“The Gay Science” Continued

As usual, this week’s readings in “The Gay Science” provided an embarrassment of riches. One of the sections that stood out to me was section 228, entitled “Against mediators.” It seems to me that in this section Nietzsche is criticizing those who would dissolve differences and collapse distinctions in pursuit of a shared essence that isn’t really there–or perhaps that is in some sense there but is not the whole story. As Nietzsche puts it, “Those who want to mediate between two resolute thinkers show that they are mediocre; they lack eyes for seeing what is unique.” Though there is no doubt a time and place for this work of mediation, if we see things only through a universalizing monistic lens then we will miss the pluralism and particularity that give the world its texture. This is an important insight, and it connects in interesting ways to recurring themes in Nietzsche’s work–for instance, the vantage points and blind spots inherent in the paradigms by which we make sense of experience and the defects of a universalizing tendency that would have us abstract away from the business of life right here and now in all of its concreteness and uniqueness.

Nietzsche seems to have both of these themes in mind in section 233, “The most dangerous point of view,” in which he declares that “What I do or do not do now is as important for everything that is yet to come as is the greatest event of the past.” As the title of the section makes clear, one’s stance in the world, one’s orientation to existence, determines to a great extent what one sees and therefore how one acts. And Nietzsche’s preoccupation with purifying the present, with sanctifying the mundane, is on display here again. Each moment is infused with the sacred, imbued with the heroic. Every act is a sacrament. Meaning bubbles up from the business of living rather than descending from on high.

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