email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAll That You Leave BehindAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BodiesBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecause We Are BadBecoming AnnaBecoming MyselfBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEarly ExposuresEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Franz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGetting OffGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Am Dynamite!I Am I Am I AmI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMaybe You Should Talk to SomeoneMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNever EnoughNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Apparent DistressNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNo One Cares About Crazy PeopleNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsRXScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabServing the ServantSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Amazing Things HappenSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTell Me Everything You Don't RememberTellingTelling Tales About DementiaTen Years a NomadThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Art of MisdiagnosisThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Big FixThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Bright HourThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family GeneThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Infidel and the ProfessorThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Mother of Black HollywoodThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Neuroscientist Who Lost Her MindThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Only Girl in the WorldThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe Quiet RoomThe RecoveringThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Undoing ProjectThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThings We Didn't Talk About When I Was a GirlThis Close to HappyThomas S. SzaszTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Going to Need More WineWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I Left, Why I StayedWhy I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou All Grow Up and Leave MeYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor
Julian Young's Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography is marvelous, meticulously researched, artfully written, and genuinely insightful. Young has managed to produce a work of the highest caliber on the slippery terrain of Nietzsche's thought. He offers a total vision of Nietzsche's intellectual development that is at times critical, as well as giving clear accounting for the many implicit arguments found in Nietzsche's work. Young demonstrates a keen sense for recognizing places where Nietzsche plays upon his own biography, establishing a context for interpreting Nietzsche's more cryptic remarks. The volume's style is artful, far exceeding the norms of philosophical treatises. All told, Young's book is remarkable, and easily recommended. One will find value in it as an overview to or introduction to Nietzsche's thought. While invaluable as a work for those interested in Nietzsche, it is perhaps even more important for philosophers, given how regularly Nietzsche is misunderstood or misinterpreted.
On the whole, Young's book is outstanding; though, not beyond critique. Given the magnitude of the book's numerous successes, I will devote more time to voicing a few minor concerns. Subsequent to this, I will draw attention to a pair of engaging discussions that stood out among the many carefully crafted arguments.
First, there is a case of an odd and mistaken claim. Thankfully it appears to be an isolated occurrence. Young claims, without supporting evidence, that American Pragmatism "actually has its roots in Schopenhauer's and Nietzsche's philosophy." (416) The simplest evaluation of this claim is that it is straightforwardly false. While both the early Pragmatists and Nietzsche shared an appreciation for Emerson, it is inaccurate to attribute to any of the three originators of American Pragmatism – Peirce, James, and Dewey – any meaningful influence on the part of Schopenhauer or Nietzsche. Whatever similarities there are between Schopenhauer's and Nietzsche's thought and that of the foundational figures of American Pragmatists is accidental in nature. That said, Young might have been intending reference to Josiah Royce. However, Royce's status as a Pragmatist is not obvious and his status as a root figure in that tradition is an even more problematic ascription.
A more complicated type of concern arises where Young's proximity to the material might benefit from increased distance. For instance, Young claims that Nietzsche is idealizing himself in the figure of Zarathustra and that Zarathustra is a model for the übermensch (superman or overman). (367) Why Nietzsche is not understood to be offering only a model of idealized humanity at that stage of his thought is not clear. The text of Zarathustra is certainly ambiguous. Zarathustra says in the Introduction, for instance, that he comes to teach the übermensch, but does not assert that he himself is the übermensch. Similarly Nietzsche expresses a connection to his character, but does not assert an identity therewith. Young acknowledges relying on Nietzsche's letters and notebooks for his claim. But, Young too acknowledges the ambiguous nature of those sources. As such, one wants more to be said substantiating the identification between Nietzsche and Zarathustra, as well as Nietzsche and the figure of the übermensch as of that point in Nietzsche's life. Granted, later in Nietzsche's life, his condition will result in delusional attributions regarding himself and his relation to the figure of Zarathustra. (528ff.)
