Portable Nietzsche, The

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Portable Nietzsche, The

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Philosophy (19th century)


by: Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Kaufmann (Contributor, Translator, Editor)

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Superb work BUT tainted by biased editing: This volume is a superb compendium of Nietzsche's thoughts arranged chronologically by date written. Some Nietzsche fans would prefer more Beyond Good and Evil and less Contra Wagner but that's personal preference. Those who admire Nietzsche find themselves in a bit of a quandry these days. The Politically-Correct groups will wail and moan that Nietzsche is fascist and a proto-Nazi. Of course he is not (his Overman was not a product of genetic breeding but of intellectual enlightenment), but those who admire Nietzsche still feel the need to defend him to the masses. A survey of Nietzsche should be just that, a survey of his thoughts and writings. However what this translator (Kaufmann) has done, in many of the excerpted works and in Nietzsche's letters, is to select those bits which show Nietzsche at his most un-Nazi-ish (cursing and berating anti-Semites, etc.). That's fine for a work designed to show that he was not a proto-Hitler, but this book is not that work and should not be edited to prove a point. Nietzsche did criticize the Jews in ways that would brand him an anti-Semite today even though he also says that anti-Semites should be shot. However when he says anti-Semites, he means Christians who hate Jews because of Scripture and not those who, like him (he deems their faith megalomaniacal in The AntiChrist), would otherwise criticize them for whatever reasons. Many would agree with Kaufmann that Nietzsche is not a proto-Nazi but neither is he a good egalitarian and the only times he ever speaks of equality is to scorn it as a false and dangerous notion. Nietzsche is not so easily defined and we would wish him better left to the thoughtful reader rather than the hopeful editor to discover.

Some say ... Nietzsche's writings are full of half-truths, overstatements, endless repetitions of a few basic themes. Nietzsche's epigrams are often nothing but restatements of the obvious. Non-fans or Nietzsche critics may note they never understood what all of the fuss was about but the Nietzsche cult goes on and on. Here is Nietzsche's philosophy in a nutshell:
1) God is no longer the powerful idea that once held sway in the West. Morality needs a new foundation. Yawn.
2) Those who work and struggle to rise above the masses are, well, they rise above the masses and can be called supermen (or overmen). Big deal. Nietzsche can call them that if he wants. So what?
3) Christianity in its purest form makes wimps out of people. Well, a few people do if they become saints. The rest of us are Christians in name only and have no trouble acting in more practical ways. We didn't need Nietzsche to tell us to have common sense.
4) How many of us are living lives that we wouldn't mind having endlessly repeated into infinity? How many of us could endure an eternal recurrence? Answer: none of us. Everything becomes a trial when endlessly repeated. So what else is new? And since there is little chance of that happening, what is the point of the question?
Have wee just saved you the trouble of reading Nietzsche?

It is said that the two main philosophers that are most widely read by "non-philosophers" are Nietzsche & Plato (not necessarily in that order). After reading this book and some of Plato's better dialogues, it is not difficult to understand why. Both write with a passion and provide a remarkable contrast to the incredibly dry (and many times verbose) prose of such philosophers as Aristotle, Hegel, Heidegger and Kant. If nothing else, Plato and Nietzsche are EXCITING to read. It is this which furnishes them with their popularity - even more than the fact that they are two of the greatest intellectuals who ever lived.
This books book's top virtue is the fact that it contains an excellent complete and unabridged translation of "Also Sprach Zarathustra."
In "Beyond Good And Evil" Nietzsche noted that "Books for all the world are always foul-smelling books: the smell of small people clings to them." Well, if this be the case, then "Zarathustra" is most decidedly NOT a book for all the world. It is not written for (nor, indeed is even read by very often) individuals with small minds. It is an epic poem that was mostly written while this German man was stoned on opium. That fact not-withstanding, it is an astounding achievement. (It seems that Nietzsche produced some of his best art while he was influenced by opium -- just like Edgar A. Poe and Hector Berlioz).
"Zarathustra" is a work that is of interest to both philosophy and literary types. It would be entirely justified for this work to be read in a German or World literature class as opposed to being confined to just university level philosophy courses. Due to his trenchant insights on art as well as his awe inspiring ideas and wonderful command of language, it is little mystery that Nietzsche exercised such a profound influence over such artists as Thomas Mann, William Butler Yeats, Franz Kafka, George Bernard Shaw, Maria Ranier Rilke and Eugene O'Neill (among others).
Again much like Plato's Republic, "Zarathustra" is a work which must be read at least a half dozen times before one can really claim s/he has read it once. The imagery and metaphors are dense and it is well written -- even in translation (Kaufmann deserves much credit for this). The elegance of Nietzsche and the grandiose and fervent style of his thoughts has made him an attractive figure to engage -- even by those who disagree with most of or everything he has to say. But perhaps there is one single thing that many like about Nietzsche more than anything else; indeed, this is why some keep on coming back to him again and again. It is the fact that he does not expect or even want you to agree with what he says. Rather, he wants you to re-think what you believe and challenge the premises that your beliefs stand upon. In doing so (and Kaufmann has argued this point as well), he wants above all else for his reader to grow.

Topics include: lust after eternity, voluntary beggar, fire hound, wretched contentment, ass festival, great noon, nuptial ring, great nausea, old tablets, moral world order, higher men, stillest hour, ugliest man, holy lie, final sin, blessed isles, new tablets


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