BOOK REVIEW

Posted by @ 11:55 pm on November 24th, 2009

nietzsche

I just read NIETZSCHE: PHILOSOPHER, PSYCHOLOGIST, ANTICHRIST, by Walter Kaufmann. 

I will start by saying that I decided to read this book based not only on its subject, but also its author.  Whenever I used to hear people discussing a good or bad translation of a book, I didn’t have a good idea what that meant.  After reading Nietzsche’s books translated by many different people, I think Kaufmann is the best.  Ludovici is also adept but Kaufmann seems to effect what I would consider the closest rendition.  I know that I can’t justify what I just said because I do not speak German.  And that is part of why I like Kaufmann’s work, because it feels most accurate.  Reading the same book by Nietzsche in two different translations uncovers the most obvious errors to me.  In versions translated shortly after Nietzsche’s death, there are “thees” and “thous.”  The prose is very bland.  With Kaufmann, it’s more sneering.  The way he translates impacts not only the obvious tone, but also the meaning.  The character of a philosopher or anyone, and their moral leaning was an important dyad to Nietzsche.  To fail to capture character through tone means to compromise the entire way of thinking.  This is only one of the errors perpetrated on Nietzsche’s work that is discussesd in Nietzsche.  The chapters move both through ideas, and history’s ideas about those ideas.  The book is not so much autobiographical, though it does use autobiographical information to evidence how a concept is affirmed.  Each chapter reads like a lecture on the key elements of Nietzsche’s maturation.  The grouping of chapters, and their material, is orchestrated to show the development of each thought, which is another important element in understanding Nietzsche and his work, not pinpoint affirmations, but long periods of context.  Kaufmann uses this method to show the inaccurate methods of others who have since tried to bring infamy on Nietzsche’s work through their shortsighted quoting.  I will now go back to the earlier idea of translation and context.  An example is the way Kaufmann leans towards using OVERMAN rather than SUPERMAN.  Or the way he mentions different kinds of pleasure or pain, lost in translation.  Or how directly preceding a quote used, their is a key element of context omitted.  Nietzsche worked in philology, so if a translator options exactness definitionally, for inexactness culturally/tonally/contextually, this leads to grave misunderstandings.  One such misunderstanding Kaufmann refutes, is Nietzsche’s association with Nazism, even in the abstract.  The restoration of all Nietzsche’s texts, letters included, easily dismisses such an association.  Kaufmann also discusses the dispute over Nietzsche’s published books and his personal notes.  There is a debate over which contains truer ideas, ideas truer not in essence but in relation to their author.  Kaufmann also writes a chapter on Nietsche’s sister, who was instrumental in associating her brother’s work with her husband Forster and other proto-nazis.  There is a chapter on Socrates and Nietzsche’s very complex feelings towards him.  The choice of chapters alows Kaufmann to reconcile very large conceptual histories.  Kaufmann begins with studies in Nietzsche’s method.  His method ultimately yields a high estimation of reason.  Even though Nietzsche is thought to be against decadence in reasoning, against tradition, a wider appreciation of his feelings shows that this misconception stemmed from his professed disdain for systems in phiosophy.  Systems in philosophy, to Nietzsche, are dishonest since they allow presuppositions to go un-explored.  Other important chapters trace the beginnings and culminations of his main ideas: the will to power, and the eternal recurrence.  Kaufmann provides context and also addresses the misinformed views of other scholars when exploring the will to power and the eternal recurrence.  Kaufmann does a really good job of showing the principles of what is considered an erratic philosophy, and then extending these principles in ways others have not hazarded yet.  Ironically, the following of inferences (a key instrument for a good philosopher according to Nietzsche), inclines Kaufmann to suppose Nietzsche very very fond of Socrates, Jesus Christ and most ascetics.  In opposition to Christ, or Christendom, Nietzsche invokes Dionysus.  The development of the Dionysian ideal follows two stages, according to Kaufmann, and the result of understanding both stages, as well as their contexts, leads to the affirmation and mastery of life as a perpetual overcoming of one’s self, through art and higher personal evolutions.  Evolution is another debate amongst Nietzsche scholars and detractors.  Many associate Nietzsche with a sort of extreme fitness, a domineering lifestyle, existing to overcome others.  This is not true.   The overcoming and the evolution are personal, and in no way exist for worldwide control.  In dealing with others, we should not overestimate our knowledge of him/her, while remainng true to our personal knowledge.  Our inclination to end suffering in others, or to sacrifice ourselves, is not always a pursuit of “goodness” because it fails to appreciate contexts and time.  The overcoming is a wordly process, relative to each individual, by which one uses sublimation and asceticism and joy to create a higher plane of life, one that occurs here on earth, as if to claim dominance of one’s life at each and every moment, so that, theoretically, if relived, one would rejoice, not fear.  Sorry for talking a lot, but this is the last part.  The revulsion of Darwinism by Nietzsche’s thought, uncovers an interesting look at history.  Nietzsche employed a threefold thinking and dialectic.  History could be historic, unhistoric and suprahistoric.  Ratherm out relation to history could be such.  The essential consequence of this is a use and disuse of some history by humans (since a lack of all memory would kill us and a total memory of everything perverts our currency) and the transcendence of history by very few (suprahistoric).  This transcendence takes place, according to Nietsche, through suprahistoric examples like Christ, Socrates, Goethe etc.  There is no forward culmination for history, no teleology, just a perpetual plane on which one might transcend, and thereby give authenticity to life, and their own life specifically.  The transcendence is not limited to the obvious shapers of history.  Nor is anyone destined to greatness, rather before it.  The position of a self is such that if it renounce or affirm one thing about life, then it follows that all else must be judged simlilarly.  The overcoming of self is possible to any who face it without any decadent morality, or allegiance to any falsifying insitution like ‘the state’, ‘politics’, etc.  The individual understands life as a chance to transcend, and to love what becomes a fate.  Amor fati.  To die before perverting such a fate.  This means that Nietzsche’s thought concerns individuation and the containment of power by an individual to overcome individuality, continually.  Thanks for reading this it helped to type after reading the book.

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