But Nietzsche's difficulties did not lie in cultural rebellion alone. His father died from a brain ailment when Nietzsche was just five years old, and his two-year old brother died traumatically just six months later. The family was forced to move from the church home his father had held to a nearby town where Nietzsche lived with his mother, his grandmother, his father's two sisters, and his younger sister. Growing up as the sole surviving male surrounded by five other women wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but one gets the sense that for young Fritz, as he was called, it was a difficult time. The philosopher Bertrand Russell once observed that Nietzsche's "opinion of women is an objectification of his own emotion towards them, which is obviously one of fear. '[Thou goest to woman?] Forget not thy whip'—but nine women out of ten 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." This is an unforgivable attitude towards half the population, but slightly understandable when you learn that at the end of Nietzsche's life, "he fell under the care of his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche until his death in 1900. As his caretaker, his sister assumed the roles of curator and editor of Nietzsche's manuscripts. Förster-Nietzsche was married to a prominent German nationalist and antisemite, Bernhard Förster, and reworked Nietzsche's unpublished writings to fit her own ideology, often in ways contrary to Nietzsche's stated opinions, which were strongly and explicitly opposed to antisemitism and nationalism. Through Förster-Nietzsche's editions, Nietzsche's name became associated with German militarism and Nazism, although later twentieth-century scholars have counteracted this conception of his ideas." What ugliness to have to deal with during one's whole life.
And it's not as if he was at full strength to deal with this either. Nietzsche had to resign from university life at the age of just 34 when his deteriorating health led to migraine headaches, eyesight problems, and vomiting. At that point, he had been a university professor for only ten years, and he would only have another ten years left in his productive intellectual life. But from then "until his collapse in January 1889, Nietzsche led a wandering, gypsy-like existence as a stateless person (having given up his German citizenship, and not having acquired Swiss citizenship), circling almost annually between his mother's house and various French, Swiss, German and Italian cities...never residing in any place longer than several months at a time. On the morning of January 3, 1889, while in Turin, Nietzsche experienced a mental breakdown which left him an invalid for the rest of his life...never to return to full sanity." Recent re-examination of Nietzsche's medical evaluation papers "show that he almost certainly died of brain cancer"—a sadly ironic outcome for the man also famous for saying, "what does not kill me, makes me stronger." Taken literally, Nietzsche was clearly wrong about that, but in a figurative sense he was right, because while his body and mind wasted away from the disease that ravaged him, the fight he put up against it remains an immortal part of our cultural heritage. Let's pull out some other good things Nietzsche said before taking a more critical look at the beliefs this sad existence of his led him to.
Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing.
That immense framework and planking of concepts to which the needy man clings his whole life long in order to preserve himself is nothing but a scaffolding and toy for the most audacious feats of the liberated intellect.
Hence the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire...
No one talks more passionately about his rights than he who in the depths of his soul doubts whether he has any. By enlisting passion on his side he wants to stifle his reason and its doubts.
Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.
Mystical explanations are considered deep; the truth is, they are not even shallow.
He who has a Why? in life can tolerate almost any How?
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900 CE) was a German philosopher and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, using a distinctive style and displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony, and aphorism. Nietzsche's influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism, nihilism, and postmodernism.
Nietzsche called himself an "immoralist" and harshly criticized the prominent moral schemes of his day: Christianity, Kantianism, and utilitarianism. However, Nietzsche did not want to destroy morality, but rather to initiate a re-evaluation of the values of the Judeo-Christian world. He indicates his desire to bring about a new, more naturalistic source of value in the vital impulses of life itself. The vital impulses of life are the natural source of value and therefore morality. Analysis and time have shown some of the traditional morals of the Judeo-Christian world to contradict with the long-term survival of the species. Nietzsche was correct to challenge them vociferously.
Needs to Adapt
The statement "God is dead," has become one of Nietzsche’s best-known remarks. In his view, recent developments in modern science and the increasing secularization of European society had effectively “killed” the Christian God, who had served as the basis for meaning and value in the West for more than a thousand years. Nietzsche claimed the death of God would eventually lead to the loss of any universal perspective on things, and along with it any coherent sense of objective truth. Instead, we would retain only our own multiple, diverse, and fluid perspectives. This view has acquired the name "perspectivism.” Alternatively, the death of God may lead beyond bare perspectivism to outright nihilism, the belief that nothing has any importance and that life lacks purpose. Anthropomorphic, meddling gods are not only dead - they never existed. This is a good thing. The multiple, diverse, fluid beliefs in gods are what created conflicting perspectives of reality. Without religion, life can come together around the one true reality of a knowable universe. Without gods, we can find one true purpose - the long-term survival of life. There is nothing of greater importance.
