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The Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Philosophy
4.5 out of 5 stars (130 ratings)

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Summary

Who was Friedrich Nietzsche? This lonely and chronically ill, yet passionate, daring, and complex man is perhaps the most mysterious and least understood of all contemporary philosophers. Why are his brilliant insights so relevant for today? How did he become the most misinterpreted and unfairly maligned intellectual figure of the last two centuries?

To provide shape to Nietzsche's thought, each of these 24 lectures focuses on specific ideas that preoccupied Nietzsche while tracing the profound themes that give meaning to his work. You'll get a chance to put Nietzsche's life and work in a larger historical and philosophical context. You'll explore the controversial philosopher's subtle, complex critique of both religious belief and Greek rationalism.

You'll also spend a wealth of time focusing on Nietzsche's famous writing style, which deftly combines the majesty of the prophet, the force of the Homeric warrior, and the lyricism of the poet - but which nonetheless is rife with inconsistencies, exaggerations, and personal attacks. And you'll get a better understanding of Nietzsche's complaints and criticisms of the intellectual currents of his time: Christian moralism, evolution, socialism, democracy, and nationalism.

As you make your way through these lectures, you'll discover that Nietzsche, even at his most polemical and offensive, exudes an unmistakable enthusiasm and love of life. In fact, you'll see that his exhortation to learn to love and accept one's own life, to make it better by becoming who one really is, forms the project that is the true core of his work.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1999 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1999 The Great Courses

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A sanitised one-sided diet of opinion

What would have made The Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche better?

First and foremost, a confession that the views stated here reflect the lecturers' opinions, but are not to be considered THE truth of the matter. I have listened to other 'Great Courses', and I've found the lecturers to be generally balanced and eager to state that 'there are two sides, and I think this, but others disagree'. This is what you expect in an 'introductory' course. Here, we have an outrageously skewed attempt to defend Nietzsche against any who dislike him, for whatever reason. Yes, Nietzsche has been dealt with as an absurd straw man by many idiots over the years, but those can be dismissed fairly rapidly. We don't need an entire course saying: 'he wasn't as bad as you've heard!'
Secondly, some (at least SOME) coverage of the alternative interpretations. Not only of Nietzsche and his work, but also of the many other philosophers (covered in this course) to whom Nietzsche was responding. For example (this one really made me mad), the treatment of Hegel here is outrageously 'revised', when there is a genuinely 50/50 disagreement in academic philosophy between 'revised' Hegel and 'traditional' Hegel... I'm not saying the lecturers shouldn't argue their case, but they should at least acknowledge that there's some genuine interpretative disagreement here, and provide the listener with some informative stuff about each side. More importantly, the traditional Hegel interpretation is almost certainly closer to the one that Nietzsche was responding to, so it's borderline disingenuous - and, frankly, dishonest - to present Hegel in this modern way in the context of a Nietzsche introduction.
Thirdly, what they've made of Nietzsche's work... This process of defending him against all criticism, against all sensitive sensibilities, ends up stripping his work of the larger part of its power. It is meant, at times, to be upsetting, shocking, etc. That's part of the point. This sanitised 'nicey-nicey' version ends up looking like a shallow self-help system. The listener would be forgiven for thinking, on the basis of this introduction, that Nietzsche was just a misunderstood hippy.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Irritation, disappointment, frustration. I appreciate that I'm in a slightly different position to most listeners, in that I'm pretty well-versed in this stuff (PhD Philosophy, university philosophy lecturer who teaches Nietzsche), but I was hoping this would have some interesting discussion and interpretation, some different points of views or ways of putting/explaining things, some interesting facts that I hadn't heard before, just as I've found in other 'great courses'. But this was really lousy! I'm annoyed that there are now a load of people in the world who've heard this course and probably think Nietzsche was essentially a misunderstood hippy...! I found myself constantly wanting to say: 'Seriously, you're not going to mention THAT?!' Or: 'Seriously, you're going to leave it at THAT, and not mention the (sometimes dominant) view to contrary?!'

Any additional comments?

It's also rather US-centric. (Emerson gets some focus, but no Dostoevsky?!) Most of the 'up-to-date-real-life examples' are cringingly #firstworldproblems.
In conclusion, I'm left with this strange feeling that they've somehow insulted Nietzsche in this... They've tried to fit him and his work into anything that would feel comfortable for them. They've turned Nietzsche into a 'Last Man' version of Nietzschean philosophy. I think he'd be appalled.

