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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Must" reading for all students of Nietzsche's philosophy.
What Nietzsche Really Said Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins Schocken Books 201 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022 ISBN: 0-8052-4157-4 $23.00 Hardcover, 263 pages,
"To be great," wrote the great Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is to be misunderstood." Excepting Sigmund Freud, no thinker in recent history has been more talked about and less...
Published on May 8, 2000 by Midwest Book Review

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60 of 72 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A poor review of Nietzche's philosophy
The authors wrote this book with the intention of exonerating Nietzsche from many nasty rumors which have long been dismissed by scholars and intellectuals but are still common with the common.
The first half of the book directly comments on 30 such rumors: e.g., "Nietzsche was a Fascist," "Nietzsche Hated Jews," "Nietzsche was a...
Published on March 30, 2000 by nootropic@hotmail.com


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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Must" reading for all students of Nietzsche's philosophy., May 8, 2000
What Nietzsche Really Said Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins Schocken Books 201 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022 ISBN: 0-8052-4157-4 $23.00 Hardcover, 263 pages,
"To be great," wrote the great Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is to be misunderstood." Excepting Sigmund Freud, no thinker in recent history has been more talked about and less understood than Friedrich Nietzsche. How can we -- soft-living members of the herd, untrained in the linguistic labyrinth of contemporary philosophy -- understand this complex author who wants to revolutionize our lives? We might begin with three seminal books. The third would be a reliable anthology of Nietzsche's writings, such as The Portable Nietzsche, edited by Walter Kaufmann. Second on my list is Neils Lyhne, by the Danish novelist Jens Peter Jacobsen (1847-1885), which dramatizes the continual conflicts of any 19th-Century man who dares to embrace atheism and shout that God is no longer with us. And firstly, we might begin with this new work by Solomon and Higgins, which may be -- for the student and general reader -- the most readable and interesting introduction to Nietzsche currently in print.
The book begins by blasting away thirty common rumors and misunderstandings about Nietzsche's life and work. With the air cleared, the authors provide guidelines for approaching a book by Nietzsche, then summarize the major books, then explore the quintessential Nietzschean themes. Nietzsche is better-known as a destroyer of values, but thankfully, Solomon and Higgins correct the picture by highlighting the affirmative values and ideas imbued in Nietzsche's work. Nietzsche newbies as well as more advanced users will appreciate the book's clarity and liveliness, which brings us all the benefits of good scholarship without the stuffiness and cobwebs which clog the pages of too-many modern academic tomes.
Most valuable of all is the way the book illuminates the many connections from Nietzsche to writers and ideas, present and past. Guided by the authors, we explore Nietzsche's love-hate relationships with Socrates, Wagner, Schopenhauer, Kant. We begin to grasp Nietzsche's vast influence upon modern writers in many diverse intellectual and artistic fields. We see the German philosopher in light of his philosophic stance called 'perspectivism,' and learn the difference between this view and the jello-like school of 'relativism' which prevents us from declaring that any one value is better or worse than any other one.
During Nietzsche's lifetime, the two great forces that squeezed, shaped and molded his world were Christianity and scientific materialism, the philosophy that powered the industrial revolution into high gear. Today, it is generally acknowledged that religion is losing its grip; and recently --thanks to a confessional essay by Bill Joy -- we are admitting our collective fears about a world where Technology sits on the throne of God. For those of us wondering if there might be more to life than staring at computer screens, then coming home to a study of philosophy -- and especially Nietzsche -- is one way to search for deeper meanings in our lives. What Nietzsche Really Said is an engaging study, completely faithful to the philosopher's passionate ideas. Readers of this work will be not only inspired, but be thoroughly equipped to tackle the challenge of opening (or reopening) even the most complex of Nietzsche's books.
Michael Pastore Reviewer
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60 of 72 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A poor review of Nietzche's philosophy, March 30, 2000
The authors wrote this book with the intention of exonerating Nietzsche from many nasty rumors which have long been dismissed by scholars and intellectuals but are still common with the common.
The first half of the book directly comments on 30 such rumors: e.g., "Nietzsche was a Fascist," "Nietzsche Hated Jews," "Nietzsche was a Nihilist," etc.. The second part of the book has some features like "Nietzsche's Top Ten"--and also Nietzsche's bottom ten--where the authors present Nietzsche's opinions about other philosophers, like Socrates and Spinoza (Heraclitus is inexcusably absent). Then in the final part this book glosses over some other Nietzschean concepts such as the eternal return.
