Nietzsche was one of the most radical philosophers of the nineteenth century. He is famous for his provocative style of writing, which not only explains his ideas, but take the reader on a journey into his twisted and lavish mind. Credited as one of the first existentialists, Nietzsche’s criticisms on culture, religion and morality are considered some of the most substantial works of his century. It’s time to learn about one of history’s most interesting philosophers.
Nietzsche first started out as a Philologist — in that time period Philology had to do with translating classical and biblical texts. Nietzsche entered the military at age 23. He returned home not very long after with a chest injury. Later on, He met the composer Richard Wagner and began a close relationship with him. Nietzsche had been playing piano and writing music since he was a young teenager, and even twenty years after meeting him Nietzsche still mentioned Wagner’s cultural significance in his writings. He accepted a position Basal as a Philology professor. He would soon become involved with the field of philosophy, writing book after book challenging the modern world with his moral quandaries.
Writing style and Existentialism
Nietzsche, as I said before, is famous for his writing style. He is very fun to read as you can see he puts full emotion into his writing. Nietzsche writes in short excerpts that deal with specific ideas–sometimes they are 4 pages, sometimes they are 3 sentences. These excerpts are called aphorisms. Many consider Nietzsche to be an existentialist since most of his writings came from the stand point of the human condition. This can be seen in his vast literature regarding morality. The term had not yet existed though and wouldn’t until Jean-Paul Sartre coined the term much later on. Nietzsche was also atheist, and criticized Christianity a lot.
“God is dead, and we killed Him.”
This famous quote actually comes up in several of his books but the first account of it appears in The Gay Science. The real quote is “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed Him!” The meaning of this could be taken as follows: Nietzsche hated the idea that a single deity existed that it was different from us human beings. The fact that some dualistic thing existed that was all-knowing and all-powerful felt like rubbish to Nietzsche. The death of God has to deal with the fact that Christianity was no longer the single comforting factor in people’s lives. At one point all people had faith in God. Now, it seems, that this whole idealistic picture of God was falling apart. Christianity as an organized religion as well was falling apart. Less attention was being paid to God and more was being put on that of the church which got in the way of the true connection to God. organizations Nietzsche believed that more and more people would eventually realize this death in God, and move closer and closer to Nihilism — the belief in nothing. After this belief in the death of God, Nietzsche tried, to the best of his ability, to find meaning in life by looking past Christian morals.
Insanity and Death
Nietzsche, at age 34, left the teaching profession for good. His health was beginning to deteriorate. Eyesight issues, constant migraines, and occasional vomiting began to affect his job. At the age of 37, Nietzsche met a young Russian girl studying theology and philosophy in Zurich and asked her hand in marriage. She declined, and probably single-handedly corrupted Nietzsche’s ideas of women. Nietzsche isn’t well known for his respect of females, sometimes talking down about women in his writings. At this stage of his life, he wasn’t staying in one place for a very long time. He traveled all over Europe, writing his most significant works such as: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, and The Gay Science. By now, Nietzsche was getting worse and worse, and on the morning of January 3rd 1889, Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown after witnessing a horse being whipped. He reportedly threw his arms around the horses neck and collapsed. It is speculated that Nietzsche inherited a brain disease from his father, but no one knows for sure. He spent a year in a sanatorium afterward and then lived with his mother until she died seven years later. He then lived with his sister until his death in 1900. Nietzsche died at the age of 54 of pneumonia and a stroke.
Nietzsche’s legacy didn’t catch hold until much later on, but his significance is one to yet be matched. This out-spoken atheistic philosopher took the nineteenth century and picked it apart, leaving no one safe from his critique of the modern world. How Nietzsche was able to write for so long under his illness is in itself a mystery — an enchanting display of a man’s will to influence an entire century of thinkers. So, do as as Nietzsche did, and even under the most dire circumstances, keep on thinking, my friends.