Nietzsche calls for exceptional people to no longer be ashamed of their uniqueness in the face of a supposed morality-for-all, which Nietzsche deems to be harmful to the flourishing of exceptional people. However, Nietzsche cautions that morality, per se, is not bad; it is good for the masses, and should be left to them. Exceptional people, on the other hand, should follow their own "inner law.” A favorite motto of Nietzsche, taken from Pindar, reads: "Become what you are.” It is not just “exceptional” people who should be unashamed of their uniqueness. Evolution requires species to be diverse to survive in a changing universe. All of life is dependent on each other and should be proud to play their part in the symphony. Everyone should become what they are - this is a message that is central in modern positive psychology. The only true “inner law” to be found is the universal joy over the survival of life. For anyone to selfishly believe they are above this law, they have to ignore their dependence on others, negate cooperation, and undermine their own happiness, peace, and stability - which is exactly what happened to Nietzsche.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche introduced the concept of a value-creating Übermensch. Zarathustra's gift of the superman is given to a mankind not aware of the problem to which the superman is the solution. From Zarathustra: “I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? ... All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to overman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape. ... The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth. ... Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman - a rope over an abyss ... what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.” Evolution is the term we use for the rules that govern the way that life survives. The end product of evolution then would be immortal life. Humans may have the intellectual capacity to achieve this. We can be the end.
Nietzsche's notion of the will to power can be viewed as a response to Schopenhauer's will to live. Writing a generation before Nietzsche, Schopenhauer had regarded the entire universe and everything in it as driven by a primordial will to live, thus resulting in all creatures' desire to avoid death and to procreate. Nietzsche, however, challenges Schopenhauer's account and suggests that people and animals really want power; living in itself appears only as a subsidiary aim - something necessary to promote one's power. In defense of his view, Nietzsche appeals to many instances in which people and animals willingly risk their lives in order to promote their power, most notably in instances like competitive fighting and warfare. Nietzsche believed the will to power provided not only a basis for understanding motivation in human behavior, but he also suggested that the will to power is a more important element than pressure for adaptation or survival. In its later forms, Nietzsche's concept of the will to power applies to all living things, suggesting that adaptation and the struggle to survive is a secondary drive in the evolution of animals, less important than the desire to expand one’s power. Nietzsche eventually took this concept further still and transformed the idea of matter as centers of force, into matter as centers of will to power. Nietzsche wanted to dispense with the theory of matter, which he viewed as a relic of the metaphysics of substance. There are many examples of creatures giving up power in return for life or even just a better life. Life is the ultimate force. Power can now be seen for what it is - a strategy necessary to compete in a short-term-focused environment. There are times when this strategy is required - when enemies of life must be overpowered. But giving in to the emotional high that comes from gaining power is to relegate oneself to an insecure existence and death at the hands of another competitor.
Nietzsche's view on eternal return is similar to that of Hume: the idea that an eternal recurrence of blind, meaningless variation - chaotic, pointless shuffling of matter and law - would inevitably spew up worlds whose evolution through time would yield the apparently meaningful stories of our lives. This idea of eternal recurrence became a cornerstone of his nihilism, and thus part of the foundation of what became existentialism. Nietzsche contemplates the idea of eternal recurrence as potentially horrifying and paralyzing, and says that its burden is the heaviest weight imaginable. The wish for the eternal return of all events would mark the ultimate affirmation of life. To comprehend eternal recurrence in his thought, and to not merely come to peace with it but to embrace it, requires amor fati, a love of fate. It is not clear if the universe is finite or infinite, but even if it were infinite, Nietzsche misses the other logical outcome of an eternal multiverse - that not only would our own stories come true, but all other possible stories would arise as well. Any and every possibility could be repeated eternally. This does not doom us to accepting or loving our fate, but rather to choose wisely for the life we know.
Reading Nietzsche now, reading his terse, declarative, stylised, and emotional prose, it's no wonder that until the 1960s in France, Nietzsche "appealed mainly to writers and artists, since the academic philosophical climate was dominated by G.W.F. Hegel's, Edmund Husserl's, and Martin Heidegger's thought. Nietzsche became especially influential in French philosophical circles during the 1960's-1980's, when his 'God is dead' declaration, his perspectivism, and his emphasis upon power as the real motivator and explanation for people's actions revealed new ways to challenge established authority and launch effective social critique." His philosophical arguments—if you can even call them arguments since he doesn't take pains to establish the justification for his beliefs, just the beliefs themselves—do not hold up under scrutiny. But just as he once appealed to writers and artists, so he still can. An excellent example of which is the novel When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom, which is an ingenious piece of historical fiction imagining this troubled philosopher being lured into talking about his problems with Joseph Breuer, the mentor of Sigmund Freud and father of psychoanalysis. Nietzsche and Breuer were contemporaries in and around Vienna in the late 1800's, and although their meetings are fictional, they do make for great debate about a host of existential crises. Check it out to gain even more sympathy for the devil.