Thursday, November 03, 2011
In The Nation, Ross Posnock reviews Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen's American Nietzsche.
Reading Nietzsche brought Bloom and Cavell back to Emerson, and helped Rorty reclaim the pragmatists William James and John Dewey. In each case, Nietzsche was the indispensable lens through which differences were clarified and understanding sharpened. Two terms are basic to Ratner-Rosenhagen’s discussion here. One is foundationalism, which means that for beliefs to be certain they must be underwritten by what Descartes called a “divine guarantee” independent of strictly human perception. The other term, antifoundationalism, means that all beliefs are in principle revisable, that none can have the absolute certainty required by Descartes. “Emersonian antifoundationalism,” Ratner-Rosenhagen writes, “is not a theory, it is a way of thinking and living in a world without foundations.”
Bring on the abyssal thinking.
. . . truth as ground grounds originarily as abyss.

P. 267
Is it possible that some of MH can be snuck into the popular American awareness via Nietzsche and Emerson?

MH's critiques of Nietzsche might eventually raise the right questions. But my hunch is that Americans are not up to FN's brutal dismissals of bourgeoise life and thought. And one has to peer below the glossy surface of RWE's rhetoric to notice that he is not alone the cheery optimist Santyana dismissed as unserious.
I don't buy the notion that Nietzsche is so influencial in American culture. Sure, one can list Americans that have read and been influenced by Nietzsche, but you don't find statues of Nietzsche in public parks, nor find him quoted in the usual places.

MH is way too specialized to be a popular thinker, in the sense that people understand him, that's he's not just a caricature.

A popular thinker needs witty aphorisms that everyone understands, like Will Rogers.
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