Nietzsche

Nietzsche

Nietzsche

Nietzsche

Synopsis

Few philosophers have been as widely misunderstood as Nietzsche. His detractors and followers alike have often fundamentally misinterpreted him, distorting his views and intentions and criticizing or celebrating him for reasons removed from the views he actually held. Now Nietzsche assesses his place in European thought, concentrating upon his writings in the last decade of his productive life.

Excerpt

Until rather recently, most philosophers in the English-speaking world have paid Nietzsche little heed. European philosophers of diverse orientations have considered him a thinker to be reckoned with throughout the course of this century; but he has seldom been taken seriously across the English Channel (and North Atlantic). Outside of what used to be the Continentally-inspired underworld, he for the most part has been either ignored altogether, or accorded only minor significance as a forerunner of existentialism, or else crudely caricatured, vilified, and cavalierly dismissed. Indeed, his long neglect was no doubt at least in part due to the fact that a great many people formed their impressions of him from the uses made of him by fascist and racist ideologues, and from the related scandalous treatment accorded him by such commentators as Bertrand Russell. Russell may be an extreme case; but it is worth noting some of the things he says about Nietzsche in his History of Western Philosophy (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1945, pp. 760-3, 766-7):

Nietzsche, though a professor, was a literary rather than an academic philosopher. He invented no new technical theories in ontology or epistemology; his importance is primarily in ethics, and secondarily as an acute historical critic. . . . His general outlook . . . remained very similar to that of Wagner in the Ring; Nietzsche's superman is very like Siegfried, except that he knows Greek. This may seem odd, but that is not my fault. . . .

[Nietzsche] attempts to combine two sets of values which are not easily harmonized: on the one hand he likes ruthlessness, war, and aristocratic pride; on the other hand, he loves philosophy and literature and the arts, especially music. . . .

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