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Reviewed by:
  • Nietzsche and the Promise of Philosophy by Wayne Klein
  • Deborah Carter Mullen
Wayne Klein. Nietzsche and the Promise of Philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. Pp. xviii + 256. Paper, $19.95.

Wayne Klein states in his Introduction to Nietzsche and the Promise of Philosophy that “Nietzsche’s texts are anomalous…because they explicitly and inexorably force us to question our assumptions about meaning, understanding and writing in a way that few other philosophical texts have” (5). From its beginning, Klein’s book challenges the reader to think beyond the dualism of the literal and figurative meaning of words. For Klein, this task is central to understanding both the content and style of Nietzsche’s writings; or rather, it is essential to the recognition that ‘content’ and ‘style’ cannot be thought separately, especially when reading a poet-philosopher such as Nietzsche who meditates extensively on the intrinsic connection of the two. In his following chapters, Klein provides the reader with an innovative way of reading Nietzsche’s corpus, a strategy of interpretation which is acutely aware that Nietzsche’s philosophy is inseparable from Nietzsche’s rhetoric (6).

Chapter One questions both Heidegger’s and Kaufmann’s interpretations of Nietzsche, which, according to Klein, “share a common conviction that Nietzsche’s thought can only be understood properly if it is abstracted from its context and read against the backdrop of his philosophy as a whole” (42). Klein also criticizes Nehamas’ reading of Nietzsche which endeavors to discover “thematic connections and continuities among Nietzsche’s writings, without attempting to take the texts on their own terms as texts” (50). Ultimately, Klein views all three readers as offering an interpretation of Nietzsche in which “the ‘what’ of Nietzsche’s writings is thoroughly divorced from the ‘how’ ” (42).

Klein’s strongest evidence for his position of Nietzsche as philosopher-rhetorician is presented in Chapters Two and Three. In Chapter Two, Klein argues against the view [End Page 639] of Maudemarie Clark that (l) Nietzsche’s later writings affirm a “common-sense” or empirical view of truth, and therefore, (2) Nietzsche’s earlier rhetorical descriptions of truth ought to be rejected by the reader who desires to understand Nietzsche’s mature thought (58–59). Through a detailed reading of Nietzsche’s 1872–73 Course on Rhetoric and the 1873 “On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense,” Klein presents a convincing case that Nietzsche’s analysis in his early writings of truth as metaphor, metonymy, and synecdoche does not “deny that words can be true, but that with respect to their multifarious origins they are not principally concerned with truth as correspondence or identity” (70). Instead—with Heidegger’s concept of aletheia as the horizon—Klein suggests that Nietzsche’s early writings “insist on a radical undecidability between literal and figurative discourse” which leads Nietzsche to embrace “a conception of shining truth,” i.e., the veiled “shining forth of appearance” (78, 83). This notion of truth as shine or shining forth allows Klein to link Nietzsche’s earliest writings to later works such as Beyond Good and Evil and Twilight of the Idols in their portrayals of truth. Further-more, once this connection is established, Klein can challenge Clark’s reading that Nietzsche’s mature view of truth implicitly acknowledges an empirical dualism of “the true” and “the false.”

After establishing that the division between style and content is an ontological dichotomy which Nietzsche’s work rejects, Klein can utilize this fundamental ambiguity between Nietzsche the philosopher and Nietzsche the rhetorician to reconsider specific concepts put forward in Nietzsche’s other writings. Chapter Three interprets The Birth of Tragedy in this vein; however, the most provocative re-reading of Nietzsche occurs in Chapter Four, where Klein brings into question Nietzsche’s “naturalism,” his reliance in his later criticisms of metaphysics and morality upon a seemingly “essentialistic understanding” of central concepts such as the will to power, life, physiology, and sickness and health (141). By returning to Nietzsche’s early writings in his analysis of the later works, Klein concludes that “the pseudo-normative concepts of life, nature, and the will to power” can be read as “contingent interpretations of existence...


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