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Nihilism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Nihilism ( or ; from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical doctrine that suggests the lack of belief in one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life. The Greek philosopher and Sophist, Gorgias (ca. 485 BC380 BC), is perhaps the first to consider the Nihilistic belief. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.[1]Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological or ontological/metaphysical forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or that reality does not actually exist.

The term is sometimes used in association with anomie to explain the general mood of despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence that one may develop upon realising there are no necessary norms, rules, or laws.[2] Movements such as Futurism and deconstruction,[3] among others, have been identified by commentators as "nihilistic" at various times[when?] in various contexts[which?].

Nihilism is also a characteristic that has been ascribed to time periods: for example, Jean Baudrillard and others have called postmodernity a nihilistic epoch,[4] and some Christian theologians and figures of religious authority have asserted that postmodernity[5] and many aspects of modernity[3] represent a rejection of theism, and that such rejection of their theistic doctrine entails nihilism.

Nihilism has many definitions, and thus can describe philosophical positions that are arguably independent.

Metaphysical nihilism is the philosophical theory that there might be no objects at allthat is, that there is a possible world where there are no objects at allor at least that there might be no concrete objects at allso that even if every possible world contains some objects, there is at least one that contains only abstract objects.

An extreme form of metaphysical nihilism is commonly defined as the belief that nothing exists as a correspondent component of the self-efficient world.[6] The American Heritage Medical Dictionary defines one form of nihilism as "an extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence."[7] One way of interpreting such a statement is as follows: it is impossible to distinguish "existence" from "non-existence" as there are no objective qualities, and thus a reality, that one state could possess in order to discern between the two. If one cannot discern existence from its negation, then the concept of existence has no meaning, or, in other words, does not "exist" in any meaningful way. "Meaning" in this sense is used to argue that since existence has no higher state of reality, which is arguably its necessary and defining quality, existence itself means nothing. It could be argued that this belief, once combined with epistemological nihilism, leaves one with an all-encompassing nihilism in which nothing can be said to be real or true as such values do not exist. A similar position can be found in solipsism; however, in this viewpoint the solipsist affirms whereas the nihilist would deny the self. Both these positions are forms of anti-realism.[citation needed]

Nihilism of an epistemological form can be seen as an extreme form of skepticism in which all knowledge is denied.[8]

Mereological nihilism (also called compositional nihilism) is the position that objects with proper parts do not exist (not only objects in space, but also objects existing in time do not have any temporal parts), and only basic building blocks without parts exist, and thus the world we see and experience full of objects with parts is a product of human misperception (i.e., if we could see clearly, we would not perceive compositive objects).

This interpretation of existence must be based on resolution. The resolution with which humans see and perceive the "improper parts" of the world is not an objective fact of reality, but is rather an implicit trait that can only be qualitatively explored and expressed. Therefore, there is no arguable way to surmise or measure the validity of mereological nihilism. Example: An ant can get lost on a large cylindrical object because the circumference of the object is so large with respect to the ant that the ant effectively feels as though the object has no curvature. Thus, the resolution with which the ant views the world it exists "within" is a very important determining factor in how the ant experiences this "within the world" feeling. We humans once believed the world was likely flat and planar.

Existential nihilism is the belief that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. With respect to the universe, existential nihilism posits that a single human or even the entire human species is insignificant, without purpose and unlikely to change in the totality of existence. The meaninglessness of life is largely explored in the philosophical school of existentialism.

Moral nihilism, also known as ethical nihilism, is the meta-ethical view that morality does not exist as something inherent to objective reality; therefore no action is necessarily preferable to any other. For example, a moral nihilist would say that killing someone, for whatever reason, is not inherently right or wrong.

Other nihilists may argue not that there is no morality at all, but that if it does exist, it is a human construction and thus artificial, wherein any and all meaning is relative for different possible outcomes. As an example, if someone kills someone else, such a nihilist might argue that killing is not inherently a bad thing, or bad independently from our moral beliefs, because of the way morality is constructed as some rudimentary dichotomy. What is said to be a bad thing is given a higher negative weighting than what is called good: as a result, killing the individual was bad because it did not let the individual live, which was arbitrarily given a positive weighting. In this way a moral nihilist believes that all moral claims are void of any truth value. An alternative scholarly perspective is that moral nihilism is a morality in itself. Cooper writes, "In the widest sense of the word 'morality', moral nihilism is a morality."[9]

Political nihilism, a branch of nihilism, follows the characteristic nihilist's rejection of non-rationalized or non-proven assertions; in this case the necessity of the most fundamental social and political structures, such as government, family, and law. An influential analysis of political nihilism is presented by Leo Strauss.[10]

The Russian Nihilist movement was a Russian trend in the 1860s that rejected all authority.[11] Their name derives from the Latin nihil, meaning "nothing". After the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, the Nihilists gained a reputation throughout Europe as proponents of the use of violence for political change.[citation needed] The Nihilists expressed anger at what they described as the abusive nature of the Eastern Orthodox Church and of the tsarist monarchy, and at the domination of the Russian economy by the aristocracy. Although the term Nihilist was first popularised by the German theologian Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743-1818), its widespread usage began with the 1862 novel Fathers and Sons by the Russian author Ivan Turgenev. The main character of the novel, Eugene Bazarov, who describes himself as a Nihilist, wants to educate the people. The "go to the people be the people" campaign reached its height in the 1870s, during which underground groups such as the Circle of Tchaikovsky, the People's Will, and Land and Liberty formed. It became known as the Narodnik movement, whose members believed that the newly-freed serfs were merely being sold into wage slavery in the onset of the Industrial Revolution, and that the middle and upper classes had effectively replaced landowners. The Russian state attempted to suppress them[who?]. In actions described by the Nihilists as propaganda of the deed many government officials were assassinated. In 1881 Alexander II was killed on the very day he had approved a proposal to call a representative assembly to consider new reforms.

The term nihilism was first used by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (17431819). Jacobi used the term to characterize rationalism[12] and in particular Immanuel Kant's "critical" philosophy to carry out a reductio ad absurdum according to which all rationalism (philosophy as criticism) reduces to nihilismand thus it should be avoided and replaced with a return to some type of faith and revelation. Bret W. Davis writes, for example, "The first philosophical development of the idea of nihilism is generally ascribed to Friedrich Jacobi, who in a famous letter criticized Fichte's idealism as falling into nihilism. According to Jacobi, Fichtes absolutization of the ego (the 'absolute I' that posits the 'not-I') is an inflation of subjectivity that denies the absolute transcendence of God."[13] A related but oppositional concept is fideism, which sees reason as hostile and inferior to faith.

With the popularizing of the word nihilism by Ivan Turgenev, a new Russian political movement called the Nihilist movement adopted the term. They supposedly called themselves nihilists because nothing "that then existed found favor in their eyes".[14]

Sren Kierkegaard (18131855) posited an early form of nihilism, to which he referred as levelling.[15] He saw levelling as the process of suppressing individuality to a point where the individual's uniqueness becomes non-existent and nothing meaningful in his existence can be affirmed:

Levelling at its maximum is like the stillness of death, where one can hear one's own heartbeat, a stillness like death, into which nothing can penetrate, in which everything sinks, powerless. One person can head a rebellion, but one person cannot head this levelling process, for that would make him a leader and he would avoid being levelled. Each individual can in his little circle participate in this levelling, but it is an abstract process, and levelling is abstraction conquering individuality.

Kierkegaard, an advocate of a philosophy of life, generally argued against levelling and its nihilist consequence, although he believed it would be "genuinely educative to live in the age of levelling [because] people will be forced to face the judgement of [levelling] alone."[16] George Cotkin asserts Kierkegaard was against "the standardization and levelling of belief, both spiritual and political, in the nineteenth century [and he] opposed tendencies in mass culture to reduce the individual to a cipher of conformity and deference to the dominant opinion."[17] In his day, tabloids (like the Danish magazine Corsaren) and apostate Christianity were instruments of levelling and contributed to the "reflective apathetic age" of 19th century Europe.[18] Kierkegaard argues that individuals who can overcome the levelling process are stronger for it and that it represents a step in the right direction towards "becoming a true self."[16][19] As we must overcome levelling,[20]Hubert Dreyfus and Jane Rubin argue that Kierkegaard's interest, "in an increasingly nihilistic age, is in how we can recover the sense that our lives are meaningful".[21]

Note however that Kierkegaard's meaning of "nihilism" differs from the modern definition in the sense that, for Kierkegaard, levelling led to a life lacking meaning, purpose or value,[18] whereas the modern interpretation of nihilism posits that there was never any meaning, purpose or value to begin with.

Nihilism is often associated with the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who provided a detailed diagnosis of nihilism as a widespread phenomenon of Western culture. Though the notion appears frequently throughout Nietzsche's work, he uses the term in a variety of ways, with different meanings and connotations, all negative[citation needed]. Karen Carr describes Nietzsche's characterization of nihilism "as a condition of tension, as a disproportion between what we want to value (or need) and how the world appears to operate."[22] When we find out that the world does not possess the objective value or meaning that we want it to have or have long since believed it to have, we find ourselves in a crisis.[23] Nietzsche asserts that with the decline of Christianity and the rise of physiological decadence, nihilism is in fact characteristic of the modern age,[24] though he implies that the rise of nihilism is still incomplete and that it has yet to be overcome.[25] Though the problem of nihilism becomes especially explicit in Nietzsche's notebooks (published posthumously), it is mentioned repeatedly in his published works and is closely connected to many of the problems mentioned there.

Nietzsche characterized nihilism as emptying the world and especially human existence of meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. This observation stems in part from Nietzsche's perspectivism, or his notion that "knowledge" is always by someone of some thing: it is always bound by perspective, and it is never mere fact.[26] Rather, there are interpretations through which we understand the world and give it meaning. Interpreting is something we can not go without; in fact, it is something we need. One way of interpreting the world is through morality, as one of the fundamental ways that people make sense of the world, especially in regard to their own thoughts and actions. Nietzsche distinguishes a morality that is strong or healthy, meaning that the person in question is aware that he constructs it himself, from weak morality, where the interpretation is projected on to something external. Regardless of its strength, morality presents us with meaning, whether this is created or 'implanted,' which helps us get through life.[27]

Nietzsche discusses Christianity, one of the major topics in his work, at length in the context of the problem of nihilism in his notebooks, in a chapter entitled "European Nihilism".[28] Here he states that the Christian moral doctrine provides people with intrinsic value, belief in God (which justifies the evil in the world) and a basis for objective knowledge. In this sense, in constructing a world where objective knowledge is possible, Christianity is an antidote against a primal form of nihilism, against the despair of meaninglessness. However, it is exactly the element of truthfulness in Christian doctrine that is its undoing: in its drive towards truth, Christianity eventually finds itself to be a construct, which leads to its own dissolution. It is therefore that Nietzsche states that we have outgrown Christianity "not because we lived too far from it, rather because we lived too close".[29] As such, the self-dissolution of Christianity constitutes yet another form of nihilism. Because Christianity was an interpretation that posited itself as the interpretation, Nietzsche states that this dissolution leads beyond skepticism to a distrust of all meaning.[30][31]

Stanley Rosen identifies Nietzsche's concept of nihilism with a situation of meaninglessness, in which "everything is permitted." According to him, the loss of higher metaphysical values that exist in contrast to the base reality of the world, or merely human ideas, give rise to the idea that all human ideas are therefore valueless. Rejecting idealism thus results in nihilism, because only similarly transcendent ideals live up to the previous standards that the nihilist still implicitly holds.[32] The inability for Christianity to serve as a source of valuating the world is reflected in Nietzsche's famous aphorism of the madman in The Gay Science.[33] The death of God, in particular the statement that "we killed him", is similar to the self-dissolution of Christian doctrine: due to the advances of the sciences, which for Nietzsche show that man is the product of evolution, that Earth has no special place among the stars and that history is not progressive, the Christian notion of God can no longer serve as a basis for a morality.

One such reaction to the loss of meaning is what Nietzsche calls passive nihilism, which he recognises in the pessimistic philosophy of Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer's doctrine, which Nietzsche also refers to as Western Buddhism, advocates a separating of oneself from will and desires in order to reduce suffering. Nietzsche characterises this ascetic attitude as a "will to nothingness", whereby life turns away from itself, as there is nothing of value to be found in the world. This mowing away of all value in the world is characteristic of the nihilist, although in this, the nihilist appears inconsistent:[34]

A nihilist is a man who judges of the world as it is that it ought not to be, and of the world as it ought to be that it does not exist. According to this view, our existence (action, suffering, willing, feeling) has no meaning: the pathos of 'in vain' is the nihilists' pathos at the same time, as pathos, an inconsistency on the part of the nihilists.

Nietzsche's relation to the problem of nihilism is a complex one. He approaches the problem of nihilism as deeply personal, stating that this predicament of the modern world is a problem that has "become conscious" in him.[35] Furthermore, he emphasises both the danger of nihilism and the possibilities it offers, as seen in his statement that "I praise, I do not reproach, [nihilism's] arrival. I believe it is one of the greatest crises, a moment of the deepest self-reflection of humanity. Whether man recovers from it, whether he becomes master of this crisis, is a question of his strength!"[36] According to Nietzsche, it is only when nihilism is overcome that a culture can have a true foundation upon which to thrive. He wished to hasten its coming only so that he could also hasten its ultimate departure.[24]

He states that there is at least the possibility of another type of nihilist in the wake of Christianity's self-dissolution, one that does not stop after the destruction of all value and meaning and succumb to the following nothingness. This alternate, 'active' nihilism on the other hand destroys to level the field for constructing something new. This form of nihilism is characterized by Nietzsche as "a sign of strength,"[37] a wilful destruction of the old values to wipe the slate clean and lay down one's own beliefs and interpretations, contrary to the passive nihilism that resigns itself with the decomposition of the old values. This wilful destruction of values and the overcoming of the condition of nihilism by the constructing of new meaning, this active nihilism, could be related to what Nietzsche elsewhere calls a 'free spirit'[38] or the bermensch from Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Antichrist, the model of the strong individual who posits his own values and lives his life as if it were his own work of art. It may be questioned, though, whether "active nihilism" is indeed the correct term for this stance, and some question whether Nietzsche takes the problems nihilism poses seriously enough.[39]

Martin Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche influenced many postmodern thinkers who investigated the problem of nihilism as put forward by Nietzsche. Only recently has Heidegger's influence on Nietzschean nihilism research faded.[40] As early as the 1930s, Heidegger was giving lectures on Nietzsches thought.[41] Given the importance of Nietzsches contribution to the topic of nihilism, Heidegger's influential interpretation of Nietzsche is important for the historical development of the term nihilism.

Heidegger's method of researching and teaching Nietzsche is explicitly his own. He does not specifically try to present Nietzsche as Nietzsche. He rather tries to incorporate Nietzsche's thoughts into his own philosophical system of Being, Time and Dasein.[42] In his Nihilism as Determined by the History of Being (194446),[43] Heidegger tries to understand Nietzsches nihilism as trying to achieve a victory through the devaluation of the, until then, highest values. The principle of this devaluation is, according to Heidegger, the Will to Power. The Will to Power is also the principle of every earlier valuation of values.[44] How does this devaluation occur and why is this nihilistic? One of Heidegger's main critiques on philosophy is that philosophy, and more specifically metaphysics, has forgotten to discriminate between investigating the notion of a Being (Seiende) and Being (Sein). According to Heidegger, the history of Western thought can be seen as the history of metaphysics. And because metaphysics has forgotten to ask about the notion of Being (what Heidegger calls Seinsvergessenheit), it is a history about the destruction of Being. That is why Heidegger calls metaphysics nihilistic.[45] This makes Nietzsches metaphysics not a victory over nihilism, but a perfection of it.[46]

Heidegger, in his interpretation of Nietzsche, has been inspired by Ernst Jnger. Many references to Jnger can be found in Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche. For example, in a letter to the rector of Freiburg University of November 4, 1945, Heidegger, inspired by Jnger, tries to explain the notion of God is dead as the reality of the Will to Power. Heidegger also praises Jnger for defending Nietzsche against a too biological or anthropological reading during the Third Reich.[47]

Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche influenced a number of important postmodernist thinkers. Gianni Vattimo points at a back-and-forth movement in European thought, between Nietzsche and Heidegger. During the 1960s, a Nietzschean 'renaissance' began, culminating in the work of Mazzino Montinari and Giorgio Colli. They began work on a new and complete edition of Nietzsche's collected works, making Nietzsche more accessible for scholarly research. Vattimo explains that with this new edition of Colli and Montinari, a critical reception of Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche began to take shape. Like other contemporary French and Italian philosophers, Vattimo does not want, or only partially wants, to rely on Heidegger for understanding Nietzsche. On the other hand, Vattimo judges Heidegger's intentions authentic enough to keep pursuing them.[48] Philosophers who Vattimo exemplifies as a part of this back and forth movement are French philosophers Deleuze, Foucault and Derrida. Italian philosophers of this same movement are Cacciari, Severino and himself.[49]Habermas, Lyotard and Rorty are also philosophers who are influenced by Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche.[50]

Postmodern and poststructuralist thought question the very grounds on which Western cultures have based their 'truths': absolute knowledge and meaning, a 'decentralization' of authorship, the accumulation of positive knowledge, historical progress, and certain ideals and practices of humanism and the Enlightenment.

Jacques Derrida, whose deconstruction is perhaps most commonly labeled nihilistic, did not himself make the nihilistic move that others have claimed. Derridean deconstructionists argue that this approach rather frees texts, individuals or organizations from a restrictive truth, and that deconstruction opens up the possibility of other ways of being.[51]Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, for example, uses deconstruction to create an ethics of opening up Western scholarship to the voice of the subaltern and to philosophies outside of the canon of western texts.[52] Derrida himself built a philosophy based upon a 'responsibility to the other'.[53] Deconstruction can thus be seen not as a denial of truth, but as a denial of our ability to know truth (it makes an epistemological claim compared to nihilism's ontological claim).

Lyotard argues that, rather than relying on an objective truth or method to prove their claims, philosophers legitimize their truths by reference to a story about the world that can't be separated from the age and system the stories belong toreferred to by Lyotard as meta-narratives. He then goes on to define the postmodern condition as characterized by a rejection both of these meta-narratives and of the process of legitimation by meta-narratives. "In lieu of meta-narratives we have created new language-games in order to legitimize our claims which rely on changing relationships and mutable truths, none of which is privileged over the other to speak to ultimate truth."[citation needed] This concept of the instability of truth and meaning leads in the direction of nihilism, though Lyotard stops short of embracing the latter.

Postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard wrote briefly of nihilism from the postmodern viewpoint in Simulacra and Simulation. He stuck mainly to topics of interpretations of the real world over the simulations of which the real world is composed. The uses of meaning was an important subject in Baudrillard's discussion of nihilism:

The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifferenceall that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination (in contrast to seduction, which was attached to appearances, and to dialectical reason, which was attached to meaning) is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency.

In Nihil Unbound: Extinction and Enlightenment, Ray Brassier maintains that philosophy has avoided the traumatic idea of extinction, instead attempting to find meaning in a world conditioned by the very idea of its own annihilation. Thus Brassier critiques both the phenomenological and hermeneutic strands of Continental philosophy as well as the vitality of thinkers like Gilles Deleuze, who work to ingrain meaning in the world and stave off the threat of nihilism. Instead, drawing on thinkers such as Alain Badiou, Franois Laruelle, Paul Churchland, and Thomas Metzinger, Brassier defends a view of the world as inherently devoid of meaning. That is, rather than avoiding nihilism, Brassier embraces it as the truth of reality. Brassier concludes from his readings of Badiou and Laruelle that the universe is founded on the nothing,[54] but also that philosophy is the "organon of extinction," that it is only because life is conditioned by its own extinction that there is thought at all.[55] Brassier then defends a radically anti-correlationist philosophy proposing that Thought is conjoined not with Being, but with Non-Being.

The term Dada was first used by Richard Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara in 1916.[56] The movement, which lasted from approximately 1916 to 1922, arose during World War I, an event that influenced the artists.[57] The Dada Movement began in Zrich, Switzerland known as the "Niederdorf" or "Niederdrfli" in the Caf Voltaire.[58] The Dadaists claimed that Dada was not an art movement, but an anti-art movement, sometimes using found objects in a manner similar to found poetry. The "anti-art" drive is thought to have stemmed from a post-war emptiness. This tendency toward devaluation of art has led many to claim that Dada was an essentially nihilistic movement. Given that Dada created its own means for interpreting its products, it is difficult to classify alongside most other contemporary art expressions. Hence, due to its ambiguity, it is sometimes classified as a nihilistic modus vivendi.[57]

The term "nihilism" was actually popularized by Ivan Turgenev in his novel Fathers and Sons, whose hero, Bazarov, was a nihilist and recruited several followers to the philosophy. He found his nihilistic ways challenged upon falling in love.[59]

Anton Chekhov portrayed nihilism when writing Three Sisters. The phrase "what does it matter" or such variants is often spoken by several characters in response to events; the significance of some of these events suggests a subscription to nihilism by said characters as a type of coping strategy.

