Nietzsche Discussion I

For the next two weeks, we will read most of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. Also, don’t miss Aphorism 125 of The Gay Science (in your Reader).

I enjoy reading Nietzsche. If you have not read any of his works before, I predict that you will enjoy him too. His judgments are perceptive; his style of expression is poetic; and he has a beguilingly sardonic sense of humor. I have two recommendations about your encounter with Nietzsche.

First, Nietzsche’s approach to philosophy and philosophizing is more challenging than it may appear at first glance. On the one hand, some scholars have been tempted to read his works from a minimalist perspective---Nietzsche as provocateur and polemicist. On the other hand, other scholars have pursued a maximalist agenda, seeking to identify the systematic characteristics of Nietzsche’s thinking. I am not persuaded by either approach. In my view, the first group would prevent us from recognizing the content and consistency of Nietzsche’s observations; the second group would steer us away from appreciating key aspects of Nietzsche’s critique of post-Enlightenment philosophy.

Second, I recommend that you read Nietzsche in the same way we have investigated all of the other philosophers in this seminar. Aside from discerning his argument, ask what he is trying to do. Then, identify the implications of his project for the three philosophical concepts of truth-seeking, morality, and human agency. It would hardly be controversial to say that Nietzsche’s stance on these matters is noticeably different from those of his predecessors. But at the same time, I believe that Nietzsche can—must!--be interpreted as flowing in the same post-Enlightenment current as they did.

Your assignment for this discussion is to ascertain what Nietzsche means when he refers to three (mostly) concepts: “truth”; “morality”; and “the herd.” Here, too, it is not enough to recount what he says. It is equally important to clarify his objectives. As you will see, Nietzsche is responding directly to three philosophers with whom we are well acquainted: Kant, Hegel, and Marx. Look for these references, either by name or by perspective. Additionally, you will find it helpful to reflect upon the title and subtitle of this book as well as each of the assigned chapter titles.

Prepare your bows, and “perhaps also the arrow, the task, and--who knows?--the goal---“