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Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German atheistic, nihilistic philosopher whose work set a foundation for the existentialist movement of the 1900s.[1] 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."[2] 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 in which we live. 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 is 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 that 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 that 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,[3] Nietzsche would go insane in 1889, exactly 50 years before the start of World War II,[4] 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."[5]

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.[6] 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[7]

"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[8]

Wilhelm II would become the Emperor of Germany just months after Nietzsche wrote this, and replace Otto von Bismarck, the nationalistic German Chancellor who'd unified Germany. Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest at the time of Jesus (Matthew 26:3). In other letters, Nietzsche also commanded the German emperor to go to Rome to be shot, and summoned the European powers to take military action against Germany.[9]

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.

Biblical Similarities

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))

Nietzsche's Insanity

See also: Cause of Friedrich Nietzsche's insanity and Atheism and health

Currently, there is an ongoing debate on whether Friedrich Nietzsche's insanity was caused purely by disease or whether his atheistic/nihilistic philosophical outlook on life was the cause.[10]

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.[11]

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung related that Nietzsche had contracted syphilis, which he died from, during a visit to a homosexual brothel in Genoa, Italy.[12][13]

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.[14] In addition, the French historian René Girard asserted that Nietzsche's philosophy led to his insanity.[15]


Eternal Reoccurrence

Eternal Reoccurrence is a main idea in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Basically, it is the idea that everything one does, everything one says, every pain, every joy, every thought, et cetera, will be replayed ad infinitum.

'-it follows that, in the great dice game of existence, it must pass through a calculable number of combinations. In infinite time, every possible combination would at some time or another be realized; more: it would be realized an infinite number of times. And since between every combination and its next recurrence all other possible combinations would have to take place, and each of these combinations conditions the entire sequence of combinations in the same series, a circular movement of absolutely identical series is thus demonstrated: the world as a circular movement that has already repeated itself infinitely often and plays its game ad infinitum.' -The Will to Power [16]

Thus, Nietzsche's view of time is circular, with time having no beginning, and no end. The whole Universe is in an eternal flux between creation and destruction, playing out over and over again, until eventually, the same patterns of both matter and energy will be played out once more, and you will live your life as you had before. And thus, there is ultimately no free will, for you are simply doing what you have done in the past and what you have done in the future.

'The greatest weight.-- What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence - even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!" Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?... Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?' -The Gay Science [17]

To Nietzsche, this was a horrifying thought to consider. If one were to consider and realize this as a possibility, one would have two choices: to either fall into despair that you will live again forever and ever, or to embrace it with joy. To Nietzsche, the latter is one of the things that the Overman would have to do, to have joy in such a prospect, and that the Overman should live as he would want to live over and over again throughout eternity.

"To endure the idea of the recurrence one needs: freedom from morality; new means against the fact of pain (pain conceived as a tool, as the father of pleasure; there is no cumulative consciousness of displeasure); the enjoyment of all kinds of uncertainty, experimentalism, as a counterweight to this extreme fatalism; abolition of the concept of necessity; abolition of the 'will'; abolition of 'knowledge-in-itself.'" -The Will to Power [18]


See also: Atheism, agnosticism and pessimism

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says about Nietzsche's pessimism:

That Nietzsche could not countenance Schopenhauer’s “ethical pessimism” and its negation of the will was recognized by the young man quite early during this encounter. Yet, even in Nietzsche’s attempts to construct a counter-posed “pessimism of strength” affirming the will, much of Schopenhauer’s thought remained embedded in Nietzsche’s philosophy, particularly during the early period. Nietzsche’s philosophical reliance on “genius”, his cultural-political visions of rank and order through merit, and his self-described (and later self-rebuked) “metaphysics of art” all had Schopenhauerian underpinnings. Also, Birth of Tragedy’s well-known dualism between the cosmological/aesthetic principles of Dionysus and Apollo, contesting and complimenting each other in the tragic play of chaos and order, confusion and individuation, strikes a familiar chord to readers acquainted with Schopenhauer’s description of the world as “will” and “representation.”[19]

For more information, please see: Nietzsche, the man who took on God and lost! and Friedrich Nietzsche - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Friedrich Nietzsche's childhood religiosity and his later reaction to it

Ewin James wrote in the The Gleaner:

Will Durant, in The Story of Philosophy, says of Nietzsche's childhood: "His school-mates called him 'the little minister' and one of them described him as a Jesus in the temple. It was his delight to seclude himself and read the Bible, or read it to others so feelingly as to bring tears to their eyes" ( p. 438).

