The sensible author writes for no other posterity than his own, that is to say for his old age, so that then too he will be able to take pleasure in himself. 

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Introduction

Friedrich Nietzsche has become enormously influential, penetrating all manner of intellectual bastions.  From philosophy to literature to psychology to history to linguistics, to cultural studies – his presence is ubiquitous.  Given the nature of his writing style, the aphoristic structure of his principle works, and the breadth and depth of his piercing thought, his words could be applied to almost any serious discussion, in multiple ways.  

I suspect that the full implications of his work have yet to be realized, given the scope and the relevancy of his insight into the modern world.  Many top thinkers have contributed to this project, at times applying unique and even questionable methods in their exegesis of Nietzsche’s work.  I won’t be one of them.

What I present is a reflection of my own encounter with Nietzsche’s thought.  How reading him opened up entirely new vistas of comprehension and awareness.  What he taught me, what he made me: “To become what you are.”  Grasping Nietzsche’s perspective shifted every thought I held in another direction, adding several dimensions to elements of existence I thought I already understood.  He created in me a third eye to judge, to ascertain, to aspire.  Before inculcating Nietzsche’s thought, I was a stumbling, half-blind zombie-intellectual weaving without direction from one heedless activity to another with no purpose in sight.  Nothing mattered, and I didn’t know it; I didn’t know that I didn’t know it.

In addition to reading and re-reading all of Nietzsche’s work, I have read thirty-seven books dedicated to an attempt to understand the man and his thought.  One of the interesting things about reading what others think about Nietzsche is the wide range of perspectives they take.  I would assert that we all read Nietzsche in our own way, and I can cite thirty-seven examples to demonstrate, all of them more or less valid on their own terms.  In other words, what follows is entirely mine.  I claim no special authority.  In some cases, my interpretation might conflict with the consensus, or contravene some noted authority.  I don’t care.  This isn’t about what Nietzsche really meant, or what a scholar claims, but instead, what he means to me.  One other caveat: Nietzsche wrote and obviously meant some questionable, if not abhorrent, things.  Some writers attempt to gloss over some of his more outrageous statements, equating “war” for instance, with something else.  But I think Nietzsche actually meant what he said.  As an example, what follows is pretty straightforward, and antithetical to my way of thinking:

The maintenance of the military state is the last means of all of acquiring or maintaining the great tradition with regard to the supreme type of man, the strong type.  And all concepts that perpetuate enmity and difference in rank between states (e.g. nationalism, protective tariffs) may appear sanctioned in this light.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

But I don’t have to accept Nietzsche whole: I can pick and choose, and I do.  As such, in general I will forego any further negative criticism, given the appreciative purpose of this piece.

My Encounter With Nietzsche

Prior to my 34th year I had heard the name “Nietzsche” but didn’t know anything about him.  Some vaguely anti-Semitic associations, as I recall. While walking through a mall in 1992 (remember what those are?) I picked up a copy of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mindfrom a bargain bin. I read the book with interest, but without understanding.  His constant reference to two philosophers I didn’t know—Nietzsche and Heidegger—made his argument indecipherable.  I didn’t have the key.  For example:

Nihilism is a dangerous but a necessary and a possible salutary stage in human history. In it man faces his true situation. It can break him, reduce him to despair and spiritual or bodily suicide.  But is can hearten him to a reconstruction of a world of meaning. Nietzsche’s works are a glorious exhibition of the soul of a man who might, if anybody can, be called creative.

     Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

I completely missed the significance of Bloom’s words.  So I set out to understand these two thinkers better.  In the case of Heidegger, I purchased George Steiner’s book on the man, and paradoxically, when I finished, set Heidegger aside and sought out more Steiner.  I have since read and re-read every book Steiner has published.  Returning to Heidegger, I read Being and Time, the book he published in 1927 and is most famous for, and his four-volume work in Nietzsche, along with a few books of commentary in order to better understanding Heidegger.  I have yet to succeed, despite the fact that a thinker I greatly admire—George Steiner—express tremendous respect for Heidegger, and claims to read him every day.  

I think Heidegger muddies the water to make them appear deeper than they are.  His prose is tiresome and difficult, inviting a wide range of interpretation, allowing thinkers of various stripes to claim him as their own.  French intellectuals really like Heidegger.  

Despite my sincere effort, I have failed to find anything truly original or significant for me.  His work on Nietzsche is more about him than Nietzsche, which I suppose is to be expected, but by doing so he twists Nietzsche into shapes I don’t recognize.  

By the end of 1992, I had read Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, On the Genealogy of Morals, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  At that point, I didn’t grasp the significance of what I was reading.  I recall sitting in the chair of a Jewish oral surgeon (my upper jaw was broken and I lost some teeth playing softball) and felt vaguely guilty having brought Nietzsche’s book to read, concerned I may offend him.  I asked him what he thought of Nietzsche, holding Beyond Good and Evilfor him to see, and he said, “He’s an asshole.”  I just nodded, as he went to work on my jaw. Perhaps not the wisest choice, as he decided it would be easier to yank out the wire that held my jaw in place without applying any painkiller.  “It’s going to hurt, either way, and this is faster.”  The gums had grown around the wire and he was right – it hurt.

Comprehension still eluded me.  Walter Kaufmann translated the three books I had read, so I obtained his study of Nietzsche and read it.  Doing so unlocked the mystery, somehow providing the key necessary to read and understand the thinker.  

Over the next ten years I read all of Nietzsche’s work and admired them all.  

The only book I was slightly disappointed with was a posthumous collection from his late notebooks. Perhaps I expected content similar to what went into The Will to Power, another posthumous collection.  But I found nothing new, or remarkable in the collection.  The two Wagner books didn’t leave much of an impression, and I can’t recall anything specific from The Anti-Christ, but perhaps when I get into specific content of Nietzsche’s work I will be reminded.  Of these smaller books, Ecce Homothe most amazing.  That he could make such prophecies about his work and his legacy long before anyone had a clue.  For example:

What defines me, what sets me apart from the whole rest of humanity is that I uncoveredChristian morality.  The uncovering of Christian morality is an event without parallel, a real catastrophe.  He that is enlightened about that, is a force majeure, a destiny—he breaks the history of mankind in two.  One lives before him, or one lives after him.

     Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Simply remarkable.

The works most meaningful to me, in order of publication, include:

  • The Birth of Tragedy
  • Untimely Meditations (four essays)
  • Human, All Too Human (the first of his aphoristic works)
  • Daybreak (aphoristic)
  • The Gay Science (aphoristic)
  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra (unique in literature, more akin to an Eastern religious text than anything else, and Nietzsche’s personal favorite)
  • Beyond Good and Evil (aphoristic, contains many of his principle themes)
  • Genealogy of Morals (essay style, one of Nietzsche’s principle themes)
  • Twilight of the Idols (aphoristic)
  • Philosophy and Truth (aphoristic, posthumous collection from early notebooks)
  • The Will to Power (aphoristic, posthumous, gathered unpublished notes from his later years)


I read The Will to Power in 1996, while working in Denver for AT&T.  I am almost ashamed to admit, given the cliché, and the provenance of this particular work (edited by Nietzsche’s sister and surely different from how Nietzsche would have used the material) that I found it the most powerful and mind-shaping book I ever read.  While I will get into more detail below, I recall thinking, “How could anyone remain a Christian after reading this?”

I completed the first round of reading Nietzsche in 2013 with Daybreak, a work considered one of his least successful.  As in most cases, I made new discoveries in this work, including the following, one of a half dozen I have pinned on my wall:

Do not renounce:– To forego the world without knowing it, like a nun– that leads to a fruitless, perhaps melancholy solitude.  It has nothing in common with the solitude of the vita contemplativaof the thinker: when he chooses that he is renouncing nothing; on the contrary, it would be renunciation, melancholy, destruction of himself if he were obliged to persist in the vita practica: he foregoes this because he knows it, because he knows himself.  Thus he leaps into his element, thus he gains his cheerfulness.

     Nietzsche, Daybreak

This from Daybreak is also on my wall:

To what extent the thinker loves his enemy.– Never keep back or bury in silence that which can be thought against your thoughts!  Give it praise!  It is among the foremost requirements of honesty of thought.  Every day you must conduct your campaign also against yourself. A victory and a conquered fortress are no longer your concern, your concern is truth – but your defeat is no longer your concern, either!

     Nietzsche, Daybreak

Between 2014 and 2016 I re-read all of Nietzsche in the order written and/or published.  He is one of three thinkers that I have studied above all others, George Steiner and Walter Benjamin being the other two.  

Books and Commentary On Nietzsche

As for the secondary literature, as I stated above, I have read thirty-seven books dedicated to Nietzsche’s life and thought, some 10,100 pages.  In most cases, I find the subject of these books far more compelling than anything that can be said about it (present work not excepted.).  Even so, there are highlights.  

I will begin where I began, with Walter Kaufman’s book, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. Nietzsche delved deep into the essence of human existence, and the absolute value of life, as it is lived every day:

Nirvana is not ultimate happiness but a substitute desired by some of the weak who are incapable of achieving that state of joyous power which they, too, would prefer if they had the strength to attain it.  The pleasures of “modern man,” finally, are even further removed from true happiness, which is not an aggregate of pleasures, nor any conglomeration of sensations, but a way of life.  To be sure, such happiness is not the only thing appreciated for its own sake. Every pleasurable sensation, however trivial--the smell of a flower or the taste of cold water--is valued for its own sake.

       Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

The concept of “power” is central to Nietzsche’s thinking, and the key to a joyful existence:

If happiness is defined as the state of being man desires; if joy is defined as the conscious aspect of this state; and if pleasure is defined as a sensation marked by the absence of pain and discomfort; then Nietzsche’s position can be summarized quite briefly: happiness is the fusion of power and joy--and joy contains not only ingredients of pleasure but also a component of pain.

        Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

To have the strength and courage to “keep the blow” (Saul Bellow), and prevent from spreading the violence beyond oneself: 

To have claws and not to use them, and above all to be above any ressentimentor desire for vengeance, that is, according to Nietzsche, the sign of true power;

          Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

Modern Western culture is imbued with Christianity to its moral core.  Nietzsche ruthlessly deconstructs Christian ethos everywhere it exists:

First, the conception of a life after death has historically furnished the basis for the deprecation of this life.  The expectation of perfection in another world has made men condone their imperfection in this world.  Instead of striving to become perfect here and now, as Jesus had exhorted them to do, they put their trust in the distant future.

          Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

It is not Christ that Nietzsche denigrates and despises. It is the church, and what they made of Christ’s legacy:

Much of his attack on Christianity is similarly based on what he took to be the Christian repudiation of reason and the glorification of the “poor in spirit.” He ever insisted that “the first Church fought, as is well known, againstthe ‘intelligent ones,’” and he concluded that it was for that very reason that the Church had to urge the extirpation of the passions and “castratism”:the people to whom the Church addressed itself simply lacked the power to control, sublimate, and spiritualize their passions; they were “poor in spirit.”  The lack of reason, intelligence, or spirit is a lack of power; and Nietzsche, far from repudiating these faculties, charged Christianity with the supreme crime of having deprecated them...

          Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

One of Nietzsche’s greatest insights was the identification of master and slave morality, and the turnabout in relationship between the two:

To be kindly when one is merely too weak and timid to act otherwise, to be humble when any other course would have unpleasant repercussions, and to be obliging when a less amiable gesture would provoke the master’s kick or switch—that is the slave’s morality, making a virtue of necessity.

          Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

As a consequence of the ascension of slave morality, the mediocre is extolled at the expense of the exceptional.  Nietzsche was an unapologetic elitist, a thinker who valued genius, excellence, and the superiorman.  

In our time, however, equality is confused with conformity—as Nietzsche sees it—and it is taken to involve the renunciation of personal initiative and the demand for a general leveling.  Men are losing the ambition to be equally excellent, which involves as the surest means the desire to excel one another in continued competition, and they are becoming resigned to being equally mediocre.  Instead of vying for distinction, men nurture a ressentimentagainst all that is distinguished, superior, or strange.

         Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

Nietzsche teaches a radical individualism, where value and potential can be fashioned into a personal artistic expression of self:

Ecce Homo!  Man can live and die in a grand style, working out his own salvation instead of relying on the sacrifice of another.  Where Kierkegaard, at the outset of his Fragments, poses an alternative of Christ, the Savior, and Socrates, the Teacher, and then chooses Christ and revelation, Nietzsche, as ever, prefers Socrates: man’s salvation is in himself, if anywhere.

            Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

Within the creative self, the advent of new “values and norms.” It is the great man, the lawgiver, the creator of gods:

The positive significance of the passage may be seen in the fact that Nietzsche’s philosophy is indeed a sustained celebration of creativity—and all genuine creation is, as we have tried to show, a creation of new values and norms.

            Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

The creative genius operates beyond social confines, establishes the new norms, leads humanity beyond the limits that restrain most of us:

The powerful man is the creative man; but the creator is not likely to abide by previously established laws.  A genuinely creative act contains its own norms, and every creation is a creation of new norms.  The great artist does not stick to any established code; yet his work is not lawless but has structure and form.  Beethoven did not conform to the rules of Haydn or Mozart; yet his symphonies have form throughout: their form and law Beethoven created with them.  

           Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

For Nietzsche, the state threatens the realization of our “unique selves.”  It gathers the strength of the otherwise weak, and coalesces to constrain the independence and unpredictability of those heedless and without need of society’s regulatory agencies:

Men are afraid of social retaliation and do not dare be their own unique selves. It is for this reason that the State becomes the devil of Nietzsche’s ethics: it intimidates man into conformity and thus tempts and coerces him to betray his proper destiny.

           Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

Nietzsche advocated the highest culture in its finest forms, and acknowledged social realities at odds with the ruling Christian paradigm. The enlightened philosopher lived without fear or uncertainty, aware of the world’s wonders and most intimate secrets. 

Men, as Nietzsche saw them, were not naturally equal, did not naturally love one another, and were not naturally free.  Nietzsche agreed with Hegel that freedom is essentially a product of culture—though he thought, unlike Hegel, that true “culture” could be achieved only through an open break with the State.  Primitive man, far from enjoying freedom, lived in constant fear of savage animals, of his barbarian enemies, of his gods, and even of his own dreams.

            Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

Nietzsche as one of the first, and perhaps finest, psychologist. Embrace the internal chaos.  Allow the flooding passions to bloom in healthy expressions of life:

Our impulses are in a state of chaos.  We would do this now, and another thing the next moment--and even a great number of things at the same time.  We think one way and live another; we want one thing and do another.  No man can live without bringing some order into this chaos.  This may be done by thoroughly weakening the whole organism or by repudiating and repressing many of the impulses: but the result in that case is not a “harmony,” and the physisis castrated, not “improved.”  Yet there is another way--namely, to “organize the chaos”: sublimation allows for the achievement of an organic harmony and leads to that culture which is truly a “transfigured physis.”

            Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

Kaufman convinces us that Nietzsche was committed to reason, and that Nietzsche wasn’t the irrationalist that others believed.  Instead of promulgating a particular set of truths, or a sophisticated philosophical structure, Nietzsche instead breeds a unique frame of understanding.  Wielding such an understanding generates a deepened insight into nature, the character of society, and a way to view history as it is written. 

Reason is extolled not because it is the faculty that abstracts from the given, forms universal concepts, and draws inferences, but because these skills enable it to develop foresight and to give consideration to all the impulses, to organize their chaos, to integrate them into a harmony--and thus to give man power: power over himself and over nature.  In human affairs, too, Nietzsche points out, reason gives men greater power than sheer bodily strength.  Foresight and patience, and above all “great self-mastery” ... --that is, according to Nietzsche, of the very essence of Geist.

            Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

Nietzsche was a merciless and insightful critic, especially of himself, leaving nothing sacred untouched.  Nietzsche teaches—no, he demonstrates—what it means to criticize creatively, and why it is necessary for every thinking human to do so.

Nietzsche, the philosopher, considered philosophy “the most spiritual will to power” and proposed to measure power and weakness in terms of man’s willingness to subject even his most cherished beliefs to the rigors of rationality. Those who take refuge in irrationality, dogma, or systems based on unquestioned premises, seemed slack and weak to him.  

             Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche

I have read and re-read Laurence Lambert’s Nietzsche and Modern Times, one of two books that advanced Nietzsche’s thought for me.  Lampert identifies the value of a thinker such as Nietzsche, and the relevance of the struggle:

…what moves the philosopher to undertake his history-making labors?  Why not just watch, just contemplate the amazing spectacle of human affairs on a transitory planet?  Why take part and fight?…Nietzsche…argues that the genuine philosopher acts out of a philanthropy that is a love of the highest in humanity, a love of reason or the logos.  As Nietzsche put it in his first book, the contemplative man stands deeply moved at the gates of present and future, a witness to tremendous struggles and transitions; charmed by those struggles he must take part and fight.

          Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche and Modern Times

Lampert points to one of the central foundations of Nietzsche’s thought, and the thinker’s potential impact on humanity.  A radical acceptance of life, fate and nature, just as they are:

…who “could live in accordance” with nature when nature is “wasteful beyond measure, indifferent beyond measure, without purposes and consideration, without mercy and justice, fertile and desolate and uncertain at the same time” [Beyond Good and Evil– Nietzsche]…who could live in accord with that? Who indeed.  Nietzsche’s whole philosophy, his mission, flowers beautifully into its ultimate aims in this fine ironic setting: to give an account of nature that is in some sense true (while kept under the police supervision of mistrust), and to create the music and poetry that make it possible to live in accord with nature.  In Nietzsche truth and art combine into an ecological philosophy post-theistic and posthumanistic.  Post-God and post-Man, it would not have beings be other than they are.

          Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche and Modern Times

We understand how Nietzsche’s penetrating insight into Western civilization leads right up to our doorstep in the 21stcentury, how relevant his relentless pursuit in identifying the genuine nature of what we generally take for granted:

Nietzsche is the first philosopher to rethink the Baconian and Cartesian project from the perspective of its relative completion.  He allows us to observe the consequences of the Baconian ascendancy, for in his writings the character of modern times is luminously articulated: our progressive view of history, our heedless rape of nature, our fiction of scientific certainty via a method of counting, and, most comprehensively, our ideal of the common good.  In Nietzsche, modern times are revealed as embodying a comprehensive myth construing time as progress, beings as malleable, and human wellbeing as the meaning of the universe.

          Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche and Modern Times

While Nietzsche aims to destroy all traditional moral and spiritual gods (because their time has passed and their power and relevance depleted) he proposes the reconstruction of new values and a new morality to take their place:

Nietzsche’s openness, his rashness, his betrayal of Platonic sheltering, forces a confrontation with perhaps the most profound and problematic of all the issues of Nietzsche’s thought, his true radicality: Can a human community be built on the deadly truths known to philosophy?...Nietzsche aims to make philosophy not only post-Christian but post-humanism, to free society from all forms of humanism based on myths of special origins that confer on humankind special rights of dominance and mastery over nature.  Nietzsche’s thought is a post-Baconian naturalism, a complete immanentism affirming the natural order, an ecological philosophy dubbed “joyous science” by Nietzsche….Nietzsche’s destruction of the many humanizations of nature—shadows of dead gods—is far better known that the other, constructive part of his work, the naturalization of the human—his ground work for a human society that affirms the natural order as it is.

          Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche and Modern Times

Nietzsche reveals, and revels in, the “ugly” truth, the “deadly” truth that others would obfuscate.  Are we better off knowing such things?  Or would we be better served remaining ignorant of metaphysical actuality?  The ontological truth?  You can understand the hostility such questions might engender:

The philosopher, lover of truth, will have to learn to endure the necessary lie and not become incensed when others hail as truth what he well knows is a lie. Platonic philosophers like Bacon and Descartes are marked by such endurance.  Nietzsche is not.  From the perspective of Platonic philosophy Nietzsche is a maimed soul recklessly bent on publicizing deadly truths.

           Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche and Modern Times

Somehow (and this is one of the genuine mysteries of Nietzschean thought) before quantum, relativity, and uncertainty, Nietzsche understood the limitations of science, in radical opposition to the smugness of 19thcentury society in their conviction of scientific power and promise. This wasn’t the thinking of a mindless Luddite, but instead, a sophisticated and far reaching conclusion that science was important, relevant, and socially worthwhile, yet inherently limited in what it could achieve:

Nietzsche attacks this mechanistic worldview, with its elevation of physics, its claim to certitude, and its claim to social benefit—and he does so as a friend of science.  

          Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche and Modern Times

Lampert wrote another book concerning Nietzsche, and in it provides an interpretation of one of Nietzsche’s most enigmatic concepts:

…eternal return transforms the apparently vicious circle of dying and rising life into something divine; the circle of eternal return is the circle denoted religiously by dying and rising Dionysus.  The new religion celebrates life as the highest.  In this way, the religion of the future grows naturally out of the philosophy of the future as an earthly religion that affirms life.  

          Laurence Lampert, Leo Strauss and Nietzsche

The other book that takes Nietzschean thought further for me is not explicitly about Nietzsche (so not included in the thirty-seven), but Nietzsche plays a central role in Peter Sloterdijk’s The Critique of Cynical Reason:

Psychologically, present-day cynics can be understood as borderline melancholics, who can keep their symptoms of depression under control and can remain more or less able to work.  Indeed, this is the essential point in modern cynicism: the ability of its bearers to work—in spite of anything that might happen, and especially, after anything that might happen.  The key social positions in boards, parliaments, commissions, executive councils, publishing companies, practices, faculties, and lawyers’ and editors’ offices have long since become a part of this diffuse cynicism.  A certain chic bitterness provides an undertone to its activity.  For cynics are not dumb, and every now and then they certainly see the nothingness to which everything leads.  Their psychic (seelisch) apparatus has become elastic enough to incorporate as a survival factor a permanent doubt about their own activities.  They know what they are doing, but they do it because, in the short run, the force of circumstances and the instinct for self-preservation are speaking the same language, and they are telling them that it has to be so.

          Peter Sloterdijk, The Critique of Cynical Reason

Fantastic book.  Sloterdijk also wrote a book on Nietzsche, penetrating deeply into his subject’s interior:

Anyone who studies Nietzsche’s inner conflicts during the period of his separation from the cult of Wagner and from the constraints of the academic chair in Basel will find it hard to avoid speaking of a social death, a categorical existential and philosophical separation….But he who is experiencing a social death because he has begun to find himself can no longer be helped by anything general or by any external encouragement. Whoever believes that he is engaged in real thought without having first peered into the abyss of his own singularity is merely trying to convince himself that he is thinking—he dreams a conformist’s dream, and wishes it were the dream of a critical consciousness. He who really thinks is condemned to an isolation that compels him to begin anew and to fulfill himself; henceforth, there will no longer be any “tradition,” but only a rediscovery of himself in affinities and constellations.

          Peter Sloterdijk, Thinker on Stage

Sloterdijk calls out a major difference between Nietzsche and system-building philosophers (i.e. Plato, Locke, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Rand).  Nietzsche operates in a different way, one that eschews formal structures, defined epistemologies, and metaphysical constructs.  He philosophizes with a hammer, either cracking the foundation of academic certainties and revealing the rotten core, or tapping a tuning fork and bringing forth insightful melodies otherwise obscured by the noise of modern life.

“All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both.”  (Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy)  He who expresses himself in this way does not sit at his desk and draw up the plans for better worlds; he does not analytically pull to pieces the moral vocabulary of his nation and, on the basis of this accomplishment, take himself for a philosopher.  He who speaks in this way has, through experimentation on his own body, thrust forward into the tissue of reality and cast his gaze into the ecology of suffering life.

          Peter Sloterdijk, Thinker on Stage

Gianni Vattimo’s Dialogue with Nietzsche was particularly insightful, and identified one of the keys to reading Nietzsche, and the value of making a serious effort to fully engage the thinker:

Rather than offer us a new philosophy, Nietzsche wants to propose a new way of understanding and doing philosophy….Nietzsche’s discourse does not ask to be accepted or rejected on the basis of proofs…it asks for a response.

