Nietzsche, Friedrich (1844–1900)
Nietzsche, Friedrich (1844–1900)
Although trained as a philologist, Friedrich Nietzsche has been among the philosophers most influential upon European and North American culture and philosophy during the twentieth century. While he has always had an audience among writers, artists, and Germanists, through the first half of the twentieth century—and especially among philosophers—Nietzsche was read and discussed primarily by German philosophers, including Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, and Karl Löwith. His criticisms of traditional philosophical positions, along with his often metaphorical and hyperbolic writing style, led to his being taken much less seriously by English-language philosophers. And Nietzsche's political views and the posthumous appropriation—many would argue misappropriation—of some of his ideas by thinkers associated with fascism and National Socialism (Nazism) led initially to a hostile response to his works among many British and French readers.
By the early 1960s, however, Nietzsche's fortunes had begun to change considerably. Anointed along with Marx and Freud as one of the three "masters of suspicion," Nietzsche's philosophical works found enthusiastic readers among those coming of age philosophically in the 1960s, and this—along with a new critical edition of his works and several generations of scholarly explication and analysis—resulted in Nietzsche being among the most widely read and known of Western philosophers by the end of the twentieth century.
Nietzsche was born October 15, 1844, in Röcken, a small village in Prussian Saxony, on the birthday of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, after whom he was named by his father Karl Ludwig, 31, and his mother Franziska (née Oehler), 18. His father, as well as both of his grandfathers, were Lutheran ministers. In 1846, Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth was born, and two years later, his brother Joseph was born. The following years were difficult ones: in 1848, Nietzsche's father became seriously ill; he died on July 30, 1849, of what was diagnosed as "softening of the brain" (a frequent diagnostic notation for tertiary syphilis). The following year, Nietzsche's younger brother died; and in April 1850, Nietzsche's mother moved the household—which now included her two young children, as well as Nietzsche's paternal grandmother and her two sisters—to Naumberg, a much larger town of 15,000 people.
In 1858, Nietzsche was offered free admission to Pforta, the most prestigious high school in Germany, located only a few miles from Naumberg. He was an excellent student and graduated in 1864 with a thesis in Latin on the Greek poet Theognis. After graduation, he registered at the University of Bonn as a theology student, but quickly changed his focus to philology, as Bonn's department had a distinguished reputation grounded on the work of two professors: Otto Jahn (1813–1869) and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (1806–1876). There were, however, deep personal and professional disagreements between the two and when Ritschl decided to leave for the University at Leipzig, Nietzsche followed him there in 1865 and registered as a student of classical philology. Nietzsche soon became Ritschl's star pupil, and he was invited by Ritschl to publish an essay on Theognis in Das Rheinische Museum für Philologie, which Ritschl edited. In addition to his work in philology, writing essays on Diogenes Laertius and Democritus, among others, three other events took place in Leipzig that would profoundly influence the rest of Nietzsche's life: his discovery of Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation ) in 1865, of F. A. Lange's Geschichte des Materialismus (History of Materialism ) in 1866, and in 1868, his meeting Richard Wagner, with whom he shared a love of music, of Schopenhauer, and a hope for the revitalization of European culture.
When a position at the University of Basel appeared in 1869, Ritschl gave an extraordinary recommendation for Nietzsche, who had not yet written a doctoral thesis, and Nietzsche was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at Basel in 1869 at the age of twenty-four. The University of Leipzig proceeded to confer the doctorate without either thesis or examination, and Nietzsche moved to Basel in April 1869. Basel offered him not only a university appointment but also easy access to the Wagner residence at Tribschen, which allowed Nietzsche to develop a close relationship with both Wagner and his wife Cosima, the daughter of Franz Liszt. While at Basel, Nietzsche lectured on Homer, Hesiod, Plato, Aristotle, the pre-Socratics, Diogenes Laertius, and classical rhetoric. He was becoming increasingly disengaged from philology, however, and spent much of his time working on the texts of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and thinking about broad cultural issues. These two features can be seen in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), which merged philosophical reflection with philological interpretation as it sought to frame Wagnerian opera as a way to recuperate what European culture had lost since the demise of ancient Greek tragedy. While Nietzsche thought his work would revolutionize the discipline of philology, it was poorly received and all but destroyed his professional standing as an academic philologist.
During the 1870s in Basel, Nietzsche became increasingly uncomfortable with Wagner and the Wagner circle at Tribschen and Bayreuth. While there is no question that The Birth of Tragedy proclaims Wagner's world-historical importance as a cultural phenomenon, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, the fourth of his Untimely Meditations, is much more ambivalent. By 1878, Nietzsche had had enough of Wagner and among the reasons he offers subsequently to explain his break with Wagner are Wagner's turn to Christianity in Parsifal and his support for and association with political anti-Semitism. In 1879, Nietzsche resigned his chair at Basel because of the increasing severity of his health problems, and over the next ten years, he lived in several places in Europe, including Sils Maria, Switzerland, and Genoa and Turin, Italy. During these ten years, Nietzsche wrote ten books, living off a modest pension from the university, and he was plagued by constant and severe health problems. He suffered a total mental breakdown in Turin in January 1889, and after a brief stay at the psychiatric clinic run by Dr. Otto Binswanger in Jena, he spent the remaining years of his life under the care of his mother and then his sister until his death in Weimar on August 25, 1900.
