Walter Kaufmann (philosopher)

Walter Kaufmann (philosopher)

region = Western Philosophy
era = 20th century philosophy
color = #B0C4DE

image_caption =
name = Walter Arnold Kaufmann
birth = birth date|1921|7|1 Freiburg, Germany
death = death date and age|1980|9|4|1921|7|1 Princeton, New Jersey
school_tradition =
main_interests = Existentialism, Philosophy of Religion, Tragedy
influences = Martin Buber, Georg Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche

Walter Arnold Kaufmann (July 1, 1921 Freiburg, Germany - September 4, 1980 Princeton, New Jersey) was a German-American philosopher, translator, and poet. A prolific author, he wrote extensively on a broad range of subjects, such as authenticity and death, moral philosophy and existentialism, theism and atheism, Christianity and Judaism, as well as philosophy and literature.

He is particularly renowned as a scholar and translator of Nietzsche. Kaufmann's lucid English helped make accessible to an English-speaking readership the dense language and thought of many of the theologians and philosophers whom he discussed. Kaufmann also published a partial translation of Goethe's "Faust".


Walter Kaufmann was born in Freiburg, Germany in 1921. He emigrated to America in 1939 and attended Williams College, where he majored in philosophy and took many religion classes. During World War II, he fought in the European front for 15 months. After the war, he completed a PhD in the philosophy of religion at Harvard in a mere two years; his dissertation was titled "Nietzsche's Theory of Values". He spent his entire career, from 1947 to 1980, teaching philosophy at Princeton University, where his students included the Nietzsche scholars Richard Schacht, Alexander Nehamas, and Ivan Soll. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America in 1960.

Kaufmann was brought up in the Lutheran faith. At age 11, he found he believed neither in the Trinity nor that Jesus was God, and thus converted to Judaism. The rise of Nazism neither influenced nor deterred his conversion. Kaufmann subsequently discovered that his grandparents were all Jewish. In a 1959 "Harper's Magazine" article, he summarily rejected all religious values and practice, Christianity in particular, praising instead moralists such as the biblical prophets, the Buddha, and Socrates. [cite web | author= Kaufmann, Walter | month= February | year= 1959 | title="Faith of a Heretic" | work= Harper's Magazine | url= | accessmonthday= December 26 | accessyear=2007] He believed that critical analysis and the acquisition of knowledge were liberating and empowering forces. He forcefully criticized the fashionable liberal Protestantism of the 20th century (e.g. Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Karl Barth) as filled with contradictions and evasions, preferring the austerity of the book of Job and the Jewish existentialism of Martin Buber. Kaufmann was also immune to the seductions of Heidegger. Kaufmann expounded his beliefs in "Critique of Religion and Philosophy".

Kaufmann wrote a good deal on the existentialism of Kierkegaard and Karl Jaspers (the French existentialism of Sartre, Gabriel Marcel, and Camus interested him less). He was the editor of the anthology "Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre".Kaufmann did much to enhance the respectability of Nietzsche and Hegel studies in the English-speaking world.

Kaufmann is especially renowned for his translations and exegesis of Nietzsche, whom he saw as gravely misunderstood, as a major existentialist figure, and as an unwitting precursor to Anglo-American analytic philosophy. Kaufmann also supported Nietzsche's criticisms of Christianity.

However, Kaufmann also had criticism for Nietzsche. Kaufmann argued that Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" is in parts badly written, melodramatic, or verbose (but Kaufmann concluded that the book "is not only a mine of ideas, but also a major work of literature and a personal triumph"). [Kaufmann, Walter (1976), "Editor's Preface" to "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", in "The Portable Nietzsche", New York: Penguin Books, pp. 120-124. ISBN 0140150625]

Partial bibliography

Original works

* "Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist"
* "From Shakespeare to Existentialism"
* "Critique of Religion and Philosophy"
* "Tragedy and Philosophy"
* "Hegel: A Reinterpretation"
* " [ The Faith of a Heretic] "
* "Without Guilt and Justice"
* "Cain and Other Poems"
* "Existentialism, Religion, and Death: Thirteen Essays"
* "The Future of the Humanities"
* "Religions in Four Dimensions"
* "Discovering the Mind", a trilogy consisting of
** "Goethe, Kant, and Hegel"
** "Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Buber"
** "Freud Versus Adler and Jung"
* "Man's Lot: A Trilogy", consisting of
** "Life at the Limits"
** "Time is an Artist"
** "What is Man?"


