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[The following is a letter written to a Chinese woman here in Taipei, a Christian graduate student in philosophy.]

Dear ... :

Hui-Ling said that your recent study of Nietzsche has caused you to rethink certain things. I hope you haven't taken Nietzsche's work too seriously. This may seem like a ridiculous statement, I know, as Nietzsche is certainly one of the major modern European minds. How is one not to take him seriously?

I often think of a remark that Simone Weil made of Nietzsche's writing, that she felt an almost physical revulsion to it. And yet Nietzsche excels as a writer, he is a giant, he has perhaps done more for our aphoristic style than any other modern writer.

It is a question here of two personalities, two different affective manners of experiencing the world. Nietzsche and Weil have so very little in common with each other that Weil cannot bring herself to find the sympathy necessary to read Nietzsche for long. I picture her closing the book, near to throwing it against the wall.

I think of Nietzsche as being one of the most incisive of thinkers, and yet there is a problem with his incisiveness. The word incisive is related to incision, which is a matter of cutting, as with a scalpel. I think of Nietzsche as all scalpel, as if there were no hand there to guide the scalpel's cutting, as if thought itself were a matter of ever more cutting, never a matter of listening to what one's language says. Or rather, what one's language says is always analyzed for what may be used in service to yet further cutting.

Nietzsche is the most violent of thinkers. Ultimately, in my understanding, he is a kind of madman victimized by his very incisiveness, a man extraordinarily developed in a certain range but lacking a nerve in some other, more important area. I have always used the metaphor of deafness to characterize Nietzsche. When I read him, I feel there is a certain deafness, an almost palpable deafness, as if Nietzsche were locked in a glass ball. This is to say that in a certain register Nietzsche, that towering critical genius, ultimately seems very small.

I don't know what you are reacting to in Nietzsche. You are a philosophy PhD. candidate, and now doubtless know European philosophy better than I. Given certain preconceptions and social conditions, perhaps the preconceptions and conditions made possible by the eighteenth century, Nietzsche's philosophy of revaluation, his attack on the culture of ressentiment, becomes one of the most viable philosophical stances. And yet I do not share those particular preconceptions, and I do not think the world is such that God is dead. I think, rather, that the world is dead, that the world has defaulted.

Write me if you would like to summarize the place Nietzsche has taken in your thinking. I'd be interested.

Eric

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