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Nietzsche and Antiquity

Nietzsche and Antiquity: His Reaction and Response to the Classical Tradition

Edited by Paul Bishop
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 520
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  • Book Info
    Nietzsche and Antiquity
    Book Description:

    This volume collects a wide-ranging set of essays examining Friedrich Nietzsche's engagement with antiquity in all its aspects. It investigates Nietzsche's reaction and response to the concept of "classicism," with particular reference to his work on Greek culture as a philologist in Basel and later as a philosopher of modernity, and to his reception of German classicism in all his texts. The book should be of interest to students of ancient history and classics, philosophy, comparative literature, and Germanistik. Taken together, these papers suggest that classicism is both a more significant, and a more contested, concept for Nietzsche than is often realized, and it demonstrates the need for a return to a close attention to the intellectual-historical context in terms of which Nietzsche saw himself operating. An awareness of the rich variety of academic backgrounds, methodologies, and techniques of reading evinced in these chapters is perhaps the only way for the contemporary scholar to come to grips with what classicism meant for Nietzsche, and hence what Nietzsche means for us today. The book is divided into five sections -- 'The Classical Greeks; Pre-Socratics and Pythagoreans, Cynics and Stoics; Nietzsche and the Platonic Tradition; Contestations; and German Classicism' -- and constitutes the first major study of Nietzsche and the classical tradition in a quarter of a century. The contributors are Jessica N. Berry, Benjamin Biebuyck, Danny Praet and Isabelle Vanden Poel, Paul Bishop, R. Bracht Branham, Thomas Brobjer, David Campbell, Alan Cardew, Roy Elveton, Christian Emden, Simon Gillham, John Hamilton, Mark Hammond, Albert Henrichs, Dirk t.D. Held, David F. Horkott, Dylan Jaggard, Fiona Jenkins, Anthony K. Jensen, Laurence Lampert, Nicholas Martin, Thomas A. Meyer, Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek, John S. Moore, Neville Morley, David N. McNeill, James I. Porter, Martin A. Ruehl, Herman Siemens, Barry Stocker, Friedrich Ulfers and Mark Daniel Cohen, and Peter Yates.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-648-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    P. B
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)
    Paul Bishop

    This collection of papers arose from the Twelfth Annual Conference of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society, on the theme of “Nietzsche and the Classical Tradition,” held at the University of Glasgow in September 2002. The theme of Nietzsche’s reaction and response to the world of Antiquity and to the concept of classicism—primarily Greek, as well as German—goes right to the core of his works. Nietzsche may have been a “modernist”; he may even have been a “postmodernist”; but in the nineteenth century, as far as the University of Basel was concerned, he was a “classicist”—or, more precisely, a...

  6. Section 1: The Classical Greeks

    • Nietzsche, Homer, and the Classical Tradition
      (pp. 7-26)
      James I. Porter

      It is surely something of a paradox that the Iliad and the Odyssey have been required reading in Western culture from its first beginnings, despite the complete mystery surrounding the circumstances of their date and authorship, and despite their obvious flaws and blemishes—the repetitions, inconsistencies, and irregularities which have led to their impeachment as products of a single mind.¹ All the uncertainties about Homer and his poems notwithstanding, their place in the cultural imagination in the West has been unrivaled. Indeed, as secular texts with no pretensions to revealed truth, and yet conferred with nearly Biblical stature, their status...

    • “Unhistorical Greeks”: Myth, History, and the Uses of Antiquity
      (pp. 27-39)
      Neville Morley

      Were the g reeks “unhistorical”? It depends, of course, on how that term is understood, but the writings of nineteenth-century historians—and not only, or even especially, ancient historians—suggest that they would have found the question absurd. In their eyes, the Greeks were not only “historically minded,” but the inventors of the modern idea of history as a critical account of and reflection upon past events. There was some dispute about the precise dating of this invention.¹ Friedrich Creuzer, in his 1803 account of The Historical Art of the Greeks,² traced the origins of Greek historical thought back into...

