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It seems resonant with certain elements of his philosophy, and is generally attributed to Nietzsche, but I cannot seem to find the precise source anywhere.

I was struck, in passing, by the variety of different critical or theoretical enterprises which were using this quote in different senses or registers -- ecological, theological, sociological, and so on. I'm thinking it's interesting especially in this light that the precise source seems to be (perhaps symptomatically?) omitted in many cases of its use.

So secondarily I'd also be curious about others' thoughts on the political aspect of the "reading" (or its absence) of Nietzsche which is implied in these sorts of non-specified citations -- i.e., I'm thinking that perhaps in this light the multiplicity of different enterprises exploiting the quote take on another aspect entirely; of disastrously obscuring the "real" potential for Nietzsche's philosophy to transform our discourses and disciplines -- to "really" change the world...


Note that in Thus Spake Zarathustra (section 40, "Great Events"), in the discourse with the fire-dog, Nietzsche has Zarathustra say the following:

Die Erde, sagte er, hat eine Haut; und diese Haut hat Krankheiten. Eine dieser Krankheiten heisst zum Beispiel: "Mensch." [The earth, said he, hath a skin; and this skin hath diseases. One of these diseases, for example, is called "man."]

This seems related thematically, but curiously still not really what is being cited in quotes (the world is beautiful...) over and over again.

  • Page 540 of this article on JStor includes the quote and attributes it to Nietzsche--- but, again, without citing the source. – Dennis Dec 25 '13 at 8:37
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    The earliest reference I can find is in Labour World - Joseph, 1968, although it too doesn't cite the source. – MichaelRushton Jan 3 '14 at 14:02
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    I've called in the help of Skeptics SE. Who knows what they might find. (They are aware of the cross-posting and seem not to object.) – user3164 Jan 4 '14 at 20:48
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    I do not remember seeing this exact quote anywhere. I have electronic copies of all of Nietzsche's published and unpublished works/notebooks and I cannot find it anywhere. Neither can I find any citation to support the attribution at all. Probably a perversion of the TSZ excerpt. – amdouglas Jan 6 '14 at 0:10
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Unfortunately I'm at a loss as to being able to find origin of the quote, and therefore can't shed any light on its original context. I think it's unlikely that such a small, widely distributed fragment would come from Nietzsche's Nachlass. If I was to guess I would say it's from a section in the work of another philosopher who has made their own translation from German. When compared with Kaufmann and Hollingdale, Krell's translations in Heidegger's Nietzsche are a great example just this. But that's only a guess.

From Beyond Good and Evil onward Nietzsche held tight to the association between philosophy and biography. Every philosophy amounts to an unconscious confession on behalf of its author. It reveals more about the internal configuration of drives within the philosopher than it does about the phenomena that their philosophy attempts to address. I suspect that this is the context in which you use the word 'symptomatic'? - That the selective use of a fragment from unknown origins reveals something about the author which is in a way above or aside from the explicit content of the passage in which it's included?

So secondarily I'd also be curious about others' thoughts on the political aspect of the "reading" (or its absence) of Nietzsche which is implied in these sorts of non-specified citations -- i.e., I'm thinking that perhaps in this light the multiplicity of different enterprises exploiting the quote take on another aspect entirely; of disastrously obscuring the "real" potential for Nietzsche's philosophy to transform our discourses and disciplines -- to "really" change the world...

I think there is a great deal to be said in philosophy in general regarding 'cherry picking'. I admire the phrasing where you talk about 'real potential', instead of simply chastising these various approaches for missing the mark of allowing the real 'in itself' or one true meaning of Nietzsche's passages to permeate their work. Although perspective is the ultimate horizon for Nietzsche, I think there remains an ambiguous line between creating a caricature of Nietzsche, mistaking Zarathustra for his ape; and the productive power of misreading, or reading against pre-established exegetic wisdom.

Does the misreading have to be deliberate, as was the case with Gilles Deleuze, in order to "really change the world"? I remember reading an interview with Foucault regarding the French orientation to Nietzsche which emerged through philosophers such as Klossowski, Jean Wahl, Geuroult, Deleuze, Foucault, and others, (for eg. those who attended the 1964 Nietzsche conference in Royaumont). His comment was that the thing these philosophers had in common, was that they accepted that a genuine fidelity to the core of Nietzsche's work was not to treat it as an edifice which should be interpreted 'correctly'. Rather, this fidelity consisted in inhabiting particular perspectives in such a way that it pushes things further, seeing through their conceptual lenses with strong, rabid, crazy eyes; tearing it from its native conditions of emergence to see how it fairs at the delirious heights of Dionysian affirmation. Undoubtedly not all the authors in each discipline you mention are doing this. But the point would be that it is less a question of 'does their use of this quote accurately reflect its original context?', than - 'what new things does it bring to pass?'

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    Thanks for this, some great considerations here. I think the symptom here for me is this resistive structure of universally-unspecified citation, which simultaneously seems to testify to a desire to appear-to-read alongside a deferral of reading to others. What new things does this differentiate into indeed! --Again I worry or at any rate think it is curious that we find instances of the quote being used in the context of traditional-Christian theology, not to mention classical-liberal sociology. Something has degenerated, right? The radicality of Nietzsche's thought is palpably diluted. – Joseph Weissman Jan 4 '14 at 15:25
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    Indeed, after a long discussion with 2 Mormons a while ago I was motivated to read a book by Paul Tillich called 'shaking the foundations', I can't seem to find it at the moment for specific examples, but I was similarly 'curious' at the egregious disregard for context. .. A good question, keep em coming! – Dr Sister Jan 14 '14 at 9:14

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