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Beyond Good and Evil Kindle Edition
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Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) had studied theology (which he didn't finish) and philology (the study of language in written historical scources); he became a professor of philology at the university of Basel in 1869, but had to resign in 1879 due to ill health. Nietzsche collapsed in 1889, causing him to become mentally ill, and needed to be cared for until his death in 1900. It has been thought that his collapse was caused by syphilis, but this diagnosis is no longer believed to be correct. The cause of his illness is not known.
In this work Nietzsche critises old philosophers and some of their views on 'free will', knowledge, truth, etc. He felt that the philosophers in the past had not been critical enough about morality, accepting the Chistian views on this theme without questioning those views. Nietzsche tells in this book what qualities philosophers should have, he believed philosophers should move on, into the area 'beyond good and evil'.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in modern philosophy, this book will make you think about some of your ideas about good and bad. You don't have to agree with him to gain new insight from this book. Nietzsche was a great writer, his works are written in a lively way. For Nietzsche rhetoric was more important than logic. As a sample of his way of writing I copy a few lines from this volume at the bottom of this review. This book was translated in the 19th century, so the language is a bit dated.
The work consists of 296 numbered sections and the poem "From High Mountains". The sections are organized into nine parts, the contents of this book:
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
CHAPTER I: PREJUDICES OF PHILOSOPHERS
CHAPTER II: THE FREE SPIRIT
CHAPTER III: THE RELIGIOUS MOOD
CHAPTER IV: APOPHTHEGMS AND INTERLUDES
CHAPTER V: THE NATURAL HISTORY OF MORALS
CHAPTER VI: WE SCHOLARS
CHAPTER VII: OUR VIRTUES
CHAPTER VIII: PEOPLES AND COUNTRIES
CHAPTER IX: WHAT IS NOBLE?
FROM THE HEIGHTS (POEM TRANSLATED BY L.A. MAGNUS)
From chapter 7, section 214 (page 70/location 1505):
214. OUR Virtues?--It is probable that we, too, have still our virtues,
although naturally they are not those sincere and massive virtues on
account of which we hold our grandfathers in esteem and also at a little
distance from us. We Europeans of the day after tomorrow, we firstlings
of the twentieth century--with all our dangerous curiosity, our
multifariousness and art of disguising, our mellow and seemingly
sweetened cruelty in sense and spirit--we shall presumably, IF we must
have virtues, have those only which have come to agreement with our most
secret and heartfelt inclinations, with our most ardent requirements:
well, then, let us look for them in our labyrinths!--where, as we know,
so many things lose themselves, so many things get quite lost! And is
there anything finer than to SEARCH for one's own virtues? [...]
FN is well on his way to the deserved title of “The Anti-Christ” with this work. Many of his points of view will be controversial and very contrary to contemporary popular thought. At the very least his points of view could be considered to be anti-social.
He is contemptuous of many main-stream classical and (then) contemporary philosophers for many of their perceived short –comings and is critical of them for failing to identify and support their a priori assumptions. However, he does not clearly identify his own a priori position before going on to develop his controversial theories. It would seem that he is long on opinion but short on supporting rationale.
None-the-less, FN makes statements that seem to have strong elements of truth based on the personal experiences of this reader. And history would clearly lend support to many, if not all, of his controversial points of view.
One of the main points of any philosophical system is the a priori starting point which can not be proven and must be taken as inviolate. It must be assumed as the starting point from which the entire philosophical system then springs forth. Our personal value systems dictate what a priori starting point we each assume.
But do we ever question our assumed starting point? Mostly it would seem that we assume what we have been taught to be “good” really is universally “good”. But good for whom? Good in what set of circumstances? Are these questions ever asked? Are they ever answered?
FN would certainly dispute the American patriotic cliché that “All men are created equal”. And the truth of his contrary assertions appear to be almost beyond dispute. There clearly IS an innate “pecking order” among humans; as with all animal species. Not everyone has the same capacity to perform or the same values by which to assess the success of their performance.
It is not that revealed by a man which is most interesting, but that which is concealed.
As for the book itself, Beyond Good and Evil is the ideal introduction to Nietzsche. It is Nietzsche in full bloom, but without the excesses of his later works. Nietzsche only got better, but the more he developed stylistically as a writer, the more cryptic was his message. In the words of Heidegger, all that Nietzsche wrote after Zarathustra was "polemics." In Beyond Good and Evil, the style is there, and his ideas are fully developed, and while he is goes out of his way to be provocative, he is less flamboyant than in Zarathustra, and less inscrutable than he is in some of his later writings.