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21 Judith Butler Ronell as Gay Scientist Of course, Ronell is reading Nietzsche throughout The Test Drive, so if we decide to focus on this reading, we will find that it defies our focus, because Nietzsche might be said to disperse himself throughout her text.1 There is, however, a juncture in which it seems that she has a particular reason to follow him, but also to take her leave. It is this double-movement that I propose to trace, because it shows us something about how Ronell experiments and the kind of experiment her writing is. For instance, there are times when she seems very close to Nietzsche’s cadence and voice. You will remember Nietzsche’s way of disorienting his reader in On the Genealogy of Morals when he asks a question that was not supposed to be askable: “what is the origin of the value of good and evil?” His contemporary morality takes good and evil for granted as the oppositional and exclusive options for moral judgment. Given that this is true, he comes to ask: what is the origin of the value of morality? To ask this question is to already to scandalize those who are self-certain in their morality, because the question posits that there must be a value, a set of values, existing outside the framework of good and evil and that those values can and will be the ones by which the value of morality is adjudicated. It suggests further that whatever is meant by “origin” is itself a value, because we are only asking the question of the origin in order finally to understand the value of that morality based upon that distinction. The question does not so much presuppose as posit that i-viii_1-256_Davi.indd 21 4/10/09 3:14:17 PM 22 judith butler set of values, and so we come to understand the interrogative mode as a creative act: the question already introduces the possibility of new values, allegorizing the very means of its production. Ronell has already introduced us to the multiple valences of science, testing our patience with a proliferating set of understandings for how science operates, how the hypothesis functions as a kind of constitutive wager in its method, and how testing itself is always conceding that there is something about the world that is not yet certainly known. Thus, Ronell brings science into the Nietzschean question about values, writing, “For different reasons, the worthiness of worth has been sidelined by science” (200). So in The Test Drive, we want to know how we begin to ask this question about “the worthiness of worth” in the context of science. It would seem that, through Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, we arrive at the question of the worth of worth, the value of values, in relation to science through a procedure that is inarguably central to its own operation: experiment. Experiment is no simple exercise, and as we read along, it becomes clear that experiment is not only linked with life, but specifically a means for affirming life. For Ronell, the experiment belongs to both science and art; it designates a procedure that works by way of hypothesis and requires testing in order to elaborate its conclusions as valid. But internal to the notion of the hypothesis and the test is precisely what is not known, and even unknowable, and in the face of which we can only form conjectures and guesses, that which defies any and all calculation. If we expected science to champion calculation and inference, we find central to the scientific method a conjecture and an affirmation of the unpredictability of outcomes that opens up a gap between method and result that no calculation can mend. The hypothesis conjectures a possible relation, and so is in that very business of “positing” that Nietzsche enacted for us with his disorienting question about morality. That question—what is the origin of the value of morality ?— admits that we might be able to tell a story about the emergence of a particular morality, but this is a possibility that immediately undoes its claim to a priori truth. If the story we tell is a history, then it would seem that morality came into being, that it was not always there, and that some other configuration could have come into being, or will. Thus, if the inquiry into the origin of values is at once a way to probe new modes of valuation, then the...


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