Ayn Rand vehemently denounced nihilism as an abdication of rationality and the pursuit of happiness which she regarded as life's moral purpose. As such, most villains are depicted as moral nihilists including Ellsworth Monckton Toohey in The Fountainhead who is a self-aware nihilist and the corrupt government in Atlas Shrugged who are unconsciously driven by nihilism which has taken root in the books depiction of American society with the fictional slang phrase "Who is John Galt?" being used as a defeatist way of saying "Who knows?" or "What does it matter?" by characters in the book who have essentially given up on life.[citation needed]

The philosophical ideas of the French author, the Marquis de Sade, are often noted as early examples of nihilistic principles.[citation needed]

In Act III of Shostakovich's opera "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District", a nihilist is tormented by the Russian police.[citation needed]

A 2007 article in The Guardian noted that " the summer of 1977, ...punk's nihilistic swagger was the most thrilling thing in England."[60] The Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen, with its chant-like refrain of "no future", became a slogan for unemployed and disaffected youth during the late 1970s. Their song Pretty Vacant is also a prime example of the band's nihilistic outlook. Other influential punk rock and proto-punk bands to adopt nihilistic themes include The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Misfits, Ramones, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Suicide and Black Flag.[61]

Industrial, Black metal, death metal, and doom metal music often emphasize nihilistic themes. Explorers of nihilistic themes in heavy metal include Black Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer, KMFDM, Opeth, Alice in Chains, Godflesh, Celtic Frost, Ministry, Autopsy, Dismember, Motrhead, Bathory, Darkthrone, Emperor, Tool, Meshuggah, Candlemass, Morbid Saint, Kreator, Morbid Angel, Sepultura, Exodus, Entombed, Death, Mayhem, Nevermore, Dark Angel, Dissection, Nihilist, Weakling, Obituary, Electric Wizard, Eyehategod, Pantera, Sleep, Xasthur, and At the Gates.[62][63][64]

In 2014 is composed the first opera (Demandolx) carrying the expression of "Nihilist Opera", using classical, modern and electronic instruments and following some drastic different rules, musically and theoretically.

Three of the antagonists in the 1998 movie The Big Lebowski are explicitly described as "nihilists," but are not shown exhibiting any explicitly nihilistic traits during the film. Regarding the nihilists, the character Walter Sobchak comments "Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos." [65] The 1999 film The Matrix portrays the character Thomas A. Anderson with a hollowed out copy of Baudrillard's treatise, Simulacra and Simulation, in which he stores contraband data files under the chapter "On Nihilism." The main antagonist Agent Smith is also depicted frequently as a nihilist, with him ranting about how all of peace, justice and love were meaningless in The Matrix Revolutions.[66] The 1999 film Fight Club also features concepts relating to Nihilism by exploring the contrasts between the artificial values imposed by consumerism in relation to the more meaningful pursuit of spiritual happiness.

In keeping with his comic book depiction, The Joker is portrayed as a nihilist in The Dark Knight, describing himself as "an Agent of Chaos" and at one point burning a gigantic pile of money stating that crime is "not about money, it's about sending a message: everything burns." Alfred Pennyworth states, regarding the Joker, "Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money - they can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with - some men just want to watch the world burn."[67]

The character from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II The Sith Lords, a dark lord named Darth Nihilus was a reference to the Nihilism ideology as he devoured entire planets and did not care for living things at all.[citation needed]

Although the character Barthandelus from Final Fantasy XIII is not referred to as nihilistic in the game itself, he is referred to as such in the Fighting Fate entry for Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.[68]

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Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.

Gott ist tot! Gott bleibt tot! Und wir haben ihn gettet!

Dio morto! Dio resta morto! E noi lo abbiamo ucciso!

Friedrich Nietzsche nel 1882.

Firma di Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche IPA: [fid vlhlm nits] (nel mondo anglosassone e italiano semplificato in /nit/[3]ascolta[?info]) (Rcken, 15 ottobre 1844 Weimar, 25 agosto 1900) stato un filosofo, poeta, compositore e filologo tedesco. Tra i massimi filosofi e prosatori di ogni tempo, Nietzsche ebbe un'influenza controversa, ma indiscutibile, sul pensiero filosofico, letterario, politico e scientifico[4] del Novecento. La sua filosofia, appartenente al filone delle filosofie della vita, considerata da alcuni uno spartiacque fra la filosofia tradizionale e un nuovo modello di riflessione, informale e provocatorio.[5] In ogni caso, si tratta di un pensatore unico nel suo genere, s da giustificare l'enorme influenza da lui esercitata sul pensiero posteriore.

Nietzsche scrisse vari saggi e opere aforistiche sulla morale, la religione (in particolare quella cristiana), la societ moderna, la scienza, intrise di una profonda lucidit ed avversione alla metafisica, seppure spesso il filosofo venga accomunato anche all'irrazionalismo[6], di una forte carica critica, sempre sul filo dell'ironia e della parodia, portando anche l'occidente a conoscenza di parte delle filosofie orientali. Nella sua filosofia si distingue una fase wagneriana, che comprende La Nascita della Tragedia e le Considerazioni inattuali, in cui il filosofo combatte a fianco di Wagner per una riforma mitica della cultura tedesca.

Questa fase sar poi abbandonata e rinnegata con la pubblicazione di Umano, troppo umano - nella stagione cosiddetta "illuministica" del suo pensiero -, per culminare infine, pochi anni prima del crollo nervoso - probabile conseguenza di una patologia neurologica ereditaria[7][8] - che metter fine alla sua attivit, nella fase pi prominente del suo pensiero (quella della trasvalutazione dei valori e del nichilismo attivo, costellata dai concetti di Oltreuomo, eterno ritorno e volont di potenza) che ha il suo apice ed inizio con la pubblicazione del celeberrimo Cos parl Zarathustra.[9]

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche nasce a Rcken, villaggio della Prussia meridionale (Sassonia-Anhalt) nei pressi di Lipsia, il 15 ottobre 1844; viene chiamato cos in onore del re Federico Guglielmo IV di Prussia il quale compiva quarantanove anni proprio nel giorno della nascita di Nietzsche. Successivamente il filosofo abbandon il suo secondo nome "Wilhelm"[10].

Appartiene a una stirpe di pastori protestanti, primogenito di Carl Ludwig Nietzsche, reazionario monarchico gi precettore alla corte di Altenburg, e di Franziska Oehler, figlia anche lei di un pastore luterano. Nel 1846 e nel 1848 nascono altri due figli, Elisabeth e Joseph (quest'ultimo morto nel 1850, per un'improvvisa febbre non meglio specificata).[11]

Il 27 luglio 1849 muore il padre, dopo un anno di "apatia cerebrale" (probabilmente un tumore, o la stessa malattia cerebrale che colpir il figlio). In seguito a tali disgrazie la famiglia si trasferisce nella vicina Naumburg ove convive con la nonna materna di Nietzsche e due sorelle nubili di suo padre. Dopo la morte della nonna nel 1856, la famiglia si trasfer in una propria casa, ora "Nietzsche-Haus", un museo e centro studi.

Qui Friedrich inizia gli studi di lettere classiche e religione; frequenta la scuola pubblica maschile e poi, successivamente, una scuola privata, dove stringe amicizia con Gustav Krug e Wilhelm Pinder, i suoi primi amici ognuno dei quali proveniva da famiglie di tutto rispetto. In casa apprende la musica e il canto. Si impegna in composizioni musicali vocali e strumentali, compone poesie, legge Goethe e Byron.

Nel 1854 ha iniziato a frequentare il "Domgymnasium" di Naumburg, ma gi distintosi per le sue non comuni doti intellettuali, avendo mostrato particolari talenti sia in musica che nel campo linguistico, viene ammesso come allievo a Schulpforta, un complesso collegiale riconosciuto a livello internazionale. Inizia cos a frequentare il liceo (gymnasium) di Pforta come interno beneficiante di una borsa di studio ecclesiastica. Qui studia tra il 1858-1864, sperimentando per la prima volta la lontananza dall'ambiente familiare, diventando prima amico di Paul Deussen (futuro indologo di fama) e in seguito di Carl von Gersdorff; trover anche il tempo per lavorare sulle sue prime originali composizioni poetiche e musicali.

Nel 1860 insieme agli amici Krug e Pinder che lo avevano raggiunto per studiare anche loro a Pforta, fonda l'associazione Germania, con la quale si propone di sviluppare i suoi interessi letterari e musicali. Per questa associazione scrive alcuni saggi, come Fato e volont e Libert della volont e fato, visibilmente ispirati dalla lettura di "Fato" e altri saggi di Emerson, specie quelli inclusi in Condotta di vita (1860), un'opera che stata recentemente ritenuta fondamentale nella genesi del pensiero di Nietzsche.[11].

Frequenta anche il vecchio poeta bohemien Ernst Ortlepp, un ex allievo di Pforta e che ora vive gironzolando nei dintorni. Assieme a Ortlepp, eccentrico, blasfemo e spesso ubriaco, conosce l'opera del poeta allora quasi sconosciuto Friedrich Hlderlin e che verr presto considerato il preferito del ragazzo; compone anzi un saggio in cui scrive che il poeta pazzo ha sollevato la coscienza all'idealit pi sublime: l'insegnante che gli ha corretto il compito, pur dandogli un buon voto, gli consiglia per vivamente di occuparsi in futuro di scrittori pi sani, pi lucidi, in definitiva "pi tedeschi"[12]. Ortlepp verr infine trovato morto in un fosso, dove probabilmente vi era caduto in stato di ubriachezza e battendo la testa.

Il particolarmente accurato studio delle lingue classiche, ma anche dell'antico ebraico, qui condotto lo metteranno in grado di leggere importanti fonti primarie; dopo gli esami finali all'oramai diciannovenne viene consegnato un attestato finale che gli d un eccellente in religione, tedesco e latino, un buono in greco ed un sufficiente in francese, mentre risulta invece alquanto scarso in ebraico matematica e disegno; nel commento conclusivo del corpo docente si legge: "la commissione esaminatrice gli ha rilasciato, ora che lascia la regia scuola territoriale per studiare filologia e teologia all'universit di Bonn, il certificato di maturit e lo congeda nella speranza che un giorno applicandosi sempre con seriet e coscienziosit possa conseguire buoni risultati nella sua professione"[13].

Conclusi gli studi secondari nel 1864, comincia gli studi nella facolt teologica all'Universit di Bonn per volere materno, studi che regger per appena una sessione, e s'iscrive assieme all'amico e compagni di studi Deussen alla Burschenschaft (corporazione studentesca) Franconia. Gi nei suoi saggi sul fato degli anni immediatamente precedenti aveva sostenuto che la ricerca storica aveva oramai screditato gl'insegnamenti centrali della religione; nello stesso periodo aveva anche letto la "Vita di Ges" di David Friedrich Strau la quale sembra aver avuto un profondo effetto sul giovane. Scrivendo alla sorella, profondamente devota, una lettera a riguardo della propria perdita della fede, afferma: "se si vuol lottare per la pace dell'anima, si deve credere; ma se vuoi esser un devoto della verit, allora devi domandare".

Nel 1865 si iscrive all'Universit di Lipsia per continuare a seguire le lezioni di filologia classica di Friedrich Ritschl, gi suo insegnante a Bonn. Studia Teognide e la Suida, ma pi affascinato da Platone e soprattutto da Ralph Waldo Emerson e Arthur Schopenhauer, che influenzeranno tutta la sua produzione. Soprattutto quest'ultimo, con la sua opera Il mondo come volont e rappresentazione doveva risvegliare un appassionato e duraturo interesse filosofico.

Nel 1866 legge anche la "Storia del materialismo" di Friedrich Albert Lange; qui le descrizioni della filosofia anti-materialistica di Immanuel Kant, dell'ascesa del materialismo nel continente europeo, della crescente preoccupazione nei riguardi della Teoria dell'evoluzione ideata dall'inglese Charles Darwin ed infine dell'atmosfera generale di ribellione all'autorit tradizionale incuriosirono notevolmente Nietzsche. Conosce nel 1867 Erwin Rohde, futuro autore di Psiche e nel frattempo approfondisce lo studio dell'opera di Diogene Laerzio, Omero, Democrito e del succitato Kant, mentre un suo saggio su Teognide appare nella rivista filologica Rheinisches Museum, diretta da Ritschl.

Il 9 ottobre comincia il servizio militare, avendo firmato per un anno come volontario, nel reggimento di artiglieria a cavallo dell'esercito prussiano di stanza a Naumburg. Nel marzo dell'anno successivo si infortuna seriamente allo sterno; mentre sta mandando il suo cavallo al galoppo colpisce violentemente col petto il pomo della sella e strappandosi due muscoli del fianco sinistro: dopo sei mesi passato immobilizzato a ottobre si congeda anticipatamente. Tornato a Lipsia, l'Universit lo premia per il suo saggio sulle fonti di Diogene Laerzio e lo assume come insegnante privato. L'8 novembre 1868 conosce Richard Wagner in casa dell'orientalista Hermann Brockhaus.[11]

Grazie all'appoggio di Ritschl, il 13 febbraio 1869 ottiene la cattedra di lingua e letteratura greca dell'Universit di Basilea come filologo classico, non avendo ancora completato n il proprio dottorato n ricevuto alcun certificato di abilitazione all'insegnamento; il 28 maggio tiene la prolusione d'insediamento sul tema Omero e la filologia classica, mentre l'Universit di Lipsia gli concede la laurea sulla base delle sue pubblicazioni nel Rheinisches Museum. All'et di 25 anni Nietzsche chiede l'annullamento della sua precedente cittadinanza prussiana e diventa apolide[14]: lo rimarr ufficialmente per il resto dei suoi giorni.

Dal 17 maggio aveva cominciato a frequentare, nella villa di Tribschen, sul lago dei Quattro Cantoni nei pressi di Lucerna, Richard e Cosima Wagner, rimanendone fortemente colpito: Ci che imparo laggi, che vedo e ascolto e intendo, indescrivibile. Schopenhauer, Goethe, Eschilo e Pindaro vivono ancora. Nel periodo fra il 1869 e il 1870 collabora, come correttore di bozze (e pi in generale come informale segretario-factotum), alla redazione di un'autobiografia di Wagner[15], destinata a non vedere la luce prima del 1911[16], ma alla cui conoscenza il filosofo allude apertamente, e con ironia, in uno scritto degli anni 1880:

Man verspricht uns eine Selbstbiographie Richard Wagners: wer zweifelt daran, dass es eine kluge Selbstbiographie sein wird?

Ci viene promessa un'autobiografia di Richard Wagner: chi dubita che sar un'autobiografia avveduta?

Anche dopo la rottura ideologica con Wagner, conserver sempre grande stima per Cosima, considerandola, tra le sue conoscenze, l'unica persona al suo stesso livello intellettuale.[17] All'inizio del 1870 Nietzsche tiene a Basilea alcune conferenze ("Il dramma musicale greco", "Socrate e la tragedia"), che anticipano il suo primo volume, La Nascita della Tragedia (1872). A Basilea conosce il gi famoso storico Jacob Burckhardt e stringe amicizia col vicino di stanza alla pensione in cui risiede, il professore di teologia Franz Camille Overbeck, che gli rimarr vicino fino alla morte e sar grande estimatore delle sue opere, nonostante la sua posizione accademica rendesse la cosa alquanto imbarazzante, considerate le vedute di Nietzsche in materia di religione.[11] Conosce anche l'opera di Afrikan pir e ne rimane profondamente influenzato.

Ich bin kein Mensch, ich bin Dynamit.

Io non sono un uomo, sono dinamite.

Allo scoppio della guerra franco-prussiana (1870-1871) chiede di essere temporaneamente esonerato dall'insegnamento per partecipare, come infermiere addetto al trasporto dei feriti, alla guerra. Dopo appena poche settimane passate al fronte contrae per la difterite e un principio di dissenteria, tanto che deve venire a sua volta curato ed quindi congedato. Osserva con pacato scetticismo e un certo distacco la nascita dell'impero tedesco per opera di Otto von Bismarck.

Nella sua risposta polemica intitolata "Filologi del futuro" l'allora ancor giovane ma gi affermato Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff critica fortemente la mancanza di metodologia accademica utilizzata da Nietzsche per scrivere la "Nascita della tragedia dallo spirito della musica", per seguire un approccio invece molto pi speculativo; solamente Rohde, gi insegnante a Kiel, e Wagner ne difendono la forma schierandosi al suo fianco; osservando il profondo isolamento in cui s' venuto a trovare in quest'occasione all'interno della comunit filologica, tenta senza successo di passare di ruolo come professore di filosofia.

Nel frattempo scrive La visione dionisiaca del mondo, abbozza La tragedia e gli spiriti liberi e un dramma intitolato Empedocle, in cui vengono anticipati con molta chiarezza molti dei temi che verranno in seguito ripresi nelle opere della maturit. Fra il 1873 e il 1876 scrive le quattro Considerazioni inattuali[11] le quali rappresentano un orientamento sempre pi volto ad una forte critica culturale del suo tempo: "David Strauss, il confessore e lo scrittore"; Sull'utilit e il danno della storia per la vita; "Schopenhauer come educatore" ed infine "Richard Wagner a Bayreuth" Nel 1873 cominciava anche ad accumulare le note che sarebbero state pubblicate postume sotto il titolo di La filosofia nell'epoca tragica dei greci.

Le "Inattuali" sfidano la cultura tedesca allora in via di sviluppo sul solco dell'esempio dato e delle linee suggerite da Schopenhauer e Wagner; incontr in questo momento Malwida von Meysenbug e Hans von Blow, ed inizi anche una stretta amicizia e collaborazione con Paul Re, studioso di filosofia di origine ebraica il quale a partire dal 1876 lo influenz positivamente nel respingere il pessimismo tragico che pervadeva i suoi primi scritti, volgendosi cos ad un fase "illuministica".

Rimasto profondamente deluso dal Festival di Bayreuth del 1876, dove la banalit degli spettacoli e la bassezza del pubblico lo respinsero intimamente, Nietzsche comincia ad allontanarsi sempre pi dal vecchio maestro Wagner, anche se la rottura ufficiale vi sar solo con la pubblicazione di Umano, troppo umano ("Un libro per spiriti liberi").

Per motivi di salute (emicranie frequenti e dolori agli occhi, possibili sintomi della malattia che lo colpir pi tardi), ma anche indubbiamente per dedicarsi con assiduit ininterrotta alla sua attivit filosofica, Nietzsche all'et di 34 anni abbandona l'insegnamento. Gli viene riconosciuta una modesta pensione che costituir, da quel momento in poi, l'unico suo introito. Inizia la sua esistenza da perfetto apolide, coi suoi pellegrinaggi da viandante senza casa e senza patria spostandosi da un luogo all'altro.

Nietzsche si spostato spesso da un luogo all'altro per trovare climi che potessero essere pi favorevoli per la sua salute cagionevole e visse cos fino al 1889 come autore indipendente in diverse citt. Ha trascorso molte estati in localit montane o termali, soprattutto a Sils Maria (dove si pu trovare ancora oggi la sua abitazione, aperta a visite e soggiorni) - vicino a Saint Moritz - nella parte alta della valle dell'Engadina in Svizzera. Ha trascorso invece preferibilmente i suoi inverni nelle citt italiane, sulla riviera ligure a Genova e Rapallo, infine a Torino. Sue altre mete frequenti e amatissime Venezia e la francese Nizza.[11]

Nel 1881, quando la Francia occup la Tunisia, aveva intenzione di recarsi a Tunisi per vedere l'Europa da fuori, ma poco dopo ha abbandonato una tale idea, probabilmente per motivi di salute. Occasionalmente torn a Naumburg per visitare la sua famiglia, e, soprattutto in questo periodo, lui e la sorella continuarono ad avere periodi di conflitto e di ripetute riconciliazioni. Durante un breve viaggio in traghetto a Messina e Taormina frequenta "l'Arcadia" locale e inizia a scrivere Cos parl Zarathustra.

Durante la Pasqua del 1882 incontra a Roma, tramite la comune amica e nota scrittrice femminista Malwida von Meysenbug, Lou von Salom una giovane studentessa russa in viaggio d'istruzione attraverso l'Europa. Si danno appuntamento presso la Basilica di San Pietro e Nietzsche la saluta con queste parole: Da quali stelle siam caduti per incontrarci qui?. A maggio, durante una gita sul lago d'Orta passa alcune ore di intimit con questa ragazza ventunenne "intelligentissima". In seguito, la Salom non ricord se avesse baciato il filosofo, del quale comunque rifiut una proposta di matrimonio (come del resto quella dell'amico di entrambi Paul Re, che le aveva presentato Nietzsche e con il quale si era formato una sorta di rapporto triadico filosofico-sentimentale). Questo incontro, proseguito poi attraverso due anni di intensi scambi affettivi e culturali, molto particolare, in quanto si tratta di una delle rare esperienze sentimentali-affettive di Nietzsche con una donna di cui si abbia conoscenza.[11]

Nel 1888, con gi molte pubblicazioni alle spalle, ospitato dall'amico e filosofo Etna Scorza[18][19], Nietzsche si trasfer a Torino, citt che apprezz particolarmente, e dove scriver L'Anticristo, Il crepuscolo degli idoli ed Ecce Homo (pubblicato postumo). Nel 1889 avvenne infine il famoso crollo mentale di Nietzsche, probabile effetto di una patologia neurologica: datata 3 gennaio 1889 la prima crisi di follia in pubblico[11]; mentre si trovava in piazza Carignano, nei pressi della sua casa torinese, vedendo il cavallo adibito al traino di una carrozza fustigato a sangue dal cocchiere,[20] abbracci l'animale, pianse, finendo per baciarlo; in seguito cadde a terra urlando in preda a spasmi. Per molti un episodio leggendario e Nietzsche si sarebbe piuttosto limitato a fare vistose rimostranze e schiamazzi per i quali venne fermato e ammonito dalla polizia municipale.[21] Le cause non sono del tutto chiare: sono state ipotizzate diverse possibilit, tra le pi accreditate la neurosifilide, un tumore cerebrale o la sindrome CADASIL, grave malattia neurologica ereditaria.[22][7][8][23]

Secondo alcuni, in un ambito meno medico e pi filosofico, la causa che lo spinse al crollo fu l'enorme sforzo creativo cui si sottopose negli anni precedenti. Sempre nello stesso periodo, Nietzsche scrive delle lettere ad amici e conoscenti che sono solitamente classificate sotto il nome di Biglietti della follia: in essi la sua crisi mentale appare ormai in uno stato avanzato, anche se lo stile non affatto diverso da quello classico.