One finds a similar case where Young offers stark resistance to Nietzsche's attacks on Wagner, specifically Nietzsche assertion that Wagner was a minimalist. (496) Nietzsche's comment that Wagner is a miniaturist is intended to be a criticism of Wagner's use of leitmotif. The criticism being that Wagner merely stacks miniature phrases together, rather than supplying an overarching organizational framework that is coherent or capable of giving meaning to those fragments. Analogous to décadence in culture (493), Wagner claims to express a holistic vision or new ideal for art and culture (113), but never achieves more than tenuous unities of phrases that retain an atomistic sense. Wagner's attempts at a new organizational scheme for musical form, to Nietzsche, thus result in an indulgent void of unified musical structure. Young's tu quoque directed at Nietzsche's own attempts at musical composition is a rare low in an otherwise excellent work (496). What's more, this attack is at odds with Young's arranging for audio clips of Nietzsche's compositions to be available through the book's website. I agree with what I believe Young's view is; the audio clips represent an excellent supplement, even if wanting of more discussion. However, Young's position on Nietzsche's music ends in apparent ambivalence: little critical attention; enthusiastic plugging of audio tracks, peppered with praise; while ending by harshly trashing Nietzsche's music. One speculates that affinity for Wagner's music is a source of tension here.
The most peculiar part of the book is its final chapter. There, Young offers his own speculation as to the diagnosis of Nietzsche's final condition; his speculation is dubious at best. (559ff.) Young reasonably concludes that neither syphilis nor a tumor of the optic nerve represent sufficient diagnoses of Nietzsche's final condition. Young then argues that this serves as evidence for a purely psychological cause for Nietzsche's final years, noting further that Nietzsche was likely manic depressive or bipolar. While the psychological symptoms and their respective pathologies are surely factors contributing to a diagnosis of Nietzsche's condition, it is entirely surprising that an intellect as acute as Young's, one dedicated to Nietzsche no less, seems to operate on the assumption that Nietzsche must have had a single affliction. Young appears to have momentarily fallen prey to the "Casaubon impulse". (536) That Nietzsche had long-term physiological problems is well documented. Why not conclude that Nietzsche had a complex condition, with multiple contributing factors leading to his eventual breakdown? Nietzsche's health was never all that good, and his personal habits seemed to be more apt to aggravate his health problems than to alleviate them. The psychological condition(s) may very well be part of a complex manifestation of underlying problems. While a descent into the Dionysian abyss is a playful hypothesis, one fitting for the youthful Nietzsche; a multifaceted physical degeneration is a more reasonable hypothesis. Such a hypothesis is also more consistent with the spirit of Nietzsche's mature philosophy, which treats minds as embodied. It is also jarring to think of Nietzsche giving into a willful apathetic detachment from life, while being subjected to the indignities of his then reviled sister's conceited delusions. Nietzsche would certainly never will the eternal return of such a state of affairs. To end the book with these speculations, especially after the tour de force of chapter 26, can leave one with a sour aftertaste.
Returning to the book's deserved praise, one calls attention to two points of discussion in the work, discussions which are related to one another and of definite merit. First, Young's discussions of Nietzsche's perspectivism and his related criticisms of post-modernism. (313, 337, 473) These discussions, central to a proper appreciation of Nietzsche's matured view, are engaging and insightful. Second are the discussions of Nietzsche's anti-scientism, these having become more important since Nietzsche's day. Nietzsche wanted to ensure that thinking about science was scientific in nature. This is sharply contrasted with the pseudo-scientific, quasi-metaphysical, quasi-religious attitudes of the dogmatic. (411, 439, 480) In the end one is given two excellent discussions substantiating that there is a false choice often presented between nihilistic relativism and militant dogmatism.
In sum, not only has Young produced a masterful study of Nietzsche, fit for slow reading (296), but a work that opens avenues for further inquiry. The superlative quality of the whole towers well over what blemishes it has. Young's philosophical biography of Nietzsche is certainly essential for any serious study of Nietzsche henceforth.
© 2010 Eric Chelstrom
Eric Chelstrom is Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Grand Valley State University. His research focuses on issues in social phenomenology, i.e. the role of consciousness in the social world. His doctorate was directed by Kah Kyung Cho at the University at Buffalo, SUNY.