Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

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The cover for the first part of the first edition of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Friedrich Nietzsche developed his philosophy during the late 19th century. He owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading Arthur Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation, 1819, revised 1844) and admitted that Schopenhauer was one of the few thinkers that he respected, dedicating to him his essay Schopenhauer als Erzieher (Schopenhauer as Educator), published in 1874 as one of his Untimely Meditations.

Since the dawn of the 20th century, the philosophy of Nietzsche has had great intellectual and political influence around the world. Nietzsche applied himself to such topics as morality, religion, epistemology, psychology, ontology, and social criticism. Because of Nietzsche's evocative style and his often outrageous claims, his philosophy generates passionate reactions running from love to disgust. Nietzsche noted in his autobiographical Ecce Homo that his philosophy developed over time, so interpreters have found it difficult to relate concepts central to one work to those central to another, for example, the thought of the eternal recurrence features heavily in Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), but is almost entirely absent from his next book, Beyond Good and Evil. Added to this challenge is the fact that Nietzsche did not seem concerned to develop his thought into a system, even going so far as to disparage the attempt in Beyond Good and Evil.

Common themes in his thought can, however, be identified and discussed. His earliest work emphasized the opposition of Apollonian and Dionysian impulses in art, and the figure of Dionysus continued to play a role in his subsequent thought. Other major currents include the will to power, the claim that God is dead, the distinction between master and slave moralities, and radical perspectivism. Other concepts appear rarely, or are confined to one or two major works, yet are considered centerpieces of Nietzschean philosophy, such as the Übermensch and the thought of eternal recurrence. His later works involved a sustained attack on Christianity and Christian morality, and he seemed to be working toward what he called the transvaluation of all values (Umwertung aller Werte). While Nietzsche is often associated in the public mind with fatalism and nihilism, Nietzsche himself viewed his project as the attempt to overcome the pessimism of Arthur Schopenhauer.

Nihilism and God is dead[edit]

Nietzsche saw nihilism as the outcome of repeated frustrations in the search for meaning. He diagnosed nihilism as a latent presence within the very foundations of European culture, and saw it as a necessary and approaching destiny. The religious worldview had already suffered a number of challenges from contrary perspectives grounded in philosophical skepticism, and in modern science's evolutionary and heliocentric theory.[citation needed] Nietzsche saw this intellectual condition as a new challenge to European culture, which had extended itself beyond a sort of point-of-no-return. Nietzsche conceptualizes this with the famous statement "God is dead", which first appeared in his work in section 108 of The Gay Science, again in section 125 with the parable of "The Madman", and even more famously in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The statement, typically placed in quotation marks,[1] accentuated the crisis that Nietzsche argued that Western culture must face and transcend in the wake of the irreparable dissolution of its traditional foundations, moored largely in classical Greek philosophy and Christianity.[2] In aphorisms 55 and 56 of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche talks about the ladder of religious cruelty that suggests how Nihilism emerged from the intellectual conscience of Christianity. Nihilism is sacrificing the meaning "God" brings into our lives, for "matter and motion", physics, "objective truth." In aphorism 56, he explains how to emerge from the utter meaninglessness of life by reaffirming it through the Nietzsche's ideal of Eternal Return.

Christianity and morality[edit]

In The Antichrist, Nietzsche fights against the way in which Christianity has become an ideology set forth by institutions like churches, and how churches have failed to represent the life of Jesus. Nietzsche finds it important to distinguish between the religion of Christianity and the person of Jesus. Nietzsche attacked the Christian religion, as represented by churches and institutions, for what he called its "transvaluation" of healthy instinctive values. Transvaluation consists of the process by which one can view the meaning of a concept or ideology from a "higher" context. Nietzsche went beyond agnostic and atheistic thinkers of the Enlightenment, who simply regarded Christianity as untrue. He claimed that the Apostle Paul may have deliberately propagated Christianity as a subversive religion (a "psychological warfare weapon") within the Roman Empire as a form of covert revenge for the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and of the Second Temple in 70 AD during the Jewish War of 66-73 AD. Nietzsche contrasts the Christians with Jesus, whom he regarded as a unique individual, and argues he established his own moral evaluations. As such, Jesus represents a kind of step towards his ideation of the Übermensch. Ultimately, however, Nietzsche claims that, unlike the Übermensch, who embraces life, Jesus denied reality in favor of his "kingdom of God". Jesus's refusal to defend himself, and subsequent death, logically followed from this total disengagement. Nietzsche goes further to analyze the history of Christianity, finding it has progressively distorted the teachings of Jesus more and more. He criticizes the early Christians for turning Jesus into a martyr and Jesus's life into the story of the redemption of mankind in order to dominate the masses, and finds the Apostles cowardly, vulgar, and resentful. He argues that successive generations further misunderstood the life of Jesus as the influence of Christianity grew. By the 19th century, Nietzsche concludes, Christianity had become so worldly as to parody itself—a total inversion of a world view which was, in the beginning, nihilistic, thus implying the "death of God".

Master morality and slave morality[edit]

Nietzsche argued that two types of morality existed: a master morality that springs actively from the "noble man", and a slave morality that develops reactively within the weak man. These two moralities do not present simple inversions of one another. They form 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". Notably he disdained both, though the first clearly less than the second.

The Wille zur Macht and the thought of Eternal Recurrence[edit]

Since Martin Heidegger at least, the concepts of the will to power (Wille zur Macht), of Übermensch and of the thought of Eternal Recurrence have been inextricably linked. According to Heidegger's interpretation, one can not be thought without the others. During Nazi Germany, Alfred Baeumler attempted to separate the concepts, claiming that the Eternal Recurrence was only an "existential experience" that, if taken seriously, would endanger the possibility of a "will to power"—deliberately misinterpreted, by the Nazis, as a "will for domination".[3] Baeumler attempted to interpret the "will to power" along Social Darwinist lines, an interpretation refuted by Heidegger in his 1930s courses on Nietzsche.

The term Wille zur Macht first appeared in the posthumous fragment 23 [63] of 1876-1877.[citation needed] Heidegger's reading has become predominant among commentators, although some have criticized it: Mazzino Montinari by declaring that it was forging the figure of a "macroscopical Nietzsche", alien to all of his nuances.[4]

The will to power[edit]

Nietzsche's "will to power" (Wille zur Macht) is the name of a concept created by Nietzsche; the title of a projected book which he finally decided not to write; and the title of a book compiled from his notebooks and published posthumously and under suspicious circumstances by his sister and Peter Gast.

The work consists of four separate books, entitled "European Nihilism", "Critique of the Highest Values Hitherto", "Principles of a New Evaluation", and "Discipline and Breeding". Within these books there are some 1067 small sections, usually less than a page, and sometimes just a key phrase—such as his opening comments in the 1st section of the preface: "Of what is great one must either be silent or speak with greatness. With greatness—that means cynically and with innocence."[5]

Despite Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche's falsifications (highlighted in 1937 by Georges Bataille[3] and proved in the 1960s by the complete edition of Nietzsche's posthumous fragments by Mazzino Montinari and Giorgio Colli), his notes, even in the form given by his sister, remain a key insight into the philosophy of Nietzsche, and his unfinished transvaluation of all values. An English edition of Montinari & Colli's work is forthcoming (it has existed for decades in Italian, German and French).


Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche posits the About this sound Übermensch  (often translated as "overman" or "superman") as a goal that humanity can set for itself. While interpretations of Nietzsche's overman vary wildly, here are a few of his quotes from Thus Spoke Zarathustra:[citation needed]

I teach you the Übermensch. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? [...] All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughingstock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to Übermensch: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape...The Übermensch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the Übermensch shall be the meaning of the earth... Man is a rope, tied between beast and Übermensch—a rope over an abyss...what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end...

