Gadamer does not appear to be an appropriate focus or even secondary target of Waite's dis-covery of “Radio Nietzsche.” In the volumes of Gadamer's Collected Works, there is only one piece on Nietzsche, a brief explication of the literary character of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Waite does not even mention it.
Stated in less “figurative” terms than Waite himself employs, the paradox Waite promises to illumine is how Nietzsche, initially embraced by right-wing critics of egalitarian politics, could become the major, indeed virtually the sole, philosophical source of left intellectuals in the late twentieth century. Waite attributes this apparently surprising turn of events to Nietzsche's exo/esoteric form of writing. Although he explicitly called for the emergence of a new race of “supermen” and the end of “herd” or “slave” morality, Nietzsche also gave his readers reason to dismiss such calls for radical inegalitarian political reforms. The “will to power” is only interpretation, Nietzsche declares in Beyond Good and Evil, aphorism 22; and in that “Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future,” Nietzsche seems to describe himself more as a “free spirit” who seeks to demolish old “idols” or illusions than as a “prophet” (cf. The Gay Science, aphorism i) striving to establish new gods,
Waite attributes Nietzsche's insidious influence to his use of suppressed premises—in the rhetorical form of argument known as the enthymeme. But it is difficult to see what “premises” Waite thinks Nietzsche suppressed. Nietzsche was perfectly open about his desire to see the emergence of “sovereign individuals” (Genealogy of Morals II. 2) and the possible utility of modern mass political movements for establishing the right conditions (Gay Science 1. 1 1). The example of the effect of Nietzschean rhetoric Waite gives is more illuminating. In What Is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari take Nietzsche’ remark that philosophers “must no longer merely permit themselves to accept concepts as gifts … but rather first of all make them, create them, and present them persuasively to others” as their thesis. In adopting a thought of Nietzsche's, Waite implies, they contradict both his and their own words in practice. The saying itself seems to be circular insofar as the persuading of others must render those others nonphilosophers. But that is Waite's point. Apparently seeking to engage others for the sake of educating or even freeing them, the philosopher in fact dominates. Plato is the example par excellence—even though he taught the opposite. Presenting philosophy as contemplation or dialogue, he was actually seeking to forward and support a “social, conceptual, and rhetorical” hierarchy of “spiritual” or “intellectual” leaders (philosopher-kings). His project was rather self-consciously taken up and “incorporated” by Nietzsche, who passed it on
According to George Bataille, “Nietzsche's position is the only one outside of communism.” At the end of the cold war and the apparent “death of communism,” Waite observes in this volume, “Nietzsche and Nietzschean-ism have become totalitarian, globally hegemonic” (20). By exposing the ineradicably intellectualist, and hence elitist, core of Nietzsche's thought, Waite hopes to reverse the outcome by de-structing the only position outside communism, so leaving the latter dominant and unchallenged.
There are several difficulties with Waite's project, however. First, there is the presumed method of analysis. Toward the beginning of his essay Waite claims to be employing a “Straussian” mode of reading “between the lines” for non-Straussian political ends (see note 5). In Persecution and the Art of Writing Leo Strauss argued that past philosophers did not always state their own position and arguments straightforwardly in public; from fear of political and religious persecution for their unorthodox views, they have (like the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides) engaged in a kind of secret writing. But, Strauss warns:
Reading between the lines is strictly prohibited in all cases where it would be less exact than not doing so. Only such reading between the lines as starts from an exact consideration of the explicit statements of the author is legitimate. The context in which a statement occurs, and the literary character of the whole work as well as its plan, must be perfectly understood before an interpretation of the statement can reasonably claim to be adequate or even correct.
Waite rests his argument on relatively few statements by Nietzsche, taken more from letters and the Nachlass than from published works. He does not consider “the literary character of [any] whole work,” much less its plan. The elitist politics and project he claims to find by reading between the lines can be found very explicitly on the surface.
Waite does not want to determine Nietzsche's intention or meaning so much as to trace the heretofore unrecognized character of Nietzsche's influence. But in this case his argument appears to be distorted by a political agenda. By slighting Jacques Derrida and neglecting even to mention Derrida's
What then of the Germans who Waite believes are philosophically superior to the French? The leaders of the Frankfurt School claimed that they were “deontologizing Marxian critical theory” in opposition to the fundamental ontology of Heidegger. But in the 1950 radio broadcast commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Nietzsche's death, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno chose to follow the “Gadamerian doctrine that true philosophy is in essence dialogical…. [D]espite minor differences of opinion about Nietzsche (having to do, [Waite] would argue, with different views of Heidegger),” there was remarkably little contention. All three easily agreed that Nietzsche could not be read “literally” in a Russo-American fashion.
According to Waite, both the agreements and the disagreements between the “rival wings of German philosophy” had their roots in Heidegger. But Waite has remarkably little to say about Heidegger, either about his powerful influence on twentieth-century interpretations and the consequent dissemination of Nietzsche's thought or about his analysis of the meaning and effects of modern technology. He does not contrast his own account of Nietzsche's “radio-active” form of writing with Heidegger's claim that Nietzsche's doctrine of the will to power expresses the truth of the technological age. For Waite, as for Nietzsche, technology simply represents a form of power. Turning Derrida on his head (or ear), Waite suggests that the radio succeeds in separating the voice from the body even more than the written word or typewriter. Rather than disclose the truth, “radio-active” technology perpetuates the traditional belief in the direct communicability of thought by imperceptibly bringing a universal message into the privacy of one's own house (and head).
If Waite had paid any attention to Heidegger, he might have discovered what distinguishes Gadamer from most, if not all, of his contemporaries. Heavily and explicitly indebted to his teacher, Gadamer shows little interest in, or influence of, Nietzsche.
In fact, Waite's essay has little to do with Gadamer except at a very general and antagonistic level. Whereas Gadamer argues that philosophy is inherently dialogical and explicitly tries to bring out the meaning of Plato's text, Waite insists that “philosophy” actually consists in a monologue designed
Gadamer explicitly seeks to mediate. Neither Orozco nor Waite recognizes any center or middle in politics; they see only either/or's. As a result they not only fail to understand the essential character of Gadamer's her-meneutics; their writings also demonstrably lack one of the two primary political virtues—moderation.