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Nietzsche’s Life and Works

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and down-to-earth realities, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent and morally entrenched those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Nietzsche’s revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries.

1. Life: 1844–1900

2. early writings: 1872–1876, 3. middle-period writings: 1878–1882, 4. later-period writings: 1883–1887, 5. final writings of 1888, 6. nietzsche’s unpublished notebooks, 7. nietzsche’s influence upon 20th century thought, other internet resources, related entries.

In the small German village of Röcken bei Lützen, located in a rural farmland area about 20 miles southwest of Leipzig, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born at approximately 10:00 a.m. on October 15, 1844. The date coincided with the 49th birthday of the Prussian King, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, after whom Nietzsche was named, and who had been responsible for Nietzsche’s father’s appointment as Röcken’s town pastor.

Nietzsche’s uncle and grandfathers were also Lutheran ministers, and his paternal grandfather, Friedrich August Ludwig Nietzsche (1756–1826), was further distinguished as a Protestant scholar, one of whose books (1796) affirmed the “everlasting survival of Christianity.” Nietzsche’s grandparents on both sides were from the Province of Saxony, with his paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother (Erdmuthe Dorothea Krause, 1778–1856), maternal grandfather (David Ernst Ohler, 1787–1859) and maternal grandmother (Johanna Elisabeth Wilhelmine Hahn, 1794–1876) having been born respectively in the small towns of Bibra (just south of Jena), Reichenbach (southeast of Jena), Zeitz (between Jena and Leipzig), and Wehlitz (just northwest of Leipzig).

When Nietzsche was nearly 5 years old, his father, Karl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813–1849) died from a brain ailment (July 30, 1849) and the death of Nietzsche’s two-year-old brother, Ludwig Joseph, followed traumatically six months later (January 4, 1850). Having been living only yards away from Röcken’s church in the house reserved for the pastor and his family, the Nietzsche family left their home soon after Karl Ludwig’s death. They moved to nearby Naumburg an der Saale, where Nietzsche (called “Fritz” by his family) lived with his mother, Franziska (1826–1897), his grandmother, Erdmuthe, his father’s two sisters, Auguste and Rosalie (d. 1855 and 1867, respectively), and his younger sister, Therese Elisabeth Alexandra (1846–1935).

From the ages of 14 to 19 (1858–1864), Nietzsche attended a first-rate boarding school, Schulpforta, located about 4km from his home in Naumburg, where he prepared for university studies. The school’s rigid educational atmosphere was reflected in its long history as a former Cistercian monastery (1137–1540), with buildings that included a 12th century Romanesque chapel and a 13th century Gothic church. At Schulpforta—a school whose alumni included the German Idealist philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814) and the philologist, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff (1848–1931)—Nietzsche met his lifelong friend, Paul Deussen (1845–1919), who was confirmed at Nietzsche’s side in 1861, and who was to become an Orientalist, historian of philosophy, and in 1911, the founder of the Schopenhauer Society. During his summers in Naumburg, Nietzsche led a small music and literature club named “Germania,” and became acquainted with Richard Wagner’s music through the club’s subscription to the Zeitschrift für Musik. The teenage Nietzsche also read the German romantic writings of Friedrich Hölderlin and Jean-Paul Richter, along with David Strauss’s controversial and demythologizing Life of Jesus Critically Examined ( Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet , 1848).

After graduating from Schulpforta, Nietzsche entered the University of Bonn in 1864 as a theology and philology student, and his interests soon gravitated more exclusively towards philology—a discipline which then centered upon the interpretation of classical and biblical texts. As a student of philology, Nietzsche attended lectures by Otto Jahn (1813–1869) and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (1806–1876). Jahn was a biographer of Mozart who had studied at the University of Berlin under Karl Lachmann (1793–1851)—a philologist known both for his studies of the Roman philosopher, Lucretius (ca. 99–55 BCE), and for having developed the genealogical, or stemmatic, method in textual recension; Ritschl was a classics scholar whose work centered on the Roman comic poet, Plautus (254–184 BCE).

Inspired by Ritschl, and following him to the University of Leipzig in 1865—an institution located closer to Nietzsche’s hometown of Naumburg—Nietzsche quickly established his own academic reputation through his published essays on two 6th century BCE poets, Theognis and Simonides, as well as on Aristotle. In Leipzig, he developed a close friendship with Erwin Rohde (1845–1898), a fellow philology student and future philologist, with whom he would correspond extensively in later years. Momentous for Nietzsche in 1865 was his accidental discovery of Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation (1818) in a local bookstore. He was then 21. Schopenhauer’s atheistic and turbulent vision of the world, in conjunction with his high praise of music as an art form captured Nietzsche’s imagination, and to this day, the extent to which the “cadaverous perfume” of Schopenhauer’s world-view continued to permeate Nietzsche’s mature thought remains a matter of scholarly debate. After discovering Schopenhauer, Nietzsche read F.A. Lange’s newly-published History of Materialism and Critique of its Present Significance (1866)—a work that criticizes materialist theories from the standpoint of Kant’s critique of metaphysics, and that attracted Nietzsche’s interest for its view that metaphysical speculation is an expression of poetic illusion.

In 1867, as he approached the age of 23, Nietzsche entered his required military service and was assigned to an equestrian field artillery regiment close to Naumburg, during which time he lived at home with his mother. While attempting to leap-mount into the saddle, he suffered a serious chest injury and was put on sick leave after his chest wound refused to heal. He returned shortly thereafter to the University of Leipzig, and in November of 1868, met the composer Richard Wagner (1813–1883) at the home of Hermann Brockhaus (1806–1877), an Orientalist who was married to Wagner’s sister, Ottilie. Brockhaus was himself a specialist in Sanskrit and Persian whose publications included (1850) an edition of the Vendidad Sade —a text of the Zoroastrian religion, whose prophet was Zarathustra (Zoroaster).

Wagner and Nietzsche shared an enthusiasm for Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche—who had been composing piano, choral and orchestral music since he was a teenager—admired Wagner for his musical genius, magnetic personality and cultural influence. Wagner was the same age Nietzsche’s father would have been, and he had also attended the University of Leipzig many years before. The Nietzsche-Wagner relationship was quasi-familial and sometimes-stormy, and it affected Nietzsche deeply. Early on, he could write (in 1869) that his friendship with Wagner was the “greatest achievement” [ die größte Errungenschaft ] of his life, and he was still energetically engaged in appraising and pondering Wagner’s cultural significance twenty years later at the end of his writing life. But Nietzsche broke with Wagner personally and intellectually in the late 1870s, and his assessments became increasingly negative (and more and more explicit) as time went on. Nevertheless, even after their break, Nietzsche was still reminiscing wistfully in 1882 about how his days with Wagner had been the best of his life. During the months surrounding Nietzsche’s initial meeting with Wagner, Ritschl recommended Nietzsche for a position on the classical philology faculty at the University of Basel. The Swiss university offered Nietzsche the professorial position, and he began teaching there in May, 1869, at the age of 24.

At Basel, Nietzsche’s satisfaction with his life among his philology colleagues was limited, and he established closer intellectual ties to the historians Franz Overbeck (1837–1905) and Jacob Burkhardt (1818–1897), whose lectures he attended. Overbeck—who roomed for five years in the same house as Nietzsche—became Nietzsche’s close and enduring friend, exchanging many letters with him over the years, and rushing to Nietzsche’s assistance in Turin immediately after his devastating collapse in 1889. Nietzsche also cultivated his friendship with Richard Wagner and visited him often at his Swiss home in Tribschen, a small town near Lucerne. Never in outstanding health, further complications arose from Nietzsche’s August-October 1870 service as a 25-year-old hospital attendant during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), where he participated in the siege of Metz. He witnessed the traumatic effects of battle, took close care of wounded soldiers, and contracted diphtheria and dysentery.

Nietzsche’s enthusiasm for Schopenhauer, his studies in classical philology, his inspiration from Wagner, his reading of Lange, his interests in health, his professional need to prove himself as a young academic, and his frustration with the contemporary German culture, all coalesced in his first book— The Birth of Tragedy (1872)—which was published in January 1872 when Nietzsche was 27. Wagner showered the book with praise, but a vitriolic, painfully-memorable and yet authoritative critical reaction by Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff—who later became one of Germany’s leading philologists—immediately dampened the book’s reception, not to mention Nietzsche’s class enrollments in Basel.

Wilamowitz-Möllendorff came from an aristocratic family of distant Polish descent and knew Nietzsche as a student at Schulpforta. In his critique, he referred to Nietzsche as a disgrace to Schulpforta, and said that in light of the latter’s prophetic, soothsaying, exaggerated and historically uninformed style of writing, Nietzsche should instead “gather tigers and panthers about his knees, but not the youth of Germany.” It is intriguing that in Thus Spoke Zarathustra , written thirteen years later, Nietzsche invokes the comparable imagery of a lion nuzzling warmly at the knees of Zarathustra in the book’s concluding and inspirational scene, as if to acknowledge that his proper audience is, indeed, not a set of university professors.

As Nietzsche continued his residence in Switzerland between 1872 and 1879, he often visited Wagner at his new (1872) home in Bayreuth, Germany. In 1873, he met Paul Rée (1849–1901), who, while living in close company with Nietzsche in Sorrento during the autumn of 1876, would write On the Origin of Moral Feelings (1877). During this time, Nietzsche completed a series of four studies on contemporary German culture—the Unfashionable Observations (1873–76)—which focus respectively upon (1) the historian of religion and culture critic, David Strauss, (2) issues concerning the social value of historiography, (3) Arthur Schopenhauer and (4) Richard Wagner, both as heroic inspirations for new cultural standards.

Near the end of his university career, Nietzsche completed Human, All-Too-Human (1878)—a book that marks a turning point in his philosophical style and that, while reinforcing his friendship with Rée, also ends his friendship with the anti-Semitic Wagner, who comes under attack in a thinly-disguised characterization of “the artist.” Despite the damage done by the unflattering review of The Birth of Tragedy , Nietzsche remained respected in his professorial position in Basel, but his deteriorating health, which led to migraine headaches, eyesight problems and vomiting, necessitated his resignation from the university in June, 1879, at age 34. At this point, he had been a university professor for ten years, and had just less than another ten years of productive intellectual life remaining.

From 1880 until his collapse in January 1889, Nietzsche led a wandering, Roma-like existence as a stateless person (having given up his German citizenship, and not having acquired Swiss citizenship), circling almost annually between his mother’s house in Naumburg and various French, Swiss, German and Italian cities. His travels took him through the Mediterranean seaside city of Nice (during the winters), the Swiss alpine village of Sils-Maria (during the summers, located near the present-day ski resort of St. Moritz), Leipzig (where he had attended university, and had been hoping to resume his teaching career in 1883), Turin, Genoa, Recoaro, Messina, Rapallo, Florence, Venice, and Rome, never residing in any place longer than several months at a time.

On a visit to Rome in 1882, Nietzsche, now at age thirty-seven, met Lou von Salomé (1861–1937), a 21 year old Russian woman who was studying philosophy and theology in Zurich. They had an active intellectual relationship and Nietzsche appears to have fallen in love with her. Their relationship did not develop on a romantic level, and their friendship took a turn for the worse when Salomé and Paul Rée left Nietzsche and moved to Berlin. In the years to follow, Salomé would write a book about Nietzsche ( Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken [Friedrich Nietzsche in his Works]) in 1894, and would later become an associate of Sigmund Freud, who she met in 1911. Salomé’s insightful book on Nietzsche is one of the first to propose the division of Nietzsche’s writings into early, middle, and late periods.

These nomadic years were the occasion of Nietzsche’s main works, among which are Daybreak (1881), The Gay Science (1882/1887), Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883–85), Beyond Good and Evil (1886), and On the Genealogy of Morals (1887). Nietzsche’s final active year, 1888, saw the completion of The Case of Wagner (May-August 1888), Twilight of the Idols (August-September 1888), The Antichrist (September 1888), Ecce Homo (October-November 1888) and Nietzsche Contra Wagner (December 1888).

On the morning of January 3, 1889, while in Turin, Nietzsche experienced a mental breakdown which left him an invalid for the rest of his life. Coincidentally, on virtually the same date, viz., January 4, his little brother, Joseph, had died many years before. Nietzsche, upon witnessing a horse being whipped by a coachman at the Piazza Carlo Alberto—although this episode with the horse could be anecdotal—threw his arms around the horse’s neck and collapsed in the plaza, never to return to full sanity.

Some argue that Nietzsche was afflicted with a syphilitic infection (this was the original diagnosis of the doctors in Basel and Jena) contracted either while he was a student or while he was serving as a hospital attendant during the Franco-Prussian War; some claim that his use of chloral hydrate, a drug which he had been using as a sedative, undermined his already-weakened nervous system; some speculate that Nietzsche’s collapse was due to a brain disease he inherited from his father; some maintain that a mental illness gradually drove him insane; some maintain that he suffered from a slow-growing, frontal cranial base tumor; some maintain that he suffered from CADASIL syndrome, a hereditary stroke disorder; some maintain that Nietzsche suffered from a tumor on the surface of the brain growing behind his right eye. The exact cause of Nietzsche’s incapacitation remains unclear. That he had an extraordinarily sensitive nervous constitution and took an assortment of medications is well-documented as a more general fact. To complicate matters of interpretation, Nietzsche states in a letter from April 1888 that he never had any symptoms of a mental disorder.

During his creative years, Nietzsche struggled to bring his writings into print and never doubted that his books would have a lasting cultural effect. He did not live long enough to experience his world-historical influence, but he had a brief glimpse of his growing intellectual importance in discovering that he was the subject of 1888 lectures given by Georg Brandes (Georg Morris Cohen) at the University of Copenhagen, to whom he directed the above April 1888 correspondence, and from whom he received a recommendation to read Kierkegaard’s works. Nietzsche’s collapse, however, followed soon thereafter.

After a brief hospitalization in Basel, he spent 1889 in a sanatorium in Jena at the Binswanger Clinic, and in March 1890 his mother took him back home to Naumburg, where he lived under her care for the next seven years in the house he knew as a youngster. After his mother’s death in 1897, his sister Elisabeth—having returned home from Paraguay in 1893, where she had been working since 1886 with her husband Bernhard Förster to establish an Aryan, anti-Semitic German colony called “New Germany” (“Nueva Germania”)—assumed responsibility for Nietzsche’s welfare. In an effort to promote her brother’s philosophy, she rented the “Villa Silberblick,” a large house in Weimar, and moved both Nietzsche and his collected manuscripts to the residence. This became the new home of the Nietzsche Archives (which had been located at the family home for the three years preceding), where Elisabeth received visitors who wanted to observe the now-incapacitated philosopher.

On August 25, 1900, Nietzsche died in the villa as he approached his 56th year, apparently of pneumonia in combination with a stroke. His body was then transported to the family gravesite directly beside the church in Röcken bei Lützen, where his mother and sister now also rest. The Villa Silberblick was eventually turned into a museum, and since 1950, Nietzsche’s manuscripts have been located in Weimar at the Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv

Nietzsche’s first book was published in 1872 and was entitled The Birth of Tragedy, Out of the Spirit of Music ( Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik ). Overall, it sets forth a more visceral and existential alternative to the late 18th/early 19th century understanding of Greek culture—an understanding largely inspired by Johann Winckelmann’s History of Ancient Art (1764)—which, grounded on the aesthetics of classical sculpture, hailed ancient Greece as the epitome of noble simplicity, calm grandeur, clear blue skies, and rational serenity. In 1886, Nietzsche’s book was reissued with a revised title, The Birth of Tragedy, Or: Hellenism and Pessimism ( Die Geburt der Tragödie, Oder: Griechentum und Pessimismus ), along with a lucid and revealing prefatory essay—“An Attempt at Self-Criticism”—which expresses Nietzsche’s own critical reflections on the book, looking back fourteen years. Although he remained proud of the work, Nietzsche also describes it as questionable, strange and almost inaccessible, filled with Kantian and Schopenhauerian formulas that were inherently at odds with the new valuations he was trying to express.

Having by this time absorbed the Schopenhauerian view that non-rational forces reside at the foundation of all creativity and of reality itself, and that these forces are artistically best conveyed in music, Nietzsche identifies a strongly instinctual, wild, amoral, “Dionysian” energy within pre-Socratic Greek culture as an essentially creative and healthy force, locating its prime expression in the tragic chorus, and constituting the very life of the tragedy. Surveying the history of Western culture since the time of the Greeks, Nietzsche laments over how this Dionysian, creative energy had been submerged and weakened as it became overshadowed by the “Apollonian” forces of logical order and stiff sobriety. He concludes that European culture since the time of Socrates has remained one-sidedly Apollonian, repressed, scientific, and relatively unhealthy. Wagner expressed similar sentiments in his 1849 essay “Art and Revolution,” as he described Western society as having been on the decline since the times of the ancient Greeks.

As a means towards a cultural rebirth, Nietzsche advocates in contemporary life, the resurrection and fuller release of Dionysian artistic energies—those which he associates with primordial creativity, joy in existence and ultimate truth. The seeds of this liberating rebirth Nietzsche perceives in the German music of his time (viz., Bach, Beethoven and especially Wagner), and the concluding part of The Birth of Tragedy , in effect, adulates the emerging German artistic, tragic spirit as the potential savior of European culture. As one of his early books, The Birth of Tragedy has a strong Wagnerian and Schopenhauerian flavor, and scholars disagree about the extent to which Nietzsche departs from Schopenhauer in this work and in later works.

Some regard Nietzsche’s 1873 unpublished essay, “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” (“ Über Wahrheit und Lüge im außermoralischen Sinn ”) as a keystone in his thought; some believe that it is a peripheral, conflicted and non-representative fragment in his writings. In this essay, Nietzsche rejects the idea of universal constants, and claims, presumably as a truth, that what we call “truth” is only “a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms.” His view at this time is that arbitrariness prevails within human experience: concepts originate via the transformation of nerve stimuli into images, and “truth” is nothing more than the invention of fixed conventions for practical purposes, especially those of repose, security and consistency. Nietzsche regards our “knowledge” as human, all-too-human, mostly a matter of self-deception that issues from a deep-seated exercise of metaphorical thought. Viewing our existence from a vast and sobering distance, Nietzsche further notes that there was an eternity before human beings came into existence, and believes that after humanity dies out, nothing significant will have changed in the great scheme of things.

Between 1873 and 1876, Nietzsche wrote the Unfashionable Observations ( Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen , also translated as Untimely Meditations or Thoughts Out of Season ). These are four (of a projected, but never completed, thirteen) studies concerned with the quality of European, and especially German, culture during Nietzsche’s time. They are unfashionable and nonconformist (or “untimely,” or “unmodern,” or “out of place”) insofar as Nietzsche regarded his standpoint as culture-critic to be in tension with the self-congratulatory spirit of the times. The four studies were: David Strauss, the Confessor and the Writer ( David Strauss, der Bekenner und der Schriftsteller , 1873); On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life ( Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben , 1874); Schopenhauer as Educator ( Schopenhauer als Erzieher , 1874); Richard Wagner in Bayreuth (1876).

The first of these attacks David Strauss, whose popular six-edition book, The Old and the New Faith: A Confession (1871) encapsulated for Nietzsche the general cultural atmosphere in Germany. Responding to Strauss’s advocacy of a “new faith” grounded upon a scientifically-determined universal mechanism—one, however, lubricated by the optimistic, “soothing oil” of historical progress—Nietzsche criticizes Strauss’s view as a vulgar and dismal sign of cultural degeneracy. Nietzsche’s friend, Overbeck, in his contemporaneous writings, also adopted a critical attitude towards Strauss. The second “untimely meditation” surveys alternative ways to write history, and discusses how these ways could contribute to a society’s health. Here Nietzsche claims that the principle of “life” is a more pressing and higher concern than that of “knowledge,” and that the quest for knowledge should serve the interests of life. This parallels how, in The Birth of Tragedy , Nietzsche had looked at art through the perspective of life and foreshadows Nietzsche’s hallmark theme of “life-affirmation” in his later works.

The third and fourth studies—on Schopenhauer and Wagner, respectively—address how these two thinkers, as paradigms of philosophic and artistic genius, hold the potential to inspire a stronger, healthier and livelier German culture. Nietzsche states here that we all have a duty to help nature complete its goal of producing the highest examples of the human being—these will be the “new redeemers”—which he recognizes in superb instances of the philosopher, the artist and the saint (“Schopenhauer as Educator,” Section 5). These celebratory studies on Schopenhauer and Wagner reveal how, as a recurring feature of Nietzsche’s thought, he presents us with some higher type of character—he offers different models of heroic characters as the years go by—as an ideal towards which he would have his best readers aspire.

Nietzsche completed Human, All-Too-Human in 1878, supplementing this 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 were published together in 1886 as Human All-Too-Human, A Book for Free Spirits ( Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, Ein Buch für freie Geister ). Reluctant to construct a philosophical “system,” and sensitive to the importance of style in philosophic writing, Nietzsche composed these works as a series of several hundred short passages and aphorisms—concise condensations of his assorted insights—whose typical length ranges from a line or two to a page or two. Here, he often reflects upon cultural and psychological phenomena by connecting them to individuals’ organic and physiological constitutions. The idea of power (for which he would later become known) sporadically appears as an explanatory principle, but he tends at this time to invoke hedonistic considerations of pleasure and pain in his explanations of cultural and psychological phenomena. Given his harsh criticisms of hedonism and utilitarianism in later works (e.g., Thus Spoke Zarathustra , re: “the Last Man”), Human All-Too-Human appears to many readers as an uncharacteristic work, more science- than art-inspired in its approach to health, where Nietzsche was struggling to break free of Wagner’s spell, and which, presupposing a fundamentally hedonistic moral psychology, does not fully embody the pain-and-power-centered approach that he later developed.

In Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudices ( Morgenröte. Gedanken über die moralischen Vorurteile , 1881), Nietzsche continues writing in his aphoristic style, but he marks a new beginning by accentuating as opposed to pleasure, the importance of the “feeling of power” in his understanding of human, and especially of so-called “moral” behavior. Always having been interested in the nature of health, his emerging references to power stem from his earlier efforts to discover the secret of the ancient Greeks’ outstanding health, which he had regarded as the effects of how “ agon ” (i.e., competition, one-upmanship, or contest, as conceived in his 1872 essay, “Homer’s Contest”) permeated their cultural attitudes. In this respect, Daybreak contains the seeds of Nietzsche’s doctrine of the “will to power”—a doctrine that appears explicitly for the first time two years later in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883–85). Daybreak is also one of Nietzsche’s clearest, intellectually calmest, and most intimate, volumes, providing many social-psychological insights in conjunction with some of his first sustained critical reflections on the cultural relativity at the basis of Christian moral evaluations. In this book—as he remarks retrospectively in Ecce Homo (1888)—Nietzsche begins his “crusade [ Feldzug ] against morality.”

In a more well-known aphoristic work, The Gay Science ( Die fröhliche Wissenschaft , 1882)—whose title was inspired by the troubadour songs of southern-French Provence (1100–1300)—Nietzsche sets forth some of the existential ideas for which he became famous, namely, the proclamation that “God is dead” and the doctrine of eternal recurrence—a doctrine that attends to how people of different levels of health are likely to react to the prospect of being reborn, over and over again, to replay life’s experience exactly as before in every pleasurable and painful sequence of detail. Nietzsche’s atheism—his account of “God’s murder” (section 125)—expresses in a literary manner, his philosophical condemnation of all absolute perspectives and values. His atheism also aims to redirect people’s attention to their inherent freedom, the presently-existing world, and away from escapist, pain-relieving, heavenly otherworlds.

To a similar end, Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence (sections 285 and 341) serves to draw attention away from all worlds other than the one in which we presently live, since eternal recurrence precludes the possibility of any final escape from the present world. The doctrine also functions as a measure for judging someone’s overall psychological strength and mental health, since Nietzsche believed that the doctrine of eternal recurrence was the hardest world-view to affirm. There are some differences of scholarly opinion concerning whether Nietzsche primarily intends this doctrine to describe a serious metaphysical theory, or whether he is offering merely one way to interpret the world among many others, which if adopted therapeutically as a psychologically healthy myth, can help us become stronger.

In 1887, The Gay Science was reissued with an important preface, an additional fifth Book, and an appendix of songs, reminiscent of the troubadours.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, A Book for All and None ( Also Sprach Zarathustra, Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen , 1883–85), is one of Nietzsche’s most famous works, and Nietzsche regarded it as among his most significant. It is a manifesto of personal self-overcoming, and a guidebook for others towards the same revitalizing end. Thirty years after its initial publication, 150,000 copies of the work were printed by the German government and issued during WWI as inspirational reading to the young soldiers, along with the Bible. Though Thus Spoke Zarathustra is antagonistic to the Judeo-Christian world-view, its poetic and prophetic style relies upon many, often inverted, Old and New Testament allusions. Nietzsche also filled the work with nature metaphors, almost in the spirit of pre-Socratic naturalist philosophy, which invoke animals, earth, air, fire, water, celestial bodies, plants, all in the service of describing the spiritual development of Zarathustra, a solitary, reflective, exceedingly strong-willed, sage-like, laughing and dancing voice of heroic self-mastery who, accompanied by a proud, sharp-eyed eagle and a wise snake, envisions a mode of psychologically healthier being beyond the common human condition. Nietzsche refers to this higher mode of being as “superhuman” ( übermenschlich ), and associates the doctrine of eternal recurrence—a doctrine for only the healthiest who can love life in its entirety—with this spiritual standpoint, in relation to which all-too-often downhearted, all-too-commonly-human attitudes stand as a mere bridge to be crossed and overcome.

Within Nietzsche’s corpus, Thus Spoke Zarathustra has a controversial place, owing mainly to its peculiar literary style. Nietzsche speaks in parables and short narratives populated by fictional characters—“the hunchback,” “the ugliest man,” “the soothsayer,” “the saint,” “the tightrope walker,” “the jester,” and “the Last Man,” to name a few—leaving their philosophical import open to a variety of interpretations. One of Nietzsche’s most well-known and morally troubling figures—the superhuman—also appears substantially only in this work, rendering it questionable to some interpreters whether this ideal of supreme human health is central to Nietzsche’s thought as a whole. There is also some interpretive uncertainty about whether the work, which was written across the span of three years, properly ends triumphantly at the conclusion of the Third Part, thus situating the psychologically complex Fourth Part as a question-raising supplement, or whether the book’s narrative moves smoothly and progressively across the entire four parts.

Beyond Good and Evil, Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future ( Jenseits von Gut und Böse. Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft , 1886) is arguably a rethinking of Human, All-too-Human , since their respective tables of contents and sequence of themes loosely correspond to one another. In Beyond Good and Evil , Nietzsche identifies imagination, self-assertion, danger, originality and the “creation of values” as qualities of genuine philosophers, as opposed to mere scholars engaged in positive research in the sciences and humanities, or the dusty classification of philosophical outlooks. Nietzsche takes aim at some of the world’s great philosophers, who ground their outlooks wholeheartedly upon concepts such as “self-consciousness,” “free will,” and “either/or” bipolar thinking.

Nietzsche alternatively philosophizes from the perspective of life located beyond good and evil, and challenges the entrenched moral idea that exploitation, domination, injury to the weak, destruction and appropriation are universally objectionable behaviors. Above all, he believes that living things aim to discharge their strength and express their “will to power”—a pouring-out of expansive energy as if one were like a perpetually-shining sun that, quite naturally, can entail danger, pain, lies, deception and masks. Here, “will” is not an inner emptiness, lack, feeling of deficiency, or constant drive for satisfaction, but is a fountain of constantly-swelling energy, life, and power.

As he views things from the perspective of life, Nietzsche further denies that there is a universal morality applicable indiscriminately to all human beings, and instead designates a series of moralities in an order of rank that ascends from the plebeian to the noble: some moralities are more suitable for subordinate roles; some are more appropriate for dominating and leading social roles. What counts as a preferable and legitimate action depends upon the kind of person one is. The deciding factor is whether one is weaker, sicker and on the decline, or whether one is healthier, more powerful and overflowing with life.

On the Genealogy of Morals, A Polemic ( Zur Genealogie der Moral, Eine Streitschrift , 1887) is composed of three sustained essays that advance the critique of Christianity expressed in Beyond Good and Evil . The first essay continues the discussion of master morality versus servant morality, and maintains that the traditional ideals set forth as holy and morally good within Christian morality are products of self-deception, since they were forged in the bad air of revenge, resentment, hatred, impotence, and cowardice. In this essay, as well as the next, Nietzsche’s controversial references to the “blond beast” in connection with master morality also appear. In the second essay, Nietzsche continues with an account of how feelings of guilt, or the “bad conscience,” arise merely as a consequence of an unhealthy Christian morality that turns an evil eye towards our natural inclinations. He also discusses how punishment, conceived as the infliction of pain upon someone in proportion to their offense, is likely to have been grounded in the contractual economic relationship between creditor and debtor, i.e., in business relationships. In the third essay, Nietzsche focusses upon the truth-oriented ascetic ideals that underlie and inform prevailing styles of art, religion and philosophy, and he offers a particularly scathing critique of the priesthood: the priests are allegedly a group of weak people who shepherd even weaker people as a way to experience power for themselves. The third essay also contains one of Nietzsche’s clearest expressions of “perspectivism” (section 12)—the idea that there is no absolute, “God’s eye” standpoint from which one can survey everything that is.

On the Genealogy of Morals is Nietzsche’s “polemic,” i.e., attack, against the assumptions and methods (which, incidentally, are still popular) characteristic of works such as Paul Rée’s The Origin of the Moral Sensations (1877). Inspired by utilitarianism and Darwinism, Rée offers a naturalistic account of our moral values, especially altruism, but by Nietzsche’s lights, does not question the value of the moral values themselves. In the Genealogy , Nietzsche offers a competing account of the origin of moral values, aiming to reveal their life-negating foundations and functions.

Nietzsche ultimately advocates valuations that issue from a self-confident, self-reinforcing, self-governing, creative and commanding attitude, as opposed to those that issue from reactive attitudes that determine values more mechanically and subordinatingly to those who are inherently more powerful. For Nietzsche, those who prefer to think in terms of “good vs. bad” exemplify the former, leading and superior mentality, and those who think in terms of “good vs. evil,” exemplify the latter, inferior and subservient mentality. From the standpoint of a leader, in the appropriate circumstances it is good to be able to inflict pain and instil fear among those who are led, and bad not to be able to do so. From the standpoint of those who are led, the infliction of pain and instillation of fear upon subordinates does not appear typically to be good at all, but rather evil.

The Case of Wagner, A Musician’s Problem ( Der Fall Wagner, Ein Musikanten-Problem , May-August 1888), contrasts sharply with Nietzsche’s laudatory portrayal of Wagner in The Birth of Tragedy (1872), and compares well with his 1873 meditation on David Strauss in its unbridled attack on a popular cultural figure. In The Case of Wagner , Nietzsche “declares war” upon Richard Wagner, whose music is characterized as the epitome of modern cultural achievement, but also crucially as sick and decadent. The work is a brilliant display of Nietzsche’s talents as a music critic, and includes memorable ridicule of Wagner’s theatrical style, reflections on redemption via art, a “physiology of art,” and discussion of the virtues associated, respectively, with ascending and descending life energies. As the therapeutic inversion and antithesis of Wagner’s debilitatingly serious music, Nietzsche refers us to Georges Bizet (1838–1875) whose music he finds cheerful, revitalizing, redeeming and light-hearted. Wagner himself had some years earlier (1850) condemned Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) for having confounded the public’s taste in music. Nietzsche, writing almost thirty years later, here accuses Wagner of having done the same.

The title, 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 ). Nietzsche reiterates and elaborates some of the criticisms of Socrates, Plato, Kant and Christianity found in earlier works, criticizes the then-contemporary German culture as being unsophisticated and too-full of beer, and shoots some disapproving arrows at key French, British, and Italian cultural figures such as Rousseau, Hugo, Sand, Michelet, Zola, Renan, Carlyle, Mill, Eliot, Darwin, and Dante. In contrast to these alleged representatives of cultural decadence, Nietzsche applauds Caesar, Napoleon, Goethe, Dostoevsky, Thucydides and the Sophists as healthier and stronger types. The phrase “to philosophize with a hammer” primarily signifies a way to test idols by tapping on them lightly; one “sounds them out” to determine whether they are hollow, or intact, etc., as physician would use a percussion hammer upon the abdomen as a diagnostic instrument.

