Monday, October 22, 2012

Green on Hussain on Green on Spir and Nietzsche

The scholarly debate continues.  I once tried reading Spir, but gave up, finding it both tedious and strange.   As a result, I have no independent judgment on the merits of the competing readings.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Teaching Nietzsche to Undergraduates in an Existentialism Class

A young philospher elsewhere writes with a question on which readers may well have views and useful advice:

My problem is that my students have, as you might imagine, deep-seated atheist and relativist proclivities. They are happy to embrace the most superficial reading of N's perspectivism and 'valuation,' according to which willing whatever you choose to be valuable and meaningful for your life and definitive of your agency settles the question right then and there, and each person is free to choose his or her own values and aims in life. They seem to find his emphasis on the possibility of unconscious motivation to be simply self-contradictory, given their commitment to believing in their own ability to act for reasons and lead a life that is 'their own' in the ordinary sense. And none of them really seems to care about what it could mean to say that God is dead. So I have been having a lot of trouble bringing the importance of N's claims to life for them.
It's been a long time since I've taught Nietzsche to undergraduates, so I expect others will have better ideas than I do, especially if they've confronted similar issues.  Certainly one thing to point out is that Nietzsche quite plainly has very strong views about who are higher and lower human beings, and even though (on my reading) he doesn't think that evaluative judgment is epistemically privileged, it's quite plain that he has no sympathy for the idea that "whatever you choose to be valuable" is necessarily valuable from his perspective.  (Of course, readings that emphasize power as a criterion of value will have an easier time wiht this issue.)

Thoughts from readers?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Schacht on Kaufmann's Translations

The Spring 2012 issue of Journal of Nietzsche Studies (vo. 43, no. 1) has an interesting, if somewhat curious, piece by Richard Schacht on "Translating Nietzsche:  The Case of Kaufmann," at pp. 68-86.  He spends part of the piece quibbling about certain decisions Kaufmann made about what works of Nietzsche's to translate and, in particular, about the translation of the titles of Zur Genealogie der Moral, Die froliche Wissenschaft [umlaut missing on the 'o', not sure how to do it in blogger], and Der Antichrist.  Most of this struck me as minor at best, dubious at worst, except for a nice point about the last of these.  Schacht writes (p. 70):
Kaufmann...knew perfectly well that Nietzsche's actual target in the book is not Jesus and the values he is presented in the Gospels as espousing but rather the Christianity of St. Paul and his kindred spirits, and even though he also knew that, in German, the word "Christ" means "Christian" rather than (Jesus as) "the Christ" (which is "Christus" in German).
The title, in other words, should have been The Anti-Christian.  That's an interesting point, though I suspect Schacht overstates its significance for Enlish-language readers.

About the translations themselves, Schacht concurs with a point I've made here and elsewhere before, namley that while Kaufmann "had a good feeling for Nietzsche's style and a knack for capturing it" such that "in his translations, he makes Nietzsche come alive for the English-speaking reader, in a way that seems to me to be generally quite faithful to and reflective of the spirit and thrust of Nietzsche's own writing and thinking" (77-78), Kaufmann "also seems very frequently to have been motivated more by considerations of rhetorical effectiveness in English than by careful faithfulness to Nietzsche's texts" (78).  That still seems to me a quite fair assessment.

More worrisome are the cases where Kaufmann "engag[es] in some tendentious shading and even some covert bowlderizing" (78).  Schacht has three examples, not all equally convincing.  With regard to BGE 36--the alleged "proof" of the doctrine of will to power (Schacht also makes hay out of translating "Lehre" as "doctrine" [82], though this seems to be much ado about nothing)--Schacht thinks Kaufmann tried "to soften its force" with some of his translation choices.  Schacht is certainly right that the choices Kaufmann made are dubious or at least arguable, but it doesn't seem to me the meaning of the passage is affected, and that none of the translation points affect, for example, Clark's well-known argument that the argument in the passage can't be one Nietzsche actually accepts, since it depends on a premise he rejects.  About GM III:12, Schacht makes the somewhat more interesting point that "auslegen" "literally means 'lay out' ('aus-legen')," and that the English "interpret" lends itself too readily to Nehamas-style misreadings.  (He doesn't mention Nehamas, but he seems to be the target here.)

