Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a nineteenth-century German philosopher and classical philologist, whose works are the main inspiration of Xenosaga's philosophy and a lot of his ideas are taken in game and used to build the plot. His name directly links him with Wilhelm, even though Wilhelm would be someone not having reached his level.
He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, using a distinctive German language style and displaying a fondness for aphorism. Nietzsche's influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism and postmodernism. His style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth raise considerable problems of interpretation, generating an extensive secondary literature in both continental and analytic philosophy. Some of his major ideas include interpreting tragedy as an affirmation of life, an eternal recurrence (which numerous commentators have re-interpreted), a rejection of Platonism, and a repudiation of both Christianity (especially 19th-century) and Egalitarianism (especially in the form of Democracy and Socialism).
Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. At the age of 24 he became the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel (the youngest individual ever to have held this position), but resigned in 1879 due to health problems, which would plague him for most of his life. In 1889 he exhibited symptoms of serious mental illness, living out his remaining years in the care of his mother and sister until his death in 1900.
Born on October 15, 1844, Nietzsche spent his early childhood in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, in the Prussian Province of Saxony. His parents named him after King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who turned 49 on the day of Nietzsche's birth. (Nietzsche later dropped his given middle name, "Wilhelm".) Nietzsche's parents, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813–1849), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska Oehler (1826–1897), married in 1843, the year before their son's birth, and had two other children: a daughter, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, born in 1846, and a second son, Ludwig Joseph, born in 1848. Nietzsche's father died from a brain ailment in 1849; his younger brother died in 1850. The family then 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.
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. This may have happened in part due to his reading about this time of David Strauss' Life of Jesus, which had a profound effect on the young Nietzsche, though in an essay entitled Fate and History written in 1862, Nietzsche had already argued that historical research had discredited the central teachings of Christianity. 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.
In 1865 Nietzsche thoroughly studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer. In 1866 he read Friedrich Albert Lange's History of Materialism. His encounter with Schopenhauer's ideas had an influence on him until the end of his sentient life. Lange's descriptions of Kant's anti-materialistic philosophy, the rise of European Materialism, Europe's increased concern with science, Darwin's theory, and the general rebellion against tradition and authority greatly intrigued Nietzsche. The cultural environment encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond philology and to continue his study of philosophy.
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)Edit
Due in part to Ritschl's support, Nietzsche received a generous offer to become professor of classical philology at the University of Basel before having completed his doctorate or certificate for teaching. This opportunity came at a time when Nietzsche was in fact considering giving up philology for science. Before moving to Basel, Nietzsche renounced his Prussian citizenship: for the rest of his life he remained officially stateless.
Nevertheless, Nietzsche served in the Prussian forces 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. Walter Kaufmann speculates that he might also have contracted syphilis along with his other infections at this time, and some biographers speculate that syphilis caused his eventual madness, though there is some dispute on this matter. 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. Afrikan Spir, a little-known Russian philosopher and author of Thought and Reality (1873), and his colleague 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 colleagues in the field of classical philology, 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.
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 in 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 reaction against the pessimistic philosophy of Wagner and Schopenhauer became evident. Nietzsche's friendship with Deussen and Rohde cooled as well. 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 impractical.)
Independent philosopher (1879–1888) Edit
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. In 1881, when France occupied Tunisia, he planned to travel to Tunis in order to gain a view of Europe from the outside, but later abandoned that idea (probably for health reasons).
Nietzsche 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 1882 Nietzsche published the first part of The Gay Science. That year he also met Lou Andreas 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 chaperone. However, Nietzsche regarded Salomé less as an equal partner than as a gifted student. Salomé reports that he asked her to marry him and that she refused, though the reliability of her reports of events has come into question. Nietzsche's relationship with Rée and Salomé broke up in the winter of 1882/1883, partially due to intrigues conducted by Nietzsche's 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 he wrote the first part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra in only ten days.
