Customer Reviews: The Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer (Penguin Classics)
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on April 26, 2005
Two excellent works. However, it might now be the best idea to deliver them in one package, as twilight is an awesome introduction to, and synopsis of, Nietzsche's philosophy and hence a good read for a first encounter with Nietzsche (and a parallel lecture to Zarathustra!), whereas Anthchrist is best understood with the background of Nietzsches other major works, hence more of a last or later read.

Nonetheless 5 stars for the quality of the content:

Twilight: It is extremely rare that a philosopher manages to write such a precise, witty, deep and to-the-point synopsis of his own ideas as Nietzsche did in Twilight - some of the best aphorisms and metaphors in modern philosophy!

Antichrist: Don't be fooled by the polemic style of the book: This is a brilliant psychological and historical analysis AND criticism of christianity. Under the skillful but fierce rhethoric it stays grounded in historic research and observations and substantiates its points with sound arguments. Christians who feel brave enough to think for themselves and test their faith must read this book, as it is a mindblowing exposition of the religion's underlying mechanisms and thoroughly challenges the belief with arguments that Christianity has yet to find answers to.
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on April 11, 2004
"Twilight" is the book i always recommend to first-time readers of Nietzsche: It is the most concise statement of his most important ideas. If you read only one book by Nietzsche, make it this one. Both Hollingdale's and Kaufmann's translations are readable and try to be as faithful to the original as possible in style and substance.
If you were raised Christian or have been a Christian, "Antichrist" is quite important as an exposition of dangers in the philosophical underpinings of Christianity (or "Paulism") as world view and praxis, beyond ordinary criticisms that usually focus on the hypocrisy of the Church, etc, which are ultimately less useful. A less important read for those who have never been Christians, especially as N deals in "Twilight" with the "undercover Christianity" (Kantianism, etc.) one is likely to encounter outside the church.
By the way, a previous reviewer cautioned readers that these books were edited by Elisabeth, Nietzsche's sister-- that reviewer was mistaken. She edited only "The Will to Power," which despite her claims was not a book at all but a collection of unconnected notebook entries not intended for publication. Avoid that book until you've read all the rest. "Twilight" and "Antichrist" were written in the prolific year before N became ill and were certainly intended for publication.
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on August 23, 1999
Hollingdale's translation of "Twilight of the Idols" and "The Antichrist" is a standard in the classroom. H.L. Mencken, who wrote what I believe was the first American study of Nietzsche in 1908, also translated "The Antichrist" (Mencken's title is "The Anti-Christ") in 1917. I cannot say which of the two translations is the more "accurate." But I can say that Mencken's recently re-issued translation (see listing) is the more interesting and compelling read of the two, and definitely deserves a look.
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on June 7, 2012
"Twilight of the Idols" and "The Anti-Christ" are two of the last books, both composed in 1888, that Nietzsche wrote before his final descent into syphilis-induced madness which occurred during the first week of 1889. They continue themes he had developed in his earlier work, and "The Anti-Christ" especially approaches Christianity with a particularly ferocious and critical eye.

As anyone who has thumbed through a volume of Nietzsche can tell you, his work isn't composed of clear, well-defined propositions to be ultimately accepted or rejected; instead, his arguments have a kind of ravishing rhetorical force to them. His writing is less apothegmatic here than in other work, but is still never syllogistic or ratiocinated in such a way that we usually associate with philosophy. This isn't a mistake; he intended his work to speak as much if not more through the force of style than anything else. In his "attack" on Socrates in the first book, he calls reason itself a "tyrant," and wonders if Socrates enjoys his "own form of ferocity in the knife-thrust of the syllogism."

The greatest part of "Twilight of the Idols" is the chapter called "Morality as Anti-Nature" in which he says that all moral systems up until now, and particularly Christianity, are wrong precisely because they try to deform and reshape human nature to their own image. For Nietzsche, the moral is the natural, but Christianity - and this is really an attack on all religious systems, though some more than others - stops being moral when it tries to impose concepts that are completely foreign to human beings like the idea that "everyone is created the same" or a selfless Christian charity. Whether or not you agree with the thrust of the argument, I found the idea of moral systems as rational attempts to remold nature an interesting one. Of course, people jump on these passages to try to make him look like some kind of nihilist or immoralist, when nothing could be further from the truth. He simply wants the principles and drives of human nature to inform ethical systems, not something foreign to them. Freud may have picked up on this, admitting as he did a great debt to Nietzsche. "The Anti-Christ" goes on to attack what I would call religious psychology, and especially the moral precepts of Christianity.

If you haven't read Nietzsche and have some sort of caricature of what he says in your head, start with this book, probably one of his most readable, which is ironic when considered in the light of his mental breakdown immediately thereafter. His attacks are never the ones you hear from atheists these days, that "the idea of God is irrational" or "we have no scientific evidence for such a being." His criticisms are fresh and invigorating, including accusations that the apostle Paul distorted Christ's message beyond measure and that Christianity focuses on another world essentially devaluing this one. Again, this isn't about agreement or disagreement with his basic assertions. (Some of the people on whom he had the biggest influence fundamentally disagreed with what he said.) It's the punch that he packs while delivering them. There was a reason why he subtitled the book "Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert" ("How to Philosophize with a Hammer").

Other than Nietzsche's writing itself, some of the most impressive things about him are the downright preposterousness of the criticisms that people levy against him, the sheer width and breadth of intellectual laziness with which people read him. Just from reading a small sampling of the reviews posted on this book alone, there are accusations of him "deriding self-control" and being "obnoxiously right-wing," the first a willful misreading, the second a risible attempt to foist a set of anachronistic political opinions on the ideas of a man who was hugely contemptuous of the German politics of his own day, left and right alike. Those who are trying to discover their token protofascist in Nietzsche would do better to look elsewhere, especially at his contemporaries Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, and Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, all of whose ideas make Nietzsche's supposed illiberalism look like mere child's play (for details, see either Fritz Stern's marvelous "The Politics of Cultural Despair" or my review of it posted on this site). That Nietzsche still serves as a lodestar around which people feel free to hang their own various political opinions can only be a testament to his continued cultural importance.
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on June 13, 2005
In this powerful work of philosophy, Nietzsche ponders the value of nearly everything. In the first text Twilight of the Idols, he offers a compelling attack on the prevalent beliefs of his time, including such thinkers as Hegel and Kant, as well as Socrates, theology, morality, and all things German. In the second text, the Anti-Christ, Nietzsche brilliantly and energetically provides his counter-arguement to Christianity and the ways the institution has distorted and murdered the teachings of Christ. His writing is breathtaking and his arguments are made in brief, explosive flashes of immense genius. However, his work can be exhausting as he continues to negate all thought besides his own, and his ability to draw references can be formidable. I'm sure the latter essay will not be palatable to devout Christians but it is necessary that you read it, for it will surely shake the foundations of your belief.
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on February 24, 2001
The two books nicely translated by Hollingdale are among Nietzsche's last four books. The other two being "Ecce Homo" and "The Case of Wagner." But it is this volume that presents Nietzsche's most blatant challenge to the foundations of Western thought, namely, rationalism and Christian values of love, hope, faith, and compassion. Nietzsche is in his most strident in "The Anti-Christ." He clearly saw himself as a world-transforming figure, who was to supplant the figure of Jesus, as he is presented in the Bible.
"The Anti-Christ" poses a difficult challenge to the critic. What aspect of the book is the most important one? By Nietzsche's own account, it is his desire to revaluate all values. If that is the ultimate goal of the book, then Nietzsche fails rather miserabley, as his version of new values offers little more than ruthlessness and principled denial of anything that stands in the way of raging power. However, if viewed as historical criticism, "The Anti-Christ" stand up as an interesting and, at times, insightful, read. Nietzsche continues to probe the psychological depth of the human soul, just as he did in the "Twilight of the Idols."
All in all, this is a must read for any student of philosophy, history, or politics. And here you will see an insightful philosopher and a literary master who, scandalized by the imiplications of Darwin's theory of evolution, constructed a nightmarish visions that would be used and misused by his pseudo-disciples, including the Nazis, to justify cruelty and absurdity. Of all 19th century philosophers, Nietzsche has the greatest impact on the intellectual developments in the humanities in continetal Europe. These two books will give you a taste of the strident and uncompromising genius, tortured by narrow-mindedness and abusrdities of the world, as well as by the bitterness that comes for the total lack of recognition.
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on November 12, 2004
"Twilight of the Idols" and "The Anti-Christ" are excellent works. There's no problem with them. Only there may be with my review, given that I read "Twilight," Saint Augustine's "Confessions," and "The Anti-Christ" in that order. It's not a good combination. And it may have motivated my negative (and now deleted) review of the "Confessions." You see, I'd just had Nietzsche explain to me that "the complete woman perpetrates literature in the same way that she perpetrates a little sin." Nietzsche takes a while to get used to.

In "Twilight," Nietzsche makes the point that there are four great logical errors: confusion of cause and consequence, false causality, imaginary causes, and free will. His illustration of the first is the claim that virtue causes happiness.

