” [§41]. act. it resolves the problem of preserving evidence where the risk is run each time that evidence would be destroyed by the test that seeks to name it [see Rabinow]. in a sense. At the same time.

philosophers “have been very inexpert about women” [202]. It may well be that. at once asserting its irrevocability and rescinding its ground.” Nietzsche does not decide here on the gender of the future philosopher. Nietzsche tries to clear away. accusatory and fatiguing. it offers a number of compelling reasons to retain the feminine as a trace of the future. withholding. They communicate secretly with the figure that opens Beyond Good and evil: “Supposing truth is a woman—what then?” Until now. one nation. which by no means effaces the feminine. The Übermensch is not an Übermann but is over man the way we say. This new species. For all we know at this point. Veiled. the philosophers of the future may not “allow themselves to be unriddled” [“The Law of Genre” 202]. no more “one. The passage announcing the advent of future philosophers—they come in the plural—permits another variable to be entered and engages yet another politicized register. We skipped a beat. Yes. There are at least two feminine types contesting the scientific legacy that Nietzsche interrogates. in the last minute. to which he opens the future as well as his name. Destabilizing the one. So he multiplies the many into different and many manies. “I’m over him. Let us return to a moment in our elaboration. Transfeminists have something in common with the figure I am investigating. and so on). he calls off the game. lose Zarathustra: if not lose. insofar as they were dogmatists. holding back—and even hiding. It turns out to split off from the manly many and reverberates with future. in accordance with Nietzsche’s notion of the über (trans). So now we get to lose the (male) metaphysical subject. one yes. some of which have been accounted for Derrida’s important essay “The Law of Genre. linking us metaphysically to the worst offenses. * * * One last word. Nietzsche also fears the many. it embraces the experience of the impossible: as such the passage genuinely fulfills its destiny as test. The other type. transfeminists. One of these types. though they complicate the Nietzschean legacy considerably. including those that honored the singular appointment of the function of philosopher-king. even as he supplants one type of feminine force with another. then at least to loosen the chains that have kept us down historically. the future philosophers may be a band of women or they may already befigure.” Gattung is more thought-provoking than “species” to the extent that it implies gender as well as genre—engendering further generational affiliations. we know. The hardest test may have been to stop the test.” But what a struggle! The text is adamant on this point. They have understood and withstood the trial period of going under. which motivates in part his pluralization of the philosopher. has mastered and transvaluated ordeals such as exorbitant submission. There is a residue diacritics / spring–summer 2008 169 . They in fact tie into the double bind of which Nietzsche writes as he prepares the test site: they appear to call off the game even as they play it.” which has been translated as a “new species of philosophers. they belong to the experimental labor that Nietzsche sets up. One last man. with the roughness of a preliminary sketch—an early scientific trial—the transhuman.of testing appears to imply—desistence precisely does not allow one to plunge oneself into uncertainty—Nietzsche’s call for testing at this point appears to be what it says it is: conservative. Into different valences of many. At the very least. which could be called. There is also a good many. One last-minute retraction. Nietzsche calls up a “neue Gattung von Philosophen. Still. which primes an other being for philosophical admissions.” Part of Nietzsche’s legacy—to have sprung us from the tyranny of the one (one God. The pluralization of the coming philosopher destabilizes any number of philosophical customs and hierarchies. will have updated the philosopher’s resumé. to sign and countersign a kind of test ban treaty with the sich that has staked everything on the passing of the test.

