NIETZSCHE’S CHALLENGE TO HUMANISM
Journal: Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism
Subject Areas: Philosophy
This essay reconsiders the question of humanism in Nietzsche’s philosophy. The author argues that established readings of Nietzsche’s critique of humanism fail to consider the conceptual history of humanism; a genealogy which Nietzsche, as a classical philologist, knew well. The result is a more nuanced, historically and anthropologically textured idea of the human in Nietzsche’s thought than has often been understood. This representation of human nature extends important rational and moral values about what it means to be human by re-calling Cicero, Petrarch, Erasmus, and other key-figures in the humanist tradition. In doing so Nietzsche’s thought doesn’t mark an end of humanism, or construct a sign-post towards a post-humanistic age, but expresses a radical, rhetorically-driven challenge to conceiving of the human being as a rational animal (animal rationale). Only after we have corrected in such an essential point the historical way of thinking that the Enlightenment brought with it, may we once again carry onward the banner of the Enlightenment, the banner with the three names: Petrarch, Erasmus, Voltaire.— Human, All Too Human, 26.
Author: Brian Thomas