Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche books and biography


Friedrich Nietzsche


Name: Friedrich Nietzsche
Birth: October 15, 1844 (Röcken bei Lützen, Prussian Saxony)
Death: August 25, 1900 (Weimar, Germany)
School/tradition: Continental philosophy, Weimar Classicism; Precursor to Existentialism, Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Psychoanalysis
Main interests: Aesthetics, Epistemology, Ethics, Ontology, Philosophy of history, Psychology, Value theory
Notable ideas: Apollonian and Dionysian, Death of God, Eternal Recurrence, Herd instinct, Master-Slave Morality, Übermensch, Perspectivism, Will to Power
Influences: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Emerson, Goethe, Heine, Heraclitus, Kant, Plato, Schiller, Schopenhauer, Spinoza, Wagner

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) (IPA: [ˈfʁiːtʁɪç ˈniːtʃə]), a Prussian-born philologist and philosopher, produced critiques of religion, morality, contemporary culture, and philosophy. These works centered on what he viewed as fundamental questions regarding the life-affirming and life-denying qualities of different attitudes and beliefs. Nietzsche's works feature unique, free-form stylization – combined with a wide philosophical breadth – through the use of analyses, etymologies, punning, parables, paradoxes, aphorisms, and contradictions, employed to demonstrate the inadequacies of normative modes of thought. Nietzsche's contemporaries largely overlooked him during his short yet productive working life, which ended with a mental collapse in 1889. But he received recognition during the first half of the 20th century in German, French, and British intellectual circles, gaining notoriety when the Nazi Party appropriated him as a forerunner. By the second half of the 20th century he had become regarded as a highly significant and influential figure in modern philosophy.



Youth (1844 – 1869)

Born on October 15, 1844, and christened as "Friedrich Wilhelm", Nietzsche lived in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, in the Prussian province of Saxony. His name comes from King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who turned 49 on the day of Nietzsche's birth. (Nietzsche later dropped his given middle name, "Wilhelm".[1]) Nietzsche's parents, Carl Ludwig (1813–1849), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska Oehler (1826–1897), married in 1843. His sister, Elisabeth, was born in 1846, followed by a brother, Ludwig Joseph, in 1848. After the deaths of their father—due to a brain ailment—in 1849 and of the young brother in 1850, the family moved to Naumburg, where they lived with Nietzsche's paternal grandmother and his father's two unmarried sisters. After the death of Nietzsche's grandmother in 1856 the family moved into their own house.

Friedrich Nietzsche, 1861.
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1861.

During this time the young Nietzsche attended a boys' school and later a private school, where he became friends with Gustav Krug and Wilhelm Pinder, both of whom came from respected families. In 1854 he began to attend the Domgymnasium in Naumburg, but after he showed particular talents in music and language, the internationally-recognized Schulpforta admitted him as a pupil, and there he continued his studies from 1858 to 1864. Here he became friends with Paul Deussen and Carl von Gersdorff. He also found time to work on poems and musical compositions. At Schulpforta, Nietzsche received an important introduction to literature, particularly that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and for the first time experienced a distance from his family life in a small-town Christian environment.

After graduation in 1864, Nietzsche commenced studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn. For a short time he and Deussen became members of the Burschenschaft Frankonia. After one semester (and to the anger of his mother) he stopped his theological studies and lost his faith.[2] This may have happened in part due to his reading about this time of David Strauss's Life of Jesus, which had a profound effect on the young Nietzsche.[3] Nietzsche then concentrated on studying philology under Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, whom he followed to the University of Leipzig the next year. There, he became close friends with fellow-student Erwin Rohde. Nietzsche's first philological publications appeared soon after.

Friedrich Nietzsche, 1868.
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1868.

In 1865, Nietzsche became acquainted with the work of Arthur Schopenhauer, and he read Friedrich Albert Lange's Geschichte des Materialismus in 1866. He found both of these encounters stimulating: they encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond philology and to continue his schooling. In 1867, Nietzsche signed up for one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. However, a bad riding accident in March 1868 left him unfit for service. Consequently Nietzsche turned his attention to his studies again, completing them and first meeting with Richard Wagner later that year.

Professor at Basel (1869–1879)

Mid October, 1871. Left to right: Erwin Rohde, Carl von Gersdorff and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Mid October, 1871. Left to right: Erwin Rohde, Carl von Gersdorff and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Due in part to Ritschl's support, Nietzsche received an extraordinary offer to become professor of classical philology at the University of Basel before having completed his doctorate degree or certificate for teaching. During his philological work in Basel he discovered that the ancient poetic meter related only to the length of syllables, different from the modern, accentuating meter. After moving to Basel, Nietzsche renounced his Prussian citizenship: for the rest of his life he remained officially stateless. Nevertheless, he served on the Prussian side during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871 as a medical orderly. In his short time in the military he experienced much, and witnessed the traumatic effects of battle. He also contracted diphtheria and dysentery. On returning to Basel in 1870, Nietzsche observed the establishment of the German Empire and the following era of Otto von Bismarck as an outsider and with a degree of skepticism regarding its genuineness. At the University, he delivered his inaugural lecture, "Homer and Classical Philology". Nietzsche also met Franz Overbeck, a professor of theology, who remained his friend throughout his life. Two other colleagues, Afrikan Spir,[4] a little-known Russian philosopher and author of Thought and Reality (1873), and the historian Jacob Burckhardt, whose lectures Nietzsche frequently attended, began to exercise significant influence on Nietzsche during this time.

