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Nietzsche For Beginners by Marc Sautet, Patrick Boussignac

Not only does Nietzsche For Beginners delve into the scandalous life and considerable works of Friedrich Nietzsche, it also give a clear picture of the puzzling time in which he lived. We meet the luminaries of the day - Richard Wagner, Bismarck, Freud, and Darwin - and see their influences on his work. We also receive introductions to some of the great minds that preceded and shaped his writing. Luther, Schopenhauer, Hegel, and Kant. Sautet clarifies the individual philosophers and their contributions, making the book an important introduction to philosophy. Nietzche's famous ménage à trois, his theories of Superman, of the Antichrist of nihilism, and Zarathustra, and his posthumous and misinformed use by the Nazis make for a fascinating read.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934389058
Publisher: For Beginners
Publication date: 08/21/2007
Series: For Beginners
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.46(d)

About the Author

Marc Sautet (1947-1998) was a French writer, philosopher, teacher, and translator. In the early 90s he pioneered “Café philosophique,” an informal philosophizing movement that occurred in cafes throughout Paris, and eventually spread to other parts of Europe. He was also a Doctor of Philosophy at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, and the editor of German criticism of Friedrich Nietzsche. He died at the age 51 in Paris, France.

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By Marc Sautet, Patrick Boussignac

For Beginners LLC

Copyright © 1990 La Decouverte
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-939994-17-2


1st movement

Friedrich Nierzsche was born in Röcken near Leipzig in Saxony on 15 October 1844. If we are to believe his grandmother, the Nietzsches were descended from ... ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

What we do know is that five generations of Nietzsche's family produced 20 clergymen!

His paternal grandfather, Friedrich August Ludwig (1756–1826), was an outstanding preacher ...

In 1796 Nietzsche's grandfather was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of Königsberg for his defence of Christianity (Gamaliel), written in an attempt to calm the spiritual unrest caused by the French Revolution.

His father, Karl Ludwig (1813–1849), was also a pastor and tutor to the Duke of Saxony's daughters. His parish had been given to him by the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm IV himself. But, alas! ...

Was this trauma fatal? ... He died a year later.

The son, whom he had adored, was heartbroken. From that moment on the young Nietzsche kept up a serious and dignified exterior, as if he had received a particularly lofty mission in life ...

[1854] The King of Prussia visited Naumburg, where Nietzsche's family now lived.

1855 The Tsar of Russia had plans for conquering Constantinople, the upshot of which was the Crimean War. The Russians were besieged at Sebastopol by the French and the English, who came to the aid of the Turks.

At college, Fritz developed a political consciousness.

In October 1858 Fritz won a scholarship to Schulpforra, a school for the children of the élite, which had a total of 200 pupils. The standard was high, and as for discipline ...

The young Nietzsche worked hard and got good results ...

... after his school-leaving exams.

It was the path chosen for him by his young, pretty and very religious mother, Franziska, an exceptionally strong-willed woman, and by his younger sister, Elisabeth, known as 'Lama.'

* Every month, all the members of the group had to submit:

– an essay, a poem, or a musical composition

– a contribution towards the cost of books, musical scores, etc.

Who was to win the battle for his soul, the Devil or God?

* Study of literature, e.g. ancient Greek and Latin.

* A definition of philology worth remembering.

Having no answer to this question, Fritz began feverishly reading philosophy.


Of course not! But I appreciate the great achievements of modern science. Did you know that Mayer, Joule, Thomson, Rankine and Clausius have just confirmed Carnot's prediction of the thermal death of the universe? Did you know that Maxwell is succeeding in his work on thé atomic structure of matter? Have you heard of Darwin?

By referring to Kant! The relevance of science is beyond question. But the materialists want to reach an absolute truth through science. Now this truth is relative. It is subordinate to our scientific instruments and therefore to our SENSES. For this reason science is unable to discover the ESSENCE of things independently of the process of understanding.

The fact is that scientific advances create the ILLUSION that men can become masters and owners of nature; because nothing then prevents certain people from taking all the wealth for themselves and others from taking their revenge. That's the way the world is today! The impoverished masses are getting ready to make war on the unscrupulous minority ...


