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Friedrich Nietzsche
“I am by far the most terrible human being there has ever been; this does not mean I shall
not be the most beneficent….I am the first immoralist: I am therewith the destroyer par
excellence” (Nietzsche 97). So said Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, one of the most prominent and
influential philosophers of the nineteenth century. He has been called both the savior of humanity
by his many admirers and the antichrist by his many opponents. In either event, his philosophy
was far ahead of its time, and the poesy of his many aphoristic, often bizarre writings alone has
won them praise as some of the greatest literary works of his century. Although his ideas were
rejected for the entirety of his sane life, as most ideas that are ahead of their time are, Nietzsche
profoundly influenced many major figures of the twentieth century in a surprising number of
fields—from philosophers to painters and from musicians to psychologists.
Nietzsche was not a normal child—nor was he a normal man. Perhaps his uniqueness as
an adult can be attributed to the fact that Nietzsche, like all great thinkers, was born with the
mind of fully mature adult. He was born in Röcken, Prussia on October 15th, 1844—the fortyninth birthday of the reigning King of Prussia, Frederick William IV. Coincidentally, Nietzsche’s
father, Karl Ludwig Nietzsche, had also tutored several members of the King’s family in the past,
and the King had given Karl Nietzsche the job that he held at the time of his first son’s birth.
Thus, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was named after the King of Prussia. Young Nietzsche’s
father was a Lutheran pastor, similarly to his grandfathers who were ministers. Nietzsche’s
relationship with his father was very intimate—his father would write sermons with him nearby
and often soothe young Friedrich by playing piano to him. By 1846, however, Karl Nietzsche, in
his mid-thirties, started to suffer from blackouts and severe neurological distress. Three years


later, at the age of thirty-six, he died. An autopsy attributed his death to “softening of the brain.”
His father’s death hit four year-old Nietzsche hard, and soon after, he reported a nightmare to his
mother that he had in which his father rose from the grave and abducted a child. It has been
suggested by biographer Richard Hayman that this dream was the reason for Nietzsche’s lifelong
obsession with living at high altitudes…To remain out of his father’s clutches. Six months after
his father’s death, Nietzsche’s younger brother, Joseph, also died.
In the spring of 1850, Nietzsche’s family moved to Naumberg where he began to write
poems and plays. His supportive younger sister, Elisabeth, would often enact Nietzsche’s plays
with him, and she saved many of his writings. Elisabeth would continue to show enthusiasm for
Nietzsche’s writing for the rest of her life—even after Nietzsche himself had long died. With the
death of his younger brother and father, Nietzsche was left without any masculine influence, and
he disliked other boys his age. Young Nietzsche loved to seclude himself and read the Bible, and
was often mocked by his peers with names such as “the little minister.” In his autobiography,
Ecce Homo, he reflects on this as a forty-four year-old man, “To suffer from solitude is likewise
an objection.—I have always suffered only from ‘multitude’…At an absurdly early age, at the
age of seven, I already knew that no human word would ever reach me: has anyone ever seen me
sad on that account?” (Nietzsche 37).
Nietzsche soon enrolled in school and began to take interest in music. He studied piano
and showed a natural talent for improvisation, like his father had. However, the headaches and
myopia that would plague Nietzsche for the remainder of his life began. Headaches often
confined him to his bed for weeks, while the myopia caused burning sensations and blurred
vision. Nietzsche began attending Pforta boarding school in 1858. In 1860, he was treated at the
school sanatorium for a severe cough. Later that year, he was stricken with rheumatism. He

Nietzsche excelled. and he led a music and literature club called “Germania. however. Nietzsche changed his mind once again.” It is through the club’s subscription to a music magazine that Nietzsche discovered Richard Wagner’s music. also only a consequence. Nietzsche eventually decided that he was going to go into a career in music. deciding instead to study philology. religion had been the very marrow of his life.” as Nietzsche remarks in Ecce Homo about the mysterious illness that plagued him throughout his life (9). He also pursued his musical interests by participating in the school choir and trying to compose music. not causal. like one who had staked all on a single throw of the dice and had lost. During his time at Pforta. with his father being the original carrier. for which he had professed a great enthusiasm. Regardless. Between his episodes of illness at Pforta. in Nietzsche’s opinion. Nietzsche lost his faith at age eighteen. and some believe that Nietzsche had congenital syphilis. “He became cynical.3 continued to get headaches and returned once again to the sanatorium complaining of excruciating throat and chest pain. studying Greek and Roman writings. According to Will Durant. “My blood flows slowly. There is much speculation about what may have actually been the cause of this illness. No one has ever been able to diagnose fever in me…Any kind of local degeneration absolutely indemonstrable. sometimes approaching dangerously close to blindness. no organically originating stomaching ailment…Condition of the eyes. some argue. Just before graduation. one of the most important figures in his life. and now life seemed empty and meaningless” (303). Richard Wagner would become. This. often scoring first in his class. . however. could also explain Nietzsche’s father’s mysterious death as well. Nietzsche. he also read the writings of German romantics and David Strauss’s controversial Life of Jesus Critically Examined. He took particular interest in classical learning.

while I am put extremely out of sorts by small. He later told his friends that he had left briefly after playing piano to the prostitutes. In 1864. ‘redemption’. the activities of which consist mostly of excessive drinking. not even as a child—perhaps I was never childish enough for it?” (Nietzsche 21). In 1865. “‘God’. he confessed to deliberately infecting himself with syphilis around that time. at age twenty. I am almost turned into a sailor when it comes to strong doses…. Nietzsche discusses his drinking habits in Ecce Homo. Nietzsche replaced his study of theology with music and began composing again. Durant suggests. At Leipzig. This has been suggested especially since in 1890. who was leaving Bonn that year for the University of Leipzig.4 claims differently. much diluted doses of alcohol.To write a long Latin essay in a single night’s sitting and then go on to make a fair copy of it…and to pour a quantity of grog of the heaviest caliber over my Latin. ‘immorality of the soul’. this was just a rebellious reaction to the difficulty associated with giving up one’s faith. Maybe. Durant’s idea would explain Nietzsche’s college drinking habits. all of them concepts to which I have given no attention and no time. Nietzsche enrolled in the University of Bonn where he joined the fraternity Franconia. “Oddly enough. Nietzsche was forced to find a more affordable school because his extracurricular activities had put him in unmanageable debt. He also began to feel that his frequent carousing was embarrassing. this confession has been dismissed as unreliable because of his madness at the time of the confession. was even when I was a pupil of the venerable Schulpforta in no way opposed to my physiology” (23). However. ‘the Beyond’. but it has been speculated that Nietzsche contracted syphilis during this time. after Nietzsche’s mental collapse. He decided to follow renowned philologist and Bonn professor Albrecht Ritschl. . Indeed. One important event from Nietzsche’s reckless life was when he asked for directions to a restaurant and was misled to a Cologne brothel.

