Basic Writings of Nietzsche

Basic Writings of Nietzsche

Introduction by Peter GayTranslated and edited by Walter Kaufmann Commentary by Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, and Gilles Deleuze One hundred years after his death, Friedrich Nietzsche remains the most influential philosopher of the modern era. Basic Writings of Nietzsche gathers the complete texts of five of Nietzsche's most important works, from his first book to his la...

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Title:Basic Writings of Nietzsche
Author:Friedrich Nietzsche
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Basic Writings of Nietzsche Reviews

  • Vanja Antonijevic

    First, a note about the collection itself. It includes Nietzsche’s: “The Birth of Tragedy”, “Beyond Good and Evil”, “On the Genealogy of Morals”, “Case of Wagner”, and “Ecce Homo”. These are all excellent books, and the first three may serve as excellent introductions and general surveys of Nietzsche, especially the second and third in the list.

    Also, there is a miscellaneous collection of sections from other books, notes, and letters.

    For those that want to read more Nietzsche, the perfect comp

    First, a note about the collection itself. It includes Nietzsche’s: “The Birth of Tragedy”, “Beyond Good and Evil”, “On the Genealogy of Morals”, “Case of Wagner”, and “Ecce Homo”. These are all excellent books, and the first three may serve as excellent introductions and general surveys of Nietzsche, especially the second and third in the list.

    Also, there is a miscellaneous collection of sections from other books, notes, and letters.

    For those that want to read more Nietzsche, the perfect complement is the “Portable Nietzsche”. It is by the same excellent translator, and is purposely made to complement the “Basic Writings of Nietzsche”. Between those two books you will find almost all of Nietzsche’s best major works, and various representative collections from other works, letters, and notes. The “Portable Nietzsche” includes a complete version of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, “Twilight of the Idols”, “The Antichrist”, and “Nietzsche Contra Wagner”.

    Now, here comes my general statement: Nietzsche is my favorite philosopher so far.

    Why?

    1. Among the great philosophers, Nietzsche is an unsurpassed writer, and is regarded as one of the best German prose writers of all time.

    Only one great philosopher truly matches him in style and readability- Plato.

    2. Great critic.

    Nietzsche may not have much in the form of systematic philosophy, but he is great at eloquently and profoundly challenging past “wisdom”. His favorite targets, of course, are previous philosophers (every one of them) and Christianity.

    3. Great titles.

    Just to name a few of his titles: “Beyond Good and Evil”, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, “the Antichrist”, “Twilight of the Idols”, “the Dawn”, and the post-humorous title based on a phrase Nietzsche also coined- “The Will to Power”. I invite you to contrast these with Kant’s memorable titles such as “Groundwork on the Metaphysics of Morals”, “Metaphysical Foundation of the Sciences”, “Critique of Judgment”, or the ever popular, “The Only Possible Argument in Support of the Existence of God”.

    Nietzsche’s titles draw you to read them, and once you do, you realize that his actual writing is just as creative and memorable, and of course, very profound.

    4. Very modest

    Actually this remark is sarcastic. Nietzsche does not hide his very high opinion of himself and his writing.

    For example, his chapters of his autobiography, “Ecce Homo”, include: “Why I am So Wise”, “Why I am So Clever”, “Why I Write Such Good Books”, and “Why I am a Destiny”.

    He had the highest esteem for “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, as he wrote in the “Genealogy of Morals”:

    “Regarding my Zarathustra, for example, I do not allow that anyone knows that book who has not at some time been profoundly wounded and at some time profoundly delighted by every word in it; for only then may he enjoy the privilege of reverentially sharing in the halcyon element out of which that book was born and in its sunlight, clarity, remoteness, breadth, and certainty.”

    5. Shock value.

    Nietzsche purposely, enthusiastically, directly, and eloquently attacks all religion (especially Christianity), and past moral philosophy which are foundation stones for most people’s moral outlooks. Consequently, he is bound to say something which will shock or infuriate you- or at the very least challenge you and force you to rethink.

