The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche by H.L. Mencken
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The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  382 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The first book on Nietzsche ever to appear in English, this examination by legendary journalist H. L. Mencken is still one of the most enlightening. Mencken wrote this book while still in his 20s, but his penchant for thoroughness was evident even at that young age—in preparation for writing this book, he read Nietzsche's works in their entirety, mostly in the original Ger ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 1st 2003 by See Sharp Press (first published 1908)
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Tyler Windham
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
H L Mencken's writing style is journalistic and intelligible yet largely plain which makes this very rudimentary introduction to Nietzsche very easy to get through (I believe it took me three days). However, I am not entirely sure I would recommend this book for two reasons. First, Mencken casts Nietzsche, a complex and multidimensional thinker, as a mere philosophical reiteration of Darwinian theory which is a crude and not particularly accurate assertion. Secondly, Mencken seems to think Nietz ...more
Murtaza
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2020
One of my favorite parts of older American intellectual culture, back when the middle and working-classes were enamored with the idea of self-improvement, was the genre of popular writing about philosophy that sought to make it accessible to the masses. Will Durant was the quintessential example of this, but in this entertaining summary of Nietzsche's life and thought by H.L. Mencken I discovered another great guide. I've tried to teach myself as much about Nietzsche as I can over the years incl ...more
CJay Engel
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, own-it
Nietzsche was a very interesting man. And so was his philosophy. While there is plenty wrong with it, indeed much of it is disastrous, there's a certain element of attraction to his deep seated cynicism and frustration toward the established opinion in general.

And of course Mencken is one of the greatest writers that America has ever produced. His stunning vocabulary, his wit, and his flowing sentences make the entire book a pleasure to read.
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Brent McCulley
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
One of the first books to appear in the English language on Nietzsche, H. L. Mencken essentially outlines in a three-fold manner a brief historical biography, the substance of his philosophy, and Nietzsche's philosophical influences and critics. While Mencken's book was certainly influential, it being over one hundred years old, it suffers tremendously from lack of clarity, precision, and accuracy. Nietzschean scholarship has grown in great strides in one hundred years, thanks in large part to K ...more
Jake
Jan 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first book written about Nietzsche in the English language. And it definitely feels 1908. Plenty of racism, sexism and other silly ideas. Mencken seemed like a high school debater who was given the assignment of defending Nietzsche's entire philosophy, even the most vile parts. The opening biographical section was super interesting as I hadn't read any Nietzsche biography before. I knew he was crazy the first time I read him but didn't know the details of his life (he's so freaking ...more
Daniel Jalbuena
Five stars for Nietzsche's sharp vivisection of human psychology. One star for Mencken's cruelty and impatience toward the weak and "inefficient." ...more
Noah Goats
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A couple weeks ago, as I was reading Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, I suddenly realized that Nietzsche sounds like an unfunny version of H.L. Mencken. Then I remembered this book exists. Unfortunately, in this particular book Mencken also reads like an unfunny version of Mencken. I think the task of writing about philosophy (especially since the subject is a man he so clearly reveres) forced him to be serious.

I thought this was a solid and entertaining exploration of Nietzsche’s life and thou
...more
William Schram
Henry Louis Mencken explores the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche in this book. The main drawback to the book is that it was the first examination of Nietzsche's thought in English. The author had little to go on besides Nietzsche's work. Despite this fact, he did an admirable job of explaining Nietzsche's ideas. It is interesting to see what someone thought of Nietzsche without the overshadowing of World War II and the Aryan Superman to mess with it. ...more
Rachael
Jun 09, 2010 rated it liked it
This book is best as a basic background to the life of Nietzsche and an overview of basic elements of his philosophy. And I do mean basic. If what the book presents was the fullness of Nietzsche's philosophy it would be a wonder that any professional philosopher would pay any attention to him at all. The book presents Nietzsche as a modern skeptic drawing out the results of Darwinian theory in terms of how it would affect our system of values and the nature of truth. It does not deal with the as ...more
Dave
Nov 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The best, clearest summary of Nietzsche's philosophy and wonderful medicine for anyone sick with self-doubt or apathy. Mencken's interpretation is borderline fascist, but I think that a kind of personal fascism - ordering onesself around - is O.K. during drastic measures. The antisuicide. That said, good medicine isn't good every day. Nietzsche argues for progress, when progress is what is sinking the ship. ...more
Christine
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a thorough, easy to read explanation of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy. Since Nietzsche if often hard to get through, this is a great book.

