Let me be perfectly clear: Freidrich’s Nietzche’s philsophy sucks. Moving right along:
Friedrich Nietzche was a German philosopher and culture critic who died in 1900. He is probably best known for his statement that “God is dead” and his concept of the “will to power,” which was quite popular as a worldview among the Nazis. That the Nazis used his ideas is not his fault. His sister, who was a Nazi, pushed his ideas after he became permanently disabled.
Nietzche’s rage against society makes him popular with angry, alienated adolescents, not unlike that other adolescent-level “philosopher” Ayn Rand. But Nietzche, though dying from a slow, progressive organic brain disease, was both a more appealing human being and a better writer than the terminally narcissicistic Rand.
No writer can escape the influence of his life circumstances, but Nietzche’s tragic life influenced him more obviously than most. His father died when Friedrich was four years old, officially from a stroke (at age 36,) but this was preceded by two years of neurological deterioration.
It is quite likely that Freidrich was afflicted with the same condition, though some attribute his depression and progressive dementia to syphilis. Nietzche’s health was poor from his youth. He suffered from frequent migraines, nausea and vomiting, convulsions, and transient blindness.
He not only suffered from all these near-debilitating conditions, he suffered them, for the most part, alone. He did have a best friend and a woman with whom he apparently fell in love briefly, but his best friend ran off with the woman and he was again left alone.
So, though I totally reject Nietzche’s consclusions, I empathize with him as a human being. Imagine being very sick several days a week, alone, knowing what happened to your father and top of all this, being intelligent enough to fully comprehend the horror of the whole situation. What was left but a “will to power?” Of course, in the end, will power did not overcome the disease.
The story of his last sane day may be merely a story, but it touches me. He was walking on the street and saw a man beating a horse. He ran to the horse and put his arms around its neck and never regained sanity again. He deteriorated, became paralyzed, did not communicate and after a few years, he died. Why would he run to the horse? I think he identified with it-its master (God? fate? Father?) was inflicting suffering on it for no just cause, just as life was inflicting suffering on Nietzche.
So read Nietzche if you must, but bear in mind the human being and the human life he lived as you do so. As Nietzche himself said, “Human, all too human.”
Three Minute Philosophy is a series on Youtube that is accurate and very, very funny. After many requests for one on Nietzche, this is what they posted: