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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lively look at a boring Nietzsche, 23 Jan. 2012
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This review is from: What Nietzsche Really Said (Age of Unreason) (Paperback)
Most introductions to Nietzsche follow a familiar pattern: a little taste of biography, then a thematic exploration of Nietzsche's main ideas. Not this book. Here the authors attempt something more than a little different.

Such as? How about exploring Nietzsche by facing thirty of the most virulent rumours about him (Chapter 1)? Or by providing directions for interpreting his books, as well as a helpful overview of them (Chapter 2)? Or by discussing those other thinkers that Nietzsche admired and/or loathed (Chapter 5)? Or by providing an account of Nietzsche's favourite 'virtues' (chapter 6)?

This is all first rate, different and stimulating. So why only three stars? The content is human, all too human. Nietzsche said he was not a man, he was dynamite. Well according to this account, Nietzsche resembles not so much dynamite as a liberal professor of philosophy in the twenty-first century. Which, of course, is exactly what our non-intrepid authors are. Yes, they have fallen into that trap.

For instance, it appears that Nietzsche had a massive but secret respect for feminine traits (189) as well as a desire to work "to the benefit of the greater good" (185). This was news to me, and, I trow, Nietzsche too! Nietzsche's praise for Cesare Borgia was "ironic" (14-15). Nietzsche was probably gay (24). Nietzsche did not really have a theory of the Superman or the will-to-power (214-222). Nietzsche was 'spiritual' (96-102). He was a proponent of now trendy 'virtue ethics'. By the time our authors have finished, I was left wondering why anyone ever thought Nietzsche was shocking in the first place.

Although I'm a child in my understanding of Nietzsche, here's my take on what seems to be happening. Because of his military language and elitist doctrines, people suspected that Nietzsche's associations with Nazism might have weight. Then Walter Kaufmann came along and lifted this burden with sound scholarship. But the pendulum has now swung too far the other way, with Nietzsche essentially clipped of all his danger and offence. He has become an object of scholarly research by people who wouldn't have had much time for him in his day...or vice versa!

Diatribe over, I can freely admit that this book is extremely readable, mildly quirky, and has an excellent appendix on "Nietzsche's Bestiary: A Glossary of His Favourite Images". Moreover, the authors made strong attempts to apply Nietzsche to some contemporary issues, a quest I very much appreciate. So much so, in fact, that I've purchased Solomon's 'Living with Nietzsche' which I will review in due course. In it, I hope the brushstrokes will be a little less broad with a Nietzsche a little less tamed.

Post Scriptum, the book's title contains one of the most hyperbolic claims since Nietzsche explained "Why I Am A Destiny". Nietzsche was writing ironically; it seems our authors were not. There's a lesson in that somewhere...
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Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland

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