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Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist Paperback – October 1, 1996

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674624432
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674624436
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Berkowitz (philosophy, Harvard) gives an erudite analysis of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra and five other major works, using "God is dead" as the essential viewpoint for comprehending the philosopher's new ethics of individual creativity and dynamic cosmology of eternal recurrence. Berkowitz focuses on the creative will of the future overman, a superior type of life form (artistic philosopher or godlike being) free from society and politics. He stresses the pervasive ambivalence and extreme opinions in this Nietzschean quest for the best life grounded in truth and excellence despite mediocrity and necessity. This philosophy of overcoming affirms the joy of life and self-deification of the highest type. Ultimately, the will to power challenges the solitary but noble overman to create new values and thereby master this universe. However, Berkowitz's interpretation concludes that Nietzsche himself found this end-goal to be neither obtainable nor desirable. Not all readers will be convinced. Recommended for academic philosophy collections.?H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Here is an impressive and elegant exegesis of Nietzsche's major works as a unified opus. Berkowitz advances an interpretation designed to pry Nietzsche from the grip of the post-modernists and to return him to a more traditional niche in political philosophy. (Diana Coole Times Higher Education Supplement)

Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist is a brilliantly provocative meditation on Nietzsche as an ethical theorist committed to an account of the best life. In response to the heavy emphasis on Nietzsche's philosophical radicalism in recent decades, Berkowitz emphasizes the extent to which Nietzsche actually embraces some of the traditional conceptions he purports to reject, especially with regard to truth, nature, and morality. Berkowitz also criticizes the standard practice of making arguments about Nietzsche's thought on a given topic by 'picking and choosing...cutting and pasting words, phrases, and ideas drawn from wherever they can be found in Nietzsche's Collected Works' without reference to context. Arguing that Nietzsche wanted his books to be read as unified wholes, he builds his discussion around an analysis of six texts considered one at a time...This is an important book. It is deliberately provocative, but the high quality of so many of its provocations makes it a must for those interested in Nietzschean ethics. Berkowitz conducts a highly intelligent war against familiar positions with arguments that are always thoughtful, often convincing, and addressed to important issues. (Bruce Detwiler American Political Science Review)

Berkowitz gives an erudite analysis of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra and five other major works, using 'God is dead' as the essential viewpoint for comprehending the philosopher's new ethics of individual creativity and dynamic cosmology of eternal recurrence...Recommended for academic philosophy collection. (H. James Birx Library Journal)

This book will stand as a needed corrective to common misconceptions about Nietzsche's ethics and the beginning of what should prove to be a fruitful debate over its grounds and implications. (R. Kevin Hill Ethics)

Superb...The Nietzsche that emerges from Berkowitz's book is driven by a deep passion for the truth, his thought burning with a 'conflict or contest of extremes'...The reward of [this] important book is to reveal to us how Nietzsche's endeavor explores the limitations and terrible dangers of an all-too-human universe, a 'city of man' which flees from any constraints of a divine or natural origin. (Brian C. Anderson Crisis)

Peter Berkowitz takes the field with a bold and intriguing new reading. Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist is at its best when it challenges those dogmatic pieties of postmodernists that threaten to contaminate serious inquiry...The interpretation that emerges from Berkowitz's sensible and sensitive reading always commands respect and usually elicits agreement. (Werner J. Dannhauser First Things)

In Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist, Peter Berkowitz provides us with a rarity: a clear and sober reading of Nietzsche. This book exemplifies Nietzsche scholarship at its best. It presents Nietzsche as a philosopher rooted in the traditions of the West, and as a philosopher who writes coherent books, not incoherent aphorisms. Berkowitz demonstrates that Nietzsche is not a mere negative critic as some have thought, but the author of a positive ethics of creativity, albeit as an immoralist for his rejection of conventional morality...Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist is a welcome addition to the literature. Berkowitz presents a clear account of Nietzsche's ethics, clarifies some of Nietzsche's own confusion, and leaves the reader to consider the value of Nietzsche's project. (William Irwi Journal of Value Inquiry)

Berkowitz's clearly argued and absorbing book has great strengths. It offers a salutary new emphasis in Nietzsche studies by restoring a perspective that takes Nietzsche's search for truth seriously. It shows convincingly that Nietzsche should be understood as the propounder of a severe ethical vision. And its extended argument that Nietzsche's thought represents a serious rebuke to a central modern and postmodern aspiration is sure to provoke a lively and enlightening debate. (Charles Taylor, McGill University)

Berkowitz rescues Nietzsche from his users and abusers, and restores the mysterious integrity of his work, which is lost in postmodern appropriations. He considers Nietzsche's books as books, and by looking deeply, or with insight of his own, finds and judges what is there. This is a lively and most serious book on the philosopher of our time. (Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University)