    • Breeding Greeks: Nietzsche, Gobineau, and Classical Theories of Race
      (pp. 40-53)
      Nicholas Martin

      In a section of Daybreak (1881), entitled “Purification of Race,” Nietzsche writes:

      —There are probably no pure races, only races that have become pure, and these are very rare. The norm is crossed races [...]. Crossed races are also always crossed cultures, crossed moralities: they are in the main nastier, crueller and more agitated. Purity is the final result of countless adaptations, suckings-in and excretions, and the progress towards purity shows itself in the way the strength present in a race increasingly limits itself to certain selected functions [...]. The Greeks provide us with the model of a race...

    • Ecce Philologus: Nietzsche and Pindar’s Second Pythian Ode
      (pp. 54-69)
      John Hamilton

      It has been frequently demonstrated that the catastrophe of the First World War left German classical studies in a precarious position.¹ University philologists, who had been trained in the methods of historical research institutionalized by Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, invariably found themselves embroiled in a national Bildungskrise. Here the current demands of academic inquiry, restraining itself to a remarkable level of particularity and specialization, were divorced from the issues of moral and philosophical education formerly associated with the classical tradition. As a result classicists could expect attacks from two distinct angles among Weimar intellectuals. On the one side, there were voices...

    • Nietzsche, Aristotle, and Propositional Discourse
      (pp. 70-78)
      Peter Yates

      In this article I attempt to demonstrate that Nietzsche effectively criticizes Aristotle’s championing of the primacy of “propositional discourse” as expounded in Book 4 of his Metaphysics. I take the primacy of propositional discourse to be the notion that the “proper” mode of philosophizing aims to establish true propositions about existence, knowledge, and the human being, through the application of rule-based procedures. The characteristic concern with rules, propriety, and necessity means that propositional discourse has a policing relationship with other modes of enquiry, arrogating to itself the power to decide which of them, if any, are “legitimate.”

      Nietzsche’s criticism bites...

    • Politeia 1871: Young Nietzsche on the Greek State
      (pp. 79-97)
      Martin A. Ruehl

      In the weeks leading up to the publication of his first major philosophical work, Friedrich Nietzsche seems to have been less concerned about the reception of its controversial arguments than about the design of the title page.¹ This was adorned by a vignette showing not an ivycrowned Dionysus, as one might have expected, but the unbound Prometheus, or rather—Prometheus at the moment of his liberation. At the Titan’s feet, there lies an eagle, rather clumsily drawn, whose curiously long neck has obviously just been pierced by one of Hercules’ arrows. It is an ambiguous image that perhaps deserves more...

    • Nietzsche and Democritus: The Origins of Ethical Eudaimonism
      (pp. 98-113)
      Jessica N. Berry

      The central idea of this article emerges from my recent work on what a more thorough appreciation of Greek skepticism can contribute to our understanding of Nietzsche’s views on truth and knowledge. There I examine, among other things, Nietzsche’s campaign against philosophical dogmatism and argue that in general Nietzsche counsels us toward a suspension of judgment, or epochê, particularly with respect to questions of metaphysics. I propose that the best way to characterize Nietzsche’s attitude toward metaphysical problems is on the model of skepticism in antiquity—particularly Pyrrhonian skepticism. My reading, if correct, has significant consequences for the interpretation of...

    • “Full of Gods”: Nietzsche on Greek Polytheism and Culture
      (pp. 114-137)
      Albert Henrichs

      Friedrich nietzsche died in Weimar on 25 August 1900, after a long and arduous mental illness. For almost twelve years, the once dashing professor and restless thinker had been reduced to a passive, mindless, and almost invisible existence, first behind the walls of mental wards, then in the house of his mother, and during the last three years of his life in a private villa at Weimar under the care of his sister. Physically robust but progressively demented, he was a stranger to himself and to others, largely oblivious to his own identity as well as to his past. His...