  • Erik Graff

    I had already read some of the texts in this collection prior to finding this affordable Modern Library Giant. Having been into Nietzsche for some three years or so already, and being seduced into Kaufmann's style of translation, I was trying to assemble everything, preferably in hardcover.

    Nietzsche, like Plato, is a philosopher kids can read with profit. Of course, not being familiar with the historical and cultural contexts out of which they wrote, one can go quite wrong in one's interpretatio

    I had already read some of the texts in this collection prior to finding this affordable Modern Library Giant. Having been into Nietzsche for some three years or so already, and being seduced into Kaufmann's style of translation, I was trying to assemble everything, preferably in hardcover.

    Nietzsche, like Plato, is a philosopher kids can read with profit. Of course, not being familiar with the historical and cultural contexts out of which they wrote, one can go quite wrong in one's interpretation. Fortunately, as a former history major, I knew Nietzsche's context pretty well. It was only years later, after reading all of Plato, that the study of classical Greek history showed how I, and most of my teachers, had substantially misread Plato.

    The theme of Germanness as opposed to his own, more cosmopolitan vision is very important to a lot of Nietzsche's work as he lived in the midst of building of the modern German state, dying between the Franco-Prussian and the Great War. Much of my appreciation of the cultural aspect of his work, his writings and his music, was owing to an extraordinary girlfriend.

    Her name was Janny Marie Willis, a name probably different now as she has since married. She came to Grinnell as a freshman when I was a senior with a college Work-Study position at the campus Pub-Club. The drinking age was eighteen back then and she was a regular. Although only a first-year student she had a reputation as quite the formidable intellect. She was also blonde and big boned, physically formidable, weighing as much as me.

    Robert Gehorsam, another intellectually formidable person there, introduced us at the bar. He had known her first and knew her better. Hanging with him led to other circumstances involving her.

    One night, after the bar closed, she invited me to her dorm room, a single on the North Campus--quite exceptional for a freshman. It was heavily decorated with fabrics on the walls, a big travel chest and books all over the place in several languages. Lighting a candle, Janny showed me one of her prizes: Joseph Goebbels early work on Dostoevsky, in German. Her dad was a mathematician in the federal civil service and she had been all over the place, following his career from the Netherlands, to Germany, to various places in the States. She spoke German, Dutch and English fluently. She appeared to have read much of what I had read, but in the original languages. Like myself, she was attracted both to the Russian and the German cultures. I was very mightily impressed. This was the first time I had ever met a woman of my age cohort who knew more than I did about the kinds of things you learn in books. After that visit, I was smitten.

    The relationship with Janny continued through the rest of the senior year. Then she moved to Park Ridge for the following summer, taking courses in psychology at Forest Hospital in DesPlaines. When I went on to professional school in New York, she soon transferred from Grinnell to Barnard, her mother's old school, and moved in with me, decorating my walls with fabrics and adding her books to an already considerable collection. By then, I was married for all intents and purposes.

    Janny had a major influence on my studies. In addition to just generally challenging me to learn as much as possible to keep up with her, she inspired me to read pretty much all of Dostoevsky and a lot of other Russian and German literature.

    The relationship ended with her leaving me, ostensibly for another, but there were probably deeper reasons. She had never lived so long in one place, had never been so long with one man or with one so young. My stolidity was at once attractive and threatening. Notwithstanding, the relationships she encouraged between myself and a considerable cross-section of the Western canon have endured.

  • Jee Koh

    This book collects together "The Birth of Tragedy," "Beyond Good and Evil," "On the Genealogy of Morals," "The Case of Wagner," "Ecce Homo" as well as seventy-five aphorisms from "Human, All-Too-Human," "Mixed Opinions and Maxims," "The Wanderer and His Shadow," "The Dawn," and "The Gay Science."

