Nietzsche’s Final Teaching
JMC fellow Michael Gillespie, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Duke University, was featured in the Kinder Institute’s Political Theory Review podcast. He discussed his 2017 book, Nietzsche’s Final Teaching (2017 University of Chicago Press).
Listen to the podcast episode below.
About Nietzsche’s Final Teaching
In the seven and a half years before his collapse into madness, Nietzsche completed Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the best-selling and most widely read philosophical work of all time, as well as six additional works that are today considered required reading for Western intellectuals. Together, these works mark the final period of Nietzsche’s thought, when he developed a new, more profound, and more systematic teaching rooted in the idea of the eternal recurrence, which he considered his deepest thought.
Cutting against the grain of most current Nietzsche scholarship, Michael Allen Gillespie presents the thought of the late Nietzsche as Nietzsche himself intended, drawing not only on his published works but on the plans for the works he was unable to complete, which can be found throughout his notes and correspondence. Gillespie argues that the idea of the eternal recurrence transformed Nietzsche’s thinking from 1881 to 1889. It provided both the basis for his rejection of traditional metaphysics and the grounding for the new logic, ontology, theology, and anthropology he intended to create with the aim of a fundamental transformation of European civilization, a “revaluation of all values.” Nietzsche first broached the idea of the eternal recurrence in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but its failure to gain attention or public acceptance led him to present the idea again through a series of works intended to culminate in a never-completed magnum opus. Nietzsche believed this idea would enable the redemption of humanity. At the same time, he recognized its terrifying, apocalyptic consequences, since it would also produce wars of unprecedented ferocity and destruction. Through his careful analysis, Gillespie reveals a more radical and more dangerous Nietzsche than the humanistic or democratic Nietzsche we commonly think of today, but also a Nietzsche who was deeply at odds with the Nietzsche imagined to be the forefather of Fascism.
Gillespie’s essays examine Nietzsche’s final teaching—its components and its political, philosophical, and theological significance. The book concludes with a critical examination and a reflection on its meaning for us today.
Michael Gillespie, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, works in political philosophy, with particular emphasis on modern continental theory and the history of political philosophy. He is the author of Hegel, Heidegger and the Ground of History, Nihilism before Nietzsche, and The Theological Origins of Modernity. He is also co-editor of Nietzsche’s New Seas: Explorations in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Politics, Ratifying the Constitution, and Homo Politicus, Homo Economicus. He has published articles on Montaigne, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Existentialism, and various topics in American political thought and public philosophy, as well as on the relation of religion and politics. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Templeton Foundation, the Liberty Fund, the Jack Miller Foundation, the Smith Foundation, and the Earhart Foundation. He is the Director of the Duke Program in American Values and Institutions, the AB Duke Scholars Program, the Duke in Oxford Program, and the Visions of Freedom Focus Program.
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