- Nietzsche as a Scholar of Antiquity ed. by Anthony K. Jensen and Helmut Heit, and: Plato and Nietzsche: Their Philosophical Art by Mark Anderson
London: Bloomsbury, 2014. xxii + 292 pp. isbn: 978-1-4725-1152-2. Cloth/ paper, $39.95.
London: Bloomsbury, 2014. x + 225 pp. isbn: 978-1-4725-2204-7. Cloth/ paper, $29.95.
The editors of Nietzsche as a Scholar of Antiquity claim with some justification that few philosophers, and even fewer classicists, have "taken the time to understand [Nietzsche] on his own terms as a scholar of antiquity" (xviii). "Our primary aim," Jensen and Heit say, "is to show not how Nietzsche's earlier works on antiquity help us to understand Nietzsche, but how they may improve our understanding of antiquity." I shall suggest that not every contribution to the collection succeeds in that primary aim.
Two chapters are reprints of older pieces: Jonathan Barnes's "Nietzsche and Diogenes Laertius" (1986) and Glenn W. Most and Thomas Fries's "Die Quellen von Nietzsches Rhetorik-Vorlesung" (1994), translated in shortened form as "The Sources of Nietzsche's Lectures on Rhetoric." Barnes examines Nietzsche's work on the sources of Diogenes Laertius, and his Grundhypothese that Diogenes's major source was Diocles of Magnesia. By analyzing parts of the text of Diogenes's Lives, Barnes shreds all of Nietzsche's arguments. But the subtle detail in which Nietzsche presents his case leads Barnes to admire his approach and style. He concludes that the twenty-three-year-old Nietzsche is as good an interpreter of the sources of Diogenes as anyone else, and must be seen as "an industrious, erudite, disciplined, and brilliant young mind" (131). This speaks to the aim of exploring how Nietzsche contributes to our understanding of antiquity. But the piece by Most and Fries really does not. The "sources" for the lectures are all lesser known nineteenth-century writers—Westermann, Spengel, [End Page 136] Volkmann, Hirzel, Blass, and Gerber (see 56–57)—and much is made of Nietzsche's assimilation of Gerber's views in Die Sprache als Kunst (1871–73) into the contemporaneous essay, "On Truth and Lies in an Extra-moral Sense." Most and Fries's main concern is "[w]hat happens . . . if we employ the methodological principles of Nietzschean source-criticism to analyze Nietzsche's own lectures on rhetoric?" (61)—in other words, did Nietzsche copy from one source, overdo the quotations, abbreviate, and so on? This may be an interesting scholarly reflection on Nietzsche's own scholarship, but it contains nothing much about the ancient world.
A contribution by the philologist Joachim Latacz lists Nietzsche's purely philological works, and summarizes another of Nietzsche's philological contributions, his edition of a Greek text on "The Contest of Homer with Hesiod." Nietzsche meticulously applies conventional philological techniques—evidence to support Ritschl's famous recommendation that led to Nietzsche's early appointment as professor. The line argued here is that in all Nietzsche's time at Schulpforta, Bonn, and Leipzig he was not occupied with philosophy. Reading Schopenhauer was "more a hobby" (22). The persistent fervor of Nietzsche's attachment to Schopenhauer in his letters from 1865 onward surely belies that description, but the point is that at least his day job continued uninterrupted.
Anthony K. Jensen's contribution also concentrates on the diligent scholar, this time giving a succinct description of Nietzsche's work on the poet Theognis (his valedictory project at the end of his time in Schulpforta from 1865, aged nineteen, and an article on the same topic from 1869). This is probably the one philological work that typical readers of Nietzsche have in their peripheral vision, because of the mention of Theognis in GM (I:5). Jensen recounts Nietzsche's attempts to peel away layers of interpolation and redaction to reveal what he believed to be the "real" Theognis, a proponent of backward-looking noble values in an age when they had become corrupted. Again, this work received acclaim for its interpretive method, even though, in Jensen's view, the outlook attributed to Theognis...