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Reviewed by:
  • Friedrich Nietzsche on the Philosophy of Right and the State
  • Peter Bien
Nikos Kazantzakis, Friedrich Nietzsche on the Philosophy of Right and the State. Translated and with an introduction, notes, and additional comments by Odysseus Makridis. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. 2006. Pp. xvii + 124. Cloth $50.00.

We have been waiting a long time for a translation of Kazantzakis's doctoral dissertation, written in Paris in 1908 in katharevousa, revised and published in Heraklion in 1909. However, it is good that we have waited, since the translator was now able to use a new, corrected edition of the dissertation, usefully edited by Patroclos Stavrou, published in Athens by Ekdoseis Kazantzaki in 1998. The present editor and translator, Odysseus Makridis, a professor of philosophy at Fairleigh Dickinson University who formerly taught at Brandeis, Bentley, and the Holy Cross School of Theology, is a scrupulous scholar whose notes are extremely helpful. When Kazantzakis misquotes Friedrich Nietzsche, or omits phrases without indicating the omission, Makridis sets this right. All references to Nietzsche are identified, and often commented upon. Necessary information is provided about the numerous and extremely diverse figures invoked by Kazantzakis, such as Charles Darwin, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, Henri Poincaré, Robert Owen, Henri de Saint-Simon, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Henri Bergson, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Richard Wagner. A useful gloss is provided for "romantic pessimism" and other such professorial terms. A long explanation helps those who are unaware of Nietzsche's famous distinction between the Apollonian and Dionysian, and the reader is alerted to other commentators on Nietzsche's work; for example, Alexander Nehamas. And, to make everything easy to find, there is an exhaustive index, just the kind that every book needs and so many do not have. None of this could have been done better. The same is true of the translation. Accurate and clear, it alerts us to words that might have been translated differently; for example πνευματικός, which is rendered as "intellectual" but footnoted as also meaning "spiritual." I applaud the choice of "malaise" rather than "disease" for νόσος because it reminds us of le mal de siècle, which the context shows was clearly in Kazantzakis's mind as he sat in Paris writing the passage in question.

But what about Kazantzakis's view of Nietzsche? Makridis concludes that Kazantzakis's unapologetic, unpolished reflection on Nietzsche's neo-aristocratic ideology ought to be made more widely known. He adds: "Notwithstanding its youthful bravados and inexperienced enthusiasms, this work is more lucid than many a later gloss on Nietzsche's political thought." I would add that the [End Page 271] dissertation ought to be more widely known because it will make clear how right-wing Kazantzakis was in his youth. Left-wing admirers may be shocked to find him reinforcing some of Nietzsche's most forbidding teachings, but they may be helped when they find some of these same teachings in the so-called "utopia" of Kazantzakis's Odyssey, Book 15, which is so fascistically Nietzschean in many ways.

The dissertation begins with an appreciation of Nietzsche's personality. We find that Kazantzakis valued Nietzsche not just as a thinker whose ideas he could borrow, but as a full human prototype in whose joys and anguishes he could see his own struggles glorified. Furthermore, we find that Nietzsche's chief usefulness for Kazantzakis was as a destroyer of the old. For a new world-view, Kazantzakis turned elsewhere, primarily to Bergson. It is not surprising that the dissertation devotes much more space to the negative in Nietzsche—46 pages—than to the positive—11 pages. The background to both, Kazantzakis summarizes, is European nihilism, deriving chiefly from scientific advances such as Darwinism that were meant to answer eternal questions but actually illuminated only means, and not ends. The malaise of the century arises because of the contradiction between our leftover Christian ideals, on the one hand, and science's conception of reality, on the other.

Expanding on Nietzsche's negative views, the dissertation treats them under six headings: humanity, family, the state, religion, morality, and law. Human beings are a product of evolution, in no way different from the lower animals...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 271-273
Launched on MUSE
2010-07-09
Open Access
No
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