Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks – Friedrich Nietzsche

30 Apr

Not TragicFor Nietzsche the Age of Greek Tragedy was indeed a tragic age. He saw in it the rise and climax of values so dear to him that their subsequent drop into catastrophe (in the person of Socrates – Plato) was clearly foreshadowed as though these were events taking place in the theater. And so in this work, unpublished in his own day but written at the same time that his The Birth of Tragedy had so outraged the German professorate as to imperil his own academic career, his most deeply felt task was one of education. He wanted to present the culture of the Greeks as a paradigm to his young German contemporaries who might thus be persuaded to work toward a state of culture of their own; a state where Nietzsche found sorely missing.

Stumbling across a second-hand book in pristine condition is always pleasing but it’s an added bonus when said book is a work I had not previous come heard of.  It seems that philosophy books are generally  kept in decent nick compared to other genres which I find interesting, I wonder if there is a book on the subject…

This unfinished work, written in the 1870’s which Nietzsche planned to complete but moved onto other projects, wasn’t published in his lifetime but was and is intended to show the early Greek philosophers and the culture they helped create as a paradigm.  The metaphysical ideas and their belief in empiricism was key to the great leaps these thinkers made and the influence they had on later theorists.

The pre-Platonic philosophers began to diverge from the belief in myths of the Gods and look at the world in a logical manner based on experience and analytical thinking which was the beginning of Western philosophy.  The five philosophers explored here are Thales, Anaximander, Heraclitus, Parmenides and Anaxagoras and each has a few of their key concepts and analysis of existence discussed.  The hunting for rational explanations with which to better understand and quantify the order of nature and its patterns are the essential postulations with which later thinkers would build the ideas that have fashioned the basis of which much of modern thought.

The Greeks learnt from those around them and became accomplished in thought and mastering technology, it was that learning which eventually lead  – in Nietzsche’s eyes – to the tragedy of the Greek state which would begin its decline with Plato.  Although the book doesn’t bring in Socrates N. saw the shift starting with Plato as these earlier schools of thought were contemporary with Socrates, Empedocles sadly wasn’t added into this work but would have been had the work come to completion.

The book ends abruptly, there is no conclusion which is a shame but it still is an interesting and easy read to the beginnings of philosophy and is a good primer to the basics of certain early Hellenistic schools of thought.  I found the introduction to be quite interesting however for those who like to read an introduction before the actual text, it would have benefited from a deeper delve into the text, however it isn’t a major blow and this short book is a quick read which offers a wealth of interesting insights into a key change in the way we view our world.


Posted by on 30/04/2016 in Philosophy


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24 responses to “Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks – Friedrich Nietzsche

  1. Love, Life and Whatever

    30/04/2016 at 15:16

    How much it baffles me certain treatise remains the same across hundred years back to every continent exists. The universality of these makes it interesting even in years to come. A classic it is as much I am aware of.


    • Ste J

      30/04/2016 at 15:25

      It is an interesting study, seeing how thoughts have evolved and concepts have changed from their beginnings yet are integral to the foundations of said arguments.


  2. Resa

    30/04/2016 at 20:31

    Sheesh! I had to read the intro part 3 times. Pardon the bad pun, but I’ve read very few philosophy books & Nietzsche is a niche I’ve never wandered into.
    Crazy, but I learned a lot even just reading your review. You write great reviews!


    • Ste J

      30/04/2016 at 21:32

      This was my first Nietzsche book as well, I felt a bit guilty as I’ve had two of his other books on my shelf for years but favoured this as it was a short taster to his works. I’m glad it was an informative read, the whole topic is a fascinating one.


      • Jeff

        15/12/2016 at 20:58

        This is an incredibly obscure work by Nietzsche. It sounds from the description that this is down to its lack of consistency with his oeuvre more than its incompletion. Representative intros would be Thus Spoke Zarathustra and/or The Genealogy of Morals. The latter is shocking in historical context: the idea that morals have history, change, and human interests. The former contains a curious characterisation of the myth-making that obsessed him and the self-mythologising that was part of it. Just look at some of the chapter titles to Ecce Homo for that!


        • Ste J

          21/12/2016 at 16:38

          I do own Thus Spake Zarathustra as well as Human, All too Human but picked this one up only due to its length and my schedule at the time. From what I understand he wasn’t too impressed with the book after a few years and amended some of his ideas, which probably has something to do its obscurity. The Genealogy of Morals is now a must read for me, having said that you have piqued my interest for his whole body of work.


