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on July 31, 2001
The first work of Philosophy I slogged through was Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, in a standalone edition translated by Kaufman. I suppose that is as good a place to start as any. The most important thing that this volume highlights is how easily anything Niezsche said can be so easily taken out of context and abused by anyone who so chooses. For example, his "blond beast" is quite literally a lion, and not an Aryan Superman.
Work by work analysis:
The Birth of Tragedy -- Only attempt this as your first Nietzsche book if you already have a good understanding of how Greek Tragedy works. At the very least, you should have read Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, Sophocles' Theban Plays, some Euripides, Aristophanes' The Clouds, Plato's Apology, and if possible, Aristotle's Poetics. Also, as Kaufman makes clear, the last ten sections, about Wagner, should be taken with a shakerful of salt.
The Aphorisms -- It is very easy to take these gems especially out of context. However tempting it is to browse them for a few good quotes, I strongly urge you against it. They are, however, very helpful when Nietzsche refers to them.
Beyond Good and Evil -- This is as good a place as any to start your exploration of Nietzsche. The problem is, even though it is supposed to be a more straightforward approach at communicating the message found in Zarathustra, this is still written very pithily. The prose is very joyful, poetic, and requires thought. Then again, if you weren't willing to commit some thought to Nietzsche, then it's not worth picking up Nietzsche.
On The Geneology of Morals -- A sequel to BG&E. I don't suggest starting here. The prose is more straightforward than BG&E, he is attemting polemic in essay form. Yet still, it is still a voice in your head, consipring with you, coaxing you toward understanding. Here, the prose style of BG&E becomes apparent.
The Case of Wagner -- This is a good shakerful of thought to take the last ten sections of Birth of Tragedy. In fact, this is a good shakerful of thought to take all of Nietzsche's work. I read this with only the very barest background on Wagner, that is I've heard one Aria from The Ring (Three minutes of Brunhilde), The Flight of the Valkeries (I still see tanks), and I know somewhere, Vahalla burns down. Still, the work makes sense. Stylistically, this work is absolutely amazing. It's very relaxed and informal, again, conversational. Nietzsche doesn't even sound angry, but just wants to clear the air a litte, almost naively.
Ecce Homo -- This would seem like a very pretentious work. It is not. He comes off almost modestly here. This too, clears the air of all that is rotten about what has been said about him. It is as if he had guessed what evil things would be said about him.
Oh yes, and if it seems like I wrote this assuming that you already ordered the work, I have.
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on December 24, 2003
This book helped me understand the basic, elemental criticisms and beliefs of Nietzsche. It contained several of his works and allowed me to deeply understand other, more complex philological writings later on.
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on February 2, 2004
There is a common view that Nietzsche was an atheist. He certainly encourages this view, but as Walter Kaufmann says, he commonly attacked what he valued. There is no doubt that Nietzsche opposed the Jewish and Christian Gods. He said he opposed the Jewish religion because it gave rise, in his view, to Christianity. The view of Paul Tillich that he opposed the god who deprives the individual of subjectivity is beyond much doubt. Kaufmann puts it in terms of Nietzsche's struggle for creativity. He opposed the god which is identified with natural law and causality. To understand this opposition one must understand the God whom Tillich says Nietzsche says must be destroyed, which is natural law, spacial relationships and most of all the mechanistic nature of causality. To understand this one must visualize the balance, the principal characterisktic of God in the Old Testament of the Bible. To grasp this takes more than a little doing. It is hidden in texts. If, however, you try a little experiment, you will be able to actually see the God whom Nietzsche thought had to be destroyed. Take a pencil and hold it at the center between your fingers and move one end up and the other down. Notice that if one end goes up the other goes down. This is IF and THEN; between them is the shaft of the pencil, which is AND. The movement of the pencil is a moving syllogism. It is the beginning of the infinity of causal relationships which Spinoza considers. It is also a lever, the fundamental machine, the basis of the mechanical nature of the universe. It is also the principal of economics; let yourself think of the balance for trade and you will see. Money on one side and goods on the other. If the fulcrum is in the center, the match is even; if the fulcrum is nearer one end, mechanical advantage and economic advantage can be seen and understood. It is also the principle of justice.