Viene ricoverato dall'amico Franz Camille Overbeck, teologo protestante e suo ex insegnante, a causa del suo stato alterato, che passava da momenti di esaltazione a tristezza profonda, prima in una clinica psichiatrica a Basilea (Svizzera) in cura dal dottor Wille, che gli diagnostica una "paralisi progressiva" di incerta origine e ipotizza per la prima volta la sifilide; viene trasferito poi dalla madre a Naumburg (Assia, Germania), poi a Jena, in clinica e nella casa della madre (1890), per esser assistito da lei stessa e da due infermieri, fino alla morte di lei (1897). Dopo il suicidio del marito, la sorella Elisabeth Frster Nietzsche ritorna dal Paraguay e decide di occuparsi del fratello. Gi dal 1892 Nietzsche perde la memoria, e non riconosce le persone, salvo certi momenti di lucidit.[24]

Nietzsche trascorre il suo tempo in un mutismo quasi totale, passeggiando con amici o suonando il pianoforte, fino all'aggravarsi delle condizioni fisiche (numerose paralisi, forse accentuate dalle eccessive dosi di farmaci per tenere sotto controllo gli attacchi di follia); talvolta parla con gli ospiti, ma assente e i suoi ragionamenti spesso confusi. Nel 1893 perde l'uso delle gambe, ed costretto a spostarsi con una sedia a rotelle, mentre dal 1894 soffre di perdita della parola, indici di danni cerebrali e spinali diffusi[24], anche se Sax racconta di una visita di un amico a Nietzsche nel 1899 in cui, secondo la testimonianza, il filosofo era ancora in grado di comunicare, in certi momenti, e non era incosciente, anche se poco reattivo, almeno fino all'ultimo anno di vita (pur all'oscuro del grande dibattito che i suoi scritti cominciavano a suscitare in Europa).[23]

Trasferitosi quindi nel 1897 assieme ad Elisabeth nella casa di Weimar (Turingia, Germania), dove la sorella ha fondato il Nietzsche-Archiv, vi muore di polmonite il 25 agosto 1900.[23] Nonostante il suo dichiarato e profondo ateismo, per volont di parenti e amici viene seppellito con cerimonia religiosa nel cimitero di Rcken.[25]

La natura della sua follia rimane ancora parzialmente un mistero, data la plausibilit di tutte le ipotesi. Nei frammenti teorizzava l'autodistruzione della reputazione tramite una follia volontaria come una forma di ascesi superiore. Come molti hanno ipotizzato[26], la causa del collasso nervoso, come detto anche prima, fu forse l'enorme tensione, insopportabile per la sua mente, dovuta allo sforzo creativo e filosofico svolto negli anni precedenti, come accenna egli stesso in un famoso aforisma:

Wer mit Ungeheuern kmpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.

Chi lotta contro i mostri deve fare attenzione a non diventare lui stesso un mostro. E se tu riguarderai a lungo in un abisso, anche l'abisso vorr guardare dentro di te

La filosofia di Nietzsche prende le mosse dal suo complesso retroterra culturale, specialmente di filologo classico, ammiratore della tragedia greca e poi entusiasta estimatore della nuova musica post-romantica di Wagner, della quale si fa promotore sul piano estetico e filosofico, scorgendo in essa una spinta per la rinascita dello spirito tedesco. A ci si connette strettamente un intenso studio delle filosofie presocratiche, ad esempio quella di Eraclito, e una loro affermazione rispetto all'egemonia tradizionale dell'impianto socratico-platonico.[27]

Fondamentale per la formazione del giovane Nietzsche altres la lettura, nel 1866-67, de Il mondo come volont e rappresentazione di Schopenhauer, incontro definito dal filosofo "caso divino". Cos, in una riflessione registrata in una pagina autobiografica, Nietzsche ricorda la prima lettura del capolavoro schopenhaueriano:

Nella sua prima vera opera di argomento filosofico, La nascita della tragedia (1872), la tragedia greca viene vista come la massima espressione dello slancio vitale o "spirito dionisiaco", istintivo e irrazionale, che si coniuga e nello stesso tempo si contrappone a quello apollineo, che rappresenta l'ordine e la razionalit. Il pensiero apollineo e quello dionisiaco sono perci cos definiti:

Ne La nascita della tragedia, Nietzsche individua per la prima volta in Socrate il corruttore della tragedia attica, e nella sua influenza sul tragediografo Euripide l'origine del prevalere dello spirito apollineo su quello dionisiaco, espresso dalla vecchia tragedia di Sofocle ed Eschilo. La corruzione dello spirito tragico da Nietzsche considerata come l'originaria decadenza cui si deve una visione astratta e intellettualizzante della vita e della morale, determinata dall'"intellettualismo etico" socratico.[11]

Altrettanto forte l'avversione di Nietzsche nei confronti di Platone, che egli considera autore di una concezione del mondo fondata sull'idealit metafisica e sul disprezzo nei confronti della realt tangibile. Da Platone egli ritiene esser nata quella continuit ideologica che lega Parmenide a Platone e poi Plotino, il cristianesimo (definito "platonismo per il popolo") fino all'idealismo tedesco dell'Ottocento.[11]

Nietzsche attacca, quindi, i tradizionali valori fondamentali della societ (della metafisica, del Cristianesimo, della democrazia), sostenendo la natura meramente metaforica e prospettica di qualsiasi principio trascendente e della stessa morale, cos come di ogni concezione tradizionale. Il suo obiettivo era di smascherare la falsit e l'ipocrisia del sistema culturale su cui si fondava l'Europa dei suoi tempi e in particolare il mondo germanico, ma tutta la storia dell'Occidente vista come un lungo processo di decadenza dell'uomo, come negazione della vita, quando invece l'affermazione della libert avrebbe dovuto essere il destino dell'uomo.[11]

I grandi valori della cultura occidentale, quali la verit, la scienza, il progresso, la religione, sono cos da smascherare nella loro mancanza di fondamento e nella loro natura di mera finzione. C' nell'uomo una sostanziale paura verso la creativit della vita e la volont di potenza, che produce valori collettivi sotto la cui giurisdizione la vita viene disciplinata, regolata, schematizzata.[11]

Un tale nichilismo tuttavia soggetto, nelle opere di Nietzsche, a una caratterizzazione pi profonda e problematica, che egli giunge a delineare in due aspetti fondamentali. La prima forma di nichilismo, il nichilismo passivo (di cui un esempio ravvisato in Schopenhauer) coincide con la perdita di fiducia dell'uomo europeo verso i valori della propria civilt; coincide con la "diminuzione vitale", caratterizzata diversamente come perversione della volont di potenza. Con nichilismo attivo, invece, Nietzsche intende l'atteggiamento che, fattosi forte di una demolizione dei vincoli metafisici che sopprimevano la forza vitale, si propone come creatore di nuove tavole di valori attraverso la loro trasvalutazione.[11] Deve tenersi presente che le determinazioni che portano Nietzsche al nichilismo derivano dal convincimento della necessit del distacco oggettuale e relazionale che portano da un lato all'affermazione non di un valore determinato ma di valori fluenti che sono alla base della trasvalutazione e che dall'altro consentono nell'analisi della oggettivit di disceverare l'oggetto e l'altro ma nello stesso tempo di racchiudere il pensiero in s stesso a realizzare proprio attraverso tale distacco la volont di potenza. attraverso tale chiusura del pensiero in s stesso che viene determinato il nichilismo di Nietzsche in quanto costituente la scissione dell'interno dall'esterno che si realizza la possibilit di cogliere l'opposizione dicotomica nel pensiero tra razionale e irrazionale da cui, a sua volta, deriva l'esaltazione del dionisiaco come irrazionale in quanto fattore non comprimibile e dunque enucleante appieno la possibilit di realizzare la volont di potenza. Da tale aspetto fondamentale di Nietzsche connotante il distacco oggettuale e la relazione con l'altro deriva anche il suo apprezzamento, da un lato, della assenza di compassione, che uno dei fondamenti a base della trasvalutazione e che se non cos fondata entrerebbe in contraddizione con il suo nichilismo e dall'altro il suo apprezzamento per i passi biblici e per l'ebraismo che si fondano sulla giustizia divina e in particolare sulla legge dell'"occhio per occhio e dente per dente" cui si unisce appunto quel distacco alla cui base vi un'assenza di affettivit che consente l'affermazione del valore del momento in rispondenza alla volont di potenza e alla necessit di esistenza dell'esterno anche come altro-soggetto.[11]

L'uomo, per Nietzsche, ha dovuto illudersi per dare un senso all'esistenza, in quanto ha avuto paura della verit, non essendo stato capace di accettare l'idea che "la vita non ha alcun senso", che non c' nessun "oltre" di essa e che va vissuta con desiderio e libero abbandono pieno di "fisicit". Se il mondo avesse un senso e se fosse costruito secondo criteri di razionalit, di giustizia e di bellezza, l'uomo non avrebbe bisogno di auto-illudersi per sopravvivere, costruendo metafisiche, religioni e morali. L'umanit occidentale, passata attraverso il cristianesimo, percepisce ora un senso di vuoto, trova che "Dio morto", cio che ogni costruzione metafisica vien meno davanti alla scoperta che il mondo un caos irrazionale. Fino a che non sorger l'Oltreuomo, cio un uomo in grado di sopportare l'idea secondo cui l'Universo non ha un senso, l'umanit continuer a cercare dei valori assoluti che possano rimpiazzare il vecchio dio (inteso come qualsiasi tipo di realt ultraterrena e non come semplice entit quale potrebbe essere il Dio cristiano); dei sostituti idolatrici quali, ad esempio, lo Stato, la scienza, il denaro, ecc.[11]

La mancanza, per, di un senso metafisico della vita e dell'universo fa rimanere l'uomo nel nichilismo passivo, o disperazione nichilista. tuttavia possibile uscire dal nichilismo comprendendo questa visione e riconoscendo che l'uomo stesso la sorgente di tutti i valori e delle virt della volont di potenza (nichilismo attivo). L'uomo, ergendosi al di sopra del caos della vita, pu generare propri significati e imporre la propria volont. Chi riesce a compiere questa impresa l'Oltreuomo, cio l'uomo che ha compreso che lui stesso a dare significato alla vita.[11] Attraverso le tre metamorfosi dello spirito, di cui parla nel primo discorso del testo Cos parl Zarathustra, Nietzsche mostra come il motto "Tu devi" vada trasformato dapprima nell'"Io voglio", e infine in un sacro "Dire di s", espresso dalla figura del fanciullo giocondo. Ovviamente il nichilismo attivo non giustifica i modelli valoriali proposti nel corso dei secoli per dare senso alla realt, poich questi non sono altro che il frutto dello spirito apollineo e, pertanto, non corrispondono all'effettiva essenza dell'uomo, che dionisiaco, ossia legato inscindibilmente a quei "valori" (vitalit, potenza) intrinseci alla sua natura terrena:

Nel primo testo filosofico di Nietzsche La nascita della tragedia del 1872, che anche una messa a fuoco della sua cultura classica e della mitologia greca, egli concentra la sua attenzione sulle origini del teatro nell'antica Grecia. Si serve di e teorizza perci due concetti-base, che diverranno poi "ideologici" per lo stesso autore e portatori di numerosi valori, lo spirito dionisiaco e lo spirito apollineo. Il dionisiaco (dal dio Dioniso) in quanto ebbrezza rappresenta l'elemento dell'affermazione della vita, della spontaneit, dell'istinto umano, della giocosit e raffigurer nelle successive opere la volont di potenza. l'impulso che esprime la forza vitale propria dell'oltreuomo nella sua totale libert, l'ebbrezza che trova la sua manifestazione pi compiuta nella musica e nella danza.[11]

Il "dionisiaco" gioca dialetticamente con il proprio contraltare, l'"apollineo", ovvero l'armonia delle forme e del vivere. Quando Dioniso vive Apollo a dormire, viceversa quando Apollo si rappresenta ed in superficie, Dioniso "sotterraneo". Il dionisiaco un continuo ciclo "vita-morte-vita", attraverso il quale tutte le arti sono state create e si sono modificate. L'apollineo la luce del giorno razionalizzata nell'arte plastica degli scultori dell'epoca classica. L'"apollineo" rappresenta anche la ratio umana che porta equilibrio nell'uomo, che capace di concepire l'essenza del mondo come ordine e che lo spinge a produrre forme armoniose rassicuranti e razionali. Senza di esso, nell'uomo ci sarebbe un'esplosione di emozioni incontrollate e bisognose di essere controllate.[11]

Molto complesso lo studio che il filologo Nietzsche fa delle arti greche e della tragedia in particolare. Nel "ditirambo" del coro tragico greco era insito lo spirito dionisiaco (Nietzsche lo chiama appunto "ditirambo dionisiaco"). Nella parola come sempre Nietzsche ricerca la chiave per l'interpretazione della realt e per portare in luce ci che i concetti hanno di arcano dentro. In quanto filologo, ancor prima che filosofo, sempre il verbo il suo primo amore. Dal ditirambo, che il nucleo del coro, al testo poetico in cui scritto il dramma, si svolge la continua alternanza dei due di greci Apollo e Dioniso, fino alla suprema e sublime armonia.[11]

L'analisi delle origini della tragedia greca, scorre lungo il testo nietzschiano attraversando tutta la storia di questo lungo percorso, da Archiloco a Euripide, passando per Eschilo e Sofocle fino alla sua stessa fine: la morte della tragedia avvenne per mano di Socrate ovvero di ci che il filosofo ha rappresentato per la grecit e le sue espressioni artistiche. Ma come la tragedia ebbe origine dalla musica, Nietzsche auspica che allo stesso modo possa rinascere. Da qui la critica profonda e sentita all'Opera, in quanto genere artistico in cui vivono inconciliabili contraddizioni di carattere estetico e filosofico. Forte l'esortazione del filosofo a ideali artisti della sua epoca affinch ritrovino e ridestino l'ebbrezza dionisiaca insita nella musica e su di essa, assieme al mito tragico, costruiscano una nuova epoca tragica:

Meine Freunde, ihr, die ihr an die dionysische Musik glaubt, ihr wisst auch, was fr uns die Tragdie bedeutet. In ihr haben wir, wiedergeboren aus der Musik, den tragischen Mythus und in ihm drft ihr Alles hoffen und das Schmerzlichste vergessen!

Amici miei, voi che credete nella musica dionisiaca, sapete anche che cosa significhi per noi la tragedia. In essa noi abbiamo, rinato dalla musica, il mito tragico e in questo potete sperare tutto e dimenticare ci che pi doloroso!

Secondo Nietzsche la decadenza il rifiuto dell'amore per la vita e della creativit, della spontaneit del vivere naturale e nello stesso tempo "tragico", dunque dello spirito dionisiaco. Per lui colui che per primo ha condizionato negativamente la civilt occidentale verso questo annullamento della vita stato Socrate: l'errore di Socrate di aver sostituito alla vita il pensare alla vita e la conseguenza di ci il non-vivere. Socrate ritiene che la ragione sia l'essenza dell'uomo e che le passioni, residuo di animalit, possano e debbano essere dominate. Per Socrate una vita fondata sulla ragione una vita felice, mentre una vita dominata dalle passioni destinata a dolorosi conflitti e turbamenti.[11] Anche Platone ha indirizzato la vita verso un mondo astratto e irreale, e in questo processo di decadenza si inserisce poi il Cristianesimo. Quest'ultimo ha prodotto un modello di uomo malato e represso, in preda a continui sensi di colpa che avvelenano la sua esistenza, dettati dal motto cristiano del continuo pentimento e della richiesta implorata di salvezza e perdono. Perci l'uomo cristiano, al di l della propria maschera di serenit, psichicamente tormentato, nasconde dentro di s un'aggressivit rabbiosa contro la vita ed animato da risentimento contro il prossimo. Nietzsche crea in questo periodo le metafore del guerriero e del sacerdote: il primo rappresenta il manifestarsi della volont di potenza, il secondo invece, timoroso dei propri mezzi, costituisce il "sottomesso" che a una morale dei forti, antepone una morale dei deboli, facilmente accessibile, che costituisce la negazione vera e propria dell'incondizionata gioia di vivere.[11]

Pi che con la figura di Ges (verso cui manifesta simpatia, considerandolo un "santo anarchico, sia pure un po' idiota") Nietzsche polemico contro il Cristianesimo, in quanto religione dei poveri di spirito, fondata sul risentimento e sulla cattiva coscienza. L'idiozia del Cristo non deve per caricarsi di una sola accezione negativa, idiota sta ad indicare un individuo che non partecipa della collettivit, del modus intellegendi condiviso, e sposta la sua attenzione verso la propria interiorit abbandonando la realt, verso quel regno divino interiore che pochi hanno saputo intendere fino in fondo. Il filosofo accusa la religione cristiana proprio di questo misunderstanding e di essere uno pseudo-umanesimo, colpevole di agire pietosamente verso tutti i malriusciti e i deboli[28] opponendosi alla vera filantropia e all'aggressivit naturale della lotta per l'esistenza: I deboli e i malriusciti devono perire, questo il principio del nostro amore per gli uomini.[29] Egli contesta soprattutto il fatto che l'individuo fu considerato dal cristianesimo cos importante, posto in modo cos assoluto, che non lo si pot pi sacrificare, ma la specie sussiste solo grazie a sacrifici umani.[30]. A questo proposito afferma anche che "L'uomo cattivo", cos parlano con mio conforto i pi saggi. Ah se fosse pur vero anche oggi! Giacch il male la migliore energia dell'uomo.[31]. Nonostante questo, Nietzsche dichiara relativi e falsi i concetti di bene e male, che dovranno essere superati, in quanto quel che si fa per amore, sempre al di l del bene e del male.[32]

In Cos parl Zarathustra egli dichiara invece:

Ich beschwre euch, meine Brder, bleibt der Erde treu und glaubt Denen nicht, welche euch von berirdischen Hoffnungen reden! Giftmischer sind es, ob sie es wissen oder nicht. Verchter des Lebens sind es, Absterbende und selber Vergiftete, deren die Erde mde ist: so mgen sie dahinfahren!

Vi scongiuro, fratelli, restate fedeli alla terra e non credete a quelli che vi parlano di sovraterrene speranze! Essi sono degli avvelenatori, che lo sappiano o no. Sono spregiatori della vita, moribondi ed essi stessi avvelenati, dei quali la terra stanca: se ne vadano pure!

Da ci la proposta di Nietzsche di una trasmutazione o inversione dei valori. Si proclama egli stesso il "primo immoralista" della storia; egli non intende tuttavia proporre l'abolizione di ogni valore o l'affermazione di un tipo di uomo in preda al gioco sfrenato degli istinti, ma contrappone ai valori antivitali della morale pessimistica tradizionale una nuova tavola di valori a misura del carattere terreno dell'uomo. Per Nietzsche l'uomo nato per vivere sulla Terra, la sua esistenza interamente corpo, realt sensibile. Infatti Zarathustra afferma: io sono corpo tutto intero e nient'altro. L'anima, secondo Nietzsche, solo un'immagine metaforica e semplicistica della ricchissima variet di desideri, inclinazioni e sensazioni che attraversano il corpo in ogni istante: questa rivendicazione della natura terrestre dell'uomo implicita nell'accettazione totale della vita che propria dello spirito dionisiaco e dell'immagine dell'oltreuomo. La Terra non pi l'esilio e il deserto dell'uomo, ma la sua dimora gioiosa.[11]

Questo percorso, che inizia con Umano, troppo umano (1878-1880), coincide con l'avvento della scrittura aforistica, e risulta caratterizzato dal ripudio dei vecchi maestri, come Schopenhauer e, in particolare, Wagner. Nietzsche rinnega la stima e l'amicizia personale col musicista, di cui tanto aveva ammirato Tristano e Isotta in quanto simbolo dell'umana lotta nel tentativo di convivere coi propri impulsi annullandosi nella materia, al di fuori da qualsiasi concetto religioso. Ora lo accusa di essere diventato un tipico decadente, che col Parsifal ricade nel pi becero e arcaico misticismo, quale ridicola rappresentazione di un mondo fasullo e immaginario.[11]

In questo periodo, il filosofo abbandona la "metafisica da artista", per privilegiare la scienza. Considerer l'arte come il residuo di una cultura mitica. Il redentore della cultura non sar pi l'artista o il genio (come invece pensava Wagner) ma il filosofo educato dalla scienza. Sar illuminista,[33] nel senso che si trover impegnato in un'opera di critica della cultura tramite la scienza, che egli ritiene sia un metodo di pensiero, piuttosto che un insieme di tutte le scienze particolari. Un metodo critico di tipo storico e genealogico, perch non esistono realt immutabili e statiche, ma ogni cosa l'esito di un processo che va ricostruito.[11]

I concetti base di questo periodo sono lo spirito libero e la filosofia del mattino. Lo spirito libero si identifica con il viandante, cio con colui che grazie alla scienza riesce a emanciparsi dalle tenebre del passato, inaugurando una filosofia del mattino che si basa sulla concezione della vita come transitoriet e come libero esperimento senza certezze precostituite.

L'affermazione della libert e della spontaneit presuppone il superamento dei condizionamenti, delle regole, degli obblighi derivanti dalle credenze religiose o comunque dal riferimento a entit metafisiche. Ma comporta anche una conseguenza che pochi hanno la forza sufficiente per affrontare: assumersi la piena e definitiva responsabilit di ogni decisione, di ogni azione. Ogni comportamento soggetto a una decisione individuale in quanto non esistono pi valori trascendenti sui quali appiattirsi in modo conformistico. I contemporanei di Nietzsche dimostrano in mille circostanze di non essere pi guidati dalla fede come poteva accadere agli uomini del Medioevo ma, per non essere obbligati ad affrontare le proprie responsabilit, non vogliono riconoscerlo neppure di fronte a s stessi.

