Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Born: 1844. Died: 1900.


- Self-deception is a particularly destructive characteristic of Western culture.

- Life is the will to power; our natural desire is to dominate and to reshape the world to fit our own preferences and to assert our personal strength to the fullest degree possible.

- Struggle, through which individuals achieve a degree of power commensurate with their abilities, is the basic fact of human existence.

- Ideals of human equality perpetuate mediocrity - a truth that has been distorted and concealed by modern value systems.

- Christian morality, which identifies goodness with meekness and servility, is the prime culprit in creating a cultural climate that thwarts the drivefor excellence and self-realization.

- God is dead, a new era of human creativity and achievement is at hand.


Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a profoundly influential German philosopher, psychologist, and philologist. He was a severe critic of Christianity, Utilitarianism, German idealism, German romanticism, and of modernity in general. Nietzsche is sometimes identified with Philosophical Romanticism, but he himself vociferously denied Romantic tendencies in his work. He is often identified as the inspiration for existentialism and postmodernism, though there is disagreement concerning whether these movements interpreted him correctly; some see Martin Heidegger's as the greater influence.

Friedrich Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844 in the small town of Röcken bei Lützen, near Leipzig, Saxony. He was born on the 49th birthday of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia and was thus named after him. His father was a Lutheran pastor, who died of encephalomalacia in 1849, when Nietzsche was four years old. In 1850 Nietzsche's mother moved the family to Naumburg, where he lived for the next eight years before heading off to school. Nietzsche was now the only male in the house, living with his mother, his grandmother, two paternal aunts, and his sister Elisabeth. He was very pious as a young child. A brilliant student, he became special professor of classical philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of only 24. He had already met composer Richard Wagner in November of 1868.

At Basel, Nietzsche found little satisfaction in life among his philology colleagues and he established closer intellectual ties to the historian Jakob Burckhardt, whose lectures he attended, and the theologian Franz Overbeck. His inaugural lecture at Basel was Über die Persönlichkeit Homers. He made frequent visits to the Wagners at Tribschen. When the Franco-Prussian war erupted in 1870, Nietzsche left Basel and, being disqualified for other services due to his citizenship status, volunteered as a medical orderly on active duty.

His time in the military was short, but he experienced much, witnessing the traumatic effects of battle and taking close care of wounded soldiers. He soon contracted diphtheria and dysentery and subsequently experienced a painful variety of health difficulties for the remainder of his life. Upon return to Basel, instead of waiting to heal, he pushed headlong into a more fervent schedule of study than ever before. In 1870 he gave Cosima Wagner the manuscript of The Genesis of the Tragic Idea as a birthday gift. In 1872, he published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy. A biting critical reaction by the young and promising philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, as well as its innovative views of the ancient Greeks, dampened the book's reception among scholars.

In April of 1873, Wagner incited Nietzsche to take on David Friedrich Strauß, whose book Der alte und der neue Glaube Wagner found shallow and who sided with the composer and conductor Franz Lachner who had been dismissed on account of Wagner. In 1879, Nietzsche retired from his position at Basel due to his continued poor health. From 1880 until his collapse in January 1889, Nietzsche led a wandering existence as a stateless person, writing most of his major works during this period. His fame and influence came later, despite (or because of) the interference of his sister Elisabeth, who published selections from his notebooks as The Will to Power in 1901.

Nietzsche endured periods of illness during his adult life. In 1889, after the completion of Ecce Homo, his health rapidly declined until he collapsed. At that moment, he is said to have tearfully embraced a horse in Turin because it had been beaten by its owner. He was taken back to his room and spent several days in a state of ecstasy writing letters to various friends, signing them Dionysus. He gradually became less coherent and almost entirely uncommunicative. His friend Peter Gast observed that he retained the ability to improvise beautifully on the piano for some months after his breakdown, but this too eventually left him.

The initial symptoms of Nietzsche's breakdown, as evidenced in the letters he sent to his friends in the few days of lucidity remaining to him, bear many similarities to the ecstatic writings of religious mystics. These letters remain the best evidence we have of Nietzsche's own opinion on the nature of his breakdown. Nietzsche's letters describe his experience as a religious breakthrough and he rejoices, rather than laments. Most Nietzsche commentators find the issue of Nietzsche's breakdown and "insanity" irrelevant to his work as a philosopher, for the tenability of arguements and ideas are of utmost significance rather than the originator eo ipso, though some, including Georges Bataille, have disagreed.

