Thus Spoke Malaboustra

Thus Spoke Malabou(stra):

Plasticity and the Brain of the Overman



This essay explores the concept of neurological plasticity as seen through the eyes of French philosopher Catherine Malabou in her 2008 book What Should We Do With Our Brain? The author suggests that Malabou’s model of the brain corresponds to depictions of both the last men and the Overman in Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and also considers the role of syphilis and dementia in Nietzsche’s brain as it relates to Malabou’s notion of explosive brain plasticity. The possibility that Malabou’s plasticity requires a specific brain pathology is explored, while an explanatory addendum addresses potential misunderstandings and philosophical differences between the author and Malabou. 

We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers.

- Friedrich Nietzsche

“We” have no idea who “we” are, no idea what is inside “us.”

- Catherine Malabou


Nietzsche and Syphilis


     In recent years a handful of medically trained scholars have challenged the long-accepted notion that Nietzsche went insane from a brain infected by syphilis. Allegedly contracted upon a visit in his twenties to a brothel, the diagnosis of syphilis has been repeated often enough in the literature to have given it a scholarly imprimatur. Even the respected English-language translator of Nietzsche’s work, Walter Kaufmann, has assumed that Nietzsche’s madness “was in all probability an atypical general paresis. [And] If [this is] so, he must have had syphilis.”[1]

     Yet that assumption has been called a ‘mistake’ by certain contemporary neurologists, though they are sensitive to the fact that “in 1889 [the year Nietzsche was committed] – dementia in a middle-aged man could safely be assumed to be paretic syphilis.”[2] Nonetheless, they favor and share the view given by Dr. Leonard Sax, who has asserted that “the diagnosis of paretic syphilis in Nietzsche’s case was made in spite of, not because of the clinical evidence.”[3] Dr. Sax has furthermore hypothesized that Nietzsche’s symptoms could be explained more satisfactorily by a “meningioma of the right optic nerve,”[4] which would account for, among other things, Nietzsche’s well-known problems with migraines. Whether or not this diagnosis is correct, says Dr. Sax, it is clear that “[w]hen examined closely, every aspect of the syphilis hypothesis fails, [and that] other diagnoses are more plausible.”[5] 

     Among those diagnoses is the one offered by Dr.’s Orth and Trimble proposing that Nietzsche had a hereditary form of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a disorder that:

[…] has an insidious onset and gradual progression, with the patient revealing early decline in social interpersonal contact and regulation of personal conduct […] early emotional blunting, loss of insight, and a decline in personal hygiene and grooming [which] all fit Nietzsche’s history as given.[6]

Of greatest interest, as far as this paper is concerned, is the fact that those afflicted with FTD can present with delusions that “can be jealous, somatic, religious, and often bizarre but are rarely persecutory”[7] and also that “increased artistic output […] is well described in cases of FTD.”[8] Regarding the latter symptom, it is well known that Nietzsche was extremely productive during his last years, as he conceived and wrote Toward a Genealogy of Morals (1887) in just 20 days and just as astonishingly penned six other works in only eight months between 1887 and 1888, including The Antichrist and Ecce Homo. Regarding the former symptom, Dr.’s Orth and Trimble note that the evidence suggests Nietzsche’s grandiosity quite likely began in the mid-1880’s, while Dr. Sax would find manifestations in the philosopher’s adolescence.    

     All three researchers, however, cite Nietzsche’s correspondence from 1884 on his partially finished Thus Spoke Zarathustra as a clear and obvious demonstration of growing delusions of grandeur. In one letter, Nietzsche writes that “[w]ith Zarathustra I have brought the German language to its full realization”[9]; in another he says that Zarathustra was “the most significant book of times and peoples that ever existed,”[10] and in yet another he blusters that “If I do not go to such extremes that the whole millennia will make their highest vows in my name, then in my eyes I will have accomplished nothing.”[11] Where some commentators have seen in these pronouncements only extreme egotism, these medical scholars have instead assumed the pathology of a congenital neurological disease; and it is this neurological viewpoint that I would like to consider further, especially as it plays upon the work of Catherine Malabou.

