Friedrich Nietzsche

Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche
Drawn by Hans Olde

German-Swiss philosopher and writer, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was one of the most influential of modern thinkers. The son of a Lutheran pastor, he studied at Bonn and Leipzig and at age 24 became professor of Classical philology at the University of Basel. He became close to the older Richard Wagner, in whose operas he saw the potential for the revival of Western civilization, but broke with Wagner angrily in 1876. His Birth of Tragedy (1872) contained major insights into ancient Greek drama; like Untimely Meditations (1873), it is dominated by a Romantic perspective also influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer.
(Courtesy of Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2003 at
Mental and physical problems forced him to leave his position in 1878, and he spent 10 years attempting to recover his health in various resorts while continuing to write prolifically. His works from Human, All Too Human (1878) to The Gay Science (1882) extol reason and science, experiment with literary genres, and express his emancipation from his earlier Romanticism. His mature writings, particularly Beyond Good and Evil (1886), A Genealogy of Morals (1887), and Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), were preoccupied with the origin and function of values in human life.
If, as he believed, life neither possesses nor lacks intrinsic value and yet is always being evaluated, then such evaluations can usefully be read as symptoms of the evaluator’s condition. He fulminated against Christianity.
His major breakdown in 1889 marked the virtual end of his productive life. He was revered by Adolf Hitler for his dislike of democracy and his heroic ideal of the Übermensch (Superman), though the Nazis perverted Nietzsche’s thought and ignored much in it that was hostile to their aims. His analyses of the root motives and values that underlie traditional Western religion, morality, and philosophy affected generations of theologians, philosophers, psychologists, poets, novelists, and playwrights.
(Courtesy of Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2003 at
His father died when the boy was only four years old. He was thereafter brought up in a house filled with women, which meant that he was outdoors, exploring his world constantly. By the age of 12, the local schools new they had a genius among them, and Nietzsche won a scholarship to Pforta, a renowned school in Germany. While there, he met several new friends whom he would revere for the rest of his life. He also received a thorough education in the classics, which would lay the foundation of his future studies. By the end of his schooling, Friedrich found that he could no longer accept Christianity. Following his boarding school days, he enrolled in Bonn in the mid 1860s.
After moving from Bonn, he followed a good friend to Leipzig and there acquired syphilis, a disease that would plague him for the rest of his days. But, he admits that this gave him the time away from people that he needed to complete his own work. He began being published in the field of philology, which garnished him national academic recognition. By the age of 24, he began a teaching career at the university without having graduated. Nietzsche became friends and an eventual enemy of Wagner, the musical genius. In fact, Nietzsche’s first book, The Birth of Tragedy, was highly influenced by Wagner’s own interpretations.
(Lenin Imports)
Nietzsche described how at the end of October 1865 he discovered Schopenhauer and turned to philosophy: “I lingered at that time, with painful experiences and disappointments, without any aid, and lonely, without principles, without hopes and without any pleasant memory.” Purely by coincidence, he says, in a second-hand bookshop he stumbled across Schopenhauer’s opus magnum. A daemon had whispered to him that he must purchase the book of this “dark genius”, who had heretofore been “completely unknown” to him.
Schopenhauer had gripped him immediately, had driven him to exercises of “grim self-contempt” and excesses of “self-torture” and “self-hate”: “I also tormented my body. Thus for fourteen days in succession I forced myself to go to bed as late as two o’clock a.m. and to get up again at six o’clock a.m.” He saw himself in danger of madness: “I was seized by a nervous excitedness, and who could tell to what degree of foolishness I had progressed”. These self-mortifications, the strict regimen of study, and Schopenhauer’s thoughts finally helped him to get himself out of this terrible situation. In the subsequent weeks and months he was “born to be a philologist”. It seems, however, that he was instead driven to philology by inner misery and circumstantial determinants. In fact, at this time Nietzsche was born to become — a passionate philosopher.
(Bernd A. Laska at LRS)
From 18th Century to 19th Century, two important events were happening: The Industrial Revolution and Romanticism. During the Industrial Revolution, the philosophies of the Enlightenment began to have dramatic effects which included a new generation of philosophers born who began to question the aftermath of the wars and revolution that had ended. In Nietzsche’s point of view, he began to see moral values beginning to fall into what is called the “nihilism.”
Friedrich Nietzsche worked endlessly in an attempt to find new meaning for human existence. He said that men must have a value system on which to base their beliefs and behaviors. He attacked the Jewish-Christian world in his book The Anti-Christ and A Genealogy of Morals. He wrote that it was man’s own job now to learn self-mastery, control, and to provide his own values, and if done properly, would bring great satisfaction and reveal creative endeavors never before seen. He believed that man should not condemn self-assertion or pervert his own bodily needs. He felt that a guilt-ridden conscious was worthless for man’s advancement.
(Lenin Imports)
He was one of the most remarkable philosophers of all time, irrespective or whether he happened to have written in the nineteenth century. In fact, he has more in common with pre-Socratic thinkers like Heraclitus, born two and a half thousand years ago on Ephesos in the Aegean. Did not Aristotle gloss his great work, On Nature, in order to inform us that seething beneath all agency is the reality of Fire … or pure energy? Yet another example of the fact that ancient theory and modern physics seem to run on parallel lines.
Nietzsche – to speak of his own life – came from a long line of Lutheran pastors, and there remains a decidedly Protestant cast to his thought. He specialized in classical philology, wrote his thesis on Theognis, an aristocratic radical, and found himself offered a professorship at the tender age of 24! Enoch Powell happened to be granted a similar academic posting, in Australia, at the same age. Nor need it surprise us that Powell was heavily influenced by Nietzsche, before a decisive turn back to Anglicanism a la T.S. Eliot.
Contrary to democratic license, he sees life as quintessentially divided into masters and slaves. Which group do you identify with, or, in the words of the Kentucky miners’ anthem from the nineteen-forties, ‘whose side are you on, boy, whose side are you on?’ To follow: he notates Will to Power, or desire to control energy within a form, as a relocation of teleology or future perfect.
(An examination of Friedrich Nietzsche’s thought at JONATAHANBOWDEN)