Because I had to wait for that good-for-nothing Hegel to be discredited. Hegel blinded whole generations with his IDEALISM. He had the idea that when Man thinks, it is Nature which is thinking itself! Nothing more tempting for the golden boy of our time: to be the BEING ...

Yes and no! I defended Kant against Hegel's attempts to outdo him. And I insist that Kant is unsurpassed in his criticism of the powers of human reason. Reason enables man to conceive of the universe but his senses prevent him from doing so. To establish universal laws one must go beyond all possible experience. In other words, Science takes its laws from Reason and not from Being. The objectivity of knowledge is just a myth.

Deep down Kant is still an optimist. He still accepts the objective existence of things, of Being. And since he had nothing to say about it, he let Hegel speak. He just missed the truth. The truth is that everything that lives, suffers. There you have the ESSENCE of existence. Why this suffering? Because there is WANT: to live is to want, to want is to suffer. If there is a curse on man, it is that!!!

In 1866 the Germans caught political fever.

In October 1867 military service offered Fritz an escape from the pedantry and laboured erudition of university work.

France was an obstacle to German unification. In 1870 Napoleon vetoed the accession of a German prince to the Spanish throne and this resulted in ...

Meanwhile, Fritz was not called up.


2 nd movement

Nietzsche was 27 years old when his first book appeared in 1872. In it he proposed a solution to an enigma that had long been puzzling philologists: the origins of Greek tragedy, of which Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes were the supreme exponents.

Winter Term 1870– 1871

* History of the Greek epic

* Greek metric

* Hesiod, Works and Days

* Quintilian, Book 1

* Cicero, Academica

* Plato, Phaedon

Winter Term 1871–1872

* Introduction to the study of Platonic dialogue

* Dialogus, De oratoribus

* Latin epigraphy

* Hesiod

* Principal forms of Greek poetry:

- Plato, Phaedon

- Demosthenes, Philippika 1 & 2

Summer Term 1871

* Introduction to the study of classical philology

* Quintilian, Book 1

* Sophocles, Oedipus rex

* Hesiod, Works and Days

* Principal forms of poetry, with examples:

- epic poetry, Hesiod, Works

- elegy, Tyrtaios, Solon, Simonides, Pindar

- bucolic poetry, Theocritus

- drama, Aeschylus, Prometheus

• Other reading: Heroditus Thucydides, Plato, Demosthenes, Plutarch, Lucian, Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes


After his nomination as a full Ordinary Professor, Fritz came up with an extraordinary solution!

According to Kant, Being is the very essence of things. It is reality independently of the way in which things appear to us:


Human reason ... is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer. (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781)

Schopenhauer radicalized Kant's epistemological pessimism, and he had a good point: the rest of us, like all living beings, are on the side of appearances ...

... which accounts for our sufferings. We are fugitives, doomed to sickness, nostalgia and death. Because we are only moments in a process which continues after our destruction ...

* Don't panic: there's a glossary at the end of this book!!!

Tragedy transforms the human condition:

–the songs and dances of the chorus reveal the cruelty of Being

–the spectators enjoy what takes place on the stage and therefore accept this revelation.

Any advance on this? Nietzsche goes on to tackle the counter-proof by answering a connected question: why did Greek tragedy disappear so quickly?

WE'VE GOT: The imperialist threat.

The Birth of Tragedy establishes a parallel between:

–the victory of the Greeks over the Persians

–the victory of the Germans over the French.

And we've got: the revolutionary threat

The Birth of Tragedy also draws a parallel between:

–the cult of Dionysus in Greece.

–the revolutionary sweep in Europe.

So, like the 5th-century Greeks, we are forced to make a difficult choice, and, like the Greeks ...

... WE HAVE ... ... our Aeschylus:

My music is Dionysian! Like Bach's and Beethoven's, it harmonizes with the cries of pain, desperation and revolt. It expresses' the desire to put an end to social constraints and sexual taboos. It is thus able to harness the destructive energy which is heading towards the void.