A. The clash of people’s wills results in conflict.5 Nietzsche soon gave up drinking. although in his personal letters later on Nietzsche would confess that he did in fact enjoy his more reckless life. Nietzsche held a high regard for Ritschl. and he defined will as the motivating force of all human action. increased study and intense examination of his thoughts and feelings. he “defined thought as a manifestation of will. in which Lange criticizes (metaphysical) materialism and suggests that metaphysical speculation is merely the manifestation of poetic illusion. “In vino veritas [‘in wine there is truth’]: it seems that here too I am again at odds with all the world over the concept of truth” (Nietzsche 23). The book inspired him to adopt a rigorous lifestyle of minimal rest. Nietzsche did. claiming that it hindered subtle thought and perception. During one meeting. Nietzsche found a copy of Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation. Soon after arrival at Leipzig. Lange’s History of Materialism and Critique of its Present Significance. and although his enthusiasm and aspirations for philology were honest. Nietzsche has a similar opinion. “Ritschl—I say it with respect—the only scholar gifted with genius whom I have encountered up to the present day” (36). and even as an accomplished. and conflict causes suffering. which Schopenhauer concluded was the purpose of life” (“Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche” 3). This also appealed Nietzsche. Nietzsche . meet weekly with Professor Ritschl’s philology club. Schopenhauer declared. Nietzsche also read F. life. however. In addition to discovering Schopenhauer. According to Nietzsche. and his encouragement inspired Nietzsche to begin compiling an edition of Theognis’s poetry and to write an essay on Theognis for Ritschl’s philology journal. Nietzsche presented analysis of Theognis’s poetry that impressed Ritschl. In Schopenhauer’s book. but widely unrecognized philosopher in Ecce Homo. he found in it “…a mirror in which I espied the world. and my own nature depicted with frightful grandeur” (Durant 303).

in any event. ‘selflessly’. it was revealed that Nietzsche had ripped muscles and internal bleeding. according to Durant. As a near-sighted only son of a widow. “…[Nietzsche] remained at bottom an unhappy man…whose exaltation of tragedy as the joy of life was but another self-deception” (304). Decades later he would reflect on them. At this time. when Prussia and Austria went to war. but nonetheless. continuing his studies as well as giving often extemporaneous lectures that won him sizable audiences. Nietzsche returned to Leipzig. a professorship opened in Basel. Indeed. which accompanied my earliest study of Schopenhauer (1865). but despite his enormous reputation as a philologist. He spent several days in bed. he received little respect as a philosopher. With the aid of Leipzig cookery. and his training went well until he misjudged distance while mounting a horse and slammed his chest into the pommel of the saddle. sedated before doctors sliced into his chest to drain the wound. ‘altruistically’. and Ritschl nominated Nietzsche for it. He recovered and received discharge as temporarily unsuitable for military service. Nietzsche also began writing philosophical essays. With new confidence. he spent more time reading Schopenhauer and wandering in the hills surrounding the university. “Until my very maturest years I did in fact eat badly—in the language of morals ‘impersonally’. Twenty-three year-old Nietzsche was drafted into military service. In 1868. Upon medical examination. his country needed him. Nietzsche grew to hate his Leipzig years. would be interrupted in 1867. I very earnestly denied my ‘will to live’” (Nietzsche 22). Instead. Nietzsche’s philosophical devotion. He joined an artillery division. for the salvation of cooks and other fellow Christians. for example.6 strongly disagreed with Ritschl’s disbelief in philosophy and began to neglect Ritschl’s lectures. Nietzsche was hired. Switzerland. Leipzig officials accepted one of his earlier essays as his dissertation . Nietzsche would have been glad to be exempted.

Even in Ecce Homo. and he had published an edition of the Vendidad Sade in 1850 —a text of the Zoroastrian religion. a Ph. Nietzsche mentions Wagner’s Tristan. he believed that Wagner was the world’s greatest artist. especially Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Thus. Nonetheless. saw Nietzsche as a more practical friend—an avid admirer and scholar whose influence may help spread his ideas and works. and since. Nietzsche felt that Wagner’s profoundly suffering characters exemplified the ideals of Greek tragedy as well as Schopenhauer’s philosophy of personal strife. however. something out of character for Nietzsche. Nietzsche would later use a fictional Zarathustra as the central figure of one of his greatest philosophical works.7 and conferred his degree. in Nietzsche' opinion. the friendship gave Nietzsche an opportunity to discuss music and philosophy with a real artist. Nietzsche met composer Richard Wagner. Wagner was the greatest composer. whose operas Nietzsche had long favored. He hailed Wagner as his superior on all matters. Nietzsche became a professor extraordinarius of classical philology at the miraculous age of twenty-four. Before leaving Leipzig. who was an orientalist who had married Wagner’s sister. Wagner was much older than Nietzsche—coincidentally. Nietzsche would often visit Wagner in his home in Tribschen. He met Wagner at the home of Hermann Brockhaus. He also agreed with Schopenhauer’s believe that music is the truest art.. Ottilie. .All the strangenesses of Leonardo da Vinci lose their magic at the first note of Tristan” (31). D. Wagner. surrounding his entry into professorship at Basel. which embraced Zarathustra as a prophet. Brockhaus was a specialist in Sanskrit and Persian. and Wagner became a central figure in Nietzsche’s life. Switzerland. the age that Nietzsche's father would have been—and both Nietzsche and Wagner shared an enthusiasm for Schopenhauer. During the spring of 1869. “But I still today seek a work of a dangerous fascination. in November 1868. of a sweet and shuddery infinity equal to that of Tristan….