Amor fati and the eternal recurrence[edit]

Nietzsche may have encountered the idea of the Eternal Recurrence in the works of Heinrich Heine, who speculated that one day a person would be born with the same thought-processes as himself, and that the same applied to every other individual. Nietzsche expanded on this thought to form his theory, which he put forth in The Gay Science and developed in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Schopenhauer directly influenced this theory.[6] Schopenhauer postulated that a person who unconditionally affirms life would do so even if everything that has happened were to happen again repeatedly.[citation needed]

Nietzsche's view on eternal return is similar to that of Hume: "the idea that an eternal recurrence of blind, meaningless variation—chaotic, pointless shuffling of matter and law—would inevitably spew up worlds whose evolution through time would yield the apparently meaningful stories of our lives. This idea of eternal recurrence became a cornerstone of his nihilism, and thus part of the foundation of what became existentialism."[7] Nietzsche was so impressed by this idea, that he at first thought he had discovered a new scientific proof of the greatest importance, referring to it as the "most scientific of hypotheses". He gradually backed-off of this view, and in later works referred to it as a thought-experiment. "Nietzsche viewed his argument for eternal recurrence as a proof of the absurdity or meaninglessness of life, a proof that no meaning was given to the universe from on high."[8]

What if a demon were to creep after you one day or night, in your loneliest loneness, and say: "This life which you live and have lived, must be lived again by you, and innumerable times more. And mere will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh—everything unspeakably small and great in your life—must come again to you, and in the same sequence and series. . . . The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned—and you with it, dust of dust!" Would you not throw yourself down and curse the demon who spoke to you thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment, in which you would answer him: "Thou art a god, and never have I heard anything more divine!" [The Gay Science (1882), p. 341 (passage translated in Danto 1965, p. 210).]

Alexander Nehamas wrote in Nietzsche: Life as Literature of three ways of seeing the eternal recurrence: "(A) My life will recur in exactly identical fashion." This expresses a totally fatalistic approach to the idea. "(B) My life may recur in exactly identical fashion." This second view conditionally asserts cosmology, but fails to capture what Nietzsche refers to in The Gay Science, 341. Finally, "(C) If my life were to recur, then it could recur only in identical fashion." Nehamas shows that this interpretation exists totally independently of physics and does not presuppose the truth of cosmology. Nehamas draws the conclusion that if individuals constitute themselves through their actions, then they can only maintain themselves in their current state by living in a recurrence of past actions (Nehamas 153).

Nietzsche's place in contemporary ethical theory[edit]

Nietzsche's work addresses ethics from several perspectives: meta-ethics, normative ethics, and descriptive ethics.

In the field of meta-ethics, one can perhaps most accurately classify Nietzsche as a moral skeptic; meaning that he claims that all ethical statements are false, because any kind of correspondence between ethical statements and "moral facts" remains illusory. (This forms part of a more general claim that no universally true fact exists, roughly because none of them more than "appear" to correspond to reality). Instead, ethical statements (like all statements) remain mere "interpretations." However, Nietzsche does not claim that all interpretations are equivalent, since some testify for "noble" character while others are the symptom of a "decadent" life-form.

Sometimes Nietzsche may seem to have very definite opinions on what he regards as moral or as immoral. Note, however, that one can explain Nietzsche's moral opinions without attributing to him the claim of their truth. For Nietzsche, after all, we needn't disregard a statement merely because it expresses something false. On the contrary, he depicts falsehood as essential for "life". Interestingly enough, he mentions a "dishonest lie", (discussing Wagner in The Case of Wagner) as opposed to an "honest" one, recommending further to consult Plato with regard 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 recognizes 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 include:

  • "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).

