John Kaag | Granta

John Kaag

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is the author of American Philosophy: A Love Story, which was an NPR Best Book of 2016 and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications.


Hiking with Nietzsche

John Kaag

Hiking with Nietzsche is a tale of two philosophical journeys – one made by John Kaag as an introspective teenager, the other seventeen years later in radically different circumstances: now a husband and father with his wife and small child in tow. Kaag travels to the Swiss peaks above Sils Maria, where Nietzsche routinely summered, and where he wrote his mysterious landmark work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Both trips are made in search of the wisdom at the core of Nietzsche’s philosophy, yet they bring Kaag to radically different interpretations and revelations about the human condition.

Hiking with Nietzsche is an entertaining, intimate exploration not only of Nietzsche’s ideals but of how his philosophy relates to us in the twenty-first century. It is about defeating complacency, balancing sanity and madness and coming to grips with the unobtainable. It speaks to our different stages of life. As Kaag hikes, alone or with his family, but always with Nietzsche, he finds that even slipping can be instructive. It is in the process of climbing and the inevitable missteps, that one has the chance, in Nietzsche’s words, to ‘become who you are.’