Nietzsche and the Nazis
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Nietzsche and the Nazis is such a wonderful combination of information and entertaining presentation that I cannot praise it too highly. In fact, I plan to use it in my Existentialism course. (Dr. Fred Seddon, Pennsylvania State University) --Victory Multimedia, 2007
Recently I had the good fortune to watch a fascinating, informative and very disturbing DVD, produced and written by professor of philosophy Stephen Hicks of Rockford College in Illinois, titled Nietzsche and the Nazis. I am an avid fan of the History Channel and other forums where the theme that ideas have consequences can be encountered, but the work on this DVD was better than nearly everything else along these lines I have seen. ... Professor Hicks' presentation is immensely rich with facts, quotations, analysis and insight. Especially fascinating is the list of very erudite Europeans - Noble Laureates and the like - who eagerly supported the Nazis, as well as the slogans Nazis loved which are often exactly what our own politicians urge us to internalize - for example, about the superiority of the public versus the private interest. Anyone with just an ounce of interest in recent intellectual and political history will find watching this DVD a disturbing as well as riveting experience. (Dr. Tibor Machan, Chapman University) --Desert Dispatch, June 5, 2007
About the Actor
Dr. Stephen Hicks is Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College, Illinois, and a member of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society and the North American Nietzsche Society. He has been a visiting professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and a visiting scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. He is also the author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Scholargy, 2004), The Art of Reasoning: Readings for Logical Analysis (Second edition, W. W. Norton & Co., 1998), and articles in academic journals such as The Review of Metaphysics and other publications such as The Wall Street Journal.See all Editorial Reviews
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Top Customer Reviews
Hicks refuses to completely acquit Nietzsche of responsibility for Nazism, but he doesn't stoop to cheap caricatures, either. Nietzsche, no pale criminal, would likely accept responsibility for everything Hicks levels at him. After all, to call Nietzsche "dangerous" is merely to appreciate him in full.
But Hicks is not merely doing positive intellectual history. This video essay is also a normative philosophical endeavor. Hicks takes the unfashionable view that ideas have consequences, that they drive history. Hicks appreciates that Nazism was a highly sophisticated and fully-articulated philosophy. As Walter put it The Big Lebowski, "Say what you want about National Socialism dude - it's an ethos." Nazism was not a spasm of madness, but a coherent response to perennial questions. It is not enough that we dismiss Nazism, or simply forget it; in the long run it's certain to emerge once again. Instead, Hick holds, we have to engage it - and engage Nietzsche - to determine and then to prove where each goes wrong and why.
Hicks sees philosophy as a sort of ideological bomb squad, dispatched to dismantle rogue ideologies before they become catastrophes. As thrilling as I find this notion, my view is a bit more cynical. In 1930's Germany, Hicks has identified one of the few points in the last 2000 years when philosophy had some causal traction on the highway of world history - and in that instance the result was not pretty.
Still, if you're interested in these things you'll be hard-pressed to find a more engaging three hours of television anywhere.
It was simply fantastic--most writing/documentaries on WWII strike me as a form of "pornography" in that they go on over and over about what happened and the evil things that were done, but almost none organize, explain, and make sense of the mass of detail/facts as Prof Hicks does here. Also, many either glorify Nietzsche or portray him as "evil" instead of taking the even handed approach that this documentary takes.
I hope Prof. Hicks does many more similar productions--I have become a big fan, and plan to buy his DVD and the accompanying book for my local library.
I also commend him for his initiative in the unusual (and inspiring) approach he took to produce this.
In the introduction, Hicks says something like "these views (the ones held by the Nazis and supposedly derived from Nietzsche) are still alive today" in a way that implies (to me) that we should be concerned.
My suspicions raised, I did a Google search for "Leo Strauss Stephen Hicks". Sure enough, Hicks' own website has an interview discussing the controversy surrounding noted Nietzsche scholar Leo Strauss and his supposed connection with US neoconservative politics. So, the hidden agenda behind this DVD is a left-liberal crusade.
I should add here that my own leaning is probably more left-liberal than anything else, so I have no objection to Hicks' political stance. However, anyone buying this DVD should know what they are getting.
The big problem for this DVD as a first exposure to Nietzsche is that it is hopelessly biased from the start by placing him solely in the context of a discussion about the Nazis. Of course it is a legitimate question to consider Nietzsche's relationship with Nazi ideology, and it is one that everyone interested in Nietzsche will have to tackle in a serious way at some stage. However, taken out of context, the case is oversimplified.
Hicks does quote the fruits of Walter Kaufmann's rehabilitation of Nietzsche's reputation, in particular Nietzsche's anti-anti-Semitism and anti-German nationalism, but he neglects the detail regarding Nietzsche's sister Elizabeth's marriage to a rabid anti-Semite and her later management of Nietzsche's publications to push her own point of view. The coverage of Nazi history also neglects their appointment of Prof Baumler to interpret and manipulate Nietzsche's work for Nazi purposes.
At the end of the lecture, Hicks systematically lists several points of disagreement between Nietzsche and Nazi philosophy, then several points of supposed agreement. The points of disagreement include Nietzsche's by now well-known criticism of ant-Semitism and German nationalism. On the surface, Hicks looks to being impartial and even-handed. However, the implication that Nietzsche would have agreed with the Nazis on certain principles is misleading. Whilst we will never know what his reaction would have been, one can almost bet that the foundation of Nazism on an unquestioning ideology would have lead him to reject every Nazi tenet outright.
The ultimate proof of this lies in the very fact that Baumler, Elizabeth Forster-Nietzsche et al misrepresented and distorted Nietzsche's work by selective editing. In other words, they selected the bits that seemed to reinforce their own ideas, and suppressed the remainder. The implication is that there was already a well-formed Nazi philosophy that used Nietzsche for support and credibility, not that Nietzsche was the driver and instigator of that philosophy in the first place.
Confirmation that Nietzsche was not the main driver of Hitler's views can be found in the book "Hitler's private library". I can't remember the exact quote, but when Hitler was asked about the authors that influenced him, Nietzsche in particular, his reply was that he viewed Nietzsche as more of a poet, and he was more influenced by the ideas of Schopenhauer (yes, really!).
Hicks also makes much of his own view (he admits that it is a controversial one) that Nietzsche's reputation for promoting individuality is wrong - that he favours collectivism. Hicks did not convince me, and I think his argument is based on a shallow reading of Nietzsche and draws a very long bow regarding Nietzsche's notion of "Master and slave" morality.
Finally, Hicks' summary of Nazi philosophy and history makes it look as though anti-Semitism was isolated in Germany. A better analysis would show that anti-Semitism was rife throughout Europe and Russia, even in France (Drumont et al) and England (Chamberlin et al). THIS was a significant reason why the Nazi ideology was able to take root in Germany - it reflected a widely-held belief of the age.
Anyone approaching this DVD with a little knowledge of the Third Reich and some reading of Nietzsche is unlikely to find anything new. Indeed, they will miss all of Nietzsche's penetrating critiques of the Western basis of truth, reason and religion - together with his brilliant writing style. Whilst there are definitely elements in Hicks' presentation that must be dealt with in any overview of Nietzsche, this is not the whole story, and it would be a pity if would-be buyers of this DVD were put off further study by the views being presented.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The whole video is a much longer treatment of historically relevant...Read more
It moves fast, so stay in the same room with your tv.
Prof. Hicks clearly knows his material.
Think History Channel times 10