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Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is…

Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is (Penguin Classics) (original 1888; edition 1979)

by Friedrich Nietzsche, R. J. Hollingdale (Translator)

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Title:Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Friedrich Nietzsche
Other authors:R. J. Hollingdale (Translator)
Info:Penguin Classics (1979), Paperback, 144 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Political Theory

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Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is by Friedrich Nietzsche (1888)

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Nietzsche's autobiography is bewildering. The title, Ecce Homo, means "Behold the Man" in Latin, and is ascribed to Pontius Pilate when he presented Jesus to the mob. The title is clever in that Nietzsche, in concluding, is "Dionysus versus Christ" (p. 143). But this seems to me to be misleading when the subtitle (which is absent from this Dover version), reads "How One Becomes What One Is". Without the subtitle, one might justify an off-handed rejection of Ecce Homo as little more than vanity given too much regard by posterity. Indeed, I wonder had Nietzsche written this today, would he have ever been known? At times I felt that Nietzsche was of a privileged class and was able to publish at will, but this is not entirely the case. Nietzsche's father, a Lutheran pastor, had worked for the state and, following his premature death, this qualified Nietzsche for a scholarship. Hardly peak bourgeoisie, yet Nietzsche was a polymath; surely symptomatic of genius. If the subtitle is considered during the reading, then "how Nietzsche became Nietzsche" is less troubling to the modern mind. At the same time, Nietzsche goes out of his way to tell us that the effeminate, decaying, degenerative way perpetuated by Christianity is a denial of nature, of the body, of the present - so why would he be all meek and modest? Hence my bewilderment. Believe "neither in 'ill-luck' nor 'guilt'" - this is the opposite of a decadent (it is Nietzsche) (p. 13). "Unselfishness" and "neighbourly love" are conditions of the decadent, these are signs of weakness; pity is not a virtue (p. 18). Nietzsche tells us how he has never felt bad about himself, no guilt, no self-flagellation. The basic argument is that Christianity has poisoned us against ourselves - not faith, not God per se, but the religion of Christianity. Undoing this decadence is therefore essential. But atheists find no solace, either: Socrates is no role model. Nietzsche hints at Heraclitus as one of the few who understood (at least through the Stoics) (p. 73). This is interesting in that Heraclitus had a particular view of God and the gods that one steeped in the atheistic view of Nietzsche will struggle to comprehend. The most important words from Ecce Homo outline Nietzsche's philosophy for living: amor fati (p. 54):My formula for greatness in man is amor fati: the fact that a man wishes nothing to be different, either in front of him or behind him, or for all eternity. Not only must the necessary be borne, and on no account concealed,- all idealism is falsehood in the face of necessity,- but it must also be loved... Nietzsche writes disapprovingly of equal rights, particularly for women (p. 65), yet, at the same time, in addition to his view of the "opiate of the masses", betrays a Marxian loathing for the decadence of the "false economy" of "the division of labour" (p. 76). He goes on to address the problem of our current times: the "large number of young men... all in... [a] state of distress" because of the false "calling" to vocations that are unnatural and lead to a "feeling of emptiness and hunger" (p. 87). With so much going on, it is unlikely that a reading of Nietzsche's work in its entirety is enough to comprehend his insights from the rabbit hole of the human soul. But if I have taken away just one thing from Ecce Homo, it is a deeper understanding of the concept of amor fati. Its opposite can be seen in those who reject the body (interesting that Nietzsche says he can "smell" the decadents), where the golden arrow of consumption masks much of the truth (that many could not face if it were revealed, but can happily consume while it is well-masked), and I take it that Nietzsche meant both the corporeal and spiritual aspects of the analogy. But I will let Nietzsche have the last word:...that which is necessary does not offend me. Amor fati is the core of my nature. ( )
  madepercy | Feb 28, 2018 |
When I was fifteen I read one of the Penguin "Great Ideas" mini-books, [b:Why I Am So Wise|83276|Why I Am So Wise (Great Ideas)|Friedrich Nietzsche|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1389301430s/83276.jpg|1109333], which excerpted parts of Ecce Homo. I really loved it then, as all self-centred fifteen-year-olds really love and relate to Nietzsche. It's quite a different experience reading it ten years later and in context and knowing a little more of Nietzsche, and I definitely didn't identify as much this time (and not just for the blatant misogyny and anti-feminism that pops up out of nowhere). I think even at fifteen I was cautious about the fact that the Great Ideas books were philosophy in palatable, bite-sized bits with the potential of losing quite a lot of information and context. To read it in full as a biography--a very strange biography--brought as much difference to my reading of it as ten years did. (Geobiographical note: this was another plane read because I still had some time before landing in Calgary and it's short.) ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
For whom am I writing this review? If Nietzsche were by my side I suspect he would want me to start with the following quote from Ecce Homo: "To you, the bold venturers and adventurers, and whoever has embarked with cunning sails upon dreadful seas, to you who are intoxicated with riddles, who take pleasure in twilight, whose soul is lured with flutes to every treacherous abyss." If you are, in fact, intoxicated with riddles, take pleasure in twilight, and your soul is lured with flutes to every treacherous abyss (note - Nietzsche says `every' treacherous abyss not `some' or `most'), then this book is for you.

We all know there is a time of transition hovering about age nineteen when the emotions of sensitive souls are heightened and experience is intensified, intensified to such a point that even thoughts and concepts have a highly-charged emotional tone; one's life deepens, exaggerates, strengthens, amplifies, ignites and one borders on becoming an inflamed madman, even if the madness is only known internally. This time of disequilibrium and hormonal topsy-turvy ordinarily settles down into the next phase of life: early adulthood, where the soul pursues a more specialized field of study and then earnestly begins a profession or career,

But for Nietzsche this transitional phase didn't stop; quite the contrary, rather than settling into any conventional groove, the gap of spiritual and artistic disequilibrium grew progressively wider over the years and was eons away from any semblance of `civilized' balance. Additionally, to add fuel to the emotional and philosophical fire, Nietzsche was not only sensitive but hyper-sensitive to music and the arts and had extraordinary linguistic and literary abilities. Thus, we are well to remember all of this when we read in Ecce Homo: "Philosophy as I have hitherto understood and lived it, is a voluntary living in ice and high mountains - a seeking after everything strange and questionable in existence, all that has hitherto been excommunicated by morality."

After an impassioned forward and two intoxicatingly stunning chapters, `Why I Am So Wise' and `Why I Am So Clever', (each line of these chapters deserve an underline and is worthy of committing to memory) we come to the chapter, `Why I Write Such Good Books', and read: "Ultimately, no one can extract from things, books included, more than he already knows. What one has no access to through experience one has no ear for." So, how can one `understand' Nietzsche when living a conventional life, since living according to convention is itself a life of compromise, that is, not living with full, passion-soaked intensity but life as humdrum routine? This is a question any aspiring reader of Nietzsche must ask.

A self-portrait of Egon Schiele appears on the cover of this Penguin edition, which is most appropriate since this artist courageously and without compromise created a deeply personal expressive style of art causing much controversy in his brief life (he died at 28). Here are a few of the artist's quotes: "I am so rich I must give myself away." -- "To restrict the artist is a crime. It is to restrict germinating life." -- "Art is not modern. Art is primordially eternal."

By his commitment to living with intense zeal in his art and his life, Egon Schiele climbed the Nietzschean high mountains cleanly and fully. This is what it takes. What commitment are you making to live with passion and intensity in your life? If you have not been deeply moved by art and music and have not transformed yourself again and again, what chance do you think you stand in understanding Nietzsche? Perhaps it would be better for you to go on the academic head trip: read Kant and Quine and Rorty and then write papers with all the properly formatted footnotes.

Nietzsche devotes a short chapter to each of his books and then ends with a chapter entitled `Why I Am A Destiny'. Since this review is of Nietzsche's autobiography, Nietzsche gets the last word, but being Nietzsche, the last word is three quotes. Here they are::

--From the chapter `The Birth of Tragedy': "`Rationality' at any price as dangerous, as a force undermining life!"

-- From the chapter `Twilight of the Idols': "If you want to get a quick idea of how everything was upsidedown before me, make a start with this writing. That which is called idol on the titlepage is quite simply that which has hitherto been called truth."

