ABSTRACT

Nietzsche and Schlegel both write about practical topics with more than merely descriptive intent. Their intent is also practical insofar as it aims to alter the life of the (right) reader, setting her a task: be thus! Each, however, also evinces skepticism about the propriety of such task setting. This skepticism is more general than the explicitly signaled audience partitioning in which each also engages: it is not that some readers will not be able to make use of the text in the intended way, but that the task setting itself is misplaced. In this article I describe the character of the tasks that give rise to this skepticism, and argue that in both Schlegel's and Nietzsche's cases we get truer and more satisfying interpretations if we take them as disclaiming practical intent: though it is seductive to think we could attain the states they describe through our own effort, they systematically elude such pursuit.

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