But the most striking example Schacht adduces (84) is BGE 230, in which Kaufmann rendered der schreckliche Grundtext homo natura" as simply "the eternal basic text of homo natura," omitting the adjective "terrible"!  Schacht's explanation, which seems plausible, is that Kaufmann "no doubt was afraid that, if Nietzsche's English-speaking readers knew that he thought of this 'basic text' of our primordial 'natural' nature in that way, they would be too likely to suppose that he was endorsing the 'terribleness' and its unleashing" (84).  Schacht, of course, agrees that would involve a misinterpretation of Nietzsche's meaning, but he's still right to complain that just dropping the word altogether (whose English meaning is quite clear) is really pretty bad translation practice.  The question is how often Kaufmann does this.  I can't think of a similarly dramatic case I've come across, but maybe readers can.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Podcast with Jessica Berry on Nietzsche's "On Truth and Lie"

Here; she discusses it with some former philosophy PhD students from UT Austin.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where to go to study Nietzsche, 2012 Edition

These recommendations are premised on the thought that one needs a good education in philosophy in order to be able to do good philosophical scholarship related to Nietzsche.

Among the very top PhD programs in the Anglophone world, there are four viable choices for a student wanting to work on Nietzsche: New York University (with John Richardson and Tamsin Shaw), Oxford University (with Daniel Came and Peter Kail), Princeton University (with Alexander Nehamas) and Stanford University (with Lanier Anderson and Nadeem Hussain). I am not sure how hospitable these places are for students primarily interested in Nietzsche, given the dominant interests of the faculty and most of the students, but they deserve serious attention from prospective students: you will get an excellent philosophical education and you have good philosophers who can serve as advisors with respect to Nietzsche work. Each of these faculties also includes philosophers interested in other aspects of Kant and post-Kantian Continental philosophy, including Beatrice Longuenesse at NYU, Alan Patten in Politics at Princeton, Michael Friedman at Stanford, and Stephen Mulhall at Oxford.

Among strong, but not very top, PhD programs there are several additional choices I would recommend: Birkbeck College and University College in the University of London system; Brown University; University of California, Riverside; University of Chicago; and University of Warwick.

In terms of sheer numbers, and diversity of approaches to Nietzsche, Chicago has the most faculty to offer across various units, and for a student also interested in ancient philosophy and/or wanting wide coverage of 19th- and 20th-century European philosophy, Chicago has a great deal to offer. (Faculty interested in Nietzsche, and supervising students, include James Conant, Michael Forster, Robert Gooding-Williams, Brian Leiter, Martha Nussbaum, Robert Pippin, and David Wellbery.) Brown is stronger in most contemporary areas of philosophy (with a particularly good group in moral and political philosophy) than Chicago, but has less depth and breadth in post-Kantian philosophy of the 19th- and 20th-centuries. (The key faculty are Bernard Reginster and Charles Larmore; they will be joined this year by Paul Guyer, making Brown a major destination for Kant students, and also adding coverage to aspects of German Idealism.) University of California, Riverside also has a strong group in post-Kantian European philosophy, including Maudemarie Clark (a leading Nietzsche scholar, of course), Pierre Keller, Georgia Warnke, and Mark Wrathall, and UCR also offers solid, sometimes outstanding, coverage, across a range of contemporary areas of philosophical research. University of Warwick has been a major up-and-coming department in the U.K. over the last decade, and is now solidly among the top ten U.K. programs. Keith Ansell-Pearson and Peter Poellner are the two main faculty interested in Nietzsche (their approaches are quite different, Poellner's being more likely to appeal to students with philosophy backgrounds), but other faculty do important work in Kant and post-Kantian philosophy (Quassim Cassam, Stephen Houlgate, A.D. Smith).

