What Nietzsche Really Said 1st Edition
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-- Arthur C. Danto, Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Columbia University
"Here is the thread of Ariadne that will lead you through the labryinth of Nietzsche's philosophy."
-- Sam Keen, author of Learning to Fly
"Like all aphoristic thinkers, Nietzsche seems often to contradict himself. Being not only a philosopher but also an artist, he is not easy to understand -- hence many misunderstandings and prejudices. This book recontructs the true Nietzsche, who often -- as a skeptic -- Nietzsche himself has deconstructed."
-- John-François Revel, coauthor of The Monk and the Philosopher
From the Inside Flap
Friedrich Nietzsche's aggressive independence, flamboyance, sarcasm, and celebration of strength have struck responsive chords in contemporary culture. More people than ever are reading and discussing his writings. But Nietzsche's ideas are often overshadowed by the myths and rumors that surround his sex life, his politics, and his sanity. In this lively and comprehensive analysis, Nietzsche scholars Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins get to the heart of Nietzsche's philosophy, from his ideas on "the will to power" to his attack on religion and morality and his infamous Übermensch (superman).
What Nietzsche Really Said offers both guidelines and insights for reading and understanding this controversial thinker. Written with sophistication and wit,
- Item Weight : 9.3 ounces
- Paperback : 263 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780805210941
- ISBN-13 : 978-0805210941
- Product Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Schocken; 1st Edition (January 30, 2001)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0805210946
- Best Sellers Rank: #241,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Nietzsche's style and manner, so foreign to most of us, is his purpose. While Nietzsche has a handful of strong beliefs, his overriding belief is that of liberation from the imprisonment of our Western inheritance. Hostile to received Traditions, Nietzsche is determined to find alternative perspectives, but he's not about to become the very thing that he deplores, another dogmatist. Hence, rather than compelling arguments, a coherent world view, a grand metaphysic, an endorsement of slave morality, or other dogmatic claims, Nietzsche's scheme of liberation is to tear down the inherited frameworks, and give direction, but few prescriptions, to the alternatives. Solomon provides a fresh, clear, and coherent distillation of that project.
The project is inherently dangerous, and has been misused and abused by many, most notably Hitler. Nietzsche is partly responsible, because his deconstruction is more obvious than his reconstruction. But the new paradigm that Nietzsche intended had little to do with Hitler's agenda and misappropriation. Solomon is able to give us a "truer" Nietzsche, with a number of caveats, provisional claims, and a lot of tentativeness. But these "reservations" and "provisional perspectives" are themselves at the core of Nietzsche's existentialist thought. Rather than create a new metaphysic out of whole cloth, Nietzsche is content with providing the tools for us to work them out for ourselves. And yes, that's risky.
The hyper-rationalism inherited from Socrates's logocentrism, the "slave" morality inherited from Judeo-Christian nihilism, and the denial of our "animal" natures by the whole of Western philosophy are just a few of Nietzsche's targets. Such a logocentric, slavish, and dispassionate perspective is utterly false. To demonstrate the error, Nietzsche frequently finds resources in the pre-Socratics, where free inquiry still occurred, and where dogmatism is less evident. And one of Nietzsche's schemes is the use of the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus as tools for reconciliation. Apollo represents the strong, forceful, rational, and brave; Dionysus represents the carefree, receptive, emotive, and joyful. Unlike nearly all of Western Tradition, which sets Apollo over Dionysus, Nietzsche desires their reunification in an integral self.
Despite Solomon's masterful and persuasive overview, in a surprisingly short space, further synopsis here is not feasible. Suffice it for my purposes to hail this work as a great achievement, worthy of wide readership, and a life-affirming alternative to the West's nihilistic and impoverished "Man." Many, if not most, of Nietzsche's new perspectives on the integral life of "becoming who one is," rather than conforming to malformed conception of Humanity from Western nihilism, is truly liberating. Also, I'm more convinced than ever that direct acquaintance with Nietzsche is still improbable, at least for me, and I suspect for many. That makes Solomon's contribution even more valuable. In addition to Solomon and Kaufman, Rollo May (esp.) and Eric Fromm offer great insight from the psychological tradition.
In the wadi of nihilism and despair of the present day, despite our technological achievements to placate us, we are right to want a wholly different perspective about the most pressing questions about life itself. Our inherited Traditions have failed because they are fundamentally wrong. Fortunately, we can still reconnect with our true selves and make our lives meaningful and joyous once again. Nietzsche's seminal ideas can be of immense help, and Solomon's and Kaufman's, Fromm's, and May's insights from Nietzsche's treasury of wisdom are now accessible to those of us who cannot abide his confusion, enigma, and ambiguity. Highly recommended.
Solomon has a later book, 'Living With Nietzsche,' that overlaps a good deal with this one. This is the better written and more useful of the two. If you are looking to follow this one with a somewhat more advanced analysis, I'd recommend Brian Leiter's 'Nietzsche on Morality,' which is excellent.
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Such as? How about exploring Nietzsche by facing thirty of the most virulent rumours about him (Chapter 1)? Or by providing directions for interpreting his books, as well as a helpful overview of them (Chapter 2)? Or by discussing those other thinkers that Nietzsche admired and/or loathed (Chapter 5)? Or by providing an account of Nietzsche's favourite 'virtues' (chapter 6)?
This is all first rate, different and stimulating. So why only three stars? The content is human, all too human. Nietzsche said he was not a man, he was dynamite. Well according to this account, Nietzsche resembles not so much dynamite as a liberal professor of philosophy in the twenty-first century. Which, of course, is exactly what our non-intrepid authors are. Yes, they have fallen into that trap.
For instance, it appears that Nietzsche had a massive but secret respect for feminine traits (189) as well as a desire to work "to the benefit of the greater good" (185). This was news to me, and, I trow, Nietzsche too! Nietzsche's praise for Cesare Borgia was "ironic" (14-15). Nietzsche was probably gay (24). Nietzsche did not really have a theory of the Superman or the will-to-power (214-222). Nietzsche was 'spiritual' (96-102). He was a proponent of now trendy 'virtue ethics'. By the time our authors have finished, I was left wondering why anyone ever thought Nietzsche was shocking in the first place.
Although I'm a child in my understanding of Nietzsche, here's my take on what seems to be happening. Because of his military language and elitist doctrines, people suspected that Nietzsche's associations with Nazism might have weight. Then Walter Kaufmann came along and lifted this burden with sound scholarship. But the pendulum has now swung too far the other way, with Nietzsche essentially clipped of all his danger and offence. He has become an object of scholarly research by people who wouldn't have had much time for him in his day...or vice versa!
Diatribe over, I can freely admit that this book is extremely readable, mildly quirky, and has an excellent appendix on "Nietzsche's Bestiary: A Glossary of His Favourite Images". Moreover, the authors made strong attempts to apply Nietzsche to some contemporary issues, a quest I very much appreciate. So much so, in fact, that I've purchased Solomon's 'Living with Nietzsche' which I will review in due course. In it, I hope the brushstrokes will be a little less broad with a Nietzsche a little less tamed.
Post Scriptum, the book's title contains one of the most hyperbolic claims since Nietzsche explained "Why I Am A Destiny". Nietzsche was writing ironically; it seems our authors were not. There's a lesson in that somewhere...