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According to Kelly Oliver and Elizabeth Grosz, while Friedrich Nietzsche begins to open Western philosophy to the other, the body, he cuts off feminine body. Here I create a framework through which the possibility and questionability of a symbolically feminine body begins to emerge. I do this by using the metaphor of Indian curry. The metaphor works on two levels: 1) as a symbolically feminine body; 2) as Nietzsche’s conception of subject-formation as a dynamic monism.

Among Friedrich Nietzsche scholars, it is fairly common knowledge that the identity of the subject, the concept, and the semantic referent break down in Nietzsche’s works. 1 Yet few scholars have focused on Nietzsche’s view of the formation of the subject 2 in his “Second Essay” from On the Genealogy of Morals (Nietzsche 1989) to show the dynamic monism 3 that emerges and how one might appropriate it for a feminist reading of Nietzsche. In the “Second Essay” (Nietzsche 1989), Nietzsche traces the transformation of the subject from its early character, which I call the legal subject (Rechtssubjekt), 4 to a subsequent formulation, which can be referred to as the so-called “unified” subject. 5 My reading of the “Second Essay” (Nietzsche 1989) shows that for Nietzsche, human beings produce a concept of what it means to be a human being at any given time in Western history according to a reciprocal shaping that occurs among the concept of the subject and the developing constitutions 6 of conscience and punishment. I have chosen three constitutions—subjectivity, conscience, and punishment—for two reasons. First, they are prominent themes in On the Genealogy of Morals (Nietzsche 1989). Second, they include the extremes and center of a continuum that I call Nietzsche’s monism. 7 I provisionally categorize subjectivity as ideational (the immaterial extreme), [End Page 39] conscience as psychosomatic (the center), and corporeal punishment as socio-physical (the material extreme). The borders of these categories aren’t strict, but characteristic of a continuum they overlap.

In this paper I show that the emergence of the supposed “unified” subject coincides for Nietzsche with an understanding of self that denies the dynamic monism constituting the self’s formation. In so doing, I implicitly enter a current debate among continental feminist philosophers. This debate begins to open Western philosophy “to something other than traditional Enlightenment rationality” (Oliver 1995, xii). For the purposes of this paper, other means “body”—especially feminine body. Body can be viewed as other because Enlightenment philosophers tend to adopt the realm of immaterial mind as first principle, that of material body as appendage.

In Moira Gatens’s Imaginary Bodies: Ethics, Power and Corporeality, Gatens appeals to a Spinozist monism to introduce “a good deal of dynamism into the categories ‘sex’ and ‘gender’” (Gatens 1996, 149). 8 Indeed Nietzsche’s monism might also be useful for a conception of feminine body. Kelly Oliver suggests, however, that while Nietzsche begins to open philosophy to the other, the body, he opens it to only a masculine body (Oliver 1995, 17–25). 9 “It doesn’t seem that Nietzsche imagines that wisdom’s beloved—this warrior who writes and reads with blood—could be Athena” (Oliver 1995, 24).

Some philosophers, such as Elizabeth Grosz, have proposed ways to continue opening Western continental philosophy to a feminine other. For Grosz, Nietzsche, Foucault, Freud, and Lacan assume the corporeality of knowledge production, but the “corporeality invoked is itself not concrete or tangible, but ironically, ‘philosophical’”(Grosz 1996, 37–38). Traditionally, men have adopted the realm of mind for themselves, says Grosz. By retreating to the spiritual and “philosophical” to explain the corporeal, Nietzsche embalms the bodily and eliminates the feminine other who is, symbolically, the body (Grosz 1996, 38).

Unfortunately, Grosz glosses too quickly over the meaning of concrete corporeality, especially in the context of Nietzsche, whose monism problematizes the identities of abstract and concrete. This problematization recalls Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient: “In Asian gardens you could look at rock and imagine water, you could gaze at a still pool and believe it had the hardness of rock” (Ondaatje 1992, 170). Ondaatje intimates the trickiness of identities such as stone and water. Nietzsche’s monism also registers the nuanced deceptiveness of identities, virtually dissolving Cartesian dualism albeit nonreductively. The mental and corporeal become not substantially different in this regard, but neither is one reducible to the other.

So perhaps the complaint should not be as Grosz says, that Nietzsche’s corporeality lacks tangibility but that his simultaneously tangible and intangible corporeality is, as Oliver suggests, laden with symbolism linked traditionally with masculine body (the blood of a warrior and not of a menstruator), [End Page 40] the tools of a torturer (lances, nooses, and knives), and not those of, for instance, a household cook (sauces, spices, and stocks). Nietzsche’s philosophy of embodiment is less guilty of disembodying body than excluding a symbolically feminine body.

Yet, certainly, one might challenge that menstrual blood and the art of cooking do not apply to all women, nor even, at least in the case of cooking, exclusively to women. For indeed, post-menopausal women don’t menstruate and not all women cook, whereas many men do cook. Moreover, one can argue, cooking is hardly a symbol many Western women want to identify with in any primary way.

In this paper, by symbolically feminine body, I don’t mean a symbolism around which women might rally as they look toward a future. My goal is not to find an ideal metaphor by which to begin to think a symbolically feminine body. Indeed, the legitimacy of such an ideal could hardly be maintained in the context of Nietzsche’s critique of moral values. No value, whether positive or negative, attaches absolutely to an item for Nietzsche. The value of any item emerges, transforms, or dissolves according to its context and the evaluator’s perspective. By symbolically feminine body, then, I mean those images and tropes (irrespective of the value we may attach to them now), which have traditionally shaped, in part, women’s values and status in modern Anglo-European culture.

The term symbolically feminine body is indebted to Gatens’s term imaginary body. She uses the term imaginary in a “loose but nevertheless technical sense to refer to those images, symbols, metaphors and representations which help construct various forms of subjectivity. In this sense, [she is] concerned with the (often unconscious) imaginaries of a specific culture: those ready-made images and symbols through which we make sense of social bodies and which determine, in part, their value, their status and what will be deemed their appropriate treatment” (Gatens 1996, viii).

