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The Pre-Platonic Philosophers

by Greg Whitlock, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Buy the book: Greg Whitlock. The Pre-Platonic Philosophers

Release Date: 01 June, 2001

Edition: Hardcover

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Buy the book: Greg Whitlock. The Pre-Platonic Philosophers


Important Text, but...

Let me start out by saying that this text is a welcome addition to the serious attempts made to bring Nietzsche's notebooks into publication. Not only, for those of us who are serious Nietzsche schorlars, does The Will To Power have many faults (see my review for it) but we also do not have much if any serious work being done in attempting to translate these 16,000 pages or so of notebook material.

One will see in this text Nietzsche's extraordinary knowledge of the greeks. Most of us know that Nietzsche started his academic life as a philologist, and found in the Greek culture something which pointed him towards the philosophical inquiry he would come to make in his life. I encourage all to partake in Nietzsche's discussion with the Greeks, for it will provide critical insight into the devlopment of his philosophy.

This text is the lecutre course that he gave at Basel in 1868. It provides an account of the most important thinkers before the time of Plato, in accordance to Nietzsche's own struggle with their (the thinkers) fragments. If one finds this text interesting, I would recommend looking into the Birth of Tragedy, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, and just to get some background info on the lives and fragments obtained from these thinkers, Kirk, Raven, and Schofield's The Pre-Socratic Philosophers.

With that said, this text does have its limitiations. At some moments the translation is very good, and at other moments rather poor. There are sections, for example, in the Chapter on Empedocles that are very important that do not make it into the English translation. Moreover, the translation seems to make use of common English expressions when the actual German dictates a more dramatic expression. Like I say in all my reviews of Nietzsche's notebooks, his texts makes one want to learn German, so do that if you can. If one cannot, read it alongside an expert in German and you will be able to see the rather superficial areas of translation.

So, an important text with some mechanical problems in the translation. Still worth the investment though, and it provides a good intro in NIetzsche's insight into the Greek world.

Amor fati

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Could you worship this like an indefinite God?

As always, Nietzsche demonstrates an incredible grasp of theology, and it is merely our own stupidity that someone who is so much smarter than his teachers in this way is in so much trouble in the field of public opinion, which demands a much more comfortable stupidity than any reader of this book is likely to sympathize with. In the midst of this book, the judgment which Nietzsche pursues about very early Greek thinkers is "These religious insights originated from a need to eliminate anthropomorphism, but they still show the primordial Hellenic sensitivity toward the gods." (p. 78) The fragment of Xenophanes, given in Greek in footnote 15 on that page, which preceded his observation, was: "Always he remains in the same place, not moving at all; Nor is it fitting for him to go to different places at different times." As Nietzsche thought Plato and Aristotle understood this, "the entire dichotomy between spirit and matter, deity and world, is absent here. He resolves the identification of God and man in order to equate God and nature." (pp. 78-79). In humor, a high spot is a poem by Planudes about Seven Wise Men, with a line, "But Bias of Priene declared, The majority are the worse." (p. 22). Nietzsche makes the effort to sort them all out. On Anaximander, he said, "Thus he made two great advances over Thales, to wit, a principle of water's warmth and coldness and a principle of the Unlimited, the final unity, the matrix of continuous arising." (p. 33). People who are new to philosophy might think that there is too much which is new here, but it's really very old.

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