Campus News

Xavier alum speaks on Nietzsche and writing

By: Max Bruns ~Staff Writer~

Anthony Jensen, Xavier alumnus and current faculty member at Providence College, lectured on campus on Feb. 13, exploring the relationship between philosophy and philology in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Invited by Dr. Gabriel Gottlieb of the Philosophy Department, Jensen addressed mostly philosophy majors and Honors Bachelor of Arts (HAB) students.

Jensen explored questions such as, “Is the true intention of what an author means to say being published? When sitting down to read something, is the book or article, magazine or story a true replication of what the author initially wrote?” in his treatment of Nietzsche.

Exploring Nietzsche’s “The uses and disadvantages of history for life,” Jensen investigated how the actual texts attributed to philosophers relate to their ideas. His lecture was entitled, “What was Philology has now been made Philosophy,” which suggested that the debate over the words an author meant to write has become a question of philosophy itself. Although geared toward the philosophy department, the lecture was far-reaching application.

“What is written and published cannot be the real representation of what someone meant to say,” Jensen said. Throughout the lecture, he urged listeners to consider this when reading philosophical texts, as well as all types of writing. Jensen, who did his senior thesis at Xavier on Nietzsche before continuing on to higher studies on Nietzsche, drew on his own research on Nietzsche’s understanding of history.

“The process of publishing ‘History for Life’ took five months, and the archives I explored showed many edits to the initial manuscripts that were never actually made,” Jensen said.

Jensen noted, “Nietzsche was accused of plagiarism for a publication of notes that he never even intended to hit the shelves. Arguments without context would be much less valid. In the same way, we must explore the context of publications.”

Gottlieb, asked Jensen at the lecture, “Do the discrepancies between Nietzsche’s edits and what was published drastically affect the philosophy that Nietzsche put forth?” Jensen replied, “There is considerable evidence that the philological discrepancies do cause us to question Nietzsche’s philosophy in ‘History for Life,’ which means we should read the words with a different context in mind.”