Education: University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D.
Brown University, Providence, RI, associate professor of philosophy.
The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism (nonfiction), Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including International Studies in Philosophy, European Journal of Philosophy, Daedelus, and History of Philosophy Quarterly.
Bernard Reginster is a professor of philosophy whose research focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century psychology, especially moral and ethical aspects. In his book The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism, he attempts to clarify the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Considered one of the most difficult philosophers to grasp, Nietzsche seems to lack a central philosophy in his work, and it is sometimes unfairly characterized as bleak in outlook. Reginster's interpretation of the philosopher underlines the affirmation of life inherent in Nietzsche's writings, and on his thoughts about struggling with despair. Reginster's book boasts ‘lucid writing and a superb examination’ of Nietzsche's work, according to Scott Duimstra in a Library Journal review.
Reginster explains that nihilism is the result of acknowledging the futility of trying to make certain value commitments. He states that Nietzsche viewed certain values associated with traditional concepts of God as life-negating; the philosopher felt that these life-negating values must be questioned, and that life-affirming values must be embraced. Since accepting the futility of traditional belief systems would tend to create disorientation and a pessimistic outlook, Nietzsche advised methods for overcoming these challenges. Reginster illuminates this and other key concepts of Nietzsche's, including the will to power and the overcoming of despair.
Another of Nietzsche's key concepts was that of eternal recurrence. There are many interpretations of eternal recurrence, but Reginster looks at the concept in what he describes as a practical light. He feels that eternal recurrence means loving life enough to desire it to continue, yet also accepting its ultimate finality as an essential part of it. In a chapter about Dionysian Wisdom, Reginster interprets Nietzsche's belief that overcoming nihilism is possible, in part by accepting the value of suffering in human existence.
"The Affirmation of Life is a well written and thoughtful book which aims at bringing out the affirmative and systematic facet of Nietzsche's philosophy that runs against the disorderliness of his writings and the frequent nihilistic interpretations of his views,’ stated Nectarios G. Limnatis in his Review of Metaphysics commentary on the book. The reviewer felt that Reginster's book was somewhat lacking in critical evaluation of the weaknesses found in Nietzsche's philosophy, yet he still rated it as ‘an impressive and provocative addition to the existing bibliography on Nietzsche. The argumentation is clear, persuasive, and innovative in that it systematically reconstructs the affirmative concerns of Nietzsche's philosophical doctrine. The discussion of existing interpretations … is exemplary: it is careful and tranquil, thoughtful and engaging."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, January, 2007, R. White, review of The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism, p. 846.
Library Journal, March 15, 2006, Scott Duimstra, review of The Affirmation of Life, p. 75.
Review of Metaphysics, September, 2007, Nectarios G. Limnatis, review of The Affirmation of Life, p. 153.
Brown University Web site,http://www.brown.edu/ (October 28, 2007), biographical information about Bernard Reginster.