|Another of my Favs. I included his biographie and I 'd like to know if there's someone else who likes his philosophy.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a German philosopher, whose critiques of contemporary culture, religion, and philosophy centered around a basic question regarding the foundation of values and morality. Beyond the unique themes dealt with in his works, Nietzsche's powerful style and subtle approach are distinguishing features of his writings. Although largely overlooked during his short working life, which ended with a mental collapse at the age of 44, and frequently misunderstood and misrepresented thereafter, Nietzsche received recognition during the second half of the 20th century as a highly significant figure in modern philosophy. His influence was particularly noted by many existentialist and postmodern philosophers.
* 1 Life
o 1.1 Youth (1844–1869)
o 1.2 Professor at Basel (1869–1879)
o 1.3 Free philosopher (1879–1889)
o 1.4 Mental breakdown (1889–1900)
* 2 Key concepts
o 2.1 Nihilism and the death of God
o 2.2 Amor fati and the eternal recurrence
o 2.3 Overman
o 2.4 Master morality and slave morality
o 2.5 Christianity as an institution and Jesus
o 2.6 The will to power
* 3 Style
* 4 Place in contemporary ethical theory
* 5 Political views
* 6 Gender views
* 7 Works
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 External links
Friedrich Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844, in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, within what was then the Prussian province of Saxony. His name comes from King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, on whose 49th birthday Nietzsche was born. Nietzsche's parents were Carl Ludwig (1813-1849), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska (1826-1897). His sister, Elisabeth, was born in 1846, followed by his brother Ludwig Joseph in 1848. After the death of their father in 1849 and the young brother in 1850, the family moved to Naumburg, where they lived with Franziska's mother and Carl Ludwig's two unmarried sisters, and under the guardianship of a local magistrate, Bernhard Dächsel.
After the death of Franziska's mother in 1856, the family was able to afford their own house. During this time, the young Nietzsche attended a boys' school, where he felt isolated, 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 a Catholic preparatory school, but after demonstrating particular talents in music and language, he was admitted to the internationally recognized Schulpforta, where he continued his studies from 1858 to 1864. Here he became friends with Paul Deussen and Carl von Gersdorff. His school work was very good, and he found time to work on poems and compositions. At Schulpforta, Nietzsche received an important introduction to literature, particularly in regard to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and also first experienced a distance from his family life in a small-town Christian environment.
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1864.
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1864.
After graduation, in 1864, Nietzsche commenced his studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn. For a short time, with Deussen, he was a member of the brotherhood Frankonia, which he found uncomfortable. After one semester and to the anger of his mother, he stopped his studies in theology, and became concentrated upon philology, which he studied with Professor Friedrich 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.
In 1865, Nietzsche became acquainted with the work of Arthur Schopenhauer, and in 1866 with Friedrich Albert Lange's History of Materialism. Both of these encounters were stimulating, encouraging him to no longer limit himself to philology. Thus, his studies continued unaffected. In 1867, Nietzsche committed to one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. But after a bad riding accident in March 1868, he continued his philological studies while recovering and unfit for service. Later that year, Nietzsche completed his last year of studies, and had his first meeting with Richard Wagner.
Professor at Basel (1869–1879)
Friedrich Nietzsche in Basel, ca. 1875.
Friedrich Nietzsche in Basel, ca. 1875.
Based on Ritschl's support, Nietzsche received the extraordinary offer to become professor of classical philology at the University of Basel before having completed his doctorate degree or certificate for teaching. Among his philological work there, he discovered that the ancient poetic meter related only to the length of syllables, different than the modern, accentuating meter.
In accordance with his own wish, after moving to Basel, Nietzsche renounced his Prussian citizenship, and was for the rest of his life, officially stateless. Nevertheless, he served on the Prussian side during the Franco-Prussian War as a medical orderly. His time in the military was short, but 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, 'On Homer's Personality'. Also, Nietzsche met Franz Overbeck, an atheist professor of theology, who remained his friend throughout his life. The other most influential colleague was historian Jakob Burckhardt, whose lectures Nietzsche frequently attended.
Already in 1868, Nietzsche had met Richard Wagner in Leipzig, and sometime later, his wife, Cosima. Nietzsche admired both greatly, and during his time at Basel was a frequent guest in Wagner's 'House of the Masters' in Triebschen. The Wagners brought Nietzsche into their closest circle, and enjoyed the attention he gave to the beginning of the Festival House in Bayreuth. 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, the work, in which he forewent a precise philological method to employ a style of philosophical speculation, was not well received among his classical philological colleagues, including Ritschl. In a polemic, 'Future Philology', 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 unsuccessfully to attain a position in philosophy at Basel.
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 were later collected and published under the title, Untimely Meditations.) The four shared the orientation of a cultural critique, challenging the developing German culture along lines suggested by Schopenhauer and Wagner. Starting in 1873, he also accumulated notes that were 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 Guido von Bülow, and also began a friendship with Paul Rée, an influence for the pessimism in his early writings. However, his disappointment with the Bayreuth Festival of 1876, where he was repelled by the banality of the shows and the baseness of the public, caused him to finally 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. Also, Nietzsche's friendship with Deussen and Rohde cooled. Nietzsche undertook more experiments, attempted to find a wife, and pursued Malwida von Meysenbug to no avail.
