Friedrich Nietzsche Bio and Philosophical Style

Friedrich Nietzsche was born in October of 1844, in the German town of Röcken. He became a classic writer and philosopher that is still widely read today.

Friedrich Nietzsche, a philosopher, was born in the year 1844 and died in the year 1900. He is considered to be one of the most influential philosophers of all time. His philosophical style includes nihilism, existentialism and will to power. Read more in detail here: friedrich nietzsche quotes.

“What doesn’t kill me strengthens me.”

“Eternal recurrence” is a phrase that means “eternal recurrence.”

“Übermensch.”

“God is no longer alive.”

Even if you don’t know much about philosophy, you’ve probably heard these concepts and phrases before, as well as Friedrich Nietzsche’s name.

Nietzsche was one of the few intellectuals who had such a profound impact on contemporary society and beliefs. Despite this, few people are familiar with his ideas, even if they use his quotations or name.

Christians often have a knee-jerk reaction to the guy who called himself a “immoralist” and the “anti-Christ,” dismissing his beliefs as incompatible with religion and hence unworthy of investigation.

The less religious, who want to find a sympathetic comrade in Nietzsche, are usually stopped in reading and comprehending his sometimes enigmatic works.

Both parties, though, might benefit from another study at Nietzsche. In reality, men of any belief or background may benefit from studying his thought.

Nietzsche does confront individuals who claim religion, but in a manner that may lead to a painful, necessary, and ultimately strengthening evaluation of one’s actual devotion.

And although he is surely tough to comprehend, those who put up the effort to decipher his meaning are rewarded with new insights on how to live life more completely.

Scholars of Nietzsche get a better knowledge of not just his philosophy, but also the larger culture and environment of modernity (and postmodernity).

When you become aware of his ideas, you begin to see his impact in unexpected places. Nietzsche is to blame if you like Theodore Roosevelt’s thoughts about the “strenuous existence” and “daring big things.” Roosevelt was a strong follower of the works of the Prussian philosopher, and academics think they had a significant impact on his worldview. Jack London’s work, which is one of my favorites, was likewise imbued with Nietzschean axioms. Nietzsche’s fingerprints are all over London’s search to discover his own “meaning of life” and his love of the “spirit of romance and adventure.”

This two-part series is for you if you’ve always wanted to learn more about Nietzsche and his philosophy but didn’t know where to begin or were too afraid to delve in. My purpose with it is twofold: first, to provide you a rudimentary grasp of Nietzsche so that you may use it as a jumping off point anytime you come across him in your literary or philosophical explorations. Second, to motivate you to start your own research into this regally mustachioed philosopher.

In this first post, I’ll provide a semi-bare-bones chronological biography of Nietzsche’s life; be assured, any topics addressed here in passing will be elaborated up in the following essay. Knowing a bit about Nietzsche’s biography might assist to put his theory into perspective.

I then detail a few reading notes that must be kept in mind in studying Nietzsche’s texts towards the conclusion of the piece. It’s easy to misinterpret him unless you approach his thought in a certain manner.

 

The background information provided here will assist you in understanding the content of the second piece in this series, which serves as a primer on Nietzsche’s major concepts.

Friedrich Nietzsche: A Short Biography

Friedrich Nietzsche portrait.

Nietzsche’s life was rather tranquil and unremarkable for a guy who wrote so much about heroic and barbaric principles. He was born in a tiny hamlet in Prussia in 1844. (now part of Germany). Nietzsche’s father was a Lutheran priest who died when he was just four years old. Friedrich was up in a Christian home with a mother, grandmother, sister, and aunts who were all fervent Christians. He began studying the Bible and Christian theology as a child, and his religiosity, along with a humble demeanor, earned him the moniker “the little preacher.”

Nietzsche went to a boys’ school and excelled in both music and language. As a result, he moved to the globally renowned Schulpforta school at the age of fourteen. Nietzsche started studying theology and philology (a mix of literature, languages, and history) at the University of Bonn after graduating in 1864. Friedrich abandoned the Christian religion around this period, believing that the claims of his boyhood faith were not properly backed by historical evidence. Nietzsche did not become a complete atheist, according to some experts, even though he ceased believing in Christianity. Though the argument is based on ambiguity and conjecture (and would need a whole post to unravel! ), it may be more accurate to refer to Nietzsche as a “spiritual atheist.”

