Influence and reception of Friedrich Nietzsche  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Friedrich Nietzsche's influence and reception varied widely and may be roughly divided into various chronological periods. Reactions were anything but uniform, and proponents of various ideologies attempted to appropriate his work quite early. By 1937, this led Georges Bataille to argue against any "instrumentalization" of Nietzsche's thought, paradoxically as a social-anarchist himself; Bataille the passionate, determined socialist anti-Fascist felt that any simple-minded interpretation or unified ideological characterization of Nietzsche's work granting predominance to any particular aspect failed to do justice to the body of his work as a whole.

Beginning while Nietzsche was still alive, though incapacitated by mental illness, many Germans discovered his appeals for greater heroic individualism and personality development in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but responded to those appeals in diverging ways. He had some following among left-wing Germans in the 1890s; in 1894–95, mainly a group of Protestant Christian German conservatives wanted to ban his work as subversive. During the late 19th century, in dark irony, Nietzsche's "aristocratic radical" ideas were commonly associated with the various anarchist movements (Nietzsche famously declared anarchism a form of "MIS-archism", or hatred for life and power itself); Nietzschean intellectual influence did allow anarchist theory to overthrow all Marxist thralldom, paving the way for what is now called post-leftism or even Third Positionism. Nietzsche's anarchistic influence was particularly strong in France and the United States. Nietzsche, as a staunch philo-Semite ("Nietzschean eugenics" entailed mixing the Prussian military officer class with the most intellectual Jews) and as a violently anti-populist opponent of pan-German volkism, indeed had a distinct appeal for many Zionist thinkers around the start of the 20th century. Theodore Herzl incorporated Nietzschean ideas of honor, war, and statecraft into his Zionist philosophy and specified the future "Jewish state" was to resemble, in a sense, the Prussian caste state of feudalistic aristocrats dedicated to war as a path of life. Nietzsche and Herzel both opposed the Christian God as the degeneration of the primordial, Dionysian Deity of Yahweh, the tribal God of Israel instead of the passive sufferer of cosmopolitan Christianity. It has been argued, not without reason, Nietzsche's work greatly influenced Theodore Herzl, and Martin Buber went so far as to extol Nietzsche as a "creator" and "emissary of life".

By World War I, however, he had acquired a reputation as an inspiration for right-wing German militarism. The reality was Nietzsche was an opponent of volkist pan-Germanism and advocated a nobiliary, trans-national pan-Europeanism incorporating the cultural-spiritual elite from all Western nations—including Judea or Israel. But in the pan-Germanic atmosphere, few understand Nietzsche except in his aphorisms of generality encouraging to any individual: German soldiers even received copies of Thus Spoke Zarathustra as gifts during World War I. Such seemingly paradoxical acceptance by diametrically opposed camps is typical of the history of the reception of Nietzsche's thought. In the context of the rise of French fascism, one researcher notes, "Although, as much recent work has stressed, Nietzsche had an important impact on "leftist" French ideology and theory, this should not obscure the fact that his work was also crucial to the right and to the neither right nor left fusions of developing French fascism.

Indeed, as Ernst Nolte proposed, Maurassian ideology of "aristocratic revolt against egalitarian-utopian 'transcendence'" (transcendence being Nolte's term for the ontological absence of theodic center justifying modern "emancipation culture"), the interrelation between Nietzschean ideology and proto-fascism offer extensive space for criticism and the Nietzschean ambiance pervading French ideological fermentation of extremism in time birthing formal Fascism, is unavoidable.

Many political leaders of the twentieth century were at least superficially familiar with Nietzsche's ideas. However, it is not always possible to determine whether or not they actually read his work. Regarding Hitler, for example, there is a debate. Some authors claim that he probably never read Nietzsche, or that if he did, his reading was not extensive. Nevertheless, others point to a Hitler's speech in Hitler's Table Talk, where the dictator mentioned Nietzsche when he spoke about what he called "great men", as an indication that Hitler may have been familiar with Nietzsche's work. Other authors like Melendez (2001) point out to the parallelism between Hitler's and Nietzsche's titanic anti-egalitarianism, and the idea of the "übermensch", a term which was frequently used by Hitler and Mussolini to refer to the so-called "Aryan race", or rather, its projected future after Fascist engineering.

