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No modern philosopher has been more maligned and misunderstood or more cynically exploited than Friedrich Nietzsche. Physically handicapped by weak eyesight, violent headaches and bouts of nausea, this paradoxical thinker fashioned a philosophy, which made short shrift of self-pity and the ostentatious display of compassion. The son of a Lutheran clergyman, whom he adored, he became a fearless agnostic who proclaimed, in "Thus Spake Zarathustra" that 'God is dead!' Of modest bourgeois origins, he detested middle-class conformity, and turned to an uncompromising cult of 'aristocratic radicalism'. Nietzsche was the first major philosopher to place psychology, rather than mathematics, logic, physics, or history, at the very centre of his thinking. The wealth and diversity of Nietzsche's aphorisms and brief essays - close to 2,700 - make him the most seminal and provocative thinker of modern times. Many of his aphorisms, highly personal statements of his likes and dislikes, are puzzling. They become truly comprehensible only within the context of his restless life, revealed in this enthralling biography.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712673037
ISBN-10: 0712673032
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 156mm x 30mm)
Pages: 720
Imprint: Pimlico
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 6-Nov-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » For the nonspecialist and philosophical adept as well: an accessible, anecdotally rich life of the "trenchant idealist" who turned philosophical idealism upside-down. Nietzsche's life (1844-1900) offers one of the great moments of philosophy, a cry of the wounded soul: just before suffering a final descent into mental illness in 1889, he happened upon a carter beating a nag in the streets of Genoa and flung his arms around the poor beast, protecting it from further abuse. Cate (Andre Malraux, 1997, etc.) notes that we will probably never know what happened next, inasmuch as the first printed account of the incident appeared a couple of years after the philosopher's death. Just so, much of Nietzsche's life has been the subject of speculation, especially on the matter of whether Nietzsche gave ideological aid and comfort to Nazism: some scholars hold that Nietzsche's evocation of the law-unto-himself "superman" gave Hitler and company certain ideas, whereas others believe that Nietzsche's protofascist sister willfully altered his writings after his death, "bringing out a thick anthology of his hastily jotted but so far unpublished notes under the inflammatory title The Will to Power." It does not help either argument, Cate notes, that Nietzsche himself was a disorderly writer easily capable of being misunderstood; but, he adds, Nietzsche had grounds for his unusual methods of composition and apothegmatic style, for he believed-correctly, as it turned out-that he was doomed to die young and did not have the time to be tidy. Such convictions also rationalize Nietzsche's inability to handle money, his restlessness, and his devotion to the life-celebrating but feather-ruffling habits of the Dionysian personality type, an invention of Nietzsche's that found its most celebrated follower in the composer Richard Wagner. Cate carefully explains the development of Nietzsche's thought from Schopenhauerian acolyte to independent-and unique-thinker, some of whose most powerful work was penned before he was 30. A touch more readable than Ronald Hayman's Nietzsche (1980) and more current than Walter Kaufmann's Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (1974), both of which Cate complements but does not displace. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Curtis Cate

Born of American parents in Paris, Curtis Cate was educated in France, England, and the United States. He is the holder of three university degrees - from Harvard (History), the -cole des Langues Orientales, Paris (Russian), and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he read Politics and Economics and studied English and German philosophy with Harry Weldon. After serving as a correspondent in the Middle East, he joined the staff of the Atlantic Monthly, and was for eight years its European Editor in Paris. His published works include three highly acclaimed biographies (of Antoine de Saint-Exup-ry, George Sand, and Andr- Malraux), a harrowing description of Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, and The Ides of August, which he wrote to condemn the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. This is his seventh book.