My Contributions on Nietzsche in the New Catholic Encyclopedia

I earned my PhD in Philosophy at Fordham University, writing my dissertation on Friedrich Nietzsche. While at Fordham, I got to know Father Joseph Koterski, SJ, who has repeatedly reached out to me with publishing opportunities. Several times he forwarded me books on Nietzsche and religion to review for International Philosophical Quarterly, the journal for which he is editor-in-chief and which describes itself as standing “in the general tradition of theistic and personalist humanism without further restriction of school or philosophical orientation”. It is in that journal that you can read my reviews of Julian Young’s book Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Religion (in International Philosophical Quarterly 48 (1):123-126 (2008)) and Bruce Benson’s Pious Nietzsche: Decadence and Dionysian Faith (in International Philosophical Quarterly 49 (4):538-541 (2009).

Now, again with many thanks to Father Koterski, I have written about two central Nietzschean concepts, the will to power and the eternal recurrence of the same, for the new four volume New Catholic Encyclopedia, Supplement 2012-13: Ethics and Philosophy which was published this summer and should be available in academic libraries everywhere.

Some of my fellow atheists may not understand why I would contribute to a Catholic encyclopedia but the decision to do so was simple for me. The New Catholic Encyclopedia is a well regarded and influential academic resource read by more than simply Catholics. And it is the sort of resource that Christians hostile to atheism and to Nietzsche are more likely to learn about him from. So, as someone interested in providing and promoting balanced, informed, and philosophically and ethically constructive scholarship on Nietzsche, I saw this as an ideal place to introduce what I know about his thoughts on key topics to a lay audience featuring any number of leery people. Where the editorial board was concerned to include reference to standard Christian retorts to Nietzsche’s thought, I had the ability to frame them in a way that did not have the kind of anti-atheist sting one often finds in religious sources criticizing his work.

I also think it is worth emphasizing my gratitude and respect for Father Koterski’s commitment to serious scholarship and fair treatment of views he does not agree with which has led him to repeatedly give me a forum for my interpretations of Nietzsche’s work, fully aware of my committed atheist bent. I share his same openminded commitment to civil, scholarly respect for people we disagree with and so am much more honored to be associated with him than with the sorts of fundamentalist purist atheists who would advise against atheists ever working with religious people or collaborating with them in forums that are overall hospitable to faith. When religious people invite atheists to the table and allow us to represent ourselves or what we know authentically, it is foolish, petty, beligerent, prejudicial, and borderline bigoted to spurn their offers on the grounds that we are loathe to have any association whatsoever with the religious.

So, just as I am proud and grateful to have earned my PhD at the Jesuit Fordham University where neither my scholarship nor my teaching were ever remotely (neither directly or indirectly, nor explicitly or implicitly) threatened with anti-atheist censorship, and just as I am proud and grateful to publish my atheist blog at the multi-faith website Patheos (where also I have never encountered any threats of censorship), I am proud and grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to the New Catholic Encyclopedia and I recommend you check out what I wrote if you can. I hadn’t reread the articles in eight months by the time I saw them in print and when I read them with those fresh eyes I found I turned out to be really pleasantly surprised with how good I thought they were. They succinctly and articulately express my exact understanding of Nietzsche’s thinking about the will to power and the eternal recurrence of the same.

For my comprehensive, scholarly approach to Nietzsche’s thought and attempts to develop my own concept of the will to power in ethical terms beyond where Nietzsche himself goes, see my dissertation, “On Deriving and Defending an Axiology of the Will to Power”.

Your Thoughts?

This post was written as part of a blogathon I am doing 8am-8pm both Saturday and Sunday of this weekend in order to squeeze a lot of belated writing into a small window of time I have available to blog uninterruptedly. If you are a grateful fan of the blog and want to see me able to post more regularly, please consider donating to support my efforts. I work numerous jobs. The more money that I can make from blogging, the less other jobs I need, and the more I can write for you. Donations can be made via paypal to dfincke at aol dot com. All amounts are deeply appreciated. $100 earns you the right to pick a blog post topic for me (one that I could reasonably be expected to have something halfway intelligent to say about).

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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