From the Editor

John Turner

I'm about sixty percent of the way through the reading of a novel by Irvin Yalom titled When Nietzsche Wept. The fictional premise of the story is that in December 1882, Nietzsche, in Vienna, went to Josef Breuer, Freud's mentor, to see if he could get help for his blinding headaches and other physical tortures. The result was a month-long conversation between the two ranging over the issues of health, ambition and despair.  Professor Yalom has clearly tried to make both Breuer and Nietzsche as true to life as possible, even though no such meeting ever took place. This is a book about what each might have said if they had encountered one another.

I'm not sure we can take it as an accurate rendition of either of them but the fictional characters do manage to have some lively conversations. Early on, Breuer says to Nietzsche, "I believe, though you may disagree with my choice of terms, that your mission is to save humankind from both nihilism and illusion." To this, Nietzsche tacitly agrees. Later, Nietzsche, now in the role of a counsellor to his physician -- a position we all ought to take more often than we do -- tells Breuer that he must chose either pain and science or comfort and illusion. The only comfortable ones are those with dull vision.

It's often the case that a chance dip into fiction will offer deeper insights about current conditions than a month of newspaper reading. That's why I advise people not to get trapped in a single mode of thinking. Comfort and illusion being parts of the same whole is an idea we would all do well to consider when we think about how satisfied we are with our collective modes of moralizing. In that task, comfort isn't a productive goal.

Consequently, my hope is that we fail to offer comfort in our presentation of the HSC. Let us know if we succeed in our failure.



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