If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal Book Summary - If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal Book explained in key points
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If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal summary

Justin Gregg

What Animal Intelligence Reveals about Human Stupidity

4.3 (198 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal by Justin Gregg is a brilliantly funny and insightful book that explores the philosophical musings of the great German philosopher as if he was a narwhal. It takes us on an imaginative journey into the depth of the sea and our own minds.

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    If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal
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    Human cognition may be unique, but it isn’t necessarily advantageous.

    Why is the sky blue? Why can’t cats and dogs talk? Why are people mean to one another? If you spend enough time around a child who’s just learned to talk, you’re probably familiar with these kinds of why questions. But as we grow older, the questions may change but we don’t stop asking why.

    As the author puts it, human beings are a why specialist species, and it’s one of the fundamental things that differentiates human animal thinking from nonhuman animal thinking. Our ability to ask and ponder these questions is generally seen as a positive thing. After all, it’s what makes philosophy, science, and the arts possible. So it must be a good thing, right? Well . . .

    Interestingly enough, the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about envying the cows in the field, who went about their day chomping grass and being completely unbothered by such existential questions as the meaning of life. Nietzsche had a good reason for envying the cows, too. The older he got, the more these why questions seemed to take a toll on his psyche. Eventually, he became catatonic and ended up in a mental asylum in Switzerland. Nietzsche isn’t alone, either. The awareness we have of our own mortality has led plenty of people into thoughts of nihilism, depression, hopelessness, and even suicidal despair.

    And then there’s the problem of how we use the grand ideas that we come up with. For every invention, work of art, or philosophical breakthrough, there tends to be a devastating downside – the kind that only human beings could come up with.

    For example, after Nietzsche died, his anti-Semitic sister began to alter and promote his work as a philosophical justification for what became the genocidal Nazi agenda. This, despite the fact that Nietzsche wrote about how he despised anti-Semitism.

    Like asking existentially probing questions, using the ideas that come from such questions to justify mistreatment, killing, or genocide is a uniquely human thing – and a seemingly inevitable one. Time and time again, we’ve used religion, philosophy, and bogus science to justify the horrible things we’ve done to one another.

    So let’s ask ourselves, What if Nietzsche were a narwhal? Sure, narwhals may be fascinating marine mammals, but they can’t write symphonies or send other narwhals to the moon, can they? And all research suggests that narwhals, or any other animal aside from humans, aren’t intellectually capable of contemplating their own mortality. But maybe that’s a good thing. Shouldn’t it be considered an advantage that a narwhal will never experience a life-threatening existential crisis?

    If you’re not yet convinced, hang in there. In this Blink, we’ll look at how our evolution into being why question specialists goes hand-in-hand with being profoundly self-destructive.

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    What is If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal about?

    If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal (2022) takes a playful yet profoundly meaningful look at what makes humans so different from the other animals on the planet. In doing so, it makes a strong case for why the human mind may be dangerously unsuccessful from an evolutionary standpoint.

    If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal Review

    If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal (2021) is a delightful exploration of philosophical concepts presented in a charming and whimsical way. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It combines philosophy and zoology to offer unique insights into life's big questions, allowing readers to ponder profound ideas through the lens of narwhals.
    • The book cleverly delves into Nietzsche's philosophy and presents it in a fun and accessible manner, making it engaging for both philosophy enthusiasts and casual readers.
    • Through its quirky illustrations and witty writing style, the book ensures that learning about complex concepts becomes an enjoyable and enlightening experience, guaranteed to keep readers entertained.

    Who should read If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal?

    • Animal lovers and pet owners
    • Science geeks
    • People worried about the fate of humanity

    About the Author

    Justin Gregg is an adjunct professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada. He’s also a senior research associate who specializes in animal behavior and cognition.

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    If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal FAQs 

    What is the main message of If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal?

    The main message of If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal is an exploration of philosophy through the unique perspective of a narwhal.

    How long does it take to read If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal?

    The reading time for If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal a good book? Is it worth reading?

    If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal is worth reading for those interested in philosophy and enjoy a unique approach to the subject.

    Who is the author of If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal?

    The author of If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal is Justin Gregg.

    What to read after If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal?

    If you're wondering what to read next after If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong
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