Tweetable Nietzsche

His Essential Ideas Revealed and Explained

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C. Ivan Spencer
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 
    Zondervan
    , November
     2016.
     192 pages.
     $16.99.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780310000921.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Perhaps more than any philosophy written in the past five centuries, the work of Friedrich Nietzsche has given rise to controversial interpretation, unfortunate misreading, and even outright dismissal. Yet, in many ways, one cannot understand our contemporary culture without, at the very least, a cursory understanding of Nietzsche’s teachings. For better or for worse, he and those that have followed him have shaped the world in which we live irrevocably. Unfortunately, Tweetable Nietzsche: His Essential Ideas Revealed and Explained by C. Ivan Spencer may very well prove to be one of those readings that will be flippantly dismissed, but ultimately, those who ignore this text, especially those who have had little exposure to Nietzsche and his work, do so to their own detriment.

I will concede that at first glance, the proposition may appear nonsensical. How could the musings of a man whose corpus was produced during the latter half of the nineteenth century bear any resemblance to the novelty of a modern social media platform? Consider, for a moment, the nature of a “tweet.” Limited to 140 characters or less, a Twitter post often yields the purest, most deliberate form that a thought can assume once it is expressed. This platform is often considered to be on the “cutting-edge” in terms of both media and communicative technology. Given all of this, surely there is no point of reference in terms of Nietzsche. However, upon further inspection, the two are anything but incommensurable. In fact, as soon as one puts to rest all of the preconceived notions and biases that tend to color readings of less formal academic texts, it becomes pellucidly clear that Nietzschean philosophy and the Twittersphere actually blend quite beautifully, both in terms of concept and style. When compared to a Twitter post, the Nietzschean aphorism is strikingly similar. Both represent pithy expressions of an individual will, both represent the beauty of the subject, and most importantly, both represent the fortitude of a person who dares to be unique. Thus, credit must be given to Spencer for highlighting what is clearly an ingenious connection, and ultimately, a fantastic way of introducing readers to something as intimidating as Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Simply put, this text is very much more than the sum of its parts. Spencer successfully provides a succinct introduction to the majority of the main ideas present in Nietzsche’s metaphysics, epistemology ethics, and even existential thoughts. Spencer skillfully presents the reader with “a tapestry of the overman, will to power, eternal return, amor fatti, perspectivism, the transvaluation of values, and other ideas” (145). Each chapter represents an assessment of one major concept in the body of Nietzsche’s work, analyzed through the utilization of both primary and secondary sources along with an effective peppering of pop-culture references. Admittedly, I would have liked to see more in terms of Nietzsche’s aesthetics, but Spencer himself admits that there simply wasn’t enough space to cover Nietzsche’s multitude of ideas in this brief volume. However, the concepts that are addressed in this text are handled quite well.

One question that might be raised by a potential reader of both this text and my corresponding review is “what exactly can someone like Nietzsche contribute to a conversation on religion?” While it is true that many of Nietzsche’s musings are areligious—or even irreligious—and he is almost universally read as an atheist, this does not necessarily mean that some of his finer points are invalidated. While it is true that he introduced such revolutionary, bombastic, and polemical ideas as the death of God propagated by mankind, perhaps these ideas can be understood as clever masks behind which Nietzsche conceals a deeper philosophy, and on which he reveals a hidden truth. In relation to religion, this means attempting to separate Christendom from Christianity, and critically affirming one’s own values, rather than succumbing to the rigor of a system and engaging in hollow worship. Spencer seems to offer an answer supporting that very point. He states that “even if we reject his conclusions, we can learn from him the values of tenacity and intellectual honesty" (173). As a result, Tweetable Nietzsche can serve as a pretty thorough introduction to an essential thinker, for both believers and non-believers alike.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Bryan J. Cocchiara is adjunct professor of philosophy at Brookdale Community College.

Date of Review: 
April 27, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

C. Ivan Spencer (PhD, University of Texas at Arlington) is Professor of History and Philosophy at The College at Southeastern, in Wake Forest, NC. He teaches the history of ideas, philosophy, and history. Ivan was the creator of the school's history of Ideas curriculum and major and has cultivated the study of the greatest thinkers from the past to the present.

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