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Philologica

Excerpted and adapted from the article in Issue 17, 1999 by Brian Domino

At first blush, it might seem misguided to name a regular feature of a Nietzsche journal “philologica.” After all, Nietzsche described philology to his friend Paul Deussen in less than flattering terms: “If I were to speak mythologically, I would say that I take philology to be a failed birth of the goddess Philosophy, a creature begotten upon her by an idiot or a cretin” (B 2, 329). While there certainly is a strain of philology that Nietzsche rejects (see, e.g., EH "HH" 3-4 and “Clever” 8), he does not dispense with it wholesale. Nietzsche later recasts his philological training in a way that makes it useful to his philosophical projects. For example, in Beyond Good and Evil, he refers to himself as an “old philologist” who can see through the physicists’ errors and dangerous ascetic science (BGE 22). Again in On the Genealogy of Morals, he cites his philological training as among the qualities that make him uniquely suited to the task of unearthing the origin of Morality (GM P:3). As late as the Antichrist, he still lauds the philologist’s skills, as he has recrafted them (AC 47).

These skills do not form an unwritten addition to the audacious “Why I am So Clever,” but rather are the skills that the readers he wished to cultivate should possess, readers who study Nietzsche “the way old philologists read their Horace” (EH Books 5). Nietzsche’s brand of “philology presupposes a noble faith—that for the sake of a very few human beings, who always ‘will come’ but are never there, a very large amount of fastidious and even dirty work needs to be done first” (GS 102). Nietzsche scholarship has matured enough that such dirty work is now both necessary and desirable. Perhaps “Philologica” can serve as an occasion for careful spade work.

We encourage you to contribute your short essays, queries, and responses to the Journal.

Past Contributions

"The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche: A Status Report," Alan D. Schrift, JNS 43:2 (Autumn 2012)

"The Digital Critical Edition of the Works and Letters of Nietzsche," Paolo D'Iorio, JNS 40 (Autumn 2010): 70-80

"Translating the Colli-Montinari Kritische Studienausgabe," Alan D. Schrift, JNS 33 (Spring 2007): 64-72

"What Was Nietzsche's Nationality?," Daniel Blue, JNS 33 (Spring 2007): 73-82