Nietzsche spent the last ten years of his life insane and in the care of his sister Elisabeth. He was completely unaware of the growing success of his works. The cause of Nietzsche's condition has to be regarded as undetermined. Doctors later in his life said they were not so sure about the initial diagnosis of syphilis because he lacked the typical symptoms. While the story of syphilis indeed became generally accepted in the twentieth century, recent research in the Journal of Medical Biography shows that syphilis is not consistent with Nietzsche's symptoms and that the contention that he had the disease originated in anti-Nietzschean tracts. One of the best arguments against the syphilis theory is summarized by Claudia Crawford in the book To Nietzsche: Dionysus, I Love You! Ariadne. Another speculation is that he had a brain condition similar to his father's. His handwriting in all the letters that he had written around the period of the final breakdown showed no sign of deterioration.

Major Books of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

- The Antichrist, 1895
- Beyond Good and Evil, 1886
- The Birth of Tragedy, 1872
- The Case of Wagner, 1888
- The Dawn of Day, 1888
- Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, 1881
- Ecce Homo, 1888
- Human, All Too Human, 1878-1880
- The Joyful Wisdom, 1882
- Nietzsche Contra Wagner, 1888
- On the Genealogy of Morals, 1887
- Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1883-1885
- Twilight of the Idols, 1888
- Untimely Meditations, 1873-1876
- The Use and Abuse of of History, 1874
- The Will to Power

Quotes from Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

- "The knowledge of the past is desired only for the service of the future and the present." (from "The Use and Abuse of History", 1874)

- "The advantage of a bad memory is that, several times over, one enjoys the same good things for the first time." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "All new knowledge gladdens [the teacher] only to the extent that he can teach it." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "Any man who has once declared the other man to be a fool, a bad fellow, is annoyed when that man ends by showing that he is not." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "The ascetic makes a necessity of virtue." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "Greatness means: to give a direction." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "He has drawn back, only in order to have enough room for his leap." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "He who wants to set a good example must add a grain of foolishness to his virtue; then others can imitate and, at the same time, rise above the one being imitated-something which people love." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "The knowledge of the past is desired only for the service of the future and the present." (from "The Use and Abuse of History", 1874)

- "Over the course of history, men learn that iron necessity is neither iron nor necessary." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "Our destiny commands us, even when we do not yet know what it is; it is the future which guides the rule to our present." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "The relatives of a suicide resent him for not having stayed alive out of consideration for their reputation." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "Someone who has completely lost his way in a forest, but strives with uncommon energy to get out of it in whatever direction, sometimes discovers a new, unknown way: this is how geniuses come into being, who are then praised for their originality." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "The task of education is to make the individual so firm and sure that, as a whole being, he can no longer be diverted from his path." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "Usually, the state will know how to win the priests over because it needs their most private, secret education of souls and knows how to appreciate servants who seem outwardly to represent a quite different interest. Without the help of priests, no power can become "legitimate."." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "When [socialism's] rough voice chimes in with the battle cry "As much state as possible," it will at first make the cry noisier than ever; but soon the opposite cry will be heard with the greater: "As little state as possible."." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "When we have just gotten out of the way of a vehicle, we are most in danger of being run over." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "Whoever lives for the sake of combating an enemy has an interest in the enemy's staying alive." (from "Human, All Too Human", 1878)

- "History perfect and complete would be cosmic self-consciousness." (from "Assorted Opinions and Maxims", 1879)

- "So long as you are praised, think only that you are not yet on your own path but on that of another." (from "Assorted Opinions and Maxims", 1879)

- "Perhaps the great day will come when a people, distinguished by wars and victories and by the highest development of a military order and intelligence, and accustomed to make the heaviest sacrifice for these things, will exclaim of its own free will, "we break the sword," and will smash its military establishment down to its lowest foundations. Rendering oneself unarmed when one has been the best armed, out of a height of feeling-that is the means to real peace, which must always rest on a peace of mind." (from "The Wanderer and His Shadow", 1880)

- "Rather perish than hate and fear, and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared-this must someday become the highest maxim for every single commonwealth." (from "The Wanderer and His Shadow", 1880)

- "Beggars ought to be abolished: for one is vexed at giving to them and vexed at not giving to them." (from "Daybreak", 1881)

- "The higher we soar, the smaller we seem to those who cannot fly." (from "Daybreak", 1881)

