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Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography Hardcover – 8 Mar 2010

2.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 676 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (8 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521871174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521871174
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4.1 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 205,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

'Julian Young brings together his fine scholarly skills, his delightful writing style, and a solid grasp of Nietzsche's thought to produce a philosophical biography that will be unparalleled for years to come. Especially valuable is Young's way of showing how events in Nietzsche's life hooked up with intellectual developments in this multi-faceted philosopher. A pleasure to read and a valuable source of information.' Charles Guignon, University of South Florida

'A first in the history of Nietzsche studies: a richly detailed biography written by a leading scholar of Nietzsche's philosophy. The volume nicely mixes the intriguing particulars of Nietzsche's life with intelligent analyses of his philosophical work that are well-informed, always clear, sometimes controversial, but consistently interesting. It will now be the starting place for the philosophically-minded reader of Nietzsche seeking a comprehensive treatment of the life and the work.' Brian Leiter, University of Chicago

Book Description

Julian Young provides the most comprehensive biography available today of the life and philosophy of the nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Young deals with the many puzzles created by the conjunction of Nietzsche's personal history and his work, setting Nietzsche's thought in the context of his times.

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author of this biography has lifted many paragraphs, with only cosmetic alterations, from Curtis Cate's biography of Nietzsche (available on Amazon). Cate is well dead, so presumably he'd hoped that the plagiarism would never come to light. This is sad and worrying. The 'Omertà emanating from the 'academic community' is both disturbing and telling. Do all these 'scholarly oxen' do it? Regularly, just like that? And get professorial appointments as a reward?

Also, this must be the CUP's most incompetently published book ever. Just look at the numerous flops with dates and names; e.g. 'Alfred' Camus featuring in the Index. Was the Editor's schoolboy son editing the book to earn some extra pocket money? Even he should have known better...

A very interesting discussion (accessible on line) can be found in The Journal of Nietzsche Studies. Read it before buying this book.

If you decide to buy it after all, it might turn out to be a real bargain; two for the price of one, as Cate's book is in it. Even the Tesco can't beat it!
Comment 5 of 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I took a special interest in Nietzsche when I studied philosophy, so I've read most of the earlier biographies about this eccentric-but-brilliant thinker, as well as reading Nietzsche's own works. The most recent of these earlier books has an almost identical title: 'Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography' by Rudiger Safranski. Why Young couldn't have been a bit more original I don't know, but it's probably fair to say that his work is more thorough than Safranski's (at 676 pages, it's almost twice the length), though I'm not sure there's anything really new here. There are also around thirty photographs, but these don't really add much either. I noticed quite a few typographical errors, suggesting this book would benefit from better editing.

Young certainly delves further into Nietzsche's love of music than other biographers have before, and examines in detail his friendship and subsequent falling-out with Wagner. He also analyses his difficult relationships with women, but some of this seems a bit speculative, and if there's one subject that Nietzsche apparently knew nothing about, it's sex (he had little success with women, which isn't all that surprising given his intense personality). Young is also, understandably, scathing about Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth, who was responsible for much of the misrepresentation of her brother's works after his death.