No account of Nietzsche's life can avoid his health and his madness. Beginning in childhood, his health was poor. He was plagued by headaches that, as young as nine, kept him from school, and by age twelve, his eyes began to cause him serious problems. Throughout his life, his work habits were affected by the migraines that forced him to remain in darkened rooms, gastrointestinal problems, and limited eyesight that made reading at times painful and at times impossible. Not surprisingly, the themes of sickness, convalescence, and health, both metaphorically and literally, hold a central place in his philosophical reflections.
The question of his madness has been a focus of attention and speculation almost from its outbreak. What is clear is that on the morning of January 3, 1889, Nietzsche saw a horse being beaten by its coachman on a street in Turin, embraced the animal, and then collapsed. In the few days preceding and following this event, he sent letters to Jacob Burckhardt, Peter Gast, George Brandes, Cosima Wagner, and August Strindberg, among others, that, while at moments lucid and beautiful, are also clearly not the writings of a sane individual. While there has been much speculation as to the cause of Nietzsche's insanity, there is no conclusive evidence to support either of the two most common hypotheses: that he inherited syphilitic dementia from his father or he caught syphilis from prostitutes in a Leipzig brothel during his time as a student there. Recently, new research carried out by Dr. Leonard Sax, director of the Montgomery Center for Research in Child Development in Maryland and published in the Journal of Medical Biography, suggests that Nietzsche's symptomatology is consistent with cancer of the brain and in fact is not consistent with syphilis (based on the number of years Nietzsche remained alive following his breakdown). The syphilis story, it appears, can be traced to a book written by psychiatrist Wilhelm Lange-Eichbaum in 1946, Nietzsche: Krankheit und Wirkung, that sought to discredit Nietzsche, and this story was then adopted as fact by intellectuals who shared Lange-Eichbaum's politically motivated desire to destroy Nietzsche's reputation.
During the sixteen years of Nietzsche's productive life, he wrote eighteen books in addition to leaving an extensive correspondence and several thousand pages of unpublished writings. While there are some minor differences in the way his works are periodized by scholars, his writings tend to be divided into three periods: his early more scholarly, philological work written while teaching in Basel from 1872–76; his aphoristic texts, written between 1878–1882; and his mature works, which begin with Thus Spoke Zarathustra in 1883 and continue until his last works in 1888.
the basel writings
Nietzsche's early works, written while a professor of classical philology at the University of Basel, include The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, and the four Untimely Meditations : Richard Strauss, Confessor and Writer ; On the Use and Disadvantage of History for Life ; Schopenhauer as Educator ; and Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. In addition to these published works, there are several unpublished works from this period that have attracted scholarly attention, the most important of which are the essays "On Truth and Lies in an Extra-moral Sense," "Homer's Contest," and "Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks."
First published in 1872, The Birth of Tragedy offers a theory of tragedy, a theory of art, and a proposal for cultural renewal. A second edition, published in 1886 with a new preface titled "Attempt at a Self-Criticism," and a new subtitle, "Hellenism or Pessimism," takes note of Nietzsche's move away from the Schopenhauerian sensibilities that marked this text by highlighting the opposition between Greek cheerfulness and Schopenhauerian pessimism. The Birth opens with Nietzsche's distinction between the Apollonian and Dionysian, which designates both forces of nature and basic artistic impulses. As forces of nature, the Apollonian names the principle of individuation that gives form to the chaos by isolating and distinguishing between things, whereas the Dionysian names the primal unity of all things in an endless play of forces of becoming. As artistic impulses, the Apollonian marks the world of beautiful illusions, whereas the Dionysian marks the sensual world of rapturous frenzy. Sculpture is the purest Apollonian art as a transfiguration of the real into a beautiful, illusory image, whereas music is the purest Dionysian art insofar as music is the process of change itself, with nothing that endures but the whole that survives each individual note's destroying what has come before it.
Nietzsche argues concerning Greek culture that when faced with the absurdity and horrible and terrifying aspects of existence, the Apollonian and Dionysian denote two opposing tendencies of human nature: to cover existence with beautiful illusions or to plunge into the absurdity and horror of existence and affirm it, as such, as a world of continual creation and destruction. From this comes his thesis about tragedy: Attic Tragedy—Sophocles and Aeschylus; Oedipus and Prometheus—manifests the pinnacle of Greek art as the perfect union of Dionysian joy and Apollonian illusion: It reflects both the Greek tragic wisdom that by accepting destruction as part of the great world-game, the tragic hero masters the cruelty of fate, and reveals the tragic Dionysian wisdom that the human spirit will not be broken by the pains and hardships of existence. This is the "metaphysical comfort" that tragedy leaves one with: "that life, despite all the changes in appearances, is at bottom indestructibly powerful and pleasurable" (§ 7). This tragic insight, which gave birth to Attic Tragedy, was, according to Nietzsche, destroyed by Socrates and his tragedian spokesman Euripides, for whom in order to be beautiful, everything had to be intelligible. Much of Nietzsche's Birth is spent analyzing the death of tragedy at the hands of Socrates and Euripides, and the anticipation of its rebirth in Wagnerian opera.
Nietzsche's four Untimely Meditations were published between 1873 and 1876. Originally planned as a series of thirteen volumes of cultural criticism, Nietzsche only published four (though he completed a substantial amount of work on a fifth volume on academic philology, "Wir Philologen"). In David Strauss, the Confessor and Writer (1873), Nietzsche criticizes Strauss, a Hegelian and author of The Life of Jesus (1835) and the then (1870s) popular work The Old and New Faith, for his smugness and the ease with which he dispenses with Christian doctrine. Strauss is also treated as representative of German popular culture, pleased with itself and its cultural "superiority" following Prussia's victory in the Franco-Prussian war, and Nietzsche spends much of the text challenging the Bildungsphilister or "cultural philistines" who mistake their "popular" culture for "genuine" culture. Because of Strauss's popularity, this was one of Nietzsche's most popular works, which although often critically reviewed was widely read.
On the Use and Disadvantage of History for Life (1873) has been the most widely discussed of the four meditations, although it was the least successful in its day. Taking as his critical foil Eduard von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious (1869), Nietzsche challenges the neo-Hegelian historicist tendency to valorize the present as the goal toward which history had been teleologically directed. While attacking the high value placed upon history in contemporary German culture and education, Nietzsche offers his tripartite account of historical scholarship—antiquarian, monumental, and critical—and offers an early version of what later became his genealogical method of examining the past in order to better understand the present.
Schopenhauer as Educator (1874), which Nietzsche later came to realize should have been called "Nietzsche as Educator," offers an early account of the exemplary individual engaged in a project of self-perfection. One finds relatively little comment in this text about Schopenhauer's philosophical views, about which Nietzsche had, by the time of its writing, come to question. Instead, one finds Nietzsche discussing Schopenhauer as an exemplary philosopher who willingly suffers in pursuit of the truth. It is, then, not Schopenhauer's philosophy but the Schopenhauerian image of man that educates, and Nietzsche's third meditation is one of his most personal books in providing several comments that describe the exemplary individual that Nietzsche himself wanted to become.
That Richard Wagner in Bayreuth (1876) came to be published at all is due largely to Nietzsche's friend Heinrich Köselitz ("Peter Gast," 1854–1918). Begun in 1874, Nietzsche's adoration of Wagner began to fade in 1874–75 and he abandoned the project in 1875. Gast read the unfinished manuscript early in 1876 and persuaded Nietzsche first to complete the manuscript as a gift to Wagner for his birthday (May 22), and Nietzsche subsequently decided to publish the volume as the fourth Untimely Meditation, presenting it to Wagner in August during the first festival at Bayreuth. Although on the surface an homage to Wagner, with its liberal quotation and paraphrase from Wagner's own writings, the text also suggests that Wagner and his circle may themselves be "cultural philistines" who are failing to live up to the cultural and aesthetic ideals that Wagner's writings proposed. While important in terms of understanding Nietzsche's ambivalence toward Wagner during this period, and offering several insightful comments on art, culture, language, and science, this volume stands as perhaps Nietzsche's least popular and least read work.
In addition to these five published works, Nietzsche also left a number of unpublished essays and fragments from this period. Of these, three are of particular significance: "On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense" (1873), in which he offers a tropological account of the origins of knowledge as grounded in the fundamental human drive toward the formation of metaphors; "Homer's Contest" (1872), in which he discusses the role of the agon or competition in Greek culture and democracy; and "Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks" (1873), in which he offers some of his most sustained commentary on the major pre-Socratic philosophers, including Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaximander, and Anaxagoras.
Between 1878 and 1882, Nietzsche wrote five works that, on the back cover of the final one, he noted as having a common goal: "to erect a new image and ideal of the free spirit." Motivated in part by his dissatisfaction with Wagner, he turned in these works against art, but more importantly, these works display a sympathy toward science as a legitimate source of truth and knowledge that has led some to refer to the works of this middle period as Nietzsche's "positivistic" works. These works also shared a common style, that of the aphorism, which Nietzsche adopts in part as a way to mark his antipathy to the German philosophical tradition (Kant, Hegel) and his sympathy to French moral psychologists such as La Rochefoucauld, Montaigne, and Chamfort, whose aphoristic works he was then reading with his new friend Paul Rée (1849–1901).
In each of his aphoristic works, although themselves divided into chapters or parts, Nietzsche numbers his paragraphs sequentially from beginning to end. Some of these paragraphs are several pages long, and others are as short as a single sentence. The first of these works was Human, All Too Human (1878). Dedicated to Voltaire on the centenary of his death and subtitled "A Book for Free Spirits," it surveys a full range of philosophical topics, including metaphysics, epistemology, morality, religion, science, art and literature, culture, society, the family, and the state. In addition to being a public announcement of his break with Wagner, this volume also marked a break with the style of his earlier writings, and the multiplicity of authorial voices that speak through the 638 aphorisms are the first published expression of Nietzsche's perspectivist approach. Human, All Too Human was followed by two sequels, Mixed Opinions and Maxims (1879) and The Wanderer and His Shadow (1880), which each offer a collection of aphorisms on a variety of topics that have no apparent organizational structure, and were subsequently published together in 1886 as Volume Two of Human, All Too Human.
