- Da Nietzsche a Heidegger: Mondo classico e civiltà europea by Andrea Orsucci
Andrea Orsucci’s Da Nietzsche a Heidegger: Mondo classico e civiltà europea is one of the richest and densest historical-philosophical studies to have appeared in recent years—certainly on Nietzsche, but also more generally on the European philosophical and intellectual landscape of the turn of the century.
The title, which can be translated as From Nietzsche to Heidegger: The Classical World and European Civilization, indicates not only a temporal period and a spatial boundary, but also a [End Page 366] philosophical project: moving from Nietzsche to Heidegger through figures such as Dilthey, Spengler, and Jaeger, Orsucci identifies, on the one hand, a quite revolutionary distancing from the spirit of the nineteenth century and, on the other, a substantial debt to the classical inheritance that century delivered. Indeed, on his reading, it is the classical world—and particularly the art, culture, and education of ancient Greece—that is the essential reference point for these figures; rather than fathers of the twentieth century, they are the sons of Goethe and the German Klassik. As Orsucci puts it, “in the late nineteenth century and the following decades, Hellas appears as a real experimentum crucis, which permits the ‘construction’ of indispensable ‘ideal models’ with which to ‘descend’ back to the present and to decipher, from a distanced perspective, the complexity of the transformations taking place” (x; translations are my own). In this project, Greece is a collective name referring to several realities: not only Winckelmann’s and Goethe’s classicistic sense of the “mother” of Western culture, but also the “bridge” to Oriental culture provided by late Hellenistic-Roman Greece and the more archaic, almost primitive Greece, the understanding of which had been developing in ethnology and anthropology. Orsucci offers an extremely detailed and innovative reconstruction of the convergences between these anthropological studies and the philosophy of this time, revealing the extraordinary significance of classical studies in the philosophy and culture of this crucial period.
The wealth of topics covered and information provided by the book preclude any comprehensive summary. Indeed, as Orsucci admits (xix), the fifteen chapters can be read separately as short essays, and some treat themes familiar from his previous work (see chaps. 1–3 and 5–8). But the overall structure is as follows. In the first part, “Exercises of Realism,” chapters 1 to 3 are devoted more specifically to Nietzsche, and chapters 4 and 5 deal with Dilthey. In the second part, “Eastern Heritage in the Classical World,” Spengler is analyzed in detail in chapters 10 and 11, as a conclusion to the rich landscape of authors analyzed in the preceding chapters. Heidegger is the object of an interesting discussion in chapters 12 and 13, and in dialogue with Werner Jaeger in chapter 14. The book also offers a valuable critical apparatus: a rich array of footnotes, an extensive bibliography, and a useful index of names. Particularly interesting in this regard is the list of sources (529–38), which identifies a number of links between the authors analyzed and the studies on antiquity of the period, links that provide Orsucci with keys to understanding the complex structure of the cultural references made in these philosophical works.
Chapters 1 to 3 provide a detailed overview of Nietzsche’s readings of ethnographic and anthropological works of the period, and how they contribute to his understanding of the religious and cultural dimensions of Greek antiquity, particularly during the composition of Menschliches, Allzumenschliches. Orsucci traces a path through the major works in ethnology, including those of Carl Bötticher, Edward B. Taylor, Heinrich Nissen, Wilhelm Mannhardt, and John Lubbock, to name only the most significant. Together with Manfred Posani Loewenstein’s new Italian critical edition of the Vorlesungen über den Gottesdienst der Griechen (Milan: Adelphi, 2012), these chapters of Da Nietzsche a Heidegger complete the panorama of ethnological references in Nietzsche’s work and place them in a general interpretation of the role of antiquity in his thinking...