In contrast to positivistic assignations of influence in Nietzsche-studies, this article considers the possibility of “conversational” reconstructions of contexts, where the focus is less on “whether” and “when” Nietzsche read a text, and concentrates instead on “how” and “why” he read it. This method is exemplified by the case of Philipp Mainländer, a contemporary about whom Nietzsche says almost nothing of philosophical importance. This article shows that six key leitmotifs of the Zarathustrazeit happen to form direct solutions to dangers entailed by Mainländer’s system: the Death of God, the Übermensch, the Last Man, Will to Power, Eternal Return, and Amor Fati. That each of these tropes serves as a neat solution to Mainländer suggests that Nietzsche was engaged in a sort of competitive intellectual conversation with his philosophy. And as such, Mainländer’s influence on Nietzsche, even if mostly negative, should not continue to be neglected.

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