The entire book is an exercise in lost opportunities; the authors often (but hardly always) make correct claims, but the evidence they present is insubstantial. There is very little direct quotation of Nietzsche. For example, in the section where they try to destroy the rumor that "Nietzsche Hated Jews," the only evidence the authors present is a phrase from a letter Nietzsche wrote after he had gone insane. They had here the opportunity to present several Nietzschean quotations, from his books, which supported their point; but instead of getting right to the point and presenting Nietzsche's unequivocal rejection of anti-Semitism and of what he called the "race swindle," his admiration of the Jews, of the Old Testament, in his own words, this book just contains the aforementioned fragment and the authors' often confusing and poorly written commentary. They expect people to believe them just because they are "Nietzsche scholars"; as such, people may believe them, but I imagine that for an uninformed but otherwise skeptical or precise reader, this book would not be very convincing.
The book often panders to modern prejudices and concerns, and generally the authors try to be very fashionable--e.g., they give credit to a completely unsupported and totally raw theory that Nietzsche was gay--and at other times they deal with completely absurd and irrelevant issues, for example Nietzsche's dancing abilities. What angers me most about this book is that it's a trendy PR campaign; the idea was "How can we make Nietzsche fashionable for mass culture?" These presumptuous technicians and shameless advertisers even go so far as to portray Nietzsche as a victim-figure, with the obvious intention of widening his appeal--or rather, _their own_ appeal--to the victim-loving cult so popular today. They superficially aim for a "balanced" view of Nietzsche, often forcing in artificial admissions of what they think the philosopher's faults were. Here the authors never present any evidence, and they are in fact generally wrong. It is here that they are the most snug and aritifical--and most reprehensible, because they criticize Nietzsche for faults he never had, ignore faults he might have had, all for the sake of fashion.
A very poor book; I give it two stars only because the authors had a good intention (but maybe I should follow Nietzsche here, who said intentions are never to be trusted) and because some superficial readers might be swayed, and might start giving Nietzsche the respect he deserves. But if you want to see correct, honest, well-written commentary on Nietzsche, read Walter Kaufmann's Nietzsche: Psychologist, Philosopher, Antichrist. It will give all the information in this book and so much more; this book is just a really dumbed-down version of Kaufmann's, and poorly written and incoherent on top of that.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And He Had A Lot to Say, May 31, 2000
Few philosophers have been so widely read and yet so incredibly misunderstood as Friedrich Nietzsche. Many people have used Nietzsche's words to advance their own agendas. Hitler was supposedly a fan even though the philosopher was a staunch opponent of anti-Semitism and would have found the Third Reich abhorrent. Many atheists twist Nietzsche's remark that "God is dead" into an endorsement of nihilism when in truth, the German's writings are full of joy and spirit. Clearly, the misinterpretation of Nietzsche's words over the past century makes a book that synthesizes his ideas an absolute necessity. This is that book. The authors have much enthusiasm for Nietzsche's writings and their feelings spill over into the reader. They begin by refuting "thirty rumors" that swirl around the postmodernist. These include accusations that Nietzsche was a misogynist, an alcoholic, and drove students to murder. They are all dismissed. Mr. Solomon and Ms. Higgins go on to explore Nietzsche's critique of other philosophers and include a list of his heroes and villains. The strongest section of the book illuminates "Nietzsche's virtues." Here, the German's "life-affirming" philosophy is explained in detail. If ever there was a man ahead of his times, it was Nietzsche. Over a century ago, he anticipated a profound crisis in morality. He recognized that the old religious institutions were losing their credibility and influence. With their decline would come the ascent of scientific materialism. This new system, however, is a poor instrument for creating morality and virtue. Nietzsche offers his students an alternative: a morality from "within;" a perspective that sees life as worth living for its own sake and cultivating a character written with "style." Nietzsche is a living voice that sees life as a joy, encouraging us to treat every moment as such. That is what Nietzsche really said.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nietzsche Distilled and Made Accessible, June 7, 2006
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This review is from: What Nietzsche Really Said (Paperback)
Nietzsche is undoubtedly the most enigmatic, confusing, and ambiguous philosopher of all time. For most of us, we want answers, not more confusion. Fortunately, we have two very able individuals who have studied, analyzed, and understood Nietzsche, at least in a way that makes his insights accessible. They are Robert Solomon and Walter Kaufman. Solomon, an analytic philosopher by training and disposition, has unraveled much of Nietzsche in an articulate, coherent, and powerful way. The consequence is pregnant with riches of existential insight. His clarity and precision, the hallmarks of analytic philosophy, are everywhere evident.