Celebre la figura dell'uomo folle[34] ne La gaia scienza, che gira in pieno giorno con una lanterna accesa, urlando "Cerco Dio!", attirandosi cos lo scherno dei presenti. Alla richiesta di spiegazioni l'uomo afferma che Dio morto, ovvero che nessuno crede pi veramente. Ma nell'atto stesso di compiere questa affermazione si trova di fronte allo scetticismo e all'indifferenza, quando non alla derisione. Egli stesso si definisce come il "testimone" di un omicidio compiuto dall'intera umanit. E allora: "Vengo troppo presto" egli ammette, poich gli uomini non sono ancora pronti ad accettare questo cambiamento epocale. I valori tradizionali sono sempre pi pallidi, sempre pi estranei alla coscienza, ma i nuovi valori, quelli della gioiosa accettazione della vita e della fedelt alla terra, sono ancora al di l dell'orizzonte: "Questo enorme evento ancora per strada e sta facendo il suo cammino".[11]

L'annuncio della morte di Dio ha una straordinaria efficacia retorica e forse anche per questo non stato sempre compreso a fondo: taluni interpreti si sono limitati a leggerlo come l'ennesimo attacco al Cristianesimo e non ne hanno percepito la profondit e la complessit. Infatti Nietzsche con questa affermazione intende annunciare la fine di ogni realt trascendente, indipendentemente dal culto che predichi tale realt. Egli considera ci come il compimento di un processo nichilistico necessario, le cui radici si ritrovano nell'atto di omissione e di oblio del dionisiaco, che ha consentito all'apollineo, nel corso della secolarizzazione, di trovare modelli metafisici ragionevoli, capaci di giustificare il "senso dell'essere", ma che prima o poi, secondo l'autore tedesco, avrebbero dovuto fare i conti con la vera essenza vitale della natura umana, quale, appunto, il dionisiaco, ossia ci che lega alla terra e alla vita.

Nietzsche anche considerato, e non senza buoni motivi, come uno dei precursori dell'esistenzialismo ateo moderno per alcuni elementi etici che lo anticipano, per quanto questo si caratterizzi per aspetti di pessimismo esistenziale che in Nietzsche sono in gran parte assenti.[11]

Man muss noch Chaos in sich haben, um einen tanzenden Stern gebren zu knnen.

Bisogna avere ancora il caos dentro di s per generare una stella danzante

Nietzsche, radicalizzando il "plus man" emersoniano e la critica emersoniana del culto degli eroi di Carlyle, ma ispirandosi anche al "Singolo" di Kierkegaard e all'"Unico" di Max Stirner, propugna l'avvento di un nuovo tipo di uomo, individualista e capace di liberarsi dai pregiudizi e dai vecchi schemi, di smascherare con il metodo genealogico l'origine umana troppo umana dei valori, nonch di farsi consapevole creatore di valori nuovi: l'Oltreuomo. Non sarebbe corretto definire un uomo del genere superuomo: super indica sopra, quindi "super-uomo" vuol dire "colui che sopra gli uomini" e li schiaccia.[35] Secondo l'interpretazione di Gianni Vattimo, introdotta nel suo testo Il soggetto e la maschera, il termine oltre-uomo, "colui che ha superato l'uomo ed andato oltre la sua condizione", rispecchia meglio il concetto espresso dal filosofo di Rcken, oltre a essere la traduzione letterale del tedesco ber-Mensch, mentre super-uomo dovrebbe essere tradotto come Oben-Mensch.[36]

L'interpretazione di Gianni Vattimo per contestata dal filosofo Domenico Losurdo, il quale contesta Nietzsche affermando esplicitamente che egli appoggiasse una societ schiavistica comandata dal Superuomo aristocratico, talvolta argomentando che gli schiavi venivano trattati meglio dei moderni operai e accusandolo anche di appoggio all'eugenetica.[37] Questa moralit aristocratica degli scritti degli ultimi anni, accreditata soprattutto dal nazismo, spesso invece considerata, dalla maggioranza dei commentatori, come una metafora della superiorit dell'uomo-filosofo sull'uomo comune, anzich come una reale proposta di societ tradizionale, come intesa sia da filosofi di sinistra, come Losurdo stesso, sia da pensatori di estrema destra come Julius Evola e Alfred Baeumler, sia da intellettuali critici come Gilbert Keith Chesterton, che interpretano Nietzsche in maniera letterale.[38] L'interpretazione letterale di testi che fanno cos ampio uso di metafore, stata invece contestata da molti pensatori che si sono definiti "nietzscheani", come Michel Onfray.[39]

L'Oltreuomo, secondo la comune interpretazione (Vattimo, Colli, Montinari), non schiaccia invece gli altri ma procede al di l delle convenzioni e dei pregiudizi che attanagliano l'uomo. Esso ha dei valori differenti da quelli della massa degli uomini, quella massa che ha aderito alla filosofia dei sacerdoti e degli imbonitori per farsi schiava di essi. Egli solo in grado di non sostituire ai vecchi idoli quelli nuovi, ma fondare il nuovo mondo, e l'uomo attuale non altro che "una corda tesa tra la scimmia e l'Oltreuomo" stesso, secondo le parole di Nietzsche.[35] L'Oltreuomo colui che ha compreso che lui stesso a dare significato alla vita e fa sua la cosiddetta "morale aristocratica" che dice "s" alla vita e al mondo. L'Oltreuomo discepolo di Dioniso poich accetta la vita in tutte le sue manifestazioni, nel piacere del divenire inteso come alternanza di vita e morte. Affronta la vita con "pessimismo coraggioso", unisce il fatalismo alla fiducia e si liberato dai logori concetti del bene e del male attraverso un'elitaria indifferenza a valori etici che considera morti.[35]

Di qui l'ammirazione di Nietzsche sia per la tragedia greca (in particolare Eschilo), quale mezzo educativo all'eroica tragicit della vita, sia per il prometeico istinto dell'uomo rinascimentale (l'uomo universale) che nella sua completezza teorica e pratica sapeva tendere oltre l'"umano troppo umano"; con una magnificenza creatrice, culturale e politica, che quell'impulso vitale, "al di l del bene e del male", comporta. Per lui, e ai suoi tempi, ancora incarnato in particolare da Napoleone e Goethe.[35]

Per l'Oltreuomo ogni istante il centro del suo tempo di cui sempre protagonista. L'eterno ritorno, cio l'eterna ripetizione, la dottrina che Nietzsche mette a capo della nuova concezione del mondo e dell'agire umano. Per Nietzsche ogni momento del tempo, cio l'attimo presente, va vissuto in modo spontaneo, senza continuit con passato e futuro, perch passato e futuro sono illusori: infatti ogni momento si ripete identico nel passato e nel futuro, come un dado che, lanciato all'infinito (poich il tempo infinito), dar un numero infinito di volte gli stessi numeri, in quanto le sue scelte sono un numero finito. Il vero Oltreuomo , in conclusione, colui che danza in catene liberamente e con leggiadria; lo spirito libero tout court.[35]

Nietzsche elabora un suo modo di intendere il tempo liberandolo dal trascendente e quindi dalla fiducia nell'avvenire. In Cos parl Zarathustra (nel capitolo Della visione e dell'enigma, 2), Zarathustra (protagonista dell'opera) racconta di aver avuto una visione mentre scalava un monte. L'eterno ritorno dell'uguale, pi spesso detto soltanto eterno ritorno, significa che l'universo rinasce e rimuore in base a cicli temporali fissati e necessari, ripetendo eternamente un certo corso e rimanendo sempre se stesso.

In senso pi specifico l'eterno ritorno uno dei capisaldi della filosofia di Friedrich Nietzsche. Il ragionamento che sta dietro al semplice - ma spesso incompreso - concetto di Nietzsche il seguente: in un sistema finito, con un tempo infinito, ogni combinazione si ripeter necessariamente infinite volte.[41]

Ad esempio, tirando infinite volte tre dadi a sei facce, ognuna delle 216 combinazioni comparir infinite volte. Mentre spiegato in termini poetici ne La gaia scienza e Cos parl Zarathustra, egli lo spiega in termini quasi scientifici nei Frammenti postumi, e questa formulazione ha affascinato molti fisici e matematici successivi[42][43][44][45][46]:

Nel capitolo dello Zarathustra intitolato La visione e l'enigma, Nietzsche introduce sotto forma di mito il pensiero dell'eterno ritorno dell'uguale (gi evocato nel capitolo Della redenzione, allorch Zarathustra si rifiuta di enunciare ci che insegna alla volont, ossia il volere a ritroso)[47], attraverso il dialogo tra il profeta e il nano, personificazione dello spirito di gravit: Tutte le cose diritte mentono. Ogni verit ricurva, il tempo stesso un circolo l'opinione del nano. Questa prima interpretazione per giudicata come troppo superficiale (Tu, spirito di gravit! replica infatti Zarathustra non prendere la cosa troppo alla leggera!)[48] e portatrice di una generica professione di fede nella circolarit e insensatezza del tutto (nichilismo passivo)[49]. Nella seconda parte per, Zarathustra espone la sua controinterpretazione della visione della porta che aggiunge caratteri essenziali alla prima interpretazione del nano. La novit di questa controinterpretazione consiste nel fatto che Zarathustra va a fondo e tocca l'argomento decisivo che pone il punto di svolta dal nichilismo passivo al nichilismo attivo.[49] Non solo tutto ci che diviene deve essere gi stato vissuto, ma soprattutto la porta stessa, l'attimo presente, deve gi essere stata in passato. Si dunque raggiunto il piano di passaggio dal nichilismo passivo al nichilismo attivo, quindi dall'eterno ritorno come pensiero paralizzante, all'eterno ritorno come liberazione dal simbolico (viene confutata in parte la prima interpretazione del nano). L'attimo compreso nell'eterno circolo di passato e futuro.

Successivamente, Zarathustra come ridestato dall'ululato di un cane che gli permette di cambiare scena. Egli vede il cane quasi chiedere aiuto vicino a un pastore, che come soffocato da un serpente, la cui testa esce dalla sua bocca. Il serpente, nello specifico, indica l'eterno ritorno ed come se il pastore fosse soffocato da questa concezione dell'eterno circolo del tempo. Un gesto fondamentale, fa tornare il sorriso sulle sue labbra, ormai non pi sofferenti del pastore (mai prima al mondo aveva riso un uomo, come lui rise!): questi infatti aveva morso e staccato la testa al serpente, indicando cos allegoricamente l'accettazione dell'eterno ritorno. importante sottolineare come l'accettazione dell'eterno ritorno sia dovuta a una decisione del pastore: se questi non avesse mai morso la testa al serpente, non sarebbe mai stato in grado di accettarlo e di istituirlo. Vi quindi un attimo in cui il pastore istituisce, cio vuole, il ripetersi eterno della vita e dell'istante.[50]

Solo se l'attimo che l'uomo vive immenso, cio ingloba in s tutto il suo significato, si pu volerlo sempre di nuovo. L'uomo che pu volere l'eterno ritorno un uomo felice, a cui la vita d attimi immensi, come testimonianza piena di esistenza e significato. In quest'opera possibile vedere il ruolo di Nietzsche come difensore di un tempo qualitativo, qualificato nella sua densit dai contenuti vissuti. Famosa la definizione dell'"imperativo categorico" di Nietzsche: "vivere in modo da poter desiderare di rivivere questa stessa vita in ripetizione eterna".[51] Correlata alla tematica dell'eterno ritorno e quindi al principio del movimento la trasvalutazione dei valori che da alcuni stata intesa come capovolgimento dei valori.

Ma il capovolgimento reca in s l'affermazione di un valore ulteriore. Mentre la trasvalutazione legata al fluire del valore stesso senza preminenza di alcuno in particolare, e quindi al superamento del valore. Riprendendo Nietzsche quando parla di Eraclito, l'unico filosofo a cui si sente legato, afferma che il movimento reca in s la possibilit dell'annientamento. Tradotto in termini filosofici e legato questo concetto a quello caro a Nietzsche della trasvalutazione, non vi pu essere una morale n un valore assoluto ma valori istintuali che si annientano nel movimento. Se non fosse cos si considererebbe Nietzsche un moralista o un idealista.

La filosofia di Nietzsche, pur prendendo le mosse da illustri precedenti, integra una netta frattura con il panorama speculativo gi conosciuto. Andando a leggersi la terza dissertazione che compone per una genealogia della morale, quella sul significato degli ideali ascetici, si osserver che da un punto di vista storico Nietzsche pone se stesso come il primo filosofo dopo Eraclito. Nietzsche, per sua stessa dichiarazione, il primo che si pu liberare dalla protezione pretesca a cui la filosofia ha sempre fatto ricorso, l'ideale ascetico, ovvero la capacit di astrarre e separare un saputo dalla vita. La cosa pu apparire un tantino egocentrica, ma la lettura dei primi capitoli della dissertazione in questione come tutte le prefazioni delle opere successive allo Zarathustra, che terminano con un capitoletto sullo stesso, autorizzano a dire ci. Nietzsche continuamente professa la sua unicit, la sua necessaria primogenitura rispetto alla questione di un sapere/volont capace di costituire una nuova umanit in cui il divino non esteriorizzato in divinit ma interiorizzato nell'azione di chi incontra se stesso incontrando il mondo.

Per Hegel c' la Storia, Nietzsche per la genealogia. Nel pensiero di Nietzsche, nonostante il suo confronto con Hegel sia raramente esplicitato nelle opere, prevale una radicale contestazione dell'hegelismo: i pi rilevanti punti di distanza fra i due filosofi tedeschi possono essere individuati nel diverso atteggiamento nei confronti della dialettica, oggetto di una critica aggressiva da parte di Nietzsche, essendo vista da lui come una pretesa del pensiero di ridurre la caoticit della vita e del mondo entro categorie fisse e stabili, e in particolar modo in una visione sistematica della filosofia, che era invece un tratto centrale dell'opera di Hegel. Nella sua seconda considerazione inattuale Nietzsche fa esplicito riferimento alla filosofia hegeliana come la maggior causa di una diffusa idolatria del fatto nella cultura tedesca. Per Nietzsche, infatti, il tentativo di categorizzare e insieme divinizzare il processo storico annienta la forza vitale propria di ogni uomo e veicola una concezione della storia epigonale e giustificatrice.

La filosofia di Hegel ritenuta da Nietzsche un tradimento in danno alla vita, in quanto tentativo di fermare ci che non si pu fermare (la vita, dinamica per antonomasia) in un sistema di pensiero. Analogo il giudizio di Nietzsche nei confronti dei positivisti: rei di spiegare la realt mediante leggi meccanicistiche fisse, essi restano afflitti dallo stesso errore di Hegel ed epigoni.

Nietzsche distante dal pensiero di Hegel anche in ordine alla supposizione hegeliana che esista una forza meramente razionale manifestantesi nella storia, che tratterebbe gli uomini come banali strumenti della propria astuzia.

Nietzsche ripudia la "tirannide della ragione sugli uomini" (per usare le sue parole), per cui biasima Socrate, Platone, Cartesio, gli illuministi e anche i positivisti del suo tempo. Questo atteggiamento di profonda messa in discussione del filone razionalistico-idealistico confluito in Hegel e Immanuel Kant (idealismo che per Nietzsche comprende anche il cristianesimo) della filosofia occidentale comporta allo stesso tempo una ridiscussione totale della tradizione metafisica, di cui Hegel si ritiene invece l'ultimo elaboratore.

Sussistono nondimeno talune analogie con alcuni aspetti dell'illuminismo. Malgrado il suo netto orientamento antirazionalista, possibile accostare il pensiero di Nietzsche ad alcuni autori illuministi - nonch osservare un profondo retroterra di tipo razionalista, o meglio razionale, in alcune delle sue convinzioni e dei suoi ragionamenti - per quanto riguarda il rifiuto generale della metafisica e dell'ascesi; tra l'altro significativo che egli abbia dedicato la sua opera Umano, troppo umano a Voltaire. L'ideale ascetico visto in particolare da Nietzsche come una minaccia alla forza vitale insita nell'uomo. Pi che di rifiuto del razionalismo, vi quindi un rifiuto dell'idealismo.[52]

Nietzsche pu essere accomunato a Sren Kierkegaard: entrambi hanno un orientamento prettamente esistenziale ed entrambi sono considerati precursori dell'esistenzialismo novecentesco. Nietzsche per non condivide il cinismo della vita che porta inevitabilmente alla disperazione, e impedisce all'uomo di accettare con gioia l'esistenza, oltre a non condividere le credenze cristiane di Kierkegaard.

Sulle basi ut supra incentrata la polemica contro la religione in generale e il Cristianesimo in particolare: anche queste istanze rinnegano la forza vitale innata in ciascuno. La condanna colpisce anche Arthur Schopenhauer, seppur ammirato in giovent da Nietzsche. Quest'ultimo imputa al suo vecchio maestro di aver generato l'ennesima morale, fondata sulla piet e, in ultima analisi, sull'ascesi.

Nietzsche, ad ogni modo, influenzato da alcuni concetti di Schopenhauer: ammette l'idea di una forza irrazionale, respingendone la nozione sinistra che ne aveva prospettato Schopenhauer e la rinomina volont di potenza, annoverandola quale forza benevola, esemplificata essenzialmente dal suo famoso oltreuomo.

Il forte interesse giovanile verso Schopenhauer, port Nietzsche a leggere i discepoli di quest'ultimo, e cio Eduard von Hartmann, Julius Bahnsen, e Philipp Mainlnder. Egli, tuttavia, non pensava che, questi autori, fossero autentici prosecutori del messaggio schopenhaueriano. Parla difatti di Mainlnder, dopo aver affermato in uno scritto giovanile " ora di riscoprirlo!", ne La gaia scienza (Die frhliche Wissenschaft), nel seguente modo: "Sarebbe possibile considerare Mainlnder, dilettante e precocemente senile, turiferario sentimentale e apostolo della verginit, come un vero e proprio tedesco?!... N Bahnsen, n Mainlnder e n, in particolare, Eduard von Hartmann, danno una sicurezza in materia di gestire la questione se il pessimismo di Schopenhauer, il suo orrore di guardare a un Dio privato, stupido, cieco, folle, e a un discutibile Mondo, insomma il suo onesto sguardo d'orrore, non sia stato soltanto un caso eccezionale tra i tedeschi, ma possa essere, bens, considerato come un tema generalmente tedesco." ( 357) Tuttavia, occorre notare che Nietzsche stesso mutu proprio da Mainlnder, la celebre espressione "Dio morto" (sebben con intenti diversi, significando la morte di Dio per Nietzsche un surplus di vitalismo immanente): la morte progressiva di Dio, dalla Superessenza Unitaria all'Essenza Fenomenica nel Molteplice presente nel Mondo attuale sino alla Dissoluzione Nullificante, , difatti, il cuore della filosofia stessa di Mainlnder.

Particolare importanza ebbe poi per Nietzsche la scoperta di Stendhal e di Dostoevskij (quest'ultimo definito, nel Crepuscolo degli idoli, l'unico psicologo da cui avrei qualcosa da imparare). In una lettera indirizzata a Franz Overbeck (febbraio 1887) scrive:

L'ultimo Nietzsche, prima della malattia, si appassion peraltro al Tolstj della "conversione" (lo stesso Tolstj che lo defin un vivace tedesco posseduto da manie di grandezza, con idee limitate, folle[55]). Nietzsche lo leggeva e compulsava avidamente, riconoscendo in lui lo stesso mito al quale anch'egli si sentiva forzato: la consumazione del confine tra "arte" e "vita", tra "volont" e "realt".[56]

Altre influenze di Nietzsche furono i citati Ralph Waldo Emerson, Voltaire, Stirner. Nietzsche lesse e stim anche la poesia e la filosofia pessimista e nichilista di Giacomo Leopardi, che, come lui, vedeva, almeno in parte, nelle illusioni dell'arte e dei miti il mezzo per sottrarsi ad una vita di dolore ed al grigio presente.[57][58]

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Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (Rcken, 15 de outubro de 1844 Weimar, 25 de agosto de 1900) foi um fillogo, filsofo, crtico cultural, poeta e compositor alemo do sculo XIX.[1] Ele escreveu vrios textos crticos sobre a religio, a moral, a cultura contempornea, filosofia e cincia, exibindo uma predileo por metfora, ironia e aforismo.

As ideias-chave de Nietzsche incluam a dicotomia apolneo/dionisaca, o perspectivismo, a vontade de poder, a "morte de Deus", o bermensch (Alm-Homem) e eterno retorno. Sua filosofia central a ideia de "afirmao da vida", que envolve questionamento de qualquer doutrina que drene uma expansiva de energias, porm socialmente predominantes essas ideias poderiam ser.[2] Seu questionamento radical do valor e da objetividade da verdade tem sido o foco de extenso comentrio e sua influncia continua a ser substancial, especialmente na tradio filosfica continental compreendendo existencialismo, ps-modernismo e ps-estruturalismo. Suas ideias de superao individual e transcendncia alm da estrutura e contexto tiveram um impacto profundo sobre pensadores do final do sculo XX e incio do sculo XXI, que usaram estes conceitos como pontos de partida para o desenvolvimento de suas filosofias.[3][4] Mais recentemente, as reflexes de Nietzsche foram recebidas em vrias abordagens filosficas que se movem alm do humanismo, por exemplo, o transumanismo.

Nietzsche comeou sua carreira como fillogo clssico um estudioso da crtica textual grega e romana antes de se voltar para a filosofia. Em 1869, aos vinte e quatro anos, ele foi nomeado para a cadeira de Filologia Clssica na Universidade de Basileia, a pessoa mais jovem a ter alcanado esta posio.[5] Em 1889, com quarenta e quatro anos de idade, ele sofreu um colapso e uma perda completa de suas faculdades mentais. A composio foi posteriormente atribuda a paresia geral atpica devido a sfilis terciria, mas este diagnstico vem entrado em questo.[6] Nietzsche viveu seus ltimos anos sob os cuidados de sua me at a morte dela em 1897, depois ele caiu sob os cuidados de sua irm, Elisabeth Frster-Nietzsche at a sua morte em 1900.

