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How to Read Nietzsche Paperback – 7 Feb 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (7 Feb. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862077290
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862077294
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 541,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Admirably wide-ranging study...manages to recreate something of the profound strangeness and excitement of his work while remaining coolly judicious’ -- Terry Eagleton, New Statesman

About the Author

Keith Ansell Pearson is Professor of Philosophy & Director of Graduate Research at the University of Warwick. His books include An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker: The Perfect Nihilist and F. Nietzsche: On the Genealogy of Morality. He is the editor of The Nietzsche Reader and has been appointed as the editor of the forthcoming Companion to Nietzsche.

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Since his death in 1900 Nietzsche has received an enormous amount of attention, and controversy has always surrounded his work. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rowland Atcherley on 31 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are lots of rather poor books on Nietzsche, so this excellent study is most welcome. Ansell-Pearson's outline is a clear, accurate account of texts which can easily be - and often have been - misunderstood..
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Crane on 28 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is very interesting, well written and worth reading, regardless of how ever many books you have read on this gentleman.
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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A succinct, lucid overview of Nietzsche's philosophy 18 May 2008
By Roy E. Perry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Keith Ansell Pearson, Professor of Philosophy and the Director of Graduate Research at The University of Warwick, United Kingdom, has written a succinct, lucid introduction to Nietzsche's philosophy. In only 131 pages (ten enlightening chapters), Dr. Pearson surveys key ideas of Nietzsche's corpus: the death of God, the Superman, the eternal recurrence, the will to power, nihilism, and many others.

The chapter headings are: "The Horror of Existence," "Human, All Too Human -- Historical versus Metaphysical Philosophy," "Nietzsche's Cheerfulness," "On Truth and Knowledge," "On Memory and Forgetting," "Life is a Woman, or the Ultimate Beauties," "The Heaviest Weight," "The Superman," "Nihilism and the Will to Nothingness," and "Behold the Man."

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) is "the great anti-Platonist" and by extension a fearsome opponent of Christianity, which he regarded as "Platonism for the people." On this subject, Pearson writes: "At the centre of Nietzsche's mature work is an attack on modes of thought, such as Platonism, which posit a dualism between a true world and a merely apparent one. [According to Platonic and Christian thought] The true world is held to be outside the order of time, change, plurality and becoming--it is a world of being--while the world of change, becoming and evolution is held to be a false world, one of error and mere semblance. . . . He argues that the peculiar idiosyncrasy of philosophers in general is their lack of historical sense and their hatred of the idea of becoming, what he calls their Egypticism: philosophers dehistoricise things and int he process mummify the concepts they are using to comprehend them. What has not been adequately dealt with are processes of life, such as death, change, procreation, growth, so that whatever truly has being is held not to become and what becomes is held to be nothing real and to lack being." Well explicated, Dr. Pearson!

One other excerpt from "How to Read Nietzsche" will give the reader a sample of the author's style: "It is clear that Nietzsche feared that a widespread state of apathy and indifference towards life would emerge in the wake of God's death. The thought of eternal return is designed to combat this. . . . With the thought of eternal return Nietzsche is inviting us to unlearn the metaphysical universe so that we direct our energies on what is closest to us. It would be absurd to take it as offering a 'solution' to the problems of life. It necessarily has its limits and is a thought to be experimented with--creatively and conscientiously."

Undergraduate students especially will profit from studying "How to Read Nietzsche," and even more advanced scholars will be pleased with the facility with which the author deals with weighty subjects.

In an e-mail that I received from him, Professor Pearson writes: "I am delighted to hear you esteem Nietzsche so much.I have loved him for many years now and hope some of my passion comes across in the little book. The last two chapters of it were difficult to write, I still feel very ambivalent about them, but at the same time I felt a pedagogic responsibility to voice a few warning signs so as to ward off any 'fanatical' appropriation of him. I regard Nietzsche as one of the greatest human beings that have ever lived, as well as one of the greatest liberators of the modern period. I'll have more books published on him in the coming years, I haven't quite finished yet! With this little one it's heartening to hear that it has resonated with a reader and had an impact of some sort. As an author one never knows or very rarely, especially an 'academic' author, and with this book I didn't wish to write solely or even largely for a professional academic audience. It was a lot of fun to do . . . "
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
How to read one of the most unread thinkers... 22 Jan. 2008
By ewomack - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The much romanticized Friedrich Nietzsche, writer of thousands of short aphorisms as well as essays and poetry, remains ominously difficult to summarize. Any short book that attempts to introduce this wildly diverse thinker will inevitably miss important aspects of his thought. Though this applies to "How to Read Nietzsche," the breadth and depth of this short book more than makes up for any missing elements. As it stands, the book provides apt coverage of Nietzsche's major ideas. Those covered include: "The Birth of Tragedy," historical versus metaphysical philosophy, Nietzsche's "cheerfulness," the "death of God," truth, memory and forgetting, eternal recurrence, "the beauties," the Superman, and nihilism. Each one receives a chapter that applies that idea to Nietzsche's entire oeuvre. For example, eternal recurrence isn't only discussed as it appeared in "The Gay Science," but also in his late notebooks. Most introductory books stop after a definitional exposition of the concept. This one looks at how the concept developed with Nietzsche's thought. Biography, when relevant, also weaves through the philosophical discussion, but the focus remains on the ideas listed above.

