Nietzsche Blogging: Epilogue

Walter Kaufmann - The Portable Nietzsche
Image by lungstruck via Flickr

Looks like we sort of trickled off at the end there, sadly. But I thought this whole project deserved some sort of formal conclusion anyway.

So anyway, I’m done. 686 pages of Nietzsche, translated by Walter Kaufmann, and late last night I passed the finish line. Some of it was quite the slog, particularly near the end, and part of my reason for not writing about it was that I simply didn’t want to inflict the dying Nietzsche’s madness on you. It’s not hard to see where it overtakes him—the past 100 pages or so of The Portable Nietzsche are extended rants and eviscerations of targets that seem unworthy of such bile. The Antichrist has its moments of brilliance, but mostly it’s a long, repetitive stream of anti-Christian bile. Nietzsche Contra Wagner becomes a little bit more than what it sounds like in the last few pages. And the last five pages or so of the collection are Nietzsche’s nearly incoherent ravings to his friends and loved ones.

But what came before—as you can see from paging through the archives of this blog—was awesome stuff. Nietzsche’s prose at its best is both wry and epic, his philosophy both deeply felt and rigorously reasoned. And yet his positive philosophy isn’t what affected me the most, but his counterarguments; I think Nietzsche’s greatest contribution to the philosophical tradition is how he takes a sledgehammer to anything he sees resembling a preconceived notion. The man was many things, but first and foremost I think he was the enemy of conviction.

That is a deeply important project, and one worthy of an intellectual giant. And while I can’t bring myself to sign on with much of Nietzsche’s metaphysics or ethics, I will grant him this, which is that he has left me with one strong, overwhelming conviction: that neither I, nor anyone else, will ever have a conviction that does not deserve being assaulted with as much burning ferocity and cold reason as we can muster. This comes not from contempt for belief, but respect—because a good, strong belief should be able to withstand any siege. And we do ourselves a disservice by not constantly pursuing the best beliefs.

Coming soon: Now that Nietzsche Blogging is over, get ready for Wittgenstein Blogging! This time I’ll have a collaborator: my dear friend Peter and I are going to be combing through all seven propositions of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus together, one at a time. Our first posts should be up later this week.

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