Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist

Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist

Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist

Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist


Once regarded as a conservative critic of culture, then enlisted by the court theoreticians of Nazism, Nietzsche has come to be revered by postmodern thinkers as one of their founding fathers, a prophet of human liberation who revealed the perspectival character of all knowledge and broke radically with traditional forms of morality and philosophy.

In "Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist," Peter Berkowitz challenges this new orthodoxy, asserting that it produces a one-dimensional picture of Nietzsche's philosophical explorations and passes by much of what is provocative and problematic in his thought. Berkowitz argues that Nietzsche's thought is rooted in extreme and conflicting opinions about metaphysics and human nature. Discovering a deep unity in Nietzsche's work by exploring the structure and argumentative movement of a wide range of his books, Berkowitz shows that Nietzsche is a moral and political philosopher in the Socratic sense whose governing question is, "What is the best life?"

Nietzsche, Berkowitz argues, puts forward a severe and aristocratic ethics, an ethics of creativity, that demands that the few human bein


One reflection of the contest of extremes in Nietzsche's thought is the extreme and rival opinions that have prevailed about Nietzsche's achievement. Once considered a conservative critic of culture, later enlisted as an authority by the court theoreticians of Nazism, reviled as a teacher of evil, and rehabilitated by Walter Kaufmann as a kind of overexuberant, up-to-date Socratic champion of fearless thought, Nietzsche has since been embraced by the Left and is now revered as a founding father of postmodernism, a ground-breaking critic of the underlying moral and metaphysical assumptions of the Western tradition, a seminal figure in the elaboration of the politics of identity, difference, and self-making. Today, both those who defend and those who oppose the Canon believe Nietzsche ought to be read. and while Nietzsche considered himself an untimely thinker whose ability to understand and overcome his own age was based on his understanding of the achievements of antiquity, at the moment there is hardly a thinker in the history of philosophy who is more celebrated precisely because, it is claimed, he points the way to a fundamental break with the past.

While disagreement persists over the meaning of his philosophy, Nietzsche's influence on the dominant thinkers and major writers of the twentieth century (and through them a host of lesser lights) is well documented and undisputed. Influence, though, as Nietzsche knew, has its cost—all the more to a body of thought that rages against orthodoxy.

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