Birth: October 15, 1844 (Röcken bei Lützen, Prussian Saxony)
Death: August 25, 1900 (Weimar, Germany)
School/tradition: Continental philosophy, Weimar Classicism; Precursor
to Existentialism, Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Psychoanalysis
Main interests: Aesthetics, Ethics, Ontology, Philosophy of history,
Psychology, Value theory
Notable ideas: Apollonian and Dionysian, Death of God, Eternal Recurrence,
Herd instinct, Master-Slave Morality, Übermensch, Perspectivism,
Will to Power
Influences: Dostoevsky, Emerson, Goethe, Heine, Heraclitus, Kant, Plato,
Schiller, Schopenhauer, Stirner, Burckhardt, Wagner
Influenced: Bataille, Camus, Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, Heidegger,
Iqbal, Jaspers, Jung, Rand, Rilke, Sartre, and more
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900)
(IPA: ['f?i?t??ç 'ni?t??]) was a Prussian-born philosopher. He
began his academic career as a philologist and produced critiques of
religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science. Nietzsche's
works are notable for their style, tending to be more aphoristic and
paradoxical than was standard in philosophic treatises. Nietzsche was
largely overlooked by his contemporaries during his life, but he received
recognition during the first half of the 20th century in German, French,
and British intellectual circles. He gained notoriety when the German
Nazi Party appropriated him as a forebear, despite Nietzsche's professed
opposition to antisemitism and German nationalism. After World War II,
Walter Kaufmann embarked on a sustained effort to rehabilitate Nietzsche's
reputation in the English-speaking world, and by the second half of
the 20th century Nietzsche came to be regarded as a highly significant
and influential figure in modern philosophy. Directly and mediately
(through Martin Heidegger), Nietzsche influenced existentialism, postmodernism,
psychoanalysis, and most subsequent thought.
October 15, 1844, and christened as "Friedrich Wilhelm", Nietzsche
lived in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, in the Prussian
province of Saxony. His name comes from King Frederick William IV of
Prussia, who turned 49 on the day of Nietzsche's birth. (Nietzsche later
dropped his given middle name, "Wilhelm".) Nietzsche's
parents, Carl Ludwig (1813–1849), a Lutheran pastor and former
teacher, and Franziska Oehler (1826–1897), married in 1843. His
sister, Elisabeth, was born in 1846, followed by a brother, Ludwig Joseph,
in 1848. Nietzsche's father died from a brain ailment in 1849; his younger
brother died in 1850. The family then moved to Naumburg, where they
lived with Nietzsche's paternal grandmother and his father's two unmarried
sisters. After the death of Nietzsche's grandmother in 1856 the family
moved into their own house.
, 1861.During this
time the young Nietzsche attended a boys' school and later a private
school, where he became friends with Gustav Krug and Wilhelm Pinder,
both of whom came from respected families. In 1854 he began to attend
the Domgymnasium in Naumburg, but after he showed particular talents
in music and language, the internationally-recognized Schulpforta admitted
him as a pupil, and there he continued his studies from 1858 to 1864.
Here he became friends with Paul Deussen and Carl von Gersdorff. He
also found time to work on poems and musical compositions. At Schulpforta,
Nietzsche received an important introduction to literature, particularly
that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and for the first time experienced
a distance from his family life in a small-town Christian environment.
in 1864, Nietzsche commenced studies in theology and classical philology
at the University of Bonn. For a short time he and Deussen became members
of the Burschenschaft Frankonia. After one semester (and to the anger
of his mother) he stopped his theological studies and lost his faith.
This may have happened in part due to his reading about this time of
David Strauss's Life of Jesus, which had a profound effect on the young
Nietzsche. Nietzsche then concentrated on studying philology under
Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, whom he followed to the University
of Leipzig the next year. There, he became close friends with fellow-student
Erwin Rohde. Nietzsche's first philological publications appeared soon
, 1868.In 1865,
Nietzsche became acquainted with the work of Arthur Schopenhauer, and
he read Friedrich Albert Lange's Geschichte des Materialismus in 1866.
He found both of these encounters stimulating: they encouraged him to
expand his horizons beyond philology and to continue his schooling.
In 1867, Nietzsche signed up for one year of voluntary service with
the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. However, a bad riding-accident
in March 1868 left him unfit for service. Consequently Nietzsche turned
his attention to his studies again, completing them and first meeting
with Richard Wagner later that year.