It is the breaking of the balance, the breaking of the visualized relationship between cause and effect which is the essence of Christianity. Nietzsche opposed Christianity not because it anulled visualizing the mechanical relationship between cause and effect, but rather because it changes the meaning of the word "meek" to be what it has come to mean in the expressionin "The meek shall enherit the earth" rather than the Old Testament meaning of "logical". Moses, the author of logic in the Bible was said to be the meekest man who ever lived. "Meek" in Judaism meant subordinate to God, not subordinate to other humans. God in the Old Testament shows himself in balance, so Moses is the lawgiver of logic, not humility before other men and his people before other peoples. Nietzsche says "Fight! Do not work" and he means create from nothing, do not move around things already created. "I love that which creates something greater than itself and dies," says Nietzsche. The human mind independent of the rule that governs the universe and not timid before others--this is what Nietzsche meens by "The Will to Power". It is also what Nietzsche means by "God is dead." As Kaufmann points out, it is more than the Protestant "invention" of the individual, it is the knowing self, aware of the governing power of the universe, creating in spite of this knowledge, refusing to be timid before other men whom Nietzsche calls the "Ubermench" or Superman.
The "Ubermench" KNOWS, but he and CREATES rather than simply moving about "dead ideas", he acts knowing that the LAW of the universe may destroy him. But the "Ubermench" will CREATE before he is destroyed by the world whose governing law he understands. The "Ubermench" is not an ignorant man not seeing the order of the universe, whose mind and spirit are where "Ignorant armies clash by night." Nietzsche knows that pain is part of his creativity. He accepts that pain. He knows that the mockery of the crowd who do not know as he knows may come, but he is willing to suffer that. If this interests you, see my review of Paul Tillich's "Courage to Be".
Historian Will Durant in his book "The Story of Philosophy" has a very different and unflattering view of Nietzsche. Durant thought Nietzsche was simply a neurotic who had nothing wrong with him which could not have been cured by the love of a good woman.
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on December 13, 2003
This is an excellent introduction to Nietzsche's philosphy with some of the major and most acknowledged of Nietzsche's works (it could have done better having Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Antichrist, but the problem is easily fixed by the Complete Nietzsche also purchaseable here on amazon). However, here lies the problem. These are the most acknowledged wors of Nietzsche, and as Kaufmann himself states in his biography of Nietzsche, Nietzsche's more private philosphy is a bit different from that which he put in his most famous book. Of course this is not as to discredit the philospher of the Complete works, but simply that the Complete works could have also included some of the lesser known material, as the Complete nietzsche does.
As to the critics of the inconsistency of Nietzsche's philosophy I have a message also. First of all ,and most fundamentaly, I do not understand why Nietzsche is observed in terms of other philosphers. If someone wants to disprove Nietzsche for his contrdictions and fallacies Nietzsche must not be viewed in terms of an unrelated outside subjects but in the terms of Nietzsche himself. If his critics would have done that and knew Nietzsche better than they apparently claim to, they would have known that Nietzsche was very dynamic in his philosphy, something that makes him attractive and easy to relate to. It is exactly this progress from religious to nihilistic to hopeful that produces an illusion of contradictions, while all along this are simple faults in trying to bridge the philosphies together without having to refute his older beliefs (Hollingdale, Intro to Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Penguin Classics ed.). While some might believe that the dynamismn of Nietzsche destroys his credibility, the effect is obviously opposite. It is through his growth and incredible 180 turns that he is able to polish his philosphy and make it as perfect as possible. His philosphy is not something as static as of Kant (poor old Kant seemd to be obsessed with Critiques), and static philosophies leave a lot of room in themselves for mistakes. Change, as Nietzsche believed was a fundamental process, and he especially stated this in a Zarathustra chapter, the name of which I cannot recall; it is a process that solidifies and perfects man, and this is what Nietzsche did to his philosphy.