After severing his philosophical ties with Schopenhauer and his social ties with Wagner, Nietzsche had few remaining friends. Now, with the new style of Zarathustra, his work became even more alienating and the market received it only to the degree required by politeness. Nietzsche recognized this and maintained his solitude, even though he often complained about it. His books remained largely unsold. In 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.
In 1883 he tried and failed to obtain a lecturing post at the University of Leipzig. It was made clear to him that, in view of the attitude towards Christianity and the concept of God expressed in Zarathustra, he had become in effect unemployable at any German University. The subsequent "feelings of revenge and resentment", so contrary to his nature, embittered him. "And hence my rage since I have grasped in the broadest possible sense what wretched means (the depreciation of my good name, my character and my aims) suffice to take from me the trust of, and therewith the possibility of obtaining, pupils."
In 1886 Nietzsche broke with his editor, Ernst Schmeitzner, disgusted over his anti-Semitic opinions. Nietzsche saw his writings as "completely buried and unexhumeable in this anti-Semitic dump" of Schmeitzner — associating the editor with a movement that should be "utterly rejected with cold contempt by every sensible mind". He then printed Beyond Good and Evil at his own expense, and issued in 1886-87 second editions of his earlier works (The Birth of Tragedy, Human, All Too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science), accompanied by new prefaces in which he re-read his earlier works. Hereafter, he saw his work as 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 Nueva Germania, 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 they would meet again only after his collapse. He continued to have frequent and painful attacks of illness, which made prolonged work impossible. In 1887 Nietzsche wrote the polemic On the Genealogy of Morality.
During this year Nietzsche encountered Fyodor Dostoyevsky's work, which according to some, he quickly appropriated. He also exchanged letters with Hippolyte Taine, and then also with Georg Brandes. 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 come to Copenhagen and read Kierkegaard with him. However, before fulfilling this undertaking, he slipped too far into sickness and madness. In the beginning of 1888, in Copenhagen, Brandes delivered one of the first lectures on Nietzsche's philosophy.
Although Nietzsche had in 1886 announced (at the end of On The Genealogy of Morality) a new work with the title The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values, he eventually seems to have abandoned this particular approach and instead used some of the draft passages to compose Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist (both written in 1888).
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, especially to the recent polemic, The Case of Wagner. On his 44th birthday, after completing 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, section 1, translated by 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 that composed his collection Dionysian Dithyrambs.
Mental breakdown and death (1889–1900)Edit
On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche first exhibited apparent signs of mental illness. Two policemen approached him after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened remains unknown, but 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.
In the following few days, Nietzsche sent short writings — known as the Wahnbriefe ("Madness Letters") — to a number of friends (including Cosima Wagner and Jacob Burckhardt). To his former colleague Burckhardt, Nietzsche wrote: "I have had Caiaphas 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." Additionally, he commanded the German emperor to go to Rome in order to be shot and summoned the European powers to take military action against Germany.
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 traveled 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 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 The Antichrist and Ecce Homo due to their more radical content. Nietzsche's reception and recognition enjoyed their first surge.
In 1893 Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth returned from Nueva Germania (Paraguay) following 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.
Commentators have frequently diagnosed a syphilitic infection as the cause of the illness. While most commentators regard Nietzsche's breakdown as unrelated to his philosophy, some, including Georges Bataille and René Girard, argue that his breakdown may have been caused by a psychological maladjustment brought on by his philosophy. At least one study has suggested that brain cancer (rather than syphilis) led to his breakdown and killed him; others have classified Nietzsche's "madness" as frontotemporal dementia.