In The Antichrist, Curse on Christianity ( Der Antichrist. Fluch auf das Christentum , September 1888 [published 1895]), Nietzsche expresses his disgust over the way noble values in Roman Society were corrupted by the rise of Christianity, and he discusses specific aspects and personages in Christian culture—the Gospels, Paul, the martyrs, priests, the crusades—with a view towards showing that Christianity is a religion for weak and unhealthy people, whose general historical effect has been to undermine the healthy qualities of the more noble cultures. The Antichrist was initially conceived of as the first part of a projected four-part work for which Nietzsche had in mind the title, Revaluation of All Values (the second part was to be entitled, “The Free Spirit”). As in most of his 1888 works, Nietzsche criticizes, either implicitly or explicitly, the anti-Semitic writers of his day. In this particular study, one of his main targets is the French, anti-Semitic, Christian historian, Ernest Renan (1823–1892), who was known for works such as The Life of Jesus (1863) and History of the Origins of Christianity (1866–1881), the fourth book of which was entitled The Antichrist (1873). Some interpret Nietzsche’s title for his book as meaning, “the Antichristian.” It should be noted that in an 1883 letter to his friend, Peter Gast [Johann Heinrich Köselitz], Nietzsche does describe himself self-entertainingly as “the Antichrist,” and also more seriously as “the most terrible opponent of Christianity.”

Nietzsche describes himself as “a follower of the philosopher Dionysus” in Ecce Homo, How One Becomes What One Is ( Ecce Homo, Wie man wird, was man ist , October-November 1888)—a book in which he examines retrospectively his entire corpus, work by work, offering critical remarks, details of how the works were inspired, and explanatory observations regarding their philosophical contents. He begins this fateful intellectual autobiography—he was to lose his mind little more than a month later—with three eyebrow-raising sections entitled, “Why I Am So Wise,” “Why I Am So Clever,” and “Why I Write Such Good Books.” Nietzsche claims to be wise as a consequence of his acute aesthetic sensitivity to nuances of health and sickness in people’s attitudes and characters; he claims to be clever because he knows how to choose the right nutrition, climate, residence and recreation for himself; he claims to write such good books because they allegedly adventurously open up, at least for a very select group of readers, a new series of noble and delicate experiences. After examining each of his published works, Nietzsche concludes Ecce Homo with the section, “Why I Am a Destiny.” He claims that he is a destiny because he regards his anti-moral truths as having the annihilating power of intellectual dynamite; he expects them to topple the morality born of sickness which he perceives to have been reigning within Western culture for the last two thousand years. In this way, he expresses his hope that Dionysus, the god of life’s exuberance, would replace Jesus, the god of the heavenly otherworld, as the premier cultural standard for future millennia.

Although Ecce Homo stands historically as Nietzsche’s final autobiographical statement, if we consider that—although the plans were in flux—Nietzsche was embarking on a new work, at one point to be entitled, Revaluation of All Values , his 1888 autobiographical excursion can be appreciated as a kind of house-cleaning and summing-up of where he had intellectually arrived at that point. Rather than being a final self-definition, it can be seen as yet another among Nietzsche’s several efforts over the years to clear the way for a freer intellectual development or metamorphosis. In this respect, it compares to Thus Spoke Zarathustra , Book IV, which appears to be Nietzsche’s squarely facing, almost as a kind of exorcism, the variety of inner characters that constituted his personality. Along the same lines, Ecce Homo recalls the interval between Human-All-too-Human and Daybreak , when Nietzsche plunged to a very low point in his health, coming close to death, and then dramatically recuperated.

Nietzsche Contra Wagner, Out of the Files of a Psychologist ( Nietzsche contra Wagner, Aktenstücke eines Psychologen , December 1888) is a short, but classic, selection of passages Nietzsche extracted from his 1878–1887 published works. Many concern Wagner, but the excerpts serve mostly as a foil for Nietzsche to express his own views against Wagner’s. In this self-portrait, completed only a month before his collapse, Nietzsche characterizes his own anti-Christian sentiments, and contemplates how even the greatest people usually undergo significant corruption. In Wagner’s case, Nietzsche claims that the corrupting force was Christianity. One cannot help remembering here how, using the same kind of rationale, Wagner claimed that Felix Mendelssohn’s corrupting force was Judaism. At the same time, Nietzsche describes how he truly admired some of Wagner’s music for its profound expressions of loneliness and suffering—expressions which Nietzsche admitted were psychologically impossible for he himself to articulate.

The writings of Nietzsche’s final active year are peppered with some wild phrasings, but they remain lucid and philosophically penetrating on the whole. Given the utter loss of Nietzsche’s intellectual capacities upon his collapse, this prior lucidity is puzzling. The abruptness of his breakdown in combination with the lucidity of his final writings has fed speculation that rather than suffering from a slowly progressive mental disease, Nietzsche had a physical condition (e.g., a brain tumor) whose silent growth eventually reached a critical mass that caused his mental composure to snap.

Nietzsche’s unpublished writings often reveal his more tentative and speculative ideas. This material is surrounded by controversy, since some of it conflicts with views he expresses in his published works. Disagreement regarding Nietzsche’s notebooks, also known as his Nachlass , centers around the degree of interpretive priority which ought to be given to the unpublished versus the published writings. One popular approach in the tradition of classical scholarly interpretation is to maintain that Nietzsche’s published works express his more considered and polished views, and that these should take precedence over the unpublished manuscripts when conflicts arise; a second attitude, given voice by Martin Heidegger (who lectured on Nietzsche in Nazi Germany, 1936–1940), and broadly consistent with a psychoanalytic approach as well, is to regard what Nietzsche published as representative of what he decided was publicly presentable, and what he kept privately to himself in unpublished form as containing his more authentic views; a third, more comprehensive, interpretive style tries to grasp all of Nietzsche’s texts together in an effort to form the most coherent interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought, judging the priority of published versus unpublished works on a thematic, or case-by-case basis; a fourth position influenced by the French deconstructionist perspective maintains that any rigid prioritizing between published and private works is impossible, since all of the texts embody a comparable multidimensionality of meaning.

In his unpublished manuscripts, Nietzsche sometimes elaborates the topics found in the published works, such as his early 1870s notebooks, where there is important material concerning his theory of knowledge. In the 1880s notebooks—those from which his sister collected together a large selection after his death under the title, The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of all Values —Nietzsche sometimes adopts a more metaphysical orientation towards the doctrines of Eternal Recurrence and the Will to Power, speculating upon their structure, implications, and intellectual strength as interpretations of reality itself. Side-by-side with these speculations, and complicating efforts towards developing an interpretation which is both comprehensive and coherent, Nietzsche’s 1880s notebooks also repeatedly state that “there are no facts, only interpretations.”

Nietzsche’s thought extended a deep influence during the 20th century, especially in Continental Europe. In English-speaking countries, his positive reception has been less resonant. During the last decade of Nietzsche’s life and the first decade of the 20th century, his thought was particularly attractive to avant-garde artists who saw themselves on the periphery of established social fashion and practice. Here, Nietzsche’s advocacy of new, healthy beginnings, and of creative artistry in general stood forth. His tendency to seek explanations for commonly-accepted values and outlooks in the less-elevated realms of sheer animal instinct was also crucial to Sigmund Freud’s development of psychoanalysis. Later, during the 1930s, aspects of Nietzsche’s thought were espoused by the Nazis and Italian Fascists, partly due to the encouragement of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche through her associations with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. It was possible for the Nazi interpreters to assemble, quite selectively, various passages from Nietzsche’s writings whose juxtaposition appeared to justify war, aggression and domination for the sake of nationalistic and racial self-glorification.

Until the 1960s in France, Nietzsche appealed mainly to writers and artists, since the academic philosophical climate was dominated by G.W.F. Hegel’s, Edmund Husserl’s and Martin Heidegger’s thought, along with the structuralist movement of the 1950s. Nietzsche became especially influential in French philosophical circles during the 1960s–1980s, when his “God is dead” declaration, his perspectivism, and his emphasis upon power as the real motivator and explanation for people’s actions revealed new ways to challenge established authority and launch effective social critique. In the English-speaking world, Nietzsche’s unfortunate association with the Nazis kept him from serious philosophical consideration until the 1950s and 60s, when landmark works such as Walter Kaufmann’s, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (1950) and Arthur C. Danto’s, Nietzsche as Philosopher (1965), paved the way for a more open-minded discussion.

Specific 20th century figures who were influenced, either quite substantially, or in a significant part, by Nietzsche include painters, dancers, musicians, playwrights, poets, novelists, psychologists, sociologists, literary theorists, historians, and philosophers: Alfred Adler, Georges Bataille, Martin Buber, Albert Camus, E.M. Cioran, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Isadora Duncan, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Stefan George, André Gide, Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, Martin Heidegger, Gustav Mahler, André Malraux, Thomas Mann, H.L. Mencken, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Paul Sartre, Max Scheler, Giovanni Segantini, George Bernard Shaw, Lev Shestov, Georg Simmel, Oswald Spengler, Richard Strauss, Paul Tillich, Ferdinand Tönnies, Mary Wigman, William Butler Yeats and Stefan Zweig.

That Nietzsche was able to write so prolifically and profoundly for years, while remaining in a condition of ill-health and often intense physical pain, is a testament to his spectacular mental capacities and will power. Lesser people under the same physical pressures might not have had the inclination to pick up a pen, let alone think and record thoughts which—created in the midst of striving for healthy self-overcoming—would have the power to influence an entire century.

A. Nietzsche’s Writings

B. Books About Nietzsche

C. Collected Essays on Nietzsche

D. Nietzsche’s Music

How to cite this entry . Preview the PDF version of this entry at the Friends of the SEP Society . Look up topics and thinkers related to this entry at the Internet Philosophy Ontology Project (InPhO). Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database.

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Friedrich Nietzsche by Brian Leiter LAST REVIEWED: 17 October 2022 LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0081

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) is one of the major figures of 19th-century European philosophy, whose influence on 20th-century thought was rivaled only by Marx. Trained as a classical scholar of antiquity, he was forced by ill health into an early retirement from his academic career while still in his thirties. Until his mental and physical collapse in early 1889, he spent his time writing his most celebrated works (including Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil , and On the Genealogy of Morality ) while living in various inns in Italy, France, and Switzerland. Little recognized during his productive lifetime, by the time of his death in 1900 he was quickly becoming the most influential figure in European intellectual life. His scathing attack on morality, his penetrating psychological insights into human behavior, and his startling views about truth and knowledge, all presented in some of the most brilliant and memorable prose ever written by a philosopher, made Nietzsche one of the most important intellectual forces with which to be reckoned at the dawn of the 20th century. Freud, Hesse, Gide, Mann, and Heidegger were among his admirers, and political movements of every stripe—anarchist, socialist, and fascist—all claimed the mantle of his influence. The political triumph of Nazism, and the efforts of his proto-Nazi sister to align him with its cause, tainted his reputation: illiberal and anti-egalitarian, to be sure, Nietzsche was also an enemy of nationalism and capitalism, which he saw as fatal obstacles to the realization of human genius and cultural excellence. In the post-World War II era, Nietzsche gradually reemerged as a thinker of profound importance, read variously as a forerunner of existentialism, post-structuralism, and philosophical naturalism, among other philosophical movements.

These studies differ in methodology and philosophical ambition, but they all cover some of the most famous themes in Nietzsche’s philosophy, such as the will to power, eternal recurrence, and perspectivism (though they differ on how central these themes really are to his philosophy). Clark 1990 is unusual in focusing almost entirely on the books Nietzsche published, whereas the other studies draw heavily (sometimes very heavily, as in Deleuze 1983 , Heidegger 1979–1982 , Richardson 1995 ) on the notebooks that were unpublished at the time of Nietzsche’s collapse (the Nachlass ). See Editions of Nietzsche’s Work and Controversies about the Canon for more on the controversy surrounding the Nachlass material. Of these books, Clark 1990 has had the most impact on subsequent work, revolutionizing Anglophone scholarship especially, both by engaging with Nietzsche’s texts at a level of philosophical sophistication not seen previously, and by advancing, on the basis of careful readings of texts, an important hypothesis about the development of Nietzshe’s views on truth and knowledge.

Clark, Maudemarie. Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Argues that Nietzsche moved from skepticism about the possibility of truth based on neo-Kantian doubts about the accessibility of the world as it is (the “noumenal” world) to a repudiation of this idea and renewed confidence in the senses and empirical science. Also contains important chapters on will to power (arguing that it is mainly a kind of psychological hypothesis and not a metaphysical thesis) and eternal recurrence.

Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche and Philosophy . Translated by Hugh Tomlinson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.

English translation of Nietzsche et la Philosophie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1962). Drawing heavily on Nachlass material, Deleuze treats the ideas of “activity” and “reactivity” as central to a systematic reading of the corpus. Not for beginners, but worth the attention of scholars and graduate students.

Heidegger, Martin. Nietzsche . 4 vols. Translated and edited by David Farrell Krell. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979–1982.

Heidegger’s lecture courses on Nietzsche between 1936 and 1941, transcriptions of which first appeared in two volumes in German in 1961. Essential reading for students of Heidegger, more controversial as a guide to Nietzsche, though it has been influential, especially in European scholarship. Heidegger relies heavily on Nachlass material and treats Nietzsche as the culmination of the tradition of Western metaphysics that begins with Plato. “Will to power” and the problem of “nihilism” are central in Heidegger’s reading.

Magnus, Bernd. Nietzsche’s Existential Imperative . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.

An important defense of the idea that Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence ought to be understood as a kind of ethical imperative about how one should aspire to live one’s life (roughly, live in such a way that one could will the eternal repetition of one’s life).

Nehamas, Alexander. Nietzsche: Life as Literature . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

An elegant synthesis and restatement of what came to be known as the “French” post-structuralist Nietzsche associated with Paul DeMan, Jacques Derrida, and Sarah Kofman. Ascribes to Nietzsche a view Nehamas dubs “aestheticism,” according to which Nietzsche views the world as like a literary text and its occupants as like literary characters. The chapter on eternal recurrence remains influential, though the central interpretive thesis about aestheticism has not won much favor over time.

Reginster, Bernard. The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

An impressive recent attempt to give an overview of Nietzsche’s philosophical corpus, organized, like Heidegger’s, around the themes of will to power and nihilism, though with much greater sensitivity to the texts than Heidegger and far more lucid. Very illuminating on the role of responses to Schopenhauer in Nietzsche’s work. Not always sensitive, however, to the philosophical plausibility of the views ascribed to Nietzsche. Its treatment of will to power is usefully contrasted with the account in Richardson 1995 . Accessible to advanced undergraduates.

Richardson, John. Nietzsche’s System . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Gives, as its title suggests, a systematic account of Nietzsche’s entire corpus, organized around the Heideggerian theme of will to power, and the Deleuzian theme of activity/reactivity—but does so with much greater clarity and care than either of his European interpreters. The account of will to power as the teleological tendency of any drive to co-opt other drives for its ends is the most compelling account in the literature, which all others must address. Accessible to advanced undergraduates.

Schacht, Richard. Nietzsche . London: Routledge, 1983.

Comprehensive and carefully documented overview of every aspect of Nietzsche’s philosophy, giving equal weight in its interpretation to both published and unpublished work. Schacht’s methodical canvassing of textual evidence makes his book a useful check on any interpretive hypothesis about Nietzsche. Sometimes long-winded, and not philosophically sophisticated, but a valuable resource for beginners and advanced students.

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Nietzsche: A Selected Annotated Bibliography

“I know my fate.  One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous-a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience, a decision that was conjured up against everything that had been believed, demanded, hallowed so far. I am no man, I am dynamite.” 1

Nietzsche’s Influence

Friedrich Nietzsche's (1844-1900) influence on the present age is all pervasive. In 1955,  Martin Heidegger wrote, it is “Nietzsche, in whose light and shadow all of us today, with our ‘for him’ or ‘against him’ are thinking and writing…” 2   This is even more evident today.  Stanley Rosen has called him the most influential philosopher in the western world; and for Charles Taylor, all contemporary philosophy is neo-Nietzschean.

This influence is reflected in the enormous secondary literature about Nietzsche. The International Nietzsche Bibliography, published in 1968, listed over 4,500 entries in 27 languages; since then more than 3,000 books on Nietzsche have been published.  The Weimarer Nietzsche-Bibliographie, published 2000-2002, includes over 20,000 entries in 42 languages. 

Initially, Nietzsche’s influence was primarily literary and artistic.  Thomas Mann, Herman Hesse, André Gide, William Butler Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O’Neill, August Strindberg, to name but a few, were all influenced by him.  Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud admired him.  Freud stated “that he had a more penetrating knowledge of himself than any man who ever lived or was likely to live.” 3 And Freud stopped reading him because he feared Nietzsche had anticipated many of his own ideas. Interest in Nietzsche as a philosopher, however, only became widespread after World War II.  Although important works about him were published in the thirties by the German philosophers Karl Jaspers, Max Scheler, and Karl Löwith, their influence was limited by the rise of Nazism. It was Martin Heidegger’s lectures on Nietzsche from the 1930’s and 1940’s, but published only in 1961, that was decisive in developing interest in Nietzsche as a philosopher.  Heidegger's interpretation shaped the image of Nietzsche in Europe until the 1970’s, when it was challenged in France in what has become known as “the new Nietzsche” or “the French Nietzsche.” Like Heidegger in Europe, Walter Kaufman’s interpretation of Nietzsche, in Nietzsche:Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (1950), as well as his many translations of Nietzsche, and their accompanying introductions and commentary, determined how Nietzsche was understood in North America up to the 1970’s. 4

If you have any questions or comments about this guide, e-mail [email protected] .

This research guide is created and maintained by Jack Sherefkin.

Understanding Nietzsche

More than any other philosopher, Nietzsche has been read in vastly different and contradictory ways.  He has been appropriated by both the right and the left; read as a fascist and a socialist, a conservative and a revolutionary, a religious thinker and an atheist.  And interpretations of him continue to multiply.  “Thus the contemporary world is characterized by apparently mutually incompatible claims as to whose Nietzsche is the ‘true’ Nietzsche.” 5

Ironically, one difficulty with understanding Nietzsche is that he is too easy to read. Readers are easily carried away by his brilliant style, by the way he dramatizes and personalizes ideas, and by his passionate intensity. Nietzsche cautioned, with little effect, against reading him quickly: he wrote, I am “a teacher of slow reading… Nowadays it is not only my habit, it is also to my taste…no longer to write anything which does not reduce to despair every sort of man who is ‘in a hurry.’…it is more necessary than ever today…in the midst of an age of ‘work’, that is to say of hurry…which wants to ‘get everything done’ at once…learn to read me well!” 6  

The biggest obstacle, however, to understanding Nietzsche is that his ideas were never systematically developed (he distrusted all systems), but are scattered thoughout his writings and often seem to contradict each other.  As Jaspers writes, “For nearly every single one of Nietzsche’s judgments, one can find an opposite.  He gives the impression of having two opinions about everything.  Consequently it is possible to quote Nietzsche at will in support of anything one happens to have in mind.” 7   Add to that, Nietzsche’s exaggerated rhetoric,  “exaggeration or hyperbole [is the] single most pervasive feature of his writing…” 8  and the result are texts with seemingly endless possible meanings and interpretations.

Consequently, any interpretation of Nietzsche needs to confront the problem of Nietzsche’s many contradictory views.  Many have tried to harmonize these contradictions by organizing Nietzsche’s work around a central idea. For Ernst Behler, whether Nietzsche’s thought can be systematized is the “central question that perhaps every interpretation of Nietzsche must raise; namely, whether the philosopher’s aphoristic and fragmentary text, which apparently rejects final principles and systematic coherence, nevertheless can be read in the style of traditional metaphysics.” 9    The attempt to systematize Nietzsche’s thought is best exemplified by Heidegger, who based his interpretation of Nietzsche on the idea of the will to power (as do Schacht and Kaufmann, although their interpretations are vastly different).  Other scholars have tried to organized Nietzsche’s thought around nihilism (Danto), or eternal recurrence (Lowith, Magnus).

The French Nietzscheans, e.g., Foucault, Derrida, Kofman, Deleuze, and their followers, by contrast, tend to resist this effort to unify his thought, arguing that Nietzsche’s shifting meanings and contradictions resist systematization.  “[M]uch of the French work on Nietzsche can be seen as a refutation of Heidegger’s [metaphysical] interpretation by insisting on the metaphorical character of Nietzsche’s writings, his style, his irony, and his masks.” 10   How Nietzsche writes, his use of aphorisms, metaphors, and wide range of literary styles is seen as important as what he writes about. Nietzsche’s style is not seen as obscuring or concealing his meaning, as has often been argued, but as inseparable from and expressive of it. Nietzsche’s style expresses, in an important way, his philosophy.  For example, Alexander Nehamas argues that Nietzsche “depends on many styles in order to suggest that there is no single, neutral language in which his views, or any others can ever be presented.” 11  

Yet, I would argue, there is a unity or a narrative to Nietzsche’s thought.  Central to his thinking is the idea of the “death of God” and the impending cultural catastrophe, which he called nihilism, that is its consequence.   Nietzsche devoted much of his life to thinking through the consequences of  “this greatest event in history.” As Löwith argues, “Nietzsche’s actual thought is a…system, at the beginning of which stands the death of God…the ensuing nihilism, and at its end the self-surmounting of nihilism in eternal recurrence.” 12

The problem for Nietzsche, and one that exemplifies the contradictory character of his thought, is that although he argues that belief in God has devalued this world, the death of God leads to the belief that life is meaningless.  As Walter Kaufmann writes, “To escape nihilism-which…involved both asserting the existence of God and thus robbing this world of ultimate significance, and also in denying God and thus robbing everything of meaning and value-that is Nietzsche’s greatest and most persistent problem.” 13

The Nietzsche Archive

The New York Public Library has facsimiles of all of Nietzsche’s papers (except the letters) held in the Nietzsche Archive in Weimar, Germany.  These unpublished papers are usually referred to as Nietzsche’s Nachlass.  There are 45 bound volumes.   Volumes 1-5 contain the manuscripts for his published works; volumes 6-8 Nietzsche’s lecture notes; volumes 9-32 philosophical notebooks; volumes 33-42 memoranda; volumes 43-45 musical compositions. *KF 2000 (Nietzsche, F. Fotokopien aus dem Nietzsche-Archiv)

As Linda Williams describes it, the “Nachlass can be divided roughly into three different kinds of work.  The first…comprises the works Nietzsche was editing right before his collapse.  These works are Ecce Homo, Nietzsche Contra Wagner, and The Antichrist…The second…are Nietzsche’s early, finished pieces that were never published, the so called Schriften-primarily his lectures and writings while he was employed at Basel…The third…consists of Nietzsche’s notes.   These notes vary from near essay length and form, to extremely sketchy outlines of various projects, to single sentences or sentence fragments…there are passages lined out, words jotted in the margins, and some overwriting.” 14

Although the Kritische Gesamtausgabe: Werke by Colli and Montinari contains more of Nietzsche’s Nachlass than any previous edition of Nietzsche’s works, there is still much that is not included.  Bernd Magnus estimates that “there is perhaps as much as 25% more material-excluding Nietzsche’s letters, letters to him, and personal effects—than exists in even the very best edition of Nietzsche’s works, the monumental Colli-Montinari edition…The reasons for this…may include the following facts…Montinari, often did not produce the pages and the notations Nietzsche himself crossed out in his handwritten manuscripts…Montinari…excluded…matters he considered ‘personal’…and many editors have excluded all marginalia…” 15

Scholars have taken four basic positions towards the Nachlass.  For Martin Heidegger, the Nachlass is where Nietzsche’s true philosophy is to be found.  “What Nietzsche himself published during his creative life was always foreground…His philosophy proper was left behind as posthumous, unpublished work.” 16   On the other hand, R.J. Hollingdale argued that the notes in the Nachlass that were never incorporated into the published works, were ideas Nietzsche rejected, as should we.  There are other scholars, like Karl Jaspers, Arthur Danto, and Richard Schacht, who use both the published and unpublished material without differentiating between them, not seeing a problem in giving equal weight to writings that were never published.  That is not a problem for material that appeared in the published writings with only minor revision.  But “writings that did not find their way into publication in any form are problematic.  Are they rough drafts of some future work which Nietzsche was unable to complete due to his illness…Are they ideas that Nietzsche entertained but ultimately rejected?  If so, we should not place them on par with the ideas in his published works.” 17

Lastly, there is the position of scholars like Bernd Magnus, and Linda Williams who take the “position of carefully differentiating between the two sets of writings….[and] treat the Nachlass entries as thought experiments…they do not advise ignoring the Nachlass entries altogether, but they also do not treat the entries with the same degree of confidence as the works Nietzsche authorized for publication.” 18   

How much importance is given to the Nachlass has consequences on how Nietzsche is interpreted.   For example, it can lead to differences “over the importance of the concept of the will to power (which is mentioned rarely in published works) and the cosmological version of the doctrine of eternal recurrence (which appears only in unpublished works).” 19

History of the Nietzsche Archive

Hoffmann, David Marc.  Zur Geschichte des Nietzsche-Archivs.  (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1991) JFD 92-1543

Considered the best history of the Nietzsche Archive.

Nietzsche’s Library

Bibliothek Nietzsches   (S) *Z-9994

This is the microfilm of the approximately 900 books in Nietzsche’s library. About 170 of the books are annotated, many heavily, by Nietzsche.  It should be noted “less than half of the books he read are…found in his library.” Thomas Brobjer, p. 680 (see below).

Bibliothek Nietzsches: Verzeichnis in systematishcher Anordnung nach Oehler. (Weimar: Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, 1997)   (S) *Z-9994+ [Index]

A one-volume index to the microfilm of Nietzsche’s library. (This index is also on microfilm.) Titles are arranged by subject, author, and by the call numbers used at the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek in Weimar.

Brobjer, Thomas H.  “Nietzsche’s Reading and Private Library, 1885-1889.” Journal of the History of Ideas 58.4 (1997) 663-680  *ZAN-4694 also available on the database, Project Muse

This is a study of what Nietzsche read, his reading habits, and the books he owned. Brobjer thinks it’s important to know both what Nietzsche read and the annotations he made in his books.

Campioni, Giuliano et al.  Nietzsches persönliche Bibliothek. (Berlin; New York: W. de Gruyter, 2003).  (S) *Z-9994+ [Notation Guide]

This study attempts to reconstruct all the books that were in Nietzsche’s library, many of which no longer exist. Also, it lists the pages, in the books Nietzsche owned, where he underlined passages or wrote comments in the margins. (A valuable aid when using the microfilm of Nietzsche’s library.)

Collected Editions in German

Kritische Gesamtausgabe: Werke.  ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. 40 vols., (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967- )   L -11 2506

The Colli-Montinari edition supersedes all earlier Nietzsche editions.  Forty of the projected fifty volumes have been published.

It is also available electronically through Past Masters, a database available on our Selected Electronic Resources.  This makes possible word and phrase searches of Nietzsche’s complete works.

Kritische Gesamtausgabe: Briefwechsel.  ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. 24 vols., (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1975-84)  JFL 75-286  Also available, in part, electronically, through Past Masters on our Selected Electronic Resources.

 This edition supersedes all earlier editions.

Der musikalische Nachlass.  ed. Curt Paul Janz.  (Basel: Bärenreiter, 1976).  JMG 77-297

Nietzsche’s Published Works in English

The following are English translations of books that Nietzsche published or intended to publish.  It does not list all the English translations of Nietzsche.

Complete Works.  ed. Oscar Levy.  (New York: Russell & Russell, 1964)  D-1 2617

Walter Kaufmann wrote, “ These translations…are thoroughly unreliable.  None of the translators were philosophers, few were scholars…” Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, p. 486.

Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. ed.  Bernd Magnus.  (20 vols., (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995 onwards).

Three volumes have appeared to date in what will be the first complete, critical, and annotated English translation of all of Nietzsche’s published work and selected notebooks.  This will correspond with the Kritische Studienausgabe (KSA), which is a shorten version of Kritische Gesamtausgabe: Werke.

The Antichrist (Der Antichrist, 1888).  trans. Walter Kaufmann in The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin, 1982).  JFD 02-3631

Beyond Good and Evil (Jenseits von Gut und Böse, 1886).  trans. Walter Kaufmann. (New York: Vintage, 1966).   JFD 00-11292

Birth of Tragedy (Die Geburt der Tragödie, 1872). trans. Walter Kaufmann.  (New York: Vintage, 1966).  JFC 00-1638

The Case of Wagner (Der Fall Wagner, 1888).  trans. Walter Kaufmann, with The Birth of Tragedy (New York: Vintage, 1966).  JFC 00-1638

David Strauss, the Confessor and the Writer (David Strauss der Bekenner und der Schriftsteller, 1873).  trans. R.J. Hollingdale in Untimely Meditations (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983).  JFD 84-1883

Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (Morganröthe, 1881).  trans. R.J. Hollingdale.  (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982). JFD 83-3580

Dithyrambs of Dionysus (Dionysos-Dithyramben, 1892).  Bilingual ed., trans. R.J. Hollingdale. (London: Anvil Press Poetry, 1984).  JFL 79-247 no. 16     

Ecce Homo (Ecce Homo, completed 1888, first published 1908) with On the Genealogy of Morals. (New York: Vintage, 1967). trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Penguin, 1979).  JFD 00-19363

The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, Books I-IV, 1882; second edition with preface and Book V, 1887).  trans. Walter Kaufmann.  (New York: Vintage, 1974). JFD 74-7467

Human, All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, first volume, 1878; first part of second volume Assorted Opinions and Maxims, 1879; second part of second volume, The Wanderer and His Shadow, 1880).  trans. R.J. Hollingdale. 2 vols. in 1, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).  JFD 86-8517

Nietzsche contra Wagner (Nietzsche contra Wagner, completed 1888, first published 1895).  trans. Walter Kaufmann in The Portable Nietzsche.  JFD 02-3631

On the Genealogy of Morals (Zur Genealogie der Moral, 1887). trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. (New York: Vintage, 1967).  JFD 00-19363

On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life (Von Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben, 1874).  trans. R.J. Hollingdale in Untimely Meditations (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983).  JFD 84-1883

Richard Wagner in Bayreuth (Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, 1876). trans. R.J. Hollingdale in Untimely Meditations.  JFD 84-1883

Schopenhauer as Educator (Schopenhauer als Erzeiher, 1874).  trans. R.J. Hollingdale in Untimely Meditations   JFD 84-1883

Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also Sprach Zarathustra, Parts I and II, 1883; Part III, 1884; Part IV, 1885).  trans. Walter Kaufmann. in The Portable Nietzsche.  JFD 02-3631

Twilight of the Idols (Götzen-Dämmerung, 1889).  trans. Walter Kaufmann in The Portable Nietzsche.  JFD 02-3631

Untimely Meditations (Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, 1873-76).  trans. R.J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).  JFD 84-1883

Nietzsche’s Unpublished Works in English

The following are English translations of Nietzsche’s unpublished works.