Importantly, these images and tropes as a symbolically feminine body are not static or unchanging, but are transmogrifying, and so, are provisional. The trope of cooking, therefore, (or other such tropes—menstruation, weaving, etc.) is not, in this paper, intended as a performative ideal toward which women should aspire nor a static form with which women are stuck, but as a historical image that has been, and in many ways still is, correlated dominantly (if provisionally) with women.

Curry involves cooking. In this paper, curry operates both as a metaphor that contributes to a symbolically feminine body and as a metaphor for symbolically feminine body per se. I have chosen curry as this metaphor because it not only operates historically in the West as a symbol associated traditionally with women but also effectively illustrates Nietzsche’s dynamic monism. It displays the dynamic force field of which symbolically feminine body is constituted and in which that body is a participant, a factor, and a force. In my [End Page 41] view, symbols like Indian curry that contribute to symbolically feminine body, co-participate in (and co-constitute) the teeming force field I call Nietzsche’s monism.

In what follows, with the curry metaphor, I open Nietzsche’s discourse of body to a symbolically feminine body that is both possible and questionable. The curry metaphor works on two levels: 1) for a symbolically feminine body and 2) for Nietzsche’s conception of subject-formation 10 as a dynamic monism in which the corporeal and the mental share complex fields of interconnecting forces and affects.

Symbolically feminine body is not only possible but also questionable because the symbols constituting it do not do so universally or properly. Symbols amass their significance from culturally-bound meanings and practices. And so, a symbolically feminine body that emerges in one set of culturally-bound values and practices will be questionable from certain other sets. Like a moving target, symbolically feminine body cannot be struck from the same angle every time. Nietzsche’s monism discloses movement in constitutions such as symbolically feminine body and in categories such as ideational, psychosomatic, or socio-physical. The so-called immaterial (ideational) and material (socio-physical) participate and connect inextricably along a single continuum. 11

I. Relation, Breeding, and Paradox

Before I turn to the curry metaphor, I expose Nietzsche’s view of the process of subject-formation in the West as the genealogical narrator forecasts it (perhaps unwittingly) in the opening line of the “Second Essay” (Nietzsche 1989). Whether a knowing gesture or a case of the genealogist saying more than she or he means, this lineage is forecasted in the opening line. Grosz speaks of texts that “exceed themselves, where they say more than they mean, opening themselves up to a feminine (re)appropriation” (Grosz 1996, 38). In my role as a genealogist, I unveil the veiled in Nietzsche’s genealogical writing.

Through an etymological argument of three German terms: Verwandtes, Schuld, and heranzüchten, I show how Nietzsche’s opening line forecasts this human lineage. These etymological details parallel and enhance the genealogical narrator’s subsequent account of subject-formation displayed in the body of “Second Essay” (Nietzsche 1989). They suggest that for the genealogical narrator, the ideas of virtue and God are bred into human beings by discipline and cruelty. More importantly, they begin to give shape to Nietzsche’s conception of subject-formation and monism and my reasons for naming both relation. 12

The name relation comes from the title of Nietzsche’s “Second Essay,” “Guilt, Bad Conscience and the Like” (1989). Walter Kaufmann translates the German Verwandtes as “The Like”; it can also be translated as “related things” or [End Page 42] “relations.” 13 Indeed, Nietzsche’s genealogical narrator is concerned not with the logically “timeless” relation between ideas, but in undermining the idea of such an eternal logic. This she or he does by disclosing a history of relations (genealogy), one might even say of descendance, which gives rise to the historically optional Enlightenment descendants: guilt and bad conscience.

Consider descendance in terms of human familial relations. 14 Just as the English “relation,” the German Verwandte(r) can signify a particular human being associated with another by law or by birth. Verwandte and Verwandter signify the feminine and masculine case nouns, and mean “human relation” or “relative”—that is, a parent, a cousin, and so forth. Genetic familial bonds are relations because the genes among certain people have mixed. An offspring never replicates one or the other of its progenitors, but is constituted by a new relation of genes. The notion of genetic relation is significant because it shows that relation, while not exclusively physiological, includes the physiological, the other of Western philosophy.

In addition to familial relations, Verwandtes leads to other meanings. It is related to several German words: verwenden (to apply, to put to use, to give purpose to); Verwandlung (metamorphosis, transformation); verwandeln (to transfigure, to transform); and wenden (to turn, to exchange). The signifier for the adjective verwandt is the same as that for the simple past tense of the verb verwenden, which means “to use.” One can understand verwenden as that practice by which a human being gives a purpose to a constitution. To put a constitution to use, one must propose a use (or meaning) for that item. Once so meant, the constitution becomes related (verwandt) to that assigned purpose. It becomes a vehicle for achieving a desired goal or for signifying a desired signification. Thus, an item’s use is a matter of convention and not of some immutable nature.

Interestingly, an additional relative of Verwandtes (and the title of Franz Kafka’s well-known short story) is die Verwandlung, meaning “metamorphosis,” “transformation.” Verwandlung comes from the verb verwandeln, meaning “to transform.” Moreover, if one takes a closer look at verwenden, one notices its stem: wenden. Wenden means “to turn.” It can signify a turning about or around (a top or a wheel), a turning towards (a ship turning toward harbor), or a turning in the sense of an exchange (money for property). Thus, Verwandtes (relation) suggests a descendant infused with a historically optional meaning or purpose. It can undergo transformation, turn towards a new end, or exact an exchange.

