Thursday, 11 June 2020

Arrows That Strike At The Heart Of Readers

Aphorisms, argues Andrew Hui, not only predate Western philosophy, but "constitute the first efforts at speculative thinking." Thinking aphoristically, he says, remains a foundational part of any intellectual tradition. One member of the "cult of the fragment"? Nietzsche:
His philology on fragments became a philosophy of fragments when he abandoned his profession as a classicist in the late 1870s. Rather than just studying aphorisms, he started producing them. In the most fertile stretch of his life, from Human, All Too Human (1878) to Ecce Homo (1888), he composed thousands upon thousands of pithy sayings and maxims. The fragmentary form became the preferred style for the rest of his life. The prophet in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-85) speaks in enigmatic dithyrambs reminiscent of the wisdom literature of antiquity.

Nietzsche’s aphoristic form becomes his way of training his readers not to subscribe to a doctrine or a particular Nietzschean view of life, but rather to create and craft their own philosophy of life. He writes that "in books of aphorisms like mine there are plenty of forbidden, long things and chains of thoughts between and behind short aphorisms." What this means is that Nietzsche will not spoon-feed his readers. His method is like Heraclitus’—intense, difficult, aporetic maxims and arrows that strike at the heart of readers, seizing or destabilising their habits of thought. They are required to do much work, to investigate what is "between and behind" his sharp words.

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