My drama is Appolline! What happens on stage gives pleasure to the audience, because the heroes take on its suffering. The suffering then becomes enjoyment.

In 1871 Wagner still enjoyed the reputation of being a revolutionary because:

1. He had taken part in the revolution of 1848 (in Dresden).

2. He had written statements in favour of the abolition of exploitation (Art and Revolution).

3. He described his art as the 'art of the future'.

In 1871 Wagner condemned the predominant spirit of the Italian Renaissance in the modern world.

Wagner was not alone in renouncing optimism.

In his Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Burckhardt welcomed the emergence of the Philosophes. But in 1870–1871, in his lectures on Universal History, he deplored the consequences.

The upshot was that Nietzsche saw the prophecy of Engels and Marx come true:

'The bourgeoisie produces ... its own gravediggers.'

From now on, the workers want paradise on earth.

The dominant classes are heading towards catastrophe.

Beyond the international conflicts, a dismayed Nietzsche saw the German proletariat take up the banner of the Communards:

'Beyond the struggle between nations, we were suddenly shocked by the terrible appearance of the international hydra, heralding struggles of a very different kind in the future.'

With Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche and Wagner joined forces in order to persuade Bismarck to agree to the Reich financing the Bayreuth theatre and its productions.

How successful was The Birth of Tragedy?

It scandalized most university philologists. A young Berlin aristocrat became their spokesman.

1. You defend Wagner.

2. You make Apollo political.

3. You uproot Dionysus.

4. You invent things about Greek music.

5. You make Socrates older than Euripedes.

6. You criticize Euripedes. You are a disgrace to the profession! And since Schopenhauer suggests you resign, resign you shall!

It was from this battle that Nietzsche's second book resulted: the first of his Untimely Meditations (August 1873). By attacking Friedrich David Strauss, Fritz sought to strike a blow at 'the cultivated philistines', that is, the incorrigible optimists!

Nietzsche published the second volume of Untimely Meditations in February 1874. Wilamowitz claimed to be able to teach him the proper way to use history; Nietzsche therefore analysed the advantages and disadvantages of history, in 'On the Uses of History.'

He maintained that history can impart courage just as easily as it can paralyze. Now, there is one particularly harmful form of this paralysis which (like Strauss's optimism) is very popular:

'the surrender to the process of universal history' advocated by:

The third volume of Untimely Meditations, 'Schopenhauer as Educator', published in October 1874, is less aggressive. Nietzsche seems less convinced that he will succeed in making his point.

'We live in the age of atoms, in an atomistic chaos. In the Middle Ages the opposing forces were held together by the Church, to some extent assimilated into each other under the strong pressure it exerted. Since this pressure has diminished the opposing forces have rebelled against each other ... We are now being swept along by the ice-filled torrent of the Middle Ages; the thaw is over and a powerful and devastating movement is developing. Ice-floe piles up on ice-floe and all the banks have been inundated and are in danger of collapse. Nothing can hold back the revolution–the atomic revolution.'

In this maze, the only guide left is Schopenhauer.

1874 CRISIS!


1. France had rearmed

2. Russia had its eye on the Balkans

— How could Germany avoid war?


1. Financial crash in Vienna

2. Banks collapsing

3. Industries collapsing

— How would the workers react?


1. Finance for Bayreuth dried up

2. Bismarck was reluctant to help out

—How could Wagner succeed?

After many setbacks, the Bayreuth theatre was finally completed in 1876. Nietzsche wrote a defence of Wagner in his fourth volume of Untimely Meditations: 'Richard Wagner in Bayreuth.'

13 August: The Rhine Gold

14 August: The Walkyrie

15 August: Rest!

16 August: Siegfried

17 August: Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)


Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, the King of Würtemberg, GrandDuke Karl Alexander of Saxony-Weimar, several princes, Baroness von Schleinitz, Anton Bruckner, Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovsky, Ludwig Scheman, Henry Thode, the Wesendonks, Mathilde Maïer, Prof. Dr. Nietzsche.


Louis II of Bavaria, and ... ... the working class.