Nietzsche's style and manner, so foreign to most of us, is his purpose. While Nietzsche has a handful of strong beliefs, his overriding belief is that of liberation from the imprisonment of our Western inheritance. Hostile to received Traditions, Nietzsche is determined to find alternative perspectives, but he's not about to become the very thing that he deplores, another dogmatist. Hence, rather than compelling arguments, a coherent world view, a grand metaphysic, an endorsement of slave morality, or other dogmatic claims, Nietzsche's scheme of liberation is to tear down the inherited frameworks, and give direction, but few prescriptions, to the alternatives. Solomon provides a fresh, clear, and coherent distillation of that project.

The project is inherently dangerous, and has been misused and abused by many, most notably Hitler. Nietzsche is partly responsible, because his deconstruction is more obvious than his reconstruction. But the new paradigm that Nietzsche intended had little to do with Hitler's agenda and misappropriation. Solomon is able to give us a "truer" Nietzsche, with a number of caveats, provisional claims, and a lot of tentativeness. But these "reservations" and "provisional perspectives" are themselves at the core of Nietzsche's existentialist thought. Rather than create a new metaphysic out of whole cloth, Nietzsche is content with providing the tools for us to work them out for ourselves. And yes, that's risky.

The hyper-rationalism inherited from Socrates's logocentrism, the "slave" morality inherited from Judeo-Christian nihilism, and the denial of our "animal" natures by the whole of Western philosophy are just a few of Nietzsche's targets. Such a logocentric, slavish, and dispassionate perspective is utterly false. To demonstrate the error, Nietzsche frequently finds resources in the pre-Socratics, where free inquiry still occurred, and where dogmatism is less evident. And one of Nietzsche's schemes is the use of the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus as tools for reconciliation. Apollo represents the strong, forceful, rational, and brave; Dionysus represents the carefree, receptive, emotive, and joyful. Unlike nearly all of Western Tradition, which sets Apollo over Dionysus, Nietzsche desires their reunification in an integral self.

Despite Solomon's masterful and persuasive overview, in a surprisingly short space, further synopsis here is not feasible. Suffice it for my purposes to hail this work as a great achievement, worthy of wide readership, and a life-affirming alternative to the West's nihilistic and impoverished "Man." Many, if not most, of Nietzsche's new perspectives on the integral life of "becoming who one is," rather than conforming to malformed conception of Humanity from Western nihilism, is truly liberating. Also, I'm more convinced than ever that direct acquaintance with Nietzsche is still improbable, at least for me, and I suspect for many. That makes Solomon's contribution even more valuable. In addition to Solomon and Kaufman, Rollo May (esp.) and Eric Fromm offer great insight from the psychological tradition.

In the wadi of nihilism and despair of the present day, despite our technological achievements to placate us, we are right to want a wholly different perspective about the most pressing questions about life itself. Our inherited Traditions have failed because they are fundamentally wrong. Fortunately, we can still reconnect with our true selves and make our lives meaningful and joyous once again. Nietzsche's seminal ideas can be of immense help, and Solomon's and Kaufman's, Fromm's, and May's insights from Nietzsche's treasury of wisdom are now accessible to those of us who cannot abide his confusion, enigma, and ambiguity. Highly recommended.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Setting the record straight, January 9, 2004
By 
Invisible Man (The Great Plains) - See all my reviews
This book makes sense of a VERY misunderstood philosopher. Solomon and Higgins debunk thirty myths about Nietzsche--a much needed task, to say the least. Did Nietzsche hate Jews? No. Was he a Nazi? No. Did he believe in truth? Yes, but not in an "absolute" sense of the word. Did he hate Christianity? Well, that depends; he hated parts of it, especially its nihilistic morality, yet he admired Jesus.