Nietzsche had already met Richard Wagner in Leipzig in 1868, and (some time later) Wagner's wife Cosima. Nietzsche admired both greatly, and during his time at Basel frequently visited Wagner's house in Tribschen in the Canton of Lucerne. The Wagners brought Nietzsche into their most intimate circle, and enjoyed the attention he gave to the beginning of the Bayreuth Festival Theatre. In 1870, he gave Cosima Wagner the manuscript of 'The Genesis of the Tragic Idea' as a birthday gift. In 1872, Nietzsche published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. However, his classical philological colleagues, including Ritschl, expressed little enthusiasm for the work, in which Nietzsche forewent a precise philological method to employ a style of philosophical speculation. In a polemic, Philology of the Future, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff dampened the book's reception and increased its notoriety. In response, Rohde (by now a professor in Kiel) and Wagner came to Nietzsche's defense. Nietzsche remarked freely about the isolation he felt within the philological community and attempted to attain a position in philosophy at Basel, though unsuccessfully.

Friedrich Nietzsche in Basel, ca. 1875.
Friedrich Nietzsche in Basel, ca. 1875.

Between 1873 and 1876, Nietzsche published separately four long essays: David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer, On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, Schopenhauer as Educator, and Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. (These four later appeared in a collected edition under the title, Untimely Meditations.) The four essays shared the orientation of a cultural critique, challenging the developing German culture along lines suggested by Schopenhauer and Wagner. Starting in 1873, Nietzsche also accumulated the notes later posthumously published as Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks. During this time, in the circle of the Wagners, Nietzsche met Malwida von Meysenbug and Hans von Bülow, and also began a friendship with Paul Rée, who after 1876 influenced him in dismissing the pessimism in his early writings. However, his disappointment with the Bayreuth Festival of 1876, where the banality of the shows and the baseness of the public repelled him, caused him in the end to distance himself from Wagner.

With the publication of Human, All Too Human in 1878, a book of aphorisms on subjects ranging from metaphysics to morality and from religion to the sexes, Nietzsche's departure from the philosophy of Wagner and Schopenhauer became evident. Nietzsche's friendship with Deussen and Rohde cooled as well. Nietzsche in this time attempted to find a wife — to no avail. In 1879, after a significant decline in health, Nietzsche had to resign his position at Basel. (Since his childhood, various disruptive illnesses had plagued him — moments of shortsightedness practically to the degree of blindness, migraine headaches, and violent stomach attacks. The 1868 riding accident and diseases in 1870 may have aggravated these persistent conditions, which continued to affect him through his years at Basel, forcing him to take longer and longer holidays until regular work became no longer practical.)

Free philosopher (1879–1888)

Because his illness drove him to find more compatible climates, Nietzsche traveled frequently, and lived until 1889 as an independent author in different cities. He spent many summers in Sils Maria, near St. Moritz in Switzerland, and many winters in the Italian cities of Genoa, Rapallo, and Turin, and in the French city of Nice. He occasionally returned to Naumburg to visit his family, and especially during this time, he and his sister had repeated periods of conflict and reconciliation. He lived on his pension from Basel, but also received aid from friends. A past student of his, Peter Gast (born Heinrich Köselitz), became a sort of private secretary to Nietzsche. To the end of his life, Gast and Overbeck remained consistently faithful friends. Malwida von Meysenbug remained like a motherly patron even outside the Wagner circle. Soon Nietzsche made contact with the music critic Carl Fuchs. Nietzsche stood at the beginning of his most productive period. Beginning with Human, All Too Human in 1878, Nietzsche would publish one book (or major section of a book) each year until 1888, his last year of writing, during which he completed five. In 1879, Nietzsche published Mixed Opinions and Maxims, which followed the aphoristic form of Human, All Too Human. The following year, he published The Wanderer and His Shadow. Both appeared as the second part of the second edition of Human, All-Too-Human.

Lou Salomé, Paul Rée and Nietzsche, 1882.
Lou Salomé, Paul Rée and Nietzsche, 1882.

In 1881 Nietzsche published Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudices, and in 1882 the first part of The Gay Science. That year he also met Lou Salomé through Malwida von Meysenbug and Paul Rée. Nietzsche and Salomé spent the summer together in Tautenburg in Thuringia, often with Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth as chaperon. However, Nietzsche regarded Salomé less as an equal partner than as a gifted student. He fell in love with her and pursued her despite their mutual friend Rée. When he asked to marry her, Salomé refused. Nietzsche's relationship with Rée and Salomé broke up in the winter of 1882/1883, partially due to intrigues conducted by his sister Elisabeth. In the face of renewed fits of illness, in near isolation after a falling-out with his mother and sister regarding Salomé, and plagued by suicidal thoughts, Nietzsche fled to Rapallo, where in only ten days he wrote the first part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

After severing philosophical ties to Schopenhauer and social ties to Wagner, Nietzsche had few remaining friends. Now, with the new style of Zarathustra, his work became even more alienating and his readers received it only to the degree prescribed by politeness. Nietzsche recognized this and maintained his solitude, even though he often complained about it. He gave up his short-lived plan to become a poet in public, and was troubled by concerns about his publications. His books were as good as unsold. In 1885, he printed only 40 copies of the fourth part of Zarathustra, and only a fraction of these were distributed among close friends.