Nietzsche was terribly disappointed and used his extremely bad headaches as a pretext for escaping the Festival.

He was accompanied on his Italian trip by Paul Rée (a philosophy student at Basle University) who was writing a book on The Origin of the Moral Sensations.

The trip was a turning point! Nietzsche was about to reassess the years he had spent defending Wagner:

Since Lamark and Darwin, moral phenomena, like physical phenomena, can be traced back to their natural causes.

I wanted to believe that the deepest sense of existence was to be found in suffering and that only art enabled us to face this suffering and not run away from it.


3rd movement

1. The Reich refuses to support the festival.

2. There were debts of 148,000 gold mark's!

3. Attendance was poor.

4. The show was pathetic!

But if there's no hope in Germany or Wagner, where will we find our salvation? ...

Nietzsche wondered what had made him defend Wagner in the past. He examined the value of art; the origin of morals; truth and illusion, and eventually decided that all this was: Human, All-Too-Human.

1878 Bismarck

1. Organized the Berlin congress.

2. Passed anti-socialist laws.

A. Wagner was also despairing over modern Germany and took refuge in his new work: Parsifal.

The libretto was finished at the end of 1877. The story, which takes place one Easter Day, revolves round the mystery of the Eucharist. Parsifal realizes that it is his mission to save the world using the chalice which held the blood of Christ—the Grail.

Nietzsche had every reason therefore to continue his rationalist cure! So in 1879 Assorted Opinions and Maxims 'against illusion' appeared.

... And continues on the subject of morals.


1881. In the French moralist tradition Aurora digs ever deeper ...


Morality is not specific to man: the whole animal world is moral in that the individual subordinates itself to the group.


Christianity, on the other hand, is immoral from the outset because its object is to free the individual from the burden of Jewish tradition. It was hatred of the law (Torah) and his inability to respect it that led Saul to become Paul and invent divine redemption from original sin by exploiting the death of Jesus.

All very amusing ... but: HAS CHRISTIAN MORALITY FREED MAN?


Pity and altruism were once secondary in Christian thinking, but since waiting for the 'end of time' has proved fruitless , they've begun to dominate.

Even if you attach no rational value to the common good, you give in to it in fact when you respect institutions such as: -military service - marriage -baptism.

When pity and respect for others have become instinctive your acts guarantee what your mind refuses.

The masses are always more important as a result and eventually seek to subordinate the State to their interests and their well being, regarding them as the purpose of History.


All these books and research helped Nietzsche to overcome his intellectual and emotional crisis.


Man is a rare phenomenon in the vast cosmos which has no known limits and no recognizable order. One could accept that life has a meaning if this were the rule in the cosmos.

But it turns out that life is merely a trivial exception.


The laws of nature are all-too-human inventions. They are the result of the relationship between man and what he perceives. Man has need of them even if they are relative. Therefore, one could say that not only is there no absolute truth, but that man needs illusion.


Life, nature and history are totally indifferent to the meaning which man gives to his actions and his sufferings. 'Original sin' is a good example of the fairy stories which he invents to mask this indifference.


Science destroys Faith, whereas Christian morality promotes Science.


to make one's own laws for oneself


like the notions of 'sin' and 'salvation', the notion of 'duty' is an old prejudice which gently suffocates us.




If it's true that the modern world tends to level the whole of humanity under a common law, this was also the case in the last years of the Roman Empire.

The fall of the Roman Empire didn't lead to the end of History. Does modern democracy mean the end of all civilization?


If one accepts the theory of the birth of solar systems through condensation of gas and gradual cooling (the Laplace system) and if one accepts the principles of thermodynamics, in particular the degradation of energy (Carnot's second principle) ...


Excerpted from NIETZSCHE FOR BEGINNERS by Marc Sautet, Patrick Boussignac. Copyright © 1990 La Decouverte. Excerpted by permission of For Beginners LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Nietzsche for Beginners 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read and enjoyed several other books from the 'for beginners' series. This one contained very little information and even less substance on Nietzche and his thoughts. Don't waste your time and money.