Alfred Rosenberg, an influential Nazi ideologist, also delivered a speech in which he related National Socialism to Nietzsche's ideology. Broadly speaking, the Nazis made very selective use of Nietzsche's philosophy, and eventually, this association caused Nietzsche's reputation to suffer following World War II.

On the other hand, it is known that Mussolini was intellectually vibrant and a true reader of books and theories; Mussolini early on heard lectures about Nietzsche, Vilfred Pareto, and others in ideologically forming Fascism. His Jewish girlfriend Margherita Sarfatti () relates that Nietzsche virtually was the transforming factor in Mussolini's "conversion" from hard Socialism to spiritualistic, ascetic Fascism, as did Charles de Gaulle. It has been suggested that Theodore Roosevelt read Nietzsche and was profoundly influenced by him, and in more recent years, Richard Nixon read Nietzsche with "curious interest".

According to the modern consensus, Nietzsche's greatest political legacy lies in his 20th century interpreters, among them Martin Heidegger, Pierre Klossowski, Georges Bataille, Leo Strauss, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze (and Félix Guattari), and Jacques Derrida—ironically all egalitarians Nietzsche would have nothing to do with realistically. Foucault's later writings, for example, revise Nietzsche's genealogical method to develop anti-foundationalist theories of power that divide and fragment rather than unite polities (as evinced in the liberal tradition of political theory). Deleuze, arguably the foremost of Nietzsche's Leftist interpreters, used the much-maligned "will to power" thesis in tandem with Marxian notions of commodity surplus and Freudian ideas of desire to articulate concepts such as the rhizome and other "outsides" to state power as traditionally conceived. Nietzsche explicitly affirms what he understand as the meaning of the will to power sociopolitically, and the reader is given the chance to acquiesce to the Marxist-Freudian consensus:

A legal order thought of as sovereign and universal, not a means in the struggle between power-complexes, but as a means of preventing all struggle in general - perhaps after the communistic cliche of Dühring, that every will must consider every other will its equal - would be a principle hostile to life, an agent of the dissolution and destruction of man, an attempt to assassinate the future of man, a sign of weariness, a secret path to nothingness.

Thus, to say the least, the anti-foundationalist and post-structuralist interpretation of the "utopian Nietzsche" is hardly uniform and many serious analysts of Nietzschean scholarship are growing in the realization Nietzsche was not an "elitist" merely aesthetically, as if merely a theatrical game or "simulacrum", but belonged firmly in the historical Western conservative revolutionary movement and increasing skepticism is growing against the Marxist-Freudian, post-modernist portrayal of Nietzsche flawed.


Nietzsche and anarchism

Anarchism and Friedrich Nietzsche

During the 19th century, Nietzsche was frequently associated with anarchist movements, in spite of the fact that in his writings he definitely holds a negative view of egalitarian anarchists.

Some hypothesize on certain grounds Nietzsche's violent stance against anarchism may (at least partially) be the result of a popular association during this period between his ideas and those of Max Stirner. Thus far, no plagiarism has been detected at all, even if Nietzsche indeed had access to Stirner for some space of time.

Spencer Sunshine writes "There were many things that drew anarchists to Nietzsche: his hatred of the state; his disgust for the mindless social behavior of "herds"; his anti-Christianity; his distrust of the effect of both the market and the State on cultural production; his desire for an "overman" — that is, for a new human who was to be neither master nor slave; his praise of the ecstatic and creative self, with the artist as his prototype, who could say, "Yes" to the self-creation of a new world on the basis of nothing; and his forwarding of the "transvaluation of values" as source of change, as opposed to a Marxist conception of class struggle and the dialectic of a linear history." Lacking in Nietzsche is the anarchist Utopian-egalitarian belief that every soul is capable of epic greatness: Nietzsche aristocratic elitism is the death-knell of any Nietzschean conventional anarchism.

