Friederich Nietzsche was born in 1844 in the Prussian province of Saxony. He was the offspring of a long line of clergymen including his father, who was the pastor of a Lutheran congregation. His childhood was consumed with the haunting death of his father and, soon after, brother.
After enrolling in school, he suffered from intense, painful headaches and myopia which caused burning sensations and blurred vision. This may have been syphilis and it may have been contracted from his father who had shown similar symptoms.
In 1858, he enrolled in the prestigious Pforte boarding school. His illness continued to plague him, resulting in several “pilgrimages” to the sanitarium yet, he was able to form a group called Germania, which was devoted to the continuing study of “intellectual subjects.” He delivered impressive lectures on subjects ranging from Nordic legends to German poetry. Shortly before graduation, he made the decision to study philology due to his intrigue of it’s emphasis on analysis and logic.
It was after he left the University of Bonn that Nietzsche’s life took a significant course. After acquiring a massive debt at Bonn, Nietzsche left for Leipzig for a more affordable solution to a quality education. There, he discovered Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation. In his work, Schopenhauer declared that conflict and suffering were the purpose of life. This predilection intrigued Nietzsche. He (Nietzsche) soon developed a routine of little rest and an excess of study. It was then that he had decided to become a philologist and the world became introduced to his philosophies.
Sometimes philosophy is called timeless, implying that it’s lessons are of value to any generation. This may be hard to see in Nietzsche’s work; but, we are assured that it was appropriate thought for his time. However, even Nietzsche’s critics admit that his words hold an undeniable truth, as hard as it is to accept. Perhaps this is why his work is timeless, and has survived 150 years in print. Christianity God is Dead! announced Zarathustra (better known as Zoroaster), in Neitzsche’s book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-1885). Unlike many philosophers, Nietzsche never tried to prove or disprove the existence of God, just that belief in God can create sickness; and to convince that highest achievements in human life depend on elimination of God. Whether God existed had no relevance in his goal. Proclamation of the death of God was a fundamental ingredient in the values Nietzsche advocated. Nothing has done more than Christianity to entrench the morality of mediocrity in human consciousness. Christian love extols qualities of weakness; it causes guilt. Charity is just teaching hatred and revenge directed toward nobility. Belief in God is a tool to bring submission to the individual of noble character. — F. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Nietzsche had an ideal world in mind, with an ideal government and an ideal God: the Overman or Superman.
These Gods were a product of natural selection, or social Darwinism. He felt, very strongly, that any kind of moral limitations upon man would only stand in the way of The Overman. The Will To Power, his strongest teaching, meant that The Overman should and would do anything possible to gain power, control and strength. If one showed the smallest bit of weakness or morality, he would be killed by the stronger Overman, and taken over. Thus, the advancement of The Master Race (will be discussed later). Not mankind, but superman is the goal. The very last thing a sensible man would undertake would be to improve mankind: mankind does not improve, it doesn’t even exist – it is an abstraction. … his superman as the individual precariously rising out of the mire of mass mediocrity, and owing his existence more to intentional breeding and careful nurture than to the hazards of natural selection. Nietzsche is often referred to as a pre-Nazi thinker, by his idealism of The Master Race. He was, in fact, a prime influence on the writing of Hitler’s highest men, and quoted in Hitler’s speeches. But, his writings were mostly taken out of context, because he was very open about his distaste for those anti- Semites. If one is able to come from a more intelligent place, regarding the breeding of “best-fit humans”, Nietzsche was far beyond Hitler. Nietzsche understood the necessity for variety in a population, and was able to appreciate the contributions of other races and cultures. His ideal society would be a race that included select bits from many races/cultures.
The only culture that he seemed to have a special appreciation for were the Polish. He wrote, The Poles, I consider the most gifted and gallant among Slavic people… Still, he wrote about his value for the Jews, as a response to the growing anti-Semite culture in Germany during his time: The whole problem of the Jews exists only in nation states, for here their energy and higher intelligence, their accumulated capital of spirit and will, gathered from generation to generation though a long schooling in suffering, must become so preponderant as to arouse mass envy and hatred. In almost all contemporary nations, therefore — in direct proportion to the degree which they act up nationalistically — the literary obscenity of leading the Jews to slaughter as scapegoats of every conceivable public and internal misfortune is spreading. As soon as it is no longer a matter of preserving nations, but of producing the strongest possible Euro-Mixed race, the Jew is just as useful and desirable as ingredient as any other national remnant. Nietzsche had an incredible infatuation with evil and violence. He did so much to find evil and cruelty in the world, that he seemed to have a sadistic pleasure in celebrating it; man is the cruelest animal, he states in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In his book, Beyond Good and Evil, he really aims at changing the reader’s opinion as to what is good and what is evil, but professes, except at moments, to be raising what is evil and diminish what is good. It is necessary for higher men to make war upon the masses, and resist the democratic tendencies of the age, for in all directions mediocre people are joining hands to make themselves masters. Everything that pampers, that softens, and that brings the ‘people’ or ‘woman’ to the front, operates in favor of universal suffrage — that is to say, the dominion of ‘inferior’ men.
