Mirror Reflections: Reading Nietzsche Dangerously

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Recently scholars have had a renewed interest in the rhetorical dimension of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy. Moving past familiar questions about the philosophical significance of its presence, these scholars have begun to ask how Nietzsche’s rhetoric induces existential forms of reading where readers feel as though they are being personally addressed and confronted with the slavishness of their own moral convictions. Building on this scholarship, this dissertation seeks to compliment the common textual approach to understanding how Nietzsche’s rhetoric produces such experiences by turning attention onto the different “types” of readers affected by Nietzsche’s rhetoric and the nature of their moral confrontations. Moving from the question of how Nietzsche’s rhetoric works to what it does, I follow Nietzsche’s example of diagnosing the hidden workings of slave morality within influential intellectual figures who exemplify a larger “type” of personality. Engaging with the work of Michel Foucault, William E. Connolly, and Jack Donovan, I sketch the relationship between their respective interpretations of Nietzsche’s philosophy and the rhetorical “hooks” that pull them in to portray three such personality types: the scholar, the democrat, and the artist. Just as each type is attracted to different elements of Nietzsche’s philosophy so they reject others. Exploring the relationship between these “typical” figures and the elements of Nietzsche’s philosophy they reject, I pursue an existential reading of Nietzsche from the perspective of each figure to reveal the hidden pathologies of fear, vanity, and resentment that animate them. Such pathologies are ultimately grounded in a moral rejection of suffering that forecloses opportunities for self-affirmation, and while this dynamic plays out differently in each type, there is a shared logic that extends beyond each individual thinker into different human types. To realize this is to see that the same diagnostic Nietzsche offers of these types is applicable to all who participate in them and that we, too, face the same moral confrontation if we are willing to look at ourselves reflected in Nietzsche’s philosophy. For this to occur, all we must do is start reading Nietzsche dangerously.

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237 pages


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Morality; Nietzsche; Reading; Rhetoric


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Livingston, Peter

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Frank, Jill
McNulty, Tracy

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Ph. D., Government

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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