Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
by Cozette Blumenfeld and Frank Caccioppoli
Nietzsche was born in 1844 in Prussia. He attended the Universities of Bonn and Leipzig studying classical Philology before becoming a professor at the University of Basel, at the recommendation of one of his former professors. He later left teaching to become a writer and is now remembered along with other writers such as Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud for the enormous significance his works had in the 20th century. His writings reflect a mix of philosophy and cultural criticism and were often very critical of contemporary European art, culture and beliefs. He is known as a philosopher and cultural critic with a profound impact on modern intellectual history. Nietzsche’s work has a fondness for aphorism, a concise, laconic, memorable expression of a general truth, and irony. Prominent elements of his philosophy include perspectivism and nihilism. Perspectivism is the view that reason changes based on relative experience. Nietzsche’s perspectivism rejects objective metaphysics, ruling that there are no objective facts, or ethical absolutes; truth is made by and for individuals. This was in contrast to many of the contemporary philosophical and scientific approaches of his day, and his willingness to question aspects of western society and culture that others took for granted made his writings unique for his time. Nihilism is a philosophy expressing a negation towards the meaning of life and its components. Nietzschean nihilism is characterized by the “crisis of Nihilism' (Wikipedia, 2021)', which includes the destruction of higher values and opposition to the promise of life that sends one into a crisis. Nietzsche attributed nihilism to the decline of Christianity and the rise of psychological immorality. The concepts of perspectivism and nihilism are intertwined, as the philosopher believed that the emptying of the world and human existence of meaning, purpose, value, and absolute truth, known as nihilism, stems from perspectivism. Nietzsche is most known for his published works The Gay Science (1882), Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883–5), Beyond Good and Evil (1886), and On the Genealogy of Morality (1887). Nietzsche is also regarded for his theory of the subjection--submission, or to be controlled by--of humans to competing wills, or the will to power. Nietzsche believed that the will to power is the driving force of humanity biologically, psychologically, and metaphysically. Additionally, the philosopher is noted by his work of the Ubermensch, a goal for society to set for itself to transcend what it's already created. Meaning “beyond-man” or “super human”, in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883), this philosophical metaphor details of a man, the Ubermensch, to give meaning to life on earth, reprimanding those who follow other-worldly fulfillment that draw them away from this world, strongly contrasting Christianity and religion. Nietzsche has made a profound impact on existentialism, postmodernism, post-structuralism, art, literature, psychology, and popular culture.
Nietzsche, F. and Johnston, I., 2009. The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. Arlington, VA: Richer Resources Publications.
Nietzsche, F., Breazeale, D. and Hollingdale, R., 2014. Untimely Meditations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nietzsche, Friedrich, et al. The Will to Power. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968.
Buchanan, Ian. “Nietzsche, Friedrich.” A Dictionary of Critical Theory. Oxford University Press, 2010. https://www.proquest.com/encyclopedias-reference-works/nietzsche-friedrich-1844-1900/docview/2137958945/se-2?accountid=14637. Accessed 24 march 2021.
Lehrer, R. “Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm.” The Edinburgh International Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis. Edinburgh University Press, 2006. http://libproxy.union.edu/login?auth=shibboleth&url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/edinburghpsychoa/nietzsche_friedrich_wilhelm/0?institutionId=5120. Accessed 24 Mar. 2021.
Ryan, Michael. “Nietzsche, Friedrich.” The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory. Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2011. Credo Reference, http://libproxy.union.edu/login?auth=shibboleth&url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/wileylitcul/nietzsche_friedrich/0?institutionId=5120. Accessed 24 Mar. 2021.