Professor at Basel
Mid October, 1871. Left to right: Erwin Rohde, Carl von Gersdorff and
Friedrich Nietzsche.Due in part to Ritschl's support, Nietzsche received
a generous offer to become professor of classical philology at the University
of Basel before having completed his doctorate degree or certificate
for teaching. After moving to Basel, Nietzsche renounced his Prussian
citizenship: for the rest of his life he remained officially stateless.
Nevertheless, he served on the Prussian side during the Franco-Prussian
War of 1870 to 1871 as a medical orderly. In his short time in the military
he experienced much, and witnessed the traumatic effects of battle.
He also contracted diphtheria and dysentery. On returning to Basel in
1870, Nietzsche observed the establishment of the German Empire and
the following era of Otto von Bismarck as an outsider and with a degree
of skepticism regarding its genuineness. At the University, he delivered
his inaugural lecture, "Homer and Classical Philology". Nietzsche
also met Franz Overbeck, a professor of theology, who remained his friend
throughout his life. Afrikan Spir,  a little-known Russian philosopher
and author of Thought and Reality (1873), and his colleague the historian
Jacob Burckhardt, whose lectures Nietzsche frequently attended, began
to exercise significant influence on Nietzsche during this time.
Nietzsche had already
met Richard Wagner in Leipzig in 1868, and (some time later) Wagner's
wife Cosima. Nietzsche admired both greatly, and during his time at
Basel frequently visited Wagner's house in Tribschen in the Canton of
Lucerne. The Wagners brought Nietzsche into their most intimate circle,
and enjoyed the attention he gave to the beginning of the Bayreuth Festival
Theatre. In 1870, he gave Cosima Wagner the manuscript of 'The Genesis
of the Tragic Idea' as a birthday gift. In 1872, Nietzsche published
his first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. However,
his classical philological colleagues, including Ritschl, expressed
little enthusiasm for the work, in which Nietzsche forewent a precise
philological method to employ a style of philosophical speculation.
In a polemic, Philology of the Future, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff
dampened the book's reception and increased its notoriety. In response,
Rohde (by now a professor in Kiel) and Wagner came to Nietzsche's defense.
Nietzsche remarked freely about the isolation he felt within the philological
community and attempted to attain a position in philosophy at Basel,
in Basel, ca. 1875.Between
1873 and 1876, Nietzsche published separately four long essays: David
Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer, On the Use and Abuse of History
for Life, Schopenhauer as Educator, and Richard Wagner in Bayreuth.
(These four later appeared in a collected edition under the title, Untimely
Meditations.) The four essays shared the orientation of a cultural critique,
challenging the developing German culture along lines suggested by Schopenhauer
and Wagner. Starting in 1873, Nietzsche also accumulated the notes later
posthumously published as Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks.
During this time, in the circle of the Wagners, Nietzsche met Malwida
von Meysenbug and Hans von Bülow, and also began a friendship with
Paul Rée, who in 1876 imminently influenced him in dismissing
the pessimism in his early writings. However, his disappointment with
the Bayreuth Festival of 1876, where the banality of the shows and the
baseness of the public repelled him, caused him in the end to distance
himself from Wagner.
With the publication
of Human, All Too Human in 1878, a book of aphorisms on subjects ranging
from metaphysics to morality and from religion to the sexes, Nietzsche's
departure from the philosophy of Wagner and Schopenhauer became evident.
Nietzsche's friendship with Deussen and Rohde cooled as well. Nietzsche
in this time attempted to find a wife — to no avail. In 1879,
after a significant decline in health, Nietzsche had to resign his position
at Basel. (Since his childhood, various disruptive illnesses had plagued
him — moments of shortsightedness practically to the degree of
blindness, migraine headaches, and violent stomach attacks. The 1868
riding accident and diseases in 1870 may have aggravated these persistent
conditions, which continued to affect him through his years at Basel,
forcing him to take longer and longer holidays until regular work became
no longer practical.)
Independent philosopher (1879–1888)
Because his illness drove him to find more compatible climates, Nietzsche
traveled frequently, and lived until 1889 as an independent author in
different cities. He spent many summers in Sils Maria, near St. Moritz
in Switzerland, and many winters in the Italian cities of Genoa, Rapallo,
and Turin, and in the French city of Nice. 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 sort of private secretary to Nietzsche. To the end of his life, Gast
and Overbeck remained consistently faithful friends. Malwida von Meysenbug
remained like a motherly patron even outside the Wagner circle. Soon
Nietzsche made contact with the music critic Carl Fuchs. Nietzsche stood
at the beginning of his most productive period. Beginning with Human,
All Too Human in 1878, Nietzsche would publish one book (or major section
of a book) each year until 1888, his last year of writing, during which
he completed five.
