Friedrich Immanuel Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 - August 24, 1900)


On October 15, 1844, Friedrich Immanuel Nietzsche was born in Röcken, Prussia as the only son of the Lutheran pastor Karl Ludwig Nietzsche. When Friedrich was 5 years of age, his father passed away after a long illness for one year. (Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was published in 1859.) Many argue that as a result, Nietzsche was in care of five female relatives, that would affect his life and even his philosophy. They were his grandmother, his mother , his two aunts and his three years younger sister Elizabeth. Being only a male in the family, Friedrich Nietzsche was called Fritzchen (Little Fred), adored, petted and worshipped by them.
As a school boy, Fritzchen already revealed his intellectual gift. He found boring to play with his neighbors' children and despised them with great disdain. They in turn reciprocated the feeling with him, calling him "der kleine Pfahrer!" (The Tiny Minister). At the age of 15, Friedrich was separated from his female relatives and went to the Lutheran boarding school, which however was located 5 miles away from home. Not only at that time, he already well read, but also he was dreaming of becoming a writer. On Easter, 1861, Friedrich Nietzsche was confirmed at the age of 16. Nevertheless, around the time, Nietzsche started having doubt about the existence of God and soon he gave up the idea of becoming a minister.
At the age of 17 Nietzsche went to University of Bonn, where he enjoyed the free, college students' privileged adolescent life more than anything else with beer, wine, sex and tobacco, etc. He even joined a student corps called the Franconia. It is said at this time he was infected syphilis which affected him in his second half of life. His spending exceeded the money sent from his family and he started getting tired of such hedonistic life anyway and transferred himself to University of Leipzig. In Germany, once you obtained Abitur (the high school diploma), you can study at any of the German Universities you like and you can transfer anywhere.
There Nietzsche discovered interest in the Greek philology and the Greek culture. He showed enormous gift in his study, so that his teacher, Professor Ritschl, patronized Nietzsche very much. At the same time, it is said that around this time, when Nietzsche was 21, he discovered Arthur Schopenhauer and his non-rational philosophy of will. He was deeply influenced by him and his thought. However, by nature Nietzsche was not rational, but was, from the beginning of philosophical pursuit, deeply attracted to non-rational elements of reality, which in Schopenhauer's philosophy was the concept of will. Therefore, Schopenhauer's philosophy gave a clear form to his inner yearning in his philosophical inquiry. While Schopenhauer's philosophy was pessimism (which holds that the universe was created, still is and will be the worst possible world), Nietzsche found no value in what was considered as valuable from the worldly viewpoint and ended up with the metaphysics of nihilism (that holds that all the current values in the universe are nothing). Just to find an affirmation of life (an attempt to transvalue values), he joined the Prussian cavalry to discover that he fell off of a horse and was in consequence discharged.
When Nietzsche returned to Leipzig in order to complete the requirements for his doctorate degree, his teacher Professor Ritschl strongly recommended to the position of Chair of Classical Philology which had became vacant at University of Basel in Switzerland in 1868. As the University of Basel appointed him to the post, Leipzig University conferred a doctorate degree upon Nietzsche without fulfilling his requirements. Nietzsche was twenty four years old.
The genius often gets no recognition. And he or she is eccentric for most parts and is hard to get along with other people. Nietzsche was no exception and was not very unsuccessful as a teacher at Basel University. The teaching obligations burdened him and he constantly fought with his colleagues. He missed classes all the time and often deeply tortured by the meaninglessness of the existence. As Bismarck started Prussia's war against France in 1870, he was felt to be called upon to take part in "the struggle in redemption of the Teutonic race from Latin vice and rationalism" (this was written by his sister Elizabeth, who changed so many of Friedrich Nietzsche's manuscripts in editing his complete works. She took care of him during his invalid life), and the renounced his Swiss nationality (which he had obtained upon the appointment of the teaching position) and tried to join the army again. However, he was not qualified as a soldier, but as he enlisted himself for the German ambulance service, he fell ill with dysentery and diphtheria and could not continue his excitement of the assertion of life. According to Elizabeth (in The Young Nietzsche), Friedrich Nietzsche "felt for the first time that the strongest and high Will to Life does not find expression in a miserable struggle for existence (cf. Darwin's one of the principles for evolution of the species), but in a Will to War, a Will to Power, a Will to Overpower." Whether or not, these are authentic words of Nietzsche is not a question to ask here (in fact, it is more likely that Eliazabeth not only wrote his biography, but edited with a great many alterations of Nietzsche's statement such that many of which were considered some of Friedrich Nietzsche's central thought were later discovered and justified as Elizabeth's falsifications: We shall discuss this later), but he agreed with Darwin that life is the struggle and further agreed with Schopenhauer that there only exists a sense of the meaninglessness and futility of all the pain and suffering caused by the struggle. According to Nietzsche, only through the new assertion of life, not the life of the weak masses, but that of the strong Übermensch with the will for power.
