Pious Nietzsche

Pious Nietzsche

Decadence and Dionysian Faith
Bruce Ellis Benson
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/19/2007
Format: paper 296 pages
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-21874-2
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Bruce Ellis Benson puts forward the surprising idea that Nietzsche was never a godless nihilist, but was instead deeply religious. But how does Nietzsche affirm life and faith in the midst of decadence and decay? Benson looks carefully at Nietzsche's life history and views of three decadents, Socrates, Wagner, and Paul, to come to grips with his pietistic turn. Key to this understanding is Benson's interpretation of the powerful effect that Nietzsche thinks music has on the human spirit. Benson claims that Nietzsche's improvisations at the piano were emblematic of the Dionysian or frenzied, ecstatic state he sought, but was ultimately unable to achieve, before he descended into madness. For its insights into questions of faith, decadence, and transcendence, this book is an important contribution to Nietzsche studies, philosophy, and religion.

Author Bio

Bruce Ellis Benson is Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Wheaton College, Illinois. He is author of Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida, and Marion on Modern Idolatry and The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue: A Phenomenology of Music. He is co-editor (with Kevin Vanhoozer and James K. A. Smith) of Hermeneutics at the Crossroads (IUP, 2006).


"Bruce Benson has turned out a provocative and major study of Nietzsche, presenting nothing less than the prayers of tears of Friedrich Nietzsche. This groundbreaking work, which demonstrates the deeply religious character of Nietzsche as a new religiosity that issues from his critique of the religion that he had inherited, will make us think again about Nietzsche no less than about religion." —John D. Caputo

"Benson clearly formulates what even the most perspicacious readers only vaguely suspected: the subterranean link between Paul and Nietzsche. Not only was Nietzsche's life—asserting stance deeply Paulinian, Paul himself, in his violent appeal to love beyond law, was a Nietzschean avant la lettre. Nothing will be the same in Paul studies and in Nietzsche studies after Benson's explosive short—circuit between two opposed traditions." —Slavoj Žižek

"[P]roposes a new interpretation of Nietzsche's 'piety' in terms of a Dionysian, life—affirming rhythm." —Daniel Conway, Texas A&M University

". . . Benson offers a decidedly new read of Nietzsche’s piety, as one who . . . was deeply pious, although in a decidedly unorthodox way. . . Benson’s thesis is carefully argued against the historical backdrop of Nietzsche’s religious upbringing, blending together Nietzsche’s early religious and musical aspirations, offering a new and convincing reading of his life and tears." —Myles Werntz, Baylor University,
Religious Studies Review , Vol 35.2 June 2009

"[T]his is a rewarding study. . . . Karl Jaspers observed that 'in the end one cannot help but ask how a man who is by no means representative can still become as overwhelmingly significant as though he spoke for humanity itself.' . . . this remark puts us on the trail of answering the question of why our discovery of a pious Nietzsche might matter. . . . Bruce Benson will prove to be a helpful guide along that trail." —Stephen N. Williams, Union Theological College, Belfast,
Books & Culture : A Christian Review , Nov./Dec. 2009

"In sum: Nietzsche sought to know, follow, pray to Dionysus, god of Life, through a musical
ask sis, and, in doing so, he transplanted a form of Pietism onto the soil of Dionysus or, better, cultivated the apparently alien form of Dionysus on the soil of native Pietism. He may not have succeeded in overcoming his childhood Pietism. But it is what Nietzsche was about, even if he did not fully know it." —Stephen Williams, Atlantic - Andrew Sullivan blog , 11/22/09

"I think it is not overstating the facts to say that
Pious Nietzsche is the best and most important book on Nietzsche to appear in the last few years. . . . It is . . . an engaging and provocative examination of Nietzsche's religious life, rich with insight . . . ." —David L. O'Hara, Sino-Christian Studies , No.8 Dec. 2009

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Table of Contents

Preface: Reading Nietzsche
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Improvising Pietism
Part 1. From Christian Pietism to Dionysian Pietism
1. The Prayers and Tears of Young Fritz
2. The Euthanasia of Christianity
3. The Piety of Zarathustra
Part 2. Profiles in Decadence
4. Nietzsche's Decadence
5. Socrates' Fate
6. Wagner's Redemption
7. Paul's Revenge
Part 3. Nietzsche's New Pietism
8. Deconstructing the Redeemer
9. Nietzsche's Musical Askêsis
10. We, Too, Are Still Pious
Works Cited
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