Birkbeck has my good friend Ken Gemes, a very talented philosopher who has supervised a number of students working on Nietzsche, and the Nietzsche scholar Simon May is also around and available to students, though not teaching regularly. Birkbeck's main strengths, however, tend to be in contemporary areas of Anglophone philosophy--like philosophy of language, mind and action--so as with Princeton et al., students should investigate what it is like for students.  (Gemes is also now only half-time at Birkbeck.)  At UCL, Sebastian Gardner, Mark Kalderon, and Thomas Stern are all interested in Nietzsche, and Garder and Stern are currently writing on him.

A few other programs worth considering:

Boston University, a top 50 department which also has strong coverage of 19th-century philosophy, has Paul Katsafanas (whose Nietzsche work is known to readers of this blog), who will surely get tenure before long.  BU thus deserves to be on the map for students thinking about graduate work on Nietzsche. University of Southampton, though not a very good department overall, is attractive for a student interested in Nietzsche, with Christopher Janaway, David Owen, and Aaron Ridley.  Raymond Geuss at Cambridge University has worked with some students interested in Nietzsche, but he will be coming up against mandatory retirement shortly, and has been dissuading students from coming to the philosophy faculty, alas.  Among the top M.A. programs, the hands-down best choice is Georgia State University, which includes two Nietzsche specialists (my former student Jessica Berry, as well as Gregory Moore), and a specialist in German Idealism (Sebastian Rand).  

Things are looking up on the European Continent for philosophically-minded Nietzsche scholars.  I have been impressed by Joao Constancio's group at the New University of Lisbon, and by other younger scholars I have met (either in print or in person!) in recent years.  But I am not well-informed enough about the overall programs there to offer meaningful guidance to my non-Anglophone readers.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Riccardi on "Nietzsche on the Superficiality of Consciousness"

This is one of the best papers on Nietzsche (probably the best paper) I've read in the last year.  The author is Mattia Riccardi, a young philosopher currently at Porto.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nietzsche, Stirner, Dostoyevsky

Charles Pigden, a philosopher at the University of Otago, writes with questions, which I invite readers to address:

What is the scholarly state of play with respect to Stirner's influence on
Nietzsche? There are obvious though perhaps superficial affinities which suggest such an influence and it seems odd to suppose that a voracious reader like Nietzsche would not have known about Stirner and would have passed him by if he had known about him. But as an argument this strikes me as a touch too much like those speculative biographies which enlarge at length on what Shakespeare 'must' have felt or thought. I understand from Safranski's biography that Nietzsche never mentions Mad Max in his extant works or correspondence but that there is evidence from the
memoirs' of Ida Overbeck that Nietzsche not only read Stirner but admired him. Safranski takes the case for influence to be proven, and embarks on a summary of Stirner views in order to clarify what he takes that influence to have been. But is he perhaps being premature? Could Frau Overbeck have been confabulating to back up a thesis she believed for other reasons? Has anything been discovered since Safranski's book which sheds any light on the issue? And what do you think? I note that the issue is left to one side in Nietzsche on Morality and that nobody so much as
mentions Stirner in your OUP anthology (which surprised me a little).

A related question: Do we know which of Dostoevsky's books Nietzsche read apart from Notes from the Underground (which is mentioned in a letter in Kaufman's The Portable Nietzsche)? The question is relevant since I am inclined to think that Dostoevsky's character Stavrogin, the hero of The Devils/Demons/the Possessed is meant to be a sort of immanent critique of Stirner's ideals. Was The Devils translated into a language that Nietzsche understood during his sane and productive lifetime?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Nietzsche and Community" conference at Wake Forest

It's coming up in April, and I'll be there. Also papers by Maude Clark, John Richardson, Ken Gemes, Julian Young (he's the organizer), Hans Sluga, Ivan Soll, Jessica Berry, and others.

UPDATE: A reader points out that the calendar has the dates wrong--the dates of the conference are Sunday, April 15 through Tuesday, April 17.