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The Essential Nietzsche (Virgin Philosophers) [Paperback]

Paul Strathern
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

4 April 2002 Virgin Philosophers
"Live dangerously" was Nietzsche's motto - both in his life and in his philosophy. His "will to power" would become an inspiration to artists, writers and right-wing politicains alike. Ignored, and increasingly ill, Nietzsche eventually drove himself over the brink of madness. The "Virgin Philosophers" series cover the lives and ideas of the major philosophers, attempting to clarify the mysteries of philosophy for the general reader.

Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books (4 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075350488X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753506035
  • ASIN: 0753506033
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 10.4 x 0.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,819,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'These [books] have changed my life . . . They tell you exactly what you want to know and no more' -- AA Gill, Sunday Times

'Well-written, clear and informed, they have a breezy wit about them . . . I find them hard to stop reading' -- New York Times

'Witty, illuminating, and blessedly concise' -- Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Paul Strathern is a professional writer, a former Somerset Maugham prize winner and author of five novels, as well as biographies and travel books. As a university lecturer, he taught philosophy, but also mathematics and modern Italian poetry. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Mendeleyev's Dream: The Quest for the Elements and the forthcoming Dr Strangelove's Game (both Hamish Hamilton)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Nut In a Nutshell 25 Aug 2013
The remarkable feature of Paul Strathern's 'The Essential Nietzsche' is not that it is a mere fifty-five pages long but that 'essential' part is no more than thirty pages. It immediately raises the question of why a philosopher with so few ideas still attracts the interest of academia. While it is often claimed Nietzsche revitalised philosophy with the idea of 'life-affirmation' there is little in his work that has stood the test of time or remains relevant to the modern world. Indeed, it is ironic that the man who claimed, ' what does not kill me makes me stronger ' died twice. His mind died in 1889 when he succumbed to the mental illness, possibly caused by syphilis, that had been apparent in his life and work for some years and his body followed in 1900, 'a pathetic pale little figure who had little idea of who or what he was'.

As Nietzsche wrote in aphorisms and lacked methodology he did not provide a system of philosophy but a mass of contradictions which has resulted in a variety of contradictory interpretations of his work. Nonetheless there are four fundamental ideas which are discernible in his ideas. The first is 'The Will to Power' which Nietzsche developed from the ideas of Schopenhauer and the ancient Greeks. The former 'had adopted the oriental idea that the universe was driven by a vast blind will'. Nietzsche applied this to human terms, concluding that the driving force of Greek civilisation was driven by the search for power. Humanity was driven by a Will to Power. This idea led Nietzsche to argue that Christianity was opposed to what he regarded as the natural order of things by preaching humility, brotherly love and compassion. For him Christianity was a religion born out of slavery in the Roman era and had never lost its slave mentality.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
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5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest aphorist of all 17 Mar 2005
By Shalom Freedman - Published on
I have read a number of works in this series, and this seems to me one of the weaker ones. The greatest strength of Strathern's volumes is the lively, humorous and interesting ways he tells the story of the philosopher's life. He does this well also with Nietzsche, though the life became one of lonely walking in the mountains and philosophizing. Strathern is very good on Nietzsche's relation to Wagner, his brief romantic misadventures , his family background, including the early death of his father, and the household of females he was raised by, his poisonous sister and the misuse she made of his literary legacy. He also does away quite quickly with a number of the central notions Nietzsche is most known for i.e. the eternal recurrence, the superman. But Strathern does not really enter into Nietzsche's historical critique of Christianity, his going beyond good and evil, his transformation of values , his attempt to substitute his own ethic for that of the Civilization he judged to fail. I think also Strathern is a bit generous in total freeing of Nietzsche of the responsibility for the deleterious effect of some of his ideas, mainly the 'ubermensch' idea. There is Nietzsche's tone and stance an aggressiveness and verbal violence (His attacks on women are embarassing and shameful) that is not alien to the evil adapters and distorters of his superman doctrine.

Strathern has great appreciation for Nietzsche's incredible literary brilliance and psychological perceptiveness. He also notes rightly that in splitting with Wagner, in refusing to sanction the kind of racist anti- Semitism which both Wagner and his own sister preached, Nietzsche showed decency and courage.

Another point. Strathern writes about Nietzsche as a readable and interesting philosopher, one who saw system- building as impossible, and yet one whose work has a coherence. I myself believe that there is little of Nietzsche's ' philosophy' that is of enduring value and meaning, but that his writing as a whole is a brilliant literary and philosophical creation in which there is much insight into both the soul and culture. Suffering, syphilitic Nietzsche gave us ' the thought of suicide has gotten me through many a rough night' He also gave us the infamous remark about God's no longer being with us, one which in our time with a worldwide return to and revival of religion seems as Mark Twain said about the announcement of his own death ' slightly premature'.
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