Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nietzsche for pleasure, who for soundness

I hope we can all say - and I think life allows us to do this much - o my lord, what gifts have I been given. The ether is heavy with commemorators of their past, I am part of this dross. And here I will seem to go again, recalling a figure in Philosophy who did more for Friedrich Nietzsche than Nietzsche ever did bother to do for himself. The upper tiers of the faculty of one's college were absolutely saturated with character - there is no other word - of this kind, and one swam, knowing it at the time, a Hellespont of yin and yang every day one was there. There simply was not time to learn from them all, yet they were there for any one of us, before everything else, for they were teachers.

And what is this character? The teacher has the visceral urges without the expectation of seeing their fulfillment. I love these people. They were that gene that my conception had deferred, to be fitted to me when the time was right. And the magic of teaching is to make that time a rapture. In such a state, nevertheless, to portray struggles of Philosophy as irresistible, is to enlist the body as well as the mind in a conjugation to remain unforgotten. We were being invited to become ourselves.

Nietzsche clearly wanted to be read with a delighted awareness of nuances of style and thought. He wanted readers whose sense of his exceptional versatility does not keep them from feeling that their own convictions and values are at stake and must be reconsidered .. There is no work of Nietzsche's that does not say to us, like Rilke's Archaic Torso of Apollo: 'you must change your life.'

This is, of course, Walter Kaufmann, introducing his compendious translation and commentaries on Friedrich Nietzsche. One isn't to think this is hard, one isn't to think this is easy. One finds, as he promised and made plain: 
Nietzsche is one of the few philosophers since Plato whom large numbers of intelligent people read for pleasure.
I like to try to go to sleep with a gift for thought and writing just then embedded in my mind. I read Dickens, who never fails; I read the poets, I read the historians. When given another day, I will fondly turn to Nietzsche to remind me, I am naked.

In music the passions enjoy themselves.

Everyone remotely interested in style is, to that extent, interested in Nietzsche, whether one accepts it or not. Walter Kaufmann gave a comparatively short life to the practice of communicating Nietzsche's anatomy of delight, which made it long enough. He got through. 

What is the gift, in accepting the tedious task of knowing what one says? Is it the steadying habit of thinking about it? I doubt that one could go that far; yet, assuredly, to be acquainted with the import of choice in that process, is to be awakened to the origins of style.

Walter Kaufmann
1921 - 1980
Basic Writings of Nietzsche
  Translated and Edited, with
Random House, 1966©

Friedrich Nietzsche
Walter Kaufmann, translation
Beyond Good and Evil
ibid., p. 274

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