Nietzsche's Task

Nietzsche's Task: An Interpretation of Beyond Good and Evil

Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Nietzsche's Task
    Book Description:

    When Nietzsche publishedBeyond Good and Evilin 1886, he told a friend that it was a book that would not be read properly until "around the year 2000." Now Laurence Lampert sets out to fulfill this prophecy by providing a section by section interpretation of this philosophical masterpiece that emphasizes its unity and depth as a comprehensive new teaching on nature and humanity.According to Lampert, Nietzsche begins with a critique of philosophy that is ultimately affirmative, because it shows how philosophy can arrive at a defensible ontological account of the way of all beings. Nietzsche next argues that a new post-Christian religion can arise out of the affirmation of the world disclosed to philosophy. Then, turning to the implications of the new ontology for morality and politics, Nietzsche argues that these can be reconstituted on the fundamental insights of the new philosophy. Nietzsche's comprehensive depiction of this anti-Platonic philosophy ends with a chapter on nobility, in which he contends that what can now be publicly celebrated as noble in our species are its highest achievements of mind and spirit.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12883-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations of Nietzsche’s Works
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction: Nietzsche’s Task
    (pp. 1-7)

    WhatwasNietzsche’s task? It was the task ofphilosophy:gaining a comprehensive perspective on the world and on the human disposition toward the world, a perspective that could claim to be true. The older language can still be used if it is rebaptized with Nietzschean meanings: philosophy as the love of wisdom aims to overcome irrational interpretations with rational ones, interpretations guided by the mind, by spirited intellect Nietzscheanly conceived. As a direct consequence of achieving that comprehensive perspective—for his two chief books,Thus Spoke ZarathustraandBeyond Good and Evil,show that he achieved it—an additional...

  6. Preface: A Task for a Good European
    (pp. 8-17)
  7. 1 On the Prejudices of Philosophers
    (pp. 18-60)

    Nietzsche’sPrelude to a Philosophy of the Futureopens with an assault on philosophy. So prominent as a first impression and so effective in the suspicions it arouses or confirms about philosophy, this first chapter of Nietzsche’s book may seem to destroy permanently the possibility of philosophy as a way to truth. But even though philosophy is always prejudiced for Nietzsche—always situated or from a perspective, always interested or driven by passion—that condition need not be fatal to philosophy’s task of winning the truth. Subsequent chapters, as well as quieter suggestions within the assault itself, gradually recover philosophy’s...

  8. 2 The Free Mind
    (pp. 61-99)

    Chapter 2 is the most important chapter in the book, for it arrives at the point of deepest insight that the first chapter prepared and that all the other chapters take as settled. Its ultimate concern is the possibility of philosophy, successful pursuit of truth who is a woman, plus the merest glimpse of how to live with truth. It argues the possibility of philosophy by demonstrating its actuality. Faced with the skepticism that naturally follows the demise of our dogmatism, it shows that a plausible conclusion can after all be drawn about the ‘‘intelligible character’’ of the world. That...

  9. 3 Das Religiöse Wesen
    (pp. 100-136)

    Why does a chapter on religion follow the two chapters on philosophy? The chapters on philosophy indicate why: every successful philosophy acknowledges the simplification and falsification within which humanity lives, and it accommodates itself to that fact, as Platonism so successfully did. To be livable by more than a few rare minds, philosophy must create a world in its own image; ‘‘as soon as any philosophy begins to believe in itself . . . it can do no other’’ (9). Nietzsche’s philosophy surely believes in itself, in its successful wooing of truth who is a woman, and in its historic...

  10. 4 Epigrams and Interludes
    (pp. 137-145)

    Chapter 4 consists of 125 brief aphorisms, two of which repeat the number of the preceding one (65, 73). Fully 100 of the 125 items were lifted with no change, or minor changes, from a single notebook whose 445 or so brief entries were composed in the summer and fall of 1882, more than three years before Nietzsche wroteBeyond Good and Evilduring the winter and spring of 1886.¹ In the early summer of 1882 Nietzsche had just completedThe Gay Scienceand was preparing to writeZarathustra. Moreover, he was actively cultivating the highest hopes for Lou von...

