First and Never
Case Study 5: Another Blind Spot
A somewhat different take on a familiar strategy is employed by the last NEH proposal that we will discuss in this section. The author identifies a characterization of Nietzsche in the literature so common as to have become almost an unconscious tic—as a skeptic—and claimed it to be more habitual than technical. Everyone calls Nietzsche a skeptic, but no one examines the word. This is a blind spot in perspective that leads to a blind spot in subject matter: even though Nietzsche was familiar with the classic Greek skepticism, nobody has taken the time to examine incompatibilities between this classic Greek skepticism and the Nietzschean kind. As he says, "the question, 'what kind of skepticism?' has not yet been raised in the literature."
The rest of the discussion argues for why that oversight matters. Like the previous section, where two subfields were claimed to be a natural fit, this section goes to that point of a natural fit. Along the way, three sentences in, we get the classic first and never sentence.
Interestingly, the way that it must be qualified—no systematic exploration in a "book-length work"—owes to the fact that the author has already written significantly on the subject. The impetus to put this project together into this larger, more comprehensive form is attributed to an eager audience of scholars who are said to be familiar with the proposal writer's important but heretofore piecemeal work on the subject; they have urged the author to unify and expand this body of work into a single book-length manuscript. Again, like the early proposals, we have a reference to external authorities begging for such works. Interestingly, these external authorities remain anonymous. I suppose one has to have a sufficient reputation to make such a claim believably, but I also suppose that it may be verified by the review panel themselves, some of whom may work in the field and be familiar with the chatter about the author's work.
Brendan Allison, Grant Editor
College of Arts & Sciences