Nietzsche’s genealogist draws attention to this kind of transformation in the case of two relatives: Schuld (guilt) and Schulden (debt). In the relation between these terms, the genealogist discloses not only a change in meaning and purpose regarding the root Schuld but also a significant change in its kind of constitution. The “major moral concept Schuld [guilt] has its origin in the very material concept Schulden [debts]” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.4). The genealogist [End Page 43] shows an early custom informing the material (socio-physical) constitution of Schulden. This leads to a transformative history from which the later psychosomatic 15 constitution of Schuld (guilt) emerges. Important here is that das Verwenden (putting to use) and das Wenden (turning) can occur in such a way that not only a change in the purpose and meaning of a custom occurs, but a Verwandlung (metamorphosis) of a constitution kind (socio-physical, psychosomatic, or ideational) may take place. In the case of Schulden, a socio-physical constitution gives rise to a psychosomatic constitution.

I have discussed genealogical relation (Verwandte) and its link to “putting to use” (das Verwenden), turning and exchange (das Wenden), transforming (das Verwandeln), and metamorphosis (Verwandlung). The last of these, Verwandlung, brings forth the idea of breeding in the context of human formation. Nietzsche implies that breeding, in the case of humans, involves transformation (Verwandlung) and putting to use (verwenden). The first line of his essay reads, “To breed [heranzüchten] an animal with the ability to make promises—is not this the paradoxical [paradoxe] task that nature has set itself in the case of man?”(Nietzsche 1989, 2.1). 16

“Nature” qua human animal cultivates the capacity to remember and to reason in itself. To give rise to an animal that can make promises, one must first make (zu machen) human animal “to a certain degree necessary, uniform, like among like, regular and consequently calculable” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.2). “The tremendous labor of that which I have called ‘morality of mores’ (Dawn, sections 9, 14, 16) 17 —the labor performed by man upon himself during the greater part of the existence of the human race, his entire prehistoric labor, finds in this [the making of a calculable human] its meaning, its great justification” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.2). Thus, the breeding of a regular human out of a human that is irregular can be seen as exemplary of the practice of “putting to use.” Amidst changing circumstances and mortal desires, human animal shapes and informs itself with temporary meanings to suit its will. The predominant albeit temporary meaning to guide human being’s “prehistoric labor” concerns turning oneself into an animal that can make promises. In this sense, one might say “prehistoric” human being interprets itself and puts itself to use (verwenden) with this aim in mind. It is significant then that for Nietzsche, this gradual breeding process excludes a transcendent will or essential design.

Nietzsche’s “Second Essay” (1989) suggests that human animals participate instead in a process that continually and subtly breeds (heranzüchten) human being in new forms. These transformations occur as a gradual result of certain necessary factors, including our particular interests and wills. 18

Moreover, Nietzsche’s genealogist describes this breeding (heranzüchten or züchten 19 ) of an animal that promises as a “paradoxical task” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.1). Why? This brings forth Nietzsche’s idea of paradox. At least one paradox regarding the formation of human subjectivity is implicit in Nietzsche’s “Second [End Page 44] Essay” (1989). Human memory, reason, and the idea of God arise gradually out of their own absence. The process according to which the genealogist describes this emergence involves “nature’s” fateful will rather than the preordination of a transcendent or natural design. For Nietzsche, the unfolding of constitutions according to historically optional relations flies in the face of general Christian and Socratic doxa. It is paradoxical to the dominantly visible characteristics of his cultural and philosophical heritage.

Nietzsche’s paradoxical vision shows that his lineage not only involves so-called “reason,” “virtue,” and “God” but also discipline, blood, and imprisonment. When considering heranzüchten, one can ascribe to the essay’s first line a link not only to “virtue” but also to various forms of punishment. While the nominative for züchtenZücht—can mean “the act or process of cultivating” (plants, animals, etc.), Zücht is used more commonly to signify “the practice of discipline.” One disciplines one’s children, and a state punishes its criminals. The verb Züchtigen means “to beat or to flog”—that is, “to employ corporeal punishment.” Related to this verb is Züchthaus—“a place to send those in need of discipline or punishment.” A Züchthaus is the German word for “prison.” Züchtig, alternatively, bears a quite different meaning from the others. This adjective is considered to mean “one who shows modesty, innocence, or a sense of virtue.” A chaste or unassuming young boy or girl, or a responsible or “moral” adult is said to be züchtig. In heranzüchten then, the genealogist forecasts the lineage of human animal in the West, which unfolds in Niezsche’s “Second Essay” (1989). In this, the ideas of virtue and God are bred into human beings by discipline and cruelty. Of interest then, is not only that virtue and God are Verwandte (relatives) of corporeal punishment but also the implied intimacy of that relatedness. The chaste, “moral” adult has become so because of a personal history of discipline and punishment. This modern intimacy between punishment and purity is the latest punctuation mark in a lineage of corporeal cruelty and correction stretching back, Nietzsche suggests, to prehistory (1989, 2.2).

Nietzsche’s vision of the breeding of the human animal is significant because it undermines the Enlightenment notion of human nature, reason, and God as preeminently timeless. I have presented this undermining by developing the notion of relation as Verwandt in each of its senses: Verwandte, verwenden, Verwandlung, and wenden. For Nietzsche, relation shows that a constitution categorized as “subjectivity,” and virtually all other so-called “kinds” of constitution as well, exist as that “kind” only provisionally. Relation illustrates that what a constitution is, that is, a constitution’s category or kind is not permanent or universally real.

What a constitution is is provisional because of how constitutions exist. Earlier, I categorized three kinds of constitutions: ideational, psychosomatic, and socio-physical. Yet the kind of each is inextricable from the how of each, and that how is a relatedness (Verwandte), even more, a relatedness between [End Page 45] kinds. Verwandte indicates that the so-called ideational, psychosomatic, and socio-physical constitutions are co-extensive. Take for example socio-physical Schulden (debt) gradually becoming psychosomatic Schuld (guilt) or socio-physical punishment giving rise to moral purity; we just begin to see such co-extension.

It seems that for Nietzsche, subjectivity is a process of formation, that is, transformation. More importantly, Verwandte (relation) as transformation undermines a Cartesian dualism and yields what I call Nietzsche’s dynamic monism. In this, the provisional categories of ideational, psychosomatic, and socio-physical are revealed qua provisional precisely because their hazy borders overlap and in the end are not, in the strict sense, borders at all. The forces of the ideational, the psychosomatic, and the socio-physical are related then, inextricably, as if along a dynamic continuum. For this reason, relation constitutes Nietzsche’s monism.

