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Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,725 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
This classic is the benchmark against which all modern books about Nietzsche are measured. When Walter Kaufmann wrote it in the immediate aftermath of World War II, most scholars outside Germany viewed Nietzsche as part madman, part proto-Nazi, and almost wholly unphilosophical. Kaufmann rehabilitated Nietzsche nearly single-handedly, presenting his works as one of the gre ...more
Paperback, Fourth edition, 532 pages
Published 1974 by Princeton University Press (first published 1950)
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Sep 14, 2015 Ted rated it it was amazing
I have not read this book completely. In fact as far as I am certain, I have only read one chapter, that quite recently: chapter 6, “The Discovery of the Will to Power”.

Despite this, I have no doubt that the book deserves the rating I’ve given it, with no qualifications.

I will admit that I don’t know if Kaufmann has been superseded by someone else in the “Nietzsche scholarship” field over the last couple decades. This book first appeared in 1950, so it’s not recent by any means. But with three o
Erik Graff
Nov 26, 2012 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Nietzsche or Western philosophy
Recommended to Erik by: Kaufmann's translation work
Shelves: philosophy
Walter Kaufmann is one of the great popularists of philosophy, the Will Durant of his generation. If you are intimidated by the subject and the big names in the history of philosophy, Kaufmann is for you.

If you liked this book, a positive appropriation of the oft-maligned, but ever-popular Nietzsche, then you ought look into his book on Hegel.

I originally purchased this volume in paperback during a Nietzsche phase in college, then obtained a hardcover version years later.
Dec 09, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
Growing up in evangelical Christianity in America, all we knew about the German philosopher Nietszche was that he had declared "God is dead". We even had shirts (thankfully I never owned one) that stated Nietzsche said God is dead, but God says Nietzsche is dead. I doubt that anyone who made those shirts, or even very few who attacked Nietzsche's anti-Christian philosophy read any of his actual writings, or even the best books about his writings.

I have read very few of his writings, maybe two b
Apr 30, 2015 Domhnall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
I was attracted to this book by Kaufmann's lively and helpful footnotes in his Basic Writings of Nietzsche and I am not only a complete fan now of Nietzsche but also of Kaufmann. It is worth adding that Kaufmann is one writer where it is worth the effort of reading footnotes, some of which are gems in their own right. I have already taken the advice from a review by Erik Graff (here) and purchased several other Kaufmann books, starting with a book on Hegel. (Why would I want to study Hegel? I am ...more
Feb 26, 2010 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Superb introduction to Nietzsche's thought. Not entirely for the specialist. Gives a fairly thorough (although some have argued sanitized) account of the central elements of Nietzsche's critical philosophy. Was a ground-breaking study when it first appeared and still outranks all subsequent studies of Nietzsche (in my opinion). Kaufmann is also a wonderfully articulate writer. If you are at all interested in Nietzsche you must read this book.
Jan 25, 2014 Abailart rated it it was amazing
Always a joy to read Kaufmann. His writing is rich and punchy, passionate and highly intelligent. Here, he makes mincemeat of received myth, and of certain other philosophers and figures in the Nietzsche industry. His interpretation of Nietzsche - whose work, he insists, must be viewed as a whole - is particularly sympathetic from one who is no acolyte of the philosopher.
Nov 01, 2007 Jamey rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Nietzsche was just a bit more of a jerk than Kaufmann is willing to admit, which is very moving, because you love Nietzsche and you don't want him to have been a jerk, but then there's all the shitty things he said, and his contempt for weakness, and the crap about the "Blond Beast," and you're like, oh fuck it. And Kaufmann's brother was killed by the Nazi's, who hijacked Nietzsche's legacy, and here's Kaufmann himself, the greatest translator Nietzsche will ever have, defending Nietzsche with ...more
Aug 22, 2007 Clint rated it it was amazing
I think Walter Kaufmann is the best guide for the Nietzsche wirter, because he really really seems to care a great deal about the topic, much more than other commentators, and he's not one of those dumbass very modern guys from France who make Nietzsche into something completely different from what he was. I recommend this book to anyone who really wants to get a good understanding of Nietzsche that the books themselves can't provide so easily.
Jan 02, 2012 Craig rated it it was amazing
This book forms a trinity with Walter Kaufmann's two volumes of translations--The Portable Nietzsche and Basic Writings of Nietzsche--comprising the bulk of the philosopher's major works. This volume takes the form of an introduction, touching on Nietzsche's biography but primarily serving two roles: carefully leading the reader through the development of Nietzsche's thoughts, while at the same time defending these major themes against gross misrepresentations by Nietzsche's sister (for a while, ...more
Jee Koh
Oct 24, 2009 Jee Koh rated it really liked it
In grappling with Nietzsche's ideas, Kaufmann appreciates fully his experimental style. He writes:

The elusive quality of this style, which is so characteristic of Nietzsche's way of thinking and writing, might be called monadologic to crystallize the tendency of each aphorism to be self-sufficient while yet throwing light on almost every other aphorism. We are confronted with a "pluralistic universe" in which each aphorism is itself a microcosm. Almost as often as not, a single passage is equall
Sep 04, 2008 Jacob rated it really liked it
Anyone who would read this today already knows that Nietzsche was neither a fascist nor an anti-Semite and some might also have noticed that he was, moreover, a prescient critic of the like. A good deal of Kaufmann's energy here is devoted to confronting these prejudices and, while this needed to be done, it makes the work less relevant then some of the more current discussion of Nietzsche.

Kaufmann does address other issues of interpretation which are still being dealt with: regarding Nietzsche
Jul 19, 2009 Nick rated it really liked it
This book is for anyone who reads Nietzsche and loves it, but doesn't really see a coherent philosophy. Kaufmann looks at Nietzsche's entire legacy and puts together a pretty straight-forward, compelling presentation of his thought. Kaufmann's writing is everything that Nietzsche's isn't, which is a blessing when it comes to clarity but kind of a downer in every other department.

The title is a little sensationalist and misleading — this book is basically a very dense, very competent CliffsNotes.
Feb 25, 2014 Countchaos666 rated it it was amazing
This book has the reputation of being the "gold standard" of Nietzsche scholarship and after reading this book, that reputation has been rightfully earned. Kaufmann has done a couple of big things in this book. One, his sympathetic analysis is superb however, he does not let his sympathies cloud his objectivity as there are passages that find Kaufmann being very critical of Nietzsche. I find that to be the mark of a true academic. Secondly, the scope of his research is immense yet, he conveys th ...more
Oct 01, 2013 Eugéne rated it liked it
Doesn't get to the heart of Nietzsche's transvaluation paradox, i.e. Nietzsche as a moral philosopher is descriptive rather than prescriptive. He used a psychological determinist theory for the rise of one, or other, type of moral tendency, either indulgent or ascetic, but still offers moral prescriptions in open contradiction to the fact that such prescriptions are only spontaneous actions psychologically determined. His prescriptions against 'pity' are therefore paradoxical given his purely de ...more
Lizzy Matthew
Jun 05, 2016 Lizzy Matthew rated it it was amazing
Kaufman once again (I read his "Nietzsche- Gay Science") manages to systematize the main themes of Nietzsche's works and discusses various themes such as Nietzsche's dialectical style of writing; his opposition to Christianity as an institution, as a decadent system of morality; his aversion towards the "smallness" of man, emphasizing a need to know oneself, before going on more "outward expeditions", among others.

What's amazing is how Nietzsche's beliefs are still applicable today -- our homog
Mar 09, 2015 Andrei rated it really liked it
In short, I'd like to say that this book is both informative and well-written, never once preaching—nor devaluing—Nietzsche's thoughts.

Could more have been said? Absolutely. After all, you could probably write a book on every work by the man that's thrice as long and still not say everything that there is to say, so that can't be held against Kaufmann.

Still, this book offers immense insight into Nietzsche and his philosophy, and would be an entertaining read both to those who want to use this
Mar 14, 2008 Jake rated it it was amazing
I'm so close to done with this book... I've been picking through it piece-by-piece for years now, but it is a great companion to Nietzsche's life and work—a kind of high-speed, PhD-level Sparknotes, I guess.

Also not for the Nietzsche neophyte, this book is daunting in its density, yet surprisingly readable for the truly interested. A good distillation and interpretation of Nietzsche's life and times and how it all came together in his work.
Oct 04, 2015 xDEAD ENDx rated it it was amazing
Absolutely great insight into Nietzsche's ideas. Kaufmann thoroughly debunks all the misreadings of Nietzsche throughout the years in a clear and straightforward way. We're left with a final evaluation of Nietzsche as an "antipolitical" thinker fully against all the racist garbage his sister tried to tie to him.
Leslie Erin Quinn
Nov 18, 2011 Leslie Erin Quinn rated it liked it
A tough read - very dry. While the subject himself was interesting in terms of both his ideas and life, I think it could have presented in a way that made it a little easier to get through. Not bad by any means, and certainly well-researched, but just read like the longest term paper in history.
Feb 23, 2015 Hind rated it liked it
I give it three stars only because it was too in depth for what I was after.
Kaufmann is great. His style is flawless and approach engaging. The book is perhaps more suited for someone looking to study Nietzsche on an academic level, rather than an amateur reading for fun level.
Tim Collins
Jul 24, 2016 Tim Collins rated it it was amazing
An excellent exposition of the basic components of Nietzsche's philosophical approach. I have been reading for many years now writings that attack Nietzsche ( yes, I have spelled it correctly twice now ) as the source of the corrosive nihilism and relativism plaguing modern discourse, so I decided to read directly what he had to say and judge for myself.

