55 Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Born the son of a Lutheran pastor in Röcken, Saxony, Friedrich Nietzsche was raised by female relatives after his father’s death in 1849. He quickly abandoned his initial pursuit of theology in order to specialize in philology at Bonn and Leipzig, where he studied with Friedrich Ritschl. Nietzsche’s mastery of classical literature led to an early academic appointment at Basel and the publication of Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (The Birth of Tragedy) (1872), with its distinction between Apollonian and Dionysian cultures. NietzscheWhen ill health forced an early end to his teaching career, Nietzsche began to produce the less scholarly, quasi-philosophical, and anti-religious works for which he is now best known, including Menschliches, allzumenschliches (Human, All Too Human) (1878), Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) (1883), Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science) (1882), and Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil) (1886). Nietzsche never recovered from a serious physical and mental collapse he suffered in 1889; his Der Wille zur Macht (Will to Power) (1901) and the autobiographical Ecce Homo (Ecce Homo) (1908) were published posthumously.

Nietzsche sharply criticized the Greek tradition’s over-emphasis on reason in his Die Götzendämmerung(Twilight of the Idols) (1889). NietzscheReliance on abstract concepts in a quest for absolute truth, he supposed, is merely a symptom of the degenerate personalities of philosophers like Socrates. From this Nietzsche concluded that traditional philosophy and religion are both erroneous and harmful for human life; they enervate and degrade our native capacity for achievement.

Progress beyond the stultifying influence of philosophy, then, requires a thorough “revaluation of values.” In Zur Geneologie der Moral (On the Genealogy of Morals) (1887) Nietzsche bitterly decried the slave morality enforced by social sanctions and religious guilt. Only rare, superior individuals—the noble ones, or Übermenschen—can rise above all moral distinctions to achieve a heroic life of truly human worth.


Recommended Reading:Primary sources:

  • Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Werke, ed. by Georgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari (de Gruyter, 1967- )
  • Basic Writings of Nietzsche, ed. by Peter Gay (Modern Library, 2000)
  • A Nietzsche Reader, tr. by R. J. Hollingdale (Penguin, 1978)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, ed. by Rolf-Peter Horstmann and Judith Norman (Cambridge, 2002)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, ed. by Douglas Smith (Oxford, 2000)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is, tr. by R. J. Hollingdale (Penguin, 1993)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morality and Other Writings, ed. by Keith Ansell-Pearson and Carol Diethe (Cambridge, 1994)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, tr. by R.J. Hollingdale and Walter Kauffmann (Penguin, 1978)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols or How to Philosophize With a Hammer, ed. Duncan Large (Oxford, 1998)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Will to Power, tr. by R. Hollingdale and Walter Kaufmann (Random House, 1987)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science: With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, ed. by Bernard Williams (Cambridge, 2001)

Secondary sources:

  • The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche , ed. by Bernd Magnus and Kathleen Marie Higgins (Cambridge, 1996)
  • Joachim Köhler, Zarathustra’s Secret: The Interior Life of Friedrich Nietzschetrans. by Ronald Taylor (Yale, 2002)
  • Michael Tanner, Nietzsche (Oxford, 1995)
  • R. J. Hollingdale, Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy (Cambridge, 1999)
  • Feminist Interpretations of Friedrich Nietzsche, ed. by Kelly Oliver and Marilyn Pearsall (Penn. State, 1998)
  • Ronald Hayman, Nietzsche (Routledge, 1999)
  • Richard Schacht, Nietzsche (Routledge, 1985)
  • The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation, ed. by David B. Allison (MIT, 1985)
  • Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins, What Nietzsche Really Said (Schocken, 2000)
  • Reading Nietzsche, ed. by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins (Oxford, 1990)
  • Brian Leiter, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Nietzsche on Morality (Routledge, 2001)
  • Will Dudley, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Philosophy: Thinking Freedom (Cambridge, 2002)
  • Elliot L. Jurist, Beyond Hegel And Nietzsche: Philosophy, Culture and Agency (MIT, 2002)
  • Gregory Moore, Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor (Cambridge, 2002)
  • James I. Porter, The Invention of Dionysus: An Essay on the Birth of Tragedy (Stanford, 2000)
  • Arthur Coleman Danto, Nietzsche as Philosopher (Columbia, 1965)

Additional on-line information about Nietzsche includes:


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Last modified 22 November 2011.



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