By R.J. Hollingdale.
Cambride, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999, revised edition
Comments of Bob Corbett
R.J. Hollingdale's Nietzsche volume is not merely a biography and guide to reading Frederich Nietzsche, it is a major scholarly achievement which radically revises the accepted view of Nietzsche as a near crazy-genius who writes brilliant aphorisms on his way to insanity, to a view of a consistent growing philosophical genius who happened to go mad after finishing his major philosophical contributions. The book reads well, interestingly, clearly and with well-argued and demonstrated claims. It is simply a must as a companion reading for any serious look at Nietzsche's work.
I do plan to post a much more detailed outline of the book and my notes and reflections along the way of reading it, but here I offer a shorter summary of two main issues:
These will be followed by a few remain comments I wish to make.
According to Hollingdale the standard view of Nietzsche which one finds in much of the scholarly literature is as follows:
This adds to the difficulty of understanding and interpretation and requires that analysis must be of:
HOLLINGDALE'S COUNTER VIEW
Hollingdale argues that these are of little use except to learned scholars of Nietzsche since:
After trying to turn our attention away from the "standard view" toward his view which gives us a much more formidable and important philosopher, Hollingdale then gives us an overview of this Nietzsche the systematic philosopher.
The key line of this Hollingdale-interpreted position is this:
While there are several other famous and important sub-themes in Nietzsche's work (the death of God, the eternal recurrence, the revaluation of values and so on), the brief sketch above is the bare bones minimum and heart of Nietzsche's view according to Hollingdale.
I think it is important to emphasize that Hollingdale is arguing strongly that the very essence of Nietzsche is not a nihilistic philosophy, but just the opposite, an attempt to save humans from meaninglessness, giving us a system of meaning rooted in human choice and responsibility (the will to power) rather than in God, religion or the close substitute, natural law.
In a 1999 Afterword for this revised edition Hollingdale tackles briefly the question of other scholarly accounts of Nietzsche. This fascinated me and pointed me in the direction of my next second source reading on Nietzsche -- Jacques Derrida. Hollingdale allows that his own understanding of Nietzsche was deeply enriched by Derrida's extensive analysis of Nietzsche. Hollingdale is also influenced by the work of Walter Kaufmann. He says his own view is not much different from Kaufmann's except that Kaufmann gives up a more "humanistic" Nietzsche than Hollingdale believes is justified.
Of the major Nietzsche scholars the one who comes in for the strongest negative criticism is Martin Heidegger. Heidegger's four volume Nietzsche work is quite famous, but Hollingdale argues this book is much less about Nietzsche than it is about Heidegger. As such he doesn't criticize it. However, as a biography and analysis of Nietzsche Hollingdale argues that it is only of questionable value.
Anyone who wishes to read and understand Nietzsche with seriousness and make use of his phenomenally challenging and CONSTRUCTIVE understanding of human existence should have the R.J. Hollingdale volume as a close companion to reading the relatively small set of published works which constitute Nietzsche's philosophical core.Bob Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Corbett email@example.com