Lou Salomé, Paul Rée and Nietzsche, 1882.In 1882 Nietzsche
published 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 in Thuringia,
often with Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth as chaperon. However, Nietzsche
regarded Salomé 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. Nietzsche's
relationship with Rée and Salomé broke up in the winter
of 1882/1883, partially due to intrigues conducted by his sister Elisabeth.
In the face of renewed fits of illness, in near isolation after a falling-out
with his mother and sister regarding Salomé, and plagued by suicidal
thoughts, Nietzsche fled to Rapallo, where he wrote the first part of
Thus Spoke Zarathustra in only ten days.
After severing 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 it was received only to the degree required by politeness.
Nietzsche recognized this and maintained his solitude, even though he
often complained about it. 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 Nietzsche
printed Beyond Good and Evil at his own expense. With this book and
with the appearance in 1886–1887 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, interest in Nietzsche's thought
did increase at this time, even if rather slowly and hardly perceived
by him. During these years Nietzsche met Meta von Salis, Carl Spitteler,
and also Gottfried Keller. In 1886, his sister Elisabeth married the
anti-Semite Bernhard Förster and traveled to Paraguay to found
Nueva Germania, a "Germanic" colony, a plan to which Nietzsche
responded with laughter. Through correspondence, Nietzsche's relationship
with Elisabeth continued on the path of conflict and reconciliation,
but she would meet again only after his collapse. He continued to have
frequent and painful attacks of illness, which made prolonged work impossible.
In 1887, Nietzsche quickly wrote the polemic On the Genealogy of Morals.
During this year
Nietzsche encountered Fyodor Dostoevsky's work, which he quickly appropriated.
He also exchanged letters with Hippolyte Taine, and then also with Georg
Brandes. Brandes, who had started to teach the philosophy of Søren
Kierkegaard in the 1870s, wrote to Nietzsche asking him to read Kierkegaard,
to which Nietzsche replied that he would come to Copenhagen and read
Kierkegaard with him. However, before he was able to, he slipped too
far into sickness and madness. In the beginning of 1888, in Copenhagen,
Brandes delivered one of the first lectures on Nietzsche's philosophy.
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 improve, and he spent
the summer in high spirits. In the fall of 1888 his writings and letters
began to reveal a higher estimation of his own status and 'fate'. He
overestimated the increasing response to his writings, above all, for
the recent polemic, The Case of Wagner. On his 44th birthday, after
completing The Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist, he decided
to write the autobiography Ecce Homo, which presents itself to his readers
in order that they "[h]ear me! For I am such and such a person.
Above all, do not mistake me for someone else." (Preface, sec.
1, tr. Walter Kaufmann) In December, Nietzsche began a correspondence
with August Strindberg, and thought that, short of an international
breakthrough, he would attempt to buy back his older writings from the
publisher and have them translated into other European languages. Moreover,
he planned the publication of the compilation Nietzsche Contra Wagner
and of the poems Dionysian Dithyrambs.
Mental breakdown and death (1889–1900)
On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche had a mental collapse. Two policemen approached
him after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What
actually happened remains unknown. The often-repeated tale states that
Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse at the other end of the
Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around the
horse’s neck to protect it, and collapsed to the ground. The first
dream-sequence from Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment has just such
a scene in which Raskolnikov witnesses the whipping of a horse around
the eyes (Part 1, Chapter 5). (Incidentally, Nietzsche called Dostoyevsky
"[t]he only psychologist from whom I have anything to learn."(Twilight
of the Idols, Friedrich Nietzsche, 1889, §45).)
In the following
few days, he sent short writings to a number of friends (including Cosima
Wagner and Jacob Burckhardt), which may indicate potential signs of
a breakdown. To his former colleague Burckhardt he wrote: "I have
had Caiaphas put in fetters. Also, last year I was crucified by the
German doctors in a very drawn-out manner. Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all
On January 6, 1889,
Burckhardt showed the letter he had received from Nietzsche to Overbeck.
