Monday, January 23, 2012

Dark Mentor to the 'Sage of Baltimore'

Nietzsche's Influence on American Thought


H. L. Mencken wrote for the Baltimore Sun in the earlier part of the Twentieth Century. He gained the reputation of 'Sage of Baltimore' for the fruits of his eloquent pen. Most known for his reporting of the Scopes Trials in Dayton Tennessee, Mencken derided the presentation of Divine Creation using phrases such as "monkey trials." Some background is often omitted in the popular presentation of the issue.

A little digging shows that Mencken was one of the American thinkers who popularized the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche.

"Indeed, Mencken was Nietzsche’s first American popularizer. The sage of Baltimore followed his 1908 book, The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, written when he was only 28, with The Gist of Nietzsche, a collection of the German’s aphorisms, in 1910, and a translation of The Anti-Christ, published in the aftermath of World War I. Mencken, Ratner-Rosenhagen notes, told a friend that his denunciations of American life and culture “were plainly based on Nietzsche; without him, I’d never have come to them.” -- Fred Siegel, in City Journal.

Ideas about the 'perfectability of man' and their implications also influenced people like Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthiood. Sanger's eugenics led to the dark side in the sterilization of untold numbers of patients in Virginia's Western State Hospital [1]. Today the widespread use of Amniocentesis often results in the abortion of 'potentially imperfect' embryos. The quest for übermensch has now reached into the sanctity of life in the womb.

Fred Siegal explores today's "Nihilism with a Happy Ending" [click to read] in City Journal.

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