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International Nietzsche-Research Group at University Greifswald

By Professor Dr. Werner Stegmaier, Director

Translated by Anthony K. Jensen

1. Establishment of Nietzsche Scholarship at Greifswald

The Nietzsche Research Group came to Greifswald, located in northeast Germany on the Baltic Sea, in 1994 by petition of the founding director of the Institute of Philosophy, Werner Stegmaier. He began to expand the Institute, starting in 1991, following the reunification of Germany in 1989. At Greifswald he took a chair of practical philosophy, which he retains until 2011. Professor Stegmaier has contributed influential works to Nietzsche scholarship, including on "Nietzsche's New Determination of Truth," his philosophy of time, the late works Ecce Homo and The Antichrist, and Nietzsche's relations to Darwin, Hegel, Kant, and Heraclitus. He has also begun to develop his own modern version of Heraclitean philosophy ("The Flowing Unity of the River"). Groundbreaking work followed on the "Philosophy of Flux" in Wilhelm Dilthey and Friedrich Nietzsche, Stegmaier's Habilitationschrift, and in 1994, he published a commentary on the Genealogy of Morals, which has since become an internationally recognized standard. Together with Daniel Krochmalnik from the Jewish College in Heidelberg, he directed an international conference on Jewish Nietzscheanism, which found a large public resonance. In 1997, Stegmaier became a member of the Wissenschaftlichen Beirat, and in 1999 was called to the Editoral Boards of Nietzsche-Studien and of the series Monographs and Texts for Nietzsche Scholarship, alongside Günter Abel and Josef Simon. The two research staffs worked separately in Berlin and Greifswald until the entire editorial office moved to Greifswald in 2008. From 2000-2007, Dr. Andreas Urs Sommer served as co-editor, and his philosophical-historical commentary on The Antichrist appeared in 2007.

Another member of the research group, Andrea Christian Bertino, has written a prize-winning work on Nietzsche’s relation to the Hellenistic philosophy in Italian. He completed his dissertation this year on Nietzsche and Herder. Along with Alexander Kupin, Dr. Ekaterina Poljakova and Stegmaier, Bertino organized an international and interdisciplinary research conference with up and coming scholars on the theme “New Nietzsche-Philology: Work on KGW IX and the Nietzsche-Wörterbuch” in 2008. Approximately fifty scholars from around the world participated. In Greifswald, a number of scholars earned their doctorates: Ralf Witzler, “Europa im Denken Nietzsches,” 2000; Daniel Havemann, “Der ‘Apostel der Rache’: Nietzsches Paulusdeutung,” 2001 (theology); Enrico Müller, “Die Griechen im Denken Nietzsches,” 2004; Silvio Pfeuffer, “Die Entgrenzung der Verantwortung: Nietzsche – Dostojewskij – Levinas,” 2007; and Nurudin Shakhovudinov, “Zarathustras freier Geist: Nietzsche und der historische Zardutscht,” 2010.


2. The Origin of the Nietzsche Research Group in Greifswald

The Nietzsche Research Group originated spontaneously from the fact that younger scholars were frequently coming to Greifswald from abroad for extended research visits. Here they are able to facilitate their dissertations, Habilitationschriften, and other research projects through interaction with one another. Some scholars also receive promotion or habilitation in Greifswald. The first was Nurudin Shakhovudinov, a young colleague from Tajikistan, who sought to bring Nietzsche's Freie Geist back to his own land, where Zarathustra walked and where for centuries Islam and then Soviet-Communism dominated. Other young researchers follwed, from Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, Japan, Italy, Greece, Iceland, Estonia, Portugal, Brazil, and Sweden. Some have already returned again to their homelands. In 2010, a new crop of promising researchers came from Italy, China, the Republic of Daghestan, and above all from Brazil. Respectively, they work on tragic philosophy, the metaphors of land and sea in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche's concepts of experience, truth and spirit, love and justice as conditions of knowledge, Nietzsche's philosophical psychology, Nietzsche's philosophy of adjudication, the roots of the gender-theory in Nietzsche, the "great health," Ressentiment, moralizing and the moralization of language, Nietzsche's project of a redemption of reality, the perspectivism of the senses, the unity of Nietzsche's late work, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche's preparations for a philosophy of orientation, among other topics. The group meets for intense discussion in regular colloquia, which are usually held on Saturday afternoons. In 2007, the group travelled together to Röcken and Weimar—the sites of Nietzsche's birth and death respectively—to Sils-Maria, in order to participate in the Nietzsche-Kolloquium there, and finally to Basel. Twice a year, the group organizes workshops with established and soon-to-be established international scholars for an intensive exchange of ideas about each other's research projects. The group has been supported generously and non-bureaucratically for several years by the Trebuth-Stiftung, a part of the Stiferverband für die deutsche Wissenschaft, from the Deutschen Akademischen Auslandsdienst, as distributed through the Akademische Auslandsamt in Greifswald, and other foundations from the home countries of the scholars themselves. The members of the group thoroughly enjoy the working environment in Greifswald and return whenever they are able.