It's probably fair to say that any new biography of Nietzsche has to be measured against Walter Kaufmann's brilliant work, which has been around since 1950 and was last updated in 1975. Of course Young has the advantage that he will have read Kaufmann (who is recognized as one of the great Nietzsche scholars and translators) and will also have had access to some original material that wasn't available in Kaufmann's time.
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Comment 11 of 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
As someone who has read and interpreted Nietzsche's philosophy without ever really being curious about the man himself I picked up this book reluctantly. I think Nietzsche would have intensely disliked this book - but that's beside the point. It is a well written meticulously researched narrative that aims to produce a unity (dare I say system) to Nietzsche's life that the voyeur in me succumbed to when I bought the book. The problem with the book is simple: the author occupies Nietzsche's works, adopts a god's eye certainty to the ambiguity that Nietszche is and thus becomes so interventionist that he becomes an annoyance, an irritant to the decent and quite interesting narrative he produces. Young's absurd insistence that Nietszche wasn't gay, his attempts to prevent him from being read as a poststructuralist, his pathetic attempts to coopt him to liberal peace, the EU project and the green movement are simply irritating. At one stage Young actually equates the Nazi cooption of Nietzsche with the Foucauldian interpretation! God maybe dead but the author has taken his place in this book. Moreover, there is the feeling in Young that he has the very mind that Neitszche wished to overcome - the joy and the passion of Nietszche is doubtelessly celebrated and enjoyed by Young but the sense of imagination, the courage of being individual and contradictory is exposed to a sometimes ruthless contemporary modernist reading. I liked this book. I admired the scholarship. I just wished the author had not inserted himself as a moral character in Nietszche's life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9012f348) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9016c39c) out of 5 stars A Book for All 18 May 2010
By Gregory Murray - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I just finished Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography tonight, and I can assuredly state I am glad to have read it. Before I began with it, I had read only bits and pieces of Nietzsche's various works, as well as all of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Twilight of the Idols, and while I felt as though I understood certain aspects of his philosophy well enough, Young's biography has given me a much clearer picture of the shape and scope of Nietzsche's thought across the span of his productive life. It's a book I wanted to read very quickly--it's fluidly written, without a ton of graduate-level technicalities or esoteric jargon, and at times the pages seem to breeze by--but I frequently found myself having to slow down to fully grasp the facts and analyses I was encountering. Young presupposes a moderate level of philosophical familiarity in his readers, but barring that, his book is most definitely appropriate for those only recreationally interested in Nietzsche, a category in which I myself fall.

The subject matter in Friedrich Nietzsche is arranged, for the most part, chronologically. Young divides his discussions primarily into biographical and philosophical sections, the former addressing events in Nietzsche's life and the latter issues in his philosophy, especially in the context of his written output at the corresponding times. Most of the twenty-eight chapters in the book devote equal time to each sort of discussion though some are strictly biographical and others purely philosophical.

I really enjoy Young's voice as a biographer. It is at once genial and professorial. He has a taste for relating what he is examining to modern-day topics including global warming and twenty-first-century environmentalism, hippies, the scientistic outlooks of Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, and (if I recall correctly) even American Idol, among others. (Someone correct me if I have remembered incorrectly.) He advances the claim, controversial among Nietzsche scholars, that Nietzsche possesses a considered political philosophy mirroring Plato's conception of the ideal republic, which itself is comprised of a broad sector of craftsmen and peasants as well as two other closely allied classes of ruler-warriors and philosopher-kings. Young also advances the (perhaps more) controversial claim that Nietzsche is a religious communitarian, i.e., that in the future society he envisions, religion, as such, will not be abolished but will be supplanted by a life-affirming "game plan" according to which men and women will be given common cause in this thing we call life. He regards the theory that Nietzsche's madness resulted from tertiary syphilis as unlikely and hypothesizes plausibly that he actually suffered from bipolar disorder with later-life psychotic manifestations.

I walked away from this biography with an impression of Nietzsche as a socially conservative, mannered, sickly and health-obsessed, regrettably misogynist (though rarely in his personal relationships), and uniquely prodigious and self-consciously "untimely" man. He was possessed of a genuine anti-anti-Semitism and would often praise Jews not as individuals, but as a race of people--as opposed to his fellow Germans, whom he missed no opportunity to disparage. His personal and intellectual relationship with Richard Wagner was undoubtedly the most important of his life, and even after their falling out, Wagner's shadow continued to hang ominously over him for the rest of his life. Ancient Greece is the only authority more important for Nietzsche than Wagner, and Schopenhauer is identified as his only true teacher. One other thing I would like to mention is that the judgment Young ultimately passes on Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth is a decidedly unfavorable one, a fate she unquestioningly deserves for the familial injustices she perpetrated against her brother and their mother--and the literary injustices she perpetrated against Nietzsche and his friend Heinrich Köselitz--from the point of Nietzsche's mental collapse in 1889 until her death in 1935.

