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Walter Kaufmann
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Nietzsche: Philosoph-Psychologe-Antichrist

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  5,174 Ratings  ·  71 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 WWII, most scholars outside Germany viewed Nietzsche as part madman, part proto-Nazi & almost wholly unphilosophical. Kaufmann rehabilitated Nietzsche nearly single-handedly, presenting his works as one of the great achi ...more
Published 1988 (first published 1950)
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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I will admit that I don’t know if Kaufmann has been superseded by someone else in the “Nietzsche scholarship” field over the last couple decades.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
Mar 10, 2008 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.
This, I suppose, was the first step in the philosophical world's large-scale cleanup and renovation of Nietzsche's reputation in the wake of World War II. I can't argue with Kaufmann's well-written explanation of Nietzsche's ideas, and I can't argue with most of his analysis. However, he does a lot of whitewashing, and tries to posit Nietzsche as a more democratic figure than he actually was, by framing his arguments as "antipolitical," and spends a bit too much time trying to separate out Nietz ...more
Nov 19, 2015 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 09, 2015 Domhnall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 06, 2013 Abailart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Jee Koh
Oct 24, 2009 Jee Koh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 26, 2009 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 13, 2013 Countchaos666 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 22, 2007 Clint rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 07, 2012 xDEAD ENDx rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 23, 2014 Hind rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Arjun Ravichandran
Badly written, rambling introduction to this crucial thinker. Get "Nietzsche : A Guide for the Perplexed" instead for a readable introduction.
Gary Dorion
Jan 07, 2013 Gary Dorion rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2011 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Philip Cartwright
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
Lizzy Matthew
Jun 05, 2016 Lizzy Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrew Olsen
Apr 13, 2014 Andrew Olsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 04, 2008 Jacob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 01, 2007 Jamey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 14, 2008 Jake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Leslie Erin Quinn
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.
Christopher Putra
Feb 28, 2017 Christopher Putra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What in transvaluation of value
Rebecca Garrard
Feb 27, 2017 Rebecca Garrard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To be a Nietzschean, one must not be a Nietzschean.

Oct 10, 2011 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2015 Andrei rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Troy Esquibel
Jul 28, 2016 Troy Esquibel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to start rating books on two scales, one as food for the soul, one as food for the brain. Food for the soul, this book recieves two stars, it is not some great piece of literature that touches you and makes you think, nor is it supposed to be. Food for the brain, five stars, excellent background information on Nietzche's influences, the "legend" that Kaufmann attempts to breakdown, and an analyzation of his key concepts, such as a) the refutation of Western values b) the concept of eterna ...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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