The book then launches into Nietzsche's big ideas: The Will to Power, the Death of God, the Ubermensch. Finally, it ends on Nietzsche's importance for today.

'What Nietzsche Really Said' is a good book for someone who is coming to Neitzsche for the first time. It's also a nice summary for the seasoned reader of Nietzsce. The language is simple, and Nietzsche's ideas are broken down into mentally digestible pieces.

The book is also a corrective to religious conservatives who think Nietzsche was "evil" and wanted to "destroy" Western civilization. This is nonsense. Nietzsche cared deeply about theology and about how humans should live in the wake of God's death. If God is dead, humans are still alive. Consequently, we should take life more seriously and be *more* moral than we were before the death of God. Enter the Ubermensch. Nietzsche didn't want to destroy Western civilization; he wanted to save it.

Nietzsche was a good man and a good philosopher. He's not always a pleasant read, not just becasue of his difficult prose, but more becasue of what he says. Yet the man had enough honesty to face the hard facts of life and, perhaps most of all, to do something about it--that is, to live gracefully after God's funeral.

Also recommended: How to Lose Your Faith in Divinity School
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise for Solomon & Higgins, May 16, 2003
By 
Randy Herring (Spokane, Washington United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: What Nietzsche Really Said (Paperback)
Nietzsche's philosophy is a will of building character virtues - for living, loving what life brings and being grateful. "Nietzsche is very much a moralist... He is purposely provocative, provoking not only thought but self-scrutiny ... His whole philosophy ... is aimed at provoking self-examination and self-'undergoing'... to cultivate the virtues, and, ultimately, to 'become who you are'" (176-77).
To build an affirmative philosophy one must first push, destroy, clear away the ground to "legislate values" and create a virtue life. "Nietzsche aims, accordingly, to get us to appreciate a very different conception of morality, one that is born within us and not imposed upon us, one that celebrates life [in this world] and doesn't promise another one" (198-99).
Solomon/Higgins' chapter headings and topics fit Nietzsche's ideas, rather than what some scholars try to do: have his ideas fit their interpretation of him and thus develop their assessment to 'validate their Nietzsche.'
Chapter 1wittingly begins with 30 rumors associated with his name and ideas. Chapter 2 talks about his writing style and his books. Chapter 3 devotes an understanding of 'What Nietzsche Really Said' about 'God is dead.' Chapter 4 talks about what Nietzsche means by morality by distinguishing two types: moralities (with emphasis on the "ies") and Morality. Chapter 5 lists and talks about the people who Nietzsche loved and hated and wrote about them and their ideas, which gave pizzazz and 'style' to his writings and his philosophy of life. Chapter 6 defends Nietzsche's 'Character' Virtues. Chapter 7 wisely addresses 'Nietzsche's Affirmative Philosophy' devoting more time to Nietzsche's 'eternal recurrence' and 'The Will To Power' since they are most abused and least understood. "What Nietzsche Really Said" concludes with remarks on Nietzsche's 'perspectivism' and his influence on the modern mind.
Solomon/Higgins say everything in "What Nietzsche Really Said" what I would like to say, but better and in such an articulate way that even a beginner can get the gist of what Nietzsche really says in his own books! I recommend this book for anyone wanting to understand Nietzsche or understand him better. "What Nietzsche Really Said" gives the reader a clear picture of who he really is (not who or what he is not), what he says and what he stands up for.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good overview, August 28, 2006
By 
meadowreader (Sandia Park, NM USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Nietzsche Really Said (Paperback)
This is a good overview and introduction to Nietzsche, although the writing is sometimes a bit repetitive. But the book is pitched at the right level for someone who knows little or nothing about Nietzsche, but who would like to know more before delving into the original texts. There are a number of books around that analyze Nietzsche's work, but they tend to be advanced studies written for other Nietzsche experts, promoting some particular view or approach. Here you'll find a valuable chapter entitled "Faced with a Book by Nietzsche," that gives short synopses of each of his works, and in the order in which they were published. That latter is important, because Nietzsche's ideas developed and changed somewhat from one book to another; to make sense of those variations you need to know where in the stream you are dipping your toe. The chapters on God and morality are also quite good, and the glossary of favorite images at the back is well worth having around. The authors are also careful to warn the reader that "The Will to Power" is not really a book by Nietzsche, but rather a selection and arrangement by others of jottings from his notebooks, material that he did not choose to publish; those notes are sometimes interesting to Nietzsche scholars for the light they may throw on the things he did publish, but other uses are much harder to justify.