Peter Berkowitz's striking interpretation of Nietzsche calls into question the confident celebration of the death of God in the modern world. Berkowitz's careful and probing reading shows that Nietzsche's daring philosophizing both licenses the quest for absolute freedom and self-mastery and reveals the profound incoherence of such a quest. By showing that Nietzsche's thought depends on traditional convictions about the virtues and an intelligible and objective moral order, Berkowitz forces us to rethink not only Nietzsche's achievement but the very relation between ancient and modern philosophy. (David Hartman, Shalom Hartman Institute and Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

A surprising amount of the most interesting moral and political philosophy published recently has taken the form of commentary on Nietzsche. Among such commentaries Peter Berkowitz's book is outstanding. It enables us to read Nietzsche once again as he would want to have been read-as one who puts all convictions to the question-and in so doing puts Nietzsche himself to the question. Very few books achieve this combination of imaginative sympathy and radical criticism. (Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame)

More About the Author

Peter Berkowitz is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

At Hoover, he chairs the Koret-Taube Task Force on National Security and Law and cochairs the Boyd and Jill Smith Task Force on Virtues of a Free Society.

He studies and writes about, among other things, constitutional government, conservatism and progressivism in America, liberal education, national security and law, and Middle East politics.

He is academic director of the Tikvah Fund's summer institute in Jerusalem, "The Jewish State: Democracy, Freedom, and Virtue"; was cofounder and director of the Israel Program on Constitutional Government; served as a senior consultant to the President's Council on Bioethics; and is a member of the Policy Advisory Board at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.

He is the author of Israel and the Struggle over the International Laws of War (Hoover Institution Press, 2012), Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton University Press, 1999) and Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist (Harvard University Press, 1995). His book Constitutional Conservatism will be published in the winter 2013 by the Hoover Institution Press.

He is the editor of the companion volumes Varieties of Conservatism in America (2004) and Varieties of Progressivism in America (2004), as well as of The Future of American Intelligence (2005), Terrorism, the Laws of War, and the Constitution: Debating the Enemy Combatant Cases (2005), and Never a Matter of Indifference: Sustaining Virtue in a Free Republic (2003), all from the Hoover Institution Press.

In 2004, with coeditor Tod Lindberg, he launched Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society, a series of concise works on leading issues and controversies.

He has written hundreds of essays, articles, and reviews on many subjects for a variety of publications, including the American Political Science Review, the Atlantic, the Boston Globe, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Commentary, Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, the London Review of Books, National Review, the New Republic, the New York Post, the New York Sun, Policy Review, the Public Interest, Real Clear Politics, the Times Literary Supplement, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, the Wilson Quarterly, and the Yale Law Journal.

He holds a JD and a PhD in political science from Yale University; an MA in philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and a BA in English literature from Swarthmore College.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Oliver on March 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've been reading Nietzsche for over four years now (which is about one fifth of my lifetime) and I still find this by far the best book on the subject (in second place is a book called "What Nietzsche means" by one George Morgan - first published in 1939!). Peter Berkowitz analyses, criticizes and, in this way, almost f i n a l i z e s Nietzsche's thought as he shows in which way Nietzsche's failures, too, contribute to his overall achievement, which is to show a n d j u s t i f y the limits of man's power over his own destiny. By all means read it: it is a milestone in modern thinking and will still be read in a hundred year's time.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl ( on July 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
I read this book immediately after finishing Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Berkowitz presents Nietzsche's philosophy in a way not often undertaken. He emphasizes the ethics that Nietzsche holds, despite his lack of belief in God. I enjoyed this because I felt, while reading Nietzsche, that he did not imply the death of morality with the death of God. Berkowitz does a fine job of proving this point.
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rev. William C. Green on September 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
Berkowitz does a good job undermining (a) the "new Nietzsche" of recent French theory and the postmodern politics of identity and difference; and (b) the "old Nietzsche" cavalierly dismissed as a nihilist and relativist. Where Berkowitz falls way short is in failing to understand how and why Nietzsche "relies" on traditional notions he allegedly "repudiates" (e.g., nature, reason, morality). Nietzsche is not interested in repudiation but transfiguration. You can't transfigure what isn't first "figured" (life and values as they have been). What Berkowitz calls the "contest of [irreconcilable] extremes" at the heart of Nietzsche's thought is actually the context in which Nietzsche argues for a life-affirming morality beyond the life-denying ethics of what we would call "traditional values." One may like the venerable truths Berkowitz favors. But how ironic to turn Nietzsche, of all thinkers, into a virtual pretext for arguing traditional values!
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