a letter from R. R. Reno

"But I wrote the essay because a closer reading of the Genealogy of Morals shows that Nietzsche was neither a street-corner existentialist nor a jet-setting professor sermonizing about "the Other". He understood the human condition. He saw that the soul is given life by the invasion of demand into the depths of the human psyche, and he suspected (to his horror and dismay) that a life worth living requires an ascetic submission of individuality to something higher. I never claimed that Nietzsche wanted to see this deeper truth. Nor did I argue that it accorded with his eschatological dreams. I only claimed in my essay that Nietzsche's integrity of mind freed him from easy modern pieties about human flourishing in a secular, disenchanted culture - and forced him toward an Augustinian view of the restless human heart.

Nietzsche thought of himself as a Seer. To a certain degree, I'm inclined to agree. He certainly saw the strange paradoxes of post-Christian culture: the high demands of authenticity, the rigorous self-discipline of Zarathustra, the attractive deceptions of modernity. Yet, like all Seers, Nietzsche could not control what was revealed to him. This master of suspicion seems to have had suspicions about his own suspicion of the ascetic ideal. That he suppressed them should not surprise us. It is very difficult to live without lies. But we need not lie to ourselves about ourselves. In fact, if we would be genuine humanists, then we cannot.
- FT April 2008

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