In this insightful study, Nietzsche specialist Jonathan R. Cohen argues that Human, All-Too-Human (1878) represents the crucial watershed for Nietzsche’s philosophical development, the moment at which he “becomes who he is.” Here Nietzsche breaks his early allegiance to Schopenhauer and Wagner by offering acute criticisms, which often are diametric reversals of his earlier writings. At the same time, he establishes the overall framework of his later philosophy as the overcoming of metaphysical barriers to the emergence of free spirits who will be the avant-garde of culture. His use of science to accomplish this goal gives this work a positivistic slant unique in his corpus.
Cohen explains Nietzsche’s turnabout from his earlier philosophy, analyzes the argumentative tactics by which Nietzsche deploys science to undercut traditional metaphysics, describes the character of the free spirits, and examines the division of labor scheme that Nietzsche prescribes for cultural progress.
Cohen also shows how Human, All-Too-Human, despite its “aphoristic” style, has a unified literary structure and integrity, which are central to the communication of the book’s philosophical message. Science, Culture, and Free Spirits helps us read both Nietzsche’s individual works and his overall philosophy as coherent wholes.