- Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: A Reader’s Guide by Christa Davis Acampora and Keith Ansell Pearson
For many years, Anglo-American scholars paid scant attention to Nietzsche’s published works as integral wholes. Explicitly or implicitly, scholars agreed with Arthur Danto that Nietzsche’s texts had little order and coherence and so the interpreter’s task was to systematize Nietzsche’s philosophy for him by assembling ideas found throughout his corpus.1 Recently, however, there has been a significant increase in scholarship focused on Nietzsche’s published works. Not only have a number of readings of On the Genealogy of Morals been produced in the past decade,2 scholars have recently published works devoted exclusively to texts such as The Birth of Tragedy,3 Human, All Too Human,4 and The Gay Science.5 Christa Davis Acampora and Keith Ansell Pearson’s Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: A Reader’s Guide continues this trend. It is now one of three works published in the past fifteen years on the whole of Beyond Good and Evil (BGE)—Laurence Lampert and Douglas Burnham offer the others6—and Acampora and Ansell Pearson’s effort represents a fine contribution to this line of scholarship.
What is common to each of these readings is a rejection of Danto’s view that Nietzsche’s works appear to be assembled rather than composed. Just as Lampert claims that BGE is a “carefully composed and stirring drama” about the importance of philosophy,7 Acampora and Ansell Pearson claim that BGE “has a definite organization and complex structure which can be grasped when looking at it whole” (6). What distinguishes Acampora and Ansell Pearson’s work from Lampert’s is that whereas the latter defends a novel interpretation of Nietzsche’s text to an advanced readership, the primary purpose of Acampora and Ansell Pearson’s reader’s guide is to introduce the context, structure, and themes of BGE to those less familiar with Nietzsche’s thought.
Burnham’s work, which is also addressed to the introductory reader, is therefore the closest competitor to what Acampora and Ansell Pearson offer. In contrast to Burnham’s section-by-section commentary, Acampora and Ansell Pearson devote single chapters to each of the nine parts of BGE. After providing some historical context in the first chapter and an overview of the text that includes a summary of the individual aphorisms in the second chapter, they then divide the remaining chapters into discussions of the various themes that appear in each of the nine parts (and the aftersong) of BGE. Thus, part I of Nietzsche’s text is the focus of Acampora and Ansell Pearson’s third chapter, which they divide into sections such as “will and affirmation of life” and “judgment and taste.” The advantage of this approach is that it avoids the tedious paraphrasing and repetition that can sometimes occur in section-by-section commentaries. One disadvantage is that it can make it difficult to locate what Acampora and Ansell Pearson have to say about a particular aphorism. To this end, an index locorum would have been helpful.
One of the great virtues of Acampora and Ansell Pearson’s guide is that they bring to their reading of BGE an extensive knowledge of current scholarship, the historical sources of Nietzsche’s thought, Nietzsche’s other texts, and his late Nachlass. In so doing, they not only reveal the relationships between the various aphorisms and the internal structure of the text, they also point the reader beyond the text to complete Nietzsche’s open-ended aphorisms. For instance, they supplement Nietzsche’s talk of masks (BGE 40) with a discussion of the Apollonian and Dionysian from The Birth of Tragedy (58–64), and they complement Nietzsche’s views on religious psychology with an exploration of the intellectual conscience found in works such as The Gay Science, Assorted Opinions and Maxims, and Ecce Homo (77–80). Similarly, they turn to Nietzsche’s Nachlass [End Page 210] to clarify...