Nietzsche elaborated these ideas in his book On the Genealogy of Morality, in which he also introduced the key concept of ressentiment as the basis for the slave morality. Nietzsche's primarily negative assessment of the ethical and moralistic teachings of Christianity followed from his earlier considerations of the questions of God and morality in the works The Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. These considerations led Nietzsche to the idea of eternal recurrence. Nietzsche primarily meant that, for all practical purposes, his contemporaries lived as if God were dead, though they had not yet recognized it. Nietzsche believed this "death" had already started to undermine the foundations of morality and would lead to moral relativism and moral nihilism. As a response to the dangers of these trends he believed in re-evaluating the foundations of morality to better understand the origins and motives underlying them, so that individuals might decide for themselves whether to regard a moral value as born of an outdated or misguided cultural imposition or as something they wish to hold true.

Social and political views[edit]

While a political tone may be discerned in Nietzsche's writings, 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, enquiry, or ethics — just as, being an advocate of individual struggle and self-realization, he never concerned himself with mass movements or with the organization of groups and political parties — although there are parts of his works where he considers an enigmatic "greater politics", and others where he thinks the problem of community.[9]

In this sense, some have read Nietzsche as an anti-political thinker. Walter Kaufmann put forward the view that the powerful individualism expressed in his writings would be disastrous if introduced to the public realm of politics. Georges Bataille argued in 1937, in the Acéphale review, that Nietzsche's thoughts were too free to be instrumentalized by any political movement. In "Nietzsche and Fascists," he argued against such instrumentalization, by the left or the right, declaring that Nietzsche's aim was to by-pass the short timespan of modern politics, and its inherent lies and simplifications, for a greater historical timespan.[3]

Later writers, led by the French intellectual Left, have proposed ways of using Nietzschean theory in what has become known as the "politics of difference" — particularly in formulating theories of political resistance and sexual and moral difference. Owing largely to the writings of Kaufmann and others, the spectre of Nazism has now been almost entirely exorcised from his writings.

Nietzsche and individualism[edit]

Nietzsche often referred to the common people who participated in mass movements and shared a common mass psychology as "the rabble", or "the herd". He allegedly valued individualism above all else, although this has been considered by many philosophers to be an oversimplification, as Nietzsche criticized the concept of the subject and of atomism (that is, the existence of an atomic subject at the foundation of everything, found for example in social contract theories). He considered the individual subject as a complex of instincts and wills-to-power, just as any other organization. Beginning in the 1890s some scholars have attempted to link his philosophy with Max Stirner's radical individualism of The Ego and Its Own (1844). The question remained pendant. Recently there was unearthed further, still circumstantial, evidence clarifying the relationship between Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Stirner.[10] In any case, few philosophers really consider Nietzsche an "individualist" thinker. He is best characterized as a thinker of "hierarchy", although the precise nature of this hierarchy does not cover the current social order (the "establishment") and is related to his thought of the Will to Power. Against the strictly "egoist" perspective adopted by Stirner, Nietzsche concerned himself with the "problem of the civilization" and the necessity to give humanity a goal and a direction to its history, making him, in this sense, a very political thinker.[11][12]

Furthermore, in the context of his criticism of morality and Christianity, expressed, among others works, in On the Genealogy of Morals and in The Antichrist, Nietzsche often criticized humanitarian feelings, detesting how pity and altruism were ways for the "weak" to take power over the "strong". However, he qualified his critique of Christianism as a "particular case" of his criticisms of free will.[13] Along with the rejection of teleology, this critique of free will is one of the common points he shared with Spinoza, whom he qualified as a "precursor".[14] To the "ethics of compassion" (Mitleid, "shared suffering") exposed by Schopenhauer,[15] Nietzsche opposed an "ethics of friendship" or of "shared joy" (Mitfreude).[16]

While he had a dislike of the state in general, which he called a "cold monster" in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche also spoke negatively of anarchists and socialism, and made it clear that only certain individuals could attempt to break away from the herd mentality. This theme is common throughout Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Nietzsche's criticism of anti-Semitism and nationalism[edit]

"The whole problem of the Jews exists only in nation states, for here their energy and higher intelligence, their accumulated capital of spirit and will, gathered from generation to generation through a long schooling in suffering, must become so preponderant as to arouse mass envy and hatred. In almost all contemporary nations, therefore - in direct proportion to the degree to which they act up nationalistially - the literary obscenity of leading the Jews to slaughter as scapegoats of every conceivable public and internal misfortune is spreading."
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1886, [MA 1 475][17]