Nietzsche as a young man composed some pieces in music and was very much interested in music as well as he was confident that he understood music well and admired Richard Wagner's music long before he became widely recognized. Right after Nietzsche went to Basel, he introduced himself to Richard Wagner. As Nietzsche deeply admired Wagner's unparalleled creativity, he wrote The Birth of Tragedy (Die Geburt der Tragödie) to obtain Wagner's recognition. This book gathered an instant praise among the Wagner's followers and Richard Wagner himself welcomed it because an academic scholar's recognition was, Wagner felt, needed him for his universal recognition and obtaining financial support to perform his music. Being controversial, The Birth of Tragedy become well read among the intellectuals of the time. However, among the classic philologists, it was totally rejected as not "scientific." This may very well understandable, because 1) Nietzsche's two principles of Dionysus and Apollo cannot be empirically demonstrated, 2) the transvaluation of the then values about the nature of Greek culture was not so easily acceptable to rationalistic German and Latin philologists, 3) the ultimate goal of this opus was to adore and justify Wagner's arts. The Dionysian principle represents irrationality, creativity, love and will to power, mystic ecstasy.., while the Apollonian is rationality, order and harmony, unproductivity in the sense of being no longer creative and rather reflective and appreciative. Prior to the so-called height of the Greek culture particular in Athens, the Greek civilization was governed by this Dionysian principle and extremely creative, dynamic and productive, then the Athenian culture of 5th century B.C. came with the Apollonian principle which showed rationality, symmetry, order and harmony, appreciation of arts in stead of creation, reflection in philosophy rather than creative insight. Nietzsche argued that the current Latin culture has been nothing but Apollonian, while the surge of the Teutonic culture symbolized by Richard Wagner's work of art is governed by the Dionysian principle. And his music was considered the sign of the rebirth of the creative spirit of the Germanic culture.
It is unfortunate that we must somewhat undermine Elzabeth's credibity as the most faithful follower and the most ardent admirer of Friedrich Nietzsche. His relationship with Elizabeth is a typical Freuden one of love and hate. On the one hand, Since his childhood, Friedrich was emotionally dependent on Elizabeth a great deal, on the other hand, Elizabeth at the time of Friedrich's approach to Wagner went far more radical in the Germanic nationalism which Friedrich did not approve of together with her radical anti-semitism. During this period, Elzabeth met a pseudo intellectual and an emotional agitator and a blind racist, called Bernhard Förster, who was extremely nationalistic and anti-semitic. Beng a school teacher, he was so radical particuarly in regard to his thesis and agitation for antisemism that he lost his teaching job at the hgiht school. In Bernhard Förster, Elizabeth found a complete actualization of her own thought (which she thought as indentical with Friedrich's and yet was in reality far from Friedrilch's, and Frietrich often accused her of being insane as to her pure nationalism and anti-semitism.) They soon got married. At that time, Friedrich was deeply in love with Lou Andrus Salomé, the greatest woman of lettters and had a great reputation and friends among the European intellectuals then. However, she was jewish and Elizabeth totally denied Lou Andros Salomé, of course partly due to her Jewishness and partlly due to her incurable jealousy. Friedrich was furious and resented Elizabeth so deeply as long as he was conscious (he became insane later due to his siphillis supposedly infected during his "Strum und Drang period at the University of Bonn.) When Förster planned a pure Germanic colony in Urguay to maintain the purity of the Germanic culture and race (partiuclarly against the Jews) and they, too, moved to the colony with 17 families who agreed with Förster's ideal of maintaining the Germanic racial purity. The colony was totally against their expectation in the middle of nowhere but rain forests and it became more and more clear that such an attempt was financially feasible. Bernhard committed suicide under the pressure of financial difficulity.
Around that time, Nietzsche was less and less fit to teaching and no scholarly work in the Classic philology field was published. 1879, Nietzsche retired from the post at the age of 34 and continued to live around Basel for ten years. He lived in Sils-Maria in Engadine in summer, while he moved to Italian Riviera. This was the most productive critical period in which Nietzsche wrote his opera. In 1888, Nietzsche attempted to take a trip to Nice, but could not go beyond Turin as he completely mentally broke down. 1890, when Elizabeth became a widow, she had no reason to stay other there, but came back "to take care of the invalid Friedrich." After their mother's death, Elizabeth thought that Weimar, the mecca of intellectuals of the time in Germany, must be the most appropriate place for Friedrich to die. So she dragged the poor invalid Fritzchen all the way to Weimar. Throughout her life time, Elizabeth collected all Friedrich's manuscripts for establishing his Archive to become the guardian and guru of Friedrich's philosophy and was editing them and preparing for publication as his opera omnia. No longer aware of what was going on, on August 25, 1900, this solitary spirit of self-criticism quietly died. By Friedrich Nietzsche's death, the twentieth century started. It was Elizabeth who made contact wilth Mussolini to finance the Archive (which was constantly suffering from fainancial squeeze due to her limitless expenditures). And it was Elizabeth who estalished the contact with Hitler and it was she who made it possible to serve them with the philosophical justification of national socialism. In this sense, Friedrich's association with those two dictators of the 20th century was fabricated and contrived by his sister and her philosophical thought and not by Friedrich's at all.
On the other hand, Friedrich Nietzsche saw the devastating effects of the Christianity and its morality on the European culture of the 19th and the 20th centuries and he was the one who through the mouth of Zarathustra prophesized the arrival of the new age and the new culture of truthfulness (die Wahrhaftigkeit) in philosophy and ethics and of the affirmation of the human life and its creativity.

