(foto David Dickson)

onsdag 27 april 2011

PHILOSOPHY: Reading Nietzsche - an open question

source: Bokus.com

What is reading? This is a question that comes to the fore as I read David Brolin’s Friedrich Nietzsche - Liv, Filosofi, Politik (Friedrich Nietzsche - Life, Philosophy, Politics). In order to begin to counteract the ”conformity” of an ”almost monomaniac interest” in Nietzsche that can be seen ”especially among American academics” Brolin plants his own reading of Nietzsche firmly in a biographical context (8).

Brolin’s method, according to his editor, Göran Fredriksson, ”opens up and scrutinizes basic socio-political themes that run through Nietzsche’s entire work”. It reconstructs, he says, ”backgrounds and contexts that are partly hidden in Nietzsche’s texts” (6). Thus, in order to read a text, you need to know the person who wrote it - you need to know that person’s political, social and personal background.

Now, contrast this with the way Martin Heidegger reads Nietzsche. Heidegger’s method of reading Nietzsche is ”to think the thought that he gave shape to”. In Heidegger's reading this thought is expressed in the phrase "the will to power". By ”think[ing] the thought that he gave shape to” the reader, as Heidegger sees it, will be able to see ”[w]ho Nietzsche is ” and what it is that he actually tells us modern people about ourselves and our thinking (3). 
Nietzsche by Edvard Munch

In order to read a text in this way, the reader needs to get rid of the kind of background that Brolin and Fredriksson find necessary. Heidegger is unusualluy clear on this point of how to read a writer like Nietzsche: ”We shall never experience who Nietzsche is through a historical report about his life history, nor through a presentation of the contents of his writings. Neither do we, nor should we, want to know who Nietzsche is, if we have in mind only the personality, the historical figure, and the psychological object and its products” (3).

These are diametrically different ways of reading. Brolin says that ”today most people agree” that ”Nietzsche’s life is part of ’the matter’ ” (12), and he mentions that he is worried about ”the future of the humanities”, partly because of a dearth of perspectives in a growing ”Nietzsche industry” (8). It may be so, and it may be that his method of reading gives a necessary perspective on Nietzsche.

My question, however, remains: is the one method of reading better than the other? If so, for what reasons? If not, what are their advantages, what are their shortcomings, what are their purposes respectively?
READERS. Tell me about this!

David Brolin.  Friedrich Nietzsche: Liv, Filosofi, Politik.  Stockholm: Häften för kritiska studier, 2010.
Martin Heidegger.  Nietzsche Vols Three and Four.  Edited by David Farrell Krell. Transl by J. Stambaugh, D. F. Krell, F. Capuzzi.  San Francisco: Harper, 1991.

Note: Quotations from David Brolin's book are translated into English by myself / DD


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