About the book
Who the Hell is Friedrich Nietzsche? begins by telling the story of Nietzsche's life and looks at the people and events that influenced him, before going on to explore his three most important ideas in all their fascinating detail. The aim of the book is to debunk the myth that Nietzsche is a dauntingly high-brow thinker who makes no rational sense. By looking at the man himself and his key theories in a uniquely clear and accessible way, readers will discover what a brilliant writer Nietzsche really was, and one whose illuminating, daring ideas helped give birth to the modern world.
Chapter 1: Nietzsche's Life Story
Chapter 2: Influences on Nietzsche's Thinking
Chapter 3: The Death of God
This chapter explains what Nietzsche meant when he said 'God is dead', looking at his other ideas and their context within the history of philosophy and religion.
Chapter 4: Human & Superhuman
This chapter explores how and why Nietzsche came to place his concept of the Übermensch at the heart of his book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and how it ties in with some of his key ideas, such as the Last Man and 'eternal recurrence'.
Chapter 5: The Will to Power
The final chapter explores the sources of the theory of Will to Power, examining how it resonates through much of Nietzsche's mature writing.
About the author
Oliver Dixon is a freelance writer based in Hertfordshire, UK. His first book of poems, Human Form, was published by Penned in the Margins in 2013, a poem from which was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize 2014. His poems and reviews have appeared in The Sunday Times, PN Review, Poetry London and New Welsh Review. As well as poetry, Oliver's other passion is philosophy, having read and studied extensively on the subject. He also works as a manager and teacher of students with learning disabilities.
"It would not be controversial to say that Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most influential Philosophers of the 19th century. Undoubtedly you’ve heard a quote from one of his works, be it a lazy pop-culture reference from the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or an even lazier reference from a first year Philosophy undergraduate. What is far less clear is what he meant by these quotes, and how they fit in with his Philosophical theories.
‘Who the hell is Friedrich Nietzsche’ by Oliver Dixon shines some light on the history and thought of Nietzsche in an accessible and unambiguous manner. The first two chapters of the book provide historical context to the progression of Nietzsche’s thought throughout his career; looking at both his life story and Philosophical influences. Dixon’s book takes particular care in presenting Nietzsche’s work in the context of other popular schools of Philosophy of the time, and how these theories influenced his own Philosophy.
Where the book really excels is in presenting some of the big theses that Nietzsche presents in his works. Whilst there is still much disagreement in the world of Philosophy over what exactly Nietzsche was trying to say, Dixon does a great job of presenting three of the key themes of Nietzsche’s work with both clarity and accuracy. I would highly recommend this book to anyone getting into Philosophy or anyone who just wants to learn more about one of the most misunderstood figures in modern Philosophy."
Jamie Corish | The Philosophy Foundation
"A snappy, readable overview of Nietzsche's life, key concepts and, most interestingly for me, influences and relevance to contemporary issues. Recommended for A-Level, as wider reading for phil/RS course or as the basis for an EPQ."
Glenn Skelhorn | Philosophy 4 Schools, Royal Institute of Philosophy
"There are many misunderstandings about who Nietzsche was and the nature of his ideas. In ‘Who the Hell is Nietzsche’ Oliver Dixon challenges the myth of Nietzsche as a ‘prophet of doom’ unpacking his life-affirming philosophy. Dixon reflects the richness of Nietzsche’s multidisciplinary approach to philosophical problems and demonstrates the nuanced interpretations of Nietzsche in an undaunting and accessible style. This helps the reader to understand why the philosopher has been cited by figures of varying political shades as a key influence, from anarchists to conservatives to fascists.
In unpacking the pivotal events in Nietzsche’s life in the first chapter, Dixon signals the factors that led to his philosophy that is both confrontational with 19th-century German society whilst at the same time very much being a product of it. With great insight, Dixon also looks to the present and how Nietzsche’s ideas continue to find relevance in our modern world. As well as reminding us to think more critically about how our value systems are constructed, Nietzsche promotes a scepticism towards the notion of absolute truth and the ideas that there is one morality and only one path to living a fulfilled life.
If you’re looking to understand who Nietzsche was, the prime elements of his philosophy, and what he might have to say about our current predicament, then this is an excellent place to start."
Benedict O'Connell | Philosophy teacher and tutor
"At the start of Who the Hell is Friedrich Nietzsche? Oliver Dixon makes a very reasonable point: there are probably as many interpretations of Nietzsche as there are Nietzsche readers. Dixon’s unenviable task was to take all of these views and make something that doesn’t just fairly represent Nietzsche’s ideas, but also manages to do that for an audience with no significant background in philosophy. That task was completed brilliantly.
For anyone who has heard the name Nietzsche and doesn’t know much about him, this book is perfect. The story of his somewhat unfortunate life is laid out, with future links to his philosophy and the ideas of the time being foreshadowed throughout. By the time the intellectual history of idealism, positivism and the rise of liberalism are explained, we can see where Nietzsche fits in and precisely why he feels alienated. Once his own ideas start to be fleshed out, we are well aware of the world in which such ideas could appear and why they would flourish in their own peculiar way.
Dixon’s choice of key ideas are well selected. As mentioned above, each Nietzsche scholar will put their own inflection on his work, picking and choosing the greatest hits (for example, Brian Leiter will often dismiss the importance of Zarathustra as a serious work and pays more attention to his perspectivism than Dixon does). However, this doesn’t matter. The point is to give people a window into the ideas that Nietzsche is famous for. For the layman, that’s enough. If they wish to go and explore and even question whether the interpretation is correct, then all the better!
Dixon’s chapters cover the Death of God, the Ubermensch and the Will to Power. Just as you can know Einstein and know he has a theory of relativity and still you don’t know what that means, if anyone knows anything about Nietzsche, it will be these things. Dixon walks the reader through these concepts with clarity and precision so that a good ground can be established for the reader. There are even numerous references to modern culture to give context (our post-truth world and the rise of Trump, as well as films and TV shows that people will know) as well as moments addressing the misinterpretations of Nietzsche’s work and the myths that follow. What I did like about the busting of the “Nietzsche was a Nazi” myth was that this didn’t descend into some sort of defence of him as some sort of liberal or anarchist in the way some do. It’s still very clear that he had political and social views that we would still find problematic today. Having read a lot of beginners guides to Nietzsche, this was refreshing!
Anyone who already knows about Nietzsche in detail is likely to be the kind of person who wants to put their own spin on him and would argue that the basics don’t do him justice. I would say that’s fair enough. Nietzsche may even applaud that to a degree! However, this is a readable and entertaining book that gives a sneak peak into the world of a potentially fragile man with robust ideas and will get minds questioning their own deeply held values- and for the better! Each chapter ends with a series of asides about how Nietzsche’s ideas can be seen in our world today, either manifested in works of art or as a lens through which to understand what is unfolding before us. As numerous sections of the book point out, it is hard to grasp the post-truth world without thinking about power, truth and morality. As I started reading this the day Biden was inaugurated and finished it the morning after, some of those ideas really resonated and reminded me why I love Nietzsche’s ideas so much. Thank you, Oliver Dixon, for getting me thinking about Nietzsche all over again. I imagine this book will push even more people to go that bit further, and potentially beyond good and evil."
Benjamin Jones | Philosophy teacher