Nietzsche maintained that all human behavior is motivated by the will to power. In its positive sense, this will to power is not simply power over others, but the power over oneself that is necessary for creativity. Such power is manifested in the overman’s independence, creativity, and originality. Nietzsche believed that no ‘overmen’ had yet arisen, although he mentions several figures of history who might serve as models. He suggests Socrates, Jesus, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Goethe, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon.This concept of the overman has often been interpreted as one of a master-slave society and has been readily identified with totalitarian philosophies. There is no doubt that Adolf Hitler and Nazism, for instance, were strongly influenced by Nietzsche’s call for the rejection of traditional values and for the leadership of one bold and daring enough to have gone through a ‘life-affirmation’ of all influences culminating in the rejection of weak influences and a final affirmation of only positive, man-centred influences leading to a new and all-powerful ‘superman’.
Here are some concepts very prevalent today which are at least strongly influenced by Nietzsche (not that he ever expressed such things quite this simply!) Please notice how some of these Nietzschean concepts later became merged and enmeshed with Freudism and are now very prevalent in modern psychology! Also note the inherent selfishness in these concepts:
1. The goal of life should be to find yourself. True maturity means discovering oneself – not helping others!
2. The highest virtue is to be true to oneself.
3. People should not hate or be embarrassed about their bodies but need to learn how to accept and integrate their physical selves with their minds – the mind and body make up our entire selves.
4. When you fall ill, your body is trying to tell you something; just stop and listen to the wisdom of your own body.
5. Knowledge and strength are greater virtues than humility and submission. Humility and submission should be rejected. If people are weak and submit easily they deserve to be strongly dominated!
6. Sexuality is not the opposite of virtue, but a natural gift that needs to be developed and integrated into a healthy, rounded life. Sexuality is a virtue in its own right.
7. Many people suffer from impaired self-esteem; they need to work on being proud of themselves.
8. Overcoming feelings of guilt is an important step to mental health. Guilt feelings must be eradicated!
9. You can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself. First love yourself, and then you may love others.
10. Life is short; experience it as intensely as you can otherwise it is wasted. Reject the voice of caution!
11. People’s values are shaped by the cultures they live in; as society changes we need changed values. It is simply idiotic to attempt to live by the values of another age or society!
The irony in all this, of course, is that though Nietzsche claimed that his recommended path would lead to good mental health, he spent the last ten years of his life suffering from serious illness from which he never recovered! Does this not suggest that the man himself did not know and understand the path to good mental health?
Many regarded Nietzsche as having helped cause German militarism during two world wars. Nietzsche was popular among left-wing Germans in the 1890s. Many Germans read Thus Spoke Zarathustra and were influenced by Nietzsche’s appeal of unlimited individualism, the development of a personality and the need to cast off the “moral influences” from another age and society. The enormous popularity of Nietzsche led to the subversion debate in German politics in 1894/1895. Conservatives initially wanted to ban the work of Nietzsche. Nietzsche influenced the Social-democratic revisionists, anarchists, feminists and the left-wing German youth movement. But later, mainly during the 1930s, Nietzsche also became a darling of right wing politicians (this had taken much longer) and Nietzscheism came to be absolutely endemic in the ‘master race’ concept of the Nazis. Aspects of Nietzsche’s thought were embraced by the Nazis and the Italian Fascists, partly due to the encouragement of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche through her connections with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. It proved possible for the Nazi interpreters to assemble, albeit quite selectively, certain passages from Nietzsche’s writings which could be employed to justify war, aggression and domination for the sake of nationalistic and even racial self-glorification.
Nobody can deny that Nietzsche’s writings have been used as justification for attempting to rid the world of certain ethnic groups since they were seen as degenerate and/ or non-Superman material. Within Nietzsche’s theories, willing reliance on an ancient religion and a refusal to consider a man-centered ‘life-affirmation’ tended to denote a degenerate people and this was ‘meat and drink’ to those who would seek to eliminate certain ethnic groups from society. This happened in Nazi Germany on a truly horrendous scale (six million Jews before we even start considering other racial groups whose only misfortune was that they happened to be living in Europe during the late 30s and early 40s) and even more recently in the Balkans. This man was also probably one of the chief influences in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Nietzsche was widely-read in the universities of the 50s and 60s and the sexual revolution certainly developed from there. Neither can anybody deny that elements of this German’s philosophy have even filtered through into some of the more worrying aspects of modern psychology, i.e., those elements which encourage what we can only refer to as ‘the new self’. ‘The new self’ (in true Nietzschean style) places the individual right at the centre of the universe and insists that the individual has a perfect right to not only happiness and contentment, but even total self-aggrandizement, moreover modern psychology encourages the challenging of all previously accepted traditions and accepted standards of behaviour. Nietzsche has his apologists, those who claim that he was a great writer and a great intellect who should not be wholly associated with such things as the justification for war, or for gross immorality or gross cruelty.
(Robin A. Brace, 2006 at
A useful way to begin a description of Nietzsche’s thought is to ask how he defined the self. It was the predominant view in Western philosophy that human beings have a twofold nature–a nature composed of a mind and a body–and that there is a constant struggle between these two components, a struggle that ideally results in the dominance of the mind over the body. It is this dualistic view of human nature which Nietzsche combats throughout his philosophy; he calls this dualism “childish.” The mature view, according to him, consists in recognizing that mind and body are one, and that what is called the mind or the soul is nothing but one aspect of the basically physical nature of human beings. The mind, according to Nietzsche, is one of the many organs that the body uses to survive, and which is thus under the over-all control of the physical organism as a whole. In the chapter called “On the Despisers of the Body” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche wrote:
“Body am I, and soul”—thus speaks the child. And why should one not speak like children?
But the awakened and knowing say: body am I entirely, and nothing else; and soul is only a word for something about the body.
The body is a great reason, a plurality with one sense, a war and a peace, a herd and a shepherd.
An instrument of your body is also your little reason, my brother, which you call “spirit”–a little instrument and toy of your great reason.
Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, there stands a mighty ruler, an unknown sage—whose name is self. In your body he dwells; he is your body.
There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom. And who knows why your body needs precisely your best wisdom?

