Well over a week ago I finished my twenty-fifth book of the year. I usually greet this milestone with some sort of fanfare, but this year I let it slip by unnoticed. The reasons are many, with the end of the school year occupying much of my time last week, beginning to study for the GRE (which I take at the end of this month), looking at graduate schools in earnest, and getting hooked by another book before I had blogged about my previous conquest. Today I emerge from my technological slumber and finally post about number twenty-five.
Friedrich Nietzsche has been one of my most frequently read authors over the past few years. His writing is always engaging and entertaining, and his philosophy is always challenging and stimulating. Ecce Homo is no exception to that rule. This is Nietzsche’s short intellectual autobiography, written shortly before his descent into madness. The title is a latin phrase meaning “Behold the man”, which is uttered by Pontius Pilate when he presents the beaten and bloodied Jesus to the crowd shortly before his execution. The book contains a short preface and four chapters with such bold titles as “Why I Am So Wise” and “Why I Write Such Excellent Books”. Coupled with the title of the book itself, these chapter titles insinuate a certain amount of braggadocio on the part of Nietzsche. The text of the book reveals a surprising amount of humility. Nietzsche presents himself not as some towering intellect or incomparable thinker. The quality that sets him apart is the courage to take his inquiry to its reasonable conclusion, despite the suffering that can accompany such intense inspection of the belief system surrounding an individual. Nietzsche believes that the physical and emotional suffering he endured through the course of his life gave him the strength to pursue his philosophy through any intellectual suffering. He paints himself as a new kind of philosopher, one that actively says yes to all of life. This is very different from the priestly or purely academic philosophers preceding him.
I found this book to be wonderfully insightful about Nietzsche as a man and a philosopher. It is definitely one that should be read after most of Nietzsche’s other books, as he offers specific commentary about each of his major works. There are only a few I have not yet read and I intend to return to Ecce Homo after having done so. I would recommend this book to any seasoned veteran of Nietzsche but would caution any Nietzsche novices about diving in too soon.
The Current Count
25 Read, 75 To Go