Wednesday, October 29, 2014

More on Tom Stern's sneering review of The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche

Tim Crane (Cambridge), the TLS philosophy editor, has put my original letter about the review and the reply by Stern's colleague Sebastian Gardner on-line here.   I sent a follow-up letter, I'm not sure if TLS has published it, but here it is for those following the back-and-forth:
To the editors:
Sebastian Gardner’s defense (Sept. 18) of his colleague  Tom Stern’s sneering review of The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche makes one point with which I strongly agree, namely, that “the possibility that we interpret texts in congenial and inspiring, but historically inaccurate ways is perfectly genuine and especially salient in the case of Nietzsche.”  Many essays in the Oxford Handbook  are sensitive to that issue (though one would never know that from Stern’s review), and my own work on Nietzsche has been animated by the need to recapture the actual philosophical context in which Nietzsche wrote.   Gardner notes that  more than halfway into the review, Stern does briefly praises the clarity of the “Analytic Nietzsche” allegedly represented by the Handbook, but only after ridiculing analytic philosophers for writing in “cold, unlovely, jargoned prose” and “kneel[ing] before the Dread God of Consistency.”  Stern quickly returns to his real theme, reminding readers that, unlike say the Nazi Nietzsche, the “Analytic Nietzsche “finds himself on the periphery” (a charming comparison, but one that also says more about Stern’s ignorance of Nietzsche’s place in contemporary philosophy), and that “the analytic Nietzsche muffles him” and “suck[s] life from his living words.”
Only collegial loyalty can explain Gardner’s blindness to what is obvious to other readers:  Stern does not like “the Analytic Nietzsche,” so much so it is not clear he even read the 800-page book he putatively reviews but whose actual content he barely mentions.
Brian Leiter
University of Chicago