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Caution advised: two and a half stars
on January 12, 2007
I can understand why many reviewers have found Leiter's Nietzsche accessible however I believe Leiter ultimately misleads his readers into believing that Nietzsche is in fact a ''classical realist''. Whilst such a metaphysical label may seem besides the point when dealing with Nietzsche's views on ethics readers should be advised that any reading of Nietzschean ''perspectivism'' will be highly significant in the interpretation of Nietzsche that follows, and and this is nowhere more clearly evidenced than in Leiter's ''guidebook''.
This is not to say that one should not read Leiter's book (which I had wanted to rate with two and a half stars) for it does supply a clear/jargon-free, if imperfect, reading of ''On the Genealogy of Morals'' as well as serving to introduce the reader to the contemporary contoversies surrounding exactly what Nietzsche's philosophical activity ammounts to.
Leiter's polemical interpretation is frequently dogmatic in its assertions, and in that it is aimed at undergraduates, and is written in an unambiguous analytical style, will no doubt prove highly influential to many budding students of philosophy. Knowing what undergraduates can be like I only hope that students coming to Nietzsche for the first time round will read Nietzsche themselves (don't forget his important prefaces) rather than simply viewing him through Leiter's ''lens''.
I advise reading both this book and Clark's ''Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy'' (Clark's reading of Nietzsche as an empirical realist is similar to Leiter's, and both authors agree to a certain extent in their (mis)interpretations of GM III: 12 and TI: IV), alongside Schrift's ''Nietzsche and the Question of Interpretation'', Nehamas' ''Nietzsche: Life as Literature'', and Allison's introduction: ''Reading the New Nietzsche'' for balance. Of course whilst these texts will provide this balance for any academic study of Nietzsche you must read him for yourself (and preferably before you resort to commentary). I made the mistake of reading Schacht's detailed ''Nietzsche'' before reading Nietzsche himself which, despite also being a clear and detailed commentary on Nietzsche (in Routledge's ''Arguments of the Philosopher's'' series), initially misled me: it soon became clear that on reading Nietzsche's remarkable works all systematic, and often dogmatic, accounts of Nietzsche's ''philosophy'' eventually over-determine the primary texts - for this reason I find the pluralistic (not necessarily relativistic) commentaries of Nehamas, Allison and Schrift to be more appropriate interpretations.
However we read Nietzsche we should be aware that that he sought to expose the fundamentally perspectival nature of existence, and the Heraclitian, perpetual flux of becoming. How we understand this will dramatically effect the way we interpret Nietzsche, including how we understand his genealogy and psychology. Ultimately I believe that an unhasty reading of Nietzsche reveals a thinker very different from the one Leiter portrays in ''Nietzsche on Morality''. Best of luck.