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What a Philosopher Is

Becoming Nietzsche

The trajectory of Friedrich Nietzsche’s thought has long presented a difficulty for the study of his philosophy. How did the young Nietzsche—classicist and ardent advocate of Wagner’s cultural renewal—become the philosopher of Will to Power and the Eternal Return?
With this book, Laurence Lampert answers that question. He does so through his trademark technique of close readings of key works in Nietzsche’s journey to philosophy: The Birth of Tragedy, Schopenhauer as Educator, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, Human All Too Human, and “Sanctus Januarius,” the final book of the 1882 Gay Science. Relying partly on how Nietzsche himself characterized his books in his many autobiographical guides to the trajectory of his thought, Lampert sets each in the context of Nietzsche’s writings as a whole, and looks at how they individually treat the question of what a philosopher is. Indispensable to his conclusions are the workbooks in which Nietzsche first recorded his advances, especially the 1881 workbook which shows him gradually gaining insights into the two foundations of his mature thinking. The result is the most complete picture we’ve had yet of the philosopher’s development, one that gives us a Promethean Nietzsche, gaining knowledge even as he was expanding his thought to create new worlds.

352 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Philosophy: General Philosophy, History and Classic Works


"In What a Philosopher Is: Becoming Nietzsche Laurence Lampert examines Nietzsche's early writings through what he calls the first mature work—the fourth book of The Gay Science, known as “Sanctus Januarius”—in order to reveal the coherence of Nietzsche’s seemingly disparate projects. But reading the workbooks themselves does allow Lampert a convincing account of the continuity that is otherwise hidden. He shows, to take the most prominent example, that Nietzsche’s idea of the eternal recurrence of the same didn’t come from nowhere. It can be thrilling to see Nietzsche’s ideas contextualized this way."

Rain Taxi

"This new book from North America's greatest living Nietzsche scholar raises and answers the important question of Nietzsche's notion of the philosopher and describes how he himself became such a philosopher.  It is a wonderful complement to the rest of Lampert's remarkable work on Nietzsche and will be of great interest to anyone interested in the life and thought of this world-historical thinker."

Michael Allen Gillespie, Duke University

What a Philosopher Is demonstrates how truth, life, and the relation between them inform and govern Nietzsche’s thought. What Lampert undertakes is nothing less than to describe, drawing on Nietzsche’s writings and correspondence, what the Germans call the Werdegang — translated loosely, the ‘becoming’ — of Nietzsche as the philosopher he is known for being today.”

Paul Bishop, University of Glasgow

"In his preface to the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche asks that his readers develop a new art of reading—what he will call “rumination”—so that he may be understood. Lampert is undoubtedly one of the best readers Nietzsche has ever had, and in identifying the eternal return as the way out of nihilism he has transcended the type of close textual reading Strauss offers. With What a Philosopher Is, Lampert has started to practice this new art of rumination."

Hugo Drochon | The Review of Politics

Table of Contents



Part 1. Young Nietzsche in the Service of Schopenhauer and Wagner
Chapter 1. The Birth of Tragedy: Prometheus the Knowing Maker of Culture
Chapter 2. Backgrounds of Schopenhauer as Educator
Chapter 3. What a Philosopher Is: Schopenhauer as Educator
Chapter 4. What an Artist Is: Richard Wagner in Bayreuth

Part 2. A New Public Nietzsche: Enlightenment Optimist
Chapter 5. Backgrounds of Things Human All Too Human
Chapter 6. The Philosopher as Free-Minded Enlightenment Optimist
Chapter 7. An Enlightenment Optimist’s View of the Future of Morality, Religion, and Art
Chapter 8. An Enlightenment Optimist’s View of the Transformation of Culture

Part 3. Nietzsche Enters His Mature Philosophy
Chapter 9. “Sanctus Januarius”: The First Work of Nietzsche’s Maturity
Chapter 10. The Opening of “Sanctus Januarius
Chapter 11. The Center of “Sanctus Januarius
Chapter 12. Backgrounds to the Center of “Sanctus Januarius
Chapter 13. The Ending of “Sanctus Januarius
Chapter 14. Backgrounds to the Ending of “Sanctus Januarius
Conclusion. The Philosophy and Art of Nietzsche’s Maturity

Works Cited


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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