Quora Answer: What is a good way to begin reading Nietzsche?

Oct 18 2014

Check out: Amazon.com: The Good European: Nietzsche’s Work Sites in Word and Image (9780226452791): David Farrell Krell, Donald L. Bates: Books for some interesting context.

I am reading a book called Zarathustra’s Dionysian Modernism by Robert Gooding-Williams and it seems to me that is as good a place to start as any.

The first thing you really need to come to terms with is that Nietzsche’s philosophy is non-systematic, even anti-systematic, which basically means it is one huge mess, a gigantic puzzle. After Hegel and Kant this is a real relief, but on the other hand you can, and people do make about anything they want out of it. So finding good commentaries that make sense of some portion of it is well . . . extremely difficult.

Recently I read Nietzsche and the Philology of the Future by James I Porter and that filled in what was for me a really big blank in Nietzsche’s career, his academic life as a philologist. After reading that book I had a much better appreciation of where Nietzsche was coming from in terms of his discipline in academia which I had not really thought about before.

In terms of Genealogy a good book is Philosophical Genealogy in two volumes by Brian Lightbody where he contrasts Nietzsche and Foucault’s approaches to Genealogy.

Another interesting book I read recently is Zarathustra’s Last Supper: Nietzsche’s Eight Higher Men by Weaver Santaniello which got me interested in trying to re-approach Zarathustra again.

One thing that hit me reading Zarathustra over the last few days along with the Gooding-Williams book is his saying in it that people who write aphorisms in blood want not to be read but memorized. I think that is a particularly telling remark from Nietzsche on how he wants to be approached.

I had a class at UCI which was a year long reading seminar on Nietzsche under Martin Schwab [UC Irvine – Faculty Profile System] and that was really good because we read not just Nietzsche but some of his main commentators like Heidegger, and Deleuze. It helps to have someone who can guide you who actually has a fairly deep knowledge of the German context in which Nietzsche is writing and to warn about the pitfalls of the translations. That was a really great experience that consolidated my grasp on Nietzsche’s philosophy. Of all the books I read during that time the one Parkes: Composing the Soul: Reaches of Nietzsche’s Psychology: Graham Parkes: 9780226646879: Amazon.com: Books who came to talk to us impressed me the most. Nietzsche writes his philosophy through metaphors and Parkes explores the field of metaphors that Nietzsche uses, which is extremely interesting to see as a whole field.

There is no one way that is best to approach Nietzsche. You have to just start reading, and then read over and over, then read commentaries, then read again later after having gained some insight by trying to think it through on your own. What ever you think Nietzsche is saying, he is actually saying something deeper than that, that is guaranteed.

I wrote three  papers around that time that tried to use and capture some of what I learned:

Primal Ontology and Archaic Existentiality
Nietzsche’s Madness: thinking through darkness and light
Idea, Essence, Existence and Archetype (On Nietzsche, Jung and others)

See also Kent Palmer’s Homepage

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