Friday, October 25, 2019

The New Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche

I recently received a copy of The New Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche edited by Tom Stern.  The last Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, edited by Bernd Magnus and Kathleen Higgins, appeared in 1996, and did not have much impact:   although it included many then-prominent Anglophone Nietzsche scholars, none of the essays played much role in subsequent scholarship.

The striking thing about this New Cambridge Companion, in contrast to the earlier one, is that all the currently prominent Anglophone Nietzsche scholars are noticeably absent:  there are no contributions from Maudemarie Clark, Ken Gemes, Christopher Janaway, Bernard Reginster, and so on.  This is not accidental, and this blog actually played a role.  For longtime readers may recall my excoriation of Tom Stern's idiotic and sneering non-review of The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche back in 2014, which upset and offended many Nietzsche scholars.   After I published this, Hilary Gaskin, the Cambridge University Press philosophy editor, contacted meFrom her, I learned that Professor Stern had been commissioned to edit a New Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, and that he had planned to invite me to contribute; Gaskin wanted to find out whether I would still be open to contributing in light of my response to Stern's review of The Oxford Handbook.  I informed her that I was not, and after corresponding with other senior Nietzsche scholars, I found out I was not alone in this regard.

I confess I was initially astonished back in 2014 to learn that Stern--who had done relatively little work on Nietzsche and none of note--had been invited to edit The New Cambridge Companion, until I remembered that Gaskin is married to Raymond Geuss, who was Stern's dissertation adviser from Cambridge.  This is instructive about how academic corruption works, alas.

I have only begun perusing The New Cambridge Companion.   A number of the essays do seem to reflect Stern's view that Nietzsche was simply a sponge that soaked up whatever he happened to be reading, so that knowing what he read is somehow decisive for figuring out what his published work means.  Some of this detective work is interesting, but its philosophical import is less clear.   I may post more about particular essays that turn out to be of special note or interest.

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