Although Nietzsche has famously been represented (or rather, as most strongly argue, misrepresented)[18] as a predecessor to Nazism, he criticized anti-Semitism, pan-Germanism and, to a lesser extent, nationalism. Thus, he broke with his editor in 1886 because of opposition to his anti-Semitic stances, and his rupture with Richard Wagner, expressed in The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche Contra Wagner, both of which he wrote in 1888, had much to do with Wagner's endorsement of pan-Germanism and anti-Semitism — and also of his rallying to Christianity. In a March 29, 1887 letter to Theodor Fritsch, he mocked anti-Semitics, Fritsch, Eugen Dühring, Wagner, Ebrard, Wahrmund, and the leading advocate of pan-Germanism, Paul de Lagarde, who would become, along with Wagner and Houston Chamberlain, main official influences of Nazism.[3] This 1887 letter to Fritsch ended by: "-- And finally, how do you think I feel when the name Zarathustra is mouthed by anti-Semites? ..."[19]

Peter Gast would "correct" Nietzsche's writings even after the philosopher's breakdown, and hence without his approval--a practice present-day Nietzsche scholarship has heavily criticized.

Section VIII of Beyond Good and Evil, titled "Peoples and Fatherlands", criticized pan-Germanism and patriotism, advocating instead the unification of Europe (§256, etc.). In Ecce Homo (1888), he criticized the "German nation," its "will to power (to Empire, to Reich)," thus underscoring an easy misinterpretation of the Wille zur Macht, the conception of Germans as a "race," the "anti-Semitic way of writing history," or of writing "history conform to the German Empire," and stigmatized "nationalism, this national neurosis from which Europe is sick," this "small politics."[20]

Nietzsche heavily criticized his sister's husband, Bernhard Förster, and his sister, speaking harshly against the "anti-Semitic canaille:"

"I've seen proof, black on white, that Herr Dr. Förster has not yet severed his connection with the anti-Semitic movement...Since then I've had difficulty coming up with any of the tenderness and protectiveness I've so long felt toward you. The separation between us is thereby decided in really the most absurd way. Have you grasped nothing of the reason why I am in the world?...Now it has gone so far that I have to defend myself hand and foot against people who confuse me with these anti-Semitic canaille; after my own sister, my former sister, and after Widemann more recently have given the impetus to this most dire of all confusions. After I read the name Zarathustra in the anti-Semitic Correspondence my forbearance came to an end. I am now in a position of emergency defense against your spouse's Party. These accursed anti-Semite deformities shall not sully my ideal!!"

Draft for a letter to his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (December 1887)

Georges Bataille was one of the first to denounce the deliberate misinterpretation of Nietzsche carried out by Nazis, among them Alfred Baeumler. He dedicated in January 1937 an issue of Acéphale, titled "Reparations to Nietzsche," to the theme "Nietzsche and the Fascists.[3]" There, he called Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche "Elisabeth Judas-Förster," recalling Nietzsche's declaration: "To never frequent anyone who is involved in this bare-faced fraud concerning races."[3]

Nietzsche titled aphorism 377[dead link] in the fifth book of The Gay Science (published in 1887) "We who are homeless" (litt. "We who are without Fatherlands" — Heimatlosen), in which he criticized pan-Germanism and patriotism and called himself a "good European". In the second part of this aphorism, which according to Bataille contained the most important parts of Nietzsche's political thought, the thinker of the Eternal Return stated:

