Nietzsche attracts a wide range of scholarly enthusiasts. There are those who take Nietzsche seriously as a philosopher and study his works for their own sake, while others seek to mine his works for philosophical gold to determine what he might have to offer their particular area of specialization (and sometimes these objectives overlap). On the other hand, there are those who seek to sensationalize Nietzsche by making him out to be a caricature or buffoon of sorts—far less deserving of the kind of seriousness we reserve for other figures such as Descartes or Kant. Instead, Nietzsche's philosophical legacy is colored by his ill health, alleged homosexuality, or "madness." Some recent biographies have only perpetuated the caricature. Fortunately, Small's book is not one of them.
Small aims to explain the philosophical relationship between Nietzsche and Rée. Nietzsche's background is well known, while Rée's life has received only slight attention from scholars. Although he did not self-identify as Jewish, Rée was born into a wealthy Jewish family, which afforded him the luxury of attending several different German universities. After studying law, psychology, and physiology, he finally settled on philosophy. By the time Rée met Nietzsche, he had already defended a dissertation on Aristotle's ethics and published his first book, Psychological Observations, in 1875.
Throughout the book, Small subtly fuses the personal with the philosophical without weakening the philosophical substance of Nietzsche's or Rée's ideas. In explaining Rée's influence on Nietzsche during the seven years of their friendship, Small accomplishes several objectives.
First and foremost, Small illuminates the development of Nietzsche's thought from 1875 until 1882. It was during these years that Nietzsche published Human, All Too Human (1878; the first supplement to the book was published in 1879 and the second in 1880), Daybreak (1881), and The Gay Science (1882). More importantly, Small demonstrates the nexus between these works and Rée's Psychological Observations (1875) and The Origin of Moral Sensations.
During the winter of 1876–77, Nietzsche and Rée lived together. At this time Nietzsche began writing Human, All Too Human, while Rée wrote The Origin of Moral Sensations. Nietzsche turned to Rée's Psychological Observations for headings for his own Human, All Too Human. Thus, "'On Religious Things' became 'The Religious Life,' while 'On Woman, Love and Marriage' became 'Woman and Child'" (28). As Nietzsche continued work on Human, All Too Human, Rée's The Origin of Moral Sensations was published and Nietzsche drew inspiration from this book as well. In section 40 of The Wanderer and His Shadow (the second supplement to Human, All Too Human), Nietzsche provides an abbreviated version of the core argument of that work, namely that the move away from utility and towards socially accepted norms as the determining factor in behavior is what led to morality. For these reasons, it is no surprise that Nietzsche referred to the "Rée-ness" of his work, and dubbed books like Human, All Too Human as "Réealism" (x, 33, 65). [End Page 672]
Second, Small makes clear the shared philosophical sympathies that made their relationship possible. Their mutual admiration for Schopenhauer, denial of free will, skepticism about morality and metaphysics, and adherence to philosophical naturalism created a friendship that nurtured their philosophical development generally and their philosophical projects more specifically.
Third, Small sheds light on how Nietzsche integrated Rée's aphoristic style into his own philosophical writings. This is helpful because it contextualizes Nietzsche's writing style during the time when his strict preoccupation with philological matters had ended and he began exhibiting contempt for morality and extolling the virtues of scientific knowledge.
Fourth, Small discusses Nietzsche's break with Rée, the central tension of which he locates in Nietzsche's willingness to move beyond Rée's merely descriptive approach to moral phenomena towards a life-affirming philosophy. To be sure, Nietzsche envisioned Human, All Too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science not...