Wednesday, 31 October 2018

On Nietzsche’s Obituary in the New York Times

Friedrich Nietzsche died on August 25, 1900, and his obituary appeared in the New York Times on August 26, 1900.

Of little over 300 words, the obituary is too brief for a philosopher of Nietzsche’s importance. But in 1900, Nietzsche was not seen as an important philosopher, and no one could have imagined that in a few decades the Nazis will attain political power in Germany and Nietzsche will be regarded as the prophet of Nazism.

Here’s an excerpt from the NYT’s obituary:
Prof. Nietzsche was one of the most prominent of modern German philosophers, and he is considered the apostle of extreme modern rationalism and one of the founders of the socialistic school, whose ideas have had such a profound influence on the growth of political and social life throughout the civilized world. Nietzsche was largely influenced by the pessimism of Schopenhauer and his writings, full of revolutionary opinions, were fired with a fearless iconoclasm which surpassed the wildest dreams of contemporary free thought. His doctrines however, were inspired by lofty aspirations, while the brilliancy of his thought and diction and the epigrammatic force of his writings commanded even the admiration of his most pronounced enemies, of which he had many. 
There are lot of things that the NYT has got wrong in its short obituary. For instance, the obituary says that Nietzsche is “considered the apostle of extreme modern rationalism and one of the founders of the socialistic school.” It also says that “Nietzsche was largely influenced by the pessimism of Schopenhauer.” I don’t think that Nietzsche can be seen in these terms.

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