          Gianni Vattimo, Dialogue with Nietzsche

Unlike many of the great thinkers in the past, those whose thought has become stale and irrelevant, of value mostly to the academic, Nietzsche remains utterly pertinent:

Today, when we all know that television lies and that the media do not in the least supply disinterested and objective representations of the world, and when even what we call “nature” is only accessible to us through scientific paradigms fraught with historicity and loaded with theory, hence with “prejudice” (lacking which, for that matter, we would be unable to know anything), we can no longer tranquilize ourselves by pretending to stand with our feet on the ground observing things as they are and dismissing the rest as nonsense.  The end of ideology is also the triumph of ideologies, of the multiple interpretations of the world seen for what they are, that make individual choice and decision ineluctable.

          Gianni Vattimo, Dialogue with Nietzsche

One of the world-changing concepts I learned from Nietzsche relates to the nature of truth, and the purpose of ideology in human life.  We can’t navigate world, protect and feed ourselves, live in society or prosper without it:

But: why is it that “received” values and truths deserve to be jettisoned, done away with?  Mainly because, although they make a pretense of being eternal values and truths that have never undergone any process of “becoming”…they are simply expressions of the condition without which “a particular kind of living creature could not live.”  “We have projected the conditions of ourpreservation as predicates of beingin general.”  What we believe to be the truth, the structure of being in itself, is nothing more than the ideological projection of a certain form of life—whether of individuals or societies.  Now the reason these ideological masks deserve to come to ruin is also the reason they are necessary: every form of life needs a truth, a system of conditions of preservation and truth projected into an “interpretation” of the world.  

          Gianni Vattimo, Dialogue with Nietzsche

Leslie Paul Thiele in Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul provides a nice overview of Nietzsche studies:
 
Previous scholarship on Nietzsche…may be divided into four broad, often overlapping fields…the root of Nietzsche’s philosophy is Nietzsche himself, a man who chose to reveal himself through his work.  Nietzsche has been interpreted by some primarily as a worldly theorist.  He has been posited as the ideologue of aristocratic or racial politics and as the harbinger of world empire….Nietzsche also has been presented as a literary stylist.  He is then approached as an unsystematic albeit profound thinker whose trademark is the aphorism, or, more recently, as an author whose books’ literary identities and agendas constitute the subject of inquiry.  A third standpoint marks Nietzsche above all as a philosopher….The fourth interpretive practice situates Nietzsche as the herald of deconstructive thought.  Herein his writings are investigated as announcements of the demise of systematic philosophy and the destruction of the philosophical subject….

            Whatever their differences, these four fields of interpretation border a common frontier.  All restrict themselves to a conceptual comprehension of Nietzsche. All divorce Nietzsche from his work. As a political theorist Nietzsche is taken primarily to speak for and about others, not himself.  As a literary stylist Nietzsche is understood to be concerned with producing works of written art, relishing the detachment allowed by fiction.  Those concerned with Nietzsche’s reputation as a philosopher have held the status of his work to be dependent on its distinction from his personal opinions and predilections.  Philosophy only waxes, it is understood, as individuality wanes.  Lastly, those interested in describing Nietzsche’s explosion of philosophical thought are particularly prone to isolate the writer from his writings, as the passion for truth is understood to have been extinguished by skeptical distance and irony.  In short, previous scholarship has not breached the frontier that separates works of politics, art, and philosophy from biography, that is, from the individual life that produced them.  Yet this is the boundary Nietzsche claimed to have crossed in word and deed. He propounded a philosophy of individualism and he lived an individualistic philosophy.  He claimed his work as the vestige of his life. Conceptual accounts of Nietzsche fail to penetrate this vitality.

         Leslie Paul Thiele, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul

As a consequence of engaging Nietzsche, one comes to understand the inherent inconsistencies between language, thought, truth and the actual nature of human existence:

Philosophy for Nietzsche was not about truth, but about living without truth. What remains of import in philosophical works is the portrayal of individuals who have struggled with the contradictions of existence.  Their writings never provide resolutions of these contradictions, but they may serve as testimonies to battles well fought.

          Leslie Paul Thiele, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul

After returning from the Franco-Prussian War, Nietzsche was essentially stateless, as his residency in Switzerland required seven uninterrupted years, which the war interrupted. He moved from Switzerland to France to Italy, migrating each season to a more favorable climate.  Thiele relates Nietzsche’s principle political position, one consistent with Nietzsche’s stateless status:

The modern hero is destined for an alienated existence.  His determination to celebrate the tragedy of individuation means that the social and political battles that rage about him are viewed as so many distractions.  Human relations in general are seen as a threat to his allotted task…The majority remain happy in their masquerade, fulfilling their social roles and playing the part assigned to them in the “theatre of politics.”…Included among Nietzsche’s Ten Commandments for Free Spirits is the proscription, “You shall not practice politics.”…
     Politics, in short, constitutes a threat to the individual. The purpose of the state, according to Nietzsche, ought to be the cultivation of individuals.  But this is never the case.

          Leslie Paul Thiele, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul

I have generally adhered to his stance on political participation, until we reached the age of Trump.  Desperate times…

Nietzsche teaches the radical nihilistic reality of existence, and the imperative that comes with that understanding:

In a world without purpose, accountability, merit, or transcendent values, all weaker beings perish in the grip of meaninglessness…Only deeds done for their own sake, constituting their own reward and justification, are tolerable in a world without meaning.

          Leslie Paul Thiele, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul

As we engage with Nietzsche we find ourselves pummeled about between skepticism, morality, nihilism, and rumors of the truth, with no soft safe space too land:

“When the moral skeptic arrives at mistrust of morality there remains one more step for him to take—skepticism of his mistrust.  To denyand to trust—go hand in hand” (GW 14:30).  Compared to former skeptics who believed they had attained the truth that truth was impossible, Nietzsche held himself to be even more suspicious.  No truth is known at all.  In other words, one must be skeptical vis-à-vis one’s own skeptical passion. One is to doubt that doubting itself constitutes an undischargeable obligation.

          Leslie Paul Thiele, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul

While I found the content of H. L. Mencken’s Nietzsche unremarkable (likely because I had already read so much on the topic) the fact that it was published in 1908 is interesting.  This is the earliest example I found in English of an appreciative appraisal of Nietzsche, and you can certainly trace his influence in Mencken’s writing.  For instance:

Nietzsche went out into the swamp much further than any other explorer; he left such pallbearers of the spirit as Spencer, Comte, Descartes and even Kant all shivering on the shore.  And yet he never got bogged, and he never lost the attention of his audience.  What saved him was the plain fact that he always gave a superb show—as good, almost, as a hanging.

          H. L. Mencken, Smart Set Criticism

We get a taste of Mencken’s classic sarcasm and humor in what follows:

In detail, of course, [More] occasionally ventures upon a novelty. This time it takes the form of a strange politeness to the late Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, the scoundrel who plotted the Great War twenty-five years ago [this is written in 1921], and then launched it suddenly fourteen years after his own death, to the colossal surprise of the French War Office and the British Admiralty, neither of which suspected that anything of the sort was afoot.

          H. L. Mencken, Smart Set Criticism

Terry Eagleton hasn’t written a book dedicated to Nietzsche, but he did have this relevant remark to make, pointing to the positive direction that Nietzsche presents:

If the world for Nietzsche is valueless, meaningless chaos, then the point would seem to be to create one’s own values in defiance of its blank indifference.

          Terry Eagleton, Ideology of the Aesthetic

Lesley Chamberlain, in his Nietzsche in Turin, offers a portrait of those of us imbued with Nietzsche’s intellectual spirit:

Nietzsche’s spiritual survivors are deep, independent, abrasive, noble loners with a love of language and a sensitive ear; they are skeptical, critical yet passionate readers of great artists and thinkers.  They do not think anything in particular because they have listened to ‘the genius of the heart, who makes everything loud and self-satisfied fall silent and teaches it to listen, who soothes rough souls and gives them a new desire to savor – the desire to lie still as a mirror, that the deep sky may mirror itself in them’.

          Lesley Chamberlain, Nietzsche in Turin

The working title for my current novel (The War of Eternity) is The Suicide Note.  Curtis Cate in his Friedrich Nietzsche reflects the principle theme of my novel in the following comments:

“Many die too late, and a few die too early… ‘Die at the right time!’…: so teaches Zarathustra.”
     Even Nietzsche at this point recoiled from drawing the logical conclusion: that the solution for those who have ‘overlived their time’ and who are a burden to society is a form of discreet suicide.  All [Nietzsche] could do was lavish scorn on those beings who, having lived too long, cling to life like yellow-wrinkled, late autumn apples.

          Curtis Cate, Friedrich Nietzsche

For most people, living too long is hardly a tragedy.  But for Nietzsche, who spent the final ten years of his life mindlessly insane, it’s difficult to imagine a worse fate for the man.  He suffered from poor health most of his life, along with the trials and frustrations that arose from his creative intellect and his lack of genuine peers. He went insane in 1889, basically unknown and unappreciated.  Perhaps he gained a glimmer of his impact before he died, some form of recognition for his artistic and philosophical powers.  I don’t know.  

In my novel there is a very long ‘Suicide Note’ and on the front cover the following quote:

I do not wish to live again.  How have I borne life?  By creating.  What has made me endure?  The vision of the Superman who affirmslife.  I have tried to affirm it myself—but ah!

          Nietzsche, quoted by Erich Heller in The Disinherited Mind

The “tried” and the “but ah!” – did Nietzsche pass with feelings of failure, or regret?

Steven Aschhelm’s Nietzsche Legacy in Germany 1890 – 1990 serves as a corrective of Nietzsche’s rumored anti-Semitism and cooption by National Socialism.  I found his argument consistent with my reading, in that Nietzsche hated anti-Semites, including his brother-in-law.  Nietzsche’s work is strewn with generalizations about “Germans,” “the English,” and “Jews,” any of which may be considered problematic in treating any group of people as a unified whole, as if every individual possessed the generalized traits.  Or as if “the German volk” possessed some inherent characteristics independent of the actual people.  But within this context, Nietzsche expresses far more respect and admiration for Jews than just about anybody else.  Again, just as racist, but definitely not anti-Semitic.  As for National Socialism, while Nietzsche writes many things that could be taken, out of context, as supporting something like the Third Reich, with any genuine understanding of Nietzsche comes the conviction that he would be appalled by the Nazi regime, and repudiate it in the strongest terms.  Nietzsche disparaged the state, and the Reich, and any notion of “mob” thinking. While he rails about “blood” and “war” and “conflict” in sometimes despicable ways, the words never point to fascism.  Aschhelm quotes Bataille:

Fascism and Nietzscheanism are mutually exclusive, and are even violently mutually exclusive, as soon as each of them is considered in its totality: on one side life is tied down and stabilized in an endless servitude, on the other there is not only a circulation of free air, but the wind of a tempest; on one side the charm of human culture is broken in order to make room for vulgar force, on the other force and violence are tragically dedicated to this charm….There is a corrosive derision in imagining a possible agreement between Nietzschean demands and a political organization which impoverishes existence at its summit, which imprisons, exiles, or kills everything that could constitute an aristocracy of “free spirits.”

          Georges Bataille, Nietzsche and the Fascists

Krieck (an influential National Socialist philosopher) provides a wonderful summary of Nietzsche’s relationship with National Socialism:

All in all, Nietzsche was an opponent of socialism, an opponent of nationalism, and an opponent of racial thinking.  Apart from these three bents of mind, he might have made an outstanding Nazi.

