Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German atheist philosopher whose work set a foundation for the existentialist movement of the 1900s. Nietzsche went mad and suffered a mental breakdown, from which he never recovered.
Nietzsche was critical of religion in general, though especially Christianity, which he described as the "religion of pity." Nietzsche is perhaps most famous for his declaration that “God is dead,” which suggests that since Christian morality views worldly pleasures as immoral, to accept Christianity is to deny life - therefore, God (a personification of Christian principles) is figuratively dead. Furthermore, he postulated that the Christian Heaven, a metaphysical "true world" beyond the reach of the human senses, devalued the physical world that we live in. In this sense, he accused Christianity of nihilism. He also suggested that Western culture seemed no longer rooted in Christian dogmatism and a faith-based worldview. Without God, the idea of absolutes are difficult to come by, and Nietzsche thus suggested ways for people to cope with this loss of "Good" and "Evil".
|“||When Adolf Hitler first met Benito Mussolini, he presented him with a gift of the collected works of Nietzsche. It was an appropriate memento. Hitler's ideas about life and politics were largely derived from Nietzsche. Hitler subscribed to the Nietzschean idea that superior people have an inborn right to rule. - William Kilpatrick||”|
Nietzsche suffered a mental collapse in 1889, and spent the last ten years of his life unable to care for himself. During this time, his sister Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche took over his affairs, and worked to falsify and re-edit his writings in order to support her virulent Antisemitism (a view which Nietzsche arguably abhorred, and often mocked, during his lifetime). It was her distorted version of culled and misquoted statements which later provided an intellectual fig leaf for the Nazis and Italian Fascists.
The Übermensch (overhuman, superhuman) was a literary device used in his magnum opus, "Thus Spoke Zarathustra". The Overman was to be a new kind of being which would overcome resentment and affirm the Eternal Recurrence of the same.
The statement "God is dead" first appeared in Nietzsche's "The Gay Science", in Aphorism 108, titled "New Struggles". This aphorism introduces Nietzsche's famous Madman, who runs out into the street shouting, "God is dead!" Yet, to his dismay, the Madman sees "he has come too soon," for people have not realized this cultural revelation for themselves and are blind to it. They consider the Madman's seemingly theological claim as absurd for they misunderstand him; it is no argument about the existence of God, but a claim of how secular society has become. Nietzsche was no friend to Christian beliefs, and no doubt considered the Christian God to be a mere myth. This passage shows his hope for a philosophy of the future, one he imagined would be emptied of coarse objective rationalizing, which he characterized as God and associated with Christianity. Nietzsche, in other words, felt his message of subjective truth came too soon and hoped, as the Madman, that he would be understood someday.
Nietzsche's father Carl Ludwig Nietzsche, was a Lutheran pastor.
In his first Papal Encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est" (God is Charity/Love) Pope Benedict XVI quotes from Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, taking very seriously Nietzsche's claim that the Church has poisoned eros (love) with dogma, and responding to it.
Prophecy of WWII and Death
After writing his final complete work in 1883, The Antichrist, Curse on Christianity, Nietzsche would go insane in 1889, exactly 50 years before the start of World War II, during which he would prophetically predict a coming Hitlerian society and Nazi Germany. As H.L. Mencken puts it, "Save for his raucous, rhapsodical autobiography, 'Ecce Homo,' 'The Antichrist' is the last thing that Nietzsche ever wrote, and so it may be accepted as a statement of some of his most salient ideas in their final form."
Nietzsche, early in January 1889, saw a coachman flogging a horse, and rushed towards it. Throwing his arms around the horse, Nietzsche collapsed in unconsciousness, and was carried home. In a fit of insanity, he mailed several letters before dying on August 25, 1900, from pneumonia. These letters included the following:
|“|| "To my maestro Pietro. Sing me a new-song: the world is transfigured and all the heavens are full of joy. -The Crucified"
-Friedrich Nietzsche to Gast, January 4, 1889
|“|| "You may make any use of this letter which will not degrade me in the eyes of those at Basel. I have had Caiaphas put in fetters. Also, last year I was crucified by the German doctors in a very drawn-out manner. Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all anti-Semites abolished."
-Friedrich Nietzsche to Jacob Burkhardt, January 6, 1889
Thus, for all his criticism of God, Christianity, and the supernatural, Nietzsche would end his life in a fit of madness prophesying the coming of World War II in warning to the Jewish people, accurately predicting German doctor Joseph Mengele, antisemitism, and the threat of Germany to the free world.