3. The International Network of the Nietzsche Research Group in Greifswald

Through presentations and participation in international research conferences, the Nietzsche Research Group has become associated with GIRN (Groupe International de Recherches sur Nietzsche/Gruppo Internazionale di Ricerca su Nietzsche/Internationale Nietzsche-Forschungsgruppe), which hold regular Nietzsche workshops primarily for younger participants; 2009 in Rheims, on The Gay Science (Professor Dr. Patrick Wotling, director), 2010 in Pisa on Twilight of the Idols (Professor Dr. Guiliano Campioni, director), and 2011 in Greifswald, on Nietzsche's early and late prefaces (Professor Dr. Werner Stegmaier, director). The first publication of the workshop papers will appear in Italian in 2010. The group also collaborates closely with the Centro ‘Colli-Montinari’ Seminario Permanente Nietzscheano, under the directorship of Dr. Chiara Piazzesi (Pisa/Greifswald), with the Brazilian Nietzsche-Research GroupCritica e Modernidade’ under Professor Dr. Oswaldo Giacoia at the UNICAMP in Campinas, and also with Professor Dr. João Constancio’s Lisbon research group ‘Nietzsche: Instinct and Language’. Strong ties exist and continue to strengthen among the representatives of Nietzsche scholarship in France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, the US, Russia, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and with Poland and Israel.


4. Research Concept and Methodology of the Nietzsche Research Group in Greifswald

The members of the Nietzsche Research Group are not restrained by a single concept, method, or program of research. Everyone finds their own way in communication with friends –in a way similar to Nietzsche himself. Members have nevertheless developed common paths of Nietzsche interpretation through their lengthy collaborations with one another. New members of the group contribute to the dynamic. The most popular method of Nietzsche interpretation tends to take fragments from assorted contexts and weave them together into a system of the interpreter’s own making, a method Nietzsche himself condemned sharply: “The worst readers are those who proceed like marauding soldiers: they grab the few things they need, sully and confound whatever’s left, and blaspheme the whole” (HH II, AOM 137). The Nietzsche Research Group tries as far as possible to respect Nietzsche’s warnings to his own readers as he states them especially in Daybreak, P 5, The Gay Science 381, and in On the Genealogy of Morals, P 8: to read his texts in their own context patiently and exactly, and to always be ready for philological and philosophical surprises in the texts. This way of reading thus does not presume to build on something indubitable. Methodologically, it denies all constructions upon a priori principles. And it expects no enduring results –a philosophy that wants to keep its eyes open to life will not promise this. The group draws such an interpretation of Nietzsche’s thinking from the contexts in which he has written them: contextual interpretation. Accordingly, the approach to the interpretation must proceed to examine:

First, the inner context of a particular text (e.g., Aphorism, Zarathustra's Speeches, Song).

Second, the kind of book (aphorism-books, the parts of Zarathustra, the whole of Zarathustra, the divisions of the Genealogy and the Genealogy considered as a whole, the collections of poems, etc.)

Third, the complete work in which he developed his thinking line by line.

Fourth, the preparatory notes, insofar as they reveal the originary processes of the aphorisms and speeches, and provide clues to the thoughts that Nietzsche either had not published yet or intentionally retained for himself.

Fifth, the sources Nietzsche used.

These five points show what Nietzsche contributed to a new philosophical orientation to the present. It is not so much about Nietzsche's philosophy itself as about its "Use and Disadvantage for Life."