The following day Overbeck received a similarly revealing letter, and
decided that Nietzsche's friends had to bring him back to Basel. Overbeck
travelled to Turin and brought Nietzsche to a psychiatric clinic in
Basel. By that time, Nietzsche appeared fully in the grip of insanity,
and his mother Franziska decided to transfer him to a clinic in Jena
under the direction of Otto Binswanger. From November 1889 to February
1890, Julius Langbehn attempted to cure Nietzsche, claiming that the
doctors' methods were ineffective to cure Nietzsche's condition. Langbehn
assumed progressively greater control of Nietzsche until his secrecy
discredited him. In March 1890 Franziska removed Nietzsche from the
clinic, and in May 1890 brought him to her home in Naumburg. During
this process, Overbeck and Gast contemplated what to do with Nietzsche's
unpublished works. In January 1889 they proceeded with the planned release
of The Twilight of the Idols, by that time already printed and bound.
In February, they ordered a 50-copy private edition of Nietzsche contra
Wagner, but the publisher C. G. Naumann secretly printed 100. Overbeck
and Gast decided to withhold publishing The Antichrist and Ecce Homo
due to their more radical content. Nietzsche's reception and recognition
enjoyed their first surge.
A photo by Hans Olde from the photographic series "The Ill Nietzsche",
Summer of 1899In 1893 Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth returned from Nueva
Germania (Paraguay) after the suicide of her husband. She read and studied
Nietzsche's works, and piece by piece took control of them and of their
publication. Overbeck eventually suffered dismissal, and Gast finally
co-operated. After the death of Franziska in 1897 Nietzsche lived in
Weimar, where Elisabeth cared for him and allowed people, including
Rudolf Steiner, to visit her uncommunicative brother.
frequently diagnosed a syphilitic infection as the cause of the breakdown;
however, some of Nietzsche's symptoms seem inconsistent with typical
cases of syphilis. Some have diagnosed a form of brain cancer, possibly
inherited from his father. While most commentators regard Nietzsche's
breakdown as unrelated to his philosophy, some, including Georges Bataille
and René Girard, argue for considering his breakdown as a symptom
of a psychological maladjustment brought on by his philosophy.
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. His friend,
Gast, gave his funeral oration, proclaiming: "Holy be your name
to all future generations!"  (Note that Nietzsche had pointed
out in Ecce Homo how he did not wish to be called "holy".)
Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche compiled The Will to Power from notes
he had written; and published it posthumously. Since his sister arranged
the book, the general consensus holds that it does not reflect Nietzsche's
intent, especially because Nietzsche opposed Elisabeth's marriage to
an anti-Semite. Indeed, Mazzino Montinari, the editor of Nietzsche's
Nachlass, called it a forgery. The content of The Will to Power has
given rise to accusations that Nietzsche shared views similar to those
of the Nazis.
Main article: Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
, 1882Of the major philosophers, Nietzsche's work has generated possibly
the least consensus among interpreters. Key concepts are readily identifiable,
but the meaning of each, let alone the relative significance of each,
is hotly contested. Nietzsche famously claimed that God is dead, and
this death either results in radical perspectivism or compels one to
confront the fact that truth had always been perspectival. Nietzsche
is also noted for distinguishing between master and slave moralities,
the former arising from a celebration of life, the latter the result
of ressentiment at those capable of the former. This distinction is
summarized as the difference between "good and bad," on the
one hand, and "good and evil," on the other; importantly,
the "good" man of the master morality is the "evil"
man of the slave morality.
The rise of morality
and of moral disputes is thus a matter of psychology; Nietzsche's perspectivism
likewise reduces epistemology to psychology. One of the most recurrent
themes in Nietzsche's work, therefore, is the Will to Power. At a minimum,
Nietzsche claims for the will to power that it describes human behavior
more compellingly than Platonic eros, Schopenhauer's Will to Live, or
Paul Rée's utilitarian account of morality, among others; to
go beyond this would be to engage in the task of an interpreter.
Much of Nietzsche's
philosophy has a critical flavor to it; two concepts associated with
a more constructive project are the Übermensch (variously translated
as superman, superhuman, or overman) and the eternal return (or eternal
recurrance). The superhuman is posited as a goal that humanity can achieve
for itself, or that an individual can set for himself.
this Übermensch with the Üntermensch, or last man, which appears
to be an exaggerated version of the degraded "goal" that liberal
democrats or bourgeois society sets for itself. Both the Übermensch
and the eternal return feature heavily in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, though
the relation between them is unclear and the subject of intense dispute.
Similarly, there are almost as many views regarding the eternal return
— at the minimal, definitional level — as there are interpreters
Main article: List of works by Friedrich Nietzsche
Main article: The Birth of Tragedy
Nietzsche published his first book in 1872 as The Birth of Tragedy,
Out of the Spirit of Music (Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste
der Musik) and reissued it in 1886 as The Birth of Tragedy, Or: Hellenism
and Pessimism (Die Geburt der Tragödie, Oder: Griechentum und Pessimismus).
