I share Jack Miles' concern that the popularity of Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind" may have little to do with the book's true merits (The Book Review, Aug. 30). Unfortunately, you may have contributed to the problem somewhat by not exploring why Bloom concentrates on what he calls "The German Connection."
Despite that title, Bloom is more directly concerned with the intellectual movement known as historicism, than he is with nihilism, and his emphasis on modern German philosophy is part of his critique of that academically fashionable movement.
Nietzsche appears, in this book, primarily as a major influence on Max Weber, and it is the dissemination of Weberian historicist principles in a number of academic disciplines--including, most recently, literary scholarship--which most concerns Bloom. Among the tenets of strict historicism are a denial of any transcendence of cultural conditions, and an insistence that intellectual life is determined and limited by the forces at work in any historical culture. Saul Bellow's forward, you recall, takes sharp issue with the first tenet, and Bloom's focusing on the Germanic heritage of this philosophy is a tacit, but brilliant, indictment of the second.
The point is not "German villainy," but the contradiction between historicism's own principles and its wide currency. According to historicism, between German culture and thought of the late-19th and early 20th centuries and American culture of today there is a great, and impassible, gulf fixed. By stressing the philosophy's cultural heritage, Bloom suggests that the distance has been covered by historicism itself.