* "Twenty-Five German poets" (superseded the earlier "Twenty German Poets")
* "Goethe's Faust" (Part One and selections from Part Two)
* "Hegel: Texts and Commentary"
* "Judaism and Christianity, essays by Leo Baeck"
* "I and Thou", by Martin BuberAs composed or published by Friedrich Nietzsche in chronological order:
* "The Birth of Tragedy Or: Hellenism And Pessimism"
* "The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs"
* "Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None"
* "Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future"
* "On the Genealogy of Morals" (with R. J. Hollingdale)
* "The Case of Wagner" A Musician's Problem
* "Twilight of the Idols" How One Philosophizes with a Hammer
* "The Antichrist"
* "Nietzsche contra Wagner"
* "Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is"
* "The Will to Power" (with R. J. Hollingdale)

Anthologies/edited works

* "The Portable Nietzsche". Viking.
* "Basic Writings of Nietzsche", designed to complement the preceding.
* "Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre"
* " [ Religion from Tolstoy to Camus] ", a companion to the preceding.
* "Philosophic Classics", in two volumes: [ 1] , [ 2]
* "Hegel's Political Philosophy"

Articles, book chapters, and introductions

* “Nietzsche's Admiration for Socrates,” "Journal of the History of Ideas", v. 9, October 1948, pp. 472-491. Earlier version: “Nietzsche's Admiration for Socrates” (Bowdoin Prize, 1947; pseud. David Dennis)
* “Goethe and the History of Ideas,” "Journal of the History of Ideas", v. 10, October 1949, pp. 503-516.
* “The Hegel Myth and Its Method,” "Philosophical Review" v.60, No. 4 (October 1951), pp. 459-486.
* “Some Typical Misconceptions of Nietzsche's Critique of Christianity,” "Philosophical Review" v. 61, no. 4 (October 1952), pp. 595-599.
* “Hegel's Early Antitheological Phase,” "Philosophical Review" v. 63, no. 1 (January 1954), pp. 3-18.
* “Nietzsche and Rilke,” "Kenyon Review", XVII (1955), pp. 1-23.
* “Toynbee and Superhistory” "Partisan Review", vol. 22, no. 4, Fall 1955, pp. 531-541. Reprinted in citation
title = Toynbee and History: Critical Essays and Reviews
editor = Ashley Montagu
publisher = Extending Horizons, Porter Sargent
location = Boston
edition = 1956 Cloth
id = ISBN 0-87558-026-2

