Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Helene von Druskowitz on Nietzsche

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on  March 28, 2009 ]
Helene von Druskowitz is an all-but-forgotten figure who was one of the first scholars to take note of the philosophical writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.  Only the second woman in the German-speaking world to earn a Ph.D. degree, Druskowitz was exceptional in other ways. Having been introduced to her by Malwida von Meysenbug, Nietzsche looked upon Druskowitz as a future disciple.
Druskowitz disappointed him, however, in the critical chapter devoted to Nietzsche in her Moderne Versuche eines Religionsersatzes (1886), where she pointed to a fundamental contradiction in Nietzsche's thought.  While, writing in 1883, Nietzsche has his Zarathustra herald man's overcoming and the triumph of der Uebermensch, Druskowitz cites the 49th section of Nietzsche's The Dawn of Day, written in 1881, wherein he sees in Darwinian theory only evidence that all such notions of overcoming are sentimentalities.   The following is section 49 from Kennedy's translation of The Dawn of Day:

    " In former times people sought to show the feeling of man's
    greatness by pointing to his divine descent. This, however,
    has now become a forbidden path, for the ape stands at
    its entrance, and likewise other fearsome animals,
    showing their teeth in a knowing fashion, as if to
    say, No further this way ! Hence people now try the
    opposite direction : the road along which humanity
    is proceeding shall stand as an indication of their
    greatness and their relationship to God. But alas !
    this, too, is useless ! At the far end of this path
    stands the funeral urn of the last man and grave-
    digger (with the inscription, Nihil humani a me
    alienum puto). To whatever height mankind may
    have developed and perhaps in the end it will not
    be so high as when they began, there is as little
    prospect of their attaining to a higher order as there
    is for the ant and the earwig to enter into kinship
    with God and eternity at the end of their career on
    earth. What is to come will drag behind it that
    which has passed : why should any little star, or
    even any little species on that star, form an excep-
    tion to that eternal drama ? Away with such senti-
    mentalities ! "


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