Beyond Good and Evil Book Summary - Beyond Good and Evil Book explained in key points
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Beyond Good and Evil summary

Friedrich Nietzsche

How to free yourself from philosophical dogmas and assert your own values

4.7 (1011 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche challenges traditional morality and explores the idea of the "superman". It critiques religion, democracy, and conventional thinking and emphasizes individualism and self-expression.

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    Beyond Good and Evil
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    It’s impossible to do philosophy without making assumptions.

    Ever since the seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes proclaimed “I think, therefore I am,” much of Western philosophy has been obsessed with beginning the philosophical process from “first principles” – that is, doing philosophy without taking any unwarranted assumptions for granted.

    As we’ll see, Nietzsche cast doubt on the idea that it’s even possible for a philosophy to avoid presupposing anything. And he poked fun at pretty much every philosopher for secretly smuggling prejudices into their philosophies.

    In particular, Nietzsche felt that the entire Western philosophical tradition was pervaded by a superstitious faith in the dogmas of Christian theology. Even as conscious faith in Christianity was waning in nineteenth-century Western Europe, philosophers continued to take such notions as the “soul” and “morality” for granted in their secular philosophies.

    To Nietzsche, philosophers were being disingenuous. They claimed to present the unbiased, indisputable truth, but all they really did was dress up their own prejudices as rational arguments. This is what Nietzsche meant when he claimed that every philosophy is but an autobiography of the person who created it.

    The key message here is: It’s impossible to do philosophy without making assumptions.

    Let’s go back to that proclamation, “I think, therefore I am.” For many of Nietzsche’s predecessors, this was an example of what’s called an “immediate certainty” – that is, an idea so obviously true that it doesn’t need to be justified. You know that you are thinking; therefore, you know that you exist. It’s as simple as that – or so the reasoning goes. Descartes built his entire philosophical system on this one, supposedly indisputable, axiom.

    But hold up. Is the claim “I think, therefore I am” really so obvious that it can’t be doubted?

    On the contrary, Nietzsche claimed. This little sentence actually contains a lot of unjustified assumptions. For starters, it assumes that there exists an “I” that does the thinking. But who knows? Maybe the thinking is producing the “I.” 

    The proposition also presupposes an understanding of the concept of thinking. But how do you know that what you’re doing right now is thinking? Maybe you’re feeling, or doing something else entirely!

    When a philosopher claims that something is obviously true, that’s enough reason to raise an eyebrow. If an idea appears obvious to them, it’s probably just so ingrained in their worldview that they can no longer see it for what it really is – an unjustified prejudice.

    Over the next few blinks, we’ll take a look at how Nietzsche sought to expose some of these unjustified prejudices that constituted the background assumptions of the philosophers who came before him.

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    What is Beyond Good and Evil about?

    Beyond Good and Evil (1886) provides a comprehensive overview of the concepts and themes of Nietzsche's philosophy. It’s a work that dramatically parted ways from the Western philosophical tradition of the time, mocking philosophers for their narrow-mindedness and throwing into disrepute such fundamental concepts as truth, self, and morality. It has since proven to be one of the most influential texts of the nineteenth century, planting the seed for many European philosophical movements that followed.

    Beyond Good and Evil Review

    Beyond Good and Evil (1886) by Friedrich Nietzsche explores the fundamental questions of morality, truth, and the nature of human existence. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It challenges conventional thinking by presenting provocative ideas about good and evil, encouraging readers to question their own beliefs and values.
    • The book offers a profound critique of traditional morality, presenting radical perspectives that challenge societal norms and encourage personal freedom.
    • With Nietzsche's sharp intellect and unique writing style, the book is both intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking, ensuring that it is anything but boring.

    Best quote from Beyond Good and Evil

    Every great philosophy is an unconscious autobiography. 

    —Friedrich Nietzsche
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    Who should read Beyond Good and Evil?

    • Philosophy students looking for an overview of Nietzsche’s ideas
    • Generalists who like dipping their toes into the classics of Western thought
    • Anyone who’s in the mood to have their most deeply cherished beliefs tested

    About the Author

    Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the canonical figures of European philosophy. Remembered both for his iconoclastic ideas and his stylistic prose, his impact on the development of European thought is immeasurable. In a bout of remarkable stamina, he wrote all of his most influential works within the space of just a few years – before collapsing from a nervous breakdown in 1889 and remaining in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. His other notable works include Thus Spoke Zarathustra, On the Genealogy of Morals, and Twilight of the Idols.

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    Beyond Good and Evil FAQs 

    What is the main message of Beyond Good and Evil?

    The main message of Beyond Good and Evil is to challenge conventional morality and embrace the complexities of human nature.

    How long does it take to read Beyond Good and Evil?

    The reading time for Beyond Good and Evil varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Beyond Good and Evil a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Beyond Good and Evil is worth reading for its thought-provoking exploration of morality and Nietzsche's unique perspective.

    Who is the author of Beyond Good and Evil?

    The author of Beyond Good and Evil is Friedrich Nietzsche.

    What to read after Beyond Good and Evil?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Beyond Good and Evil, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
    • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
    • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
    • As A Man Thinketh by James Allen
    • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
    • The Wisdom of Life by Arthur Schopenhauer
    • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    • Born For This by Chris Guillebeau
    • Maps of Meaning by Jordan B. Peterson