the biographical sketches
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher, poet, and classical philologist. He was a provocative and influential thinker of the 19th century. Nietzsche was born in Röcken, Prussia. His father was a Lutheran minister and he died when Nietzsche was five years old. Nietzsche lived with his mother, his grandmother, his two aunts, and his sister. He studied classical philology at the universities of Bonn and Leipzig. At the age of 24, he was appointed professor of classical philology at the University of Basel. Poor eyesight and migraines forced him to retire in 1879. Ten years later, he suffered a mental breakdown and he never recovered. He died in Weimar in 1900. Nietzsche exerted much influence on the literature and theology of Germany and France. His concepts have been discussed by Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Nietzsche was influenced by Greek culture, Plato, Aristotle, Schopenhauer, Darwin, and Richard Wagner. Nietzsche’s first major work was, The Birth of Tragedy (1872). His most prolific period as an author was the decade of 1880-1890. During this decade, he wrote Also sprach Zarathustra (Parts I-III, 1883-1884; Part IV, 1885); Beyond Good and Evil (1886); On the Genealogy of Morals (1887); The Antichrist (1888); and Ecce Homo (completed 1888, published 1908). Nietzsche’s last major work, Will to Power, was published in 1901. It was a fundamental contention of Nietzsche that the traditional values of Christianity had lost their power in the lives of individuals. He proclaimed, “God is dead.” He was convinced that traditional values represented a “slave morality." A morality created by weak, resentful people who encouraged gentleness and kindness, because it served their interests. Nietzsche claimed that new values should be created. This led to his concept of the superman. The ideal superman is secure, independent, and highly individualistic. He feels deeply, but his passions are rationally controlled. He concentrates on the real world, rather than on the rewards promised in the next world. The superman affirms life, including the suffering and the pain of human existence. He is a creator of values, a creator of a “master morality.” He is liberated from all values, except those that he deems valid. Nietzsche did not believe that any supermen existed in his time. A list of people that he thought could serve as models: Jesus, Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon. Nietzsche maintained that all human behavior is motivated by the "will to power." The will to power is not only the power over others, but also the power over ourselves. This power is manifested as independence, creativity, and originality.
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Edited by Michael Hawes