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Language, Metaphor, Rhetoric: Nietzsche's Deconstruction of Epistemology ALAN D. SCHRIFT Perhaps universal history is but the history of several metaphors. --Borges Der Philosoph in den Netzen der Spracheeingefangen . --Nietzsche In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault cites Nietzsche's "radical reflection upon language" as, in part, initiating the modern epoch.' While one need not agree with this characterization of modernity, Foucault's focusing on Nietzsche's reflection on language brings to the fore an important aspect of Nietzsche's thought to which, until quite recently, little attention has been given. While many of Nietzsche's commentators have acknowledged his early work as a professor of classical philology at the University of Basel (186 91879 ) on rhetoric and language, few have related Nietzsche's early insights into the nature of language to the work of his so-called "mature" period. ~ ' MichelFoucault, The Orderof Things (New York: Random House, Inc., 1973),305. Samuel IJsseling echoes this claim in his discussion of Nietzsche and rhetoric (see Rhetoricand Philosophy in Conflict, translated by Paul Dunphy [The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976], lo6ff) as does Arthur C. Danto in his attempt to bring Nietzsche into dialogue with contemporary analytic philosophy (seeNietzscheas Philosopher[NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1965],esp. 11-14 and 83-87). ' A notable exception is Daniel Breazeale; see "The Word, the World, and Nietzsche" in PhilosophicalForum, Vol. 6, Nos. 2- 3 (Winter-Spring 1975): 3Ol-2O. [3711 372 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 23:3 JULY 1985 More often than not, Nietzsche's break with the academic world of classical philology is regarded as an indication of a significant turn in the Nietzschean project, dividing his earlier, strictly "scholarly" pursuits from his more "philosophically" significant later work as the revaluator of values and philosopher of the overman and the eternal recurrence. In the following discussion, this strict division between the "young" and the "mature " Nietzsche will be brought into question. It will be shown that Nietzsche 's early views on language, while no longer pursued as a specific topic of inquiry, remain a consistent theme throughout the entirety of his writings) Moreover, his views on language will be seen to inform many of his later positions insofar as many of Nietzsche's criticisms of the traditional problems of metaphysics and epistemology will reveal themselves to be a consequence of some of his earliest insights into the nature of language and metaphor. It will thus be suggested that this conception of language is essential for understanding some of Nietzsche's more vitriolic and polemical counterdoctrines to the traditional philosophical quest for knowledge and truth. From the beginning, Nietzsche's explorations into the nature of language are directed toward demystifying the philosophical pretensions of truth and knowledge, as man's quest for knowledge reveals itself to be grounded on the "fundamental human drive": "the drive toward the formation of metaphor [Trieb zur Metapherbildung]" (MA VI: 88; KGW III, 2: 381; WL 3 The source for many of Nietzsche's remarks on language will be the Philosophenbuch, a collection of Nietzsche's notes of 1872-1875. Letters from this period (see, for example, June 11, 1872 to E. Rohde; November 21, 1872 to E. Rohde; December 7, 1872 to E. Rhode; February 24, 1873 to C. von Gersdorff; March 22, 1873to E. Rohde) makereference to a work in progress on pre-Platonic philosophy. This work was to be composed of two parts: a "historical " section, part of which has appeared as "Philosophyin the Tragic Age of the Greeks," and a "theoretical" section. Some of the notes for this "theoretical" sectionwere giventhe title Philosophenbuch by the editors of the Musarionausgabe (Vol. VI: l-i 19) and under this title were included four subdivisions: "The Last Philosopher. The Philosopher. Reflections on the Struggle between Art and Knowledge" (1872), "The Philosopher as Cultural Physician"(1873), "On Truth and Lies in a Non-moral Sense" (1873), and "The Struggle between Science and Wisdom" (1875). These notes, along with two other collections ("On the Pathos of Truth" [1872] and "Thoughts on the Meditation; Philosophy in Hard Times" [1873]) have recently been edited and translated by Daniel Breazeale in Philosophyand Truth (N.J.: Humanities Press, 1979). To facilitate reference, citations from...


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