“Supposing History Is a Woman—What Then?”

HIMMELFARB, GERTRUDE. ""Supposing History Is a Woman—What Then?"" The American Scholar 53, no. 4. 1984.


Supposing, truth is a woman – what then?” This sentence of Nietzsche’s may well be the most tantalizing opening of any philosophical text. It is also the prelude to one of the most arresting images in philosophy. The philosopher pursuing truth, Nietzsche ex- plains in Beyond Good and Evil, is like an earnest, clumsy man trying to win over a woman. But just as woman has always resisted such heavy- handed attempts at seduction, so truth has always resisted the importunities of philosophers, which is why philosophical dogmas always end up in a state of disarray. The philosopher’s “will to truth” has proved as unavailing as the fumblings of an inept suitor. Only the “free spirit” has the strength of will to abandon this unseemly quest and liberate himself from the “tyranny” of truth as from any other tyranny. For he knows that whatever else woman wants, “she does not want truth/”

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