  7. Section 2: Pre-Socratics and Pythagoreans, Cynics, and Stoics

    • “An Impossible Virtue”: Heraclitean Justice and Nietzsche’s Second Untimely Meditation
      (pp. 139-150)
      Simon Gillham

      At the beginning of section six of “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life” Nietzsche asks two questions of “ modern man,” by which he means, in this context, contemporary historians and philologists. He asks, first, “whether on account of his well-known historical ‘objectivity’ [Objektivität] he has a right to call himself strong, that is to say just [gerecht], and just in a higher degree than men of other ages?” And second: “Is it true that this objectivity originates in an enhanced need and demand for justice [Gerechtigkeit]?” (UM II § 6). Nietzsche uses the word “justice” here...

    • Cults and Migrations: Nietzsche’s Meditations on Orphism, Pythagoreanism, and the Greek Mysteries
      (pp. 151-169)
      Benjamin Biebuyck, Danny Praet and Isabelle Vanden Poel

      Nietzsche’s autobiography ECCE HOMO is a strange book, in more ways than one. In its idiosyncratic tone it describes the many circumstances that influenced the course of his life, as well as the legacy the philosopher believed himself to have bequeathed to humankind. As such, the private and the philosophical, the past and the present, the thinker and the thoughts, become ingeniously intertwined. The most obvious example of this intertwining is the Greek deity Dionysus. In the section in Ecce Homo on The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche characterizes himself as the first person to have understood the Dionysian (EH BT...

    • Nietzsche’s Cynicism: Uppercase or lowercase?
      (pp. 170-181)
      R. Bracht Branham

      My purpose here in this article is to sketch an answer to the following question: what did Nietzsche mean when he wrote in Ecce Homo that his books attain here and there “the highest thing that can be attained on earth—Cynicism” (EH Why I Write Such Good Books §3)? At first glance, the idea that ancient Cynicism might be invoked here seems implausible. Were not the dogs, or Cynics, of antiquity the bluntest, crudest, least learned of the ancient schools ofphilosophy—assuming they can be called a philosophical school, which was doubted even in antiquity? And what survives of...

    • Nietzsche’s Unpublished Fragments on Ancient Cynicism: The First Night of Diogenes
      (pp. 182-191)
      Anthony K. Jensen

      It has already been established by the recent work of Heinrich Niehues-Pröbsting that Nietzsche was fascinated by both original ancient Cynics and the various modern manifestations of cynicism.¹ Niehues-Pröbsting has done much to explore the ways in which Nietzsche adopted aspects of the typically Cynic literary paradigms, how he understood Cynicism as a tool of every genuine philosopher used to combat the life-negating affects of pessimism, and how Nietzsche occasionally fancied himself as a modern incarnation of Diogenes of Sinope, ancient Cynicism’s probable founder. R. Bracht Branham has continued the effort in this volume with his article, “Nietzsche’s Cynicism: Uppercase...

    • Nietzsche’s Stoicism: The Depths Are Inside
      (pp. 192-203)
      R. O. Elveton

      In explicitly referring to his philosophy as eine Kunst des Lebens, Nietzsche aligns himself with the great Hellenistic tradition of Stoicism. Of course, there are crucial differences. Nietzsche will offer a view of “nature” that is violently opposed to traditional Stoic doctrine. He will offer a very different estimation of the value of suffering. Finally, Nietzsche will adopt and transform one of the most significant consequences emerging from his genealogy of morality.¹ Nietzsche uncovers an “interiority” that will lead him to rewrite the Stoic formula of “live according to nature” into the new language of the will to power.


