Tom's Reviews > Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist

Nietzsche by Walter Kaufmann
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's review
Mar 03, 2012

really liked it
Read from February 15 to 22, 2012

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 in an arrogant, almost pompous, tone, as if Kaufmann is saying, "Ah, my interpretation is so profound! Everyone before me were idiots to interpret Nietzsche how they did!" Granted, interpretations of Nietzsche have been historically poor, and his works have been used by individuals to justify certain causes that he clearly did not endorse, but Kaufmann sounds just a bit too sure of himself at times.

Also, throughout the entirety Kaufmann chooses to cite Nietzsche's works using acronyms in parentheses--acronyms that are formed from the the original German titles. Why he would do this, considering that most English readers would be more familiar with the English titles, is beyond me. It was a hassle having to remember that, for example, FW really referred to the Gay Science. Furthermore, there are occasional German words that Kafumann leaves untranslated without clearly explaining what they mean (not a significant amount, but they're there). Obviously they must have had no appropriate English equivalent, but there are instances where contextual clues are not good enough to decipher their meaning, and it's unfortunate that Kaufmann wasn't more scrupulous in this regard.

Nevertheless, I would recommend anyone considering getting into Nietzsche to read this book. In fact, it would probably be extremely helpful to read this before ever reading any Nietzsche at all. If I had read this prior to reading, say, Zarathustra it would have been far, far easier to figure out just what the hell Nietzsche was getting at.

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