Nietzsche Madness -- By: Charles H. Lerch

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:273 (Jan 1912)
Article: Nietzsche Madness
Author: Charles H. Lerch


Nietzsche Madness

Charles H. Lerch

A charge might be brought against the critic of Nietzsche who was not born and bred to the traditions of German thought and literary expression, that he is naturally disqualified from grasping the full connotation and content of what might seem to him mere philosophical gerrymandering. The writer of this paper, however, puts his confidence in his competent translators and interpreters, and keeps to a line of thought which has been so often reiterated that it has become Nietzsche commonplace. The philosophical attitude of the poet-philosopher is fairly evident, notwithstanding the ramifications of thought or no-thought which a fanciful hermeneutics might direct.

Lack of sympathy with our philosopher, due to foreign birth and long-range acquaintanceship, it might be charged again, is at least the foster-mother, if nothing more, of unfair insouciance. Be it granted. How can it be otherwise with any one who has carelessly, even, read Nietzsche! The very key-note of his teaching is, Do not have any sympathy for any one; do not yield to that weakness which Christianity exalts as a virtue. To interpret the philosopher sympathetically would be to place him before the world in any way but the true light. If ever the stoical attitude of Matthew Arnold, that one in forming correct judgments must get rid of himself, must be assumed, it is necessary for the student of Nietzsche, for his master inculcates it. If one were

brought to bay by his admirers for handling unsympathetically and uncongenially things Nietzsche, he might defend himself by the verbal weapons forged by the philosopher himself, “Let them go to the devil and to statistics.”

It would not be in good form to assault the ramparts of this earth-philosophy with the ordinary weapons of commonplace critical batteries. The superman critic must dirempt himself of all things man. The superman critic may snap his superfingers at all present trumpery ideals of criticism. He must live alone, straight-jacketed within his own mental content, looking out upon the four corners of things with no outward disillusionment. He must hold, with our New England transcendentalist, “our actual knowledge very cheap. Hear the rats in the wall, see the lizard on the fence,” comments this philosopher, “the fungus under foot, the lichen on the log. What do I know sympathetically, morally, of either of these worlds of life? The idiot, the Indian, the child and unschooled farmer’s boy stand nearer to the light by which nature is to be read than the dissector or the antiquary.” Likewise the German transcendentalist holds our actual knowledge somewhat cheap and, perhaps, it might be said with justice, that the idiot ...

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