II. The Formation and Relation Of curry

I have roughly defined relation, shown that subject-formation as relation undermines a transcendent notion of God and human nature, and shown that relation constitutes Nietzsche’s monism. I have also shown that the opening line of Nietzsche’s “Second Essay” (1989) implicitly forecasts human animal’s lineage that unfolds throughout his essay. Now I turn to the more explicit relation forming the subject in Nietzsche’s “Second Essay” (1989). Because the relation forming the subject is complex, I will begin by bringing relation into relief through the curry metaphor. Nietzsche never mentions curry. I open Nietzsche’s discourse to the metaphor of curry (and implicitly of cooking) to create a framework through which the possibility of a symbolically feminine body can emerge. Curry operates not only as a metaphor for Nietzsche’s dynamic monism but also as metaphor for a symbolically feminine body—a body that often physiologically and symbolically has been bound not to the “philosophical” but to the “material,” that is, earth, cyclical blood, and home cooking. 20

Nietzsche’s dynamic relation can be shown to constitute a cooking flavor known in the West as curry. Khardi, the name of an Indian yogurt dish, gave the English language the word curry—a general term that in the view of many Americans describes Indian food. The dish gets its name from its dominant spice—a stalk of fresh khardi leaves. Ironically, the name of the leaf has no special relation to the flavor Westerners understand to be curry. In fact, khardi is not an ingredient in U.S. store-bought curry, although it arises in some spicy and hot Indian recipes. 21

For many Westerners, curry signifies a relatively constant and fixed cooking ingredient. Indeed, unless one makes curry, the mass-marketed version is [End Page 46] rather uniform. For instance, McCormick’s brand of curry powder—similar to other brands—combines fenugreek, coriander, cumin, turmeric, celery seed, mace, ginger, red and black pepper, and garlic.

Another conception of curry is that of curry as relation. Each of the nine curry recipes I consult appears in Sumana Ray’s Indian Vegetarian Cooking (1990). Ray’s book, originally published in England for a Western public, integrates the signifier curry into a number of the English translations of Indian dish titles (few of which include the word khardi). The approach to cookery here reinforces a more general idea—that spices and food, like the constitutions of punishment, conscience, and subjectivity are a matter of reciprocal shaping and interpretation. Their combination is a constant flux, a relation.

When Ray “curries” she weighs the respective tastes or meanings of each ingredient—be it the spice or the main item to be cooked—in terms of the relation that will transpire. The “relation of curry” operates like a double genitive. 22 It depicts each ingredient in a simultaneous role as agent and patient undergoing continual transmutation vis-à-vis the ingredients around it.

Depending upon the texture, the inherent taste, and the flavor of what is to be prepared, certain Indian spices often associated with curry are included or excluded. Interestingly, no single spice is present in every curry. Curry, when considered in the Indian culinary tradition, discloses itself to be a concept that simplifies its complex referent, an elusive constitution of multiple ingredients in which no ingredient proves constant.

In contrast to understanding curry as a fluctuating spice-relation is the predominant Western idea of it. As the supermarket brand of McCormick’s curry exemplifies, the U.S. notion of curry is steeped in a tradition of simplification and uniformity. In the essay “Hygiene and Repression,” Octavio Paz perceives American cooking to be a translation of a puritanical lineage bent on separation and exclusion (Paz 1994). The peculiar American heritage combining innocence before God and faith in the perfect truths of scientific reason, spills over into American cuisine: “Traditional American cooking is a cuisine without mystery: simple, nourishing, scantily seasoned foods. No tricks: a carrot is a homely, honest carrot, a potato is not ashamed of its humble condition, and a steak is a big, bloody hunk of meat” (Paz 1994, 16). Arguably, for many Americans, curry is this supermarket version—simple, fixed, and definable: a yellowish-green element that transforms any American dish into “Indian” fare. Curry becomes an unchanging formula. For Nietzsche, it would also become a mark of American “bad taste”: “Verily, I also do not like those who consider everything good and this world the best. Such men I call the omni-satisfied. Omni-satisfaction, which knows how to taste everything, that is not the best taste. I honor the recalcitrant choosy tongues and stomachs, which have learned to say “I” and “yes” and “no.” But to chew and digest everything —that is truly the swine’s manner” (Nietzsche 1978, 3.11.2). [End Page 47]

III. The Formation and Relation of the Subject

Just as in Ray’s Indian cooking where different spices are combined each time one prepares a food to “taste,” different force combinations constitute the meanings of the subject (“ideational”), conscience (“psychosomatic”), and the corporeal punishment (“socio-physical”) from one moment in history to the next. Here, I place the former categories in quotes to indicate their categorial provisionality. This provisionality can be understood in light of my account of relation, which like curry points to the overlapping borders of constitutions. Each constitution represents a changing relation. Moreover, as cumin, turmeric, and brown mustard simmered together shape one another reciprocally, so do the constitutions of the subject, conscience, and corporeal punishment. What it means to be a human being at any given time in Western history arises according to a mutual shaping that occurs among the subject and the developing constitutions of conscience and corporeal punishment. The character of the subject mirrors that of Indian curry. It has no constant ingredient. Alongside conscience and corporeal punishment, the subject continues to change like the intensified commingling of spices in day-old curry soup. Because of this continuous emitting and receiving of meaning by the subject, I call the “definition” of subjectivity a relation.

