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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


BOTHA, Catherine F.. Three senses of Umwerthung: Developing an interpretation of Nietzsche's revaluation proposal. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.1, pp.62-75. ISSN 2224-7912.

A promising suggestion regarding how to understand the question of the significance of philosophy in terms of its ability to provide a critical diagnosis and transformation of our understanding of our contemporary present could be claimed to be found in Friedrich Nietzsche's proposal of a revaluation of all values (Umwerthung aller WertheJ. Yet, despite recently receiving increasing attention in the secondary literature, the meaning and importance of this seductive expression in his thinking remains disputed. In this paper, my focus is upon developing an interpretation ofhis Umwerthung - proposal by means of a critical consideration of Thomas Brobjer's influential suggestions regarding interpreting the proposal. Brobjer distinguishes four possible interpretations, naming them the utopian, critical, reversal, and dichotomy interpretations. Even though he admits that none of these interpretations capture the complete meaning of the different passages in which the revaluation appears, he nonetheless favours the fourth because it is, in his view, the only one that gives a clear indication as to what new values will look like once the revaluation is complete. In my reading, Brobjer's favoured dichotomy interpretation is subject to a number of criticisms. Specifically, as I show, Nietzsche explicitly rejects the metaphysical belief in "opposite values" on a number of occasions, which makes it seem unlikely that he would advocate Brobjer's dichotomy or reversal interpretations as being the work of his human beings of the future. Even though the dichotomy interpretation has the advantage of providing specific content to the new values as Brobjer admittedly claims, it does not, in my reading, form an interpretation that acknowledges the nuances of Nietzsche's characterization of the revaluation throughout his oeuvre. Rather, it seems to acknowledge only one element of Nietzsche's portrayal of the revaluation. I use the problems I identify in Brobjer's schema to form the beginnings of my own interpretation that I present in the paper - that Nietzsche's Umwerthung proposal can be read as being expressed in three interlinked senses. The third sense in which I claim that the Umwerthung is intended - the creation of new values - generates significant interpretative difficulties, and so in this context, I examine the contributions of E.E. Sleinis (1994), Nadeem J.D. Hussain (2009) and Manuel Dries (2010). Sleinis'(1994) Nietzsche's Revaluation of Values: A Study in Strategies revolves around the claim that the strategies requiredfor a revaluation of all values are present in Nietzsche's thinking, and, importantly, that these strategies do not themselves depend upon or presuppose values. As I show, in his discussion of Nietzsche's strategies regarding cognitive valuation, Sleinis explains that in Nietzsche's view, the absolute theory of truth is incoherent and so collapses not because of an appeal to values, but rather because of its own unintelligibility. For Sleinis, this shows that it is indeed possible to take up a position "outside" of valuation in order to allow certain values to be radically re-valued. Contrary to Sleinis, I characterise Nietzsche'sposition as aproto-contextualist due to his assertion that valuation is not something we do after we have perceived things or sensations, but rather is an integral part ofperception itself, and so our valuations always take place within a context of other valuations. As such, it is my contention that Sleinis'strategy to show that it is possible to take up a position "outside " of valuation in order to allow certain values to be radically re-valued is misguided. The second theorist whose contribution I consider in the context of the proposal of the creation of new values as the third facet of Nietzsche's revaluation proposal is that of Nadeem J.Z. Hussain. Hussain provides a fictionalist interpretation of Nietzsche's understanding of values and valuation, and emphasizes the close connection drawn in Nietzsche's works between art, the avoidance of practical nihilism, and the creation of new values. Even though art holds a significant place in Nietzsche's thought and so it seems reasonable to suggest that it plays an important role in the creation of values, I argue in the paper that suggesting that aesthetic choice determines which values the human beings of the future would create is problematic for at least two reasons. Thefinal contribution that I consider in the paper in the context ofattempting to understand what Nietzsche could mean by the creation of values is that of Manuel Dries. Dries argues that Nietzsche's revaluation project refers to a different conception of what a value is and how it functions. As Dries explains, traditional values function within a "...standard logical framework and claim legitimacy and 'bindingness'based on exogenous authority with absolute extension" (Dries 2010: 30). Since Nietzsche rejects such traditional approaches as nihilistic, because they attempt to exclude contradiction and opposition among competing values, Dries proposes that Nietzsche would propound a nonstandard, dialetheic model of valuation that entails that a value would have to be both true and false, as well as neither true nor false. I conclude that Dries' proposal of how to understand the creation of new values as a creation of new ways understanding what a value is and how it functions is the most promising suggestion of those discussed. My paper is admittedly limited in its engagement with only a selection of the literature that has been generated on the Umwerthung-proposal, but it remains my contention that such an engagement can allow for a step closer in working out the relevance of the proposal, most especially in the light of the question ofphilosophy's significance as a means to provide a critical analysis of the present.

Palavras-chave : Nietzsche; Revaluation Of All Values; Values.

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