Nietzsche and Montaigne: cheerful naturalism
University College Cork
The influence of the Essays of Michel de Montaigne on the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche has, hitherto, received scant scholarly attention. The aim of this thesis is to address this lacuna in the literature by making evident the importance of the Essays to the development of Nietzsche’s philosophy. I argue that, in order to fully appreciate Nietzsche’s thought, it must be recognized that, from the beginning to the end of his philosophical life, Montaigne was for him a thinker of the deepest personal and philosophical significance. Against the received scholarly opinion, which would see Montaigne as influential only for Nietzsche’s middle works, I contend that the Essays continue to be a key inspiration for Nietzsche even into his late and final works. Montaigne, with his cheerful affirmation of life, his experimental mode of philosophizing, and his resolutely naturalized perspective, was an exemplar for Nietzsche as a philosopher, psychologist, sceptic and naturalist. The Essays not only stimulated Nietzsche’s thinking on questions to do with morality, epistemology and the nature of the soul but also informed his conception of the ideal philosophical life. Moreover, to explore the Essays from a Nietzschean viewpoint, allows the drawing out of the more radical aspects of Montaigne’s thought, while to probe Montaigne’s impact on Nietzsche, provides insight into the trajectory of Nietzsche’s philosophy as he broke free from romantic pessimism and embraced the naturalism that would guide his works from Human, All Too Human onward.
Nietzsche , Montaigne
O'Sullivan, T. 2015. Nietzsche and Montaigne: cheerful naturalism. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.