    Why these writings inspire me:

    1. He is a philosopher but he is also a writer; in fact, the two in him are indistinguishable.

    2. He loves what is noble, instead of what is good; he hates what is contempti

    This book collects together "The Birth of Tragedy," "Beyond Good and Evil," "On the Genealogy of Morals," "The Case of Wagner," "Ecce Homo" as well as seventy-five aphorisms from "Human, All-Too-Human," "Mixed Opinions and Maxims," "The Wanderer and His Shadow," "The Dawn," and "The Gay Science."

    Why these writings inspire me:

    1. He is a philosopher but he is also a writer; in fact, the two in him are indistinguishable.

    2. He loves what is noble, instead of what is good; he hates what is contemptible, instead of what is evil.

    3. He is a psychologist.

    4. He is a historian.

    5. He stares into the abyss, and sends art over it. Against absurdity, pessimism, asceticism, he opposes the will to power, the will to recreate values.

    6. He values sex for its own sake, as a force for life.

    7. He is a prophet.

  • Ashok

    The main thing to emphasize is the convenience of this edition for students and scholars. It looks to me like one might have some issues with Kaufmann's translation, especially as regards "Beyond Good and Evil;" I prefer literal translations myself, and he seems to be on the mark with "The Birth of Tragedy."

    What you get here is indispensable - if you're going to do serious work, or make a serious attempt to understand Nietzsche, you probably need "The Birth of Tragedy," "The Genealogy of Morals,

    The main thing to emphasize is the convenience of this edition for students and scholars. It looks to me like one might have some issues with Kaufmann's translation, especially as regards "Beyond Good and Evil;" I prefer literal translations myself, and he seems to be on the mark with "The Birth of Tragedy."

    What you get here is indispensable - if you're going to do serious work, or make a serious attempt to understand Nietzsche, you probably need "The Birth of Tragedy," "The Genealogy of Morals," "Beyond Good and Evil" at the least. You get those, and a gem of a work in

    a very short work where Nietzsche blasts Wagner for his anti-Semitism, his shallow critique of Christianity, and embrace of the Reich.

    Will you need more Nietzsche than this? Probably - you'll most certainly need to read Zarathustra, Twilight of the Idols, and The Anti-Christ, which you won't get here, just to understand "Ecce Homo," which is included here. But again, this is an excellent starting point.

  • Steven Belanger

    "God is dead" is not SOLELY about God, or religion. Discuss.

    What can one say? An ingenious compendium by a man who was a genius, who was head of a department of philosophy of a world-renowned university at 24, misunderstood (and mistranslated and mistreated) in his own lifetime, who knew he would be misunderstood, mistranslated and mistreated in his own lifetime, who became discouraged, depressed, spent too much time alone, got syphilis from sleeping with prostitutes, died in an asylum with the

    "God is dead" is not SOLELY about God, or religion. Discuss.

    What can one say? An ingenious compendium by a man who was a genius, who was head of a department of philosophy of a world-renowned university at 24, misunderstood (and mistranslated and mistreated) in his own lifetime, who knew he would be misunderstood, mistranslated and mistreated in his own lifetime, who became discouraged, depressed, spent too much time alone, got syphilis from sleeping with prostitutes, died in an asylum with the mentality of a (deranged) child, was further mistranslated by his sister so that the world, for a time, thought he was an anti-Semite when in fact she was, and who long after he died, turned the world on its ear by his ideas and writings, and who, at the end, may have been right about authenticity and good faith after all.

    One of the world's few true geniuses. Ever.

    And Walter Kaufmann is a truly great translator, as well. If only he could do the same for Sartre.

