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Allan Megill NIETZSCHE AS AESTHETICIST IF IN modern art the question of the ontological status of art has become central to art itself, so that in the guise of Duchamp's urinal and Warhol's Brillo boxes art has become philosophical, then surely in certain quarters something of the opposite movement has also been occurring. I am thinking here of such writers as Foucault, Derrida, and (in his "later" phase) Heidegger, with whom philosophy, in a sense that I shall attempt to specify, becomes aesthetic. And I am thinking too of those contemporary literary critics who are inclined to valorize "misreading " as somehow good in itself, or (what is largely the same) good insofar as it succeeds in generating further misreadings that in their turn prove to be equally productive. Attached to this valorization is the notion that literary texts and what they contain change as they are viewed from the perspectives of different readers with different interpretive assumptions. It is with this latter notion—the notion that the object of interpretation is somehow the invention of the act of interpretation itself—that I propose to start, for it gives us a good point of entry into the thinker with whom this current in contemporary thought and criticism begins—Nietzsche. Contrariwise, in Nietzsche we are able to see—though admittedly in a still tentative way—something of the structure ofjustification that underlies the writings of these more recent figures. Nietzsche has often been characterized, and in fact characterized himself, as adhering to a "perspectivist" view of interpretation. There is a problem, however, in knowing how radically one ought to interpret Nietzsche's various perspectivist statements. Sometimes he appears to be making the point that there is no single correct interpretation of any given thing but rather a variety of correct interpretations, each of which can be considered valid within its own frame of reference. But this 204 Allan Megill205 tends continually to verge over into something quite different, into the view that there is no such thing as correct interpretation. Or to formulate the opposition in different, and perhaps tendentious-sounding terms, sometimes Nietzsche seems to be a "de-mystifying" interpreter, one whose aim is to clear away symbols and masks and illusions in an attempt to get down to the true and solid reality of "things," while at other times he appears as a re-mystifier, one who wants rather to say that there is no such thing as a thing—that every "thing" is only a mask for some other "thing," which in its turn will be seen to be only a mask as well. Here the center of interest is not the presumed reality that interpretation seeks to uncover, but the process of interpretation itself. This process becomes infinite in its unfolding, for the ground is never reached, the "original" or "transcendental" signified never uncovered (1 here use a terminology common to Foucault and Derrida, a shared language suggesting that despite their vast differences of style they inhabit a common territory). Indeed, interpretation itself becomes part of a growing system of concealments, an obfuscation, yet another mask. It is this aspect of the Nietzschean project that Foucault celebrates in a lecture of 1964 on "Nietzsche, Marx, Freud," and it is presumably this, too, that Derrida has in mind when he declares that Nietzsche "contributed a great deal to the liberation of the signifier from its dependence or derivation with respect to the logos and the related concept of truth . . . ."l Within the brief compass of the present article I cannot deal in detail with all the exegetical and conceptual difficulties raised by an attempt to interpret the Nietzschean interpretation of interpretation. Nevertheless , I think it possible to say enough about Nietzsche's account of interpretation to establish that notwithstanding his obvious failure to think through in a systematic way all the issues involved, and notwithstanding , too, certain hesitancies and retreats, Nietzsche really did in an important sense adhere to the second view that I have outlined. Moreover, his adherence to this view gives us a clue to finding the precise locus of his originality as a thinker. I do not say that this is the only way...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 204-225
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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