Como sua cuidadora, sua irm assumiu o papel de curadora e editora de seus manuscritos. Frster-Nietzsche era casada com um proeminente nacionalista e antissemita alemo, Bernhard Frster, e retrabalhou escritos inditos de Nietzsche para se adequar a ideologia de seu marido, muitas vezes de maneiras contrrias s suas opinies expressas, que estavam fortemente e explicitamente opostas ao anti-semitismo e nacionalismo. Atravs de edies de Frster-Nietzsche, o nome de Friedrich tornou-se associado com o militarismo alemo e o nazismo, mas estudiosos posteriores do sculo XX vm tentando neutralizar esse equvoco de suas ideias.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche ( /nit/[7] ou /niti/[8] ) nasceu numa famlia luterana, em 15 de outubro de 1844. Filho de Karl Ludwig, seus dois avs eram pastores protestantes.[9] O prprio Nietzsche pensou em seguir a carreira de pastor: entretanto, rejeitou a crena religiosa durante sua adolescncia e o seu contato com a filosofia afastou-o da carreira teolgica. Iniciou seus estudos no semestre de inverno de 1864-1865 na Universidade de Bonn em filologia clssica e teologia evanglica. Em Bonn, participou da Burschenschaft Frankonia, que acabou abandonando em razo de sua participao nesta organizao atrapalhar seus estudos. Transferiu-se, depois, para a Universidade de Leipzig: isso se deveu, acima de tudo, transferncia do professor Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (figura paterna para Nietzsche) para essa Universidade. Durante os seus estudos na universidade de Leipzig, a leitura de Schopenhauer ("O Mundo como Vontade e Representao", 1820) veio a constituir as premissas da sua vocao filosfica. Aluno brilhante, dotado de slida formao clssica, Nietzsche foi nomeado, aos 24 anos, professor de filologia na universidade de Basileia. Adotou, ento, a nacionalidade sua. Desenvolveu, durante dez anos, a sua acuidade filosfica no contacto com o pensamento grego antigo, com predileo para os Pr-socrticos, em especial para Herclito e Empdocles. Durante os seus anos de ensino, tornou-se amigo de Jacob Burckhardt e Richard Wagner. Em 1870, comprometeu-se como voluntrio (mdico[10] ) na Guerra franco-prussiana. A experincia da violncia e o sofrimento chocaram-no profundamente.

Com a presso de ser jovem e ter que manter sua colocao como professor universitrio, em 1872 Nietzsche publica O Nascimento da Tragdia. O livro recebido com crticas mordazes de Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Mllendorff, fillogo de renome da poca. Segundo o acadmico, Nietzsche era a desgraa deSchulpforta, sendo Schulpforta uma escola preparatria de renome em que Nietzsche e ele prprio estudaram[11] .

Em 1879, seu estado de sade obrigou-o a deixar o posto de professor. Sua voz, inaudvel, afastava os alunos. Comeou, ento, uma vida errante em busca de um clima favorvel tanto para sua sade como para seu pensamento (Veneza, Gnova, Turim, Nice, Sils-Maria: "No somos como aqueles que chegam a formar pensamentos seno no meio dos livros - o nosso hbito pensar ao ar livre, andando, saltando, escalando, danando (... )." Em 1882, encontrou Paul Re e Lou Andreas-Salom, a quem pediu em casamento. Ela recusou, aps ter-lhe feito esperar sentimentos recprocos. No mesmo ano, comeou a escrever o Assim Falou Zaratustra, quando de uma estada em Nice. Nietzsche no cessou de escrever com um ritmo crescente. Este perodo terminou brutalmente em 3 de Janeiro de 1889 com uma "crise de loucura" que, durando at a sua morte, colocou-o sob a tutela da sua me e sua irm. No incio desta loucura, Nietzsche encarnou alternativamente as figuras de Dionsio e Cristo, expressas em bizarras cartas, afundando, depois, em um silncio quase completo at a sua morte. Uma lenda dizia que contraiu sfilis. Estudos recentes se inclinam antes para um cancro no crebro que, eventualmente, pode ter tido origem sifiltica. Aps sua morte, sua irm, Elisabeth Frster-Nietzsche e Peter Gast, dileto amigo do filsofo, segundo um plano de Nietzsche, datado de 17 de maro de 1887, efetuaram uma coletnea de fragmentos pstumos para compor a obra conhecida como "Vontade de Poder"[12] . Essa obra foi, amide, acusada de ser uma "deturpao nazista"; tal afirmao mostrou-se inverdica, frente s comparaes com a edio crtica alem, como denotaram os tradutores da nova traduo para o portugus[13] , e especialmente o filsofo Gilvan Fogel, que afirmou que " preciso que se enfatize: os textos so autnticos. Todos so da cunhagem, da lavra de Nietzsche. No foram, como j se disse e se insinuou, distorcidos ou adulterados pelos organizadores".[14] .

Durante toda a vida, tentou explicar o insucesso de sua literatura, chegando concluso de que nascera pstumo, para os leitores do porvir. O sucesso de Nietzsche, entretanto, sobreveio quando um professor dinamarqus leu a sua obra Assim Falou Zaratustra e, ento, tratou de difundi-la, em 1888.

Muitos estudiosos da poca tentaram localizar os momentos que Nietzsche escrevia sob crises nervosas ou sob efeito de drogas (Nietzsche estudou biologia e tentava descobrir sua prpria maneira de minimizar os efeitos da sua doena).

Em 3 de janeiro de 1889, Nietzsche sofreu um colapso mental. Nietzsche teria testemunhado o aoitamento de um cavalo no outro extremo da Piazza Carlo Alberto, e ento correu em direo ao cavalo, jogou os braos ao redor de seu pescoo para proteg-lo e em seguida, caiu no cho.[16]

Nos dias seguintes, Nietzsche enviou escritos breves conhecidos como Wahnbriefe ("Cartas da loucura") para um nmero de amigos como Cosima Wagner e Jacob Burckhardt. Muitas delas assinadas "Dionsio".[17]

Embora a maioria dos comentaristas considerem seu colapso como alheios sua filosofia, Georges Bataille chegou a insinuar que sua filosofia pudesse t-lo enlouquecido ("'Homem encarnado' tambm deve enlouquecer")[18] e a psicanlise postmortem de Ren Girard postula uma rivalidade de adorao com o Richard Wagner.[19]

A cultura ocidental e suas religies, assim como a moral judaico-crist, foram temas comuns em suas obras. Nietzsche se apresenta como alvo de muitas crticas na histria da filosofia moderna, isto porque, primariamente, h certas dificuldades de entendimento na forma de apresentao das figuras e/ou categorias ao leitor ou estudioso, causando confuses devido principalmente aos paradoxos dos conceitos de realidade ou verdade.

Nietzsche, sem dvida, considera o cristianismo e o budismo como "as duas religies da decadncia", embora ele afirme haver uma grande diferena nessas duas concepes. O budismo, para Nietzsche, " cem vezes mais realista que o cristianismo". Religies que aspiram ao nada, cujos valores dissolveram a mesquinhez histrica. No obstante, tambm se autointitula ateu:

"Para mim o atesmo no nem uma consequncia, nem mesmo um fato novo: existe comigo por instinto" (Ecce Homo, pt.II, af.1)

A crtica que Nietzsche faz do idealismo metafsico focaliza as categorias do idealismo e os valores morais que o condicionam, propondo uma outra abordagem: a genealogia dos valores.

Friedrich Nietzsche pretendeu ser o grande "desmascarador" de todos os preconceitos e iluses do gnero humano, aquele que ousa olhar, sem temor, aquilo que se esconde por trs de valores universalmente aceitos, por trs das grandes e pequenas verdades melhor assentadas, por trs dos ideais que serviram de base para a civilizao e nortearam o rumo dos acontecimentos histricos. E, assim, a moral tradicional (e, principalmente, a esboada por Kant), a religio e a poltica no so, para ele, nada mais que mscaras que escondem uma realidade inquietante e ameaadora, cuja viso difcil de suportar. A moral, seja ela kantiana ou hegeliana, e at a catharsis aristotlica, so caminhos mais fceis de serem trilhados para se subtrair plena viso autntica da vida.

Nietzsche criticou essa moral que leva revolta dos indivduos inferiores, das classes subalternas e escravas contra a classe superior e aristocrtica que, por um lado, pela adoo dessa mesma moral, sofre de m conscincia e cria a iluso de que mandar por si mesmo adotar essa moral.

A vida s se pode conservar e manter-se atravs de imbricaes incessantes entre os seres vivos, atravs da luta entre vencidos que gostariam de sair vencedores e vencedores que podem a cada instante ser vencidos e, por vezes, j se consideram como tais. Neste sentido, a vida vontade de poder ou de domnio ou de potncia. Vontade essa que no conhece pausas e, por isso, est sempre criando novas mscaras para se esconder do apelo constante e sempre renovado da vida; pois, para Nietzsche, a vida tudo e tudo se esvai diante da vida humana. Porm as mscaras, segundo ele, tornam a vida mais suportvel, ao mesmo tempo em que a deformam, mortificando-a base de cicuta e, finalmente, ameaando destru-la.

No existe vida mdia, segundo Nietzsche, entre aceitao da vida e renncia. Para salv-la, mister arrancar-lhe as mscaras e reconhec-la tal como : no para sofr-la ou aceit-la com resignao, mas para restituir-lhe o seu ritmo exaltante, o seu merismtico jbilo.

O homem um filho do "hmus" e , portanto, corpo e vontade no somente de sobreviver, mas de vencer. Suas verdadeiras "virtudes" so: o orgulho, a alegria, a sade, o amor sexual, a inimizade, a venerao, os bons hbitos, a vontade inabalvel, a disciplina da intelectualidade superior, a vontade de poder. Mas essas virtudes so privilgios de poucos, e para esses poucos que a vida feita. De fato, Nietzsche contrrio a qualquer tipo de igualitarismo e, principalmente, ao disfarado legalismo kantiano, que atenta para o bom senso atravs de uma lei inflexvel, ou seja, o imperativo categrico: "Proceda em todas as suas aes de modo que a norma de seu proceder possa tornar-se uma lei universal".

Essas crticas se deveram hostilidade de Nietzsche em face do racionalismo, que logo refutou como pura irracionalidade. Para ele, Kant nada mais do que um fantico da moral, uma tarntula catastrfica.

Para Nietzsche, o homem individualidade irredutvel, qual os limites e imposies de uma razo que tolhe a vida permanecem estranhos a ela mesma, semelhana de mscaras de que pode e deve libertar-se. Em Nietzsche, diferentemente de Kant, o mundo no tem ordem, estrutura, forma e inteligncia. Nele, as coisas "danam nos ps do acaso" e somente a arte pode transfigurar a desordem do mundo em beleza e fazer aceitvel tudo aquilo que h de problemtico e terrvel na vida.

Mesmo assim, apesar de todas as diferenas e oposies, deve-se reconhecer uma matriz comum entre Kant e Nietzsche, como que um substrato tcito mas atuante. Essa matriz comum a alma do romantismo do sculo XIX com sua nsia de infinito, com sua revolta contra os limites e condicionamentos do homem. semelhana de Plato, Nietzsche queria que o governo da humanidade fosse confiado aos filsofos, mas no a filsofos como Plato ou Kant, que ele considerava simples "operrios da filosofia".

Na obra nietzschiana, a proclamao de uma nova moral contrape-se radicalmente ao anncio utpico de uma nova humanidade, livre pelo imperativo categrico, como esperanosamente acreditava Kant. Para Nietzsche, a liberdade no mais que a aceitao consciente de um destino necessitante. O homem libertado de qualquer vnculo, senhor de si mesmo e dos outros, o homem desprezador de qualquer verdade estabelecida ou por estabelecer e estar apto para se exprimir a vida, em todos os seus atos - era este no apenas o ideal apontado por Nietzsche para o futuro, mas a realidade que ele mesmo tentava personificar.

Aqui, necessrio se faz perceber que, ao que superficialmente se parece, Nietzsche cria e cai em seu prprio "Imperativo Categrico": por certo, imperativo este baseado na completa liberdade do ser e ausncia de normas. Porm, a liberdade de Nietzsche est entre a aceitao consciente (livre escolha) de um objetivo moral superior (que transcende a racionalidade do ser humano) e a matria, a razo material kantiana. Portanto, a realidade est na escolha consciente entre a moral superior (instinto, vontade do corao) e a moral racional (somatrio de valores criados pelo homem). O que reside no nas palavras mas nos sentimentos (amor, msica etc.).

Para Kant, a razo que se movimenta no seu mbito, nos seus limites, faz o homem compreender-se a si mesmo e o dispe para a libertao. Mas, segundo Nietzsche, trata-se de uma libertao escravizada pela razo, que s faz apertar-lhe os grilhes, enclaustrando a vida humana digna e livre.

Em Nietzsche, encontra-se uma filosofia antiteortica procura de um novo filosofar de carter libertrio, superando as formas limitadoras da tradio que s galgou uma "liberdade humana" baseada no ressentimento e na culpa. Portanto, toda a teleologia de Kant de nada serve a Nietzsche: a ideia do sujeito racional, condicionado e limitado rejeitada violentamente em favor de uma viso filosfica muito mais complexa do homem e da moral.

Nietzsche acreditava que a base racional da moral era uma iluso e por isso, descartou a noo de homem racional, impregnada pela utpica promessa - mais uma mscara que a razo no autntica imps vida humana. O mundo, para Nietzsche, no ordem e racionalidade, mas desordem e irracionalidade. Seu princpio filosfico no era, portanto, Deus e razo, mas a vida que atua sem objetivo definido, ao acaso, e, por isso, se est dissolvendo e transformando-se em um constante devir. A nica e verdadeira realidade sem mscaras, para Nietzsche, a vida humana tomada e corroborada pela vivncia do instante.

Nietzsche era um crtico das "ideias modernas", da vida e da cultura moderna, do neonacionalismo alemo. Para ele, os ideais modernos como democracia, socialismo, igualitarismo, emancipao feminina no eram seno expresses da decadncia do "tipo homem". Por estas razes, , por vezes, apontado como um precursor da ps-modernidade.

A figura de Nietzsche foi particularmente promovida na Alemanha Nazi, tendo sua irm, simpatizante do regime hitleriano, fomentado esta associao. Como dizia Heidegger, ele prprio nietzschiano, "na Alemanha se era contra ou a favor de Nietzsche".

Todavia, Nietzsche era explicitamente contra o movimento antissemita, posteriormente promovido por Adolf Hitler e seus partidrios. A este respeito, pode-se ler a posio do filsofo:

Antes direi no ouvido dos psiclogos, supondo que desejem algum dia estudar de perto o ressentimento: hoje esta planta floresce do modo mais esplndido entre os anarquistas e antissemitas, alis onde sempre floresceu, na sombra, como a violeta, embora com outro cheiro.[20]

...tampouco me agradam esses novos especuladores em idealismo, os antissemitas, que hoje reviram os olhos de modo cristo-ariano-homem-de-bem, e, atravs do abuso exasperante do mais barato meio de agitao, a afetao moral, buscam incitar o gado de chifres que h no povo... [20]

Sem dvida, a obra de Nietzsche sobreviveu muito alm da apropriao feita pelo regime nazista. Ainda hoje, um dos filsofos mais estudados e fecundos. Por vrios momentos, inclusive, Nietzsche tentou juntar seus amigos e pensadores para que um fosse professor do outro, numa espcie de confraria. Contudo, esta ideia fracassou, e Nietzsche continuou sozinho seus estudos e desenvolvimento de ideias, ajudado apenas por poucos amigos que liam em voz alta seus textos, que, nos momentos de crise profunda, ele no conseguia ler.

Seu estilo aforismtico, escrito em trechos concisos, muitas vezes de uma s pgina, e dos quais so pinadas mximas. Muitas de suas frases se tornaram famosas, sendo repetidas nos mais diversos contextos, gerando muitas distores e confuses. Algumas delas:

Longe de ser um escritor de simples aforismas, ele considerado pelos seus seguidores um grande estilista da lngua alem, como o provaria Assim Falou Zaratustra, livro que ainda hoje de dificlima compreenso estilstica e conceitual. Muito pode ser compreendido na obra de Nietzsche como exerccio de pesquisa filolgica, no qual se unem palavras que no poderiam estar prximas ("Nascer pstumo"; "Deus Morreu", "delicadamente mal-educado", etc ).

Adorava a Frana e a Itlia, porque acreditava que eram terras de homens com espritos-livres. Admirava Voltaire, e considerava como ltimo grande alemo Goethe, humanista como Voltaire. Naqueles pases passou boa parte de sua vida e ali produziu seus mais memorveis livros. Detestava a prepotncia e o anti-semitismo prussianos, chegando a romper com a irm e com Richard Wagner, por ver neles a personificao do que combatia - o rigor germnico, o anti-semitismo, o imperativo categrico, o esprito aprisionado, antpoda de seu esprito-livre. Anteviu o seu pas em caminhos perigosos, o que de fato se confirmou catorze anos aps sua morte, com a primeira grande guerra e a gestao do Nazismo.

A questo colocada por Nietzsche em 1874 explicitamente a do valor da histria e s pode ser colocada porque reporta a histria a uma instncia exterior, a vida, qualificada ento como no histrica. Em 1878, Nietzsche inverte sua interrogao e preconiza uma "filosofia histrica" que identifica vida e histria, abrindo assim a possibilidade de uma histria dos valores. O problema consiste agora em saber como concretizar esta ltima. Nietzsche recorre ento ao esquema utilitarista, com o qual comea uma longa discusso, como testemunha muito bem, em 1882, A gaia cincia. Em 1887, o prprio conceito de "genealogia" empregado para significar uma nova historicidade, cuja possibilidade mesma depende da liquidao prvia desse modelo, de modo que a crtica a Paul Re deve ser compreendida tambm como uma autocrtica. [21]

Contudo, no prprio legado do filsofo podemos inferir suas opinies em relao a outras filosofias e posies. sumamente importante notar que Nietzsche perdeu o pai muito cedo, seus primeiros livros publicados at 1878, que no expunham suas ideias mais cidas, ainda assim fizeram pouco ou nenhum sucesso. Que ele ficou extremamente desapontado com o sucesso de Richard Wagner, o qual se aproximou do cristianismo. Teve uma vida errante, com poucos amigos, e sempre perseguido por surtos de doena.

Nas suas obras vemos crticas bastante negativas a Kant, Wagner, Scrates, Plato, Aristteles, Xenofonte, Martinho Lutero, metafsica, ao utilitarismo, anti-semitismo, socialismo, anarquismo, fatalismo, teologia, cristianismo, concepo de Deus, ao pessimismo, estoicismo, ao iluminismo e democracia.

Dentre os poucos elogios deferidos por Nietzsche, coletamos citaes, muitas vezes com ressalvas a Schopenhauer, Spinoza, Dostoivski, Shakespeare, Dante, Napoleo, Goethe, Darwin, Leibniz, Pascal, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, Musset, Leopardi, Kleist, Gogol, Voltaire e ao prprio Wagner, grande amigo e confidente de Nietzsche at certo momento.

Ele era, sem dvida, muito apreciador da Natureza, dos pr-socrticos e das culturas helnicas.

O legado da obra de Nietzsche foi e continua sendo ainda hoje de difcil e contraditria compreenso. Assim, h os que, ainda hoje, associam suas ideias ao niilismo, defendendo que para Nietzsche:

"A moral no tem importncia e os valores morais no tm qualquer validade, s so teis ou inteis consoante a situao"; "A verdade no tem importncia; verdades indubitveis, objectivas e eternas no so reconhecveis. A verdade sempre subjectiva"; "Deus est morto: no existe qualquer instncia superior, eterna. O Homem depende apenas de si mesmo"; "O eterno retorno do mesmo: A histria no finalista, no h progresso nem objectivo". Ou ainda " existem deuses, como poderia eu suportar no ser um deus!? Por conseguinte no h deus." passagem que deixa evidente que a concluso no decorre da premissa, mas sim da pessoal inaceitao do autor a um ente superior ao que ele prprio poderia conceber, ou seja: que, no mnimo, o autor o ser de maior capacidade intelectiva que existe - isto portanto no o caracteriza como niilista. A superao do homem do seu tempo o eixo de sua filosofia.

Outros, entretanto, no pensam que Nietzsche seja um autor do niilismo, mas ao contrrio um crtico do niilismo. Na genealogia da moral o filsofo faz crticas abertas ao niilismo, que para ele seria uma "anseio do vazio", uma manifestao dos seres doentes aonde se conformam e idealizam o vazio e no um verdadeiro estado de fora. Alm disso, para ele o homem pode ser, alm de um destruidor, um criador de valores. E os valores a serem destrudos, como os cristos (na sua obra, faz meno doena, ignorncia), um dia seriam substitudos pela sade, a inteligncia, entre outros. Tal afirmao se baseia na obra Assim falou Zaratustra, onde se faz clara a vinda do Alm-homem, sendo criar a finalidade do ser. Tal correspondncia totalmente contrria ao niilismo, pelo menos em princpio. Ou um "niilismo positivo", para Heidegger.Todavia, Nietzsche, contrrio ou no, no deixando escapar de suas crticas nem mesmo seu mestre Schopenhauer nem seu grande amigo Wagner, procurou denunciar todas as formas de renncia da existncia e da vontade. esta a concepo fundamental de sua obra Zaratustra, "a eterna, suprema afirmao e confirmao da vida". O eterno retorno significa o trgico-dionisaco dizer sim vida, em sua plenitude e globalidade. a afirmao incondicional da existncia.

Talvez a falta de consenso na apreciao da obra de Nietzsche tenha em parte a ver com os paradoxos no pensamento do prprio autor. As suas ltimas obras, sobretudo o seu autobiogrfico Ecce Homo (1888), foram escritas em meio sua crise que se aprofundava. Em Janeiro de 1889, Nietzsche sofreu em Turim um colapso nervoso. Nietzsche passou os ltimos 11 anos da sua vida sob observao psiquitrica, inicialmente num manicmio em Jena, depois em casa de sua me em Naumburg e finalmente na casa chamada Villa Silberblick em Weimar, onde, aps a morte de sua me, foi cuidado por sua irm.

