Mini-Review: Nietzsche: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Tanner (Oxford U.P., 2001)

This is a better book than many on Nietzsche that embrace Nietzsche more fully, but it seems more like a brief critical engagement than an very short introduction. Tanner interrogates many Nietzschean ideas, but often skips over prior philosopher’s exegeses of the more unclear ideas. When he does meant the ways Nietzsche’s work has been used, he does so almost off-hand and without specifics as if someone needing a very short introduction to Nietzsche would know interpretative traditions around Nietzsche.

Tanner does lay out some biography, but recounts some “facts” we now know were untrue: such as NIetzsche’s madness being caused by the onto of syphilis despite the fact that even at the time, photographic evidence of Nietzsche shows no degeneration of soft tissue that comes with syphilis. Tanner does bring up key bits of information, but not consistently. Often it is used to psychologize elements of Nietzsche’s thought that Tanner finds inconsistent or distasteful. Tanner is also dismissive of Kaufman’s work on Nietzsche, a view that I somewhat share, but Kaufman has been the primary introduction to Nietzsche in United States and many of Kaufman’s more liberalizing existentialist readings of Nietzsche remain dominant and should be addressed more completely if they are going to be addressed at all.

Tanner also seems to be highly sympathetic to Wagner and seems to bristle a bit a Nietzsche’s reading of Wagner. This makes some sense given that Tanner has written on Wagner extensively in a philosophical vein. Tanner’s last chapter is a philosophical and psychological critique of Nietzsche. It does simplify some points and inside one not bring other interpretations into the text, but then psychologizes Nietzsche the more. Tanner in all of his run down of the major works and his critical chapter, hints at problems, hints at interpretations, alludes, but rarely explicates completely. He also gives no sense of why Nietzsche would have been so important.

While Tanner does interrogate Nietzsche, which is more useful than a sycophantic reading that also imposes outside ideas unto Nietzsche’s anti-system, I don’t think this functions well as introduction and it is too allusive to be substantive critique. It is slightly unsympathetic, and seems to be short mainly by alluding instead of completely arguing out key points.

4 thoughts on “Mini-Review: Nietzsche: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Tanner (Oxford U.P., 2001)

      • I hope your dad told you about me. But I’m not sure. Did you get sick on your last vacation? Do you have any communication with your father.? I wish you would try to. He had some health problems. Eith e being his wife only 3 months I wish he would explain them to you. He is back on Facebook. Thanks
        Becky Varn

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