In my opinion, Friedrich Nietzsche is harsh but his main messages are totally right on when you filter out some of the garble. If you are all emotional and get upset by him, he would just say you are part of the herd anyway...
...more
Rich Merritt
Dec 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
The writing is superb. Mencken evaluated Nietzsche by the standards of 1908 before the 20th Century had a chance to take Nietzschian philosophy to its horrifying ends.
J. Alfred
Mar 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
Here are some things one could publish in 1908 (some the same things, I fear, people say quietly today):

-Five hundred years ago a statesman's fame rested frankly and solely on the victories of his armies; today we profess to measure him by his skill of keeping these armies in barracks.
-It is apparent, on brief reflection, that the negro, no matter how much he is educated, must remain, as a race, in a condition of subservience; that he must remain the inferior of the stronger and more intelligen
...more
Maxwell Foley
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is a satisfactory summary of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Having read this, I feel like I understand Nietzsche's philosophy, and I have no lingering curiosity towards reading his own words in order to understand it any better (primarily because the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is.... not very good, from what I can tell).

It is also, I think, a summary of the philosophy of HL Mencken, who is an enthusiastic fan of the man who provides his subject matter. Normally I think
...more
Jamie
Mar 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
As someone whose understanding of Nietzsche was little more than the facts and quotes commonly known to most semi-educated people, I found this book to be very interesting and informative. The first third deals with his biography, the rest with his philosophy. Mencken, as always, enlivens the subject with his biting wit and hyperbolic style, making it much more entertaining than it might otherwise have been.

As for Nietzsche's philosophy, I myself find little of value. Some of his thoughts or ide
...more
Bryan
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
H.L Menken illuminates the life, times and work of Nietzsche with great clarity and lucid style. Anyone getting into Nietzsche's ideas and writing would do well to start with this volume.
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Kieran Newcomb
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book to gain some knowledge of the philo-psychosocial landscape of the time that would set the scene for Dr. Carl Jung, who I’m currently fascinated by. I was somewhat worried by the fact that the book was written in 1908 about a philosopher from the 19th century (I am very much the layman), but Mencken’s account of Nietzsche’s life and philosophy is wonderfully written and compelling.

I have some qualms with a couple of Nietzsche’s ideas, but such arguments are largely outside the s
...more
Sparsh Mishra
Feb 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An excellent review of the key philosophies of Nietzsche. I’d recommend it to anyone who has a slight interest in his way of thinking. The chapter length is perfect and the author keeps the reader engaged.
Anoop
Sep 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nietzche is dated. The book is dated. Written by Henri Louis Mencken in the early part of 20th century, the book feels like a product of a bygone era.

The Nietzsche philosophy had regular sexist,  racist undertones but the author doesn't question them, as the  book is from another era when casual racism and misogyny were rampant.

Nietzsche is a good read for those who still want find a reason to question the existence of religion. If not then the book will appear  a bit dated and feel stale.