“The Birth of Tragic Thought.” (Die Geburt des tragischen Gedankens). trans. Ursula Bernis, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 9, no. 2, Fall 1983, 3-15.  JFL 94-647

“The Dionysian Worldview.” (Die dionysische Weltanschauung). trans. Claudia Crawford,  Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 13, 1997, 81-97. JFL 01-623

“Fate and History.” (Fatum und Geschichte). trans. George J. Stack,  Philosophy Today 37, 2, 1993, 154-156.  *ZAN-4425

“Freedom of the Will and Fate.” (Freiheit des Willens und Fatum). trans. George J. Stack,  Philosophy Today, 37, 2, 1993, 156-158.  *ZAN-4425

Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language.  ed. and trans. Sander L. Gilman, Carole Blair, and David J. Parent.  (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).  JFD 00-11179

“My Life.” (Mein Leben). trans. R.J. Hollingdale, Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 3, 1992, 5-9.  JFL 01-623

“On Moods.” (Über Stimmungen). trans. Graham Parkes in Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 2, 1991, 5-11.  JFL 01-623

“On Music and Words.” (Über Musik und Wort). trans. Walter Kaufmann, in Carl Dahlhaus, Between Romanticism and Modernism: Four Studies in the Music of the Later 19 th Century. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980) 106-19.  JMD 81-43

“On Schopenhauer.” (Zu Schopenhauer). trans. Christopher Janaway in Willing and Nothingness: Schopenhauer as Nietzsche’s Educator. ed. Christopher Janaway. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 258-265.   JFE 99-2530

“On the Future of Our Educational Institutions.” (Über die Zukunft unserer Bildungsanstalten). trans. Michael W. Grenke. (South Bend, Ind: St. Augustine’s Press, 2004) JFE 04-10757

“On the Relationship of Alcibiades Speech to the Other Speeches in Plato’s Symposium.” (Über das Verhältnis der Rede des Alcibiades zu den übrigen Reden des platonischen Symposions). trans. David Scialdone, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, v.15. no. 2, 1991, 3-5.  JFL 94-647

“On Teleology, or Teleology since Kant.” trans. Paul Swift,  Nietzscheana 8, 2000, 1-20.  JFF 03-87 no. 8

“On the Theory of Quantitative Rhythm.” (Zur Theorie der quantitierenden Rhythmik). trans. James Halporn, Arion, 6, 1967, 233-243.  K-10 3730

"On Truth and Lie in a Nonmoral Sense." (Über Wahrheit und Lüge im aussermoralischen Sinne," 1873). trans. Walter Kaufmann in The Portable Nietzsche *R-YBX (NIETZSCHE) 02-270

Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks (Die Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen, 1870-73). trans. Marianne Cowan. (South Bend, IN: Gateway, 1962).     JFD 01-14699     

Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870s. ed. and trans. Daniel Breazeale. (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1979).  JFE 80-99

The Poetry of Friedrich Nietzsche. trans. with commentary by Philip Grundlehner. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).  JFE 87-2331

Prefaces to unwritten works ( Fünf Vorreden zu fünf ungeschriebenen Büchern) trans. and ed. by Michael W. Grenke. (South Bend, Ind: St. Augustine's Press, 2005) JFE 05-8009

The Pre-Platonic Philosophers.  trans. Greg Whitlock.  (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001)  JFE 01-13267

“Time-Atom Theory.” (Nachgelassene Fragment, early 1873). trans. Carol Diethe with modifications by Keith Ansell Pearson, The Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 20, 2000, 1-4.  JFL 01-623

Unpublished Writings from the Period of Unfashionable Observations, The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. vol. 11. trans. Richard T. Gray.  (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1999)  JFC 02-1211

We Classicists (Wir Philologen, 1875).  trans. William Arrowsmith in Unmodern Observations. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).  JFE 90-3192

The Will to Power (Der Wille zur Macht  published in editions of increasing size in 1901, 1904, and 1910-11).  trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. (New York: Vintage, 1967).  *R-YBX (Nietzsche) 99-11018

Although described by Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche, Nietzsche’s sister, as Nietzsche’s magnum opus, this is not one of Nietzsche’s books.   It is a collection of notes from Nietzsche’s notebooks that was selected and arranged by Nietzsche’s sister and Peter Gast after Nietzsche’s death.

Writings from the Late Notebooks.  ed. Rüdiger Bittner and trans. Kate Sturge. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).  JFE 03-12965

Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche.  ed. and trans. Christopher Middleton. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969).   E-13 7544

Nietzsche: A Self-Portrait from His Letters. ed. and trans. Peter Fuss and Henry Shapiro.  (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971).  JFD 72-4854


Weimarer Nietzsche-Bibliographie.  comp.  Susanne Jung, et. al. (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2000-2002).   JFL 00-502

This is the most comprehensive bibliography on Nietzsche including over 20,000 citations dating from 1867 to 1998.  Volume 1 lists Nietzsche’s works, including translations into 42 languages, and volumes 2 through 5, the secondary literature.

International Nietzsche Bibliography. ed.  Herbert W. Reichert and Karl Schlechta. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968).  *RB-YBX (Nietzsche)'

An important guide to the secondary literature, listing more than 4,500 titles in 27 languages. An expanded edition for the period 1968-72 was published in Nietzsche-Studien, v.2, 1973: 320-39.  This has been superseded by the Weimarer Nietzsche-Bibliographie.

Babich, Babette.  “Nietzsche and Music: Selective Bibliography.” New Nietzsche Studies, 1:1/2, 1996, 64-78.  JFK 00-74

Babich, Babette.  “Nietzsche, Classic Philology and Ancient Philosophy: A Research Bibliography.” New Nietzsche Studies, 4:1/2, 2000, 171-91.  JFK 00-74

Hollingdale, R.J. “‘The Birth of Tragedy’: A Checklist of Criticism, 1872-1972.” The Malahat Review, 24, 1972, 177-182.  L -11 2431

Kaufmann, Walter.  Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, 4 th ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980).  *R-YBX (Nietzsche) (Kaufmann, W.A. Nietzsche)

Kaufmann’s book includes a useful annotated bibliography.

Kummel, Richard Frank. Nietzsche und der deutsche Geist.  (Berlin; New York: de Gruyter, 1998.  (Monographien und Texte zur Nietzsche-Forschung, 3, 9, 40). 3 vols.   JFL 99-85

 An exhaustive, annotated, three-volume bibliography which traces the influence of Nietzsche’s works on German thought from 1867 to 1945.    Newspaper articles, diaries, and correspondence are included in the almost 5,700 items listed. 

Löwith, Karl.  “On the History of the Interpretation of Nietzsche (1894-1954).” in Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same.  trans. J. Harvey Lomax.  (Berkelely: University of California Press, 1997).  JFE 99-9334

An annotated bibliography limited to those authors who have focused on the problem of the eternal recurrence in Nietzsche.

Schaberg, William H.  The Nietzsche Canon: A Publication History and Bibliography.     (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).  JFE 96-2609

Schaberg gives a detailed publication history of Nietzsche’s works and his relationship with his publishers.  He also provides a detailed bibliography of all the editions of Nietzsche’s works that Nietzsche had published.

Vattimo, Gianni.  Nietzsche: An Introduction.  (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001).  JFD 02-17513

An excellent introduction to Nietzsche that includes a fine, international bibliography of works about him.


Haase, Marie-Luise & Jorg Salaquarda,  “Konkordanz.  Der Wille zur Macht: Nachlass in chronologischer Ordnung der Kritischen Gesamtausgabe.” Nietzsche-Studien, (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1980) 9: 446-490.  JFL 73-382

The definitive concordance to Der Wille zur Macht.

Simmons, Scott.  “A Concordance Indexing The Will to Power with the Critical Editions of Nietzsche’s Collected Works (KGW & KSA)” New Nietzsche Studies, 1:1/2, Fall/Winter 1996, 126-53.  JFK 00-74

This index enables the scholar to move between Der Wille zur Macht and its English translation, The Will to Power.


Andreas-Salomé, Lou.  Nietzsche. (Redding Ridge, CT: Black Swan Books, 1988)      JFD 88-9117

Written in 1894, by this Russian-born woman of letters, to whom Nietzsche had proposed marriage through a third party.  Salome ties Nietzsche’s philosophy to his illnesses and concludes that Nietzsche’s madness was the result of his philosophical views.

Binion, Rudolf.  Frau Lou: Nietzsche’s Wayward Disciple. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968).  E-13 5168

A fine study of Nietzsche’s relationship with Lou Salomé.

Gilman, Sander L., ed. Conversations With Nietzsche: a Life in the Words of His Contemporaries. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987) JFE 87-6031

Accounts of conversations, anecdotes, and recollections of Nietzsche, by people who knew him personally.

Hollingdale, R.J.  Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy, rev. ed. (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999).  JFE 00-1342

Considered by many to be the best biography of Nietzsche in English.  Hollingdale’s understanding of Nietzsche’s thought is strongly influenced by Walter Kaufmann (see below). 

Hollinrake, Roger.  Nietzsche, Wagner, and the Philosophy of Pessimism. (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1982).  JFD 83-179

A good account of Nietzsche's involvement with Wagner's music and ideas. Concentrating on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, Hollinrake argues that it was Nietzsche’s reply to Wagner.

Janz, C.P.  Friedrich Nietzsche: Biographie, rev. ed. (Munchen: C. Hanser, 1993) 3 v. JFD 94-7021

 The definitive biography in German.

Safranski, Rudiger.  Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography, trans. Shelley Frisch. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002).    JFE 02-20934

In this major new biography, Safranski, who has written excellent biographies on Schopenhauer and Heidegger, traces the background and development of Nietzsche’s thought.  Details of his life are provided only in so far as they illuminate his thought.

Nietzsche’s Philosophy

Allison, David B.  Reading the New Nietzsche: The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and On the Genealogy of Morals.  (New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2001).  JFE 01-4401

Focusing on a few themes, Allison provides a lucid reading of these four major works of Nietzsche. He is especially good at using the events of Nietzsche’s life to illuminate his thought.  Allison’s reading of Nietzsche is influenced by the French Nietzscheans, e.g., Bataille, Derrida, Deleuze and Foucault.         

Conway, Daniel W., ed.  Nietzsche: Critical Assessments. (London: Routledge, 1998),    4 vols.   JFE 01-2807

A four-volume compilation of the best in Nietzsche scholarship.

Danto, Arthur C.  Nietzsche as Philosopher. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).  JFD 05-4460

An influential book for Nietzsche studies in America.   Danto shows how Nietzsche’s ideas foreshadowed many of the problems of analytic philosophy.  For Danto, the problem of nihilism is at the core of Nietzsche’s thought.

Fink, Eugen.  Nietzsche’s Philosophy, trans. Goetz Richter. (London; New York: Continuum, 2003). JFE 03-13081

Fink agrees with Heidegger, his teacher, that Nietzsche’s will to power is the culmination of western metaphysics.  But for Fink, it is Nietzsche’s idea of the world as a play of forces, derived from Heraclitus, that is the core of Nietzsche’s philosophy, and takes him beyond traditional philosophy. 

Heidegger, Martin.  Nietzsche, trans. David Krell. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979-1987) 4 vols.  *R-YBX (Nietzsche) 80-1742

This is a compilation of Heidegger’s lectures and articles on Nietzsche from the 1930s and the 1940s.   For Heidegger, Nietzsche’s main idea is the will to power, although it must be thought together with the eternal return.   Since the idea of the will to power is rarely mentioned in Nietzsche’s published writings, Heidegger relies heavily on Nietzsche’s unpublished writings, especially those collected under the title of The Will to Power.

_____. “Nietzsche’s Word: God is Dead,” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. trans. William Lovitt.  (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 53-114. JFD 91-11380

This essay summarizes much of what Heidegger said in his five semesters of lectures on Nietzsche (see above).  For Heidegger, Nietzsche’s statement, “God is dead”, represents the death of the transcendent realm and hence of metaphysics.

Jaspers, Karl.  Nietzsche: An Introduction to the Understanding of His Philosophical Activity, trans. Charles F. Wallraff and Frederick J. Schmitz.  (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).    *RR-YBX (Nietzsche) (Jaspers, K. Nietzsche)

An important work by a major German philosopher.  Jaspers tends to discount the value of Nietzsche’s ideas, all of which he finds hopelessly contradictory.  He believes that Nietzsche offers no teaching or worldview; rather, it is his philosophizing, his thinking, that questions everything, which is of most importance.

Kaufmann, Walter.  Nietzsche:Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist,  4 th ed. rev. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980).  *R-YBX (Nietzsche) (Kaufmann, W.A. Nietzsche)

This is probably the best introduction to Nietzsche’s philosophy. Kaufmann’s interpretation has long dominated the picture of Nietzsche in North America.  For Kaufmann, “will to power”, understood as a psychological principle, and “self-overcoming” form the center of Nietzsche’s thought.

Montinari, Mazzino. Reading Nietzsche , trans. Greg Whitlock. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003). JFE 03-5727

This collection of essays and lectures by Montinari grew out of his work as coeditor of the critical edition of Nietzsche’s collected works in German. The “essays collected here-have no other purpose than as instruction on reading Nietzsche.” p. 5. An important work.

Muller-Lauter, Wolfgang.  Nietzsche: His Philosophy of Contradictions and the Contradictions of His Philosophy, trans. David J. Parent.  (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999).  JFE 99-6424

Muller-Lauter, writing in 1971, attempted to challenge Heidegger’s influential reading of Nietzsche, especially the idea that the will to power is a metaphysical principle. For Muller-Lauter, the contradictions in Nietzsche’s philosophy become understandable when Nietzsche’s philosophy of contradiction is understood.

Nehamas, Alexander.  Nietzsche, Life as Literature. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985).  JFE 85-4601

In this influential book, Nehamas argues that Nietzsche understands the world “as if it were a literary text.”   For Nehamas, Nietzsche’s aestheticism and his perspectivism (that all views, including his own, are just one of many possible interpretations) are intimately related, and provide the key to resolving the contradictions and paradoxes of his thought.  For  “literary texts can be interpreted equally well in vastly different and deeply incompatible ways.  Nietzsche…also holds that exactly the same is true of the world itself.” p. 3.

Richardson, John.  Nietzsche’s System.  (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).  JFE 96-5712

In spite of Nietzsche's rejection of all systems of philosophy, Richardson argues that Nietzsche's thought forms a system organized around the principle of the will to power. Like Heidegger, Richardson relies heavily on Nietzsche's Nachlass to support this interpretation.

Schacht, Richard.  Nietzsche.  (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983).  *R-YBX (Nietzsche) 99-11013

Schact provides detailed and lengthy analyses of many different aspects of Nietzsche’s thought, treating him as a traditional philosopher with opinions on all the traditional philosophical questions.

Schacht, Richard. Making Sense of Nietzsche: Reflections Timely and Untimely . (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995). JFE 95-6934

This collection of essays is divided into two parts. In the first, Schacht refutes some contemporary interpretations of Nietzsche. In the second, he offers his own views on specific texts of Nietzsche. A good guide to current Nietzsche scholarship.

Aschheim, Steven E.  The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany, 1890-1990.  (Berkeley: University of Californina Press, 1993). JFE 93-12857

Aschheim makes no attempt to explain what Nietzsche means, but rather restricts himself to tracing all the different ways Nietzsche has been understood.  To this end, he examines the history of Nietzsche’s reception in Germany and the adoption of his ideas by every major social, political and intellectual movement.

Behler, Ernst.  “Nietzsche in the twentieth century,” The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche.  ed. Bernd Magnus and Kathleen Higgins.  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 281-322.  *R-YBX (Nietzsche) 96-6086

A lucid history of how Nietzsche has been interpreted by philosophers in the 20 th century.

Nietzsche’s Epistemology

Nietzsche repeatedly called into question the value of truth.   Scholars have ascribed every major theory of truth to him, while others have claimed he has no epistemology nor was he interested in one.

Clark, Maudemarie.  Nietzsche On Truth and Philosophy. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).   JFD 91-4468

The most comprehensive book on Nietzsche’s theory of truth.  Clark is critical of scholars such as Derrida, DeMan, and Nehamas who claim that Nietzsche is a nihilist, who believes there is no truth.   For Clark, the belief that there is no truth is an early position that Nietzsche gave up in his later writings.

Cox, Christoph.  Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation.  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

For Cox, the “death of God” is what gives unity to Nietzsche’s seemingly fragmentary thought and is the foundation for his naturalism, i.e., his rejection of metaphysical principles to explain how we know.  Clear and concise, this is a superb account of Nietzsche’s theory of truth.  Also, the footnotes, often with a dozen citations, provide excellent overviews of the conflicting interpretations among Nietzsche scholars.

Nietzsche & Political Thought

Nietzsche's politics are probably the most controversial aspect of his thought. After World War II, Walter Kaufmann helped rehabilitate Nietzsche in the English-speaking world from his reputation as a Nazi, fostered by Nietzsche’s sister and the Nietzsche archive that she founded.  For Kaufmann, Nietzsche was uninterested and contemptuous of politics; his concern was, rather, with “the anti-political individual who seeks self-perfection far from the modern world." 20   This view of Nietzsche, and long the accepted opinion, has been challenged in recent years. Those who argue that Nietzsche was a political thinker take two main approaches.  One is to argue that an aristocratic order is the political solution to Nietzsche’s despair over the leveling effects of democracy and his hope for higher men. The other is to claim that in spite of Nietzsche’s contempt for democracy, a progressive and democratic politics can built upon his ideas, usually by arguing that his politics doesn’t follow from his philosophy.

With the revival of interest in Nietzsche’s politics, there has also arisen fresh interest in his relationship to Nazism.  Nietzsche’s elitism and fierce rejection of equality and democracy places him on the right, politically.  But as Harold Bloom argues, “Elitism is not protofascism.  Elitism is the condition of the spirit…” 21   Also, attempts to make him a proto-Nazi stumble against Nietzsche’s hatred of anti-Semitism, his rejection of nationalism, his condemnation of the German Reich, and “his break with Wagner and all that it signifies [since] Wagnerian ideology foreshadowed…a good deal of the völkisch tenets of National Socialism.” 22

Ansell-Pearson, Keith.  An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker: the Perfect Nihilist.  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).  JFD 94-18211

A good introduction that surveys the wide range of interpretations of Nietzsche’s political thought, from conservative and authoritarian to liberal and left wing.

Bergmann, Peter.  Nietzsche, “The Last Antipolitical German”. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1987).  JFE 87-1719

Nietzsche referred to himself, in Ecce Homo, as “the last anti-political German.”  Bergmann’s biography tries to explain Nietzsche’s statement in light of the historical and political controversies of his time.

Conway, Daniel W.  Nietzsche and the Political.  (New York: Routledge, 1996).  JFE 97-3024

“Political perfectionism” is how Conway describes Nietzsche’s politics.   Nietzsche’s primary goal is self-perfection through self-overcoming.  The aim of politics is to promote that goal and to create the conditions for the development of genius.

Detweiler, Bruce.  Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).  JFD 90-4770

Detweiler argues against scholars such as Walter Kaufmann and Peter Bergmann that Nietzsche was apolitical.  Contempt for liberal democracy and the belief in an aristocracy of “higher men” is central to Nietzsche, according to Detweiler.

Hatab, Lawrence.  A Nietzschean Defense of Democracy: An Experiment in Postmodern Politics.  (Chicago, Ill: Open Court, 1995)  JFE 96-2855

Hatab believes that a democratic politics can be created out of Nietzsche’s thought. Nietzsche’s belief in the need for a multitude of perspectives, and the necessity of competition or contest to promote excellence is, Hatab argues, best promoted by democracy, not aristocracy.

Strong, Tracy.  Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration.  (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000).  JFE 00-8370

Strong argues that Nietzsche was not advocating a politics of domination, but of transfiguration.  In arguing this, he focuses on how Nietzsche understood the Greeks, especially Greek tragedy, whose essence, for Nietzsche, is transfiguration.

Thiele, Leslie Paul.  Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul: A Study of Heroic Individualism.  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).

For Thiele, Nietzsche doesn’t reject politics, rather he internalizes it.  Nietzsche understood the soul to be a multiplicity of conflicting forces best described in political terms.   This “politics of the soul” is where Nietzsche’s politics is to be found.

Nietzsche’s Moral Philosophy

Despite his denunciations of traditional morality, Nietzsche is no hedonist or libertine.  This self-described immoralist is an advocate of a high and severe morality.  As Nietzsche wrote to Paul Ree in 1882, “She told me herself that she had no morality-and I thought she had, like myself, a more severe morality than anybody.”  

Berkowitz, Peter.  Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist.  (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).  JFE 95-8728

For Berkowitz, Nietzsche is primarily an ethical thinker concerned with what is the best life and the creation of a severe, aristocratic ethic.  This is contrary to the views of many current scholars, including Derrida and Deleuze, who stress Nietzsche’s theory of interpretation and language. 

Leiter, Brian.  Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Nietzsche on Morality.  (New York: Routledge, 2002).  JFD 03-9088

This is considered by many to be the best full-length account of the Genealogy of Morals . Leiter first offers a naturalistic interpretation of Nietzsche’s approach to morality followed by a detailed commentary of the text.

Nietzsche and Psychology

For Nietzsche, psychology is the “queen of the sciences [and]…the path to fundamental problems.” 23    And above all, he saw himself as a psychologist.  Often, rather than refuting an idea or doctrine, he thought it enough to uncover the ignoble motives and emotions behind them.  Furthermore, he thought it impossible to separate a philosopher’s life from his thought, and he saw all great philosophy as involuntary and unconscious autobiography.

Parkes, Graham.  Composing the Soul: Reaches of Nietzsche’s Psychology.  (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).  JFE 95-166

This is the most exhaustive study of Nietzsche’s psychology.  Parkes argues that Nietzsche anticipated modern depth psychology and psychoanalysis.  Considerable attention is given to the idea of a ‘multiple soul,’ which Parkes believes is “the most revolutionary aspect of Nietzsche’s psychology.” p. 18.

Staten, Henry.  Nietzsche’s Voice. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990) JFE 91-1307

“Most of the conscious thinking of a philosopher” Nietzsche writes, “is secretly guided and forced into certain channels by his instincts.” 24   Taking Nietzsche at his word, Staten gives a psychological reading, tracing the influence of instinct, drive, and desire on Nietzsche’s thought. This is a subtle and illuminating work.

Eternal Recurrence

The eternal recurrence, the belief that everything that has happened and will happen, will happen again, an infinite number of times, has been treated as a cosmological doctrine, while others have stressed its psychological aspect.

Lowith, Karl.  Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same, trans. J. Harvey Lomax.  (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997).  JFE 99-9334

A major interpretation of Nietzsche first published in Germany in 1935.  The eternal recurrence is the fundamental idea of Nietzsche’s philosophy, according to Lowith, who argues that with this idea Nietzsche hoped to overcome nihilism and return man to nature.

Magnus, Bernd.  Nietzsche’s Existential Imperative.  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978).  JFE 78-2655

For Magnus, the eternal return is Nietzsche’s central idea, representing the highest affirmation of this life as embodied in the most life affirming person, the Übermensch.

Stambaugh, Joan.  Nietzsche’s Thought of Eternal Return.  (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1972).  JFE 02-3378

Stambaugh analyzes the idea of the eternal return by examining its conceptual parts, i.e., eternity, recurrence, and the same.  Like Heidegger, she sees the concepts of will to power and the eternal return as inseparable.

The “New Nietzsche” (Nietzsche & the French)

Allison, David B., ed.  The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation.  (New York: Dell Publishing, 1977).   JFD 80-1009

An influential anthology with essays by Heidegger, Deleuze, Derrida, Kofman, Klossowski, and others.

Behler, Ernst.  Confrontations: Derrida, Heidegger, Nietzsche.  (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991).  JFD 92-9712

Derrida's reading of Nietzsche as a thinker of infinite interpretations is contrasted with Heidegger's metaphysical interpretation of Nietzsche. 

Derrida, Jacques.  Spurs: Nietzsche’s Style, trans. Barbara Harlow.  (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979).  JFE 80-426

In contrast to Heidegger’s metaphysical interpretation of Nietzsche, Derrida argues that Nietzsche’s fragmentary and contradictory writings have more than one meaning.  For Derrida, “there is no such thing as the truth of Nietzsche or of Nietzsche’s text.” p. 53.

Deleuze, Giles.  Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).  JFD 83-2646

First published in 1962, this study helped to create interest in Nietzsche in France and influenced thinkers such as Derrida and Foucault.  Deleuze emphasizes the multiple meanings and indeterminacy of Nietzsche’s thought. For Deleuze, Nietzsche understands life as a contest between “active” (life affirming) and “reactive” (life denying) forces.

De Man, Paul.  Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust.  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979).   JFE 80-389

An important book for French and postmodernist readings of Nietzsche.  For de Man, “the key to Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysics…lies in the rhetorical model of the trope…in literature as language grounded in rhetoric.” p. 109.  De Man’s essay is based almost exclusively on Nietzsche’s lecture notes on rhetoric and his unpublished essay, “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense.” 

Foucault, Michel.  “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon.  (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977).  JFD 78-1452

This influential essay was important for identifying Nietzsche with postmodernism.  Foucault’s genealogies of psychiatry, sexuality, and the prison are indebted to Nietzsche’s idea that there are no fixed meanings or essences behind things, only  interpretations.

Klossowski, Pierre.  Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, trans. Daniel M. Smith.  (London: Athlone, 1993).  JFD 98-3548

For Klossowski, the many contradictions in Nietzsche’s philosophy reflected his understanding of the soul as a multiplicity of forces.

Kofman, Sarah.  Nietzsche and Metaphor, trans. Duncan Large.  (London: Athlone Press, 1993).  JFD 95-10444

For Kofman, Nietzsche’s use of metaphor is not only literary, but also reinforces the belief that concepts are dead metaphors as expressed in Nietzsche’s unpublished essay, “On Truth and Lie in a Nonmoral Sense.”  According to Nietzsche, it is the forgetfulness of the metaphorical origin of concepts that leads to the mistaken belief that concepts literally represent reality.  The metaphorical character of Nietzsche’s concepts serves to foil any definitive reading of his philosophy.

Schrift, Alan D. Nietzsche’s French Legacy: A Genealogy of Poststructuralism . (New York: Routledge, 1995) JFE 95-18849

Schrift provides a good overview of the French reception of Nietzsche. He shows how the thought of Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, and Cixous made use of Nietzsche in developing their own ideas.

The Birth of Tragedy

“I found the turning point in the modern understanding of early Greek thought to be the publication just a hundred years ago of Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy.” 25

Porter, James I.  Nietzsche and the Philology of the Future.  (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000).  JFE 01-9290

With careful readings of Nietzsche’s early, mostly unpublished philological writings, Porter argues for the continuity between them and the Birth of Tragedy.  (This is contrary to the views of many scholars who see the Birth of Tragedy as a decisive break in Nietzsche’s development.)  Porter also argues that the problems that Nietzsche wrestled with in his later writings are to be found in these early writings.

Silk, M.S. and J.P. Stern.  Nietzsche on Tragedy. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).  JFE 81-2696

The most detailed study of Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy.

Soll, Ivan.  “Pessimism and the Tragic View of Life: Reconsiderations of Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy” in Reading Nietzsche, eds. Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 104-131.  JFD 89-2052

Soll asserts that Schopenhauer’s influence on the Birth of Tragedy was considerable and that Nietzsche’s assessment that it was minimal should be rejected.  The problem of the inevitably of suffering in life, central to the Birth of Tragedy, led Nietzsche to a Schoperhauerian pessimism in spite of his efforts to overcome it.

Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, Ulrich von, “Future Philology! A Reply to The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche,” New Nietzsche Studies 4: 1/2, 2000, 1-32 JFK 00-74

A translation of the famous attack on Nietzsche’s first book.

The Gay Science

Schacht, Richard.  “Nietzsche’s Gay Science, Or, How to Naturalize Cheerfully,” in Reading Nietzsche, ed. Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 68-86.   JFD 89-2052

For Schacht, the Gay Science is Nietzsche’s most comprehensive attempt to trace the consequences of the “death of God.”  The results are the “de-deification of nature” and the naturalization of humanity.

Allison, David B.  Reading the New Nietzsche: The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, Thus Spake Zarathustra, and On the Genealogy of Morals. ( Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), 71-110.  JFE 01-4401

Allison is superb at weaving in incidents of Nietzsche’s life and his letters to show us why Nietzsche thought The Gay Science was his most personal work.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

For Mazzino Montinari, editor of the complete critical edition of the works of Nietzsche and the leading scholar of the Nachlass, “[Nietzsche’s] notebooks from autumn 1882 to winter 1884-85 constitute the absolute necessary supplementary background of the four parts of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  Better than does any commentary to this work, the Zarathustra fragments and plans elucidate Nietzsche ’s intentions…” 26

Heidegger, Martin.  “Who is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra?” trans. Bernd Magnus, in The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation, ed. David B. Allison. (New York: Dell, 1977), 64-79.   JFD 80-1009

For Heidegger, the doctrine of the eternal return is the path to the übermensch and a life free from the spirit of revenge.

Higgins, Kathleen Marie. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra . (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987). JFD 88-149

Although Nietzsche considered Thus Spoke Zarathustra his most important work, many scholars believe it has little philosophical importance. Higgins challenges this in a reading that focuses on its literary structure, seeing parody (of both the Platonic dialogues and the New Testament), tragedy, and Bildungsroman as literary models that operate throughout the book.

Lampert, Laurence.  Nietzsche’s Teaching: An Interpretation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986).  JFE 87-2277

Considered the best commentary on Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Lampert provides a detailed, chapter by chapter, analysis.  Lampert wants also to demonstrate that Zarathustra is central to understanding all of Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Beyond Good and Evil

Lampert, Laurence.  Nietzsche’s Task: An Interpretation of Beyond Good and Evil.  (New Haven: Yale University, 2001).  JFE 02-5730

For Lampert, Nietzsche is, above all, a political philosopher.    His detailed, section by section, commentary of Beyond Good and Evil also serves to support his interpretation that Nietzsche is arguing for a creation of a higher culture ruled by his new philosophers. It is a reading strongly influenced by Leo Strauss (see below).

Strauss, Leo.  “Notes on the Plan of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil,” Interpretation 3 (Winter 1973), 97-113.  JFL 95-120

Lawrence Lampert, in his book Leo Strauss and Nietzsche (which is essentially a detailed commentary of this essay) argues that this is “the most comprehensive and profound study ever published on Nietzsche.” p. 2.    

Nehamas, Alexander.  “Who are ‘The Philosophers of the Future’?: A Reading of Beyond Good and Evil” in Reading Nietzsche, ed. Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 46-67.  JFD 89-2052

Nehamas argues that we still don’t know how to read Beyond Good and Evil.  It has often been read as a collection of brilliant, but disconnected essays and aphorisms.  For Nehamas, it must be read “as a long, sustained, sometimes rambling and disorganized, but ultimately coherent, monologue.” p. 51.

Genealogy of Morals

Ridley, Aaron.  Nietzsche’s Conscience: Six Character Studies from the Genealogy.  (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998).  JFE 99-1250

Ridley gives a series of character studies on the six personality types discussed in the Genealogy of Morals, i.e., the master, slave, priest, philosopher, artist, scientist, and the nobleman.  For Ridley, it is through these personalities that the arguments of the Genealogy are developed.

Schacht, Richard, ed.  Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality: Essays on Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals.  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).  JFE 00-5934

A broad range of interpretations On the Genealogy of Morals is offered in this superb collection of essays.

Nietzsche and Schopenhauer

Nietzsche was deeply influenced by Schopenhauer although he downplayed and even concealed (whether consciously or unconsciously) this influence. In Nietzsche's writings, there are more references to Schopenhauer than to any other philosopher. And since "Nietzsche often simply appropriates Schopenhauer's concepts and categories without much explanation...the reader who is unacquainted with Schopenhauer will be at a loss to understand why a certain connection was made, or how one step follows on from the previous one." 27 For example, Nietzsche's ideas of the Apollonian and the Dionysian in the Birth of Tragedy are largely based upon Schopenhauer's distinction between representation and will..

Janaway, Christopher, ed.  Willing and Nothingness: Schopenhauer as Nietzsche’s Educator.  (Clarendon Press: Oxford University Press, 1998).  JFE 99-2530

This collection of essays explores the influence of Schopenhauer on Nietzsche’s thought.

Nietzsche and Women

“You are going to women?  Do not forget the whip!”  These well-known lines from Thus Spoke Zarathustra, along with many others, have led many to dismiss Nietzsche as a misogynist and to claim, like Walter Kaufmann, that his remarks about women are irrelevant to his philosophy.  Serious study of the feminine in Nietzsche’s thought began in the 70’s, in France, with Sara Kofman’s “Baubô” and Jacques Derrida’s Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles. 

Burgard, Peter J., ed.  Nietzsche and the Feminine. (Charlottesville: University Press of Viriginia, 1994)  JfE 94-8343

This collection of essays examines Nietzsche’s deep ambivalence towards women and considers this ambivalence central to his thinking.

Oliver, Kelly and Marilyn Pearsall, eds.  Feminist Interpretations of Friedrich Nietzsche.  (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998)  JFE 98-9626

This excellent collection includes important essays by Kofman and Derrida.

Nietzsche and Religion

Although an avowed atheist, who proclaimed that “God is dead,” and who railed against the ill effects of Christianity, Nietzsche was in many ways a religious thinker, preoccupied with religious themes.  “Has it ever been really noted [observed Nietzsche] to what extent a genuinely religious life…of self-examination…requires a leisure class…I mean leisure with a good conscience…And that consequently our modern, noisy, time-consuming industriousness, proud of itself, stupidly proud, educates and prepares people more than anything else does, precisely for ‘unbelief.’” 28

Lippit, John and Jim Urpeth, eds.  Nietzsche and the Divine.  (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2000).  JFD 02-20688

This collection of essays explores Nietzsche’s relation to Greek, Jewish, Christian, Asian, and mystic religion.

Roberts, Tyler T.  Contesting Spirit: Nietzsche, Affirmation, Religion.  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).  JFE 99-1839

Roberts understands Nietzsche’s philosophy as a spiritual practice that uses ascetic and mystical exercises to cultivate and transfigure the self.  Nietzsche’s affirmation of this life is based on the most severe self-discipline and renunciation.  And Roberts argues that many of these practices have close affinities to those developed in the Christian tradition that Nietzsche attacked.

Santaniello, Weaver.  Nietzsche, God, and the Jews.  (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994).   *PPF 95-222

 An examination of Nietzsche’s critiques of Christianity, Judaism, and anti-Semitism. 

