Aufklärung und kein Ende’: The place of Enlightenment in Friedrich Nietzsche’s thought

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Colleges, School and Institutes

Abstract

The following article traces the development of Friedrich Nietzsche's attitude to Enlightenment and challenges the view that he can be dismissed, or revered, as an anti-Enlightenment irrationalist. While Nietzsche rejects certain elements of Enlightenment thought, particularly those which found expression in the tenets of the French Revolution, his philosophical diagnoses are informed to an extent by the critical principles of Enlightenment. Nietzsche admires the critical spirit of certain figures associated with eighteenth-century Enlightenment, notably Voltaire and Lessing, as well as representatives of earlier 'Enlightenments', such as Epicurus, Petrarch and Erasmus. He is also impressed by the audacity of the Enlightenment project, however flawed parts of it may be, and by the scale of its philosophical legacy. However, Nietzsche's approach to Enlightenment remains ambivalent and selective. His sceptical diagnoses of the phenomenon anticipate Horkheimer and Adorno's critique in Dialektik der Aufklarung (1947). The article concludes that it is, paradoxically, Nietzsche's attempts to suggest ways forward for humanity that present the most significant obstacles to viewing him as an enlightened thinker.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-97
Number of pages19
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Volume61
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008