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Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist

Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist

by Peter BerkowitzPeter Berkowitz


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Once regarded as a conservative critic of culture, then enlisted by the court theoreticians of Nazism, Nietzsche has come to be revered by postmodern thinkers as one of their founding fathers, a prophet of human liberation who revealed the perspectival character of all knowledge and broke radically with traditional forms of morality and philosophy.

In Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist, Peter Berkowitz challenges this new orthodoxy, asserting that it produces a one-dimensional picture of Nietzsche's philosophical explorations and passes by much of what is provocative and problematic in his thought. Berkowitz argues that Nietzsche's thought is rooted in extreme and conflicting opinions about metaphysics and human nature. Discovering a deep unity in Nietzsche's work by exploring the structure and argumentative movement of a wide range of his books, Berkowitz shows that Nietzsche is a moral and political philosopher in the Socratic sense whose governing question is, "What is the best life?"

Nietzsche, Berkowitz argues, puts forward a severe and aristocratic ethics, an ethics of creativity, that demands that the few human beings who are capable acquire a fundamental understanding of and attain total mastery over the world. Following the path of Nietzsche's thought, Berkowitz shows that this mastery, which represents a suprapolitical form of rule and entails a radical denigration of political life, is, from Nietzsche's own perspective, neither desirable nor attainable.

Out of the colorful and richly textured fabric of Nietzsche's books, Peter Berkowitz weaves an interpretation of Nietzsche's achievement that is at once respectful and skeptical, an interpretation that brings out the love of truth, the courage, and the yearning for the good that mark Nietzsche's magisterial effort to live an examined life by giving an account of the best life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674624436
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/01/1996
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 313
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)
Lexile: 1560L (what's this?)

About the Author

Peter Berkowitz is Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Table of Contents




I. Nietzsche's Histories

1. The Ethics of History: On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life

2. The Ethics of Art: The Birth of Tragedy

3. The Ethics of Morality: On the Genealogy of Morals

4. The Ethics of Religion: The Antichrist

II. The Highest Type

5. The Beginning of Zarathustra's Political Education: Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Prologue)

6. The Ethics of Creativity: Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Part I)

7. The Lust for Eternity and the Pathos of Self-Deification: Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Parts II and III)

8. Retreat from the Extremes: Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Part IV)

9. The Ethics of Knowing: Beyond Good and Evil





What People are Saying About This

David Hartman

Peter Berkowitz's striking interpretation of Nietzsche calls into question the confident celebration of the death of God in the modern world. Berkowitz's careful and probing reading shows that Nietzsche's daring philosophizing both licenses the quest for absolute freedom and self-mastery and reveals the profound incoherence of such a quest. By showing that Nietzsche's thought depends on traditional convictions about the virtues and an intelligible and objective moral order, Berkowitz forces us to rethink not only Nietzsche's achievement but the very relation between ancient and modern philosophy.
David Hartman, Shalom Hartman Institute and Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Harvey C. Mansfield

Berkowitz rescues Nietzsche from his users and abusers, and restores the mysterious integrity of his work, which is lost in postmodern appropriations. He considers Nietzsche's books as books, and by looking deeply, or with insight of his own, finds and judges what is there. This is a lively and most serious book on the philosopher of our time.
Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University

Alasdair MacIntyre

A surprising amount of the most interesting moral and political philosophy published recently has taken the form of commentary on Nietzsche. Among such commentaries Peter Berkowitz's book is outstanding. It enables us to read Nietzsche once again as he would want to have been read-as one who puts all convictions to the question-and in so doing puts Nietzsche himself to the question. Very few books achieve this combination of imaginative sympathy and radical criticism.
Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame

Charles Taylor

Berkowitz's clearly argued and absorbing book has great strengths. It offers a salutary new emphasis in Nietzsche studies by restoring a perspective that takes Nietzsche's search for truth seriously. It shows convincingly that Nietzsche should be understood as the propounder of a severe ethical vision. And its extended argument that Nietzsche's thought represents a serious rebuke to a central modern and postmodern aspiration is sure to provoke a lively and enlightening debate.
Charles Taylor, McGill University

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