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Web Letters | The Nation

American Idol: On Nietzsche in America

Philosophy as music

Nietzsche’s appeal, as he himself said, is not in the specifics—whether actions or systems—that may be teased out of his writings. It is in the spirit of the writings themselves, that life force that is pulsing in his paragraphs. He warns everywhere not to make a system out of them. The act of reading him is in itself a higher life and an inspiration to remake one’s own life—how, he purposely does not say. His mentor Wagner’s operas have their fullest meanings not in the plots and petty doings of their gods and mortals but in the life that expressed through the music. The melodramatic, rather Victorian plots were vehicles that freed him to unleash his creative genius. So with Nietzsche. His writing is music made into philosophy. With both men, their life spirit was on a much higher plane than the shells they constructed to be able, however imperfectly and inadequately, to express it.

Charles Zigmund

Carmel, NY

Nov 4 2011 - 10:35am