The Hermit

In tutorial we ended with four classes on Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche. I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m not sure that anyone knew what to make of it. It seems like the sort of thing that offers a lot of fascinating and suggestive insights into the less talked about side of the human psyche, but may well not be worth reading nonetheless. Two Orthodox writers (Fr Seraphim Rose and David Hart) whom I respect greatly seem to also admire N. — or at least find him to be greatly important; a “prophet of nihilism,” as it were. An excerpt:

We always hear something of the echo of desolation in a hermit’s writings, something of the whispering tone and shy, roundabout glance of solitude; out of his mightiest words, even out of his screams, we still hear the sound of a new and dangerous sort of silence, silencing. Anyone who has sat alone, in intimate dissension and dialogue with his soul, year in and year out, by day and by night; anyone whose cave (which might be a labyrinth, but also a gold mine) has turned him into a cave-bear or a treasure-digger or a treasure keep and dragon; this person’s ideas will themselves finally take on a characteristic twilight color, an oder fully as much of the depths as of decay, something uncommunicative and stubborn that gusts coldly at every passer-by.

The hermit does not believe that any philosopher (given that all philosophers have first been hermits) ever expressed his true and final opinions in books: don’t we write books precisely in order to hide what we keep hidden? Indeed, he will doubt whether a philosopher is even capable of “final and true” opinions, whether at the back of every cave a deeper cave is lying, is bound to lie — a wider, stranger, richer world over every surface, an abyss behind his every ground, beneath his every “grounding.” Every philosophy is a foreground philosophy — this is a hermit’s judgment: “there is something arbitrary about the fact that he stopped just here, looked back, looked around, that he did not dig deeper just here, but set down his spade — and there is also something suspicious about it.” Every philosophy also conceals a philosophy; every opinion is also a hiding place, every word also a mask.                —Beyond Good and Evil, section 289

That’s all very haunting and suggestive — and perhaps even beautiful in its way — but I’m not sure what to do with it, nor do I have much of a taste for the creepily suggestive. I’m not going to do N. justice at present; I’m not even going to try.

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2 thoughts on “The Hermit

  1. I’m having trouble figuring out what a cave bear is…is that someone who sleeps a lot? or merely someone who spends a lot of time in caves?

    • I’m imagining him as the sort of person who will treat his personal surroundings, whatever they might be, as his cave: making them dark, dull, not coming out except with a kind of ferocious grumpyness, sleeping at odd times, and generally behaving rather bear-like.

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