Waning sex beyond good and evil

Friedrich Nietzsche’s vital affects in the distorting mirror of Jaan Oks’ works


Keywords: literary studies, decadence, gender, Jaan Oks, Friedrich Nietzsche

This article aims to reconstruct the philosophical message found in Jaan Oks’ fragmentary works “Females” (Emased, 1908), “Flesh” (Ihu, 1908), and “Nameless Beast” (Nimetu elajas, 1909). The author argues that within these works, amidst alternating and colliding voices, a louder and more distinct one emerges – a prophetic-philosophical narrator who uses unfolding sketches to provide broad metaphysical generalizations and assessments, primarily concerning human nature and gender differences. In addition to reconstructing the philosophical positions, these are compared with Friedrich Nietzsche’s views on the same subjects, exploring the extent of Nietzsche’s influence on Oks’ works.

In the first step of the interpretation, the article examines how Oks’ texts define human nature. Human beings are reduced to natural creatures lacking a soul, with sexual drive at the core of their essence. A comparison reveals significant similarities between Oks and Nietzsche’s perspectives on human nature. Both also declare the invalidity of Christian moral teachings. However, Oks’ texts do not lead to a ­celebration of the natural human sexual drive; instead, an aversion persists. The article continues with a reconstruction of the philosophical generalizations explaining this situation.

In the second step, the article explores the relationship of Oks’ texts with secularization. It becomes apparent that the divine, transcendent sphere cannot be simply erased from Oks’ works, despite declarations to the contrary. For Oks, God remains a problem addressed through blasphemous fantasies in the examined works. Additionally, the hypothetical godless life is not enjoyable for Oks’ philosophical voice; existential meaninglessness dominates. The mood contained in Oks’ works is compared with Nietzsche’s concept of the “death of God”, finding significant similarities.

In the third aspect, the article examines the relationships between the two sexes. Here, too, substantial overlaps are identified between Oks and Nietzsche’s perspectives. Both assert an insurmountable tension and conflict between the sexes, emphasizing women’s greater affinity to nature. In Oks’ works, men are attributed the desire to distance themselves from their nature – sexual drive – and retreat into solitude. From this distance, the female sex is insulted and degraded so vehemently and at such great length that a parallel can be drawn to a blasphemous relationship with God.

The final section examines the pursuit of detachment from life, of overcoming humanity, attributed to the poet in Oks’ works, comparing it to Nietzsche’s concept of art. Despite several similarities, a significant difference emerges: Nietzsche understands art’s main purpose vitalistically, as a means to overcome decadence, the defining movement of his era. This requires the overcoming of humanity as it exists. Oks’ conception, on the other hand, remains programmatically decadent and is directed towards the decline and end of humankind.

Leo Luks (b. 1976), PhD, Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, Senior Researcher; Estonian University of Life Sciences, Senior Lecturer (Fr. R. Kreutzwaldi 1, 51006 Tartu); teacher of philosophy at Tartu Herbert Masing School, leoluks@hot.ee



Vikipeedia: Naturalism (filosoofia). https://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalism_(filosoofia)



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