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Book 4: Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

Reading ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ is an insane achievement. This book took me about 3 months to finish reading. When I started the book, I saw that it was a 240 page book and assumed that I would be able to complete it in a week. Instead it took me 3 months at an average of 3 pages a day. Those 3 pages would usually take me 45 minutes to read and re-read, to develop some sort of interpretation of what was written. A lot of times a paragraph in the book would leave me in deep thought and even today I cannot say that I have a good understanding of the book.

In the course of reading the book I understood the essence behind the title ‘Beyond Good and Evil’. Beyond Good and Evil can represent a history of morals and values. Values are subject to a society’s circumstances and necessities. The definition of good and evil can vary and change over time. Whenever we study the history of morals, we must not be blinded by the current set of values and we must try to understand the basis of today’s values from an unbiased standpoint.

Beyond Good and Evil can also mean that sometimes terrible things need to happen for the enlightening of the soul. Terrible events build character and toughen societies. Good and evil are two sides of a coin and completely eliminating suffering will create weak people. The book argues for oppressive values that force the individual and society to grow into a higher civilization.

Another explanation for ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ is that different individuals have different set of values and what is good may be different for each of them. People trying to impose their morals on others can create an oppressive and rigid society that does not tolerate free thinking.

A relatively mundane title in beginning of this book adopted a multitude of meanings by the end of reading it. The density of the content in the book is astounding and understanding its depth will require a large amount of supplementary reading. Nietzsche regularly refers to different philosophers and analyses their thoughts. Without the required supplementary reading or philosophical knowledge one cannot have an in depth understanding of what is written.

A lot of what is written also seems to critique the major movements of our time. There were many paragraphs that I read that seemed to directly criticize the major themes of today’s agitation and I was amazed that something written almost 150 years ago could precisely capture the mindset we hold today. To a certain degree it made me wonder if our ideologies are a synonymous to a circle, with each generation framing the same arguments and counterarguments.

As I have written before, despite reading this book for 3 months I feel as though I do not have an overall understanding of the book. I did my best to understand the individual paragraphs, but to truly understand it requires an additional de-cluttering of the mind to tie each of those individual paragraphs together and tie those chapters together to get a holistic sense of the philosophies. Such a holistic understanding would give the reader a larger meaning to what the book is trying to convey.

15 thoughts on “Book 4: Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

  1. The moment I read your post, I knew i had to share my own similar experience. I started reading it in early March and finished in April end feeling like a fraud for taking so much time and still not able to comprehend majority of his thoughts. I felt his ideas related to religion and spirituality were contradictory and although he was critical of past philosophers, I believe there was considerable softness for anything German.

    I am impressed with how you were able to at least distill some of his writing in these few paragraphs. Commendable!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I enjoyed this book very much. I read it in one afternoon (sorry to say) with annotations. At the time, I had already watched a few documentaries on Nietzsche’s life and work and knew how misunderstood his work was in the present. I’m accustomed to reading dated texts in their original formats so I knew not to try and put a modern spin on it but rather try to capture the general philosophy of thought of the time.

    Not sure if you’re aware, but he had a severe mental illness and some of his later writing was incomprehensible. His sister managed his estate after he passed and was responsible for editing some of his later works. These works were manipulated for the purposes of propaganda.

    I was very interested in reading this book to understand for myself what or how he could be misinterpreted and I found nothing in his words to explain that. His sister should of done a better job of protecting his legacy. If you have read the Republic by Plato as yet, then you know it’s a fun experience with great humour in the mix. If you try to recall that text, it’ll frame this one better for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know that he dies early and had health problems but I did not know the actual ailments he suffered from. I also haven’t read about his life so I did not know that his sister managed his estate after him. I might have a look at his history.
      This is the first time I have actually read philosophy so my supplementary reading are quite poor and I haven’t read Republic by Plato.
      I do feel, however that his work can be misinterpreted since it is nuanced and most people can’t read it. So any propaganda on his ideas can take root in a populaces mind. He also speaks of superiority of race that can be misinterpreted if one does not read the full text. He argues for superiority of people with high intellect and free spirits which he defines as a race. He does not define races by skin colour or heritage. I also feel that we should read his thoughts carefully since many of them could be the foundation of the intrinsic values we observe today.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your thoughtful response. You make good points. First, this is a challenging text to start off with. It is great that you took it on. Second, interpretations of words in texts vary. (That is an area of philosophy in itself). Another interesting text whose interpretation varies depending on who is reading is the epic poem Gilgamesh. Early scholars who interpreted the original Sumerian were men so I read three translations. Some men read it as a graphic, lustful adventure and others saw it as a bedtime story.

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      2. Plato you can find on iBooks. It’s a free, classic text. Gilgamesh : Please do a Google search and read more than one version before purchasing a copy through Kindle. The English translation of the poem is about 51 pages. It is compiled from several different Sumerian texts found at different times and is not from a single main source. So (highly recommended) please read more than one translation and keep an open mind. Good luck.

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  3. A book review – so long – so much efforts – and still not sure whether the right pick or not ! Good write up Man ! I’m impressed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It sounds like you have a pretty good understanding so far. Such a multilayered text will probably take years to fully unpack. I probably would have taken so many breaks with a book like this that I’d be lucky to finish it in three months.

    I do think history moves in a circle, and I’m not sure whether that’s unavoidable or just a sign that people aren’t paying enough attention to history. On the other hand, it does seem like evil gets called out faster these days, so there must be some progress…maybe history is like a spring, moving in circles but also moving upward.

    And yes, I have considered whether huge social traumas are ultimately necessary for progress. At the same time, I can’t help thinking that it’s easy for me to say that, because those tragedies haven’t happened to me personally, or have not affected me as badly as some people (for example, I’m lucky to have been mostly just inconvenienced and depressed by the pandemic, whereas millions of people have lost family or friends).

    It’s definitely a complicated subject, and it’s hard to say if there is any single right answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the spring analogy is quite an accurate analogy. There is definitely change that happens over time so history is not exactly moving in a circle.
      I also believe I speak from a position of privilege. To be honest, I feel quite grateful for the era we live in since it is so much better than it was even 100 years ago. I am also lucky to only be inconvenienced by the pandemic. I feel that our privilege stems from the hard work and ingenuity of our forefather and we should always acknowledge that.
      I think that even the best decisions have their repercussions so there is always a downside to every answer.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A great post after reading “Beyond Good and Evil.” Nietzsche’s works are dense and a true joy when you allow yourself the time to really reflect on and think about the ideas and claims made. BGE is one of my favorites. I recommend checking out “The Gay Science,” as Nietzsche gives more expression to his positive philosophy.
    The Beyond good and evil can also mean actually questioning morality, its role, and its value rather than merely assuming it exists and is of value.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot! I will check out your recommendation. ‘The Beyond good and evil can also mean actually questioning morality, its role, and its value rather than merely assuming it exists and is of value.’ This was my biggest takeaway from the book. I genuinely questioned the history and basis of our values.

      Liked by 1 person

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