The burden of the resulting contextual interpretation requires careful attention to Nietzsche’s forms of philosophical authorship. None of the great philosophers of the European tradition produced such a variety of authorial forms as Nietzsche, and none of those forms were so essential for the communication of their content. Nietzsche expressly wanted to "select" his readers with the "finer laws” of his style (GS 381); that is, his style imparts whether it is read superficially or deeply —how far readers know by means of his communications to follow the forms of these communications. The form of communication is for Nietzsche not merely the literary façade it is often taken to be.  Every text can only be the “superficiality” of thinking. Nietzsche’s superficiality, however, gives us important “clues,” which direct us in the often unfathomable depths of his philosophizing. Thus, according to Nietzsche himself, every word and indeed every mark in his text is philosophically meaningful. To the forms of his communication belong:

  • The different genres he uses and modifies: the treatise, the essy, the maxim, the aphorism and the aphorism book, the epic-dramatic-lyrical apothegm [Lehrdichtung], the preface, the polemic, the auto-genealogy, the poetry collections;
  • The discursive forms: how he plots out his philosophizing, how he introduces himself personally, how he pursues his declared "war-praxis" (EH, "Wise," 7), how he arranges dialogues (e.g., between the "Wanderer" and his "Shadow");
  • The rhetorical forms: which rhetorical devices he employs, how he alternately addresses himself to and distances himself from his audience ("we, my friends" —"you, my dear scholars");
  • The conceptual forms: how he refers to persons rather than to abstract positions, how he avoids defined terms and makes his throughs palpable by metaphors, examples and similies, how he typifies rather than generalizes;
  • The syntactical forms: how he varies the tempo of his sentences, how he inserts syntactical marks such as question marks, ellipses, dashes, emphases, quotation marks;
  • The argumentative forms: how he reveals and conceals arguments, how he distinguishes the major from the minor premises of the argument, which can suddenly switch places, how he juxtaposes title and text from aphorism and speech, how he can plunge from one of them to the next, how he moves between perspectives and links them to other themes.

Nietzsche, in a word—his own word—composed his writing "musically". Through it, he tries to justify life itself. Life expresses itself, according to Nietzsche, in the "music of the life" (GS 372) in which everything can be experienced and understood, where "an infinite elucidation is possible" (Nachlass 1969/70, 2[10]; KSA 7, p. 47) even though not everything can be understood conceptually. Philosophers and their interpreters must learn to hear this music once again.

Special care is thus needed in treating both Thus Spoke Zarathustra and the Nachgelassenen Notaten. In Zarathustra, Nietzsche translates a “teaching” of his own into the voice of an invented “teacher”, his Zarathustra, which in part is and in part is not his own voice. In fact, the most famous teachings of Zarathustra, that of the Übermensch and of the Eternal Recurrence, were not taught by Nietzsche in his remaining published works —at least not in the same way; he lets his Zarathustra go down with them, or, as he says, “go under”. The teachings, as Nietzsche indicates in Zarathustra, are not even suitable as teachings; Zarathustra finds no suitable public for them. Nietzsche has re-conceptualized communication among people in recognizing that everyone orients themselves from their own standpoints perspectivally and thus the thoughts of another can never be understood in the other’s sense. Teachings, considered as communication that can be transferred in an unaltered sense from one person to another, are simply not possible. Nietzsche has thus shifted from the traditional concept of reason, under which such teachings should still be thinkable, to his concept of Will to Power, which excludes such teachings. So too, Nietzsche’s Nachgelassene Notate (which Montinari wrongly labeled “Fragments”) ought only to bear conditionally on the understanding of his philosophy (the posthumous The Will to Power, which Heinrich Köselitz assembled under the orders of Nietzsche’s sister, is no work of Nietzsche’s –let alone his main work— no matter how often Nietzsche scholars cite it). As Heidegger first noticed, Nietzsche appears to pronounce his actual intentions most clearly in his notes. This is because the notes, which he had only noted for himself, did not yet bear the “finer laws” of his style of communication; they lack even a consideration for the form of communication to another that is the integral part of his philosophy. 

The Greifswald Nietzsche Research Group seeks to investigate what the forms of Nietzsche’s communications say about his communications and what new avenues are opened thereby: these are new with respect to Nietzsche’s work and also contemporary philosophy. In this way, the group explores the text itself —rather than the systematic aspect of it— wherein Nietzsche opens up new ways of human orientation and out of which he pulls us in new philosophical directions today. To this end, Werner Stegmaier has offered his own comprehensive Philosophie der Orientierung [Philosophy of Orientation] (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008) and is now at work on a contextual interpretation of the fifth book of The Gay Science, which, he suggests, is the richest examplar of a "fröhlich," or "cheerful" book, as Nietzsche calls it.