          Ernst Krieck, quoted by Rudiger Safranski in his Nietzsche

As I explored my Nietzsche literary treasures, I re-discovered Rudiger Safranski, and his biography of Nietzsche.  (And one of the most attractive books in my library.)  This turns out to be a particularly rich vein of meaningful material, beginning with Nietzsche’s notion of play, echoing Schiller:

Man, Nietzsche contended, is a being that has leapt beyond the “bestial bounds of the mating season” and seeks pleasure not just at fixed intervals but perpetually.  Since, however, there are fewer sources of pleasure than his perpetual desire for pleasure demands, nature has forced man onto the “path of pleasure contrivance.” Man, the creature of consciousness whose horizons extend to the past and future, rarely attains complete fulfillment within the present, and for this reason experiences something most likely unknown to any animal, namely boredom.  This strange creature seeks a stimulus to release him from boredom.  If no such stimulus is readily available, it simply needs to be created.  Man becomes the animal that plays.  Play is an invention that engages the emotions; it is the art of stimulating emotions.  Music is a prime example.  Thus, the anthropological and physiological formula for the secret of art: “Flight from boredom is the mother of all art.”

          Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche

Self-creation and a will to become something special are important elements of Nietzsche’s thought:

One’s own creative will, rather than time, is what transforms and develops a person. Objective time cannot be relied on, and the project of fashioning one’s own identity must be carried out by oneself.

          Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche

In many respects, Nietzsche was an unapologetic elitist.  Not in terms of social status, or material wealth, but instead, through cultural, philosophical and artistic creative accomplishments:

When it comes to culture, [Nietzsche] contended, a decision must be made as to its essential aim.  The two major options are the well-being of the greatest possible number of people, on the one hand, and the success of individual lives, on the other.  The moral point of view gives priority to the well-being of the greatest possible number of people, whereas the aesthetic view declares that the meaning of culture lies in the culmination of auspicious forms, the “peak of rapture.”
            Nietzsche opted for the aesthetic view.


          Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche

Of all things (I feel like I keep saying this, or something like it) Nietzsche taught a radical critical stance, to challenge mindlessly accepted norms, a demand to think deeply and to mine existential jewels from the bedrock of being:

Hence [Nietzsche] arranged his books in such a way that the ideal outcome of a reader’s search for ideas would culminate in an encounter with the reader’s own ideas.  Discovering Nietzsche in the process was almost beside the point; the crucial question is whether one has discovered thinking per se.

          Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche

Safranski warns that euphoric emotion doesn’t necessary validate a particular “truth:”

In religious sentiment and in art, “powerful emotion” attains extraordinary dimensions.  It signals intensity and effort and at the same time relaxation and the unleashing of creative powers.  There is a euphoria of success, strength streaming in and out.  In a word, it is a heightened state of being, but—and this is Nietzsche’s chilling antithesis—there is no higher truth inherent in it.  We must not interpret a heightened religious and artistic state of being as a medium of hidden grand truths, even if religious and artistic ecstatics view themselves in those terms.

           Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche

Reading and comprehending Nietzsche engenders deeply emotional responses from many of us, and while Nietzsche wouldn’t equate the significant of received truth with magnitudes of emotion, I would contend that validating emotion accompanies any genuine understanding. Glancing ontological actualities that unmask the veil of human perception triggers an unstoppable rush. Frightening, as if while philosophizing with a hammer cracks open the ceiling of Plato’s cave, just for an instant, spewing pure truthful sunlight onto the hard-packed mud floor, the hard, bright white, unalloyed truth flashing into one’s consciousness and leaving it changed forever.  And just as quickly the temporary fissures sealed until only shadows once again remain, the truth dimmed to memory.  

Nietzsche sought to destroy and disrupt many ruling “truths,” traditions and cultural norms.  But he also pointed the way forward and through the nihilistic desert of modern times.  Those of us who know, who understand, cannot return to ignorance.  The pot once broken and drained of water can no longer retain evaporating myth.  We haven’t any choice, but to press forward:

Nietzsche and Wagner each attempted to resuscitate myth, and refused to put up with what Max Weber later called the “disenchantment” of the world by rationalization, technology, and a bourgeois economic outlook.  They agonized at the mythlessness of their times and saw in the sphere of art an opportunity to revitalize or re-create myths. At a time in which art had started to become a pleasant trifle under the prevailing economic constraints, they fought to raise the status of art, which they placed at the pinnacle of all possible hierarchies.  For Wagner, art assumed the place of religion.  This idea intrigued Nietzsche, but ultimately struck him as too pious, and he retreated from it in favor of an artistic approach to life.  He sought enhancement of life in art, not redemption. In a borderline case—and Nietzsche always had borderline cases in view—one should fashion an unequivocal work of art out of one’s own life.

          Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche

Greek Tragedy, for Nietzsche, stems from the following ruthless affirmation:

Nietzsche cited the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, who, according to an old story, replied to Mida’s question of what would be the very best and most desirable for people:  “You wretched species, children of chance and drudgery, why do you force me to tell you what you would greatly benefit from not hearing?  The very best is far beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing.  The second best for you, however, is to die soon.”

          Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche

Safranski offers an interesting take on Nietzsche’s analysis of various cultures, and what constitutes the core of them:

Is the “truth” of the Dionysian the horror, or is it everyday reality that assumes a horrifying appearance because one has experienced the bliss of Dionysian transgression?  Nietzsche means horror emanating from both directions.  From the vantage point of everyday consciousness, the Dionysian is horrifying.  By the same token, the Dionysian perspective regards everyday reality as horrifying. Conscious life moves between both outlooks, and this movement is tantamount to being torn in two.  One is simultaneously transported by the Dionysian, with which life must retain contact to avoid becoming desolate, and dependent on the protective devices of civilization to avoid being sacrificed to the disintegrating power of the Dionysian.
            It is hardly surprising that Nietzsche found the symbol for this precarious situation in the fate of Odysseus, who had himself bound to a mast in order to hear the song of the sirens without having to follow it to his own destruction.  Odysseus embodies Dionysian wisdom.  He hears the voice of temptation, but accepts the fetters of culture in a quest for self-preservation.
            Nietzsche developed a typology of cultures from the perspective of how various cultures have succeeded in organizing life in the face of temptation.  He formulated his question as follows: What system of blinders does each culture rely on to shut out the threatening power of the Dionysian and to channel essential Dionysian energies?  Nietzsche posed this question fully aware that he was touching on the innermost secrets of each culture.  He traced the surreptitious ways of the will to live and discovered how culturally inventive this will to live could be.  To keep its creatures “clinging to life,” it wraps them in illusions.  It ensures that some choose the “veil of beauty in art” and that others seek metaphysical solace in religion and philosophy in order to be reassured “that under the whirl of phenomena eternal life keeps flowing indestructibly.” Still others are captivated by a “Socratic love of knowledge” and are deceived into thinking that knowledge can “heal the eternal wound of existence.”  A mixture of these ingredients yields what we call culture.  According to the proportions of the mixture, a culture will be predominantly artistic, such as that of Greek antiquity, or religious and metaphysical, as in the heyday of the Christian West and the eastern Buddhist world, or Socratic, emphasizing knowledge and science.
            The latter type has dominated the modern era.


          Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche

I was intrigued by Kelly Oliver’s Womanizing Nietzsche, as I read Nietzsche as the typical 19thcentury misogynist, but Oliver argues otherwise, as does David Krell (editor of Heidegger’s four volumes on Nietzsche) in Postponements: Women, Sensuality and Death in Nietzsche. Their arguments are subtle but not entirely convincing, as I could put together various unsubtle examples of Nietzsche’s less than flattering treatment of women.  

Speaking of women, Lou Salomé wrote a book on Nietzsche, but I didn’t learn anything new in it. She, Paul Réeand Nietzsche formed an odd trio for a time, both of the men vying for the young Russian’s affection.  It is commonly held that Nietzsche proposed to Salomé, but the historical evidence isn’t decisive: perhaps he did, maybe not.  In any case, Salomé ultimately went off with Rée, leaving Nietzsche alone.

Nietzsche considered Saloméa possible disciple, as he greatly admired her intellect.  Lou Salomé is a fascinating creature. Intellectually intimate with Nietzsche, later close friends with Sigmund Freud, and ultimately friend and lover of Rainer Maria Rilke.  Who influenced whom?  We learn from Robert Hass that Rilke was highly interested in Nietzsche, perhaps by way of Salomé:

[Rilke’s] attachment to the role of decadent and aesthete was qualified, however, by his interest in Nietzsche, particularly Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, who had given a name to the yearning place that the young poet had already hollowed out in himself: the death of god.  And it was Nietzsche who had defined the task of art: God-making.

          Robert Hass, Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

I read Nietzsche and Philosophyby Giles Deleuze twice, first during the early years of my Nietzschean studies in 1997, when a close friend recommended it, and later in 2017, when I held a much firmer grasp on the subject, and again, heard a ringing endorsement for the book.  I still don’t get it.  Little in the book stood out to me, or penetrated deep enough to contribute to my fundamental understanding—of anything.  In my last reading of Deleuze, I did note the following, so something in his writing left an impression:

When someone asks, “what’s the use of philosophy?” the reply must be aggressive, since the question tries to be ironic and caustic.  Philosophy does not serve the State or the Church, who have other concerns.  It serves no established power.  The use of philosophy is to sadden. A philosophy that saddens no one, that annoys no one, is not a philosophy….Exposing as a mystification the mixture of baseness and stupidity that creates the astonishing complicity of both victims and perpetrators.  Finally, turning thought into something aggressive, active and affirmative. Creating free men, that is to say men who do not confuse the aims of culture with the benefit of the State, morality or religion.  Fighting the ressentimentand bad conscience which have replaced thought for us.  Conquering the negative and its false glamour.  Who has an interest in all this but philosophy?  Philosophy is at its most positive as critique, as an enterprise of demystification.

          Giles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy

Deleuze wrote an interesting comment about Zarathustra, the work of Nietzsche’s I understand the least:

And when Nietzsche wonders what led him to choose the character of Zarathustra he finds three very different reasons of unequal value.  The first is Zarathustra as a prophet of the eternal return; but Zarathustra is not the only prophet, not even the one who best foresaw the true nature of what he foretold.  The second reason is polemical; Zarathustra was the first to introduce morality into metaphysics, the one who made morality a force, a cause and an end par excellence; he is therefore the best placed to denounce the mystification, the error of this morality itself.  But an analogous reason would apply to Christ; who is more suitable than Christ to play the role of the antichrist…and of Zarathustra himself?  The third reason is retrospective but enough on its own, it is the beautiful reason of chance, “Today I learned by chance what Zarathustra means; star of gold. This chance enchants me.”  (Letter to Gast, 20th May, 1883)

          Giles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy

Deleuze did provide a couple of formulations that I consider relevant, both of them related to art and artists:

…art is the highest power of falsehood, it magnifies the “world as error”, it sanctifies the lie; the will to deception is turned into a superior ideal.

          Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy

In Nietzsche, “we the artists” = “we the seekers after knowledge or truth” = “we the inventors of new possibilities of life”.

          Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy

I suppose I discovered more in Deleuze than I remembered, or gave him credit for.

George Bataille provides an interesting (and understandably disparaging) remark relative to Nietzsche’s potential impact on his readers. I don’t’ believe he is completely unjust:

Following [Nietzsche’s] paradoxical doctrines, you are forced to see yourself as excluded from participating in current causes.  You’ll eventually see that solitude is your only lot.

          Georges Bataille, On Nietzsche

He goes too far when he asserts the lack of viability of Nietzsche’s thought:

What is odd in Nietzsche’s doctrines is that they cannot be followed. Ahead of you are unfocused, at times dazzling radiances.  Though the way to them remains untraceable.

           Georges Bataille, On Nietzsche

Nietzsche meant a great deal to Michel Foucault, and the French philosopher makes extensive use of Nietzsche’s thought.  But the connections he makes to Nietzsche appears to me largely unfounded.  For example, when Foucault writes in The Order of Things:

Is that not what Nietzsche was paving the way for when, in the interior space of his language, he killed man and God both at the same time, and thereby promised with the Return the multiple and re-illumined light of the gods?  Or must we quite simply admit that such a plethora of questions on the subject of language is no more than a continuance, or at most a culmination, of the even that, as archaeology has shown, came into existence and began to take effect at the end of the eighteenth century?

