Cover image for The pre-Platonic philosophers
The pre-Platonic philosophers
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900.
Uniform Title:
Lectures. Selections. English
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xlvi, 287 pages ; 24 cm.
General Note:
"Excerpts from part 2, volume 4, of Nietzsche Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, edited by Fritz Bornmann and Mario Carpitella, c1995"--T.p. verso.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
B187.5 .N5413 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Surveying the Greek philosophers from Thales to Socrates, Friedrich Nietzsche (then a philologist) at the University of Basel establishes a chronology for the progression of their natural scientific insights in this text.

Author Notes

The son of a Lutheran pastor, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born in 1844 in Roecken, Prussia, and studied classical philology at the Universities of Bonn and Leipzig. While at Leipzig he read the works of Schopenhauer, which greatly impressed him. He also became a disciple of the composer Richard Wagner. At the very early age of 25, Nietzsche was appointed professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland. In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, Nietzsche served in the medical corps of the Prussian army. While treating soldiers he contracted diphtheria and dysentery; he was never physically healthy afterward.

Nietzsche's first book, The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music (1872), was a radical reinterpretation of Greek art and culture from a Schopenhaurian and Wagnerian standpoint. By 1874 Nietzsche had to retire from his university post for reasons of health. He was diagnosed at this time with a serious nervous disorder. He lived the next 15 years on his small university pension, dividing his time between Italy and Switzerland and writing constantly. He is best known for the works he produced after 1880, especially The Gay Science (1882), Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883-85), Beyond Good and Evil (1886), On the Genealogy of Morals (1887), The Antichrist (1888), and Twilight of the Idols (1888). In January 1889, Nietzsche suffered a sudden mental collapse; he lived the last 10 years of his life in a condition of insanity. After his death, his sister published many of his papers under the title The Will to Power.

Nietzsche was a radical questioner who often wrote polemically with deliberate obscurity, intending to perplex, shock, and offend his readers. He attacked the entire metaphysical tradition in Western philosophy, especially Christianity and Christian morality, which he thought had reached its final and most decadent form in modern scientific humanism, with its ideals of liberalism and democracy. It has become increasingly clear that his writings are among the deepest and most prescient sources we have for acquiring a philosophical understanding of the roots of 20th-century culture.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This book provides a translation of, and commentary on, Friedrich Nietzsche's 16 lectures on the pre-Platonic philosophers, which include a few general preliminaries and discussions of several pre-Socratics, and conclude with Socrates. An enormous effort and prodigious scholarly skills were required to produce this book, not just because of the scattered Greek and Latin in Nietzsche's notes, but more importantly because the German text itself barely qualifies as a text. As Whitlock (Eastern Illinois Univ.) puts it, "nearly every page of the manuscript looks like a sheet of strange code or secret language." Whitlock's commentary mostly tries to defend Nietzsche's viewpoints by establishing their coherence with some contemporary scholarship, even though he concedes at the outset that Nietzsche "seems to have fabricated spurious quotations, while at many others he changes the Greek or Latin text without notification." Interest in this book, accordingly, will derive not from interest i n the pre-Platonic philosophers, but from interest in Nietzsche. Whether readers will find the heroic effort Whitlock had to put into this work worthwhile, therefore, will depend entirely upon how much interest in and admiration for Nietzsche they bring to the book. Graduate students and above. N. D. Smith Lewis and Clark College