Examples in the Bible of God punishing prominent figures for their wickedness and using them as prophets during or immediately after their insanity include:
- Nebuchadnezzar: After the ruler arrogantly lifted up his heart in pride, giving himself credit despite all that God had shown him, God made him go insane for 7 years, during which he lived like an animal. When his reason finally returned, he repented and ended up glorifying God. (Daniel 4:28-37 (KJV))
- King Saul: The wicked king sent troops to capture David 3 separate times, who was living with Samuel and other prophets. Each time the troops ended up prophesying rather than trying to capture David, and when Saul finally went himself, he ended up stripping off his clothes and prophesying with David and Samuel, resulting in an Israelite saying, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (Samuel+19%3A18-24&version=KJV 1 Samuel 19:18-24 (KJV))
Other somewhat similar cases include:
- Apostle Paul: Once the greatest persecutor of the fledgling Christianity, the zealous Pharisee found himself confronted with the living Lord, who blinded him of his sight. Upon reaching Ananias in Damascus, Paul's sight was restored, he got baptized, and began preaching in the Jewish synagogues a risen Lord. (Acts 9:1-22 (KJV))
Currently, there is an ongoing debate on whether Friedrich Nietzsche's insanity was caused purely through disease or whether his atheistic/nihilistic philosophical outlook on life was the cause. An article published on the Hong Kong Baptist University declares:
|“||Trying to explain what caused his insanity can only be a matter of speculation. Some people believe it was the result of a physical illness. Others interpret his suffering as that of a true prophet, almost as if he were accepting the punishment on behalf of those who could not see mankind's tendency towards self-destruction so clearly. Still others regard his final fate as a natural outcome of his philosophical outlook.||”|
The Russian-born psychoanalyst and writer Lou Andreas-Salomé, who had a brief and tempestuous affair with Nietzsche, believed that Nietzsche's philosophy can be viewed as a reflection of his psychology and that his madness was the result of his philosophizing. In addition, the French historian René Girard asserted that Nietzsche's philosophy led to his insanity.
Friedrich Nietzsche argued that rational egalitarianism denies creativity, and reason cannot create values and morality, attempt to do so would only lead to nihilism. Therefore morality has been imposed.
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote "Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual.", "With morality, the individual can only ascribe value to himself as a function of the herd", "I submit that egoism belongs to the essence of a noble soul ... and has its basis in the primary law of things", "all morality is partisan; just as any legal system will favor certain behavior against others", "who else should we wish to serve, if not ourselves?" and "Whoever battles monsters should take care not to become a monster too, for if you stare long enough into the Abyss, the Abyss stares back into you."
On Science and Knowledge
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote "I mistrust all systemizers and avoid them; the will to systematize is a lack of integrity", "there is no pre-established harmony between the furtherance of truth and the well-being of mankind", "the free-spirit is brought into disrepute chiefly by scholars who miss their thoroughness and ant-like industry in his art of regarding things", "there are many things I do not wish to know, wisdom sets a limit on knowledge too", "the fact that science as we practice it today is possible proves that the elementary instinct which protect life have ceased to function", "we have arranged for ourselves a world in which we are able to live with postulation of bodies, lines, surfaces, causes, and effects, motion and rest, form and content: without these articles of faith, nobody could manage to live", "the irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition for it", "[too much knowledge causes us to] choke on our own reason", "creed of nihilism which I see everywhere is the result of too much learning" and "Any truth which threatens life is no truth at all, it is an error".
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote "As a political subject, it is an illusion to ask myself what I require from the state. In reality, it is a question of what the state requires from me", "culture and the state are antagonistic", "clearly, the individual will is forfeit to the demands of government - a kind of political Darwinism. The herd triumphs again, this time under the banner of the state", "socialism is the fantastic younger brother of an almost decrepit despotism, which it wants to succeeded", "the doctrine of free will is an invention of the ruling classes" and "madness is something rare in individuals; but in groups, parties, ages, it is the rule".
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote "Women are essentially unpeaceful" and "Man is for woman a means; the purpose is always a child. But what is woman for man?"
Nietszche also wrote "Stupidity in a woman is unfeminine." 
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote "Philosophy is the dressing-up in rational argument of moral beliefs, intuitions and desires".
Friedrich Nietzsche was born to a long line of Protestant Lutheran ministers. His grandfather, Friedrich August Ludwig Nietzsche, was in fact an established Protestant scholar whose writings argued the “everlasting survival of Christianity.” From an early age Friedrich Nietzsche maintained a dedication to Lutheranism and continued his passion for theology in university. In the year 1864, Nietzsche entered the University of Bonn as a theology and philology student with a particular interest in the translation and interpretation of Biblical texts. Nietzsche's views on religion are scattered amongst his earliest works in the 1860s well up until the time of his death in 1889. As such, his views concerning religion, morality, and human nature are not outlined definitively and are thus the subject of scholarly debate.
However, Nietzsche spoke out against Islam citing that it was a force subsisting wholly on the denial of the individual. He posed in his work "The Birth of Tragedy" that Islam (among other religions) utilizes the restriction of necessary human desires such as love as a means of securing their permanence as a force of control.
Thus Friedrich Nietzsche viewed Mohammed, Buddha, Homer etc, not as religious figures, but as creators of rigid moral frameworks, who lost their authority as Europe severed ties with its diverse religious tradition.
- Stanford's Biography on Nietzsche.
- Nietzsche Quotations
- Wicks, Robert (2011, April 29). "Friedrich Nietzsche." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Burns, K. & Novick, L. (2007, September). "The War." Florentine Films and WETA-TV. PBS.
- Nietzsche, F.W. (1920). "The Antichrist." Library of the University of Virginia.
- Kaufman, Walter (1954). "The Portable Nietzsche." p. 684. Penguin Books.
- The Portable Nietzsche, p. 685.
- The Portable Nietzsche, pp. 685-687.
- Zweig, Stefan (1939) Master Builders [trilogy], The Struggle with the Daimon, Viking Press, p. 524.
Wikipedia. "Friedrich Nietzsche: Mental Breakdown and Death." Accessed May 12, 2012.
- Nietzsche Chronicle
- Nietzsche: The Problem of Autumn
- "The Case for Nietzschean Moral Psychology"
- Deus Caritas Est, from the Vatican website
- Introducing Nietzsche, Third Edition by Laurence Gane