In 1879, after a significant decline in health, he was forced to resign his position. Since his childhood, Nietzsche had been plagued by various disruptive illnesses -- moments of shortsightedness practically to the degree of blindness, migraine headaches, and violent stomach attacks. These persistent conditions were perhaps aggravated by his riding accident in 1868 and diseases in 1870, and continued to affect him through his years at Basel, forcing him to take longer and longer vacations until regular work was no longer practicable.
Free philosopher (1879–1889)
Lou Salomé, Paul Rée and Nietzsche, 1882.
Lou Salomé, Paul Rée and Nietzsche, 1882.
Driven by his illness to find more compatible climates, Nietzsche travelled frequently and lived until 1889 as a free 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, Turin, and 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 private secretary. To the end of his life, Gast and Overbeck were 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 was 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 were published as the second part of Human, All-Too-Human with the second edition of the latter.
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, often with Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth as chaperone. However, Nietzsche's regard for Salomé was 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. Through various avenues of intrigue, Elisabeth broke up Nietzsche's relationship with Rée and Salomé in the winter of 1882-83. (Lou Salomé eventually came to correspond with Sigmund Freud, introducing him to Nietzsche's thought.) 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, he 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 was received 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, he printed Beyond Good and Evil at his own expense. With this book and the appearance in 1886-87 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, the interest in Nietzsche did arise at this time, if also rather slowly and hardly perceived by him.
During these years, Nietzsche's met Meta von Salis, Carl Spitteler, and also Gottfried Keller. In 1886, his sister Elisabeth married the anti-Semite Bernhard Förster and travelled 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.
Nietzsche 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. He also exchanged letters with Hippolyte Taine, and then also with Georg Brandes, who at the beginning of 1888 delivered in Copenhagen 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 be improving, and in the summer he was in high spirits. In the fall of 1888, his writings and letters began to reveal an overestimation of his 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 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, 'Hear 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 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 the poems Dionysian Dithyrambs.
On 3 January 1889, Nietzsche had a mental collapse. That day he had been approached by two Turinese policemen after making some sort of public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened is not known. The often-repeated (and apocryphal) tale is that Nietzsche saw a horse being whipped 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, he sent short writings to a number of friends, including Cosima Wagner and Jacob Burckhardt, which showed signs of a breakdown.
To his former colleague Burckhardt he wrote: "I have had Caiaphas put in chains. Last year I was cruciﬁed in a very drawn-out fashion by the German doctors. [Kaiser] Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all anti-Semites are abolished."
Mental breakdown (1889–1900)
On January 6, 1889, Burckhardt showed the letter he received from Nietzsche to Overbeck. The following day Overbeck received a similarly revealing letter, and decided Nietzsche must be brought back to Basel. Overbeck traveled to Turin and brought Nietzsche to a psychiatric clinic in Basel.
By that time, Nietzsche was fully in the grip of insanity, and his mother Franziska decided to bring 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 greater and greater control of Nietzsche until his secrecy discredited him. In March 1890, Franziska removed Nietzsche from the clinic, and in May 1890 to her home in Naumburg.
During this process, Overbeck and Gast contemplated what to do with Nietzsche's unpublished works. In January 1890 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 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 Paraguay after the suicide of her husband. She read and studied Nietzsche's works, and piece by piece took control of them and their publication. Overbeck was eventually dismissed, and Gast finally cooperated. After the death of Franziska in 1897, Nietzsche lived in Weimar, where he was cared for by Elisabeth, who allowed people to visit the uncommunicative Nietzsche.
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.
The cause of Nietzsche's breakdown has been the subject of speculation and remains uncertain. An early and frequent diagnosis was a syphilitic infection; however, some of Nietzsche's symptoms were inconsistent with typical cases of syphilis. Another diagnosis was a form of brain cancer. Others suggest that Nietzsche experienced a mystical awakening, similar to ones studied by Meher Baba. While most commentators regard Nietzsche's breakdown as irrelevant to his philosophy, some, including Georges Bataille, argue that the breakdown must be considered.
Much controversy surrounds whether Nietzsche advocated a single or comprehensive philosophical viewpoint. Many charge Nietzsche with propounding contradictory thoughts and ideas. Here are Nietzsche's main ideas.
Nihilism and the death of God
After the skepticism in his early works towards the old foundations of philosophy, religion, and morality, Nietzsche experienced the absence of any meaning or purpose to the world and human existence. Nietzsche did not attribute this nihilism to an autonomous and reactive movement against culture; rather, he diagnosed nihilism as a latent presence within the very foundations of European culture, and thus, as a necessary and approaching destiny.
For Nietzsche, nihilism is the outcome of repeated frustrations in the search for meaning. The religious worldview had already suffered a number of challenges from contrary perspectives grounded in philosophical skepticism, modern science (heliocentrism superseding geocentrism, evolution superseding creationism), and internal disputes (Reformation). However, these attempts to replace God with human reason were also inadequate and unjustified.
In writings from notebooks dated from November 1887 to March 1888, Nietzsche described three steps by which 'nihilism as a psychological state' would be reached:
... first, when we have sought a 'meaning' in all events that is not there: so the seeker eventually becomes discouraged. Nihilism, then, is the recognition of the long waste of strength, the agony of the 'in vain', insecurity, the lack of any opportunity to recover and to regain composure -- being ashamed in front of oneself, as if one had 'deceived' oneself all too long.
... secondly, when one has posited a totality, a systemization, indeed any organization in all events, and underneath all events, and a soul that longs to admire and revere has wallowed in the idea of some supreme form of domination and administration ... [M]an has lost the faith in his own value when no infinitely valuable whole works through him; i.e., he conceived such a whole in order to be able to believe in his own value.
Given these two insights, ... an escape remains: to pass sentence on this whole world of becoming as a deception and to invent a world beyond it, a true world. But as soon as man finds out how that world is fabricated solely from psychological needs, and how he has absolutely no right to it, the last form of nihilism comes into being: it includes disbelief in any metaphysical world and forbids itself any belief in a true world.
(The Will to Power, Book I, sec. 12, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann)
Nietzsche sees this intellectual condition as a new challenge to European culture, which has extended itself beyond a sort of point-of-no-return. Nietzsche conceptualizes this with the famous statement, 'God is dead', which appears prominently in The Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra, suggesting the impending, yet obscure, crisis that European thought faces in the wake of the irreparable disturbances to its traditional foundations. Nietzsche treats this phrase as more than a provocative declaration, but almost reverently, as it represents the potential of a nihilism that arrests growth and progress in the midst of an overwhelming absurdity and meaninglessness:
The greatest recent event -- that 'God is dead', that the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable -- is already beginning to cast its first shadows over Europe. For the few at least, whose eyes -- the suspicion in whose eyes is strong and subtle enough for this spectacle, some sun seems to have set and some ancient and profound trust has been turned into doubt; to them our old world must appear daily more like evening, more mistrustful, stranger, 'older'. But in the main one may say: The event itself is far too great, too distant, too remote from the multitude's capacity for comprehension even for the tidings of it to be thought of as having arrived as yet. Much less may one suppose that many people know as yet what this event really means -- and how much must collapse now that this faith has been undermined because it was built upon this faith, propped up by it, grown into it; for example, the whole of our European morality. This long plenitude and sequence of breakdown, destruction, ruin, and cataclysm that is now impending -- who could guess enough of it today to be compelled to play the teacher and advance proclaimer of this monstrous logic of terror, the prophet of a gloom and an eclipse of the sun whose like has probably never yet occurred on earth?
(Gay Science, Book V, sec. 343, trans. Walter Kaufmann)
The first instance of the phrase occurs at the beginning of Book III of The Gay Science (section 108), and again prominently in section 125.
Amor fati and the eternal recurrence
In response to the constraining and defeating aspects of nihilism, Nietzsche began to seek a sense of bold, cheerful experimentation. Nietzsche seems to identify his own self as the remaining constraint after the death of the Gods, writing that 'the seal of liberation' is 'no longer being ashamed in front of oneself.' (Gay Science, Book III, sec. 275, trans. Walter Kaufmann)
Nietzsche acknowledged that having liberated himself from the Gods and their morality, he has yet to answer for what he is liberated: he suffers as a protagonist without an antagonist. At the beginning of Book IV of The Gay Science, Nietzsche celebrates the new year and the strength he attributes to the month of January. He writes that his 'wish' is:
I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who makes things beautiful. Amor fati (love of fate): let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.
(Gay Science, Book IV, sec. 276, trans. Walter Kaufmann)
This attitude of creativity and challenge carries Nietzsche further to the idea of 'the eternal recurrence', an intellectual and existential test. Eternal recurrence means that time runs its course and then repeats exactly and infinitely. Thus, the absurdities and pains of life must be endured not only once, but repeatedly and forever. Nietzsche imagines that the nihilist would find this thought torturous, but for one who has learned to be a 'Yes-sayer', it should be bliss. At the end of Book IV of The Gay Science, juxtaposed with what becomes the beginning of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche writes:
What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence -- even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!'
Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.' If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, 'Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?' would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?
(Gay Science, Book IV, sec. 341, trans. Walter Kaufmann)
The eternal recurrence is also discussed prominently in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which Nietzsche wrote after The Gay Science.
There is some controversy over who or what Nietzsche considered an overman (in German, Übermensch). Nietzsche's concept of the overman represented an ideal of an individual that could overcome the forces working against him. Nietzsche appreciated the strength of what he called the herd instinct or slave morality, that is, the masses of people which propogate a mob mentality. He believed this herd instinct to be an inevitable consequence of mass society, and considered it extremely difficult to break free from it. The overman is the person who can create his or her own values, uninfluenced by societal norms, and who can successfully live according to these self-created values. This is in contrast to the Christian notion that humans are created beings whose purpose is to obey the dictates of their Creator.
Thus the question of whether someone is an overman is not something that can be judged from external criteria; rather it is a matter of individual conscience. One can find examples of those who appeared to be overmen (Caesar, Goethe, Napoleon), which would hint that such an overcoming of self might be possible. But the key question is whether one, personally, can create one's own values and hold oneself responsible for living by them. (In this respect Jesus, though very close to being an overman, was not, for rather than taking responsibility for his own values, he claimed to have received them from God, and he was, Nietzsche argues, essentially a nihilist).
The overman, then, is not defined with respect to how much power one wields over others (although the overman, having overcome himself, will consequently dominate those who have not), but rather to the extent to which one is, in Nietzsche's words, "judge and avenger and victim of one's own law."
Master morality and slave morality
Nietzsche argued that there were two types of morality, a master morality that springs actively from the 'noble man' and a slave morality that develops reactively within the weak man. These two moralities are not simple inversions of one another, they are two different value systems; master morality fits actions into a scale of 'good' or 'bad' whereas slave morality fits actions into a scale of 'good' or 'evil'.
Nietzsche defined master morality as the morality of the strong-willed. For these men the 'good' is the noble, strong and powerful, while the 'bad' is the weak, cowardly, timid and petty. Master morality begins in the 'noble man' with a spontaneous idea of the 'good', then the idea of 'bad' develops in opposition to it. (The Genealogy of Morality, First Essay, Section 11) He said: "The noble type of man experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, "what is harmful to me is harmful in itself"; it knows itself to be that which first accords honor to things; its is value-creating." (Beyond Good and Evil)
Slave morality begins in those people who are weak, uncertain of themselves, oppressed and abused. The essence of slave morality is utility: the good is what is most useful for the community as a whole. Since the powerful are few in number compared to the masses of the weak, the weak gain power vis-a-vis the strong by treating those qualities that are valued by the powerful as "evil," and those qualities that enable sufferers to endure their lot as "good." Thus patience, humility, pity, submissiveness to authority, and the like, are considered good.
Slave morality begins in a ressentiment that turns creative and gives birth to values. (Ressentiment was a term coined by Nietzsche to describe the feeling of the weak, unhealthy and ugly towards those who have fared better in life.) The slave regards the virtues of beauty, power, strength and wealth as 'evil' in an act of revenge against those who have them in abundance. (The Genealogy of Morality, First Essay, Section 10) Slave morality is therefore a reactionary morality because 'good' does not spring creatively from the individual but develops as a negation of the values of the powerful. The noble person conceives of goodness first and later determines what is 'bad' while the slave conceives of 'evil' first and fashions his own conception of 'good' in opposition to this.
One of the main themes in Nietzsche's work is that ancient Roman society was grounded in master morality, and that this morality disappeared as the slave morality of Christianity spread through ancient Rome. Nietzsche was concerned with the state of European culture during his lifetime and therefore focused much of his analysis on the history of master and slave morality within Europe. Occasional references, however, also suggest that he meant these terms to be applied to other societies.
Christianity as an institution and Jesus
In Nietzsche's book the Anti-Christ, Nietzsche fights against how Christianity has become an ideology set forth by institutions like churches, instead of representing the life of Jesus. It is important, for Nietzsche, to distinguish between the religion of Christianity and the person of Jesus. Nietzsche attacked Christian religion as it was represented by churches and institutions for what he called its "transvaluation" of healthy instinctive values. He went beyond agnostic and atheistic thinkers of the Enlightenment, who felt that Christianity was simply untrue. He claimed that it may have been deliberately propagated as a subversive religion (a "psychological warfare weapon" or what some would call a "memetic virus") within the Roman Empire by the Apostle Paul as a form of covert revenge for the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple during the Jewish War.
Unlike Christianity, Nietzsche considered Jesus admirable and a candidate (if not an exemplar) as an overman. Nietzsche argues that Jesus transcended the moral influences of his time by creating his own set of values. As such Jesus represents a kind of hero for Nietzsche; Jesus was able to break free from the weak values that were propagated by his culture. Nietzsche then derides Christianity for using the life of Jesus in order to further another dominating culture. Nietzsche regarded an individual's ability to break from his culture as absolutely important for freedom of thought.
The will to power
Upon his death, Nietzsche's sister compiled (and some suspect, wrote parts of) a book of Nietzsche's writings entitled The Will To Power. This encapsulates a portion of Nietzsche's thought in which he advocated the point of view that all things, actions, and motivations are driven by a will to power. Especially relevant to this observation are Nietzsche's roots in Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer posited a will to life, in which living things were motivated by sustaining and developing their own lives. Nietzsche instead posited a will to power, in which living things are not just driven by the mere need to stay alive, but in fact by a greater need to wield and use power, to dominate others, and to make them weaker.