In any case, the emerging skeptic dropped out of theology to concentrate only on philology and moved to Leipzig University to continue his studies. Nietzsche was exposed to Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy around this time, and his work would have a significant impact on Nietzsche’s thoughts. He also formed a connection with Richard Wagner, a composer whose music Nietzsche adored and from whom he would later draw intellectual inspiration.

Nietzsche enlisted for a year of duty in the Prussian military in 1867, but was unable to complete his enlistment due to an injury incurred while attempting to ride his horse. After his failed military duty, Nietzsche returned to his philological/philosophical studies, and at the age of 24 (and without a PhD), he was granted a position at the University of Basel in Switzerland to teach philology.

During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Nietzsche rejoined the military as a medical orderly in the Prussian army. Nietzsche had diphtheria, diarrhea, and (some experts suspect) syphilis while serving in the army. His direct knowledge of combat would subsequently be reflected in his written writings, which often incorporated military and battlefield images to convey a point.

The publication of The Birth of Tragedy, which examined how the genre of Greek tragedy was established, began off Nietzsche’s creation of his most renowned writings in 1872. Nietzsche produced four pieces between 1873 and 1876, which were included in the philology-focused book The Untimely Meditations.

 

With Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche started an experimental period in his writing in 1878. The use of brief, pithy, and often cryptic aphorisms to express a bigger and deeper message was introduced in this work, and it would become one of his style hallmarks.

Nietzsche withdrew from teaching in 1879, at the age of 35, due to continuing agony from his horse accident, as well as ailments he had caught during the Franco-Prussian War. He went about to several communities in Switzerland, France, and Italy from then until his death in an unsuccessful attempt to locate a climate that was more conducive to his health. Throughout his travels, he continued to write and refine his ideas.

Nietzsche’s writings Daybreak and The Gay Science, published in 1881 and 1882, highlighted his fondness of aphorisms and his typically bombastic manner. He started to flesh out his case against current capitalist morality with these books, and he established the concept of “God is Dead.”

Nietzsche met and fell in love with Lou Andreas Salomé, an exceptionally clever psychotherapist and novelist, in 1882. Nietzsche’s love for her, however, was unrequited. According to rumors, he proposed to her and she not only declined, but also dissolved their relationship. Nietzsche was depressed for a long time and never entirely recovered. Nietzsche’s sole documented love interest was Salome.

Nietzsche created the philosophical book Thus Spoke Zarathustra between spells of severe illness and melancholy between 1883 and 1885, in which he utilizes the Persian prophet Zarathustra to present his renowned notions of the Übermensch (Overman/Superman), everlasting repetition, and the will to power. Following the release of the book, Nietzsche applied for a lectureship at the University of Leipzig but was denied due to his criticism of Christianity in particular and theism in general. Realizing he was no longer employed was liberating for Nietzsche, and he began creating and publishing more controversial works as a result.

Nietzsche’s most prolific and creative time was between 1886 and 1889. Beyond Good and Evil, which he co-wrote with Zarathustra in 1886, is possibly his most renowned book, in which he pushed contemporary thinkers to embrace an ethos of innovation, danger, risk, and uniqueness in order to build new values in a world without God. He also presented the concepts of master and slave morality in this work, and he criticized Judeo-Christianity as an incarnation of the former and a grower of weakness.

Nietzsche released On the Genealogy of Morals in 1887, in which he elaborated on the contrasts between master and slave morality and suggested that mankind should progress away from a moral code based on good and evil and toward one based on noble and ignoble.

Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, and Ecce Homo were Nietzsche’s three polemic and controversial novels published in 1888. Twilight of the Idols was a criticism of modernity’s decadence and nihilism, with the famous statement “What does not kill me makes me stronger.” Nietzsche argued that the logical idealism that has ruled the Western world since Socrates was a “life-denying” ideology.