The later edition contained a prefatory essay, An Attempt at Self-Criticism,
wherein Nietzsche commented on this very early work.
In contrast to the
typically Enlightenment view of ancient Greek culture as noble, simple,
elegant and grandiose, Nietzsche characterizes it as a conflict between
two distinct tendencies - the Apollonian and Dionysian. The Apollonian
in culture he sees as the principium individuationis (principle of individuation)
with its refinement, sobriety and emphasis on superficial appearance,
whereby man separates himself from the undifferentiated immediacy of
nature. Immersion into that same wholeness characterizes the Dionysian,
recognizable by intoxication, irrationality and inhumanity; this shows
the influence of Schopenhauer's view that non-rational forces underlie
human creativity. Nietzsche describes how from Socrates onward the Apollonian
had dominated Western thought, and raises German Romanticism (especially
Richard Wagner) as a possible re-introduction of the Dionysian to the
salvation of European culture.
Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf
criticised The Birth of Tragedy heavily. By 1886, Nietzsche himself
had reservations about the work, referring to it as "an impossible
book . . . badly written, ponderous, embarrassing, image-mad and image-confused,
sentimental, saccharine to the point of effeminacy, uneven in tempo,
[and] without the will to logical cleanliness."
Main article: Untimely Meditations
Started in 1873 and completed in 1876, this work comprises a collection
of four (out of a projected 13) essays concerning the contemporary condition
of European, especially German, culture.
David Strauss: der
Bekenner und der Schriftsteller, 1873 (David Strauss: the Confessor
and the Writer) attacks David Strauss's The Old and the New Faith: A
Confession (1871) which Nietzsche holds up as an example of the German
thought of the time. He paints Strauss's "New Faith" - scientifically-determined
universal mechanism based on the progression of history - as a vulgar
reading of history in the service of a degenerate culture, polemically
attacking not only the book but also Strauss as a Philistine of pseudo-culture.
Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben, 1874 (On the
Use and Abuse of History for Life) offers — instead of the prevailing
view of "knowledge as an end in itself" — an alternative
way of reading history, one where living life becomes the primary concern;
along with a description of how this might improve the health of a society.
It also introduced an attack against the basic precepts of classic humanism.
In this essay, Nietzsche attacks both the historicism of man (the idea
that man is created through history) and the idea that one can possibly
have an objective concept of man, since a major aspect of man resides
in his subjectivity. Nietzsche expands the idea that the essence of
man dwells not inside of him, but rather above him, in the following
essay, "Schopenhauer als Erzieher" ("Schopenhauer as
Schopenhauer als Erzieher, 1874 (Schopenhauer as Educator) describes
how the philosophic genius of Schopenhauer might bring on a resurgence
of German culture. Nietzsche gives special attention to Schopenhauer's
individualism, honesty and steadfastness as well as his cheerfulness,
despite Schopenhauer's noted pessimism.
Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, 1876 investigates Richard Wagner's psychology
— less flatteringly than Nietzsche's friendship with his subject
might suggest. Nietzsche considered not publishing it because of this,
and eventually settled on drafts that criticized the musician less than
they might have done. Nonetheless this essay foreshadows the imminent
split between the two.
Main article: Human, All Too Human
Nietzsche supplemented the original edition of this work, first published
in 1878, with a second part in 1879: Mixed Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte
Meinungen und Sprüche), and a third part in 1880: The Wanderer
and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten). The three parts appeared
together in 1886 as Human, All Too Human, A Book for Free Spirits (Menschliches,
Allzumenschliches, Ein Buch für freie Geister). This book represents
the beginning of Nietzsche's "middle period", with a break
from German Romanticism and from Wagner and with a definite positivist
slant. Note the style: reluctant to construct a systemic philosophy,
Nietzsche composed these works as a series of several hundred aphorisms,
either single lines or one or two pages. This book comprises more a
collection of debunkings of unwarranted assumptions than an interpretation,
though it offers some elements of Nietzsche's thought in his arguments:
he uses his perspectivism and the idea of the will to power as explanatory
devices, though the latter remains less developed than in his later
In Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudices (Morgenröte. Gedanken
über die moralischen Vorurteile, 1881), Nietzsche de-emphasizes
the role of hedonism as a motivator and accentuates the role of a "feeling
of power". His relativism, both moral and cultural, and his critique
of Christianity also reaches greater maturity. With this aphoristic
book in its clear, calm and intimate style Nietzsche seems to invite
a particular experience, rather than showing concern with persuading
his readers to accept any point of view. He would develop many of the
ideas advanced here more fully in later books.