The result, based on Kaufman's reading of N., is very clarifying. N. is just pointing out the problem and he is not particularly happy about it.
Kyle Sardonicus Amadeus Stanfield
While Kaufmann did a lot for translating Nietzsche to English, he's too full of himself and anything he translates is at least 50 liner notes of him masturbating at how he knows Nietzsche better than you. This book is essentially a glorification of that.
Aug 19, 2015 miskcufdog rated it it was amazing
this book is not the authority fully on what Nietzsche's work is about it is however in exoneration of many things. Nazism co-opted his writing and use it for political propaganda because it clearly needed a manifesto outside of the voice of Hitler. if we however examine his work we can see that the warnings and the coming of nihilism as he discusses is in fact Nazism to its fullest. the will to power the coming to the mob mentality and the evaluation of the highest values is clearly something p ...more
Alex Obrigewitsch
Jun 30, 2014 Alex Obrigewitsch rated it really liked it
A useful text from which to spring into (or back into) Nietzsche.
While I enjoy Kaufmann's translations of Nietzsche the most, I cannot stand the tone of the man himself. He writes like he is the authority on everything and anything, is never wrong, and everyone else (especially philosophers) were all idiots. Not specifically in this work as much as in From Shakespeare to Existentialism
Alex Milledge
Dec 04, 2014 Alex Milledge rated it liked it
Nietzsche is what you can call an "asshole." You can read him in so many ways and he wants you to read him in that way, to never have a privileged aspect of being able to interpret him. You can read as being an Aristotelian or an immoralist, or as an elitist or an egalitarian.

Kaufman reads him as being a tender nietzschean, not the racist neo-nazi that some people interpret him to be. I think that is the way to best interpret Nietzsche, if you can do such a thing.

Will be diving into the main w
Gary Dorion
Dec 03, 2015 Gary Dorion rated it it was amazing
Walter Kaufmann seemed to have known Nietzsche probably better than Nietzsche knew himself. Having read nearly all of Nietzsche's books, I still found Kaufmann's books on Nietzsche extraordinarily insightful and believe that anyone would be hard pressed to find a more interesting and knowledgeable biographer of this historical phenomenon.

Although Nietzsche certainly had his faults, it would be difficult to find a more brilliant and erudite figure in history with the possible exception (but far l
Andrew Olsen
May 30, 2015 Andrew Olsen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-books-1
A Necessary Portrait of a Misunderstood Figure

This book by Walter Kaufmann is probably the most important book written about the life and works of Friedrich Nietzsche.

To give credence to what Kaufmann has done up to this point a short history of his work is needed; he has translated nearly every book Nietzsche has written as well as various letters and notes. He also in doing so has created notes and explanations in the translated text to emphasize where it is clear and where it is much more nu
Mar 03, 2012 Tom rated it really liked it
This is an indispensable work for anyone interested in understanding Nietzsche's thought. Kaufmann clarifies every aspect of Nietzsche's philosophy with such clarity and precision that it becomes possible to understand the notoriously difficult philosopher with relative ease. Some of Kaufmann's interpretations are debatable, but they always serve well in the attempt to illuminate Nietzsche's position.

My biggest criticisms are what I see as stylistic faults. For instance, the whole text is soaked
Philip Cartwright
Jan 30, 2013 Philip Cartwright rated it liked it
An important and thought-provoking book for anyone wishing to get to grips with Nietzsche’s writings. Kaufmann does a good job of combating the various misleading interpretations which have dogged Nietzsche’s reputation over the years: that he was a proto-Nazi; a nihilist; a Social Darwinist; an irrationalist; someone who gloried in war and brutality; and so on. Indeed, whilst there are certainly many harsh (perhaps even shrill) comments in Nietzsche’s books, even a half-attentive reader will be ...more
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Walter Arnold Kaufmann was a German-American philosopher, translator, and poet. A prolific author, he wrote extensively on a broad range of subjects, such as authenticity and death, moral philosophy and existentialism, theism and atheism, Christianity and Judaism, as well as philosophy and literature. He served for over 30 years as a Professor at Princeton University.

He is renowned as a scholar an
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“A system must necessarily be based on premises that by its very nature it cannot question.” 1 likes
“One can oppose the shallow optimism of so many Western thinkers and yet refuse to negate life.” 1 likes
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