Beyond Good and Evil

Good & EvilYikes, how I struggled with this. It was mainly the tone that flummoxed me; I could tell there was a good deal of energy in Nietzsche’s words, but what kind of energy I couldn’t tell. It might have been anger, derision, sarcasm or irony – or indeed a mixture. It actually reminded me of the bible (which I tried to read a few times in my youth, I can’t recall why).

However, I found some friendly assistance online in the form of marked-up texts and discussion forums, e.g. “Be aware what the text says does not always mean this is the opinion or thought of Nietzsche. He may be speaking ironically, exaggerating, taking one extreme side to counter the other side, etc.”

This explains it. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier to read though.

Beyond Good & Evil is a collection of aphorisms; pithy, witty observations of varying lengths that don’t at first appear to flow into one another. While reading about the aphoristic style I stumbled across a set of 80 aphorisms written or spoken by women, which I have to say I preferred. In comparison Nietzsche’s style is very male (can I say that?) – he is almost arrogant in his confidence, and his tone is often derisory. But this is Nietzsche’s very message; that philosophy and philosophers have so far been deficient; not imaginative or assertive enough. Through these 300 statements, Nietzsche deconstructs accepted morality, arguing that all human behaviour is driven by the same basic impulses, and what we see as ‘evil’ is a more direct expression of those impulses. It’s easy to see how he was taken for a Nazi sympathiser…

Thinking back to why David suggested I read Nietzsche… I think it is because my research is leaning in the direction of what universities should be, and what should be done about them. These questions are – perhaps – moral questions. Last year’s assignments took me in a particular direction (a radical one, apparently), and perhaps I could do with being shaken up a bit and having my moral assumptions challenged. I am starting to see how Nietzsche might do that, but I am considering putting his own writing aside in favour of reading what others have said about it instead. On the other hand it may be worth persisting; alongside Nietzsche I am reading Ian Leslie’s book Curious, which indicates that only the hard stuff is worth learning… 

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