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Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography Paperback – January 17, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This book is not a traditional philosopher's biography offering an even balance of life and thought, but rather a rich interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy as it evolved during his life, with a coda tracing his influence after his death. Biographical details are sparing: neither Nietzsche's birth nor death is described, and there are few juicy bits about his passion for Lou Salomé. Most of the book is a reading of Nietzsche's developing ideas, beginning with his autobiographical sketches in high school and continuing chronologically from his early attachment to Schopenhauer through his hopes for and disappointment in Wagner's music drama, such great achievements as Daybreak and Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and his last works before his descent into madness. To close, there is a chapter on the different ways Nietzsche influenced 20th-century artists, the Nazis, Heidegger, Foucault, Rorty and others. Throughout, certain themes recur, elucidated sympathetically but with "ironic reserve," including the death of God, the divided self, the will to power, eternal recurrence, philosophy as art and truth as power play. Safranski (Heidegger: Between Good and Evil), in clear English from Rutgers University Germanist Frisch, brings out contradictions and tensions in Nietzsche's thought without dismissing him; on the contrary, Safranski sees Nietzsche as a thinker "who organized his gardens of theory in such a way that anyone on the lookout for their central arguments would almost inevitably fall flat on his face," but who leads one to return profitably to "[o]ne's own thinking." The author offers no summary conclusions, preferring to leave Nietzsche's philosophical biography open, as "a story without an end." Safranski has made a worthwhile contribution to that story, though it will be of interest mainly to those with an interest in engaging the work directly.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

With brilliant insights and impressive scholarship, Safranski, who has previously written about Heidegger and Schopenhaurer, here makes a major contribution to understanding and appreciating the lasting significance of Friedrich Nietzsche (l844-l900). From his passion for Greek antiquity to his disappointment with the Bayreuth premiere of the Ring tetralogy, Nietzsche is presented as a tragic hero who advocated overcoming cultural mediocrity and simplistic materialism while rigorously pursuing intellectual enlightenment and new values. Safranski emphasizes the philosopher's Heraclitean-Dionysian worldview of ongoing flux and pervasive change. This comprehensive study analyzes the influences of music, mythology, Schopenhauer, Wagner, and Darwin on the development of Nietzsche's iconoclastic ideas and challenging perspectives. Safranski devotes sections to a critical discussion of the future overman and the cosmic will to power. Particularly important is Chapter 10, which focuses on Nietzsche's central idea of the eternal recurrence of the same universe. Nietzsche himself incorporated his bold vision into an affirmation of life in terms of human creativity within creative nature. Safranski's outstanding, level-headed, and unique philosophical biography of Nietzsche is strongly recommended for all academic and public libraries. H. James Birx, Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Philosophical Biography
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (January 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323801
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Parker Benchley VINE VOICE on December 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would imagine that one of the toughest subjects for an author today would be Friedrich Nietzsche. Not so much in terms of difficulty, but in terms of previous output. There have been quite a few, to say the least, books on Nietzsche over the past few years. They seem to have left no stone unturned in their quest for material. There have appeared books on almost every aspect of Nietzsche's philosophy and life: Nietzsche as a young man, the later Nietzsche, Nietzsche and the Jews, Nietzsche's last days, Nietzsche and the Nazis, Nietzsche's influence on the French, English, the young, modern thought, what have you. There have even been biographies of Nietzsche's friends and family members. Where else is there left to go? It would seem that the vein of Nietzsche studies has been tapped dry.
Rudiger Safranski has managed to put an new and entertaining spin on things by giving the reader a philosophical biography of Nietzsche, focusing on the development of Nietzsche's ideas rather than his life. Rather than asking how Nietzsche's relationship with the Wagners affected his later life, Safranski asks how the relationship affected the development of Nietzsche's later ideas; which were developed, which were jettisoned and which would later emerge because of the realtionship.
Safranski's thesis is backed, as usual, with clear, concise writing free of the stifling style and jargon that has come to dominate Nietzschean studies. Safranski's style reminds one of Walter Kaufmann in the respect that he is writing for an intelligent public rather than fellow academics or students for whom this tome would be a required, and expensive textbook.
If you want a straightforward exposition of Nietzsche or just want to get to know this elusive philosopher better, you can't do better yourself than this book.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Perry on February 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"I mistrust all systematizers and I avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity."--Nietzsche, Aphorism #26 of "Maxims and Arrows," in TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS (translated by Walter Kaufmann).
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) thought of his philosophical adventures as the explorations of a "Columbus of the spirit," a thinker who was an "attempter" or "experimenter" in the realms of wisdom and knowledge. He circled around and around a problem, seeking to gain perspectives on the "truth," boldly venturing into uncharted regions of a wild and restless sea "where there be dragons."

Although one finds certain key ideas in Nietzsche's philosophy--the death of God, the Ubermensch (overman), the eternal recurrence of the same, master morality vs. slave morality, and the will to power--one should not expect to find in his works a dogmatic system.
The "will to a system," he said, "is a lack of integrity." One cannot, nor should one try, to wrap the "world" (the universe or cosmos) in a neat rational package tied with the bow of certainty. Whoever claims to have done so is pathetically self-deceived.

In NIETZSCHE: A PHILOSOPHICAL BIOGRAPHY, Ruediger Safranski has written the most engaging exposition of the development of Nietzsche's thought since the late Walter Kaufmann's NIETZSCHE: PHILOSOPHER, PSYCHOLOGIST, ANTICHRIST (1950; Fourth Edition, 1974).

Born in Germany in 1945, Safranski is one of the most renowned scholars of German philosophy in the world. His previous books include SCHOPENHAUER AND THE WILD YEARS OF PHILOSOPHY (1991) and MARTIN HEIDEGGER: BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL (1998).
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40 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Alexander on August 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
�What meaning would our whole being have if it were not that in us that will to truth has become conscious of itself _as a problem_ within us?� --*On the Genealogy of Morals*
Nietzsche lived the life of an ascetic priest who tried to pull Dionysus *inward*, internalizing the Graeco-Gnostic night journey of transformative self-enhancement, lifelong psychic combat at the frontiers of metaphor and expression. There is so much rebellious kicking and thrashing in N.�s collected works, a witch�s wind of wild conjecture emanating from a chthonic whirlpool, that a long, embattled tradition of miscomprehension, accusation, and resentment was bound to ferment in its wake.... In the final year before his breakdown, N.�s landlady heard strange noises coming from his room, and sneaked upstairs to peek through the keyhole. The sight of N. dancing naked like the Hindu god Shiva, teetering on a ground-swell of hysteria, is a popular image (second only to that of a stonefaced, embittered loner pouring scorn on �the herd� from the separatist darkness of his cold rented room) that Rudiger Safranski aims to dignify, flesh out, qualify, and redact. In this regard, *Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography* is a boon and a delight, a sure-handed trump to all who doubt the centrality of N.�s thought (most American philosophy departments, monopolized by logicians of the �analytical� school, do not offer a course on Nietzsche).
Safranski�s biography hits hermeneutic pay-dirt, delivers all the important playlets and dramas of N.�s strange and embittered life, the byzantine reversals, the ascetic hardships, the wild years of thought-experiment and self-overcoming as this great thinker pioneered the course of non-analytic philosophy in the 20th century. N.
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