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The typical book of philosophy seems to be roughly 30 percent real insight and 70 percent over-inflated language.  Nietzsche’s formula is just a little bit different.  He offers 70 percent insight, 20 percent attitude, and 10 percent beastly mustache.  The result is a book like Twilight of the Idols, which I finished last night.  Subtitled “How to Philosophize with a Hammer”, Idols is Nietzsche relaxing a bit and taking aim at the empty concepts that have become the idols of the modern age.  He sets his sights on targets ranging from Socrates to Christianity to Kant to democracy in general.  Nietzsche is never one to pull his punches, and this book is an excellent example.

At the core of the book is Nietzsche’s central tenet that life should always be affirmed.  His chief criticism of most of the so-called ‘idols’ is the tendency to suppress the will to life.  Spiritualism at the expense of sensuality and philosophies that seek to equate reason with virtue at the expense of the body are decadent and deny the will to life.  This decadence has caused the development of a false reality in the West, which manages to place more importance on a theoretical ideal existence than the actual existence we all enjoy.  Christianity is a victim of this same judgment.  The longest section of the book features some of Nietzsche’s most withering criticisms.  Taking aim at some of his contemporaries and recent predecessors, Nietzsche proceeds to rip ‘modern culture’ to shreds.  He again urges a revaluation of all values, as traditional morality has become life-denying and should be replaced by a truly life-affirming ethic. 

This book was outstanding.  While it lacks the depth of argument to be found in Beyond Good and Evil or On The Genealogy of Morals, Twilight of the Idols features some of Nietzsche’s most cutting criticisms.  His use of sarcasm and insult can be highly entertaining, and this book finds him being deliberately provocative.  The result is sometimes outrageous but never dull. 

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