Schopenhauer and Nietzsche

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University of Illinois Press, 1991 - Philosophy - 186 pages
Anticipating contemporary deconstructive readings of philosophical texts,
Georg Simmel pits the two German masters of philosophy of life against
each other in a play of opposition and supplementation. This first English
translation of Simmel's work includes an extensive introduction, providing
the reader with ready access to the text by mapping its discursive strategies.

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Philosopher Georg Simmel (1858-1918) compares the philosophies of 19th century German thinkers Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche in an attempt to discover the root of their differences and ... Read full review

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George Simmel ([1907]; 1991). Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. (Translators, Helmut Loiskandle, Deena Weinstein & Michael Weinstein). University of Illinois Press: Urbana & Chicago. 186 pages.
reissue of a 1986 translation of Semmel’s Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: Ein Vortragzyklus (1907). In the main, this book is more about Schopenhauer and Simmel than about Nietzsche. While Nietzsche’s thought are appositely discussed thruout the text, they receive central focus only in the last two chapters (Ch#7-Human Values and Decadence; Ch#8-The Morality of Nobility). Semmel is well known in some circles, but this is the reader’s first encounter with his though. As I read it, Semmel’s concern is with the epistemology and metaphysics underlying the relationships between individual and societal-political ethics. This concern—as opposed to a more enthusiastic or epigonal commitment to either Nietzsche or Schopenhauer—provides a nicely disinterested tone to Semmel’s approach which makes it a little easier for him to avoid some of the thicket of disciplinary intrigue which marks much philosophical literature, esp. Nietzschean literature. Some of Semmel’s treatment of metaphysical issues is mildly outdated, but as the accuracy and importance of much of the twentieth century’s analytic dernier cri is often exaggerated this does not strike me as a critical issue in evaluating this particular work. As I am unfamiliar with the complete body of Schopenhauer’s work, I will only address Semmel’s treatment of Nietzsche in my remarks.
While S. is quite sympathetic to Nietzsche’s concern to further an individual creative and noble life. However, he easily moves past any strongly partisan involvement in Nietzsche’s overbroad attack on Christianity by simply noting some of Nietzsche’s inconsistencieses and moving on to the pertinent issues. For example, Nietzsche simply ignores the Christian interest in the ‘soul’ while excoriating Christianity’s tendency to de-emphasize worldly success as necessarily leading to the utter depreciation of the earth inherent goodness. S. also notes that while Nietzsche's atheism by fiat [“If there were a God, then I would be no God”] may indeed be a psychologically serious statement about SELFHOOD, it has no probative epistemological value.
Most interesting to me is Semmel’s discussion of the “Eternal Recurrence.” He begins by showing that there is no scientific necessity for an Eternal Recurrence. Nietzsche’s belief that everything will exactly reconstitute itself an infinite number of times requires several assumptions. Basically, they can be stated as follows. (1) The universe will last forever in a countably infinite number of successive overall configurations; (2) The universe contains a finite number of energy states; (3) There are only a finite number of paths for the universe to change into another constellation of energy states; (4) Each particular overall constellation of energy states is deterministically followed by another unique overall constellation of energy states. S’s discussion gives a concrete instance of how an uncountable infinity of time intervals is inconsistent with an Eternal Recurrence. [We say nothing here about the problematics of quantum indeterminacy and the historicity of the Spirit.] More important, however, is S’s discussion of the role of the Eternal Recurrence in Nietzsche's thought. Here, his citation from the Nachlass is decisive:
“Acumen of Mediation: the eternal return of everything is the closest approach of the world of becoming to the world of being.”
Here we almost have it in N’s own words... (I will myself complete the thought.) N, the pious old metaphysician needs only to admit that is indeed his own fervent desire to identify becoming with the “Ding an sich”, esse ipsum.” sic transit gloria mundi.

Selected pages


Schopenhauer and Nietzsche Their Position in Cultural History
Man and His Will
Metaphysics of the Will
The Metaphysics of Art
Morality and the SelfRedemption of the Will
Human Values and Decadence
The Morality of Nobility

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About the author (1991)

Georg Simmel (1858-1918), a philosopher, art historian, and sociologist, wrote more than thirty books. Helmut Loiskandl is a professor of sociology at the University of Queensland. Deena Weinstein is a professor of sociology at DePaul University. Michael Weinstein is a professor of political science at Purdue University.

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