Yovel, Yirmiyahu.  Dark Riddle: Hegel, Nietzsche, and the Jews. (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1998). *PPX 98-1915         

The “dark riddle” is the attraction and repulsion that both Hegel and Nietzsche felt towards the Jews. Yovel argues that in Nietzsche's attitude towards Judaism "three stages are to be distinguished: Old Testament Judaism, whose ‘grandeur’ Nietzsche adored; the ‘priestly’ Judaism of the Second Temple, which he profoundly despised…as the parent of Christian culture; and the…Jews in the Diaspora…whom he…admired…” p. 117.

Nietzsche and the Classical Tradition

O’Flaherty, James, Timonthy Sellner, and Robert Helm, eds.  Studies in Nietzsche and the Classical Tradition.  (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1976).  RKA (North Carolina.  University.  Studies in the Germanic languages and literatures, no. 85)

Most of the fifteen essays are comparative studies contrasting Nietzsche’s interpretation of the classical tradition with such thinkers as Augustine, Aquinas, Goethe, Schiller, Byron, and Heine.

Bishop, Paul, ed.  Nietzsche and Antiquity: His Reaction and Response to the Classical Tradition.  ( Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2004).  JFE 04-4449

A collection of essays examining Nietzsche’s relationship to the classical tradition, primarily Greek, and a section devoted to Nietzsche and German Classicism.

Philosophy of Art

Kemal, S., Gaskell, I., and Conway, D. eds.  Nietzsche, Philosophy and the Arts.  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).  JFE 99-2407

A broad range of essays examining Nietzsche’s aesthetic understanding of philosophy. 

Schacht, Richard.  “Making Life Worth Living: Nietzsche on Art in The Birth of Tragedy” in Making Sense of Nietzsche: Reflections Timely and Untimely. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995). JFE 95-6934

Schacht argues that for Nietzsche, the task of art is to transform the horror and meaninglessness of life by spreading, in Nietzsche’s words, a “veil of beauty” over it, thereby making life worth living.

Young, Julian.  Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Art.  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)  JFE 92-3892

Young see Nietzsche’s changing views of art as a long argument against Schopenhauer’s pessimism.   Young argues that Nietzsche’s final view, that art makes life bearable, is a return to the idea of art expressed in his Birth of Tragedy, and a view that fails to overcome Schopenhauer’s pessimism.

Nietzsche and Science

Babich, Babette E.  Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Science: Reflecting Science on the Ground of Life and Art. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994)   JFE 00-6822

Babich argues that Nietzsche is a philosopher of science and that his theory of perspectivism is crucial to it.  Following Nietzsche, Babich tries to construct a philosophy of science from a philosophy of art and life.

Lampert, Lawrence.  Nietzsche and Modern Times: A Study of Bacon, Descartes and Nietzsche. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993)  JFE 93-7565

Lampert argues against the widely held view that Nietzsche is an enemy of science.  Rather it is Bacon-Cartesian science and its mechanistic view of the world that Nietzsche opposes.  Nietzsche is an advocate of a “gay science” based upon a new conception of nature.

Moore, Gregory. Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor . (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002) JFE 02-4413

Moore examines how nineteenth-century debates about evolution and the degeneration of man shaped Nietzsche’s thinking, especially his understanding of morality and art. This influence is reflected in Nietzsche’s frequent use of biological metaphors such as degeneration, decadence, sickness and health, in his cultural criticism.

International Studies in Philosophy.  (Binghamton, NY: Scholars Press, 1979-). JFL 75-260

The fall issues are devoted to papers delivered at meetings of the North American Nietzsche Society.

Journal of Nietzsche Studies.  (Norwich, U.K.: The Nietzsche Society, 1991-).  JFL 01-623

Official journal of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society, published twice a year.  It is available online through Project Muse from 2002 to present.

New Nietzsche Studies: the Journal of the Nietzsche Society.  (New York, NY: The Society, 1996-).  JFK 00-74

Concentrates on publishing contemporary European scholarship on Nietzsche. 

Nietzscheforschung.  (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1994-).  JFL 95-557

Official annual journal of the Nietzsche-Gesellschaft society.

Nietzsche-Studien.  (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1972-).  JFL 73-382

A yearbook of essays and book reviews in German and English devoted to philosophical discussions of Nietzsche.  There is an index to volumes 1-20, 1972 to 1991, which lists the papers published, along with indexes of keywords and personal names.

The Nietzsche Channel Many of Nietzsche’s texts, in both German and English, are available here.

Nietzsche Chronicle A good source for biographical information on Nietzsche.

The Nietzsche Page at USC A scholarly site devoted to promoting scholarship about Nietzsche. Includes Nietzsche societies, bibliographies of Nietzsche’s writings, discussions boards, e-mail lists


1. Friedrich Nietzsche. “Why I am Destiny,” Ecce Homo.  (New York: Vintage, 1967) 326.

2.  Martin Heidegger. The Question of Being.  (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1958)  107.

3.  Ernest Jones. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, 3 vols.  (New York: Basic Books, 1953-1957) 2: 344.

4.  Steven Taubeneck, “Nietzsche in North America: Walter Kaufmann and After,” in Confrontations:Derrida, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Ernst Behler (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1991) 159-77.

5.  Tracy Strong, “Nietzsche’s Political Misappropriation,” Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 129.

6.  Friedrich Nietzsche Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982) preface, 5.

7.  Karl Jaspers, Nietzsche: An Introduction to the Understanding of His Philosophical Activity (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1965) 10.

8. Alexander Nehamas,  Nietzsche: Life as Literature. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1985) 22.

9.  Ernst Behler, Confrontations: Derrida, Heidegger, Nietzsche.  (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press) 10.

10.  Ernst Behler, “Nietzsche in the Twentieth Century,” The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 316.

11.  Alexander Nehamas,  Nietzsche: Life As Literature (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1985) 37

12.  Karl Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche: The Revolution in Nineteenth Century Thought. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991) 193.

13.  Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968) 102.

14.  Linda L. Williams.  Nietzsche’s Mirror: The World as Will to Power. (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001) 63.

15. Bernd Magnus.  “How the ‘True Text’ Finally Became a Fable: Nietzsche’s Weimar Literary Estate,” Nietzscheana  6 (1997): 14.

16. Martin Heidegger.  Nietzsche, trans. David Krell. (New York: Harper and   Row, 1979), 9.

17.  Linda Williams. “Will to Power in Nietzsche’s Published Works and the Nachlass”, Journal of the History of Ideas 57.3 (1996), 1.

18.  Ibid., 1.

19. Bernd Magnus and Kathleen Higgins. “Nietzsche’s Works and Their Themes,” The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 58.

20. Walter Kaufmann,  Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist.  (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980)   418.

21. Harold Bloom, “Interview” in Criticism in Society: Interviews with Jacques Derrida, Northrop Fyre, Harold Bloom, et. al./ Imre Salusinszky. (New York: Methuen, 1987) 69

22. Roderick Stackelberg, “Critique as Apologetics: Nolte’s Interpretation of Nietzsche,” Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002) 310.

23. Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Beyond Good and Evil.  (New York: Vintage, 1966) 32.

24.  Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Beyond Good and Evil.  (New York: Vintage, 1966) 11. Klossowski, and others.

25.  Hugh Lloyd-Jones, “Nietzsche and the Study of the Ancient World,” in Studies in Nietzsche and the Classical Tradition. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1976) 1.

26.  Mazzino Montinari.  Reading Nietzsche.  (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003) 8.

27. Martha C. Nussbaum. “Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Dionysus,” in The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer, ed. Christopher Janaway. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999) 345.

28. Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Beyond Good and Evil.  (Vintage: New York, 1966) 69.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche


Who Was Friedrich Nietzsche?

In his brilliant but relatively brief career, Friedrich Nietzsche published numerous major works of philosophy, including Twilight of the Idols and Thus Spoke Zarathustra . In the last decade of his life, he suffered from insanity and died on August 25, 1900. His writings on individuality and morality in contemporary civilization influenced many major thinkers and writers of the 20th century.

Early Years and Education

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844, in Röcken bei Lützen, a small village in Prussia (part of present-day Germany). His father, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche, was a Lutheran preacher; he died when Nietzsche was 4 years old. Nietzsche and his younger sister, Elisabeth, were raised by their mother, Franziska.

Nietzsche attended a private preparatory school in Naumburg and then received a classical education at the prestigious Schulpforta school. After graduating in 1864, he attended the University of Bonn for two semesters. He transferred to the University of Leipzig, where he studied philology, a combination of literature, linguistics and history. He was strongly influenced by the writings of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. During his time in Leipzig, he began a friendship with the composer Richard Wagner, whose music he greatly admired.

Teaching and Writing in the 1870s

In 1869, Nietzsche took a position as a professor of classical philology at the University of Basel in Switzerland. During his professorship, he published his first books, The Birth of Tragedy (1872) and Human, All Too Human (1878). He also began to distance himself from classical scholarship, as well as the teachings of Schopenhauer, and to take more interest in the values underlying modern-day civilization. By this time, his friendship with Wagner had deteriorated. Suffering from a nervous disorder, he resigned from his post at Basel in 1879.

Literary and Philosophical Work of the 1880s

For much of the following decade, Nietzsche lived in seclusion, moving from Switzerland to France to Italy when he was not staying at his mother's house in Naumburg. However, this was also a highly productive period for him as a thinker and writer. One of his most significant works, Thus Spoke Zarathustra , was published in four volumes between 1883 and 1885. He also wrote Beyond Good and Evil (published in 1886), The Genealogy of Morals (1887) and Twilight of the Idols (1889).

In these works of the 1880s, Nietzsche developed the central points of his philosophy. One of these was his famous statement that "God is dead," a rejection of Christianity as a meaningful force in contemporary life. Others were his endorsement of self-perfection through creative drive and a "will to power," and his concept of a "super-man" or "over-man" ( Übermensch ), an individual who strives to exist beyond conventional categories of good and evil, master and slave.

Later Years and Death

Nietzsche suffered a collapse in 1889 while living in Turin, Italy. The last decade of his life was spent in a state of mental incapacitation. The reason for his insanity is still unknown, although historians have attributed it to causes as varied as syphilis, an inherited brain disease, a tumor and overuse of sedative drugs. After a stay in an asylum, Nietzsche was cared for by his mother in Naumburg and his sister in Weimar, Germany. He died in Weimar on August 25, 1900.

Legacy and Influence

Nietzsche is regarded as a major influence on 20th-century philosophy, theology and art. His ideas on individuality, morality and the meaning of existence contributed to the thinking of philosophers Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault; Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, two of the founding figures of psychiatry; and writers such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse.

Less beneficially, certain aspects of Nietzsche's work were used by the Nazi Party of the 1930s – '40s as justification for its activities; this selective and misleading use of his work has somewhat darkened his reputation for later audiences.



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Nietzsche's Metaphilosophy

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bibliography nietzsche

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Friedrich nietzsche (1844—1900).


Nietzsche spoke of “the death of God ,” and foresaw the dissolution of traditional religion and metaphysics. Some interpreters of Nietzsche believe he embraced nihilism, rejected philosophical reasoning, and promoted a literary exploration of the human condition, while not being concerned with gaining truth and knowledge in the traditional sense of those terms. However, other interpreters of Nietzsche say that in attempting to counteract the predicted rise of nihilism, he was engaged in a positive program to reaffirm life, and so he called for a radical, naturalistic rethinking of the nature of human existence, knowledge, and morality. On either interpretation, it is agreed that he suggested a plan for “becoming what one is” through the cultivation of instincts and various cognitive faculties, a plan that requires constant struggle with one’s psychological and intellectual inheritances.

Nietzsche claimed the exemplary human being must craft his/her own identity through self-realization and do so without relying on anything transcending that life—such as God or a soul.  This way of living should be affirmed even were one to adopt, most problematically, a radical vision of eternity, one suggesting the “eternal recurrence” of all events. According to some commentators, Nietzsche advanced a cosmological theory of “will to power.” But others interpret him as not being overly concerned with working out a general cosmology. Questions regarding the coherence of Nietzsche’s views–questions such as whether these views could all be taken together without contradiction, whether readers should discredit any particular view if proven incoherent or incompatible with others, and the like–continue to draw the attention of contemporary intellectual historians and philosophers.

Table of Contents

Because much of Nietzsche’s philosophical work has to do with the creation of self—or to put it in Nietzschean terms, “becoming what one is”— some scholars exhibit uncommon interest in the biographical anecdotes of Nietzsche’s life. Taking this approach, however, risks confusing aspects of the Nietzsche legend with what is important in his philosophical work, and many commentators are rightly skeptical of readings derived primarily from biographical anecdotes.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born October 15, 1844, the son of Karl Ludwig and Franziska Nietzsche. Karl Ludwig Nietzsche was a Lutheran Minister in the small Prussian town of Röcken, near Leipzig. When young Friedrich was not quite five, his father died of a brain hemorrhage, leaving Franziska, Friedrich, a three-year old daughter, Elisabeth, and an infant son. Friedrich’s brother died unexpectedly shortly thereafter (reportedly, the legend says, fulfilling Friedrich’s dream foretelling of the tragedy). These events left young Friedrich the only male in a household that included his mother, sister, paternal grandmother and an aunt, although Friedrich drew upon the paternal guidance of Franziska’s father. Young Friedrich also enjoyed the camaraderie of a few male playmates.

Upon the loss of Karl Ludwig, the family took up residence in the relatively urban setting of Naumburg, Saxony. Friedrich gained admittance to the prestigious Schulpforta , where he received Prussia’s finest preparatory education in the Humanities, Theology, and Classical Languages. Outside school, Nietzsche founded a literary and creative society with classmates including Paul Deussen (who was later to become a prominent scholar of Sanskrit and Indic Studies). In addition, Nietzsche played piano, composed music, and read the works of Emerson and the poet Friedrich Hölderlin, who was relatively unknown at the time.

In 1864 Nietzsche entered the University of Bonn, spending the better part of that first year unproductively, joining a fraternity and socializing with old and new acquaintances, most of whom would fall out of his life once he regained his intellectual focus. By this time he had also given up Theology, dashing his mother’s hopes of a career in the ministry for him. Instead, he choose the more humanistic study of classical languages and a career in Philology. In 1865 he followed his major professor, Friedrich Ritschl, from Bonn to the University of Leipzig and dedicated himself to the studious life, establishing an extracurricular society there devoted to the study of ancient texts. Nietzsche’s first contribution to this group was an essay on the Greek poet, Theognis, and it drew the attention of Professor Ritschl, who was so impressed that he published the essay in his academic journal, Rheinisches Museum . Other published writings by Nietzsche soon followed, and by 1868 (after a year of obligatory service in the Prussian military), young Friedrich was being promoted as something of a “phenomenon” in classical scholarship by Ritschl, whose esteem and praise landed Nietzsche a position as Professor of Greek Language and Literature at the University of Basel in Switzerland, even though the candidate had not yet begun writing his doctoral dissertation. The year was 1869 and Friedrich Nietzsche was 24 years old.

At this point in his life, however, Nietzsche was a far cry from the original thinker he would later become, since neither he nor his work had matured. Swayed by public opinion and youthful exuberance, he briefly interrupted teaching in 1870 to join the Prussian military, serving as a medical orderly at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. His service was cut short, however, by severe bouts of dysentery and diphtheria. Back in Basel, his teaching responsibilities at the University and a nearby Gymnasium consumed much of his intellectual and physical energy. He became acquainted with the prominent cultural historian, Jacob Burkhardt, a well-established member of the university faculty. But, the person exerting the most influence on Nietzsche at this point was the artist, Richard Wagner, whom Nietzsche had met while studying in Leipzig. During the first half of the decade, Wagner and his companion, Cosima von Bülow, frequently entertained Nietzsche at Triebschen, their residence near Lake Lucerne, and then later at Bayreuth.

It is commonplace to say that at one time Nietzsche looked to Wagner with the admiration of a dutiful son. This interpretation of their relationship is supported by the fact that Wagner would have been the same age as Karl Ludwig, had the elder Nietzsche been alive. It is also commonplace to note that Nietzsche was in awe of the artist’s excessive displays of a fiery temperament, bravado, ambition, egoism, and loftiness— typical qualities demonstrating “genius” in the nineteenth century. In short, Nietzsche was overwhelmed by Wagner’s personality. A more mature Nietzsche would later look back on this relationship with some regret, although he never denied the significance of Wagner’s influence on his emotional and intellectual path, Nietzsche’s estimation of Wagner’s work would alter considerably over the course of his life. Nonetheless, in light of this relationship, one can easily detect Wagner’s presence in much of Nietzsche’s early writings, particularly in the latter chapters of The Birth of Tragedy and in the first and fourth essays of 1874’s Untimely Meditations . Also, Wagner’s supervision exerted considerable editorial control over Nietzsche’s intellectual projects, leading him to abandon, for example, 1873’s Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks , which Wagner scorned because of its apparent irrelevance to his own work. Such pressures continued to bridle Nietzsche throughout the so-called early period. He broke free of Wagner’s dominance once and for all in 1877, after a series of emotionally charged episodes. Nietzsche’s fallout with Wagner, who had moved to Bayreuth by this time, led to the publication of 1878’s Human, All-Too Human , one of Nietzsche’s most pragmatic and un-romantic texts—the original title page included a dedication to Voltaire and a quote from Descartes.  If Nietzsche intended to use this text as a way of alienating himself from the Wagnerian circle, he surely succeeded. Upon its arrival in Bayreuth, the text ended this personal relationship with Wagner.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Nietzsche was not developing intellectually during the period, prior to 1877. In fact, figures other than Wagner drew Nietzsche’s interest and admiration. In addition to attending Burkhardt’s lectures at Basel, Nietzsche studied Greek thought from the Pre-Socratics to Plato, and he learned much about the history of philosophy from Friedrich Albert Lange’s massive History of Materialism , which Nietzsche once called “a treasure trove” of historical and philosophical names, dates, and currents of thought. In addition, Nietzsche was taken by the persona of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, which Nietzsche claimed to have culled from close readings of the two-volume magnum opus, The World as Will and Representation .

Nietzsche discovered Schopenhauer while studying in Leipzig. Because his training at Schulpforta had elevated him far above most of his classmates, he frequently skipped lectures at Leipzig in order to devote time to [CE1] Schopenhauer’s philosophy. For Nietzsche, the most important aspect of this philosophy was the figure from which it emanated, representing for him the heroic ideal of a man in the life of thought: a near-contemporary thinker participating in that great and noble “republic of genius,” spanning the centuries of free thinking sages and creative personalities. 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.”

Despite these similarities, Nietzsche’s philosophical break with Schopenhauerian pessimism was as real as his break with Wagner’s domineering presence was painful. Ultimately, however, such triumphs were necessary to the development and liberation of Nietzsche as thinker, and they proved to be instructive as Nietzsche later thematized the importance of “self-overcoming” for the project of cultivating a free spirit.

The middle and latter part of the 1870s was a time of great upheaval in Nietzsche’s personal life. In addition to the turmoil with Wagner and related troubles with friends in the artist’s circle of admirers, Nietzsche suffered digestive problems, declining eyesight, migraines, and a variety of physical aliments, rendering him unable to fulfill responsibilities at Basel for months at a time. After publication of Birth of Tragedy , and despite its perceived success in Wagnerian circles for trumpeting the master’s vision for Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft (“The Art Work of the Future”) Nietzsche’s academic reputation as a philologist was effectively destroyed due in large part to the work’s apparent disregard for scholarly expectations characteristic of nineteenth-century philology. Birth of Tragedy was mocked as Zukunfts-Philologie (“Future Philology”) by Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, an up-and-coming peer destined for an illustrious career in Classicism, and even Ritschl characterized it as a work of “megalomania.” For these reasons, Nietzsche had difficulty attracting students. Even before the publication of Birth of Tragedy , he had attempted to re-position himself at Basel in the department of philosophy, but the University apparently never took such an endeavor seriously. By 1878, his circumstances at Basel deteriorated to the point that neither the University nor Nietzsche was very much interested in seeing him continue as a professor there, so both agreed that he should retire with a modest pension [CE2] . He was 34 years  old and now apparently liberated, not only from his teaching duties and the professional discipline he grew to despise, but also from the emotional and intellectual ties that dominated him during his youth. His physical woes, however, would continue to plague him for the remainder of his life.

After leaving Basel, Nietzsche enjoyed a period of great productivity. And, during this time, he was never to stay in one place for long, moving with the seasons, in search of relief for his ailments, solitude for his work, and reasonable living conditions, given his very modest budget. He often spent summers in the Swiss Alps in Sils Maria, near St. Moritz, and winters in Genoa, Nice, or Rappollo on the Mediterranean coast. Occasionally, he would visit family and friends in Naumburg or Basel, and he spent a great deal of time in social discourse, exchanging letters with friends and associates.

In the latter part of the 1880s, Nietzsche’s health worsened, and in the midst of an amazing flourish of intellectual activity which produced On the Genealogy of Morality, Twilight of the Idols, The Anti-Christ, and several other works (including preparation for what was intended to be his magnum opus, a work that editors later titled Will to Power ) Nietzsche suffered a complete mental and physical breakdown. The famed moment at which Nietzsche is said to have succumbed irrevocably to his ailments occurred January 3, 1889 in Turin (Torino) Italy, reportedly outside Nietzsche’s apartment in the Piazza Carlos Alberto while embracing a horse being flogged by its owner.

After spending time in psychiatric clinics in Basel and Jena, Nietzsche was first placed in the care of his mother, and then later his sister (who had spent the latter half of the 1880’s attempting to establish a “racially pure” German colony in Paraguay with her husband, the anti-Semitic political opportunist Bernhard Foerster). By the early 1890s, Elisabeth had seized control of Nietzsche’s literary remains, which included a vast amount of unpublished writings. She quickly began shaping his image and the reception of his work, which by this time had already gained momentum among academics such as Georg Brandes. Soon the Nietzsche legend would grow in spectacular fashion among popular readers. From Villa Silberblick , the Nietzsche home in Weimar, Elisabeth and her associates managed Friedrich’s estate, editing his works in accordance with her taste for a populist decorum and occasionally with an ominous political intent that (later researchers agree) corrupted the original thought [CE3] . Unfortunately, Friedrich experienced little of his fame, having never recovered from the breakdown of late 1888 and early 1889. His final years were spent at Villa Silberblick in grim mental and physical deterioration, ending mercifully August 25, 1900. He was buried in Röcken, near Leipzig. Elisabeth spent one last year in Paraguay in 1892-93 before returning to Germany, where she continued to exert influence over the perception of Nietzsche’s work and reputation, particularly among general readers, until her death in 1935. Villa Silberblick stands today as a monument, of sorts, to Friedrich and Elisabeth, while the bulk of Nietzsche’s literary remains is held in the Goethe-Schiller Archiv , also in Weimar.

2. Periodization of Writings

Nietzsche scholars commonly divide his work into periods, usually with the implication that discernable shifts in Nietzsche’s circumstances and intellectual development justify some form of periodization in the corpus. The following division is typical:

(i.) before 1869—the juvenilia

Cautious Nietzsche biographers work to separate the facts of Nietzsche’s life from myth, and while a major part of the Nietzsche legend holds that Friedrich was a precocious child, writings from his youth bear witness to that part of the story. During this time Nietzsche was admitted into the prestigious Gymnasium Schulpforta; he composed music, wrote poetry and plays, and in 1863 produced an autobiography (at the age of 19). He also produced more serious and accomplished works on themes related to philology, literature, and philosophy. By 1866 he had begun contributing articles to a major philological journal, Rheinisches Museum , edited by Nietzsche’s esteemed professor at Bonn and Leipzig, Friedrich Ritschl. With Ritschl’s recommendation, Nietzsche was appointed professor of Greek Language and Literature at the University of Basel in January 1869.

(ii.) 1869-1876–the early period

Nietzsche’s writings during this time reflect interests in philology, cultural criticism, and aesthetics. His inaugural public lecture at Basel in May 1869, “Homer and Classical Philology” brought out aesthetic and scientific aspects of his discipline, portending Nietzsche’s attitudes towards science, art, philology and philosophy. He was influenced intellectually by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and emotionally by the artist Richard Wagner. Nietzsche’s first published book, The Birth of Tragedy, appropriated Schopenhaurian categories of individuation and chaos in an elucidation of primordial aesthetic drives represented by the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus. This text also included a Wagnerian precept for cultural flourishing: society must cultivate and promote its most elevated and creative types—the artistic genius. In the Preface to a later edition of this work, Nietzsche expresses regret for having attempted to elaborate a “metaphysics of art.” In addition to these themes, Nietzsche’s interest during this period extended to Greek philosophy, intellectual history, and the natural sciences, all of which were significant to the development of his mature thought. Nietzsche’s second book-length project, The Untimely Meditations , contains four essays written from 1873-1876. It is a work of acerbic cultural criticism, encomia to Schopenhauer and Wagner, and an unexpectedly idiosyncratic analysis of the newly developing historical consciousness. A fifth meditation on the discipline of philology is prepared but left unpublished. Plagued by poor health, Nietzsche is released from teaching duties in February 1876 (his affiliation with the university officially ends in 1878 and he is granted a small pension).

(iii.) 1877-1882—the middle period

During this time Nietzsche liberated himself from the emotional grip of Wagner and the artist’s circle of admirers, as well as from those ideas which (as he claims in Ecce Homo ) “did not belong” to him in his “nature” (“Human All Too Human: With Two Supplements” 1).  Reworking earlier themes such as tragedy in philosophy, art and truth, and the human exemplar, Nietzsche’s thinking now comes into sharper focus, and he sets out on a philosophical path to be followed the remainder of his productive life. In this period’s three published works Human, All-Too Human (1878-79) , Dawn (1881) , and The Gay Science (1882), Nietzsche takes up writing in an aphoristic style, which permits exploration of a variety of themes. Most importantly, Nietzsche lays out a plan for  “becoming what one is” through the cultivation of instincts and various cognitive faculties, a plan that requires constant struggle with one’s psychological and intellectual inheritances. Nietzsche discovers that “one thing is needful” for the exemplary human being: to craft an identity from otherwise dissociated events bringing forth the horizons of one’s existence. Self-realization, as it is conceived in these texts, demands the radicalization of critical inquiry with a historical consciousness and then a “retrograde step” back ( Human aphorism 20) from what is revealed in such examinations, insofar as these revelations threaten to dissolve all metaphysical realities and leave nothing but the abysmal comedy of existence. A peculiar kind of meaningfulness is thus gained by the retrograde step: it yields a purpose for existence, but in an ironic form, perhaps esoterically and without ground; it is transparently nihilistic to the man with insight, but suitable for most; susceptible to all sorts of suspicion, it is nonetheless necessary and for that reason enforced by institutional powers. Nietzsche calls the one who teaches the purpose of existence a “tragic hero” (GS 1), and the one who understands the logic of the retrograde step a “free spirit.” Nietzsche’s account of this struggle for self-realization and meaning leads him to consider problems related to metaphysics, religion, knowledge, aesthetics, and morality.

(iv.) Post-1882—the later period

Nietzsche transitions into a new period with the conclusion of The Gay Science (Book IV) and his next published work, the novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra, produced in four parts between 1883 and 1885. Also in 1885 he returns to philosophical writing with Beyond Good and Evil . In 1886 he attempts to consolidate his inquiries through self-criticism in Prefaces written for the earlier published works, and he writes a fifth book for The Gay Science . In 1887 he writes On the Genealogy of Morality. In 1888, with failing health, he produces several texts, including The Twilight of the Idols, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, and two works concerning his prior relationship with Wagner. During this period, as with the earlier ones, Nietzsche produces an abundance of materials not published during his lifetime. These works constitute what is referred to as Nietzsche’s Nachlass . (For years this material has been published piecemeal in Germany and translated to English in various collections.) Philosophically, during this period, Nietzsche continues his explorations on morality, truth, aesthetics, history, power, language and identity. For some readers, he appears to be broadening the scope of his ideas to work out a cosmology involving the all encompassing “will to power” and the curiously related and enigmatic “eternal recurrence of the same.” Prior claims regarding the retrograde step are re-thought, apparently in favor of seeking some sort of breakthrough into the “abyss of light” ( Zarathustra’s “Before Sunrise”) or in an encounter with “decadence” (“Expeditions of a Untimely Man” 43, in Twilight of the Idols ). The intent here seems to be an overcoming or dissolution of metaphysics.  These developments are matters of contention, however, as some commentators maintain that statements regarding Nietzsche’s “cosmological vision” are exaggerated. And, some will even deny that he achieves (nor even attempts) the overcoming described above. Despite such complaints, interpreters of Nietzsche continue to reference these ineffable concepts.

3. Problems of Interpretation

Nietzsche’s work in the beginning was heavily influenced, either positively or negatively, by the events of his young life. His early and on-going interest in the Greeks, for example, can be attributed in part to his Classical education at Schulpforta , for which he was well-prepared as a result of his family’s attempts to steer him into the ministry. Nietzsche’s intense association with Wagner no doubt enhanced his orientation towards the philosophy of Schopenhauer, and it probably promoted his work in aesthetics and cultural criticism. These biographical elements came to bear on Nietzsche’s first major works, while the middle period amounts to a confrontation with many of these influences. In Nietzsche’s later  writings  we find the development of concepts that seem less tangibly related to the biographical events of his life.

Let’s outline four of these concepts, but not before adding a word of caution regarding how this outline should be received. Nietzsche asserts in the opening section of Twilight of the Idols that he “mistrusts systematizers” (“Maxims and Arrows” 26), which is taken by some readers to be a declaration of his fundamental stance towards philosophical systems, with the additional inference that nothing resembling such a system must be permitted to stand in interpretations of his thought. Although it would not be illogical to say that Nietzsche mistrusted philosophical systems, while nevertheless building one of his own, some commentators point out two important qualifications. First, the meaning of Nietzsche’s stated “mistrust” in this brief aphorism can and should be treated with caution. In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche claims that philosophers today, after millennia of dogmatizing about absolutes, now have a “duty to mistrust” philosophy’s dogmatizing tendencies (BGE 34). Yet, earlier in that same text, Nietzsche  claimed that all philosophical interpretations of nature are acts of will  power (BGE 9) and that his interpretations are subject to the same critique (BGE 22).   In Thus Spoke Zarathustra’s “Of Involuntary Bliss” we find Zarathustra speaking of his own “mistrust,” when he describes the happiness that has come to him in the “blissful hour” of the third part of that book. Zarathustra attempts to chase away this bliss while waiting for the arrival of his unhappiness, but his happiness draws “nearer and nearer to him,” because he does not chase after it. In the next scene we find Zarathustra dwelling in the “light abyss” of the pure open sky, “before sunrise.” What then is the meaning of this “mistrust”? At the very least, we can say that Nietzsche does not intend it to establish a strong and unmovable absolute, a negative-system, from which dogma may be drawn. Nor, possibly, is Nietzsche’s mistrust of systematizers absolutely clear. Perhaps it is a discredit to Nietzsche as a philosopher that he did not elaborate his position more carefully within this tension; or, perhaps such uncertainty has its own ground.  Commentators such as Mueller-Lauter have noticed ambivalence in Nietzsche’s work on this very issue, and it seems plausible that Nietzsche mistrusted systems while nevertheless constructing something like a system countenancing this mistrust. He says something akin to this, after all, in Beyond Good and Evil , where it is claimed that even science’s truths are matters of interpretation, while admitting that this bold claim is also an interpretation and “so much the better” (aphorism 22). For a second cautionary note, many commentators will argue along with Richard Schacht that, instead of building a system, Nietzsche is concerned only with the exploration of problems, and that his kind of philosophy is limited to the interpretation and evaluation of cultural inheritances (1995). Other commentators will attempt to complement this sort of interpretation and, like Löwith, presume that the ground for Nietzsche’s explorations may also be examined. Löwith and others argue that this ground concerns Nietzsche’s encounter with historical nihilism. The following outline should be received, then, with the understanding that Nietzsche’s own iconoclastic nature, his perspectivism, and his life-long projects of genealogical critique and the revaluation of values, lend credence to those anti-foundational readings which seek to emphasize only those exploratory aspects of Nietzsche’s work while refuting even implicit submissions to an orthodox interpretation of “the one Nietzsche” and his “one system of thought.” With this caution, the following outline is offered as one way of grounding Nietzsche’s various explorations.

