This month we are celebrating the birthday of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and as part of this some of our authors and Editorial Advisory Board members will be posting short articles on their debt to Nietzsche, and on his relevance to contemporary debates. Starting off our month of celebrations is Dr Andrea Gatti. Andrea teaches Aesthetics at the University of Ferrara, Italy, having graduated in Philosophy from the University of Bologna, Italy. He took his PhD in the history of modern and contemporary art at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and his research activities are principally oriented in the domain of eighteenth century philosophy and aesthetics. Here, he reflects on his difficult early relationship with Nietzsche, and explains how he came to acknowledge his greatness as a thinker. You can read more about Andrea here.
My interest in the philosophy of Nietzsche has had a rather unusual evolution over the years. Thanks to his rhetorical ability, Nietzsche makes the reader feel like the Superman he speaks of, so that younger people in particular enthusiastically see him as an intellectual guide, someone to read to help them fulfil their natural ambition to stand out from the masses. For my own part, while a university student, the solicitations of his thought left me rather cold. It seemed to me that in addition to the many right things he said, he also wrote many platitudes, despite the power and charms of his aphorisms. For example, when I read in Thus Spoke Zarathustra that the poets “all muddle their water that it may seem deep”, I found it a rather unfair statement. Many poets muddle the waters to challenge the reader to reflect, which seems to me to be their most remarkable contribution to our maturation as individuals. Moreover, it is not only poets who obscure the waters to hide the shallow depth: philosophers sometimes do the same, including Nietzsche.
Yet, taking up the study of Nietzsche as an adult and a teacher, I eventually found the key to acknowledging his greatness as a thinker. Leaving aside his ideas of Supermen, the will to power, and his warrior ethics, I have discovered many deep and sensitive observations on art, culture, and philosophy. Though apparently incompatible with the ideas for which he is famous, they germinate from the same tension and aspiration to the ideal and the sublime: his impatience with mediocrity is the reaction of a thinker who looks at the world with the eyes of those lovers of truth and beauty who miss the lost Eden.
Andrea Gatti, University of Ferrara, Italy
As part of our celebrations of Friedrich Nietzsche’s birthday, we are offering a 50% discount on five of our most important recent titles on the enigmatic thinker. Please click here to see more.