The Gay Science
Main article: The Gay Science
The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, 1882), the largest
and most comprehensive of Nietzsche's middle-period books, continues
the aphoristic style and contains more poetry than any other of his
works. It has central themes of a joyful affirmation of life and of
an immersion in a light-hearted scholarship that takes aesthetic pleasure
in life (the title refers to the Provençal phrase for the craft
of poetry). As an example, Nietzsche offers the doctrine of eternal
recurrence, which ranks one's life as the sole consideration when evaluating
how one should act. This contrasts with the Christian view of an afterlife
which emphasizes later reward at the cost of one's immediate happiness.
The Gay Science has however perhaps become best known for the statement
"God is dead", which forms part of Nietzsche's naturalistic
and aesthetic alternative to traditional religion.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Main article: Thus Spoke Zarathustra
A break with his middle-period works, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, A Book
for All and None (Also Sprach Zarathustra, Ein Buch für Alle und
Keinen, 1883 - 1885) became Nietzsche's best-known book and the one
he considered the most important. Noteworthy for its format, it comprises
a philosophical work of fiction whose style often lightheartedly imitates
that of the New Testament and of the Platonic dialogues, at times resembling
Pre-Socratic works in tone and in its use of natural phenomena as rhetorical
and explanatory devices. It also features frequent references to the
Western literary and philosophical traditions, implicitly offering an
interpretation of these traditions and of their problems. Nietzsche
achieves all of this through the character of Zarathustra (referring
to the historic figure behind Zoroastrianism) who makes speeches on
philosophic topics as he moves along a loose plotline marking his development
and the reception of his ideas. One can view this characteristic (following
the genre of the bildungsroman) as an inline commentary on Zarathustra
(and Nietzsche's) philosophy. All this, along with the book's ambiguity
and paradoxical nature, has helped its eventual enthusiastic reception
by the reading public, but has frustrated academic attempts at analysis
(as Nietzsche may have intended); and Thus Spoke Zarathustra remained
for long unpopular as a topic for scholars (especially those in the
Anglo-American analytic tradition), until the second half of the twentieth
century brought widespread interest in Nietzsche and his unconventional
style that does not distinguish between philosophy and literature. 
It offers formulations of eternal recurrence and of the will to power;
and Nietzsche for the first time speaks of the Übermensch: themes
that would dominate his books from this point onwards.
Beyond Good and Evil
Main article: Beyond Good and Evil
Of the four "late-period" writings of Nietzsche, Beyond Good
and Evil, Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (Jenseits von Gut und
Böse. Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft, 1886) most closely
resembles the aphoristic style of his middle period. Therein he identifies
the qualities of genuine philosophers: imagination, self-assertion,
danger, originality and the "creation of values" - all else
he considers incidental. Continuing from this he contests some key pre-suppositions
such as "self-consciousness", "knowledge", "truth"
and "free will" as used by some of the great representatives
of the philosophic tradition. Instead of these traditional analyses,
which Nietzsche paints as insufficient, he offers the will to power
as an explanatory device, being part of his "perspective of life"
which he regards as "beyond good and evil", denying a universal
morality for all human beings. The master and slave moralities feature
prominently as Nietzsche re-evaluates deeply-held humanistic beliefs,
portraying even domination, appropriation and injury to the weak as
not universally objectionable. A tone of moral relativism and perspectivism
On the Genealogy of Morals
Main article: On the Genealogy of Morals
The three essays that make up On the Genealogy of Morals, A Polemic
(Zur Genealogie der Moral, Eine Streitschrift, 1887) represent the last
of Nietzsche's works before his flurry of activity in 1888. Each essay
comprises a series of paragraphs (like the longer aphorisms of some
of his books) that discusses the details of his moral relativism, especially
of how the will to power influences perspectives, and appears more unproblematically
philosophical in style and tone than many of his books and all of those
written afterwards. For these reasons this book has become a popular
topic for scholarly analysis. 
'Good and Evil',
'Good and Bad'" continues Nietzsche's discussion of the Master-Slave
Morality, maintaining that the slave morality (which labels "good"
and "evil" compared to the less judgmental and more masterful
"good" and "bad") arises from a denial of life —
as opposed to the vitalism of the master morality. Nietzsche identifies
ressentiment as the driving force of the slave morality.