In 1898 and 1899 Nietzsche suffered from at least two strokes which partially paralyzed him and left him unable to speak or walk. After contracting pneumonia in mid-August 1900 he had another stroke during the night of August 24 / August 25, and died about noon on August 25. Elisabeth had him 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!" Nietzsche had written in Ecce Homo (then unpublished) of his fear that one day his name would be regarded as "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 consensus holds that it does not reflect Nietzsche's intent. Indeed, Mazzino Montinari, the editor of Nietzsche's Nachlass, called it a forgery in The 'Will to Power' does not exist. Among other forgeries and suppressions of passages, Elisabeth removed aphorism 35 of The Antichrist, where Nietzsche rewrote a passage of the Bible..
Notes on citizenship, nationality and ethnicityEdit
Nietzsche had Saxon ancestry, Prussian birth, a Polish self-image, Swiss residence, official statelessness and a supra-national outlook. He never held citizenship in the German Empire founded in 1871. At the time of his appointment to Basel, Nietzsche applied for the annulment of his Prussian citizenship. The official response came in a document dated 17 April 1869. Thus he became officially stateless. As one researcher remarked, "from this day onwards Nietzsche, in terms of international law, was no longer a Prussian and no longer a German, but ... stateless, or in the terminology used in Switzerland at that time, "homeland-less", which was particularly appropriate for Nietzsche; and he remained so... He became and remained a European [italics in original]. References to Nietzsche as "German" or as "a German" may depend upon political, linguistic, ethnic or cultural contexts. Although he emerged from the Central European cultural tradition, wrote in the German language, and moves somewhere between Schopenhauer and Heidegger, much of Nietzsche's work does not fit readily into mainstream German philosophical currents.
Nietzsche’s works did not reach a wide readership during his active writing career. However, in 1888 Georg Brandes (an influential Danish critic) aroused considerable excitement about Nietzsche through a series of lectures he gave at the university of Copenhagen. Then in 1894 Lou Andreas-Salomé published her book, Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken [Friedrich Nietzsche in His Works]. Andreas-Salomé had known Nietzsche intimately in the early 1880s, and she returned to the subject of Nietzsche, years later, in her work Lebensrückblick – Grundriß einiger Lebenserinnerungen [Looking Back: Memoirs] (written in 1932), which covered her intellectual relationships with Nietzsche, Rilke, and Freud. Nietzsche himself had acquired the publication-rights for his earlier works in 1886 and began a process of editing and re-formulation that placed the body of his work in a more coherent perspective.
In the years after his death in 1900 Nietzsche's works became widely read, partly thanks to translations into other languages, including English. In the United States, extensive translations of Nietzsche's works appeared, translated by Walter Kaufmann, who also wrote influential interpretations of Nietzsche’s philosophy (such as Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (1950), which he revised and enlarged in numerous later editions). Many other major 20th century philosophers wrote commentaries on Nietzsche’s philosophy, including Martin Heidegger, who produced a four-volume study. An even greater number of major 20th century philosophers (particularly in the tradition of continental philosophy) cited him as a profound influence on their own philosophy — including Jean-Paul Sartre, Foucault and Derrida.
Nietzsche’s works remain controversial, and no real consensus exists on their meaning. The interpretation of his works seems shakier than the interpretative literature on most other major philosophers. One can readily identify some key concepts, but the meaning of each, let alone the relative significance of each, remains contested.
Part of the difficulty in interpreting Nietzsche arises from the uniquely provocative style of his philosophical writing. Nietzsche called himself a philosopher of the hammer, and he frequently delivered trenchant critiques of Christianity and of great philosophers like Plato and Kant in the most offensive and blasphemous terms possible given the context of 19th century Europe. His arguments often employed ad-hominem attacks and emotional appeals, and, particularly in his aphoristic works, he often jumps from one grand assertion to another (leaping from mountain-top to mountain-top, as he describes it), with little sustained logical support or elucidation of the connection between his ideas. All these aspects of Nietzsche's style run counter to traditional values in philosophical writing, and they alienated Nietzsche from the academic establishment both in his time and, to a lesser extent, today (when some analytic philosophers still tend to dismiss Nietzsche as inconsistent and speculative, producing something other than "real" philosophy).
