Read Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future by Friedrich Nietzsche Free Online
Book Title: Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future|
The author of the book: Friedrich Nietzsche
Edition: Cambridge University Press
Date of issue: December 24th 2001
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Reader ratings: 3.1
ISBN 13: 9780521779135
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 961 KB
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I can think of few instances where an author's reputation is more different from the reality of who he was, what he believed, and what he wrote--perhaps only Machiavelli has been as profoundly misunderstood by history. Today, Nietzsche tends to be thought of as a depressive nihilist, a man who believed in nothing, and an apologist for the atrocities of fascism--but no description could be further from the truth.
There probably are not many men who had more reason than Nietzsche to feel resentful and miserable: he grew up a sickly child, prone to severe headaches which often left him literally blind with pain. Then, during his brief career in the cavalry, he tore several muscles in his side, and while serving as a medical orderly in the Franco-Prussian war, contracted a number of diseases. These incidents would affect his health for the rest of his life, leaving him bedridden and in pain for hours or days at a time.
It would not have been unreasonable to give in to misery and bitterness under such conditions, but on those days when Nietzsche felt well enough to write, he would emerge from his room with renewed passion and vigor, taking long walks in the beauty of the countryside before returning home to labor in producing a philosophy not of misery, but of joy. Contrary to his reputation, Nietzsche rejected nihilism outright--he thought that if the world does not provide your life with a clear meaning, it is up to you to go out and find one (or create one), not to wallow and whinge.
Likewise, he spent much of his life railing against the foolishness of nationalism and bigotry--indeed, his famed falling out with the composer Wagner was over the increasingly nationalistic style of music the latter was producing. So, that being the case, how did he gain such an unfortunate reputation at all?
The first reason is that, after his death, his sister took over his estate, and as she herself was a German nationalist and anti-semite (as was her prominent husband), she had a number of her brother's papers rewritten to support these execrable positions and then published them posthumously in his name. Of course, this couldn't have fooled anyone actually familiar with Nietzsche's works and ideas, as the rewrites were in direct contradiction to his previous writings, but it still fooled many.
The second problem with the interpretation of his work is one that mirrors Machiavelli precisely: the author's observations on the nature of the world are mistaken for suggestions for how the world should be. It's like reading a book about crime scene investigation and, because it admits that murder exists and describes the methods by which is is done, assuming that it is an instruction book for murderers, when in fact it is the opposite: an instruction of how to combat them and stop them.
Both Nietzsche and Machiavelli had a similar approach: so the world can be a brutal place, a place where people gain power not by being wise and respected, but by dominating and taking advantage of others--what are we going to do about it? For Nietzsche, one of the necessary things we must do to free ourselves from this dominance over body and mind is to recognize that 'good' and 'evil' are just words, words that have been used by the powerful to justify anything they might choose to do--their 'just wars' against the 'evil foe', while that foe invariably preaches the same story in reverse, painting themselves as the hero, while in actuality both sides are motivated by greed and the desire for power.
To say that someone is 'evil' is to say that they have no rational motivation for what they do, that we should not attempt to understand them, but should oppose them without thinking about why. It's a powerful tool to deny reality, and so, as individuals, if we refuse to accept definitions of what is good or evil as they are handed down by those in power, we will have taken the first step to freeing ourselves from mental tyranny.
This was what Nietzsche meant by 'The Superman': that the man of the future, if he is to be free, cannot allow anyone else to define his life for him, cannot take authority for granted, but must question the world without as well as the world within, to discover for himself what is important and what is true. His famous 'Will to Power' is the personal decision to wrest control of your life from those who would seek to dominate you. To be free means being a philosopher.
And this is something I have tried to achieve for myself; but to unwind prejudice and ignorance is a lifelong battle, and I'm certainly grateful to have, in my search, an ally like Nietzsche (and the late Nietzsche scholar Rick Roderick). Many have been the days when I felt run down and exhausted, put upon and disrespected by an impersonal world bent on breaking to its will, and at those times, Nietzsche's joyful and witty deconstruction of that ridiculous, artificial world has proven an invaluable comfort to me. There is no authority who can tell you who you are, no church, no government, no university, no job, and no individual. In the end, it is up to you to create yourself.
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Read information about the authorFriedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life's expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Nietzsche's revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries.
From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy