Friedrich Nietzsche: A philosophical biography (review)

Journal of the History of Philosophy 49 (1):129-130 (2011)


A philosophical biography challenges its author to do justice to both the philosophical and the biographical. In this book, Julian Young's level of detail and investigative rigor in exploring Nietzsche's life is such that from very early on one begins to have doubts about how he is going to connect these details with Nietzsche's philosophical positions. Would Young use the biographical reductively to explain Nietzsche's philosophy, or would he simply allow the two dimensions of his book to coexist without effectively interacting? The primary success of this book is that at its high points it transcends the division between biography and philosophy, and thus avoids both of these clumsy alternatives.Young accomplishes this feat by tracking a single, dominant line of argument through Nietzsche's thought that also allows us to see his life as a whole. The unifying philosophical claim is that Nietzsche's final stance is "the fundamental position of The Birth of Tragedy, minus metaphysics" . For Young, The Birth of Tragedy explores the need for a creative and socially vibrant culture to respond to the fundamental question of how human beings can live meaningful and happy lives in spite of the inevitability of suffering and death. Young contends

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