Nietzsche also argued that it is this replacement of suffering by learning that undermined Greek tragedy and that only Wagner could restore the arts. Near the end. This idea would become the focus of his first major philosophical work. not learning. Greek tragedy and Wagner’s music.8 Although Nietzsche later intensely attacked and denounced Wagner—actually. Nietzsche even talks specifically about the days at Wagner’s Tribschen home. Nietzsche was invited by Wagner to spend Christmas at his home in Tribschen in 1869. Nietzsche remained devoted to Schopenhauer. will eternally join our names together again and again” (31). his writing would need to wait—his life was once again interrupted by a call to military service in 1870 when Germany and France went to war. than men of this century are capable of suffering. Back at Basel. He went up to the Alps to write in peace. That in which we are related. those days of mutual confidences. but at no price would I relinquish from my life the Tribschen days. He became dissatisfied with lecturing on purely philological issues. Nietzsche began to write his first book. from one another also. and there. Nietzsche discusses Wagner. of sublime incidents—of profound moments…over our sky no cloud ever passed” (Nietzsche 29). He went on to say that the pursuit of knowledge encouraged by Socrates is discredited by Schopenhauer’s deduction of suffering. “I call Wagner the great benefactor of my life. however. of cheerfulness. “I offer all my other human relationships cheap. inspired by Wagner. that we have suffered more profoundly. in Ecce Homo. In a particular lecture. . and began to incorporate Schopenhauer’s philosophy and Wagner’s music into his lectures. he published two books that mainly attack Wagner—his later insincerity was accompanied by a profound respect for Wagner. In another passage. Nietzsche claimed that logic is the antithesis of art. as the purpose of life.

a Will to Overpower!” (Durant 305). Nietzsche claims. not surprisingly. After recovery. tending to the wounded. This. In The Birth of Tragedy. Nietzsche resumed teaching at Basel and also spent Christmas holidays with Wagner and Wagner’s family. creates Greek tragedy. Nietzsche continued working on his first major philosophical book. deliberate—or Dionysian—passionate.9 During his trip to the front at Frankfort. the pursuit of knowledge. The combination of these. Socratic thought. Wagner. undermined the Dionysian elements of Greek culture. “‘I felt for the first time that the strongest and highest Will to Life does not find expression in a miserable struggle for existence. caused a switch from man-against-god conflict to man-against-man conflict. sparked the vision out of which his entire philosophy grew. Nietzsche saw a troop of cavalry passing with magnificent clatter and display through the town. Nietzsche served in Prussia’s medical corps. according to Nietzsche. he said. Nietzsche did fall ill during this time with dysentery and diphtheria. Nietzsche says. which he published in 1872 under the title The Birth of Tragedy. This. He was sent to recover with his family in Naumberg. once again being confined to bed. a Will to Power. instinctual. . but in a Will to War. Nietzsche also said in The Birth of Tragedy that Wagner’s music was a return to the ideals of Greek tragedy and encouraged Germans to subject themselves to Wagner’s music in order to attain a better appreciation of truth and beauty. individual characters being Apollonian and the chorus being Dionysian. “‘There we have tragic myth reborn from music—and in this painful myth we can hope for everything and forget what is most painful’” (“Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche” 4). He said that before Socrates. In Nietzsche’s words. Again. Greek culture was either Apollonian—formal. Nietzsche analyzed the decline of Greek culture from an antilogic perspective. destroying tragedy’s sense of illusion and reducing Greek drama to merely human concerns. some scholars have speculated that Nietzsche could have even contracted syphilis during this time.

10 hailed The Birth of Tragedy as unparalleled in its truth and beauty. not political. Nietzsche rejected the existence . He provides reasons for not pursuing philology in Ecce Homo. some scholars consider it a milestone in Nietzsche’s philosophy. image-mad and image confused. Nietzsche’s reputation as a philologist was tarnished by The Birth of Tragedy. Some denounced it as misleading. Nietzsche said that culture is a reflection of artistic. The Strauss essay was published in 1873. Although unpublished. the Confessor and the Writer. “The scholar. writing to Nietzsche that it inspired him to complete an opera and that he read the book each morning before composing. largely ignored the book. Academicians. In it. who really does nothing but ‘trundle’ books…finally loses altogether the ability to think for himself. Nietzsche wrote another essay. sentimental. saccharine to the point of effeminacy. Nietzsche proclaimed. In the essay. and Nietzsche began to write about more philosophical issues. In a preface to the book that Nietzsche added in 1886 called “Attempt at a Self-Criticism”. uneven in tempo [and] without the will to logical cleanliness [but]’… inspiring ‘fellow-rhapsodizers and for luring them on to new secret paths and dancing places’” (“Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche” 5). ponderous. and Nietzsche claimed that it would be better understood in the future. has nothing to do with national superiority. Nietzsche called The Birth of Tragedy “‘badly written. styles and denounced Strauss’s claim of German superiority because of Germany’s military triumph over France—national discipline. however. If he does not trundle he does not think” (33-4). Both Wagner and Nietzsche were enraged by his simplistic analysis and patriotic excitement. and Nietzsche wrote David Strauss. Also that year. Wagner showed Nietzsche an essay by philosopher David Strauss on optimism. embarrassing. the first of four essays that Nietzsche entitled collectively Untimely Meditations (also known as Unfashionable Observations). While at Wagner’s home in Bayreuth.

Nietzsche grew increasingly critical of Wagner. but rather to create genius—to develop superior individuals. Nietzsche further irritated Wagner by praising a rival composer’s score.In this essay the ‘historical sense’ of which this century is so proud is recognized for the first time as a sickness. Schopenhauer as Educator. The Use and Abuse of History. The function of life. and Wagner was offended.11 of universal constants—he said that “truth” is nothing more than conventions that humans invented for practical purposes such as security and consistency. when humanity dies out. as a typical sign of decay” (54). Nietzsche also claimed that there was an eternity before humanity. In Nietzsche’s second addition to the Untimely Meditations. “The second untimely essay brings to light what is dangerous. During this time. and thus. which consists almost completely of worthless individuals. and said that theology and morality must be reconstructed to fit the theory of evolution. He experienced severe vision problems while writing this essay. In Ecce Homo. in our way of carrying on science—: life sick with this inhuman clockwork and mechanism…. where he had to adopt a milk diet to try to remedy his chronic stomach problems. Nietzsche . what gnaws at and poisons life. Nietzsche stopped vacationing with Wagner in 1873. and when he visited Wagner in 1874. and needed to dictate his works. Nietzsche explains in his own words The Use and Abuse of History. Nietzsche then went to the Swiss Alps. Nietzsche said. Nietzsche published a third essay as part of the Untimely Meditations in late 1874. however. Because of his illness. Despite his sickness. In this essay. is not to attain knowledge nor is it to better the majority of humanity. He also ridiculed the German preoccupation with antiquarian scholarship. Nietzsche assaulted truth by denouncing the concept of historical objectivity. published in 1874. little will have changed in the grand scheme of things. Nietzsche supported Schopenhauer’s belief that suffering is the meaning of life.

No state would ever dare to patronize such men as Plato and Schopenhauer. Although it has been seen in Nietzsche’s private notes from this time that Nietzsche regarded Wagner as an anti-Semitic tyrant. he says. Later. Nonetheless.12 comments on universities in his Schopenhauer as Educator. Nietzsche said.. Nietzsche’s essay about Wagner was respectful towards him. Nietzsche’s health took another turn for the worst. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. Just after this publication. according to Nietzsche. Wagner was so flattered by Nietzsche’s essay that he invited Nietzsche to Bayreuth to see the first production of one of his operas. spells of vomiting. in Ecce Homo. but. Despite all this. Nietzsche managed to complete his last addition to the Untimely Meditations. He criticized Wagner’s ambition as being tyrannical. “Experience teaches us that nothing stands so much in the way of developing great philosophers as the custom of supporting bad ones in state universities…. was the first to fuse all of the arts. is a vision of his own future. Schopenhauer as Educator. Nietzsche called on Germany to recognize the significance of the coming ‘Wagner festival’. Nietzsche later writes that he fled from Bayreuth because he was “‘tired with disgust of . true to his artistic aspirations. according to Nietzsche. Nietzsche was forced to stop teaching at Basel and go live with his mother in Naumberg. which was published in 1876.. because he. He was plagued with frequent headaches. Nietzsche went to Bayreuth but was driven to leave before the production by exhaustion and his hatred of Bayreuth’s excessive worship of Wagner. Nietzsche will claim that Schopenhauer as Educator and Wagner in Bayreuth are not about Schopenhauer or Wagner at all. tells of his own innermost history—his innermost evolution—while Wagner in Bayreuth.. strained vision and excruciating stomach pain.The state is always afraid of them” (Durant 308). but instead about himself. Nietzsche also hailed Wagner as the founder of the only real art.

Nietzsche then spent a summer traveling across Europe. myopia and stomach distress that he knew so well. but once again suffered from the bouts of headaches. was appalled that Wagner saw a moral value in Christianity that outweighed its theological flaws. who associated reality strictly with what is human. Wagner spoke derogatorily of Ree and upset Nietzsche with his constant talk about Parsifal. “What I have never forgiven Wagner? That he condescended to the Germans—that he became reichsdeutsch…As far as Germany extends it ruins culture” (30). This opposition is rooted in the fact that in Parsifal. It was only sickness that brought me to reason” (26). Nietzsche addresses the reason for his break with Wagner—anti-Semitism—briefly in Ecce Homo. who would disturb the anti-Semitic Wagner.13 all that is feminism and undisciplined rhapsody in that romanticism. because I was almost done for. was beneficial—even necessary. He refused to praise Wagner. This period of illness. that idealistic lying. who was opposed to Christianity.” Nietzsche. “When I was almost done for. He even began to doubt Schopenhauer. When Nietzsche and Wagner met in 1876 at the vacation home of an admirer of both Nietzsche and Wagner. I began to reflect on this fundamental irrationality of my life—‘idealism’. which had conquered here one of the bravest souls’” (Durant 309). he says. Nietzsche was free from Wagner. to his personal improvement. that softening of the conscience. Nietzsche now believed that truth was independent from the human —he dismissed as false Schopenhauer’s notion of suffering as the meaning of life. according to Nietzsche in his Ecce Homo. Now. . Nietzsche was accompanied by a Jewish psychologist named Paul Ree. with whom Nietzsche had previously been the inferior. however. and Wagner left. That would be their last meeting. a religious work to which Nietzsche was highly opposed. the world is redeemed by “the fool in Christ.

Nietzsche sent the three volumes of Human. In the work. and that he could explain the force of the will using scientific analysis. All Too Human in the Bayreuth press and claimed that Nietzsche had been contaminated by his association with the Jews. however. which Nietzsche would later dub the ‘will to power’. All Too Human to Wagner and Wagner sent back a copy of his Parsifal. These three writings were very important. undermining his authority. as well as Wagner and Schopenhauer. Wagner denounced Human. specifically Paul Ree. In 1886. Nietzsche continued to denounce his former values and conducted shocking assessments of beloved figures such as Socrates and Christ. A Book for Free Spirits. This work represents Nietzsche’s transformation from pessimist to skeptic. Nietzsche was highly critical of himself. He denounced the idealistic philosophy of Wagner and Schopenhauer as effeminacies and failure of perception. in Nietzsche’s exploration of the will to power as the motivating force of all behavior. Nietzsche published all three volumes as Human All Too Human. and could not yet free himself from metaphysical speculation. the first volume of an aphoristic series. All Too Human: Mixed Opinions and Maxims (or Appendix: Assorted Opinions and Sayings) (1879) and The Wanderer and His Shadow (1880). who he both characterized as suicidal martyrs. All Too Human. He quickly wrote two sequels to Human. Nietzsche claimed that good and evil were not opposites but the extremes of one motivating force. In them. However. Nietzsche also condemned romanticism as indication of cultural weakness and rejected German philosophy as hopeless and insignificant idealism and moralism. . he sometimes took up a moralistic tone. This would be the last communication between Nietzsche and Wagner. He argued that the will is rooted in survival and pleasure. These works consist of several hundred aphorisms ranging from one line to two pages in length.14 The result of this period of sickness and liberation from Wagner and Schopenhauer was the 1878 publication of Nietzsche’s Human.

In Ecce Homo. my philosophy” (10). still living on his pension from Basel. Nietzsche proclaimed for the first time that the Christian God is dead. He said that Christianity was fundamentally morality. he still felt that suffering strengthened him. to more life. to life. Nietzsche predicted that this proclamation would cause madness to break out among the . Nietzsche then wrote The Gay Science (or The Joyful Wisdom) (1882). he once again recovered and this time went to Venice. he would later say something to the following effect. However. He encouraged humanity to overcome conventional morality and advocated selfishness. Once again. In doing so. while living on a pension the University of Basel had given him. the climate of which he found energizing. Thus in fact does that long period of sickness seem to me now: I discovered life as it were anew. “That which does not kill me makes me stronger” (“Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche” 7). He was nearly blind and suffered from extreme anguish. After Christmas of 1879. Fortunately. however. “…for one who is typically healthy being sick can even be an energetic stimulant to life. I tasted all good and even petty things in a way that others could not easily taste them—I made out my will to health. The selflessness that it encouraged. was a repressive tool for establishing social conformity. Nietzsche returned to Basel. Nietzsche’s health rapidly declined and he lapsed into a coma. There. He formally ended his association with the University of Basel because of ill health and went to live with his sister in Naumberg. Nietzsche wrote. myself included. Nietzsche comments on sickness. an aphoristic volume in which Nietzsche passionately denounced the Christian doctrine. in Ecce Homo. Nietzsche said he was committing a truly selfless act.15 Nietzsche had relapsed into illness by this time and was ravaged by vomit attacks and severe headaches that prevented him even from reading his own books. he wrote The Dawn of Day (1881). In this work. Soon. which was such a large part of his life.

having been freed from Christianity. In one of his books. could aspire for a fulfillment that is greater than what was allowed by Christianity. and an infinite number of times. as the recycling of everything in eternal repetition throughout time. it is in The Gay Science that Nietzsche conceived of the idea of eternal recurrence. Nietzsche shaped the eternal recurrence into a part of the will to power. Will Durant explains the eternal recurrence. inevitably. that one helps one’s neighbor by helping oneself. contrary to Christian teachings. Nietzsche defined it. It is important to note that Nietzsche’s rancor was for Christianity. The possible combinations of reality are limited. even Nietzsche will return. Perhaps more importantly than his atheistic assessments. some day. The Antichrist. “All things will return. Nietzsche summarizes this with an aphorism. In this work. but in The Gay Science. Eternal recurrence is derived from scientific formulations about the conservation of energy. He felt that Christianity had twisted Christ’s teachings into a repressive and humiliating code. in brief terms.16 masses. “The Christian resolve to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad” (“Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche” 8). life . not Christ. as it still serves to further draw attention away from worlds other than the present one. In one of his later works. and this Germany of blood and iron and sack-cloth and ashes. In later writings. the will to power is revealed by a devil who is hailed as a god because of his revelation. It is not out of place in The Gay Science. “In truth there was only one Christian…and he died on the cross” (“Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche” 8). Nietzsche claims. His atheism here is aimed at causing people to realize their inherent freedom in the presently existing world and draw their attention away from pain-relieving heavenly other worlds. but that the masses. and time is endless. and all the travail of the human mind from ignorance to Zarathustra. which he ranked above even the will to power as the principal idea of his philosophy. Nietzsche argued. in precise detail.

17 and matter will fall into just such a form as they once had. Nietzsche was back in solitude in the Swiss Alps. Salome and Elisabeth both professed a disliking for one another. Nietzsche vacationed with Paul Ree in Italy where he met Lou Salome. Nietzsche had only hinted at the will to power. Nietzsche altered his ideas about eternal recurrence and the will to power and added his most popular and misunderstood concept—the overman. and out of that fatal repetition all history must rewind its devious course again” (314). Nietzsche and Salome soon found each other again sharing thoughts on long hikes and renewed intentions of living together. This break. Now. and Nietzsche corresponded little with Salome afterwards. he published the first volume of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In them. and Nietzsche was forced to defend Elisabeth. Over the next two years. Nietzsche anticipated this opportunity for steady companionship. but first the three friends had to part to fulfill immediate obligations. independent woman who was already familiar to Ree. many scholars believe. In 1883. In Spring of 1882. if not his greatest work. He began taking hikes with her in the mountains and fields where he would tell her his thoughts about religion and morality. which he had lacked for so long. which is considered one his greatest works. where he was very productive. Salome and Ree soon formed plans to live platonically together. He had . In his earlier works. Salome fled with Ree. Nietzsche had been traveling with his sister Elisabeth when he met Salome again in July. it developed into four volumes. Ree had been impressed by her philosophical discussion at Meysenbug’s villa. When Nietzsche professed to Salome his sensual desires for her. describing it in largely psychological contexts and by using its antithesis—fear—which Nietzsche considered to be the greatest cause of conformity. However. explains the hatred of women that appears in Nietzsche’s later works. and Nietzsche also held a favorable opinion of her. a young. Nietzsche.

one person acknowledged it and no one praised it. the sagacious. Yet. The book itself was written in Bible-like verse and tells the story of a thirty year-old hermit named Zarathustra who abandons solitude to preach the will to power. Throughout the course of the book. he becomes the overman. accompanied by a proud eagle and a wise snake. So. Nietzsche defined the will to power articulately as the basic motivating force of human action—the will to overcome one’s weaknesses and embrace moral and social difficulties. Regardless. He claimed that if one overcomes his failings. Nietzsche had a hard time getting Zarathustra printed. Forty copies were sold and seven were given away. Although highly regarded today. mirthful Zarathustra. however. the overman is the individual who becomes fully realized. Eternal recurrence. Zarathustra is considered by many to be Nietzsche’s crowning work. Most scholars consider eternal recurrence a weakness in Nietzsche’s philosophy because they consider it impossible to prove. and the publisher refused to print the last part of the book at all. thirty years after Zarathustra was initially published. Nietzsche claims. Zarathustra proclaims that “God is dead. His publisher’s presses were busy printing 500. is the epitome of that overcoming—it proves that the purpose of the overman is to be an infinity within the greater infinity of space and time. Nietzsche had to pay to publish the book himself. undergoes a spiritual metamorphosis and envisions a mode of being that is higher and psychologically healthier than the common human condition—the overman.” and that man is only a bridge to the overman—man becomes the overman by overcoming his weaknesses.18 said that fear was the negative expression of the will to power and that the will to power was what led individuals to overcome fear and conformity.000 hymn-books and then anti-Semitic pamphlets. . Walter Kaufmann says that Nietzsche’s enthusiasm for eternal recurrence could possibly be an attempt on Nietzsche’s part to justify a life of anguish. In Zarathustra.

The period surrounding the writing of Beyond Good and Evil was full of personal anguish for Nietzsche. dismissing socialism as retrogressive. they convened on Nietzsche’s birthday at his mother’s home in Naumberg. This is considered one of Nietzsche’s most profound and disturbing works. He also attacked. That winter he was unable to afford heat and got a terrible cold. Nietzsche skipped his sister’s wedding just to avoid contact with her sister’s new husband. Wagner died. Christianity and German culture. Despite long attacks of coughing and vomiting. along with the Bible. Nietzsche used the same logic that he did in his Untimely Meditations to proclaim that objective truth is impossible to prove and to go a step further and destroy notions of the self. which became Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (1886). to young soldiers serving in WWI as inspirational reading. Poor health characterized much of his time. but was glad Elisabeth would be unable to meddle in his affairs. Also. reducing human existence to the will to power. Nietzsche found Bernhard offensively stupid.19 150. as he had in the past. such as the will to truth and the will to morality. Bernhard Foerster. Nietzsche’s relationship with his sister declined as she turned her devotion towards her new anti-Semitic husband. and his conflict with his publisher further aggravated him. a condemnation of conventional morality. moving briefly to Venice and then to Nice. Nietzsche continued writing. Before Elisabeth and Bernhard left for Paraguay to establish an Aryan colony called New Germany. In this midst of all this. Nietzsche applies the will to power to specific philosophical issues. In it. After Zarathustra. and . All Too Human and its sequels and then began writing a more straightforward account of his beliefs. Nietzsche then traveled throughout Italy and France during the summer of 1886. Nietzsche revised Human.000 copies were printed and issued by the German government.

Nietzsche argued the Christianity is sadomasochistic and self-destructive. not altruism. However. Nietzsche also called priests a group of weak people who guide even weaker people so as to experience power for themselves. in the same way Christianity as morality must now perish too. He discusses this in the essay. “‘All the great things bring about their own destruction through an act of self-overcoming…In this way Christianity as a dogma was destroyed by its own morality. which attacked Wagner and his operas. In the third essay. “‘Is Wagner a human at all?. Nietzsche had once hailed Wagner as the savior of German art and culture. calling it a major contributing factor to conformity and destructive within even Christianity. the essence of guilt and the meaning of asceticism. Nietzsche once asked. With this attitude.. where he wrote his next book. too. and Nietzsche claimed that there is no perspective from which one can survey everything—that is.. The Case of Wagner. He said that the concept of goodness was created by Christian morality to encourage conformity and selflessness—which is antithetical to the will to power. In the second essay. In On the Genealogy of Morals. the sun pained Nietzsche’s sensitive eyes.20 in the spring. In the first essay.Isn’t he rather a sickness? He . Nietzsche claimed that guilt. On the Genealogy of Morals. there is no ‘God’s eye’. was a manipulative tool of Christianity. Nietzsche traveled to Venice after finishing On the Genealogy of Morals. Nietzsche traced the history of morality and found it to be derived from systematic repression. Nietzsche wrote about three specific philosophical issues —the nature of good and evil. Nietzsche had completed a new formal polemic. He related each of these issues to the failings of Christian morality. in mid-1887. we stand on the threshold of this event’” (“Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche” 11). but now he denounced Wagner as a cultural polluter and called him a corrupter of public health. but fell ill and returned to Nice.. as it causes people to hold in negative feelings and congests the soul.

Dostoevsky. Plato. However. Thucydides and the Sophists as stronger and healthier. according to Nietzsche. Zola. Nietzsche was already poor as a result of having no steady income. He said that Germany had deliberately stupefied itself. Nietzsche called Christianity repressive and exploitative and said that it thrives on stupidity and weakness. but his financial problems were worsened when he paid for the publication of his recent works. Eliot. Most of all. Nietzsche . Renan. Napoleon. Kant and Christianity. would caused conformity. The Twilight of the Gods. a sarcastic and ironic attack on Christianity and Germany. Nietzsche criticized German culture and Aryanism. elaborating on his previous assaults on Christianity. He postponed plans to begin his self-anticipated The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values and instead wrote The Antichrist. Nietzsche called Christianity humanity’s blunder into conformity and stupidity. Nietzsche hailed Caesar.21 makes sick whatever he touches—he has made music sick” (“Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche” 11). He called German philosophy and art hopelessly mediocre and mocked Germany’s obsession with obedience and its aspirations to revive the Reich. In it. Nietzsche wrote Twilight of the Idols (or How One Philosophizes With a Hammer). which. and he responded to the increasing number of European Christian anti-Semites by outlining Christianity’s ties to Judaism and Christ’s Jewish origins. Hugo. is a word-play on one of Wagner’s operas. Carlyle. British and Italian cultural figures such as Rousseau. He also elaborated on some of his previous criticisms of Socrates. and he also attacked humanity’s limitless lowering of itself through social constructs. Twilight of the Idols. Darwin and Dante. an analytical account on Christianity’s destructive impact on humanity. In 1888. The title. He particularly attacked the New Testament. Michelet. and went on to criticize French.