In 1886 Nietzsche printed Beyond Good and Evil at his own expense. With this book and with the appearance in 1886–1887 of second editions of his earlier works (The Birth of Tragedy, Human, All Too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science), he saw his work completed for the time and hoped that soon a readership would develop. In fact, interest in Nietzsche's thought did increase at this time, even if rather slowly and hardly perceived by him. During these years Nietzsche met Meta von Salis, Carl Spitteler, and also Gottfried Keller. In 1886, his sister Elisabeth married the anti-Semite Bernhard Förster and traveled to Paraguay to found a "Germanic" colony, a plan to which Nietzsche responded with laughter. Through correspondence, Nietzsche's relationship with Elisabeth continued on the path of conflict and reconciliation, but she would not see him again in person until after his collapse. He continued to have frequent and painful attacks of illness, which made prolonged work impossible. In 1887, Nietzsche quickly wrote the polemic On the Genealogy of Morals.

During this year Nietzsche encountered Fyodor Dostoevsky's work, which he quickly appropriated.[5] He also exchanged letters with Hippolyte Taine, and then also with Georg Brandes, whom both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche inspired. Brandes, who had started to teach the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard in the 1870s, wrote to Nietzsche asking him to read Kierkegaard, to which Nietzsche replied that he would. In the beginning of 1888, in Copenhagen, Brandes delivered one of the first lectures on Nietzsche's philosophy.

In the same year, Nietzsche wrote five books, based on his voluminous notes for the long-planned work, The Will to Power. His health seemed to improve, and he spent the summer in high spirits. In the fall of 1888 his writings and letters began to reveal a higher estimation of his own status and 'fate'. He overestimated the increasing response to his writings, above all, for the recent polemic, The Case of Wagner. On his 44th birthday, after completing The Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist, he decided to write the autobiography Ecce Homo, which presents itself to his readers in order that they "[h]ear me! For I am such and such a person. Above all, do not mistake me for someone else." (Preface, sec. 1, tr. Walter Kaufmann) In December, Nietzsche began a correspondence with August Strindberg, and thought that, short of an international breakthrough, he would attempt to buy back his older writings from the publisher and have them translated into other European languages. Moreover, he planned the publication of the compilation Nietzsche Contra Wagner and of the poems Dionysian Dithyrambs.

Mental breakdown and death (1889–1900)

On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche had a mental collapse. That day two Turinese policemen approached him after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened remains unknown. The often-repeated tale states that Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse at the other end of the Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around the horse’s neck to protect it, and collapsed to the ground. (The first dream-sequence from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment has just such a scene in which Raskolnikov encounters a horse that is being whipped around the eyes(Part 1, Chapter 5). Incidentally, Nietzsche said of Dostoyevsky that he was 'The only psycho-analyst from whom I have anything to learn.'(Twilight of the Idols, Friedrich Nietzsche, 1889, §45))

In the following few days, he sent short writings to a number of friends (including Cosima Wagner and Jacob Burckhardt), which may indicate potential signs of a breakdown. To his former colleague Burckhardt he wrote: "I have had Caiphas put in fetters. Also, last year I was crucified by the German doctors in a very drawn-out manner. Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all anti-Semites abolished."[6]

On January 6, 1889, Burckhardt showed the letter he had received from Nietzsche to Overbeck. The following day Overbeck received a similarly revealing letter, and decided that Nietzsche's friends had to bring him back to Basel. Overbeck travelled to Turin and brought Nietzsche to a psychiatric clinic in Basel. By that time, Nietzsche appeared fully in the grip of insanity, and his mother Franziska decided to transfer him to a clinic in Jena under the direction of Otto Binswanger. From November 1889 to February 1890, Julius Langbehn attempted to cure Nietzsche, claiming that the doctors' methods were ineffective to cure Nietzsche's condition. Langbehn assumed progressively greater control of Nietzsche until his secrecy discredited him. In March 1890 Franziska removed Nietzsche from the clinic, and in May 1890 brought him to her home in Naumburg. During this process, Overbeck and Gast contemplated what to do with Nietzsche's unpublished works. In January 1889 they proceeded with the planned release of The Twilight of the Idols, by that time already printed and bound. In February, they ordered a 50-copy private edition of Nietzsche contra Wagner, but the publisher C. G. Naumann secretly printed 100. Overbeck and Gast decided to withhold publishing Der Antichrist and Ecce Homo due to their more radical content. Nietzsche's reception and recognition enjoyed their first surge.

A photo by Hans Olde from the photographic series
A photo by Hans Olde from the photographic series "The Ill Nietzsche", May of 1899

In 1893, Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth returned from Paraguay after the suicide of her husband. She read and studied Nietzsche's works, and piece by piece took control of them and of their publication. Overbeck eventually suffered dismissal, and Gast finally co-operated. After the death of Franziska in 1897 Nietzsche lived in Weimar, where Elisabeth cared for him and allowed people, including Rudolf Steiner, to visit her uncommunicative brother.

Early commentators frequently diagnosed a syphilitic infection as the cause of the breakdown; however, some of Nietzsche's symptoms seem inconsistent with typical cases of syphilis. Some have diagnosed a form of brain cancer, possibly inherited from his father. While most commentators regard Nietzsche's breakdown as unrelated to his philosophy, some, including Georges Bataille and René Girard, argue for considering his breakdown as a symptom of a psychological maladjustment brought on by his philosophy.

On August 25, 1900 Nietzsche died after contracting pneumonia. At the wish of Elisabeth, he was buried beside his father at the church in Röcken. His friend, Gast, gave his funeral oration, proclaiming: "Holy be your name to all future generations!" [7] (Note that Nietzsche had pointed out in Ecce Homo how he did not wish to be called "holy".)

Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche compiled The Will to Power from notes he had written; and published it posthumously. Since his sister arranged the book, the general consensus holds that it does not reflect Nietzsche's intent, especially because Nietzsche opposed Elisabeth's marriage to an anti-Semite. Indeed, Mazzino Montinari, the editor of Nietzsche's Nachlass, called it a forgery. The content of The Will to Power has given rise to accusations that Nietzsche shared views similar to those of the Nazis.

Key concepts

Main article: Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882

In his preface to The Portable Nietzsche, the prominent translator of Nietzsche, Walter Kaufmann, expressed the view that, although Nietzsche's ideas may often seem contradictory, a thorough understanding of Nietzsche's free-thinking nature may also yield an explanation of his paradoxes. In addition to this, perspectivism intimates a thesis regarding the seeming contradictions in Nietzsche's writings, suggesting that Nietzsche used multiple viewpoints in his work as a means of challenging his reader to consider various approaches toward an issue. The thesis, however, does not claim that Nietzsche himself regarded all ideas as equally valid. Nietzsche's disagreements with many other philosophers, such as Kant, Plato, Schopenhauer, and Spinoza, populate his texts. Whether one views the conflicting elements in his writings as intentional or not, his various ideas continue to have influence.


Main article: List of works by Friedrich Nietzsche

The Birth of Tragedy

Nietzsche published his first book in 1872 as The Birth of Tragedy, Out of the Spirit of Music (Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik) and reissued it in 1886 as The Birth of Tragedy, Or: Hellenism and Pessimism (Die Geburt der Tragödie, Oder: Griechentum und Pessimismus). The later edition contained a prefatory essay, An Attempt at Self-Criticism, wherein Nietzsche commented on this very early work.

In contrast to the typically Enlightenment view of ancient Greek culture as noble, simple, elegant and grandiose,[8] Nietzsche characterizes it as a conflict between two distinct tendencies - the Apollonian and Dionysian. The Apollonian in culture he sees as the principium individuationis (principle of individuation) with its refinement, sobriety and emphasis on superficial appearance, whereby man separates himself from the undifferentiated immediacy of nature. Immersion into that same wholeness characterizes the Dionysian, recognizable by intoxication, irrationality and inhumanity; this shows the influence of Schopenhauer's view that non-rational forces underlie human creativity. Nietzsche describes how from Socrates onward the Apollonian had dominated Western thought, and raises German Romanticism (especially Richard Wagner) as a possible re-introduction of the Dionysian to the salvation of European culture.

Untimely Meditations

Main article: Untimely Meditations

Started in 1873 and completed in 1876, this work comprises a collection of four (out of a projected 13) essays concerning the contemporary condition of European, especially German, culture.

  1. David Strauss: der Bekenner und der Schriftsteller, 1873 (David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer) attacks David Strauss's The Old and the New Faith: A Confession (1871) which Nietzsche holds up as an example of the German thought of the time. He paints Strauss's "New Faith" - scientifically-determined universal mechanism based on the progression of history - as a vulgar reading of history in the service of a degenerate culture, |polemically attacking not only the book but also Strauss as a Philistine of pseudo-culture.
  2. Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben, 1874 (On the Use and Abuse of History for Life) offers instead of the prevailing view of "knowledge as an end in itself" an alternative way of reading history, one where living life becomes the primary concern; along with a description of how this might improve the health of a society.
  3. Schopenhauer als Erzieher, 1874 (Schopenhauer as Educator) describes how the philosophic genius of Schopenhauer might bring on a resurgence of German culture. Nietzsche gives special attention to Schopenhauer's individualism, honesty and steadfastness as well as his cheerfulness, despite Schopenhauer's noted pessimism.
  4. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, 1876 investigates Richard Wagner's psychology — less flatteringly than Nietzsche's friendship with his subject might suggest. Nietzsche considered not publishing it because of this, and eventually settled on drafts that criticized the musician less than they might have done. Nonetheless this essay foreshadows the imminent split between the two.

Human, All Too Human

Nietzsche supplemented the original edition of this work, first published in 1878, with a second part in 1879: Mixed Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), and a third part in 1880: The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten). The three parts appeared together in 1886 as Human, All Too Human, A Book for Free Spirits (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, Ein Buch für freie Geister). This book represents the beginning of Nietzsche's "middle period", with a break from German Romanticism and from Wagner and with a definite positivist slant. Note the style: reluctant to construct a systemic philosophy, Nietzsche composed these works as a series of several hundred aphorisms, either single lines or one or two pages. This book comprises more a collection of debunkings of unwarranted assumptions than an interpretation, though it offers some elements of Nietzsche's thought in his arguments: he uses his perspectivism and the idea of the will to power as explanatory devices, though the latter remains less developed than in his later thought.


Main article: Daybreak (Nietzsche)

In Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudices (Morgenröte. Gedanken über die moralischen Vorurteile, 1881), Nietzsche de-emphasizes the role of hedonism as a motivator and accentuates the role of a "feeling of power". His relativism, both moral and cultural, and his critique of Christianity also reaches greater maturity. With this aphoristic book in its clear, calm and intimate style Nietzsche seems to invite a particular experience, rather than showing concern with persuading his readers to accept any point of view. He would develop many of the ideas advanced here more fully in later books.

The Gay Science

The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, 1882), the largest and most comprehensive of Nietzsche's middle-period books, continues the aphoristic style and contains more poetry than any other of his works. It has central themes of a joyful affirmation of life and of an immersion in a light-hearted scholarship that takes aesthetic pleasure out of life (the title refers to the Provençal phrase for the craft of poetry). As an example, Nietzsche offers the doctrine of

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

A break with his middle-period works, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, A Book for All and None (Also Sprach Zarathustra, Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen, 1883 - 1885) became Nietzsche's best-known book and the one he considered the most important.[9] Noteworthy for its format, it comprises a philosophical work of fiction whose style often lightheartedly imitates that of the New Testament and of the Platonic dialogues, at times resembling Pre-Socratic works in tone and in its use of natural phenomena as rhetorical and explanatory devices. It is also abundant with references to the Western literary and philosophical traditions, implicitly offering an interpretation of these traditions and of their problems. Nietzsche achieves all of this through the character of Zarathustra (referring to the historic figure behind Zoroastrianism) who makes speeches on philosophic topics as he moves along a loose plotline marking his development and the reception of his ideas. One can view this characteristic (following the genre of the bildungsroman) as an inline commentary on Zarathustra (and Nietzsche's) philosophy. All this, along with the book's ambiguity and paradoxical nature, has helped its eventual enthusiastic reception by the reading public, but has frustrated academic attempts at analysis (as Nietzsche may have intended); and Thus Spoke Zarathustra remained for long unpopular as a topic for scholars (especially those in the Anglo-American analytic tradition), until the second half of the twentieth century brought widespread interest in Nietzsche and his unconventional style that does not distinguish between philosophy and literature. [10] It offers complete formulations of

Beyond Good and Evil

Of the four "late-period" writings of Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (Jenseits von Gut und Böse. Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft, 1886) most closely resembles the aphoristic style of his middle period. Therein he identifies the qualities of genuine philosophers: imagination, self-assertion, danger, originality and the "creation of values" - all else he considers incidental. Continuing from this he contests some key pre-suppositions such as "self-consciousness", "Knowledge", "Truth" and "Free-Will" as used by some of the great members of the philosophic tradition. Instead of these traditional analyses, which Nietzsche paints as insufficient, he offers the will to power as an explanatory device, being part of his "perspective of life" which he regards as "beyond good and evil", denying a universal morality for all human beings. The master and slave moralities feature prominently as Nietzsche re-evaluates deeply-held humanistic beliefs, portraying even domination, appropriation and injury to the weak as not universally objectionable. A tone of moral relativism and perspectivism dominates throughout.

On the Genealogy of Morals

The three essays that make up On the Genealogy of Morals, A Polemic (Zur Genealogie der Moral, Eine Streitschrift, 1887) represent the last of Nietzsche's works before his flurry of activity in 1888. Each essay comprises a series of paragraphs (like the longer aphorisms of some of his books) that discusses the details of his moral relativism, especially of how the will to power influences perspectives, and appears more unproblematically philosophical in style and tone than many of his books and all of those written afterwards. For these reasons this book has become a popular topic for scholarly analysis. [11]

  • 'Good and Evil', 'Good and Bad'" continues Nietzsche's discussion of the Master-Slave Morality, maintaining that the slave morality (which labels "good" and "evil" compared to the less judgmental and more masterful "good" and "bad") arises from a denial of life — as opposed to the vitalism of the master morality. Nietzsche identifies ressentiment as the driving force of the slave morality.
  • 'Guilt', 'Bad Conscience', and Related Matters investigates the sources of conscience, especially "bad conscience", and names cruelty as the base of punishment and self-punishment.[12] Cruelty as punishment of others provides gratification because thereby one imposes one's will over another; cruelty to oneself happens through "bad conscience", whereby one punishes oneself because of not holding to a self-imposed standard of dependability. In this way Nietzsche characterizes altruistic, "selfless", behavior as immense cruelty to oneself by imposing another's will over oneself, an explanation he offers for Christianity and monotheism in general.
  • What Do Ascetic Ideals Mean? continues the theme. Nietzsche describes how such a paradoxical action as asceticism might serve the interests of life: through asceticism one can attain mastery over oneself. In this way one can express both ressentiment and the will to power. Nietzsche describes the morality of the ascetic priest as characterized by Christianity as one where, finding oneself in pain, one places the blame for the pain on oneself and thereby attempts and attains mastery over the world,[13] a tactic that Nietzsche places behind secular science as well as behind religion.

