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Though Twilight of the Idols (written in a week in 1888 and subtitled How to Philosophise with a Hammer) came near the end of Nietzsche’s creative life, he actually recommended it as a starting point for the study of his work. This was because from the beginning he viewed it as an introduction to his wide-ranging views.
After an opening chapter of aphorisms - ‘Maxims and Arrows’ – he takes a challenging look at ‘The Problem of Socrates’, continues to buck the trend with ‘Morality as Anti-Nature’, and ‘The Four Great Errors’ (starting with ‘The Error of Confusing Cause and Effect’). He makes a scathing attack on conventional morality in ‘The Improvers of Mankind’ and finishes with a critical look at his own nation in ‘What Germans Lack’.
He roams freely over icons of European culture, dispensing judgment without favour on writers, philosophers, composers and the like in a lively and characteristically Nietzschean torrent: Caryle, Emerson, Rousseau, George Eliot, Dante, Sainte Beuve, The Imitation of Christ, psychology, all fall under his pen; while he gives time to those he continues to admire, such as Schopenhauer, ‘the last German worthy of consideration’, and Dostoyevsky, ‘the only psychologist from whom I had something to learn’. He also looks back to where he began in ‘What I Owe to the Ancients’.
Vigorous and intensely human, Twilight of the Idols (a nod to Wagner’s Götterdämmerung) is certainly instructive, argumentative and good fun! The shorter essay ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ comes from an earlier stage in Nietzsche’s career (1873), though it was not published until two decades later. It has significantly influenced postmodernists of the 20th century. Twilight of the Idols is translated by Thomas Cannon. ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ is translated by W. A. Haussman.