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Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography Hardcover – March 8, 2010
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*Starred Review* I am the most terrible dynamite there is. So wrote Nietzsche in 1888. Young chronicles the improbable story of how a fastidious professor of Greek philology became the most explosive intellectual force in Europe. To be sure, readers will likely already know how this self-styled Antichrist waged war on Christianity to create cultural space for a boldly heroic egoism. They may not realize, though, that Nietzsche was not merely emancipating a few supermen from the Christian religion; rather, he was inviting the entire community to embrace a naturalistic new religion of human-glorifying arts. But nothing will surprise readers more than Young's conclusion that Nietzsche abandoned his famous (and posthumously published) work on the will to power because he had lost faith in its daring thesis. In elucidating such complexities, Young challenges those who have tarred Nietzsche as a proto-Nazi, documenting his hatred for anti-Semitism and militarism. Still, readers must confront Nietzsche's unsavory advocacy of eugenics and his strident opposition to feminism (despite close friendships with many feminists). But nothing will make Nietzsche's admirers squirm more than Young's interpretation of the iconoclast's final mental breakdown as the natural culmination of a lifetime of ecstatic philosophizing with a hammer. A biography as profound and disturbing as its subject. --Bryce Christensen
". . . serious and readable . . ."
--Francis Fukuyama, The New York Times Book Review
"Sets the German philosopher's thought in the context of Prussian militarism, anti-Semitism, Darwinian science, and other phenomena of his era..."
--The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Julian Young brings together his fine scholarly skills, his delightful writing style, and a solid grasp of Nietzsche's thought to produce a philosophical biography that will be unparalleled for years to come. Especially valuable is Young's way of showing how events in Nietzsche's life hooked up with intellectual developments in this multi-faceted philosopher. A pleasure to read and a valuable source of information."
--Charles Guignon, University of South Florida
"A first in the history of Nietzsche studies: a richly detailed biography written by a leading scholar of Nietzsche's philosophy. The volume nicely mixes the intriguing particulars of Nietzsche's life with intelligent analyses of his philosophical work that are well-informed, always clear, sometimes controversial, but consistently interesting. It will now be the starting place for the philosophically-minded reader of Nietzsche seeking a comprehensive treatment of the life and the work."
--Brian Leiter, University of Chicago
"Simply put, this is an excellent biography of Nietzsche, and a model of what a philosophical biography should be. Young offers a smooth integration of biographical detail and philosophical analysis so that one can readily see how Nietzsche's life and thought informed one another. He stakes out some controversial interpretive claims, but even setting these aside, Young has produced a study that must be read by every Nietzsche scholar and by anyone interested more generally in the shaping of the modern philosophical landscape..."
--Charlie Huenemann, Utah State University, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"...masterly biography of Nietzsche... "
--Joachim Krueger, Brown University, Psychology Today
"A biography as profound and disturbing as its subject." -
--Christensen, Bryce, American Library Association's Booklist Magazine
"...Julian Young's Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography is marvelous, meticulously researched, artfully written, and genuinely insightful. Young has managed to produce a work of the highest caliber on the slippery terrain of Nietzsche's thought. He offers a total vision of Nietzsche's intellectual development that is at times critical, as well as giving clear accounting for the many implicit arguments found in Nietzsche's work... The volume's style is artful, far exceeding the norms of philosophical treatises... Young's book is remarkable, and easily recommended. One will find value in it as an overview to or introduction to Nietzsche's thought. While invaluable as a work for those interested in Nietzsche, it is perhaps even more important for philosophers, given how regularly Nietzsche is misunderstood or misinterpreted. On the whole, Young's book is outstanding... In sum, not only has Young produced a masterful study of Nietzsche, fit for slow reading (296), but a work that opens avenues for further inquiry. The superlative quality of the whole towers well over what blemishes it has. Young's philosophical biography of Nietzsche is certainly essential for any serious study of Nietzsche henceforth."
--Eric Chelstrom, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Grand Valley State University, Metapsychology
"...In this massive work, Young (Univ. of Auckland, NZ; Wake Forest) presents the most comprehensive biography of Nietzsche available in English... Young offers interpretations of all of Nietzsche's works, often tying these interpretations to interesting details about Nietzsche's locale, his health, and events in his life... This volume is indispensable for anyone interested in Nietzsche's life and thought... Essential..."
A. D. Schrift, Grinnell College, CHOICE
"...This strenuously researched biography serves well to give one a clear understanding of Nietzsche's radical philosophy.... delightful and richly detailed biography of Nietzsche. It provides new readings and perspectives on Nietzsche's life and work, questioning the conventional interpretation of his "nihilistic" underpinnings. It brings out the huge impact of Nietzsche on 20th-century philosophy and literature and its well-grounded notions of beliefs and values, casting a "long shadow" on the complex cultural and philosophical central themes of postmodernist thinking...."
SHELLEY WALIA, FRONTLINE
"This is the longest and most thorough account of Nietzsche's life available in English. It might also be the best. It uses Nietzsche's letters to good effect along with generous helpings of the existing correspondence from his acquaintances. The pace is crisp and the writing is situated in the present day, often drawing parallels with contemporary events, objects and characters. There are 32 black and white photos, 28 chapters, a Chronology, Notes, a Bibliography and an Index. Young discusses several musical compositions by Nietzsche, recordings of which can be listened to free of charge at the Cambridge University Press Web Site, where further commentary can be found as well."
