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Interview with Ethiopian philosopher G.E. Gorfu

Ethiopian Liqawoont
Poems, G.E Gorfu

Senamirmir:   What inspired you to be a philosopher?

G.E. Gorfu:   I would say it was the love of literature and the quest for truth.

Senamirmir:   Why did you write the book "Gorfu Contra Nietzsche" and why did you go after Nietzsche? How long did it take you to write the book?

G.E. Gorfu:   I didn't go after Nietzsche. I came across him in my general readings of European philosophers, and found him to be a very fascinating philosopher and writer. His style was unique among all his contemporaries. He has a directness of expression, which I loved and greatly enjoyed. For a long time, I was hooked on Nietzsche, and considered him my spiritual mentor. But the more I read him, the more I found issues I didn't agree with. Just like the language and philosophy of Hegel was directly adopted in the writings of Karl Marx, and in the Socialist philosophy, I found clear parallels in Nietzsche with the writings and philosophy of the Nazis. There was no way I could remain silent in the matter. So, I decided to write and refute some of Nietzsche's basic concepts, and to expose the weakness in his thinking. It must have taken me about three months or so to write the basic framework of the book. That was in 1978-79. It was to take a good twenty years for the book to be published. Over the years, I added and made some minor modifications on the first draft, but the basic structure remained unchanged.

Senamirmir:   Was it frightening taking on Nietzsche at the beginning?

G.E. Gorfu:   There was nothing frightening about it. I just opened his books, copied the parts that I disagreed with, and wrote my views on why I disagreed with them. All that was done with paper and pen, in long hand, and in my own bedroom. Only now do I see that I had dared to attack and deface a holy icon of the West, and in the process, have ended up becoming a pariah to academia. So much for the openness of mind, which Western academia boasts of!

Senamirmir:   Many have praised your work highly and some have shown some doubts. However, the academia seems to be silent. Can you comment on it?

G.E. Gorfu:   The academia, like most institutions, is a very closed system. It does not tolerate anything that goes against its established norms, especially one that comes from an outsider. I am an outsider to academia, and it refuses to acknowledge my work.

Senamirmir:   Short of their silence on your work, what exactly led you to believe that they look at you as pariah? Have you published your work in academic journals?

G.E. Gorfu:   My publisher, Vantage Press, dispatched over a dozen copies of my book, Gorfu Contra Nietzsche, to many universities in Europe and America. I also requested at least, another dozen or more copies to be sent to specific professors, the so called: "Nietzsche scholars," after I had contacted them privately and received their interest to read and review my book. As a member of NANS (North America Nietzsche Society) at that time, I also had a copy of my book sent to that 'August Body of Scholars.' NANS even listed my book in the yearly list of "New Books on Nietzsche" for the year 2000, since it was published in 1999. However, not even one of these elite universities, not a single one of those professors who are supposed to 'know' about Nietzsche and his works, have to this day, dared to write or express an opinion on my book on any of their journals. They appear to be in a tacit conspiracy of silence.

Senamirmir:   You wrote "...Nietzsche doesn't support his thoughts by the usual tools of logic and dialectics, nor does he arrive at a conclusion from several simple inferences, basic inferences that are too obvious to require any proof," And you added "But he had the use of another tool, a sledgehammer:- ridicule." How was this man, Nietzsche, in the "absence" of reasonable proof for his thoughts, able to rise to the stature where he is, and remains there after 100 years since his death?

G.E. Gorfu:   In his own lifetime, Nietzsche was not recognized, nor was he accepted as a philosopher. Like my self, he was an outsider to the philosophical arena. He was trained in linguistics and became a teacher of the classics in the university. When he published his books, 1880 - 89, those in academia shunned him. His books hardly sold. In his last book, Ecce Homo, written just before he went insane, he decries this fact, saying, 'I don't exist. No one has heard of me...' When he died in 1900, he was totally unknown. It took well over a quarter of a century after his death for his books to become popular, and for academia to turn around and recognize his works. And only in the1930's did Nietzsche come into prominence, paving the way for the rise and takeover of the Nazis in Europe.

Senamirmir:   What is the state of philosophy today? Do you hold Nietzsche responsible for it?

G.E. Gorfu:   The state of philosophy today is one of suspended animation. It looks alive, but to all intents and purposes, it is inert. You never hear philosophers discussing the essential questions of this world among themselves or in society. They don't speak about life and death, of justice and fairness, of honesty and equity...etc. They continue to live in self-made cocoons, spun out of high flaunting words and jargons, incomprehensible to most of us, and even to themselves, unless of course, they are carrying a cross indexed and referenced philosophical terminology manual. They have dissected ideas into minute atomic corpuscles, and thrown out 'meaning' with the bath water. The grammar, the art and 'techniques of doing' philosophy have become far more important than the pressing social issues that need to be addressed.

First Nietzsche, and then Wittgenstine are in my opinion, the two culprits, who must bear the greater share of the blame for the present state of affairs in philosophy. Nietzsche poked the right eye of philosophy by ridiculing Socrates in various ways, saying: 'A married philosopher belongs in comedy... Was Socrates a Greek at all?' ...etc.; then followed Wittgenestine and poked the left eye, diverting the subject matter of philosophy from the many burning social issues to language, grammar, and sentence structure. Now philosophy, the blind maid that they have reduced her into, can be found aimlessly wandering, bumping against the walls in the barren desert of university corridors.

Senamirmir:   Are you alone in holding this opinion?

G.E. Gorfu:   I know I am not alone in this. In fact, there are so many people in, and out of academia, who agree with these views in private. I also know of some that have left academia in disgust. They might have entered philosophy, searching for the 'meaning' of life, for existence, and to attempt and tackle some of the eternal problems of this world. But they found themselves being saddled and led by the hands of some embittered word- mongers, by myopic language craftsmen, who can't seem to tell the woods from the trees. Though I am not alone in holding these views, I appear to be the lone voice in the wilderness, crying out on the truth of the matter that: "The Emperor has no clothes!"

Senamirmir:   Is TRUTH, or the road to TRUTH illusive?

G.E. Gorfu:   Truth may be illusive, but not forever. And when one sees the truth, it soon becomes very obvious. And one is often left wondering, 'Why didn't I see it before?'

Senamirmir:   What is your next project on philosophy?

G.E. Gorfu:   I had initially intended to translate Zera' Yaekob into English and have it published, but I have since learned that Professor Claude Sumner had already translated and produced it in a journal for the Addis Ababa University some thirty years ago. So, my next project on philosophy became Darwin. And it has already been completed, and is in manuscript form. I am trying to find a publisher for it. The title is: Gorfu Contra Darwin. I know when this book gets published it is going to have a far greater impact and deeper reverberations than my book on Nietzsche did. I will have again, defaced another sacred icon of the West. They have already made me a pariah. So, what more are they going to do? I know they would not dare respond to, or review my book. All they can hope for is to pretend it does not exist, and hope that it will somehow go away.

Senamirmir:   A new book, by Stephen Wolfram, "A New Kind of Science" has something to say about Darwin. If you read the book, what is your view?

G.E. Gorfu:   The book you mentioned, though published this year, is very famous, and the author is a very well respected man of science. I have yet to read it and get the views of Stephen Wolfram on Darwin. Over the ages, there have been scores of authors that have written and disagreed with Darwin. Almost all, however, were people of the extreme right, who used the scriptures and their own religious beliefs to oppose Darwin and his theory of Evolution. My book on Darwin is very different from those books in that it does not use any religious basis to criticize Darwin. I have instead, used Darwin's own 'scientific' arguments to show the fallacy in his reasoning.

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