Zarathustra Hermeneutics
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Zarathustra Hermeneutics

I am honored to have this symposium dedicated to my study, and I would like to thank the participants for their extensive and thoughtful comments. Reading the contributions together, I find a shared interest in my study's hermeneutic strategies and a shared skepticism regarding my study's goal of offering a unified, coherent, and solution-oriented reading of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For Stanley Rosen, Nietzsche's book is instead an exoterically esoteric exercise in self-contradictory poetry; for Tom Stern, it is a deflationary thought experiment; and for Adrian Del Caro, it is an open-ended, ambiguous, and metaphorical liberation from philosophy. Rosen offers what he thinks is a decisive exegetical and philosophical argument in support of his alternative reading. This is the same argument that he first proposed in The Limits of Analysis and that he has revisited many times in the thirty years since. So I will here refute Rosen's argument and with it his grounds for challenging the interpretive method of my study. By contrast, Stern and Del Caro do not offer any specific argument, exegetical or philosophical, in support of their alternative readings and write instead about their strongly felt preference as to how Z should be read. I myself do not have any such personal preference. Instead, as Stern and Del Caro both note, my study simply takes Nietzsche at his word and follows his own instructions as to how his book should be read. By "instructions" I mean his suggestions, guidance, comments, and warnings in his later books, especially in Ecce Homo, but also in his letters and sometimes, when confirming, in his unpublished notes. I think that the evidence I present in my study shows that Nietzsche's instructions rule out the hermeneutic preferences of Stern and Del Caro. But both of them, especially Stern, challenge some of this evidence, as well as my evidentiary standards, so I will reply to these challenges as well.

Chaos and Creativity

Chaos lies at the heart of Rosen's critique of my study, as well as of his own engagement with Nietzsche's Z and with Nietzsche's writings in general. More specifically, Rosen finds the key to Nietzsche's project in his conception of the world as chaos and in his associated claim that the order and value human beings find in the universe are in fact their own projected poetic creation. [End Page 94] According to Rosen, Nietzsche is thus led to a self-contradictory position in which human creativity is both validated and undermined: it is validated, because there is no longer any natural or supernatural constraint on the human freedom to create; and it is undermined, because all such human construction is mere illusion. This inconsistent and unstable position expresses itself in Nietzsche's double rhetoric: he openly proclaims this conception of the world as chaos so as to justify his liberationist call for life-affirming human creativity; and he conceals his conception of the world as chaos (even, and especially, from himself) so as not to paralyze human creativity. Nietzsche is thus the first to propose a transformation of the esoteric into the exoteric wherein the former is no longer safeguarded by the latter but, rather, identified with it and debased by it. Accordingly, the great obscurity of Z "is due not so much to its possessing a hidden meaning that requires elaborate decoding" but, rather, to the fact that—since its esoteric teaching contradicts its exoteric teaching—"the meaning is intentionally and necessarily self-contradictory." Hence, Rosen concludes, "the book implodes into chaos" (1995, 201–2).

The best and most important evidence cited by Rosen in support of this argument is Nietzsche's famous call in The Gay Science 109 for a complete de-deification of nature (Rosen 2000, 198n38; 2002, 197n25, 220n45). Here we find, as Rosen says, Nietzsche openly asserting that the total character of the world is in all eternity chaos (der Gesammt-Charakter der Welt ist in alle Ewigkeit Chaos) and warning against the projection of our normative judgments into this chaos. Contrary to Rosen, however, we do not find Nietzsche making the further assertion that all such normative...