This paper examines Nietzsche’s relation to the therapeutic philosophical tradition paradigmatically represented by the Hellenistic schools. On the one hand, given his project of rehabilitating Western culture and his understanding of the philosopher as a “physician of culture”, Nietzsche seems also to hold a therapeutic understanding of philosophy; on the other hand, he is extremely critical of any (philosophical, moral or religious) attempt to heal mankind. This paper does not aim to solve this tension but rather characterizes Nietzsche’s endeavor in this respect as a therapy of therapy. Through analysis of a) the basic features of the Hellenistic conception of philosophy, b) Nietzsche’s development of the analogy of the “philosophical physician”, c) his diagnosis of culture, and d) his criticism of previous therapists, I show that Nietzsche can be formally included in this tradition of thought, even if this inclusion has implications for the tradition itself. As I suggest, given the self-referentiality of Nietzsche’s therapy, his inclusion in this tradition might in fact simultaneously entail its own self-suppression.
© 2018 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston