C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge, novelist, philosopher and a lay Anglican theologian. “The Inner Ring” was the Memorial Lecture he gave at King’s College, University of London, in 1944; it was Lewis’s warning to his ambitious Oxbridge students about politics, power, and the temptations and pitfalls that haunt higher office and the allure of favour seekers:
“May I read you a few lines from Tolstoy’s War and Peace?
When Boris entered the room, Prince Andrey was listening to an old general, wearing his decorations, who was reporting something to Prince Andrey, with an expression of soldierly servility on his purple face. “Alright. Please wait!” he said to the general, speaking in Russian with the French accent which he used when he spoke with contempt. The moment he noticed Boris he stopped listening to the general who trotted imploringly after him and begged to be heard, while Prince Andrey turned to Boris with a cheerful smile and a nod of the head. Boris now clearly understood—what he had already guessed—that side by side with the system of discipline and subordination which were laid down in the Army Regulations, there existed a different and more real system—the system which compelled a tightly laced general with a purple face to wait respectfully for his turn while a mere captain like Prince Andrey chatted with a mere second lieutenant like Boris. Boris decided at once that he would be guided not by the official system but by this other unwritten system.
Nietzsche has a poor reputation among many of the liberal intelligentsia for, among other things, his critique of liberal rationalism and his propagation of the over-man/Superman (Übermensch), but is his near villainous reputation deserved? He was, certainly, a complicated, ambiguous and contradictory piece of work, but he did help shape the modern philosophical landscape and is considered to be one of the genuinely great, influential and thinkers who has earned his ledge in the modern philosophical pantheon
Not many philosophers have provoked such widely varying assesments: “a madman” (The Chambers Biographical Dictionary); “a greater thinker than Marx” (Horkheimer); the “philosopher of developed capitalism” (Franz Mehring); the “progenitor and ideological founder of the Third Reich” (Hitler); the inspiration for “Nietzschean anarchism” (Gustav Landauer, who conveniently turned a blind eye to Nietzsche’s tirades against anarchism, solidarity and communal social interest and cherry-picked his ideas on voluntarism, materialism, along with his occasional tirades against capitalism and the “money economy” to establish the basis for his own take on anarchism.) He was also a significant influence on Lenin and Trotsky, as well as Max Weber, Sartre and other 20th century existentialists
The present work is neither polemic nor apology. It is, rather, an attempt to introduce aspiring students and aficionados of moral philosophy to Nietzsche as a person and as a provocative thinker. Contents include a detailed biography, an outline of his views on metaphysics, moral theorising, Christian values, the Superman, art, war, history, etc., together with interpretative sketches and a chronological exposition of all his works. A useful primer on all things Nietzsche.