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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Piety, Truth and Discipleship

"Nietzsche’s “high esteem for the Greeks is a commonplace,” Kaufmann says—yet many have decided to ignore his “great debt to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics” by supposing that he “wanted to return to the pre-Socratics.” Nietzsche’s affinity for the Socrarics is revealed in an epigram which appears at the end of Part I of Zarathustra and also in the Preface to Ecce Homo: “‘The man who seeks knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.’ “This remark should remind us of Aristotle’s principle (in the Nicomachean Ethics 1096a) that for the sake of maintaining the truth, we have a duty ‘even to destroy what touches us closely’ since ‘piety requires us to honor truth above our friends’ (ibid.). Indeed,

Nietzsche goes beyond Aristotle by urging his own readers: ‘One repays a teacher badly if one always remains a pupil only’ (Z 122). Like Socrates, Nietzsche would rather arouse a zest for knowledge than commit anyone to his own views. And when he writes, in the chapter ‘On the Friend,’ ‘one who is unable to loosen his own chains may yet be a redeemer for his friend’, he seems to recall Socrates claim that he was but a barren midwife. (402—03)

These citations, Kaufmann thinks, render intelligible Nietzsche’s “emphatic scorn” for all who would discard their own beliefs so as to follow a master, and his “vision of a disciple who might follow his master’s conceptions beyond the master’s boldest dreams.” Hence, any references to being a follower of Nietzsche would be a contradiction of terms; for to be a Nietzschean, “whether ‘gentle’ or ‘tough,’ “one must not be a Nietzschcan” (403)."

--- Aesthetic Transformations: Taking Nietzsche at His Word / Thomas Jovanovski
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