Tuesday, December 06, 2011

the Moustach'd one (cont.)

 the  Nation--

"American Nietzsche, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s lively history of the reception of Nietzsche’s ideas in the United States, from which I have drawn the preceding quotation about the moral life, wisely devotes its prologue to Emerson’s impact on the philosopher: “Nietzsche used Emerson not to get closer to him but to get closer to himself. For Nietzsche, Emerson provided an image of the philosopher willing to go it alone without inherited faith, without institutional affiliation, without rock or refuge for his truth claims.” These themes, encompassing Nietzsche’s persona and ideas, figure prominently in American Nietzsche. The facts of the philosopher’s lonely nomadic life—his books largely ignored upon publication, his genius burdened by ceaseless physical pain and eventually insanity—were, for most readers, inseparable from the scandalous self-described “immoralist” with his emphatically modern “philosophy of the future,” as he called his thinking. And this fusion of life and work made him, especially in the eyes of Greenwich Village radicals in the twentieth century’s opening decades, a prophet and martyr embodying what Ratner-Rosenhagen calls a “cautionary tale about the perilous course of the intellectual in the democratic era.”

Nietzsche paid a heavy price for daring to strip away the comforting props of Victorian piety, bringing readers face to face with the imperative “to become what you are.” He launched his own version of Emerson’s project, which begins with the recognition that man is but “a half-man,” a “dwarf of himself.” The time was ripe: how thrilling it must have been for Americans long shackled to the “agonized conscience” of Puritan rectitude, the “yoke” of the genteel, in George Santayana’s phrasing. Cease hiding behind conformity and habit and laziness, Emerson and Nietzsche implore; the former invites “every man to expand to the full circle of the universe,” while the latter will eventually call for the overcoming of the human, summoning what he will name the “overman.” Better known as the notorious Übermensch, this figure would be appropriated and distorted to help sponsor German imperialist aggression during World War I and then the Nazis’ genocidal onslaught. How Nietzsche’s reputation managed to survive both disasters is among the stories Ratner-Rosenhagen tells. In the postwar era, it was above all the labors of Walter Kaufmann, as translator and interpreter, who rescued Nietzsche from the taint of totalitarianism, locating him in the ambit of the Enlightenment tradition and turning him into a rugged individualist with immediate appeal to an American readership already swooning over French existentialism. Ratner-Rosenhagen makes a persuasive case for Kaufmann’s pivotal importance."""

As opposed to ein Über-zwerg  aka Newt Gingrich.



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