Nietzsche by Peter Berkowitz
In The Closing of the American Mind, the late Allan Bloom told with incomparable clarity the story of how the deadly continental ideas of nihilism and relativism had crossed the Atlantic to find a home in American democracy under the mild guise of tolerance, pluralism, and openness. The most profound and also the most ferocious of the European thinkers who were defanged and domesticated in this way was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Our current moral language of values, “life-styles,” self, and creativity is merely a watered-down remnant of Nietzsche’s unrestrained assault on reason and morality in the name of value-creation and will to power. Bloom traced the impoverishment of the American soul to this vulgarized revolution in values, and counseled, among other things, a renewed inquiry into the philosophic thought which inspired it.
In an important contribution to that inquiry, Peter Berkowitz, who teaches political philosophy at Harvard, has now come forward to show that, despite his virulent attack on traditional morality, Nietzsche himself was not simply the nihilist and relativist he is often taken for. In particular, Berkowitz takes aim at a new orthodoxy in Nietzsche scholarship that focuses narrowly on his claims that reason and morality are without foundation and that all truth is relative or “perspectival.”
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