Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.
Nietzsche's life was, in many ways, the saddest imaginable, almost entirely lacking in the things most of us hope to find: job, home, health, love, security and, for most of the sane part of his life, recognition
Friedrich Nietzsche's influence on the present age is all pervasive. In 1955, Martin Heidegger wrote, it is “Nietzsche, in whose light and shadow all of us today, with our ‘for him’ or ‘against him’ are thinking and writing…” This is even more evident today. Stanley Rosen has called him the most influential philosopher in the western world; and for Charles Taylor, all contemporary philosophy is neo-Nietzschean.
The attraction of Nietzsche to socially maladjusted young men is obvious, but it isn't exactly simple. It is built from several interlocking pieces. Nietzsche mocks convention and propriety (and mocks difficult writers you'd prefer not to bother with anyway). He's funny and (deceptively) easy to read, especially compared to his antecedents in German philosophy
In his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche presented a theory of Greek drama and of the foundations of art that has had profound effects on both literary theory and philosophy. In this book Nietzsche introduced his famous distinction between the Apollonian, or rational, element in human nature and the Dionysian, or passionate, element, as exemplified in the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus.
In The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God. Because he believed Christian morality suppressed life, Nietzsche welcomed the death of God as an opportunity to rid Europe of Christian morality. Nietzsche did not stop at proclaiming God's death, but developed an onslaught against the intellectual basis of Christianity itself. He aimed especially at Christianity's hypocrisy and its slave morality.
In both style and content, Friedrich Nietzsche's works mark the end of the 19th century. His short, punchy aphorisms — “What doesn't kill me makes me stronger,” “Man does not pursue pleasure, only the Englishman does” — signal a departure from the florid, German prose of the Victorian era. His recognition of the “death of God” and of the “will to power” as a dominant human motive, as well as his anticipation of World War I, of the rise of dictatorships, and even of global warming, speak to the troubled realism of the 20th century.
In 1889 he suffered a mental breakdown from which he never recovered to anything like full sanity. The critical breakdown occured in Turin where he collapsed with his arms about the neck of a horse that had just been cruelly whipped by a coachman.
Friedrich Nietzsche represents a complex and contradictory figure who may be counted as one of the turn of the century's most controversial thinkers. After an initial period of almost total obscurity for a number of years, he was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century and since the Second World War has undergone something of a renaissance. […] His writings exert a fascination that arrests and captivates.
Nietzsche was born in Röcken, the Prussian province of Saxony, on October 15th, 1844. At fourteen the young Nietzsche was awarded a scholarship to enter the preparatory school, Schulpforta, with the intent of training for the clergy. He graduated in 1864, and continued studies in theology and classical philology and the University of Bonn. However, he soon gave up theology and transferred to Leipzig, where he was introduced to the works of Kant, the composer Richard Wagner and Schopenhauer and his recent text, The World as Will and Idea.
Nietzsche does not deny that human beings have a right to construct moral codes for themselves, and neither does he deny that they are justified, from their immediate standpoint, at least, in giving these codes the authority and force of divine commands. But he points out that this procedure is bound to cause trouble in the long run, for the reason that divine commands are fixed and invariable, and do not change as fast as the instincts and needs of the race.