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Basic Writings of Nietzsche (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – November 28, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

A better title for this book might be The Indispensable Writings of Nietzsche. Indeed, the six selections contained in Walter Kaufmann's volume are not only critical elements of Nietzsche's oeuvre, they are must-reads for any aspiring student of philosophy. Those coming to Nietzsche for the first time will be pleased to find three of his best-known works--The Birth of Tragedy, Beyond Good and Evil, and On the Genealogy of Morals--as well as a collection of 75 aphorisms drawn from Nietzsche's celebrated aphoristic work. In addition, there are two lesser known, but important, pieces in The Case of Wagner and Ecce Homo. Kaufmann's lucid and accurate translations have been the gold standard of Nietzsche scholarship since the 1950s, and this volume does not disappoint.

Anyone who has slogged their way through the swamps of German philosophical writing---in Kant or Hegel or Heidegger--will find Nietzsche a refreshing and exhilarating change. The selections are well chosen, and a cover-to-cover read will aptly depict Nietzsche's philosophy. In this volume the reader will find many of Nietzsche's polemical (and frequently misunderstood) ratiocinations on Christianity, Socrates, Germany, and art. Here, too, are his seminal and unforgettable critiques of Western morality ("That lambs dislike great birds of prey does not seem strange: only it gives no ground for reproaching these birds of prey for bearing off little lambs"). For philosophical fireworks, Nietzsche can hardly be matched. His brazen defiance of intellectualism's conventions still rings in contemporary thought because he practiced philosophy with a hammer. --Eric de Place


"Nietzsche is one of the few philosophers since Plato whom large numbers of intelligent people read for pleasure."
--Walter Kaufmann

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Modern Library edition (November 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679783393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679783398
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

230 of 236 people found the following review helpful By booklover on November 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the best collection of Nietzsche's writings. Kaufmann's translation is incomparable; it has energy, wit; its language is a delight. In other translations Nietzsche comes off as much more ponderous.
The Birth of Tragedy is a good place to start for knowledge of the early Nietzsche and is an indispensible book for understanding what came later. The Genelogy of Morals is the least aphoristic of Nietzsche's writings and provides an extended treatment of Nietzsche's famous and infamous views on morality, especially Christian morality. Beyond Good and Evil is aphoristic brilliance containing many of Nietzsche's most famous ideas.
The one thing that would make this book perfect is the addition of Kaufmann's translation of the Gay Science.
For those interested in Nietzsche there is no better place to start than this book.
Nietzsche like Plato and unlike most philosophers really knew how to write. His writing is brilliant, original, and his style has no peer. Kaufmann produces English that is without peer in his translation of Nietzsche's works.
Whether you love him or hate him, exposure to Nietzsche can be a life-changing experience.
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168 of 177 people found the following review helpful By James Liu on July 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
The first work of Philosophy I slogged through was Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, in a standalone edition translated by Kaufman. I suppose that is as good a place to start as any. The most important thing that this volume highlights is how easily anything Niezsche said can be so easily taken out of context and abused by anyone who so chooses. For example, his "blond beast" is quite literally a lion, and not an Aryan Superman.
Work by work analysis:
The Birth of Tragedy -- Only attempt this as your first Nietzsche book if you already have a good understanding of how Greek Tragedy works. At the very least, you should have read Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, Sophocles' Theban Plays, some Euripides, Aristophanes' The Clouds, Plato's Apology, and if possible, Aristotle's Poetics. Also, as Kaufman makes clear, the last ten sections, about Wagner, should be taken with a shakerful of salt.
The Aphorisms -- It is very easy to take these gems especially out of context. However tempting it is to browse them for a few good quotes, I strongly urge you against it. They are, however, very helpful when Nietzsche refers to them.
Beyond Good and Evil -- This is as good a place as any to start your exploration of Nietzsche. The problem is, even though it is supposed to be a more straightforward approach at communicating the message found in Zarathustra, this is still written very pithily. The prose is very joyful, poetic, and requires thought. Then again, if you weren't willing to commit some thought to Nietzsche, then it's not worth picking up Nietzsche.
On The Geneology of Morals -- A sequel to BG&E. I don't suggest starting here. The prose is more straightforward than BG&E, he is attemting polemic in essay form.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful By M. PARADISO-MICHAU on August 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
In any edited text, one needs to be cautious of the editor's biases and potential heavy-handedness (e.g. intentional omissions). In *Basic Writings of Nietzsche,* the editor, Walter Kaufmann, has selected five of Nietzsche's volumes (*The Birth of Tragedy,* *Beyond Good and Evil,* *On the Genealogy of Morals,* *The Case of Wagner,* and *Ecce Homo*) which touch on aspects of Nietzsche's overall trajectory. Also included are selections from *Human, All-Too Human,* *Mixed Opinions and Maxims,* *The Wanderer and His Shadow,* *The Dawn,* and *The Gay Science.*

Kaufmann is not ashamed to refer the reader to his own works on Nietzsche, especially *Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist* and his edited *The Portable Nietzsche*, which contains the full-texts of *Thus Spoke Zarathustra,* *Twilight of the Idols,* *The Anti-Christ,* *Nietzsche Contra Wagner,* and miscellaneous, yet relevant shorter excerpts, essays, and letters.

Together, these two edited collections offer the reader a full-scope introduction to the life, thought, and writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, a genuine master of criticism and insight.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By eric garrett on March 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
My purpose is to advise new readers of Nietzsche to trust W. Kaufmann's handling of Nietzsche's works. Apart from Hollandale, few good English translations of N's works would exist were it not for W.K.
It is not essential to agree with all of W.K's interpretations of N. in order to refer to the present work as an important introduction and overview. As W.K. will himself advise you, there is no substitute for reading the original works of N., but some definite value can be made from taking W.K's interpretations and applying them as a counterpoint to your own investigations.
Consider your encounter with N. as a process. W.K. is an important part of engaging N's unique mind and extraordinary outputs in the English language.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is very simply an extraordinary book. Some of Nietzsche's best writings are included in this book, all translated by Walter Kaufmann - Kaufmann being, of course, one of the greatest scholars of German literature (and Nietzsche in particular) of the twentieth century.
The translation seemed very good to me, and I've enjoyed Kaufmann's translations before - particularly his book "Goethe's Faust" is one of the best poetic translations I've ever read.
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