Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Feminist Overlap?

For all of his scornful posturing, Nietzsche, ironically, can be seen as making a move that is indicative of feminist philosophers. In his Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche analyzes how good and bad changed to good and evil. This echoes a call by feminist philosopher Linda Martin Alcoff, who calls for an analysis of older epistemologies in order to shed light on the way they have functioned politically and privileged certain groups. Although Nietzsche fulfills part of Alcoff’s suggestion, by provided a genealogy of what we practice as morality and analyzed how the master-slave dialectic has privileged others, she most likely frown at his derision of religion. By taking a step back and contextualizing morality, it highlights the contested nature of the “truths” we often claim when discussing moral issues. When examining privilege though, it becomes tricky, as the feminist typically shows how men or Caucasian straight women experience privilege, Nietzsche espouses that the weaker, slavish individuals are the ones that receive privilege due to their perversion of bad to evil. As bad turned to evil, the resulting value was reassigned to meekness and generally weaker individuals, that came to scorn their position and ingenuously turned the original values of good to no longer represent strength, beauty, etc. By positing that it was the ones who were powerless that gained privilege, Nietzsche doesn’t appear to tie to Alcoff, but Alcoff has an out in her work. Alcoff calls for the genealogies and analysis in order to call into question the system of meritocracy in epistemic contributions, as the field has been historically limited to mainly aristocratic white males who have limited perspective, as well as a plethora of biases that have shaped their philosophy. She calls for an affirmative action type program when it comes to submissions to the epistemic field, which would leave her room to dismiss Nietzsche on the grounds that he is intolerant of other minorities or for any reason. Likely she would want to analyze Nietzsche’s conditions that made him produce the genealogy, as well as the discursive power that it has wielded since. As far as the discursive power of Nietzsche, I am not sure that it has had that much staying power, as we largely haven’t adopted that our morality commits us slavish ressentiment, although it is an interesting exploration to say the least. I just found it interesting that Nietzsche makes what is typically classified as a feminist critique of morality, even if he comes to the conclusion that it is the weak that have received the undeserved privilege.

1 comment:

  1. Eh, I think that Nietzsche's argument can only be considered "feminist" insofar as it shares a viewpoint of nonfoundationalism, which isn't peculiar to feminist philosophy. In fact, the essay that I think you're referencing—"How is Epistemology Political?"—is by and large a critique of Rorty's treatment of epistemology within his nonfoundational critique of philosophy-as-epistemology. It seems to me that the nonfoundational link that you find between Nietzsche and Alcoff is indicative of the influence Nietzsche had on continental, postmodern philosophy, in which (as far as I can tell) a lot of feminist theory has roots. Nietzsche would spew bile if he read Alcoff's account of privilege in academia.


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