Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 273pp. isbn: 978-0-226-25965-9. Cloth, $35.00.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. xvii + 139 pp. isbn: 978-0-226-66975-5 (cloth); 978-0-226-66976-2 (paper). Cloth, $33.00; paper, $20.00.
Alasdair MacIntyre noted that we appear to face a dilemma when engaging with the history of philosophy. Either we interpret great works “so as to make them relevant to our contemporary problems” or we read them “in their own terms, carefully preserving their idiosyncratic and specific character.” The former involves reshaping great thinkers into “what they would have been” had they been our philosophical contemporaries, and risks overlooking, downplaying, or distorting those features of their work that resist such efforts. The latter approach, by contrast, threatens to resign the texts to a state such that “they cannot emerge into the present except as a set of museum pieces” (“The Relationship of Philosophy to Its Past,” in Philosophy in History: Essays in the Historiography of Philosophy, ed. R. Rorty, J. B. Schneewind, and Q. Skinner [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984], 31–48, 31).
It is this dilemma that Robert Pippin confronts in Interanimations: Receiving Modern German Philosophy. Pippin seeks to plot a course between the two options, presenting sensitive work in the history of philosophy as full-blooded philosophizing. The book’s eleven chapters each focus on one (or more) of Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche—the historical figures upon whom much [End Page 286] of Pippin’s work has concentrated—as well as on a subsequent philosopher’s engagement with, or “animation” of, their writings. The material for the chapters has already been published elsewhere, and each is really a stand-alone entity as opposed to a stage in a broader argument. Nevertheless, the effect is cumulative: Pippin makes his case not by arguing for a path between the horns of MacIntyre’s dilemma, but by demonstrating such a route, evincing the value to contemporary philosophy of historically and philosophically sensitive scholarship on historical figures.
The scope of the book reflects Pippin’s impressive command, not just of the issues relating to the study of his three great Germans, but also of the work of a broad range of interlocutors. Interanimations opens with a discussion of recent literature on the rigorism objection to Kant’s moral philosophy, touching upon responses from Barbara Herman, Marcia Baron, and Allen Wood. Although Kant continues to make appearances in the chapters that follow, the meat of the book concerns Hegel and Nietzsche. The four subsequent sections focus either predominantly or exclusively on Hegel, as seen through the eyes of Robert Brandom, John McDowell, Slavoj Žižek, and Axel Honneth. There is much of interest in these chapters, as there is in the book’s final chapter on MacIntyre’s After Virtue, which also focuses on Hegel. Deserving of particular praise is the consistent lucidity with which the questions at stake, and the positions of the figures addressed, are presented.
Our interest, of course, lies in the five chapters on Nietzsche. We are treated to discussions of a diverse and divergent group of interpreters: Alexander Nehamas, Leo Strauss, Bernard Williams, and Martin Heidegger. The chapters on Nehamas and Strauss are even-handed, but ultimately critical. Regarding the former, Pippin directs his attention to Nehamas’s much-discussed narrative account of the self. Both Pippin and Nehamas emphasize the significance of Nietzsche’s stylistic choices and literary influences. But whereas Pippin (as we shall see) looks toward sixteenth- and seventeenth-century France, it is to the literary novel that Nehamas turns. While sympathetic to much of what he finds in Nehamas’s interpretation, Pippin questions the viability of the author-text relation as a model for Nietzsche’s interpreting self. Some of the objections presented therein are now quite familiar (indeed, certain questions were identified by Nehamas himself), but they are employed to good effect.
The chapter on Strauss is perhaps the least engaging piece on Nietzsche in Interanimations. Pippin’s exposition and treatment is heroically patient [End Page 287] and admirably clear...