Monday, December 7, 2020
Thursday, October 29, 2020
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
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 15ish in the UK), unusual in having two very substantial Nietzsche scholars on faculty, Ken Gemes [who is only part-time] 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 with interests 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 and Anja Jauernig good coverage of Kant and the post-Kantian Continental traditions. 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 faculty (top 3 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. Also outstanding in ancient philosophy.
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), although only Poellner's work seems to me of high quality. Also has 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 two faculty who publish on Nietzsche: Sebastian Gardner and Tom Stern. Gardner is also a major scholar of Kant and German Idealism. Gardner is excellent, Stern's work is weak.
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. Andreas Urs Summer at the Unviersity of Freiburg in Germany is doing interesting historical and philological work, albeit of somewhat less clear philosophical import.
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Given that it is billed as a companion, one would expect a balanced approach to debates in Nietzsche studies, alongside informative overviews. Unfortunately, the volume suffers from two central faults which undercut its ability to achieve this. On the one hand, a number of the chapters lack philosophical substance, reading more like discursive intellectual histories. On the other hand, the more philosophically inclined essays include misrepresentative snipes at 'analytic interpreters' of Nietzsche (mostly those notably absent from the volume).
We mentoned in October why the so-called "analytic" (i.e., philosophical) interpreters are missing from the volume. Nietzsche studies has made huge progress in the last thirty years in scholarly and philosophical sophistication. With a couple of exceptions, all this is absent from this companion, which is something like a return to "the bad old days" when Nietzsche scholars didn't need to know much about philosophy or philosophical problems and could hide behind confused blather about "masks" and perspectivism-as-relativism/idealism (see, e.g., Mitchell's discerning discussion of Stern's introductory materials to the volume).
Mitchell is good on Stephen Mulhall's embarrassing hatchet job on my views (which I had planned on letting pass in silence, but I'm grateful to Mitchell for pointing out the obvious errors), and on the Straussian esotericism implicit in Robert Pippin's essay on Beyond Good and Evil; as Mitchell writes: "there is also a price that comes with seeing Nietzsche as always, rather than just sometimes, engaged in an esoteric meta-project of not just stating (albeit in suggestive and non-commital ways) his philosophical views, but always saying things for some never explicitly stated 'effects' ('what he is trying to do by saying it' [quoting Pippin]). It makes the interpretive project closer to that of trying to uncover Nietzsche's 'hidden intentions,' something which lends itself to a form of speculation unconstrained by textual evidence." Being constrained by textual evidence is hard work, of course.
I have not yet read Sebastian Gardner's essay (though plan to), which Mitchell discusses at length, and which sounds interesting, though it (unsurprisingly) reflects Gardner's Kantian predilections in reading Nietzsche, such as supposing that Nietzsche thinks there is any "guarantor of normativity." Gardner's work is always instructive, and as longtime readers will know, I've discussed it in detail here in the past.
I also agree with Mitchell's praise for Michael Forster's essay on Nietzsche on free will; although I have some disagreements with Forster on this issue, Mitchell is exactly right that it is "a fine example of the required form and standard of content for a contribution to a companion." I expect it's the one essay in the volume that will definitely get uptake in the scholarly literature going forward.
The community of Nietzsche scholars owes Dr. Mitchell a debt of gratitude for his critical eye, good philosophical judgment, and judicious assessments.