- "The surest way of ruining a youth is to teach him to respect those who think as he does more highly than those who think differently from him." (from "Daybreak", 1881)

- "To understand another person [is] to imitate his feelings in ourselves." (from "Daybreak", 1881)

- "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him." (from "The Gay Science", 1882)

- "Morality is herd instinct in the individual." (from "The Gay Science", 1882)

- "No victor believes in chance." (from "The Gay Science", 1882)

- "The secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is-to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas!" (from "The Gay Science", 1882)

- "A man's maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play." (from "Beyond Good and Evil", 1886)

- ""I have done that," says my memory. "I cannot have done that," says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually-memory yields." (from "Beyond Good and Evil", 1886)

- "Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself." (from "Beyond Good and Evil", 1886)

- "There are master-morality and slave-morality." (from "Beyond Good and Evil", 1886)

- "Under peaceful conditions a warlike man sets upon himself." (from "Beyond Good and Evil", 1886)

- "Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil." (from "Beyond Good and Evil", 1886)

- "Wherever the religious neurosis has appeared on the earth so far, we find it connected with three dangerous prescriptions as to regimen: solitude, fasting, and sexual abstinence." (from "Beyond Good and Evil", 1886)

- "The bad conscience is an illness ... but an illness as pregnancy is an illness." (from "Toward a Genealogy of Morals", 1887)

- "Formula of my happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal." (from "Twilight of the Idols", 1889)

- "How is freedom measured, in individuals as in nations? By the resistance which has to be overcome." (from "Twilight of the Idols", 1889)

- "My ambition is to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book-what everyone else does not say in a book." (from "Twilight of the Idols", 1889)

- "There is a great deal I do not want to know. Wisdom sets bounds even to knowledge." (from "Twilight of the Idols", 1889)

- "What does not kill me makes me stronger." (from "Twilight of the Idols", 1889)

- "When it is trodden on, a worm will curl up. That is prudent. It thereby reduces the chance of being trodden on again. In the language of morals: humility." (from "Twilight of the Idols", 1889)

- "Which is it? Is man only God's mistake or God only man's mistake?" (from "Twilight of the Idols", 1889)

- "All repressed truths become poisonous." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "All that has a price is of little value." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Are you visiting women? Do not forget your whip!." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Believe me, friend Infernal-racket! The greatest events-they are not our noisiest but our stillest hours.
   The world revolves, not around the inventors of new noises, but around the inventors of new values; it revolves inaudibly." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "By losing your goal-you have lost your way, too!" (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a sport, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Cruellest enemy-
   Yourself!" (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- ""He who seeks may easily get lost himself. It is a crime to go apart and be alone"-Thus speaks the herd." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "I bid you lose me and find yourselves." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "I teach you the Superman. Man is something that should be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "I would believe only in a God who could dance." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "If there were gods, how could I endure not to be a god? Therefore there are no gods." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "If you have a suffering friend, be a resting-place for his suffering, but a resting-place like a hard bed, a camp-bed: thus you will serve him best." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Let that day be lost to us on which we did not dance." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman- a rope over an abyss." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Mistrust all in whom the urge to punish is strong!" (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Now I am nimble, now I fly, now I see myself under myself, now a god dances within me." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "One day you will no longer see what is exalted in you; and what is base in you, you will see all too closely. ... One day you will cry: "Everything is false!"." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "One man runs to his neighbor because he is looking for himself, and another because he wants to lose himself. Your bad love of yourselves makes solitude a prison to you." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "One must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard's rustling, a breath, a breeze, a moment's glance-it is little that makes the best happiness." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Something profoundly convulsive and disturbing suddenly becomes visible and audible with indescribable definiteness and exactness. One hears-one does not seek; one takes-one does not ask who gives: a thought flashes out like lightning, inevitably without hesitation-I have never had any choice about it. There is an ecstasy whose terrific tension is sometimes released by a flood of tears, during which one's progress varies from involuntary impetuosity to involuntary slowness. There is the feeling that one is utterly out of hand, with the most distinct consciousness of an infinitude of shuddering thrills that pass through one from head to foot." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "There is often more bravery in containing oneself and passing by: in order to spare oneself for a worthier enemy!" (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "These teachers of submission! Wherever there is anything small and sick and scabby, there they crawl like lice; and only my disgust stops me from cracking them." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Thoughts that come on doves' feet guide the world." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "We are the most unfair, not towards him whom we do not like, but towards him for whom we feel nothing at all." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "What the father kept silent the son speaks out." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "When they call themselves "the good and just," do not forget that nothing is lacking to make them into Pharisees except-power!." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Where I found a living creature, there I found the will to power; and even in the will of the servant I found the will to be master." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "With whom does the greatest danger for the whole human future lie? Is it not with the good and just?-with those who say and feel in their hearts: "We already know what is good and just, we possess it too; woe to those who are still searching for it!"." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "You say it is the good cause that hallows even war? I tell you: it is the good war that hallows every cause." (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "You will become smaller and smaller, you small people! You 'will crumble away, you comfortable people! You will yet perish- through your many small virtues, through your many small omissions, through your many small submissions!" (from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", 1892)

