Nietzsche on Feminine and Masculine Love.
- 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.
- Before I continue, first a note on the translation. The translation is from Project Gutenberg, and I've made a few corrections to it already because it isn't always consistent or accurate. I overlooked the fact that it speaks of "[t]he passion of woman in its unconditional renunciation of its own rights", though. Although the German is ambiguous at this point, it should of course be "[t]he passion of woman in its unconditional renunciation of her own rights".
Now I will continue. I have, inadvertently thus far, split the aphorism into sections beginning and ending at a period followed by a dash. I will now consciously do the same. Nietzsche immediately continues:
"--Woman wants to be taken and accepted as a possession, she wants to be merged in the concept 'possession', 'possessed'; consequently she wants one who takes, who does not offer and give himself away, but who reversely is rather to be made richer in 'himself' by the increase of power, happiness and faith which the woman herself gives to him [literally: "as which the woman gives [or "offers"] herself to him"]. Woman gives herself, man takes her--I do not think one will get over this natural contrast by any social contract, or with the very best will to do justice, however desirable it may be to avoid bringing the severe, frightful, enigmatical, and unmoral elements of this antagonism constantly before our eyes. For love, regarded as complete, great, and full, is nature, and as nature, is to all eternity something 'unmoral'.--" (ibid.)
At this point I will only comment on the second sentence of this section. I think we would do well to compare this aphorism with Zarathustra's speech titled "Old and Young Women". As the kick-off to such a comparison, let us note that the actual speech is given to an old woman who asks him to speak to her of woman, and is given only after the following dialogue has occurred:
"As I went on my way alone today, at the hour when the sun declineth, there met me an old woman, and she spake thus unto my soul:
'Much hath Zarathustra spoken also to us women, but never spake he unto us concerning woman.'
And I answered her: 'Concerning woman, one should only talk unto men.'
'Talk also unto me of woman,' said she; 'I am old enough to forget it presently.'" (TSZ, First Part, trans. Common.)
In the light of our aphorism, it appears that one should only talk to men concerning woman because of the desirability of avoiding "bringing the severe, frightful, enigmatical, and unmoral elements of this antagonism constantly before our eyes." (Gay Science ibid.) I will say more about this later.
Nietzsche immediately continues:
"Fidelity is accordingly included in woman's love, it follows from the definition thereof; with man fidelity may readily result in consequence of his love, perhaps as gratitude or idiosyncrasy of taste, and so-called elective affinity, but it does not belong to the essence of his love,--and indeed so little, that one might almost be entitled to speak of a natural opposition between love and fidelity in man: whose love is just a desire to possess [Haben-Wollen], and not a renunciation and giving away; the desire to possess, however, comes to an end every time with the possession... As a matter of fact it is the more subtle and jealous thirst for possession in a man (who is rarely and tardily convinced of having this 'possession'), which makes his love continue; in that case it is even possible that his love may increase after the devotion,--he does not readily own that a woman has nothing more to 'surrender' to him.--" (ibid.)
And with this, the aphorism ends.
Let us first note at this point the contrast between woman's desire to renounce (Verzichtleisten-Wollen) and man's desire to possess (Haben-Wollen). Man's possessing consists in woman's renouncing. But woman's complete renunciation would be her complete surrender as opposed to mere devotion, let alone incomplete devotion. And the most subtle of men--Nietzsche himself, for example--understand that complete surrender is only woman's ideal, and not her reality. But this means that likewise, man's complete possession is his ideal, and not his reality!
At the very beginning of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche famously likens truth to a woman. The philosopher, the seeker of truth, is then the man who desires to possess the woman truth. But truth, like woman, appears incapable of being possessed. And for an ardent seeker of truth, that is a great problem. Now according to the Preface to BGE, dogmatic philosophy--e.g., Platonism and Vedanta--solved this problem by asserting that the truth had been found (thus Vedanta means "the End of Knowledge"). This is like saying that a woman is possessed. Compare Lampert:
"According to Diotima [the alleged teacher of Plato's Socrates], erotic desire in mortals can move them upward from the immortality gained through the reproduction of children, to the immortality gained through the undying fame accorded poets and the founders of peoples, to the highest of all possible erotic satisfactions, the vision of unchanging being, of what always is, of the Good and the Beautiful and the True ([Plato] 210d-211b). Of the Boring." (Lampert, Nietzsche and Modern Times, pp. 383-84.)
In BGE 232, Nietzsche coins the phrase "the Eternal-Boring about woman", which is an allusion to a line from Goethe's Faust, "The Eternal-Feminine attracts us". What Nietzsche means there is that, when woman loses her artistry, she ceases to interest us, to intrigue us. But just as "the desire to possess [...] comes to an end every time with the possession", so the desire to renounce comes to an end every time with the renunciation... This is why the Platonic Idea is boring: it is the truth that has completely surrendered itself.