  8. Section 3:: Nietzsche and the Platonic Tradition

    • Nietzsche and Plato
      (pp. 205-219)
      Laurence Lampert

      Nietzsche read plato differently from the way we do, and I am persuaded he read him correctly. The chief difference in Nietzsche’s reading follows from a distinction he made basic but that we scholars have not generally credited. As a report on Nietzsche’s view of Plato, my contribution depends on that distinction, so I shall sketch it briefly. It is expressed most clearly toward the end of “We Scholars,” the chapter in Beyond Good and Evil that distinguishes scholars from the philosopher. The long aphorisms of that chapter are a gathering argument, which peaks with aphorism 211 where two philosophers...

    • Nietzsche, Nehamas, and “Self-Creation”
      (pp. 220-227)
      Thomas A. Meyer

      In his recent book, The Art of Living (1998), Alexander Nehamas develops a generalized interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical relationship with the figure of Socrates as he presents himself through Plato’s early and middle dialogues.¹ It is Nehamas’s contention that Nietzsche experienced ambivalent and somewhat unsettled attitudes towards Socrates, an ambivalence that lingers throughout his philosophical career. At its heart, the problem of Socrates is, on Nehamas’s interpretation, that Socrates inspires the highest degree of both criticism and praise to which Nietzsche appears to rise in his writing, one which he reserves for either exemplary or decadent individuals. Looking out...

    • God Unpicked
      (pp. 228-240)
      John S. Moore

      The return to the ancient Greeks is something Nietzsche, like many others before and some after him, long considered to be the special destiny of Germans.¹ The aim may seem not altogether unreasonable, if ascribed to the perceived superiority of nineteenth-century German scholarship, rather than to racial qualities or some supposed metaphysical quality of the language. While the British may have thought of themselves as the true heirs of the ancient Greeks, following Lord Elgin’s acquisition of the Parthenon sculptures, it was the Germans who were developing the scholarship. German philology apparently brought the prospect of understanding what the Greeks...

    • Nietzsche’s Wrestling with Plato and Platonism
      (pp. 241-259)
      Thomas Brobjer

      Nietzsche’s relation to Plato has received much attention, and it is often argued that he enters into a sort of agon, or competition, with Plato. Although there is some truth in such a view, I wish to argue the opposite case—first, that Nietzsche did not have a personal engagement with Plato (unlike the case with many other ancient Greeks, including Socrates, and with several modern philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Lange, Kant, Emerson, and Hartmann); and second that, on the whole, he only set up a caricature of Plato as a representative of the metaphysical tradition (including Christianity) to which...

    • On the Relationship of Alcibiades’ Speech to Nietzsche’s “Problem of Socrates”
      (pp. 260-275)
      David N. McNeill

      In this essay I will be arguing that, late in his career, Nietzsche viewed Socrates as the most profound exemplar of what he called a “Caesarian cultivator”—the strongest type of human being who can come to be in an age of cultural decline (BGE §207).¹ Rendering that somewhat controversial thesis plausible, however, is only the secondary goal of my essay. What, in the context of the governing theme of this volume, I am more interested in rendering plausible, is the interpretive method I employ to argue for that thesis. I will offer a reading of the “Problem of Socrates”...

  9. Section 4:: Contestations

    • Dionysus versus Dionysus
      (pp. 277-294)
      Dylan Jaggard

      Over time nietzsche was to change his mind about a number of things he had fervently advocated in his first book The Birth of Tragedy(1872). His enthusiasm for Wagner’s operas and his advocacy of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics of the will were the two most notable follies of Nietzsche’s youth. One thing the later Nietzsche claimed he had definitely got right in this book, however, was his understanding of the Dionysian. I will argue in this article that, although there are certain continuities between Nietzsche’s early and later characterizations of Dionysus, there are a number of very important differences. I shall look...

    • Rhetoric, Judgment, and the Art of Surprise in Nietzsche’s Genealogy
      (pp. 295-309)
      Fiona Jenkins

      There is little that is self-evident about the terms in which Nietzsche judges the Western tradition of moral thought. Clearly, he seeks to expose the false pretensions of morality, its lies, illusions, delusions, fabrications, and fictions; and he hints that much greater things will follow on morality’s demise. His writing forcefully evokes the conditions of human existence that lead him to pass a negative judgment on the morality of the “weak” and the “sick.” We are acquainted, through the extraordinary pungency of his expressive style, with his contempt not only for many forms but many nuances of life—for “life”...