'Guilt', 'Bad Conscience', and Related Matters investigates the sources
of conscience, especially "bad conscience", and names cruelty
as the base of punishment and self-punishment. Cruelty as punishment
of others provides gratification because thereby one imposes one's will
over another; cruelty to oneself happens through "bad conscience",
whereby one punishes oneself because of not holding to a self-imposed
standard of dependability. In this way Nietzsche characterizes altruistic,
"selfless", behavior as immense cruelty to oneself by imposing
another's will over oneself, an explanation he offers for Christianity
and monotheism in general.
What Do Ascetic Ideals Mean? continues the theme. Nietzsche describes
how such a paradoxical action as asceticism might serve the interests
of life: through asceticism one can attain mastery over oneself. In
this way one can express both ressentiment and the will to power. Nietzsche
describes the morality of the ascetic priest as characterized by Christianity
as one where, finding oneself in pain, one places the blame for the
pain on oneself and thereby attempts and attains mastery over the world,
a tactic that Nietzsche places behind secular science as well as behind
Main article: The Case of Wagner
In his first book of a highly productive year, The Case of Wagner, A
Musician's Problem (Der Fall Wagner, Ein Musikanten-Problem, May - August
1888), Nietzsche launches into a devastating and unbridled attack upon
the figure of Richard Wagner. While he recognizes Wagner's music as
an immense cultural achievement, he also characterizes it as the product
of decadence and nihilism and thereby of sickness. The book shows Nietzsche
as a capable music-critic, and provides the setting for some of his
further reflections on the nature of art and on its relationship to
the future health of humanity.
The Twilight of the Idols
Main article: The Twilight of the Idols
The title of this highly polemical book, Twilight of the Idols, or How
One Philosophizes with a Hammer (Götzen-Dämmerung, oder Wie
man mit dem Hammer philosophiert, August-September 1888), word-plays
upon Wagner's opera, The Twilight of the Gods (Die Götterdämmerung).
In this short work, written in the flurry of his last productive year,
Nietzsche re-iterates and elaborates some of the criticisms of major
philosophic figures (Socrates, Plato, Kant and the Christian tradition).
He establishes early on in the section The Problem of Socrates that
nobody can estimate the value of life and that any judgment concerning
it only reveals the judging person's life-denying or life-affirming
tendencies. He attempts to portray philosophers from Socrates onwards
as (in his own term) "decadents" who employ dialectics as
a tool for self-preservation while the authority of tradition breaks
down. He also criticizes the German culture of his day as unsophisticated,
and shoots some disapproving arrows at key French, British, and Italian
cultural figures. In contrast to all these alleged representatives of
cultural decadence, Nietzsche applauds Caesar, Napoleon, Goethe, Dostoevsky,
Thucydides and the Sophists as healthier and stronger types. The book
states the transvaluation of all values as Nietzsche's final and most
important project, and gives a view of antiquity wherein the Romans
for once take precedence over the ancient Greeks.
Main article: The Antichrist (book)
In one of his best-known and most contentious works, The Antichrist,
Curse on Christianity (Der Antichrist. Fluch auf das Christentum, September
1888), Nietzsche launches into a polemic, hyperbolic attack on the morals
of Christianity — the view of Nietzsche as an enthusiastic attacker
of Christianity largely arises from this book. Therein he elaborates
on his criticisms of Christianity which had occurred in his earlier
works, but now using a sarcastic tone, expressing a disgust over the
way the slave-morality corrupted noble values in ancient Rome. He frames
certain elements of the religion — the Gospels, Paul, the martyrs,
priests and the crusades — as creations of ressentiment for the
upholding of the unhealthy at the cost of stronger sentiments. Even
in this extreme denunciation Nietzsche does not begrudge some respect
to the figure of Jesus and some Christian elements, but this book abandons
the relatively even-handed (if inflammatory) analysis of his earlier
criticisms for outright polemic — Nietzsche proposes an "Anti-Christian"
morality for the future: the transvaluation of all values.
Main article: Ecce Homo (book)
Though Ecce Homo, How One Becomes What One Is (Ecce Homo, Wie man wird,
was man ist, October to November 1888) appears as a curiously-styled
autobiography (with sections entitled "Why I Am So Clever",
"Why I Am So Wise", "Why I Write Such Good Books")
it offers much more of a history of Nietzsche's ideas than of the man
himself, highlighting Nietzsche's project of genealogical analysis as
well as de-emphasizing the splits between philosophy and literature,
personality and philosophy, and body and mind. The author does this
by tying certain qualities of his thought with idiosyncrasies of his
physical person, as well as extremely candid remarks occasionally made
throughout his half-joking self-adulation (a mockery of Socratic humility).