No, we do not love humanity; but on the other hand we are not nearly "German" enough, in the sense in which the word "German" is constantly being used nowadays, to advocate nationalism and race hatred and to be able to take pleasure in the national scabies of the heart and blood poisoning that now leads the nations of Europe to delimit and barricade themselves against each other as if it were a matter of quarantine. For that we are too open-minded, too malicious, too spoiled, also too well-informed, too "traveled": we far prefer to live on mountains, apart, "untimely," in past or future centuries, merely in order to keep ourselves from experiencing the silent rage to which we know we should be condemned as eyewitnesses of politics that are desolating the German spirit by making it vain and that is, moreover, petty politics:—to keep its own creation from immediately falling apart again, is it not finding it necessary to plant it between two deadly hatreds? must it not desire the eternalization of the European system of a lot of petty states? ... We who are homeless are too manifold and mixed racially and in our descent, being "modern men," and consequently do not feel tempted to participate in the mendacious racial self-admiration and racial indecency that parades in Germany today as a sign of a German way of thinking and that is doubly false and obscene among the people of the "historical sense." We are, in one word—and let this be our word of honor!— good Europeans, the heirs of Europe, the rich, oversupplied, but also overly obligated heirs of thousands of years of European spirit: as such, we have also outgrown Christianity and are averse to it, and precisely because we have grown out of it, because our ancestors were Christians who in their Christianity were uncompromisingly upright; for their faith they willingly sacrificed possessions and position, blood and fatherland. We—do the same. For what? For our unbelief? For every kind of unbelief? No, you know better than that, my friends! The hidden Yes in you is stronger than all Nos and Maybes that afflict you and your age like a disease; and when you have to embark on the sea, you emigrants, you, too, are compelled to this by— a faith! ...[21]

Views on women[edit]

Nietzsche's views on women have served as a magnet for controversy, beginning during his life and continuing to the present. He frequently made remarks in his writing that some view as misogynistic. He claimed in Twilight of the Idols (1888) "Women are considered profound. Why? Because we never fathom their depths. But women aren't even shallow."[22] He is also quoted as saying "Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent".

Relation to Søren Kierkegaard[edit]

Nietzsche knew little of the 19th-century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.[23][24] Georg Brandes, a Danish philosopher, wrote to Nietzsche in 1888 asking him to study the works of Kierkegaard, to which Nietzsche replied that he would.[25][nb 1]

Recent research, however, suggests that Nietzsche was exposed to the works of Kierkegaard through secondary literature. Aside from Brandes, Nietzsche owned and read a copy of Hans Lassen Martensen’s Christliche Ethik (1873) in which Martensen extensively quoted and wrote about Kierkegaard’s individualism in ethics and religion. Nietzsche also read Harald Høffding’s Psychologie in Umrissen auf Grundlage der Erfahrung (ed. 1887) which expounded and critiqued Kierkegaard’s psychology. Thomas Brobjer believes one of the works Nietzsche wrote about Kierkegaard is in Morgenröthe, which was partly written in response to Martensen's work. In one of the passages, Nietzsche wrote: Those moralists, on the other hand, who, following in the footsteps of Socrates, offer the individual a morality of self-control and temperance as a means to his own advantage, as his personal key to happiness, are the exceptions. Brobjer believes Kierkegaard is one of "those moralists".[26]

The first philosophical study comparing Kierkegaard and Nietzsche was published even before Nietzsche's death.[27] More than 60 articles and 15 full-length studies have been published devoted entirely in comparing these two thinkers.[27]

Relation to Schopenhauer[edit]

According to Santayana, Nietzsche considered his philosophy to be a correction of Schopenhauer’s philosophy. In his Egotism in German Philosophy,[28] Santayana listed Nietzsche’s antithetical reactions to Schopenhauer.

The will to live would become the will to dominate; pessimism founded on reflection would become optimism founded on courage; the suspense of the will in contemplation would yield to a more biological account of intelligence and taste;

finally in the place of pity and asceticism (Schopenhauer’ s two principles of morals) Nietzsche would set up the duty of asserting the will at all costs and being cruelly but beautifully strong.

These points of difference from Schopenhauer cover the whole philosophy of Nietzsche.

These emendations show how Schopenhauer’s philosophy was not a mere initial stimulus for Nietzsche, but formed the basis for much of Nietzsche’s thinking.