          Michel Foucault, The Order of Things

I don’t understand the relationship between Nietzsche’s eternal return of the same and the questions Foucault relates to language.  The nature of language is central to my understanding of the world, and I know something of Nietzsche’s thought, and I cannot accept the connection that Foucault makes between them.  Foucault’s formulation seems to me both illegitimate and unhelpful in understanding anything that actually matters.  And it’s not just me:

What puzzles me is not only how someone as remarkably brilliant as Foucault could have arrived at so impoverished and masochistically informed a vision of sound and silence, but also how so many readers in Europe and the United States have routinely accepted it as anything more than an intensely private, deeply eccentric, and insular version of history.  

          Edward Said, Reflections on Exile

Perhaps it’s me, and my limitations as a thinking reader, but many French writers, including Foucault and Derrida, simply don’t register.  When reading Foucault I find myself saying “So what?” whereas with Derrida I just shake my head with incomprehension, as do apparently some of his followers:  

But I think it can be safely argued that this is not what Derrida meant.  As to what he did mean one must of course and always only conjecture.

          Nicholas Royle, Deconstructions – a user’s guide

Perhaps this is because

[Derrida’s philosophy] is more often than not construed as a license for arbitrary free play in flagrant disregard of all established rules of argumentation, traditional requirements of thought, and ethical standards binding upon the interpretative community….[deconstruction is] licentious free-play, nihilistic canceling out of opposites, abolition of hierarchies.

          Rodolphe Gasche, quoted by Nicholas Royle in Deconstructions – a user’s guide

Despite my best efforts, I can’t make his words mean anything significant.  George Steiner, with far more expertise and authority, makes the following assessment:

I do not propose to expound deconstruction (this has been done lucidly by others), nor to waste time on polemics, often internecine.  Let me refer here, once and for all, to the often repulsive jargon, to the contrived obscurantism and specious pretensions to technicality which make the bulk of post-structuralist and deconstructive theory and practice, particularly among its academic epigones, unreadable.  This abuse of philosophic-literary discourse, this brutalization of style, are symptomatic.

          George Steiner, Real Presences


A more cynical view may charge the unreadability of the deconstructionists as deliberate:

If the work would avoid the humiliation of being understood, it must, by a certain dosage of the unimpeachable and the obscure, by attention to the equivocal, provoke divergent interpretations and perplexed fervors, those symptoms of vitality, those guarantees of lasting.

           E. M. Cioran, Anathemas and Admirations

Instead of deciding who is right and who is wrong, who is smart and who stupid, or applying a cynical explanation to those I don’t understand, perhaps the explanation is that my worldview is simply incompatible with that of Deleuze and Derrida.  The same with Foucault and Heidegger, as I have made a concerted and ongoing effort to understand their work, or find elements of it that I can incorporate in my understanding of the world.  Perhaps during the development of a sophisticated intellect, certain lines of code dictate its overall shape and disposition, so that when interacting with an alien sophisticated worldview, they simply don’t mesh.  

My intellect may have been structured by an early encounter with Ayn Rand.  I read Atlas Shrugged for the first time at age twelve, and read it four more times, the last in 1992 as a thirty-four-year old.  While I have since moved well past Rand philosophically, it’s possible that she imprinted on my intellect a predilection for Nietzsche.  

If that is the case, I have been programmed (or programmed myself) to understand Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Steiner, but not Hegel, Heidegger, and Foucault.  Not necessarily right or wrong – intellects I greatly admire, greatly respect Foucault and Heidegger, and I trust they sincerely do. 

Gianni Vattimo provides another possible explanation for my difficulties:

Only if you know the general outline of Heidegger’s interpretation can you understand the extensive Nietzsche literature in the French language or the great influence of Nietzsche on the philosophy of structuralism and post-structuralism, for example, in thinkers central to philosophical debate of the past few decades such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Giles Deleuze. Each of these defines his own position primarily with respect to a certain reading of Nietzsche, which, although it may not coincide with that of Heidegger, is still profoundly influenced by it.  It scarcely needs mentioning that, along with the influence of Heidegger, France has its own native tradition of Nietzsche interpretation going back to the 1930s and the reading of Nietzsche by thinkers with a background in surrealism, like Pierre Klossowski and Georges Bataille.  The confluence of this tradition and Heidegger’s influence has given us a whole population of French Nietzsche scholars with a “mannerist” style all their own, often theoretically unproductive and stylistically irritating.

           Gianni Vattimo, Dialogue with Nietzsche

There were a few points in Heidegger’s work on Nietzsche that seemed relevant to my interests.  I think Heidegger is correct when he asserts that

Confrontation is genuine criticism.  It is the supreme way, the only way, to a true estimation of a thinker.  In confrontation we undertake to reflect on his thinking and to trace it in its effective force, not in its weaknesses.  To what purpose?  In order that through the confrontation we ourselves may become free for the supreme exertion of thinking.

          Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche

Reading Heidegger on Nietzsche always seemed far more Heideggarian than Nietzschean, despite the prominence the intellectual subject usually takes under examination.  For instance, when reading Kaufman on Nietzsche, it’s all Nietzsche.  Not so with Heidegger, and he explains why:

In order to draw near to the essential will of Nietzsche’s thinking, and remain close to it, our thinking must acquire enormous range, plus the ability to see beyond everything that is fatally contemporary in Nietzsche.

          Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche

So Heidegger proposes to range well beyond Nietzsche (is that really possible?) and to “see beyond” Nietzsche’s historically limited view.  The results of Heidegger’s stated program seemed largely unsatisfying to me, but then again, that could be due to my “fatal contemporary” view.  The following observation by Heidegger seems reasonable, but I would question the “nothing else:”

Nietzsche understands the aesthetic state of the observer and recipient on the basis of the state of the creator.  Thus the effect of the artwork is nothing else than a reawakening of the creator’s state in the one who enjoys the artwork.

          Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche

When reading Derrida and Heidegger, I sensed Nietzsche’s presence, often without encountering anything explicit to link the thinkers.  My suspicions were partially confirmed by Kaelin:

Both these philosophers, moreover, Heidegger as well as Derrida, owe a great deal more to Nietzsche than either has ever admitted.  We need only recall the cornerstone of the Nietzschean epistemology: “There is no truth, only interpretations.”  If the statement itself is true, not only can there be no thing-in-itself, as Nietzsche was arguing, but nothing like a metaphysics, an essence or logos, or even, for that matter, anything like a fixed text.

          E. F. Kaelin, Heidegger’s Being & Time

Art for Nietzsche ranks near the top, if not at the absolute pinnacle, of his system of values.  My impression (and my belief) is that art does much more than reproduce a finite affect in anybody, that the impact of a profound work of art extends far beyond the human limitations of a particular artist. 

Nietzsche builds up Socrates and Christ, those advocates of belief in truth and the ascetic ideal, as his great opponents; they are the ones who negate the aesthetic values!  Nietzsche trusts only in art, “in which precisely the lie is sanctified, the will to deception,” and in the terror of the beautiful, not to let themselves be imprisoned by the fictive world of science and morality.

          Jurgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse on Modernity

An art object can change a person’s life in ways the originating artist wasn’t even aware:  

The archaic torso in Rilke's famous poem says to us: "change your life". So do any poem, novel, play, painting, musical composition worth meeting.  The voice of intelligible form, of the needs of direct address from which such form springs, asks: 'What do you feel, what do you think of the possibilities of life, of the alternative shapes of being which are implicit in your experience of me, in our encounter?'  The indiscretion of serious art and literature and music is total.  It queries the last privacies of our existence.

          George Steiner, Real Presences

We routinely see meaningful crystals excavated from one profound work or another, independent of the artist’s stated (or unstated) intention.  Over time, in a different age, Homer expresses new worlds that (the liar) Odysseus never imagined.

Karl Jaspers, another leading German philosopher and a contemporary of Heidegger’s, wrote his own book on Nietzsche.  In fact, the Nietzsche lectures that served as the basis for Heidegger’s four volume work on Nietzsche took place within a couple of years after the publication of Jaspers’ Nietzschein 1935.  Jaspers book would cost him his position at the university, as he failed to echo the Nazi version of Nietzsche currently in vogue. 

Jaspers resisted the Nazi hijacking of Nietzsche, and delivered an interesting take on Nietzsche’s work.  He calls out an important difference between Nietzsche and other philosophers:

What leads to a true understanding of Nietzsche is precisely the opposite of that which the seductive allurements of his writings appear to promise: not the acceptance of definitive pronouncements, taken to convey the final and indefeasible truth, but rather the sustained effort in which we continue to question, listen to other contentions, and maintain the tension of possibilities.  What Nietzsche means can never be assimilated by a will to possess the truth in fixed and final form but only by a will to truth which rises from the depths and strives toward the depths, which is prepared to encounter all that is questionable, is not closed to anything, and is able to wait.

          Karl Jaspers, Nietzsche

As a psychologist himself, Jaspers appreciates the depth that Nietzsche probes into the human psyche:

The general purport of these thoughts is a disparagement of consciousness, which, in Nietzsche’s view, is nothing in and by itself.  In reply to those who overestimate it, he alleges that consciousness hobbles along behind, observes only a little at one time, and, even then, pauses for other things; that it only scratches the surface, is a mere on-looker of the inner as well as the outer world—and not even this until it has arranged them both to suit itself.  Furthermore, the conscious is merely symptomatic of a richer world of extra-conscious real occurrence; it is only an end-product, devoid of causal efficacy, as a result of which all conscious sequence is completely atomistic.

          Karl Jaspers, Nietzsche

We get a creative re-enactment of Nietzsche in Yalom’s novel, When Nietzsche Wept.  He has the fictional Nietzsche say

Should we not create—should we not become—before we reproduce?  Our responsibility to life is to create the higher, not to reproduce the lower. Nothing must interfere with the development of the hero inside of you.  And if lust stands in the way, then it, too, must be overcome.

          Irvin D. Yalom, When Nietzsche Wept

Yalom offers his own diagnosis when he writes that “Nietzsche had so little contact with other human beings that he spent an extraordinary amount of time in conversation with his own nervous system.”  (When Nietzsche Wept)  This resulted in Nietzsche’s furious focus and intense visions of the plains, plateaus and abysses of the human psyche.  He recognized the fabric of lies that a person assembles in order to cope, to decide, to live:

Nietzsche’s main thrust is that it’s errors(as well as lies) that have been thus functional.  Our cognitive practices are crucially built out of dispositions designed to get things wrong—i.e., out of drives to simplify and otherwise distort reality. Nietzsche interprets Kant’s categories as precisely such requisite mistakes: we all instinctively structure our experiences into substances and causes, because these fictions helped our ancestors to cope quickly and roughly with their surroundings.  


          John Richardson’s Nietzsche’s New Darwinism

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen provides an interesting study of Nietzsche’s influence in American Nietzsche.  She touches upon one of the controversies surrounding Nietzsche’s intellectual legacy: was he actually a philosopher?  Many prominent thinkers didn’t think so, both during his lifetime (when he was better known as a philologist) and deep into the 20th century. One of Kaufman’s purposes in writing his Nietzschein the late 50’s was to make a case for Nietzsche the philosopher.  Whether he actually was or wasn’t a philosopher depends entirely upon your definition.  Bryan Magee has a nice definition I would like to share:

[Bertrand Russell] took it for granted that the central task of philosophy was the understanding of the world.  This involved, as he saw it, having beliefs that we could justify, and this in turn imposed on us two philosophical necessities: first, the analysis of our most important beliefs, so as to make perspicuous to ourselves as well as to others precisely what it was they meant and entailed; and second, the provision of adequate grounds for believing them, which meant producing either good evidence or valid arguments for them, and being able to answer effectively the criticisms against them.

          Bryan Magee, Confessions of a Philosopher

These days the world pretty much takes Nietzsche as a philosopher, for better or worse, and I certainly believe that he fits the criteria above.  But what about the artistic element of Nietzsche’s thought, so absolutely central?  Well, Ratner-Rosenhagen asserts that

...for Nietzsche, the art of criticism was more than the deconstruction of values; it was also a medium for envisioning and creating new images of the possible.  In doing so, Nietzsche had dissolved the distinction between the philosopher and the artist.

          Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, American Nietzsche

The subject of Ratner-Rosenhagen’s book had to do with Nietzsche’s influence in America.  After reading her book, I wrote to her suggesting that 

…there is a prominent American thinker/writer/philosopher [she hadn’t] considered, one that genuinely ‘revalued all values’, who attempted to bring to literary life a genuine ubermensch(while actually depicting literature’s greatest uberfrau), who explicitly and stridently challenged American morals and values with a vision of her own, the philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand.
          Not to say she was entirely successful, or that what she expressed was necessarily ‘true’ (whatever that means), but only that she did what any genuine disciple of Nietzsche would do: she created an original heroic vision of what man could be, and expressed that vision in powerful literary prose.  I would assert that her influence far exceeds the Blooms, Mencken or Rorty, and stands second only to Kaufmann in bringing Nietzsche’s fundamental influence to America….  
          As far as Rand’s relationship to Nietzsche, she originally encountered him as a young woman in St. Petersburg prior to immigrating to the US in the 20’s.  Later in life she vehemently denied his influence on her thinking, but it’s obviously there.  (And that provokes the question between influence and confluence – does it really matter?  She found a kindred soul in Nietzsche, and who can tell, even herself, what impact that powerful soul ultimately had on her own?) 


          A. Wheeler, letter to Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

Speaking of Rand, she proceeds in a Nietzschean direction and then huddles within an intellectual cul-de-sac, with no way forward.  She answers all questions within her Objectivist ideology, permits no deviations from her thinking, demands strict adherence to her (near) holy word, ensuring no possibility for an advance beyond her land-locked position.  Her thought, while worthy of consideration, represents an intellectual dead end.

For me, Nietzsche stands at the center of the Western intellectual tradition.  Not that he was the most influential (Kant and Plato, if not others, surely made a greater impact), nor necessarily the best (whatever that means): only that you can trace a line back from Nietzsche through Schopenhauer and Kant, and independently (Nietzsche was, after all, a philologist) to the ancient Greeks, particularly the pre-Socratics.  Nietzsche identifies additional influences when he writes:

There have been four pairs who did not refuse themselves to me…Epicurus and Montaigne, Goethe and Spinoza, Plato and Rousseau, Pascal and Schopenhauer.  

          Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Nietzsche also admired Ralph Waldo Emerson.  The thinkers that for me have progressed beyond Nietzsche and allow for continued advance include George Steiner (particularly when it comes to language), and the aforementioned Peter Sloterdijk and Laurence Lampert (Critique of Cynical Reasonand Nietzsche and Modern times, respectively).  As for the magnitude of Nietzsche’s presence in the present, his name appears in the index of practically every serious book published in the past forty years.  

For those of us who admire Nietzsche, we must take into particular account the influence of Arthur Schopenhauer. The latter converted Nietzsche from a philologist (his academic specialty) to a philosopher. Despite Nietzsche’s later disavowal of his master (comparable to Rand’s disavowal of Nietzsche) Nietzsche gained tremendously from Schopenhauer, a philosophical foundation that may not have been there otherwise.  I would be less impressed with Nietzsche had I read Schopenhauer first.  

Critics and Criticism of Nietzsche

One of the books I enjoyed the most was Nietzsche’s Corps/e, by Geoff Waite.  The author despised Nietzsche, and blamed him for every terrible thing in the modern world.  I thought it was funny, despite the serious nature of the charge. And I don’t think he was necessarily wrong in tracing Nietzsche’s influence from one cultural or political conflagration to another.  I simply question the power of any thinker’s influence, even those that clearly intertwine with so many strands of thought, art and culture, influence powerful enough to infect an entire society into sickness (or health).  What are the factors of social power and societal change? I don’t know that they are singular or distinct as one thinker, event, or personage.

Another author deeply critical of Nietzsche is Allan Megill.  In particular, he charges Nietzsche with elements of idealism that transgress the bounds of art and philosophy:

Perhaps we couldenter the particular interior space that Nietzsche has constructed for us, just as we can enter the interior space that is offered to us by almost any work of art.  But why shouldwe?  After all, the claims that Nietzsche makes far exceed the claims of any artist.  He promises not, as the artists does, to enliven our world or to make us see it better, but rather to change it into something that it is not.  And the claim is one that Nietzsche has no ground for making.  In making this claim, Nietzsche is articulating an idealism far more radical than anything in Hegel.  

           Allan Megill, Prophets of Extremity

I would respond that nobody has made the nature of the world, and my place in it, more clear and understandable to me than Nietzsche.  The fundamental nature of existence, the absolute bottom of the abyss, he makes manifest (for me).  There is nothing idealistic in this claim: I refer entirely to the most severe ontological interpretation of the universe.  Again, for me.

A suggestion I would make would be to separate Nietzsche’s critical insights and his foundational concepts from what he, a living human, did with them. In other words, recognizing the lack of inherent meaning and purpose in the universe, and the fictional basis for every human’s worldview, what does a person do with such understanding? Infinite options exist.  And it is at this point that my perspective generally diverges from Nietzsche’s.  He made of himself a particular, and unique, intellect and spirit.  As have I.  The two have very little in common.  What Nietzsche expresses as the artist, the man, differs from what he writes as a philosopher (although I would be hard pressed to draw a solid line between the two). But the bifurcation exists, and it would be misleading to draw universal implications from his personal declarations.

Megill suggests that a couple of Nietzsche’s principle concepts are indefinable and irrelevant to our world:

Neither idealism [Nietzsche's eternal return and his superman] is in the least degree definable.  Neither connects with the world as we know it.  And in important senses, we doknow the world, and are able to function therein, even though we may not be able--as so many are eager to remind us--to establish the grounds for the possibility of our knowing it.

          Allan Megill, Prophets of Extremity

For me, Nietzsche’s eternal return of the same and his ubermenschare less important than they were to him, but both concepts are meaningful in my world and Megill’s.  As for the former, the return can operate in several ways: most importantly, as an idea that makes everyday, every moment, particularly meaningful, if we consider the possibility of having to relive it an infinite amount of times, unchanged and without end.  Not that we will, or that Nietzsche expresses some form of cosmic Ground Hog Day: only that if we sincerely consider the notion, take it seriously, and live our lives as if it were true, what a difference it might make.  That’s how the notion of the eternal return of the same might connect to our world, exactly as it is.  As for the latter, the vision of the ubermensch, and the possibility of humanity advancing to another higher, and better stage of evolution, must be respected as a desirable goal, considering the current state of humankind.  

There are many aspects of Nietzsche’s thought I find reprehensible, meaningless and dangerous, but Megill is not touching on those.  Instead, he charges Nietzsche with mysticism and utopianism:

[Nietzsche's] myth, in fact, is a form of mysticism, a purely individualistic, even solipsistic creation.  Moreover, it is a creation that is bound, in its absolute utopianism, to obscure the world as it is.

         Allan Megill, Prophets of Extremity

As already stated, I read Nietzsche as the clearest eyed, the most realistic and relevant thinker in Western history.  He illuminates the world, unlike the countless Derrida’s, Heidegger’s, Kant’s and Foucault’s who seem bent on making even the simplest concept obscure, and the more complicated notions indecipherable.  Yes, Nietzsche is radically individualistic, in keeping with the ultimate source of everything – the individual mind (or spirit, or soul). Yet Nietzsche is obviously aware of human society, and a person’s place within it, refuting any charges of solipsism. The “absolute utopianism” leaves me baffled: I would struggle greatly to dig even a hint of that out of Nietzsche’s words.

Habermas makes an interesting critical observation of Nietzsche when he writes:

…Nietzsche so directed the gaze of his successors to the phenomena of the extraordinary that they contemptuously glide over the practice of everyday life as something derivative or inauthentic.

          Jurgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse on Modernity

This is nearly right: yes, Nietzsche certainly treats the extraordinary as the proper subject of his readers, but I would characterize “the practice of everyday life” as something other than “derivative or inauthentic.”  Perhaps an attitude of “indifference and unimportance” would better fit, at least for me.

Epigrams for My Novels

With one exception, Nietzsche provides the title page epigram for my completed novels.  In the order they were written:

Still Dawn –  My first novel and in some ways both the finest and the least accomplished:

The men with whom we live resemble a field of ruins of the most precious sculptural designs where everything shouts at us: come, help, perfect, ... we yearn immeasurably to become whole.

            Nietzsche, quoted by Walter Kaufman in Nietzsche

Sol –  Perhaps the most important and profound of my work, fronted with the nine most significant words in the English language:

We possess art lest we perish of the truth.

          Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Steppes to Empyrea – Another favorite, one I usually recommend for reading first:

     If it depended on my choice,
     I think it might be great
     To have a place in Paradise;
     Better yet—outside the gate.


          Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Orphans of This Wasted Vale – probably my personal favorite, a novel that couldn’t have been written without the previous ones.  Far too complex.  The most humor, the most fun:

     Whoever must one day kindle the lightning
     Must be for a long time—cloud.


         Nietzsche, Daybreak

Beached Whales Sigh Low Over Volcanoes – the oddball of the bunch, and the only one without a Nietzsche epigram, and the only one that shouldn’t be read out of sequence.  To gain the greatest impact, all four previous novels should be read first, as Beached Whales effectively caps the entire Still Dawn cycle:

     These violent delights have violent ends
     And in their triumph die, like fire and powder
     Which, as they kiss, consume.


           Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

My Unwritten Novels

I intend to write two more novels, one already in progress.  Each of them carries a Nietzsche quote (although the one below is creatively derived, and contains for me multitudes of meaning).

The War of Eternity (currently in process)

     But, it is written—
          If the evil spirit arms the tiger with claws, 
          Brahman provided wings for the dove.
              Thus spake the super guru…


                   Paraphrase of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra by Cleavon Little in the movie Vanishing Point,

                   recited by lead-singer Axl Rose in Guns ‘n Roses’ Breakdown

The Darkest Daybreak (in planning)

Title page:

If we affirm one single moment, we thus affirm not only ourselves but all existence.  For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness and sounded like a harp string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this one event—and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed.

          Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Epilogue:  

Poet and bird. – The phoenix showed the poet a scroll which was burning to ashes.  ‘Do not be dismayed!’ it said, ‘it is your work!  It does not have the spirit of the age and even less the spirit of those who are against the age: consequently it must be burned.  But this is a good sign.  There are many kinds of daybreaks.’

             Nietzsche, Daybreak

What Nietzsche Wrote

What follows is a personal selection from Nietzsche’s work.  Not necessarily the very best, but simply what struck me as particularly meaningful and interesting.  They are roughly organized in eight arbitrary categories:


  • Art and Music
  • Humanity and Society
  • Nihilism and Truth
  • Knowledge and Science
  • Christianity
  • Words of Wit
  • Personal Favorites.


Art and Music

Let such “serious” readers learn something from the fact that I am convinced that art represents the highest task and the truly metaphysical activity of this life...

     Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy

In this sense the Dionysian man resembles Hamlet: both have once looked truly into the essence of things, they have gained knowledge, and nausea inhibits action; for their action could not change anything in the eternal nature of things; they feel it to be ridiculous or humiliating that they should be asked to set right a world that is out of joint. Knowledge kills action; action requires the veils of illusion: that is the doctrine of Hamlet, not that cheap wisdom of Jack the Dreamer who reflects too much and, as it were, from an excess of possibilities does not get around to action.  Not reflection, no--true knowledge, an insight into the horrible truth, outweighs any motive for action, both in Hamlet and in the Dionysian man.
            ...Conscious of the truth he has once seen, man now sees everywhere only the horror or absurdity of existence...
            Here, when the danger to his will is greatest, artapproaches as a saving sorceress, expert at healing.  She alone knows how to turn these nauseous thoughts about the horror or absurdity of existence into notions with which one can live: these are the sublimeas the artistic taming of the horrible, and the comicas the artistic discharge of the nausea of absurdity.


     Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy

At bottom, the aesthetic phenomenon is simple: let anyone have the ability to behold continually a vivid play and to live constantly surrounded by hosts of spirits, and he will be a poet; let anyone feel the urge to transform himself and to speak out of other bodies and souls, and he will be a dramatist.

     Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy

As [Socrates] tells his friends in prison, there often came to him one and the same dream apparition, which always said the same thing to him: “Socrates, practice music.”  
            ...The voice of the Socratic dream vision is the only sign of any misgivings about the limits of logic: Perhaps--thus he must have asked himself--what is not intelligible to me is not necessarily unintelligent?  Perhaps there is a realm of wisdom from which the logician is exiled?  Perhaps art is even a necessary correlative of, and supplement for science?


     Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy

What you see is the birth of a hybrid species, the artist—removed from crime through weakness of will and fear of society, though not yet ready for the insane asylum, and oddly extending his antennae in both directions.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Georges Bataille, On Nietzsche

That is why there is in all philosophies so much high-flying metaphysics and such a dread of the explanations offered by physics, which seem so modest and insignificant; for the significance of knowledge for life hasto appear as great as it possibly can.  Here lies the antagonism between the individual regions of science and philosophy.  The latter wants, as art does, to bestow on life and action the greatest possible profundity and significance; in the former one seeks knowledge and nothing further…

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Indeed, if life were ever to be ordered within the perfect state, there would no longer exist in the present any motive whatever for poetry and fiction, and it would be only the retarded who still had a desire for poetical unreality.  These would in any case look back in longing to the times of the imperfect state, of society still half barbaric, to ourtimes.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

One does best to separate artists from their work, not taking them as seriously as their work.  They are, after all, only the precondition of their work, the womb, the soil, sometimes the dung and manure on which, out of which, it grows—and therefore in most cases something one must forget if one is to enjoy the work itself.

     Nietzsche, quoted in Nietzsche: Modern Critical Views

We tolerate pathos only in art; actual living beings are supposed to be straightforward and not too loud.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Rudiger Safranski in Nietzsche

Flight from boredom is the mother of all art.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Rudiger Safranski in Nietzsche

[Art] is intended to ward off discomfort, boredom, the half-clear conscience for hours or moments and, if possible, transform the mistakes of their lives and characters into mistakes of the world’s destiny.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Rudiger Safranski in Nietzsche

This artist is ambitious, nothing more.  Ultimately, his work is merely a magnifying glass that he offers everybody who looks his way.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

An artist chooses his subjects; that is his way of praising.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

The artistic view of the world: to sit down to contemplate life.  But any analysis of the aesthetic outlook is lacking: its reduction to cruelty, a feeling of security, playing the judge and standing outside, etc.  One must examine the artist himself, and his psychology (critique of the drive to play as a release of force, a pleasure in change, in impressing one’s soul on something foreign, the absolute egoism of the artist, etc.)  What drives he sublimates.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

What is essential in art remains its perfection of existence, its production of perfection and plenitude; art is essentially affirmation, blessing, deification of existence—What does a pessimistic art signify?  Is it not a conradictio?--Yes.—Schopenhauer is wrong when he says that certain works of art serve pessimism.  Tragedy does notteach “resignation”—To represent terrible and questionable things is in itself an instinct for power and magnificence in an artist: he does not fear them—There is no such thing as pessimistic art—Art affirms.  Job affirms.—But Zola?  But the Goncourts?-- The things they display are ugly: but thatthey display them comes from their pleasure in the ugly—It’s no good!  If you think otherwise, you’re deceiving yourselves.—How liberating is Dostoevsky!

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

For a philosopher to say, “the good and the beautiful are one,” is infamy; if he goes on to add, “also the true,” one ought to thrash him.  Truth is ugly.
            We possess artlest we perish from the truth.  


      Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Art as freedom from moral narrowness and corner-perspectives; or as mockery of them. Flight into nature, where its beauty is coupled with frightfulness.  Conception of the great human being.  

    Nietzsche, The Will to Power

The profundity of the tragic artist lies in this, that his aesthetic instinct surveys the more remote consequences, that he does not halt shortsightedly at what is closest at hand, that he affirms the large-scale economy which justifies the terrifying,the evil, the questionable—and more than merely justifies them.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

How far does art reach down into the essence of strength?

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

What does the tragic artist tell us about himself?  Does he not precisely demonstrate fearlessness in confronting the terrifying and questionable?...Bravery and freedom of feeling before a mighty enemy, before a lofty calamity, before a problem that awakens dread—that triumphantattitude is chosen and glorified by the tragic artist.  The combative in our soul celebrates its Saturnalia in the presence of tragedy.  Whoever is accustomed to sorrow and whoever searches out sorrow, to him alone the tragedian offers a drink from this sweetest cruelty and the heroic human extols his own existence through tragedy.

     Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Artists, an intermediary species: they at least fix an image of that which ought to be; they are productive, to the extent that they actually alter and transform; unlike men of knowledge, who leave everything as it is.

     Nietzsche, Will to Power

…it seems impossible to be an artist and not to be sick.

      Nietzsche, Will to Power

Our whole discussion insists that lyric poetry is dependent on the spirit of music just as music itself in its absolute sovereignty does not need the image and the concept, but merely endures them as accompaniments.  The poems of the lyrist can express nothing that did not already lie hidden in that vast universality and absoluteness in the music that compelled him to figurative speech.  Language can never adequately render the cosmic symbolism of music, because music stands in symbolic relation to the primordial contradiction and primordial pain in the heart of the primal unity, and therefore symbolizes a sphere which is beyond and prior to all phenomena.  Rather, all phenomena, compared with it, are merely symbols: hence language, as the organ and symbol of phenomena, can never by any means disclose the innermost heart of music; language, in its attempt to imitate it, can only be in superficial contact with music; while all the eloquence of lyric poetry cannot bring the deepest significance of the latter one step nearer to us.

     Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy

Not every end is a goal.  A melody’s end is not its goal; nevertheless, so long as the melody has not reached its end, it also has not reached its goal.  A parable.

     Nietzsche, quoted in Nietzsche: Modern Critical Views

How sweet it is, that words and sounds of music exist: are words and music not rainbows and seeming bridges between things eternally separated?  

     Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Regarding all aesthetic values I now avail myself of this main distinction: I ask in every single case, ‘Is it hunger or overflow which has here become creative?’

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

The Psychologist, the Self

Early in the morning, at break of day, in all the freshness of dawn of one’s strength, to read a book– I call that vicious!

     Nietzsche, Alain de Botton’s The Consolation of Philosophy

I cannot advise all more spiritual natures too seriously to abstain from alcohol absolutely.  Water suffices.

     Nietzsche, Alain de Botton’s The Consolation of Philosophy

This alone is fitting for a philosopher.  We have no right to isolatedacts of any kind: we may not make isolated errors or hit upon isolated truths.  Rather do our ideas, our values, our yeas and nays, our ifs and buts, grow out of us with the necessity with which a tree bears fruit—related and each with an affinity to each, and evidence of one will, one health, one soil, one sun.”

     Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

Our love of our neighbor--is it not a love for new possessions?  And likewise our love of knowledge, of truth, and altogether any love for what is new? Gradually we become tired of the old, of what we safely possess, and we stretch out our hands again.  Even the most beautiful scenery is no longer assured of our love after we have lived in it for three months, and some more distant coast attracts our avarice: possessions are generally diminished by possession…
     Here and there on earth we may encounter a kind of continuation of love in which this possessive craving of two people for each other gives way to a new desire and lust for possession--a shared higher thirst for an ideal above them.  But who knows such love?  Who has experienced it?  Its right name is friendship.


     Nietzsche, Walter Kaufmann Discovering the Mind

What does a philosopher demand of himself, first and last?  To overcome his time in himself, to become 'timeless'.

     Nietzsche

Every smallest step in the field of free thinking, and of the personally formed life, has ever been fought for at the cost of spiritual and physical tortures ... change has required its innumerable martyrs....  Nothing has been bought more dearly than that little bit of human reason and sense of freedom that is now the basis of our pride."

     Nietzsche, quoted by Walter Kaufman in Nietzsche

Young souls should look back on their lives with the question: what have you truly loved so far, what has attracted your soul higher, what has dominated it and at the same time made it rejoice?  Assemble these revered objects in sequence before you, and perhaps their nature and sequence will reveal a law to you, the basic law of your true self.

     Nietzsche

You are totally ignorant of what you experience, you run through life a drunk and now and then fall down some stairs.  But still, thanks to your drunkenness, you don’t break your limbs in your fall….For us, life is more dangerous: we are made of glass—woe if we are hit!  And all is lost if we fall!

     Nietzsche

It clearly seems that the chief thing in heaven and on earth is to obey at length and in a single direction: in the long run there results something for which it is worth the trouble of living on this earth as, for example, virtue, art, music, the dance, reason, the mind—something that transfigures, something delicate, mad, or divine.

     Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

The manifold torture of the psychologist who has discovered this ruination, who discovers this whole inner hopelessness of the higher man, this eternal “too late”…may perhaps lead him one day to turn against his own lot, embittered, and to make an attempt at self-destruction.

     Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Fame brings a loss.– What an advantage to be allowed to address men as an unknown!  The gods take from us ‘half our virtue’ when they take from us our incognito and make us famous.

      Nietzsche, Daybreak

Gradually we become tired of the old, of what we safely possess, and we stretch out our hands again.  Even the most beautiful scenery is no longer assured of our love after we have lived in it for three months, and some more distant coast attracts our avarice: possessions are generally diminished by possession.

     Nietzsche, Gay Science

Either we have no dreams or our dreams are interesting.  We should learn to arrange our waking life the same way: nothing or interesting.

     Nietzsche, Gay Science

…in a time of decline, a time when all is counterfeit and pointless activity, thinking in the grand styleis genuine action, indeed, action in its most powerful—though most silent—form.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Heidegger in Nietzsche

If, however, a man should wish to be, like that God, wholly love, and to do and desire everything for others and nothing for himself, then the latter is impossible simply because he has to do a great dealfor himself if he is to be able to do anything whatever for the sake of others. Moreover, such a thing presupposes that the other is sufficiently egoistical to accept this sacrifice, this life lived for his sake, over and over again: so that men of love and self-sacrifice would have to have an interest in the continuance of the loveless egoist incapable of self-sacrifice, and the highest morality would, if it was to continue to exist, have to downright compel the existence of immorality (whereby it would, to be sure, abolish itself).

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

The recipe for becoming a good novelist…is easy to give, but to carry it out presupposes qualities one is accustomed to overlook when one says ‘I do not have enough talent.’  One has only to make a hundred or so sketches for novels, none longer than two pages but of such distinctness that every word in them is necessary; one should write down anecdotes each day until one has learned how to give them the most pregnant and effective form; one should be tireless in collecting and describing human types and characters; one should above all relate things to others and listen to others relate, keeping one’s eyes and ears open for the effect produced on those present; one should travel like a landscape painter or costume designer; one should excerpt for oneself out of the individual sciences everything that will produce an artistic effect when it is well described; one should, finally, reflect on the motives of human actions, disdain no signpost to instruction about them and be a collector of these things by day and night.  One should continue in this many-sided exercise some ten years: what is then created in the workshop, however, will be fit to go out into the world. – What, however, do most people do?  They begin, not with the parts, but with the whole.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

That author has drawn the happiest lot who as an old man can say that all of life-engendering, strengthening, elevating, enlightening thought and feeling that was in him lives on in his writings, and that he himself is now nothing but the gray ashes, while the fire has everywhere been rescued and borne forward.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Joy in age.  – The thinker, and the artist likewise, whose better self has taken refuge in his work, feels an almost malicious joy when he sees how his body and his spirit are being slowly broken down and destroyed by time: it is as though he observed from a corner a thief working away at his money-chest, while knowing that the chest is empty and all the treasure it contained safe.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

The Italian Renaissance contained within it all the positive forces to which we owe modern culture: liberation of thought, disrespect for authorities, victory of education over the arrogance of ancestry, enthusiasm for science and the scientific past of mankind, unfettering of the individual, a passion for truthfulness and an aversion to appearance and mere effect…  

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

As at all times, so now too, men are divided into the slaves and the free; for he who does not have two-thirds of his day to himself is a slave, let him be what he may otherwise: statesman, businessman, official, scholar.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

