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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, November 28, 2011

WHAT WOMEN WILL PART 2

"Anat kills the people living in valleys, in cities and on the seashore and in the land of sunrise, until the cut off heads of soldiers were reaching to her belt and she was wading up to her waist in blood. Violently she smites and gloats, Anat cuts them down and gazes; her liver exhaults in mirth ... for she plunges her knees in the blood of soldiers, her loins in the gore of warriors, till she has had her fill of slaughtering in the house, of cleaving among the tables."-- "The Bloodbath of Anat," Ras Shamra texts, translator not credited.

"The perfect woman is a higher type of human than the perfect man, and also something much more rare."-- Friedrich Nietzsche, HUMAN ALL TOO HUMAN, pt. 377.



In Part 1 of WHAT WOMEN WILL I put forth the proposition that even though philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was something less than flattering in his comments upon women, his theory of the will remains useful for valorizing my concept of the "woman-as-willing-subject"-- which takes in, but certainly isn't limited to, the more well-known concept of the "willing woman."  In the essay ON WOMEN, Schopenhauer himself values the "strength" and "reason" of men as against the "dissimulations" of women, so one would expect that his theory of the will would celebrate the masculine principle of *yang,* or what Frank Herbert calls "the ancient force that takes."

Such an expectation turns out not to be the case.  Though Schopenhauer believes that the will is the only thing-in-itself that humankind can know, he also believes that happiness lies in one's being able to transcend or even abolish the will in oneself:
"...we freely acknowledge that what remains after the complete abolition of the will is, for all who are still full of the will, assuredly nothing. But also conversely, to those in whom the will has turned and denied itself, this very real world of ours with all its suns and galaxies, is - nothing."-- Schopenhauer, THE WORLD AS WILL AND REPRESENTATION.
In Friedrich Nietzsche's early years he might be described as the most prominent disciple of the gloomy philosopher.  In later years, however, Nietzsche rejected Schopenhauer's interpretation of the will:

"Granted finally that one succeeded in explaining our entire instinctual life as the development and ramification of one basic form of will—as the will to power, as my theory—; granted that one could trace all organic functions back to this will to power and could also find in it the solution to the problem of procreation and nourishment—they are one problem—one would have acquired the right to define all efficient force unequivocally as: will to power. The world seen from within, the world described and defined according to its `intelligible character’—it would be `will to power’ and nothing else."-- Nietzsche, BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, part 36.
Where Schopenhauer desired to see the will "turn and deny itself," Nietzsche was more preoccupied in the subject's embrace of chaos.  In this essay I found that the latter philosopher was concerned with a "deeper mental transformation" than anything found in Sade, a writer to whom Camille Paglia unwisely compared Nietzsche.  Yet though my opening Nietzsche quote is one which sounds roughly complimentary toward females, the philosopher's other writings are replete with questionable pronouncements upon the fair sex.

Nevertheless, Nietzsche's position on the nature of femininity is more ambivalent than Schopenhauer's by far.  Whereas Schopenhauer allows women no greater virtue than dissimulation, Nietzsche admires their talent for single-mindedness:

"In revenge and in love woman is more barbarous than man."-- BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, part 135. 
Now, this concept of women being more "barbarous" may provide only the most tenuous similitude with the image evoked in my first quote: that of the war-goddess Anath.  I am not stating that Nietzsche had any interest in this particular archetype, but I think his definition of will as "will-to-power" has interesting consequences in relation to the archetype.

I noted above that even though Schopenhauer champions the male sex for "strength and reason," he doesn't give us a vision of the will as being fulfilling because it empowers us.  Rather, he champions a vision of men (implicitly only men, since women are bereft of reason) who abolish will.  It's questionable as to what the philosopher thinks such transformed men will be like, but given the heavy emphasis in his writings upon the virtue of compassion, I would venture that Schopenhauer's subjects will be best aligned with "the ancient force that gives," to quote Frank Herbert once more.

Nietzsche allows for the possibility of compassionate acts in his philosophical universe as well, but for him kindness results from a "superfluity" of power emanating from his noble ubermensch.  Nietzsche is therefore more aligned to "the ancient force that takes," and it is in this light that one may see that he values such *yang* energies in both sexes, even if he might prefer (as BGAE suggests) that women should not *overtly* compete with men.  Thus, even while he would admit that women might be more barbarous, or even more "evil" than men, one can't turn to Nietzsche for a valorization of Anath or similar figures.

In part 3 I will examine more fully the two archetypes I find implicit in the writings of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche-- the Compassionate Man and the Barbarous Woman-- and relate them further to the archetypes arising in modern popular fiction.


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