Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy

by R.J. Hollingdale
Louisiana State University, 326 pp., $7.00

Nietzsche as Philosopher

by Arthur A. Danto
Macmillan, 250 pp., $5.95

Few philosophers can ever have suffered more than Nietzsche those special misfortunes that may come to a man after his death. That his unpublished manuscripts should have been in the hands of an unscrupulous sister ready to twist his doctrines to serve the cause of an anti-Semitism that he loathed; that he should have been taken as a prophet by an intellectually and morally despicable regime; that he should have been execrated not only for those parts of his writings that are, precisely, execrable, but also on account of numberless misunderstandings; that even his non-Nazi disciples should often have defended him in a childish, hysterical, way. Of course much of this was Nietzsche’s own fault, but one is glad that at last the tide of his ill fortune has turned. Not only is the tone of his commentators becoming less shrill; they are also succeeding in establishing a more reasonable notion of what he actually believed. No longer is Nietzsche thought of as one who preached licence for the cruel and aggressive passions of the “splendid” beast of prey. Against the passages which have this tendency are set those in which Nietzsche speaks of the need to discipline the passions, and against those in which the “superior” man is told that “inferiors” exist to serve him, one at least speaking of the duty of the strong to the weak.

Mr. Hollingdale’s aim seems to have been to present a fair, well-balanced picture of Nietzsche’s life and works, and he has succeeded. He has also managed to make Nietzsche’s thought accessible to the general reader by marshaling his quotations skillfully and seeing to it that much of the book consists of quotation. The book is pleasant to read, and gives a good account of the development of Nietzsche’s doctrines: the repetition of elements and the appearance of new lines of thought. Whether another such work was really needed is another question. Mr. Hollingdale says, disarmingly, that he has not attempted to conceal his debt to Walter Kaufmann’s Nietzsche, and it is not quite clear who will find that Hollingdale will meet his needs better than Kaufmann. On one point on which the two disagree Mr. Hollingdale’s conclusions seem the more doubtful. The question at issue is the use that should be made of the unpublished, undated notes made in the 1880s. Many of these were arranged and posthumously published by Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche under the title “The Will to Power,” but as this work had no authority it is irrelevant that a particular entry appears in this publication, or that it appears in a particular position. There was, therefore, justification for Schlecta’s decision to publish the Nachlass material in his edition of 1956 as it stood in the notebooks, without any attempt at ordering or dating. The problem for someone writing about Nietzsche’s philosophy is how he is to regard this material. Some of the extracts are clearly related to parts of Nietzsche …

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Unscrupulous Sister April 14, 1966