 

Nietzsche’s most contentious work, The Antichrist, was released in 1895, after Twilight of the Idols. The book was a criticism of Christianity (as Nietzsche understood it), in which he claims that Christianity’s emphasis on the hereafter was yet another life-denying ideology that engendered hate and rejection of one’s earthly existence’s energies and capacities. Nietzsche argued that Christianity weakened people, and that Christian devotion and generosity, although masked as compassion, were really covert efforts to take dominance over others.

The Antichrist is unique in that, although Nietzsche criticizes Christianity, he solely praises Jesus Christ, claiming that “there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.” In contrast to his misguided followers who had perverted Christ’s original teachings, Nietzsche maintained that Jesus had taught and lived a life-affirming philosophy, exhorting his pupils to grasp that the Kingdom of God is inside each of us – that eternity is now.

Nietzsche’s last work, Ecce Homo, was not published until eight years after his death. The book is “Nietzsche’s own appraisal of his evolution, his works, and their relevance,” according to scholar Walter Kaufman. “Why I Am So Wise” and “Why I Am So Clever” are two of the chapters’ names. Some have interpreted these names as evidence that Nietzsche was a deranged egomaniac, but it’s more probable that he was just employing a little wit and sarcasm.

Nietzsche had a mental breakdown in Turin, Italy, in 1889, following years of mental and physical problems. According to legend, Nietzsche saw a horse being beaten in the streets and was moved to sympathy for it. He ran forward and wrapped his arms around the horse’s neck, shielding it from the tears that spilled down his bushy mustache. According to legend, Nietzsche screamed out to the horse, “I understand you!” The depressed and bewildered philosopher dropped to the ground once the flogging ceased, and friends escorted him home. Nietzsche stated “Mutter, ich bin dumm” after laying mute and unmoving on the sofa for two days (Mother, I am dumb).

Nietzsche started sending insane and scary letters to his pals in the days and weeks that followed, asking for the assassination of the Pope, Prussian leader Otto von Bismarck, and “all the anti-Semites.” He signed his letters Dionysus most of the time, but referred to himself as “the crucified one” on occasion. His family traveled to Turin and returned him to Basel, where he was admitted to the hospital and eventually moved in with his mother. He promised himself that he would never write again.

Nietzsche’s literary estate was taken over by his sister in 1893 when she returned from a fruitless attempt to build a fascist society in Paraguay. She started gathering notes he had written but hadn’t intended to publish into a book titled The Will to Power. Many historians think Nietzsche’s sister significantly editorialized or outright faked the notes in order to make it look like her brother supported fascism when he most likely did not. As a result, Nietzsche’s sister is accountable for the ongoing link between Nietzsche and Nazism. Nietzsche despised both anti-Semitism and German nationalism, which is ironic.

 

Nietzsche died in 1900, at the age of 56, after 11 years of being a functioning vegetable.

Notes on Nietzsche’s Writing Style and Philosophical Approach

Understanding Nietzsche’s ideas requires an understanding of his distinct philosophical style.

I went into Nietzsche’s work expecting “philosophy” to be done the way I’d seen it done by other Western philosophers: simple, reasonable arguments with obvious premises and conclusions.

There are few, if any, conventional aspects in Nietzsche’s work.

Instead, you’ll come across strong declarations and cryptic aphorisms that often appear to contradict one another.

So, when I first started reading Nietzsche’s books, I felt a little befuddled, and it took me a while to adjust to his writing style and philosophical approach. Here are a few points to keep in mind to help you comprehend our next topic, and for those of you who chose to go further into Nietzsche’s work as well:

He wants you to put forth the effort to get information. It will hurt your head when you first read Nietzsche; this is particularly true of his later writings, which are clear skull crushers. Nietzsche purposefully wrote in a way that made it difficult for people to understand him. It’s easy to mistake what Nietzsche was attempting to say since he used aphorisms, irony, sarcasm, and paradoxes.

“It is not by any means always an objection to a book when anybody finds it hard to understand: maybe that was part of the author’s aim — he did not want to be understood by simply ‘anybody.’” Nietzsche took delight in the fact that not everyone “got” him.

Nietzsche wrote in this difficult-to-follow language not just to target a certain audience, but also because he wanted the reader to struggle for their knowledge; he didn’t want to do all the thinking for you. Nietzsche expects his readers to become intellectual partners with him.

