Nietzsche's Gift (review)
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272Philosophy and Literature Unlike the Essais of Montaigne, the Maximes project an image of universal man through the observation of others rather than by introspection. This phenomenon, which fosters authorial effacement, is necessitated by the theory of self-love which precludes accurate self-perception and opens naturally onto a sociological perspective. Lewis studies the rationality of play at both the linguistic level and the level of action. Social intercourse is depicted as a series of exchanges predicated upon conflicts of interests. The feasibility of the realization of honnêteté is then explored along with the ethical dilemma caused by the general theory of self-love and the particular theory of honnêteté. Indeed, little hope is held out, at least to the average egotist, for the attainment of true love, friendship, and authenticity. The initial section of the final chapter depicts La Rochefoucauld insisting upon the limits of knowledge but not on its impossibility. Studied self-interest and the quality of certain truths can lead to a practical wisdom. The second part establishes the binary ordering of the typical maxim, and, while explicating a threefold tendency of the maxim toward antithesis, paradox, and restrictive identity, concludes that "a unitary global conception of the Maximes—of its texture and language—remains to be formulated" (p. 167). The highly provocative final section, dedicated to the maxim as abstract discourse, studies pronominal ramifications, reader response, nominal and verbal styles, ideological discourse and the co-existence of metalingual and poetic functions in the Maximes. Lewis concludes that the maxims are not composed of fragments but are rather a coherent, consistent "discourse of wholes" (p. 185) that compound their truths through repetition. I have no substantive argument with the author of this always intelligent and sometimes brilliant work. My sole complaint is that the language is so abstract and the text so free of respite that reviewing it was a tedious chore rather than a pleasure. Whitman CollegePatrick Henry Nietzsche's Gift, by Harold Alderman; pp. 184. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1977, $13.50 cloth, $5.50 paper. This is one of the first books in English (if not the only one) to take Nietzsche's mode of writing as a serious key to his philosophical enterprise. The usual approach has been to describe Nietzsche alternately as an aphoristic or bombastic writer from whose confused texts we may abstract a number of provocative philosophical theses. Alderman's perspective rightly begins with the realization that Nietzsche's writings issue from a complex reflection on the problematics of philosophical communication itself. Nietzsche's Gift is mainly about what Nietzsche described in Ecce Homo as the greatest gift mankind has yet received— Shorter Reviews273 Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Alderman offers an analysis designed to show that "Zarathustra is . . . the teacher who teaches the need to explore the full range of the human voice" (p. 173). This emphasis on the "human voice" suggests both the strengths and limitations of his study. For Alderman, Zarathustra is one whose speech explores the many modalities of speech—discourse sober and drunk, dialogue, soliloquy, comedy and silence—in order to show us the possibility of a human articulation of the philosophical spirit. Zarathustra's commitment to a genuine plurality of discursive modes is appropriate, given Nietzsche's skepticism about the possibility of an absolute and infallible speech. From this perspective, Alderman develops a number of close and illuminating readings of parts of Zarathustra. To my mind the best of these are the careful treatments of the Vorrede in which Zarathustra is searching for a philosophical voice, and of Part IV in which Nietzsche stages a "comedy of affirmation." Nietzsche himself expressed the desire to be read as carefully as philologists read their favorite texts, and in these analyses Alderman not only comes close to Nietzsche's ideal, but also succeeds in conveying the drama of ideas in a remarkably lucid style, free of the jargon of any particular school of interpretation. He wears his scholarship with ease in correctly taking issue with Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche (based on the Nachlass) as the last blind protagonist in the tragic history of Western metaphysics. Instead he recognizes that Nietzsche is already beyond this tradition...