Another fine point is made in reference to liberal causes. While they are being fought for, they often promote freedom. But once they are attained, there is a restoration of the herd mentality, and freedom is a thing of the past at best. And one final point right before I read the "Confessions": "nothing is rarer among moralists and saints than integrity."

In "The Anti-Christ," Nietzsche strongly condemns Christianity. Nietzsche soon makes an important point which I happen to disagree with. He says that in condemning Christianity, he does not want to "wrong a kindred religion," namely Buddhism. After all, Buddhism's "supreme goal is cheerfulness, stillness, absence of malice, and this goal is achieved." He's right about Buddhism's goal, and he's right that it is achieved. But I think he's wrong about this being completely desirable: I think it removes so much emotion that it takes away some of what makes being human worthwhile.

Nietzsche is outraged by the fact that Christians have made a hero of Jesus, and uses words to describe it such as "an instinctive hatred of reality." He analyzes Christianity from this point of view: as a constant opponent of truth. And he concludes that it has caused distress, and that it has been a conspiracy against health, beauty, bravery, intellect, and life itself.

I think those who have a vague feeling that monotheistic attitudes are a natural part of the human spirit ought to read this book.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon September 29, 2014
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer, most known for his statement, "God is dead." He suffered a mental collapse, and spent the last eleven years of his life in a psychiatric clinic. He wrote many books, such as Basic Writings of Nietzsche,Thus Spoke Zarathustra,The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, the posthumously-published Will to Power, etc. As a young man, he even tried his hand at composition ].

The subtitle of "Twilight of the Idols" is, "How to Philosophize with a Hammer." He wrote in the Foreword, "To stay cheerful when involved in a gloomy and exceedingly responsible business is no inconsiderable art: yet what would be more necessary than cheerfulness? Nothing succeeds in which high spirits play no part. Only excess of strength is proof of strength---A revaluation of all values, this questionmark so black, so huge it casts a shadow over him who sets it up---such a destiny of a task compels one every instant to run out into the sunshine so as to shake off the seriousness grown all too oppressive... This book... is above all a relaxation, a sunspot, an escapade into the idle hours of a psychologist... This little book is a GRAND DECLARATION OF WAR; and as regards the sounding-out of idols, this time they are not idols of the age but ETERNAL idols which are here touched with the hammer as with a tuning fork---there are no more ancient idols in existence... Also none more hollow... That does not prevent their being the MOST BELIEVED IN; and they are not, especially in the most eminent case, called idols."

One of Nietzsche's most-quoted lines is included in the "Maxims and Arrows" section: The full quote is, "From the military school of life: What does not kill me makes me stronger." (§8, pg. 23)

He states, "All that philosophers have handled for millennia has been conceptual mummies; nothing actual has escaped from their hands alive. They kill, they stuff, when they worship, these conceptual idolaters---they become a mortal danger to everything when they worship. Death, change, age, as well as procreation and growth, are for them objections---refutations even... Now they all believe, even to the point of despair, in that which is. But since they cannot get hold of it, they look for reasons why it is being withheld from them.... Moral: denial of all that believes in the senses, of all the rest of mankind: all of that is mere `people.' Be a philosopher, be a mummy, represent monotono-theism by a gravedigger-mimicry! And away, above all, with the BODY, that pitiable idée fixe of the senses! infected with every error of logic there is, refuted, impossible even, notwithstanding it is impudent enough to behave as if it actually existed." (Sec. 1, pg. 35)

He adds in a brief essay, "What I Owe to the Ancients," "My taste, which may be called the opposite of a tolerant taste, is ever here far from uttering a wholesale Yes; in general it dislikes saying Yes, it would rather say No, most of all it prefers to say nothing at all.... This applies to entire cultures, it applies to books... It is really only a small number of books of antiquity which count for anything in my life; the most famous are not among them. My sense of style, of the epigram as style, was awoken almost instantaneously on coming into contact with Sallust.... I had the same experience on first coming into contact with Horace. From that day to this no poet has given me the same artistic delight as I derived from the very first from an Horatian ode... All other poetry becomes by comparison somewhat too popular---a mere emotional graciousness." (Pg. 105)

In "Anti-Christ," he says, "In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point. Nothing but imaginary CAUSES (`God,' `soul,' `ego,' `spirit,' `free will'--or `unfree will'): nothing but imaginary EFFECTS (`sin,' `redemption,' `grace,' `punishment,' `forgiveness of sins'). A traffic between imaginary BEINGS (`Gods,' `spirits,' `souls'); an imaginary NATURAL science... an imaginary PSYCHOLOGY... an imaginary TELEOLOGY (`the kingdom of God,' `the Last Judgment,' `eternal life'). This purely fictitious world is distinguished from the world of dreams... by the fact that the latter MIRRORS actuality, while the former falsifies, disvalues and denies actuality." (Sec. 15, pg. 125)