He isn’t a methodical thinker. In contrast to most Western philosophers before him, Nietzsche eschewed analytic philosophy in most of his work. Nietzsche’s work does not have a well-organized Aristotelian-esque argument, with the exception of The Birth of Tragedy and maybe The Antichrist. In reality, there won’t be much of a debate here. Instead, you’ll discover bold assertions, jokes, inconsistencies, and abrupt subject shifts. However, when you read a complete essay or book, you’ll begin to see the larger picture that Nietzsche is attempting to convey. It’s strange, yet it’s effective.

Indeed, rather than seeing Nietzsche just as a philosopher, it is preferable to consider him as both a philosopher and a psychologist. “I am the first philosopher who is also a psychologist,” he said. Rather than attempting to show the “correctness” of a specific moral worldview, Nietzsche sought to explain why such ideas developed in the first place. To do so, he used psychoanalytic techniques to understand the psychological motivations that lead to a specific ideology or way of life.

 

Nietzsche’s analysis of the underlying causes for why a person or society might construct a specific moral system often prompted him to launch ad hominem attacks against some well-known philosophers. He utilized these personal assaults to expose the reasons for why a specific philosophy existed in the first place, since he considered many men’s chosen philosophies as efforts to rationalize and minimize their innate flaws, rather than as objective, logical, or noble. Socrates’ attempt to discover an otherworldly and flawless Truth, for example, was only the rationalizations of a man who was not only unattractive but despised his existence, according to Nietzsche.

In many respects, Nietzsche was the polar antithesis of his contemporaries. He might have built a philosophy that concentrated his aspirations on soft qualities and the life of the mind — standards that pleased himself despite being born weak, timid, and worried. Instead, he promoted strength, energy, risk-taking, and daring, knowing well well that he could never live up to such ideals, but thinking that they represented the height of human potential.

Irony, sarcasm, and bombast are all used by him. Many of the sentences that people use to show that Nietzsche was insane are really his efforts to inject some comedy into his writing; he wanted to not only lighten things up but also startle the reader into viewing things in a new way. In this way, Nietzsche frequently performed a role like to that of modern-day comedians who make light of life’s oddities.

As you read, you’ll discover that Nietzsche was a big fan of exclamation marks. On Facebook, he’d be a social outcast. Excessive use of exclamation marks, on the other hand, is just the philosopher’s attempt to seem bigger than life. They also serve to keep the pace of his writing up, making the reading experience even more enjoyable.

He likes to use aphorisms that encourage others to think. Nietzsche chose to write in an aphoristic manner, and he did so on purpose. Nietzsche achieved two purposes by delivering knowledge in short, pithy packages: it prevented the immature and impatient from comprehending him, while rewarding those prepared to invest time in thought. To put it another way, individuals who believed the sayings were too easy to have much meaning missed out on their importance, but those who chewed on them for a long time gained more understanding. A handful of Nietzsche’s aphorisms are as follows:

Wisdom wishes for us to be courageous, unafraid, mocking, and aggressive. Wisdom is a lady who only wants to be with a warrior.

If you haven’t seen the hand that mercilessly — murders, you haven’t seen much of life.

The outraged guy is the most blatant lie.

Shutting your ears to even the finest counterarguments after you’ve reached your choice is a sign of a strong character. There’s also a desire to be dumb every now and again.

___

Anyone who confronts monsters must ensure that he does not become a monster himself in the process. When you stare into an abyss for a long period, the abyss stares back at you.

 

What were the underlying themes of Nietzsche’s pithy aphorisms? We’ll get to it next week.

Listen to Nietzsche’s life and work on our podcast: 

 

Listen to Nietzsche’s life and work on our podcast:

Sources

Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins’ What Nietzsche Really Said

Paul Kirkland’s Nietzsche’s Noble Aims

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Philosophy: The Will to Power 

 

 

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher and writer. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of modern Western philosophy. Nietzche’s work is marked by its emphasis on individual will, morality in art, existentialism, nihilism, and his concept of “the Übermensch” has been central to 20th-century literature. Reference: nietzsche philosophy summary.

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