I have a love/hate relationship with academic writing. I appreciate the rigor and logic which goes into an epic footnote, but I cannot stand the descent into jargon which marks the majority of academic writing. When a professor manages to cross the divide into writing for a popular audience yet maintain his logical rigor, something amazing happens. C. Ivan Spencer’s Tweetable Nietzsche is such a book. I recently reviewed Tweetable Nietzsche for the Acton Institute’s Religion and Liberty Transatlantic, and argued that “Tweetable Nietzsche: His Essential Ideas Revealed and Explained offers little which a graduate student specializing in Nietzsche’s thought would find unique. But for the undergraduate, the educated adult, or the teacher approaching Nietzsche for the first time, Spencer provides the most recent, accessible volume on Nietzsche’s thought. Throughout the book, Spencer’s method is clear: He provides a quote in the form of a tweet, and then explains it and its significance.”
These “tweets” make Nietzsche more systematic, more coherent than the primary sources appear, but at the cost of reducing complexity to simple, Spencer makes Nietzsche comprehensible for a wide audience. “Spencer begins with Nietzsche’s most famous thought: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” From this foundation flow all of Nietzsche’s considerations. Convinced that God was nothing more than a social construct, Nietzsche argued that since the Western world had rejected the existence of God in the wake of Darwinian evolution, it must also courageously embrace the task of rejecting all morality, epistemology, and philosophy premised upon the existence of God. Spencer explains that “[t]o Nietzsche, belief in God, the central hub of Western civilization’s ideas and culture, thwarts progress.” Now that God was dead and that fact was recognizable in the brave new world of industrialized technology, true progress could begin.”
The significance of Nietzsche and the helpfulness of Spencer’s book for Nietzsche initiate are difficult to overstate: “Nietzsche sets before the atheist an example of consistency: Without God, there is no reason to embrace charity or morality. For the theist, Nietzsche presents a challenge in which the believer must articulate the necessity of God’s existence for human flourishing.”
This book is no fresh out of grad school adapted dissertation; Spencer has spent the last twenty years studying the great ideas of the Western tradition with students. This book evidences God’s grace in a teacher who has been faithful over the long haul, and has the insights to prove it. Tweetable Nietzsche is well worth the read.