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Publisher Description

Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits a book by 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1878. The book is Nietzsche's first in the aphoristic style that would come to dominate his writings, discussing a variety of concepts in short paragraphs or sayings. Reflecting an admiration of Voltaire as a free thinker, but also a break in his friendship with composer Richard Wagner two years earlier, Nietzsche dedicated the original 1878 edition of Human, All Too Human “to the memory of Voltaire on the celebration of the anniversary of his death, May 30, 1778.” Unlike his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, which was written in essay style, Human, All Too Human is a collection of aphorisms, a style which he would use in many of his subsequent works. The aphorisms of Human, All Too Human range from a few words to a few pages, but most are short paragraphs. The first installment’s 638 aphorisms are divided into nine sections by subject, and a short poem as an epilogue. The phrase itself appears in Aphorism 35 (originally conceived as the first aphorism) "when Nietzsche observes that maxims about human nature can help in overcoming life's hard moments." Implicit also, is a drive to overcome what is human, all too human through understanding it, through philosophy. The second and third installments are an additional 408 and 350 aphorisms respectively. The genre of the aphorism was already well established at this time – in the German tradition Nietzsche's most important predecessor was a figure of the Enlightenment, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, whose writing Nietzsche greatly admired. Nietzsche's work is indebted also to Schopenhauer's, particularly his Aphorisms for Practical Wisdom, 1851. Above all is the "debt to the French tradition of the aphorism – for Nietzsche's work is a deliberate turn westward." Nietzsche cites the French aphorists Jean de La Bruyère and Prosper Merimée, and in Aphorism 221 celebrates Voltaire. At the beginning of the second section Nietzsche mentions La Rochefoucauld – named here as a model, the epitome of the aphorist – and it is known that Nietzsche had a copy of La Rochefoucauld's Sentences et maximes (1665) in his library. He had been reading it shortly before beginning to write Human, All Too Human, – on the train ride to Sorrento in fact. More than that of the other French aphorists mentioned, it is La Rochefoucauld's work that lies behind that of Nietzsche. Nietzsche's work, however, "is unique; he covers a range of issues far greater than the social and psychological area of interest to La Rochefoucauld. To the cynicism typical of the genre, Nietzsche brings a new dimension by his combination of nihilistic energy with historical consciousness. Finally, he expands the genre to include not merely insights, but argument as well." The aphorism "allows for a loosely organized, shifting whole containing specific ideas but no iron-clad explanation for everything, – constitutes the style that best represents his philosophy."

16 August

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