The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism / Edition 1

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"Among all the great thinkers of the past two hundred years, Nietzsche continues to occupy a special place - not only for a broad range of academics but also for members of a wider public, who find some of their most pressing existential concerns addressed in his works. Central among these concerns is the question of the meaning of a life characterized by inescapable suffering, at a time when the traditional responses inspired by Christianity are increasingly losing their credibility. While most recent studies of Nietzsche's works have lost sight of this fundamental issue, Bernard Reginster's book The Affirmation of Life brings it sharply into focus." Reginster identifies overcoming nihilism as a central objective of Nietzsche's philosophical project, and shows how this concern systematically animates all of his main ideas. In particular, Reginster's work develops an original and elegant interpretation of the will to power, which convincingly explains how Nietzsche uses this doctrine to mount a critique of the dominant Christian values, to overcome the nihilistic despair they produce, and to determine the conditions of a new affirmation of life. Thus, Reginster attributes to Nietzsche a compelling substantive ethical outlook based on the notions of challenge and creativity - an outlook that involves a radical reevaluation of the role and significance of suffering in human existence.
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Editorial Reviews

Review of Metaphysics
A well written and thoughtful book...Impressive and provocative...The argumentation is clear, persuasive, and innovative...The discussion of existing interpretations (those of Clark, Kaufmann, Lowith, Nehamas, and several others) is exemplary: it is careful and tranquil, thoughtful and engaging.
— Nectarios G. Limnatis
Library Journal
Friedrich Nietzsche is arguably one of the most difficult philosophers to comprehend owing to his apparent lack of a central philosophical theory and the confusing nature of his writings. Reginster (philosophy, Brown Univ.) acknowledges this but believes there is a systematic order and a central notion throughout Nietzsche's work. He writes that we should not view Nietzsche as having tried to create a philosophical theory, but an answer to the problem of nihilism, which, according to Reginster, was his notion of the affirmation of life. He explains that no one has "yet been able to explain adequately why Nietzsche regards the affirmation of life as his defining philosophical achievement." Through an analysis of his main philosophical ideas, like the will to power and eternal recurrence, Reginster presents the structure of Nietzsche's affirmation of life, which is based on overcoming resistance and despair. With lucid writing and a superb examination of his works, Reginster succeeds in presenting a coherent interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy. Highly recommended for academic libraries.-Scott Duimstra, Capital Area Dist. Lib., Lansing, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Martha C. Nussbaum
For Reginster, Nietzsche's central motivating problem is the problem of nihilism, a problem caused by the "death of God." His argument then dissects nihilism into two distinct problems: on the one hand, the problem of disorientation, the sense we have that our highest values lack metaphysical grounding or justification; and, on the other, the problem of despair, our sense that our highest values are unrealizable in this world. Reginster argues that the nihilism of disorientation has to be faced and answered before one can grapple with (or indeed be seized by) despair. It is only when we have restored to ourselves a sense of the worth of these values, by some successful answer to the problem of disorientation, that we can feel the full force of the problem of despair. The problem of disorientation, Reginster then argues, is successfully solved by Nietzsche through his doctrine of perspectivism, understood as the idea that all our reasons are contingent. Nietzsche argues that the existence of contingent perspectives is a necessary condition for any practical reasoning, and therefore cannot possibly spell the downfall of our aspirations to find reasons. Reginster then turns to the despair problem, showing the depth of Nietzsche's engagement with Schopenhauer's pessimism. Offering the most philosophically serious and interesting discussion of Schopenhauer I have seen in the literature, he then argues that the doctrine of the Will to Power is Nietzsche's response. Instead of seeking satisfaction, Nietzsche argues, we basically seek the overcoming of resistance. If this is so, we ought to will the continued existence of suffering (understood as the effect of resistance to our will), so that we have struggles still to win.
Brian Leiter
Heidegger suggested a half-century ago that the problem of nihilism and the doctrine of the will to power were central to Nietzsche's philosophy, but only now, thanks to Reginster's elegantly crafted study, do we have a penetrating and systematic philosophical exposition of these themes and their interrelation. A particularly welcome feature of this new study is the way in which it situates the Nietzschean doctrines against the background of Schopenhauer's ideas and arguments; in so doing, it teaches the reader quite a lot about Schopenhauer and, in the process, sheds interesting new light on well-known ideas of Nietzsche's.
Frederick Neuhouser
Reginster focuses on a central aspect of Nietzsche's thought--the threat of nihilism and the conditions under which life can be affirmed. Reginster is the first to reconstruct Nietzsche's position on nihilism systematically, and his book will set the terms of the debate on this crucial issue for a long time. Reginster's convincing case for the coherence and systematicity of Nietzsche's thought goes against the grain of most contemporary interpretations, which see Nietzsche's thought as radically (and intentionally) fragmented, contradictory, and hostile to rationality and traditional philosophy. Reginster's most important contribution is his exposition of Nietzsche's doctrine of the will to power, which he grounds in a thorough and philosophical reading of Schopenhauer. In sum--a great book!
Review of Metaphysics - Nectarios G. Limnatis
A well written and thoughtful book...Impressive and provocative...The argumentation is clear, persuasive, and innovative...The discussion of existing interpretations (those of Clark, Kaufmann, Lowith, Nehamas, and several others) is exemplary: it is careful and tranquil, thoughtful and engaging.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674021990
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Reginster is Associate Professor of Philosophy, Brown University.
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Table of Contents

