home | philosophers

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a morally intense aristocrat. He is quoted as saying, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." His moral intensity included a dislike for democracy, liberalism and anarchism. He described John Stuart Mill as having a "pig philosophy," although like Mill he was for the protections of individuals from herd-think. He believed that the best of men (he was no feminist) were dragged down by the weight of mass mediocrity. The fortunate, he claimed, needed protection from the unfortunate and the healthy from the degenerate. He turned Darwin upside down, claiming that the best of the human species did not always survive and triumph.

Nietzsche saw the rise of democracy in Europe as a sign of society in decay. He believed that liberalism led to revolution, bloodletting and crime. And he had the aristocracy's disdain for money-grubbing. He thought industrialists, bankers, retailers and financiers were too focused on accumulating money. Such people, he believed, had no sense of honor and lacked the style or taste that made life worth living.

Nietzsche, like many aristocrats, was an internationalist. He associated nationalism with small thinking. He disliked demagogues using nationalism to appeal to the mob. Long after Nietzsche died, Germany's National Socialists (Nazis) would try to add philosophical profundity to their movement by associating themselves with Nietzsche – no matter that Nietzsche had broken with the famous composer Wagner over Wagner's anti-Semitism and pan-Germanism. Nietzsche considered himself a European more than a German. In fact, he saw himself as Polish. Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, Married an anti-Semite with whom she founded a model Germanic colony in Paraguay in 1887, called Nueva Germania, calculated to show German superiority. Nietzsche responded to her plans with mocking laughter.

Nietzsche had been a student of pre-Socratic Greece. Like Immanuel Kant before him, he believed in empiricism balanced with reason. He described as sheep those who blindly followed the dictates of scholars. Academicians, he believed, were more interested in protecting themselves than in pursuing truth. While hanging on to his aristocratic identity he believed in pursuing an understanding of the world through what he thought of as an open-minded investigation of the past and present. He is quoted as saying, "If you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire."

With his dislike of dogma and conformity he was critical of established religions. The world knows Nietzsche for having said God is dead. Regarding this, here is what is written in Wikipedia:

God is dead is perhaps one of the most commonly misunderstood phrases in all of 19th century literature. The phrase should not be taken literally, as in, "God is now physically dead," or, "Jesus, both the son of God and God himself, died on the cross"; rather, it is Nietzsche's controversial way of saying that God has ceased to be a reckoning force in the people's lives, even if they don't recognize it... Thus, according to Nietzsche, it is time to transcend both the concept of God and the "good versus evil" dichotomy found within most religions.

Nietzsche turned against the Buddhist negations of life adhered to by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer — a negation that meant withdrawal from want for the sake of serenity. Nietzsche held to an embracing life bravely, an embrace that included the bad side of good experiences. With this bravery and embrace he disapproved of romantic flights from reality or any other form of intoxication. His views, expressed in his books, would make him a popular figure among leading 20th century intellectuals.

Nietzsche objected to the promises of a happy future that were floating about Europe in the late 1800s. He was no optimist. He feared the stupidity that created two of the world's most horrific wars.

Here are Nietzsche's ideas on YouTube.

comment | to the top | home

Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.