  • Caterina

    2/10/2013 - "When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you" wrote Nietzsche. I thought I was spiritually strong enough to peer with impunity through the hole Nietzsche tore open in the veil of the abyss - that somehow the abyss would not notice me glancing into it, would leave me alone. Now, more than one year after completing this anthology (and Thus Spake Zarathustra) I understand that these books don't leave a serious reader unchanged. While on one level I approached them seriously,

    2/10/2013 - "When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you" wrote Nietzsche. I thought I was spiritually strong enough to peer with impunity through the hole Nietzsche tore open in the veil of the abyss - that somehow the abyss would not notice me glancing into it, would leave me alone. Now, more than one year after completing this anthology (and Thus Spake Zarathustra) I understand that these books don't leave a serious reader unchanged. While on one level I approached them seriously, ready for the challenge, on another level I may have been playing chicken with the abyss, not fully considering the personal impact philosophy can have. If you really open your mind and let these ideas in, your old ideas will most likely find themselves overpowered. Once read, these books can't be unread. I don't regret reading them - but felt moved to add this warning to prospective readers. I greatly appreciated many of Nietzsche's ideas, but the whole of his philosophy left me in a kind of turmoil that I don't know how to resolve. It may be that Nietzsche himself was playing chicken with the abyss, and eventually fell in.

    As you can see from my original reviews, below (which I'm not going to revise! - let then stand!) I really enjoyed reading these books. I respect Nietzsche intellectually and artistically, and like him a great deal - but I disagreed with him vehemently at times - particularly his position as an "immoralist." And I find Christ much more attractive than Nietzsche.

    Nietzsche was so subtle, though, that it was never clear to me that he actually believed many of the things he said. Instead, I had the sense he wanted to be argued with, was inviting other intellectuals of his time to stand up to him - and, in that, may have been greatly disappointed. Now that I've belatedly "discovered" Dostoevsky, I would say Dostoevsky looked more far more deeply into the abyss than Nietzsche ever did - and although he clearly influenced Nietzsche, he also offered the strongest contemporary literary pushback - the anti-Nietzsche if you will.

    1/12/2012 - Reading Nietzsche has been a delight and a challenge, inspiring and sometimes appalling. He intended to provoke in the extreme, to tear down the highest values and create new values in their place. If you are spiritually strong, like to argue with your reading material, and appreciate a supreme literary stylist whose work is full of humor and grace and finesse - you might appreciate Nietzsche. Sometimes while reading my imaginary self felt like a little boat floating on a dark, shoreless sea under the moon, about to be struck and perhaps incinerated by lightning, but my real self meanwhile was enjoying the sunshine and a bowl of seafood gumbo across a cafe table from this fascinatingly sane and insane man who caused me to examine my self and my life more deeply than I might have done otherwise.

    This volume contains several of his books: The Birth of Tragedy, Beyond Good and Evil, On the Genealogy of Morals, The Case of Wagner, "Seventy-Five Aphorisms in Five Volumes" (selections from other works), and Ecce Homo, I posted a few comments below for TBOT, BG&E, OTGOM, and Ecce Homo as I finished them.

    1/12/2012 - Finished Ecce Homo, his loosely autobiographical work and commentary on his life's work. EH contained some of his tenderest writing outside of Zarathustra - intimate peeks into his own life. It also offered explanations of his intentions and methods for most of his books, and a fuller explanation of his deliberately provocative term for himself, "the first immoralist." (Although, from his description of his lifestyle, it's not clear to me that he ever actually did anything much immoral.) These "saner" passages are interspersed with prophetic passages that seem to border on sheer insanity - except that they do contain at least a grain of truth regarding his future influence.

    1/1/2012 - Finished On the Genealogy of Morals. Three finely crafted, stealthy attacks of essays - highly readable, formidable fighting words - although they require prior knowledge of his other books to be more fully understood. In the third essay - the climax - he proposes that what he calls the ascetic ideal - the basis, he contends, for all major religions - and for modern science as well - and even, surprisingly, for modern atheism -has been so dominantly powerful because it has never had any rival whatsoever - it has been the only game in town - and yet - he contends its harmfulness to life has outweighed its benefits. Here is his own apt description of the essays conceived as a work of music - from Ecce Homo:

    "Every time a beginning that is calculated to mislead: cool, scientific, even ironic, deliberately foreground, deliberately holding off. Gradually more unrest; sporadic lightning; very disagreeable truths are heard grumbling in the distance -- until eventually a tempo feroce is attained in which everything rushes ahead in a tremendous tension. In the end, in the midst of perfectly gruesome detonations, a new truth becomes visible among thick clouds."