Unlike his earlier aphoristic works, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (1881) remains relatively focused on the single topic of morality and the various themes that moral theorists typically address: moral judgment, moral psychology, moral values, the emotions, the virtues, and so on. It is an important text because it offers an early version of his critique of morality that anticipates many of the ideas that will receive extensive discussion in Nietzsche's later works, especially as concerns the origins of morality in general and some of the Western philosophical and religious traditions' privileged moral values in particular. In Human, All Too Human, one glimpses Nietzsche's first explorations into a naturalistic approach to ethics; in Daybreak, one finds Nietzsche much more committed to the idea that our moral values have their genesis in our biological and psychological needs.
The Gay Science (1882, 1887) is clearly the most significant work of this middle period, both in bringing to completion the series devoted to the free spirit and in being the text in which Nietzsche first formulates two of his most famous themes: the death of God (§125, "The Madman") and the eternal recurrence (§341: "The Greatest Weight"). While sharing the aphoristic style with the other works of this period, The Gay Science stands out in terms of its consistency with the themes that will be expressed in his subsequent writings. It stands out as well in terms of the internal coherence between aphorisms: Where the organization among the various aphorisms in his preceding four books often seems unclear if not nonexistent, there is often in The Gay Science a development from the topic of one aphorism to the next that rewards a careful attention to their sequence.
A case in point is the last three sections of Part Four—the last three sections of the first edition—in which Nietzsche moves from "The Dying Socrates" (§340), where Socrates, on his deathbed, discloses his true belief that existence is a disease; to "The Greatest Weight" (§341), in which Nietzsche first introduces the eternal recurrence through the voice of a demon, echoing Socrates's daimon, and suggests that contrary to Socrates's judgment, life might be affirmed; to Incipit Tragoedia (§342; "The Tragedy Begins"), which is identical to the first section of the Prologue of Nietzsche's next book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, thus introducing Zarathustra as a teacher with an alternative to the moral teachings of Socrates, Kant, and Christianity. In 1887, Nietzsche published a second edition of The Gay Science, now with a new preface, an appendix of "Songs of Prince Vogelfrei," and a fifth book that offers some of Nietzsche's most sophisticated reflections on questions of language, consciousness, science, morality, religion, and art. Although appended to this earlier work, the fifth book really belongs to Nietzsche's "mature" period, in which he has fully committed to the perspectivist and constructivist accounts of knowledge.
mature period: transvaluation of all values
The texts of Nietzsche's mature period, written from 1883 to 1888, include those for which Nietzsche as a philosopher is best known: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, and On the Genealogy of Morals. In addition to these works, he also wrote five books in 1888: two books on Wagner—The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche contra Wagner —Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, and Ecce Homo, an autobiography and appraisal of his works, which was published posthumously in 1908.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche offers the fictional narrative of Zarathustra, his image of the yes-saying spirit, who offers an alternative to the messages of the New Testament. Intentionally parodying the Gospels and, to some extent, the life of Jesus, Zarathustra opens by taking note of the death of God and subsequently offers his alternative teachings concerning the transvaluation of all values in which the values of this world, the body, self-overcoming, and creativity are all affirmed. Within the beautiful prose of this work, one can find all of Nietzsche's major themes discussed and, in particular, three of Nietzsche's most well-known themes find their primary expressions among his published works here: the Übermensch or overhuman (man is something to be overcome), the eternal recurrence (standing at the gateway of the moment —the present—two paths confront human beings, one forward in time, one backward, each infinite. And then each person must ask him- or herself: Must not all things that can happen have already happened and will they not continue to happen? Is not everyone entangled in a complex causal network that cannot be changed and that recurs eternally, in the identical form?), and the will to power (the metaphysical principle that animates all life).
While Thus Spoke Zarathustra was the work that first attracted attention to Nietzsche as a philosopher, and it had a profound influence on the existentialist interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy, it is on the basis of his next two books, Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morals, that Nietzsche's reputation as a major philosopher resides. In the nine chapters of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche offers his clearest criticisms of many central themes in the history of philosophy (free will, the Cartesian ego, the representational model of knowledge, idealism, realism, reason vs. instinct, Kant's transcendental philosophy). He also offers some of his most striking criticisms of religion, of morality (§260 first introduces the distinction between master morality and slave morality), of nationalism, and provides his clearest expression of a philosophy of power (§13: "A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength.").
Beyond Good and Evil also offers Nietzsche's most sustained defense of perspectivism and his most serious questioning of the value of truth. The text opens with a preface that places truth, aligned with Plato, Christianity ("Platonism for the people"), and dogmatism, in contrast to perspective, and from there moves in Part One—"On the Prejudices of Philosophers"—to question the value of truth as well as the value of many of the central ideas, presumed to be true, of past philosophers, including Plato's Forms, Kant's thing-in-itself, Descartes's ego, and Schopenhauer's will. Throughout his analysis, Nietzsche suggests that the question that should be asked, when considering these philosophical articles of faith is not "Are they true?" but "Why is belief in their truth necessary?"
On the Genealogy of Morals offers Nietzsche's most sustained and powerful account of the origin and value of morality. The work itself unfolds in three carefully constructed essays. In the first, Nietzsche distinguishes between two moral frameworks: the noble morality that is based on distinguishing "good and bad," and the slave morality that makes judgments of "good and evil." The central idea of this first essay, Nietzsche writes, is his discovery of the birth of Christianity out of the slave's spirit of ressentiment. The second essay traces the moral concept guilt (Schuld ) back to its origins in the economic relation of creditor and debtor, and offers an interpretation of the psychology of conscience, not as the voice of God in man, but as the instinct of cruelty that turns back on itself after it can no longer discharge itself externally.
In the third essay, Nietzsche inquires into the meaning of the ascetic ideal and, following an examination of the appearances of the ascetic ideal in philosophy, religion, art, morality, and science, discovers that the ascetic ideal is the harmful ideal par excellence. But the third essay also argues that the ascetic ideal has performed an essential, preservative function in that even though what the ascetic ideal has willed, throughout its long history, has in fact been imaginary (i.e., it has willed "nothing"), through its willing of nothingness, the will itself—that is, the ability to will—was saved. Nietzsche's genealogy of the ascetic will reveals that this will to nothingness, in the form of willing God or willing truth, while an aversion and hostility to life, was still a will that has preserved itself and has driven the deployment of reactive forces that is the history of the ascetic ideal. He offers, however, only tantalizing suggestions of a counter-will, a will to power that would no longer be a will to truth but would allow for the deployment of active forces that would make possible the overcoming of nihilism that has resulted from two thousand years of ascetic willing.
In 1888, the last year of his productive life, Nietzsche composed five short books. The first, The Case of Wagner, is Nietzsche's most sustained criticism of Wagner, and offers as well several insightful comments on art. Nietzsche describes Twilight of the Idols in letters on September 12 and 14, 1888, to his friends Peter Gast, Paul Deussen (1845–1919), and Franz Overbeck (1837–1905) as a "summary of my essential philosophical heterodoxies" (Nietzsche Briefwechsel ), and this short text does indeed offer something of a survey of his basic themes while displaying his stylistic mastery, evidenced well in the title's play on Wagner's 1876 opera Göttendämmerung (Nietzsche's Götzen-Dämmerung spoofing Wagner's "Twilight of the Gods"). Among the most interesting sections are his discussions of Socrates ("The Problem of Socrates") Kantian rationalism ("'Reason' in Philosophy"), philosophy ("Four Great Errors"), the influence of religion on morality ("Morality as anti-Nature"), and his highly condensed, six sentence history of Western philosophy and religion ("How the 'Real World' at last Became a Myth: History of an Error"), in which he moves from Plato to Christianity to Kant to positivism to the death of God and Nietzsche's own contributions of the free spirit and Zarathustra.
The Antichrist, which when published Nietzsche conceived, as he noted in the preface to Twilight, as the first volume of a longer work to be titled Transvaluation of All Values, is Nietzsche's most aggressive critique of Pauline Christianity. Ecce Homo, while completed in 1888, was withheld from publication by his sister Elizabeth until 1908. In it, Nietzsche offers a hyperbolic autobiographical and literary self-appraisal that only recently, with the increased attention to Nietzsche's writing style, has attracted the serious philosophical attention it deserves. Nietzsche's final published work, Nietzsche Contra Wagner, was dated Christmas 1888, less than two weeks before his collapse. Nietzsche's shortest work, he here reproduces with some minor emendations a selection of his earlier criticisms concerning Richard Wagner, thus making clear that the prosecution of Wagner in The Case of Wagner was not a late motif that Nietzsche arrived at only following Wagner's death.
No discussion of Nietzsche's work can fail to take account of his unpublished Nachlass of 1883 to 1888, in part because his sister published The Will to Power —a relatively small (slightly more than ten percent) and highly edited selection of these notes, first as approximately 400 sections in 1901, and in a second, expanded edition of 1067 sections in 1906—as if it had been a text written by Nietzsche himself. There is no doubt that for several years Nietzsche considered publishing a major work with this title, but there is equally no doubt that he definitively abandoned this project well before his collapse. As a consequence, claims made by Elisabeth and others as to this work being Nietzsche's magnum opus clearly cannot be sustained.
Heidegger's claim that The Will to Power, by which Heidegger meant the entire 1883 to 1888 Nachlass and not just Elisabeth's edition, contained the essence of Nietzsche's philosophizing is a more difficult claim to refute, especially as it relates as much to Heidegger's own desire to situate Nietzsche as the culminating figure in the history of metaphysics. What is clear is that many of Nietzsche's comments on his so-called major themes—most importantly, the eternal recurrence, will to power, and the Übermensch —are found primarily in these unpublished notes and, were one to discount the unpublished notes as well as Nietzsche's fictionalized account in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, it would be difficult to justify any of these three themes as being a significant part of Nietzsche's published prose works. That said, there is much of interest in these published notes for the philosopher as well as the Nietzsche scholar. While some passages are rough, or simply notes to himself for future work, or ideas and thought-experiments that he played with and chose, quite consciously, not to publish, others may well be ideas that he was still actively working on when his productive life ended.
Of particular note in this regard are his comments on scientists and scientific texts, especially biological texts, that he was reading in the mid- to late-1880s. Nietzsche was during this period reading as much if not more in scientific texts than philosophical texts, and while his biologistic account of life makes its way into some passages in Beyond Good and Evil and elsewhere, the best evidence of his thinking on these issues remains to be read in the unpublished notes of the Nachlass.
Walter Kaufmann opened and closed his article on Nietzsche in the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy with allusions to Nietzsche's influence upon modern philosophy and literature. Yet Kaufmann could scarcely have imagined the explosion of interest in Nietzsche's works, particularly in philosophical circles, that began in the mid-sixties and still continues. Kaufmann's bibliography, a perspectival review to be sure, lists only two secondary works on Nietzsche written in English—his own Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (1950) and George A. Morgan's What Nietzsche Means (1941). But since 1967, almost two thousand volumes focused primarily on Nietzsche—more than half of them in English—have appeared in English, French, and German, and perhaps ten times that number of essays, articles, or book chapters have been published.
Charting the expanding horizons of Nietzsche's influence quickly becomes a sociological study of the dominant motifs of late twentieth-century culture, and surveying the influence within the narrower field of philosophical inquiry is equally complex. There may in fact be no philosopher whose works admit less happily to a canonical or consensus interpretation, a claim supported by the staggering diversity of interpretations of Nietzsche's philosophy that have appeared since 1967. Nevertheless, some general observations can be made concerning the range of these new interpretations.
One can locate at least three primary factors in the increased philosophical attention to Nietzsche over the past forty years. First is the tremendous influence of Martin Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche. Published in Germany in 1960, translated into French in 1962 and into English between 1979 and 1987, Heidegger's overarching interpretation of Nietzsche as the culminating figure in the history of metaphysics inspired an enormous range of exegetical and critical response while leading several generations of philosophers and philosophy students back to read or re-read Nietzsche's texts.
A second reason for the increased attention by philosophers to Nietzsche can be located in the discovery of a "new Nietzsche" that emerged in conjunction with the rise of recent French philosophy. While most widely associated with Jacques Derrida and the deconstructionist attention to questions of textuality and the styles of philosophical discourse, Nietzsche's inclusion, along with Marx and Freud, as one of the three "masters of suspicion," and his importance in the philosophical works of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, have shown him to be an intellectual influence on much of what is called poststructuralist thought. And, as in the case of Heidegger, the popularity of poststructuralist French thought brought with it a renewed interest—among literary critics and theorists, historians, political theorists, and philosophers—in Nietzsche's thinking.
The third reason for the increased attention to Nietzsche concerns the transformation of philosophy within the anglo-American tradition. In the 1960s, Kaufmann's text, along with Arthur Danto's Nietzsche as Philosopher (1965), had first to justify Nietzsche as a philosopher whose ideas warranted serious philosophical consideration. As the scope of English-language philosophy has broadened, a distinctly anglo-American tradition of Nietzsche interpretation has appeared which is informed by the questions of ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology that occupy analytically trained philosophers.
This entry concludes with a brief survey of some of the main issues that have emerged in recent Nietzsche scholarship. To be sure, there is still much work offering interpretations of the classical Nietzschean themes: will to power, eternal recurrence, Übermensch, nihilism, perspectivism, and so on. But other issues have appeared as well. For example, an attention to questions of texts and textuality has played a role in much of the recent literature. It has become increasingly common to distinguish between Nietzsche's published texts and his unpublished notes, especially as concerns themes whose primary expression is to be found in the "book" constructed by his literary executors after his death and titled The Will to Power. One also finds an increasing tendency to read Nietzsche's texts as texts, following their internal development as opposed to simply viewing these texts as collections of remarks from which one can pick and choose the comments relevant to one's own argument. A third theme emerging from the recent interest in textuality is an attention to the various styles of Nietzsche's philosophical prose, in other words, an attention to his use of metaphor, to the literary character of much of his writing (in particular, Thus Spoke Zarathustra ), to the different genre of writing (aphorism, essay, polemic, poem, etc.), and to other issues characterized collectively as the "question of style."
A second range of topics within the recent Nietzsche literature addresses some of the classic questions of philosophy: Does Nietzsche have a "theory of truth"? Does he have a "theory of knowledge"? An "ontology"? Is Nietzsche a metaphysician in the way that Heidegger defines metaphysics? Is Nietzsche an ethical naturalist? Within these questions, a topic that continues to draw attention is the issue of self-reference; in other words, when Nietzsche makes claims (about truth, reality, being, subjectivity, etc.), do these claims refer or apply to or hold true for his own philosophical conclusions? The most obvious case where the question of self-reference arises concerns the question of truth and interpretation: if Nietzsche claims that "there is no Truth," or that "everything is an interpretation," are these claims put forward as "true"? If they are, then they appear to contradict themselves; but if they are not true, then why should we be interested in them? The issue has been extended beyond the confines of epistemology, however, and one finds discussions of the eternal recurrence or the Übermensch or the ascetic ideal in terms of the question of self-reference.
A third and final set of issues that warrants noting is the extension of Nietzschean themes into new areas not discussed, or only hinted at, in the earlier Nietzsche scholarship. Among the most important topics producing much recent scholarship are Nietzsche's influence on postmodernism, his position on "woman" and his relevance for feminism, and his political philosophy and impact on twentieth-century political and social movements.