according to biographer Ronald Hayman. Nietzsche’s landlord later recalled. a colorful account of Nietzsche’s life and work. Nietzsche celebrated his forty-fourth birthday on October 15th. nutrition. “Ecce homo!” So. one can already sense its eccentricity and perhaps controversial content. Nietzsche also felt that his physique was more youthful. Nietzsche touches on a wide range of topics such as war. What has flattered me the most is that old market-women take great pains to select together for me the sweetest of their grapes” (42). despite Turin’s rainy climate and the drabness of Nietzsche’s own home there—a sign of possible delusion. After completing The Antichrist. urban life and Wagner while painting a biographical picture of his life. obviously Nietzsche is comparing himself to Christ. which was written just before Nietzsche’s mental breakdown. improvising Wagnerian music on the piano.” In them. with . during part of which Jesus is presented by Pilate with his crown of thorns for all the Jews to see and Pilate proclaims.22 proposed the will to power and called on humanity to overcome the degradation of organized religion. that Nietzsche spent a great number of hours alone.” “Why I Write Such Good Books. In Ecce Homo.” This is an allusion to St. he even describes this basking in his presence and preferential treatment. “Why I Am So Wise. John’s Gospel from the New Testament. “Ecce homo” is a Latin phrase meaning “behold the man. “…but wherever I go.” and “Why I Am a Destiny. every face grows more cheerful and benevolent at the sight of me. Even upon reading the title. 1888 by commencing with the writing of Ecce Homo. which is just the beginning of Nietzsche’s self-praise in Ecce Homo. Nietzsche was generally euphoric. The book is divided into chapters such as. He believed that the citizens of Turin basked in his presence and that merchants offered him preferential treatment. here in Turin for example.” “Why I Am So Clever. He wrote to his friends of sunny Turin with its tree-lined boulevards.

Wagner. Nietzsche contra Wagner served to do more than just denounce Wagner—it also served as an expression of Nietzsche’s ideas versus those of Wagner. despite the fact that his physical health was declining and he became increasingly blind. Nietzsche also admitted that he admired Wagner’s music for its profound expressions of loneliness and suffering. Nietzsche had already transitioned from euphoric to delirious.” Nietzsche predicts that someday his name will be associated with the fall of Christianity and the rise of the overman. Nietzsche also said that everything seemed to be achieved with great ease and that he knew that he was destined to rule the world. Nietzsche claimed in the work that even the greatest usually become corrupt. and he sent one of his books to Taine with a note saying . contest that Wagner’s importance in Nietzsche’s development was greatly exaggerated and that Nietzsche’s rejection of Wagner music was simply a refutation of fanatical enthusiasm for Wagner. Immediately after finishing Ecce Homo. Ecce Homo took just weeks to complete. Some scholars claim that Nietzsche’s contempt and insincerity towards Wagner was merely the result of an attempt to overcome his weakness for Wagner’s operas. Others. an earlier work in which Nietzsche attacked Wagner.23 particular emphasis on his writings. His delusions of grandeur grew. however. was not simply a reckless and untruthful attack on his former idol inspired by anger and feelings of betrayal. He wrote in letters to his friends that his facial muscles were becoming difficult to control and that he would often smile for long periods. However. Its purpose was to prove that Nietzsche was opposed to Wagner and that The Case of Wagner. After completing Nietzsche contra Wagner. Nevertheless. was corrupted by Christianity. Nietzsche claimed. In “Why I Am a Destiny. Nietzsche quickly assembled passages against Wagner from his previous works into Nietzsche contra Wagner. which Nietzsche said he was psychologically incapable of articulating.

and Overbeck. where he stayed in bed or paced the halls muttering to himself. “‘Perhaps I know best why man is the only animal that laughs: he alone suffers so excruciatingly that he was compelled to invent laughter’” (Durant 334).24 that Nietzsche was sure that it was the most marvelous book ever written. singing and crying his Dionysian ecstasy’” (Durant 335). On January 3rd. Nietzsche was usually rowdy. His insanity was undeniable.400 check from an anonymous admirer. a professor at the University of Basel. and he briefly showed signs of stability but soon declared himself a tyrant and deteriorated. “‘ploughing the piano with his elbows. in Durant’s words. writing just before his breakdown. His letter to Overbeck caused him to rush to Nietzsche’s aid. When he regained consciousness. Nietzsche rushed to protect the horse in tears and then fell unconscious. Although he had very little praise from the real world at this time. Upon returning to his attic room of a home. Nietzsche was taken to a clinic. He also wrote to Burckhardt. Also. Taine sent a word of praise in response to Nietzsche’s gift to him.” He wrote a longer message to Brandes and signed it as ‘The Crucified’. “‘My time is not yet…only the day after tomorrow belongs to me’” (Durant 335). Nietzsche dashed off mad letters. Richard Wagner’s (then widowed) wife. Nietzsche even got a $1. Nietzsche began to sense his own decline. 1889. He wrote to Cosima Wagner. shouting and joking hysterically. an old friend. Nietzsche was walking through Turin when he saw a coach driver whipping his horse. Nietzsche moved to Naumberg with his mother. Strindberg wrote a letter to Nietzsche saying that he was using Nietzsche’s ideas for dramatic purposes. . He found Nietzsche. only four words: “Ariadne. as he wrote. and Brandes wrote a letter to Nietzsche to tell him that he was giving lectures on Nietzsche’s “aristocratic radicalism” at a university. I love you. After acquiring the belief that someone in his asylum was trying to shoot him. It has also been indicated that he was unhappy at this time. However. Nietzsche’s mother soon arrived. it did increase to some extent.