Early in Nietzsche’s “Second Essay” (1989), the breeding of an animal with the ability to make promises, that is, the breeding of a supposed “unified” subject, presupposes the “making” of memory (Nietzsche 1989, 2.2). According to Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals (1989), the early mixture of human formation has ingredients for the “making” of memory: a legal subject 23 (that is, a disunified subject), an animal with mind, and a penal custom. However, these need to simmer. One can taste Nietzsche’s genealogical mixture along the way until it yields a combination so cold it burns, leaving the imprint of God on numbed palates. This latter development, suggests Nietzsche, is stirred by a subject that views itself as a moral unity, a conscience that does not clear itself, and a penal custom that has become internal (guilt).

Arguably for Nietzsche, the early meaning or the “taste” of the legal subject (Rechtssubjekte) is influenced by its two complementary ingredients: forgetful mind 24 and corporeal punishment. This kind of subject is as old as “the contractual relationship between creditor and debtor” that “points back to the fundamental forms of buying, selling, barter, trade, and traffic” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.4). It was in the contractual relationship “that promises were made, and that memory had to be made for those who promised” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.5). Memory, Nietzsche notes, has not yet been “made,” but a process of its formation is underway. The legal subject possesses an unformed memory. Unlike the formed memory/conscience that will succeed it, unformed memory still has the ability to clear itself. It can forget. Therefore, the definition of the [End Page 48] legal subject includes an aspect of its associate: the forgetting mind. Like a cardamom seed simmering with mace, the legal subject “means” or “tastes” more like legal subject than forgetting mind. Nevertheless, just as the cardamom seed’s flavor can not be described without reference to its modifying mace, the meaning of legal subject cannot be described without reference to its modifier “forgetting mind.”

Nietzsche’s genealogy suggests that the legal subject has another partner: corporeal punishment. When a legal subject makes a contract with a creditor the contract promises the creditor that some form of just compensation will be paid even if the debtor cannot repay with money (Nietzsche 1989, 2.5). Should the debtor have no money, he would offer “something else that he ‘possessed,’” as compensation—“his body, his wife, his freedom, or even his life” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.5). In the era of the legal subject, the penal custom ensures the creditor that he or she receives some form of return. Thus, both forgetting mind and corporeal punishment inform the definition 25 of legal subject.

The reciprocity among constitutions broadly depicts relation (as Verwandte, verwandeln, Verwandlung, verwenden, and wenden) and constitutes Nietzsche’s dynamic monism. The forces of the legal subject, forgetting mind, and corporeal punishment are related inextricably, as if along a dynamic continuum. The dynamism of relation can also be illuminated more specifically. Two of the significations for wenden are “to turn towards” and “to exchange.” Characteristic of Nietzsche’s legal subject is the habit of turning an item (wenden) towards a particular use (verwenden). One invests it with a meaning that relates it to other items bearing a similar purpose or meaning. This is what happens in the case of a creditor who agrees that physical pain leveled upon his or her debtor is an equivalent to the money that the debtor cannot repay. Corporeal punishment is turned towards the end, that is, it procures the meaning of money. Thus, not only is there an exchange (wenden) of corporeal cruelty for money but also the utility of pain is transformed (Verwandelt). It adopts the usefulness of money, marking another kind of relation, that of verwenden, to apply or put to use.

The possibility of such a turning to a particular use proves a distinguishing quality of the legal subject. For unlike the subsequent supposed “unified” subject, the legal subject participates in an era in which debts are discharged consistently. The debtor either pays with money or with something deemed exchangeable (das wenden) for money, that is, excruciating pain. “The oldest and naivest moral canon of justice” prevails: “everything has its price [Preis]; all things can be paid for [abgezahlt werden]” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.8). The creditor is paid with “a kind of pleasure—the pleasure of being allowed to vent his power freely upon one who is powerless” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.5). Discharged of his or her debt, the tortured debtor is free to continue his or her life—conscience cleared. Conscience in the era of Nietzsche’s legal subject has not yet become bad conscience. [End Page 49]

I’ve generally characterized Nietzsche’s legal subject and have shown the forces that eventually transform a mind that forgets into a mind that remembers. Nietzsche implies that only such a mind can conceive of “ideal forms” and “immanent essences.” Memory is one facet to contribute to the formation of bad conscience and the supposed “unified” subject. However, it doesn’t account for another facet, that which makes our bodily instincts turn inward, back upon ourselves. Nietzsche gives two reasons for this facet, one of which I discuss. 26

In On the Genealogy of Morals (1989), Nietzsche hypothesizes about the emergence of the idea of God in the context of the tribal community. Out of a particular mix of relations the idea of God arises. The size of one’s debt and the extent of one’s fear of the ancestor increases proportionately with the expansion of a tribe’s power (Nietzsche 1989, 2.19). If one carries this psychic punishment to its extreme, the people of the “most powerful” communities will project their ancestors to “monstrous dimensions through the imagination of growing fear” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.19) and of debt. Eventually, the seemingly immutable quality of one’s self-afflicted psychic punishment reflects an ancestor of similar character—an ancestor that is fixed and eternal.

The more powerful, controlling, and organized a community grows, the more divine become its ancestors. The Christian God represents the apex of such order and control. It also signifies the largest accumulation of guilty indebtedness.

The emergence of the so-called “unified” subject coincides with this development. While the rise of the Christian God emerges as the product of a movement that I describe as a relation (in the sense of familial relative, putting to use, turning towards, exchange, and transformation), its arrival signals to the genealogist, paradoxically, a subsequent freeze so cold it burns and an ideal that captures this immobility: God. Instead of allowing the change and mobility marked by relation to continue, human beings will the movement to stop.

In this “moralization” process, human beings reveal their preference to halt once and for all the movement by which debt and guilt can be paid for. Via a mixture of two constitutions in particular: “bad conscience [and] the concept of god” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.21), the Westerner’s guilt appears insoluble. “The aim now is to preclude pessimistically, once and for all, the prospect of a final discharge” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.21). One wills the possibility of turning (wenden) one’s payment into a payment of cruelty, the possibility of there being this or other items that can be transformed (verwandelt) into the equivalent of one’s debt and thus can be lost. The process by which the legal subject puts an item (such as corporeal punishment) to a particular use (verwenden) to mean the equivalency of something else that one owes another (such as, an amount of money), has been choked off. “At last the irredeemable debt gives rise to [End Page 50] the conception of irredeemable penance” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.21). The idea of God leaves the conscience frozen stiff and therefore “unified.”

