It takes a week or so for Amazon to connect the paperback and the Kindle versions of the book to the same page. In the meantime, can access the paperback version by following this link.
My new book on the 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche comes out on August 23rd and is currently available for pre-order. If my writing career came to an end tomorrow and I had to get a job at a frisbee factory, I would undoubtedly smile warmly from time to time just knowing that this book is out there floating around in the ether of the Internet. I am almost certain that the book will exceed any expectations the reader might have. This is especially true in that, although I’m a serious graduate student in philosophy, I self-publish these popular books from the very beginning to the very end of the creative process. That might make you think that, like some other self-published books, I must have compromised quality. A strong writer—and if I’m not one by now, then boy—doesn’t need nine middlemen to bring good writing to readers. Instead, this route affords me the autonomy to write independently of any institutional entanglement and allows me to focus on bringing you the best possible writing. The product of this way of working comes in the form of my latest book, Friedrich NIetzsche: Truth and Affirmation.*
The hope is that the book stimulates reflection otherwise difficult or even impossible to find. We might summarize our cultural moment as expressive of a sort of absurd, vapid, enthusiastic, paranoid emptiness, a riotous infatuation with sh*t that will not matter in five decades, in five years, five minutes, or even in five f*cking seconds. I am not naming names, but if you are looking for the jolt of a negative emotional “hit”, you might go refresh your news aggregator instead. Indeed, the text may do the unthinkably impolite and require readers to reach for their dictionaries fairly often. No doubt, it will be jarring and thought-provoking. But who knows how much of the nutritive content would have been lost had I tried to smush Nietzschean philosophical wisdom into food that babies can eat? It handles heavy topics but makes short work of them. If I were a reader who is trying to get a footing in why Nietzsche is still important, or a philosopher trying to figure out how to build on Nietzsche’s work, this is the book I would look to. If you are a reader who doesn’t know about Nietzsche at all but trusts that I wouldn’t waste your time or mine, then chances are it will be very useful.
Nietzsche is a difficult and multifaceted writer. The reason for this is that he stands at a sort of intellectual pinnacle of the Western philosophical and spiritual tradition. In order to access Nietzsche, it’s necessary to be a base-level initiate of various classical and modern schools of thought. Luckily, the secret handshake of the classical philosophical and literary world does not have to involve a prep school education and/or $3.1 million in generationally uncancellable student loan debt. The book starts out by connecting the reader to the work that the thought of Thucydides, the Athenian historian and general, performs within the Nietzschean corpus. People familiar with Nietzsche know that he famously attacks the Greek philosopher Plato, on whom I’ll write at length at some future point. I won’t adjudicate that debate here. Instead, I will merely point out that Nietzsche believes that Thucydides offers a counter-narrative to Platonic morality.
The purpose of the book is not to make Dionysian Nietzsche into a petting zoo specimen. His much-maligned later work was left incomplete because of his mental collapse. The book takes up Nietzsche’s thinking at the time in his later career that he turned his focus to the problem of nihilism and began working through what that problem means for post-Enlightenment cultures.
The concept of nihilism is simple: the idea is that two or more socially accepted and encouraged values cancel each other out. It remains a problem because having delineated ethical values affords a person a clear psychological direction. Without values that withstand the trial of experience, the individual can become rudderless in obvious or in subtle ways. The sense of nihilism can intensify an essentially desperate commitment to pointless activities or can draw the individual into withdrawn despair. Many readers make the error of believing that Nietzsche argues ‘in favor of’ nihilism, but this is terribly wrong. Rather, he describes it as a psychological state that the cultural West has found itself in. The job of philosophy, Nietzsche thinks, is to prioritize values such that the goals those values engender never collapse in on themselves.
This philosophical and psychological predicament leads us to several obvious questions, the answers to which are contained in the book. What value could possibly be strong enough to withstand any experience? It is quite opposed to some contemporary philosophical sensibilities even to ask that broad of a metaphysical question at all. But the desire to avoid such talk just as well conservatively assumes the primacy of whatever set of values is the default. Yet the contradiction in values within the moral tradition is the very thing that has deprived us of a default that can be relied upon in the long-term.
I would hope that the reader can see that Nietzsche is onto an important problem here. It is especially poignant for the sort of people who could use the psychological support of a clearer user manual for everyday life than the one that we’ve been handed. All is not lost. Many philosophers, including Nietzsche, have taken to solving the problem. The book does not contain a comprehensive answer to the question but still shows how Nietzsche opens it and explains the ways in which he thinks we can resolve it.
*Of course it’s an affiliate link.