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 PHIL 200-002 - Friedrich Nietzsche
 Nietzsche's Women
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Katie Burke

1 Posts

Posted - Feb 18 2013 :  1:51:40 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
In Book Two of The Gay Science Nietzsche talks extensively about women. The first reference is when he is talking about seeing a beautiful sailboat on the sea. That sailboat is a woman. I wonder what the sea is. Could it be the troubles of the world that woman are easily floating on? "Has all the calm and taciturnity of the world embarked on it? Does my happiness itself sit in this quiet place--my happier ego, my second, departed self?" If Nietzsche were to swim into the water, he would drown without a boat. Is Nietzsche saying that men's happiness lies with women? And if so, does that mean that it is easier for women to find happiness?

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Ryan Zeidler

1 Posts

Posted - Feb 18 2013 :  3:22:10 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That drew my attention as well. I'm glad you posted on this. From reading outside sources, I gather that Nietzche shares some very misogynistic views that he could've adapted from Socrates' ideas. From what I understand, he doesn't share some crazy ideas about women that were held during his time, but to a 21st-century ear, his views are shocking. Concerning that quote: I believe that what he is really targeting is the distance of boat, water, and man. He doesn't highlight the different sexes, but alludes to the gap between the two later on. "All great noise leads us to move happiness into some quiet distance. When a man stands in the midst of his own noise, in the midst of his own surf of plans and projects, then he is apt also to see quiet, magical beings glide past him and to long for their happiness and seclusion: women." He must be trying to "escape the noise" and distance himself.

"The magic and the most powerful effect of women is, in philosophical language, action at a distance, actio in distans, but this requires first of all and above all–-distance."

Read more:

I feel Linda Williams sums it up pretty well at the very end of this piece:
He clearly was against the education of women, seeing in it the destruction of their allure and, I think, of his ability to use them as a metaphor. Many of his remarks about women, Germans, the English, etc., were meant to be inflammatory. But if we are too quick, like Walter Kaufmann, to simply dismiss anything Nietzsche has to say about women, we will miss some illuminating ways of interpreting these passages. Over and over again Nietzsche reminds us that he is fond of masks, of layers of meanings. One of Nietzsche’s layers may be his stereotypical descriptions of women, but that is rarely ever the only layer, nor as I hope I have shown in this particular instance, the most insightful one.
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Henry Thomas

22 Posts

Posted - Mar 08 2013 :  12:27:12 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
In my opinion he is not saying that men's happiness lies with women. Instead I think he's saying that women our able to just sit on the surface and avoid the problems. I'm not completely sure he was completely sexist, but he does say some shocking things not only women but also about the English, the Germans, and so on. When you also learn he was against the education of women, you really have to begin to wonder about him.

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Tucker Blake

4 Posts

Posted - Mar 12 2013 :  10:45:24 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I think that it is a very interesting question that Katie has raised here concerning the happiness of women, and whether it is easier to gain than male happiness. In response to that question I turned to the section of Thus Spoke Zarathustra titled "On Little Old and Young Women" (177-179). Zarathustra makes the statement that "Woman understands children better than man does, but man is more childlike than woman" (177). In the context of the question about women's happiness, I would use this quote to argue that women's happiness may not be easier to find, but they do have a good start at where to look: men! However, as men are very complex creatures, I would be hard-pressed to say that they would have an easier time finding happiness in men, compared to the experience of a man's finding happiness in the world; both are very deep and foreboding places to seek happiness.

That same passage, it seems to me, goes a long way toward illuminating the potentially "misogynistic" views of Nietzsche. Instead of putting women down, it really seems to me that here he is saying that women hold a very strong power over men, in that they understand men, possibly more than men understands themelves!

There are also some very interesting passages that relate to the sea metaphor that we saw in The Gay Science in "On Little Old and Young Women". They are in the ninth paragraph, which starts with the words: "The happiness of man is..."

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