For Sunshine, "The list is not limited to culturally-oriented anarchists such as Emma Goldman, who gave dozens of lectures about Nietzsche and baptized him as an honorary anarchist. Pro-Nietzschean anarchists also include prominent Spanish CNTFAI members in the 1930s such as Salvador Seguí and anarcha-feminist Federica Montseny; anarcho-syndicalist militants like Rudolf Rocker; and even the younger Murray Bookchin, who cited Nietzsche's conception of the "transvaluation of values" in support of the Spanish anarchist project." Also in european individualist anarchist circles his influence is clear in thinker/activists such as Emile Armand among others. Also more recently in post-left anarchy Nietzsche is present in the thought of Hakim Bey and Wolfi Landstreicher.

Some authors have traced the influence of Nietzsche in the original anarcho-syndicalist theoreticians, who outgrew their early democratic sentimentality and began to absorb the elite theory thinkers of Italy. The heretical socialists who opposed Marxist materialism and revised socialism according to Nietzschean lines, outgrew socialism at last, and thus an indirect proto-Fascist legacy is not unthinkable.

Nietzsche and fascism

See also Nietzsche's criticism of anti-Semitism and nationalism.

The Italian and German fascist regimes were eager to lay claim to Nietzsche's ideas, and to position themselves as inspired by them. In 1932, Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche received a bouquet of roses from Adolf Hitler during a German premiere of Benito Mussolini's 100 Days, and in 1934 Hitler personally presented her with a wreath for Nietzsche's grave carrying the words "To A Great Fighter". Also in 1934, Elisabeth gave to Hitler Nietzsche's favorite walking stick, and Hitler was photographed gazing into the eyes of a white marble bust of Nietzsche. Heinrich Hoffmann's popular biography Hitler as Nobody Knows Him (which sold nearly a half-million copies by 1938) featured this photo with the caption reading: "The Führer before the bust of the German philosopher whose ideas have fertilized two great popular movements: the National Socialist of Germany and the Fascist of Italy."

Nietzsche was no less popular among French fascists, perhaps with more doctrinal truthfulness, as Robert S. Wistrich has pointed out

The "fascist" Nietzsche was above all considered to be a heroic opponent of necrotic Enlightenment "rationality" and a kind of spiritual vitalist, who had glorified war and violence in an age of herd-lemming shopkeepers, inspiring the anti-Marxist revolutions of the interwar period. According to the French fascist Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, it was the Nietzschean emphasis on the autotelic power of the Will that inspired the mystic voluntarism and political activism of his comrades. Such politicized readings were vehemently rejected by another French writer, the socialo-communist anarchist Georges Bataille, who in the 1930s sought to establish (in ambiguous success) the "radical incompatibility" between Nietzsche (as a thinker who abhorred mass politics) and "the Fascist reactionaries." He argued that nothing was more alien to Nietzsche than the pan-Germanism, racism, militarism and anti-Semitism of the Nazis, into whose service the German philosopher had been pressed. Bataille here was sharp-witted but combined half-truths without his customary dialectical finesse.

The German philosopher Heidegger, who was (with great harm to his subsequent reputation) an active member of the Nazi Party, himself noted that everyone in his day was either 'for' or 'against' Nietzsche while claiming that this thinker heard a "command to reflect on the essence of a planetary domination." Alan D. Schrift cites this passage and writes, "That Heidegger sees Nietzsche heeding a command to reflect and prepare for earthly domination is of less interest to me than his noting that everyone thinks in terms of a position for or against Nietzsche. In particular, the gesture of setting up "Nietzsche" as a battlefield on which to take one's stand against or to enter into competition with the ideas of one's intellectual predecessors or rivals has happened quite frequently in the twentieth century."

