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    Nietzsche on the decadence of individuals and cultures

    Huddleston, Andrew (2014) Nietzsche on the decadence of individuals and cultures. In: Interdisciplinary Conference on Decadence, 2014, Trinity Hall, Cambridge, UK. (Unpublished)

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    In 1872 Nietzsche shocked the European philological community with the publication of the Birth of Tragedy. In this fervid first book Nietzsche looked to ancient Greek culture in the hope of finding the path to a revitalization of modern German culture. Cultural health was at this point unquestionably his paramount concern. Yet postwar Nietzsche scholarship has typically held that after his Untimely Meditations which followed soon after, Nietzsche’s philosophy took a sharply individualist turn—an interpretation largely due to Walter Kaufmann’s noble and influential effort to counter the Nazi appropriation of Nietzsche by stressing Nietzsche’s anti-political individualism and downplaying his seemingly more noxious Kulturphilosophie. But even after Nietzsche gave up on the idea of German culture as something blessed with inner truth and greatness and Nietzsche gave up on the idea of German culture as something blessed with inner truth and greatness and pregnant with the potential for renewed splendor–heaping scorn instead on the Germans and their newly-founded Reich–he still, I argue, continued to take culture, as a collective social achievement, to be something of prime importance. Indeed, it is for this reason that he took the flourishing of great individuals–especially artists and intellectuals–to be vital. Their singularity and their excellence redeems the decadent cultural landscape from the bovine blight of the “last man” and the self-satis!ed, uncreative, and barren mediocrity he represents. My dissertation uses Nietzsche’s perfectionistic ideal of a flourishing culture as a point of departure for investigating many of the central themes in his work: his criticism of the ideals enshrined in conventional morality; his attack on Christianity; his celebration of individual human excellence and cultural accomplishment; his lamentations about cultural decline; his troubling remarks about the need for slavery (“in some sense or other”) if a society is to flourish; and his grand ambitions for a “revaluation of all values.”


    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
    School: School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Philosophy
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2014 16:23
    Last Modified: 11 Nov 2014 16:23


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