The four major concepts presented in this outline are:

4. Nihilism and the Revaluation of Values

Although Michael Gillespie makes a strong case that Nietzsche misunderstood nihilism , and in any event Nietzsche’s Dionysianism would be a better place to look for an anti-metaphysical breakthrough in Nietzsche’s corpus (1995, 178), commentators as varied in philosophical orientation as Heidegger and Danto have argued that nihilism is a central theme in Nietzsche’s philosophy. Why is this so? The constellation of Nietzsche’s fundamental concepts moves within his general understanding of modernity’s historical situation in the late nineteenth century. In this respect, Nietzsche’s thought carries out the Kantian project of “critique” by applying the nineteenth century’s developing historical awareness to problems concerning the possibilities of knowledge, truth, and human consciousness. Unlike Kant’s critiques, Nietzsche’s examinations find no transcendental ego, given that even the categories of experience are historically situated and likewise determined. Unlike Hegel ’s notion of historical consciousness, however, history for Nietzsche has no inherent teleology. All beginnings and ends, for Nietzsche, are thus lost in a flood of indeterminacy. As early as 1873, Nietzsche was arguing that human reason is only one of many peculiar developments in the ebb and flow of time, and when there are no more rational animals nothing of absolute value will have transpired (“On truth and lies in a non-moral sense”). Some commentators would prefer to consider these sorts of remarks as belonging to Nietzsche’s “juvenilia.” Nevertheless, as late as 1888’s “Reason in Philosophy” from Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche derides philosophers who would make a “fetish” out of reason and retreat into the illusion of a “de-historicized” world. Such a philosopher is “decadent,” symptomatic of a “declining life”. Opposed to this type, Nietzsche valorizes the “Dionysian” artist whose sense of history affirms “all that is questionable and terrible in existence.”

Nietzsche’s philosophy contemplates the meaning of values and their significance to human existence. Given that no absolute values exist, in Nietzsche’s worldview, the evolution of values on earth must be measured by some other means. How then shall they be understood? The existence of a value presupposes a value-positing perspective, and values are created by human beings (and perhaps other value-positing agents) as aids for survival and growth. Because values are important for the well being of the human animal, because belief in them is essential to our existence, we oftentimes prefer to forget that values are our own creations and to live through them as if they were absolute. For these reasons, social institutions enforcing adherence to inherited values are permitted to create self-serving economies of power, so long as individuals living through them are thereby made more secure and their possibilities for life enhanced. Nevertheless, from time to time the values we inherit are deemed no longer suitable and the continued enforcement of them no longer stands in the service of life. To maintain allegiance to such values, even when they no longer seem practicable, turns what once served the advantage to individuals to a disadvantage, and what was once the prudent deployment of values into a life denying abuse of power. When this happens the human being must reactivate its creative, value-positing capacities and construct new values.

Commentators will differ on the question of whether nihilism for Nietzsche refers specifically to a state of affairs characterizing specific historical moments, in which inherited values have been exposed as superstition and have thus become outdated, or whether Nietzsche means something more than this. It is, at the very least, accurate to say that for Nietzsche nihilism has become a problem by the nineteenth century. The scientific, technological, and political revolutions of the previous two hundred years put an enormous amount of pressure on the old world order. In this environment, old value systems were being dismantled under the weight of newly discovered grounds for doubt. The possibility arises, then, that nihilism for Nietzsche is merely a temporary stage in the refinement of true belief. This view has the advantage of making Nietzsche’s remarks on truth and morality seem coherent from a pragmatic standpoint, in that with this view the problem of nihilism is met when false beliefs have been identified and corrected. Reason is not a value, in this reading, but rather the means by which human beings examine their metaphysical presuppositions and explore new avenues to truth.

Yet, another view will have it that by nihilism Nietzsche is pointing out something even more unruly at work, systemically, in the Western world’s axiomatic orientation. Heidegger, for example, claims that with the problem of nihilism Nietzsche is showing us the essence of Western metaphysics and its system of values (“The Word of Nietzsche: ‘God is dead’”). According to this view, Nietzsche’s philosophy of value, with its emphasis on the value-positing gesture, implies that even the concept of truth in the Western worldview leads to arbitrary determinations of value and political order and that this worldview is disintegrating under the weight of its own internal logic (or perhaps “illogic”). In this reading, the history of truth in the occidental world is the  “history of an error” ( Twilight of the Idols) , harboring profoundly disruptive antinomies which lead, ultimately, to the undoing of the Western philosophical framework. This kind of systemic flaw is exposed by the historical consciousness of the nineteenth century, which makes the problem of nihilism seem all the more acutely related to Nietzsche’s historical situation. But to relegate nihilism to that situation, according to Heidegger, leaves our thinking of it incomplete.

Heidegger makes this stronger claim with the aid of Nietzsche’s Nachlass. Near the beginning of the aphorisms collected under the title, Will To Power (aphorism 2), we find this note from 1887: “What does nihilism mean? That the highest values devalue themselves.  The aim is lacking; ‘Why?’ finds no answer.”  Here, Nietzsche’s answer regarding the meaning of nihilism has three parts.

(i) The first part makes a claim about the logic of values: ultimately, given the immense breadth of time, even “the highest values devalue themselves.” What does this mean? According to Nietzsche, the conceptual framework known as Western metaphysics was first articulated by Plato, who had pieced together remnants of a declining worldview, borrowing elements from predecessors such as Anaximander, Parmenides, and especially Socrates, in order to overturn a cosmology that had been in play from the days of Homer and which found its fullest and last expression in the thought of Heraclitus. Plato’s framework was popularized by Christianity, which added egalitarian elements along with the virtue of pity. The maturation of Western metaphysics occurs during modernity’s scientific and political revolutions, wherein the effects of its inconsistencies, malfunctions, and mal-development become acute. At this point, according to Nietzsche, “the highest values devalue themselves,” as modernity’s striving for honesty, probity, and courage in the search for truth, those all-important virtues inhabiting the core of scientific progress, strike a fatal blow against the foundational idea of absolutes. Values most responsible for the scientific revolution, however, are also crucial to the metaphysical system that modern science is destroying. Such values are threatening, then, to bring about the destruction of their own foundations. Thus, the highest values are devaluing themselves at the core. Most importantly, the values of honesty, probity, and courage in the search for truth no longer seem compatible with the guarantee, the bestowal, and the bestowing agent of an absolute value. Even the truth of “truth” now falls prey to the workings of nihilism, given that Western metaphysics now appears groundless in this logic.

For some commentators, this line of interpretation leaves Nietzsche’s revaluation of values lost in contradiction. What philosophical ground, after all, could support revaluation if this interpretation were accurate? For this reason, readers such as Clark work to establish a coherent theory of truth in Nietzsche’s philosophy, which can apparently be done by emphasizing various parts of the corpus to the exclusion of others. If, indeed, a workable epistemology may be derived from reading specific passages, and good reasons can be given for prioritizing those passages, then consistent grounds may exist for Nietzsche having leveled a critique of morality. Such readings, however, seem incompatible with Nietzsche’s encounter with historical nihilism, unless nihilism is taken to represent merely a temporary stage in the refinement of Western humanity’s acquisition of knowledge.

With the stronger claim, however, Nietzsche’s critique of the modern situation implies that the “highest values [necessarily] devalue themselves.” Western metaphysics brings about its own disintegration, in working out the implications of its inner logic. Nietzsche’s name for this great and terrible event, capturing popular imagination with horror and disgust, is the “death of God.” Nietzsche acknowledges that a widespread understanding of this event, the “great noon” at which all “shadows of God” will be washed out, is still to come. In Nietzsche’s day, the God of the old metaphysics is still worshiped, of course, and would be worshiped, he predicted, for years to come. But, Nietzsche insisted, in an intellectual climate that demands honesty in the search for truth and proof as a condition for belief, the absence of foundations has already been laid bare. The dawn of a new day had broken, and shadows now cast, though long, were receding by the minute.

(ii) The second part of the answer to the question concerning nihilism states that “the aim is lacking.” What does this mean? In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche claims that the logic of an existence lacking inherent meaning demands, from an organizational standpoint, a value-creating response, however weak this response might initially be in comparison to how its values are then taken when enforced by social institutions (aphorisms 20-23).  Surveys of various cultures show that humanity’s most indispensable creation, the affirmation of meaning and purpose, lies at the heart of all fundamental values. Nihilism stands not only for that apparently inevitable process by which the highest values devalue themselves. It also stands for that moment of recognition in which human existence appears, ultimately, to be in vain. Nietzsche’s surveys of cultures and their values, his cultural anthropologies, are typically reductive in the extreme, attempting to reach the most important sociopolitical questions as neatly and quickly as possible. Thus, when examining so-called Jewish, Oriental, Roman, or Medieval European cultures Nietzsche asks, “how was meaning and purpose proffered and secured here? How, and for how long, did the values here serve the living? What form of redemption was sought here, and was this form indicative of a healthy life? What may one learn about the creation of values by surveying such cultures?” This version of nihilism then means that absolute aims are lacking and that cultures naturally attempt to compensate for this absence with the creation of goals.

(iii) The third part of the answer to the question concerning nihilism states that “‘why?’ finds no answer.” Who is posing the question here? Emphasis is laid on the one who faces the problem of nihilism. The problem of value-positing concerns the one who posits values, and this one must be examined, along with a corresponding evaluation of relative strengths and weaknesses. When, indeed, “why?” finds no answer, nihilism is complete. The danger here is that the value-positing agent might become paralyzed, leaving the call of life’s most dreadful question unanswered. In regards to this danger, Nietzsche’s most important cultural anthropologies examined the Greeks from Homer to the age of tragedy and the “pre-Platonic” philosophers. Here was evidence, Nietzsche believed, that humanity could face the dreadful truth of existence without becoming paralyzed. At every turn, the moment in which the Greek world’s highest values devalued themselves, when an absolute aim was shown to be lacking, the question “why?” nevertheless called forth an answer. The strength of Greek culture is evident in the gods, the tragic art, and the philosophical concepts and personalities created by the Greeks themselves. Comparing the creativity of the Greeks to the intellectual work of modernity, the tragic, affirmative thought of Heraclitus to the pessimism of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche highlights a number of qualitative differences. Both types are marked by the appearance of nihilism, having been drawn into the inevitable logic of value-positing and what it would seem to indicate. The Greek type nevertheless demonstrates the characteristics of strength by activating and re-intensifying the capacity to create, by overcoming paralysis, by willing a new truth, and by affirming the will. The other type displays a pessimism of weakness, passivity, and weariness—traits typified by Schopenhauer’s life-denying ethics of the will turning against itself. In Nietzsche’s 1888 retrospection on the Birth of Tragedy in Ecce Homo, we read that “Hellenism and Pessimism” would have made a more precise title for the first work, because Nietzsche claims to have attempted to demonstrate how

the Greeks got rid of pessimism—with what they overcame it….Precisely tragedy is the proof that the Greeks were no pessimists: Schopenhauer  blundered in this as he blundered in everything (“The Birth of Tragedy” in Ecce Homo section 1).

From Twilight of the Idols , also penned during that sublime year of 1888, Nietzsche writes that tragedy “has to be considered the decisive repudiation” of pessimism as Schopenhauer understood it:

affirmation of life, even in its strangest and sternest problems, the will to life rejoicing in its own inexhaustibility through the sacrifice of its highest types— that is what I called Dionysian….beyond [Aristotelian] pity and terror, to realize in oneself the eternal joy of becoming—that joy which also encompasses joy in destruction (“What I Owe the Ancients” 5).

Nietzsche concludes the above passage by claiming to be the “last disciple of the philosopher Dionysus” (which by this time in Nietzsche’s thought came to encompass the whole of that movement which formerly distinguished between Apollo and Dionysus). Simultaneously, Nietzsche declares himself, with great emphasis, to be the “teacher of the eternal recurrence.”

The work to overcome pessimism is tragic in a two-fold sense: it maintains a feeling for the absence of ground, while responding to this absence with the creation of something meaningful. This work is also unmodern, according to Nietzsche, since modernity either has yet to ask the question “why?,” in any profound sense or, in those cases where the question has been posed, it has yet to come up with a response. Hence, a pessimism of weakness and an incomplete form of nihilism prevail in the modern epoch. Redemption in this life is denied, while an uncompleted form of nihilism remains the fundamental condition of humanity. Although the logic of nihilism seems inevitable, given the absence of absolute purpose and meaning, “actively” confronting nihilism and completing our historical encounter with it will be a sign of good health and the “increased power of the spirit” ( Will to Power aphorism 22). Thus far, however, modernity’s attempts to “escape nihilism” (in turning away) have only served to “make the problem more acute” (aphorism 28). Why, then, this failure? What does modernity lack?

5. The Human Exemplar

How and why do nihilism and the pessimism of weakness prevail in modernity? Again, from the notebook of 1887 ( Will to Power, aphorism 27), we find two conditions for this situation:

1. the higher species is lacking, i.e., those whose inexhaustible fertility and power keep up the faith in man….[and] 2. the lower species (‘herd,’ ‘mass,’ ‘society,’) unlearns modesty and blows up its needs into cosmic and metaphysical values. In this way the whole of existence is vulgarized: insofar as the mass is dominant it bullies the exceptions, so they lose their faith in themselves and become nihilists.

With the fulfillment of “European nihilism” (which is no doubt, for Nietzsche, endemic throughout the Western world and anyplace touched by “modernity”), and the death of otherworldly hopes for redemption, Nietzsche imagines two possible responses:  the easy response, the way of the “herd” and “the last man,” or the difficult response, the way of the “exception,” and the Übermensch.

Ancillary to any discussion of the exception, per se , the compatibility of the Übermensch concept with other movements in Nietzsche’s thought, and even the significance that Nietzsche himself placed upon it, has been the subject of intense debate among Nietzsche scholars. The term’s appearance in Nietzsche’s corpus is limited primarily to Thus Spoke Zarathustra and works directly related to this text. Even here, moreover, the Übermensch is only briefly and very early announced in the narrative, albeit with a tremendous amount of fanfare, before fading from explicit consideration. In addition to these problems, there are debates concerning the basic nature of the Übermensch itself, whether “ Über-” refers to a transitional movement or a transmogrified state of being, and whether Nietzsche envisioned the possibility of a community of Übermenschen , as opposed to a solitary figure among lesser types. So, what should be made of Nietzsche’s so-called “overman” (or even “superman”) called upon to arrive after the “death of God”?

Whatever else may be said about the Übermensch, Nietzsche clearly had in mind an exemplary figure and an exception among humans, one “whose inexhaustible fertility and power keep up the faith in man.” For some commentators, Nietzsche’s distinction between overman and the last man has political ramifications. The hope for an overman figure to appear would seem to be permissible for one individual, many, or even a social ideal, depending on the culture within which it appears. Modernity, in Nietzsche’s view, is in such a state of decadence that it would be fortunate, indeed, to see the emergence of even one such type, given that modern sociopolitical arrangements are more conducive to creating the egalitarian “last man” who “blinks” at expectations for rank, self-overcoming, and striving for greatness. The last men are “ the most harmful to the species because they preserve their existence as much at the expense of the truth as at the expense of the future” (“Why I am a Destiny” in Ecce Homo 1). Although Nietzsche never lays out a precise political program from these ideas, it is at least clear that theoretical justifications for complacency or passivity are antithetical to his philosophy. What, then, may be said about Nietzsche as political thinker?   Nietzsche’s political sympathies are definitely not democratic in any ordinary way of thinking about that sort of arrangement. Nor are they socialist or  Marxist.

Nietzsche’s political sympathies have been called “aristocratic,” which is accurate enough only if one does not confuse the term with European royalty, landed gentry, old money or the like and if one keeps in mind the original Greek meaning of the term, “ aristos ,” which meant “the good man, the man with power.” A certain ambiguity exists, for Nietzsche, in the term “good man.” On the one hand, the modern, egalitarian “good man,” the “last man,” expresses hostility for those types willing to impose measures of rank and who would dare to want greatness and to strive for it. Such hostilities are born out of ressentiment and inherited from Judeo-Christian moral value systems. ( Beyond Good and Evil 257-260 and On the Genealogy of Morals essay 1) . “Good” in this sense is opposed to “evil,” and the “good man” is the one whose values support the “herd” and whose condemnations are directed at those whose thoughts and actions might disrupt the complacent normalcy of modern life. On the other hand, the kind of “good man” who might overcome the weak pessimism of “herd morality,” the man of strength, a man to confront nihilism, and thus a true benefactor to humanity, would be decidedly “unmodern” and “out of season.” Only such a figure would “keep up the faith in man.” For these reasons, some commentators have found in Nietzsche an existentialist program for the heroic individual dissociated in varying degrees from political considerations. Such readings however ignore or discount Nietzsche’s interest in historical processes and the unavoidable inference that although Nietzsche’s anti-egalitarianism might lead to questionably “unmodern” political conclusions, hierarchy nevertheless implies association.

The distinction between the good man of active power and the other type also points to ambiguity in the concept of freedom. For the hopeless, human freedom is conceived negatively in the “freedom from” restraints, from higher expectations, measures of rank, and the striving for greatness. While the higher type, on the other hand, understands freedom positively in the “freedom for” achievement, for revaluations of values, overcoming nihilism, and self-mastery.

Nietzsche frequently points to such exceptions as they have appeared throughout history—Napoleon is one of his favorite examples. In modernity, the emergence of such figures seems possible only as an isolated event, as a flash of lightening from the dark cloud of humanity. Was there ever a culture, in contrast to modernity, which saw these sorts of higher types emerge in congress as a matter of expectation and design? Nietzsche’s early philological studies on the Greeks, such as Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, The Pre-Platonic Philosophers , “Homer on Competition,” and “The Greek State,” concur that, indeed, the ancient world before Plato produced many exemplary human beings, coming forth independently of each other but “hewn from the same stone,” made possible by the fertile cultural milieu, the social expectation of greatness, and opportunities to prove individual merit in various competitive arenas. Indeed, Greek athletic contests, festivals of music and tragedy, and political life reflected, in Nietzsche’s view, a general appreciation for competition, rank, ingenuity, and the dynamic variation of formal structures of all sorts. Such institutions thereby promoted the elevation of human exemplars. Again, the point must be stressed here that the historical accuracy of Nietzsche’s interpretation of the Greeks is no more relevant to his philosophical schemata than, for example, the actual signing of a material document is to a contractarian political theory. What is important for Nietzsche, throughout his career, is the quick evaluation of social order and heirarchies, made possible for the first time in the nineteenth century by the newly developed “historical sense” (BGE 224) through which Nietzsche draws sweeping conclusions regarding, for example, the characteristics of various moral and religious epochs (BGE 32 and 55), which are themselves pre-conditioned by the material origins of consciousness, from which a pre-human animal acquires the capacity (even the “right”) to make promises and develops into the “sovereign individual” who then bears responsibility for his or her actions and thoughts (GM II.2).

Like these rather ambitious conclusions, Nietzsche’s valorization of the Greeks is partly derived from empirical evidence and partly confected in myth, a methodological concoction that Nietzsche draws from his philological training. If the Greeks, as a different interpretation would have them, bear little resemblance to Nietzsche’s reading, such a difference would have little relevance to Nietzsche’s fundamental thoughts. Later Nietzsche is also clear that his descriptions of the Greeks should not be taken programmatically as a political vision for the future (see for example GS 340).

The “Greeks” are one of Nietzsche’s best exemplars of hope against a meaningless existence, hence his emphasis on the Greek world’s response to the “wisdom of Silenus” in Birth of Tragedy . (ch. 5). If the sovereign individual represents history’s “ripest fruit”, the most recent millennia have created, through rituals of revenge and punishment, a “bad conscience.” The human animal thereby internalizes material forces into feelings of guilt and duty, while externalizing a spirit thus created with hostility towards existence itself (GM II.21). Compared to this typically Christian manner of forming human experiences, the Greeks deified “the animal in man” and thereby kept “bad conscience at bay” (GM II.23).

In addition to exemplifying the Greeks in the early works, Nietzsche lionizes the “artist-genius” and the “sage;” during the middle period he writes confidently, at first, and then longingly about the “scientist,” the “philosopher of the future,” and the “free spirit;” Zarathustra ’s decidedly sententious oratory heralds the coming of the Übermensch ; the periods in which “revaluation” comes to the fore finds value in the destructive influences of the “madman,” the “immoralist,” the “buffoon,” and even the “criminal.” Finally, Nietzsche’s last works reflect upon his own image, as the “breaker of human history into two,” upon “Mr. Nietzsche,” the “anti-Christian,” the self-anointed clever writer of great books, the creator of Zarathustra, the embodiment of human destiny and humanity’s greatest benefactor: “only after me,” Nietzsche claims in Ecce Homo , “is it possible to hope again” (“Why I am a Destiny” 1). It should be cautioned that important differences exist in the way Nietzsche conceives of each of these various figures, differences that reflect the development of Nietzsche’s philosophical work throughout the periods of his life. For this reason, none of these exemplars should be confused for the others. The bombastic “Mr. Nietzsche” of Ecce Homo is no more the “ Übermensch ” of Thus Spoke Zarathustra , for example, than the “Zarathustra” character is a “pre-Platonic philosopher” or the alienated, cool, sober, and contemptuous “scientist” is a “tragic artist,” although these figures will frequently share characteristics. Yet, a survey of these exceptions shows that Nietzsche’s philosophy, in his own estimation, needs the apotheosis of a human exemplar, perhaps to keep the search for meaning and redemption from abdicating the earth in metaphysical retreat, perhaps to avert the exhaustion of human creativity, to reawaken the instincts, to inspire the striving for greatness, to remind us that “this has happened once and is therefore a possibility,” or perhaps simply to bestow the “honey offering” of a very useful piece of folly. This need explains the meaning of the parodic fourth book of Zarathustra, which opens with the title character reflecting on the whole of his teachings: “I am he…who once bade himself, and not in vain: ‘Become what you are!’” The subtitle of Nietzsche’s autobiographical Ecce Homo , “How One Becomes What One Is,” strikes a similar chord.

6. Will to Power

The exemplar expresses hope not granted from metaphysical illusions. After sharpening the critique of art and genius during the positivistic period, Nietzsche seems more cautious about heaping praise upon specific historical figures and types, but even when he could no longer find an ideal exception, he nevertheless deemed it requisite to fabricate one in myth. Whereas exceptional humans of the past belong to an exalted “republic of genius,” those of the future, those belonging to human destiny, embody humanity’s highest hopes. As a result of this development, some commentators will emphasize the “philosophy of the future” as one of Nietzsche’s most important ideas. Work pursued in service of the future constitutes for Nietzsche an earthly form of redemption. Yet, exemplars of type, whether in the form of isolated individuals like Napoleon, or of whole cultures like the Greeks, are not caught up in petty historical politics or similar mundane endeavors. According to Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols , their regenerative powers are necessary for the work of interpreting the meaning and sequence of historical facts.

My Conception of the genius— Great men, like great epochs, are explosive material in whom tremendous energy has been accumulated; their prerequisite has always been, historically and psychologically, that a protracted assembling, accumulating, economizing and preserving has preceded them—that there has been no explosion for a long time. If the tension in the mass has grown too great the merest accidental stimulus suffices to call the “genius,” the “deed,” the great destiny, into the world. Of what account then are circumstances, the epoch, the Zeitgeist, public opinion!…Great human beings are necessary, the epoch in which they appear is accidental… (“Expeditions of an Untimely Man,” 44).

It is with this understanding of the “great man” that Nietzsche, in Ecce Homo , proclaims even himself a great man, “dynamite,”“breaking the history of humanity in two” (“Why I am a Destiny” 1 and 8). A human exemplar, interpreted affirmatively in service of a hopeful future, is a “great event” denoting qualitative differences amidst the play of historical determinations. Thus, it belongs, in this reading, to Nietzsche’s cosmological vision of an indifferent nature marked occasionally by the boundary-stones of noble and sometimes violent uprisings.

To what extent is Nietzsche entitled to such a vision? Unlike nihilism, pessimism, and the death of God, which are historically, scientifically, and sometimes logically derived, Nietzsche’s “yes-saying” concepts seem to be derived from intuition, although Nietzsche will frequently support even these great hopes with bits of inductive reasoning. Nietzsche attempts to describe the logical structure of great events, as if a critical understanding of them pertains to their recurrence in modernity: great men have a “historical and psychological prerequisite.” Historically, there must be a time of waiting and gathering energy, as we find, for example, in the opening scene of Zarathustra. The great man and the great deed belong to a human destiny, one that emerges in situations of crisis and severe want. Psychologically, they are the effects of human energy stored and kept dormant for long periods of time in dark clouds of indifference. Primal energy gathers to a point before a cataclysmic event, like a chemical reaction with an electrical charge, unleashes some decisive, episodic force on all humanity. From here, the logic unfolds categorically: all great events, having occurred, are possibilities. All possibilities become necessities, given an infinite amount of time. Perhaps understanding this logic marks a qualitative difference in the way existence is understood. Perhaps this qualitative difference will spark the revaluation of values. When a momentous event takes place, the exception bolts from the cloud of normalcy as a point of extreme difference. In such ways, using this difference as a reference, as a “boundary-stone” on the river of eternal becoming, the meaning of the past is once again determined and the course of the future is set for a while, at least until a coming epoch unleashes the next great transvaluative event. Conditions for the occurrence of such events, and for the event of grasping this logic itself, are conceptualized, cosmologically in this reading, under the appellation “will to power.”

Before developing this reading further, it should be noted some commentators argue that the cosmological interpretation of will to power makes too strong a claim and that the extent of will to power’s domain ought to be limited to what the idea might explain as a theory of moral psychology, as the principle of an anthropology regarding the natural history of morals, or as a response to evolutionary theories placed in the service of utility. Such commentators will maintain that Nietzsche either in no way intends to construct a new meta-theory, or if he does then such intentions are mistaken and in conflict with his more prescient insights. Indeed, much evidence exists to support each of these positions. As an enthusiastic reader of the French Moralists of the eighteenth century, Nietzsche held the view that all human actions are motivated by the desire “to increase the feeling of power” (GS 13). This view seems to make Nietzsche’s insights regarding moral psychology akin to psychological egoism and would thus make doubtful the popular notion that Nietzsche advocated something like an egoistic ethic. Nevertheless, with this bit of moral psychology, a debate exists among commentators concerning whether Nietzsche intends to make dubious morality per se or whether he merely endeavors to expose those life-denying ways of moralizing inherited from the beginning of Western thought. Nietzsche, at the very least, is not concerned with divining origins. He is interested, rather, in measuring the value of what is taken as true, if such a thing can be measured. For Nietzsche, a long, murky, and thereby misunderstood history has conditioned the human animal in response to physical, psychological, and social necessities (GM II) and in ways that have created additional needs, including primarily the need to believe in a purpose for its very existence (GS 1). This ultimate need may be uncritically engaged, as happens with the incomplete nihilism of those who wish to remain in the shadow of metaphysics and with the laisser aller of the last man who overcomes dogmatism by making humanity impotent (BGE 188). On the other hand, a critical engagement with history is attempted in Nietzsche’s genealogies, which may enlighten the historical consciousness with a sort of transparency regarding the drive for truth and its consequences for determining the human condition. In the more critical engagement, Nietzsche attempts to transform the need for truth and reconstitute the truth drive in ways that are already incredulous towards the dogmatizing tendency of philosophy and thus able to withstand the new suspicions (BGE 22 and 34). Thus, the philosophical exemplar of the future stands in contrast, once again, to the uncritical man of the nineteenth century whose hidden metaphysical principles of utility and comfort fail to complete the overcoming of nihilism ( Ecce Homo , “Why I am a Destiny” 4). The question of whether Nietzsche’s transformation of physical and psychological need with a doctrine of the will to power, in making an affirmative principle out of one that has dissolved the highest principles hitherto, simply replaces one metaphysical doctrine with another, or even expresses completely all that has been implicit in metaphysics per se since its inception continues to draw the interest of Nietzsche commentators today. Perhaps the radicalization of will to power in this way amounts to no more than an account of this world to the exclusion of any other. At any rate, the exemplary type, the philosophy of the future, and will to power comprise aspects of Nietzsche’s affirmative thinking. When the egoist’s “I will” becomes transparent to itself a new beginning is thereby made possible. Nietzsche thus attempts to bring forward precisely that kind of affirmation which exists in and through its own essence, insofar as will to power as a principle of affirmation is made possible by its own destructive modalities which pulls back the curtain on metaphysical illusions and dogma founded on them.

The historical situation that conditions Nietzsche’s will to power involves not only the death of God and the reappearance of pessimism, but also the nineteenth century’s increased historical awareness, and with it the return of the ancient philosophical problem of emergence. How does the exceptional, for example, begin to take shape in the ordinary, or truth in untruth, reason in un-reason, social order and law in violence, a being in becoming? The variation and formal emergence of each of these states must, according to Nietzsche, be understood as a possibility only within a presumed sphere of associated events. One could thus also speak of the “emergence,” as part of this sphere, of a given form’s disintegration. Indeed, the new cosmology must account for such a fate. Most importantly, the new cosmology must grant meaning to this eternal recurrence of emergence and disintegration without, however, taking vengeance upon it. This is to say that in the teaching of such a worldview, the “innocence of becoming” must be restored.  The problem of emergence attracted Nietzsche’s interest in the earliest writings, but he apparently began to conceptualize it in published texts during the middle period, when his work freed itself from the early period’s “metaphysics of aesthetics.” The opening passage from 1878’s Human, All Too Human gives some indication of how Nietzsche’s thinking on this ancient problem begins to take shape:

Chemistry of concepts and feelings. In almost all respects, philosophical problems today are again formulated as they were two thousand years ago: how can something arise from its opposite….? Until now, metaphysical philosophy has overcome this difficulty by denying the origin of the one from the other, and by assuming for the more highly valued things some miraculous origin…. Historical philosophy, on the other hand, the very youngest of all philosophical methods, which can no longer be even conceived of as separate from the natural sciences, has determined in isolated cases (and will probably conclude in all of them) that they are not opposites, only exaggerated to be so by the metaphysical view….As historical philosophy explains it, there exists, strictly considered, neither a selfless act nor a completely disinterested observation: both are merely sublimations. In them the basic element appears to be virtually dispersed and proves to be present only to the most careful observer. ( Human, All Too Human , 1)

It is telling that Human begins by alluding to the problem of “emergence” as it is brought to light again by the “historical philosophical method.” A decidedly un-scientific “metaphysical view,” by comparison, looks rather for miraculous origins in support of the highest values. Next, in an unexpected move, Nietzsche relates the general problem of emergence to two specific issues, one concerning morals (“selfless acts”) and the other, knowledge—which is taken to include judgment (“disinterested observations”): “in them the basic element appears to be virtually dispersed” and discernable “only to the most careful observer.”

The logical structure of emergence, here, appears to have been borrowed from Hegel and, to be sure, one could point to many Hegelian traces in Nietzsche’s thought. But previously in 1874’s “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life,” from Untimely Meditations, Nietzsche had steadfastly refuted the dialectical logic of a “world historical process,” the Absolute Idea, and cunning reason. What, then, is “the basic element”, dispersed in morals and knowledge? How is it dispersed so that only the careful observer can detect it? The most decisive moment in Nietzsche’s development of a cosmology seems to have occurred when Nietzsche plumbed the surface of his early studies on the pathos and social construction of truth to discover a more prevalent feeling, one animating all socially relevant acts. In Book One of the The Gay Science (certainly one of the greatest works in whole corpus ) Nietzsche, in the role of “careful observer,” identifies, with a bit of moral psychology, the one motive spurring all such acts:

On the doctrine of the feeling of power . Benefiting and hurting others are ways of exercising one’s power upon others: that is all one desires in such cases…. Whether benefiting or hurting others involves sacrifices for us does not affect the ultimate value of our actions. Even if we offer our lives, as martyrs do for their church, this is a sacrifice that is offered for our desire for power or for the purpose of preserving our feeling of power. Those who feel “I possess Truth”—how many possessions would they not abandon in order to save this feeling!…Certainly the state in which we hurt others is rarely as agreeable, in an unadulterated way, as that in which we benefit others; it is a sign that we are still lacking power, or it shows a sense of frustration in the face of this poverty….(aphorism 13).

The “ultimate value” of our actions, even concerning those intended to pursue or preserve “truth,” are not measured by the goodness we bring others, notwithstanding the fact that intentionally harmful acts will be indicative of a desperate want of power. Nietzsche, here, asserts the significance of enhancing the feeling of power, and with this aphorism from 1882 we are on the way to seeing how “the feeling of power” will replace, for Nietzsche, otherworldly measures of value, as we read in finalized form in the second aphorism of 1888’s The Anti-Christ :

What is good?—All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is bad?—All that proceeds from weakness.  What is happiness?—The feeling that power increases—that a resistance is overcome.