A few of the themes that Nietzsche scholars have devoted the most attention to include Nietzsche's views on morality, his view that "God is dead" (and along with it any sort of God's-eye view on the world thus leading to perspectivism), his notions of the will to power and Übermensch, and his suggestion of eternal return.
In Daybreak Nietzsche begins his "Campaign against Morality". He calls himself an "immoralist" and harshly criticizes the prominent moral schemes of his day: Christianity, Kantianism, and Utilitarianism. However, Nietzsche did not want to destroy morality, but rather to initiate a re-evaluation of the values of the Judeo-Christian world. He indicates his desire to bring about a new, more naturalistic source of value in the vital impulses of life itself.
In both these projects, Nietzsche's genealogical account of the development of master-slave morality occupies a central place. Nietzsche presents master-morality as the original system of morality—perhaps best associated with Homeric Greece. Here, value arises as a contrast between good and bad: wealth, strength, health, and power (the sort of traits found in an Homeric hero) count as good; while bad is associated with the poor, weak, sick, and pathetic (the sort of traits conventionally associated with slaves in ancient times).
Slave-morality, in contrast, can only come about as a reaction to master-morality. Nietzsche associates slave-morality with the Jewish and Christian traditions. Here, value emerges from the contrast between good and evil: good associated with charity, piety, restraint, meekness, and subservience; evil seen in the cruel, selfish, wealthy, indulgent, and aggressive. Nietzsche sees slave-morality as an ingenious ploy among the slaves and the weak (such as the Jews and Christians dominated by Rome) to overturn the values of their masters and to gain power for themselves: justifying their situation, and at the same time fixing themselves in a slave-like life.
Nietzsche sees the slave-morality as a social illness that has overtaken Europe — a derivative and resentful value which can only work by condemning others as evil. In Nietzsche's eyes, Christianity exists in a hypocritical state wherein people preach love and kindness but find their joy in condemning and punishing others for pursuing that which morality does not allow them to act upon publicly. Nietzsche calls for the strong in the world to break their self-imposed chains and assert their own power, health, and vitality upon the world.
The death of God, nihilism, and perspectivismEdit
The statement "God is dead," occurring in several of Nietzsche's works (primarily, and perhaps most notably, in The Gay Science), has probably become the single most-quoted line in all of Nietzsche's texts. On the basis of his airing the idea, most commentators regard Nietzsche as an atheist. In Nietzsche's view, recent developments in modern science and the increasing secularization of European society had effectively "killed" the Christian God, who had served as the basis for meaning and value in the West for the previous thousand years.
Nietzsche claimed the "death of God" would eventually lead to the loss of any universal perspective on things, and along with it any coherent sense of objective truth. Instead we would retain only our own multiple, diverse, and fluid perspectives. This view has acquired the name "perspectivism".
Alternatively, the death of God may lead beyond bare perspectivism to outright nihilism, the belief that nothing has any importance and that life lacks purpose. As Heidegger put the problem, "If God as the suprasensory ground and goal of all reality is dead, if the suprasensory world of the Ideas has suffered the loss of its obligatory and above it its vitalizing and upbuilding power, then nothing more remains to which man can cling and by which he can orient himself." The secular-minded people of Nietzsche's day did not recognize this crisis, and both to clarify and to overcome it Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra and introduced the concept of a value-creating Übermensch. According to Lampert, "the death of God must be followed by a long twilight of piety and nihilism (II. 19; III. 8). […] Zarathustra's gift of the superman is given to a mankind not aware of the problem to which the superman is the solution."
Der Wille Zur Macht/The Will to PowerEdit
Probably the most important aspect of Nietzsche's picture of human psychology arises in the "will to power", which Nietzsche at points claims as the motivation that underlies all human behavior.