    • How Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals Depicts Psychological Distance between Ancients and Moderns
      (pp. 310-317)
      David F. Horkott

      Friedrich nietzsche was a clear-sighted diagnostician, whose penetrating analysis encompassed the history of European culture from the archaic age of the Greeks to his own day. His analysis was guided by this central insight: that the manner by which a culture interprets suffering is an index of its spiritual health. Using this diagnostic benchmark, Nietzsche was sure that Greek tragedy (as performed during the archaic age) functioned as a showcase for the artistic genius and robust health of that ancient culture. Modern Europeans, on the other hand, do not live in a culture characterized by tragic art and, as a...

    • Nietzsche’s Aesthetic Solution to the Problem of Epigonism in the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 318-328)
      Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek

      Literary historian Adolf Stern’s reflection, which begins his essay “Germany’s Literature from Goethe’s Death to the Present” (1885), gives a precise description of the ambivalence embodied in the category of “epigonality.” The central place that this concept was given in literary criticism of the nineteenth century is due to a form of prejudice, for the “conviction” that literature post-Goethe must be epigonic is at best a superficial, a dubious “judgment.” This follows from the foundations on which such an assessment rests, which in turn depends upon an intellectual history that would explain the term “Period of Epigones” and specifies its...

    • From Tragedy to Philosophical Novel
      (pp. 329-342)
      Barry Stocker

      The study of Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy has been widely pursued, but largely in terms of its place in Nietzsche’s philosophy and with regard to its contribution to philosophical aesthetics. These concerns are not ignored here, but the topic of literary genre needs to be addressed. A book about tragedy is a book about literary genre. Its role in introducing a philosophical position, and beginning a remarkable philosophical work, should not distract us from the question of genre. As in the previous works of Aristotle, Schlegel, Schelling, and Hegel, the study of genre cannot be properly abstracted from the...

    • Nietzsche, Interpretation, and Truth
      (pp. 343-360)
      David M. A. Campbell

      Nietzsche has rightly been singled out recently for his discussion of “truth,”¹ but, given that talk of “truth” depends on his view of interpretation, this article considers whether he is finally interested instead in practice.² Nietzsche writes epigrams and the like to deter others from representing his thinking as an organized true-or-false statement and, wary of transcendentalism, he offers the “perspectivist” alternative that we interpret what matters to us in terms of things, their properties and in general “truth” and “reality.” In this context I shall look both as his account of linguistic meaning and, against an Aristotelian background, at...

    • Nietzsche’s Remarks on the Classical Tradition: A Prognosis for Western Democracy in the Twenty-First Century
      (pp. 361-370)
      Mark Hammond

      In this article I consider several statements Nietzsche made about the classical tradition, which form the basis of Nietzsche’s prognosis for the future. This prognosis, I shall argue, is composed of both a political prognosis of the state in terms of liberal democracy, and a scientific prognosis of the human being as a living biological system. In the first part I consider the following four statements regarding the classical tradition: first, one made by Nietzsche in a lecture in 1872 on ancient rhetoric; second, and third, statements made by him in Daybreak; and finally, a statement found in the first...

  10. Section 5:: German Classicism

    • The Invention of Antiquity: Nietzsche on Classicism, Classicality, and the Classical Tradition
      (pp. 372-390)
      Christian J. Emden

      Several years ago, Karl Christ and Suzanne Marchand argued, on different occasions, that the German reception of antiquity is marked by three general factors which shaped the philological enterprise throughout the 1800s: a tendency toward aesthetic idealization, the demand for rigorous scholarship, and an ideological appropriation of antiquity.¹ Although it might be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to disentangle these three factors, they each represent a complex, semiconscious, cognitive field that develops as a reaction to very specific historical and intellectual circumstances. Irrespective of whether we approach antiquity from an aesthetic point of view, from a scholarly perspective, or in terms...