     The questions I am interested in here are whether or not, following the observations of these doctors, it is possible to suggest that Zarathustra might be seen as the creation of a brain teetering on the front edge of a decline into dementia and, accepting this possibility, what we might make of Nietzsche’s portrayal of the last men and the overman in light of this. More specifically, I wish to explore the remarkable similarities between these literary figures and the depictions offered by Malabou of the brain as a plastic and explosive entity as opposed to one that is merely receptive, docile, and flexible. I would then like to examine the ways in which the overman, plasticity, and neural pathology may or may not be related in order to explore possible options for the realization of the Malaboussian plastic brain.

Malabou and Plasticity

     In What Should We Do With Our Brain (2008), Catherine Malabou argues that we humans today are unnecessarily enamored of, and thus enslaved by metaphors of the brain that limit and obscure its true capacities. “Our brain is plastic, and we do not know it”[12] chants Malabou, adding that we mistakenly continue to see the brain as a “centralized, rigidified, mechanical organization.”[13] Such thinking encourages us to imagine the brain as functioning like a central telephone exchange or a computer, she says, though she insists that the central organ metaphor “has definitively been surpassed,”[14] even if it has not yet been entirely shaken as an epistemology or an ideology.[15] One need only look to the worlds of politics and economics for evidence of this “crisis of centrality,”[16] says Malabou, as here we find neo-liberal ideology resting “on a redistribution of centers and a major relaxation of hierarchies”[17] and also encounter managers subscribing to an organizational model downplaying hierarchy and encouraging instead flexibility, networking, innovation, and adaptability.

     For Malabou, it seems clear that these changes in the structure of capitalism coincided with the revolutionary discoveries of the neurosciences over the last fifty years and, most importantly, that the current mode of capitalism has, perhaps unconsciously, “mobilized [the] concepts and tools”[18] of the neurosciences towards its own ends. Unfortunately, thinks Malabou, what has been mobilized is a false or at least incomplete, and therefore undesirable, neuronal notion - the notion of flexibility - which Malabou calls a “mistaken cognate”[19] for plasticity, the real “dominant concept of the neurosciences.”[20]

     Flexibility, says Malabou, suggests the ability of some person or thing to bend easily, and/or to adapt fluidly to changing circumstances. In other words, flexibility implies a mute passivity that is able only

[…] to receive a form or impression, [but] not to give to it. To be docile, to not explode. Indeed, what flexibility lacks is the resource of giving form, the power to create, to invent or even to erase an impression, the power to style. Flexibility is plasticity minus its genius.[21]

It is this creative, explosive genius of plasticity, and thus of our brains and therefore of ourselves, that we should realize and become conscious of, says Malabou, in order to move beyond a “culture that celebrates only the triumph of flexibility, blessing obedient individuals that have no greater merit than that of knowing how to bow their heads with a smile.”[22] 

     Or perhaps to smile and blink, as Nietzsche would have it. This docility of the flexible is, after all, strikingly similar to the retiring mediocrity championed by the last men of his Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885). “No shepherd and one herd!” the last men exult, adding, “Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same”[23] as they blinkingly plead ignorance of higher ideals: “What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?”[24] These last men, in other words, ask and affirm the following: ‘What is plasticity? We know only flexibility!’ while the “lightning [that will] lick [them] with its tongue. … the frenzy with which [they] should be inoculated,”[25] i.e. the overman, waits in the wings.     

     Similarly, where Malabou states that talking about brain plasticity suggests that we see the brain as not only “the creator and receiver of form but also an agency of disobedience to every constituted form, a refusal to submit to a model,”[26] Nietzsche likewise, yet more poetically urges: “I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”[27] Where Malabou tells her readers that “[w]hat we are lacking is life, [or] resistance. Resistance is what we want. Resistance to flexibility […],”[28] Nietzsche speaks to us of “what is most contemptible: […] the last man[29] who is so flexible in his nature that he is “as ineradicable as the flea-beetle,”[30] and is likewise so wary of resistance as to ask: “Who still wants to rule? Who obey? Both require too much exertion.”[31]

    Revisiting the earlier meteorological motif, Nietzsche tells us that Zarathustra is “the herald of the lightning [and that] this lightning is called overman.”[32] Images of thunderbolt wielding Zeus come to mind here, especially in his role as destroyer of the Titans and the Arcadian Golden Age over which they preside. The overman, like Zeus, is the one who will gain dominion over his world through (among other things) the overcoming of the hypnotic and consumptive effect of time – represented in the Greek tale by the Titan Cronus (father of Zeus) and in Zarathustra by the passive and escapist stupor of the last men. It is through the agency of lightning, forged by the divine blacksmiths of Greek legend, the Cyclopes, that Zeus is able to destroy Cronus and thus become ruler of the cosmos, of both gods and men.

    Nietzsche’s overman, however, is himself the lightning, the unpredictable and explosive force, the “flames and fuel”[33] that will scorch the earth of the last man whose soil is no longer rich enough “to plant the seed of his highest hope.”[34] He is also, perhaps, the inspiration for Heidegger’s notion of the sudden insight into Being, or into that which is, wherein Being “brings itself into its own brightness [as a] lightning-flash”[35] in the mode of an “in-turning [that allows a] flashing glance”[36] into the truth of Being. A realization of the plastic brain, suggests Malabou, would similarly enable us to emulate lightning and access a critical insight into ourselves as it would cause us to “refuse to be flexible individuals who combine a permanent control of the self [predictability] […] for fear of explosion,”[37] and instead allow us to “accept exploding from time to time.”[38] What we should do with our brain, then, is unleash the lightning, the overman in it in order that we may grasp and activate the true plasticity of the brain and thus set before us an “image of the world to come.”[39]

     Furthermore, what we should do with our brain is welcome and encourage its full metamorphosis from an entirely genetically predetermined material to a truly plastic material that has “the capacity to annihilate the very form it is able to receive or create.”[40] In order to realize this transformation we must refuse those metaphorical cognates of the brain that depict it as a mechanical control center “having no power to create or improvise”[41] or as a computer – an idea that hinges on that notion so irritating to Heidegger, namely “that thinking amounts to calculating.”[42] Yet in welcoming and encouraging this metamorphosis of our brain, we must also acknowledge its current stage of ‘development’, meaning we must see that though it is linguistically identified as a plastic organ, it is nonetheless still only understood, even by neurologists, as an organ of flexibility that does not yet have “the power to create, to invent or even to erase an impression, the power to style.”[43] 

     Such a metamorphosis has its correlates in Zarathustra, of course. When Zarathustra speaks of the transformation of the spirit from the humble, obedient, and heavily burdened camel to the lion of self-mastery who slays the great dragon named ‘Thou Shalt’, we can see the transformation of our brain/spirit from a helpless mechanical device to a flexible and non-hierarchically structured organ. When the Zarathustran spirit comes to its culmination as the innocent child who can “create new values”[44] because he is a “forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred ‘Yes’,”[45] we can see not only the plasticity of our brain as Malabou tells it, but we can also detect an active dialectic whose synthesis is the original creator, the plastic child/spirit.

     And that plastic child/spirit nods a sacred ‘Yes’ when Zarathustra asks: “What is the greatest experience you can have?” and self-answers that it is “[t]he hour in which your happiness, too, arouses your disgust, and even your reason and your virtue.”[46] When the same anti-prophet then warns that “the time is coming when man will no longer shoot the arrow of his longing beyond man,”[47] the plastic child/spirit, too, acknowledges and worries this danger. Likewise, Malabou suggests that we need to question our contented acceptance of the concept of flexibility and that “we ought to relearn how to enrage ourselves, to explode against a certain culture of docility, of amenity, of the effacement of all conflict”[48] because “we have no use for harmony and maturity if they only serve to make us ‘scrappers’ or ‘prodigal elders’.”[49] That is to say that we have no use for an ‘invented happiness’ like that of the last men, who dimly blink and wish only for “an agreeable death.”[50] We have, in other words, no use for the flexible brain or culture in which “anyone who is not flexible deserves to disappear.”[51] Zarathustra, too, has no use for the passive and conciliatory culture of the last men, who accept, without blinking, that “whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.”[52]

     What we should do with our brain, then, is come to a consciousness of it as a “plastic [and] free”[53] organ and acknowledge that in lacking such awareness “we are still always and everywhere in [the] chains”[54] of restrictive neuronal conventions and thus cannot “give birth to [the] dancing star”[55] of our chaotic selves because we have been lulled to sleep by the “opiate virtue”[56] of a flexible brain and must now be awakened to our creative and original selves by the explosive flash of the overman lurking within neuronal plasticity. Thus spoke Malabou(stra).

Alter-neurology, Plasticity and the Overman

     In her article entitled ‘Neural Plasticity and Cognitive Development’ (2000), cognitive scientist Joan Stiles writes:

Neural development is an active, reciprocal process. […] The normally developing brain is dynamic and plastic [and] the capacity for plastic change is never completely lost. […] By this account, plasticity is a central feature of brain development and learning; it is not a system response to pathological insult.”[57]

She also notes that the neural systems become stabilized through “an interactive sculpting process involving initial overproduction of neural resources, and the elimination of nonessential connections.”[58]

     All of these observations are, of course, echoed and reproduced by Malabou in her book, though they are there given Hegelian and Marxist, and I would add Nietzschean, shadings. Where Malabou veers from the script, however, is in her expansion of the plastic metaphor to include the capacity to explode and annihilate form. This she does in order that we may see the brain as “not only the creator and receiver of form [which is where Stiles seems to leave the matter] but also [as] an agency of disobedience to every constituted form, a refusal to submit to a model.”[59] To illustrate this idea, Malabou elaborates on the etymological connection between plasticity and “plastique, a substance […] capable of causing violent explosions.”[60] I submit that this interpretation of the plasticity of the brain is not only Malabou’s invention, but is also an unwitting depiction of the brain operating in the (fictional) head of Nietzsche’s overman, the revolutionary ‘lightning [and] frenzy’ that will explode and annihilate the perpetually dry eyes of the (flexible) last man.

     However, that much has already been said; what I wish to add now to the discussion is the element of pathology, or neurological ‘dysfunction’. Remember that Stiles stresses that brain plasticity ‘is not a system response to pathological insult’; what she intends by this comment is to discourage the idea that the plasticity of the brain only comes into play when “the maturational process is perturbed by insult or injury,”[61] and that the brain otherwise develops “according to a maturational blueprint or plan.”[62] What I am suggesting here is that the model encouraged by Malabou likewise imagines the brain’s plasticity as not limited to injurious response, but in contrast actually requires a specific form of neural pathology –perhaps one very similar to that of the pre-dementia Nietzsche.

     To be clear, I am using the term ‘pathology’ here as it refers to any deviation from the ‘normal’ state, and not necessarily as it connects to the progression of ‘disease’. I am using the term, in other words, to suggest what Malabou is gesturing at when she says: “We must consider that in a certain sense the brain does not obey itself, that there can be an excess in the system, an explosive part that, without being pathological, refuses to obey.”[63] This defiant systemic ‘excess’ is, in my rendering, the self-generating neuronal overman that is ever threatening the homeostatic neuronal last men. The tension that arises from this ‘war’ between excess and stasis is, it seems to me, none other than the turbulence of becoming. Given this, it may be more accurate to say that I am talking here about something like an ‘alter-neurology’ rather than neuropathology. This term may be minutely more precise than Malabou’s ‘biological alter-globalism’ as it seems to address more directly the “neuronal ideology[64] she is seeking to critique and transform.

     Indeed, is not Malabou encouraging us to see our brain as an explosive device, as an instrument of danger and revolution? Recall that she says: “Only in making explosives does life give shape to its own freedom,”[65] adding that we ought also to “accept exploding from time to time.”[66] And does she not likewise find it regrettable that a good deal of cognitivist discourse offers descriptions of plasticity that are simply “unconscious justifications of a flexibility without limits”?[67]  Perhaps she had someone like Joan Stiles, who seems to be unaware of the explosive nature of the brain, in mind when she wrote those words, but whatever the case, Malabou certainly does not appear to be championing the plastic brain as it is perceived by the average neurologist. Instead, she is pursuing the more romantic and ‘frenzied’ plastic brain represented by the overman, the brain that is fully in command of its lightning, of its annihilative genius.

     Yet that brain was, of course, the creation of another brain – a brain truly possessed of genius (Nietzsche’s) that was perhaps simultaneously slipping into dementia, exploding in a way.[68] What we should do with our brain, then, is perhaps seek to consciously sculpt it in such a way that it mimics a non-terminal, early-stage form of frontotemporal dementia, if that is indeed the correct diagnosis of Nietzche’s condition. Then we might be able to consciously approach the crackling intensity of that genius who gave us the explosive overman, or ‘plastique man’, and his prophet who proclaimed: “[…] whoever must be a creator […] must first be an annihilator and break values.”[69] Indeed, to annihilate and break values is to be revolutionary and this, not idle talk, is what Malabou wants above all: “And what do we get from all these discourses […] if not the absence of revolutions in our lives, the absence of revolution in our selves?”[70] This absence of revolution is what Zarathustra likewise laments, yet he, unlike Malabou, has the confidence that the “lightning out of the dark cloud of man,”[71] the overman, shall fill that revolutionary void.


     In a lecture on Zarathustra, the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung once observed that

Nietzsche […] was a man who passionately wasted his energies and no doubt injured his brain through a most uncanny intensity. Of course one can say that if that intensity had not been one of his characteristics, we would not have had Zarathustra or any of his other books.[72]

I think that Jung was indeed astute in perceiving the likelihood of brain pathology in Nietzsche, although he perhaps had his causal chain reversed in seeing overwork as the culprit. Yet whether or not Nietzsche’s brain was ‘injured’ from within or without, or whether or not anyone has nailed the diagnosis is not the issue here.

    Instead I am trying to address Malabou’s interest in creating an awareness of the plastic, explosive brain and am suggesting that seizing the option to sculpt our brain so that it resembles that of the overman or of pre-dementia Nietzsche, by whatever means, would allow us to do just that. It would enable us to create a culture whose consciousness, because arising from fully aware ‘plastique brains’, would in no way “celebrate only the triumph of flexibility,”[73] but would instead inspire us to say, with Nietzsche (and with the great J.J. Evans): “I am no man, I am dynamite.”[74] Of course, such self-sculpting immediately invites transhumanist comparisons, and although Malabou makes no mention of transhumanism in her book, I think the connection entirely plausible. But that is a topic for another paper; here we are only concerned to acknowledge Malabou as something of a Zarathustra, as a “herald [and a] heavy drop from the cloud”[75] of the alter-neurological overman. This, at least, is how my brain understands Malabou, although it is entirely possible that the string of my bow has ‘forgotten how to whir,’ or that mine may not be “the mouth for these ears.”[76]


     After the presentation of this paper I was asked by one listener to what extent my suggestion about the sculpting of the pathological, alter-neurological brain was tongue-in-cheek. I replied that it was best understood as half, but not entirely, in jest. I suppose what I was primarily exploring in the paper was Malabou's notion of identity as the upshot of a neuronal and mental dialectic, wherein a battle between homeostatic security and self-generating organization and creation constantly rages. The imagery of such a battle suggested to me the dichotomy of the last men and the overman in Zarathustra and, as I always do when such a suggestion whispers itself into my ear, I let my intuition take me and the paper to an unknown destination. In this sense, the preceding is not so much an argument for or against a concept but is instead a response (not necessarily an intellectual one) to something I read. It was as much of a surprise to me as it perhaps was to those hearing it read aloud that what began as a whisper ended as an investigation of dementia.

     In retrospect, I suppose it was the assumption that the creation of the autonomous self is ever arising (hopefully) out of the dialectical process, which is inherently “not smooth [and] full of turbulence” [77] that I found interesting. While I did not totally disagree with this characterization, I was unable to make the connection between this process, which is plastic in the Malaboussian sense, and the notion that this 'dialectic of identity' “demands that we defend a biological alter globalism.”[78] Why is this so? Why is it the case that those ruptures and gaps, those explosions of creation, “progressively transform nature into freedom”?[79] Isn't it possible that those ruptures and gaps which characterize the dialectic could just as well steer nature or the self into a state of confinement and isolation, given certain historical events? After all, people do get depressed and commit suicide, don't they? Does plasticity disappear in such cases? Of course not. Malabou herself observes that “synapses can see their efficacy reinforced or weakened as a function of experience,”[80] and I would assume that the “ongoing reworking of neuronal morphology”[81] can likewise have no fixed goal, be it greater freedom and autonomy or suicidal ideation, since the phrase 'ongoing reworking' implies non-determinism.

     I suppose the paper is somehow questioning what I feel to be the teleological assumptions underlying Malabou's dialectical model of plasticity, where it seems that the explosiveness inherent in 'intermediate' plastic self-creation necessarily results, if those processes could just be brought into the light of consciousness, in a freer and more revolutionary personal, and perhaps cultural, identity. It seems to me instead that the plastic brain, which is always subject to “every event coming from the outside”[82] is always vulnerable to harm, especially in the womb and in early childhood, and that the model of explosive and resistant plasticity offered by Malabou does nothing to prevent against unfortunate events, be they institutional or personal, nor does it provide evidence that bringing such a theory to consciousness will do the same.

    This attitude of mine, which is that theory can be interesting but is not necessarily, in and of itself, capable of instigating change and transformation, is probably (I'm guessing) what led to the (admittedly facetious) suggestion that more direct measures, such as specific brain sculpting, would more efficiently bring about Malabou's desired ends. I suppose this reveals that I have little faith in theory as a tool of revolution and place my trust instead in individual dissatisfaction as the primary impetus for change.

     Finally, while I agree with Malabou that we might do well to “visualize the possibility of saying no to an afflicting economic, political, and mediatic culture,”[83] I remain unconvinced that we need novel neuroscientific models to encourage us to do so. Indeed, it may be true that “any vision of the brain is necessarily political,”[84] but one might also plausibly state that 'any vision of landscape architecture is necessarily political', and yet it would seem silly to rally for a political structure founded upon a progressive theory of design. Or, I should say it would be just as worthy of consideration. That is, unless one has adopted the attitude that the natural sciences can offer us a 'better' model of 'reality' and human nature than any of the other 'disciplines' and thus can tell us how we ought to execute our life plans. I am dubious about such an attitude and prefer instead to investigate the whispers of intuition that explode in my ear from time to time.


[1] Walter Kauffman, trans., The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), 3.

[2] Leonard Sax, “What was the cause of Nietzsche’s dementia?” Journal of Medical Biography 11 (2003): 49.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 50.

[5] Ibid.

