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532Nietzsche on Feminine and Masculine Love.

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  • sauwelios
    Jun 24, 2012
      As a Lampertian Nietzschean, and at some level perhaps even rather a Straussian Nietzschean, I know something of Nietzsche's esotericism. Still, I'm impressed by what seems to me the subtlety of his writing in the central aphorism of the fifth book of The Gay Science, which is a post-Zarathustran addition to the pre-Zarathustran first four books. In this post, I will take a close look at that aphorism, which I will quote in its entirety. Here is the beginning:

      "Notwithstanding all the concessions which I am inclined to make to the monogamic prejudice, I will never admit that we should speak of equal rights in the love of man and woman: there are no such equal rights. The reason is that man and woman understand something different by the term love,--and it belongs to the conditions of love in both sexes that the one sex does not presuppose the same feeling, the same conception of 'love' in the other sex. What woman understands by love is clear enough: complete surrender [Hingabe] (not merely devotion [Hingebung]) of soul and body, without any motive, without any reservation, rather with shame and terror at the thought of a surrender restricted by clauses or associated with conditions. In this absence of conditions her love is precisely a faith [Glaube, also "belief"]: woman has no other.--" (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, aphorism 363, titled How each sex has its prejudice about love.)

      The verb hingeben literally means "to give hence", and the reflexive form sich hingeben means quite literally "to give oneself over": see http://dict.leo.org/ende?lp=ende&lang=en&search=hingeben  .One should compare the etymology of "surrender", which can be found here: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=surrender
      Now the words Hingabe and Hingebung differ in that the former means--to use the above translation of the latter--a passive being-devoted, whereas the latter means an active devoting-oneself. What woman understands by love, then, according to Nietzsche, is to be passionately devoted, and not to have to put oneself to devoting oneself--e.g., out of a sense of duty, for example the marital duty... But as Nietzsche says two aphorisms earlier, "[w]oman is so artistic..." We have to ask, then: is her love really as orgasmic as she makes it appear, or is she faking it? Does the "shame and terror" Nietzsche discerns not suggest that she's merely doing what she believes is her duty? Is she not merely obeying the sense of duty instilled in her by society, e.g., by films and books? Is her understanding of love, which is love as described in films and books, not her ideal as opposed to her reality? Indeed, that seems to me to be precisely what Nietzsche suggests. For he immediately continues:

      "Man, when he loves a woman, wants precisely this love from her; he is consequently, as regards himself, furthest removed from the prerequisites of feminine love; granted, however, that there should also be men to whom on their side the demand for complete devotion is not unfamiliar, well, they are really--not men. A man who loves like a woman becomes thereby a slave; a woman, however, who loves like a woman becomes thereby a more perfect woman... The passion of woman in its unconditional renunciation of its own rights presupposes in fact that there does not exist on the other side an equal pathos, an equal desire for renunciation: for if both renounced themselves out of love, there would result--well, I don't know what, perhaps an empty space?" (ibid.)

      One should note that Nietzsche here uses the word "devotion" (Hingebung), and not "surrender" (Hingabe). Indeed, he never uses the word Hingabe again in the aphorism!

      One should also note that the word translated as "prerequisites" is Voraussetzung in the German, which is singular, and that the phrase translated as "presupposes in fact" is hat gerade zur Voraussetzung, literally "has in fact as its prerequisite". This implies that the prerequisite of feminine love is masculine counterlove.

      And finally, one should note that not only does Nietzsche, immediately after having emphasised it, retreat from Hingabe to Hingebung, but he also suggests that feminine love is not even complete Hingebung but the demand (Verlangen, "longing, desire") for complete Hingebung... This reading is supported by his characterising the passion or pathos of woman as a "desire for renunciation" (Verzichtleisten-Wollen, "wanting-to-renounce"--emphasis mine), and his saying that she "renounce[s] [her]sel[f] out of love". The latter implies that her renouncing herself is not itself her love--whereas he'd initially said that "[w]hat woman understands by love is [...] complete surrender"; initially he'd said that feminine love was surrender or renunciation itself, but now he says it's a longing for devotion or a wanting to renounce herself.

      By the way: in order to explain the reference to slavery, we might do well to recall something I wrote years, to wit:

      "[T]he slave, if he has any nobility (Vornehmheit) in him, should rebel (auflehnen), not obey; whereas the warrior (who is of a higher caste than the slave) should obey, for in obeying he obeys himself (unlike the slave). As the slave fights for his own cause by rebelling, the warrior serves his own cause in obeying." http://sauwelios.blogspot.nl/2007/03/resistance-auflehnung-that-is.html 

      A man who loves like a woman becomes thereby a slave because in devoting himself to a beloved he is not being true to himself, to his nature; a woman, however, who loves like a woman becomes thereby a more perfect woman because in devoting herself to a beloved she is being true to herself, to her nature.

      This apropos seems to me a good occasion to interrupt this already long post, and mark it as:

      To Be Continued.
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