This brings us to Nietzsche’s view of women. At this point, I believe it’s important to note Nietzsche’s experience with women, because his writings about them seemed to begin closely after being rejected by the only woman he admitted to love. She rejected him as he asked her hand in marriage. Men shall be trained for war and woman for the recreation of the warrior. All else is folly. The patriotic member of a militant society will look upon bravery and strength as the highest virtues of a man; upon obedience as the highest virtue of the citizen; and upon silent submission to multiple motherhood as the highest virtue of woman. Thou goest to woman? Do not forget thy whip. From Nietzsche’s experience with women, as author Betrand Russell said, Nine out of ten women would get the whip away from him, and he knew it, so he kept away from women, and soothed his wounded vanity with unkind remarks. Many of his comments toward women reflected what a lonely and “unloved” person he was. In some poems he wrote after his prospective wife left him, he wrote this lonely line: I could sing a song, and I will sing it, although I am alone in an empty house and must sing it to mine own ears. So, he added appropriately to his beliefs the following: How absurd it is, after all, to let higher individuals marry for love — heroes with servant girls and geniuses with seamstresses! When a man is in love he should not be permitted to make decisions affecting his entire life. We should declare invalid the vows of lovers and should make love a legal impediment to marriage. Nietzsche loved his anarchism, and had such a hate for democracy, that it takes up nearly every bit of his philosophy. His ideal society was divided into three classes: producers (farmers, merchants, business men), officials (soldiers and government), and rulers. The latter would rule, but they would not officiate in government; the actual government is a menial task. The rulers would be philosopher-statesmen rather than office-holders.
Their power will rest on the control of credit and the army; but they would live more like the proud- soldier than like the financier. Nietzsche believed that some people were distinctively more important than others; their happiness or unhappiness counted for more than the happiness of average people. He dismissed John Stuart Mill as a blockhead for the presupposition that everyone was equal. He wrote about Mill: I abhor the man’s vulgarity when he says what is right for one man is right for another. Such principals wild fain establish the whole of human traffic upon mutual services, so every action would appear to be a cash payment for something done to us. The hypothesis here is ignoble to the last degree; it is taken for granted that there is some sort of equivalence in value between my actions and thine. Nietzsche, as said before, hated democracy, but he recognized Christianity as a greater risk. Perhaps this was because people are always more loyal to their God, than their government. He felt that democracy began with Christianity: …holy epileptics like saint Paul, who had no honesty. The new testament is the gospel of a completely ignoble species of man. Christianity is the most fatal and seductive lie that ever existed. So, before stripping people of their choice and equality, their God had to be taken first, then the government. Consequently, the road to the superman must lie through aristocracy. Democracy — this manner for counting noses — must be eradicated before it is too late. The first step here is the destruction of Christianity so far as all higher men are concerned. Nietzsche’s life was hindered by his ailments and his obsession with his father and brother’s death. His ideal society was, inadvertently based upon this. I have no doubt, that if Nietzsche lived in his ideal society, he would have no honor, as he misses every requirement, being a sickly man who was rejected from the army, and lacking the strength to compete with his own superman. After his death in 1900, his sister, Elizabeth, shamelessly used his work, often times misrepresented, to promote her own self interests and even provide Adolph Hitler with war propaganda. Still, Nietzsche provided an influence on Western culture that still exists today. We now know that much of Nietzsche’s work was misconstrued and that he wanted not to be a “holy man” but a respected man.
Works Cited Kaufmann, Walter. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a Book for None and All. NewYork: Viking Penguin, 1966.
Lampert, Laurence. Leo Strauss and Nietzsche. Chicago & London: The University
of Chicago Press, 1996.
Solomon, Robert C., and Kathleen Higgins. What Nietzsche Really Said. New York:
Schocken Books, 2000.
Zimmern, Helen. Beyond Good and Evil. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1989.
Cecil, Andrew R. “The Widening Gap Between the Rich and the Poor.” Vital
Speeches of the Day. 15 January 1996: pp197-202.