[6] M. Orth and M. R. Trimble, “Friedrich Nietzche’s mental illness – general paralysis of the insane vs.

  temporal dementia,” Acta Psyciachtrica Scandivica (2006): 443.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] G. Colli and M. Montinari, eds., Samliche Briefe, Kritishe Gesamtausgabe (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1986): 479.

[10] S.L. Gillman, Conversations with Nietzsche: A life in the Words of His Contemporaries (New York: Oxford,   1987): 173.

[11] G. Colli, Samliche Briefe, 506.

[12] Catherine Malabou, What Should We Do With Our Brain? (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), 4.

[13] Ibid., 38.

[14] Ibid., 33.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., 41.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Malabou, What Should We Do, 12.

[20] Ibid., 4.

[21] Ibid., 12.

[22] Ibid., 79.

[23] Kaufmann, The Portable Nietzcshe, 130.

[24] Ibid., 129.

[25] Ibid., 126.

[26] Malabou, What Should We Do, 6.

[27] Kaufmann, The Portable Nietzsche, 129.

[28] Malabou, 68.

[29] Kaufmann, 129.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid., 130.

[32] Ibid., 128.

[33] Ibid., 126.

[34] Ibid., 129.

[35] Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays (Harper and Rowe, 1977), 44.

[36] Ibid., 45.

[37] Malabou, 78.

[38] Ibid., 79.

[39] Malabou, What Should We Do, 82.

[40] Ibid., 5.

[41] Malabou, What Should We Do, 34.

[42] Ibid., 35.

[43] Ibid., 12.

[44] Kaufmann, The Portable Nietzsche, 139.

[45] Ibid., 139.

[46] Ibid., 125.

[47] Kaufmann, The Portable Nietzsche, 129.

[48] Malabou, What Should We Do, 79.

[49] Ibid., 77.

[50] Kaufmann, 130.

[51] Malabou, 46.

[52] Kaufmann, 130.

[53] Malbou, 11.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Kaufmann, 129.

[56] Ibid., 142.

[57] Joan Stiles, “Neural Plasticity and Cognitive Development,” Developmental Neuropsychology 18 (2) (2000): 266.

[58] Ibid., 252.

[59] Malabou, What Should We Do, 6.

[60] Ibid., 5.

[61] Stiles, “Neural Plasticity,” 239.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Malabou, What Should We Do, 79.

[64] Ibid., 11.

[65] Ibid., 73.

[66] Ibid., 79.

[67] Ibid., 13.

[68] Or alternatively, it was a brain walking a tightrope between sanity and life in the asylum, like the ‘lamefoot’ in Zarathustra who walked the high wire between two towers. You may recall that this ‘lamefoot’ falls to his death from the tightrope and is comforted by Zarathustra, who tells him that he has “made danger [his] vocation [and] there is nothing contemptible in that.”[68] As an aside, one could argue here that Nietzsche was himself that tightrope walker, and that he may have presaged his own coming decline in this figure. Yet this figure might also lead us to ask, ‘Who but those walking such a tightrope can make a vocation of danger and “accept exploding from time to time”[68]?’, or alternatively, ‘Who but those walking the metaphorical tightrope can realize the model of plasticity favored by Malabou and “explode against a certain culture of docility”[68]?’

[69] Kaufmann, 228.

[70] Malabou, 66.

[71] Kaufmann, 132.

[72] C. G. Jung, James L. Jarret, ed., Nietzche’s Zarathustra: Notes on the Seminar Given in 1934-1939 Vol.1 (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988), 111.

[73] Malabou, What Should We Do, 79.

[74] Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Kaufmann, ed. and trans., On The Geneaolgy of Morals and Ecce Homo (New York:  Random House, 1967), 326.

[75] Kaufmann, The Portable Nietzsche, 128.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Malabou, What Should We Do, 75.

[78] Ibid., 80.

[79] Ibid.

[80] Ibid., 24.

[81] Ibid., 25.

[82] Malabou, What Should We Do, 74.

[83] Ibid., 79.

[84] Ibid., 52.

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