The Case of Wagner

In his first book of a highly productive year, The Case of Wagner, A Musician's Problem (Der Fall Wagner, Ein Musikanten-Problem, May - August 1888), Nietzsche launches into a devastating and unbridled attack upon the figure of Richard Wagner. While he recognizes Wagner's music as an immense cultural achievement, he also characterizes it as the product of decadence and nihilism and thereby of sickness. The book shows Nietzsche as a capable music-critic, and provides the setting for some of his further reflections on the nature of art and on its relationship to the future health of humanity.

The Twilight of the Idols

The title of this highly polemic book, Twilight of the Idols, or How One Philosophizes with a Hammer (Götzen-Dämmerung, oder Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert, August-September 1888), word-plays upon Wagner's opera, The Twilight of the Gods (Die Götterdämmerung). In this short work, written in the flurry of his last productive year, Nietzsche re-iterates and elaborates some of the criticisms of major philosophic figures (Socrates, Plato, Kant and the Christian tradition). He establishes early on in the section The Problem of Socrates, that the value of life cannot be estimated and any judgment concerning it only reveals the person's life-denying or life-affirming tendencies. He tries to show how philosophers from Socrates onwards were in his own words "decadents," employing dialectics as a tool for self-preservation as the authority of tradition breaks down. He also criticizes the German culture of his day as unsophisticated, and shoots some disapproving arrows at key French, British, and Italian cultural figures. In contrast to all these alleged representatives of cultural decadence, Nietzsche applauds Caesar, Napoleon, Goethe, Dostoevsky, Thucydides and the Sophists as healthier and stronger types. The book states the transvaluation of all values as Nietzsche's final and most important project, and gives a view of antiquity wherein the Romans for once take precedence over the ancient Greeks.

The Antichrist

In one of his best-known and most contentious works, The Antichrist, Curse on Christianity (Der Antichrist. Fluch auf das Christentum, September 1888), Nietzsche launches into a polemic, hyperbolic attack on the morals of Christianity — the view of Nietzsche as an enthusiastic attacker of Christianity largely arises from this book. Therein he elaborates on his criticisms of Christianity which had occurred in his earlier works, but now using a sarcastic tone, expressing a disgust over the way the slave-morality corrupted noble values in ancient Rome. He frames certain elements of the religion — the Gospels, Paul, the martyrs, priests and the crusades — as creations of ressentiment for the upholding of the unhealthy at the cost of stronger sentiments. Even in this extreme denunciation Nietzsche does not begrudge some respect to the figure of Jesus and some Christian elements, but this book abandons the relatively even-handed (if inflammatory) analysis of his earlier criticisms for outright polemic — Nietzsche proposes an "Anti-Christian" morality for the future: the transvaluation of all values.

Ecce Homo

Though Ecce Homo, How One Becomes What One Is (Ecce Homo, Wie man wird, was man ist, October-November 1888) appears as a curiously-styled autobiography (with sections entitled "Why I Am So Clever", "Why I Am So Wise", "Why I Write Such Good Books") it offers much more of a history of Nietzsche's ideas than of the man himself, highlighting Nietzsche's project of genealogical analysis as well as de-emphasizing the splits between philosophy and literature, personality and philosophy, and body and mind. The author does this by tying certain qualities of his thought with idiosyncrasies of his physical person, as well as extremely candid remarks occasionally made throughout his half-joking self-adulation (a mockery of Socratic humility). After this self-description, wherein Nietzsche proclaims the goodness of everything that has happened to him (including his father's early death and his near-blindness — an example of amor fati) — he offers brief insights into all of his works, concluding with the section "Why I Am A Destiny", calmly laying out the principles he places at the center of his project:

The Unpublished Notebooks

Further information: The Will to Power#The Will to Power manuscript

Nietzsche's nachlass contains an immense amount of material and discusses at great length the issues around which Nietzsche's philosophy revolves [14]. Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, who acted as executrix of his literary estate, arranged these pieces for publication as The Will to Power.

Later investigation would reveal that Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche had included material extremely selectively and that she gave these excerpts an order different to that of the author, leading to the current opinion of her manuscript as a revisionist corruption bringing her brother's text in line with her own beliefs, which he vehemently opposed. On the strength of this manuscript, Elisabeth later fostered sympathy for her brother's works among the Nazis, and her revisionism forms the cornerstone of the defense of Nietzsche against the charges of fascism and anti-semitism.

Even when disregarding the controversy around Elisabeth, the unpublished notebooks occasion contention in Nietzsche scholarship because of the question of their relative importance when evaluating the philosophy expounded in the published works. While scholars normally privilege the published works as the mature statements of Nietzsche's beliefs, the view championed by Martin Heidegger sees the notebooks as a place where Nietzsche undertook a more complete investigation into the central elements of his philosophy. Psychoanalytic approaches also place a high value on the notebooks, regarding them as potentially representing "real" views without the self-censorship which publishing requires. Many scholars advocate a case-by-case investigation of the contents of the notebooks compared to what Nietzsche published, whereas others (including deconstructionists — especially Jacques Derrida), place the notebooks with the published works in a literary continuum.

