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Nietzsche, Friedrich – German philosopher

Nietzsche, Friedrich (Wilhelm) (1844-1900), German philosopher, poet, and classical philologist, who was one of the most provocative and influential thinkers of the 19th century. In addition to the influence of Greek culture, particularly the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, Nietzsche was influenced by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, by the theory of evolution, and by his friendship with German composer Richard Wagner.

Nietzsche’s first major work, Die Geburt der Tragdie aus dem Geiste de Musik (The Birth of Tragedy), appeared in 1872(Morrison). His most prolific period as an author was the 1880s. During the decade he wrote Also sprach Zarathustra (Parts I-III, 1883-1884; Part IV, 1885; translated as Thus Spoke Zarathustra); Jenseits von Gut und Bse (1886; Beyond Good and Evil); Zur Genealogie de Moral (1887; On the Genealogy of Morals); Der Antichrist (1888; The Antichrist); and Ecce Homo (completed 1888, published 1908). (muohio. u)

Nietzsche’s last major work, The Will to Power (Der Wille zur Macht), was published in 1901. According to Nietzsche, the masses (whom he termed the herd or mob) conform to tradition, whereas his ideal overman is secure, independent, and highly individualistic. The overman feels deeply, but his passions are rationally controlled. Concentrating on the real world, rather than on the rewards of the next world promised by religion, the overman affirms life, including the suffering and pain that accompany human existence.

Nietzsche’s overman is a creator of values, a creator of a “master morality” that reflects the strength and independence of one who is liberated from all values, except those that he deems valid(muohio. edu). Nietzsche maintained that all human behavior is motivated by the will to power. In its positive sense, the will to power is not simply power over others, but the power over oneself that is necessary for creativity. Such power is manifested in the overman’s independence, creativity, and originality. Although Nietzsche explicitly denied that any overmen had yet arisen, he mentions several individuals who could serve as models.

Among these models he lists Jesus, Greek philosopher Socrates, Florentine thinker Leonardo da Vinci, Italian artist Michelangelo, English playwright William Shakespeare, German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Roman ruler Julius Caesar, and French emperor Napoleon I(Nietzsche Society Info. ). The concept of the overman has often been interpreted as one that postulates a master-slave society and has been identified with totalitarian philosophies. Many scholars deny the connection and attribute it to misinterpretation of Nietzsche’s work(muohio. edu).

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