One possible interpretation of "will to power" is that it is a process of expansion and venting of creative energy that he believed was the basic driving force of nature. This interpretation would suggest that he believed it to be the fundamental causal power in the world, the driving force of all natural phenomena and the dynamic to which all other causal powers could be reduced. That is, according to this theory, Nietzsche in part hoped the will to power could be a "theory of everything," providing the ultimate foundations for explanations of everything from whole societies, to individual organisms, down to mere lumps of matter. In contrast to the "theories of everything" attempted in physics, Nietzsche's was teleological in nature. However, Nietzsche's disavowal of teleology in general suggests that this might not be the best way to interpret what he meant by the "will to power."
Nietzsche perhaps developed the will to power concept furthest with regard to living organisms, and it is there that the concept is perhaps easiest to understand. There, the will to power is taken as an animal's most fundamental instinct or drive, even more fundamental than the act of self-preservation; the latter is but an epiphenomenon of the former. This interpretation would align itself with a Neo-Kantian epistemology. That is, the will to power, in this view, is the basic means through which living things "interpret" or interact with the world, and, in this sense, the world would be "will to power, and nothing else besides," not in metaphysical terms, but epistemological.
Physiologists should think before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength — life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results. — Beyond Good and Evil
The will to power is something like the desire to exert one's will in self-overcoming, although this "willing" may be unconscious. Indeed, it is unconscious in all non-human beings; it was the frustration of this will that first caused man to become conscious at all. The philosopher and art critic Arthur C. Danto says that "aggression" is at least sometimes an approximate synonym. However, Nietzsche's ideas of aggression are almost always meant as aggression toward oneself — a sublimation of the brute's aggression — as the energy a person motivates toward self-mastery. In any case, since the will to power is fundamental, any other drives are to be reduced to it; the "will to survive" (i.e. the survival instinct) that biologists (at least in Nietzsche's day) thought to be fundamental, for example, was in this light a manifestation of the will to power.
My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (—its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on. — Beyond Good and Evil s.636, Walter Kaufmann translation.
Not just instincts but also higher level behaviors (even in humans) were to be reduced to the will to power. This includes both such apparently harmful acts as physical violence, lying, and domination, on one hand, and such apparently non-harmful acts as gift-giving, love, and praise of the other. In Beyond Good and Evil, he claims that philosophers' "will to truth" (i.e., their apparent desire to dispassionately seek objective truth) is actually nothing more than a manifestation of their will to power; this will can be life-affirming or a manifestation of nihilism, but it is will to power all the same.
[Anything which] is a living and not a dying body... will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant — not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power... 'Exploitation'... belongs to the essence of what lives, as a basic organic function; it is a consequence of the will to power, which is after all the will to life. — Beyond Good and Evil s.259, Walter Kaufmann translation.
As indicated above, the will to power is meant to explain more than just the behavior of an individual person or animal. The will to power can also be the explanation for why water flows as it does, why plants grow, and why various societies, enclaves, and civilizations behave as they do.
It should be noted, however, that a biological interpretation of Will to Power such as this is but one of many possible - indeed, Nietzsche scholarship is replete with interpretations, largely due to Nietzsche's elusive style. Others might suggest that the will to power is not really as central a concept in Nietzsche's thought. Indeed, it appears that Nietzsche himself might have agreed, when he suggests, in Ecce Homo, that his notion of eternal recurrence of the same is his most central thought, and the central theme of his most famous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Nietzsche is unique among philosophers for what is widely regarded as the remarkable power and effectiveness of his prose style - particularly as manifested in Zarathustra. The indigestible 'heaviness' long associated with German-language philosophy is eschewed, with puns and paradoxes abounding, and aphoristic brevity rubbing shoulders with parable and even poem in his rhetoric. The end result is a manner of philosophical writing which, being "pitched half-way between metaphor and literal statement" is "something quite extraordinary" (J.P. Stern).
His work has been described as 'half philosophic, half poetic'; the fact that it can thus manage to convince the reader emotionally as well as intellectually is no doubt one reason for its appeal (especially among creative artists) - but it also means that the theory behind the metaphors is never fully or clearly written out.
One problem inevitably caused by this is that the boundaries of his thinking are not easily discerned: for example, many people not only feel that Nietzsche's term Übermensch conjures up the 'pure Aryan' of Hitlerian mythology, but further assume that it must have been accompanied by the complementary lesser human or sub-human 'Untermensch' - whereas this latter term is in fact a creation of Nazi racial ideology.
Another vulnerability entailed by Nietzsche's style is that nuances and shades of meaning are very easily lost - and all too easily gained - in translation. Here the Übermensch is a case in point: the equivalent 'Superman' found in dictionaries and in the translations by Thomas Common and R.J. Hollingdale may create an unfortunate association with the heroic comic-character 'Superman' - while other logical alternatives which one might propose ('Over-human?' 'Above-human?' 'Super-human?' 'Beyond-human?') are either uselessly clumsy or smack of a 'political correctness' foreign to Nietzsche's outlook. Walter Kaufmann's 'Overman' would perhaps be more serviceable - were it not for the overtone of hierarchical authoritarianism which it introduces.