No otherworldly measures exist, for Nietzsche. Yet, one should not conclude from this absence of a transcendental measure that all expressions of power are qualitatively the same. Certainly, the possession of a Machiavellian virtù will find many natural advantages in this world, but Nietzsche locates the most important aspect of “overcoming resistance” in self-mastery and self-commanding. In Zarathustra ’s chapter, “Of Self-Overcoming,” all living creatures are said to be obeying something, while “he who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures.” It is important to note the disjunction: one may obey oneself or one may not. Either way, one will be commanded, but the difference is qualitative. Moreover, “commanding is more difficult than obeying” (BGE 188 repeats this theme). Hence, one will take the easier path, if unable to command, choosing instead to obey the directions of another. The exception, however, will command and obey the healthy and self-mastering demands of a willing self. But why, we might ask, are all living things beholden to such commanding and obeying? Where is the proof of necessity here? Zarathustra answers:

Listen to my teaching, you wisest men! Test in earnest whether I have crept into the heart of life itself and down to the roots of its heart! Where I found a living creature, there I found will to power; and even in the will of the servant, I found the will to be master ( Z “Of the Self-Overcoming”).

Here, apparently, Nietzsche’s doctrine of the feeling of power has become more than an observation on the natural history and psychology of morals. The “teaching” reaches into the heart of life, and it says something absolute about obeying and commanding. But what is being obeyed, on the cosmological level, and what is being commanded? At this point, Zarathustra passes on a secret told to him by life itself: “behold [life says], I am that which must overcome itself again and again…And you too, enlightened man, are only a path and a footstep of my will: truly, my will to power walks with the feet of your will to truth.” We see here that a principle, will to power, is embodied by the human being’s will to truth, and we may imagine it taking other forms as well. Reflecting on this insight, for example, Zarathustra claims to have solved “the riddle of the hearts” of the creator of values: “you exert power with your values and doctrines of good and evil, you assessors of values….but a mightier power and a new overcoming grow from out of your values…” That mightier power growing in and through the embodiment and expression of human values is will to power.

It is important not to disassociate will to power, as a cosmology, from the human being’s drive to create values. To be sure, Nietzsche is still saying that the creation of values expresses a desire for power, and the first essay of 1887’s On the Genealogy of Morality returns to this simple formula. Here, Nietzsche appropriates a well-known element of Hegel’s Phenomenology , the structural movement of thought between basic types called “masters and slaves.” This appropriation has the affect of emphasizing the difference between Nietzsche’s own historical “genealogies” and that of Hegel’s “dialectic” (as is worked out in Deleuze ’s study of Nietzsche). Master and slave moralities, the truths of which are confirmed independently by feelings that power has been increased, are expressions of the human being’s will to power in qualitatively different states of health. The former is a consequence of strength, cheerful optimism and naiveté, while the latter stems from impotency, pessimism, cunning and, most famously, ressentiment , the creative reaction of a “bad conscience” coming to form as it turns against itself in hatred. The venom of slave morality is thus directed outwardly in ressentiment and inwardly in bad conscience. Differing concepts of “good,” moreover, belong to master and slave value systems. Master morality complements its good with the designation, “bad,” understood to be associated with the one who is inferior, weak, and cowardly. For slave morality, on the other hand, the designation, “good” is itself the complement of “evil,” the primary understanding of value in this scheme, associated with the one possessing superior strength. Thus, the “good man” in the unalloyed form of “master morality” will be the “evil man,” the man against whom ressentiment is directed, in the purest form of “slave morality.” Nietzsche is careful to add, at least in Beyond Good and Evil , that all modern value systems are constituted by compounding, in varying degrees, these two basic elements. Only a “genealogical” study of how these modern systems came to form will uncover the qualitative strengths and weaknesses of any normative judgment.

The language and method of The Genealogy hearken back to The Gay Science’s “doctrine of the feeling of power.” But, as we have seen, in the period between 1882 and 1887, and from out of the psychological-historical description of morality, truth, and the feeling of power, Nietzsche has given agency to the willing as such that lives in and through the embrace of power, and he generalizes the willing agent in order to include “life” and “the world” and the principle therein by which entities emerge embodied. The ancient philosophical problem of emergence is resolved, in part, with the cosmology of a creative, self-grounding, self-generating, sustaining and enhancing will to power. Such willing, most importantly, commands, which at the same time is an obeying: difference emerges from out of indifference and overcomes it, at least for a while. Life, in this view, is essentially self-overcoming, a self-empowering power accomplishing more power to no other end. In a notebook entry from 1885, Will to Power’s aphorism 1067, Nietzsche’s cosmological intuitions take flight:

And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end…as force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces…a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing and eternally flooding back with tremendous years of recurrence…out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness; this my Dionysian world of the eternally self-creating, the eternally self-destroying, this mystery world of the two-fold voluptuous delight, my “beyond good and evil,” without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal…. This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!

Nietzsche discovers, here, the words to articulate one of his most ambitious concepts. The will to power is now described in terms of eternal and world-encompassing creativity and destructiveness, thought over the expanse of “tremendous years” and in terms of “recurrence,” what Foucault has described as the “play of domination” (1971). In some respects Nietzsche has indeed rediscovered the temporal structure of Heraclitus’ child at play, arranging toys in fanciful constructions of what merely seems like everything great and noble, before tearing down this structure and building again on the precipice of a new mishap. To live in this manner, according to Nietzsche in The Gay Science , to affirm this kind of cosmology and its form of eternity, is to “live dangerously” and to “love fate” ( amor fati ).

In spite of the positivistic methodology of The Genealogy, beneath the surface of this natural history of morals, will to power pumps life into the heart of both master and slave conceptual frameworks. Moreover, will to power stands as a necessary condition for all value judgments. How, one might ask, are these cosmological intuitions derived? How is knowledge of both will to power and its eternally recurring play of creation and destruction grounded? If they are to be understood poetically, then the question “why?” is misplaced ( Zarathustra, “Of Poets”). Logically, with respect to knowledge, Nietzsche insists that principles of perception and judgment evolve co-dependently with consciousness, in response to physical necessities. The self is organized and brought to stand within the body and by the stimuli received there. This means that all principles are transformations of stimuli and interpretations thereupon: truth is “a mobile army of metaphors” which the body forms before the mind begins to grasp. Let us beware, Nietzsche cautions, of saying that the world possesses any sort of order or coherence without these interpretations (GS 109), even to the extent that Nietzsche himself conceives will to power as the way of all things. If all principles are interpretive gestures, by the logic of Nietzsche’s new cosmology, the will to power must also be interpretive (BGE 22). One aspect of the absence of absolute order is that interpretive gestures are necessarily called-forth for the establishment of meaning. A critical requirement of this interpretive gesture becoming transparent is that the new interpretation must knowingly affirm that all principles are grounded in interpretation. According to Nietzsche, such reflexivity does not discredit his cosmology: “so much the better,” since will to power, through Nietzsche’s articulation, emerges as the thought that now dances playfully and lingers for a while in the midst of what Vattimo might call a “weakened” (and weakening) “ontology” of indifference. The human being is thereby “an experimental animal” (GM II). Its truths have the seductive power of the feminine (BGE 1); while Nietzsche’s grandest visions are oriented by the “experimental” or “tempter” god, the one later Nietzsche comes to identify with the name Dionysus (BGE 295).

The philosopher of the future will posses a level of critical awareness hitherto unimagined, given that his interpretive gestures will be recognized as such. Yet, a flourishing life will still demand, one might imagine, being able to suspend, hide, or forget—at the right moments—the creation of values, especially the highest values. Perhaps the cartoonish, bombastic language of The Genealogy’s master and slave morality, to point to an example, which was much more soberly discussed in the previous year’s Beyond Good and Evil , is employed esoterically by Nietzsche for the rhetorical effect of producing a grand and spectacular diversion, hiding the all-important creative gesture that brought forth the new cosmology as a supreme value: “This world is the will to power and nothing besides!—And you yourselves are also this will to power–and nothing besides!” With this teaching, Nietzsche leaves underdeveloped many obvious themes, such as how the world’s non-animate matter may (or may not) be involved with will to power or whether non-human life-forms take part fully and equally in the world’s movement of forces. To have a perspective, for Nietzsche, seems sufficient for participating in will to power, but does this mean that non-human animals, which certainly seem to have perspectives, and without question participate in the living of life, have the human being’s capacity (or any capacity for that matter) to command themselves? Or, do trees and other forms of vegetation? Apparently, they do not. Such problems involve, again, the question of freedom, which interests Nietzsche primarily in the positive form. Of more importance to Nietzsche is that which pertains solely to the human being’s marshalling of forces but, even here (or perhaps especially here), a hierarchy of differences may be discerned. Some human forms of participation in will to power are noble, others ignoble. But, concerning these sorts of activities, Nietzsche stresses in Beyond Good and Evil (aphorism 9) the difference between his own cosmology, which at times seems to re-establish the place of nobility in nature, and the “stoic” view, which asserts the oneness of humanity with divine nature:

“According to nature” you want to live? Oh you noble Stoics, what deceptive words these are! Imagine a being like nature, wasteful beyond measure, indifferent beyond measure, without purposes and consideration, without mercy and justice, fertile and desolate and uncertain at the same time; imagine indifference itself as a power—how could you live according to this indifference? Living—is that not precisely wanting to be other than this nature? Is not living — estimating, preferring, being unjust, being limited, wanting to be different? ….But this is an ancient, eternal story: what formerly happened with the Stoics still happens today, too, as soon as any philosophy begins to believe in itself. It always creates the world in its own image; it cannot do otherwise. Philosophy is this tyrannical drive itself; the most spiritual will to power, to the “creation of  the world,” to the causa prima .

Strauss claims that here Nietzsche is replacing “divine nature” and its egalitarian coherence with “noble nature” and its expression of hierarchies, the condition for which is difference, per se , emerging in nature from indifference (1983). Other commentators have suggested that Nietzsche, here, betrays all of philosophy, lacking any sense of decency with this daring expose—that what is left after the expression of such a forbidden truth is no recourse to meaning.

The most generalized form of the philosophical problem of emergence and disintegration, of the living, valuing, wanting to be different, willing power, is described here in terms of the difference-creating gesture embodied by the human being’s essential work, its “creation of the world” and first causes. Within nature, one might say, energy disperses and accumulates in various force-points: nature’s power to create these force-points is radically indifferent, and this indifference towards what has been created also characterizes its power. Periodically, something exceptional is thrust out from its opposite, given that radical indifference is indifferent even towards itself (if one could speak of ontological conditions in such a representative tone, which Nietzsche certainly does from time to time). Nature is disturbed, and the human being, having thus become aware of its own identity and of others, works towards preserving itself by tying things down with definitions; enhancing itself, occasionally, by loosening the fetters of old, worn-out forms; creating and destroying in such patterns, so as to make humanity and even nature appear to conform to some bit of tyranny. From within the logic of will to power, narrowly construed, human meaning is thus affirmed. “But to what end?” one might ask. To no end, Nietzsche would answer. Here, the more circumspect view could be taken, as is found in Twilight of the Idol’s “The Four Great Errors”: “One is a piece of fate, one belongs to the whole, one is in the whole, there exist nothing which could judge, measure, compare, condemn our being, for that would be to judge, measure, compare, condemn the whole…. But nothing exists apart from the whole !” Nietzsche conceptualizes human fate, then, in his most extreme vision of will to power, as being fitted to a whole, “the world,” which is itself “nothing besides” a “monster of energy, without beginning, without end…eternally changing and eternally flooding back with tremendous years of recurrence.” In such manner, will to power expresses itself not only through the embodiment of humanity, its exemplars, and the constant revaluation of values, but also in time. Dasein , for Nietzsche, is suspended on the cross between these ontological movements—between an in/different playing of destruction/creation—and time. But, what temporal model yields the possibility for these expressions? How does Nietzsche’s experimental philosophy conceptualize time?

7. Eternal Recurrence

The world’s eternally self-creating, self-destroying play is conditioned by time. Yet, Nietzsche’s skepticism concerning what can be known of telos , indeed his refutation of an absolute telos independent of human fabrication, demands a view of time that differs from those that place willing, purposiveness, and efficient causes in the service of goals, sufficient reason, and causa prima . Another formulation of this problem might ask, “what is the history of willing, if not the demonstration of progress and/or decay?”

Nietzsche’s solution to the riddle of time, nevertheless, radicalizes the Christian concept of eternity, combining a bit of simple observation and sure reasoning with an intuition that produces curious, but innovative results. The solution takes shape as Nietzsche fills the temporal horizons of past and future with events whose denotations have no permanent tether. Will to power, the Heraclitean cosmic-child, plays-on without preference to outcomes. Within the two-fold limit of this horizon, disturbances emerge from their opposites, but one cannot evaluate them , absolutely , because judgment implicates participation in will to power, in the ebb and flow of events constituting time. The objective perspective is not possible, since the whole consumes all possibilities, giving form to and destroying all that has come to fulfillment. Whatever stands in this flux, does so in the midst of the whole, but only for a while. It disturbs the whole, but does so as part of the whole. As such, whatever stands is measured, on the one hand, by the context its emergence creates. On the other hand, whatever stands is immeasurable, by virtue of the whole, the logic of which would determine this moment to have occurred in the never-ending flux of creation and destruction. Even to say that particular events seem better or worse suited to the functionality of the whole, or to its stability, or its health, or that an event may be measured absolutely by its fitted-ness in some other way, presupposes a standpoint that Nietzsche’s cosmology will not allow. One is left only to describe material occurrences and to intuit the passing of time.

The second part of Nietzsche’s solution to the riddle of time reasons that the mere observation of an occurrence, whether thought to be a simple thing or a more complex event, is enough to demonstrate the occurrence’s possibility. If “something” has happened, then its happening, naturally, must have been possible. Each simple thing or complex event is linked, inextricably, to a near infinite number of others, also demonstrating the possibilities of their happenings. If all of these possibilities could be presented in such a way as to account for their relationships and probabilities, as for example on a marvelously complex set of dice, then it could be shown that each of these possibilities will necessarily occur, and re-occur, given that the game of dice continues a sufficient length of time.

Next, Nietzsche considers the nature of temporal limits and duration. He proposes that no beginning or end of time can be determined, absolutely, in thought. No matter what sort of temporal limits are set by the imagination, questions concerning what lies beyond these limits never demonstrably cease. The question, “what precedes or follows the imagined limits of past and future?” never contradicts our understanding of time, which is thus shown to be more culturally and historically determined than otherwise admitted.

Finally, rather than to imagine a past and future extended infinitely on a plane of sequential moments, or to imagine a time in which nothing happens or will happen, Nietzsche envisions connecting what lies beyond the imagination’s two temporal horizons, so that time is represented in the image of a circle, through which a colossal, but definitive number of possibilities are expressed. Time is infinite with this model, but filled by a finite number of material possibilities, recurring eternally in the never-ending play of the great cosmic game of chance.

What intuition led Nietzsche to interpret the cosmos as having no inherent meaning, as if it were playing itself out and repeating itself in eternally recurring cycles, in the endless creation and destruction of force-points without purpose? How does this curious temporal model relate to the living of life?  In his philosophical autobiography, Ecce Homo, Nietzsche grounds eternal recurrence in his own experiences by relating an anecdote regarding, supposedly, its first appearance to him in thought. One day, Nietzsche writes, while hiking around Lake Silvaplana near Sils Maria, he came upon a giant boulder, took out a piece of paper and scribbled, “ 6000 Fuss jenseits von Mensch und Zeit .” From here, Nietzsche goes on to articulate “ the eternal recurrence of th e same, ” which he then characterizes as “a doctrine” or “a teaching” of the “highest form of affirmation that can possibly be attained.”

It is important to note that at the time of this discovery, Nietzsche was bringing his work on The Gay Science to a close and beginning to sketch out a plan for Zarathustra . The conceptualization of eternal recurrence emerges at the threshold of Nietzsche’s most acute positivistic inquiry and his most poetic creation. The transition between the two texts is made explicit when Nietzsche repeats the final aphorism of The Gay Science ’s Book IV in the opening scene of Zarathustra ’s prelude. The repetition of this scene will prove to be no coincidence, given the importance Nietzsche places upon the theme of recurrence in Zarathustra ’s climactic chapters. Moreover, in the penultimate aphorism of The Gay Science , as a sort of introduction to that text’s Zarathustra scene (which itself would seem quite odd apart from the later work), Nietzsche first lays out Zarathustra’s central teaching, the idea of eternal recurrence.

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!” (GS 341).

“What if,” wonders Nietzsche, the thought took hold of us? Here, the conceptualization of eternal recurrence, thus, coincides with questions regarding its impact: “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?”

How would the logic of this new temporal model alter our experiences of factual life? Would such a thought diminish the willfulness of those who grasp it? Would it diminish our willingness to make normative decisions? Would willing cease under the pessimistic suspicion that the course for everything has already been determined, that all intentions are “in vain”? What would we lose by accepting the doctrine of this teaching? What would we gain? It seems strange that Nietzsche would place so much dramatic emphasis on this temporal form of determinism. If all of our worldly strivings and cravings were revealed, in the logic of eternal recurrence, to be no more than illusions, if every contingent fact of creation and destruction were understood to have merely repeated itself without end, if everything that happens, as it happens, both re-inscribes and anticipates its own eternal recurrence, what would be the affect on our dispositions, on our capacities to strive and create? Would we be crushed by this eternal comedy? Or, could we somehow find it liberating?

Even though Nietzsche has envisioned a temporal model of existence seemingly depriving us of the freedom to act in unique ways, we should not fail to catch sight of the qualitative differences the doctrine nevertheless leaves open for the living. The logic of eternity determines every contingent fact in each cycle of recurrence. That is, each recurrence is quantitatively the same. The quality of that recurrence, however, seems to remain an open question. What if the thought took hold of us? If we indeed understood ourselves to be bound by fate and thus having no freedom from the eternal logic of things, could we yet summon love for that fate, to embrace a kind of freedom for becoming that person we are? This is the strange confluence of possibility and necessity that Nietzsche announces in the beginning of Gay Science’s Book IV, with the concept of Amor fati: “I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth!”

Responses to this “doctrine” have been varied. Even some of the most enthusiastic Nietzsche commentators have, like Kaufmann, deemed it unworthy of serious reflection. Nietzsche, however, appears to stress its significance in Twilight of the Idols and Ecce Homo by emphasizing Zarathustra’s importance in the “history of humanity” and by dramatically staging in Thus Spoke Zarathustra the idea of eternal recurrence as the fundamental teaching of the main character. The presentation of this idea, however, leaves room for much doubt concerning the literal meaning of these claims, as does the paucity of direct references to the doctrine in other works intended for publication. In Nietzsche’s Nachlass, we discover attempts to work out rational proofs supporting the theory, but they seem to present no serious challenge to a linear conception of time. Among commentators taking the doctrine seriously, Löwith takes it as a supplement to Nietzsche’s historical nihilism, as a way of placing emphasis on the problem of meaning in history after the shadows of God have been dissolved. For Löwith’s Nietzsche, nihilism is more than an historical moment giving rise to a crisis of confidence or faith. Rather, nihilism is the essence of Nietzsche’s thought, and it poses the sorts of problems that lead Nietzsche into formulating eternal return as a way of restoring meaning in history. For Löwith, then, eternal return is inextricably linked to historical nihilism and offers both cosmological and anthropological grounds for accepting imperatives of self-overcoming. Yet, this grand attempt fails to restore meaning after the death of God, according to Löwith, because of eternal return’s logical contradictions.

8. Reception of Nietzsche’s Thought

The reception of Nietzsche’s work, on all levels of engagement, has been complicated by historical contingencies that are related only by accident to the thought itself. The first of these complications pertains to the editorial control gained by Elizabeth in the aftermath of her brother’s mental and physical collapse. Elisabeth’s overall impact on her brother’s reputation is generally thought to be very problematic. Her husband, Bernhard Förster, whom Friedrich detested, was a leader of the late nineteenth-century German anti-Semitic political movement, which Friedrich often ridiculed and unambiguously condemned, both in his published works and in private correspondences. On this issue, Yovel demonstrates persuasively, with a contextual analysis of letters, materials from the Nachlass , and published works, that Nietzsche developed an attitude of “anti-anti-Semitism” after overcoming the culture of prejudice that formed him in his youth (Yovel, 1998). In the mid-1880s, Förster and wife led a small group of colonists to Paraguay in hopes of establishing an idyllic, racially pure, German settlement. The colony foundered, Bernhard committed suicide, and Elisabeth returned home, just in time to find her brother’s health failing and his literary career ready to soar.

Upon her return, Elisabeth devised a way to keep alive the memory of both husband and brother, legally changing her last name to “Förster-Nietzsche,” a gesture indicative of designs to associate the philosopher with a political ideology he loathed. The stain of Elisabeth’s editorial imprint can be seen on the many ill-informed and haphazard interpretations of Nietzsche produced in the early part of the twentieth century, the unfortunate traces of which remain in some readings today. During the 1930s, in the midst of intense activity by National Socialist academic propagandists such as Alfred Bäumler, even typically insightful thinkers such as Emmanuel Levinas confused the public image of Nietzsche for the philosopher’s stated beliefs. Counter-efforts in the 1930s to refute such propaganda, and the popular misconceptions it was fomenting at the time, can be found both inside and outside Germany, in seminars, for example, led by Karl Jaspers and Karl Löwith, and in Georges Bataille’s essay “Nietzsche and the Fascists.” Of course, the ad hominem argument that “Nietzsche must be a Fascist philosopher because the Fascists venerated him as one of their own,” may be ignored. (No one should find Kant’s moral philosophy reprehensible, by comparison, simply on the grounds that Eichmann attempted to exploit it in a Jerusalem court). Apart from the fallacy, here, even the premise itself regarding Nietzsche and the Fascists is not entirely above reproach, since some Fascists were skeptical of the commensurability of Nietzsche’s thought with their political aims. The stronger claim that Nietzsche’s thought leads to National Socialism is even more problematic. Nevertheless, intellectual histories pursuing the question of how Nietzsche has been placed into the service of all sorts of political interests are an important part of Nietzsche scholarship.

Since the middle part of the last century, Nietzsche scholars have come to grips with the role played by Elisabeth and her associates in obscuring Nietzsche’s anti-Nationalistic, anti-Socialist, anti-German views, his pan-European advocacy of race mixing, as well as his hatred for anti-Semitism and its place in the late-nineteenth-century politics of exploitation. The work Elisabeth performed as her brother’s publicist, however, undoubtedly fulfilled all of her own fantasies: in the early 1930’s, decades after Friedrich’s death, the Nietzsche-Archiv was visited, ceremoniously, by Adolf Hitler, who was greeted and entertained by Elisabeth (in perhaps the most symbolic gesture of her association with the Nietzsche image) with a public reading of the work of her late husband, Bernhard, the anti-Semite. Hitler later attended Elisabeth’s funeral as Chancellor of Germany.

In a matter related to Elizabeth’s impact on the reception of her brother’s thought, the relevance of Nietzsche’s biography to his philosophical work has long been a point of contention among Nietzsche commentators. While an exhaustive survey of the way this key issue has been addressed in the scholarship would be difficult in this context, a few influential readings may be briefly mentioned. Among notable German readers, Heidegger and Fink dismiss the idea that Nietzsche’s thought can be elucidated with the details of his life, while Jaspers affirms the “exceptional” nature of Nietzsche’s life and identifies the exception as a key aspect of his philosophy. French readers such as Bataille, Deleuze, Klossowski, Foucault, and Derrida assert the relevance of various biographical details to specific movements within Nietzsche’s writings. In the United States, the influential reading of Walter Kaufman follows Heidegger, for the most part, in denying relevance, while his student, Alexander Nehamas, tends the other way, linking Nietzsche’s various literary styles to his “perspectivism” and ultimately to living, per se , as an self-interpretive gesture. However difficult it might be to see the philosophical relevance of various biographical curiosities, such as Nietzsche’s psychological development as a child without a living father, his fascination and then fallout with Wagner, his professional ostracism, his thwarted love life, the excruciating physical ailments that tormented him, and so on, it would also seem capricious and otherwise inconsistent with Nietzsche’s work to radically severe his thought from these and other biographical details, and persuasive interpretations have argued that such experiences, and Nietzsche’s well-considered views of them, are inseparable from the multiple trajectories of his intellectual work.

Attempts to isolate Nietzsche’s philosophy from the twists and turns of a frequently problematic life may be explained, in part, as a reaction to several early, and rather detrimental, popular-psychological studies attempting to explain the work in a reductive and decidedly un-philosophical manner. Such was the reading proffered, for example, by Lou Salomè, a woman with whom Nietzsche briefly had an unconventional and famously complex romantic relationship, and who later befriended Sigmund Freud among other leaders of European culture at the fin-de-siècle . Salomè’s Friedrich Nietzsche in His Works (1894) helped cast the image of Nietzsche as a lonely, miserable, self-immolating, recluse whose “external intellectual work…and inner life coalesce completely.” In some commentaries, this image prevails yet today, but its accuracy is also a matter of debate. Nietzsche had many casual associates and a few close friends while in school and as a professor in Basel. Even during the period of his most intense intellectual activity, after withdrawing from the professional world of the academy and, like Marx and others before him in the nineteenth century, taking up the wandering life of a “good European,” the many written correspondences between Nietzsche and life-long friends, along with what is known about the minor details of his daily habits, his days spent in the company of fellow lodgers and travelers, taking meals regularly (in spite of a very closely regulated diet), and similar anecdotes, all put forward a different image. No doubt the affair with Salomè and their mutual friend, the philosopher Paul Rée, left Nietzsche embittered towards the two of them, and it seems likely that this bitterness clouded Salomè’s interpretation of Nietzsche and his works. Elisabeth, who had always loathed Salomè for her immoderation and perceived influence over Friedrich, attempted to correct her rival’s account by writing her own biography of Friedrich, which was effusive in its praise but did little to advance the understanding of Nietzsche’s thought. Perhaps these kinds of problems, then, provide the best argument for resisting the lure to reduce interpretations of Nietzsche’s thought to gossipy biographical anecdotes and clumsy, amateurish speculation, even if the other extreme has also been excessive at times.

Another key issue in the reception of Nietzsche’s work involves determining its relationship to the thoughts of other philosophers and, indeed, to the philosophical tradition itself. On both levels of this complex issue, the work of Martin Heidegger looms paramount. Heidegger began working closely with Nietzsche’s thought in the 1930s, a time rife with political opportunism in Germany, even among scholars and intellectuals. In the midst of a struggle over the official Nazi interpretation of Nietzsche, Heidegger’s views began to coalesce, and after a series of lectures on Nietzsche’s thought in the late 1930’s and 1940, Heidegger produces in 1943 the seminal essay, “Nietzsche’s Word: “God is Dead””.  Nietzsche, for Heidegger, brought “the consummation of metaphysics” in the age of subject-centered reasoning, industrialization, technological power, and the “enframing” ( Ge-stell ) of humans and all other beings as a “standing reserve.” Combining Nietzsche’s self-described “inversion of Platonism” with the emphasis Nietzsche had undoubtedly placed upon the value-positing act and its relatedness to subjective or inter-subjective human perspectives, Heidegger dubbed Nietzsche “the last metaphysician” and tied him to the logic of a historical narrative highlighted by the appearances of Plato, Aristotle, Roman Antiquity, Christendom, Luther, Descartes, Leibniz, Schopenhauer, and others. The “one thought” common to each of these movements and thinkers, according to Heidegger, and the path Nietzsche thus thinks through to its “consummation,” is the “metaphysical” determination of being ( Sein ) as no more than something static and constantly present. Although Nietzsche appears to reject the concept of being as an “empty fiction” (claiming, in Twilight of the Idols, to concur with Heraclitus in this regard), Heidegger nevertheless reads in Nietzsche’s Platonic inversion the most insidious form of the metaphysics of presence, in which the destruction and re-establishment of value is taken to be the only possible occasion for philosophical labor whereby the very question of being is completely obliterated. Within this diminution of thought, the Nietzschean “Superman” emerges supremely powerful and triumphant, taking dominion over the earth and all of its beings, measured only by the mundane search for advantages in the ubiquitous struggle for preservation and enhancement.

As is typically the case with Heidegger’s interpretations of the history of philosophy, many aspects of this reading are truly remarkable—Heidegger’s scholarship, for example, his feel for what is important to Nietzsche, and his elaboration of Nietzsche’s work in a way that seems compatible with a narrative of the concealing and revealing destiny of being. However, the plausibility of this reading has come into question almost from the moment the full extent of it was made known in the 1950s and 60s. In Germany, for example, Eugen Fink concludes his 1960 study of Nietzsche by casting doubt upon Heidegger’s claim that Nietzsche’s thought can be reduced to a metaphysics:

Heidegger’s Nietzsche interpretation is essentially based upon  Heidegger’s summary and insight into the history of being and in particular on his interpretation of the metaphysics of modernity. Nevertheless, the question remains open whether Nietzsche does not already leave the metaphysical dimensions of any problems essentially and intentionally behind in his conception of the cosmos. There is a non-metaphysical originality in his cosmological philosophy of “play.” Even the early writings indicate the mysterious dimension of play….

Fink’s reluctance to take a stronger position against the reading of his renowned teacher seems rather coy, given that Fink’s study, throughout, has stressed the meaning and importance of “cosmological play” in Nietzsche’s work. Other commentators have much more explicitly challenged Heidegger’s grand narrative and specifically its place for Nietzsche in the Western tradition, concurring with Fink that Nietzsche’s conceptualization of play frees his thought from the tradition of metaphysics, or that Nietzsche, purposively or not, offered conflicting views of himself, eluding the kind of summary treatment presented by Heidegger and much less-gifted readers (who consider Nietzsche to be no more than a late-Romantic, a social-Darwinist, or the like). In this sort of commentary, Nietzsche’s work itself is at play in deconstructing the all-too-rigid kinds of explanations.

While such a reading has proven to be popular, partly because it seems to make room for various points of entry into Nietzsche’s thought, it has understandably stirred a backlash of sorts among less charitable commentators who find pragmatic or neo-Kantian strains in Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysics and who wish to separate Nietzsche’s level-headed philosophy from his poorly-developed musings. Notable works by Schacht, Clark, Conway, and Leiter fall into this category. In a loosely related movement, many commentators bring Nietzsche into dialogue with the tradition by concentrating on aspects of his work relevant to particular philosophical issues, such as the problem of truth, the development of a natural history of morals, a philosophical consideration of moral psychology, problems concerning subjectivity and logo-centrism, theories of language, and many others. Finally, much work continues to be done on Nietzsche in the history of ideas, regarding, for example, Nietzsche’s philology, his intellectual encounters with nineteenth-century science; the neo-Kantians; the pre-Socratics (or “pre-Platonics,” as he called them); the work of his friend, Paul Rée; their shared affinity for the wit and style of La Rochefoucauld; historical affinities and influences such as those pertaining to Hölderlin, Goethe, Emerson, and Lange, detailed studies of what Nietzsche was reading and when he was reading it, and a host of other themes. Works by Habermas, Porter, Gillespie, Brobjer, Ansell-Pearson, Conway, and Strong are notable for historicizing Nietzsche in a variety of contexts.

The Anglo-American reception of Nietzsche is typically suspicious of Heidegger’s influence and strongly disapproves of gestures linking the “New Nietzsche” found in late twentieth-century discussions of postmodernism and literary criticism to a supposed end of philosophy, although some American scholars will admit, with Gillespie, that “the core of this postmodern reading cannot simply be dismissed,” despite this reading’s excesses (1995, 177). Due to these suspicions, moreover, common Nietzschean themes such as historical nihilism, Dionysianism, tragedy, and play, as well as cosmological readings of will to power, and eternal recurrence are downplayed in Anglo-American treatments, in favor of bringing out more traditional sorts of philosophical problems such as truth and knowledge, values and morality, and human consciousness. Nietzsche reception in the United States has been determined by a unique set of circumstances, as portrayed by Schacht (1995) and others. A very early stage of that reception is stained by the Nazi-misappropriation of Nietzsche, which popular American audiences were prepared to accept uncritically due on the one hand to their initial impression of Nietzsche as an enemy of Christianity who ultimately went insane and on the other hand to their lack of familiarity with Nietzsche’s work. The next stage of Nietzsche reception in the U.S. benefited greatly from Walter Kaufmann’s landmark treatment in the 1950’s. Kaufmann’s Nietzsche was certainly no fascist. Rather, he was a secular humanist and a forerunner of the existentialist movement enjoying a measure of popularity (and acceptability) on college campuses in the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Whereas European commentators such as Jaspers, Löwith, Bataille, and even Heidegger had been busy in the 1930’s “marshalling” Nietzsche (as Jaspers described it) against the National Socialists, in the U.S. it was left to Kaufmann and others in the 1950’s to successfully refute the image of Nietzsche as a Nazi-prototype. So successful was Kaufmann in this regard, that Anglo-American readers had difficulty seeing Nietzsche in any other light, and philosophers who found existentialism shallow regarded Nietzsche with the same disdain. This image of Nietzsche was corrected, somewhat, by Danto’s Nietzsche as Philosopher , which attempted to cast Nietzsche as a forerunner to analytic philosophy , although doubts about Nietzsche’s suitability for this role surely remain even today. To the extent that Danto succeeded in the 1970’s in reshaping philosophical discussions regarding Nietzsche, a new difficulty emerged, related generally to a tension in the world of Anglo-American philosophy between Analytic and Continental approaches to the discipline. In such a light, Schacht sees his work on Nietzsche as an attempt to bridge this institutional divide, as do other Anglo-American readers. The work of Rorty may certainly be characterized in this manner. Despite these attempts, tensions remain between Anglo-American readers who cultivate a neo-pragmatic version of Nietzsche and those who, by comparison, seem too comfortable accepting uncritically the problematic aspects of the Continental interpretation.