The book even covers some of the objections to Nietzsche's thought. This gives the discussion an extra dimension not seen in most introductions. For example, did Nietzsche simultaneously eschew metaphysics while creating his own via the eternal recurrence and the Superman? Also, how important is it that Nietzsche more or less ignored the social or economic strata of society? The author considers this a major oversight and claims that Nietzsche's "thinking can only instruct us so far."

"How to Read Nietzsche," complete with its neo-1950s textbook cover, provides an excellent introduction to a much discussed, but infrequently read, thinker. Though geared towards a philosophical audience, the text should remain accessible to general readers (those with no background whatsoever may struggle here and there). Also, passages from Nietzsche's works accompany each chapter, making each section a mini-exegesis extracted straight from the source. By the end of this text, newcomers will have in depth knowledge of many of Nietzsche's major ideas and also understand why no "Nietzschean" exist. Nonetheless, echoing Foucault, they will have a better idea of what use Nietzsche's thought can be put to.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
the tasks Nietzsche bequeathed to us 2 Dec. 2007
By S. Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the Introduction,the author Keith Ansell Pearson gives us two reasons why we have to read Nietzsche today: 1) his works belong to the most beautifully written texts in the history of Western philosophy, and 2) he is one of the most important, and thought-provoking, philsosophers who probed the predicaments and pitfalls of modernity. Then he points out one peculiarity shared by many Nietzsche readers. While they may admire his works and avidly read them, they don't agree with all the points he makes. In fact, considering that aspects of his philosphy were often found quite troubling by many serious Nietzsche commentators, Pearson suggests, it would be safe to assume that there is no single "core" to be identifed, and designated, as "Nietzschean" in his thinking.

Hence, without having a "core" to be processed and packaged, what he thinks is the best way to introduce Nietzsche is to examine the tasks he bequeathed to us. They are: "practising 'the gay science' and cultivating philosophical 'cheerfulness', getting to grips with the problem of nihilism and conceiving in new ways the art and science of living well (the task of superman)."

I think this was an excellent choice, since it binds the author and reader alike to engage in philosophizing with history in mind, as Nietzsche himself would recommend. The result, however, is somewhat unfortunate in this regard. Chapters following the Introduction are usually organized in this order: 1) excerpts from Nietzsche, 2) historical background, which mixes biography and history, 3) Pearson's exegesis, and 4) views from other commentators. In other words, engagement with Nietzsche's ideas that might have been made much more interesting and relevant, with the question "Why read him now?" in mind, is really done in an all too familiar format of many introductory books.

Still, to me, this is one of the best of its kind I have come across. Pearson obviously not only reads and studies Nietzsche but feels the rhythm and temperature of his thought. Introduction to the views of commentators of our time is quite succint and useful as well.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Look Elsewhere 7 Jan. 2015
By DJP - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nietzsche, like many German philosophers, is difficult to read. But if you are looking for someone who might be able to render at least the broad outlines of his thought in clear and straightforward English, look elsewhere. I found this book incomprehensible (and I majored in philosophy in college). Sample sentence: "Contrary to popular imagination a philosopher is not a thinking frog or simply a registering mechanism with their innards removed."
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Intermediate Introduction to Nietzsche 8 May 2008
By L. Berk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It is necessary to acknowledge that Nietzsche's complexities, both as an individual and as a philosopher, are difficult to contain within one volume. Indeed, scores of works have been written about each individual aphorism of his; to discuss in any depth or serious consideration in such a small volume is, fundamentally, laughable. But, one must start somewhere, and while 'How to Read Nietzsche' is not an ideal starting point for an individual, it is an excellent companion to Nietzsche's own work...more It is necessary to acknowledge that Nietzsche's complexities, both as an individual and as a philosopher, are difficult to contain within one volume. Indeed, scores of works have been written about each individual aphorism of his; to discuss in any depth or serious consideration in such a small volume is, fundamentally, laughable. But, one must start somewhere, and while 'How to Read Nietzsche' is not an ideal starting point for an individual, it is an excellent companion to Nietzsche's own works, or as a follow up to a more basic introductory text ('Introducing Nietzsche' is excellent for one's first Nietzsche reader).

That said, the effort and scope of this book is laudable, and even occasionally remarkable. Pearson divides 'How to Read Nietzsche' into an introduction (laying the most basic framework for Nietzsche's works, life, ideas) and ten chapters. The ten chapters deal (loosely in chronological order) with main philosophies and ideas propagated throughout Nietzsche's canon.

What makes this book excellent is the ability for each of Pearson's chapters to serve as stand-alone commentary on concepts from Nietzsche's works. The chapter on, say, eternal recurrence is an excellent introductory examination of Nietzsche's ideas. One could then read Nietzsche's writings on the subject, and then return to Pearson's commentary.

This is an excellent intermediate text for any individual looking to explore Nietzsche's major philosophical works, and the points contained therein. As a companion to Nietzsche's works, Pearson's commentary offers some straightforward insights and interpretations. Certainly after reading this, one could feel comfortable reading and discussing some of Nietzsche's works (ideally in the Kauffman translation, to be noted).

As with any philosophical (religious, political, etc,) commentary, it is necessary to approach the information contained therein with a mix of caution, interest, and apprehension. What Nietzsche's written and espoused has been necessarily interpreted through Pearson's own experience and knowledge. While the author doesn't come off as necessarily biased or particularly groundbreaking (his interpretations of Nietzsche's major ideas seem fairly straightforward and traditional, which is definitely preferred in an introductory or intermediate text), he does provide the sound basis for developing a deeper understanding of, and intellectual comfort with, Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy
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