The Journal of Nietzsche Studies 29 (2005) 54-71
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In this study, R. Kevin Hill makes a major and important contribution to Nietzsche studies. It is among the finest studies of his philosophy published in recent years, and provides the most thorough and incisive demonstration to date of the Kantian context of Nietzsche's philosophical development, without a proper understanding of which key aspects of his thinking are largely unintelligible. Hill's study is part of an emerging trend in Nietzsche studies in the English-speaking world, away from fashionable and, in many ways, philosophically illiterate "postmodern" readings of Nietzsche (this illiteracy is not peculiar to postmodern readings in my view), and focusing more on the philosophical context of his development and preoccupations, with special attention being devoted to Nietzsche's neo-Kantian sources and influences.1 Hill's study is superior to any other so far published because of the depth of his reading of Kant (all three critiques are treated here in judicious and illuminating terms with special attention devoted to the third critique) and the probing and thorough manner in which he shows the connections between Nietzsche's philosophical preoccupations throughout his intellectual output and Kant's critical philosophy.
Like many commentators today, especially those from the United States, Hill feels compelled to open his study by addressing the "postmodern Nietzsche." He appears to align his "Nietzsche" with the cause of analytic naturalism, but as the book unfolds he is careful to distinguish Nietzsche's Kantian-inspired naturalism from this more contemporary brand. It is unfortunate, however, that, like other contemporary commentators on Nietzsche, Hill falls to the temptation of opening his study with some thoughts on the postmodern. He has an understandable concern over the philosophical illiteracy this has fostered in our appreciation of Nietzsche. The postmodern appears to be associated by him, as with others who wish to protect Nietzsche from its vacuities, with something called "continental philosophy" and with "deconstruction" (and the respective "evils" they have brought in their wake). One may wish to make specific objections against deconstruction, but to think that a sweeping and generalized attack is equivalent to making a serious contribution to philosophical thinking is to delude oneself and insulate oneself from the need to carry out a serious engagement with it. What we commonly find in this kind of dismissal are little more than unspecific allusions to so-called deconstructionist motifs, such as the "deconstruction" of truth, reality, and the subject (Hill makes two distinctly peculiar and "off" remarks along these lines on pages 121 and 163). It would be more impressive if writers would deal with specific texts, specific arguments, and specific thinkers, as opposed to engaging with what are little more than phantasms and conducting "readings" that amount to violent acts of mis-reading. It also needs to be pointed out, though it is somewhat alarming that it needs to be, that it is core "continental" readings that have insisted upon the relevance of Kant for a full appreciation of Nietzsche, and this a long time before philosophers of an analytical persuasion started to get interested in Kant and in the Kantian aspects of Nietzsche's thinking. I need mention only the readings developed by Deleuze and Heidegger. Kant figures heavily in their respective and differing interpretations of Nietzsche, and both were authors of independent studies of Kant. Hill's remarks are a blatant distortion of a more complex reality. Unfortunately, it would seem that this is how many analytically minded philosophers who write on Nietzsche like to do their philosophy. [End Page 54]
I wish to focus critical attention on some of the details of Hill's reading of Nietzsche and Kant. For some time now, commentators have speculated on the extent of Nietzsche's acquaintance with and knowledge of Kant. Was his reading of Kant merely superficial? Was it essentially second-hand, gleaned from such sources as Lange's History of...