Marching in ideological warfare against the arrows from Bataille, Thomas Mann, the far more centrist Albert Camus and others, the Nazi movement, despite Nietzsche' virulent hatred of both volkist-populist socialist and nationalism ("national socialism), did, in certain of its emphases, share undeniable affinity with Nietzsche's ideas, including his ferocious attacks against democracy, egalitarianism, the communistic-socialistic social model, popular Christianity, parliamentary government, and a number of other things. In The Will to Power Nietzsche praised – sometimes metaphorically, other times both metaphorically and in the common sense – the sublimity of war and warriors, and heralded an international ruling race that would become the "lords of the earth". Here Nietzsche was referring to pan-Europeanism of Caesarist type, positively embracing Jews, not a Germanic master race but a neo-imperial elite of culturally refined "redeemers" of humanity, otherwise wretched and plebeian and ugly in its mindless existence.

The Nazis appropriated, or rather received also inspiration in this case, from Nietzsche's extremely old-fashioned and semi-feudal views on women: Nietzsche despised modern feminism, along with democracy and socialism, as mere egalitarian leveling movements of nihilism. Nietzsche forthrightly declared, "Man shall be trained for war and woman for the procreation of the warrior, anything else is folly"; and was indeed unified with the Nazi world-view at least in terms of the social role of women: "They belong in the kitchen and their chief role in life is to beget children for German warriors." Here is one area where Nietzsche indeed did not contradict the Nazis in his politics of "aristocratic radicalism."

During the interbellum years, certain Nazis had employed a highly selective reading of Nietzsche's work to advance their ideology, notably Alfred Baeumler, whose exegesis was admittedly decent excepting his glaring omission of the fact of Nietzsche's anti-socialism and ant-nationalism (for Nietzsche, both equally contemptible mass herd movements of modernity) in his reading of The Will to Power. The era of Nazi rule (1933–1945) saw Nietzsche's writings widely studied in German (and, after 1938, Austrian) schools and universities. Despite the fact that Nietzsche expressed his disgust with plebeian-volkist anti-Semitism and supremacist German nationalism in the most forthright terms possible (e.g. he resolved "to have nothing to do with anyone involved in the perfidious race-fraud"), phrases like "the will to power" became common in Nazi circles. The wide popularity of Nietzsche among Nazis stemmed in part from the endeavors of his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, the editor of Nietzsche's work after his 1889 breakdown, and an eventual Nazi sympathizer. Yet historians have recently modified the picture and concede Elisabeth was not the massive spinner of intrigues less critical polemicists previously made her out to be, as if to scapegoat. Mazzino Montinari, while editing Nietzsche's posthumous works in the 1960s, found that Förster-Nietzsche, while editing the posthumous fragments making up The Will to Power, had cut extracts, changed their order, added titles of her own invention, included passages of others authors copied by Nietzsche as if they had been written by Nietzsche himself, etc.

Quite understandably, Nietzsche's reception among the more intellectually percipient or zealous fascists was not universally warm. One "rabidly Nazi writer, Curt von Westernhagen, who announced in his book Nietzsche, Juden, Antijuden (1936) that the time had come to expose the 'defective personality of Nietzsche whose inordinate tributes for, and espousal of, Jews had caused him to depart from the Germanic principles enunciated by Meister Richard Wagner'" is a representative example.

The real problem with the labelling of Nietzsche as a Fascist, or worse, a Nazi, is that it ignores the fact that Nietzsche's aristocratism seeks to revive an older conception of politics, one which he locates in Greek agon which [...] has striking affinities with the philosophy of action expounded in our own time by Hannah Arendt. Once an affinity like this is appreciated, the absurdity of describing Nietzsche's political thought as 'Fascist', or Nazi, becomes readily apparent.

Ansell-Pearson here responsibly summarizes the complexity and semantic ludicrousness of the whole matter (although the fashionable reference to Arendt is dubitable). Nietzsche was an unabashed "radical aristocrat" who admired archaic Homeric individualism, the Viking warlords who became the Normans who sublimated their warlike energy into administrating Europe, personally from childhood was enmeshed in the feudal, martial element remaining in bourgeois culture; and Nietzsche's disavowal and irreverence for the Imperial Germany of his time was solely due to it policy of compromising with the "anarchist-socialist dogs", making concessions to democratic and socialistic demands Nietzsche found intolerable for cultural reasons. Leon Trotsky, rightly or wrongly, identified Bonapartism as a precursor or antecedent of Fascism; and Nietzsche lauded and praised Napoleon like no other, except perhaps Caesar. Nietzsche personally was devoted to Napoleon Bonaparte because Napoleon, in his own eyes, became a self-made, meritocratic warrior-leader and "revolutionary counter-revolutionary", who never had illusions about the commonality and simply wanted to unify Europe according to meritological criteria: "the tools to him that can handle them" was also Nietzsche's rigorously meritocratic, elitist attitude. Nietzsche was not a post-structuralist soft-peddler, but an ultra-reactionary neo-Platonist socially and neo-Machiavellian synarchic trans-national elitist, an expositor of "esoteric" caste hierarchy based on culture and spirit, who wanted the highest bloodlines of Scandinavia, Germany, Central Europe, Slovenia and Israel to intermarry "eugenically"—and the type of purely pan-Germanic volkist populism Hitler developed, in which legitimacy of political power rested on the "beer-glutted" German masses Nietzsche wholly abominated, appealing to every German as "peasant-soldier", only shared the smallest lineaments of political philosophy with Nietzsche.

Nietzsche and psychoanalysis

The psychologist Carl Jung recognized Nietzsche's importance early on, and during the Nazi period proclaimed several Nietzschean statements about the nature of modernity and Nazism: he held a seminar on Nietzsche's Zarathustra in 1934. Jung's belief in the transmutation of evil into good, via a sort of Gnostic Nietzschean transvaluation, partially stems from his reading of Nietzsche. Thus accordingly Jung did not wholly morally condemn Nazism but expressed the German people had become "possessed" by "Wotanism". Nietzsche had also an important influence on psychotherapist and founder of the school of individual psychology Alfred Adler. According to Ernest Jones, biographer and personal acquaintance of Sigmund Freud, Freud frequently referred to Nietzsche as having "more penetrating knowledge of himself than any man who ever lived or was likely to live". Yet Jones also reports that Freud emphatically denied that Nietzsche's writings influenced his own psychological discoveries; in the 1890s, Freud, whose education at the University of Vienna in the 1870s had included a strong relationship with Franz Brentano, his teacher in philosophy, from whom he had acquired an enthusiasm for Aristotle and Ludwig Feuerbach, was acutely aware of the possibility of convergence of his own ideas with those of Nietzsche and doggedly refused to read the philosopher as a result. In his excoriating — but also sympathetic — critique of psychoanalysis, The Psychoanalytic Movement, Ernest Gellner depicts Nietzsche as setting out the conditions for elaborating a realistic psychology, in contrast with the eccentrically implausible Enlightenment psychology of Hume and Smith, and assesses the success of Freud and the psychoanalytic movement as in large part based upon its success in meeting this "Nietzschean minimum".