  3. Bumba

    30/04/2016 at 22:25

    Yes he does. Nietzsche was a good writer from what I read. I thought Greek philosophy flattened out after Plato. You know, ideals and higher math. Sounds like a good read, and a good book you found.


    • Ste J

      01/05/2016 at 08:53

      I seem to be gravitating to the philosophy section of late, The earlier Greeks were more interesting, their ideas and leaps based on the logic of what they thought they understood is fascinating. I like Plato but haven’t had the heart to go through some of his longer works as of yet.


      • Bumba

        01/05/2016 at 20:15

        Yeah, it gets a bit tedious after a bit. Try Schoepenhauer.


        • Ste J

          02/05/2016 at 10:09

          Schopenhauer was mentioned in the intro so he will have to join the back of the TBR pile.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. clarepooley33

    01/05/2016 at 01:27

    My first husband studied philosophy at university and I remember his discussions with friends on the subject. Well, I remember him talking but don’t remember now anything of what they discussed! It was all a bit beyond me I’m afraid – and still is if I’m honest. I would like to be able to understand so I’d have to start with an idiot’s guide and then work my way up.


    • Ste J

      01/05/2016 at 08:46

      Sophie’s World is a book you may like, it’s a mystery story with philosophy at its heart and goes through the history of western philosophy, it’s not my favourite Jostein Gaarder book but is a good read and gives you an overview of some of the big areas and thinkers of the ages.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. shadowoperator

    01/05/2016 at 14:12

    I am clearly dumbing down in my old age: when I was 20 or so, I delved into philosophy and thoroughly enjoyed myself with romps through Plato, Aristotle, Sartre, Mill, and Kant. And I really enjoyed it. Now, I can’t take an interest in such highly intellectual things to save my soul. All praise to you for gaining a good education on your own, while I am reading only fiction and the like. I can’t recall the last time I read a non-fiction book, but I think it was a diet book a year or two ago. In case anyone ever asks you what you are, tell them you are an “autodidact without the pejorative connotation that sometimes entails, but instead with a positive connotation.” I am proud to know someone who takes his own education as seriously as you do.


    • Ste J

      02/05/2016 at 10:26

      The only person who will do a good job of educating is oneself, personally I get annoyed when people talk about books and authors or a subject that I haven’t got an opinion on and so I need to read them and understand everything. Fiction is as valid though, it can be more subtle with its themes and that always encourages more thought. Autodidact, I like that word, I’m going to put it in sentences everywhere now just because I can, maybe next I will start that book on the history of the Popes, then again…maybe not.


  6. Jilanne Hoffmann

    01/05/2016 at 21:09

    Well, now you’ve got me wanting to release more of my books from their boxes. A reminder that I read Sophie’s World a while back, but can recall only bits and pieces of what I’ve read. I also have several books by N. that I need to find. I don’t have this one. Perhaps that needs to be rectified.


    • Ste J

      02/05/2016 at 10:15

      I did some hunting around the big book labels to see if they had it in their classic philosophy set but they didn’t not even the Dover editions, I like that though, it makes me feel all special for reading it and not just jumping on the band wagon. Who knows what other wonders you will find in your boxes too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jilanne Hoffmann

        02/05/2016 at 17:41

        I’m looking forward to unpacking, if we ever get the renovation finished….


        • Ste J

          03/05/2016 at 14:07

          I’m looking forward to finding out what you have as well!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. macjam47

    04/05/2016 at 12:41

    Fantastic review, Steve. I had a teacher in sixth grade who was always talking to us about Nietzsche, but I’m afraid all her talk was way over the heads of her class of eleven-year-olds. I learned more in your short review than I did in a year with that teacher.


    • Ste J

      05/05/2016 at 08:55

      Blimey your teacher was a bit optimistic with you all being so young! I am glad I can fill in some blanks, being such a short book an overview seemed to make more sense than talking about the points the philosophers made which are easily found online (I like to mix it up a bit). I do enjoy sharing knowledge and this is the best place to do it when we are sadly too far apart to share a coffee and chat.

      Liked by 1 person

      • macjam47

        05/05/2016 at 12:01

        Yes, Steve, but the wonderful thing about this blogosphere is no matter how great the distance, we can still have coffee and chat – online. 🙂


        • Ste J

          06/05/2016 at 08:13

          I don’t bother with much in the way of technology but it would be criminal to not take up this offer of making friends from all over the world who I never would have known existed otherwise and my life would be that bit less richer.

          Liked by 1 person


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