Did Nietzsche want his notes burned? Some reflections on the Nachlass problem

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 27 (6):1194-1214 (2019)
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The issue of the use of the Nachlass material has been much debated in Nietzsche scholarship in recent decades. Some insist on the absolute interpretative priority of his published writings over those unpublished and suggest that an extensive engagement with the Nachlass is harmful because it is something Nietzsche rejected. To verify this claim, they appeal to the story of Nietzsche asking his landlord in Sils-Maria to burn some of his notes. Since the notes that were ultimately retrieved are purportedly incorporated into the compilation The Will to Power, the story also leads some to conclude that Nietzsche rejected his project on the will to power. However, the reliability of this story has been questioned. In this manuscript I first present the decisive piece of evidence that will settle the controversy over the story’s authenticity. After showing that it is true that in 1888 Nietzsche wanted some of his notes burned, I address the question of what we can conclude from this story. I argue that it neither suggests the abandonment of the will to power project, nor warrants a devaluation of the Nachlass. Finally, I will discuss the methodological problem of the use of Nietzsche’s Nachlass in general.

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Jing Huang
Freie Universität Berlin