Nietzsche for Beginners

This article aims to discuss the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s works. Nietzsche’s life, although short, was truly unorthodox, and so were his ideas. He painted a clear picture of those ideas in his books and poetry, ending up becoming a revolutionary philosopher. He managed to rub elbows and discuss philosophical ideas with some of his fellow greats: including Richard Wagner, Bismark, Sigmund Freud, and even Charles Darwin.

All throughout his life, he created theories about the superhuman, the idea of nihilism, and even the Antichrist. Thanks to his books, he was able to create an impact with modern-day philosophers.

Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s impossible to discuss Nietzsche’s philosophy and works if we don’t talk about the man himself. Who was Friedrich Nietzsche?

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born on October 15 1844 in the Kingdom of Prussia (now divided between Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Denmark, Russia, Belgium, and the Czech Republic). He was a scholar, a critic, a poet, a philosopher and a cultural critic. His works have had a hugely profound impact on today’s concept of philosophy. Nietzsche mostly discussed history, religion, art, tragedy, culture, and science, all with a touch of irony and humor. He is known for criticizing the genealogical concept of religion, as well as Christian morality, and creating the concept of Ubermensch (German for ‘super human’). He basically challenged the foundations of Christianity, as well as traditional morality – Focusing his interest in the enhancement of both cultural and individual health.

After his sister Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche published his works, Nietzsche’s works eventually became largely associated with Nazism and fascism. His teachings and philosophies are still revered today, and are especially applied in schools of continental philosophy, post-modernism and post-structuralism. Nietzsche himself has become an icon in pop culture, psychology, politics, literature and the arts.

Nietzsche graduated from The University of Bonn and became a professor at The University of Basel in Switzerland at a very young age. His early works were inspired by teachings from fellow philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer, Richard Wagner and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He died on August 25, 1900 after a bout of pneumonia.

Nietzsche Quotes

Here are some of Friedrich Nietzsche’s most famous quotes, and some of them are quite controversial:

  1. “God is dead”
  2. “Without music, life would be a mistake”
  3. “Whatever is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil”
  4. “Only sick music makes money today”
  5. “He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures.”
  6. “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
  7. “Which one has not had a good father, one must create one.”
  8. There is more wisdom in your body, than in your deepest philosophy.”
  9. “After coming into contact with a religious man, I always feel I must wash my hands.”
  10. “I love those who do not know how to live for today.”

Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil

Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future is a book written by Nietzsche, which was first published in 1886. In this book, he accuses the past great philosophers of lacking critical sense, and accepting dogmatic premises in their consideration of morality. Nietzsche exposes each philosopher’s deficiencies, and also tries to identify the quality of brand new philosophers during that period, assessing their imagination, danger, originality, self-assertion, and the creation of values.

Nietzsche then questions a few of the main presuppositions found in ancient philosophical traditions, such as knowledge, free will, truth and self-consciousness. He explains that all of them have simply been invented by the moral consciousness, and that all behavior is caused by a “will to power”, and this is all connected into Nietzsche’s own perspective of life. Another theme that’s prominently featured in Beyond Good and Evil is religion and the “master and slave” morality. In here, he evaluates society’s strongly-held humanistic beliefs, and informs the reader that domination, appropriation and injury to the weak is not universally objectionable.

Beyond Good and Evil is made of 296 numbered sections, and segment entitled ‘From High Mountains’. The sections are split into nine parts, which are:

  1. On the Prejudices of Philosophers
  2. The Free Spirit
  3. The Religious Essence
  4. Maxims and Interludes
  5. On the Natural History of Morals
  6. We Scholars
  7. Our Virtues
  8. Peoples and Fatherlands
  9. What is Noble?
  10. From High Mountains

Each section ranges in length from a few sentences, to dozens of pages. All of them start and end with a preface, and a poem composed by Nietzsche himself.

Nietzsche Genealogy of Morals

Before Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche wrote another book, entitled On the Genealogy of Morals. It’s a short book, only consisting of three essays and a preface. The essays all discuss the concepts that Nietzsche previously talked about in Beyond Good and Evil. They also serve to trace episodes found in the evolution of moral concepts, with a view that confronts moral justices, especially pertaining to both Judaism and Christianity.

Modern-day scholars have considered Genealogy of Morals to be a philosophical masterpiece, and one of Nietzsche’s greatest works. It has also influenced many renowned 21st-century philosophers and authors.

The first essay, or ‘treatise’, as they are called in the book, is about the concept of good versus evil. Nietzsche explains that the two of them both have different origins, and rebukes a number of English psychologists for “lacking historical sense”.

Meanwhile, the second treatise discusses guilt, bad conscience, and related matters. Nietzsche explains his idea that the concept of punishment is from a straightforward creditor and debtor relationship, and that man typically depends on “forgetfulness”, so that he won’t feel so bogged down by his past actions.

The final treatise is Nietzsche’s commentary on the aphorism that comes with the book’s preface.

The Antichrist by Nietzsche

The Antichrist is another popular work done by Nietzsche, published in 1895. The contents of the book were embroiled in controversy, causing its delayed publication – The book was supposed to be originally released in 1888. Nietzsche himself says that he intended The Antichrist to have a very limited readership, and that to be able to truly understand what the book is all about, he says that its reader needs to be “fully honest in his or her intellectual matters”, and that they must be “above the concept of politics and nationalism”. Nietzsche adds that those who own a copy of this book must have the character of strength and courage, with the ability to ask questions that nobody has ever asked before.

In The Antichrist, Nietzsche seeks to denounce and illegitimize not only the idea of Christianity and religion, but together with its teachings that have been applied to western civilization. Once again, this contains some of the author’s ideals discussed in both The Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil – Especially the idea that present morality is the actual opposite of real morality.

One of the ideas that he discussed here is the fact Christianity has supposedly made its followers “nihilistic” and “weak”, by acknowledging pity and mercy as very good virtues. Similar to The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche traces these two values to the early Christians who lived under the scourge of the Holy Roman Empire.

Nietzsche Books

Apart from the previously mentioned three, Nietzsche has written other philosophical books:

  • Thus Spoke Zarathrusta {Published 1883)
  • The Gay Science (Published 1882)
  • Ecce Homo (Published 1908)
  • The Birth of Tragedy (Published 1872) – His first book
  • Twilight of the Idols (Published 1889)
  • The Will to Power (Published 1901)
  • Human, all too Human (Published 1878)
  • Untimely Meditations (Published 1873)
  • The Case of Wagner (Published 1888)
  • The Wanderer and his Shadow (Published 1879)
  • The Dawn (Published 1881)
Written by Jon Anxin