- Friedrich Nietzsche, der erste tragische Philosoph. Eine Entdeckung by Reto Winteler
Basel: Schwabe, 2014. 334 pp. isbn: 978-3-7965 3310-5. Cloth, €89.00. isbn: 978-3-7965-3311-2. eBook (PDF), €72.99.
It is "time," writes Reto Winteler in the introduction to this book, to take Nietzsche "seriously, as the sui generis philosopher that he understood himself to be" (9, my translations throughout). Since at least the writing of Z, Nietzsche saw the transvaluation of all values as his life's great mission. He had long planned to compose a magnum opus on this topic, but following the completion of A, he suddenly considered it already accomplished. Winteler argues that although this decision has [End Page 444] been acknowledged by the scholarly community, no one has convincingly explained it. According to Winteler, it was not that Nietzsche failed to complete his work and his philosophical mission (17). Instead, he argues, Nietzsche no longer saw A as merely the first book of his magnum opus, but rather as the whole work (12). Winteler had set out this thesis in an earlier paper ("Nietzsches Antichrist als [ganze] Umwerthung aller Werthe. Bemerkungen zum 'Scheitern' eines 'Hauptwerks,'" Nietzsche-Studien 38.1 : 229–45), and he reiterates and defends it in the first part of his book. He also links it with a second starting point: Nietzsche's self-characterization as "the first tragic philosopher" (EH "Books: BT" 3), who saw it as his task to confront "the modern human with a decision, to show him a way out of nihilism, and even to give himself as an example" (9). Here, we get a glimpse of what Winteler is attempting to show: the unity of "tragic philosophy" and "tragic life" in Nietzsche's last year of conscious life.
The second part of the book, "Nietzsche in the Mirror of Zarathustra," focuses on Z, in which, according to Winteler, Nietzsche's "great mission" most clearly takes shape. Contrary to the idea that the character Zarathustra is not to be confused with his inventor, Winteler tries to show that Nietzsche's "son Zarathustra" was meant "to give him the courage to be himself and to fulfill his mission" (12). The third part, "The Climax and Downfall of the Torinese Nietzsche," is dedicated to Nietzsche's last conscious year, and based mainly on his letters. While we have "until now, always read this last Nietzsche 'from behind,' from his end in madness," Winteler tries to understand the end of Nietzsche's conscious life from the perspective of his thinking, as "the consequence of his philosophical mission" (13). The last part contains an interpretation of the "Dionysos-Dithyrambs." "Insofar as the tragic pathos, which characterizes the 'whole' Nietzsche, is concentrated in them," Winteler argues, "the Dithyrambs can be seen as a kind of summary of his thoughts and life." They are the "soundtrack to the last period of the philosopher's life," marking "the conscious conclusion of his life's mission." For Winteler, Nietzsche celebrated "this conclusion," "as a last victory over his great antipode, Richard Wagner" (13).
Given that his book is voluminous and abounds in citations, it is conspicuous that Winteler disregards Nietzsche's philological texts (see "Philologica," KGW II:1-5 [New York: De Gruyter, 1982–95]). They would help to understand why Nietzsche renamed "Zarathustra's Songs," "Dionysian [End Page 445] Dithyrambs," and reworked the content. They contain Nietzsche's first interpretations of the Dionysian and the Dithyrambs ("Lectures on the History of Greek Tragedy" and "Lectures on the Greek Poets," KGW II:2, 12–17 and 142–62), his critical appraisals of the myth of Empedocles' death, and his discussion of the Greek idea of a good death (the "Todesarten-Fragment" of 1875–76, KGW II:5, 343–50).
Nietzsche allegedly decided, upon a rereading of his work while writing EH, that the transvaluation project was complete. He recognized that he had, up until that point, not understood his own work or recognized its meaning. In two letters to Heinrich Köselitz (Peter Gast) of 1888...