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The Challenge of Nietzsche

How to Approach His Thought

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most widely read authors in the world, from the time of his death to the present—as well as one of the most controversial. He has been celebrated as a theorist of individual creativity and self-care but also condemned as an advocate of antimodern politics and hierarchical communalism. Rather than treating these approaches as mutually exclusive, Jeremy Fortier contends that we ought instead to understand Nietzsche’s complex legacy as the consequence of a self-conscious and artful tension woven into the fabric of his books.

The Challenge of Nietzsche uses Nietzsche as a guide to Nietzsche, highlighting the fact that Nietzsche equipped his writings with retrospective self-commentaries and an autobiographical apparatus that clarify how he understood his development as an author, thinker, and human being. Fortier shows that Nietzsche used his writings to establish two major character types, the Free Spirit and Zarathustra, who represent two different approaches to the conduct and understanding of life: one that strives to be as independent and critical of the world as possible, and one that engages with, cares for, and aims to change the world. Nietzsche developed these characters at different moments of his life, in order to confront from contrasting perspectives such elemental experiences as the drive to independence, the feeling of love, and the assessment of one’s overall health or well-being. Understanding the tension between the Free Spirit and Zarathustra takes readers to the heart of what Nietzsche identified as the tensions central to his life, and to all human life.

256 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2020

Philosophy: Political Philosophy

Political Science: Classic Political Thought


“An original and thought-provoking book… An interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought that is both fresh and instructive.”

Review of Politics

The Challenge of Nietzsche is carefully attuned not only to the Nietzschean experience of love, but also to Nietzsche’s emphasis on the importance of experience.”

Review of Politics

“Fortier’s critical engagement with textual periodization in Nietzsche scholarship is important.”

Review of Politics

"I lament that there is an extraordinary amount of Nietzsche’s brilliance which I am compelled to edit out for the sake of page-space.  The only alternative (that I endorse) is to go out and buy Mr. Fortier’s book." 

Sun News Tuscon

“Fortier has produced an important and illuminating work. The Challenge of Nietzsche makes a truly valuable contribution to the understanding of Nietzsche and of Nietzsche’s great themes.”

Laurence Cooper, Carleton College

The Challenge of Nietzsche provides a rubric for understanding the evolution of Nietzsche’s thought that takes seriously Nietzsche’s own self-presentation and his identification of two character ideals that concern the proper relation between the individual and the community. Fortier’s exegesis and argumentation are clear and free of jargon so, in addition to offering specialists a new and illuminating organization of Nietzsche’s works, the book also works well as a guide for the uninitiated.”

Shalini Satkunanandan, University of California, Davis

Table of Contents

A Note on References to Nietzsche

Introductory Remarks

Part 1: Independence

1          The Path to Philosophy in On the Genealogy of Morality and Human, All Too Human
2          The Program of Self-Discipline in The Wanderer and His Shadow

Part 2: Love

3          The Promise of Self-Transformation in The Case of Wagner
4          The Project of World-Transformation in Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Part 3: Health

5          The Prospects for Self-Knowledge in Ecce Homo and the 1886 Prefaces
Concluding Remarks

Works Cited

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