Nietzsche's influence and reception

Nietzsche's reception has proved a rather confused and complex affair. Many Germans eventually discovered his appeals for greater individualism and personality development in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but responded to those appeals in diverging ways. He had some following among left-wing Germans in the 1890s; in 1894–95, German conservatives wanted to ban his work as subversive. By the First World War, however, he had acquired a reputation as a source of right-wing German militarism. The Dreyfus Affair provides another example of his reception: the French anti-semitic Right labelled the Jewish and Leftist intellectuals who defended Alfred Dreyfus as "Nietzscheans".

During the interbellum, certain Nazis employed a highly selective reading of Nietzsche's work to advance their ideology, notably Alfred Baeumler in his reading of The Will to Power. The era of Nazi rule (1933 – 1945) saw Nietzsche's writings widely studied in German (and, after 1938, Austrian) schools and universities. The Nazis viewed Nietzsche as one of their "founding fathers". Although there exist few — if any — similarities between Nietzsche's political views and Nazism, phrases like "the will to power" became common in Nazi circles. The wide popularity of Nietzsche among Nazis stemmed in part from the endeavors of his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, the editor of Nietzsche's work after his 1889 breakdown, and an eventual Nazi sympathizer. Nietzsche himself thoroughly disapproved of his sister's anti-Semitic views; in a letter to her he wrote:

You have committed one of the greatest stupidities—for yourself and for me! Your association with an anti-Semitic chief expresses a foreignness to my whole way of life which fills me again and again with ire or melancholy. … It is a matter of honor with me to be absolutely clean and unequivocal in relation to anti-Semitism, namely, opposed to it, as I am in my writings. I have recently been persecuted with letters and Anti-Semitic Correspondence Sheets. My disgust with this party (which would like the benefit of my name only too well) is as pronounced as possible.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Letter to His Sister, Christmas 1887

Moreover, Mazzino Montinari, while editing Nietzsche's posthumous works in the 1960s, found that Förster-Nietzsche, while editing the posthumous fragments making up The Will to Power, had cut extracts, changed their order, and added titles of her own invention [1].

The psychologist Carl Jung recognized Nietzsche's importance early on: he held a seminar on Nietzsche's Zarathustra in 1934. [15] According to Ernest Jones, biographer and personal acquaintance of Sigmund Freud, Freud frequently referred to Nietzsche as having "more penetrating knowledge of himself than any man who ever lived or was likely to live". [16] Yet Jones also reports that Freud emphatically denied that Nietzsche's writings influenced his own psychological discoveries. Moreover, Freud took no interest in philosophy while a medical student, forming his opinion about Nietzsche later in life.

Early twentieth-century thinkers influenced by Nietzsche include: philosophers Theodor Adorno, Georg Brandes, Henri Bergson, Martin Buber, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Emil Cioran, Michel Foucault, and Muhammad Iqbal; sociologists Ferdinand Tönnies, Max Weber; theologian Paul Tillich; novelists Hermann Hesse, André Malraux, André Gide and D. H. Lawrence; psychologists Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Rollo May; poets Rainer Maria Rilke, and William Butler Yeats; playwrights George Bernard Shaw, and Eugene O'Neill; and authors Menno ter Braak, and Jack London. American writer H.L. Mencken avidly read and translated Nietzsche's works and has gained the soubriquet "the American Nietzsche". Emma Goldman also declared Nietzsche an anarchist.

In 1936 Martin Heidegger lectured on the "Will to Power as a Work of Art"; he later published four large volumes of lectures on Nietzsche. Thomas Mann's essays mention Nietzsche with respect. One of the characters in Mann's 1947 novel Doktor Faustus represents Nietzsche fictionally. In 1938 the German existentialist Karl Jaspers wrote the following about the influence of Nietzsche and the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard:

The contemporary philosophical situation is determined by the fact that two philosophers, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, who did not count in their times and, for a long time, remained without influence in the history of philosophy, have continually grown in significance. Philosophers after Hegel have increasingly returned to face them, and they stand today unquestioned as the authentically great thinkers of their age. ... The effect of both is immeasurably great, even greater in general thinking than in technical philosophy ...

—Jaspers, Reason and Existenz

The appropriation of Nietzsche's work by the Nazis, combined with the rise of analytic philosophy, ensured that British and American academic philosophers would almost completely ignore him until at least 1950. Even George Santayana, an American philosopher whose life and work betray some similarity to Nietzsche's, dismissed Nietzsche in his 1916 Egotism in German Philosophy as a "prophet of Romanticism". Analytic philosophers, if they mentioned Nietzsche at all, characterized him as a literary figure rather than as a philosopher. Nietzsche's present stature in the English-speaking world owes much to the exegetical writings and improved Nietzsche translations by the German-American philosopher Walter Kaufmann, beginning with the 1950 publication of the first edition of his Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist.

