Some notes on Nietzsche


I finished The Basic Works of Nietzsche (ed. Kaufmann) the other day.  It was a running project for about seven years.  Love him or hate him, it is one of those classics of the Western canon that must be dealt with, or at least acknowledged. Nietzsche was one of the few philosophers who could actually write.


I had fun reading this.


A full review is impossible at this stage.  I read the book a couple hundred pages a time for over seven years. I simply don’t have the whole narrative in my mind, though I get the general argument.   So, this post is simply “notes” on Nietzsche.  I plan to reread certain sections and get Kaufmann’s Portable Nietzsche next month.


The first book was the Birth of Tragedy.  While Nietzsche himself later eschewed parts of this book, and few scholars follow it strictly today, it is by far the most interesting.  Contrary to popular opinion, Nietzsche points out that Greek culture is not simply “Apollonian” (serene).  It is also Dionysian (wild, debauched, chaotic).   No big deal.  A number of Patristic writers made the same point.  Nietzsche adds a most genius conclusion:  the two poles demand one another.


If we can say it another way:  there is no healthy mean between Heraclitean flux and Platonic unity.


The Gay Science and 75 Aphorisms are a collection of sayings of varying interest.


I am not ready to give a full report of his ethics:  Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil.  I sort of get what he is saying.   He often made brilliant psychological insights.


He credits Dostoevsky with teaching him everything he knew about psychology.


It is fun to read Goethe alongside Nietzsche. Is the mature Goethe Nietzsche’s Dionysus?

These are introductory notes written in a Nietzschean format.