Pious Nietzsche

Pious Nietzsche

Decadence and Dionysian Faith
Bruce Ellis Benson
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/17/2007
Format: Paperback
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

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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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