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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

on February 28, 2007
I must first confess that I am not a student of philosophy. I have become interested in the subject at the age of 38. I have now read books on Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hobbes, Hume and Schopenhauer. I have to admit that I don't think that I understand half of what I read. This is the reason why I don't read the actual work of the philosopher at this time. I need to understand a little more about the philosophy of the author before I can understand the actual works.

With that being said, I did read the Geneology of Morals by Nietzsche before I read the Guidebook. I was not sure I understand half of what Nietzsche had to say in the acutal work. Because I had read the actual work, I believe I got more out of the Guidebook. I would suggest reading the work first or at least each essay before that portion of the book.

The Guidebook is a very good book for a full and better understanding of Nietzsche's thoughts on morality. I was happy to learn that I understood more of the actual work than I thought I had. However, the Guidebook was a wonderful book to follow the reading of the actual work. Mr. Leiter has a wonderful way of explaining Nietzsche's writing. He is clear and concise and places the writing in its proper historical context.

If you are interested in Nietzsche's view of morality and don't quite understand it, then this book will assit you in that understanding. If you don't read the actual work, this book will still be clear enough so that you can understand Nietzsche's thoughts on morality.

I realize that some may not agree with Lieter's interpreation of Nietzsche's Geneology of Morality. However, in philosophy, I am not sure there is one correct way to interpret such writings. Therefore, in the end, this is one very good book on Nietzsche's morality.
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on August 24, 2006
I've looked at a number of analyses of Nietzsche's writings, and this one is by far the best for someone reading this philosopher for the first time, as well as for anyone who has read around in Nietzsche without coming away with any clear conception of what exactly it was all supposed to be about. The book focuses on Nietzsche's theories of morality as set out in 'On the Genealogy of Morality,' but in doing so it also provides entre to the man's work and his central concerns more generally. The great virtue of Leiter's book is its organized and systematic approach to Nietzsche; what Leiter has provided is essentially a carefully crafted and well supported argument as to what Nietzsche was up to, and why. You can't jump around in the text, and you have to read carefully. But if you do, you will discover a model of how to lay out a clear intellectual case, end to end, and without skipping any steps.

Leiter's book also succeeds in rescuing Nietzsche from interpreters who had distorted his work as part of an effort to enlist Nietzsche in support of one or another relativist, postmodern agenda. Nietzsche's style and form of exposition has always lent itself to cherry-picking, unfortunately; but this book will make it much more difficult to do that sort of thing convincingly in the future.

A superb job. Highest possible recommendation.
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on November 23, 2002
This book is a clear, philosophically competent and intellectually convincing contribution to contemporary Nietzsche studies. For those who don't know it, or indeed might not suspect it, Nietzsche studies is a burgeoning field within what was once called analytic philosophy. There are now a number of articles and books and, perhaps surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), quite a number of them focus on Nietzsche's fascinating Genealogy of Morals. With this book Leiter has provided a 'flagship' of sorts for this movement. But this book is also a lucid introduction to Nietzsche's work on ethics. I won't say too much about the details, because if you are reading these reviews, there's every chance that you'll be either buying the book, or looking at it at a bookstore near you. If there's anything it would be this: I would've liked a slightly more thorough and more critical treatment of sophistry and the sophists, and N's attitude to these. So many of the best and most important debates in philosophy center around the ideas of truth (or justification) vs. rhetoric (or what Rorty calls intersubjective agreement), that it would be good to have this stuff treated more closely.
I'll end by addressing the question of Leiter's tone. I didn't feel that his treatment of other critics was excessively harsh. Sure, arguably he wasn't as polite as some people would like, but there's a tradeoff between candour and politeness: in letting his biases and prejudices hang out -- while also defending his position cogently and clearly in a manner typical of the analytical genre -- he sheds light on what others have written. particularly liked his aside on Deleuze and Hegel: pace Deleuze, Nietzsche (Leiter opines), ISN'T interested in refuting Hegel, for Hegel was by Nietzsche's time no longer as relevant as Kant. Deleuze's reputation, at least in some circles, is oddly enough so high that it is nice to see him taken down a notch or two.
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on July 6, 2004
What "thordane" said! This is a remarkably clear, sympathetic, closely reasoned book on Nietzsche, the only one I've read that made me think how happy N. would've been to read it. I'm only up to his treatment of the 2d essay in the "Genealogy," but on every major point, L. is simply RIGHT about N. I was unaware that, as thordane observes, the analytic folks were getting into N., and if this book's any indication, it's a great thing. (Analytic method + continental scope = good philosophy.) Students & others who begin their reading of N. with a copy of the "Basic Writings" and this book will save themselves a LOT of wasted time.

UPDATE: Finishing the book, I'm no less impressed. Wanted to reply to "A reader" who was unhappy with Leiter:

"Essentially, Leiter claims to have have the only non-'misreading' of Nietzsche in the literature [eg, from the Preface, ' aim here is to provide what has heretofore been unavailable:namely, a book-length overview of Nietzsche's ethics that will be of use not only to Nietzsche students and scholars, but also too moral philsophers...']. Thus, past critics, including Bertrand Russell, Alexander Nehamas, Martha Nussbaum, and his own colleague at the U of Texas,Robert C. Solomon, are dismissed with barely veiled contempt."

Not so; L. says he's providing "a book-length overview of N's ethics," which none of the "past critics" listed has provided. Moreover, as far as N. criticism is concerned, Russell DESERVES to be dismissed with barely veiled contempt, not that L. does so in the quoted passage. Nehamas and Nussbaum are far from perfect either.

"Moreover, I find his attempt to, in essence, claim for Nietzsche a unified theory of ethics comparable to Kant to be quite unconvincing."

Comparable to Kant how? In being unified, i.e., not self-contradictory? Be unconvinced, but I think L. is right that if N.'s interesting, he's not just some random nut but is actually making sense. But if "comparable to Kant" means *substantively* comparable, that's just not what L.'s writing.

So much utter trash has been written about N. that you can't be a N. scholar without getting a little "sour" about the published nuts cluttering your field!
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on December 18, 2005
Brian Leiter is a very active academic and not only in his publishing productivity but even more so in his enthusiasm and advocacy of good scholarly work. He also happens to be one of the foremost contemporary Nietzsche scholars. Yay for us!

Leiter is cutting edge. He's active and engaged in the philosophic and legal communities, and it shows throughout this book. It is structured very well so as to be easy to follow, but it doesn't drop any academic quality in order to be accessible to the uninitiated. It's a great guide for introducing Nietzsche but would also be beneficial to philosophers and educated lay people.

An earlier commenter noted that Leiter spends all his time talking about how much better he knows Nietzsche than the earlier scholars. This a claim that is wholly without merit. Any corrections and harsh words the author has for earlier N scholars are necessary not only because they inform the development of N scholarship but because they ARE wrong. Leiter's vigor in this area is not unusual or off-putting.

As a conservative type, I don't particularly agree with or even like Brian Leiter's views generally, but no one can deny him just desserts. He's written a book that holds even against his own high standards and done so in a way that most everyone can enjoy. Highly recommended!
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on October 31, 2002
...The book I read, which is unusually lucid
in its discussion of Nietzsche (and doesn't do anything to make
Nietzsche a syetematic moral philosopher like Kant!), in fact
contains detailed critical engagements with Nehamas, Nussbaum,
Clark, Ridley, and many other commentators. The line in the
preface which has our Californian so agitated is a reference to
the fact that there are almost no books on Nietzsche's moral
philosophy, which is true. I can think of only one, by Peter
Berkowitz, and it is fairly dreadful. In any case, I think
Maudemarie Clark, quoted on the dustjacket gets it about right:
"Leiter's book is both a major contribution to Nietzsche studies
and a very helpful guide for students." Cheers and happy reading!
16 people found this helpful
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I have read around 15 books on Nietzsche and this one is the best. It is fair-minded, well-organized, and thoroughly argued. The prose is lucid and the ideas are intelligent. Professor Leiter has made an outstanding contribution to Nietzsche scholarship. And I love his philosophy blog!
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on December 21, 2010
This work is a treasure for a Nietzsche scholar. Rigorous and lucid, it is the best available guidebook to Nietzsche's most important work - the Genealogy.
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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.
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