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Nietzsche: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – February 1, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192854143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854148
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.5 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...I find Tanner's book enormously useful for introducing Nietzsche philosophically.... Tanner manages to be succinct without being boring or pedantic.... I think his succinct and highly critical readings encourage genuine philosophical grappling with our modern self-proclaimed Dionysus, who after all needs to be treated as a philosopher, not an idol or a god."--Teaching Philosophy

"A breezy first look at Nietzsche...useful for undergraduates who need a quick and painless dose of Nietzsche's ideas."--Ethics

About the Author

Michael Tanner is Fellow and University Lecturer in Philosophy at Corpus Christi College.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
No one can reasonably expect to sum up Nietzche's views and philosophy in under 100 pages. The reader should not go into this work expecting to come out understanding Nietzsche, but maybe make him a little less obscure or receive a slight bit more context in which to read Nietzsche's books. For those who have already read some Nietzsche and are left nonplussed, this tiny book may help you out as well (it did me).
The book follows Nietzsche's publications more or less in chronological order. The longest and most difficult chapter is the one on "The Birth of Tragedy." This work gets the most attention of all of Nietzsche's works, presumably because it is easier to "sum up" or encapsulate than any of his other works. For instance, the section on "The Genealogy of Morals" will leave you wondering what the book is about (in fact, reading the book itself may also have this effect - it's a tad difficult).
"Morality and its Discontents" is one of the most illuminating chapters, and will shed some light on Nietzsche's proclamation that "God is dead" which is probably his most infamous and misunderstood concept (there's also a lot more meat to it than the eternal recurrence and the Ubermensch, which Tanner points out).
Overall I agree with Tanner's assessment of Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra." It was the first book of his I read, and I came out of the experience energized, but I had no idea why. "Zarathustra" is a passionate but potentially misleading read. It's nothing like his other works, and introduces concepts that never come up again, though they seem to be of utmost importance in the context of the book (i.e., the eternal recurrence, Ubermensch, and the will to power - at least in his published works).
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This brief book on Nietzsche contains many good things, though I'm pretty confident that it is not a very good introduction to his thought. Twenty years ago when I was studying philosophy in grad school I read through most of Nietzsche's works at one time or another and delved fairly deeply into the secondary literature. I picked this up as something of a refresher, but was quite surprised at what a poor job it did at explaining and summarizing what Nietzsche said and why he said it. The book's main interest comes from its analysis of where Nietzsche's thought fails to maintain coherence as well as some misunderstandings of his thought by various scholars. The book is useful as a corrective and at pointing out where Nietzsche sometimes fails to make sense, but this is pretty far down the list of books that I would recommend as an introduction. As such, it is one of my least favorite of the books that I've read in Oxford's Very Short Introduction series.

Even if one thinks that much of what Nietzsche says, however important it may be despite that, ultimately fails to be coherent, it is essential before saying why what he says is wrong, to say as clearly as possible what it is that he does say. The problems become pretty early in the book. The summary of THE BIRTH OF TRAGEDY is patchy and barely explains -- which is what one would expect in an introduction -- the contrast between the Dionysian and the Apollonian. Tanner nicely explains Nietzsche's idea that suffering is the central fact of human existence, but the content of many of his books is left something less than clear. Worst of all, Tanner -- despite in the final section of the book writing that he assumes that everyone will grasp how much he admires Nietzsche -- doesn't make clear why Nietzsche is important.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mark I. Vuletic on March 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Tanner's NIETZSCHE provides as plain-spoken an account as can be managed of what the philosopher was all about, taking the reader through Nietzsche's life and work step by step. There are a few things about the book I do not like -- for instance, insufficient discussion of the abuses of Nietzsche by others, too short shrift to THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA, and an unhelpful final chapter of assessment -- but its merits outweigh these several flaws. I would definitely recommend that others read this book before tackling Nietzsche's works directly.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 9, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
If, like me, you struggle with Nietzsche's almost self-consciously opaque writings, Michael Tanner would like to offer his services as a Virgil to guide you through this particular tangled wood. A noted Nietzsche scholar, Tanner's years of immersion in the field help dispell common myths that have accrued to the Great Man's name. But unfortunately, he often falls prey to the same limitations that make Nietzsche's own books such a tough slog.

Tanner starts with a brief overview of Nietzsche's life. Not much of one, though. Tanner demonstrates little interest in Nietzche as a person, limiting such intrusions to where we absolutely need them to understand his subject's thoughts. Though I tend to see the producer and the product as a piece, Tanner would rather respect Nietzsche himself, who explicitly disagrees.

From there, Tanner moves through the canonical texts, mainly (though not exclusively) in chronological order. His in-depth analyses clarify at least the earliest texts. Tanner is remarkably forthright, pointing out contradictions and elisions that the author evidently missed or ignored in his own work. He even points out places where Nietzsche made points just one time in his early books, then took it for granted that we'd remember his intent for the rest of his career.

But as the subject matter gets more intense, Tanner's writing becomes more elliptical. He lapses into the same grandiloquent academese that makes Nietzsche such tough sledding for lay readers. I can't make heads or tales out of some passages, even after multiple readings.
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