Perhaps Nietzsche's greatest philosophical legacy lies in his 20th century interpreters, among them Pierre Klossowski, Georges Bataille, Leo Strauss, Alexandre Kojève, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze (and Félix Guattari), and Jacques Derrida. Foucault's later writings, for example, adopt Nietzsche's genealogical method to develop anti-foundationalist theories of power that divide and fragment rather than unite politics (as evinced in the liberal tradition of political theory). The systematic institutionalisation of criminal delinquency, sexual identity and practice, and the mentally ill (to name but a few) are examples used to demonstrate how knowledge or truth is inseparable from the institutions that formulate notions of legitimacy from 'immoralities' such as homosexuality and the like (captured in the famous power-knowledge equation). Deleuze, arguably the foremost of Nietzsche's interpreters, used the much-maligned 'will to power' thesis in tandem with Marxian notions of commodity surplus and Freudian ideas of desire to articulate concepts such the rhizome and other 'outsides' to state power as traditionally conceived.

Certain recent Nietzschean interpretations have emphasized the more untimely and politically controversial aspects of Nietzsche's philosophy. Nietzschean commentator Keith Ansell Pearson has pointed out the absurd hypocrisy of modern egalitarian liberals, socialists, feminists and anarchists claiming Nietzsche as a herald of their own left-wing politics: "The values Nietzsche wishes to subject to a revaluation are largely altruistic and egalitarian values such as pity, self-sacrifice, and equal rights. For Nietzsche, modern politics rests largely on a secular inheritance of Christian values (he interprets the socialist doctrine of equality in terms of a secularization of the Christian belief in the equality of all souls before God" (On the Genealogy of Morality, Ansell-Pearson and Diethe, eds., Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 9). Works such as Bruce Detwiler's Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism (University of Chicago Press, 1990), Fredrick Appel's Nietzsche Contra Democracy (Cornell University Press, 1998), and Domenico Losurdo's Nietzsche, il ribelle aristocratico (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2002) challenge the prevalent liberal interpretive consensus on Nietzsche and assert that Nietzsche's elitism was not merely an aesthetic pose but an ideological attack on the widely held belief in equal rights of the modern West, locating Nietzsche in the conservative-revolutionary tradition.


