1. A Beginning
I recall when I was first attracted to Nietzsche's work. It was around twenty years ago. I read all his books (well the greatest hits anyway) but I found many parts of them difficult to grasp. To be sure, Nietzsche is often cited as one of the more accessible philosophers, and this is probably one reason why some of his ideas are so well known, but he still writes from a perspective heavily informed by his academic background and his historical situation.
For example, he assumes his readers are familiar with the Western philosophical tradition, including Kant, Schopenhauer and Socrates. He also assumes at least a basic grounding in the classics, such as the works of Homer and Sophocles. In addition, he imagines his readers to have an understanding of the contemporary social and political circumstances prevailing in Europe, and especially Germany, in the late eighteen hundreds when he was writing.
Naturally, for the contemporary, non-specialist, everyday reader in the early twenty-first century, these scholarly, cultural and historical references may be obscure and this can make much of Nietzsche's work difficult to penetrate. In this project, I intend to make Nietzsche’s ideas as digestible as possible for your average Jo.
This is a blog, so let’s keep things simple and succinct, whilst, I should add, carefully avoiding any dumbing down. That said, this blog will not have the same sort of rigour as the book that I am developing. It will be a more relaxed space for playing around with Nietzsche’s ideas - a stretching of the limbs, as it were.
Nietzsche believed that existence was characterised by becoming rather than being and so this site too is a becoming. We may make some false starts, take some wrong paths and stray into dead ends during the course of our investigations. This is fine, healthy even, and I reserve the right to get things wrong occasionally. Through ongoing study, reflection and experiment we will wend our way out of error and towards the most faithful realisation of Nietzsche's teachings.
If and when people want to immerse themselves in the sources, they can easily find all of them on the Internet but strictly speaking, you don’t need to have read Nietzsche’s texts to get something from this blog.
What I was looking for when I approached Nietzsche's works those twenty years ago was some practical advice on how one might live a better life, a more fruitful life, the so-called 'good life' that had been a central obsession of the ancient philosophers. Though Nietzsche is profoundly interested in these questions, he is no systematizer. There is no structured presentation of his ideas in his works; there is certainly no programme one can implement. In fact, in Twilight of the Idols he wrote:
'I mistrust all systematisers and I avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity.'
Hmm_ okay, in context I think it is pretty obvious he was talking about philosophical system-builders here, but in this blog, over time, we can explore what he meant in more depth. However, it is the recognition of the lack of an existing system and a programme that constitutes our jumping off point.
I hope you will join me on this journey and I welcome interaction, questions, suggestions and challenge.
Next up: You specks of dust
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