Bruno Bosteels | Nietzsche/Derrida

By Bruno Bosteels

I would like to situate the few words that I want to share with you today under the heading of three epigraphs:

Pour que le simulacre advienne, il faut écrire dans l’écart entre plusieurs styles. S’il y a du style, voilà ce que nous insinue la femme (de) Nietzsche, il doit y en avoir plus d’un.

If the simulacrum is ever going to occur, one must write in the gap between several styles. If there is style, what the woman (of) Nietzsche insinuates is that there must be more than one.

Jacques Derrida, Éperons: Les styles de Nietzsche

We must insist on our being in full possession of ourselves since every time a gap opens there is always somebody ready to occupy the space and appropriate us to himself.
Carla Lonzi, Sputiamo su Hegel

Has anyone ever invented anything whatsoever in deconstruction after Derrida? Has anyone done anything other than mummify, worship, turn to stone the figure of the master? Has anyone ever escaped the involuntary pastiche which Proust described as being “condemned to live forever attached to the tongue of a bell”?

Catherine Malabou, Changing Difference

Who is Derrida’s Nietzsche?

The question “Who?” as we know from Deleuze’s Nietzsche et la philosophie (1962) may be of recent invention. It may even be Nietzsche’s greatest invention. For philosophy to ask the question not “What is?” but “Who is?”

With Nietzsche, the question becomes not “What is man?” as in Kant’s fourth question (Was ist der Mensch?), which is the quintessential question of anthropology that would underlie the three questions that respectively define the project of the Critiques, namely, “What can I know?” (Critique of Pure Reason) “What must I do?” (Critique of Practical Reason) and “What am I allowed to hope for?” (Critique of Judgment). But: “Who is man?” (Wer ist der Mensch?). A question to which Nietzsche’s answer, as Derrida reminds us, is essentially equivocal: I am so and so. Ich bin der und der. My name is legion.

Who practices philosophy? To answer this question requires a typology (Who, what type of man?) as well as a genealogy (How does one become who one is?).

Derrida’s intervention and perhaps his greatest invention, at least with regard to Nietzsche, but one that is not without numerous problems of its own, is to have introduced the question of “woman” into the framework for asking the question that becomes the philosopher’s new question with Nietzsche: “Who?”

Who, then, is Derrida’s Nietzsche?

In Éperons: Les styles de Nietzsche (1972) Derrida begins by re-marking upon the extent to which to ask the question of style may since always have been the work of man. To introduce one’s pointed stylus into the matter or matrix of being, to leave behind the mark of one’s own type, imprint, or character for posterity and as one’s progeny, is this not what all men dream of doing? The male fantasy of progeny, at once pro-genus and pro-genius? What would happen, then, if the question of style were to become the question of woman? That is the question that Derrida asks of the woman (of) Nietzsche.

Who, then, is Derrida’s Nietzsche? This is the question that I would like to address with you today: Suppose that Derrida’s Nietzsche is (a) woman, what then?