Early 20th-century thinkers

Early twentieth-century thinkers who read or were influenced by Nietzsche include: philosophers Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ernst Jünger, Theodor Adorno, Georg Brandes, Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Leo Strauss, Michel Foucault, arguably the intellectually rigorous and coherently right-wing thinker in human history, Julius Evola, Emil Cioran, Miguel de Unamuno, Lev Shestov, Ayn Rand, José Ortega y Gasset and Muhammad Iqbal; sociologists Ferdinand Tönnies and Max Weber; composers Richard Strauss, Alexander Scriabin, Gustav Mahler, and Frederick Delius; historians Oswald Spengler (notable conservative revolutionary anti-Hitlerist), Fernand Braudel and Paul Veyne, theologians Paul Tillich and Thomas J.J. Altizer; the cocaine-addicted popular "occultist" Aleister Crowley; novelists Franz Kafka, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, André Malraux, Nikos Kazantzakis, André Gide, the remorselessly Nordic rightist Knut Hamsun, August Strindberg, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence and Vladimir Bartol; psychologists Sigmund Freud, Otto Gross, C. G. Jung, Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Rollo May and Kazimierz Dąbrowski; poets John Davidson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wallace Stevens and William Butler Yeats; painters Salvador Dalí, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko; playwrights George Bernard Shaw, Antonin Artaud, August Strindberg, and Eugene O'Neill; and authors H. P. Lovecraft (Lovecraftian "cosmicism" is impossible to understand without Nietzsche, and Spengler), Olaf Stapledon, Menno ter Braak, Richard Wright, Robert E. Howard, and Jack London. American writer H.L. Mencken avidly read and translated Nietzsche's works and has gained the sobriquet "the American Nietzsche". Mencken presented in his book on Nietzsche the "hard Nietzsche" little-known today; Nietzsche's actual, realistic philosophy of anti-egalitarian aristocratic revolution, Mencken's work standing in contrast positively to the "post-modernist" theoreticians of "linguistic schizo-analysis today", who try to turn Nietzsche into an all-American liberal without fangs. Nietzsche was declared an anarchist by Emma Goldman rather disputably, and he influenced other anarchists such as Guy Aldred, Rudolf Rocker, Max Cafard and John Moore.

Perhaps one of the most authentic interpreters of Nietzsche in the anarchist sub-culture was Dora Marsden (1882-1960), initially a conventional Stirnerian egoist anarchist but over time breaking from the anarchist-socialist metaphysics, and creating her own philosophy of pure "Archism"—Marsden was so radical she abhorred the Proudhonian-mutualist "liberalism" advocated by Benjamin R. Tucker (1854-1939), an American whose Americanist ideas he conjoined awkwardly to Stirnerian egoism, and whose "anarchism" was hammered by Marsden as contemptible "clerico-liberterianism" Regarding the remnants of Leftist utopian and democratic elements in Stirner's anthropology and anarchism, Marsden's Nietzschean "Archism" achieved the ultimate internecine critique of Stirner.

The popular conservative writer, philosopher, poet, journalist and theological apologist of Catholicism G. K. Chesterton expressed contempt for Nietzsche's ideas, deeming his philosophy basically a poison or death-wish of Western culture:

I do not even think that a cosmopolitan contempt for patriotism is merely a matter of opinion, any more than I think that a Nietzscheite contempt for compassion is merely a matter of opinion. I think they are both heresies so horrible that their treatment must not be so much mental as moral, when it is not simply medical. Men are not always dead of a disease and men are not always damned by a delusion; but so far as they are touched by it they are destroyed by it. --May 31, 1919, Illustrated London News

Thomas Mann's essays mention Nietzsche with respect and even adoration, although one of his final essays, "Nietzsche's Philosophy in the Light of Recent History", looks at his favorite philosopher through the lens of Nazism and World War II and ends up placing Nietzsche at a more critical distance. Many of Nietzsche's ideas, particularly on artists and aesthetics, are incorporated and explored throughout Mann's works. The theme of the aesthetic justification of existence Nietzsche introduced from his earliest writings, in "The Birth of Tragedy" declaring sublime art as the only metaphysical consolation of existence; and in the context of Fascism and Nazism, the Nietzschean aestheticization of politics void of morality and ordered by caste hierarchy in service of the creative caste, has posed many problems and questions for thinkers in contemporary times. One of the characters in Mann's 1947 novel Doktor Faustus represents Nietzsche fictionally. In 1938 the German existentialist Karl Jaspers wrote the following about the influence of Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard:

The contemporary philosophical situation is determined by the fact that two philosophers, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, who did not count in their times and, for a long time, remained without influence in the history of philosophy, have continually grown in significance. Philosophers after Hegel have increasingly returned to face them, and they stand today unquestioned as the authentically great thinkers of their age. [...] The effect of both is immeasurably great, even greater in general thinking than in technical philosophy -- Jaspers, Reason and Existenz

