Nietzsche : Life as Literature

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More than eighty years after his death, Nietzsche's writings and his career remain disquieting, disturbing, obscure. His most famous views-the will to power, the eternal recurrence, the UEbermensch, the master morality-often seem incomprehensible or, worse, repugnant. Yet he remains a thinker of singular importance, a great opponent of Hegel and Kant, and the source of much that is powerful in figures as diverse as Wittgenstein, Derrida, Heidegger, and many recent American philosophers.

Alexander Nehamas provides the best possible guide for the perplexed. He reveals the single thread running through Nietzsche's views: his thinking of the world on the model of a literary text, of people as if they were literary characters, and of knowledge and science as if they were literary interpretation. Beyond this, he advances the clarity of the concept of textuality, making explicit some of the forces that hold texts together and so hold us together. Nehamas finally allows us to see that Nietzsche is creating a literary character out of himself, that he is, in effect, playing the role of Plato to his own Socrates.

Nehamas discusses a number of opposing views, both American and European, of Nietzsche's texts and general project, and reaches a climactic solving of the main problems of Nietzsche interpretation in a step-by-step argument. In the process he takes up a set of very interesting questions in contemporary philosophy, such as moral relativism and scientific realism. This is a book of considerable breadth and elegance that will appeal to all curious readers of philosophy and literature.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 16.76mm | 327g
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0674624262
  • 9780674624269
  • 612,361

Back cover copy

Nietzsche is an author, a public figure, and all his writings are relevant to his interpretation. The importance we attach to any part of his work cannot depend on general principles about which is essentially primary and which necessarily follows.
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Table of contents

Introduction Part I. The World 1. The Most Multifarious Art of Style 2. Untruth as a Condition of Life 3. A Thing Is the Sum of Its Effects 4. Nature against Something That Is Also Nature Part II. The Self 5. This Life--Your Eternal Life 6. How One Becomes What One Is 7. Beyond Good and Evil A Note on Texts and Translations Notes Index
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Review quote

This is the best and most important book on Nietzsche in English. Alexander Nehamas argues at a level of sophistication and provides a density of content which are very rare in this field. -- Michael Tanner * Times Literary Supplement * This new study is fascinating for its portrayal of Nietzsche's thought as 'literary' in a twofold sense: first, Nehamas argues that Nietzsche viewed the world as if it were a literary text; second, he claims that Nietzsche's goal as an author was to create a specific literary character... The case is argued forcefully (and even with a touch of drama)... The writing is rich and allusive in a manner that is unusual in contemporary works of philosophy. It is a valuable contribution to our understanding of Nietzsche, one that adds substance to the often facile citing of Nietzsche in contemporary literary studies. -- Stephen N. Dunning * Poetics Today * Anyone at all interested in Nietzsche will certainly want to read [this book]... Nehamas has applied his own theory of interpretation, and he has postulated an integrated, coherent 'Nietzsche' to whom no future reader of Nietzsche can remain indifferent. -- David Hoy * London Review of Books * Marvelous... Nehamas has written perhaps the best book yet on Nietzsche's philosophy. -- Robert C. Solomon * Philadelphia Inquirer * Nehamas evolves a wonderfully subtle and ingenious interpretation... [He has] produced something weighty, complex, distinctive-in its way, a work of art. -- George Scialabba * Village Voice Literary Supplement * Philosophers and anyone interested in philosophy welcome Alexander Nehamas's elegant and challenging interpretation of this most 'writerly of philosophers' ...This unusually engaging book demands our attention. -- Karsten Harries * New York Times Book Review *
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About Alexander Nehamas

Alexander Nehamas is Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Philosophy, and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. He is author of Nietzsche: Life as Literature, Virtues of Authenticity: Essays on Plato and Socrates, The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault, Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art, and On Friendship.
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Rating details

301 ratings
4.05 out of 5 stars
5 41% (124)
4 33% (98)
3 18% (54)
2 7% (20)
1 2% (5)
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