Faleceu em 25 de agosto de 1900. Encontra-se sepultado em Rcken Churchyard, Rcken, Saxnia-Anhalt na Alemanha.[22]

Obras de Friedrich Nietzsche, na ordem em que foram compostas:

Escreveu ainda uma recolha de poemas, publicados postumamente, com o nome de Ditirambos de Dionsio.

Nietzsche deixou muitos cadernos manuscritos, alm de correspondncias. O volume desses textos maior do que o dos publicados. Os de 1870 desenvolvem muitos temas de seus livros publicados, em especial uma teoria do conhecimento. Os de 1880 que, aps seu colapso nervoso, foram selecionados pela sua irm, que os publicou com o ttulo "A vontade de poder", desenvolvem consideraes mais ontolgicas a respeito das doutrinas de vontade de poder e de eterno retorno e sua capacidade de interpretar a realidade. Entre essas especulaes e sob os esforos de intrpretes de sua obra, os manuscritos de 1880 estabelecem repetidamente que "no h fatos, somente interpretaes".

Contudo, est disponvel a obra Fragmentos Finais, que baseada na reestruturao feita aos seus manuscritos no Arquivo.

No Brasil, alguns trechos desses fragmentos pstumos podem ser encontrados no livro Nietzsche da coleo Os Pensadores, publicada pela editora Abril Cultural.

As composies de Friedrich Nietzsche no so to conhecidas como seus escritos filosficos ou seus poemas, mas o prprio Nietzsche, como um artista, pensou a msica como seu principal meio de expresso.

Antes de se estabelecer plenamente como um filsofo, ele j havia criado uma miscelnea significativa de produes como poeta e compositor. A poesia permaneceu essencial para seus escritos filosficos, e a composio musical tornou-se menos importante para ele na medida em que seu envolvimento com a palavra escrita foi adquirindo "nome prprio". Como conseqncia, as suas obras musicais so geralmente consideradas de pouca importncia para a compreenso do seu pensamento filosfico.

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Nietzsches idea of an overman and life from his point of view

Nietzsche's idea of "the overman" (Ubermensch) is one of the most significant concept in his thinking. Even though it is mentioned very briefly only in the prologue of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, it might be sensible to conceive that Nietzsche had something in his mind about how a man should be more than just human-all-too-human, regardless if he was one or not. All these ideas had been pondered on and developed though all his works. The concept then seems to reveal much about the way Nietzsche saw life. This essay will attempt on seeing through, as much as possible, the idea of overman by Nietzsche and life from the point of view of an overman.

An overman as described by Zarathustra, the main character in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, is the one who is willing to risk all for the sake of enhancement of humanity. In contrary to the last man whose sole desire is his own comfort and is incapable of creating anything beyond oneself in any form. This should suggest that an overman is someone who can establish his own values as the world in which others live their lives, often unaware that they are not pregiven. This means an overman can affect and influence the lives of others. In other words, an overman has his own values, independent of others, which affects and dominates others lives that may not have predetermined values but only herd instinct. An overman is then someone who has a life which is not merely to live each day with no meanings when nothing in the past and future is more important than the present, or more precisely, the pleasure and happiness in the present, but with the purpose for humanity.

In Nietzsches view, an overman should be able to affect history indefinitely. He will keep reentering the world through other peoples minds and affect their thoughts and values. Napolean who is highly admired by Nietzsche may be seen as an example here since he changed and created orders in Europe. What he did effects greatly in how Europe is today. This idea agrees with another of his most significant idea, the idea of the will-to-power. He asserts that life is the will-to-power. Although it is hard to say exactly what he meant by that term, it can be described as something, which underlies how human thinks, behaves and acts in all circumstances. He views that a human being is always in a constant struggle to quench his own desire. This is shown in the context of power used to exclude desires of others that is in conflict to his, power that is used to achieve what they desire. A living thing always seeks to discharge its strength, not only to survive but to power and this sometimes results in violent behaviour which is, allegedly by Nietzshce, intrinsic to the nature of men. However, the way to will can be different, constructive or destructive. My interpretation would then be that an overman uses the will-to-power to influence and dominate the thoughts of others creatively from generation to generation. In this way, his existence and power live on even after he dies.

Nietzsche also has the answer to life that seems suffering. His answer, which is expressed in the same book of Zarathustra, is an attitude towards life that helps one overcome the feeling of its meaninglessness. It starts with the idea that life is an eternal recurrence with no beginning and no end but a repetition of the very same life over and over again. With all sufferings, unhappiness and misdeeds in life, one may feel cursed and despaired if he inevitably were to repeat the same life with the same pain and joy. However, the most important point may not be whether life is really an eternal recurrence. Rather, although not explicitly stated, the important point is that an overman should view it differently such that in the very same life, there has been a moment that it redeems everything else. It then makes him content with and happy to repeat that very same life again and again. He has got the feeling of unity of creation and destruction, good and bad taste of life and is able to say that life is good even it may seem terrible and questionable. He views all the past actions, silly or wise, accidental or achieving, as necessity of becoming himself. Therefore he can redeem himself and thus be willing to repeat the same life again. Some may even say that it was and thus I willed it even though he knows well that one cannot will backward and there are many other limitations in life. It implies that living a life of an overman is to live with the knowledge of what has already happened and constant reinterpretation according to it. Clearly, an overman is then someone who can, with appreciation, face life that may seem so suffering and absurd, knowing that the basic conditions of life will not change even when he is in the ideal state of an overman.

In a sense, overman is about self-overcoming. It involves an attitude towards life when one may feel despaired and feel life is meaningless. It is about the way to deal with truth not in direct manner with straightforward rules as in rationalism, but more like a sensitive mix of trickier indirect approaches. As he compared this with winning a womans heart, those who approach clumsily and directly will bound to failure and hence left dispirited. When compared to Kantian view of truth, it can be seen that going straight into finding an absolute naked truth may leave one unsastisfied with questions that remain unanswered. Instead, Nietzsche suggested the way to tackle this by going along with it and take it as it is. One will then feel content and happy with the life that may be so questionable.

Another characteristic used to describe an overman originated in his earlier work, The Birth of Tragedy. In this book, the notion of Apollonion and Dionysian principles is used with respect to his analysis of the Greek tragedy. They are used to describe two principles men use in thinking which consequently determine actions. Apollonion principle is the principle of light, rationality, order and clear boundaries whereas Dionysian is the principle of the dark, irratioanality, the collapse of order and boundaries. The Apollonion views an individual as separate from other reality and hence can be viewed dispassionately with rationality. On the other hand, the Dionysian views things as a living whole where one is a part of a larger reality. The Apollonion therefore involves no passion or emotion but pure reasons with order whereas the Dionysian is passionate, dynamic and unpredictable. Nietzsche believes that a balance of the two principles is essential in order to have some meanings in life. He seems to be very fond of art and viewed that artistic works, paintings, plays, literature or music exhibit a great deal of Dionysian principle in the form of creativity. In his later work, the importance of the Dionysian principle in living a life with values and meanings is expressed clearly. He views that the highest state attainable by a man can be achieved when life is conceived in terms of the realisation of the Dionysian ideal of the overman. That means one must realise and accept his own Dionysian nature and use it appropriately.

From my point of view, Nietzsche must have treated art as something higher than ordinary, mass-conventional logic and rationality such as that in science for he admired creativity and beauty in art above all things. A person who will be viewed by Nietzsche as an overman is then more likely to be an artist who uses his Dionysian principle and way of thinking and feeling to create works that carry particular individuals picture or interpretation of the world. His values may or may not be the same as any other but a good artist should be able to combine creativity with his perception of the world and life and express it well in his work. On comparison to Aristotle who views that the most desirable state of a person is a philosopher who contemplates, Nietzsche viewed traditional philosophers during his time as people who did not really affect the real world outside and usually their traditional philosophical works were merely self confession. It can then be seen that his value is highly placed upon the concept of Dionysus and therefore he praised the Greek civilisation where a lot of creativity took place even more than in present society. Nietzsche accepted that Socrates did affect the history greatly, which is the characteristic that Nietzsche valued. However, he blamed Socrates for the western society and culture that emphasised the Apollonion principle too much. Socrates was thought to have gone too far in defending rationality. He even viewed that we could use reasoning in everything so that the natures flaws can be corrected. It is then what the western dreams of and pursues up until now through science and technology. This is the view that does not accept human limitation, that men are powerless and have no control but always places men on the top of everything. In contrast, Nietzsche views that an overman must be able to accept these limitations and can face it in the eternal recurrence. Nietzsche must have felt that the western culture had put less and less significance on artistic creativity and passion that mental and spiritual power which create beauty in life have fewer and fewer places in the modern society.

Emotion is one of the attributes of Dionysus and is also one of the entities which Nietzsche defended. He views that emotion is natural. Its repression or suppression is psychologically disastrous. This also includes sexuality. He attacked Christianity for its traditional value that places bars on emotion and impulse and this is viewed by Nietzsche as self-denying. He disagrees on inhibiting and thwarting human own nature. Rather, an overman must accept his own nature and divert the energy of primitive impulses into a culturally, higher or socially more acceptable, activity. This is exactly what should happen to a good artist on creating his work of art. To him, the Dionysian is not completely dark and evil as opposite to the Apollonion which is associated with light and reason. The Dionysian is rather viewed as natural, both good and bad just like any ordinary human being. It is in every human nature. With a right balance with the Apollonion and with the right use, a burst of creativity is the result. However, it is usually the case that when the Apollonion principle mixes the Dionysian, it tends to suppress the Dionysian. As a result, the Dionysian principle is expressed in a destructive way. Basically, an overman must be able to control this and divert the Dionysian power into something creative. To Nietzsche, Dionysian is profoundly irrational rather than negatively or stubbornly irrational.

In the present age where science and rationality are highly valued, I realise that it is hard to accept the negative side of being rational since it seems to be the most reliable tool in treating others, living together and judging. Without it, society can be chaotic and too much disordered for no control is imposed on the irrational ones who do not use the Dionysian principle in a productive way. However, I agree with Nietzsche in the beauty of the product created out of Dionysian principle and feel that the right mix of Apollonion and Dionysian will make the world much nobler, not in the luxurious sense but aesthetic one. The world with no passion and emotion will be an unnatural one and this special property, among others, of human that differs from other animals will be lost.

Nietzsche might or might not consider himself an overman but he surely determined to be a means or bridge who brings closer to reality an emergence of an overman. In his view, men are not born equal. He always stresses on the difference of men and hence in contrast to Marx who includes everyone into his ideal society. For Nietzsche, there are only some capable and talented who qualifies to be an overman from his point of view. Therefore, he is usually perceived superficially as an elitist which might have brought down the value of his thinking. To me, it is a fact that is hard to swallow for all of us and quite sceptical on the ability of men. However, it is the case, at least throughout the history of mankind up to the present, for men are educated differently and experience different things. Nevertheless, Nietzsches thinking provides some space for this. He says that his ideal is not necessarily everyones universal ideal. Each of us values things differently and therefore his overman may not be the same as others overman. He consequently urges for revaluation of traditional values such as, the supression of emotion, the wholeheartedly devoted rationalism. An overman, in his view, should not be restricted by tradition nor bounded by convention but has independent values of his own.

From all that is shown above, we may say that Nietzsches overman must be able to affect history indefinitely, conceives life in terms of Dionysian realisation and is able to divert Dionysian principle into something creative. With this kind of attitude and the realisation of his own limitation in life, he would then be able to face life, look back with satisfaction, realising that all pasts make him what he is today, and hence feel happy if he were to repeat that very same life eternally. An overman should then be content with his own life and appreciate every bit of it even though some of them are painful and suffering. He spends each day of his life creating beauty, which affects the minds of others through out the time, knowing that his life has values and meanings since his existence of will-to-power will live on indefinitely.


1) The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, ed. B.Magnus and K.M.Higgins, Cambridge University Press, 1990.

2) Nietzsche, Life As Literature, Alexander Nehamas, Havard University Press,1994.

3) Nietzsche for Beginners, M.Sautet, Writers and readers, 1990.

4) Nietzsche:A Critical Reader.

5) Philosophy II lecture handouts.

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The Nihilism of Contemporary Europe

While most of his contemporaries looked on the late nineteenth century with unbridled optimism, confident in the progress of science and the rise of the German state, Nietzsche saw his age facing a fundamental crisis in values. With the rise of science, the Christian worldview no longer held a prominent explanatory role in peoples lives, a view Nietzsche captures in the phrase God is dead. However, science does not introduce a new set of values to replace the Christian values it displaces. Nietzsche rightly foresaw that people need to identify some source of meaning and value in their lives, and if they could not find it in science, they would turn to aggressive nationalism and other such salves. The last thing Nietzsche would have wanted was a return to traditional Christianity, however. Instead, he sought to find a way out of nihilism through the creative and willful affirmation of life.

On one level, the will to power is a psychological insight: our fundamental drive is for power as realized in independence and dominance. This will is stronger than the will to survive, as martyrs willingly die for a cause if they feel that associating themselves with that cause gives them greater power, and it is stronger than the will to sex, as monks willingly renounce sex for the sake of a greater cause. While the will to power can manifest itself through violence and physical dominance, Nietzsche is more interested in the sublimated will to power, where people turn their will to power inward and pursue self-mastery rather than mastery over others. An Indian mystic, for instance, who submits himself to all sorts of physical deprivation gains profound self-control and spiritual depth, representing a more refined form of power than the power gained by the conquering barbarian.

On a deeper level, the will to power explains the fundamental, changing aspect of reality. According to Nietzsche, everything is in flux, and there is no such thing as fixed being. Matter is always moving and changing, as are ideas, knowledge, truth, and everything else. The will to power is the fundamental engine of this change. For Nietzsche, the universe is primarily made up not of facts or things but rather of wills. The idea of the human soul or ego is just a grammatical fiction, according to Nietzsche. What we call I is really a chaotic jumble of competing wills, constantly struggling to overcome one another. Because change is a fundamental aspect of life, Nietzsche considers any point of view that takes reality to be fixed and objective, be it religious, scientific, or philosophical, as life denying. A truly life-affirming philosophy embraces change and recognizes in the will to power that change is the only constant in the world.

Nietzsche is critical of the very idea of objective truth. That we should think there is only one right way of considering a matter is only evidence that we have become inflexible in our thinking. Such intellectual inflexibility is a symptom of saying no to life, a condition that Nietzsche abhors. A healthy mind is flexible and recognizes that there are many different ways of considering a matter. There is no single truth but rather many.

At this point, interpreters of Nietzsche differ. Some argue that Nietzsche believes there is such a thing as truth but that there is no single correct perspective on it. Just as we cannot get the full picture of what an elephant is like simply by looking at its leg or looking at its tail or looking at its trunk, we cannot get a reasonable picture of any truth unless we look at it from multiple perspectives. Others, particularly those who value Nietzsches early essay On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, argue that Nietzsche believes the very idea of truth to be a lie. Truth is not an elephant that we must look at from multiple perspectives under this view. Rather, truth is simply the name given to the point of view of the people who have the power to enforce their point of view. The only reality is the will to power, and truth, like morality, is just another fig leaf placed on top of this reality.

Throughout his work, particularly in The Antichrist, Nietzsche writes scathingly about Christianity, arguing that it is fundamentally opposed to life. In Christian morality, Nietzsche sees an attempt to deny all those characteristics that he associates with healthy life. The concept of sin makes us ashamed of our instincts and our sexuality, the concept of faith discourages our curiosity and natural skepticism, and the concept of pity encourages us to value and cherish weakness. Furthermore, Christian morality is based on the promise of an afterlife, leading Christians to devalue this life in favor of the beyond. Nietzsche argues that Christianity springs from resentment for life and those who enjoy it, and it seeks to overthrow health and strength with its life-denying ethic. As such, Nietzsche considers Christianity to be the hated enemy of life.

As the title of one of his books suggests, Nietzsche seeks to find a place beyond good and evil. One of Nietzsches fundamental achievements is to expose the psychological underpinnings of morality. He shows that our values are not themselves fixed and objective but rather express a certain attitude toward life. For example, he argues that Christian morality is fundamentally resentful and life denying, devaluing natural human instincts and promoting weakness and the idea of an afterlife, the importance of which supercedes that of our present life. Nietzsches aim is not so much to replace Christian morality with another morality. Rather, he aims to expose the very concept of morality as being a fig leaf placed on top of our fundamental psychological drives to make them seem more staid and respectable. By exposing morality as a fiction, Nietzsche wants to encourage us to be more honest about our drives and our motives and more realistic in the attitude we take toward life. Such honesty and realism, he contends, would cause a fundamental revaluation of all values. Without morality, we would become an entirely different species of being, and a healthier species of being at that.

Nietzsche contends that humanity is a transition, not a destination. We ceased to be animals when we taught ourselves to control our instincts for the sake of greater gains. By learning to resist some of our natural impulses, we have been able to forge civilizations, develop knowledge, and deepen ourselves spiritually. Rather than directing our will to power outward to dominate those around us, we have directed it inward and gained self-mastery. However, this struggle for self-mastery is arduous, and humanity is constantly tempted to give up. Christian morality and contemporary nihilism are just two examples of worldviews that express the desire to give up on life. We come to see life as blameworthy or meaningless as a way of easing ourselves out of the struggle for self-mastery. Nietzsches concept of the overman is the destination toward which we started heading when we first reined in our animal instincts. The overman has the self-mastery that animals lack but also the untrammeled instincts and good conscience that humans lack. The overman is profoundly in love with life, finding nothing in it to complain about, not even the constant suffering and struggle to which he willingly submits himself.

While it is hard to give a definitive account of the eternal recurrence, we can undoubtedly claim that it involves a supreme affirmation of life. On one level, it expresses the view that time is cyclical and that we will live every moment of our lives over and over an infinite number of times, each time exactly the same. In other words, each passing moment is not fleeting but rather echoes for all eternity. Nietzsches ideal is to be able to embrace the eternal recurrence and live in affirmation of this idea. In other words, we should aim to live conscious of the fact that each moment will be repeated infinitely, and we should feel only supreme joy at the prospect.

On another level, the doctrine of the eternal recurrence involves Nietzsches distinctive metaphysical notions. Nietzsche contends that there is no such thing as being: everything is always changing, always in a state of becoming. Because nothing is fixed, there are no things that we can distinguish and set apart from other things. All of reality is intertwined, such that we cannot pass judgment on one aspect of reality without passing judgment on all of reality. In other words, we cannot feel regret for one aspect of our lives and joy for another because these two aspects of our lives cannot properly be distinguished from one another. In recognizing that all of life is one indistinguishable swirl of becoming, we are faced with the simple choice of saying yes to all life or no to all life. Naturally, Nietzsche contends that the yes-saying attitude is preferable.

SparkNotes: Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900): Themes ...

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In the small German village of Rcken bei Ltzen, located in a rural farmland area 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 Rcken's town minister.

Nietzsche's uncle and grandfathers were also Lutheran ministers, and his paternal grandfather, Friedrich August Ludwig Nietzsche (17561826), 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, 17781856), maternal grandfather (David Ernst Ohler, 17871859) and maternal grandmother (Johanna Elisabeth Wilhelmine Hahn, 17941876) 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 (18131849) died from a brain ailment (July 30, 1849) and the death of Nietzsche's two-year-old brother, Ludwig Joseph, traumatically followed six months later (January 4, 1850). Having been living only yards away from Rcken'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 (18261897), his grandmother, Erdmuthe, his father's two sisters, Auguste and Rosalie (d. 1855 and 1867, respectively), and his younger sister, Therese Elisabeth Alexandra (18461935).

From the ages of 14 to 19 (18581864), 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 (11371540), with buildings that included a 12th century Romanesque chapel and a 13th century Gothic church. At Schulpforta a school whose alumnae included the German Idealist philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte (17621814) Nietzsche met his lifelong acquaintance, Paul Deussen (18451919), 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 fr Musik. The teenage Nietzsche also read the German romantic writings of Friedrich Hlderlin 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 (18131869) and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (18061876). Jahn was a biographer of Mozart who had studied at the University of Berlin under Karl Lachmann (17931851) a philologist known both for his studies of the Roman philosopher, Lucretius (ca. 9955 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 (254184 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 (18451898), 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 highest praise of music as an art form, captured Nietzsche's imagination, and 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 in 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 (18131883) at the home of Hermann Brockhaus (18061877), 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).

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 (18371905) and Jacob Burkhardt (18181897), 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-Mllendorff (1848-1931) a scholar who was to become one of Germany's leading philologists immediately dampened the book's reception, not to mention Nietzsche's class enrolments in Basel.

Wilamowitz-Mllendorff himself came from an aristocratic family of distant Polish descent and was also a graduate of Schulpforta (1867). 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 Re (18491901), 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 (187376) 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 Re, 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, gypsy-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 Salom (18611937), a 21 year old Russian woman who was studying philosophy and theology in Zurich. He quickly fell in love with her. Eventually declining to develop her relationship with Nietzsche on a romantic level, the future of Nietzsche's friendship with her and Paul Re took a turn for the worse, as Salom and Re left Nietzsche and moved to Berlin. In the years to follow, Salom would become an associate of Sigmund Freud, and would write with psychological insight of her association with Nietzsche.

These nomadic years were the occasion of Nietzsche's main works, among which are Daybreak (1881), The Gay Science (1882/1887), Thus Spoke Zarathustra (188385), 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 heriditary stroke disorder. 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. In contrast, we have Paul Re writing in an 1897 letter that Nietzsche had always been unbalanced.

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 Frster 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 Rcken bei Ltzen, 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 Tragdie aus dem Geiste der Musik). In terms of its intellectual atmosphere, it sets forth an 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 Tragdie, 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 obviously remained proud of the work, Nietzsche also describes it as a questionable, strange and almost inaccessible book, filled with Kantian and Schopenhauerian formulas that were inherently at odds with the new valuations he was trying to express.