  1. ^ The Gay Science, Section 108, provides an exception.
  2. ^ See Beyond Good and Evil.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Georges Bataille, "Nietzsche and Fascists", in the January 1937 issue of Acéphale (available on-line)
  4. ^ Mazzino Montinari, Friedrich Nietzsche (1974; transl. in German in 1991, Friedrich Nietzsche. Eine Einführung., Berlin-New York, De Gruyter; and in French, Friedrich Nietzsche, PUF, 2001, p.121 chapter "Nietzsche and the consequences"
  5. ^ Book 1 of Wille zur Macht
  6. ^ see Steven Luper's introduction on Nietzsche in Existing for a detailed analysis of these efforts
  7. ^ Dennett, D. C. (1995), Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, Simon & Schuster
  8. ^ "For a clear reconstruction of Nietzsche's uncharacteristically careful deduction of what he once described as 'the most scientific of hypotheses,' see Danto 1965, pp. 201-9- For a discussion and survey of this and other interpretations of Nietzsche's notorious idea of eternal recurrence, see Nehamas 1980, which argues that by 'scientific' Nietzsche meant specifically 'not-teleological.' A recurring—but, so far, not eternally recurring—problem with the appreciation of Nietzsche's version of the eternal recurrence is that, unlike Wheeler, Nietzsche seems to think that this life will happen again not because it and all possible variations on it will happen over and over, but because there is only one possible variation—this one—and it will happen over and over." Dennett, D. C. (1995), Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, Simon & Schuster
  9. ^ For ex. Beyond Good and Evil, first section, §19
  10. ^ Bernd A. Laska: Nietzsche's Initial Crisis. In: Germanic Notes and Reviews, vol. 33, n. 2, fall/Herbst 2002, pp. 109-133.]
  11. ^ Conclusion of Stirner et Nietzsche by Albert Lévy, op.cit.
  12. ^ Patrick Wotling, Nietzsche et le problème de la civilisation, PUF, 1995 (2nd ed. 1999)
  13. ^ Ecce Homo, "Why I am So Wise", §7[dead link]
  14. ^ Letter to Overbeck, 30 July 1881
  15. ^ Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, §68 (available on-line)
  16. ^ Olivier Ponton, ""Mitfreude". Le projet nietzschéen d'une "éthique de l'amitié" dans "Choses humaines, trop humaines"", HyperNietzsche, 2003-12-09 (on-line) (French)
  17. ^ Nietzsche der philosoph un Politiker, 8, 63, et passim. Ed. Alfred Baeumler, Reclam 1931
  18. ^ Keith Ansell-Pearson, An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker: The Perfect Nihilist, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp 33-34.
  19. ^ March 29, 1887 letter[dead link] to Theodor Fritsch (English)
  20. ^ Ecce Homo, "Why I Write Such Good Books," The Case of Wagner, §1 and 2.[dead link]
  21. ^ The Gay Science, aphorism 377, transl. by "We who are homeless" (litt. "We who are without Fatherlands"), read here[dead link]
  22. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) Twilight of the Idols (1888)
  23. ^ Angier, Tom P. Either Kierkegaard/or Nietzsche: Moral Philosophy in a New Key. ISBN 0-7546-5474-5
  24. ^ Hubben, William. Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Kafka. ISBN 0-684-82589-9
  25. ^ Nietzsche Chronicle: 1888
  26. ^ Journal of the History of Philosophy
  27. ^ a b Miles, Thomas. Rival Visions of the Best Way of Life in Kierkegaard and Existentialism, Jon Stewart, ed. p.263.
  28. ^ Chapter XI, “Nietzsche and Schopenhauer”


  1. ^ Brandes and Nietzsche wrote letters back and forth between 1886-1888. In 1886 Neitzsche sent Brandes copies of Beyond Good and Evil (written in 1885) and later Genealogy of Morals and Human, All Too Human. (p. 314). Brandes sent Nietzsche a copy of Main Currents in 1888. (p. 331-331) Nietzsche wrote in May of 1888 that “Dr. George Brandes is now delivering an important course of lectures at the University of Copenhagen on the German philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche! According to the papers these lectures are having the most brilliant success. The hall is full to overflowing each time; more than three hundred people present.” (p. 227). “They were ready for my theory of “master morality” owing to the thorough general knowledge they possess of the Icelandic sagas which provide very rich material for the theory. I am glad to hear that the Danish philologists approve and accept my derivation of bonus: in itself it seems rather a tall order to trace the concept “good” back to the concept “warrior”. (p. 229) On January 11, 1888 Brandes wrote the following to Nietzsche, “There is a Northern writer whose works would interest you, if they were but translated, Soren Kierkegaard. He lived from 1813 to 1855, and is in my opinion one of the profoundest psychologists to be met with anywhere. A little book which I have written about him (the translation published at Leipzig in 1879) gives me exhaustive idea of his genius, for the book is a kind of polemical tract written with the purpose of checking his influence. It is, nevertheless, from a psychological point of view, the finest work I have published.” (p. 325) Nietzsche wrote back that he would “tackle Kierkegaard’s psychological problems” (p. 327) and then Brandes asked if he could get a copy of everything Nietzsche had published. (p. 343) so he could spread his “propaganda.” (p. 348, 360-361) Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche 1st ed. edited, with a preface, by Oscar Levy ; authorized translation by Anthony M. Ludovici Published 1921 by Doubleday, Page & Co

Further reading[edit]

  • On Nietzsche's view on women, see Jacques Derrida, Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles, trans. Barbara Harlow (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1979).
  • On Nietzsche and biology, see Barbara Stiegler, Nietzsche et la biologie, PUF, 2001, ISBN 2-13-050742-5.

External links[edit]