Friday, October 18, 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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Where to go to study Nietzsche, 2019 edition (REVISED 3 September 2019)

The recommendations are premised on three assumptions about what is needed to do good PhD work on Nietzsche:  (1) a strong, general philosophical education; (2) good Nietzsche scholars to supervise the work; and (3) a philosophical environment in which one can get a solid grounding in the history of philosophy, especially ancient philosophy, Kant, and post-Kantian German philosophy.

With that in mind, here's the eight programs I'd strongly recommend for someone certain they plan to focus on Nietzsche:

Birkbeck College, University of London:  a solid department overall, albeit a bit narrow (top 10ish in the UK), unusual in having two very substantial Nietzsche scholars on faculty, Ken Gemes and Andrew Huddleston.  If one reaches out to faculty at other London colleges, one can also get the necessary historical education in other figures.

Brown University:  a strong department overall (top 20 in the US), with one leading Nietzsche specialist, Bernard Reginster, and two other senior faculty with sympathetic interests in Nietzsche (Paul Guyer and Charles Larmore).  Guyer and Larmore, as well as Mary Louise Gill, provide strong coverage of other important periods and figures for purposes of studying Nietzsche.

Columbia University:  a very strong department overall (top 10ish in the US), with three senior faculty interested in Nietzsche:  Taylor Carman, Robert Gooding-Williams, and Frederick Neuhouser (though only Gooding-Williams is really a specialist).  With these three, as well as Lydia Goehr and (part-time) Axel Honneth, also one of the best places in the U.S. to study the Continental traditions in philosophy.  Also offers strong coverage of ancient philosophy and Kant.

New York University:  the best department in the Anglophone world, now with three senior faculty with serious interests in Nietzsche:  Robert Hopkins, John Richardson, and Tamsin Shaw (though only Richardson seems to be actively working on Nietzsche these days).  The department now also has strong coverage of ancient philosophy and through Richardson, Anja Jauernig and Beatrice Longuenesse, has strong coverage of Kant and the post-Kantian Continental traditions.  (I'm told Longuenesse may retire soon, something prospective students should investigate).  Given the department's dominant strengths in other areas to date (e.g., metaphysics, philosophy of mind), so far there have been few students there working on Nietzsche or other post-Kantian figures--something a prospective student should investigate.

Oxford University:  a very strong department (top 5 in the Anglophone world), with strong coverage of ancient philosophy and the history of philosophy, with one significant senior Nietzsche scholar (Peter Kail) and one younger Nietzsche specialist (Alexander Prescott-Couch).  Stephen Mulhall, Joseph Schear and Mark Wrathall offer good coverage of other aspects of the post-Kantian Continental traditions, especially Heidegger and phenomenology.

Princeton University:  a very strong department overall (top 5ish in the US), with one leading figure in Nietzsche studies, Alexander Nehamas, who has supervised a number of students working on Nietzsche in recent years (e.g., Huddleston at Birbeck, above).  Also very strong in ancient philosophy, with other faculty in Philosophy or cognate departments offering some coverage of Kant and post-Kantian German philosophy (mostly 19th-century).  Note:  Nehamas is now in his early 70s, prospective students should make sure he plans on continuing to accept and supervise students.

University of California, Riverside:  a solid department overall (top 30ish in the US) and one of the best places in the U.S. to study the Continental traditions in philosophy with Maudemarie Clark (a leading Nietzsche specialist) and Pierre Keller, as well as Georgia Warnke in Political Science.  The department is especially notable for the way in which the study of the Continental traditions is closely integrated with the study of the rest of philosophy, to the enrichment of both.   (It's also a very collegial place, one of my favorite departments to visit in the country.)  There is also a large and impressive group of graduate students working on the post-Kantian traditions and/or interested in Nietzsche.

University of Chicago:  a strong, if somewhat idiosyncratic, department (top 20ish in the US), with particular strengths in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and in Kant and post-Kantian German and French philosophy.  Chicago has to have more scholars interested in Nietzsche from more divergent points of view than anywhere else:  besides me, also Martha Nussbaum, Robert Pippin, David Wellbery, and (part-time still) James Conant and Michael Forster.  As with Riverside, there is a large group of students interested in Nietzsche (six of the eight PhD students I've worked closely with in the last half-dozen years have had serious Nietzsche interests, two have published on Nietzsche, and one is writing a dissertation with a significant Nietzsche component).  Note:  Most of Pippin's supervision has been of students working on Kant or Hegel.

University of Warwick:  a solid department overall (top 10 in the UK), with two senior scholars interested in Nietzsche (Keith Ansell-Pearson, Peter Poellner) from different perspectives, and strong coverage generally of Kant and the post-Kantian Continental traditions (e.g., Quassim Cassam, Stephen Houlgate [who also is interested in Nietzsche]).

Here are some other departments a student interested in Nietzsche should certainly consider as well:

Boston University:  a solid department (top 50 in the US), with a strong commitment to the history of philosophy, including Kant and the post-Kantian Continental traditions (BU recently added Sally Sedgwick from Illinois/Chicago).  One well-known Nietzsche specialist (Paul Katsafanas, though he is pushing a rather distinctive, and to my mind, implausible line about Nietzsche these days, though I still highly commend several of his earlier papers that we've discussed on this blog in the past--but students sympatico to his approach would no doubt find him an excellent person with whom to work).

Stanford University: a  very strong department (top 10ish in the US), with two senior faculty who have done important work on Nietzsche:  Lanier Anderson and Nadeem Hussain.   In the past, I would have put Stanford in the top group, but Nadeem tells me he's not really working much on Nietzsche anymore.  Also strong in ancient philosophy and, with  Anderson and Michael Friedman, also very good for Kant.  The department's center of gravity, judging from its PhD graduates, does appear to be more in logic, language, mind, metaphysics and epistemology.

University of California, San Diego:  a strong department (top 20ish in the US), with two senior faculty interested in Nietzsche (Michael Hardimon and Donald Rutherford), and extensive coverage of ancient philosophy and Kant.  Recently added at the junior level Monique Wonderly, primarily a moral philosopher, but who also has an interest in and has published on Nietzsche.

University College London:  a good department (top 10 in the UK), with three faculty with interests in Nietzsche:  Sebastian Gardner, Mark Kalderon, and Tom Stern--though for none does it appear to be a primary interest, except perhaps Stern (though I am not a fan of his work).  Gardner is also a major scholar of Kant and German Idealism.

University of Essex:  a narrow department, but strongly focused on Kant and the post-Kantian Continental traditions.  One well-known Nietzsche specialist on faculty:  Beatrice Han-Pile.

University of Southampton:  A solid but not top 15 UK department, with a particular strength in  Schopenhauer and Nietzsche--most notably Christopher Janaway, but others in philosophy or cognate units include David Owen, Aaron Ridley, and Tracy Strong.  Note that Strong is in his mid-70s.

For a student looking to do a terminal M.A. first, s/he might consider any of the UK departments (where students first do a master's degree or B.Phil. before doing the PhD), or, in the U.S., Georgia State University remains far and away the best choice:  in addition to solid coverage of moral, political and legal philosophy, ancient philosophy, and philosophy of mind and cognitive science, the department has two well-known scholars who work on Nietzsche (Jessica Berry and Gregory Moore), and two other faculty who work on Kant and post-Kantian German philosophy (Sebastian Rand and Eric Wilson).

The best Nietzsche scholar on the European Continent is Mattia Riccardi, now at the University of Porto in Portugal.  Also in Portugal, The New University of Lisbon continues to have a lively philosophical community interested in Nietzsche led by Joao Constancio.