Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Nietzsche's Birthday!

Today was Nietzsche's 164th birthday, and in my Nietzsche class we celebrated with a cake. This is UW student (and Nietzsche enthusiast) Andy Dibble cutting the cake. The picture on it represents Munch's great 1906 portrait of him. Two years ago I commented here on why people are still reading Fritz after all these years:

Surely there are many reasons. One is that he is one of the very few major philosophers who is just plain out-and-out fun to read. The only ones who even come close in this respect, in the whole history of philosophy, are Robert Nozick and Jose Ortega y Gasset.

Then there are the substantive reasons. Ortega says somewhere that, for most of us, the pleasure of reading is simply the pleasure of agreeing with someone. This is clearly not true of Nietsche. Whatever your views are, you will eventually see Nietzsche not merely disagreeing with you but actually ridiculing things you hold sacred. And making you laugh in spite of yourself.

Partly for that reason, I think that reading Nietzsche is actually good for your character. It's hard to imagine someone who has studied Nietzsche getting all shocked and huffy because someone disagrees with them. Students of Nietzsche are used to it. And more than that, they understand that it is actually good that there are radically different views out there. It creates space in which we can grow.

1 comment:

Canadian Pragmatist said...

I think there are many other philosophers more fun to read than Nozick, e.g. Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Emerson...

But, Nietzsche is one of those who's style will always be imitated and yet never duplicated. Cheers!