Some commentators understand Nietzsche's notion of the "will to power" as a response to Schopenhauer's "will to live". Writing a generation before Nietzsche, Schopenhauer had regarded the entire universe and everything in it as driven by a primordial will to live, thus resulting in all creatures' desire to avoid death and to procreate. Nietzsche, however, challenges Schopenhauer's account and suggests that people and animals really want power; living in itself appears only as a subsidiary aim — something necessary to promote one's power. In defense of his view, Nietzsche appeals to many instances in which people and animals willingly risk their lives in order to promote their power, most notably in instances like competitive fighting and warfare. Once again, Nietzsche seems to take part of his inspiration from the ancient Homeric Greek texts he knew well: Greek heroes and aristocrats or "masters" did not desire mere living (they often died quite young and risked their lives in battle) but wanted power, glory, and greatness.
In addition to Schopenhauer's psychological views, Nietzsche contrasts his notion of the will to power with many of the other most popular psychological views of his day: utilitarianism, which claims all people want fundamentally to be happy (Nietzsche responds that only the Englishman wants that), and Platonism, which claims that people ultimately want to achieve unity with the good or, in Christian neo-Platonism, with God. In each case, Nietzsche argues that the "will to power" provides a more useful and general explanation of human behavior.
Nietzsche also introduced as an important concept: the Übermensch (variously translated (often without regard to the gender-neutrality of the German word Mensch) as superman, superhuman, or overman). Nietzsche contrasts the Übermensch with the Last Man, who appears as an exaggerated version of the degraded "goal" that unified the liberal democratic, bourgeois, socialist, and communist social and political programs. The plural Übermenschen never appears in Nietzsche's writings, which sharply contrasts with Nazi interpretations of his corpus. Michael Tanner suggests Übermensch means the man who lives above and beyond pleasure and suffering, treating both circumstances equally "because joy and suffering are ... inseparable."
Another of Nietzsche's ideas has become frequently cited, his notion of "eternal recurrence" or eternal return. Scholars disagree about the proper interpretation of this idea. In one view, Nietzsche proposes a thought-experiment to determine who actually leads their life in a strong and vital way: we need to imagine that this life which we lead does not simply end at our deaths, but will repeat over and over again for all eternity, each moment recurring in exactly the same way, without end. Those who recoil from this idea with horror have not yet learned to love and value life in the way that Nietzsche would admire; those who would embrace the idea cheerfully, ipso facto, lead the right sort of life.
However, based on some of the unpublished notes, many scholars think Nietzsche meant the suggestion as something more than a thought-experiment, and that he might have taken it quite seriously as a factual premise. This would, of course, only redouble the importance of living life in such a way that one could wish its eternal repetition.
Another interpretation, favored by many later Existential and Post-modern thinkers, argues that Nietzsche did not intend his readers to take eternal recurrence as a factual premise of physical reality but rather as a perpetually recurring condition of human existence. One faces, in every moment, infinite possibilities or modes of interpretation. A person may will a certain mode of being, but in each moment that will is exhausted and must be re-willed in the next. This would imply an eternal recurrence of the same state without necessitating a physical repetition of material beings in identical configurations.
The idea occurs in a parable in Sec. 341 of The Gay Science, and also in the chapter "Of the Vision and the Riddle" in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, among other places.
The Birth of TragedyEdit
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.
Nietzsche found in Greek tragedy an art form that transcended the pessimism and Nihilism one might find in a fundamentally meaningless world. The Greek spectators, by looking into the abyss of human suffering and affirming it, passionately and joyously, affirmed the meaning in their own existence. They knew themselves to be infinitely more than the petty individuals of the apparent world, finding self-affirmation, not in another life, not in a world to come, but in the terror and ecstasy alike celebrated in the performance of tragedies.
