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One of the better works of 19th century philosophy
am 19. März 2000
The late great Princeton philosopher Walter Kaufmann does yet another fine job of translating and defending Nietzsche to a 20th (and 21st?) century audience. Kaufmann deserves a great deal of credit for bringing Nietzsche out of the ranks of taboo books for the (unfortunate) association with Hitler after World War II.
This association is ironic when one considers how Nietzsche extols the Jewish race on pages 187 & 188, describing them as
...beyond any doubt the strongest, toughest, and purest race now living in Europe; they know how to prevail even under the worst conditions...by means of virtues that today one would like to mark as vices - thanks above all to a resolute faith that need not be ashamed before "modern ideas"....
Can anyone seriously contend that Hitler was inspired to commit genocide upon the Jewish people because of Nietzsche with passages such as this in mind?
If I have one bone to pick with this book, it is Nietzsche's unwarranted misogynistic tirades in the chapter called "Our Virtues." These attacks on woman's intellectual acumen are not only wrong, but completely unnecessary and contribute nothing to Nietzsche's overall philosophical thread of thought. His dictum of the "eternally boring in woman" (a verbal joust to Goethe's "eternal feminine") is nothing more than an adolescent, shallow cheap shot. Personally, I think his hatred of women has much more to due with his psychology (the fact that he was such a very lonely man + the inaccessiblity of Cosima Wagner) than any serious intellectual analysis that he devoted to the issue. In any case, given the accomplishments of women in the 20th century (as well as the "hidden" triumphs of historical women from before this century) any educated person today would be compelled to dismiss the idea of men being mentally superior to women as hogwash.
With the exception of the anti-woman chapter, the rest of this book is quite good. It is in many ways a re-writing of his "Also Sprach Zarathustra" via a non-poetic medium. Most of Nietzsche's more important ideas are incorporated into the book at some point or other. Also, Kaufmann furnishes the reader with helpful footnotes which elucidate the allusions that Nietzsche is making. A profound book. To give you a taste of why this book is worth reading, I will leave you with one of my very favorite passages of Nietzsche. It appears on page 153:
"Measure" is alien to us; let us own it; our thrill is the thrill of the infinite, the unmeasured. Like a rider on a steed that flies forward, we drop the reins before the infinite, we modern men, like semi-barbarians - and reach "our" bliss only where we are most - in danger.