Second Reply to Professor Anderson, Julian Young
In the Autumn 2011 issue of the Journal of Nietzsche Studies Professor Mark Anderson published an article "Telling the same story of Nietzsche's Life," which pointed out certain similarities between the biographical half of my Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography and Curtis Cate's earlier biography Friedrich Nietzsche. I have already responded to this article in the JNS expressing regret at the overlaps. Here I should like to amplify my earlier remarks and be more specific as to remedial action.
What are reproduced in my work are occasional phrases of Cate's, never a complete sentence. Out of a book of approximately 370,000 words, the total number of words involved is less than 300. In the discussion of Anderson's article together with my reply that was published alongside them, Daniel Blue takes note of this fact. Although he is no admirer of my book (in an earlier issue of the JNS he authored a highly critical review of its philosophical content) he observes that "there is no mistaking" the fact that of the 260 pages of the book devoted to biography rather than philosophy, "the vast majority are in language surely Young's own."
That certain of Cate's phrases appeared in my book is entirely due to my inexperience and carelessness as a biographer. Sometimes a phrase just stuck in my head, appropriated so completely that it seemed to be my own. The main problem, however, was this. Cate was where I first began to try to grasp the facts of Nietzsche's life. Consequently, my notes on his book were written four or five years before I began to write the biography itself. Coming across a phrase in my notes I too quickly took it to be a précis of my reading of Cate whereas it now transpires that occasionally it was Cate's own phrase. Trained as I am to be on guard against unacknowledged use of other people's ideas, I was too relaxed when it came to the manner of reporting biographical facts. Without properly thinking about it, I tended to assume—wrongly—that the manner of reporting humdrum historical facts no more counts as intellectual property than the manner of reporting a bus timetable. Since Cate appeared in my bibliography I assumed it would be obvious that I had used him as a source of basic historical data. This was naïve and thoughtless. But to see that no conscious dishonesty could have been involved one only needs to ask: what possible advantage could I have expected from using a phrase of Cate's rather than a paraphrase of it? It is not, for example, a difficult matter to describe the arrangement of the school-grounds in Schulpforta (Young, pp. 21-2) in one's own words, particularly if, as I have, one has been there (see my "Acknowledgments").
Explanation aside, there is no doubt that the unacknowledged appearance of phrases from Cate represents a serious scholarly failing. With this in mind I have created a list of all of Cate's phrases that appear in my book. Where there are such phrases two things will occur: the passage as a whole will be acknowledged as indebted to Cate and the phrases will be removed by paraphrase. Very occasionally I will retain a phrase, but then it will be within quotation marks and with acknowledgment. These corrections will be inserted as an erratum slip in remaining stock of the work and will be incorporated in any future reprints or new editions.
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In addition to highlighting the recycling of phrases from Cate, Professor Anderson also makes the more nebulous claim that elements of Cate's "narrative structure" appear in my biography. Now even where the order in which one narrates events or the selection of quotations from original sources is suggested by someone else's work, I do not believe that one is required to acknowledge this fact. And I do not believe that Professor Anderson believes this either. The implicit and ambitious point to his citing examples of alleged structural similarity seems to be to suggest, as the title of his article puts it, that the biographical part of my book simply "tells the same story" as Cate's. The suggestion, in other words, is that the 'story' of the life that I construct out of the raw historical data is, from start to finish, simply Cate's story recycled in slightly altered language. Not only have I incorporated phrases from Cate, the literary "artistry" (to use Anderson's word) of my biography is really Cate's artistry.
Daniel Blue who, I repeat, is no admirer of my book, disposes of this extraordinary suggestion. By obsessively "focusing on the similarities" and ignoring their evident differences, Blue writes, Anderson fails to notice that, with respect to Nietzsche's life, "the two books are strikingly different," different because "individual storytellers are at work, and the tales they tell are individual as well." In part this is a matter of the style of narration:
Young likes to insert himself personally into the narrative, often using the first person singular whereas Cate prefers to escape from view, largely abstaining from commentary and avoiding the word "I" […] Unlike Young, he fosters the illusion that his story is an anonymous recital of events from which the author has disappeared.
But in part, too, Blue writes, it is a matter of what I do when I "insert [myself] personally" into the narrative. Rather than presenting imaginative fictionalization as fact, as Cate does, I construct, and sometimes refute, self-declared "hypotheses." I go out of my way, for example, to refute the claim that Nietzsche was gay. (Neither 'homosexuality' nor 'sexuality' appears in Cate's index.)
It is not my place to review my own book. But were I asked to list what makes my biographical story unique, different not only from Cate but also from all previous biographies, I would start by mentioning its most obvious uniqueness, the fact that the narrative is regularly illustrated by references to Nietzsche's musical compositions. Seventeen of these are to be found on the website accompanying the book (the longest of them specially recorded for it). I would then highlight my connecting Nietzsche's interest in communal living—in a "monastery for free spirits"—to the "life-reform" movement. This situating of both Nietzsche and his works within that movement casts both in a new and revealing light. As Charles Huenemann notes in the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, it has the effect of making Nietzsche "less of a lone voice in the wilderness and more of a very distinctive voice in a chorus demanding cultural reform."
I might next proceed to mention my demonstration that Nietzsche was not always a misogynist (or at least anti-feminist). The surprising fact is, I show, that up until 1882 he was an at least cautious supporter of women's emancipation. I further show that his later emphatic rejection of feminism was the result, not of his philosophical critique of "democratic" ideas, but of, rather, his "rejection" by Lou Salomé. Another point of difference I would mention is that whereas Cate, along, I think, with all previous biographers, accepts the traditional view that Nietzsche's madness was the result of end-stage syphilis (Cate pp. 72, 554), I criticize that diagnosis, suggesting instead that his madness represented an extreme form of manic-depression, "bi-polar disorder." (It is worth adding that, subsequent to the appearance of my book, I received a letter from Dr. Eva M. Cybulska saying that she had proposed the same bi-polar disorder diagnosis in 2000, in Hospital Medicine vol. 61 pp. 571-575. I must state here that I had not read, and was not aware of, Dr. Cybuska's article nor did I attend the 1996 Nietzsche Society meeting at which she first presented it. My medical sources for the manic-depressive hypothesis were Dr. Richard Schain and Professor Helen Danish-Meyer both of whom are acknowledged in my book. I understand that the hypothesis has been put forward independently (as Dr. Cybuska acknowledges) by Jacques Rogé in his 1999 book Le Syndrome de Nietzsche, although I am not familiar with this work.)
I could continue for pages itemizing the ways in which my biographical story is unique, but since reviewers have done this already let me conclude with a final observation. I believe that during the course of writing the biography I developed a unique kind of sympathetic intimacy with Nietzsche that enabled me to present him, for all his strangeness, as a rounded human individual—one who was at times, of course, like all of us, "all-too-human." Many readers have written to me confirming my sense that this is what I have been able to achieve. One told me that in the book Nietzsche comes to life "in 3-D." Another wrote that he was so moved by the tragedy of Nietzsche's life that he could hardly bear to read to the end.
To publish in JNS 43:2 (Autumn 2012)