28 of 31 people found this review helpful

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Do not be too put off by the reviews

I will simply quote the philosopher Foucault, who was very much influenced by Nietzsche: ""there is [no] single Nietzscheanism. There are not grounds for believing that there is a true Nietzscheanism, or that ours is any truer than others".

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Politically correct Nietzsche

It is a collection of lectures, with some overlaps and repetition. In the first ones there is an effort to make Nietzsche appear politically correct and unbiased eg towards Jewish people without substantiation on any related passages of his work. The accent of the main narrator is too strongly Texan, which is funny when he calls Achilles and Agamemnon barbarians criticizing Nietzsche for liking them - makes you think, didn’t they have the right to bear arms? The (few) lectures of the secondary narrator were interesting and provided food for thought.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Very informative and clear

I have enjoyed listening to this although I have expected to hear more of the original text.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

So educational and brilliant!!
I need to read it again!!
Would recommend to anyone interested in philosophy

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Really good lectures <br />

I havet a Hard Times saying something short and meaningful about these lectures, but I really liked them and learned a lot from them. And I think they suit many types of listeners.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Overview

Enjoyed the passion and enthusiasm of both lecturers. Also helpful was the fact that they sought to give the lectures a practical application.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel
  • Saffron Walden, United Kingdom
  • 07-03-15

Just what I wanted

Great level, lots of background into the man and enough depth to make me feel I have a bit more than an overview of the subject

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Good backgrounder

This is good context filling of you want to supplement other reading on Nietzsche. The lecturers approach his work thematically rather than chronologically which is unusual but a good choice. Though there is 12 hours here it is not a very deep investigation - there's not much examination of actual texts - but rather historical and social context - where Nietzsche stood in relation to Heidegger, Hegel Schopenhauer and Kant in particular, and also Mill, Darwin and Socrates and Aristotle.

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Not bad

I just couldn't but feel the lecturers are too subjective on the subject and too much guesing what Nietzsche wanted to say but that is what you get whit this book.If you want an unbiased opinion go read Nietzsche yourself.

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  • Charley Yeager
  • 09-03-15

Perfect entry point for understanding Nietzsche

Where does The Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very satisfying, will be listened to sever times to fully understand.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

good balance of biography and analysis with extensive contextual education

What does Professor Kathleen M. Higgins and Professor Robert C. Solomon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

world class expertise and passion for Nietzsche

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I knew I was interested in Nietzsche, but I never knew I would adore his views this much

Any additional comments?

combine this book with some additional content to get a more rounded experience, a Nietzsche documentary or a read of his work (which is difficult to appreciate for me taken alone)

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-05-19

Some strong points, but...

... it seemed to me that a lot of the comments made by the professors were very questionable in terms of Neitzche’s philosophy. For example, regarding moral relativism, the professor made some absurd analogy like, “having a definite moral standard all the way across the world would be like giving every student an ‘A’ on a research paper regardless of how each student performed, so even though most people would be happy (the majority) there would be a few exceptional individuals who did very well who would be cheated because they worked harder than everyone else.” This was baffling to me, because the very example he uses presupposes a universal principle applies equally to everyone in the class, namely that if you work hard and do well then you should be rewarded, and also that there is a universal standard by which each paper is graded. How this slipped past the professor is a mystery to me. Beyond that, many times, the professor vehemently denies any negative actions taken in history which claimed to be taken because of his philosophy, simply stating that “they don’t understand Neitzche,” or that they even did the exact opposite of what Neitzche was trying to put forward. The biggest irony for me of the lectures was hearing about Neitzche’s tragic life, and how his sister had to care for him for the last several years of his life when he was virtually completely disabled. To me it begged the question, what if his sister had carried out his philosophy on compassion and love?

There are some redeeming qualities however, as this is a helpful resource to just have a brief overview of his basic philosophy and the things he is most well known for. It is essential to understand the thoughts of men like Neitzche, even if we disagree with them, simply for the fact that they have shaped the world that we now live in. Ideas have consequences.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Catherine Spiller
  • 19-05-15

An apology (classical sense) for Nietszche

Thoughtful, but with much more of a focus on defending Nietszche from attacks than actually exploring his thought. We learn speculative theories, but relatively little about specific works.