Nietzsche, having by this time absorbed the German romanticist, and specifically Schopenhauerian, view that non-rational forces reside at the foundation of all creativity and of reality itself, identifies a strongly instinctual, wild, amoral, Dionysian energy within pre-Socratic Greek culture as an essentially creative and healthy force. 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, bottled-up, and relatively unhealthy.

As a means towards cultural rebirth, he advocates 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 contemporary 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 Schopenhauerian, eternalistic flavor, and scholars disagree about the extent to which Nietzsche departs from that eternalistic dimension in this work and in later works.

Some regard Nietzsche's 1873 unpublished essay, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense (ber Wahrheit und Lge im auermoralischen 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. Viewing human 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 (Unzeitgemsse Betrachtungen). 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) 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 fr 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 looked at art through the perspective of life. 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. 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 Sprche), 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 fr 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 aphorisms whose typical length ranges from a line or two to a page or two. Here, he often reflects upon cultural and psychological phenomena in reference to individuals' organic and physiological constitutions. The idea of power (for which he would later become known) sporadically appears as an explanatory principle, but Nietzsche tends at this time to invoke hedonistic considerations of pleasure and pain in his explanations of cultural and psychological phenomena. Given Nietzsche's 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 does not fully embody the pain-and-power-centered approach that he later developed.

In Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudices (Morgenrte. Gedanken ber 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 (188385). 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 against morality.

In a more well-known aphoristic work, The Gay Science (Die frhliche Wissenschaft, 1882) whose title was inspired by the troubadour songs of southern-French Provence (11001300) 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) is a reaction to the conception of a single, ultimate, judgmental authority who is privy to everyone's hidden and personally embarrassing secrets. 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 fr Alle und Keinen, 188385), 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 as inspirational reading, along with the Bible, to the young soldiers during WWI. 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 (bermenschlich), 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 thoroughly 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 his inherent messages 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 for the earth's future meaning is indeed 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 Bse. 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 incidental characters who engage in dusty scholarship. 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, or 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 Re's The Origin of the Moral Sensations (1877). Inspired by utilitarianism and Darwinism, Re 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, subordinatingly, and opposingly 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.

The Case of Wagner, A Musician's Problem (Der Fall Wagner, Ein Musikanten-Problem, May-August 1888), contrasts sharply with Nietzsche's 1872 laudatory portrayal of Wagner in The Birth of Tragedy, 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 mockings of Wagner's theatrical style, reflections on redemption via art, a physiology of art, and 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 (18381875) whose music he finds cheerful, revitalizing, redeeming and light-hearted. Wagner himself had some years earlier (1850) condemned Felix Mendelssohn (18091847) 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 (Gtzen-Dmmerung, oder Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert, August-September 1888), word-plays upon Wagner's opera, The Twilight of the Gods (Die Gtterdmmerung). 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 all these alleged representatives of cultural decadence, Nietzsche applauds Caesar, Napoleon, Goethe, Dostoevski, 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 implicity 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 (18661881), 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 Kselitz], 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, Aktenstcke eines Psychologen, December 1888) is a short, but classic, selection of passages Nietzsche extracted from his 18781887 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 manuscripts. 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, 19361940), 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 1870's notebooks, where there is important material concerning his theory of knowledge. In the 1880's notebooks those his sister collected together after his death under the title, The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of all Values Nietzsche adopts a more metaphysical orientation towards the doctrines of Eternal Recurrence and the Will to Power, speculating upon their 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 1880's 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 1930's, aspects of Nietzsche's thought were espoused by the Nazis and Italian Fascists, partly due to the encouragement of Elisabeth Frster-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 1950's. Nietzsche became especially influential in French philosophical circles during the 1960's-1980's, 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 1950's and 60's, 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, Andr Gide, Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, Martin Heidegger, Gustav Mahler, Andr 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 Tnnies, 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 willpower. 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.

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Read books online at our other site: The Literature Page - We have 1 book review related to Friedrich Nietzsche. - Read the works of Friedrich Nietzsche online at The Literature Page A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. Friedrich Nietzsche At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid. Friedrich Nietzsche Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. Friedrich Nietzsche Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one. Friedrich Nietzsche Great men's errors are to be venerated as more fruitful than little men's truths. Friedrich Nietzsche In heaven all the interesting people are missing. Friedrich Nietzsche In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. Friedrich Nietzsche Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them! Friedrich Nietzsche Man is the cruelest animal. Friedrich Nietzsche Many people wait throughout their whole lives for the chance to be good in their own fashion. Friedrich Nietzsche No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. Friedrich Nietzsche One must have a good memory to be able to keep the promises one makes. Friedrich Nietzsche Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself. Friedrich Nietzsche The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time. Friedrich Nietzsche The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. Friedrich Nietzsche The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it. Friedrich Nietzsche The overman...Who has organized the chaos of his passions, given style to his character, and become creative. Aware of life's terrors, he affirms life without resentment. Friedrich Nietzsche The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others. Friedrich Nietzsche To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity. Friedrich Nietzsche

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Friedrich Nietzsche,(born October 15, 1844,Rcken, Saxony, Prussia [Germany]died August 25, 1900,Weimar, Thuringian States),German classical scholar, philosopher, and critic of culture, who became one of the most-influential of all modern thinkers. His attempts to unmask the motives that underlie traditional Western religion, morality, and philosophy deeply affected generations of theologians, philosophers, psychologists, poets, novelists, and playwrights. He thought through the consequences of the triumph of the Enlightenments secularism, expressed in his observation that God is dead, in a way that determined the agenda for many of Europes most-celebrated intellectuals after his death. Although he was an ardent foe of nationalism, anti-Semitism, and power politics, his name was later invoked by fascists to advance the very things he loathed.

Nietzsches home was a stronghold of Lutheran piety. His paternal grandfather had published books defending Protestantism and had achieved the ecclesiastical position of superintendent; his maternal grandfather was a country parson; his father, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche, was appointed pastor at Rcken by order of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, after whom Friedrich Nietzsche was named. His father died in 1849, before Nietzsches fifth birthday, and he spent most of his early life in a household consisting of five women: his mother, Franziska, his younger sister, Elisabeth, his maternal grandmother, and two aunts.

In 1850 the family moved to Naumburg on the Saale River, where Nietzsche attended a private preparatory school, the Domgymnasium. In 1858 he was admitted to Schulpforta, Germanys leading Protestant boarding school. He excelled academically and received an outstanding classical education there. Having graduated in 1864, he went to the University of Bonn to study theology and classical philology. Despite efforts to take part in the universitys social life, the two semesters at Bonn were a failure, owing chiefly to acrimonious quarrels between his two leading classics professors, Otto Jahn and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl. Nietzsche sought refuge in music, writing a number of compositions strongly influenced by Robert Schumann, the German Romantic composer. In 1865 he transferred to the University of Leipzig, joining Ritschl, who had accepted an appointment there.

Nietzsche prospered under Ritschls tutelage in Leipzig. He became the only student ever to publish in Ritschls journal, Rheinisches Museum (Rhenish Museum). He began military service in October 1867 in the cavalry company of an artillery regiment, sustained a serious chest injury while mounting a horse in March 1868, and resumed his studies in Leipzig in October 1868 while on extended sick leave from the military. During the years in Leipzig, Nietzsche discovered Arthur Schopenhauers philosophy, met the great operatic composer Richard Wagner, and began his lifelong friendship with fellow classicist Erwin Rohde (author of Psyche).

When a professorship in classical philology fell vacant in 1869 in Basel, Switzerland, Ritschl recommended Nietzsche with unparalleled praise. He had completed neither his doctoral thesis nor the additional dissertation required for a German degree; yet Ritschl assured the University of Basel that he had never seen anyone like Nietzsche in 40 years of teaching and that his talents were limitless. In 1869 the University of Leipzig conferred the doctorate without examination or dissertation on the strength of his published writings, and the University of Basel appointed him extraordinary professor of classical philology. The following year Nietzsche was promoted to ordinary professor.

Nietzsche obtained a leave to serve as a volunteer medical orderly in August 1870, after the outbreak of the Franco-German War. Within a month, while accompanying a transport of wounded, he contracted dysentery and diphtheria, which ruined his health permanently. He returned to Basel in October to resume a heavy teaching load, but as early as 1871 ill health prompted him to seek relief from the stultifying chores of a professor of classical philology; he applied for the vacant chair of philosophy and proposed Rohde as his successor, all to no avail.

During those early Basel years Nietzsches ambivalent friendship with Wagner ripened, and he seized every opportunity to visit Richard and his wife, Cosima. Wagner appreciated Nietzsche as a brilliant professorial apostle, but Wagners increasing exploitation of Christian motifs, as in Parsifal (1882), coupled with his chauvinism and anti-Semitism proved to be more than Nietzsche could bear. By 1878 the breach between the two men had become final.

Nietzsches first book, Die Geburt der Tragdie aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872; The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music), marked his emancipation from the trappings of classical scholarship. A speculative rather than exegetical work, it argued that Greek tragedy arose out of the fusion of what he termed Apollonian and Dionysian elementsthe former representing measure, restraint, and harmony and the latter representing unbridled passionand that Socratic rationalism and optimism spelled the death of Greek tragedy. The final 10 sections of the book are a rhapsody about the rebirth of tragedy from the spirit of Wagners music. Greeted by stony silence at first, it became the object of heated controversy on the part of those who mistook it for a conventional work of classical scholarship. It was undoubtedly a work of profound imaginative insight, which left the scholarship of a generation toiling in the rear, as the British classicist F.M. Cornford wrote in 1912. It remains a classic in the history of aesthetics to this day.

Having requested and received a sick leave, Nietzsche in 1877 set up house with his sister and his friend Peter Gast (Johann Heinrich Kselitz), and in 1878 his aphoristic Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (Human, All-Too-Human) appeared. Because his health deteriorated steadily, he resigned his professorial chair on June 14, 1879, and was granted a pension of 3,000 Swiss francs per year for six years.

Nietzsche, Friedrich from the books Nietzsche wrote between 1879 and 1889, it is doubtful that his life held any intrinsic interest. Seriously ill, half-blind, in virtually unrelenting pain, he lived in boarding houses in Switzerland, the French Riviera, and Italy, with only limited human contact.

Nietzsches acknowledged literary and philosophical masterpiece in biblical-narrative form, Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), was published between 1883 and 1885 in four parts, the last of which was a private printing at his own expense. As with most of his works, it received little attention. His attempts to set forth his philosophy in more-direct prose, in the publications in 1886 of Jenseits von Gut und Bse (Beyond Good and Evil) and in 1887 of Zur Genealogie der Moral (On the Genealogy of Morals), also failed to win a proper audience.

Nietzsches final lucid year, 1888, was a period of supreme productivity. He wrote and published Der Fall Wagner (The Case of Wagner) and wrote a synopsis of his philosophy, Die Gtzen-Dmmerung (Twilight of the Idols), Der Antichrist (The Antichrist), Nietzsche contra Wagner, and Ecce Homo, a reflection on his own works and significance. Twilight of the Idols appeared in 1889; The Antichrist and Nietzsche contra Wagner were not published until 1895, the former mistakenly as book one of The Will to Power; and Ecce Homo was withheld from publication until 1908, 20 years after its composition.

Nietzsche collapsed in the streets of Turin, Italy, in January 1889, having lost control of his mental faculties completely. Bizarre but meaningful notes he sent immediately after his collapse brought his friend Franz Overbeck, a Christian theologian, to Italy to return Nietzsche to Basel. Nietzsche spent the last 11 years of his life in total mental darkness, first in a Basel asylum, then in Naumburg under his mothers care and, after her death in 1897, in Weimar in his sisters care. He died in 1900. Although the cause of his breakdown remains uncertain, informed opinion favours a diagnosis of atypical general paralysis caused by dormant tertiary syphilis.

The association of Nietzsches name with Adolf Hitler and fascism owes much to the use made of his works by his sister, Elisabeth. She had married a leading chauvinist and anti-Semite, Bernhard Frster, and after his suicide in 1889 she worked diligently to refashion Nietzsche in Frsters image. Elisabeth maintained ruthless control over Nietzsches literary estate and, dominated by greed, produced collections of his works consisting of discarded notes, such as Der Wille zur Macht (1901; The Will to Power). She also committed petty forgeries. Generations of commentators were misled. Equally important, her enthusiasm for Hitler linked Nietzsches name with that of the dictator in the public mind.

Nietzsche, Friedrich writings fall into three well-defined periods. The early works, The Birth of Tragedy and the four Unzeitgemsse Betrachtungen (1873; Untimely Meditations), are dominated by a Romantic perspective influenced by Schopenhauer and Wagner. The middle period, from Human, All-Too-Human up to The Gay Science, reflects the tradition of French aphorists. It extols reason and science, experiments with literary genres, and expresses Nietzsches emancipation from his earlier Romanticism and from Schopenhauer and Wagner. Nietzsches mature philosophy emerged after The Gay Science.

In his mature writings Nietzsche was preoccupied by 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 condition of the evaluator. He was especially interested, therefore, in a probing analysis and evaluation of the fundamental cultural values of Western philosophy, religion, and morality, which he characterized as expressions of the ascetic ideal.

The ascetic ideal is born when suffering becomes endowed with ultimate significance. According to Nietzsche, the Judeo-Christian tradition, for example, made suffering tolerable by interpreting it as Gods intention and as an occasion for atonement. Christianity, accordingly, owed its triumph to the flattering doctrine of personal immortality, that is, to the conceit that each individuals life and death have cosmic significance. Similarly, traditional philosophy expressed the ascetic ideal when it privileged soul over body, mind over senses, duty over desire, reality over appearance, the timeless over the temporal. While Christianity promised salvation for the sinner who repents, philosophy held out hope for salvation, albeit secular, for its sages. Common to traditional religion and philosophy was the unstated but powerful motivating assumption that existence requires explanation, justification, or expiation. Both denigrated experience in favour of some other, true world. Both may be read as symptoms of a declining life, or life in distress.

Nietzsches critique of traditional morality centred on the typology of master and slave morality. By examining the etymology of the German words gut (good), schlecht (bad), and bse (evil), Nietzsche maintained that the distinction between good and bad was originally descriptive, that is, a nonmoral reference to those who were privileged, the masters, as opposed to those who were base, the slaves. The good/evil contrast arose when slaves avenged themselves by converting attributes of mastery into vices. If the favoured, the good, were powerful, it was said that the meek would inherit the earth. Pride became sin. Charity, humility, and obedience replaced competition, pride, and autonomy. Crucial to the triumph of slave morality was its claim to being the only true morality. That insistence on absoluteness is as essential to philosophical as to religious ethics. Although Nietzsche gave a historical genealogy of master and slave morality, he maintained that it was an ahistorical typology of traits present in everyone.

Nihilism was the term Nietzsche used to describe the devaluation of the highest values posited by the ascetic ideal. He thought of the age in which he lived as one of passive nihilism, that is, as an age that was not yet aware that religious and philosophical absolutes had dissolved in the emergence of 19th-century positivism. With the collapse of metaphysical and theological foundations and sanctions for traditional morality only a pervasive sense of purposelessness and meaninglessness would remain. And the triumph of meaninglessness is the triumph of nihilism: God is dead. Nietzsche thought, however, that most people could not accept the eclipse of the ascetic ideal and the intrinsic meaninglessness of existence but would seek supplanting absolutes to invest life with meaning. He thought the emerging nationalism of his day represented one such ominous surrogate god, in which the nation-state would be invested with transcendent value and purpose. And just as absoluteness of doctrine had found expression in philosophy and religion, absoluteness would become attached to the nation-state with missionary fervour. The slaughter of rivals and the conquest of the earth would proceed under banners of universal brotherhood, democracy, and socialism. Nietzsches prescience here was particularly poignant, and the use later made of him especially repellent. For example, two books were standard issue for the rucksacks of German soldiers during World War I, Thus Spoke Zarathustra and the Gospel According to John. It is difficult to say which author was more compromised by that gesture.

Nietzsche often thought of his writings as struggles with nihilism, and apart from his critiques of religion, philosophy, and morality he developed original theses that have commanded attention, especially perspectivism, the will to power, eternal recurrence, and the superman.

Perspectivism is a concept which holds that knowledge is always perspectival, that there are no immaculate perceptions, and that knowledge from no point of view is as incoherent a notion as seeing from no particular vantage point. Perspectivism also denies the possibility of an all-inclusive perspective, which could contain all others and, hence, make reality available as it is in itself. The concept of such an all-inclusive perspective is as incoherent as the concept of seeing an object from every possible vantage point simultaneously.

Nietzsches perspectivism has sometimes been mistakenly identified with relativism and skepticism. Nonetheless, it raises the question of how one is to understand Nietzsches own theses, for example, that the dominant values of the common heritage have been underwritten by an ascetic ideal. Is this thesis true absolutely or only from a certain perspective? It may also be asked whether perspectivism can be asserted consistently without self-contradiction, since perspectivism must presumably be true in an absolute, that is a nonperspectival sense. Concerns such as those have generated much fruitful Nietzsche commentary as well as useful work in the theory of knowledge.

Nietzsche often identified life itself with the will to power, that is, with an instinct for growth and durability. That concept provides yet another way of interpreting the ascetic ideal, since it is Nietzsches contention that all the supreme values of mankind lack this willthat values which are symptomatic of decline, nihilistic values, are lording it under the holiest names. Thus, traditional philosophy, religion, and morality have been so many masks a deficient will to power wears. The sustaining values of Western civilization have been sublimated products of decadence in that the ascetic ideal endorses existence as pain and suffering. Some commentators have attempted to extend Nietzsches concept of the will to power from human life to the organic and inorganic realms, ascribing a metaphysics of will to power to him. Such interpretations, however, cannot be sustained by reference to his published works.

The doctrine of eternal recurrence, the basic conception of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, asks the question How well disposed would a person have to become to himself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than the infinite repetition, without alteration, of each and every moment? Presumably most people would, or should, find such a thought shattering because they should always find it possible to prefer the eternal repetition of their lives in an edited version rather than to crave nothing more fervently than the eternal recurrence of each of its horrors. The person who could accept recurrence without self-deception or evasion would be a superhuman being (bermensch), a superman whose distance from the ordinary man is greater than the distance between man and ape, Nietzsche says. Commentators still disagree whether there are specific character traits that define the person who embraces eternal recurrence.

Nietzsche once wrote that some men are born posthumously, and that is certainly true in his case. The history of philosophy, theology, and psychology since the early 20th century is unintelligible without him. The German philosophers Max Scheler, Karl Jaspers, and Martin Heidegger laboured in his debt, for example, as did the French philosophers Albert Camus, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. Existentialism and deconstruction, a movement in philosophy and literary criticism, owe much to him. The theologians Paul Tillich and Lev Shestov acknowledged their debt, as did the God is dead theologian Thomas J.J. Altizer; Martin Buber, Judaisms greatest 20th-century thinker, counted Nietzsche among the three most-important influences in his life and translated the first part of Zarathustra into Polish. The psychologists Alfred Adler and Carl Jung were deeply influenced, as was Sigmund Freud, who said of Nietzsche that he had a more-penetrating understanding of himself than any man who ever lived or was ever likely to live. Novelists like Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Andr Malraux, Andr Gide, and John Gardner were inspired by him and wrote about him, as did the poets and playwrights George Bernard Shaw, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stefan George, and William Butler Yeats, among others. Nietzsches great influence is due not only to his originality but also to the fact that he was one of the German languages most-brilliant prose writers.

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Friedrich Nietzsche developed his philosophy during the late 19th century. He owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading Arthur Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation, 1819, revised 1844) and admitted that Schopenhauer was one of the few thinkers that he respected, dedicating to him his essay Schopenhauer als Erzieher (Schopenhauer as Educator), published in 1874 as one of his Untimely Meditations.

Since the dawn of the 20th century, the philosophy of Nietzsche has had great intellectual and political influence around the world. Nietzsche applied himself to such topics as morality, religion, epistemology, psychology, ontology, and social criticism. Because of Nietzsche's evocative style and his often outrageous claims, his philosophy generates passionate reactions running from love to disgust. Nietzsche noted in his autobiographical Ecce Homo that his philosophy developed over time, so interpreters have found it difficult to relate concepts central to one work to those central to another, for example, the thought of the eternal recurrence features heavily in Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), but is almost entirely absent from his next book, Beyond Good and Evil. Added to this challenge is the fact that Nietzsche did not seem concerned to develop his thought into a system, even going so far as to disparage the attempt in Beyond Good and Evil.

Common themes in his thought can, however, be identified and discussed. His earliest work emphasized the opposition of Apollonian and Dionysian impulses in art, and the figure of Dionysus continued to play a role in his subsequent thought. Other major currents include the will to power, the claim that God is dead, the distinction between master and slave moralities, and radical perspectivism. Other concepts appear rarely, or are confined to one or two major works, yet are considered centerpieces of Nietzschean philosophy, such as the bermensch and the thought of eternal recurrence. His later works involved a sustained attack on Christianity and Christian morality, and he seemed to be working toward what he called the transvaluation of all values (Umwertung aller Werte). While Nietzsche is often associated in the public mind with fatalism and nihilism, Nietzsche himself viewed his project as the attempt to overcome the pessimism of Arthur Schopenhauer.

Nietzsche saw nihilism as the outcome of repeated frustrations in the search for meaning. He diagnosed nihilism as a latent presence within the very foundations of European culture, and saw it as a necessary and approaching destiny. The religious worldview had already suffered a number of challenges from contrary perspectives grounded in philosophical skepticism, and in modern science's evolutionary and heliocentric theory.[citation needed] Nietzsche saw this intellectual condition as a new challenge to European culture, which had extended itself beyond a sort of point-of-no-return. Nietzsche conceptualizes this with the famous statement "God is dead", which first appeared in his work in section 108 of The Gay Science, again in section 125 with the parable of "The Madman", and even more famously in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The statement, typically placed in quotation marks,[1] accentuated the crisis that Nietzsche argued that Western culture must face and transcend in the wake of the irreparable dissolution of its traditional foundations, moored largely in classical Greek philosophy and Christianity.[2] In aphorisms 55 and 56 of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche talks about the ladder of religious cruelty that suggests how Nihilism emerged from the intellectual conscience of Christianity. Nihilism is sacrificing the meaning "God" brings into our lives, for "matter and motion", physics, "objective truth." In aphorism 56, he explains how to emerge from the utter meaninglessness of life by reaffirming it through the Nietzsche's ideal of Eternal Return.