1 Nihilism 21
2 Overcoming disorientation 54
3 The will to power 103
4 Overcoming despair 148
5 The eternal recurrence 201
6 Dionysian wisdom 228
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Clearly Written, Carefully Thought

    Bernard Reginster writes clearly, thoughtfully, and helpfully. He has produced an excellent study of Nietzsche by reading him closely, critically, and carefully. The study is not easy reading but it is much easier than reading Nietzsche, a notoriously difficult writer. I do not pretend to grasp Nietzsche. Reading Nietzsche challenges me in many and various ways. His views seem complex, nuanced, and subtle, but I believe he strives to overcome nihilism, a point-of-view that Bernard Reginster argues. Maybe, Nietzsche saw the roots of nihilism in Christianity and his work an attempt to overcome that nihilism. I know that I come away from reading him with an immense sense of tender regard for the man.

    I am rereading Nietzsche because of Professor REginster's work. This is high order scholarship.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2007

    A Mental Bench-Press...

    I completely agree with Dutka: this was an extremely dense (and intense) book, but this really was not the greatest annoyance I found. The first half is liberally sprinkled with unnecessary redundancies¿less dedicated readers may find themselves thoroughly frustrated with such a thing. In spite of this, my interest remained strong: for although certainly not a novel, I awaited the tying-up of loose ends and for Reginster to expound upon his theory with finality. This was the case in the second half of the work, which I felt completely rejuvenated his project¿not that he needs it, but as an advocate of Nietzsche¿s work myself, Reginster definitely has my backing as a new, brilliant, and fresh authority on, perhaps, the most misunderstood thinker of the last two centuries. This is without question not a starting point for those new to the Nietzsche corpus¿though some will be tantalized simply by his name appearing in the title¿this is a comprehensive view, with great stress placed upon two main themes of Nietzsche¿s pen: the will to power and the eternal recurrence. Reginster¿s clarification of the spurious presence of ¿The Will to Power¿, his endlessly helpful citing of Nietzsche¿s writings (not to deny Kant¿s and Schopenhauer¿s), and most importantly his lack of traditional views regarding Nietzsche make this book highly recommended¿it¿s flaws are not damaging to its credibility, and if you have the experience of Nietzsche and the patience for wading through the comprehensive approach presented here, you will find it an invaluable tool in your contemplations or pontifications of its targeted author. Bravo, Reginster!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2006

    The meaning of Nietzsche

    This was a dense, complex argument that is difficult to summarize. The difficulty is probably with the subject material, because Nietzsche, as the author notes, is famously, possibly deliberately, obscure and indirect in his writings, and his central writings are epigrammatic and fragmentary. Prof. Reginster is clearly a master of all of Nietsche's works, and uses extensive quotes in his arguments. He states the central concerns of the philosophy as understanding the eternal recurrence and the will to power, as responses to identifying meaning in life without rejecting suffering and looking to an eternal reward to justify the difficulties that life entails. Recommended as a guide to reading and understanding Nietzsche

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