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Sophia and Philosophia

Abstract

In an essay published in 2004[1] Thomas Brobjer surveyed Nietzsche’s attitudes toward Plato and argued that, far from entering into a dedicated agon with that philosopher, he had little personal engagement with Plato’s views at all. Certainly, he did not grapple so immediately and fruitfully with him as he did with Emerson, Schopenhauer, Lange, and even Socrates. Instead, he merely “set up a caricature of Plato as a representative of the metaphysical tradition … to which he opposed his own.”[2] This hardly reflects the view of Nietzsche scholarship in general, but Brobjer argued his case vigorously by ranging broadly over Nietzsche’s life, collating his assessments of Plato, and then noting certain standard views which he believes to be overstated. This paper does not so much respond to Brobjer’s essay as elaborate on one stage within it. It confines its scope to the years between 1863, when Nietzsche bought his first text by Plato, to 1868, when he proclaimed himself sufficiently versed in that philosopher to review books on his work. We can consider these five years foundational insofar as they encompass the initial turn in Nietzsche’s thought from embrace to antipathy. This paper attempts to track the stages of these developments and to investigate when they occurred and what could have caused them. As we will see, the evidence is too thin, and Nietzsche’s positions are too riddled with ambiguity, to determine how intimately he grappled with Plato at this time. However, by 1868, a year before he left Leipzig for Basel, he seems to have developed a distaste for that philosopher which he might later refine but never abandoned.

Keywords

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900; Plato; Germany--Leipzig

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