Nietzsche wrote The Gay Science, which he later described as 'perhaps my most personal book', when he was at the height of his intellectual powers, and the reader will find in it an extensive and sophisticated treatment of the philosophical themes and views which were most central to Nietzsche's own thought and which have been most influential on later thinkers. These include the death of God, the problem of nihilism, the role of truth, falsity and the will-to-truth in human life, the doctrine of the eternal recurrence, and the question of the proper attitude to adopt toward human suffering and toward human achievement. This volume presents the work in a new translation by Josefine Nauckhoff, with an introduction by Bernard Williams that elucidates the work's main themes and discusses their continuing philosophical importance.
I came to this book to find out Nietzsche's interpretation of reality and framework of life; what was his answer to the question - what should one do? As to interpretation of reality it is hard to be disappointed; there are so many compelling conclusions on all aspects of humanity, language, morality and existence - delivered on the most part with wit and clarity. Here and there it is spoiled by the odd super long sentence or vague metaphor that tests the limits of comprehension, but it is still a gold-mine of ideas in bite-size chunks. Recipe for two: read a few pages on a low heat, set simmering for 20 minutes (perhaps go for a walk or bike ride) and serve immediately to a companion. For me its been the source of most of the best topics of conversation for the last half year.
What about a framework of life? Philosophy for me is the attempt to concisely describe reality and help us decide how to live - to arrive at a theory/framework, relying on the most irreducible and unshakable axioms, which singles out some courses of action as the better ones. I did not find anything like this. After all the talk of his free spirit type, I arrive at perhaps contradictory conclusions: on the one hand I have many scattered ideas about the life he presents persuasively as a good one, but on the other hand I hear the louder message 'Be yourself!'.I wonder if such things as axioms and basic truths existed in Nietzsche's head and he chose not to present things that way - or whether he really did think as he wrote.
He persuades me better than books on Buddhism did to mistrust dichotomies - I feel like he has succeeded where they failed because he reasoned more forcefully the many contradictions we can stumble upon when demanding clear reasoned black-and-white everlasting truths. I am left feeling more alone and lost than ever in my head, but more at peace and at home in the universe. I feel less secure of my ideas about how to live, but far less urgency to remedy that. I feel profoundly happier, and equally sad. Everything, everything, everything.
The outlook of the pieces are quite varied, and if you flicked though, picked one, and read it, you might be cheered up, made to think about a miscellaneous issue, pushed towards an existential abyss, or just feel like going outside for walk. I will list a small selection of the varied headings of the pieces that stood out to me as I flicked through just now:
"The Danger of Vegetarians", "Too Oriental", "The Origin of Religion", "Dignity of Folly", "Against Remorse", "Work and Ennui", "Epicurus",
"The Way to Happiness"
There is quite a variety of things that are written about in this book, which might give it more appeal than some of his other ones. The way that Nietzsche writes is not technical, but his ideas will be more easily received by some people than others. I happen to agree with a lot of it, but some of it is also subversive, he entices us with the poetic sentiment, but after analysis we realise it is callous, or amoral.
Due to the structure of the book, and the fact that a lot seems to be said in each of the pieces, it will probably be a book that the reader will come back to, and re-read, after the initial reading. I did read the book right through, but it would be easy to read one piece and then spend five minutes thinking about it, over a cup of tea, then move onto another.
But if you don't like to think about deep issues, are intellectually squeamish, or don't like philosophy, then you will probably want to avoid this book. But for anyone who likes to think, then this is a book that will be quite enjoyed.
While this wasn't my point of departure into Theory, though it should've been. Ideas bubbled and grew fecund in my youthful soul. Pints of Carlsburg and shit food from Hardees nourshed my wretched body, but it was Nietzsche's frisson which propelled me forward.