I really enjoyed reading Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography, and I only hope I can retain what I have learned for longer than two weeks.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9016c3f0) out of 5 stars A worthy addition 10 Aug. 2010
By Jay C. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very serviceable and reasonably detailed account of Friedrich Nietzsche's life and thought. It proceeds chronologically with brief sections interpreting Nietzsche's ideas inserted among biographical narratives. Although somewhat mechanical, this approach works well to demarcate the developmental phases of Nietzsche's thinking and it seems especially appropriate for a man who believed strongly that he should live his philosophy, that his life was an art work.

Julian Young presents a picture different from the distant, arrogant, inscrutable, lugubrious character of some Nietzsche lore. Though sometimes depressed and suffering from chronic health problems (ultimately insanity), Nietzsche was a happy student, had important friends throughout his life, maintained active correspondence, and generally seemed to enjoy the company of others.

Of course Nietzsche, probably more than any other figure in modern philosophy, has been subject to varying and contradictory interpretations, and Young is not bashful in offering his. He claims that the fundamental interpretive issue is whether Nietzsche believed the outstanding individual to exist for the sake of the entire community, or, conversely, the community to exist for the sake of the outstanding individual. Young sides with community benefit (cultural uplift) as Nietzsche's chief aim.

While many may disagree with Young on some counts, even readers with considerable prior familiarity are likely to gain insight from the author's takes on key Nietzschean ideas -- on the Dionysian, the eternal return, the revaluation of values, self-overcoming, the will to power, and perspectivism, for instance. Young dissects each of Nietzsche's major works, moving section by section through Zarathustra in about twenty pages, for example.

Though Young is an admirer, this is no hagiography. He is often critical and is notably direct about Nietzsche's misogynism, in particular.

While occasionally Young comments on the views of other biographers and interpreters, readers should not expect much of a literature review in these pages. Young has read Nietzsche's works, notes, and correspondence comprehensively, but the secondary bibliography is relatively thin for a volume of this magnitude.

Consequently, this addition to the extensive body of Nietzsche scholarship is probably most appropriate for those already grounded in the basic controversies about him and his ideas. Readers new to Nietzsche might better be served by first going straight to some of his works for an introduction to his thought and style -- The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann, apparently remains in print and has served this purpose well for many thousands since its initial publication in 1954.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x908817d4) out of 5 stars Not original work? 23 Nov. 2010
By Jack Wonder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The author of this biography has lifted many paragraphs, with only cosmetic alterations, from Curtis Cate's biography of Nietzsche (available on the Amazon). Cate is well dead, so presumably he'd hoped that the plagiarism would never come to light. This is sad and worrying. The 'Omertà emanating from the 'academic community' is both disturbing and telling. Do all these 'scholarly oxen' do it? Regularly, just like that? And get professorial appointments as a reward?

Also, this must be the CUP's most incompetently published book ever. Just look at the numerous flops with dates and names; e.g. 'Alfred' Camus featuring in the Index. Was the Editor's schoolboy son editing the book to earn some extra pocket money? Even he should have known better...

A very interesting discussion (accessible on line) can be found in The Journal of Nietzsche Studies. Read it before buying this book.

If you decide to buy it after all, it might turn out to be a real bargain; two for the price of one, as Cate's book is in it. Even the Tesco can't beat it!
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9016c678) out of 5 stars unacknowledged copying of an earlier biography 1 Sept. 2012
By philostratos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book includes a number of passages copied nearly verbatim from an earlier biography of Nietzsche written by Curtis Cate Friedrich Nietzsche. Anyone who has struggled to make a scholarly reputation through painstakingly original research should be outraged that CUP has not recalled Young's book. Examples and discussion of Young's "borrowings" with his own implausible defense in response can be found at the online Journal of Nietzsche Studies. This book is sloppy in other ways, as well, but for me it's the unacknowledged copying of sources that's a deal-breaker.
12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9016c828) out of 5 stars One of best books I've ever read 12 Jan. 2011
By ProfJ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the ten best books I have ever read, in 4 decades of bibliophilia. I have lived with Nietzsche since age 19 and am now a Professor of Classics. This books ties it all together and offers many new, corrective insights. Full of pleasure and surprises.
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