- "Against boredom the gods themselves fight in vain." (from "The Anti-Christ", 1895)

- ""Faith" has been at all times ... only a cloak, a pretext, a screen, behind which the instincts played their game." (from "The Anti-Christ", 1895)

- "Mankind can best be led by the nose with morality." (from "The Anti-Christ", 1895)

- "Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me. Some are born posthumously." (from "The Anti-Christ", 1895)

- "Revaluation of all values!" (from "The Anti-Christ", 1895)

- "There has been only one Christian, and he died on the Cross." (from "The Anti-Christ", 1895)

- "What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is bad? All that proceed from weakness." (from "The Anti-Christ", 1895)

- "Woman was God's second mistake." (from "The Anti-Christ", 1895)

- "A little woman, bent on revenge, would annihilate Destiny itself. Woman is unspeakably more wicked than man, and cleverer also. In a woman goodness is already a sign of degeneration." (from "Ecce Homo", 1908)

- "Since the old God is abolished, I am prepared to rule the world." (from "Ecce Homo", 1908)

- "To read a book early in the morning, at daybreak, in the vigor and dawn of one's strength—this is sheer viciousness!" (from "Ecce Homo", 1908)

- "The concept of power, whether of a god or of a man, always includes both the ability to help and the ability to harm." (from "The Will to Power", 1910)

- "Fundamental thought: we must consider the future as decisive for all our evaluations-and not seek the laws of our action behind us!" (from "The Will to Power", 1910)

- "Trust in reason-why not mistrust?" (from "The Will to Power", 1910)

- "The world [is] a work of art that gives birth to itself." (from "The Will to Power", 1910)

- "But what if God lives, and I have doomed myself to destruction because I have separated myself from Him?" (from "My Sister and I")

- "The great end of art is to strike the imagination with the power of a soul that refuses to admit defeat even in the midst of a collapsing world." (from "My Sister and I")

- "Having stripped myself of all illusions, I have gone mad." (from "My Sister and I")

- "I lie here buried alive in my loneliness." (from "My Sister and I")

- "My God was Power, and in my powerlessness I realize that I have built upon foundations of sand." (from "My Sister and I")

- "Perhaps the real tragedy in the history of man came about ... when he first realized that it was necessary for him to go outside of his own person to offer worship to a deity." (from "My Sister and I")

- "This house of violence .[asylum]" (from "My Sister and I")

- "A people which is becoming conscious of its dangers produces a genius." (from "Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870's")

- "All ethics begins when the individual is taken to be of infinite importance-in contrast to nature, which behaves cruelly and playfully toward the individual." (from "Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870's")

- "The brain is nature's supreme achievement." (from "Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870's")

- "Every talent must unfold itself in fighting." (from "America Agonistes" by Max Lerner)

- "The best German book there is." (from "Conversations with Goethe" by Peter Eckermann)

- "It is not so much the suffering as the senselessness of it that is unendurable." (from "The Destiny of Man" by Nicolas Berdyaev)

- "There is no one among the living or the dead with whom I feel the slightest affinity." (from "Living Biographies of Great Philosophers" by Henry Thomas and Dana Lee Thomas)

- "The greatest thoughts are grasped last. ... The light of the most distant star reaches man last and before it has arrived every person denies that there is such a star." (from "Reason and Genius: Studies in Their Origin" by Alfred Hock)

- "Every extension of knowledge arises from making conscious the unconscious." (from "The Unconscious Before Freud" by Lancelot Law Whyte)

- "We flatter ourselves that the controlling or highest principle is in our consciousness." (from "The Unconscious Before Freud" by Lancelot Law Whyte)

- "A gift confers no rights."

- "We must not study ourselves while having an experience."

- "When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago."


Facebook Twitter