Nietzsche, Safranski, and the Art of Self-Configuration: A Critical Review

Dialogue and Universalism 15 (7-8):121-136 (2005)


In this critical review essay, we examine Rüdiger Safranski’s “philosophical biography” approach to interpreting Nietzsche. We analyze Safranski’s various attempts tobring the biographical facts of Nietzsche’s life to bear on the philosophical narration in order to shed light on the development of Nietzsche’s philosophical thinking. We argue that there are a number of limitations to Safranski’s “philosophical biography” approach to reading Nietzsche, such as Safranski’s tendency to focus almost exclusively on the earlier stages in the development of Nietzsche’s philosophical thinking. However, we also try to show that the one redeeming virtue of Safranski’s book is that it focuses on the intriguing, but often overlooked, concept of “self-configuration” or “selffashioning”, and it treats this concept as a unifying thread that runs throughout the maze of Nietzsche’s various multifarious writings. We argue, in conclusion, that Safranski successfully connects Nietzsche’s “highly personal philosophy” to the multifaceted “maneuvers of self-configuration” and to the overall Nietzschean project of “fashioning one’s own identity” in an otherwise meaningless world.

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