--From the chapter `Why I am a Destiny': "The concept `sin' invented together with the instrument of torture which goes with it, the concept of `free will', so as to confuse the instincts, so as to make mistrust of the instincts into second nature." ( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Ecce Homo ("Behold the Man"; though Nietzsche claims "I am not a man, I am dynamite"), published in 1888, is Nietzsche's passionate and eccentric autobiographical examination of the evolution of his thought through personal introspection and reflection on his literary accomplishments. He offers final insights into the philosophical relationships between himself and other major thinkers who have impacted his own thought processes, dares to imagine the results his ideas will have on the future of humanity, and seeks to harmonize his primary views into a conclusive self-interpretation. His wild and confrontational style frames the content of his expression with vigor and firm conviction, overflowing with charisma and expressive power, as well as a few striking prophecies: "there will be wars such as there have never yet been on earth."
  AMD3075 | Feb 24, 2014 |
This is Nietzsche's autobiography, in as far as it is an autobiography. In fact, he describes it in the introduction as being very different from other autobiographies, and this much is certainly true. It was written shortly before he went mad, and is as florid as any of his works, even more so than "Thus Spake Zarathustra". It does describe his life, as one would expect from an autobiography, but Nietzsche has undertaken this with more of an artistic intent than an historical one, and many of the details have either been embellished or just made up. He acknowledges this, in a way, and justifies it as being unimportant. As well as the typical autobiographical contents, he also reviews more or less all of his works, giving opinions on them, providing historical context, and saying how they should be understood.
If I hadn't read any Nietzsche before, and this was my introduction to him, then I probably wouldn't have formed a very favourable opinion of him, either as a character, a philosopher, or a writer. Chapter titles such as: "Why I Am So Clever" and "Why I Write Such Good Books", are not likely to impress a reader yet to be convinced of the genius of the author, and on top of this, Ecce Homo is not itself a particularly good book.
One of the main themes of the book is “amor fati”, which means a love of fate, particularly one's own fate. Nietzsche uses this phrase when describing how during his life, he has come to accept all events, and not want anything to have been different from how it actually was.
Like in Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche presents himself here as a Dionysus, and actually describes himself using this word in at least one place. This is partly the basis of his amorality of sorts, his concept of being “Beyond Good and Evil”. The state of bodily good health is linked to his Dionysus concept, and yet there also seem to be contradictions: he warns the reader off alcohol - what could be less Dionysian? He also shows contempt for coffee, and says he only likes tea in the morning, and it that it must be very strong. It is the little details such as these preferences of his that form the saner parts of the book; much of it suffers from the wild hyperbole that will be familiar to readers of his other late works.
No doubt Nietzsche thought that he was writing profound things, when penning this book, but for me, and most readers I would have thought, more of his thoughts can be understood in his earlier works. For this reason I would not recommend this book as an introduction to Nietzsche, and would be doubtful if any proper appreciation of this book could be made without having read at least a handful of his other works.
There is a thin line between genius and madness; this work is nearer the latter. ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Jan 7, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Friedrich Nietzscheprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gammeršmidts, ViktorsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawinkels, PéTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richter, RaoulPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wuthenow, Ralph-RainerAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.
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Chi sa respirare l'aria che circola nei miei scritti, sa che è l'aria delle grandi altezze, che è un'aria fine. Bisogna esserci nati, altrimenti si corre il rischio di buscarsi un raffreddare. Il ghiaccio è vicino, la solitudine è immane — ma come riposano tranquille le cose, nella luce! come si respira liberamente! quante cose si sentono sotto di sè!

La filosofia, nel senso in cui finora l'ho interpretata e vissuta io, è libera vita tra i ghiacci, in alta montagna, è la ricerca di tutto ciò che vi è di strano e di enigmatico nell'esistenza, di tutto ciò che finora era inibito dalla morale. Per una lunga esperienza acquisita in questo aggirarmi su territorio proibito, imparai a considerare le ragioni per cui finora s'è fatto della morale e dell'idealismo, in modo molto diverso da quello che si sarebbe potuto desiderare: venni in tal modo a scoprire la storia intima dei filosofi, la psicologia dei loro grandi nomi. Quanta verità sopporta, di quanta verità è capace uno spirito? — questa diventò sempre più per me la vera misura dei valori. L'errore — la fede nell'ideale — non è cecità; l'errore è viltà... Ogni conquista, ogni passo innanzi sulla via della conoscenza è una conseguenza diretta del coraggio, della durezza verso se stesso, dell'intransigenza verso se stessi... Io non confuto gli ideali, soltanto mi metto i guanti davanti ad essi... Nitimur in vetitum: sotto questo vessillo trionferà un giorno la mia filosofia, poiché finora è stata sempre proibita, per principio, soltanto la verità.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140445153, Paperback)

In late 1888, only weeks before his final collapse into madness, Nietzsche (1844 1900) set out to compose his autobiography, and Ecce Homo remains one of the most intriguing yet bizarre examples of the genre ever written. In this extraordinary work Nietzsche traces his life, work and development as a philosopher, examines the heroes he has identified with, struggled against and then overcome Schopenhauer, Wagner, Socrates, Christ and predicts the cataclysmic impact of his forthcoming revelation of all values'. Both self-celebrating and self-mocking, penetrating and strange, Ecce Homo gives the final, definitive expression to Nietzsche's main beliefs and is in every way his last testament.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:16 -0400)

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For the title of his autobiography, Friedrich Nietzsche chose Pilate's words upon discharging Christ to the mob: Ecce Homo, or "Behold the man". The original subtitle, How One Becomes What One is, suggests psychologically intriguing exploration of the philosopher's personal history.… (more)

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