Is Nietzsche being a light thinker or a shadow thinker?

Nietzsche, F. W. (2009). The Gay Science. (T. Common, Trans.). Stilwell, Kan.:

The passage in section 90 is very short it states:

Lights and Shadows. Books and drafts mean something quite different for different thinkers. One collects in a book the lights that he has been able to steal and carry home swiftly out of the rays of some insight that suddenly dawned on him, while another thinker offers us nothing but shadows – images in black and gray of what had built up in his soul the day before.

I’m not confident that the meaning of this section is clear. It seems to imply that two thinkers reading the same book will react to it differently. The thinker of light is able to gather ‘insight’ and the other thinker uses the text as a cloudy mirror for his own thoughts. If my understanding of the quote is correct than I don’t agree with it. I think both types of light and shadow meaning come from texts and that any person experiences both while reading.

A person’s experience is unique and their ability to absorb new thoughts and information depends on their experiences in life. If I have personal experience with a subject I am more apt to use the text as a mirror to my own experiences, but at the same time I am able to have moments of insight as new and unexpected angles are addressed. How can any individual have a single experience while reading?

It is also possible that this quote can be taken another way. Maybe Niechzsche is saying that different thinkers fill their books and drafts with different types of information. Some thinkers choose to collect statements of insight and some write journal like entries with no specific intent other than recording. One example in this is section 93 but why do you write. This is an example of someone who uses writing as a way of “getting rid of my thoughts.” It this type of writing that becomes dark and shadow like to me. Kierkegaards writing were much like this. One gets the sensation that the text is a suggestion, or a simple train of thought not to be taken too seriously. However, it is difficult to discover the point in such writing because it is expressed in a more rambling manner.

Nietzsche would be the light thinker. His book is made up of small insights. Each section, although linked to the next carries it’s own point. Some of his insights are very condensed and have the look of a moral or a rule. For example section 62, “Love. – Love forgives the lover even his lust.” These kinds of positive statements are confusing to me because they seem to contradict the idea of a valueless world that he talks about. I hope that as I read more I will be able to hear the lines between the text so as to have a greater understanding of his texts, be they light or dark. But, maybe it is just my desire as a ‘light’ reader to have a moment of insight that connects me to the text.

Categories: Writing

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