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IEET > Rights > FreeThought > Life > Access > Vision > Fellows > Stefan Sorgner

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Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, Menschenwürde nach Nietzsche: Die Geschichte eines Begriffes (English)

Stefan Sorgner
By Stefan Sorgner

Posted: Jan 4, 2013

By Prof. Dr. Greg Whitlock on Dr. Stefan Lorenz Sorgner.

In his Menschenwürde nach Nietzsche: Die Geschichte eines Begriffes (Human Dignity according to/after Nietzsche: The History of a Concept), Sorgner conceived a bold plan and executed it remarkably well with noteworthy results. His plan entailed presenting four paradigmatic notions of human dignity; next, presenting Nietzsche’s critical evaluation of the notion of human dignity in relation to the four paradigms; and finally, reflecting on Nietzsche’s criticism in a way that embraced much of it and, consequently, largely rejected the humanist notion of the dignity of man. Sorgner took the additional steps of arguing for a posthumanism to replace the outmoded humanist notion of human dignity, as he had developed it. Each phase of the plan was carried out with care in every detail.

Although Sorgner takes every occasion to locate the reader within its structure with elaborate signposting, the overall organization of his book may prove to be difficult even for the careful reader to grasp. Sorgner devotes his first chapter to the necessary and sufficient conditions for the notions of human dignity that interest him and Nietzsche. Thus he indicates the scope of the criticism of human dignity to follow. Then he devotes a long section of the work to paradigmatic notions of human dignity to give the reader a sense of the variety of different notions of specifically human dignity. They possess all the necessary conditions for the sort of concept that interests Sorgner; the notion of necessary dignity. For many readers, it may become easy to get lost in the long presentation, though again Sorgner pays great attention to highlighting his organization. A long rendition of Nietzsche’s theories of will to power, genealogy, and perspectivism follows, which, since it is not immediately directed toward the notion of dignity, may be overwhelming. But Sorgner’s interpretation of Gay Science 115, which follows the presentation, is well worth the wait. The reader finds Nietzsche attacking the four theories so elaborately portrayed. Sorgner works through an impressive interpretation of the short aphorism, though at many spots the usual conflicts of interpretation will break out. In my own case, I considered Sorgner’s interpretations to be, if anything, too literal, rather than too loosely connected to the text. And in particular, my own interpretation of Nietzsche on science, notably the figures Darwin and Lamarck, differs from Sorgner’s. In crucial places concerning Darwin and Nietzsche, Sorgner gives inadequate evidence, in my opinion. Nor does Sorgner show evidence of hidden sources of Nietzsche’s scientific thought experiments. Other readers, of course, may object to other details in his interpretation. But what he does accomplish is to present a highly plausible, careful rendition of Nietzsche’s thoughts on human dignity. Sorgner proves that he has, after Nietzsche’s metaphor, “long legs.” This section of the book definitely rewards the two long marches required to reach it. Sorgner’s Nietzsche is a quite complex and nuanced interpretation, and Nietzsche’s argument in GS 115 and connected notes and published passages succeed in their iconoclastic campaign.

The reader must understand, further, that the book under consideration contains a certain irony or sarcasm. That Sorgner disagrees with Nietzsche about contingent human dignity is something of a façade, since contingent dignity really interests Sorgner little in comparison to the comparatively decisive attack that has been launched on the sacred citadel of human dignity at the heart of the Platonic Christian Kantian tradition. On one reading of Sorgner, “normative equality” may have become something of a cynical Hobbesian gesture.

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Stefan Lorenz Sorgner is a lecturer in medical ethics at the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, Germany. His main fields of research are Nietzsche, the philosophy of music, bioethics and meta-, post- and transhumanism. He is author of Metaphysics without Truth - On the Importance of Consistency within Nietzsche’s Philosophy and Menschenwürde nach Nietzsche: Die Geschichte eines Begriffs, and he edits the book series “Beyond Humanism: Trans- and Posthumanism/Jenseits des Humanismus: Trans- und Posthumanismus“ for Peter Lang Publishing.
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Mein Gott, for a moment there I though I might have to resort to Google’s storm und drang translation service. smile

“Nietzsche, still an intellectual author of Nazism to many in Germany and elsewhere”

‘Nietzsche Contra Wagner’ is evidence otherwise. Nietzsche was no more or less an author of Nazism than the Paris Commune was an
author of Communism or the Oneida Community was an
author of the American counterculture.

Nietzsche got a bad rap for being a Nazi inspiration, when he was no more culpable for what Himmler did than Marx was for Beria’s actions.
Esp. since Nietzsche deliberately refuted Wagner—he must have seen the writing on the wall with the volkisch, who were burgeoning at that time: the 1880s.

notes on the early volkisch movement:

“1) Early Volkisch movement (1880s – 1890s)
a. Emerging as a racialist program – Jews linked to liberal capitalism on Right and Marxism on the Left
i. Type A – Religious basis of anti-semitism
ii. Type B – Social/Economic anti-semitism
iii. Type C – Racial – product of imperialism (19th century)
iv. Nazism is a blend primarily of Type B and C
b. Political mixed in with the social
c. Politics too liberal – felt that the German “little man” is being left out
i. Therefore, a 3rd way needs to be formed
d. Liberalism and Marxism are the same side of the coin
i. Both are inherently materialist
ii. Class conflict is driven by or results from these
e. 1893 – German Conservative Party develops an anti-semitic party platform
i. Tivoli Program – reduce Jews’ power, converting would be preferred
ii. Nobody jumped on board at eh this time
iii. By 1912, anti-semitic party platforms disappeared…”

Reappeared after defeat of 1918.

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