Just as McCormick’s brand of curry denies that factor so crucial to Indian curry—the factor of relation—faith in the “unified” subject covers over a view of history and life as relation without relata. 27 Like the moralist tradition that the genealogist detests, the idea of a supposed morally integrated, “unified” subject presupposes a permanent link between origin and purpose. For Nietzsche, it is not just that this view is wrong but worse—it is in bad taste. Moreover, like packaged curry and the submersion of desire in the American culinary tradition, the Western ideal of the “unified” subject, Nietzsche argues, suppresses life. It curtails one’s ability to expand, to move, to overcome the self. Nietzsche often describes this ill health as a symptom of poor digestion. He would also link it to the loss of the ability to dance. 28

IV. To Curry a Bridge (or a Tightrope?)

Recall in the first line of Nietzsche’s “Second Essay” (1989) that the genealogist suggests the unfurling of a paradox: “to breed [heranzüchten] an animal with the ability to promise . . . is not this the paradoxical task that nature has set itself” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.1). The genealogist traces a transfiguring relation that extends from the disintegrated legal subject to the fateful rise of the apparently “unified” subject. Its genealogy of dynamic permutation shows Nietzsche’s thought to undermine a mind-body dualism and to support a dynamic monism. Indeed, the more or less ideational, psychosomatic, or socio-physical constitutions at play here are categorized as such only provisionally. All constitutions show themselves laced with the forces of each other. None is identifiable as solely or permanently ideational, psychosomatic, or socio-physical, nor as solely or permanently a singular item per se. The dynamism ensures only the impossibility of such identifiability.

Against this backdrop, Nietzsche would have us reconsider our subjectivity. That an idea such as a “unified” subject uniting origin and purpose emerges from a formative mix of factors in which origin and purpose are separate and changing, is paradoxical, suggests Nietzsche. Even more uncanny, Nietzsche implies, is that “reason,” “virtue,” and “God” prove to descend from discipline, blood, and imprisonment.

I explore this uncanniness by looking at Nietzsche’s treatment of subject-formation in his “Second Essay” (1989). Here one finds that the legal subject, the forgetting mind, and corporeal punishment are a relation; moreover, that relation constitutes a dynamic monism. The curry metaphor illuminates Nietzsche’s monism as relation, and in this regard curry operates as a metaphor for Nietzsche’s monism/relation. The dynamism of Nietzsche’s relational subject, like the dynamism of Indian curry, shows that the so-called “kind” of each [End Page 51] constitution (that is, “unified” subject, forgetting mind, or conscience, or legal subject) is inextricable from the how of each. That how is a relatedness, Verwandte, indeed, a relatedness among kinds of items.

The three most broadly conceived kinds of constitutions, the ideational, the psychosomatic, and the socio-physical, are connected inextricably, as if along a dynamic continuum. This underlines why Nietzsche’s thought avoids a Cartesian dualism. The mental (ideational) isn’t purely so, nor is the material (socio-physical). Entities that I categorize as ideational (for instance, a symbolically feminine body and subjectivity) are not ideational in a permanent or universal way. This is due to how entities exist. Their borders overlap, continually exchanging affects and forces with other kind of entities.

More specifically, I have focused on the exacted metamorphosis of one kind of entity into another. I have focused on Nietzsche’s trace of the transformation of the legal subject into the so-called “unified” subject—that is, the transformation of the legal subject into a supposed human nature, a fundamentally coherent, rational, and universal reality. If the “unified” subject is for Nietzsche a co-construction in a sea of myriad forces, including kin co-construction/co-participants’ conscience and corporeal punishment, then the so-called “unified” subject isn’t unified at all. It does not possess a singular reifiable or universally real stature. Nietzsche’s monism/relation, illustrated through the curry metaphor, is a field of swarming, cross-pollinating forces constituting these co-constructs.

The causality according to which the transformation of the legal subject to the supposed “unified” subject occurs is not the traditional linking of origin and purpose. A mixture of interlacing forces constitutes this causality, including human preference and irrational fate, that is, by relation. The causality works according to a purposeless necessity 29 in which power relations and blind destiny replace the logic Nietzsche attributes to Socratic and “Aristotelian” doxa. Thus for Nietzsche, his “Second Essay” (1989) writes quite literally para doxa.

Nietzsche does not claim to know that his theory of monism is right, but he does believe it to be the most probable interpretation of reality. If Nietzsche’s monism/relation correctly articulates the circumstances making up the legal subject, forgetting mind, and corporeal punishment (and the being of entities, in general), then the subsequently generated notion of the so-called “unified” subject is in the end (and from the beginning) misguided.

The curry metaphor for Nietzsche’s monism/relation reflects the moving target that is the so-called static and coherent “unified” subject. More importantly, the Indian curry metaphor also works to represent symbolically feminine body. Thus, the Indian curry metaphor ties together Nietzsche’s monism with symbolically feminine body. Prompted by the logic (if not the symbolism) of Nietzsche’s words, I build (or “curry”?) a bridge from Nietzsche’s writing to a symbolically feminine body. [End Page 52]

Yet as I “curry” this passage, one ought not to forget the tenuousness of that toward which the passage stretches—a possible symbolically feminine body. Communal history and culture endow a group’s language and habitudes with symbols unique to its heritage. If a symbol like curry contributes to a symbolically feminine body according to a particular Anglo-European perspective, the symbol is questionable from at least certain other perspectives, some of which may originate within contemporary Anglo-European culture. And so, if a symbolically feminine body is possible, it’s also already at the start—from at least some perspective—questionable.