But what does our being bored by the woman who does not seek to devote and renounce herself signify? On Wikipedia, we find the following idea:
"Without stimulus or focus, the individual is confronted with nothingness, the meaninglessness of existence, and experiences existential anxiety. Heidegger states this idea nicely: 'Profound boredom, drifting here and there in the abysses of our existence like a muffling fog, removes all things and men and oneself along with it into a remarkable indifference. This boredom reveals being as a whole.'" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boredom#Philosophy
Without her artful attempts to conceal it, the hole in woman's soul is laid bare:
"The vehemence with which Emma [Bovary, the eponymous heroine of Flaubert's Madame Bovary,] hurls herself into what to him is merely an affair baffles the seducer." (Harry Neumann, "Liberalism's Moloch".)
This is the same void that drove Hess to go down on his knees before Hitler, and Bukharin before Stalin:
"Hess' and Bukharin's realization of reality's 'black vacuity' makes it impossible for them to be Socratic or Christian gadflies, bearing witness to a truth, or search for truth, able to save men. Their only salvation is desperate willing of it ex nihilo." (Neumann, "Politics or Nothing!")
But it's precisely their willing that points to the fact that being as a whole is not nothing. Thus Leo Strauss wrote:
"The transformation of the world-denying way of thinking into the opposite ideal is connected with the realization or divination that the stone, the stupidity or the Nothing to which God is being sacrificed, is in its 'intelligible character' the will to power (cf. aph. 36)." (Strauss, "Note on the Plan of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil".)
There is a vision of unchanging being, of what always is, of the Good and the Beautiful and the True, that is not boring, and which is indeed the highest of all possible erotic satisfactions. It is the vision that the world is to all eternity the will to power. And what this means for heterosexual love is that a subtle man can love woman even though she's not "full", i.e., not completely devoted--or rather, precisely because she's not full, but overfull...
Nietzscheanism is neither optimism nor pessimism. It says: "The container, which is made of solid-state energy, is filled half with liquid-state energy and half with gaseous-state energy. In other words, there's a whole lot of energy and nothing to contain it."
Platonism can be understood as a teaching for unsubtle men--e.g., young men like Glaucon--that conceptually violates the truth by fundamentally changing it, changing its character from not completely graspable to completely graspable. But a subtle man does not want his woman fundamentally changed, but the way she is, and paradoxically by that very fact transfigures her: adoring her for her sincere passion for passion, and blessing her for the silliness of her feeling half empty.--
- There is a fear that pervades woman's life: the fear of being raped, murdered, and/or tortured by man. And the context in which Nietzsche coins the phrase "the Eternal-Boring about woman" is this:
"Woman has so much reason for shame; in woman there is concealed so much pedanticism, superficiality, schoolmarmishness, petty presumption, petty unbridledness and petty immodesty--one needs only to study her behavior with children!--which has fundamentally been most effectively controlled and repressed hitherto by fear of man. Woe when the 'eternal-boring in woman' --she has plenty of that!--is allowed to venture forth! When she begins radically and on principle to forget her arts and best policy: those of charm, play, the banishing of care, the assuaging of grief and taking lightly, together with her subtle aptitude for agreeable desires!" (BGE 232.)
So according to Nietzsche, it is fear of man that has hitherto ensured that woman strive, or at least keep striving, for complete surrender to man. And with this, I come to something I've been wanting to say since right after I wrote the first post in this thread. In that post, I wrote:
"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?" (Message # 532.)
"Shame and terror"... How did I fail to be reminded, while writing that first post, of my posts on aidôs? Thus in a thread which is probably together with its sequel this group's best thread yet, I wrote:
"[Aidôs] is shyness, a form of fear." (Message # 282.)
"I contend that aidos [...] is at bottom shame for one's weakness." (Message # 334.)
Fear is the negative aspect of the will to power. Compare the Greek word phobos, which means "hate" or "fear", but may in compounds like "hydrophobic" be best translated as "repulsion". The positive aspect of the will to power is attraction to what we love--whatever gives us a feeling of power--, while its negative aspect is repulsion from what we hate--whatever gives us the feeling of an absence or lack of power. Now in those two probably best threads of this group, I came to the following anti-intuitive but logical conclusion:
"If we contrast the will to be terrible with the will to please, the corresponding contrast is between the will to strengthening and the will to weakening. Why should anyone want to become weaker? Because one thereby becomes more pleasing. Thus the will to weakening is a means of the will to please, and therefore the will to strengthening is a means of the will to be terrible. And the will to please is a form of the will to power: by being pleasing to him, woman wills power over man. Therefore the will to be terrible is the corresponding masculine form of the will to power." (Message # 242.)
We can now finally see why precisely the will to please is the corresponding feminine form of the will to power. For woman's will to please man follows from her will to renounce herself for him: it is her longing for complete devotedness that drives her to devoting herself, to putting herself to devoting herself, to feigning complete devotion or surrender, to being "so artistic":
"Comparing man and woman in general one may say: woman would not have the genius for finery if she did not have the instinct for the secondary role." (BGE 145, entire.)
But why would woman want the secondary role? Why does she want to renounce herself for man, devote herself to man, surrender to man?
"In [Flaubert's book] Salammbo, the male principle (Moloch) rules officially, although the unofficial, but actual, deity is the female principle (Tanith). Unless given this official priority, Moloch's wrath would oppress Carthage and not her enemies." (Neumann, "Liberalism's Moloch".)
