Matthew Linton's Reviews > Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography

Nietzsche by Rüdiger Safranski
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Mar 16, 10

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Read from March 13 to 16, 2010

A biography with clear cut pros and cons. Here is a brief enumeration of both:

Pros:

1. Great introductory biography for those unfamiliar with Nietzsche's life and writings. Safranski outlines Nietzsche's thought in clear, elegant prose requiring little previous philosophical background to understand.

2. Stays focused on Nietzsche's philosophy and doesn't get sucked into the petty details of his life or those of the age he lived in.

3. Lacks any glaring distortions of Nietzsche's philosophy. Acknowledges shortcomings in Nietzsche's thought and how they led his sullied reputation during the post-war period.

Cons:

1. The last chapter is a complete disaster. Aside from almost plagiarizing the work of Aschheim, the topic is too large to be covered in one chapter. By taking on too much material, the final chapter lacks focus and ends the book on a low note.

2. His apologetic treatment of Martin Heidegger in the final chapter. Safranski refuses to acknowledge the controversy that has arisen from Heidegger's appropriation of Nietzsche during World War II. I understand that Safranski has written a biography of Heidegger and likely believes Heidegger has been unfairly condemned for his flirtations with Nazism, but he should have acknowledged the controversy.

3. I would have liked more comparison between philosophical works. There are a few comparisons made, but it would have been interesting if Safranski illustrated more explicitly how Nietzsche's philosophy changed from the Birth of Tragedy to his later unpublished writings.

Overall, this isn't my favorite Nietzsche biography (I am still partial to R.J. Hollingdale's biography), but Safranski provides a solid introduction to Nietzsche's life and oeuvre. I would recommend it to those who have some philosophical background and are looking for a general book on Nietzsche's philosophy as background reading before reading Nietzsche for themselves.
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Kenneth Perfect!


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