* “A Hundred Years after Kierkegaard,” "Kenyon Review", XVIII, pp. 182-211.
* “Jaspers’ Relation to Nietzsche,” in Paul Schilpps, ed., "The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers" (New York: Tudor, 1957), pp. 407-436.
* “ [ The Faith of a Heretic] ,” "Harper's Magazine", February 1959, pp. 33-39. Reprinted in "Existentialism, Religion, and Death" (New York: New American Library, 1976).
* “Existentialism and Death,” "Chicago Review", XIII, 1959, pp. 73-93. Revised version reprinted in "Existentialism, Religion, and Death" (New York: New American Library, 1976).
* “” in "The Meaning of Death", Herman Feifel, New York: The Blakiston Division / McGraw-Hill, 1959.
* Preface to "Europe and the Jews: The Pressure of Christendom on the People of Israel for 1900 Years", 2d ed, by Malcolm Hay. Boston: Beacon Press, 1961.
* “A Philosopher's View,” in "Ethics and Business: Three Lectures". University Park, Pa., 1962, pp. 35-54. Originally presented at a seminar sponsored by the College of Business Administration of the Pennsylvania State University on March 19, 1962.
* “Nietzsche Between Homer and Sartre: Five Treatments of the Orestes Story," "Revue Internationale de Philosophie" v. 18, 1964, pp. 50-73.
* “Nietzsche in the Light of his Suppressed Manuscripts,” "Journal of the History of Philosophy" v. 2, October 1964, pp. 205-226.
* “” in "Philosophy and Educational Development", Ed. by G. Barnett. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966.
* “,” in "Art and philosophy, a symposium". Hook, Sidney, ed. New York University Press, New York. 1966
* “Buber's Religious Significance,” from "The Philosophy of Martin Buber", ed. P. A. Schilpp and Maurice Friedman (London: Cambridge University Press, 1967) Reprinted in "Existentialism, Religion, and Death" (New York: New American Library, 1976).
* “The Reception of Existentialism in the United States,” "Midway", vol. 9 (1) (Summer 1968), pp. 97-126. Reprinted in "Existentialism, Religion, and Death" (New York: New American Library, 1976).
* Foreword to "Frau Lou: Nietzsche's Wayward Disciple", by Rudolph Binion. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1969.
* Introductory essay, "Alienation" Richard Schacht, Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1970
* “The Future of Jewish Identity,” "The Jerusalem Post Magazine" August 1, 1969, pp. 607. Reprinted in "Congressional Bi-Weekly", April 3, 1970; in "Conservative Judaism", Summer 1970; in "New Theology" no. 9, 1972, pp. 41-58, and in "Existentialism, Religion, and Death" (New York: New American Library, 1976.)
* Foreword to "An Introduction to Hegel's Metaphysics", by Ivan Soll. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1969.
* “The Origin of Justice,” "Review of Metaphysics" v. 23, December 1969, pp. 209-239.
* “Beyond Black and White,” "Midway", v. 10(3) (Winter 1970), pp. 49-79. Also "Survey" no. 73 (Autumn 1969), pp. 22-46. Reprinted in "Existentialism, Religion, and Death" (New York: New American Library, 1976).
* "Hegel's Ideas about Tragedy" in "New Studies in Hegel's Philosophy", ed. Warren E. Steinkraus (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1971), pp. 201-220.
* “The Death of God and the Revaluation,” in Robert Solomon, ed., Nietzsche: A Collection of Critical Essays (New York: Anchor Press, 1973), pp. 9-28.
* “The Discovery of the Will to Power,” in Robert Solomon, ed., "Nietzsche: A Collection of Critical Essays" (New York: Anchor Press, 1973), pp. 226-242.
* Foreword in "Truth and Value in Nietzsche: A Study of His Metaethics and Epistemology" by John T. Wilcox. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1974
* “Nietzsche and Existentialism,” "Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Foreign Literatures", v. 28(1) (Spring 1974), pp. 7-16. Reprinted in "Existentialism, Religion, and Death" (New York: New American Library, 1976).
* “Hegel's Conception of Phenomenology” in "Phenomenology and Philosophical Understanding", Edo Pivcevič, ed., pp. 211-230 (1975).
* “Unknown Feuerbach Autobiography,” "Times Literary Supplement" 1976 (3887): 1123-1124.
* “A Preface to Kierkegaard,” in Soren Kierkegaard, "The Present Age and Of the Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle", trans. Alexander Dru, Harper Torchbooks, pp. 9-29. Reprinted in "Existentialism, Religion, and Death" (New York: New American Library, 1976).
* “On Death and Lying,” Reprinted in "Existentialism, Religion, and Death" (New York: New American Library, 1976).
* “Letter on Nietzsche,” "Times Literary Supplement" 1978 (3960): 203.
* “Buber's Failures and Triumph,” "Revue Internationale de Philosophie" v. 32, 1978, pp. 441-459.
* “Buber: Of His Failures and Triumph,” "Encounter" 52(5): 31-38 1979.
* Reply to letter, "Encounter" 55(4): 95 1980.
* “Art, Tradition, and Truth,” "Partisan Review", XVII, pp. 9-28.

ound recordings

* "Existentialism"
* "Kierkegaard and the Crisis in Religion"
* "Nietzsche and the Crisis in Philosophy"
* "Oedipus Rex"
* "Homer and the Birth of Tragedy"
* "Aeschylus and the Death of Tragedy"
* "The Power of the Single Will"
* "Three Satanic Interludes"
* "The Will to Power Reexamined"

Critical assessments

* Pickus, David. "The Walter Kaufmann Myth: A Study in Academic Judgment", "Nietzsche-Studien" 32 (2003), 226-58.
* Ratner-Rosenhagen, Jennifer. "'Dionysian Enlightenment': Walter Kaufmann’s "Nietzsche" in Historical Perspective", "Modern Intellectual History" 3 (2006), 239-269.
* Sokel, Walter. "Political Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in Walter Kaufmann’s Image of Nietzsche", "Nietzsche-Studien" 12 (1983), 436-42.

Notes and References

External links

* [ Walter Kaufmann Web Project] with useful links to his work and life.
* [ Manuscripts by Kaufmann] held at the Princeton University Library.
* [ Selected works of Walter Kaufmann.]

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