A professor writes that Donald Trump is “a crude parody” of the philosopher.
To the Editor:
Re “The Theology of Donald Trump” (Op-Ed, July 5):
Peter Wehner is surely right that there is nothing Christian about Donald Trump’s “theology.” But he is wrong to associate it instead with Friedrich Nietzsche, of whom Mr. Trump is at most a crude parody.
Nietzsche was harshly critical of Christianity for what he deemed its hostility to everything natural and essential to human flourishing. He was equally unsparing in his critiques of many other purported pathologies, some akin to those on vivid display in the Trump phenomenon.
Mr. Wehner’s summary of “Nietzschean morality” is a simplistic caricature. Nietzsche was convinced that power relations are fundamental to everything that goes on in life and the world (religions and moralities included). So to condemn power is to condemn life, and affirming life requires affirming power, which he does.
But that is no blanket endorsement of all expressions of the basic disposition he calls “will to power.” Power for Nietzsche is the name of the game, but what is at stake in it is something more: the fragile possibility of a “higher” humanity.
Nietzsche’s moral vision revolves around the idea of realizing this possibility, upgrading rather than degrading power relations in human affairs. Mr. Trump’s, to put it mildly, does not.
Nietzsche the master psychopathologist would have a field day with it.
Santa Fe, N.M.
The writer, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Illinois (Urbana), is a past executive director of the North American Nietzsche Society.