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I first heard of Friedrich Nietzsche as a freshman in college. I didn’t then claim to have read much or well (or understood much, or well) but on a number of occasions since then, 1956-57, I realize I’d read (and understood) more than I’d claimed. I remember walking with my favorite intellectual, Myron (age fifteen), from Battery Park back to Columbia on Morningside Heights and we talked as we walked, Nietzsche, Nietzsche, Nietzsche.
It’s hard for me to remember, humiliating, because Myron was a Schopenhauer scholar: I still only barely know who Schopenhauer was!
Yesterday evening I watched Genius of the Modern World, Chap 2, Nietzsche. Now I’m about to watch it again: and prepare this spillway for notes.
I like this presenter, Bettany. Three days ago I watched Merx, two days ago I watched Marx again! Then I watched Nietzsche, and yesterday watched Nietzsche again: and watched part of Nietzsche again this morning. Some of my thoughts from the mid 1950s return to me now, and most welcome. Bettany tells us that Nietzsche despised Darwin: in his search for a post-Christian morality, a morality that didn’t need any authority, any God, Nietsche argued that his superman had no need to procreate, or even to survive himiself: martyrdom (non conventional) might be the best, the most noble, heroic path. Suddenly my own life, my whole life, shines before me as an example. The herd needs survival, not the hero.
Note: people misread Darwin, impose alien misreadings on him, it’s the readers’ fault, not Darwin’s. Ah, but Nietzsche: that’s partly the philosopher’s fault: he wrote so vividly, leading into our prejudices. It’s certainoly Elizabeth’s fault.
I’d always heard the Nietzsche’s sister (Elizabeth) fooled the world by appropriating his work, abandoned by him, and making it hers, adhering to her lights. So: which Nietzsche are you reading?
I’m reminded of Thomas Hardy. Mrs. Hardy was forever being told that she was married to a genius, a great writer: Oh, yeah, well I’m a pretty great writer too, Mrs. H. thought: by which she mean stock Christian. No, no, that is not what Hardy was.
So funny: remembering my Victorian studies from 1963: Hardy today, Eliot yesterday!
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