It is more accurate to think of Über in relationship to the development of the individual subject. The Übermensch is the being that overcomes the "great nausea" accociated with nihilism; that overcomes that most "abysmal" realization of the eternal return. He is the being that "sails over morality," and that dances over gravity (the "spirit of gravity" is Zarathustra's devil and archenemy). He is a "harvester" and a "celebrant" who endlessly affirms his existence, thereby becoming the transfigurer of his consciousness. He is initially a destructive force, excising and annihilating the insidious 'truths' of the herd, and consequently reclaiming the chaos from which pure creativity is born. It is this creative existence that justifies suffering without displacing it in some "afterworld." He is the lightning that brings the frenzy of religious ecstasy to earth -- complete with suffering and birth pangs.
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Place in contemporary ethical theory
Nietzsche's work addresses ethics from several perspectives; in today's terms, we might say his remarks pertain to meta-ethics, normative ethics, and descriptive ethics.
As far as meta-ethics is concerned, Nietzsche can perhaps most usefully be classified as a moral skeptic; that is, he claims that all ethical statements are false, because any kind of correspondence between ethical statements and "moral facts" is illusory. (This is part of a more general claim that there is no universally true fact, roughly because none of them more than "appear" to correspond to reality). Instead, ethical statements (like all statements) are mere "interpretations."
Sometimes, Nietzsche may seem to have very definite opinions on what is moral or immoral. Note, however, that Nietzsche's moral opinions may be explained without attributing to him the claim that they are "true." For Nietzsche, after all, we needn't disregard a statement merely because it is false. On the contrary, he often claims that falsehood is essential for "life." Interestingly enough, he mentions a 'dishonest lie,' discussing Wagner in The Case of Wagner, as opposed to an 'honest' one, saying further, to consult Plato with regards to the latter, which should give some idea of the layers of paradox in his work.
In the juncture between normative ethics and descriptive ethics, Nietzsche distinguishes between "master morality" and "slave morality." Although he recognises that not everyone holds either scheme in a clearly delineated fashion without some syncretism, he presents them in contrast to one another. Some of the contrasts in master vs. slave morality:
* "good" and "bad" interpretations vs. "good" and "evil" interpretations
* "aristocratic" vs. "part of the 'herd'"
* determines values independently of predetermined foundations (nature) vs. determines values on predetermined, unquestioned foundations (Christianity).
These ideas were elaborated in his book On the Genealogy of Morals in which he also introduced the key concept of ressentiment as the basis for the slave morality.
The revolt of the slave in morals begins in the very principle of ressentiment becoming creative and giving birth to values — a ressentiment experienced by creatures who, deprived as they are of the proper outlet of action are forced to find their compensation in an imaginary revenge. While every aristocratic morality springs from a triumphant affirmation of its own demands, the slave morality says 'no' from the very outset to what is 'outside itself,' 'different from itself,' and 'not itself'; and this 'no' is its creative deed. (On the Genealogy of Morals)
Nietzsche's assessment of both the antiquity and resultant impediments presented by the ethical and moralistic teachings of the world's monotheistic religions eventually led him to his own epiphany about the nature of God and morality, resulting in his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Nietzsche is also well-known for the statement "God is dead". While in popular belief it is Nietzsche himself who blatantly made this declaration, it was actually placed into the mouth of a character, a "madman," in The Gay Science. It was also later proclaimed by Nietzsche's Zarathustra. This largely misunderstood statement does not proclaim a physical death, but a natural end to the belief in God being the foundation of the western mind. It is also widely misunderstood as a kind of gloating declaration, when it is actually described as a tragic lament by the character Zarathustra.
"God is Dead" is more of an observation than a declaration, and it is noteworthy that Nietzsche never felt the need to advance any arguments for atheism, but merely observed that, for all practical purposes, his contemporaries lived "as if" God were dead. Nietzsche believed this "death" would eventually undermine the foundations of morality and lead to moral relativism and moral nihilism. To avoid this, he believed in re-evaluating the foundations of morality and placing them not on a pre-determined, but a natural foundation through comparative analysis.
What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is Bad? Everything that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance has been overcome. Not contentedness but more power; not peace but war; not virtue but fitness. The weak and the failures shall perish like fish: first principle is our love of man. And they shall even be given every possible assistance. What is more Harmful than any vice? Active pity for all the failures and all the weak: Christianity. —Nietzsche, The Antichrist.
During the First World War and after 1945, many regarded Nietzsche as having helped to cause the German militarism. The German right-wing didn't like Nietzsche's thought until the Nazis. 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 and the development of a personality. The enormous popularity of Nietzsche led to the Subversion debate in German politics in 1894/1895. Conservatives wanted to ban the work of Nietzsche. Nietzsche influenced the Social-democratic revisionists, anarchists, feminists and the left-wing German youth movement.