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on November 25, 1999
This book is the best collection of Nietzsche's writings. Kaufmann's translation is incomparable; it has energy, wit; its language is a delight. In other translations Nietzsche comes off as much more ponderous.
The Birth of Tragedy is a good place to start for knowledge of the early Nietzsche and is an indispensible book for understanding what came later. The Genelogy of Morals is the least aphoristic of Nietzsche's writings and provides an extended treatment of Nietzsche's famous and infamous views on morality, especially Christian morality. Beyond Good and Evil is aphoristic brilliance containing many of Nietzsche's most famous ideas.
The one thing that would make this book perfect is the addition of Kaufmann's translation of the Gay Science.
For those interested in Nietzsche there is no better place to start than this book.
Nietzsche like Plato and unlike most philosophers really knew how to write. His writing is brilliant, original, and his style has no peer. Kaufmann produces English that is without peer in his translation of Nietzsche's works.
Whether you love him or hate him, exposure to Nietzsche can be a life-changing experience.
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on December 30, 2003
This collection of Nietzsche's writings are completely enjoyable, the life and muscle only brings grins to the face of those who dare to experience it. Especially good language in the translation is something to note.
Every book, or snippet in this chronicle of sorts is indispensable, but THE BOT is really a great place to embark. The way that all the books tackle/attack Christianity and problematic ideals of morality - and the traps that mankind finds itself within these self made pits - makes Nietzsche something of a superman even by todays standards.. but just think, he was doing this way back in the mid 1800s.
This is where everyone should start to learn and enjoy the wonderful writings of what could really be considered one of the last great philosophical thinkers... with only exception might be B. Russell.
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on March 21, 2002
My purpose is to advise new readers of Nietzsche to trust W. Kaufmann's handling of Nietzsche's works. Apart from Hollandale, few good English translations of N's works would exist were it not for W.K.
It is not essential to agree with all of W.K's interpretations of N. in order to refer to the present work as an important introduction and overview. As W.K. will himself advise you, there is no substitute for reading the original works of N., but some definite value can be made from taking W.K's interpretations and applying them as a counterpoint to your own investigations.
Consider your encounter with N. as a process. W.K. is an important part of engaging N's unique mind and extraordinary outputs in the English language.
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on June 27, 1999
Nietzsche's writings have long been marred by the dark fog of ignorance and prejudice promoted by reactionary obscurantists. It's refreshing to approach the ideas of the philosopher oneself and to experience the visceral jolt that comes with the realization that not only is Herr Doktor Professor brilliantly incisive but that, more-over, he is screamingly funny. A razor-sharp wit! Mr. Kaufmann's translation is marvelous, too, for all the care it gives to the inimitable punster's saws and witty jibes (lost, or just plain over-looked, in so many other [lesser] translations). Conclusion: A thoroughly worthwhile endeavor that will stay with one long past one has put down the book.
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on May 13, 2000
Nietzsche is often seen by the all-to-many as an insane man, where at best his aphorisms are nice to throw around at the dinner table. These simple minded fellows should stick to their beliefs in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy! Mind you, Nietzsche has been recognized as Germany's greatest lyricist -- this form of writing is very informal and is effective in conveying snippets of thoughts. The parts do add up to a whole and that wondrous whole is gorgeous. I began reading Nietzsche at the age of 11, my mother had the above book in her library -- for a poor and suffering boy, Nietzsche stands as Messiah!
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on October 14, 2002
This is very simply an extraordinary book. Some of Nietzsche's best writings are included in this book, all translated by Walter Kaufmann - Kaufmann being, of course, one of the greatest scholars of German literature (and Nietzsche in particular) of the twentieth century.
The translation seemed very good to me, and I've enjoyed Kaufmann's translations before - particularly his book "Goethe's Faust" is one of the best poetic translations I've ever read.
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