Brent McCulley's Reviews > Human, All Too Human/Beyond Good and Evil

Human, All Too Human/Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
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it was amazing
bookshelves: philosophy

prescript: This review is for Human, All Too Human Pt I & II, for my review of Beyond Good and Evil:

Nietzsche is a master at the aphorism, and in HATH it shows, as this book, at least for me, was the deciding instrumental cause that so fluidly weaved a philosophic thread through Nietzsche's other webs of thought, thereby allowing me to really begin to grasp Nietzsche in a more dynamic, yet holistic, way. I will be the first to admit, my understanding for Nietzsche two years ago--for example when I first read Beyond Good and Evil, which was indecently the first Nietzsche work that I read by him--was utterly naive at best, but since then, having traversed through the aforesaid, plus all of the following: The Anti Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols/The Antichrist/Ecce Homo, The Birth of Tragedy, The Genealogy of Morals, Thus Spake Zarathustra, The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, and now finally Human, All Too Human, I can say without a doubt, that HATH has propelled me forward in understanding Nietzsche's thought that I heretofore had not quite attained. Let me explain why.

As one of Nietzsche's earliest works, HATH is the first book that he truly began to philosophize with a hammer. Wielding it ever so gracefully, yet with a dominating force, he thereupon begins to smash away at the presuppositions and illusions that had hitherto held humanity, who is "bound with many chains" (507). He smashes knowing full well what his actions are in and of themselves, but perchance not entirely knowing the full consequences therefrom and thereafter. Nevertheless, he laughs and chides all the way. Why does the aphorism smash? Because it is "the greatest paradox in literature, the imperishable in the midst of change" (318). And yet he charges the readers not to mishandle his philosophic aphorism by "mak[ing] a point of referring to the general to the particular instance to which the aphorism owes its origin. This namby-pamby attitude brings all the author's trouble to naught, and instead of a philosophic lesson and a philosophic frame of mind, the deservedly gain nothing" (309). To be sure, it is for this very same reason why Nietzsche loathed the custom "and almost duty for the author's name to appear on the book...if they are good, they are worth more than the personalities of their authors" (316). And indeed, HATH is worth far more than a one Friedrich Nietzsche, for it belongs to "a particular reader and men of his stamp" (316), to the free-spirits of old, yea, to the free spirits of a generation yet to come!

Much more forthright than other Nietzsche works, HATH serves as a wonderful comprehensive introduction to Nietzsche's thought in plain day, albeit I would never tell someone wanting to dive into Nietzsche to start with this work. The downside is that HATH lacks the focus of his other works, such as BG&E, and is Nietzsche's thought at his most elementary, as book I was written in 1878, well before the Gay Science, Zarathustra, etc. Hence, various uniquely Nietzschean doctrines are conspicuously absent, albeit some are hinted or alluded too, such as the doctrine of the eternal recurrence, master-slave morality, perspectivism, etc. What is present is a crushing dialectical negation of all things German, Romantic, Medieval, Christian, Classical, and Scientific. The ad-hoc grappling of the French Enlightenment, the praise of Voltaire, the French, and the Greeks, is postulated in witty prose, but only as a means whereby Nietzsche could continue his dialectical negation, and not as an end. For it is interesting that Nietzsche dedicated the first edition to Voltaire, but removed the aforesaid for the printing of the second edition. Moreover, his praise of the Greeks, and his seeming affinity towards Epicures et. al., slowly seem to dwindle as his Birth of a Tragedy mindset wanes--a work he later regretted writing--and his specific and unique doctrine of the Dionysian spirit comes to the forefront. HATH has two books, the first comprehensive and containing a little more focus than book II, which rightly so, is split into two parts, the first being called "Miscellaneous Maxims & Opinions.". The books twain cover topics including metaphysics, ontology, history, politics, marriage, morality, meta-ethics, art/aesthetics, religious experience/philosophy of religion, women, the State, German culture and more. As I said before, HATH is a massive tome that is severely comprehensive, and although it is not Nietzsche at his most mature by any means, it might just be Nietzsche at his finest.

In sum, let us perchance follow Nietzsche's exhortation to "never again read an author of whom one can suspect that he wanted to make a book, but only [read] those writers whose thoughts unexpectedly became a book" (436). And indeed, without a doubt, HATH was not Nietzsche setting out to write a book; nay, was it not The Shadow merely giving The Wanderer a chance to speak? Aye, to be sure: " The Shadow: 'It is so long since I heard you speak that I should like to give you an opportunity of talking.' The Wanderer: 'I hear a voice--where? whose? I almost fancied that I heard myself speaking, but with a voice yet weaker than my own'" (387). Yes, the day has dawned, and the night is almost here; for we cannot see our shadow any longer, but the time is still not yet come; or is it? Will we in fact, then, swallow these lies, smash these truths, negate our lives, selves, presuppositions and very existence by and by if not for the sole reason to reach that higher plateau, to live in the land of the hyperboreans way off in the netherworld. Yes, we shall and we must, since that free spirit "needs no one to refute him--he is quite capable of doing that himself" (478). Until then we continue the dialectical progress onwards, upwards, backwards and sidewards: "For the more joyful and assured the mind becomes, the more man loses the habit of loud laughter. In compensation, there is an intellectual smile continually bubbling up in him, a sign of his astonishment at the innumerable concealed delights of a good existence" (452). And hence we grimace; we intellectually and mentally laugh, quite simply because we are alive.

Brent McCulley (11.3.14)
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Reading Progress

October 19, 2014 – Started Reading
October 19, 2014 – Shelved
October 19, 2014 – Shelved as: philosophy
October 20, 2014 –
page 44
October 24, 2014 –
page 160
October 24, 2014 –
page 232
October 30, 2014 –
page 334
November 1, 2014 –
page 406
November 2, 2014 – Finished Reading

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