In contrast to the typical Enlightenment view of ancient Greek culture as noble, simple, elegant and grandiose, Nietzsche characterizes it as a conflict between two distinct tendencies: the Apollonian and Dionysian. The Apollonian in culture he sees as Arthur Schopenhauer's concept of 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. Nietzsche claims sculpture as the art-form that captures this impulse most fully: sculpture has clear and definite boundaries and seeks to represent reality, in its perfectly stable form. The Dionysian impulse, by contrast, features immersion in the wholeness of nature, intoxication, non-rationality, and inhumanity; rather than the detached, rational representation of the Apollonian that invites similarly detached observation, the Dionysian impulse involves a frenzied participation in life itself. Nietzsche sees the Dionysian impulse as best realized in music, which tends not to have clear boundaries, is unstable and non-representational, and, in Nietzsche's view, invites participation among its listeners through dance. Nietzsche argues that the Apollonian has dominated Western thought since Socrates, but he sees German Romanticism (especially Richard Wagner) as a possible re-introduction of the Dionysian, which might offer the salvation of European culture. The book shows the influence of Schopenhauer.
Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff criticised The Birth of Tragedy heavily. By 1886 Nietzsche himself had reservations about the work, referring to it as "an impossible book . . . badly written, ponderous, embarrassing, image-mad and image-confused, sentimental, saccharine to the point of effeminacy, uneven in tempo, [and] without the will to logical cleanliness."
On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral SenseEdit
Nietzsche wrote his unpublished "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" in 1873; and so it sits comfortably with The Birth of Tragedy as an important expression of his youthful romanticism, a romanticism that he would reject but which would also condition his views on "truth" and prepare him for so many of his mature projects: "the problem of science itself, science considered for the first time as problematic, as questionable... to look at science in the perspective of the artist, but at art in that of life."
As this work represents one of his first engagements with epistemology and the philosophy of language, Nietzsche often rewrites Kant’s description of perception and experience to emphasize the aesthetic over the conceptual: nodding at the categories of understanding, in particular time and space, Nietzsche notes that "the artistic process of metaphor formation with which every sensation begins in us already presupposes these forms and thus occurs within them".
Nietzsche expresses a nuanced but immature argument, and does not seem so much interested in refuting Kant — or even seriously arguing with Kant — on Kant’s own terms. As he later admitted, his early writings struggled to use Kantian, or even Hegelian, modes of expression in a spirit quite against Kant and Hegel: "I tried laboriously to express by means of Schopenhauerian and Kantian formulas strange and new variations which were basically at odds with Kant's and Schopenhauer's spirit and taste!"
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. A fifth essay, published posthumously, had the title "We Philologists", and gave as a "Task for philology: disappearance".
- David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer, 1873 (David Strauss: der Bekenner und der Schriftsteller) 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.
- On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, 1874 (Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben) 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. It also introduced an attack against the basic precepts of classic humanism. In this essay, Nietzsche attacks both the historicism of man (the idea that man is created through history) and the idea that one can possibly have an objective concept of man, since a major aspect of man resides in his subjectivity. Nietzsche expands the idea that the essence of man dwells not inside of him, but rather above him, in the following essay, "Schopenhauer als Erzieher" ("Schopenhauer as Educator"). Glenn Most argues for the possible translation of the essay as "The Use and Abuse of History Departments for Life", as Nietzsche used the term Historie and not Geschichte. Furthermore, he alleges that this title may have its origins via Jacob Burckhardt, who would have referred to Leon Battista Alberti's treatise, De commodis litterarum atque incommodis (1428 — "On the Advantages and Disadvantages of Literary Studies"). Glenn Most argues that the untimelessness of Nietzsche here resides in calling to a return, beyond historicism, to Humboldt's humanism, and, maybe even beyond, to the first humanism of the Renaissance.
- Schopenhauer as Educator, 1874 (Schopenhauer als Erzieher) 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.
- 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 HumanEdit
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, ranging in length from a single line to a few 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.
