Over at Harper’s, Scott Horton asks Julian Young six questions about his new book Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography:
2. Nietzsche wrote that a “deadly insult” had come between himself and Wagner. You suggest that you’ve learned what it was.
Wagner had long disapproved of Nietzsche’s close friendships with men–love he held could only exist between the sexes–and by 1877 he was offended by the developing anti-Wagnerian tenor of Nietzsche’s thought. To Nietzsche’s doctor he wrote that the cause of the patient’s many health problems–which included near blindness–was “unnatural debauchery, with indications of pederasty.” His former disciple was, in other words, (a) incipiently gay and (b) going blind because he masturbated. Somehow Nietzsche learned not only of the existence of the letter but of its the exact wording. That was the “deadly insult.”
3. In a review of your book, reformed neoconservative Francis Fukuyama chides you for writing repeatedly about global warming in the context of Nietzsche’s thought. He seems to feel that this discussion is frivolous. How do you react to this critique?
Well, as you say, Fukuyama has seen the error of his ways. So he’s not a global warming skeptic. What he really didn’t like, I suspect, is that at one point–in attempting to motivate Nietzsche’s view of democracy as an inferior form of government together with his call for world government–I suggested that global warming is a problem democratic states might find very difficult to solve. No one is more religiously devoted to an idea than a recent convert from the opposition. The thought that there might be problems too big for democracies to solve is a place, it seems, that Fukuyama just doesn’t want to visit. Nonetheless I appreciated his review. It made me think about things I hadn’t thought about before.
Also particularly interesting are Young’s longer answers regarding Nietzsche’s relationship to religion and postmodernism vs. “plural real[ism].” Read more here.