    This description is in itself ironic as the climax of the third essay questions the value of, and perhaps the existence of, truth. Not for the fainthearted.

    11/19/2011 - Finished Beyond Good & Evil. This is an extremely challenging book of difficult ideas, some attractive and some quite repulsive - brilliantly, subtly insightful, masterfully poetic, and still relevant for understanding the modern world. His writing is extremely compelling and always pushes me to new ways of thinking, even if in opposition to him. And it's fascinating (although also frightening in retrospect) to read, 150 years later, the works that were nearly unknown during his lifetime and yet became so influential, and so horrifically used and misused during the 20th century. Since this is an anthology of several of his books, I'm making a short post each time I complete one of the books.

    10/16/2011 - Finished The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music! Nietzsche was an antagonist, a controversialist, an adversary - and at the same time a generator of liberating, life-changing insights that still shine in creative brilliance almost 150 years later. He was also one of the foremost poetic stylists of the German language, so unlike the work of many other philosophers, his books are a pleasure to read for a lover of poetry and language - even in translation. In this, his first book, as a young philologist he tore down the universal homage of Socrates and his Western myth-deprived heritage of optimistic rationality, prophesying with great prescience that this belief "that it can correct the world by knowledge and guide life by science and actually confine the individual to a limited sphere of solvable problems" was actually a degenerative illusion that relied on a slave class to prop it up, and was leading Western society into devastating destruction. He presented both science and religion ultimately as aesthetic phenomena, forms of myth-making to veil the fatal gaze into "what defies illumination." As the life-embracing alternative to the Socratic, he offers Dionysian wisdom, experienced by the aesthetically inclined soul in the arts of tragedy and music, where the veil of beauty cast by the Greek god of art, Apollo, is united with the power of the god Dionysus in whom "the spell of individuation is broken, and the way lies open to the Mothers of Being, to the innermost heart of things." Here is a marvelous and challenging quotation:

    "... suddenly the desert of our exhausted culture...is changed when it is touched by Dionysian magic! A tempest seized everything that has outlived itself, everything that is decayed, broken, and withered, and, whirling, shrouds it in a cloud of red dust to carry it in the air like a vulture. Confused, our eyes look after what has disappeared, for what they see has been raised as from a depression into golden light, so full and green, so amply alive, immeasurable and full of yearning. Tragedy is seated amid this excess of life, suffering, and pleasure, in sublime ecstasy, listening to a distant melancholy song that tells of the Mothers of Being ..."

    While I do not agree with many of Nietzsche's ideas, there is no doubt they have had a profound influence on me.

  • Domhnall

    This is an excellent edition of the key Nietzsche books, not too large to handle and carry comfortably, and with notes that are helpful and informative without interfering with enjoyment. It was challenging to read but well worth the effort. Nietzsche definitely becomes more and more accessible as one gets accustomed to his style and to his lines of thinking. There are both good and bad guides out there, including some that are not so much bad as evil on YouTube, but there is no substitute for r

    This is an excellent edition of the key Nietzsche books, not too large to handle and carry comfortably, and with notes that are helpful and informative without interfering with enjoyment. It was challenging to read but well worth the effort. Nietzsche definitely becomes more and more accessible as one gets accustomed to his style and to his lines of thinking. There are both good and bad guides out there, including some that are not so much bad as evil on YouTube, but there is no substitute for reading the source material, because only in that way is it possible to avoid being misled by commentators who misrepresent what he says. In his comments here, Kaufmann remarks that one of the best critics of Nietzsche's writing is Nietzsche himself, and some of his self criticism is included in this collection. Kaufmann says this is partly because Nietzsche takes the trouble to read his own books, which many of his critics don't. I thought this was just a clever remark until viewing several YouTube hatchet jobs opened my eyes to just how true and important that comment is. People really do set themselves up to make detailed criticisms of Nietzsche without reading what he said. Either that or they lie to dissuade others from reading Nietzsche for themselves. (I will not give links - they will speedily appear if you look). At this stage in my reading, I already greatly admire Nietzsche. I accept that I am predisposed that way and I can easily see why others would dislike him and even be enraged by him. That's life. But it would be such a shame to form (or accept at second hand) an opinion without giving him at least a reasonable opportunity to speak for himself and this volume will certainly reward the effort of reading his own words.