Nietz
...more
Mark Gowan
Jul 22, 2008 rated it liked it
I have had this book on my shelf for quite some time. This is Mencken's basic take on Nietzsche's philosophy, and "basic" is the important word here. It does give insight, but (even though I tend to enjoy Mencken's writing) it is often colored with Mencken's point of view. I do think that he clears up some often-used sophistry that is common to many who do not like Nietszche's ideas. For example, the idea of the "superman". I believe that the superman idea was (for example) a large influence on ...more
Ronald
Mar 22, 2010 rated it liked it
As much as I enjoy reading H.L. Mencken (of Monkey Trial fame), he is far too forgiving and even a bit sycophantic in his favorable characterization of Nietzsche, who although regarded as a signal philosopher of the 19th century, appears to me an anti-social malcontent whose nihilism drove him to bad health and an early grave. Nietzsche's redeeming quality was his unequivocal rejection of religious superstition, particularly Christianity, this despite or indeed BECAUSE OF, his having been raised ...more
J Onwuka
Feb 15, 2014 rated it liked it
As a novice to Nietzsche this seemed to be a pretty good overview of his theories. Mencken writes in a clear, brief, and conversational style that is very engaging. It's sad that both ascribe to fairly out-there theories, and that Nietsche's nihilistic ideas actually provide no prescriptions beyond vaguely eugenic standards is disappointing. In my view, Nietzsche's value to philosophy is in his accurate description of the human condition, especially as it regards to authority and the concept of ...more
Charles Bell
Jul 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Good writer...bad subject. Looks to be accurate on his presentation of Nietzsche's life and writings. Mencken presents Nietzsche's views (and applauds them) and also glorifies him. If Nietzsche is the path to nihilism then Mencken stands at the beginning to welcome you down the path.

This is part of my reading challenge to read about someone whose views are completely opposite to mine. Can't reccoment it unless you share Nietzsche's views on life, people, women, blacks, jews, being a superman, e
...more
Mgrunvald
Aug 04, 2014 rated it liked it
If you want to learn about the Neitzsche and his philosophy than this is the book for you. It is incredibly clear and easily understood. It was published in 1907 and the author probably adds some of his own personal (distasteful) views that were held at the time. Further, it is important to be careful when reading sections regarding comparisons of Neitzsche's will to power with Schopenauer's will to live as some other sources have criticized Mencken's interpretation in this area. ...more
Carlos
Jun 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
Although I certainly would have preferred a more modern analysis of Nietzsche's philosophy, one that would for example have addressed the misuse of his ideas by Hitler's regime, Mencken's analysis, written in the 1910's was not bad at all and managed to digest some of Nietzsche's more esoteric ideas and make them more understandable to the reader. ...more
Brendan Clarke
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have read this twice now. I love Nietzsche and I love Mencken so what a treat to find one writing on the other. He explains Nietzsche and shines a libertarian 20th century light upon it. The writer helps me to get Clear on some stuff I could never quite get my head around. I found Nietzsches views on women and the State particularly useful.
Ruth Everhart
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I wanted to know more about the "will to power" and the idea of a master class/slave class, so I figured I would go to the source. Reading this was also a way to get a window into Mencken, who has always intrigued me. Happy to be done with the slim volume, as there are plenty of other opinionated voices clamoring to be heard these days. ...more
Paul
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended. Nietzsche requires an introduction, and this was a good one for me. Somehow I've never read any Nietzsche, so this allowed me to dive in. And it's by Mencken, who adds in some of his own thoughts no Nietzshe, so it's sort of a "two birds with one stone" deal if, like me, you wanted to read some Mencken.

...more
Jeremy
Dec 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Mencken was a wit himself (he is credited w/ the quote "No one ever became poor underestimating the stupidity of the American middle-class"). This is one of the earliest bio's on Nietchze and witty (as expected), but serious where seriousness is needed. Now, on to reading more actual Nietchze. ...more
Tim Shores
May 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
it's important to read Mencken if you want to understand the genealogy of the American Badass: he embodies the good, rugged freethinking, and the rotten bigotry, of American detachment. he also provides the most boring interpretation of Nietzsche that i've ever read. ...more
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Henry Louis "H.L." Mencken became one of the most influential and prolific journalists in America in the 1920s and '30s, writing about all the shams and con artists in the world. He attacked chiropractors and the Ku Klux Klan, politicians and other journalists. Most of all, he attacked Puritan morality. He called Puritanism, "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

At the height o
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