20 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Madeleine
  • 13-04-14

Engaging Course

This is a very comprehensive course on Nietzsche. Not just his works and his thoughts, but there is a rather helpful and contexualizing of his life as well.

It's a real pleasure to listen to lecturers who love their subject. A few, though by no means all, of these Courses series are taught by people who have a really selective preference for certain parts of what their teaching, but not all of it, and it shows.

Professors Higgins and Solomon are tremendous fans of Nietzsche's work; it comes through in their passion and enthusiasm for the topic and it makes some of the harder-to-grasp concepts presented much easier to take on board.

I also really appreciated some of the back and forth, dialogic style of the presentation. It made the apologetics more vibrant and fertile.

27 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • josh
  • 27-06-16

Great speakers

Awesome lectures and easy to follow. Loved it. Hope to hear more from them. Thank you

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Buzzy
  • 22-03-16

Amazing intro to Nietsche's work

It made me want to read each and every book by Friedrick Nietzche. Amazing philosopher.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • matthew
  • 12-03-15

Great introduction to Nietzsche

Any additional comments?

This is a great course for anyone seeking to understand the basic philosophical frameworks of Nietzsche. I am a Master's student and used the lectures from this audio book to prepare for a course in sociology theory. I really enjoyed the content and found it to be extremely helpful in providing an overview for such an in depth subject. I liked the fact that the lecturers were husband and wife, and I especially enjoyed hearing a women's perspective on Nietzsche, who is often portrayed as misogynistic. They clarified the fundamental themes in Nietzsche's writings, and provided context that my college course did not.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • W. Donovan
  • 12-10-18

Magnificent

This series of lectures by Profs Solomon and Higgins sheds a lot of light into Nietzsche’s philosophy. I would recommend a brief detour into a critic of Nietzsche, Ronald Beiner and his audiobook Dangerous Minds, first. That way you can contrast this lecture series, with its extended deep dive into Nietzschian thought, with a critic’s point-of-view in the background. I liked this despite how some historical bad actors have used Nietzsche to bolster their arguments, like the Nazis with the ubermensch and “will to power” concepts. Nietzsche actually disliked anti-semites and wrote extended critiques of 19th century Germany; so, it’s beyond me why the Nazis thought he was an inspiration - Nietzsche would’ve called them on their b.s. posthaste. I love the concept of eternal recurrence, and it’s corollary of amor fati (love of fate). I love the idea of embracing life and trying to be creative, and treating your life as a creative act. The lecturers are both engaging and fun, and funny. If you like philosophy, then I’d say you can’t go wrong with this great course. The critics will have a deeper understanding, and the enthusiasts will be even more enthused. Great job.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • John Carnes
  • 30-05-15

Get more out of life and open yourself to the possibility of more!

Great series and it helps immensely that it's in 30 min bite size chucks because it is nice to reflect on the subject matter immediately after a lecture.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • mylifeisnotthesame
  • 29-06-15

Questionable Interpretations

What would have made The Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche better?

A different set of professors/lecturers would have been potentially better. Professor Solomon's and Higgins' interpretations of Nietzsche are sometimes highly suspect. I'm not a professional philosopher, but I have spent a fair amount of time studying and reflecting upon Nietzsche's works with the aid of secondary literature.

For example, early on in the lectures, Professor Solomon insists that Nietzsche isn't a moral relativist in the strictest sense. This is a very questionable reading of Nietzsche's moral philosophy. While I am aware that Nietzsche saw the rise of nihilism as a problem for humanity, the most plausible interpretation of his works clearly suggests that he was a moral anti-realist. For this reason, it seems as though Professor Solomon is trying to fit Nietzsche into his own worldview rather than representing the philosophy more objectively.

Not all of the lectures are as disappointing. The lectures on Amor Fati and Nietzsche's virtue ethics are interesting and on point for the most part.

My biggest complaint is Professor Solomon's narration style. It reminded me of why I often despise the lecture format for learning in general. It turns out that "how you say it" does indeed matter just as much as "what you say."

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Very dull delivery.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Dissapointment.

18 of 28 people found this review helpful