  11. 5 On the Natural History of Morality
    (pp. 146-179)

    After the interlude of “Epigrams and Interludes”Beyond Good and Evilturns from the greatest themes, philosophy and religion, to the great themes of morals and politics, practice or action on the broadest scale—morals being the judgments on good and bad that lie behind human action, politics in this context being the implementation of a new good and bad to overthrow an old one. Nietzsche does not simply survey morals and politics from the new philosophical perspective—he enters them as domains for conquest by the knowing actor, the philosopher, who performs the decisive deeds. The final five chapters...

  12. 6 We Scholars
    (pp. 180-207)

    Chapter 5 ended on the hope of those few who are not of the democratic faith, hope in new philosophers capable of rule through a transvaluation of values. Chapter 6 defines those philosophers and shows not only why they must be distinguished from the scientist and scholar, but why and how science and scholarship must become the fitting instruments of their rule.

    This is the most essaylike of the nine chapters ofBeyond Good and Evil. Consisting of a mere ten sections, the shortest over a page long, it argues, from many sides, one principal point that highlights the irony...

  13. 7 Our Virtues
    (pp. 208-242)

    Like theweof “We Scholars,” theourof “Our Virtues” is ambiguous: in each case, the first person plural encloses the difference of the singular philosopher within the features of his broader audience; but in each case, the argument of the chapter gradually isolates the philosopher’s difference while showing what the difference implies for his broader audience.Ourvirtues narrow from the virtues of normal moderns—compassion and the historical sense—to the virtue of free-minded moderns—honesty—to the virtue of the singular philosopher. That virtue is able to ground honesty in what is given by nature, two...

  14. 8 Peoples and Fatherlands
    (pp. 243-261)

    The theme of “Peoples and Fatherlands” is the future intellectual and spiritual unity of Western civilization on grounds true to its past.¹ Its seventeen sections cohere as a unitary argument advocating a pan-Europeanism that consciously carries forward the heritage of Greece and Rome and of Judaism and Christianity, Europe’s combined legacy of Europe and Asia. The preceding chapter ended with Nietzsche crying out, “O Europa! Europa!”—addressing Europe as if she were still the Phoenician princess carried off by Zeus transfigured into a white bull. In chapter 8 the Europa Nietzsche addresses is an audience already schooled by the preceding...

  15. 9 What Is Noble?
    (pp. 262-294)

    Chapter 9 bringsBeyond Good and Evilto an edifying end with a portrait of what edifies: high human achievement by a nobility worthy of the admiration it draws. That nobility aims to accomplish the great deeds in morals and politics set out in chapters 5–8. It is a true aristocracy, the rule of the best, of the philosophers of the future, those rarest of individuals capable of bearing responsibility for the human future. Such an aristocracy of rare individuals is possible, however, only if society as a whole is aristocratic, openly honoring orders of rank or gradations of...

  16. Out of High Mountains: Aftersong
    (pp. 295-300)

    Nietzsche thought enough of his three-page closing poem to treat it as another chapter, providing it with its own title page. He called it aNachgesang,an aftersong or epode, the third part of the triadically constructed odes of Greek dramatists and lyric poets sung by the chorus.¹ The book that opened with aVorredeends with aNachgesang,speech turns to song, the speaker having been transformed into a singer by the events of the book. In this respect tooBeyond Good and EvilparallelsThus Spoke Zarathustra,a book of speeches that began with a prologue and ended...

  17. Nietzsche’s Future
    (pp. 301-304)

    When he sent a copy ofBeyond Good and Evilto his high-minded and earnest old friend Malwida von Meysenbug, Nietzsche asked her not to read it and even less to express to him her feelings about it: “Let’s assume that peoplemaybe able to read it around the year 2000.” Only the turn of a new millennium would make Nietzsche’s book approachable, for “the greatest events and thoughts . . . are comprehended last . . . . ‘How many centuries does a mind require to be comprehended?’—that too is a measuring rod, with that too we...

  18. Works Cited
    (pp. 305-308)
  19. Index
    (pp. 309-320)