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Nietzsche and Dostoevsky

On the Verge of Nihilism


Paolo Stellino

The first time that Nietzsche crossed the path of Dostoevsky was in the winter of 1886–87. While in Nice, Nietzsche discovered in a bookshop the volume L’esprit souterrain. Two years later, he defined Dostoevsky as the only psychologist from whom he had anything to learn. The second, metaphorical encounter between Nietzsche and Dostoevsky happened on the verge of nihilism. Nietzsche announced the death of God, whereas Dostoevsky warned against the danger of atheism.
This book describes the double encounter between Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. Following the chronological thread offered by Nietzsche’s correspondence, the author provides a detailed analysis of Nietzsche’s engagement with Dostoevsky from the very beginning of his discovery to the last days before his mental breakdown. The second part of this book aims to dismiss the wide-spread and stereotypical reading according to which Dostoevsky foretold and criticized in his major novels some of Nietzsche’s most dangerous and nihilistic theories. In order to reject such reading, the author focuses on the following moral dilemma: If God does not exist, is everything permitted?
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This work is a completely revised version of my doctoral thesis completed at the University of Valencia, Spain, in July, 2010. The thesis was supervised by Jesús Conill and Juan Carlos Siurana Aparisi. My gratitude goes to both of them for having been encouraging and enthusiastic guides. Joan B. Llinares’ help was, as well, important and valuable. To him, I am greatly indebted for shared knowledge and generous support. My thanks also go to Giuliano Campioni, Adela Cortina, Luis Enrique de Santiago Guervós, and Diego Sánchez Meca for providing helpful comments as examiners.

I am especially grateful to Volker Gerhardt, Paolo D’Iorio, Karin Bauer, and Werner Stegmaier for welcoming me as visiting scholar at Humboldt University of Berlin, Maison Française d’Oxford, McGill University, and Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, respectively.

I also express gratitude to all the persons who have been helpful by providing me with useful material, discussing specific aspects of my work or reading part of the manuscript and making several critical comments. Those persons are Christian Benne, Andrea Bertino, Ken Gemes, Marie-Luise Haase, Enrico Müller, Nicola Nicodemo, Ekaterina Poljakova, Mattia Riccardi, John Richardson, Beat Röllin, Andreas Urs Sommer and Yannick Souladié. Special thanks go to João Constâncio, Maria Cristina Fornari, Pietro Gori, Luca Lupo and Maria João Mayer Branco for their insightful comments on a previous version of this work.

During the last years, I have had the...

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