In most cases, interpretations of Nietzsche’s thought, and what is taken to be most significant about it, when not directed solely by external considerations, will be determined by the texts in Nietzsche’s corpus given priority and by a decision regarding Nietzsche’s overall coherence, as concerns any given issue, throughout the trajectory of his intellectual development.

9. References and Further Reading

A. nietzsche’s collected works in german.

b. Nietzsche’s Major Works Available in English

Most of Nietzsche’s major works were published during his lifetime and are now available to English readers in competing translations. The following list is by no means exhaustive.

c. Important Works Available in English from Nietzsche’s Nachlass

Nietzsche’s Nachlass contains several developed essays and an overwhelming number of fragments, sketches of outlines, and aphorisms, some in thematically related successions. A number of these writings are available to English readers, and a few are accessible in a variety of editions, either as supplements to the major works or as part of assorted critical editions. The following list offers a sample of these writings.

d. Biographies

A firsthand and secondhand biographical narrative may be followed in the collected letters of Nietzsche and his associates:

The following list includes a few of the most well known biographies in English.

e. Commentaries and Scholarly Researches

Hollingdale once wrote that Nietzsche anticipated what would soon become “part of the consciousness of every thinking person” living in the twentieth century and, no doubt, beyond. During the last forty years, Nietzsche scholarship has generated a considerable amount of commentary and research, and some of the most important of these texts were produced by the twentieth century’s most significant thinkers. Even so, the work of elucidating Nietzsche’s thought seems unfinished. The following list is by no means comprehensive, nor does it purport to represent all of the major themes prevalent in Nietzsche scholarship today. It is designed for the reader seeking to learn more about the intellectual history of Nietzsche reception in the twentieth century.

f. Academic Journals in Nietzsche Studies

In addition to a typically large number full-length manuscripts on Nietzsche published every year, scholarly works in English may be found in general, academic periodicals focused on Continental philosophy, ethical theory, critical theory, the history of ideas and similar themes. In addition, some major journals are devoted entirely to Nietzsche and aligned topics. Related both to the issue of orthodoxy and to the backlash against multiplicity in Nietzsche interpretation, the value of having so many outlets available for Nietzsche commentators has even been questioned. The following journals are devoted specifically to Nietzsche studies.

Author Information

Dale Wilkerson Email: [email protected] University of Texas Rio Grande Valley U. S. A.

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GREAT THINKERS Friedrich Nietzsche

bibliography nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844, on the forty-ninth birthday of his namesake, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, in the small German village of Röcken bei Lützen, southwest of Leipzig. Nietzsche was descended from Lutheran ministers; his paternal grandfather, Friedrich August Ludwig Nietzsche, was a distinguished Protestant scholar. When Nietzsche was five years old, his father, Karl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813–49), died, and his two-year- old brother, Ludwig Joseph, died six months later. Upon their death, the family moved to Naumberg an der Saale, where Nietzsche lived with his mother, Franziska, his grandmother, Erdmuthe, his father’s two sisters, Auguste and Rosalie, and his younger sister, Therese Elisabeth Alexandria. Near Naumberg, from the ages of 14 to 19 (1858–64), Nietzsche prepared for university as a student at the esteemed boarding school Schulpforta. Its alumni include Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814) and Nietzsche’s lifelong friend Paul Deussen (1845–1919), who became a famous Orientalist. In his student years, Nietzsche was known for his dedication to music and literature. He came to know Richard Wagner’s music from the pages of the Zeitschrift für Musik . His reading in those years included the poetry and romantic writings of Friedrich Hölderlin and Jean-Paul Richter, and the controversial Life of Jesus Critically Examined ( Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet , 1835) by David Strauss.

After graduation, Nietzsche matriculated at the University of Bonn (1864) to pursue studies in theology and philology, eventually settling on a course of philological studies centering on classical and biblical texts. At Bonn he followed the lectures of Otto Jahn, known for his biography of Mozart and a student of Karl Lachmann, who was famous for his studies of Lucretius. In addition, Nietzsche attended the lectures of the classics scholar Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, who was known for his work on the Roman comic Plautus. Nietzsche followed Ritschl to the University of Leipzig in 1865, where he befriended his fellow philologist Erwin Rohde.

While in Leipzig, Nietzsche began to establish his own academic reputation with essays on the sixth-century Greek poets Theognis and Simonides, as well as on Aristotle . In 1865 Nietzsche discovered Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation (1818). In addition to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche studied F. A. Lange’s History of Materialism and Critique of Its Present Significance (1866).

Nietzsche began his mandatory military service in 1867. Assigned to an equestrian field artillery regimen near Naumberg, he suffered a serious chest injury while attempting to leap-mount the saddle. While he was on sick leave, his chest wound festered, so he returned to the University of Leipzig. Never in outstanding health, further complications arose from Nietzsche’s August-October 1870 service as a 25-year-old hospital attendant during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). He witnessed the traumatic effects of battle, took close care of wounded soldiers, and contracted diphtheria and dysentery.

In 1868, he met the composer Richard Wagner (1813–83) at the house of the composer’s sister. Wagner’s sister was married to Hermann Brockhaus, who had published an edition of the Zoroastrian text, Vendidad Sade , whose prophet was Zarathustra (Zoroaster). Wagner, like Nietzsche, was a great Schopenhauer enthusiast. Nietzsche, who had been composing piano, choral and orchestral music since he was a teen, was drawn to the musical genius and magnetic personality of the already influential Wagner. The Wagner-Nietzsche relationship had a profound effect on Nietzsche. In 1869, he noted that the friendship with Wagner was “the greatest achievement” of his life. Nietzsche reminisced in 1882 that the days with Wagner were the best in his life.

Ritschl recommended the 24-year-old Nietzsche for a position in classical philology at the University of Basel, which he assumed in 1869. While there, he published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872). Wagner loved it and lavished admiring praise on it, but the great German philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff was not so generous. He penned the authoritative critical review, which had an adverse effect both on the reception of the book and on Nietzsche. Wilamowitz-Möllendorff went so far as to refer to Nietzsche as a disgrace to their alma mater, Schulpforta, and memorably recommended that rather than philology, Nietzsche should instead “gather tigers and panthers about his knees, but not the youth of Germany,” so prone to prophecy, soothsaying, exaggeration and histrionics free of any historical sense was his writing. (Nietzsche would later repay the “compliment” thirteen years later, in the final scene of his great prose-poem Thus Spoke Zarathustra , with its lion warmly nuzzling Zarathustra’s knees: his audience was not the already lost university professoriat.)

During his Swiss period, between 1872 and 1879, Nietzsche frequented Wagner’s new Bayreuth home and published a series of four studies critical of modern German culture: the Untimely Meditations (1873–76). The series was devoted to David Strauss, the historian of religion; the problem of historicism and historiography; Schopenhauer; and Wagner.

In 1878 Nietzsche broke with Wagner and published Human, All-Too-Human , which marked a turn in style and analysis and powerfully attacked his former friend, whom he identified in the work only as “the artist.” By June 1879, Nietzsche’s deteriorating health led to his resignation from the university post—which he had held for ten years—at the age of 34. From 1880 until his collapse in 1889, Nietzsche led the nomadic life of a stateless person. His peregrinations circled between his mother’s home in Naumberg, winters in Nice, and summers in Sils-Maria, as well as Leipzig, Turin, Genoa, Recoaro, Messina, Rapallo, Florence, Venice, and Rome. He never stayed in one place for more than several months at a time. In 1882, while in Rome, Nietzsche met and fell in love with Lou von Salomé, a 21-year-old Russian woman who was studying philosophy and theology in Zurich. She rejected Nietzsche’s advances in favor of those of his friend Paul Rée.

It was during this wandering period that Nietzsche composed his greatest works: Daybreak (1881), The Gay Science (1882/1887), Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883–85), Beyond Good and Evil (1886), and On the Genealogy of Morals (1887). And in his final year: The Case of Wagner (1888), Twilight of the Idols (1888), The Antichrist (1888), Ecce Homo (1888), and Nietzsche Contra Wagner (1888). On January 3, 1889, while in Turin, Nietzsche had a breakdown, which left him incapacitated for the rest of his life. According to legend, upon witnessing the whipping of a horse at the Piazza Carlo Alberto, Nietzsche threw his arms around the horse’s neck and collapsed into insanity.

Throughout his productive life Nietzsche struggled to have his work published, confident that his books would have culturally transformative effects. While he did not live long enough to witness his fame, he did learn that his work was the subject of a series of lectures by Georg Morris Cohen Brandes, delivered at the University of Copenhagen in 1888.

Upon the death of his mother in 1897, under whose care Nietzsche was living, his sister Elisabeth—having just returned from Paraguay where she had labored with her husband, Bernhard Förster, to found an Aryan, anti-Semitic German colony called “Nueva Germania”—assumed responsibility for her brother. She moved both Nietzsche and his collected manuscripts to a large house in Weimar—the “Villa Silberblick”—where she received guests to study the Nietzsche archives, and to observe the now mad philosopher.

Nietzsche died on August 25, 1900, just shy of his fifty-sixth birthday, from pneumonia and a stroke. His body was buried in the family gravesite at the church in Röcken bei Lützen. The Nietzsche manuscripts were eventually moved to the Goethe and Schiller Archive in Weimar.

For more biographical information, see:

Robert Pippin’s   Introductions to Nietzsche , Cambridge: 2012.

Nietzsche: Time, Being and Becoming

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Encyclopedia Britannica

Friedrich Nietzsche summary

Justus of Ghent: Saint Augustine

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Friedrich Nietzsche , (born Oct. 15, 1844, Röcken, Saxony, Prussia—died Aug. 25, 1900, Weimar, Thuringian States), German-Swiss philosopher and writer, one of the most influential of modern thinkers. The son of a Lutheran pastor, he studied at Bonn and Leipzig and at age 24 became professor of Classical philology at the University of Basel. He became close to the older Richard Wagner , in whose operas he saw the potential for the revival of Western civilization, but broke with Wagner angrily in 1876. His Birth of Tragedy (1872) contained major insights into ancient Greek drama; like Untimely Meditations (1873), it is dominated by a Romantic perspective also influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer . Mental and physical problems forced him to leave his position in 1878, and he spent 10 years attempting to recover his health in various resorts while continuing to write prolifically. His works from Human, All Too Human (1878) to The Gay Science (1882) extol reason and science, experiment with literary genres, and express his emancipation from his earlier Romanticism. His mature writings, particularly Beyond Good and Evil (1886), A Genealogy of Morals (1887), and Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883–92), were preoccupied with the origin and function of values in human life. If, as he believed, life neither possesses nor lacks intrinsic value and yet is always being evaluated, then such evaluations can usefully be read as symptoms of the evaluator’s condition. He fulminated against Christianity and announced the death of God. His major breakdown in 1889 marked the virtual end of his productive life. He was revered by Adolf Hitler for his dislike of democracy and his heroic ideal of the Übermensch (Superman), though the Nazis perverted Nietzsche’s thought and ignored much in it that was hostile to their aims. His analyses of the root motives and values that underlie traditional Western religion, morality, and philosophy affected generations of theologians, philosophers, psychologists, poets, novelists, and playwrights.

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Nietzsche, Friedrich (1844–1900)

Nietzsche, friedrich (1844 – 1900).

Although trained as a philologist, Friedrich Nietzsche has been among the philosophers most influential upon European and North American culture and philosophy during the twentieth century. While he has always had an audience among writers, artists, and Germanists, through the first half of the twentieth century — and especially among philosophers — Nietzsche was read and discussed primarily by German philosophers, including Martin Heidegger , Karl Jaspers , and Karl L ö with. His criticisms of traditional philosophical positions, along with his often metaphorical and hyperbolic writing style, led to his being taken much less seriously by English-language philosophers. And Nietzsche's political views and the posthumous appropriation — many would argue misappropriation — of some of his ideas by thinkers associated with fascism and National Socialism (Nazism) led initially to a hostile response to his works among many British and French readers.

By the early 1960s, however, Nietzsche's fortunes had begun to change considerably. Anointed along with Marx and Freud as one of the three "masters of suspicion," Nietzsche's philosophical works found enthusiastic readers among those coming of age philosophically in the 1960s, and this — along with a new critical edition of his works and several generations of scholarly explication and analysis — resulted in Nietzsche being among the most widely read and known of Western philosophers by the end of the twentieth century.

Nietzsche was born October 15, 1844, in R ö cken, a small village in Prussian Saxony, on the birthday of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, after whom he was named by his father Karl Ludwig, 31, and his mother Franziska (n é e Oehler), 18. His father, as well as both of his grandfathers, were Lutheran ministers. In 1846, Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth was born, and two years later, his brother Joseph was born. The following years were difficult ones: in 1848, Nietzsche's father became seriously ill; he died on July 30, 1849, of what was diagnosed as "softening of the brain" (a frequent diagnostic notation for tertiary syphilis). The following year, Nietzsche's younger brother died; and in April 1850, Nietzsche's mother moved the household — which now included her two young children, as well as Nietzsche's paternal grandmother and her two sisters — to Naumberg, a much larger town of 15,000 people.

In 1858, Nietzsche was offered free admission to Pforta, the most prestigious high school in Germany, located only a few miles from Naumberg. He was an excellent student and graduated in 1864 with a thesis in Latin on the Greek poet Theognis. After graduation, he registered at the University of Bonn as a theology student, but quickly changed his focus to philology, as Bonn's department had a distinguished reputation grounded on the work of two professors: Otto Jahn (1813 – 1869) and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (1806 – 1876). There were, however, deep personal and professional disagreements between the two and when Ritschl decided to leave for the University at Leipzig, Nietzsche followed him there in 1865 and registered as a student of classical philology. Nietzsche soon became Ritschl's star pupil, and he was invited by Ritschl to publish an essay on Theognis in Das Rheinische Museum f ü r Philologie , which Ritschl edited. In addition to his work in philology, writing essays on Diogenes Laertius and Democritus, among others, three other events took place in Leipzig that would profoundly influence the rest of Nietzsche's life: his discovery of Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung ( The World as Will and Representation ) in 1865, of F. A. Lange's Geschichte des Materialismus ( History of Materialism ) in 1866, and in 1868, his meeting Richard Wagner , with whom he shared a love of music, of Schopenhauer, and a hope for the revitalization of European culture.

When a position at the University of Basel appeared in 1869, Ritschl gave an extraordinary recommendation for Nietzsche, who had not yet written a doctoral thesis, and Nietzsche was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at Basel in 1869 at the age of twenty-four. The University of Leipzig proceeded to confer the doctorate without either thesis or examination, and Nietzsche moved to Basel in April 1869. Basel offered him not only a university appointment but also easy access to the Wagner residence at Tribschen, which allowed Nietzsche to develop a close relationship with both Wagner and his wife Cosima, the daughter of Franz Liszt . While at Basel, Nietzsche lectured on Homer, Hesiod, Plato, Aristotle, the pre-Socratics, Diogenes Laertius , and classical rhetoric. He was becoming increasingly disengaged from philology, however, and spent much of his time working on the texts of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and thinking about broad cultural issues. These two features can be seen in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), which merged philosophical reflection with philological interpretation as it sought to frame Wagnerian opera as a way to recuperate what European culture had lost since the demise of ancient Greek tragedy. While Nietzsche thought his work would revolutionize the discipline of philology, it was poorly received and all but destroyed his professional standing as an academic philologist.

During the 1870s in Basel, Nietzsche became increasingly uncomfortable with Wagner and the Wagner circle at Tribschen and Bayreuth. While there is no question that The Birth of Tragedy proclaims Wagner's world-historical importance as a cultural phenomenon, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth , the fourth of his Untimely Meditations , is much more ambivalent. By 1878, Nietzsche had had enough of Wagner and among the reasons he offers subsequently to explain his break with Wagner are Wagner's turn to Christianity in Parsifal and his support for and association with political anti-Semitism. In 1879, Nietzsche resigned his chair at Basel because of the increasing severity of his health problems, and over the next ten years, he lived in several places in Europe, including Sils Maria, Switzerland, and Genoa and Turin, Italy. During these ten years, Nietzsche wrote ten books, living off a modest pension from the university, and he was plagued by constant and severe health problems. He suffered a total mental breakdown in Turin in January 1889, and after a brief stay at the psychiatric clinic run by Dr. Otto Binswanger in Jena, he spent the remaining years of his life under the care of his mother and then his sister until his death in Weimar on August 25, 1900.

No account of Nietzsche's life can avoid his health and his madness. Beginning in childhood, his health was poor. He was plagued by headaches that, as young as nine, kept him from school, and by age twelve, his eyes began to cause him serious problems. Throughout his life, his work habits were affected by the migraines that forced him to remain in darkened rooms, gastrointestinal problems, and limited eyesight that made reading at times painful and at times impossible. Not surprisingly, the themes of sickness, convalescence, and health, both metaphorically and literally, hold a central place in his philosophical reflections.

The question of his madness has been a focus of attention and speculation almost from its outbreak. What is clear is that on the morning of January 3, 1889, Nietzsche saw a horse being beaten by its coachman on a street in Turin, embraced the animal, and then collapsed. In the few days preceding and following this event, he sent letters to Jacob Burckhardt, Peter Gast, George Brandes, Cosima Wagner, and August Strindberg, among others, that, while at moments lucid and beautiful, are also clearly not the writings of a sane individual. While there has been much speculation as to the cause of Nietzsche's insanity, there is no conclusive evidence to support either of the two most common hypotheses: that he inherited syphilitic dementia from his father or he caught syphilis from prostitutes in a Leipzig brothel during his time as a student there. Recently, new research carried out by Dr. Leonard Sax, director of the Montgomery Center for Research in Child Development in Maryland and published in the Journal of Medical Biography , suggests that Nietzsche's symptomatology is consistent with cancer of the brain and in fact is not consistent with syphilis (based on the number of years Nietzsche remained alive following his breakdown). The syphilis story, it appears, can be traced to a book written by psychiatrist Wilhelm Lange-Eichbaum in 1946, Nietzsche: Krankheit und Wirkung , that sought to discredit Nietzsche, and this story was then adopted as fact by intellectuals who shared Lange-Eichbaum's politically motivated desire to destroy Nietzsche's reputation.

During the sixteen years of Nietzsche's productive life, he wrote eighteen books in addition to leaving an extensive correspondence and several thousand pages of unpublished writings. While there are some minor differences in the way his works are periodized by scholars, his writings tend to be divided into three periods: his early more scholarly, philological work written while teaching in Basel from 1872 – 76; his aphoristic texts, written between 1878 – 1882; and his mature works, which begin with Thus Spoke Zarathustra in 1883 and continue until his last works in 1888.

the basel writings

Nietzsche's early works, written while a professor of classical philology at the University of Basel, include The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music , and the four Untimely Meditations : Richard Strauss , Confessor and Writer ; On the Use and Disadvantage of History for Life ; Schopenhauer as Educator ; and Richard Wagner in Bayreuth . In addition to these published works, there are several unpublished works from this period that have attracted scholarly attention, the most important of which are the essays "On Truth and Lies in an Extra-moral Sense," "Homer's Contest," and "Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks."

First published in 1872, The Birth of Tragedy offers a theory of tragedy, a theory of art, and a proposal for cultural renewal. A second edition, published in 1886 with a new preface titled "Attempt at a Self-Criticism," and a new subtitle, "Hellenism or Pessimism," takes note of Nietzsche's move away from the Schopenhauerian sensibilities that marked this text by highlighting the opposition between Greek cheerfulness and Schopenhauerian pessimism. The Birth opens with Nietzsche's distinction between the Apollonian and Dionysian, which designates both forces of nature and basic artistic impulses. As forces of nature, the Apollonian names the principle of individuation that gives form to the chaos by isolating and distinguishing between things, whereas the Dionysian names the primal unity of all things in an endless play of forces of becoming. As artistic impulses, the Apollonian marks the world of beautiful illusions, whereas the Dionysian marks the sensual world of rapturous frenzy. Sculpture is the purest Apollonian art as a transfiguration of the real into a beautiful, illusory image, whereas music is the purest Dionysian art insofar as music is the process of change itself, with nothing that endures but the whole that survives each individual note's destroying what has come before it.

Nietzsche argues concerning Greek culture that when faced with the absurdity and horrible and terrifying aspects of existence, the Apollonian and Dionysian denote two opposing tendencies of human nature: to cover existence with beautiful illusions or to plunge into the absurdity and horror of existence and affirm it, as such, as a world of continual creation and destruction. From this comes his thesis about tragedy: Attic Tragedy — Sophocles and Aeschylus; Oedipus and Prometheus — manifests the pinnacle of Greek art as the perfect union of Dionysian joy and Apollonian illusion: It reflects both the Greek tragic wisdom that by accepting destruction as part of the great world-game, the tragic hero masters the cruelty of fate, and reveals the tragic Dionysian wisdom that the human spirit will not be broken by the pains and hardships of existence. This is the "metaphysical comfort" that tragedy leaves one with: "that life, despite all the changes in appearances, is at bottom indestructibly powerful and pleasurable" ( § 7). This tragic insight, which gave birth to Attic Tragedy, was, according to Nietzsche, destroyed by Socrates and his tragedian spokesman Euripides, for whom in order to be beautiful, everything had to be intelligible. Much of Nietzsche's Birth is spent analyzing the death of tragedy at the hands of Socrates and Euripides, and the anticipation of its rebirth in Wagnerian opera.

Nietzsche's four Untimely Meditations were published between 1873 and 1876. Originally planned as a series of thirteen volumes of cultural criticism, Nietzsche only published four (though he completed a substantial amount of work on a fifth volume on academic philology, "Wir Philologen"). In David Strauss, the Confessor and Writer (1873), Nietzsche criticizes Strauss, a Hegelian and author of The Life of Jesus (1835) and the then (1870s) popular work The Old and New Faith , for his smugness and the ease with which he dispenses with Christian doctrine. Strauss is also treated as representative of German popular culture, pleased with itself and its cultural "superiority" following Prussia's victory in the Franco-Prussian war, and Nietzsche spends much of the text challenging the Bildungsphilister or "cultural philistines" who mistake their "popular" culture for "genuine" culture. Because of Strauss's popularity, this was one of Nietzsche's most popular works, which although often critically reviewed was widely read.

On the Use and Disadvantage of History for Life (1873) has been the most widely discussed of the four meditations, although it was the least successful in its day. Taking as his critical foil Eduard von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious (1869), Nietzsche challenges the neo-Hegelian historicist tendency to valorize the present as the goal toward which history had been teleologically directed. While attacking the high value placed upon history in contemporary German culture and education, Nietzsche offers his tripartite account of historical scholarship — antiquarian, monumental, and critical — and offers an early version of what later became his genealogical method of examining the past in order to better understand the present.

Schopenhauer as Educator (1874), which Nietzsche later came to realize should have been called "Nietzsche as Educator," offers an early account of the exemplary individual engaged in a project of self-perfection. One finds relatively little comment in this text about Schopenhauer's philosophical views, about which Nietzsche had, by the time of its writing, come to question. Instead, one finds Nietzsche discussing Schopenhauer as an exemplary philosopher who willingly suffers in pursuit of the truth. It is, then, not Schopenhauer's philosophy but the Schopenhauerian image of man that educates, and Nietzsche's third meditation is one of his most personal books in providing several comments that describe the exemplary individual that Nietzsche himself wanted to become.

That Richard Wagner in Bayreuth (1876) came to be published at all is due largely to Nietzsche's friend Heinrich K ö selitz ("Peter Gast," 1854 – 1918). Begun in 1874, Nietzsche's adoration of Wagner began to fade in 1874 – 75 and he abandoned the project in 1875. Gast read the unfinished manuscript early in 1876 and persuaded Nietzsche first to complete the manuscript as a gift to Wagner for his birthday (May 22), and Nietzsche subsequently decided to publish the volume as the fourth Untimely Meditation , presenting it to Wagner in August during the first festival at Bayreuth. Although on the surface an homage to Wagner, with its liberal quotation and paraphrase from Wagner's own writings, the text also suggests that Wagner and his circle may themselves be "cultural philistines" who are failing to live up to the cultural and aesthetic ideals that Wagner's writings proposed. While important in terms of understanding Nietzsche's ambivalence toward Wagner during this period, and offering several insightful comments on art, culture, language, and science, this volume stands as perhaps Nietzsche's least popular and least read work.

In addition to these five published works, Nietzsche also left a number of unpublished essays and fragments from this period. Of these, three are of particular significance: "On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense" (1873), in which he offers a tropological account of the origins of knowledge as grounded in the fundamental human drive toward the formation of metaphors; "Homer's Contest" (1872), in which he discusses the role of the agon or competition in Greek culture and democracy; and "Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks" (1873), in which he offers some of his most sustained commentary on the major pre-Socratic philosophers, including Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaximander, and Anaxagoras.

aphoristic texts

Between 1878 and 1882, Nietzsche wrote five works that, on the back cover of the final one, he noted as having a common goal: "to erect a new image and ideal of the free spirit." Motivated in part by his dissatisfaction with Wagner, he turned in these works against art, but more importantly, these works display a sympathy toward science as a legitimate source of truth and knowledge that has led some to refer to the works of this middle period as Nietzsche's "positivistic" works. These works also shared a common style, that of the aphorism, which Nietzsche adopts in part as a way to mark his antipathy to the German philosophical tradition (Kant, Hegel) and his sympathy to French moral psychologists such as La Rochefoucauld, Montaigne, and Chamfort, whose aphoristic works he was then reading with his new friend Paul R é e (1849 – 1901).

In each of his aphoristic works, although themselves divided into chapters or parts, Nietzsche numbers his paragraphs sequentially from beginning to end. Some of these paragraphs are several pages long, and others are as short as a single sentence. The first of these works was Human, All Too Human (1878). Dedicated to Voltaire on the centenary of his death and subtitled "A Book for Free Spirits," it surveys a full range of philosophical topics, including metaphysics, epistemology, morality, religion, science, art and literature, culture, society, the family, and the state. In addition to being a public announcement of his break with Wagner, this volume also marked a break with the style of his earlier writings, and the multiplicity of authorial voices that speak through the 638 aphorisms are the first published expression of Nietzsche's perspectivist approach. Human, All Too Human was followed by two sequels, Mixed Opinions and Maxims (1879) and The Wanderer and His Shadow (1880), which each offer a collection of aphorisms on a variety of topics that have no apparent organizational structure, and were subsequently published together in 1886 as Volume Two of Human, All Too Human .

Unlike his earlier aphoristic works, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (1881) remains relatively focused on the single topic of morality and the various themes that moral theorists typically address: moral judgment, moral psychology, moral values, the emotions, the virtues, and so on. It is an important text because it offers an early version of his critique of morality that anticipates many of the ideas that will receive extensive discussion in Nietzsche's later works, especially as concerns the origins of morality in general and some of the Western philosophical and religious traditions' privileged moral values in particular. In Human, All Too Human , one glimpses Nietzsche's first explorations into a naturalistic approach to ethics; in Daybreak , one finds Nietzsche much more committed to the idea that our moral values have their genesis in our biological and psychological needs.

The Gay Science (1882, 1887) is clearly the most significant work of this middle period, both in bringing to completion the series devoted to the free spirit and in being the text in which Nietzsche first formulates two of his most famous themes: the death of God ( § 125, "The Madman") and the eternal recurrence ( § 341: "The Greatest Weight"). While sharing the aphoristic style with the other works of this period, The Gay Science stands out in terms of its consistency with the themes that will be expressed in his subsequent writings. It stands out as well in terms of the internal coherence between aphorisms: Where the organization among the various aphorisms in his preceding four books often seems unclear if not nonexistent, there is often in The Gay Science a development from the topic of one aphorism to the next that rewards a careful attention to their sequence.

A case in point is the last three sections of Part Four — the last three sections of the first edition — in which Nietzsche moves from "The Dying Socrates" ( § 340), where Socrates, on his deathbed, discloses his true belief that existence is a disease; to "The Greatest Weight" ( § 341), in which Nietzsche first introduces the eternal recurrence through the voice of a demon, echoing Socrates's daimon , and suggests that contrary to Socrates's judgment, life might be affirmed; to Incipit Tragoedia ( § 342; "The Tragedy Begins"), which is identical to the first section of the Prologue of Nietzsche's next book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra , thus introducing Zarathustra as a teacher with an alternative to the moral teachings of Socrates, Kant, and Christianity. In 1887, Nietzsche published a second edition of The Gay Science , now with a new preface, an appendix of "Songs of Prince Vogelfrei," and a fifth book that offers some of Nietzsche's most sophisticated reflections on questions of language, consciousness, science, morality, religion, and art. Although appended to this earlier work, the fifth book really belongs to Nietzsche's "mature" period, in which he has fully committed to the perspectivist and constructivist accounts of knowledge.

mature period: transvaluation of all values

The texts of Nietzsche's mature period, written from 1883 to 1888, include those for which Nietzsche as a philosopher is best known: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil , and On the Genealogy of Morals . In addition to these works, he also wrote five books in 1888: two books on Wagner — The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche contra Wagner — Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist , and Ecce Homo , an autobiography and appraisal of his works, which was published posthumously in 1908.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra , Nietzsche offers the fictional narrative of Zarathustra, his image of the yes-saying spirit, who offers an alternative to the messages of the New Testament . Intentionally parodying the Gospels and, to some extent, the life of Jesus, Zarathustra opens by taking note of the death of God and subsequently offers his alternative teachings concerning the transvaluation of all values in which the values of this world, the body, self-overcoming, and creativity are all affirmed. Within the beautiful prose of this work, one can find all of Nietzsche's major themes discussed and, in particular, three of Nietzsche's most well-known themes find their primary expressions among his published works here: the Ü bermensch or overhuman (man is something to be overcome), the eternal recurrence (standing at the gateway of the moment — the present — two paths confront human beings, one forward in time, one backward, each infinite. And then each person must ask him- or herself: Must not all things that can happen have already happened and will they not continue to happen? Is not everyone entangled in a complex causal network that cannot be changed and that recurs eternally, in the identical form?), and the will to power (the metaphysical principle that animates all life).

While Thus Spoke Zarathustra was the work that first attracted attention to Nietzsche as a philosopher, and it had a profound influence on the existentialist interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy, it is on the basis of his next two books, Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morals , that Nietzsche's reputation as a major philosopher resides. In the nine chapters of Beyond Good and Evil , Nietzsche offers his clearest criticisms of many central themes in the history of philosophy ( free will , the Cartesian ego, the representational model of knowledge, idealism, realism, reason vs. instinct, Kant's transcendental philosophy). He also offers some of his most striking criticisms of religion, of morality ( § 260 first introduces the distinction between master morality and slave morality), of nationalism, and provides his clearest expression of a philosophy of power ( § 13: "A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength.").

Beyond Good and Evil also offers Nietzsche's most sustained defense of perspectivism and his most serious questioning of the value of truth. The text opens with a preface that places truth, aligned with Plato, Christianity ("Platonism for the people"), and dogmatism, in contrast to perspective, and from there moves in Part One — "On the Prejudices of Philosophers" — to question the value of truth as well as the value of many of the central ideas, presumed to be true, of past philosophers, including Plato's Forms, Kant's thing-in-itself, Descartes's ego, and Schopenhauer's will. Throughout his analysis, Nietzsche suggests that the question that should be asked, when considering these philosophical articles of faith is not "Are they true?" but "Why is belief in their truth necessary?"

On the Genealogy of Morals offers Nietzsche's most sustained and powerful account of the origin and value of morality. The work itself unfolds in three carefully constructed essays. In the first, Nietzsche distinguishes between two moral frameworks: the noble morality that is based on distinguishing "good and bad," and the slave morality that makes judgments of "good and evil." The central idea of this first essay, Nietzsche writes, is his discovery of the birth of Christianity out of the slave's spirit of ressentiment . The second essay traces the moral concept guilt ( Schuld ) back to its origins in the economic relation of creditor and debtor, and offers an interpretation of the psychology of conscience, not as the voice of God in man, but as the instinct of cruelty that turns back on itself after it can no longer discharge itself externally.