In The Antichrist, Nietzsche fights against the way in which Christianity has become an ideology set forth by institutions like churches, and how churches have failed to represent the life of Jesus. Nietzsche finds it important to distinguish between the religion of Christianity and the person of Jesus. Nietzsche attacked the Christian religion, as represented by churches and institutions, for what he called its "transvaluation" of healthy instinctive values. Transvaluation consists of the process by which one can view the meaning of a concept or ideology from a "higher" context. Nietzsche went beyond agnostic and atheistic thinkers of the Enlightenment, who simply regarded Christianity as untrue. He claimed that the Apostle Paul may have deliberately propagated Christianity as a subversive religion (a "psychological warfare weapon") within the Roman Empire as a form of covert revenge for the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and of the Second Temple in 70 AD during the Jewish War of 66-73 AD. Nietzsche contrasts the Christians with Jesus, whom he regarded as a unique individual, and argues he established his own moral evaluations. As such, Jesus represents a kind of step towards his ideation of the bermensch. Ultimately, however, Nietzsche claims that, unlike the bermensch, who embraces life, Jesus denied reality in favor of his "kingdom of God". Jesus's refusal to defend himself, and subsequent death, logically followed from this total disengagement. Nietzsche goes further to analyze the history of Christianity, finding it has progressively distorted the teachings of Jesus more and more. He criticizes the early Christians for turning Jesus into a martyr and Jesus's life into the story of the redemption of mankind in order to dominate the masses, and finds the Apostles cowardly, vulgar, and resentful. He argues that successive generations further misunderstood the life of Jesus as the influence of Christianity grew. By the 19th century, Nietzsche concludes, Christianity had become so worldly as to parody itselfa total inversion of a world view which was, in the beginning, nihilistic, thus implying the "death of God".

Nietzsche argued that two types of morality existed: a master morality that springs actively from the "noble man", and a slave morality that develops reactively within the weak man. These two moralities do not present simple inversions of one another. They form two different value systems: master morality fits actions into a scale of 'good' or 'bad' consequences, whereas slave morality fits actions into a scale of "good" or "evil" intentions. Notably he disdained both, though the first clearly less than the second.

Since Martin Heidegger at least, the concepts of the will to power (Wille zur Macht), of bermensch and of the thought of Eternal Recurrence have been inextricably linked. According to Heidegger's interpretation, one can not be thought without the others. During Nazi Germany, Alfred Baeumler attempted to separate the concepts, claiming that the Eternal Recurrence was only an "existential experience" that, if taken seriously, would endanger the possibility of a "will to power"deliberately misinterpreted, by the Nazis, as a "will for domination".[3] Baeumler attempted to interpret the "will to power" along Social Darwinist lines, an interpretation refuted by Heidegger in his 1930s courses on Nietzsche.

The term Wille zur Macht first appeared in the posthumous fragment 23 [63] of 1876-1877.[citation needed] Heidegger's reading has become predominant among commentators, although some have criticized it: Mazzino Montinari by declaring that it was forging the figure of a "macroscopical Nietzsche", alien to all of his nuances.[4]

Nietzsche's "will to power" (Wille zur Macht) is the name of a concept created by Nietzsche; the title of a projected book which he finally decided not to write; and the title of a book compiled from his notebooks and published posthumously and under suspicious circumstances by his sister and Peter Gast.

The work consists of four separate books, entitled "European Nihilism", "Critique of the Highest Values Hitherto", "Principles of a New Evaluation", and "Discipline and Breeding". Within these books there are some 1067 small sections, usually less than a page, and sometimes just a key phrasesuch as his opening comments in the 1st section of the preface: "Of what is great one must either be silent or speak with greatness. With greatnessthat means cynically and with innocence."[5]

Despite Elisabeth Frster-Nietzsche's falsifications (highlighted in 1937 by Georges Bataille[3] and proved in the 1960s by the complete edition of Nietzsche's posthumous fragments by Mazzino Montinari and Giorgio Colli), his notes, even in the form given by his sister, remain a key insight into the philosophy of Nietzsche, and his unfinished transvaluation of all values. An English edition of Montinari & Colli's work is forthcoming (it has existed for decades in Italian, German and French).

Throughout his works, Nietzsche writes about possible great human beings or "higher types" who serve as an example of people who would follow his philosophical ideals. These ideal human beings Nietzsche calls by terms such as "the philosopher of the future", "the free spirit", "the tragic artist" and "the Ubermensch". They are often described by Nietzsche as being highly creative, courageous, powerful and extremely rare individuals. He compares such individuals with certain historical figures which have been very rare and often have been considered geniuses, such as Napoleon, Goethe and Beethoven. His main example of a genius exemplary culture is Archaic Greece.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche posits the bermensch(helpinfo) (often translated as "overman" or "superman") as a goal that humanity can set for itself. While interpretations of Nietzsche's overman vary wildly, here are a few of his quotes from Thus Spoke Zarathustra:[citation needed]

I teach you the bermensch. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? [...] All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughingstock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to bermensch: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape...The bermensch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the bermensch shall be the meaning of the earth... Man is a rope, tied between beast and bermenscha rope over an abyss...what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end...

Nietzsche may have encountered the idea of the Eternal Recurrence in the works of Heinrich Heine, who speculated that one day a person would be born with the same thought-processes as himself, and that the same applied to every other individual. Nietzsche expanded on this thought to form his theory, which he put forth in The Gay Science and developed in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Schopenhauer directly influenced this theory.[6] Schopenhauer postulated that a person who unconditionally affirms life would do so even if everything that has happened were to happen again repeatedly.[citation needed]

Nietzsche's view on eternal return is similar to that of Hume: "the idea that an eternal recurrence of blind, meaningless variationchaotic, pointless shuffling of matter and lawwould inevitably spew up worlds whose evolution through time would yield the apparently meaningful stories of our lives. This idea of eternal recurrence became a cornerstone of his nihilism, and thus part of the foundation of what became existentialism."[7] Nietzsche was so impressed by this idea, that he at first thought he had discovered a new scientific proof of the greatest importance, referring to it as the "most scientific of hypotheses". He gradually backed-off of this view, and in later works referred to it as a thought-experiment. "Nietzsche viewed his argument for eternal recurrence as a proof of the absurdity or meaninglessness of life, a proof that no meaning was given to the universe from on high."[8]

What if a demon were to creep after you one day or night, in your loneliest loneness, and say: "This life which you live and have lived, must be lived again by you, and innumerable times more. And mere will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigheverything unspeakably small and great in your lifemust come again to you, and in the same sequence and series. . . . The eternal hourglass will again and again be turnedand you with it, dust of dust!" Would you not throw yourself down and curse the demon who spoke to you thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment, in which you would answer him: "Thou art a god, and never have I heard anything more divine!" [The Gay Science (1882), p. 341 (passage translated in Danto 1965, p. 210).]

Nietzsche's work addresses ethics from several perspectives: meta-ethics, normative ethics, and descriptive ethics.

In the field of meta-ethics, one can perhaps most accurately classify Nietzsche as a moral skeptic; meaning that he claims that all ethical statements are false, because any kind of correspondence between ethical statements and "moral facts" remains illusory. (This forms part of a more general claim that no universally true fact exists, roughly because none of them more than "appear" to correspond to reality). Instead, ethical statements (like all statements) remain mere "interpretations." However, Nietzsche does not claim that all interpretations are equivalent, since some testify for "noble" character while others are the symptom of a "decadent" life-form.

Sometimes Nietzsche may seem to have very definite opinions on what he regards as moral or as immoral. Note, however, that one can explain Nietzsche's moral opinions without attributing to him the claim of their truth. For Nietzsche, after all, we needn't disregard a statement merely because it expresses something false. On the contrary, he depicts falsehood as essential for "life". Interestingly enough, he mentions a "dishonest lie", (discussing Wagner in The Case of Wagner) as opposed to an "honest" one, recommending further to consult Plato with regard to the latter, which should give some idea of the layers of paradox in his work.

In the juncture between normative ethics and descriptive ethics, Nietzsche distinguishes between "master morality" and "slave morality". Although he recognizes that not everyone holds either scheme in a clearly delineated fashion without some syncretism, he presents them in contrast to one another. Some of the contrasts in master vs. slave morality include:

Nietzsche elaborated these ideas in his book On the Genealogy of Morality, in which he also introduced the key concept of ressentiment as the basis for the slave morality. Nietzsche's primarily negative assessment of the ethical and moralistic teachings of Christianity followed from his earlier considerations of the questions of God and morality in the works The Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. These considerations led Nietzsche to the idea of eternal recurrence. Nietzsche primarily meant that, for all practical purposes, his contemporaries lived as if God were dead, though they had not yet recognized it. Nietzsche believed this "death" had already started to undermine the foundations of morality and would lead to moral relativism and moral nihilism. As a response to the dangers of these trends he believed in re-evaluating the foundations of morality to better understand the origins and motives underlying them, so that individuals might decide for themselves whether to regard a moral value as born of an outdated or misguided cultural imposition or as something they wish to hold true.

While a political tone may be discerned in Nietzsche's writings, his work does not in any sense propose or outline a "political project." The man who stated that "The will to a system is a lack of integrity" was consistent in never devising or advocating a specific system of governance, enquiry, or ethics just as, being an advocate of individual struggle and self-realization, he never concerned himself with mass movements or with the organization of groups and political parties although there are parts of his works where he considers an enigmatic "greater politics", and others where he thinks the problem of community.[9]

In this sense, some have read Nietzsche as an anti-political thinker. Walter Kaufmann put forward the view that the powerful individualism expressed in his writings would be disastrous if introduced to the public realm of politics. Georges Bataille argued in 1937, in the Acphale review, that Nietzsche's thoughts were too free to be instrumentalized by any political movement. In "Nietzsche and Fascists," he argued against such instrumentalization, by the left or the right, declaring that Nietzsche's aim was to by-pass the short timespan of modern politics, and its inherent lies and simplifications, for a greater historical timespan.[3]

Later writers, led by the French intellectual Left, have proposed ways of using Nietzschean theory in what has become known as the "politics of difference" particularly in formulating theories of political resistance and sexual and moral difference. Owing largely to the writings of Kaufmann and others, the spectre of Nazism has now been almost entirely exorcised from his writings.

Nietzsche often referred to the common people who participated in mass movements and shared a common mass psychology as "the rabble", or "the herd". He allegedly valued individualism above all else, although this has been considered by many philosophers to be an oversimplification, as Nietzsche criticized the concept of the subject and of atomism (that is, the existence of an atomic subject at the foundation of everything, found for example in social contract theories). He considered the individual subject as a complex of instincts and wills-to-power, just as any other organization. Beginning in the 1890s some scholars have attempted to link his philosophy with Max Stirner's radical individualism of The Ego and Its Own (1844). The question remained pendant. Recently there was unearthed further, still circumstantial, evidence clarifying the relationship between Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Stirner.[10] In any case, few philosophers really consider Nietzsche an "individualist" thinker. He is best characterized as a thinker of "hierarchy", although the precise nature of this hierarchy does not cover the current social order (the "establishment") and is related to his thought of the Will to Power. Against the strictly "egoist" perspective adopted by Stirner, Nietzsche concerned himself with the "problem of the civilization" and the necessity to give humanity a goal and a direction to its history, making him, in this sense, a very political thinker.[11][12]

Furthermore, in the context of his criticism of morality and Christianity, expressed, among others works, in On the Genealogy of Morals and in The Antichrist, Nietzsche often criticized humanitarian feelings, detesting how pity and altruism were ways for the "weak" to take power over the "strong". However, he qualified his critique of Christianism as a "particular case" of his criticisms of free will.[13] Along with the rejection of teleology, this critique of free will is one of the common points he shared with Spinoza, whom he qualified as a "precursor".[14] To the "ethics of compassion" (Mitleid, "shared suffering") exposed by Schopenhauer,[15] Nietzsche opposed an "ethics of friendship" or of "shared joy" (Mitfreude).[16]

While he had a dislike of the state in general, which he called a "cold monster" in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche also spoke negatively of anarchists and socialism, and made it clear that only certain individuals could attempt to break away from the herd mentality. This theme is common throughout Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Although Nietzsche has famously been represented (or rather, as most strongly argue, misrepresented)[18] as a predecessor to Nazism, he criticized anti-Semitism, pan-Germanism and, to a lesser extent, nationalism. Thus, he broke with his editor in 1886 because of his opposition to his editor's anti-Semitic stances, and his rupture with Richard Wagner, expressed in The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche Contra Wagner, both of which he wrote in 1888, had much to do with Wagner's endorsement of pan-Germanism and anti-Semitism and also of his rallying to Christianity. In a March 29, 1887 letter to Theodor Fritsch, Nietzsche mocked anti-Semitics, Fritsch, Eugen Dhring, Wagner, Ebrard, Wahrmund, and the leading advocate of pan-Germanism, Paul de Lagarde, who would become, along with Wagner and Houston Chamberlain, the main official influences of Nazism.[3] This 1887 letter to Fritsch ended by: "-- And finally, how do you think I feel when the name Zarathustra is mouthed by anti-Semites? ..."[19]

Section VIII of Beyond Good and Evil, titled "Peoples and Fatherlands", criticized pan-Germanism and patriotism, advocating instead the unification of Europe (256, etc.). In Ecce Homo (1888), Nietzsche criticized the "German nation" and its "will to power (to Empire, to Reich)," thus underscoring an easy misinterpretation of the Wille zur Macht, the conception of Germans as a "race," the "anti-Semitic way of writing history," or of making "history conform to the German Empire," and stigmatized "nationalism, this national neurosis from which Europe is sick," this "small politics."[20]

Nietzsche heavily criticized his sister and her husband, Bernhard Frster, speaking harshly against the "anti-Semitic canaille:"

"I've seen proof, black on white, that Herr Dr. Frster has not yet severed his connection with the anti-Semitic movement...Since then I've had difficulty coming up with any of the tenderness and protectiveness I've so long felt toward you. The separation between us is thereby decided in really the most absurd way. Have you grasped nothing of the reason why I am in the world?...Now it has gone so far that I have to defend myself hand and foot against people who confuse me with these anti-Semitic canaille; after my own sister, my former sister, and after Widemann more recently have given the impetus to this most dire of all confusions. After I read the name Zarathustra in the anti-Semitic Correspondence my forbearance came to an end. I am now in a position of emergency defense against your spouse's Party. These accursed anti-Semite deformities shall not sully my ideal!!"

Draft for a letter to his sister Elisabeth Frster-Nietzsche (December 1887)

Georges Bataille was one of the first to denounce the deliberate misinterpretation of Nietzsche carried out by Nazis, among them Alfred Baeumler. In January 1937 he dedicated an issue of Acphale, titled "Reparations to Nietzsche," to the theme "Nietzsche and the Fascists.[3]" There, he called Elisabeth Frster-Nietzsche "Elisabeth Judas-Frster," recalling Nietzsche's declaration: "To never frequent anyone who is involved in this bare-faced fraud concerning races."[3]

Nietzsche titled aphorism 377 in the fifth book of The Gay Science (published in 1887) "We who are homeless" (Wir Heimatlosen),[21] in which he criticized pan-Germanism and patriotism and called himself a "good European". In the second part of this aphorism, which according to Bataille contained the most important parts of Nietzsche's political thought, the thinker of the Eternal Return stated:

No, we do not love humanity; but on the other hand we are not nearly "German" enough, in the sense in which the word "German" is constantly being used nowadays, to advocate nationalism and race hatred and to be able to take pleasure in the national scabies of the heart and blood poisoning that now leads the nations of Europe to delimit and barricade themselves against each other as if it were a matter of quarantine. For that we are too open-minded, too malicious, too spoiled, also too well-informed, too "traveled": we far prefer to live on mountains, apart, "untimely," in past or future centuries, merely in order to keep ourselves from experiencing the silent rage to which we know we should be condemned as eyewitnesses of politics that are desolating the German spirit by making it vain and that is, moreover, petty politics:to keep its own creation from immediately falling apart again, is it not finding it necessary to plant it between two deadly hatreds? must it not desire the eternalization of the European system of a lot of petty states? ... We who are homeless are too manifold and mixed racially and in our descent, being "modern men," and consequently do not feel tempted to participate in the mendacious racial self-admiration and racial indecency that parades in Germany today as a sign of a German way of thinking and that is doubly false and obscene among the people of the "historical sense." We are, in one wordand let this be our word of honor! good Europeans, the heirs of Europe, the rich, oversupplied, but also overly obligated heirs of thousands of years of European spirit: as such, we have also outgrown Christianity and are averse to it, and precisely because we have grown out of it, because our ancestors were Christians who in their Christianity were uncompromisingly upright; for their faith they willingly sacrificed possessions and position, blood and fatherland. Wedo the same. For what? For our unbelief? For every kind of unbelief? No, you know better than that, my friends! The hidden Yes in you is stronger than all Nos and Maybes that afflict you and your age like a disease; and when you have to embark on the sea, you emigrants, you, too, are compelled to this by a faith! ...[22]

Nietzsche's views on women have served as a magnet for controversy, beginning during his life and continuing to the present. He frequently made remarks in his writing that some view as misogynistic. He claimed in Twilight of the Idols (1888) "Women are considered profound. Why? Because we never fathom their depths. But women aren't even shallow."[23]

Nietzsche knew little of the 19th-century philosopher Sren Kierkegaard.[24][25]Georg Brandes, a Danish philosopher, wrote to Nietzsche in 1888 asking him to study the works of Kierkegaard, to which Nietzsche replied that he would.[26][nb 1]

Recent research, however, suggests that Nietzsche was exposed to the works of Kierkegaard through secondary literature. Aside from Brandes, Nietzsche owned and read a copy of Hans Lassen Martensens Christliche Ethik (1873) in which Martensen extensively quoted and wrote about Kierkegaards individualism in ethics and religion. Nietzsche also read Harald Hffdings Psychologie in Umrissen auf Grundlage der Erfahrung (ed. 1887) which expounded and critiqued Kierkegaards psychology. Thomas Brobjer believes one of the works Nietzsche wrote about Kierkegaard is in Morgenrthe, which was partly written in response to Martensen's work. In one of the passages, Nietzsche wrote: Those moralists, on the other hand, who, following in the footsteps of Socrates, offer the individual a morality of self-control and temperance as a means to his own advantage, as his personal key to happiness, are the exceptions. Brobjer believes Kierkegaard is one of "those moralists".[27]

The first philosophical study comparing Kierkegaard and Nietzsche was published even before Nietzsche's death.[28] More than 60 articles and 15 full-length studies have been published devoted entirely in comparing these two thinkers.[28]

According to Santayana, Nietzsche considered his philosophy to be a correction of Schopenhauers philosophy. In his Egotism in German Philosophy,[29] Santayana listed Nietzsches antithetical reactions to Schopenhauer.

The will to live would become the will to dominate; pessimism founded on reflection would become optimism founded on courage; the suspense of the will in contemplation would yield to a more biological account of intelligence and taste;

finally in the place of pity and asceticism (Schopenhauer s two principles of morals) Nietzsche would set up the duty of asserting the will at all costs and being cruelly but beautifully strong.

These emendations show how Schopenhauers philosophy was not a mere initial stimulus for Nietzsche, but formed the basis for much of Nietzsches thinking.

Perhaps Nietzsche's greatest philosophical legacy lies in his 20th century interpreters, among them Pierre Klossowski, Georges Bataille, Leo Strauss, Alexandre Kojve, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze (and Flix Guattari), Jacques Derrida and Albert Camus. Foucault's later writings, for example, adopt Nietzsche's genealogical method to develop anti-foundationalist theories of power that divide and fragment rather than unite politics (as evinced in the liberal tradition of political theory). The systematic institutionalisation of criminal delinquency, sexual identity and practice, and the mentally ill (to name but a few) are examples used to demonstrate how knowledge or truth is inseparable from the institutions that formulate notions of legitimacy from 'immoralities' such as homosexuality and the like (captured in the famous power-knowledge equation). Deleuze, arguably the foremost of Nietzsche's interpreters, used the much-maligned 'will to power' thesis in tandem with Marxian notions of commodity surplus and Freudian ideas of desire to articulate concepts such the rhizome and other 'outsides' to state power as traditionally conceived.

Certain recent Nietzschean interpretations have emphasized the more untimely and politically controversial aspects of Nietzsche's philosophy. Nietzschean commentator Keith Ansell Pearson has pointed out the absurd hypocrisy of modern egalitarian liberals, socialists, feminists and anarchists claiming Nietzsche as a herald of their own left-wing politics: "The values Nietzsche wishes to subject to a revaluation are largely altruistic and egalitarian values such as pity, self-sacrifice, and equal rights. For Nietzsche, modern politics rests largely on a secular inheritance of Christian values (he interprets the socialist doctrine of equality in terms of a secularization of the Christian belief in the equality of all souls before God" (On the Genealogy of Morality, Ansell-Pearson and Diethe, eds., Cambridge University Press, 1994, p.9). Works such as Bruce Detwiler's Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism (University of Chicago Press, 1990), Fredrick Appel's Nietzsche Contra Democracy (Cornell University Press, 1998), and Domenico Losurdo's Nietzsche, il ribelle aristocratico (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2002) challenge the prevalent liberal interpretive consensus on Nietzsche and assert that Nietzsche's elitism was not merely an aesthetic pose but an ideological attack on the widely held belief in equal rights of the modern West, locating Nietzsche in the conservative-revolutionary tradition.

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