"Some are born posthumously," Nietzsche wrote in 1888. "One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous," he claimed in Ecce Homo, at the beginning of a chapter titled "Why I am a Destiny?" One hundred years later, these remarks appear prophetic, and at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it would be difficult to find a philosopher whose influence on matters philosophical and cultural exceeds that of Nietzsche.
See also Anaxagoras of Clazomenae; Anaximander; Aristotle; Burckhardt, Jakob; Danto, Arthur; Deleuze, Gilles; Derrida, Jacques; Descartes, René; Diogenes Laertius; Existentialism; Foucault, Michel; Freud, Sigmund; Hartmann, Eduard von; Heidegger, Martin; Heraclitus of Ephesus; Homer; Jaspers, Karl; Kant, Immanuel; La Rochefoucauld, Duc François de; Leucippus and Democritus; Marx, Karl; Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de; Parmenides of Elea; Plato; Pre-Socratic Philosophy; Schopenhauer, Arthur; Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet de.
nietzsche's published works and selected english translations
The definitive editions of Nietzsche's works as well as his letters and biography are the following:
Nietzsche Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe, edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1967ff. An English translation of the slightly abridged German critical edition Kritische Studienausgabe (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1980) was begun under the General Editorship of Ernst Behler for Stanford University Press. The General Editorship was subsequently taken over by Bernd Magnus, and now is under the control of Alan D. Schrift and Daniel W. Conway.
Nietzsche Briefwechsel: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1975ff.
Janz, Curt Paul. Friedrich Nietzsche: Biographie, 3 vols. Munich: C. Hanser Verlag, 1978–1979.
There are many translations available of Nietzsche's works. What follows are the full German titles, with year of publication, and the best available English translations:
Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872)
The Birth of Tragedy. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1967.
The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, edited by Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs. Translated by Ronald Speirs. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
The Birth of Tragedy. Translated by Douglas Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen : I. David Strauss, der Bekenner und Schriftsteller (1873); II. Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben (1873); III. Schopenhauer als Erzieher (1874); IV. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth (1876)
Untimely Meditations. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
Unmodern Observations, edited by William Arrowsmith. Translated by Herbert Golder, Gary Brown, and William Arrowsmith. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990. (Includes a translation of Wir Philologen [We classicists]).
Unfashionable Observations. Translated by Richard T. Gray. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995.
Menschliches, Allzumenschliches: Ein Buch für freie Geister (1878); Menschliches, Allzumenschliches Vol. II; Vermischte Meinungen und Spruche (1879); Der Wanderer und sein Schatten (1880)
Human, All Too Human: A Book For Free Spirits. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 2nd edition, 1996.
Human, All Too Human. Vol. One. Translated by Gary Handwerk. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997.
Morgenröte: Gedanken über die moralischen Vorurtheile (1881)
Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1982. 2nd edition, edited by Maudemarie Clark and Brian Leiter, 1997.
Die fröhliche Wissenschaft ("la gaya scienza") (1882, 1887)
The Gay Science. Translated by Walter Kaufman. New York: Vintage, 1974.
The Gay Science. Translated by Josefine Nauckhoff. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Also sprach Zarathustra: Eine Buch für Alle und Keinen (1883–1885)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Viking Press, 1954.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1961.
Jenseits von Gut und Böse: Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft (1886)
Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1966.
Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by Marion Faber and Robert C. Holub. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by Judith Norman. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Zur Genealogie der Moral: Eine Streitschrift (1887)
On the Genealogy of Morals. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House, 1967.
On the Genealogy of Morality and Other Writings, edited by Keith Ansell-Pearson and Carol Diethe. Translated by Carol Diethe. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
On the Genealogy of Morals. Translated by Douglas Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
On the Genealogy of Morality: A Polemic. Translated by Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swensen. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998.
Götzendämmerung: Oder wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert (1888)
Twilight of the Idols. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. In The Portable Nietzsche. New York: Viking Press, 1954.
Twilight of the Idols. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1968.
Twilight of the Idols: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer. Translated by Duncan Large. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Der Antichrist (1888)
The Antichrist. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. In The Portable Nietzsche. New York: Viking Press, 1954.
The Anti-Christ. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1968.
Nietzsche contra Wagner (1888)
Nietzsche Contra Wagner. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. In The Portable Nietzsche. New York: Viking Press, 1954.
Der Fall Wagner (1888)
The Case of Wagner. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1967.
Ecce Homo: Wie man wird, was man ist (1888)
Ecce Homo. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1967.
Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is. Translated by Duncan Large. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Der Wille zur Macht (1883–1888)
The Will to Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House, 1967.
Abel, Gunter. Nietzsche: Die Dynamik der Willen zur Macht und die ewige Wiederkehr. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1984.
Allison, David, ed. The New Nietzsche. New York: Dell, 1979.
Allison, David. Reading the New Nietzsche. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001.
Ansell-Pearson, Keith. An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker: The Perfect Nihilist. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Ansell-Pearson, Keith. Nietzsche Contra Rousseau: A Study of Nietzsche's Moral and Political Thought. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Babich, Babette E. Nietzsche's Philosophy of Science: Reflecting Science on the Ground of Art and Life. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.
Bataille, Georges. Sur Nietzsche. Paris: Gallimard, 1945. Translated by Bruce Boone as On Nietzsche. New York: Paragon House, 1992.