Nietzsche’s thought, while beginning to introduce the other qua body into Western philosophy, introduces only symbolically masculine body. Even so, the being of such a body constituted by and co-participant in a moving constellation of co-partnering forces may be, if not feminine, then feminist. Kinds of bodies (that is, masculine, feminine, mental, or physical) cross-germinate and gradually metamorphose. They are not ironclad with a form-giving code constraining them like a giant buckle to traditional Western women’s roles.

In the history of the West, and especially in the wake of the Enlightenment, feminine bodies have been viewed as entities imbued with an indelible nature proper to women. Such a body can be called “natural” woman. Jean-Jacques Rousseau offers such a body as his view of woman in Emile or On Education (1979). Woman is naturally “passive and weak”; man is “active and strong” (Rousseau 1979, 358). From their disparity in physical power “it follows that woman is made specially to please man” (Rousseau 1979, 358). Nature spells out woman’s natural position as child bearer and caretaker, says Rousseau. “Everything constantly recalls her sex to her; and, to fulfill its functions well, she needs a constitution which corresponds to it. She needs care during her pregnancy; she needs rest at the time of childbirth; she needs a soft and sedentary life to suckle her children; she needs patience and gentleness, a zeal and an affection that nothing can rebuff in order to raise her children” (Rousseau 1979, 361). Alongside Rousseau’s ideas of the weak, of child rearing, and of unenfranchised natural woman, stands his natural man—strong, rational, and enfranchised. 30 Nietzsche’s “Second Essay” (1989) does not explicitly expose the concept of natural woman as a mistake. But by revealing the concept of the “unified” subject (natural man) as a mistake, Nietzsche’s critique extends to the concept of natural woman. The possibility of a “unified” subject depends upon a principle of permanence in human nature, like the Platonic forms. Nietzsche’s monism theorizes against such permanence.

If Nietzsche’s thought explicitly undoes the supposed “unified” subject, it implicitly unravels the supposed natural woman. With respect to the concept of natural woman, Nietzsche’s words “say more than they mean” (Grosz 1996, 38). Like a bridge (or Zarathustra’s tightrope?), they arc toward this feminist (re)-appropriation.

Finally, the tendency among recent feminist philosophers of embodiment [End Page 53] is to avoid a notion of body as biology while maintaining a nondualist model of mind and body. Gatens makes clear in Imaginary Bodies (1996) that by body she does not mean biology but symbolic body. While body as biology only is problematic, for the nonreductive monist for whom what it means to be a human being can be reduced to neither the mental nor the biological, body as symbolic only is also problematic. It reduces all to the mental.

My Nietzschean account of symbolic body avoids this reductivism. I categorize the metaphors and symbols that make up symbolically feminine body as ideational. Yet, according to Nietzsche’s monism, the ideational by definition is not purely “idea.” It interfaces with the psychosomatic and socio-physical—that is, with so-called matter. Nietzsche’s monism shows why physiology need not be excluded from a conception of feminine body and overcomes the contradiction inherent in a supposed nonreductive monist conception of body, which nonetheless excludes the physiological. 31 According to Nietzsche’s dynamic monism, so-called “biology” must participate (if not dominantly) in a symbolism of feminine body. This makes a symbolically feminine body a more convincing nonreductive monism and still avoids the suggestion that woman is her biology only or that such biology is static and thereby limits her to traditional Western women’s roles.

Kristen Brown

Kristen Brown is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Millsaps College. Her areas of interest include continental philosophy, philosophy of embodiment and ancient philosophy. She is currently writing a book on Niet zsche and embodiment. (


* Hypatia vol. 14, no. 3 (Summer 1999) © by Kristen Brown

**. I would like to thank Cheryl Hall, Michael Galchinsky, and anonymous Hypatia readers for their careful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this paper.

1. References to English translations of Nietzsche’s writings will appear in parentheses with the essay number preceding the aphorism number. When the translation is mine, I will reference Friedrich Nietzsche: Sämtliche Werke, Kritische Studienausgabe in 15 Einzelbänden, edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari (1988).

2. By subject I mean human self-understanding. I will trace Nietzsche’s view of the transformation of subjectivity from a disunified legal subject to a supposedly “unified” subject. A unified subject has intelligent desire and contrasts with the disunified subject whose desire lacks the feasibility of such intelligence. Judith Butler explains this: “If desire were a principle of irrationality, then an integrated philosophical life would be chimerical, for desire would always oppose this life, undermine its unity” (Butler 1987, 3). I place unified in scare quotes because Nietzsche’s tendency is to reveal the infeasibility of an intelligent desire. For Nietzsche, the object of human desire, the “Good” is not, as for say, Kant, universally recognizable according to rational law.

3. Nietzsche offers, or at least attempts to offer, a monist conception of mind-body relation. Eric Blondel gives a compelling view of this in Nietzsche: The Body and Culture (1991). For Blondel, Nietzsche’s monism points to body as a nonfoundational primacy. The “spiritual” and the “bodily” “constitute one unit, but it is a plural unity” (Blondel 1991, 206). “The body is therefore an intermediary space between the absolute plural of the world’s chaos and the absolute simplification of intellect. If chaos and humanity begin with the body as interpretation, a model of this unity and plurality, a schema of the will to power. If the body comes first, it does so as a mode of the mixed. If first (as multiplicity) in relation to the intellect conceived of as unifying and simplifying, while it will come second in relation to the chaos of the world. Nietzsche, therefore, intends not to reduce the intellect to the body, but, in presenting the body as a ‘plurality of intellects’, to reveal the radical nature of plurality” (Blondel 1991, 207).

4. I translate Rechtssubjekt as “legal subject” (Nietzsche 1988, 3:298).

5. My use of “‘unified’ subject” corresponds to Nietzsche’s reaktive Mensch or Mensch des Ressentiment, which metamorphoses out of the earlier Rechtssubjekte (legal subject) in the “Second Essay” (Nietzsche 1988, 5:311). See note 2 for the definition of “‘unified’ subject.”

