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Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography Hardcover – March 8, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 676 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (March 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521871174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521871174
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #603,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* I am the most terrible dynamite there is. So wrote Nietzsche in 1888. Young chronicles the improbable story of how a fastidious professor of Greek philology became the most explosive intellectual force in Europe. To be sure, readers will likely already know how this self-styled Antichrist waged war on Christianity to create cultural space for a boldly heroic egoism. They may not realize, though, that Nietzsche was not merely emancipating a few supermen from the Christian religion; rather, he was inviting the entire community to embrace a naturalistic new religion of human-glorifying arts. But nothing will surprise readers more than Young's conclusion that Nietzsche abandoned his famous (and posthumously published) work on the will to power because he had lost faith in its daring thesis. In elucidating such complexities, Young challenges those who have tarred Nietzsche as a proto-Nazi, documenting his hatred for anti-Semitism and militarism. Still, readers must confront Nietzsche's unsavory advocacy of eugenics and his strident opposition to feminism (despite close friendships with many feminists). But nothing will make Nietzsche's admirers squirm more than Young's interpretation of the iconoclast's final mental breakdown as the natural culmination of a lifetime of ecstatic philosophizing with a hammer. A biography as profound and disturbing as its subject. --Bryce Christensen


". . . serious and readable . . ."
--Francis Fukuyama, The New York Times Book Review

"Sets the German philosopher's thought in the context of Prussian militarism, anti-Semitism, Darwinian science, and other phenomena of his era..."
--The Chronicle of Higher Education

"Julian Young brings together his fine scholarly skills, his delightful writing style, and a solid grasp of Nietzsche's thought to produce a philosophical biography that will be unparalleled for years to come. Especially valuable is Young's way of showing how events in Nietzsche's life hooked up with intellectual developments in this multi-faceted philosopher. A pleasure to read and a valuable source of information."
--Charles Guignon, University of South Florida

"A first in the history of Nietzsche studies: a richly detailed biography written by a leading scholar of Nietzsche's philosophy. The volume nicely mixes the intriguing particulars of Nietzsche's life with intelligent analyses of his philosophical work that are well-informed, always clear, sometimes controversial, but consistently interesting. It will now be the starting place for the philosophically-minded reader of Nietzsche seeking a comprehensive treatment of the life and the work."
--Brian Leiter, University of Chicago

"Simply put, this is an excellent biography of Nietzsche, and a model of what a philosophical biography should be. Young offers a smooth integration of biographical detail and philosophical analysis so that one can readily see how Nietzsche's life and thought informed one another. He stakes out some controversial interpretive claims, but even setting these aside, Young has produced a study that must be read by every Nietzsche scholar and by anyone interested more generally in the shaping of the modern philosophical landscape..."
--Charlie Huenemann, Utah State University, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"...masterly biography of Nietzsche... "
--Joachim Krueger, Brown University, Psychology Today

"A biography as profound and disturbing as its subject." -
--Christensen, Bryce, American Library Association's Booklist Magazine

"...Julian Young's Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography is marvelous, meticulously researched, artfully written, and genuinely insightful. Young has managed to produce a work of the highest caliber on the slippery terrain of Nietzsche's thought. He offers a total vision of Nietzsche's intellectual development that is at times critical, as well as giving clear accounting for the many implicit arguments found in Nietzsche's work... The volume's style is artful, far exceeding the norms of philosophical treatises... Young's book is remarkable, and easily recommended. One will find value in it as an overview to or introduction to Nietzsche's thought. While invaluable as a work for those interested in Nietzsche, it is perhaps even more important for philosophers, given how regularly Nietzsche is misunderstood or misinterpreted. On the whole, Young's book is outstanding... In sum, not only has Young produced a masterful study of Nietzsche, fit for slow reading (296), but a work that opens avenues for further inquiry. The superlative quality of the whole towers well over what blemishes it has. Young's philosophical biography of Nietzsche is certainly essential for any serious study of Nietzsche henceforth."
--Eric Chelstrom, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Grand Valley State University, Metapsychology

