Friedrich Nietzsche 15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, poet, composer, cultural critic, and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony, and aphorism.

Nietzsche's key ideas include the "death of God", the Übermensch, the eternal recurrence, the Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy, perspectivism, and the will to power. Central to his philosophy is the idea of "life-affirmation", which involves questioning of all doctrines that drain life's expansive energies, however socially prevalent and radical those views might be. His influence remains substantial within philosophy, notably in existentialism, post-modernism, and post-structuralism, as well as outside it. His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has been the focus of extensive commentary, especially in the continental tradition.

Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. In 1869, at the age of twenty-four he was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel (the youngest individual to have held this position), but resigned in the summer of 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life. At the age of forty-five in 1889 he suffered a collapse and a complete loss of his mental faculties. The breakdown had been ascribed to atypical general paralysis attributed to tertiary syphilis, but this diagnosis has since come into question. He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897, then under the care of his sister until his death in 1900.

His sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, acted as curator and editor of Nietzsche's manuscripts during his illness. She was married to a prominent German nationalist and antisemite, Bernhard Förster, and she reworked some of Nietzsche's unpublished writings to fit her husband's ideology, often in ways contrary to Nietzsche's opinions, which were strongly and explicitly opposed to antisemitism and nationalism (see Nietzsche's criticism of anti-Semitism and nationalism). Through Förster-Nietzsche's editions, Nietzsche's name became associated with German militarism and Nazism, but twentieth century scholars have worked hard to counteract the abuse of Nietzsche's philosophy by this ideology and rediscover the original writings of Nietzsche, unedited by his sister.

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Quotes (3)

The mouth may lie, alright, but the face it makes nonetheless tells the truth.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher, classical scholar, critic of culture. Friedrich Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, vol. 5, p. 101, eds. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Berlin, de Gruyter (1980). Beyond Good and Evil, "Fourth Part: Maxims and Interludes," section 166 (1886).
We do not hate as long as we still attach a lesser value, but only when we attach an equal or a greater value.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher, classical scholar, critic of culture. Friedrich Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, vol. 5, p. 102, eds. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Berlin, de Gruyter (1980). Beyond Good and Evil, "Fourth Part: Maxims and Interludes," section 173 (1886).
He who seeks intelligence lacks intelligence.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher, classical scholar, critic of culture. Friedrich Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, vol. 2, p. 329, eds. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Berlin, de Gruyter (1980). Human, All-Too-Human, "Man Alone With Himself," aphorism 547, "The 'Intellectuals'," (1878). The German word Geist which is translated as "intelligence" here might just as appropriately be translated as "spirit," "mind," "genius," or "wit." An alternative translation:M"He who tries to be witty is lacking in wit."

Comments (3)

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''Schild der Nothwendigkeit! / Höchstes Gestirn des Seins! / –das kein Wunsch erreicht, / das kein Nein befleckt, / ewiges Ja des Sein's, / ewig bin ich dein Ja: / denn ich liebe dich, oh Ewigkeit! '' - Friedrich Nietzsche, in “Dionysos – Dithyramben” (1882-’84)
he was also a philologist