How does the weaker sex prevent itself from being raped, murdered, and/or tortured by the stronger? If sex is consensual, it's not rape; and if a woman consents to sex with a man, he will probably protect her from rape by other men (I'm not saying that this is a conscious consideration, by the way: thus Nietzsche says woman has the instinct for the secondary role). What's "given" to woman, what's woman's foremost "reality principle", is man's will to possess her, in the first place physically:
"In regard to a woman, [...] the more modest man counts the simple disposal of her body and sexual gratification as a sufficient and satisfactory sign of having, of possession; another, with a more jealous and demanding thirst for possession, sees the 'question mark,' the merely apparent quality of such a having and requires subtler tests, above all in order to know whether the woman not only gives herself to him but also gives up for his sake what she has or would like to have--: only thus does she count to him as 'possessed.' A third, however, is not done with jealousy and desire for having even then; he asks himself whether, when the woman gives up everything for him, she does not perhaps do so for a phantom of him: he demands that she know him to the very heart before she is able to love him at all, he dares to let himself be unravelled--. He feels that his beloved is fully in his possession only when she no longer deceives herself about him but loves him as much for his devilry and hidden insatiability as she does for his goodness, patience and spirituality." (BGE 194.)
- When, at the very end of my second post in this thread, I spoke of "adoring [woman] for her sincere passion for passion, and blessing her for the silliness of her feeling half empty", I was not thinking of the truth or nature at all anymore, but only of a specific--and very special--human female I know. And yet, it beautifully applies to the truth or nature as well. For if nature is will to power or, to use the Platonic word, erôs, is it not, at least insofar as it is eros for non-imaginary things, eros for eros?And is not even all imagination informed by reality? Meaning that even such flights of fancy as the Platonic Ideas are images of eros? As William Blake said, "Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth." (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 8.)
Thus far nature's sincere passion for passion. And as for her feeling half empty: is that not what Nietzsche's early metaphysics says she--or it--does? As I wrote in message # 481:
"The Primordial One [i.e., nature as a whole] has Being (as opposed to 'Becoming') and suffers from it. This suffering is a suffering from over-fulness, over-joyedness: the Primordial One aches for lack and woe. It therefore imagines a world of Becoming, lack, and woe. This imagined world, this vision, is not outside It, but It is immanent to it: it is the world as we know it--the world we are a part of. The world as we know it is an imaginary self-fragmentation of the Primordial One; we are really only imaginary fragments, and only have reality in being one with the Primordial One."
The imagined lack I spoke of there corresponds perfectly with said felt half-emptiness (total emptiness would correspond with absence, not lack). And contrary to what I thought for years, I don't think there's an absolute break between Nietzsche's early and mature metaphysics; I think Nietzsche's mature metaphysics can only be truly understood, if not by virtue of understanding his early metaphysics, then at least by virtue of what has for me been the key to understanding his early metaphysics: the first section of his "Attempt at a Self-Criticism":
"Is pessimism necessarily a sign of decline, decay, degeneration, weary and weak instincts--as it once was in India and now is, to all appearances, among us, 'modern' men and Europeans? Is there pessimism of strength? An intellectual predilection for the hard, gruesome, evil, problematic aspect of existence, prompted by well-being, by overflowing health, by the fullness of existence? Is it perhaps possible to suffer precisely from overfullness? The sharp-eyed courage that tempts and attempts, that craves the frightful as the enemy, the worthy enemy, against whom one can test one's strength? From whom one can learn what it means 'to be frightened'?"
Genuine philosophers, in the Nietzschean sense, are those whose supreme beloved is the truth, or insight into the truth--i.e., insight into the true overfullness underlying the apparent emptiness of existence. And this truth, this "verity" (die Wahrheit) is like freedom, "liberty" (die Freiheit), in the following way:
"Those large hothouses for the strong--for the strongest kind of human being that has so far been known--the aristocratic commonwealths of the type of Rome or Venice, understood freedom exactly in the sense in which I understand it: as something one has and does not have, something one wants, something one conquers..." (Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, "Forays of an Untimely Man", aphorism 38.)
Mere knowledge of the true overfullness of existence will not do; we must have the insight, the realisation. And this realisation must be achieved again and again. In Platonic terms, we must raise ourselves, or be raised, from the Cave again and again. As William Blake puts it:
"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern." (MHH, Plate 14.)
It is at this point, by the way, if not at others as well, that I seem to disagree with Nietzsche. For Nietzsche says:
"What [...] is the law and belief with which the decisive change, the recently attained preponderance of the scientific spirit over the religious, God-inventing spirit, is most clearly formulated? Is it not: the world, as force, may not be thought of as unlimited, for it cannot be so thought of[?]" (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, section 1062.)
I contend that the world, as force, may not be thought of as limited either, as it cannot be so thought of! For we would have to think of such a world as "enclosed by 'nothingness' ['das Nichts', "'the nothing'"] as by a boundary", as Nietzsche puts it in section 1067; but we can think of "nothingness" as little as of infinity! And indeed, does not "enclosed by 'nothingness'" really mean "enclosed by nothing", i.e., "not enclosed by anything"?...