    • Nietzsche and the “Classical”: Traditional and Innovative Features of Nietzsche’s Usage, with Special Reference to Goethe
      (pp. 391-410)
      Herman Siemens

      It is hard to overestimate the importance of the terms “klassisch,” “das Klassische,” “Klassicismus,” and related words in Nietzsche’s thought. They occur around 336 times in the Studienausgabe (KSA), with relatively concentrated use in the periods 1870–1876 (especially UM I) and 1887–1889. In their different contexts and meanings, they serve almost as an index of his chief concerns in different phases of his thought, from the critique of classical philology, the question of classical education (Bildung), the (self-) emancipation from nineteenth-century Romanticism (especially Schopenhauer and Wagner), the question of health and sickness, the critique of Christianity and “slave...

    • Conflict and Repose: Dialectics of the Greek Ideal in Nietzsche and Winckelmann
      (pp. 411-424)
      Dirk t. D. Held

      Europe’s need for a revised foundation-myth became imperative when it began to be reshaped by the forces of modernity. These forces emerged during the eighteenth century and, by the nineteenth, had transformed Europe materially, politically, and culturally. Appropriate to a period of such revolutionary change, Greece provided a critical component for a new myth of Europe which Rome did not: discontinuity. This was because Greece was disconnected from the ideological underpinnings of ecclesiastical and judicial authority bestowed on European institutions by Roman antiquity. Greek antiquity appeared as a form of estrangement. Moreover, when Greece emerged from beneath the cloak of...

    • Nietzsche’s Ontological Roots in Goethe’s Classicism
      (pp. 425-440)
      Friedrich Ulfers and Mark Daniel Cohen

      The study of intellectual history has a penchant for resorting to schools. It is our tendency to group the highest temperature thought into movements, to find it fallen in bunches across the lawn of historical periods, to locate it collecting in masses, as if the probings, suspicions, and sudden insights of individual theorists were varied growths emerging from but one plant per era. We think of schools of thought, and we cut our predecessors to fit the Procrustean bed we have made for them. But it is specific ideas that come from the brains of specific thinkers, and the characterization...

    • Nietzsche’s Anti-Christianity as a Return to (German) Classicism
      (pp. 441-457)
      Paul Bishop

      What is classicism? Goethe believed he knew the answer: as he put it in one of his maxims and aphorisms, Klassisch ist das Gesunde, romantisch das Kranke (“Classicism is healthy, Romanticism is sick”).² And in conversation with Johann Peter Eckermann on 2 April 1829, he expanded on his famous definition of “classicism,” and his distinction between it and “Romanticism,” with reference to the concepts of “sickness” and “health”:

      I call the classic healthy, the Romantic sickly . In this sense, the Nibelungenlied is as classic as the Iliad, for both are vigorous and healthy. Most modern productions are Romantic—not...

    • The Dioscuri: Nietzsche and Rohde
      (pp. 458-478)
      Alan Cardew

      In true r omantic fashion the friendship of Friedrich Nietzsche and Erwin Rohde was mythologized. Fellow students of philology at Leipzig in the mid 1860s, sharing the same passion for Greece, for Wagner and for Schopenhauer, the two were inseparable. Their teacher, Professor Friedrich Ritschl, called them “the Dioscuri.” In a letter to Rohde from Basel in November 1872 Nietzsche suggests that Ritschl, Burckhardt, Immermann, and even some “Florentine ladies” have noted the pair’s “Orestes and Pylades relationship Calepoĩsıv έvì xeívoısı (among the forbidding foreigners) and they rejoice over it” (KSB 4, 86).² In the same letter Nietzsche praises Rohde’s...

  11. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 479-484)
  12. Index
    (pp. 485-505)