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Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, there stands a mighty ruler, an unknown sage-whose name is self. In your body he dwells; he is your body. There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom. And who knows why your body needs precisely your best wisdom? (Chapter On the Despisers of the Body)

I believe this quote can be successfully interpreted without reading the book or even the verses that come before or after it, since it seems to be independent & self-contained.

I interpret this as he's saying that the mind and body are one, that the brain is just another organ of your 'body'. He probably didn't believe in a soul and he may be right since the complexity of the brain seems commensurate with the nature of our minds.

"...best wisdom" would refer to the wisdom of the mind. To attain wisdom, one uses reasoning. He makes the claim that there's more reasoning in your body (all of your organs) than the reasoning your mind used to attain your best wisdom. Does this reasoning of the body possibly refer to the fact that cells in your body are underpinned by logic which is underpinned by maths which is 'reasoning' in its most rudimentary form? One of the products of this 'reasoning by the body' is your mind which created your 'best wisdom'.

At the end he says nobody knows why your body would do this, which is strange because surely it would have to do it in order to help the body to survive since wisdom by definition aids this.

Is my analysis right or wrong? Why?

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    Thanks for developing this a bit further. I am voting to reopen at this time, but that said I would still like to hear a bit more about how you arrived at your reading -- and perhaps some more about the context in which you are reading. In passing, you do not specify the criteria for what you call a "successful interpretation", but note that Nietzsche's work is perhaps especially organic, and I would submit any serious reading does require analysis of the context in which a particular remark is made. – Joseph Weissman Nov 30 '11 at 3:08
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Is my analysis right or wrong? Why?

seeing as there's no specific answers,

I believe this quote can be successfully interpreted without reading the book or even the verses that come before or after it, since it seems to be independent & self-contained.

I interpret this as he's saying that the mind and body are one, that the brain is just another organ of your 'body'. He probably didn't believe in a soul and he may be right since the complexity of the brain seems commensurate with the nature of our minds.

"...best wisdom" would refer to the wisdom of the mind. To attain wisdom, one uses reasoning.

These are not views which are consonant with Nietzsche's work. For a great entry point into Nietzsche's conception of these particular issues i would suggest aphorism 1 in the second essay titled '"Guilt," "Bad Conscience" and the Like' in On the Genealogy of morals. Nietzsche has some fairly disparaging things to say about 'fast reading' and the 'digestion' of small snippets of philosophy to the exclusion of the whole (see for eg. his preface to Ecce Homo).

At the end he says nobody knows why your body would do this, which is strange because surely it would have to do it in order to help the body to survive since wisdom by definition aids this.

much of Nietzsche's work assumes the absence of any infallible guarantor of truth or purpose. This particular passage relates to the question of a Teleological goal to which the body is submitted or was created for the purpose of. I think it can be interpreted as a challenge as much as it is a question..

  • "the tempo of these speeches is a tender adagio. Such things reach only the most select" this doesn't mention slow reading, let alone the need to read everything by nietzsche to understand any aphorism. "i mistrust all systematizers and avoid them". aphorisms are self enclosed and unscholarly IMO – user6917 Oct 8 '15 at 4:56
  • Apologies if this is a bit off-topic, but you mentioned Ecce Homo. I was under the impression that Ecce Homo was written when Nietzsche was either already or becoming insane from the syphilis that killed him, making it a poor source to look to for his thinking? Is that not the case? – otakucode Oct 8 '15 at 7:45
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I believe it can be successfully interpreted without reading the book or even the verses that come before or after it, since it seems to be independent & self-contained.

Sorry, but no. Nietzsche's aphoristic style may lead one to believe that each aphorism can be interpreted independently, but this is far from the case; in fact, one can usually find an aphorism arguing a contradictory position elsewhere in Nietzsche's oeuvre. If your goal is to understand Nietzsche's intentions, the aphorism must be contextualized within the larger arguments of the work it is drawn from, and the larger context of Nietzsche's project.

If, on the other hand, the goal is not to understand Nietzsche's intentions, but rather, just to come up with a plausible sounding interpretation of a particular string of words, then your interpretation will suffice as well as any other; perhaps better (for you), since it is yours.

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    your criticism is important, but it seems that you really didn't answer the question (possibly this answer would be better as a comment to the question) – Tames Aug 4 '12 at 21:05
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He is talking about what you can call in modern terms -- spirit.

He is saying that connecting(understanding) with the body is the way to comprehend that spirit.

Then he is saying that spirit's logic is superior to what you call brain thinking/conventional wisdom.

In last sentence he is saying that your body needs actually totally different wisdom than the one you are hearing in your head. That's why people whole life struggle - because REAL wisdom of their life(what is actually going to happen with them) is different from the wisdom they "think/hear/bear/perceive" inside their head.

Nitzsche wrote that this book is for no one and for everyone. No one means that you will NOT UNDERSTAND (even if you think you did) what he said - until you will reach the same level of development. For everyone means that nevertheless you may need to hear what is ahead.

Good example - father tells his son that life is hard. Did son understood that life is hard? - No! he does not comprehend yet all the troubles he is about to encounter. But father should tell him about this anyway.

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In my humble opinion many of N. writings constitute a comment to Plato.

He was amazed and deeply influenced by Plato's work. Zarathustra is a direct twist on the myth of cave, found in the Republic. As men must rise from the cave in the Republic, thus a lonely man descends from the cave in Zarathustra.

Zarathustra ment null to me until I re-read the Republic.

In this passage he adores the body, obviously because Plato humiliated the body. Plato introduced the idealistic world of forms and ideals, N. was sick of this and wanted to demolish them, alas really deeply admiring them.

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From yogi master Patanjali (ca 300 BCE) to biologist Walter Cannon on, major thinkers have identified what the latter called The Wisdom of the Body (1932). Nietzsche ups the ante here, raising the question of why that wise body needs "your best wisdom." TO my bodymind, this connotes a special level of intuitive understanding that stands ready to guide the natural body when, due to internal lapses or external stressors, it goes astray.

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I wouldn't say it's impossible to interpret an aphorism out of its context, but if so you should be careful not to over-play your hand. Here, your argument at least makes sense and may stick entirely to the script (assuming he's not being sarcastic) until you get to

this reasoning of the body possibly refer to the fact that cells in your body are underpinned by logic which is underpinned by maths which is 'reasoning' in its most rudimentary form?

Whether or not Nietzsche felt that maths "underpins" your body is a substantive claim which you would have to research etc., which of course you are trying to do here.

i.e. I disagree with how the above individuals answer this question.

[the self] is your body

This is unequivocal, there is no self without a body, so assuming you mean inseparable and not something deeper, you are presumably right to say:

I interpret this as he's saying that the mind and body are one, that the brain is just another organ of your 'body'. He probably didn't believe in a soul

The other answers however well meaning fail to realise that all one has to reply to their is:

[the self] is your body

There's lots more to be learnt though, and you may enjoy reading Nietzsche, especially working out why he believes or says what he says. Unsurprisingly (given what I've said) you can find support for a reading that there is no "soul" independent of the body very easily:

I think every reader of Nietzsche quickly sees that he is a vigorous opponent of ‘dualism’ for example the dualism of body and soul. He insists to the contrary that soul, to the extent that it exists at all, exists only as a part or feature of the body.

By John Richardson Professor of Philosophy at NYU

  • i know i may have blurred self soul and mind in reading the original question, but i think it's legitimate to do so given the rhythm of the answer – user6917 Oct 8 '15 at 4:43

protected by Joseph Weissman Aug 1 '13 at 16:44

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