Quinnipiac University College of Arts and Sciences

Friedrich Nietzsche Society

In Faculty, Research on November 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm


By Rebecca Bamford, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

On September 20th, 2013, a group of 60 international philosophers, students, and members of the public, gathered at University College Cork, Ireland, for the 19th International Conference of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society (FNS). This scholarly society was founded in 1990 in the United Kingdom, and aims to promote the study of the life, work, and influence of the nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. As a historian of philosophy and a specialist in Nietzsche studies, I currently serve on the FNS Executive Committee as Secretary and Website Manager. This role includes working with other committee members to develop and maintain the FNS website and to plan the society’s conference, which provides a space in which students, scholars, and members of the public meet to exchange ideas.

At this year’s conference, we assessed the value of comparative or intercultural approaches to Nietzsche’s philosophy, focusing on Asian philosophical traditions. Increasing globalization means that Nietzsche is becoming a more important reference point for those in the West who want to access Asian philosophies. Accordingly, scholars attending the conference explored interconnections between Nietzsche’s philosophy and the philosophies of Nishitani and the Kyoto School, Patañjali, Advaita Vedanta, Dōgen, Zeami, Vimalakirti, and Tiantai. In so doing, we were able to identify the benefits of approaching Nietzsche’s philosophy and Asian philosophical traditions from one another’s perspectives.

We also explored Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra as a work of philosophy. Scholars in the field have been reluctant to engage with this text, because of its unusual style as well as its complexity. The text is constructed as a parable that dramatizes the life of Zarathustra — whose name is taken from the founder of Zoroastrianism, but whose character and life story are Nietzsche’s own creations. We debated the political significance of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, exploring topics such as Nietzsche’s concept of cosmopolitanism and its relevance to work in contemporary international relations. We developed fresh analysis of ethical issues such as friendship, health, compassion, and the concept of value, and of epistemological issues concerning truth, the limits of knowledge acquisition, and the process of scientific inquiry. My own research presentation identified how the psychological process of affirmation in Thus Spoke Zarathustra involves a key component — moderation of mood — and argued that because the same emphasis on moderation of mood are evident in earlier texts, this provides a reason to explore whether this text is indeed more closely connected to the rest of Nietzsche’s work than might originally have been accepted.

Accomplishing research in the history of philosophy requires significant technical skills. All professional philosophers are expected to have expertise in correct logical reasoning and argumentation. In addition, historians of philosophy read texts in their original languages, solve problems that arise when a term or an idea from an historical text cannot easily be rendered in English, and determine when statements in a text are correct or incorrect allusions to an historical person, idea, or event. As well as determining the argumentative significance of such allusions, we factor these into our analytic and argumentative work. These skills enable us to demonstrate how the history of philosophy functions as a powerful resource for understanding how the past continues to shape our lives today, as well as to identify ways in which arguments and concepts from the history of philosophy can help us to solve contemporary problems.

This event is an excellent example of how historians of philosophy engage a wide audience in productive dialogue about our research and its direct relevance to diverse local and global communities. As well as facilitating the sharing of knowledge between scholars, students, and the public at the conference itself, FNS archives the conference, and makes the wider public more familiar with our work, on our website: https://fns.org.uk/


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