Then as a teenager, he declared he no longer believed God exists. But was he truthful? I think not. He was just fighting against the God he had so lovingly worshipped as a child. Durant says. "He attacked Christianity because there was so much of its moral spirit in him." (p. 438).[20]


On Morality

See also: Atheism and morality

Friedrich Nietzsche argued that rational egalitarianism denies creativity, and reason cannot create values and morality; attempting 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".

On Politics

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 succeed", "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".

On Women

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." [1]

On Philosophy

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "Philosophy is the dressing-up in rational argument of moral beliefs, intuitions and desires".

On Religion

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.


Influence on Freud

Nietzsche wrote his books from one to three decades before Sigmund Freud wrote his, and published his first book the same year that Nietzsche died (1900). Although Sigmund Freud said that he had never read Nietzsche's works, this statement is contradicted by Freud paraphrasing and quoting Nietzsche in private conversations and in his own personal journals. The similarities are: the concept of the unconscious mind, the idea that the individual becomes more comfortable and effective when he pushes unacceptable thoughts and memories into his unconscious mind, the idea that repressed emotions and instincts are expressed in disguise, dreams are symbolic and a cathartic process which has health benefits, the suggestion that hostile, unconscious feelings are projected on others, who are then seen as the perpetrators, is the basis of paranoid thinking, the acknowledgment of a repetition compulsion (for Nietzsche, eternal reoccurrence) [21][22]

Influence on the American Library Association

Nietzsche's nihilistic writings, in particular his infamous screed of "God is dead" and that humanity has no common good to which everyone was responsible, formed the basis of the American Library Association's radicalization, even diverging from another influential figure in their radicalization, John Stuart Mill's insistence that they protect people from harm.[23]

Other influences

Owing to his being one of the more well-known nihilistic philosophers, Nietzsche's works also influenced two franchises dealing with post-modernist thought, the first being The Matrix Trilogy by The Wachowskis (at the time known as the Wachowski Brothers), with their specifically citing that Nietzsche's works on anthropomorphisms and metronyms were influential on the Matrix trilogy and their own philosophies to such an extent that they even considered themselves within "the dominion of truth."[24][25][26] The other influence was on the Metal Gear Solid video game series by Hideo Kojima, which was speculated as early as the Piggyback Strategy Guide for Metal Gear Solid 3 as being inspired by Nietzsche's "The Eternity of the Same", and also featured at the beginning of a key story chapter in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Nietzsche's quote of "There are no facts, there are only interpretations."


  • The Birth of Tragedy (1872)
  • On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense (1873)
  • Untimely Meditations (1876)
  • Human, All Too Human (1878)
    • The Wandered and his Shadow (added to Human, All Too Human in 1880)
  • Daybreak (1881)
  • The Gay Science (1882)
  • Also Sparch Zarathustra (1883)
  • Beyond Good and Evil (1886)
  • On the Genealogy of Moral (1887)
  • The Case of Wagner (1888)
  • Twilight of the Idols (1888)
  • Ecce Homo (1888)
  • Nietzsche Contra Wagner (1888)
  • The Will to Power (1901) Published posthumously.

In addition to writing books, Nietzsche wrote some music, most of them short pieces.

See also


  1. Stanford's Biography on Nietzsche.
  2. Nietzsche Quotations
  3. Wicks, Robert (2011, April 29). "Friedrich Nietzsche." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  4. Burns, K. & Novick, L. (2007, September). "The War." Florentine Films and WETA-TV. PBS.
  5. Nietzsche, F.W. (1920). "The Antichrist." Library of the University of Virginia.
  6. Kaufman, Walter (1954). "The Portable Nietzsche." p. 684. Penguin Books.
  7. The Portable Nietzsche, p. 685.
  8. The Portable Nietzsche, pp. 685-687.
  9. 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.
  10. Multiple references:
  11. Palmquist, Stephen (1995). "Chapter 19: Nietzsche's moral breakthrough". The Tree of Philosophy (Hong Kong: Philopsychy Press). Retrieved from Hong Kong Baptist University website on July 25, 2014.
  12. The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, Scott Lively & Kevin Abrams, 4th Edition, page 133.
  13. Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche, Ben Macintyre, 1992.
  19. Friedrich Nietzsche, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  20. Atheism- A denial of reality by Ewin James, The Gleaner
    "The ALA [American Library Association] has rejected this idea [from John Stuart Mill] of the Right to Protect and has instead accepted the nihilistic ideas of the 19th-century German philosopher, Friedrick Nietsche, who preached the now-familiar refrain that "God is dead" and that there is no common good to which we are all responsible."
  25. Peter Bart, “Cracking the Wachowski’s Code,”, May 25, 2003.

External links