Nietzsche and the Modern Crisis of the Humanities

By Peter Levine

Subjects: Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791423288, 302 pages, January 1995
Hardcover : 9780791423271, 302 pages, February 1995

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

A Note on Sources


Part One: The Path to Nihilism

1. The Humanistic Tradition

I. Birth of a Philologist; II. The Humanistic Tradition; III. The Origins of Humanism; IV. Humanism and Philosophy; V. Humanism and Liberalism; VI. The Ethics of Humanism; VII. Humanism Under Threat.

2. The Historical Model

I. Historicism; II. The Empirical Foundations of Historicism; III. Varieties of Historicism.

3. Nietzsche's Concept of "Culture"

I. Weltanschauung-Historicism; II. Historicism and Relativism; III. Nietzsche's Mature Theory of the Weltanschauung; IV. Wittgenstein's Contra Nietzsche.

4. Farewell to Reason

I. Nietzsche on Contemporary Historiography; II. Romantic Historiography; III. Doubts About Philology; IV. Wagner on Historicism; V. Nietzsche Begins to Criticize Historicism; VI. Nietzsche Against Scholarly Values; VII. The Philology of the Future; VIII. Nietzsche's Critique of "Truth".

Part Two: Dionysus Versus the Crucified

5. The Birth of Tragedy

I. Nietzsche Leaves the University; II. Dionysus and Apollo; III. Dionysus and the Crucified; IV. The Greek Synthesis; V. Nietzsche's Repudiation of The Birth of Tragedy; VI. Wilamowitz Contra Nietzsche.

6. The New 'Ancient'

I. Nietzsche in the Quarrel Between the Ancients and the Moderns; II. Zarathustra; III. The Eternal Return; IV. Esoteric Nihilism.

7. The Free Spirit

I. Nietzsche's "Intentions"; II. Nietzsche as Woman; III. The Politics of Nihilism; IV. The Overman.

Part Three: A Vindication of the Last Man

8. Nietzsche Today

I. The Modern Quarrel in the Humanities; II. A "Right" Nietzschean: Leo Strauss and his Followers; III. Strauss' Duplicitous Texts; IV. A "Left" Nietzschean: Jacques Derrida; V. A Critique of Deconstruction; VI. Deconstruction as a Kind of Phenomenology; VII. Strauss or Derrida?

9. The Postmodern Paradigm

I. Two Paradigms for Cultural Diversity; II. The Question of Interpretation; III. The Politics of Contingency; IV. A Vindication of Humanism; V. The Good European.



This is a critique of Nietzsche's theory of culture that proposes an alternative paradigm allowing a defense of the humanities against such Nietzschians as Leo Strauss and Derrida.


Levine argues that Strauss and Derrida have much in common, including an idealist, reified concept of culture that both inherited from Nietzsche. Levine interprets all of Nietzsche's basic doctrines in terms of this concept. Nietzsche's definition of culture produced epistemological and moral dilemmas for him and his followers, and encouraged them to devise alternatives to mainstream humanities. Levine, however, offers an alternative paradigm of culture that better fits the data and allows us to understand and defend the humanities as a source of value.

Peter Levine is a Research Scholar in the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, College Park.


"The book is ambitious and well-informed as it moves to place Nietzsche in a complex contemporary context that joins philosophy, culture criticism, and educational policy. More specifically, it fleshes out the exact nature of the young Nietzsche's contact with the humanist tradition, defines the manner in which his early thought embraces certain nineteenth-century historicist assumptions about culture, then traces the effects of these assumptions in his mature thought and in the thought of two important recent thinkers, Leo Strauss and Jacques Derrida. It concludes with a pointed intervention in current debates about the humanities and multiculturalism. In general, the book sharpened my thinking about a cluster of crucial issues both in Nietzsche and in contemporary culture." — John Burt Foster, Jr., George Mason University