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Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist 4th Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691019833
ISBN-10: 0691019835
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Editorial Reviews


"Mr. Kaufmann has produced what may be called the definitive study of Nietzsche's life and thought-an informed, scholarly, and lustrous work."--The New Yorker


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 4th edition (February 1, 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691019835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691019833
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I found this book to be a great aid in understanding Nietzsche. Professor Walter Kaufmann does an admirable job describing the evolution of Nietzsche's philosophy, his anti-system yet systematic approach, the will to power, eternal recurrence and much more. I recommend reading at least Beyond Good and Evil before taking this on in order to get a feel for Nietzsche and his ideas.
Walter Kaufmann was arguably the best translator of Friedrich Nietzsche into any language and is responsible to a large extent for his rehabilitation after World War II. In contrast to those who attempt to trash Kaufmann (see especially the reviews to Will To Power) he was better equipped to interpret Nietzsche than the vast majority of amateur Nietzscheans today. First Kaufmann was German-born, meaning that he had a native ability with that language. Normally when choosing a translator it is the normal requirement that the target language - in the case of Nietzsche's German, English is the target language - is handled by a native speaker. Kaufmann was an exception to this rule in that his English was exceptional; his writing is better than most native English speakers. In addition to that he had the intuitive feel for Nietzsche's German that only a native speaker of that language could have. Consider too the cultural context. His generation was closer to Nietzsche's than ours, he grew up in and knew intimately the culture that had produced Nietzsche. With all this in mind, for someone to then come along, say a 30ish American with perhaps a smattering of High School German, and attempt to trash Kaufmann (all the while using his translations which one would expect were tainted) shows a distinct lack of intellectual consistency.
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Format: Paperback
As other reviewers have pointed out, with this book Walter Kaufmann almost single-handedly resuscitated Nietzche's reputation in the English-speaking world. And, Kaufmann's translations of Nietzsche's work are almost certainly the best available. This book is reasonably well written and lucid, and sets out a comprehensible interpretation of Nietzsche's work. If it weren't for H.L. Mencken's remarkably perceptive little book on Nietzsche published around the turn of the century (which I recommend), I'd say Kaufmann's book was the first really good thing on Nietzsche in English.

The polemics against other Nietzsche scholars are a little much. However, having read a number of the books of the Nietzsche-bashers Kaufman trashes, I tend to agree with him more than his critics, and in the context of the time they were written, I suppose they were not inappropriate.

Some reviewers have suggested Kaufmann lacks depth or sophistication, and there may be some truth in this. [Anecdote deleted which some of Kaufmann's admirers don't like. I am deleting it since the source will not permit his/her name to be used despite having told the story to a fairly large number of people]

It is mildly annoying that Kaufmann trashes every German edition of Nietzsche's work except the Musarion - a 1922 edition of which around 1,000 sets were printed. I was told only a hundred or so sets survived WWII and de-Nazification. I was fortunate enough to have access to it as graduate student at the University of California, but except for Kaufmann, I don't know of any sets in private hands. It is good, but almost inaccessible. I was the only one who had checked out several of the volumes, and in others I had to cut the pages.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book in an attempt to start my education of Nietzsche and his philosophy. I thought, at first glance, that it was a biography and a great place to start. I may have been wrong.

This text is not a biography. It is not light reading. In fact, it was written by one of the foremost scholars on the life and philosophy of the difficult Nietzsche and Kaufmann is highly intelligent himself. Though I was able to slowly read through this text, and it did offer absolutely invaluable insights, I would not suggest it for the passive or novice reader.

The reader does get a sense of what kind of a person Nietzsche was but this book is mainly concerned with his writings and ideas. Many of the works Nietzsche wrote are highlighted and presented in depth. However, far beyond this discussion of the writings of Nietzsche is a discussion of his ideas and their relevance. In this case, Kaufmann attempts something rarely indulged--a discussion of the ideas and thoughts of one of the most brilliant and revolutionary philosophers of recent times.

This is meat not milk.
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Format: Paperback
Walter Kaufmann wrote some of the best available translations of Nietzsche's work, most of which can only be appreciated by understanding how bad past scholarship was on Nietzsche. However, the issue for a book should be how well it speaks to us now, rather than how well it would have spoken to us then. How well suited is Kaufmann for this task?

First, Kaufmann has translated many poems, philosophers, and Nietzsche's work into English. This means he has intimiate familiarity with Nietzsche's use of various Germanic words.

Second, he was interested in existential philosophy in general. Kaufmann was also fascinated by many of the same people that Nietzsche found inspirational, particularly Goethe. While it is possible to accurately "translate" a text and give a meaning based upon pure linguistics and reading the text, an author that is able to place things within their proper historical standpoint shows a great deal more to the audience whenever ideas can be placed within other contexts.

Third, Kaufmann was a fan of Nietzsche. This is something important, as many philosophers butcher other philosopher's work that they do not like. Take, for example, Karl Popper's very famous misinterpretations of Hegel in "Open Society and Its Enemies".

Fourth, though he is often harsh towards other interpretators and commentators, (most often justifiably so), he has no doctrinal axe to grind. The most serious accusation is that he white-washed Nietzsche too much. I think most readers acquainted with Nietzsche will see where Kaufmann did this. Given that he was trying to remove the taint of the Nazis from Nietzsche, I can understand his white-washing, even if it's now antiquated.

Fifth, he has no real religious axe to grind.
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