Bertrand Russell in his epic History of Western Philosophy was scathing in his chapter on Nietzsche, calling his work the "mere power-phantasies of an invalid" and referring to Nietzsche as a "megalomaniac". Russell is here depicting the "hard Nietzsche" very few today would recognize, and despite his excessive language, attains a better representation of the philosopher than the vast majority of contemporaneous writers. Russell might have been defamatory but his presentation nevertheless remains highly accurate, and the psychological daggers against Nietzsche are unbalanced, but worth considering. In one particularly harsh section, Russell says:

It is obvious that in his day-dreams he is a warrior, not a professor; all of the men he admires were military. His opinion of women, like every man's, is an objectification of his own emotion towards them, which is obviously one of fear. "Forget not thy whip"-- but nine women out of ten would get the whip away from him, and he knew it, so he kept away from women, and soothed his wounded vanity with unkind remarks. [...] [H]e is so full of fear and hatred that spontaneous love of mankind seems to him impossible. He has never conceived of the man who, with all the fearlessness and stubborn pride of the superman, nevertheless does not inflict pain because he has no wish to do so. Does any one suppose that Lincoln acted as he did from fear of hell? Yet to Nietzsche, Lincoln is abject, Napoleon magnificent. [...] I dislike Nietzsche because he likes the contemplation of pain, because he erects conceit into duty, because the men whom he most admires are conquerors, whose glory is cleverness in causing men to die. But I think the ultimate argument against his philosophy, as against any unpleasant but internally self-conscious ethic, lies not in an appeal to facts, but in an appeal to the emotions. Nietzsche despises universal love; I feel it the motive power to all that I desire as regards the world. His followers have had their innings, but we may hope that it is coming rapidly to an end. --Russell, History of Western Philosophy

Nietzsche after World War II

The appropriation of Nietzsche's work by the Nazis, combined with the rise of analytic philosophy, ensured that British and American academic philosophers would almost completely ignore him until at least 1950. Even George Santayana, an American philosopher whose life and work betray some similarity to Nietzsche's, dismissed Nietzsche in his 1916 Egotism in German Philosophy as a "prophet of Romanticism". Analytic philosophers, if they mentioned Nietzsche at all, characterized him as a literary figure rather than as a philosopher. Nietzsche's present stature in the English-speaking world owes much to the exegetical writings and improved Nietzsche translations by the Jewish-German, American philosopher Walter Kaufmann and the British scholar R.J. Hollingdale.

Nietzsche's influence on continental philosophy increased dramatically after the Second World War, especially among the French intellectual Left and post-structuralists. Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Michel Foucault all owe a heavy debt to Nietzsche. These figures were not without reason entirely baseless in hermeneutically conquering Nietzsche for themselves: although passionately anti-Lefist, Nietzsche's onto-metaphysical "black hole" of cosmic nihilism, opened the way for manifold interpretations. Gilles Deleuze and Pierre Klossowski (in a work aimed to make Nietzsche's importance purely "literary", bereft of unpleasant illiberal implications) wrote monographs drawing new attention to Nietzsche's work, and a 1972 conference at Cérisy-la-Salle ranks as the most important event in France for a generation's reception of Nietzsche. In the wake of hte post-modernist hermeneutic conquest, Nietzsche and his philosophy became a subject of trivial "language games" and other absurdities in the lower circles of academia. In Germany interest in Nietzsche was revived from the 1980s onwards, particularly by the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, who has devoted several essays to Nietzsche. Ernst Nolte the German historian, in his literature analyzing Fascism and Nazism, presented Nietzsche as a force of the Counter-Enlightenment and foe of all modern "emancipation politics", and Nolte's judgment generated impassioned dialogue.

In recent years, Nietzsche has also influenced members of the analytical philosophy tradition, such as Bernard Williams in his last finished book, Truth And Truthfulness: An Essay In Genealogy (2002).

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