"...In this massive work, Young (Univ. of Auckland, NZ; Wake Forest) presents the most comprehensive biography of Nietzsche available in English... Young offers interpretations of all of Nietzsche's works, often tying these interpretations to interesting details about Nietzsche's locale, his health, and events in his life... This volume is indispensable for anyone interested in Nietzsche's life and thought... Essential..."
A. D. Schrift, Grinnell College, CHOICE

"...This strenuously researched biography serves well to give one a clear understanding of Nietzsche's radical philosophy.... delightful and richly detailed biography of Nietzsche. It provides new readings and perspectives on Nietzsche's life and work, questioning the conventional interpretation of his "nihilistic" underpinnings. It brings out the huge impact of Nietzsche on 20th-century philosophy and literature and its well-grounded notions of beliefs and values, casting a "long shadow" on the complex cultural and philosophical central themes of postmodernist thinking...."

"This is the longest and most thorough account of Nietzsche's life available in English. It might also be the best. It uses Nietzsche's letters to good effect along with generous helpings of the existing correspondence from his acquaintances. The pace is crisp and the writing is situated in the present day, often drawing parallels with contemporary events, objects and characters. There are 32 black and white photos, 28 chapters, a Chronology, Notes, a Bibliography and an Index. Young discusses several musical compositions by Nietzsche, recordings of which can be listened to free of charge at the Cambridge University Press Web Site, where further commentary can be found as well."
Bryan Finken, University of Colorado at Denver, Philosophy in Review

"Presenting such a unified account is particularly impressive given that Young does not appear to deprive us of any of the details of Nietzsche's life. We get definitive treatments of his childhood, the Pforta years, his turbulent relationships, and his heartbreaking demise. From the biographical perspective, Young pulls all of this together through some adept storytelling: he uses flashbacks, flashforwards, overlapping events relayed successively, and a host of other devices to tell a coherent and fascinating tale. This book is a must read for those interested in Nietzsche, as well as for students of the intellectual history of late nineteenth-century Europe, and for anyone looking for ideas on how to craft a unified philosophical biography."
--Iain Morrisson, The Honors College, University of Houston, Journal of the History of Philosophy

"....incisive, provocative and elegant writing.... a highly worthwhile read.... Young's arguments are persuasive, yet leave enough space for the reader to form his/her own interpretation. This is a welcome improvement on Hollingdale's version from 1965, full of orthodox certainties.... An important asset of Young's Philosophical biography is that it portrays both Nietzsche the philosopher and Nietzsche the man amidst the backdrop of historical, political and cultural events, including the Franco-Prussian war, Bismarck's rise to power, the ascent of the sciences, and the growing fame of his friend Richard Wagner...."
--Dr. Eva Cybulska, Independent Scholar, Philosophy Now

"....Julian Young's biography, Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography, is unusual, given the author's academic repute as a Nietzsche scholar. Young acutely surveys Nietzsche's life, while offering erudite accounts of his philosophy.... In terms of its content, this book makes several important contributions to Nietzschean scholarship.... Young's book compellingly shows that, as a cultural critic, Nietzsche is as relevant as ever."
--Jack Reynolds, La Trobe University, Australian Book Review

"Those of us interested in the mercurial and ever-mysterious Nietzsche are indebted to Julian Young for the production of this extremely fine biography.... connoisseurs of the details of Nietzsche's life will discover intriguing new information.... It also provides overviews of the intellectual work he was undertaking at each stage of his life.... clear, well organized, and intelligent...."
--Ruth Abbey, University of Notre Dame, Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy P

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 12 customer reviews
An excellent biography of Nietzsche.
Tom Merrill
This book is sloppy in other ways, as well, but for me it's the unacknowledged copying of sources that's a deal-breaker.
It is also a book that those interested in Richard Wagner will want to read.
Christian Schlect

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Murray on May 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I just finished Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography tonight, and I can assuredly state I am glad to have read it. Before I began with it, I had read only bits and pieces of Nietzsche's various works, as well as all of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Twilight of the Idols, and while I felt as though I understood certain aspects of his philosophy well enough, Young's biography has given me a much clearer picture of the shape and scope of Nietzsche's thought across the span of his productive life. It's a book I wanted to read very quickly--it's fluidly written, without a ton of graduate-level technicalities or esoteric jargon, and at times the pages seem to breeze by--but I frequently found myself having to slow down to fully grasp the facts and analyses I was encountering. Young presupposes a moderate level of philosophical familiarity in his readers, but barring that, his book is most definitely appropriate for those only recreationally interested in Nietzsche, a category in which I myself fall.