he does not come to a full stop or turnaround to meet one of the options that have clumsily asserted themselves in the reigning house of metaphysics. Even as a mere hypothesis. The bound beyond means. For woman. philosophers have been molesters rather than testers. Nietzsche. or overly anthropomorphical. we cannot know or say what this is. more discredited type) that unsnaps from the philosophical lock-in. as Spurs has pointed out—concerning at least the woman in Nietzsche—does not believe in herself as a fixable identity. But let us not get too personal here. God and philosophy. philosophy has targeted woman for truth. Drawn only to the Dis-tanz of an unstoppable withdrawal this type matches the desistence that Nietzsche comes to associate with the exemplary stance of the somewhat fused tested/tester. even if the holding braces the untruth of truth. When Nietzsche opens a space for the aggravation of gender here. for that matter. when things get urgent or truth is on the line. an internal tremor that cannot be restricted to what we think we know about woman or truth or. she has the philosopher by the balls. 170 . they have not understood how to welcome the feminine within or without. still others as a provocative multiplication of perspectives. Until now. frankly. In any case. a laugh. Nietzsche calls this residue. how to probe beyond a given limit toward something—a splice. sectionizes. but this nonsubstantial sketch is their substance. Until now.7 We do not know who or what the future philosophers will be. Woman as hypothesis belongs to the same thinking that skips the groove of metaphysics—the “dangerous perhaps” which Nietzsche establishes here to give the philosophers of the future a running start. a time zone. performatively calls upon and creates a new species. woman establishes another relation for the philosopher. yet the feminine operation that Nietzsche engages places her as the untruth of truth. throws off. what some have seen as multiplicity. He is not throwing philosophy into reverse or reversal by means of a simple exchange of values—woman for man. The hypothesis of woman sends out a call. an innumerability of relation that requires an altogether different type of scientific encounter. Nietzsche would hesitate before allowing his thought to prefigure those 7.that philosophy has not been able to read or account for. which may have some recycled parts and evolved structures. for his part. that Nietzsche is not simply proposing woman as the heir to and overcoming of the one who has lorded it over us for so long. The new philosophers appear to take a graft from what stands as the paleonymic “woman. how the transfeminist pluricity reads.” So. magnetizes the philosopher. as if this were not a matter of a radical and ongoing experiment. though—there is no doubt about this—Nietzsche started it. We cannot tell. but. Broadly interrogated. only feminists and misogynists know for sure what a woman is. Try to imagine a philosophy that subjects itself rigorously to the perhapses of life. among other things. a movement. In one of those peculiar conceptual alliances and collapses. he does not mean to introduce a stealth dialectics or an operation of salvation. See also Derrida’s discussion of the “dangerous perhaps” in Politics of Friendship 26–49. she also interrogates. or equalizes “woman. Such a plan would not be radical enough for Nietzsche but rather constitutes a relapse. replicates. In other words. The horizon that would allow for the complacency of such a maneuver is being punctured by the Nietzschean stylus. for instance. The affirmative unfixity springs from the feminine in Nietzsche. at times. others as folds. As that which bears the future or holds truth close to the vest. if you have practiced your binary scales and done your homework. to move it along. but he even correlates stale feminists with men—belongs to the other. as that which blows a hole in the philosopher’s phantasm of truth. a woman. you have already gathered that “beyond good and evil” also means beyond man and woman. disclosing one of the feminine types (the “effeminate”—which he necessarily associates with men. as substance or as that which would allow the clumsy dogmatist to pin her down to an essence. one horizon for another.” a value that programs its own mutation.

reflection. Trans. minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. New York: Vintage. Naas. Glyph: textual Studies 7 (1980): 202– 29. David Wood.” typography: Mimesis. Vicki. 1966. is. once again—expecting. 1978.aspects of heir presumptive Richard Rorty’s projections. “nietzsche and the machine. having injected her corpus with hormones. nazi Psychoanalysis. Friedrich. appendage. Trans. Acts of literature. “Passions: ‘An Oblique Offering. 1997. Rickels. 1989. Trans. Woman is not purely and simply the answer (again: supposing we know what this is above and beyond the regimens of lack. Austin: U of Texas P. Peggy Kamuf and Avital Ronell. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Let us proceed. “a storm pregnant with new lightnings [welches mit neuen Blitzen schwanger geht]” [§292]. without necessarily resolving or satisfying anything. other). Lincoln: U of Nebraska P. any condition or ground or afterthought or primal memory. Berlin: de Gruyter.” Trans. Bloomington: Indiana UP. Nietzsche. 1992. Barbara Harlow. 2002. ________ . 1– 42. Chicago: U of Chicago P. near the putative end of the text. a way of naming that which is continually put on trial. Politics of Friendship. 1992. trans.’” Trans. Politics. 1994. Ed. Making PCR: a Story of Biotechnology. in terms of a more pragmatic measure. Avital Ronell. have gone so far as to make Catherine MacKinnon the smartest cookie in the bell jar. ________ . 1988. diacritics / spring–summer 2008 171 . 2002. Paul. Philosophy. ________ . If woman appears as a hypothetical yet commanding being at the starting line of Beyond Good and evil. Chicago: U of Chicago P. The Other Heading: Reflections on Today’s Europe. Spurs: nietzsche’s Styles. 1980. Ed. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. disturbing the language of viability. Jacques. repetition. Beyond Good and evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. nervous Horses. “Desistance. Rabinow. Babette. ________ . ed. which have produced women as an answer to philosophy’s own existential crisis and. London: Verso. ________ . 5–35. Trans. transference. 1971– 2000. If at all.” negotiations: interventions and interviews. David Wood. Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Science: Reflecting Science on the Ground and Art of life. 1996. Ed. Albany: SUNY P. ________ . extension. Nietzsche. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael B. Cambridge. hearne. “The Law of Genre. Derrida: A Critical Reader. stanford: stanford UP. translation. Christopher Fynsk. elizabeth rottenberg. Ed. Trans. vol. 1985. the ear of the other: otobiography. of Jenseits von Gut und Böse. Derek Attridge. Laurence. Nietzsche. WORKS CITED Babich.” Trans. “This Strange Institution Called Literature. ________ . MA: Harvard UP. 1992. By Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. Walter Kaufmann. George Collins. ________ . London: Routledge. she is the exigency of the test. 1: only Psychoanalysis Won the War. Derrida.

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