Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 13, No 3 (2017)

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Theorizing the Wicked Witch: A Nietzschean Demonology

Brian Johnson


Recent scholarship has adduced convincing evidence that, underlying the late medieval and early modern discourse on witchcraft and diabolism, there lay not only popular folkloric and religious beliefs, but also real practical activities by which individuals made manifest their malicious intent toward others, as well as subjective experiences of interaction with supernatural entities, some of which were interpreted as the Christian Devil. This hypothesis raises a number of hermeneutic questions concerning how the social and material conditions predicating concrete acts of maleficium related to practitioners' social psychology and moral self-construction. Through the interpretive frame of Friedrich Nietzsche's antithesis of 'master' and 'slave' moralities, this paper argues that the Christian theological and cultural context of early modern Europe primed individuals to experience the constraints and stresses of everyday life in vividly moralized terms, and to strategically negotiate their own personal advantage by realigning themselves within this moral order.

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