Friedrich Nietzsche AKA Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche:
Born: 15-Oct-1844
Birthplace: Röcken, Saxony, Germany
Died: 25-Aug-1900
Location of death: Weimar, Germany
Cause of death: Cancer – Brain
Remains: Buried, Röcken Kirchhof, Röcken, Germany
Gender: Male
Religion: Lutheran
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Matter of Dispute
Occupation: Philosopher
Nationality: Germany
Father: Karl Ludwig Nietzsche (b. 1813, d. 30-Jul-1849 brain cancer)
Mother: (d. 1897)
Sister: Therese Elizabeth Alexandra Nietzsche (b. 10-Jul-1846, d. 1935)
Brother: Joseph Nietzsche (b. 1848, d. 4-Jan-1850)

1844 – Born on the 15th of October.
1854 – He began to attend the Domgymnasium in Naumburg.
1864 – Nietzsche commenced studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn.
1865 – Nietzsche became acquainted with the work of Arthur Schopenhauer.
1866 – He read Friedrich Albert Lange’s Geschichte des Materialismus.
1867 – Nietzsche signed up for one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg.
1870-1871 – He served on the Prussian side during the Franco-Prussian War.
1872 – Nietzsche published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music.
1873-1876 – 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.
1882 – Nietzsche published the first part of The Gay Science.
1885 – He printed only 40 copies of the fourth part of Zarathustra, and distributed only a fraction of these among close friends, including Helene von Druskowitz.
1886 – Nietzsche broke with his editor, Ernst Schmeitzner, disgusted over his anti-Semitic opinions.
1887 – Nietzsche quickly wrote the polemic On the Genealogy of Morality.
1889 – On the 3rd of January, Nietzsche exhibited signs of a serious mental illness.
1900 – On the 25th of August, Nietzsche died after contracting pneumonia.


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