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Beyond Good and Evil (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003
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About the Author
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) published, among other titles, Human, All Too Human and The Dawn. He divorced himself from public life and, in 1889, became insane, remaining in a condition of mental and physical paralysis until his death. R J Hollingdale translated eleven of Nietzsche's books and published two books about him. Michael Tanner is a Fellow of Corpus Christi College.
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I have learned a lot from the book's actual content so far. Purchase from another publisher.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) had studied theology (which he didn't finish) and philology (the study of language in written historical scources); he became a professor of philology at the university of Basel in 1869, but had to resign in 1879 due to ill health. Nietzsche collapsed in 1889, causing him to become mentally ill, and needed to be cared for until his death in 1900. It has been thought that his collapse was caused by syphilis, but this diagnosis is no longer believed to be correct. The cause of his illness is not known.
In this work Nietzsche critises old philosophers and some of their views on 'free will', knowledge, truth, etc. He felt that the philosophers in the past had not been critical enough about morality, accepting the Chistian views on this theme without questioning those views. Nietzsche tells in this book what qualities philosophers should have, he believed philosophers should move on, into the area 'beyond good and evil'.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in modern philosophy, this book will make you think about some of your ideas about good and bad. You don't have to agree with him to gain new insight from this book. Nietzsche was a great writer, his works are written in a lively way. For Nietzsche rhetoric was more important than logic. As a sample of his way of writing I copy a few lines from this volume at the bottom of this review. This book was translated in the 19th century, so the language is a bit dated.
The work consists of 296 numbered sections and the poem "From High Mountains". The sections are organized into nine parts, the contents of this book:
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
CHAPTER I: PREJUDICES OF PHILOSOPHERS
CHAPTER II: THE FREE SPIRIT
CHAPTER III: THE RELIGIOUS MOOD
CHAPTER IV: APOPHTHEGMS AND INTERLUDES
CHAPTER V: THE NATURAL HISTORY OF MORALS
CHAPTER VI: WE SCHOLARS
CHAPTER VII: OUR VIRTUES
CHAPTER VIII: PEOPLES AND COUNTRIES
CHAPTER IX: WHAT IS NOBLE?
FROM THE HEIGHTS (POEM TRANSLATED BY L.A. MAGNUS)
From chapter 7, section 214 (page 70/location 1505):
214. OUR Virtues?--It is probable that we, too, have still our virtues,
although naturally they are not those sincere and massive virtues on
account of which we hold our grandfathers in esteem and also at a little
distance from us. We Europeans of the day after tomorrow, we firstlings
of the twentieth century--with all our dangerous curiosity, our
multifariousness and art of disguising, our mellow and seemingly
sweetened cruelty in sense and spirit--we shall presumably, IF we must
have virtues, have those only which have come to agreement with our most
secret and heartfelt inclinations, with our most ardent requirements:
well, then, let us look for them in our labyrinths!--where, as we know,
so many things lose themselves, so many things get quite lost! And is
there anything finer than to SEARCH for one's own virtues? [...]
In some ways, although I regard this as Nietzsche's best book because it is the clearest statement of his important subjects in the most concise manner, this book is frightening to read. I became a devotee of Nietzsche when I was a freshman in college, much like many other innocents who were attracted to his fulminations. It was, in retrospect, the wrong thing to do because one must understand such a great body of work that understanding cannot be accomplished by the novice.
For example, I knew nothing of the pre-Socratics, for the most part, outside a generic course on ancient philosophy until I began to read Greek much later. One can luxuriate with Plato and reason with Aristotle over a long period without understanding how the latter's advantages of reason creates a kind of golden calf which is intolerable for modern thinking, at least according to Nietzsche. he is especially hard on several writers, not the least of which was Spinoza, someone who is oddly not much studied any longer, but one with whom I identified for a long while, at least one year in school. Perhaps Nietzsche is only furious that Spinoza created a world that denied entry to someone like Nietzsche or, as Nietzsche would put it, Spinoza would never open the door of his world to the possibility that irrational things might enter and refuse to make any sense.
One can never take a writer out of his age, any more than one can take a composer or artist, and expect that he or she will make perfect sense or even imperfect sense. We are always understanding what we read or see against the underpinnings of both what we understand about the artist's world and what we understand about our own. The genius of Nietzsche was that he understood the origins and character of his own age, in my estimation, so well that he saw himself as a little more than a speck of dust in the world which was yet to come.
The greatest criticism one must lay at his feet is that if he was a prophet, then he was a prophet without a god or God. Though he may have accurately predicted how our modern world would come to see itself, puffed up, proud deniers of faith in things which failed to stand before the throne of understanding, perhaps Nietzsche had a significant failing which he shares with modern thought. Perhaps in understanding all too well that one has no reason to be called to faith in any given thing because one does not understand the source, he came to believe that faith before understanding is impossible. Then again, God knows we haven't done such a great job of saving ourselves.
Additionally, the two versions I refer to use ALL CAPS instead of italics. Nietzsche loves his italics, especially in BGE. It's like he's screaming every other sentence.