misReading Nietzsche

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M. Saverio Clemente, Bryan J. Cocchiara
  • Eugene, OR: 
    PIckwick Publications
    , January
     192 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


misReading Nietzscheedited by M. Saverio Clemente and Bryan J. Cocchiara, is “not a work of scholarship” (1). This admission, found in the work’s preface, would shock the reader as the book, with its nine rigorous essays, certainly appears to be a work of scholarship. It is instead, we are told, “an attempt to reintroduce philia ... back into the life of the academic philosophy. It is an attempt at philosophy itself” (1). That apherial ambition no doubt falls beyond the capacities of this nevertheless instructive and engaging work on Nietzschean thought. 

The work is better described as an attempt to “reveal how Nietzsche calls readers to become more than readers” but rather “true companions who can love one another” (2). Thus, the purpose of the work is not only to clarify chronically misinterpreted points of Nietzsche’s thought, as the title alone might suggest. The book is rather a sort of tribute to the philosopher as well as a fresh reading of his philosophy.

The nine essays included in the volume oscillate between those two aims. Some like, Hayyim Rothman’s “Concerning Nietzsche’s Transvaluation of the Figure of the Traveling Jew” seek to untangle Nietzsche from the popular caricature of Nietzsche—in this case from his supposed anti-semitism. In contrast, essays such as Scott M. Reznick’s “The Art of the Grand Inquisitor: Nietzsche’s Literary Quest for Truth” seek not so much to defend or reassess the philosopher, so much as they seek to investigate and honor his thought. Several of the essays represent wonderful contributions to the study of Nietzsche. For the purpose of this review I will discuss two, Melissa Fitzpatrick’s “A Nietzschean Ethics of Care?” and Stephen Mendelsohn’s “Man made God.” 

In her essay Fitzpatrick unpacks the question of whether “Nietzsche’s Ubermensch really lacking is relations with others, especially with weak others impotence, ineffectiveness, fragility, helplessness, and desperateness” (92). She maintains that, for Nietzsche, the Ubermensch is not unconcerned with the “weaker” nor does the Ubermensch consider itself elevated above others by means of innate superiority, as the Nietzsche appropriating Nazi party would later maintain. Rather, superiority is built upon a will to action over passivity.

Whereas Fitzpatrick’s essay represents something of a defence of the philosopher, Mendelsohn's is more an attempt to “examine some of Nietzsche's early works” (133). Mendelsohn claims that throughout history humans have looked to deities to “imbue life with a fullness of meaning, to make tolerable the problem of human suffering, and ultimately to provide the consolation of hope” (133). Nietzsche, he argues, offers a challenging and personal rebuttal to that notion. Nietzsche, in contrast to the historical trend, maintained that any God who “stands outside of the reality in which humans live” is problematic and “may yield devastating consequences (134). In fact, Nietzsche saw that the very transition from humanity's dependence on the very this-world Greek gods to the transcendent God of the monotheism as a root cause of the nihilism he sought to escape. Mendelsohn’s essay, unlike Fitzpatrick's, does not offer anything new, per se. It does however, along with several other essays in the collection, act as a wonderful introduction to this impactful philosopher. 

Put together, these essays represent a worthy contribution to the study of philosophy, both for those trained in the field and the occasional lay hobbyist.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Taylor Kerby is a graduate student in Religion at Claremont Graduate University.

Date of Review: 
July 29, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

M. Saverio Clemente is a husband and father of two. He lives in Massachusetts where he writes, studies, and teaches philosophy.

Bryan J. Cocchiara is Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Brookdale Community College. He received his MA from Boston College in 2014, where he was a research fellow at The Lonergan Institute.


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