(To be done)


The Place of Nietzsche's Philosophy in the History of the Western Philosophy

Friedrich Nietzsche was in a sense a philosophical giant standing at the turning of the century with enormous cultural and philosophical impacts on developments of the 20th century European philosophies even including the so-called French postmodernists. There have been many attempts done which reduce Nietzsche and his philosophy to merely a sinple, naive philosophy of life inspired by the ideology of the Dawinian theory of evolution. However, they have been unsuccessful at all in those attempts.
Let us examine what makes Nietzsche and his philosophy so important to the 20th century Western philosophy.
Nietzsche on the one hand constitutes such a peak and end of the hsitory of the Western philosophy which had been based on Reason as the principle, because Nietzsche was the first philosopher who declares a war against his own long respected tradition of the Western culture and tried for the first time to critically appraise the Western culture and its fundemental principle (=Reason) in terms of morality and the nature of human existence.
On the other hand, Nietzsche was a visionary in the sense that he not only construed the history of cultures by two antagonistic principles, the principle of Dionysus and that of Apollon, but also attempted thereby he saw the nihilism of the traditional values and of the human existence under the Judeo-Christian moral precepts. Nietzsche defied the European reason, the principles of the Western culture from the 6th century B.C. Greek until the 19th century Europe, and projected a new, non-traditional principle of creativity and the forthcoming of the new civilization by overcoming such a nihilism through conceiving a new notion of will as the principle of reality.
Since Nietzsche foresaw in Richard Wagner (the Germanic race to be discovered as the race of tomorrow) and his works of arts (their creative activities) the dawn of and the premonition for the arrival of the new creative era of the Western culture and because he criticized Christianity and its morality as "Jewish cunnings," Nietzsche often was also considered as the forerunner of Nazis. In fact, his wife, Cosimo and his son in law were ardent supporters of Nazis and Hitler and Göppels found in Nietzsche a powerful propaganda ideology for Nazis, while Elizabeth Nietzsche-Förster found the strongest financial patron for her expenditure and the archive.
His radical criticism on Christianity (e.g., "God is dead!" and "Christianity is the religion of the slaves and weaklings," etc.) created various sharp confrontations with and creative activities among theologians. Nietzsche's philosophy is a radical assertion of Individualism in the sense that to do philosophy is to do so as a concrete, particular invidual. It demands the responsibility of the individual as a thinker and a human-being as such. Philosophically, Nietzsche's influences on Scheler, Heidegger, Jaspers and other existential philosophers were well known. Furthermore, the French anti-philosophers call themselves "Neo-Nietzscheans," and philosophical movements after structuralism in France believe that they follow Nietzsche's intended direction of "doing philosophy" and declare that the post-modern non-rational approach is the sole approach that the European philosophers and intellectuals are able to fight against the tyranny of the European Reason. In this sense, Nietzsche became highly popular and fashionable among the pseudo philosophical intellectuals in the second half of the 20th century.
Nietzsche's philosophical starting point was Arthur Schopenhauer and his nihilism. On the other hand, we should not overlook the significant impact of Hegel's philosophy and its idea on the development of Nietzsche's thought. Hegel was the first Western philosopher who attempted to comprehend reality as a process, specifically as a historical process. Furthermore, (To be continued)

The Birth of Tragedy (Die Geburt der Tragödie)