- Nietzsche and Metaphor
Since its first publication in 1972, Sarah Kofman’s Nietzsche et la métaphore has become a minor classic; reason enough to welcome this readable translation, accompanied with the translator’s unusually informative introduction, which resituates the work “in the context in which it first appeared, at the high-water mark during an extraordinary surge of interest in ‘the new Nietzsche’ which swept over France in the 1960s and early 1970s” (p. ix), and concludes with a brief glance at the similarly extraordinary growth of interest in Nietzsche today in the English speaking countries, which should assure this translation of a warm reception. The addition of thoughtful notes and a complete bibliography of Kofman’s writings reinforces the impression that a major work of a major writer has finally been made available in English.
Indeed, anyone interested in the metaphor-intoxicated, “new Nietzsche,” will be required to turn to this book, which has made such an important contribution to the discourse that constructed this Nietzsche. Rather short (without Kofman’s appended review of Granier’s Heideggerian Nietzsche, just 119 pp.) and readable, it invites us to confront this “new Nietzsche” with Nietzsche himself, or rather with the texts he published and—here we must be on our guard—with texts that for different reasons he left unpublished.
The way this book gives precedence to the unpublished over the published works invites challenge, and here again it is not The Will to Power, but rather early material that comes in for intense scrutiny where, by now quite expectedly, “The Philosopher: Reflections on the Struggle Between Art and Knowledge” and even more “On Truth and Lie in a Nonmoral Sense,” come in for special attention—chapter 3, “The Forgetting of Metaphor,” and chapter 4, which bears the title “Metaphorical Architectures,” offer themselves as a partial commentary on the latter brief and never completed text. But still only a partial commentary, and as revealing as the passages Kofman chooses to discuss are those passed over. As expected one meets with Nietzsche’s famous description of truth as “A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms” (p. 58) and a great many related passages, pointing in the same general direction. But we should not allow ourselves to be carried away by the flow of Nietzsche’s youthful prose: only a one-sided reading of this text will overlook how close, despite his use of architectural metaphors to call into question the architecture of philosophy, Nietzsche here remains to one of the paradigmatic philosophical builders, to Kant, and even more to Schopenhauer—both mentioned only in passing by Kofman. That we ourselves have constituted the world of science is for Nietzsche no reason to question “the eternal consistency, omnipresence, and infallibility of the laws of nature” (“On Truth and Lie in a Nonmoral Sense”). Quite the opposite, he goes on, the [End Page 153] turn to the subject allowed a thinker like Kant to conclude that, in Nietzsche’s words, “so far as we can penetrate here—from the telescopic heights to the microscopic depths—everything is secure, complete, infinite, regular, and without any gaps. Science will be able to dig successfully in this shaft forever, and all the things that are discovered will harmonize with and not contradict each other.” Nietzsche advances no considerations to dispute such confidence. Readers of this text focused on the many ways in which Nietzsche here emphasizes “the artistic process of metaphor formation” should keep in mind his insistence that this process, with which every sensation is said to begin, is also said to presuppose Kant’s pure intuitions, time and space, and therefore “relationships of succession and number.” “The only way in which the possibility of subsequently constructing a new conceptual edifice from metaphors themselves can be explained is by the firm persistence of these original forms. That is to say, this conceptual edifice is an imitation of temporal, spatial, and numerical relationships in the domain of metaphor. Every explanation of metaphor formation is here said to...