During the interbellum, various fragments of Nietzsche's work were appropriated by National Socialists, notably Alfred Bäumler in his reading of The Will to Power. During the period of Nazi rule, Nietzsche's work was widely studied in German (and, after 1938, Austrian) schools and universities. The Nazis viewed Nietzsche as one of their "founding fathers." They incorporated much of his ideology and thoughts about power into their own political philosophy (without consideration to its contextual meaning). Although there exist some significant differences between Nietzsche and Nazism, his ideas of power, weakness, women, and religion became axioms of Nazi society. The wide popularity of Nietzsche among Nazis was due partly to Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, a Nazi sympathizer who edited much of Nietzsche's works.
It is worth noting that Nietzsche's thought largely stands opposed to Nazism. In particular, Nietzsche despised anti-Semitism (which partially led to his falling out with composer Richard Wagner) and nationalism. He took a dim view of German culture as it was in his time, and derided both the state and populism. As the joke goes: "Nietzsche detested Nationalism, Socialism, Germans and mass movements, so naturally he was adopted as the intellectual mascot of the National Socialist German Workers' Party." He was also far from being a racist, believing that the "vigour" of any population could only be increased by mixing with others. In The Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche says, "...the concept of 'pure blood' is the opposite of a harmless concept."
As for the idea of the "blond beast," Walter Kaufmann has this to say in The Will to Power: "The 'blond beast' is not a racial concept and does not refer to the 'Nordic race' of which the Nazis later made so much. Nietzsche specifically refers to Arabs and Japanese, Romans and Greeks, no less than ancient Teutonic tribes when he first introduces the term... and the 'blondness' obviously refers to the beast, the lion, rather than the kind of man."
While some of his writings on "the Jewish question" were critical of the Jewish population in Europe, he also praised the strength of the Jewish people, and this criticism was equally, if not more strongly, applied to the English, the Germans, and the rest of Europe. He also valorised strong leadership, and it was this last tendency that the Nazis took up.
While his use by the Nazis was inaccurate, it should not be supposed that he was strongly liberal either. One of the things that he seems to have detested the most about Christianity was its emphasis on pity and how this leads to the elevation of the weak-minded. Nietzsche believed that it was wrong to deprive people of their pain, because it was this very pain that stirred them to improve themselves, to grow and become stronger. It would overstate the matter to say that he disbelieved in helping people; but he was persuaded that much Christian pity robbed people of necessary painful life experiences, and robbing a person of his necessary pain, for Nietzsche, was wrong. He once noted in his Ecce Homo: "pain is not an objection to life."
Nietzsche often referred to the common people who participated in mass movements and shared a common mass psychology as "the rabble", and "the herd." He valued individualism above all else. While he had a dislike of the state in general, he also spoke negatively of anarchists and made it clear that only certain individuals should attempt to break away from the herd mentality. This theme is common throughout Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
While it will thus be appreciated that a political 'flavour' is easy to discern in Nietzsche's writings, one must stress that his work does not in any sense propose or outline a 'political project'. The man who stated that 'The will to a system is a lack of integrity' was consistent in never devising or advocating a specific 'system' of governance - just as, being a champion of individual struggle and self-realisation, he never concerned himself with 'mass movements' or with the organisation of 'groups' and 'political parties' that bartered and haggled for political power. In this sense, Nietzsche could almost be called an anti-political thinker.
Nor can one easily speculate about what might have been his 'everyday' political preferences or reactions, since little documentation exists and he eschewed any political affiliation or label. There are some liberal tendencies in his beliefs, such as his distrust of strong punishment for criminals, as evidenced by his criticism of the death penalty found in his early work. However, Nietzsche had much disdain for liberalism, and spent much of his writing contesting the thoughts of Immanuel Kant. Nietzsche believed that "Democracy has in all ages been the form under which organizing strength has perished," that "Liberalism [is] the transformation of mankind into cattle," and that "Modern democracy is the historic form of decay of the state"(Nietzsche, der Antichrist). Ironically, since World War II, Nietzsche's influence has generally been clustered on the political left, particularly in France by way of post-structuralist thought (Gilles Deleuze and Pierre Klossowski are often credited for writing the earliest monographs to draw new attention to his work, and a 1972 conference at Cérisy-la-Salle is similarly regarded as the most important event in France for a generation's reception of Nietzsche). However, in the United States, Nietzsche appears to have exercised some influence upon certain conservative academics (see, for example, Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom).
Nietzsche's comments on women have provoked a great deal of discussion. Given modern sensitivities regarding the sexes and the rise of feminism, Walter Kaufmann has gone so far as to call these remarks an embarrassment. The fact that Nietzsche also mocked men and manliness has not saved him from the charge of sexism. However, the women he came into contact with typically reported that he was amiable and treated their ideas with much more respect and consideration than they generally expected from educated men in that period of time, amidst various sociological circumstances of the time (e.g., patriarchy). Much of Nietzsche's commentary on women (and men) should be read in light of his revaluation of values and his continuing encouragements for humanity to reach for something higher - why, for example, push for women's involvement in politics when women can direct their energies toward something more? Moreover, some of his statements on women seem to prefigure the criticisms of postfeminism against prior feminisms, particularly those that claim prior feminisms do violence to women by positing and privileging Woman in their place.
