Twilight of Idols and Anti-Christ Paperback
'Twilight of the Idols', an attack on all the prevalent ideas of his time, offers a lightning tour of his whole philosophy.
It also prepares the way for 'The Anti-Christ', a final assault on institutional Christianity.
Both works show Nietzsche lashing out at self-deception, astounded at how often morality is based on vengefulness and resentment.
Both reveal a profound understanding of human mean-spiritedness which still cannot destroy the underlying optimism of Nietzsche, the supreme affirmer among the great philosophers.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 224 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 25/01/1990
- Category: History of Western philosophy
- ISBN: 9780140445145
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.
Review by ccavaleri
Really a fun book about religion and even more, accepted dogma of any sort. The best account of Nietzsche's death of God.
Review by P_S_Patrick
In the Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche rebukes all the things that he sees as either causes or symptoms of weakness. These include Christianity, the striving for social equality, charity, and philosophical idealism.While the book is mainly rhetoric, and a venting of spleen against what he sees as the wrongs of the world, there is a message that is of profound importance to the human species. That message is that in a society which lives as we do, we will become weaker and poorer in health as a species because of the violation of the principles of Nature which all other species live under because they lack the selfawareness to do anything other than act by instinct. It is this unnatural, unhealthy behaviour that his anger arises from. This book was written not long after Darwin's Origin of Species, but Nietzsche had clearly read it and understood the principles of Natural selection. He understood that Socialism undermined Natural Selection, and that it encouraged the weak to survive and thus weakened the species as a whole. Even more than his intellectual appreciation of this fact, Nietzsche understands this problem intuitively and emotionally, and this is what inflames his writing and angers him towards what he perceives as being the causes of the weakening that he sees.In the Antichrist, Nietzsche carries on from the Twilight of the Idols in his rage against the violation of Nature, particularly against Christianity which he sees as the driving force behind socialism. He shows sentimentality towards the cultures which he perceives as having been vibrant and strong. He eulogises upon them, and mourns their passing at the hands of the Church, which he sees as having undermined strong cultures such as the Roman, ancient Greek, and the Teutonics, by the promotion of "weak" values such as love for the downtrodded, pity for the sick, charity, the looking forward to a life beyond that on earth, and promotion of guilt.What Nietzsche says is true, in that socialism does undermine Natural Selection, and promotes the formation of a weak society. While he does criticise some bits of Plato in the Twilight of the Idols, he is very much in favour of a society structured as in Plato's republic, with tiered classes according to personal ability, and a rejection of equality. These two works are provocative, intellectually and otherwise, but I think that behind the hyperbole and polemic there are some truths which need to be taken notice of. I disagree with his denial of the value of ethics, but this makes it is hard to understand how one can practically accept the rest of his ideas without there existing some kind of unresolved conflict. This conflict being that we must act ethically - do to each individual what is just and right, and as a species suffer or alternatively live in a society that rejects weakness in favour of the strong, that rejects ethics, but which benefits the species and civilisation in the long run. This is of course a difficult choice, and I would only answer that I think Nietzsche has not given sufficient cause for a rejection of moral values and the health of the human species is upheld in other ways that can be devised which do not prevent us from showing charity, compassion, and the other traditional virtues. How this will be done is anybodies guess.
Review by davidpwithun
These two books, two of Nietzsche's last books, are simultaneously one of the greatest challenges ever launched against Christianity (after that of Dostoyevsky in The Brother's Karamazov) and are the greatest challenge to modern atheists. No matter which side of the debate you belong to -- or if you are a third party altogether -- Nietzsche has something to rock your world. I first read these books as a teenager and they forever changed the way that I view the world. The question that everyone who reads these books, and the rest of Nietzsche's work, must ask themselves is what to make of the modern world. As we enter a supposedly post-Christian era, an era of which Nietzsche was certainly the forerunner and prophet, we must ask ourselves just how much of our heritage we are willing to part with as we part with Christianity. And we must ask ourselves upon what basis we will build this new, post-Christian civilization. My belief is that Nietzsche was right: the foundation will be power.
Review by kant1066
“Twilight of the Idols” and “The Anti-Christ” are two of the last books, both composed in 1888, that Nietzsche wrote before his final descent into syphilis-induced madness which occurred during the first week of 1889. It continues themes he had developed in his earlier work, and “The Anti-Christ” especially approaches Christianity with a particularly ferocious and critical eye. As anyone who has thumbed through a volume of Nietzsche can tell you, his work isn’t composed of clear, well-defined propositions to be ultimately accepted or rejected; instead, his arguments have a kind of ravishing rhetorical force to them. His writing is less apothegmatic here than in other work, but is still never syllogistic or ratiocinated in such a way that we usually associate with philosophy. This isn’t a mistake; he intended his work to speak as much if not more through the force of style than anything else. In his “attack” on Socrates in the first book, he calls reason itself a “tyrant,” and wonders if Socrates enjoys his “own form of ferocity in the knife-thrust of the syllogism.” The greatest part of “Twilight of the Idols” is the chapter called “Morality as Anti-Nature” in which he says that all moral systems up until now, and particularly Christianity, are wrong precisely because they try to deform and reshape human nature to their own image. For Nietzsche, the moral is the natural, but Christianity – and this is really an attack on all religious systems, though some more than others – stops being moral when it tries to impose concepts that arecompletely foreign to human beings like the idea that “everyone is created the same” or a selfless Christian charity. Whether or not you agree with the thrust of the argument, I found the idea of moral systems as rational attempts to remold nature an interesting one. Of course, people jump on these passages to try to make him look like some kind of nihilist or immoralist, when nothing could be further from the truth. He simply wants the principles and drives of human nature to inform ethical systems, not something foreign to them. Freud may have picked up on this, admitting as he did a great debt to Nietzsche. “The Anti-Christ” goes on to attack what I would call religious psychology, and especially the moral precepts of Christianity. If you haven’t read Nietzsche and have some sort of caricature of what he says in your head, start with this book, probably one of his most readable, which is ironic when considered in the light of his mental breakdown immediately thereafter. His attacks are never the ones you hear from atheists these days, “that the idea of God is irrational” or “we have no scientific evidence for such a being.” His criticisms are fresh and invigorating, including accusations that the apostle Paul distorted Christ’s message beyond measure and that Christianity focuses on another world essentially devaluing this one. Again, this isn’t about agreement or disagreement with his basic assertions. (Some of the people on whom he had the biggest influence fundamentally disagreed with what he said.) It’s the punch that he packs while delivering them. There was a reason why he subtitled the book “Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert” (“How to Philosophize with a Hammer”). Other than Nietzsche’s writing itself, some of the most impressive things about him are the downright preposterousness of the criticisms that people levy against him, the sheer width and breadth of intellectual laziness with which people read him. Just from reading a small sampling of the reviews posted on this book alone, there are accusations of him “deriding self-control” and being “obnoxiously right-wing,” the first a willful misreading, the second a risible attempt to foist a set of anachronistic political opinions on the ideas of a man who was hugely contemptuous of the German politics of his own day, left and right alike. Those who are trying to discover their token protofascist in Nietzsche would do better to look elsewhere, especially at his contemporaries Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, and Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, all of whose ideas make Nietzsche’s supposed illiberalism look like mere child’s play (for details, see either Fritz Stern’s marvelous “The Politics of Cultural Despair” or my review of it posted on this site). That Nietzsche still serves as a lodestar around which people feel free to hang their own various political opinions can only be a testament to his continued cultural importance.