Nietzsche as Philosopher

Nietzsche as Philosopher

Nietzsche as Philosopher

Nietzsche as Philosopher


Few philosophers are as widely read or as widely misunderstood as Friedrich Nietzsche. When Danto's classic study was first published in 1965, many regarded Nietzsche as a brilliant but somewhat erratic thinker. Danto, however, presented a radically different picture, arguing that Nietzsche offered a systematic and coherent philosophy that anticipated many of the questions that define contemporary philosophy. Danto's clear and insightful commentaries helped canonize Nietzsche as a philosopher and continue to illuminate subtleties in Nietzsche's work as well as his immense contributions to the philosophies of science, language, and logic.

This new edition, which includes five additional essays, not only further enhances our understanding of Nietzsche's philosophy; it responds to the misunderstandings that continue to muddy his intellectual reputation. Even today, Nietzsche is seen as everything from a precursor of feminism and deconstruction to a prophetic writer and spokesperson for disgruntled teenage boys. As Danto points out in his preface, Nietzsche's writings have purportedly inspired recent acts of violence and school shootings. Danto counters these misreadings by elaborating an anti-Nietzschian philosophy from within Nietzsche's own philosophy "in the hope of disarming the rabid Nietzsche and neutralizing the vivid frightening images that have inspired sociopaths for over a century."

The essays also consider specific works by Nietzsche, including Human, All Too Human and The Genealogy of Morals, as well as the philosopher's artistic metaphysics and semantical nihilism.


A few years before the killings at Columbine, a group of youths in Pearl River, Mississippi, embarked on a rampage of murder and brutality, inspired, according to their leader, by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The aggressors did not describe themselves as “Supermen” but as “thinkers,” set apart from the “herd” who did not understand them—parents, teachers, and insufficiently responsive girls, to whom they felt themselves entitled to teach a hard lesson. As I followed the accounts in the New York Times, I thought of how dangerous Nietzsche—as the prophet of the Superman, the critic of herd morality, the self-styled Antichrist—still can be for turbulent minds who discover in him someone, finally, who understands their value, sees into their hearts, knows their hurt, tells them they are beyond good and evil, and licenses their will-to-power. Despite the effort by intellectuals of the last four decades to transform Nietzsche into a benign presence—a hermeneutician, a deconstructionist, a literary artist, a feminist—his vivid images and incendiary language can still arouse muddled youths to gun down girls who spurn them, stab their nagging mothers, or torture animals to demonstrate their unflinching strength. The fact that he is universally acknowledged a great philosopher lends a certain authority to the ferocity of his injunctions and his scary menu of permissions.

One might wonder if the spontaneous effort on the part of the learned community, to interpret Nietzsche's writings through various systems of postmodern thought might be an artful measure of penning him, like the . . .

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