In the third essay, Nietzsche inquires into the meaning of the ascetic ideal and, following an examination of the appearances of the ascetic ideal in philosophy, religion, art, morality, and science, discovers that the ascetic ideal is the harmful ideal par excellence. But the third essay also argues that the ascetic ideal has performed an essential, preservative function in that even though what the ascetic ideal has willed, throughout its long history, has in fact been imaginary (i.e., it has willed "nothing"), through its willing of nothingness, the will itself — that is, the ability to will — was saved. Nietzsche's genealogy of the ascetic will reveals that this will to nothingness, in the form of willing God or willing truth, while an aversion and hostility to life, was still a will that has preserved itself and has driven the deployment of reactive forces that is the history of the ascetic ideal. He offers, however, only tantalizing suggestions of a counter-will, a will to power that would no longer be a will to truth but would allow for the deployment of active forces that would make possible the overcoming of nihilism that has resulted from two thousand years of ascetic willing.

In 1888, the last year of his productive life, Nietzsche composed five short books. The first, The Case of Wagner , is Nietzsche's most sustained criticism of Wagner, and offers as well several insightful comments on art. Nietzsche describes Twilight of the Idols in letters on September 12 and 14, 1888, to his friends Peter Gast, Paul Deussen (1845 – 1919), and Franz Overbeck (1837 – 1905) as a "summary of my essential philosophical heterodoxies" ( Nietzsche Briefwechsel ), and this short text does indeed offer something of a survey of his basic themes while displaying his stylistic mastery, evidenced well in the title's play on Wagner's 1876 opera G ö ttend ä mmerung (Nietzsche's G ö tzen-D ä mmerung spoofing Wagner's "Twilight of the Gods"). Among the most interesting sections are his discussions of Socrates ("The Problem of Socrates") Kantian rationalism ("'Reason' in Philosophy"), philosophy ("Four Great Errors"), the influence of religion on morality ("Morality as anti-Nature"), and his highly condensed, six sentence history of Western philosophy and religion ("How the 'Real World' at last Became a Myth: History of an Error"), in which he moves from Plato to Christianity to Kant to positivism to the death of God and Nietzsche's own contributions of the free spirit and Zarathustra.

The Antichrist , which when published Nietzsche conceived, as he noted in the preface to Twilight , as the first volume of a longer work to be titled Transvaluation of All Values , is Nietzsche's most aggressive critique of Pauline Christianity. Ecce Homo , while completed in 1888, was withheld from publication by his sister Elizabeth until 1908. In it, Nietzsche offers a hyperbolic autobiographical and literary self-appraisal that only recently, with the increased attention to Nietzsche's writing style, has attracted the serious philosophical attention it deserves. Nietzsche's final published work, Nietzsche Contra Wagner , was dated Christmas 1888, less than two weeks before his collapse. Nietzsche's shortest work, he here reproduces with some minor emendations a selection of his earlier criticisms concerning Richard Wagner, thus making clear that the prosecution of Wagner in The Case of Wagner was not a late motif that Nietzsche arrived at only following Wagner's death.

No discussion of Nietzsche's work can fail to take account of his unpublished Nachlass of 1883 to 1888, in part because his sister published The Will to Power — a relatively small (slightly more than ten percent) and highly edited selection of these notes, first as approximately 400 sections in 1901, and in a second, expanded edition of 1067 sections in 1906 — as if it had been a text written by Nietzsche himself. There is no doubt that for several years Nietzsche considered publishing a major work with this title, but there is equally no doubt that he definitively abandoned this project well before his collapse. As a consequence, claims made by Elisabeth and others as to this work being Nietzsche's magnum opus clearly cannot be sustained.

Heidegger's claim that The Will to Power , by which Heidegger meant the entire 1883 to 1888 Nachlass and not just Elisabeth's edition, contained the essence of Nietzsche's philosophizing is a more difficult claim to refute, especially as it relates as much to Heidegger's own desire to situate Nietzsche as the culminating figure in the history of metaphysics. What is clear is that many of Nietzsche's comments on his so-called major themes — most importantly, the eternal recurrence, will to power, and the Ü bermensch — are found primarily in these unpublished notes and, were one to discount the unpublished notes as well as Nietzsche's fictionalized account in Thus Spoke Zarathustra , it would be difficult to justify any of these three themes as being a significant part of Nietzsche's published prose works. That said, there is much of interest in these published notes for the philosopher as well as the Nietzsche scholar. While some passages are rough, or simply notes to himself for future work, or ideas and thought-experiments that he played with and chose, quite consciously, not to publish, others may well be ideas that he was still actively working on when his productive life ended.

Of particular note in this regard are his comments on scientists and scientific texts, especially biological texts, that he was reading in the mid- to late-1880s. Nietzsche was during this period reading as much if not more in scientific texts than philosophical texts, and while his biologistic account of life makes its way into some passages in Beyond Good and Evil and elsewhere, the best evidence of his thinking on these issues remains to be read in the unpublished notes of the Nachlass .

Walter Kaufmann opened and closed his article on Nietzsche in the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy with allusions to Nietzsche's influence upon modern philosophy and literature. Yet Kaufmann could scarcely have imagined the explosion of interest in Nietzsche's works, particularly in philosophical circles, that began in the mid-sixties and still continues. Kaufmann's bibliography, a perspectival review to be sure, lists only two secondary works on Nietzsche written in English — his own Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (1950) and George A. Morgan's What Nietzsche Means (1941). But since 1967, almost two thousand volumes focused primarily on Nietzsche — more than half of them in English — have appeared in English, French, and German, and perhaps ten times that number of essays, articles, or book chapters have been published.

Charting the expanding horizons of Nietzsche's influence quickly becomes a sociological study of the dominant motifs of late twentieth-century culture, and surveying the influence within the narrower field of philosophical inquiry is equally complex. There may in fact be no philosopher whose works admit less happily to a canonical or consensus interpretation, a claim supported by the staggering diversity of interpretations of Nietzsche's philosophy that have appeared since 1967. Nevertheless, some general observations can be made concerning the range of these new interpretations.

One can locate at least three primary factors in the increased philosophical attention to Nietzsche over the past forty years. First is the tremendous influence of Martin Heidegger 's reading of Nietzsche. Published in Germany in 1960, translated into French in 1962 and into English between 1979 and 1987, Heidegger's overarching interpretation of Nietzsche as the culminating figure in the history of metaphysics inspired an enormous range of exegetical and critical response while leading several generations of philosophers and philosophy students back to read or re-read Nietzsche's texts.

A second reason for the increased attention by philosophers to Nietzsche can be located in the discovery of a "new Nietzsche" that emerged in conjunction with the rise of recent French philosophy. While most widely associated with Jacques Derrida and the deconstructionist attention to questions of textuality and the styles of philosophical discourse, Nietzsche's inclusion, along with Marx and Freud, as one of the three "masters of suspicion," and his importance in the philosophical works of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, have shown him to be an intellectual influence on much of what is called poststructuralist thought. And, as in the case of Heidegger, the popularity of poststructuralist French thought brought with it a renewed interest — among literary critics and theorists, historians, political theorists, and philosophers — in Nietzsche's thinking.

The third reason for the increased attention to Nietzsche concerns the transformation of philosophy within the anglo-American tradition. In the 1960s, Kaufmann's text, along with Arthur Danto's Nietzsche as Philosopher (1965), had first to justify Nietzsche as a philosopher whose ideas warranted serious philosophical consideration. As the scope of English-language philosophy has broadened, a distinctly anglo-American tradition of Nietzsche interpretation has appeared which is informed by the questions of ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology that occupy analytically trained philosophers.

This entry concludes with a brief survey of some of the main issues that have emerged in recent Nietzsche scholarship. To be sure, there is still much work offering interpretations of the classical Nietzschean themes: will to power, eternal recurrence, Ü bermensch , nihilism, perspectivism, and so on. But other issues have appeared as well. For example, an attention to questions of texts and textuality has played a role in much of the recent literature. It has become increasingly common to distinguish between Nietzsche's published texts and his unpublished notes, especially as concerns themes whose primary expression is to be found in the "book" constructed by his literary executors after his death and titled The Will to Power . One also finds an increasing tendency to read Nietzsche's texts as texts, following their internal development as opposed to simply viewing these texts as collections of remarks from which one can pick and choose the comments relevant to one's own argument. A third theme emerging from the recent interest in textuality is an attention to the various styles of Nietzsche's philosophical prose, in other words, an attention to his use of metaphor, to the literary character of much of his writing (in particular, Thus Spoke Zarathustra ), to the different genre of writing (aphorism, essay, polemic, poem, etc.), and to other issues characterized collectively as the "question of style."

A second range of topics within the recent Nietzsche literature addresses some of the classic questions of philosophy: Does Nietzsche have a "theory of truth"? Does he have a "theory of knowledge"? An "ontology"? Is Nietzsche a metaphysician in the way that Heidegger defines metaphysics? Is Nietzsche an ethical naturalist? Within these questions, a topic that continues to draw attention is the issue of self-reference; in other words, when Nietzsche makes claims (about truth, reality, being, subjectivity, etc.), do these claims refer or apply to or hold true for his own philosophical conclusions? The most obvious case where the question of self-reference arises concerns the question of truth and interpretation: if Nietzsche claims that "there is no Truth," or that "everything is an interpretation," are these claims put forward as "true"? If they are, then they appear to contradict themselves; but if they are not true, then why should we be interested in them? The issue has been extended beyond the confines of epistemology, however, and one finds discussions of the eternal recurrence or the Ü bermensch or the ascetic ideal in terms of the question of self-reference.

A third and final set of issues that warrants noting is the extension of Nietzschean themes into new areas not discussed, or only hinted at, in the earlier Nietzsche scholarship. Among the most important topics producing much recent scholarship are Nietzsche's influence on postmodernism, his position on "woman" and his relevance for feminism, and his political philosophy and impact on twentieth-century political and social movements.

"Some are born posthumously," Nietzsche wrote in 1888. "One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous," he claimed in Ecce Homo , at the beginning of a chapter titled "Why I am a Destiny?" One hundred years later, these remarks appear prophetic, and at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it would be difficult to find a philosopher whose influence on matters philosophical and cultural exceeds that of Nietzsche.

See also Anaxagoras of Clazomenae ; Anaximander ; Aristotle ; Burckhardt, Jakob ; Danto, Arthur ; Deleuze, Gilles ; Derrida, Jacques ; Descartes, Ren é ; Diogenes Laertius ; Existentialism ; Foucault, Michel ; Freud, Sigmund ; Hartmann, Eduard von ; Heidegger, Martin ; Heraclitus of Ephesus ; Homer ; Jaspers, Karl ; Kant, Immanuel ; La Rochefoucauld, Duc Fran ç ois de ; Leucippus and Democritus ; Marx, Karl ; Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de ; Parmenides of Elea ; Plato ; Pre-Socratic Philosophy ; Schopenhauer, Arthur ; Voltaire, Fran ç ois-Marie Arouet de .


Nietzsche's published works and selected english translations.

The definitive editions of Nietzsche's works as well as his letters and biography are the following:

Nietzsche Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe , edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1967ff. An English translation of the slightly abridged German critical edition Kritische Studienausgabe (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1980) was begun under the General Editorship of Ernst Behler for Stanford University Press. The General Editorship was subsequently taken over by Bernd Magnus, and now is under the control of Alan D. Schrift and Daniel W. Conway.

Nietzsche Briefwechsel: Kritische Gesamtausgabe , edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1975ff.

Janz, Curt Paul. Friedrich Nietzsche: Biographie , 3 vols. Munich: C. Hanser Verlag, 1978 – 1979.

There are many translations available of Nietzsche's works. What follows are the full German titles, with year of publication, and the best available English translations:

Die Geburt der Trag ö die aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872)

The Birth of Tragedy . Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York : Random House, 1967.

The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings , edited by Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs. Translated by Ronald Speirs. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

The Birth of Tragedy . Translated by Douglas Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Unzeitgem ä sse Betrachtungen : I. David Strauss, der Bekenner und Schriftsteller (1873); II. Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie f ü r das Leben (1873); III. Schopenhauer als Erzieher (1874); IV. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth (1876)

Untimely Meditations . Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Unmodern Observations , edited by William Arrowsmith. Translated by Herbert Golder, Gary Brown, and William Arrowsmith. New Haven , CT: Yale University Press, 1990. (Includes a translation of Wir Philologen [We classicists]).

Unfashionable Observations . Translated by Richard T. Gray. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995.

Menschliches, Allzumenschliches: Ein Buch f ü r freie Geister (1878); Menschliches, Allzumenschliches Vol. II; Vermischte Meinungen und Spruche (1879); Der Wanderer und sein Schatten (1880)

Human, All Too Human: A Book For Free Spirits . Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 2nd edition, 1996.

Human, All Too Human. Vol. One . Translated by Gary Handwerk. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Morgenr ö te: Gedanken ü ber die moralischen Vorurtheile (1881)

Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality . Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1982. 2nd edition, edited by Maudemarie Clark and Brian Leiter, 1997.

Die fr ö hliche Wissenschaft ("la gaya scienza") (1882, 1887)

The Gay Science . Translated by Walter Kaufman. New York : Vintage, 1974.

The Gay Science . Translated by Josefine Nauckhoff. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Also sprach Zarathustra: Eine Buch f ü r Alle und Keinen (1883 – 1885)

Thus Spoke Zarathustra . Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Viking Press, 1954.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra . Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1961.

Jenseits von Gut und B ö se: Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft (1886)

Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future . Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1966.

Beyond Good and Evil . Translated by Marion Faber and Robert C. Holub. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Beyond Good and Evil . Translated by Judith Norman. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Zur Genealogie der Moral: Eine Streitschrift (1887)

On the Genealogy of Morals . Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House, 1967.

On the Genealogy of Morality and Other Writings , edited by Keith Ansell-Pearson and Carol Diethe. Translated by Carol Diethe. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

On the Genealogy of Morals . Translated by Douglas Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

On the Genealogy of Morality: A Polemic . Translated by Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998.

G ö tzend ä mmerung: Oder wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert (1888)

Twilight of the Idols . Translated by Walter Kaufmann. In The Portable Nietzsche . New York: Viking Press, 1954.

Twilight of the Idols . Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1968.

Twilight of the Idols: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer . Translated by Duncan Large. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Der Antichrist (1888)

The Antichrist . Translated by Walter Kaufmann. In The Portable Nietzsche . New York: Viking Press, 1954.

The Anti-Christ . Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1968.

Nietzsche contra Wagner (1888)

Nietzsche Contra Wagner . Translated by Walter Kaufmann. In The Portable Nietzsche . New York: Viking Press, 1954.

Der Fall Wagner (1888)

The Case of Wagner . Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1967.

Ecce Homo: Wie man wird, was man ist (1888)

Ecce Homo . Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1967.

Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is . Translated by Duncan Large. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Der Wille zur Macht (1883 – 1888)

The Will to Power . Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House, 1967.

secondary works

Abel, Gunter. Nietzsche: Die Dynamik der Willen zur Macht und die ewige Wiederkehr . Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1984.

Allison, David, ed. The New Nietzsche . New York: Dell, 1979.

Allison, David. Reading the New Nietzsche . Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001.

Ansell-Pearson, Keith. An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker: The Perfect Nihilist . Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Ansell-Pearson, Keith. Nietzsche Contra Rousseau: A Study of Nietzsche's Moral and Political Thought . Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Babich, Babette E. Nietzsche's Philosophy of Science: Reflecting Science on the Ground of Art and Life . Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.

Bataille, Georges. Sur Nietzsche . Paris: Gallimard, 1945. Translated by Bruce Boone as On Nietzsche . New York: Paragon House, 1992.

Blondel, Eric. Nietzsche, le corps et la culture: La Philosophie comme g é n é alogie . Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1986. Translated by Sean Hand as Nietzsche, the Body and Culture . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

Breazeale, Daniel, ed. Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870's . Translated by Daniel Breazeale. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1979.

Clark, Maudemarie. Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy . Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Conway, Daniel W. Nietzsche's Dangerous Game: Philosophy in the Twilight of the Idols . Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Cox, Christoph. Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation . Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000

Danto, Arthur C. Nietzsche as Philosopher . New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche et la philosophie . Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1962. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson as Nietzsche and Philosophy . New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.

Derrida, Jacques. Eperons: Les Styles de Nietzsche . Paris: Flammarion, 1977. Translated by Barbara Harlow as Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.

Fink, Eugen. Nietzsches Philosophie . Stuttgart, Germany: Kohlhammer, 1968. Translated by Goetz Richter as Nietzsche's Philosophy . London: Continuum, 2003.

Gooding-Williams, Robert. Zarathustra's Dionysian Modernism . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Granier, Jean. Le probl è me de la v é rit é dans la philosophie de Nietzsche . Paris: É ditions du Seuil, 1966.

Hatab, Lawrence J. A Nietzschean Defense of Democracy: An Experiment in Postmodern Politics . Chicago: Open Court, 1995.

Hayman, Ronald. Nietzsche: A Critical Life . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Heidegger, Martin. Nietzsche. Band I-II . Pfullingen, Germany: Neske, 1961. Vol I: The Will to Power as Art . Translated by David Farrell Krell. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. Vol II: The Eternal Recurrence of the Same . Translated by David Farrell Krell. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1984. Vol. III: The Will to Power as Knowledge and as Metaphysics . Translated by Joan Stambaugh, David Farrell Krell, and Frank A. Capuzzi. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1987. Vol. IV: Nihilism . Translated by Frank A. Capuzzi. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.

Hollingdale, R. J. Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.

Jaspers, Karl. Nietzsche: Einf ü hrung in das Verst ä ndnis seines Philosophierens . Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1936. Translated by Charles F. Wallraff and Frederick J. Schmidtz as Nietzsche: An Introduction to the Understanding of his Philosophical Activity. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1965.

Kaufmann, Walter. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950.

Klossowski, Pierre. Nietzsche et la cercle vicieux . Paris: Mercure de France, 1969. Translated by Daniel W. Smith as Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Kofman, Sarah. Nietzsche et la m é taphore . Paris: Payot, 1972. Translated by Duncan Large as Nietzsche and Metaphor . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993.

Lampert, Laurence. Nietzsche's Teaching: An Interpretation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra . New Haven , CT: Yale University Press, 1986.

Lampert, Laurence. Nietzsche's Task: An Interpretation of Beyond Good and Evil . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

L ö with, Karl. Nietzsches Philosophie der ewigen Wiederkehr des Gleichen . Hamburg: Meiner, 1978. Translated by J. Harvey Lomax as Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same . Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.

Magnus, Bernd. Nietzsche's Existential Imperative . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.

Magnus, Bernd, et al. Nietzsche's Case: Philosophy And/As Literature . New York: Routledge, 1993.

Magnus, Bernd, and Kathleen M. Higgins, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche . Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

M ü ller-Lauter, Wolfgang Nietzsche: Seine Philosophie der Gegens ä tze und die Gegens ä tze seiner Philosophie . Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1971. Translated by David J. Parent as Nietzsche: His Philosophy of Contradictions and the Contradictions of His Philosophy . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Nehamas, Alexander. Nietzsche: Life as Literature . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Oliver, Kelly, and Marilyn Pearsall, eds. Feminist Interpretations of Friedrich Nietzsche . University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.

Parkes, Graham. Composing the Soul: Reaches of Nietzsche's Psychology . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Richardson, John. Nietzsche's New Darwinism . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Richardson, John. Nietzsche's System . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Roberts, Tyler T. Contesting Spirit: Nietzsche, Affirmation, Religion . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Schaberg, William H. The Nietzsche Canon: A Publication History and Bibliography . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Schacht, Richard. Making Sense of Nietzsche: Reflections Timely and Untimely . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.

Schacht, Richard. Nietzsche . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983.

Schacht, Richard, ed. Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality: Essays on Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Schrift, Alan D. Nietzsche and the Question of Interpretation: Between Hermeneutics and Deconstruction . New York: Routledge, 1990.

Schrift, Alan D. Nietzsche's French Legacy: A Genealogy of Poststructuralism . New York: Routledge, 1995.

Schrift, Alan D., ed. Why Nietzsche Still? Reflections on Drama, Culture, and Politics . Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Schutte, Ofelia. Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche Without Masks . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Sedgwick, Peter R., ed. Nietzsche: A Critical Reader . Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.

Shapiro, Gary. Alcyone: Nietzsche on Gifts, Noise and Women . Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

Shapiro, Gary. Nietzschean Narratives . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

Small, Robin. Nietzsche in Context . Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2001.

Solomon, Robert C., and Kathleen M. Higgins. Reading Nietzsche . New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Staten, Henry. Nietzsche's Voice . Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Strong, Tracy B. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975. Rev. ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

Thiele, Leslie Paul. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul: A Study of Heroic Individualism . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Tongeren, Paul van. Reinterpreting Modern Culture: An Introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche's Philosophy . West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2000.

Warren, Mark. Nietzsche and Political Thought . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988.

Alan D. Schrift (2005)

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These are the sources and citations used to research Nietzsche. This bibliography was generated on Cite This For Me on Thursday, May 14, 2015

Brace, R. A.

Friedrich nietzsche.

In-text: (Brace, 2006)

Your Bibliography: Brace, R., 2006. Friedrich Nietzsche . [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 11 May 2015].

bibliography nietzsche

Cybulska, E.

Nietzsche’s Übermensch: a hero of our time | issue 93 | philosophy now.

In-text: (Cybulska, n.d.)

Your Bibliography: Cybulska, E., n.d. Nietzsche’s Übermensch: A Hero of Our Time? | Issue 93 | Philosophy Now . [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 May 2015].

Kershaw, T.

Friedrich nietzsche’s religion and political views.

In-text: (Kershaw, 2012)

Your Bibliography: Kershaw, T., 2012. Friedrich Nietzsche’s Religion and Political Views . [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 May 2015].

Nietzsche, F.

In-text: (Nietzsche, 1882)

Your Bibliography: Nietzsche, F., 1882. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 May 2015].

The Gay Science

Your Bibliography: Nietzsche, F., 1882. The Gay Science . p.142.

Nietzsche, F. W., Ludovici, A. M., Nietzsche, F. W. and Nietzsche, F. W.

Twilight of the idols, 2007 - wordsworth editions - ware.

In-text: (Nietzsche, Ludovici, Nietzsche and Nietzsche, 2007)

Your Bibliography: Nietzsche, F., Ludovici, A., Nietzsche, F. and Nietzsche, F., 2007. Twilight of the idols . Ware: Wordsworth Editions.

Friedrich Nietzsche: 'God is Dead' { Philosophy Index }

In-text: (Friedrich Nietzsche: 'God is Dead' { Philosophy Index }, 2013)

Your Bibliography: 2013. Friedrich Nietzsche: 'God is Dead' { Philosophy Index } . [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 May 2015].

Nihilism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

In-text: (Pratt, 2015)

Your Bibliography: Pratt, A., 2015. Nihilism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy . [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 May 2015].

Ricky Gervais: Hitler and Nietzsche

2013 -

In-text: (Ricky Gervais: Hitler and Nietzsche, 2013)

Your Bibliography: Ricky Gervais: Hitler and Nietzsche . 2013. [video]

In-text: (Ubermensch, 2015)

Your Bibliography: Urban Dictionary. 2015. Ubermensch . [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 May 2015].

Voelker, D. J.

Another crucifixion.

In-text: (Voelker, 2015)

Your Bibliography: Voelker, D., 2015. Another Crucifixion . [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 11 May 2015].

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)

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Friedrich Nietzsche was born in the small town of Röcken, Germany, in 1844. His father, a Lutheran pastor, died when Nietzsche was only four years old, and Nietzsche grew up in a family consisting of his mother, grandmother, two aunts, and a younger sister. He attended a top boarding school and studied philology at the universities of Bonn and Leipzig. He was such an exceptional student that he was offered an academic position at the University of Basel at the age of twenty-four, before he had even completed his doctorate. Around this time, he also met the great composer Richard Wagner, whom he idolized and with whom he became close friends.

Nietzsche volunteered to serve as a medical orderly in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and returned to Basel after having contracted dysentery, diphtheria, and perhaps syphilis. Health problems would plague him for the rest of his life. In 1872, he published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, which met with controversy due to its unconventional style. He continued teaching at Basel until 1879, but his interest in philology waned in favor of philosophical interests. In the late 1870s, Nietzsche broke with Wagner, disgusted by the cult of personality surrounding Wagner as well as with Wagner’s German nationalism and anti-Semitism.

Between 1879 and 1889, Nietzsche lived mostly in Switzerland and Italy, subsisting on a small university pension and writing furiously despite his declining health. He suffered constant migraines, insomnia, and indigestion, such that he could only read and write for a few hours each day, and his eyesight became so poor that he was partially blind. Despite these setbacks, Nietzsche wrote eleven books and thousands of pages of notebook jottings in the next ten years. Throughout this time, Nietzsche’s books sold very poorly, and he had only a handful of admirers.

In January 1889, Nietzsche saw a man beating his horse on the street in Turin and rushed to intervene. He collapsed in the street and never regained his sanity. He spent the last eleven years of his life as a vegetable, oblivious to his surroundings, and died in August 1900.

During his insanity, Nietzsche was cared for by his half sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. She was married to Bernhard Förster, a prominent German nationalist and anti-Semite, whose political views she shared. Elisabeth published Nietzsche’s writings selectively and used her close relationship with her brother to promote him as a kind of proto-Nazi saint. Though Nietzsche was unaware of it, he became suddenly famous during the 1890 s, and by the time of his death he was a national celebrity. Due to his sister’s influence, however, he was frequently and wrongly associated with the politics of the Nazi party, and it was only after the Second World War that his reputation was cleared.

Nietzsche lived during a time of rising German nationalism. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 – 1 , Germany was united for the first time as a single empire. The brutish nationalism and anti-Semitism that Nietzsche derides in his writings are precisely the sentiments that led Germany into two world wars.

Nietzsche also lived at a time when the scientific spirit was triumphant in the West. Physicists of the late nineteenth century were confident that they had essentially settled all the major questions their discipline had to offer, the social sciences were coming into their own, and Darwin’s theory of evolution was making great waves in all variety of fields.

Despite the optimism felt by his countrymen at Germany’s rise as a world power and the triumph of the sciences, Nietzsche characterized his age as nihilistic. The scientific worldview does not require God, and while most Europeans were still practicing Christians, Nietzsche recognized that “God is dead”: Christianity had given way to science as the primary means of making sense of the world. However, science is avowedly value-neutral: it had replaced Christianity without introducing any new values. As a result, Nietzsche saw a great void opening up in the realm of human values, which was in danger of being filled by the kind of narrow-minded nationalism that indeed led to two world wars. Much of his writing is concerned with this crisis in values that most of his contemporaries did not even recognize.

As a trained philologist, Nietzsche knew the Greek and Roman classics backward and forward. However, his philosophical tastes were atypical. He rarely mentions Aristotle, and he is mostly contemptuous of Plato. His attitude toward Socrates is more complex but mostly negative. Instead, he prefers Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic philosopher famous for the doctrine that one cannot step into the same river twice. Heraclitus contends that everything is in flux, such that we cannot make any fixed claims about any aspect of reality.

Nietzsche first became fascinated by philosophy when he read Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World As Will and Representation. Schopenhauer argues that reality has two different aspects. The first is the “world as representation,” which is the world as it appears to the senses. The second is the “world as will,” which lies behind the senses. According to Schopenhauer, the world as will is the real world, and we must look behind appearances to see the wills at work in nature. Schopenhauer was also the first major Western philosopher to take seriously the philosophies of India, and it is thanks to Schopenhauer that we find Nietzsche conversant in the main ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism.

While Nietzsche drew some influence from thinkers, such as Heraclitus and Schopenhauer, and drew much negative influence from many other thinkers, most notably Plato, Kant, and the Christian tradition, he does not belong to any tradition. Nietzsche is as much of an oddball as can be found among the great philosophers.

His peculiarities have not kept him from being tremendously influential in the twentieth century, however. Those philosophers who stand in his debt read as a “who’s who” of twentieth-century continental philosophy: Jaspers, Heidegger, Sartre, Derrida, and Foucault, just to name a few. More than perhaps any other philosopher, Nietzsche has had a profound impact on literature and other fields. Joyce, Yeats, Freud, Shaw, and Thomas Mann are only some of the major thinkers deeply indebted to Nietzsche. In his preface to The Antichrist , Nietzsche writes, “Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me. Some are born posthumously.” Given that Nietzsche was largely ignored while he wrote, and given his tremendous influence on twentieth-century thought, we can only conclude that Nietzsche was right on that count, and that he was, in a sense, born posthumously.

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  1. Friedrich Nietzsche

    Friedrich Nietzsche See all media Born: October 15, 1844 Germany Died: August 25, 1900 (aged 55) Weimar Germany Notable Works: "Beyond Good and Evil" "Ecce Homo" "Human, All-Too-Human" "On the Genealogy of Morals" "The Birth of Tragedy" "The Gay Science" "The Will to Power" "Thus Spake Zarathustra" "Untimely Meditations" ... (Show more)

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    Friedrich Nietzsche bibliography This is a list of writings and other compositions by Friedrich Nietzsche . Works by Nietzsche [ edit] Writings and philosophy [ edit] Aus meinem Leben, 1858 (From My Life) Über Musik, 1858 (On Music) Napoleon III als Praesident, 1862 (Napoleon III as President) Fatum und Geschichte, 1862 (Fate and History)

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    Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher and cultural critic who published intensively in the 1870s and 1880s. He is famous for uncompromising criticisms of traditional European morality and religion, as well as of conventional philosophical ideas and social and political pieties associated with modernity.

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    Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and down-to-earth realities, rather than those situated in a world beyond.

  5. Friedrich Nietzsche

    Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche ( / ˈniːtʃə, - tʃi /; [10] German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈniːtʃə] ( listen) or [ˈniːtsʃə]; [11] [12] 15 October 1844 - 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher, prose poet, cultural critic, philologist, and composer whose work has exerted a profound influence on contemporary philosophy.

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    Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is one of the major figures of 19th-century European philosophy, whose influence on 20th-century thought was rivaled only by Marx. Trained as a classical scholar of antiquity, he was forced by ill health into an early retirement from his academic career while still in his thirties.

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    The International Nietzsche Bibliography, published in 1968, listed over 4,500 entries in 27 languages; since then more than 3,000 books on Nietzsche have been published. The Weimarer Nietzsche-Bibliographie, published 2000-2002, includes over 20,000 entries in 42 languages. Initially, Nietzsche's influence was primarily literary and artistic.

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    Who Was Friedrich Nietzsche? In his brilliant but relatively brief career, Friedrich Nietzsche published numerous major works of philosophy, including Twilight of the Idols and Thus Spoke...

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    From the Publisher: "The Flame of Eternity provides a reexamination and new interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy and the central role that the concepts of eternity and time, as he understood them, played in it. According to Krzysztof… More Introductions to Nietzsche - Pippin, Robert. Introductions to Nietzsche.

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    PPP = 2001: The Pre-Platonic Philosophers, ed. and trans. Whitlock, G. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Google Scholar. PT = "Über das Pathos der Wahrheit" ( 1872) PT = 1979: " On the Pathos of Truth .". In Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870's, ed. and trans. Breazeale, D, 60 - 66.

  11. Nietzsche, Friedrich

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  12. Friedrich Nietzsche

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    A suggested list of literary criticism on Friedrich Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. The listed critical essays and books will be invaluable for writing essays and papers on Genealogy of Morals ... Further Study Bibliography. Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche and Philosophy. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983 ...

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  18. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

    Nietzsche, Friedrich 1844-1900 NIHILISM, CHRISTIANITY, AND THE ÜBERMENSCH [1] SCHOLARLY RESPONSES [2] BIBLIOGRAPHY [3] Friedrich Nietzsche was born into a family of Lutheran pastors but later repudiated the Christian faith. He entered Bonn University in 1864 as a theology and philology student.

  19. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1844-1900)

    Biography. Nietzsche was born October 15, 1844, in R ö cken, a small village in Prussian Saxony, on the birthday of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, after whom he was named by his father Karl Ludwig, 31, and his mother Franziska (n é e Oehler), 18. His father, as well as both of his grandfathers, were Lutheran ministers.

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  21. Nietzsche

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  22. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900): Context

    Context. Friedrich Nietzsche was born in the small town of Röcken, Germany, in 1844. His father, a Lutheran pastor, died when Nietzsche was only four years old, and Nietzsche grew up in a family consisting of his mother, grandmother, two aunts, and a younger sister. He attended a top boarding school and studied philology at the universities of ...