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Critical Affinities

Nietzsche and African American Thought

Jacqueline Scott, A. Todd Franklin, Robert Gooding-Williams

Publication Year: 2006

Critical Affinities is the first book to explore the multifaceted relationship between the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and various dimensions of African American thought. Exploring the connections between these two unlikely interlocutors, the contributors focus on unmasking and understanding the root causes and racially inflected symptoms of various manifestations of cultural malaise. They contemplate the operative warrant for reconstituted conceptions of racial identity and recognize the existential and social recuperative potential of the will to power. In so doing, they simultaneously foster and exemplify a nuanced understanding of what both traditions regard as “the art of the cultural physician.” The contributors connote daring scholarly attempts to explicate the ways in which clarifying the critical affinities between Nietzsche and various expressions of African American thought not only enriches our understanding of each, but also enhances our ability to realize the broader ends of advancing the prospects for social and psychological flourishing.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page

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pp. i


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pp. v-vi

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Foreword: Supposing Nietzsche to Be Black—What Then?

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pp. vii-xviii

The chapters here mark the advent of a new, new Nietzsche, a convergence of recurrence and singularity. They present not a German Nietzsche, a French Nietzsche, or an Anglo-American Nietzsche, but an African American Nietzsche, a black Nietzsche. Supposing Nietzsche to be black—what then? ...

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pp. xix

The idea for this volume originated with conversations that both of us had with P. J. Ivanhoe. Without his unending enthusiasm and encouragement, we doubt that this volume would exist. We also would like to thank the editors of the series, Robert Bernasconi and T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, and Jane Bunker, editor-in-chief at State University of New York Press, for their guidance and patience. ...

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Note on Abbreviations

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pp. xxi-xxii

References to Nietzsche’s writings will be given parenthetically in the body of the text using the italicized standard English title acronyms below. Roman numerals are used to denote the volume number of a set of collected works or a standard subdivision within a single work in which the sections are not numbered consecutively. Arabic numerals will be used to denote the section number rather than the page numbers, and “P” will be used to denote Nietzsche’s Prefaces. ...

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Introduction:The Art of the Cultural Physician

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pp. 1-13

The chapters in this volume bring to light a number of ways in which the themes of cultural and human flourishing reveal a nexus of convergence between Nietzsche’s philosophy and various expressions of African American thought. More specifically, however, these chapters articulate the ways in which the critical affinities they delineate serve as guides to new ways of conceptualizing, analyzing, and cultivating human and cultural well-being. ...

Part I: Diagnoses

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1. Kindred Spirits:Nietzsche and Lockeas Progenitors of Axiological Liberation

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pp. 17-32

Known primarily as one of the architects and fathers of the “New Negro Movement” of the 1920s, it is only as of late that Alain Locke has begun to be reckoned with as a serious and significant philosopher. Despite his own self-characterization as “more of a philosophical midwife to a generation of younger Negro poets, writers, and artists than a professional philosopher,”1 ...

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2. Nietzsche, Ressentiment, Lynching

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pp. 33-49

Anyone even slightly familiar with the argument of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality, and especially the first and second essays of that lyric-philosophical triptych that may well be the summit of Nietzsche’s work, cannot but be struck by the confluence of two interwoven themes.1 The first of these, articulated in both essays but especially prominent in the first, is the conception of ressentiment as a fundamental component...

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3. Double Consciousness and Second Sight

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pp. 51-73

Friedrich Nietzsche is not an obvious resource for thinking through the contemporary African American situation. He is hostile to egalitarianism, and indeed to political agendas of virtually any sort.Yet he frequently advocates liberation of the spirit and, at least implicitly, the changes to the status quo that would be necessary to support it. ...

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4. Of Tragedy and the Blues in an Age of Decadence:Thoughts on Nietzsche and African America

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pp. 75-97

If you could imagine dissonance assuming human form—and what else is man?—this dissonance would need, to be able to live, a magnificent illusion which would spread a veil of beauty over its own nature. This is the true artistic aim of Apollo. At the same time, only as much of that foundation of all existence, that Dionysiac underground of the world, can be permitted to enter an individual’s consciousness as can be overcome...

Part II: Prescriptions

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5. Ecce Negro:How to Become a Race Theorist

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pp. 101-123

I lost Nietzsche early on, though not in the willful way that Zarathustra prescribes. I had read him almost continuously during my junior year at Morehouse College, starting with Beyond Good and Evil in a class and ending with a leisurely summertime perusal of Zarathustra. In a way this experience brought me to philosophy, in part by demonstrating the possibility of doing whatever philosophers do in a recognizable voice, or in what is recognizable as a voice, in part by giving me words for my inchoate...

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6. Nietzsche’s Proto-Phenomenological Approach to theTheoretical Problem of Race

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pp. 125-148

Nietzsche was not the first philosopher to cultivate a nomadic existence. Nor was he the first to credit his itinerancy with the development of a powerful, new critical perspective. But he was certainly among the first of the philosophers-errant to allow his travels to fund his reflections on race. Although presented to his readers as a solitary wanderer, he usually sojourned in the company...

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7. The Price of the Ticket:A Genealogy and Revaluation of Race

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pp. 149-171

Friedrich Nietzsche was an outsider to, and critic of, traditional philosophy and proposed his own revaluation of it, while at the same time he proposed a positive philosophy whose motivating factor was the flourishing of the culture. In both the critical and positive aspects of philosophy, he wrote about race and how a revalued form of the concept might play a role in making the culture healthier. ...

Part III: Regimens of Recovery

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8. Unlikely Illuminations:Nietzsche and Frederick Douglasson Power, Struggle, and the Aisthesis of Freedom

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pp. 175-202

This chapter strives to illuminate affinities between Frederick Douglass’s conception of freedom and the slavery he escaped and Nietzsche’s view of struggle, which indicates a similar conception of the dynamic of perversions of power and its transfiguring possibilities.The two complement each other in unexpected ways. ...

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9. Masculinity and Existential Freedom:Wright, Ellison, Morrison,and Nietzsche

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pp. 203-223

What does Nietzsche mean to provoke with the enigmatic ideal of the will to power? He portrays the will to power as a lust for danger, adventure, and risk, and he does not shy away from linking this lust to the pleasure of war, or even rape. He argues that ancient warriors and heroes were driven by the lust for danger, and that this lust accounts for their vitality and creative force. ...

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10. Why Nietzsche (Sometimes) Can’tSing the Blues, or Davis, Nietzsche,and the Social Embeddedness of Aesthetic Judgments

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pp. 225-246

We should not underestimate the racial divide in the United States today, but I believe it is possible for whites and blacks to understand each others’ art and aesthetic judgments. Art is an important way of understanding our world, but it is also a difficult thing to understand across cultural borders because it lacks the clarity and repeatability of scientific knowledge. ...


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pp. 247-249


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pp. 251-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780791481219
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791468616
Print-ISBN-10: 0791468615

Page Count: 287
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, -- 1844-1900.
  • Racism -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations.
  • African Americans -- Intellectual life.
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