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Nietzsche's Philosophical Context

Nietzsche's Philosophical Context: An Intellectual Biography

Thomas H. Brobjer
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    Nietzsche's Philosophical Context
    Book Description:

    Friedrich Nietzsche was immensely influential and, counter to most expectations, also very well read. As scholars consider his place in European philosophy and assess how his ideas developed, much speculation surrounds how and what Nietzsche read. An essential new reference tool for those interested in his thinking, Nietzsche's Philosophical Context identifies the chronology and huge range of philosophical books that engaged him. Rigorously examining the scope of this reading, Thomas H. Brobjer consulted over two thousand volumes in Nietzsche's personal library, as well as his book bills, library records, journals, letters, and publications. This meticulous investigation also considers many of the annotations in his books. In arguing that Nietzsche's reading often constituted the starting point for, or counterpoint to, much of his own thinking and writing, Brobjer's study provides scholars with fresh insight into how Nietzsche worked and thought; to which questions and thinkers he responded; and by which of them he was influenced. The result is a new and much more contextual understanding of Nietzsche's life and thinking._x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09062-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Most great philosophers are seen as figures towering above their time. In Nietzsche’s case, such a view is perhaps especially pervasive, for he fostered it himself with his claims to be “untimely” and “a destiny” and with prophetic writings such asThus Spoke Zarathustra. He further distanced himself from his time by his assertions that he read little, and in his books he rarely referred to minor or contemporary figures but rather “conversed” with, and criticized, the great names. This has resulted in an exaggerated view of Nietzsche’s difference—and independence—from his time, and it seems to have prevented...

  2. 1 Nietzsche As Reader
    (pp. 6-21)

    One can easily get the impression that Nietzsche, and especially the late Nietzsche, read little. He criticized reading as insufficiently life-affirming and Dionysian: “Early in the morning at the break of day, in all the freshness and dawn of one’s strength, to read abook—I call that vicious!” (EH, “Why I Am So Clever,” 8). He also criticized reading for making one reactive and forcing one to be concerned with the thoughts of others rather than with one’s own: “My eyes alone put an end to all bookwormishness, in plain terms philology: I was redeemed from the ‘book,’ for...

  3. 2 The Major Philosophical Influences on Nietzsche’s Thinking
    (pp. 22-42)

    Nietzsche was educated as a classical philologist and had a very limited philosophical education in the conventional sense. As a philosopher he was largely an autodidact. He never had a living philosophical teacher or mentor who could help him develop. He therefore developed late, and almost all of his philosophical development came in response to reading.

    Contrary to common assumption, Nietzsche’s education even in classical philosophy was minimal during his time at school and at the university. At Schulpforta there was almost no teaching of philosophy, and even ancient philosophy seems to have been almost completely absent from the curriculum....

  4. 3 The Young Nietzsche: 1844–69
    (pp. 43-50)

    As is the case for most young people, Nietzsche’s first philosophical influences came from persons and sources outside of philosophy. Most important was a strong Christian influence, which made him a very pious child. The early death of his father—a Protestant pastor—when Nietzsche was only five years old may well have had the effect of intensifying his childhood faith (and perhaps his desire to emulate his father). In his first years at school he was called “the little pastor,” partly due to his bearing but also because he could cite long passages from the Bible by heart.¹ At...

  5. 4 The Early Nietzsche: 1869–74
    (pp. 51-60)

    During Nietzsche’s first three years as a professor at Basel (1869–71)—a period during which he worked hard to prepare lectures and teaching, finished the extensive index to twenty-four massive volumes of the journalRheinisches Museum für Philologie(which was published at the end of 1871 as a separate volume of 167 pages),¹ and wroteThe Birth of Tragedy(published in January 1872)—his philosophical reading did not change much from the previous years. However, there were some changes. He read much more about classical philosophy, especially Plato and about Plato. There was less time to read Schopenhauer and...

  6. 5 The Middle Nietzsche: 1875–82
    (pp. 61-89)

    During 1875 and 1876, Nietzsche went through an intellectual and emotional crisis and changed fundamental aspects of his Weltanschauung, including breaking with Schopenhauer, Kant, and Wagner.¹ Nietzsche then exchanged his earlier enthusiasm for metaphysics, idealism, pessimism, art, and aesthetics for a position that was skeptical and free-spirited, placed science above art, and praised the Enlightenment. It appears not to have been noticed previously that in section 272 ofHuman, All Too Human, called “Annual Rings of Individual Culture,” he seems to have been describing his own intellectual development:

    Men at present begin by entering the realm of culture as children...

  7. 6 The Late Nietzsche: 1883–89
    (pp. 90-104)

    During the Zarathustra period (1883–85), when Nietzsche developed much of his new philosophy, he continued a relatively broad philosophical reading. This reading, as always, also consisted of much rereading of philosophical texts he had read earlier, such as Schopenhauer, Emerson, Dühring, Mainländer, and Lange.

    Nietzsche’s thinking is often divided into three periods: early, middle, and late. Nietzsche himself divided it in that way. The break between the middle, more positivistic period and the late period occurred in 1881–82, with the discovery of the idea of eternal recurrence (in August 1881) and came to be publicly expressed in the...

  8. Epilogue On the Origin of, and Influences on, Nietzsche’s Philosophy
    (pp. 105-110)

    An important approach to understanding a philosopher is to reconstruct his thinking, not in terms of a number of propositions but as answers to questions and implicit questions that he attempted to answer or to which he attempted to respond.¹ This can be done by using the philosopher’s texts alone, but the result is greatly improved when his reading, and his response to this reading, also is taken into account. Doing so increases our factual knowledge of the thinker’s interests and knowledge. But it can also help us to know and understand him better. If the philosopher annotated the books...

  9. TABLE 1. Chronological Listing of Nietzsche’s Philosophical Reading
    (pp. 185-236)
  10. TABLE 2. Philosophical Titles in Nietzsche’s Library: Unknown If and When Read
    (pp. 237-242)
  11. TABLE 3. Alphabetical Listing of Nietzsche’s Philosophical Reading
    (pp. 243-258)