After this self-description, wherein Nietzsche proclaims the goodness
of everything that has happened to him (including his father's early
death and his near-blindness — an example of amor fati) —
he offers brief insights into all of his works, concluding with the
section "Why I Am A Destiny", calmly laying out the principles
he places at the center of his project: eternal recurrence and the transvaluation
of all values.
Nietzsche Contra Wagner
Main article: Nietzsche Contra Wagner
A selection of passages concerning Wagner and art in general which Nietzsche
extracted from his works from the period 1878 to 1887 appears in Nietzsche
Contra Wagner, Out of the Files of a Psychologist (Nietzsche contra
Wagner, Aktenstücke eines Psychologen, December 1888). The passages
serve as a background for the comparison Nietzsche would make between
his own aesthetics and those of Wagner and his description of how Wagner
became corrupted through Christianity, Aryanism, and anti-semitism.
The Unpublished Notebooks
Main article: The Will to Power
Nietzsche's nachlass contains an immense amount of material and discusses
at great length the issues around which Nietzsche's philosophy revolves
. Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, who acted
as executrix of his literary estate, arranged these pieces for publication
as The Will to Power.
would reveal that Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche had included material
extremely selectively and that she gave these excerpts an order different
to that of the author, leading to the current opinion of her manuscript
as a revisionist corruption bringing her brother's text in line with
her own beliefs, which he vehemently opposed. On the strength of this
manuscript, Elisabeth later fostered sympathy for her brother's works
among the Nazis, and her revisionism forms the cornerstone of the defense
of Nietzsche against the charges of fascism and anti-semitism.
However, since their
first publication in the 1960s it has gradually become clear that the
Unpublished Notebooks form an indispensable part of
Together with the
published titles they form a literary continuum;
They lack the self-censorship which publishing requires;
They contain additional topics that do not appear in the published titles
They provide material for a better understanding of concepts like nihilism,
Eternal Return, the Übermensch... which would otherwise remain
They shed light on Nietzsche's political, social and cultural intentions.
influence and reception
This article or section seems to contain too many quotations for an
Please improve the article or discuss proposed changes on the talk page.
You can edit the article to add more encyclopaedic text or link the
article to a page of quotations, possibly one of the same name, on Wikiquote.
See Wikipedia's guide to writing better articles for further suggestions.
has proved a rather confused and complex affair. Many Germans eventually
discovered his appeals for greater individualism and personality development
in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but responded to those appeals in diverging
ways. He had some following among left-wing Germans in the 1890s; in
1894–95, German conservatives wanted to ban his work as subversive.
By the First World War, however, he had acquired a reputation as a source
of right-wing German militarism. The Dreyfus Affair provides another
example of his reception: the French anti-semitic Right labelled the
Jewish and Leftist intellectuals who defended Alfred Dreyfus as "Nietzscheans".
During the interbellum,
certain Nazis employed a highly selective reading of Nietzsche's work
to advance their ideology, notably Alfred Baeumler in his reading of
The Will to Power. The era of Nazi rule (1933 – 1945) saw Nietzsche's
writings widely studied in German (and, after 1938, Austrian) schools
and universities. The Nazis viewed Nietzsche as one of their "founding
fathers". Although there exist few — if any — similarities
between Nietzsche's political views and Nazism, phrases like "the
will to power" became common in Nazi circles. The wide popularity
of Nietzsche among Nazis stemmed in part from the endeavors of his sister,
Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, the editor of Nietzsche's work after
his 1889 breakdown, and an eventual Nazi sympathizer. Nietzsche himself
thoroughly disapproved of his sister's anti-Semitic views; in a letter
to her he wrote:
You have committed
one of the greatest stupidities—for yourself and for me! Your
association with an anti-Semitic chief expresses a foreignness to my
whole way of life which fills me again and again with ire or melancholy.
… It is a matter of honor with me to be absolutely clean and unequivocal
in relation to anti-Semitism, namely, opposed to it, as I am in my writings.
I have recently been persecuted with letters and Anti-Semitic Correspondence
Sheets. My disgust with this party (which would like the benefit of
my name only too well) is as pronounced as possible.
Nietzsche, Letter to His Sister, Christmas 1887