American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas by Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

Friedrich Nietzsche has probably affected more people than any other philosopher, except Karl Marx. American Nietzsche describes the effect Nietzsche has had on generations of Americans, including philosophers, theologians, journalists and literary critics, as well as ordinary citizens. Many have considered him to be a kind of prophet, or at least a kindred spirit.

Nietzsche expressed strong opinions on ultimate questions, and his aphoristic, feverish style has supported many interpretations. I didn’t realize that he greatly admired Ralph Waldo Emerson and how similar their views were. First came Emerson, then Nietzsche, then pragmatists like William James and John Dewey. Walter Kaufmann made Nietzsche popular again after World War II and Richard Rorty tried to synthesize Emerson, Nietzsche and Dewey, among others. It’s quite an interesting story if you enjoy intellectual history.  (3/25/12)