Penn State

Donna Weaver Santaniello - professor of philosophy, Penn State Berks

Book Title: Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist

Author: Walter Kaufmann

Book Description:

When writing my dissertation and reading Friedrich Nietzsche intently, I also learned about the secondary scholarship on Nietzsche's work. Walter Kaufmann's book was a refreshing alternative to those works that painted Nietzsche as a "Nazi" or a partial lunatic, only because the Nazis allegedly used his books to support their views.

Parenthetically, the Nazis also used many works including the Bible to "support" their views, but neither the Bible or any of its authors ever came under attack by scholars or the populace.

When I became a graduate student, I had been reading Nietzsche for years. Thus, when approaching secondary literature on Nietzsche for my dissertation, I often seriously wondered if scholars had actually read Nietzsche closely, because the Nietzsche they spoke about was not the Nietzsche I was reading. Kaufmann's book was different; he was a student of Nietzsche, as I was.

Kaufmann wrote this book in the aftermath of World War II when most scholars did not regard Nietzsche as a legitimate philosopher, but as a proto-Nazi or madman. Almost single-handedly, Kaufmann rehabilitated Nietzsche and presented his works as one of the great achievements of Western philosophy

Following Kaufmann's example, I published my dissertation: Nietzsche, God, and the Jews: His Critique of Christianity in Relation to the Nazi Myth (SUNY 2004). In the work, I continued to debunk the widespread myth that Nietzsche was an antisemite. By using Nietzsche's texts, I demonstrated that Nietzsche was, in fact, opposed to anti-semitism in nineteenth century Germany.

Even though scholars today take issue with some of Kaufmann's interpretations, his book remains influential in Nietzsche studies. His groundbreaking work continues to be the standard by which others are measured.


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