It is evident at once that Nietzsche is far superior to Kant and Hegel as a stylist; but it also seems that as a philosopher he represents a sharp decline—and men have not been lacking who have not considered him a philosopher at all—because he had no “system.” Yet this argument is hardly cogent. Schelling and Hegel, Spinoza and Aquinas had their systems; in Kant's and Plato's case the word is far less applicable; and of the many important philosophers who very definitely did not have systems one need only mention Socrates and many of the pre-Socratics. Not only can one defend Nietzsche on this score—how many philosophers today have systems?—but one must add that he had strong philosophic reasons for not having a system.

—Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, p. 79

Nietzsche's influence on continental philosophy increased dramatically after the second World War, especially among the French intellectual Left and post-structuralists. Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Michel Foucault all owe a heavy debt to Nietzsche. Gilles Deleuze and Pierre Klossowski wrote monographs drawing new attention to Nietzsche's work, and a 1972 conference at Cérisy-la-Salle ranks as the most important event in France for a generation's reception of Nietzsche.

Harold Bloom has described Nietzsche as "Emerson's belated rival". Bloom's theory of the "anxiety of influence" betrays a Nietzschean influence. Other people, organisations and works influenced by Nietzsche include "Death of God" theologian Thomas Altizer; novelists Nikos Kazantzakis, Mikhail Artsybashev, Jack Kerouac, Donna Tartt, Philippe Sollers and Lu Xun; musicians Jim Morrison, Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, and Trent Reznor; the Church of Satan and its founder Anton LaVey; and Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the film Little Miss Sunshine, one character reads Nietzsche's works almost constantly, and has taken a vow of silence which he explains as due to Nietzsche's influence.


Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault were both born on October 15. Both Nietzsche and Foucault died in their late fifties on the 25th day of the month and close to Foucault's own death he stated: "I am a Nietzschean."

See also

  • Ubermensch


  1. ^ Kaufmann, Walter, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, p. 22.
  2. ^ Schaberg, William, The Nietzsche Canon, University of Chicago Press, 1996, p32.
  3. ^ Schaberg, William, The Nietzsche Canon, University of Chicago Press, 1996, p32.
  4. ^ ^ Kaufmann, Walter, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, pp. 306–340.
  5. ^ The Portable Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann.
  6. ^ Schain, Richard. "Nietzsche's Visionary Values - Genius or Dementia? [1]
  7. ^ Johann Winckelmann, History of Ancient Art, 1764
  8. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich, "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" in the chapter "Why I Write Such Good Books" in Ecce Homo, 1888
  9. ^ Behler, Ernst, Nietzsche in the Twentieth Century in The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, Magnus and Higgins (ed), Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996, pp. 281-319
  10. ^ The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche alone contains five essays (excluding the one that gives overviews of each of his works and forms one of the main references for this section) that discusses this book at length:
    • Pippin, Robert, Nietzsche's Alleged Farewell: The Premodern, Modern and Postmodern Nietzsche
    • Salaquarda, Jörg, Nietzsche and the Judeo-Christian Tradition
    • Schrift, Alan D., Nietzsche's French Legacy
    • Solomon, Robert C., Nietzsche's 'Ad Hominem': Perspectivism, Personality and 'Ressentiment' Revisited
    • Strong, Tracy B., Nietzsche's Political Misappropriation
  11. ^ The second inquiry offers the psychology of the conscience — which is not, as people may believe, 'the voice of God in man': it is the instinct of cruelty that turns back after it can no longer discharge itself externally. Cruelty is here exposed for the first time as one of the most ancient and basic substrata of culture that simply cannot be imagined away.(Nietzsche, Friedrich, Ecce Homo, trans. Walter Kaufmann, p. 312)
  12. ^ The final sentence of the book puts it like this: "For man would rather will even nothingness than 'not will.'" (Kaufmann's trans.)
  13. ^ .Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari compiled a complete collection of these notebooks, totalling 5000 pages (compared with the 3500 pages of the Großoktavausgabe edition of Nietzsche's complete works which includes The Will to Power)
    Further information: The Will to Power#The Will to Power manuscript, , and The Will to Power
  14. ^ Jung Timeline, [2]
  15. ^ Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud


  • Wicks, Robert, "Friedrich Nietzsche", in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2004 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), [3].
  • Magnus and Higgins, "Nietzsche's works and their themes", in The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, Magnus and Higgins (ed.), University of Cambrudge Press, 1996, pp.21-58

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Sponsored Links

Ainsi Parlait Zarathoustra

By Friedrich Nietzsche
Litterature , Romans

Ainsi Parlait Zarathoustra
Details Report
Share this Book!

Beyond Good And Evil

Birth Of Tragedy

Genealogy Of Morals,

Genealogy Of Morals, Third Essay

On The Genealogy Of Morals

Thoughts Out Of Season 1

Thus Spake Zarathustra

Thus Spake Zarathustra

Use And Abuse Of History For Life

message of the week Message of The Week

Bookyards Youtube channel is now active. The link to our Youtube page is here.

If you have a website or blog and you want to link to Bookyards. You can use/get our embed code at the following link.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Bookyards Facebook, Tumblr, Blog, and Twitter sites are now active. For updates, free ebooks, and for commentary on current news and events on all things books, please go to the following:

Bookyards at Facebook

Bookyards at Twitter

Bookyards at Pinterest

Bookyards atTumblr

Bookyards blog

message of the daySponsored Links