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The Most Silent of Men: Nietzsche's Other Madness

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Silence and madness can be likened to irritating cousins. Both introduce questionable or negative elements to the ideals of dialogue and rational communication. Silence can disturb and disrupt the rational pursuit of truth, while madness can noisily provoke a mockery of any meaningful or reciprocal exchange of ideas and thoughts. In the work and life of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, silence and madness highlight more positive features.To study and articulate these features, this paper relies on the central themes of two prominent thinkers, the archaeological and genealogical studies from the late Michel Foucault and the revived forces of phenomenology from American philosopher Alphonso Lingis, to present the case that Nietzsche embraced a late 19th century disorder called the fugue. This disorder, what Ian Hacking calls a transient mental illness, involves nomadic life. Nietzsche exemplified such a life. His writings and experiences comprise a mixture of travels, arts of the self, willful forgetfulness, and a philosophical play with madness. From conventional perspectives, this play is viewed as irrelevant or detrimental to Nietzsche's philosophical importance. From Nietzsche's own perspective, however, this play might be appreciated as a gift from the insights of madness and the enriching contacts with silence.


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