Elisabeth had returned to Europe from the Paraguayan Aryan colony. and she began adding comments to new editions of Nietzsche’s works. Durant tells of another anecdote from Nietzsche’s last years of insanity. She exploited her brother’s fame. upon her husband Bernhard’s suicide. Elisabeth realized that his family still had several of Nietzsche’s unpublished works. Durant gives one last intriguing incident from Nietzsche’s insanity. his pale face lit up: ‘Ah!’ he said. “He caught his sister once weeping as she looked at him. . in a lucid moment of his final insanity. “And when. She also suppressed the publication of Ecce Homo for her own literary purposes and is commonly thought to have entirely forged a work at this time. New Germany. he said. entirely supporting herself off of Nietzsche’s writings. he saw a picture of the long-dead Wagner. Nietzsche came down with a respiratory infection that summer. which. Nietzsche had become famous since his breakdown. and on August 24th. ‘Him I loved much’” (Durant 310). “On one occasion he heard talk of books. including Ecce Homo and many notebooks. According to the rather opinionated and satirical Durant. “Seldom has a man paid so great a price for genius” (Durant 335). he had another stroke and died. 1900. My Sister and I.25 Nietzsche’s mother died in 1897 and his sister took her place. Nietzsche had suffered from two strokes by 1900 that had left him immobile and somewhat inarticulate. brightening. ‘Why do you cry? Are we not happy?’” (Durant 335). Through the efforts of scholars such as Brandes. and he could not understand her tears: ‘Lisabeth.’ he asked. most speculate. It seems that Nietzsche’s insanity prevented him from understanding any of what his sister was doing at the time. but would never be able to appreciate it. As Durant said. She hired anthropologist Rudolf Steiner to teach her brother’s philosophy to her. she falsely accredited to her brother. ‘I too have written some good books’—and the lucid moment passed” (Durant 335).

If Nietzsche had somehow known about what Elisabeth did to his funeral. a title Nietzsche was planning on using for one of his books. Supposedly. and let me descend into my tomb as an honest pagan’” (Durant 310). Elisabeth felt that it was a truthful representations of Nietzsche’s philosophy. his funeral was Christian. See that no priest or anyone else utter falsehoods at my graveside. he would have been furious for a number of reasons.26 Elisabeth arranged a Christian burial for Nietzsche with a benediction containing a statement that translates to. Nietzsche would have been upset with Elisabeth because of the benediction. and no inquisitive crowd. when Nietzsche was going through a bad episode of illness in 1879 and thought he was going to die. she distorted and violated it because of her distorted understanding of his philosophy. but Nietzsche had little to do with it. rather even a buffoon” (96). and was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in Literature because of her promotion of her brother’s philosophy. which contained the phrase “hallowed be the name. but not his notebooks. Although she did promote Nietzsche’s philosophy so much. he said to Elisabeth. She oversaw the publishing of an edition of Nietzsche’s collected works. “‘Promise me…that when I die only my friends shall stand about my coffin. One of her worst violations to her brother’s philosophy was her organizing and publishing of Nietzsche’s notes with the title The Will to Power. Elisabeth continued to very actively advocate and promote Nietzsche’s works. “‘Hallowed be the name for future generations’” (“Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche” 13). “I have a terrible fear I shall one day be pronounced holy: one will guess why I bring out this book beforehand. and Nietzsche was highly opposed to Christianity. Secondly. The Will . when I can no longer protect myself. However. it is intended to prevent people from making mischief with me…I do not want to be a saint.” Nietzsche specifically requested against people regarding him as holy in Ecce Homo. she had only a vague and distorted understanding of her brother’s philosophy. First.

and Nietzsche was one of the largest contributors to that rise.27 to Power was mostly Elisabeth’s work—her inclusion and exclusion of certain material. She turned the Nietzsche Archives into Nazi propaganda and personally supported the anti-Semitic. Elisabeth and the Nazis have profoundly damaged Nietzsche’s popular reputation. her own establishment in Weimar. notably Walter Kaufmann and R. Nazi interpreters were able to select specific passages from Nietzsche’s work that. Elisabeth died in 1935. Elisabeth spent the rest of her life devoted to the Nietzsche Archives. ordering of the notes. when standing alone. pro-Aryan doctrines of the Nazis. appear to justify war and aggression for nationalistic and racial self-glorification. Despite this. Elisabeth met and befriended Adolf Hitler at a 1933 performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. most associate Nietzsche’s name with anti-Semitism and Aryanism. The late 1800s marked the beginning of the rise of a new era in thought. After his death. but a team of German scholars appointed by Hitler continued her “work” by further attempting to adapt Nietzsche’s philosophy for Nazi purposes. Hollingdale. the influence of his philosophy is incalculable. when the book was published in 1901. Contemporarily. Nietzsche had made it clear that he was highly opposed to anti-Semitism and Aryanism in his philosophical works as well as in his life. Despite the general attitudes that developed toward Nietzsche both before and after his death. it was taken by the public as Nietzsche’s crowning achievement. Nietzsche’s philosophy was particularly attractive to the avant-garde artists of the early . In the 1930s.. but Nietzsche’s sister somehow found the Nazi beliefs compliant with those of her brother. etc. Many scholars since then have struggled to repair Nietzsche’s reputation.J. the National Socialist Party—the Nazis—came to power in Germany.

novelists.28 twentieth century because of its rejection of accepted social practices. Or. . Michel Foucault. among other things. Albert Camus. Carl Jung. poets. William Butler Yeats and Mark Rothko. Nietzsche’s ideas—the rejection of objective truth and conventional morality. perhaps we need only to look around at what’s happening today to determine Nietzsche’s place in time—when his ideas are most relevant. the idea of the will to power as the antithesis of fear (which causes conformity). psychologists and philosophers. when they will be understood. To name a few. a few decades before his time—before the Germans became politically-minded. Jean-Paul Sartre. Those influenced by Nietzsche include. painters. His psychological examinations—attempts to explain common values and instincts—were also critical to Sigmund Freud’s development of psychoanalysis. the recognizing of Socratic thought (the pursuit of knowledge) as an agent of decline—were obviously out of place in his time. Perhaps they were a few decades ahead of his time. playwrights. musicians. George Bernard Shaw. or as he once claimed. Martin Heidegger.

27 February 2009 <http://galenet. Ecce> Wicks. Michigan : Gale. “Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche. 2008. 2009. Farmington Hills. Biography Resource Center. 1926. Robert.galegroup. 15 July.29 Works Cited Durant. “Friedrich Nietzsche. Friedrich. 3 March 2009. Will.> Nietzsche. Stanford University.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. New York : Penguin Books. Gale. “Friedrich Nietzsche. New York : Simon and Schuster. 1979. <http://plato.” The Story of Philosophy. .” Contemporary Authors Online.