Moreover, in this connection, Nietzsche was acquainted with the work On Women by Schopenhauer and was probably influenced by it to some degree. As such, some statements scattered throughout his works seem to attack women in a similar vein.
And, indeed, Nietzsche believed there were radical differences between the mind of men as such and the mind of women as such. "Thus," said Nietzsche through the mouth of his Zarathustra, "would I have man and woman: the one fit for warfare, the other fit for giving birth; and both fit for dancing with head and legs" (Zarathustra III. [56, "Old and New Tables," sect. 23.])—that is to say: both are capable of doing their share of humanity's work, with their respective physiological conditions granted and therewith elucidating, each individually, their potentialities. Of course, it is contentious whether Nietzsche here adequately or accurately identifies the "potentialities" of women and men.
There have been several scholarly attempts to address the woman question in Nietzsche's writing. Peter J. Burgard's Nietzsche and the Feminine and Frances Nesbitt Oppel's Nietzsche on Gender: Beyond Man and Woman both read Nietzsche's statements on women as being yet another series of word-games amongst word-games, meant to challenge the reader and incite inspection of the concepts involved. French post-structuralist theorist Jacques Derrida made a similar argument in his 'Spurs'.
Writings and philosophy
* Aus meinem Leben, 1858
* Über Musik, 1858
* Napoleon III als Praesident, 1862
* Fatum und Geschichte, 1862
* Willensfreiheit und Fatum, 1862
* Kann der Neidische je wahrhaft glücklich sein?, 1863
* Über Stimmungen, 1864
* Mein Leben, 1864
* Homer und die klassische Philologie, 1868
* Über die Zukunft unserer Bildungsanstalten
* Fünf Vorreden zu fünf ungeschriebenen Büchern, 1872 comprised of:
1. Über das Pathos der Wahrheit (On the Pathos of Truth)
2. Gedanken über die Zukunft unserer Bildungsanstalten (Thoughts on the Future of Our Educational Institutions)
3. Der griechische Staat (The Greek State)
4. Das Verhältnis der Schopenhauerischen Philosophie zu einer deutschen Cultur (The Relation between a Schopenhauerian Philosophy and a German Culture)
5. Homer's Wettkampf (Homer's Contest)
* Die Geburt der Tragödie, 1872 (The Birth of Tragedy)
* Über Wahrheit und Lüge im aussermoralischen Sinn, 1873 (On Truth and Falsity in an Extra-Moral Sense)
* Die Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen (Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks)
* Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen (The Untimely Meditations) comprised of:
1. David Strauss: der Bekenner und der Schriftsteller, 1873 (David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer)
2. Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben, 1874 (On the Use and Abuse of History for Life)
3. Schopenhauer als Erzieher, 1874 (Schopenhauer as Educator)
4. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, 1876
* Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, 1878 (Human, All-Too-Human)
* Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche, 1879 (Mixed Opinions and Maxims)
* Der Wanderer und sein Schatten, 1879 (The Wanderer and His Shadow)
* Morgenröte, 1881 (The Dawn)
* Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, 1882, 1887 (The Gay Science)
* Also sprach Zarathustra, 1883-5 (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
* Jenseits von Gut und Böse, 1886 (Beyond Good and Evil)
* Zur Genealogie der Moral, 1887 (On the Genealogy of Morals)
* Der Fall Wagner, 1888 (The Case of Wagner)
* Götzen-Dämmerung, 1888 (Twilight of the Idols)
* Der Antichrist, 1888 (The Antichrist)
* Ecce Homo, 1888
* Nietzsche contra Wagner, 1888
* Der Wille zur Macht, first published 1901 (The Will to Power, a posthumous and selective collection of notes)
Major English translations
* The Birth of Tragedy, 1872
* in: 'Basic Writings of Nietzsche', trans. Walter Kaufmann, Modern Library, 2000, ISBN 0679783393
* in: 'The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings', trans. Ronald Spiers, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0521639875 (also contains: 'The Dionysiac World View' and 'On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense')
* in: 'The Birth of Tragedy and the Case of Wagner', trans. Walter Kaufmann, Vintage, 1967, ISBN 0394703693
* in: 'The Birth of Tragedy & the Genealogy of Morals', trans. Francis Golffing, Anchor Books, 1956, ISBN 0385092105
* trans. Shaun Whiteside, Penguin Classics, 1994, ISBN 0140433392
* The Untimely Meditations, 1873-6
* trans. R. J. Hollingdale, Cambridge University Press, 1997, ISBN 0521585848
* as: 'Unfashionable Observations', trans. Richard T. Gray, Stanford University Press, 1998, ISBN 0804734038
* Human, All Too Human, 1878
* trans. R. J. Hollingdale, Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 0521567041 (also contains: Mixed Opinions and Maxims, 1879 and The Wanderer and His Shadow, 1880)
* trans. Gary Handwerk, Stanford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0804726655