  • Steve

    This was a hard book to read, there is nothing basic about these writings, however, it was also beautifully written. I can definitely see the influence Nietzsche had on Yukio Mishima, not just in terms of philosophy, but also in the downright literary, beautiful metaphors.

    Nietzsche has a unique perspective, which although I still need to question if I even understand, has been an amazingly creative experience for me.

    My only issue is with Nietzsche shameless sexism. It's weird how his philosoph

    This was a hard book to read, there is nothing basic about these writings, however, it was also beautifully written. I can definitely see the influence Nietzsche had on Yukio Mishima, not just in terms of philosophy, but also in the downright literary, beautiful metaphors.

    Nietzsche has a unique perspective, which although I still need to question if I even understand, has been an amazingly creative experience for me.

    My only issue is with Nietzsche shameless sexism. It's weird how his philosophy can easily been seen as a precursor to feminism, especially how society creates ideas about people, and nations blindly follow those ideas. If Nietzsche had fought against sexism as strongly as he fought against antisemitism, he would be near perfect. I console myself by seeing the sexism as so jarring that it shows, to our contemporary eyes, that sexism is a blight.

    Regardless, Nietzsche, with his life loving philosophy, is a must read.

  • Eric Hertenstein

    is nothing if not provocative. And you've got to read this stuff with a critical mind to it - if you're just trying to accept it all you'll get angry pretty quick. But Nietzsche is pretty much trying to break down the ways in which acceptance and complacence were institutionalized by European culture - and continue to be.

    But you've got the whole range here -

    is young Nietzsche at his most careful, but still a cocky bastard. At the other end of the spectrum, and

    is nothing if not provocative. And you've got to read this stuff with a critical mind to it - if you're just trying to accept it all you'll get angry pretty quick. But Nietzsche is pretty much trying to break down the ways in which acceptance and complacence were institutionalized by European culture - and continue to be.

    But you've got the whole range here -

    is young Nietzsche at his most careful, but still a cocky bastard. At the other end of the spectrum, and Nietzsche's life, there's

    where cockiness has bloomed into unchecked curmudgeonliness. In between,

    , which is my continual justification for critical thought, a lucid dream of a book where Nietzsche transcends his contrariness and provocation and enters into the sublime.

  • Nemo

    I read this book because I’ve known Nietzsche advocates nihilism. I thought it is a book on being strong and believe in your own philosophies(I confused it with stoicism). But well I was wrong. This book is the definition of cynicism, it tears down the foundation of everything admirable regarded in the common belief of our society; Nietzsche view everything with despise like a madman, but somehow ingeniously said the true sarcasm unseen in our minds. Everyone who read this will definitely find s

    I read this book because I’ve known Nietzsche advocates nihilism. I thought it is a book on being strong and believe in your own philosophies(I confused it with stoicism). But well I was wrong. This book is the definition of cynicism, it tears down the foundation of everything admirable regarded in the common belief of our society; Nietzsche view everything with despise like a madman, but somehow ingeniously said the true sarcasm unseen in our minds. Everyone who read this will definitely find some notions that may appear as appalling and throw you into an abyss of despair. I think it may not be an ideal book reading for enlightenment and self-help, and it is no good believing and agreeing to every doctrine mention and argued in the essays, but how Nietzsche see the reality that we confront everyday is eye-opening and thought provoking: it makes you realise how small and feeble human is, instead to be fed up by common lies and illusions fabricated by thousands of people, that make us the dominating race feel “highly”. But somehow I really like how he see things in a very transparent way under the veil of illusions created by our consciousness, even how he view these truths he uncovered is not the best and overly pessimistic.

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