Nautilus

Nietzsche Is Not the Proto-postmodern Relativist Some Have Mistaken Him For

When writing Ecce Homo in the late 1880s, Nietzsche sought to resurrect the Voltairean spirit in Europe, which he felt by his times had been washed away by pessimistic Romanticism. “Voltaire still comprehended umanità in the Renaissance,” Nietzsche wrote, “the cause of taste, of science, of the arts, of progress itself and civilisation.”Photograph by Gustav Schultze / Wikicommons

Since his death in 1900, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has had the unfortunate distinction of being blamed for three catastrophes to have befallen Western civilization. He was blamed for the First World War, when his inflammatory and bellicose writing became cult reading not only for Europe’s restless youth, yearning for blood sacrifice at the beginning of the 20th century, but also for a German military class adjudged to have initiated that catastrophe.

As if being charged for one world war wasn’t bad enough, Nietzsche was also blamed for the Second World War, with his talk of superior “Supermen” [Übermenschen] crushing the “decadent” and “weak” selectively appropriated by Hitler and the Nazis. This was despite the fact that Nietzsche loathed German nationalism and especially despised anti-Semites for their pathetic resentment.

And thirdly, in the past 50 years, Nietzsche has been blamed for a more

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