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. In Daybreak Nietzsche devoted a lengthy passage to his criticism of Christian biblical exegesis, including its arbitrary interpretation of objects and images in the Old Testament as prefigurements of Christ's crucifixion. The clear, calm and intimate style of this aphoristic book 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 ScienceEdit
The Gay (Merry) 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 (except possibly, "Human, All too Human, A Book for the Free Spirit," a book on "coming to grips with chaos and emptiness"). It has central themes of a joyful affirmation of life and of an immersion in a light-hearted scholarship that takes aesthetic pleasure in life (the title refers to the Provençal phrase for the craft of poetry). As an example, Nietzsche offers the doctrine of eternal recurrence, which ranks one's life as the sole consideration when evaluating how one should act. This contrasts with the Christian view of an afterlife which emphasizes later reward at the cost of one's immediate happiness. The Gay Science has however perhaps become best known for expressing the formula "God is dead", which may relate to Nietzsche's alleged atheism and to his naturalistic and aesthetic alternative to traditional religion.
Also Sprach Zarathustra/Thus Spoke Zarathustra Edit
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. 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 also features frequent 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 traditional prophet of 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's (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). Thus Spoke Zarathustra remained 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. It offers formulations of eternal recurrence, and Nietzsche for the first time speaks of the Übermensch: themes that would dominate his books from this point onwards.
Jenseits von Gut und Bose/Beyond Good and EvilEdit
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. In it he exposes the deficiencies of those usually called "philosophers" and identifies the qualities of the "new philosophers": imagination, self-assertion, danger, originality, and the "creation of values". He then contests some of the key presuppositions of the old philosophic tradition like "self-consciousness," "knowledge," "truth," and "free will", explaining them as inventions of the moral consciousness. In their place he offers the will to power as an explanation of all behavior; this ties into his "perspective of life", which he regards as "beyond good and evil", denying a universal morality for all human beings. Religion and 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.
On the Genealogy of MoralityEdit
The three "treatises" that make up On the Genealogy of Morality (Zur Genealogie der Moral, 1887) represent the last of Nietzsche's works before his flurry of activity in 1888. Each treatise deals with the evolution of moral concepts and institutions, showing that the origins of contemporary morality reside in non-moral relationships in which power struggles and cruelty play an important part. The work appears more unproblematically philosophical in style and tone than many of Nietzsche's works, and has become a popular topic for scholarly analysis.
In the First Treatise Nietzsche traces Christian morality back to what he calls the "slave revolt in morality", which he attributes to the ressentiment experienced by the weak members of society vis-à-vis their strong, aristocratic masters. The morality of the nobles operates with the value-distinction "good/bad"; they view themselves as evidently good and their inferiors as beneath contempt. The slaves find their subjection to the strong intolerable and thus set up an "imaginary revenge" by labelling the strong as evil and themselves as good, thereby instituting the morality of Christianity, which says that the meek shall inherit the earth.
In the Second Treatise Nietzsche sketches a pre-moral society (what he calls a "morality of custom") in which the right to inflict harm on others emerges from man's capacity, as an animal capable of memory, to make promises. The infliction of harm on the transgressor can compensate for the breaking of promises. In this way, according to Nietzsche, the institution of punishment comes about, free from any moral purpose or justification. "Bad conscience", too, originates in a pre-moral situation. Here man turns his violent animal nature on himself once he loses the freedom to roam and to pillage.
In the Third Treatise Nietzsche considers the many ways in which the "ascetic ideal" (the paradigm of Christian morality) has manifested itself, ever taking on new forms and perpetuating itself by "underground" means. Nietzsche suggests that the "will to power" drives the need to hold on to the ascetic ideal in one form or another, as a surrogate for taking revenge on a hostile world.
The Case of WagnerEdit
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.
Twilight of the IdolsEdit
The title of this highly polemical 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 (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 nobody can estimate the value of life and that any judgment concerning it only reveals the judging person's life-denying or life-affirming tendencies. He attempts to portray philosophers from Socrates onwards as (in his own term) "decadents" who employ dialectics as a tool for self-preservation while 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.
