A quick word search through a digital copy of The Nietzsche Reader reveals that two words connected yet in no way synonymous with each other have a habit of popping up with unusual frequency throughout all the various titles chosen for inclusion in this compendium of Nietzsche’s most famous writings. Those two words, the careful but obsessive student of the print edition will find are: wisdom and folly. Why should these two words seem to populate the writings of Nietzsche to such an unusual aggressive degree? Because Nietzsche was himself a careful but obsessive reader of a similar compendium of philosophy-heavy poetry, prose, history and allegory that deeply informed that contained within The Nietzsche Reader. The name of that influential anthology? The Holy Bible.
Those who know the name Nietzsche only as a result of a passing familiarity with his pronouncement that God is dead might be surprised or totally shocked to learn just how deeply invested in scripture the works collected in The Nietzsche Reader actually are and even those with a slightly more robust knowledge of the philosopher may suspect that this connection is exhibited only through a consistent critique of the Bible by the creator of Zarathustra.
The Hebrew traditions on the variance between wisdom and folly found the Book of Proverbs will inescapably come to mind when reading the works of Nietzsche for anyone familiar with that book of the Bible. The thematic recurrence in the construction of those pithily epigrammatic poetic words of moral instruction that make up the proverbial wisdom of that specific section of scripture is endowed with a similarity to the construction of Nietzsche’s greatest works that almost verges into the territory of the ironic. That pronouncement by the philosopher of the death of God qualifies wholeheartedly as almost the definition of folly within the purview of Hebrew teaching. Nevertheless, Nietzsche’s diligence as a producer of philosophical writing is unquestioned and so within that chasm lies one of the overriding themes of Nietzschean thought: where is the correspondence between wisdom and diligence to what degree is there is a connection between folly and laziness.
If it can be acknowledged that—philosophically speaking—folly is refusing to select the path laid out for you by God, then where do issues related to diligence and sloth correspond within such a definition? Using Nietzsche as an example, his pronouncement that God is dead would certainly confirm for many that he chose to reject the path of wisdom and tread the path toward folly. Others may view the idea of using the Bible as a means of analyzing the works of Nietzsche is the real example of folly, but then again perhaps those people may not realize that throughout the canon of writings that make up Nietzsche’s body of work, references to both the Old and New Testament abound. In fact, the references are so ingrained into the fabric of Nietzsche’s work that they do more than merely abound. At one time or another, Nietzsche directly alludes or textually references nearly half of the books commonly agreed to make up the Old Testament. The proposition that the philosopher most famous within the environs of pop culture for being the first to tell the world that God was dead can thus be viewed as quite diligent and if diligent really is inextricably intertwined with wisdom, then Nietzsche can hardly be said to have trod the path of folly.
This analysis of the prominence of focus on the concepts of wisdom and folly within the various texts collected in The Nietzsche Reader is designed to illustrate that the correspondence between wisdom and diligence and folly and laziness outlined throughout Hebrew scripture using the literary technique of mashal is not necessarily the result of a correspondence between belief or disbelief. Indeed, one of the instructive and philosophically inquisitive quotations regarding the nature of genuine wisdom is “The prudent man deals with knowledge: but only a fool spreads open his folly.”
The question now becomes from what source does pithy epigram derive: The Nietzsche Reader or the Holy Bible?