Sunday, September 4, 2011


I have given up on Nietzsche. I said a few weeks ago that I wasn’t going to finish Also Sprach Zarathustra. I tried Ecce Homo, which is a good read, and tells you a lot about the man, but not so much about anything else. (It is supposed to be an aurobiography, and in any case, how can you resist a book with chapter titles like Why I am so Wise?)

It’s short and digestible, unlike Beyond Good and Evil which seems to start somewhere but then gets lost (at least I did) in a mess of false starts, contradictions, non sequitur, impenetrable discussions and what can only be described as (largely irrelevant) splenetic rants. I gave up.

It’s possible that I’m reading it the wrong way; it’s possible- indeed probable- that I am not as wise as Nietzsche, but I don’t feel that what I might learn from him is worth the time it would take to learn it. I also get the feeling that, when reading Nietzsche, you learn a lot more about Nietzsche than you do about philosophy, the world, life or any useful addition to your understanding of these things.

Perhaps that’s the point. Keep these books beside your bed, like those little volumes of meditations and aphorisms that Buddhists and Jesuits like to write. Read a few lines each night before you sleep and try to work out why he says what he says, why he is right or wrong and what it could mean to your own life.


Vincent said...

What I find in Nietzsche is that he questions things ordinarily taken for granted. In challenging them and proposing alternatives (“proposing” being a rather mild word, he philosophizes with a hammer, as he puts it himself)—he takes us to vistas we did not imagine existed. It doesn't matter if we agree with him. At least we realize the constricting nature of our usually conformist culture.

So I find him worthwhile for the occasional glimpses of something special. Not that I can remember any of them now.

CIngram said...

I was half-joking about having him on the bedside table to reflect on at night, but I think that's what I'll do. It could well be the best way. If nothing else, I might learn something about myself.