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Friedrich Nietzsche

The infamous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche lived from October 15, 1844 to August 25, 1900. With a heavy reliance on aphorisms, he used his distinct style to write critiques of morality, religion, science, philosophy, and culture. The philosophy of Nietzsche substantially influences thought today, even beyond philosophy. Namely, his writings have greatly helped shape postmodernism and existentialism. The writings of Nietzsche pose much difficulty for interpreters, because of his skeptic and nihilistic towards truth. One can find many books and writings by other researchers and thinkers about Nietzsche, his writings, and their interpretation thereof. All in all, Nietzsche's writings have some main philosophical ideas, including his analysis of tragedy as an affirmation of life, and his reversal of Platonism, which consists of valuing appearance as more important than reality.

Nietzsche actually started in philology, not philosophy. He achieved the position of Professor of Classical Philology at 24-years-old at the University of Basel. As a result of health problems, Nietzsche resigned from the university in 1879. Those health problems continued to afflict him throughout his life. He had a mental breakdown in 1889, and thereafter he lived out the rest of his life in the care of his sister and mother. He died in 1900.

Nietzsche developed his philosophy throughout the Nineteenth Century, while criticism of Hegel's philosophy grew. Nietzsche's writings had the most influence throughout the Twentieth Century, both politically and intellectually. Nietzsche's philosophy dealt with many topics including religion, morality, psychology, epistemology, and ontology. It also contained much social criticism, especially towards Christianity and Christian morality.

Nietzsche never wrote a full account of his entire philosophy. Instead, readers gain his insight through sporadic works, mostly filled with aphorisms, reflecting pieces of his changing philosophy. In fact, in his autobiographical book, Ecce Homo, Nietzsche noted that he developed his philosophy over time. For those reasons, readers may have trouble connecting the contentions and themes between Nietzsche's books and writings. Nietzsche not only lacked a desire to develop his philosophy into a system, he also explicitly belittled such attempts in Beyond Good and Evil.

Nietzsche had a tendency to make outrageous claims and he used an evocative style. As a result, his philosophy causes intense reactions, of disgust and love. Even amateur philosophers like to explore and attempt to interpret Nietzsche's writings.

The earliest works of Nietzsche stressed his opposition of Dionysian and Apollonian impulses in art, which continued to influence his later works. Other major themes include:

  • the will to power
  • the claim that God is dead
  • the distinction between slave morality and master morality
  • radical perspectivism

Additionally, Nietzsche's philosophy contains many central ideas that only appear briefly and/or rarely, such as eternal recurrence and the Ubermensch.

Nietzsche's later works entailed a persistent attack on Christian morality and Christianity itself. Nietzsche appeared to work towards what he called the transvaluation of all values.

While often associated with nihilism and fatalism, Nietzsche actually viewed his project as an attempt to overcome the Schopenhauerean Pessimism.

After Friedrich Nietsche's death, his sister compiled his notes and published them in his name. General consensus says that the work does not reflect Friedrich Nietzsche's intention. In fact, some people, such as Mazzino Montinari, have called it a forgery.

Despite the fact that Nietzsche has notoriously been misrepresented as an antecedent to Nazism, he actually severely criticized pan-Germanism, anti-Semitism, and nationalism.

If you wish to read the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, you can consider the following books:

Nietzsche Quotes

"Thus do I counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!"
~Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885)

"Physiologists should think twice before positioning the drive for self-preservation as the cardinal drive of an organic being. Above all, a living thing wants to discharge its strength life itself is will to power -: self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of this.
~Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (1886)

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
~Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (1886)

"The sick are the greatest danger for the healthy; it is not from the strongest that harm comes to the strong, but from the weakest."
~Friedrich Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals (1887)

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