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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Two New Books Confront Nietzsche and His Ideas | Books - New York Times

Ask college students majoring in philosophy how they got interested in their subject and more than likely the answer will be “Nietzsche.”, according to Steven B. Smith, Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University.

Young Nietzsche strikes a Napoleonic pose.
Photo: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy
Nietzsche has probably been more things to more people than any other philosopher. In the years after World War II, he seemed irreparably stained by his association with National Socialism. His open contempt for equality as a form of slave morality, his language of superior and inferior peoples and races, and his advocacy of a new elite that might reshape the future of Europe seemed more than enough to banish him from the canons of serious philosophical thought, if not simple decency.

The reconsideration of Nietzsche began as early as 1950 with Walter Kaufmann’s influential “Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist,” which portrayed him as a German humanist in the tradition of Goethe and Schiller. Kaufmann traced the misappropriation of Nietzsche by Hitler to the influence of Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth, and her husband, Bernhard Förster, who bowdlerized his texts to support their own anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi sympathies. While few today accept the details of Kaufmann’s analysis, the rehabilitation of Nietzsche has been in full swing in recent years...

The two books under review here ride the wave of this newfound fascination with Nietzsche, although neither engages directly with the complex legacy of his reception. Sue Prideaux’s “I Am Dynamite!” — the phrase is his self-description from “Ecce Homo” — follows Nietzsche’s life from his birth in 1844 into a family of pious Protestant burghers, his early academic accomplishments at the University of Leipzig and his appointment to a chair of classical philology at the University of Basel at the age of only 24...

John Kaag’s book, “Hiking With Nietzsche,” is a semi-autobiography that follows the author as a 19-year-old, hiking to Sils-Maria in the Swiss Alps in search of Nietzsche’s house, then recounts him making the same trip 18 years later as a professor of philosophy with his wife and baby daughter in tow. It is often said that you can understand someone only when standing in their shoes; Kaag believes that wisdom comes only when hiking on their trails.

This book is less a scholarly study of Nietzsche than a meditation on the relation between hiking and philosophy. For Kaag, walking is not about the destination but the adventure itself. Almost all of the great philosophers — Socrates, Aristotle, the Stoics, Rousseau, Kant, Thoreau — were walkers whose ideas germinated only in motion. He takes Nietzsche’s challenge to “become who you are!” as a call to schlep his young family around the Alps to achieve his own goal of self-discovery. His wife must have the patience of a saint.
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Related links 
I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux. 
"I Am Dynamite! is the essential biography for anyone seeking to understand history's most misunderstood philosopher."

HIKING WITH NIETZSCHE - On Becoming Who You Are by John Kaag. "Hiking with Nietzsche: Becoming Who You Are is a tale of two philosophical journeys―one made by John Kaag as an introspective young man of nineteen, the other seventeen years later, in radically different circumstances: he is now a husband and father, and his wife and small child are in tow." 

Source: New York Times