The subject matter in Friedrich Nietzsche is arranged, for the most part, chronologically. Young divides his discussions primarily into biographical and philosophical sections, the former addressing events in Nietzsche's life and the latter issues in his philosophy, especially in the context of his written output at the corresponding times. Most of the twenty-eight chapters in the book devote equal time to each sort of discussion though some are strictly biographical and others purely philosophical.

I really enjoy Young's voice as a biographer. It is at once genial and professorial.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jay C. Smith on August 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very serviceable and reasonably detailed account of Friedrich Nietzsche's life and thought. It proceeds chronologically with brief sections interpreting Nietzsche's ideas inserted among biographical narratives. Although somewhat mechanical, this approach works well to demarcate the developmental phases of Nietzsche's thinking and it seems especially appropriate for a man who believed strongly that he should live his philosophy, that his life was an art work.

Julian Young presents a picture different from the distant, arrogant, inscrutable, lugubrious character of some Nietzsche lore. Though sometimes depressed and suffering from chronic health problems (ultimately insanity), Nietzsche was a happy student, had important friends throughout his life, maintained active correspondence, and generally seemed to enjoy the company of others.

Of course Nietzsche, probably more than any other figure in modern philosophy, has been subject to varying and contradictory interpretations, and Young is not bashful in offering his. He claims that the fundamental interpretive issue is whether Nietzsche believed the outstanding individual to exist for the sake of the entire community, or, conversely, the community to exist for the sake of the outstanding individual. Young sides with community benefit (cultural uplift) as Nietzsche's chief aim.

While many may disagree with Young on some counts, even readers with considerable prior familiarity are likely to gain insight from the author's takes on key Nietzschean ideas -- on the Dionysian, the eternal return, the revaluation of values, self-overcoming, the will to power, and perspectivism, for instance.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jack Wonder on November 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The author of this biography has lifted many paragraphs, with only cosmetic alterations, from Curtis Cate's biography of Nietzsche (available on the Amazon). Cate is well dead, so presumably he'd hoped that the plagiarism would never come to light. This is sad and worrying. The 'Omertà emanating from the 'academic community' is both disturbing and telling. Do all these 'scholarly oxen' do it? Regularly, just like that? And get professorial appointments as a reward?

Also, this must be the CUP's most incompetently published book ever. Just look at the numerous flops with dates and names; e.g. 'Alfred' Camus featuring in the Index. Was the Editor's schoolboy son editing the book to earn some extra pocket money? Even he should have known better...

A very interesting discussion (accessible on line) can be found in The Journal of Nietzsche Studies. Read it before buying this book.

If you decide to buy it after all, it might turn out to be a real bargain; two for the price of one, as Cate's book is in it. Even the Tesco can't beat it!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By philostratos on September 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book includes a number of passages copied nearly verbatim from an earlier biography of Nietzsche written by Curtis Cate Friedrich Nietzsche. Anyone who has struggled to make a scholarly reputation through painstakingly original research should be outraged that CUP has not recalled Young's book. Examples and discussion of Young's "borrowings" with his own implausible defense in response can be found at the online Journal of Nietzsche Studies. This book is sloppy in other ways, as well, but for me it's the unacknowledged copying of sources that's a deal-breaker.
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More About the Author

Julian Young is the author of eleven books, mostly on nineteenth- and twentieth-century German philosophy. He has also written The Death of God and the Meaning of Life. His most recent work is The Philosophy of Tragedy: from Plato to Žižek. He has appeared on radio and television in Ireland, New Zealand and the USA, and has written for the Guardian, the New York Times and Harper's Magazine. He is currently completing a book on the philosophy of Richard Wagner. Visit his website here:

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Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography
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