Blondel, Eric. Nietzsche, le corps et la culture: La Philosophie comme généalogie. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1986. Translated by Sean Hand as Nietzsche, the Body and Culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.
Breazeale, Daniel, ed. Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870's. Translated by Daniel Breazeale. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1979.
Clark, Maudemarie. Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Conway, Daniel W. Nietzsche's Dangerous Game: Philosophy in the Twilight of the Idols. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Cox, Christoph. Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000
Danto, Arthur C. Nietzsche as Philosopher. New York: Macmillan, 1965.
Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche et la philosophie. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1962. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson as Nietzsche and Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.
Derrida, Jacques. Eperons: Les Styles de Nietzsche. Paris: Flammarion, 1977. Translated by Barbara Harlow as Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
Fink, Eugen. Nietzsches Philosophie. Stuttgart, Germany: Kohlhammer, 1968. Translated by Goetz Richter as Nietzsche's Philosophy. London: Continuum, 2003.
Gooding-Williams, Robert. Zarathustra's Dionysian Modernism. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.
Granier, Jean. Le problème de la vérité dans la philosophie de Nietzsche. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1966.
Hatab, Lawrence J. A Nietzschean Defense of Democracy: An Experiment in Postmodern Politics. Chicago: Open Court, 1995.
Hayman, Ronald. Nietzsche: A Critical Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.
Heidegger, Martin. Nietzsche. Band I-II. Pfullingen, Germany: Neske, 1961. Vol I: The Will to Power as Art. Translated by David Farrell Krell. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. Vol II: The Eternal Recurrence of the Same. Translated by David Farrell Krell. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984. Vol. III: The Will to Power as Knowledge and as Metaphysics. Translated by Joan Stambaugh, David Farrell Krell, and Frank A. Capuzzi. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. Vol. IV: Nihilism. Translated by Frank A. Capuzzi. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.
Hollingdale, R. J. Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.
Jaspers, Karl. Nietzsche: Einführung in das Verständnis seines Philosophierens. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1936. Translated by Charles F. Wallraff and Frederick J. Schmidtz as Nietzsche: An Introduction to the Understanding of his Philosophical Activity. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1965.
Kaufmann, Walter. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950.
Klossowski, Pierre. Nietzsche et la cercle vicieux. Paris: Mercure de France, 1969. Translated by Daniel W. Smith as Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Kofman, Sarah. Nietzsche et la métaphore. Paris: Payot, 1972. Translated by Duncan Large as Nietzsche and Metaphor. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993.
Lampert, Laurence. Nietzsche's Task: An Interpretation of Beyond Good and Evil. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.
Löwith, Karl. Nietzsches Philosophie der ewigen Wiederkehr des Gleichen. Hamburg: Meiner, 1978. Translated by J. Harvey Lomax as Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.
Magnus, Bernd. Nietzsche's Existential Imperative. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.
Magnus, Bernd, et al. Nietzsche's Case: Philosophy And/As Literature. New York: Routledge, 1993.
Magnus, Bernd, and Kathleen M. Higgins, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Müller-Lauter, Wolfgang Nietzsche: Seine Philosophie der Gegensätze und die Gegensätze seiner Philosophie. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1971. Translated by David J. Parent as Nietzsche: His Philosophy of Contradictions and the Contradictions of His Philosophy. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.
Nehamas, Alexander. Nietzsche: Life as Literature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.
Oliver, Kelly, and Marilyn Pearsall, eds. Feminist Interpretations of Friedrich Nietzsche. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.
Parkes, Graham. Composing the Soul: Reaches of Nietzsche's Psychology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Richardson, John. Nietzsche's New Darwinism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Richardson, John. Nietzsche's System. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Roberts, Tyler T. Contesting Spirit: Nietzsche, Affirmation, Religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.
Schaberg, William H. The Nietzsche Canon: A Publication History and Bibliography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Schacht, Richard. Making Sense of Nietzsche: Reflections Timely and Untimely. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.
Schacht, Richard. Nietzsche. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983.
Schacht, Richard, ed. Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality: Essays on Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
Schrift, Alan D. Nietzsche and the Question of Interpretation: Between Hermeneutics and Deconstruction. New York: Routledge, 1990.
Schrift, Alan D. Nietzsche's French Legacy: A Genealogy of Poststructuralism. New York: Routledge, 1995.
Schrift, Alan D., ed. Why Nietzsche Still? Reflections on Drama, Culture, and Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
Schutte, Ofelia. Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche Without Masks. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.
Sedgwick, Peter R., ed. Nietzsche: A Critical Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.
Shapiro, Gary. Alcyone: Nietzsche on Gifts, Noise and Women. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.
Shapiro, Gary. Nietzschean Narratives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.
Small, Robin. Nietzsche in Context. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2001.
Solomon, Robert C., and Kathleen M. Higgins. Reading Nietzsche. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Staten, Henry. Nietzsche's Voice. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.
Strong, Tracy B. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975. Rev. ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Thiele, Leslie Paul. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul: A Study of Heroic Individualism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.
Tongeren, Paul van. Reinterpreting Modern Culture: An Introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche's Philosophy. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2000.
Warren, Mark. Nietzsche and Political Thought. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988.
Alan D. Schrift (2005)