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??? COHPAnATIST ARYAN ARISTOCRATS AND ÜBERMENSCHEN: NIETZSCHE'S READING OF THE LAWS OFMANU Dorothy Figueira Much has been written on Nietzsche's reconstruction ofIndian thought.1 Indologists and historians of reUgion have placed great importance on Nietzsche's appropriation of Indian themes; and, indeed, the philosopher 's evocation ofIndia is varied and often tantaUzing. These evocations range from Nietzsche's use of terminology and concepts to his penchant for quoting Sanskrit sources, as on the title page to Daybreak where he purportedly cites the Rig Veda: "There are so many days that have not yet broken" [Es giebt so viele Morgenröthen die noch nicht geleuchtet haben, (KSA 9: 413)].2 One critic has, however, recently discounted the role that Indian thought played for Nietzsche, viewing such references as late and insignificant.3 This position views Nietzsche's evocation of India as specious and accuses him of the very triviaüzation that he accused Schopenhauer of committing (Untimely 3: 7). To my mind, this is a harsh judgment. While the traces of India's influence in Nietzsche's work are elusive, and the philosopher did not view India with the "transEuropean eye" that he claimed (Sprung 83), India did, in fact, play a significant role in Nietzsche's final work. Although he may never have actuaUy read his friend Deussen's monumental work on the Vedanta and was one ofthe few nineteenth-century educated Germans never to have read KaUdasa's Sakuntala (Sprung 86), he did read what he thought was an authoritative version of the Laws ofManu with care and used this treatise thematicaUy. In the following, I will examine Nietzsche's interpretation of Manu and the use to which he put this Sanskrit dharmasastra , which he did not know in the original but probably in the 1797 German translation of Johann Christoph Hüttner. Reading Nietzsche Reading India Although Nietzsche refers frequently to Manu throughout his work, traditional Nietzsche scholars have tended to ignore the philosopher's references to the Hindu law book. Walter Kaufmann's post-World War II rehabUitation of Nietzsche began this trend. Kaufmann underplayed the phüosopher's comments on the Indian lawgiver for the simple reason that they dealt primarily with breeding, a topic that would ill-serve Kaufmann's desire to distance Nietzsche from the Nazis (304-05). In fact, Kaufmann even denied that Nietzsche ever dealt at length with the topic of breeding. Though here is not the place to categorize or assess the Nietzsche-Nazi relationship, I might note, in passing, that beginning in Vol. 23 (1999): 5 ARYANARISTOCRATS AND ÜBERMENSCHEN the 1940s, Kaufmann (along with other champions of Nietzsche, such as the Mann brothers, Camus, and BataiUe) sought to exonerate the philosopher from any inspirational role he may have played for the Nazis. Their position ran counter to that of Lukács and the historian Crane Brinton who claimed that Nietzsche served the Nazi cause. In the last fifty years ofNietzsche reception, a middle ground has prevaUed, wherein Nietzsche is seen to have provided elements in his philosophy that were attractive to the Nazis (SantanieUo, Nietzsche 149). Another logic ofa less poUtical nature might also account for the critics ' refusal to question Nietzsche's references to Manu. While literaryminded scholars approach Nietzsche with a view to honoring the philosopher's resistance to systematization,4 the same care cannot be said oftheoreticaUy or phUosophicaUy oriented scholars. Nietzsche's evocation of a reference as exotic as Manu could, indeed, trouble a conceptual reading, prompting a desire to ignore anything that does not fit a systematic approach. As respected a Nietzsche scholar as Richard Schacht, for example, encourages readers to look beyond the ephemeral noise that clutters Nietzsche's prose and to filter out the static (xv). One must pass over those frequent "rhetorical excesses" that obscure the philosopher 's message. If this critical approach is accepted in the field of Nietzsche scholarship, it is no wonder that traditional Nietzsche scholars generaUy ignore the phüosopher's references to the Hindu law treatise. Readers faced with Nietzsche's fragmentary Nachlass might sympathize with critics who simply ignore Nietzsche's arcane discussions of Manu. Those same readers, however, might also pause at the impUcations...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 5-20
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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