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Rhetorics of degeneration: Nietzsche, Lombroso, and Napoleon

Rhetorics of degeneration: Nietzsche, Lombroso, and Napoleon
Rhetorics of degeneration: Nietzsche, Lombroso, and Napoleon

In this commentary on Ken Gemes's "The Biology of Evil,"I endorse the general reading of Nietzsche's philosophical project proposed by Gemes while contesting his account of Nietzsche's rhetorical engagement with degeneration theory. In particular, I show that Nietzsche is mobilizing a rhetoric of degeneration that invokes, and partially subverts, the picture of degeneration proposed by Caesare Lombroso in which (contra Gemes's adoption of Nordau's view of degeneration) genius and degeneration are linked in a way that enables a positive view of degeneration as a source of social transformation. Focusing on Nietzsche's rhetorical use of the figure of Napoleon in the Genealogy, I argue that Nietzsche's engagement with the tropes of Lombroso's theory provides support for Gemes's claim concerning the ethical aim of Nietzsche's project in a way that his own account of Nietzsche and degeneration cannot.

Creativity, Degeneration, Ethics, Genius, Rhetoric
0968-8005
51-64
Owen, David
9fc71bca-07d1-44af-9248-1b9545265a58
Owen, David
9fc71bca-07d1-44af-9248-1b9545265a58

Owen, David (2021) Rhetorics of degeneration: Nietzsche, Lombroso, and Napoleon. Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 52 (1), 51-64. (doi:10.5325/jnietstud.52.1.0051).

Record type: Review

Abstract

In this commentary on Ken Gemes's "The Biology of Evil,"I endorse the general reading of Nietzsche's philosophical project proposed by Gemes while contesting his account of Nietzsche's rhetorical engagement with degeneration theory. In particular, I show that Nietzsche is mobilizing a rhetoric of degeneration that invokes, and partially subverts, the picture of degeneration proposed by Caesare Lombroso in which (contra Gemes's adoption of Nordau's view of degeneration) genius and degeneration are linked in a way that enables a positive view of degeneration as a source of social transformation. Focusing on Nietzsche's rhetorical use of the figure of Napoleon in the Genealogy, I argue that Nietzsche's engagement with the tropes of Lombroso's theory provides support for Gemes's claim concerning the ethical aim of Nietzsche's project in a way that his own account of Nietzsche and degeneration cannot.

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Accepted/In Press date: 1 January 2021
Published date: 1 January 2021
Additional Information: Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
Keywords: Creativity, Degeneration, Ethics, Genius, Rhetoric

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 449919
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/449919
ISSN: 0968-8005
PURE UUID: 7aef410a-c4ed-4165-b3a8-d4f9371eb49e
ORCID for David Owen: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-8865-6332

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Date deposited: 25 Jun 2021 16:31
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 02:38

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