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June 01, 2009



From what little I've read, I've tentatively concluded Nietzsche was a profound thinker whose lack of care and system meant that he was forever discovering irrelevant insights. It's like he had a deep and brilliant understanding of various chess-analogues that no one actually plays. Other philosophers have occasionally bothered to find things worth salvaging, but one would be a fool to regard Nietzsche as the foremost proponent of anything so coherent as a point of view. I think his work is useful for profs teaching first-year philosophy students (who can expose his arguments as weak without having to think very hard) and anyone else who wants to set up an easy target. Otherwise, responding directly to Nietzsche has got to be a waste of time for anyone interested in substantial argument.

Rousseau I don't know at all, I guess because the modern philosophers I read never bother to even mention him.


I too have read a little bit of Nietzsche, and I pretty much concur with the both of you.

On a not so related note, last week I read Kant's "Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals", and I thought it was very good. I love how Kant doesn't waste many words: each word is dripping with content/context. Sadly, his reasoning wasn't as agreeable to me. Kant is one of those guys who I would love to agree with, but deep down can't (pun intended?), mostly because of the way he draws distinctions.

Joyless Moralist

"You see a brilliant mind at work in Nietzsche's writings, sometimes, but he wastes it on ranting. He is an incoherent and trivial thinker."

No, no, no! Nietzsche is a very great philosopher, but you have to engage him on a different level from your run-of-the-mill modern philosopher like Locke or Kant or Quine. He isn't systematic, which is why the Bertrand Russells of the world spurn him, but it isn't because he lacks analytic skills. He doesn't WANT to set up a "system" (indeed, it would be contrary to the whole nature of his project to do so) and he doesn't want to be easily understood. For Nietzsche, just laying out everything you think in hum-drum Aristotelian fashion would be laying your pearls before swine. Instead he toys with you, feinting and parrying in a kind of fencing match of words.

So, what is the point of all this? A friend of mine likes to put it this way: when Plato appeared on the scene in ancient Athens, he was a relatively lonely figure in a sea of Hericliteans. He had some precursors too, of course, but still he was going out on a limb a bit by asserting the primacy of Being and Oneness against people who would hold that the world is simply in a neverending state of flux. Well, Plato won that intellectual battle... thoroughly. But centuries later, Nietzsche came along as a lonely Hericlitean in a sea of Platonists. Of course, the world into which Nietzsche was born was more thoroughly Platonist than Athens was Hericlitean. There is a Promethian air to Nietzsche's rebellion against the whole tide of the Western world, and sometimes I think there *is* something a bit adolescent (I might even say "pouty") about his extravagant efforts to be offensive and wicked -- it's got a bit of that "anything but cute" mood to it that's common to teenagers.

Be that as it may, though, Nietzsche is worth taking seriously. He understands, much better even than someone like Kant, what is really at stake in Western philosophy. The fact that he hates most of what's happened to it over the past few millennia only makes him that much more worth engaging.


You were too hasty in your judgment, Nietzsche's aphorisms are a part of a whole theory, and to find the connection between all his writings and interpret them relative to each other is to understand him. He is more like a buried treasure that might seem like dust on the surface.

Nietzsche's argument are not weak or even refutable arguments, they are true in every sense, people who think of them as weak arguments or self refuting haven't understood them. People should read about Nietzsche before reading Nietzsche because he can be misinterpreted so easily


I hate Rorschach philosophy. If one philosopher writes down some amazing but impenetrable treatise, I think the honor should go to the philosopher who gives a clear, comprehensible exegesis thereof. I suspect much of Nietzsche's continuing fame derives from the fact that his sweeping, dramatic rhetoric doesn't necessarily say anything definite.

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I love listening and reading to different kinds of philosophy, it makes me realized on how things should be.

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Wow very interesting, I read an article about this on wiki that said this kind of doctrine or whatever you want to call it, have some mysterious "magic" that humans will not understand, in 1865 in japan the period edo, was very "get it into" this performance of psicology I don't why but seems like the "torture" people like this...

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Hello, i really like your post, but i have some doubts that i need to clear.

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