6. I’ve chosen the term constitution instead of item, object, or thing to point to the changing character of “things” that resist reification and metaphysical identity. Indeed, what I characterize below as Nietzsche’s relation, shows Nietzsche’s view of the formation of semantic signification and subjectivity. This relational process of formation undermines a notion of “thinghood,” which presupposes metaphysical identity.

7. Compare to note 3.

8. Gatens can introduce such dynamism into the otherwise seemingly static categories of “sex” and “gender” through a Spinozist monism. As Gatens notes, “both the extensive (bodies) and the intensive (minds) are conceived by Spinoza as complex fields of interconnecting powers and affects” (Gatens 1996, 149).

9. See Oliver’s “Opening and Closing the Possibility of a Feminine Other” for why Nietzsche’s discourse of body is “always of a masculine body.” (1995, 16–25).

10. Subject-formation here is another word for subjectivity. Qua subjectivity, subject-formation implies that subjectivity is a process of formation and therefore dynamic and changing.

11. Here my phrasing is purposefully reminiscent of that of Gatens’s. In Imaginary Bodies, she makes a parallel claim about the affect of Spinoza’s monism on otherwise fairly static categories: “This understanding introduces a good deal of dynamism into the categories ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ since both the extensive (bodies) and the intensive (minds) are conceived by Spinoza as complex fields of interconnecting powers and affects” (Gatens 1996, 149).

12. I understand Foucault’s notion of discourse to be similar to what I call Nietzsche’s relation. Foucault dispatches discourse more explicitly than Nietzsche exposes relation. Moreover, Foucault’s discourse is perhaps undeniably a descendant of Nietzsche’s relation (see Foucault 1977, 139–64).

13. Carol Diethe translates Verwandtes as “Related Matters” (Nietzsche 1994, 38).

14. Compare to Nehamas (1985, 102–5).

15. Some might view guilt as a primarily psychological phenomenon. Because of its relative Schulden (a socio-material constitution) and of the history of physical cruelty that Nietzsche suggests contributes to the formation of Schulden, and so too to Schuld, I categorize guilt as a psychosomatic constitution.

16. I modify Kaufmann’s translation. Kaufmann translates das versprechen darf to “with the right to make promises.”

17.Dawn, sections 9, 14, 16” refers to Nietzsche’s Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (1982).

18. Though Nietzsche implies that human preference, taste, and power relations have the power to affect and change the possible interpretations and the nature of human being, Nietzsche does not suggest that humans are free of necessary laws. In terms of human nature, we are unfree if by “free” one means “the foolish demand to change one’s essentia arbitrarily, like a garment.” We are free if by “unfree” one means that one’s nature is bound by an unchanging essence (Nietzsche 1962, 7).

19. Heranzüchten is a compound word combining heran and züchten. Like many compound German words, it is not to be found in most dictionaries. In the case of heranzüchten, it has virtually the same meaning as its root word: züchten. “Heran” is an adverb, which means “to come on or along” or “to come close or near to something.” Heranarbeiten means “to work one’s way along.” Züchten means “to breed” in the sense of harvesting pearls or farming a crop or animals. Heranzüchten then derives most if not all of its meaning from züchten because züchten, as a process of formation, also implies a gradual coming along. For this reason, I explore the etymology of züchten without concern for heran.

20. For a definition of feminine symbolic and an explanation of why I choose curry as a metaphor for a symbolically feminine body, please see my introductory comments.

21. Because the blanket term curry is Western in origin, its signification does not translate into the tradition of Indian cuisine except in the case of those of Indian descent, living in England, America, or Europe, who have adapted to the Western concept.

22. Double genitive refers to the double meaning of any genitive phrase. In genitive phrases, the grammatical agent and patient are ambiguous. For instance, in the genitive phrase “abuse of politics,” politics can be the agent and abuse the patient or vice versa. If one stuffs ballot boxes on election day, the political electoral process is the object of abuse. On the other hand, proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment might argue that the absence of the amendment points to a politics that abuses some citizens. In this case, politics is the agent that abuses.

23. See Nietzsche (1988, 5:298).

24. Forgetful mind names embryonic conscience. Conscience emerges (after much cruelty) with the advent of memory.

25. Implicit in Nietzsche’s relation is the impossibility of strict definition. This arises in the loss of strictly identifiable “things” to define.

26. The second reason is Nietzsche’s hypothesis of the “blonde beast.” The one whose “instincts of wild, free, prowling man” threatened the organizing tactics of the “blonde beast” was “incarcerated within and finally able to discharge and vent itself only on itself: that and that alone, is what the bad conscience is in its beginnings” (Nietzsche 1989, 2.17).

27. The phrase relation without relata refers to relationality in the absence of absolutely definable items to relate (Magnus and Higgins 1996, 7). I agree with Bernd Magnus, Stanley Stewart and Jean-Pierre Mileur that many Nietzschean concepts are self-consuming and that the phrase relation without relata not only names this logic but also exemplifies it. The ground that constitutes such a concept at the same time points to a disintegration of that very ground. Such a logic of self-destruction is typical of Nietzsche’s thought, which attempts to think through and beyond the tradition and logic of Western philosophy (Magnus, Stewart, and Mileur 1993, 21–34).

28. Compare to Blondel (1991, 226).

29. See note 18.

30. Rousseau’s belief in proper “natural” man and woman compares to his view of the proper meaning of words. Jacques Derrida discusses this in “The Violence of the Letter: From Levi-Strauss to Rousseau” in Of Grammatology (1974). “Rousseau no doubt believed in the figurative initiation of language, but he believed no less, as we shall see, in a progress toward literal (proper) meaning. ‘Figurative language was the first to be born,’ he says, only to add, ‘proper meaning was discovered last’ (Essay [on the Origin of Languages]). It is to this eschatology of the proper (prope, proprius, self-proximity, self-presence, property, own-ness) that we ask the question of the graphein” (Derrida 1974, 107).

31. Gatens’s concept of body in Imaginary Bodies (1996) suggests such a contradiction.


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