He argues, "The old God COULD no longer do what he formerly could. One should have let him go. What happened? One altered the conception of him: at this price one retained him. Yahweh the God of `justice'... now only a God bound by conditions. The new conception of him becomes an instrument in the hands of priestly agitators who henceforth interpret all good fortune as a reward, all misfortune as punishment for disobedience of God, for `sin'... When one has banished natural causality from the world by means of reward and punishment, one then requires an ANTI-NATURAL causality... A God who DEMANDS---in place of a God who helps, who devises means, who is fundamentally a word for every happy inspiration of courage and self-reliance... MORALITY no longer the expression of the conditions under which a nation lives and grows, no longer a nation's deepest instinct of life, but become abstract, become the antithesis of life---morality as a fundamental degradation of the imagination, as an `evil eye' for all things." (Sec. 25, pg. 136)

He asserts, "And now an absurd problem came up: `How COULD God have permitted that?' For this question the deranged reason of the little community found a downright terrifyingly absurd answer: God gave his Son for the forgiveness of sins, as a SACRIFICE. All at once it was all over with the Gospel! The GUILT SACRIFICE, and that in its most repulsive, barbaric form, the sacrifice of the INNOCENT MAN for the sins of the guilty! What atrocious paganism! For Jesus had done away with the concept `guilt' itself---he had denied any chasm between God and man, he LIVED this unity of God and man as HIS `glad tidings'... And NOT as a special prerogative... Paul, with the rabbinical insolence which characterizes him in every respect, rationalized this interpretation, this INDECENCY of an interpretation... All at once the Evangel became the most contemptible of all unfulfillable promises, the IMPUDENT doctrine of personal immortality... Paul himself even taught it as a REWARD!" (Sec. 41, pg. 153-154)

Not as enlightening as "Zarathustra," "Beyond Good and Evil," "Genealogy," etc., these two late works are still "must reading" for anyone seriously studying Nietzsche.
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on June 14, 2014
adding in his imortal tomes "Beyond Good and Evil" and "The Gay Science" (better tanslated as "Joyful Wisdom") make his count four in the top ten of western philosophy in my humble opinon ... best known for his oft-misinterpreted statement, "God is Dead", most will always leave out the second half of the statement wherein Nietzsche adds, " ...and who has killed him? It is you and I ... " ... people like to use the simple three word phrase and to drag his name thru the mud as a hateful atheist who unjustly attacked the Christian-Judeo religion ... with only the three word statement this attitude could be seen as accurate ... but when adding the rest of Nietzsche's thought on this three word damnation, he attaches the blaim to himself and every other person, even those who worship the "triune god" had a hand in killing this god ...

in these other two masterpieces from Nietzsche, we get a complete picture of his views that in the earliest translations were changed by his sister who served as his "eyes" by writing for the blind philosopher as well as the twisting of his philophical writing by the Nazis before and during the Second World War, espeically his discussion of the "superman"... so his "bad name" was made for him and sustained until more accurate translations could be obtained long after his death ...

but no one philospher can outdo Nietzsche when it comes to the truest view of mankind not to mention the accuracy of his description of the species that is mankind ... these should be required reading in American schoolrooms as it is at a younger age that readings of important literary and philosophical works are fully appreciated and examined before the brainwashing by the various Christian-Judeo cults ... once a human is past age 25 it seems that they will not accept anything other than what they have to that point accepted and built into the philosophy of a particular human being and from then on, only a severe traumatic episode will begin to change their deepest thinking.
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VINE VOICEon October 17, 2007
Ours is a time not that very different from that of Nietzsche's. We too live in a kind of Victorian hell, a genteel time of right thinking professors who would make Nietzsche feel as unwelcome as did his "betters," who recognized he was a genius but didn't want him around. "Twilight of the Idols" is a lot of fun to read. It is exhilarating to read such frankness, without the American way of combining honestly with profanity. It is straight talk on the decline of German culture. I will leave it to the reader to decide if this may be applied to our once great country. Nietzsche's great insight in his time was to return to the Greeks, but to cast Plato aside, in favor of the great historian Thucydides, who immortalized the rhetoricians, such as Pericles, and sang the praises of the speaker and doer of deeds in contrast to the "armchair" thinkers such as Socrates. Nietzsche seems to be the ultimate heavy, but he is a hoot to read and seems to have had as much fun writing this work as I have had reading it.
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