But even Nietzsche’s antidemocratic moments are not all they are often cracked up to be. His philosophy, he wrote in 1887, will be best suited to those he calls “the most moderate”: “Those who do not require any extreme articles of faith; those who not only concede but love a fair amount of accidents and nonsense; those who can think of man with a considerable reduction of his value without becoming small and weak on that account.” These are the humans he considers “the strongest” — not those who can destroy the most, or the towering egotists of Ayn Rand’s imagination, but those pessimists who can withstand the most destruction without giving way to pity and resignation. “I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage.” Like Don Quixote, the best pessimists have a strength of character and a sense of humor — for this world, both are needed.

— Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit

It amuses me to think that for all the competing radical claims on Nietzsche’s philosophy, for all the academics who have claimed the power to see into his heart of hearts and divine the true essence of his thought, it could be liberal individualism that proves most accommodating to his thought experiments after all. There’s certainly some surprising hints in that direction — his lifelong love of Epicurus and Montaigne, his paeans to humility and his disavowals of vindictiveness — could it be? Was Nietzsche a liberal individualist at heart whose enchanting rhetoric, like the broom of the sorcerer’s apprentice, simply got away from him and unleashed forces he couldn’t control? (I don’t think so, but like I said, it’s fun to imagine.)