Solomon has a later book, 'Living With Nietzsche,' that overlaps a good deal with this one. This is the better written and more useful of the two. If you are looking to follow this one with a somewhat more advanced analysis, I'd recommend Brian Leiter's 'Nietzsche on Morality,' which is excellent.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Great book for someone UNTRAINED in philosophy, April 4, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: What Nietzsche Really Said (Paperback)
This book is great for getting started. The book actually explains in simple terms why Nietzsche is impossible for someone with no philosophical training to read. i.e. the book explains that Nietzsche contradicts himself because he wants the reader to see the many sides of the argument and to force the reader to think for herself.
The book also tries to debunk 30 myths about Nietzsche, but this is not the key part of the book and the authors may not provide great proof when they explain away these 30 myths. But, this book is the only book I found that actually gave me (the untrained philosophy reader) the knowledge to finally begin to understand Nietzsche's books.
But the hardcore Nietzschians who criticized the book did make did make some useful criticisms that one should keep in mind (combined with the insights of this book) when reading Nietzsche's works.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understand Nietzsche, March 9, 2006
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My first encounter with Friedrich was reading "Beyond Good and Evil." Being from a religious background, I had somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction to what I thought was a destructive and hateful philosophy. Nevertheless, something about Nietzsche fascinated me and I proceeded to investigate further. An avid Nietzsche fan recommended this book. My first reaction to any book that claims to know what someone else was really saying is skepticism. But, I bought the book anyway, and I came away from it with a much different opinion of Herr Nietzsche. While I don't agree with all his views, I can now see this man's brilliance and insight into the human condition. They say that Nietzsche is the most misunderstood of all philosophers. For me at least, this book helped diminish that misunderstanding.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for the casual reader, July 28, 2001
By 
Damon Navas-Howard (Santa Rosa, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: What Nietzsche Really Said (Paperback)
No other philosopher in Western civilization has been more widely read, misunderstood, and most talked about than Nietszche. Every time Nietzsche is brought up anywhere; there is bound to be a fight. Some people claim he was insane his whole life and that his work should not be taken seriously and most atheist will call him their Godfather while he was much more complicated than to just label him an atheist. Nonetheless, "What Nietzsche Really Said" by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgin's(Both philosophy professors) main objective is to clear up the rumors surrounding Nietzsche life and explain what Nietzsche really meant. Depending on how much you've read or know about Nietzsche will be the deciding factor of weather you like or dislike this book. Scholars of Nietzche or someone who wants a complex and through study of Nietzche would be better suited with one of Walter Kuafman's books on Nietzsche. "What Nietzsche Really Said" is better suited for someone who knows nothing about Nietzsche, has little knowledge of philosophy, and wants to know where to start and how to understand Nietszche's work.
The best feature of the book is the Rumors section. It objectively tries to crush all the rumors surrounding Nietszhe's life and work. Everything from his work supposedly inspiring Hitler to hating women to having an affair with Wagner's wife. I tip my hats to the authors for doing that. I also liked the outline of his books. However the "Nietszche said God Is Dead" and "War On Morality" chapters I didn't really like. The book tries to make Nietszche look too good and politically correct then he was, I wish the book would've just displayed the facts and let the reader make their own conclusion.
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What Nietzsche Really Said
What Nietzsche Really Said by Robert C. Solomon (Paperback - January 30, 2001)
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