In one of his best-known and most contentious works, The Anti-christ, 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 expressed 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 to 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.
Though Ecce Homo, How One Becomes What One Is (Ecce Homo, Wie man wird, was man ist, October to 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: eternal recurrence and the transvaluation of all values.
Nietzsche contra WagnerEdit
A selection of passages concerning Wagner and art in general which Nietzsche extracted from his works from the period 1878 to 1887 appears in Nietzsche Contra Wagner, Out of the Files of a Psychologist (Nietzsche contra Wagner, Aktenstücke eines Psychologen, December 1888). The passages serve as a background for the comparison Nietzsche would make between his own aesthetics and those of Wagner and his description of how Wagner became corrupted through Christianity, Aryanism, and anti-semitism.
The unpublished notebooksEdit
Nietzsche's Nachlass contains an immense amount of material and discusses at great length the issues around which Nietzsche's philosophy revolves. 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 antisemitism.
In the 1960s Mazzino Montinari and Giorgio Colli published the first, integral notebooks, with the fragments arranged in a chronological order (whereas Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche and Peter Gast had arranged them thematically, added titles, cut parts, and included copied fragments of other authors such as Charles Féré without quotation marks, as if Nietzsche himself had written them). This reference edition has subsequently appeared in translation in various languages. Martin Heidegger expressed in his courses on Nietzsche the opinion that this unpublished work of Nietzsche is fundamental to the understanding of Nietzsche's thought.
As a philologist, Nietzsche had a thorough knowledge of Greek philosophy. He read Kant, Mill and Schopenhauer, who became his main opponents in his philosophy, and later Spinoza, whom he saw as his "precursor" in some respects but as a personification of the "ascetic ideal" in others. Nietzsche expressed admiration for 17th century French moralists such as La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyère and Vauvenargues, as well as for Stendhal.
The organicism of Paul Bourget influenced Nietzsche, as did that of Rudolf Virchow and Alfred Espinas. Nietzsche early learned of Darwinism through Friedrich Lange. Notably, he also read some of the posthumous works of Charles Baudelaire, Tolstoy's My Religion, Ernest Renan's Life of Jesus and Dostoevsky's The Possessed. Nietzsche called Dostoevsky "the only psychologist from whom I have anything to learn." Comments in several passages suggest that he responded strongly and favorably to the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. While Nietzsche never mentions Max Stirner, similarities in their ideas have prompted a minority of interpreters to suggest mutual influence.
Nietzsche's influence and receptionEdit
Philosophers and popular culture have responded to Nietzsche's work in complex and sometimes controversial ways. Many Germans eventually discovered his appeals for greater individualism and personality development in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but responded to those appeals divergently. He had some following among left-wing Germans in the 1890s; in 1894–95 German conservatives wanted to ban his work as subversive. During the late 19th century popular thought associated Nietzsche's ideas with anarchist movements, and they appear to have had influence on anarchism, particularly in France and the United States.
By the First World War, however, he had acquired a reputation as an inspiration for right-wing German militarism. German soldiers even received copies of Thus Spoke Zarathustra as gifts during World War I. 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".
Political dictators of the twentieth century, including Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini read Nietzsche. The Nazis made use of Nietzsche's philosophy, but did so selectively; this association with National Socialism caused Nietzsche's reputation to suffer following the Second World War.
Nevertheless, Nietzschean ideas exercised a major influence on several prominent European philosophers, including Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre. In the Anglo-American tradition, the scholarship of Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale rehabilitated Nietzsche as a philosopher, and analytic philosophers such as Alexander Nehamas and Brian Leiter continue to study him today. A vocal minority of recent Nietzschean interpreters (Bruce Detwiler, Fredrick Appel, Domenico Losurdo, Abir Taha) have contested what they consider the popular but erroneous egalitarian misrepresentation of Nietzsche's "aristocratic radicalism".