Bryan Finken, University of Colorado at Denver, Philosophy in Review
"Presenting such a unified account is particularly impressive given that Young does not appear to deprive us of any of the details of Nietzsche's life. We get definitive treatments of his childhood, the Pforta years, his turbulent relationships, and his heartbreaking demise. From the biographical perspective, Young pulls all of this together through some adept storytelling: he uses flashbacks, flashforwards, overlapping events relayed successively, and a host of other devices to tell a coherent and fascinating tale. This book is a must read for those interested in Nietzsche, as well as for students of the intellectual history of late nineteenth-century Europe, and for anyone looking for ideas on how to craft a unified philosophical biography."
--Iain Morrisson, The Honors College, University of Houston, Journal of the History of Philosophy
"....incisive, provocative and elegant writing.... a highly worthwhile read.... Young's arguments are persuasive, yet leave enough space for the reader to form his/her own interpretation. This is a welcome improvement on Hollingdale's version from 1965, full of orthodox certainties.... An important asset of Young's Philosophical biography is that it portrays both Nietzsche the philosopher and Nietzsche the man amidst the backdrop of historical, political and cultural events, including the Franco-Prussian war, Bismarck's rise to power, the ascent of the sciences, and the growing fame of his friend Richard Wagner...."
--Dr. Eva Cybulska, Independent Scholar, Philosophy Now
"....Julian Young's biography, Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography, is unusual, given the author's academic repute as a Nietzsche scholar. Young acutely surveys Nietzsche's life, while offering erudite accounts of his philosophy.... In terms of its content, this book makes several important contributions to Nietzschean scholarship.... Young's book compellingly shows that, as a cultural critic, Nietzsche is as relevant as ever."
--Jack Reynolds, La Trobe University, Australian Book Review
"Those of us interested in the mercurial and ever-mysterious Nietzsche are indebted to Julian Young for the production of this extremely fine biography.... connoisseurs of the details of Nietzsche's life will discover intriguing new information.... It also provides overviews of the intellectual work he was undertaking at each stage of his life.... clear, well organized, and intelligent...."
--Ruth Abbey, University of Notre Dame, Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy P
Top customer reviews
Although my belief was re-confirmed, he was indeed a self-contradictory philosopher, not a good trait for a philosopher; don't believe me? Try it on your next philosophy exam. Even the postmodern professors don't tolerate contradictory ideas, no matter how much they claim to.
And even though he was an "anti-anti-Semite", there is no getting around the fact that his scribing was/is the necessary fuel for the Nazis and every other new & old rightwing, sink or swim ideology, which by the way I don't think J. Young covered sufficiently. I think it was Bertrand Russell that said Nietzsche's was a philosophy suited for a madhouse, which is more or less were he ended up.
Nietzsche has been called a pessimist, nothing could be more inaccurate; any real pessimist knows better to say yes to this world. He tried to overturn Schopenhauer pessimism and failed. Optimism, philosophy's cousin to Walmart, is cheap, easy and sells. And anybody hoping that we could or will recapture the greatness of the Greeks is an optimist by definition.
Julian Young presents a picture different from the distant, arrogant, inscrutable, lugubrious character of some Nietzsche lore. Though sometimes depressed and suffering from chronic health problems (ultimately insanity), Nietzsche was a happy student, had important friends throughout his life, maintained active correspondence, and generally seemed to enjoy the company of others.
Of course Nietzsche, probably more than any other figure in modern philosophy, has been subject to varying and contradictory interpretations, and Young is not bashful in offering his. He claims that the fundamental interpretive issue is whether Nietzsche believed the outstanding individual to exist for the sake of the entire community, or, conversely, the community to exist for the sake of the outstanding individual. Young sides with community benefit (cultural uplift) as Nietzsche's chief aim.
While many may disagree with Young on some counts, even readers with considerable prior familiarity are likely to gain insight from the author's takes on key Nietzschean ideas -- on the Dionysian, the eternal return, the revaluation of values, self-overcoming, the will to power, and perspectivism, for instance. Young dissects each of Nietzsche's major works, moving section by section through Zarathustra in about twenty pages, for example.
Though Young is an admirer, this is no hagiography. He is often critical and is notably direct about Nietzsche's misogynism, in particular.
While occasionally Young comments on the views of other biographers and interpreters, readers should not expect much of a literature review in these pages. Young has read Nietzsche's works, notes, and correspondence comprehensively, but the secondary bibliography is relatively thin for a volume of this magnitude.
Consequently, this addition to the extensive body of Nietzsche scholarship is probably most appropriate for those already grounded in the basic controversies about him and his ideas. Readers new to Nietzsche might better be served by first going straight to some of his works for an introduction to his thought and style -- The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann, apparently remains in print and has served this purpose well for many thousands since its initial publication in 1954.
The chapter on Nietzsche's meeting with Lou Salome and its outcome is the best part of this book. In conclusion, one of two main problems with the text is the numerous typographical errors. The other is the lack of a works cited bibliography. Citations in the text are keyed to names but there are no book citations where they need to be. Disappointing for a university imprint, to say the least.
Most recent customer reviews
As another reviewer notes, it's pretty much plagiarism of Curtis Cate's book.Read more
of his life, you actually understand his life as a whole not
as bits and pieces others chose to...Read more