The Corner

Bloom & Nietzsche

I seem to recall I launched a fun cross-blogosphere confab a while back on my general peeve that we are constantly told that Nietzsche is the premiere rightwing philosopher of the last two centuries and yet for the last fifty years virtually all of his serious and famous followers have been of the hard left. After a lot of back and forth, several folks noted that Bloom and some of the other Straussians were/are Nietzscheans of one shade or another Pejmanesque even made the case that Richard Posner is a Nietzschean).

Now, I’m just thinking ot loud here. But to the extent this is a fair argument, their Nietzscheanism places Straussians like Bloom on the “right” it is in a fairly European sense and shows how different the two rights really are. Bloom may have seemed to have an old-fashioned liberal’s love of the university, but as the university is an institution which predates the very concepts of liberal and conservative, right and left, as we use them today by — what? — five centuries his conception of the university need not have been explicitly modern nor explicitly in keeping with American concervatism. In a sense, from his point of view, the world outside the university — on the “right” and “left” was all modern barbarism of one form or another. What offended him was that barbarism had spilled over into the University. Peter Berkowitz has made a powerful case that the left has long misread Nietzsche, emphasizing to the point of excluding all else, Nietzsche’s attacks on reason and his celebration of Will and self-creation. They left out Nietzsche’s celebration of “higher morality” and older notions of truth, beauty and hierarchy. Bloom’s particular usefulness for American conservatives, I think, was his recognition that the Left was trying to recreate and redefine human nature for its own purposes using the language of unconstrained human freedom. I think that message is as useful today as it was back then and would still place him on the American right, though certainly not in a conventional way.

Anyway, don’t hold me to any of this because I’m still thinking it through.

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