He who really wants to get to know something new (be it a person, an event, a book) does well to entertain it with all possible love and to avert his eyes quickly from everything in it he finds inimical, repellent, false, indeed to banish it from mind: so that, for example, he allows the author of a book the longest start and then, like one watching a race, desires with beating heart that he may reach his goal.  For with this procedure one penetrates to the heart of the new thing, to the point that actually moves it: and precisely this is what is meant by getting to know it.  If one has got this far, reason can afterwards make its reservations; that over-estimation, that temporary suspension of the critical pendulum, was only an artifice for luring forth the soul of the thing.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

We do not hesitate to take the path to a virtue even when we are clearly aware that the motives which impel us – utility, personal comfort, fear, considerations of health, of fame or reputation – are nothing but egoism. These motives are called selfish and ignoble: very well, but when they incite us to a virtue – to, for example, renunciation, dutifulness, orderliness, thrift, measure and moderation – we pay heed to them, whatever they may be called!  For if we attain what they summon us to, achievedvirtue ennoblesthe remoter motives for our action through the pure air it lets us breathe and the psychical pleasure it communicates…

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Good writers have two things in common: they prefer to be understood rather than admired; and they do not write for knowing and over-acute readers.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Men who think deeply appear as comedians when they traffic with others, because in order to be understood they always have first to simulate a surface.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

The wise man’s philanthropy sometimes leads him to poseas excited, angry, delighted, so that the coldness and reflectiveness of his true nature shall not harm those around him.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

I too have been in the underworld, like Odysseus, and will often be there again; and I have not sacrificed only rams to be able to talk with the dead, but have not spared my own blood as well.  There have been four pairs who did not refuse themselves to me, the sacrificer: Epicurus and Montaigne, Goethe and Spinoza, Plato and Rousseau, Pascal and Schopenhauer.  With these I have had to come to terms when I have wandered long alone, from them will I accept judgment, to them will I listen when in doing so they judge one another. Whatever I say, resolve, cogitate for myself and others: upon these eight I fix my eyes and see their fixed upon me. – May the living forgive me iftheysometimes appear to me as shades, so pale and ill-humored, so restless and, alas! so lusting for life: whereas those others then seem to me so alive, as though now, afterdeath, they could never again grow weary of life.  Eternal liveliness, however, is what counts: what do ‘eternal life’, or life at all, matter to us!

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

So long as we do not feelthat we are dependent on anything we regard ourselves as independent: a false conclusion that demonstrates how proud and lusting for power man is.  For he here assumes that as soon as he experiences dependence he must under all circumstances notice and recognize it, under the presupposition that he is accustomedto living in independence and if, exceptionally, he lost it, he would at once perceive a sensation antithetical to the one he is accustomed to. –But what if the opposite were true: that he is alwaysliving in manifold dependence but regards himself as freewhen, out of long habituation, he no longer perceives the weight of the chains?  It is only from new chains that he now suffers: – ‘freedom of will’ really means nothing more than feeling no new chains.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Don’t talk to me about being gifted, or of inborn talent!  We can name great men of all sorts who were not very talented. But they became great and became ‘geniuses’…they had the earnestness of craftsmen who build parts from the ground up first before attempting to shape a grand design; they allowed themselves sufficient time for that because they took more pleasure in perfecting small and incidental things instead of aiming for a dazzling effect of the whole design.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

In solitude the solitary man consumes himself, in the crowd the crowd consumes him.  Now choose.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

The philosopher is a philosopher first only for himself, and then for others.

     Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth

My general task: to show how life, philosophy, and art can be related to one another in a more profound affinity, without the philosophy becoming banal or the philosopher’s life dishonest.

     Nietzsche, quoted by David Krell in Postponements

Where is this whole philosophy headed with all of its meandering?  Does it do anything more than translate a constant strong drive into reason, a drive for gentle sunlight, bright and breezy air, southern vegetation, a breath of the sea, fleeting nourishment with meat, eggs, and fruits, hot water to drink, silent walks that last for days, sparse discussion, infrequent and cautious reading, solitary living, clean, simple, and almost military habits—in short, for all things that taste best to me specifically and are healthiest for me specifically?  A philosophy that is essentially the instinct for a personal diet? An instinct that seeks my air, my height, my climate, and my personal health by taking a detour through my head? There are many other, and surely also many higher, sublimities of philosophy, and not only those that are gloomier and more demanding than mine.  Perhaps all of them are also nothing but intellectual detours of these sorts of personal drives?

        Nietzsche, quoted by Rudiger Safranski in Nietzsche

Man’s utter lack of responsibility for his actions and his nature is the bitterest pill for the knowledgeable person to swallow.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Rudiger Safranski in Nietzsche

How often I see that blindly raging industriousness does create wealth and reap honors while at the same time depriving the organs of their subtlety, which alone would make possible the enjoyment of wealth and honors; also that this chief antidote to boredom and the passions at the same time blunts the senses and leads the spirit to resist new attractions.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Different types of dangerous lives.—You have no idea what you are living through; you rush through life as if you were drunk and now and then fall down some staircase.  But thanks to your drunkenness you never break a limb; your muscles are too relaxed and your brain too benighted for you to find the stones of these stairs as hard as we do.  For us life is more dangerous: we are made of glass; woe unto us if we merely bumpourselves!  And all is lost if we fall!

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

To what extent is it desirable that man should become more virtuous? Or cleverer? Or happier?…and if one desires one of these things, who knows, perhaps one is precluded from desiring the others.  Is an increase in virtuousness compatible with an increase in cleverness and insight?…Has virtuousness as a goal not hitherto been in the most rigorous sense incompatible with being happy?  Does it not, on the contrary, require misfortune, self-denial and self-mistreatment as a necessary means?  And if the deepest insight were the goal, would one not then have to renounce the increase of happiness? And choose danger, adventure, mistrust, seduction as the road to insight?--And if one desires happiness, well, perhaps one has to become one of the “poor in spirit.”

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Likewise our love of the beautiful: it also is our shaping will.  The two senses stand side-by-side; the sense for the real is the means of acquiring the power to shape things according to our wish. The joy in shaping and reshaping—a primeval joy!  We can comprehend only a world that we ourselves have made.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

For what does one have to atone most?  For one’s modesty; for having failed to listen to one’s most personal requirements; for having mistaken oneself; for having underestimated oneself; for having lost a good ear for one’s instincts.  

    Nietzsche, The Will to Power

I wish men would begin by respecting themselves: everything else follows from that.  To be sure, as soon as one does this one is finished for others: for this is what they forgive last: “What?  A man who respects himself?”

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

…he [one that has turned out well] is always in his own company, whether he deals with books, men, or landscapes…

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

And how many new ideals are, at bottom, still possible!  Here is a little ideal I stumble upon once every five weeks on a wild and lonely walk, in an azure moment of sinful happiness.  To spend one’s life amid delicate and absurd things; a stranger to reality; half an artist, half a bird and metaphysician; with no care for reality, except now and then to acknowledge it in the manner of a good dancer with the tips of one’s toes; always tickled by some sunray of happiness; exuberant and encouraged even by misery—for miserypreserves the happy man; fixing a little humorous tail even to the holiest things: this, as is obvious, is the ideal of a heavy, hundredweight spirit—a spirit of gravity.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

“Why?” said Zarathustra.  “You ask, why?  I am not one of those whom one may ask about their why.  Is my experience but of yesterday?  It was long ago that I experienced the reasons for my opinions. Would I not have to be a barrel of memory if I wanted to carry my reasons around with me?  It is already too much for me to remember my own opinions; and many a bird flies away.”

     Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

“This is my way; where is yours?”--this I answered those who asked me “the way.”  For the way--that does not exist.

     Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

How little is required for pleasure!  The sound of a bagpipe.  Without music, life would be an error.  The German imagines even God singing songs.

     Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

…the nature of scientific man…contains a real paradox: he behaves like the proudest idler of fortune, as though existence were not a dreadful and questionable thing but a firm possession guaranteed to last for ever.  He seems to be permitted to squander his life on questions whose answer could at bottom be of consequence only to someone assured of an eternity.  The heir of but a few hours, he is ringed around with frightful abysses, and every step he takes ought to make him ask: Whither? Whence?  To what end?  But his soul is warmed with the task of counting the stamens of a flower or breaking up the stones of the pathway and all the interest, joy, strength and desire he possesses is absorbed in this work.

     Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

We are responsible to ourselves for our own existence; consequently we want to be the true helmsman of this existence and refuse to allow our existence to resemble a mindless act of chance.

     Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

The moral fashions.... These greatest wonders of classical morality--Epicetus, for example--did not know anything of the now customary glorification of thinking of others and living for others. In view of our moral fashion, one would have to call them flatly immoral; for they fought with all their energies fortheir ego and againstsympathy for others (especially sympathy for their suffering and moral shortcomings).  Perhaps they would reply to us: 'If you have such a boring and ugly object in yourselves, by all means do think more of others than of yourselves.'

     Nietzsche, quoted by Walter Kaufman in Nietzsche

My profound indifference toward myself: I desire no advantage from my insights and do not avoid the disadvantages that accompany them.

     Nietzsche, Will to Power

A man with a taste of his own, enclosed and concealed by his solitude, incommunicable, reserved—an unfathomed man, thus a man of a higher, at any rate a different species: how should you be able to evaluate him, since you cannot know him, cannot compare him?

     Nietzsche, Will to Power

His most selfless act hitherto has been to admire and worship and know how to conceal from himself that it was hewho created what he admired.

     Nietzsche, Will to Power

Humanity and Society

It is with people as it is with the trees.  The more they aspire to the height and light, the more strongly do their roots strive earthward, downward, into the dark, the deep—into evil.

     Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

The valueof a human being ... does not lie in his usefulness: for it would continue to exist even if there were nobody to whom he could be useful.

     Nietzsche

“Good society” consists of those whom at bottom nothing interests except what is forbiddenin bourgeois society and gives a bad reputation: the same applies to books, music, politics, and the estimation of woman.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

On the other side, the herd man in Europe today gives himself the appearance of being the only permissible kind of man, and glorifies his attributes, which make him tame, easy to get along with, and useful to the herd, as if they were the truly human virtues: namely, public spirit, benevolence, consideration, industriousness, moderation, modesty, indulgence, and pity.

     Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Just as little as a reader today reads all of the individual words (let alone syllables) on a page--rather he picks about five words at random out of twenty and "guesses" at the meaning that probably belongs to these five words--just as little do we see a tree exactly and completely with reference to leaves, twigs, color, and form; it is so very much easier for us simply to improvise some approximation of a tree.  Even in the midst of the strangest experience we will do the same: we make up the major part of the experience and can scarcely be forced notto contemplate some event as its "inventors."  All this means: basically and from time immemorial we are--accustomed to lying.  Or to put it more virtuously and hypocritically, in short, more pleasantly: one is much more of an artist than on knows.

     Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Whence comes the seductive charm of such an emasculated ideal of man?  Why are we not disgusted by it as we are perhaps disgusted by the idea of a castrato?  The answer lies precisely here: the voice of a castrato does notdisgust us, despite the cruel mutilation that is its condition: it has grown sweeter—Just because the “male organ” has been amputated from virtue, a feminine note has been brought to the voice of virtue that it did not have before.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

The apparently crazy idea that a man should esteem the actions he performs for another more highly than those he performs for himself, and that this other should likewise, etc.  (that one should call good only those actions that a man performs with an eye, not to himself, but to the welfare of another) has a meaning: namely, as the social instinct resting on the valuation that the single individual is of little account, but all individuals together are of very great account provided they constitute a community with a common feeling and a common conscience.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

But we others would laugh if an animal-trainer spoke of his “improved” animals. In most cases, the taming of a beast is achieved through the harming of a beast: the moral man, too, is not a better man but only a weaker one.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

To what extent even our intellect is a consequence of conditions of existence--: we would not have it if we did not need to have it, and we would not have it as it is if we did not need to have it as it is,if we could live otherwise.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

In the tremendous multiplicity of events within an organism, the art which becomes conscious to us is a mere means: and the little bit of “virtue,” “selflessness,” and similar fictions are refuted radically by the total balance of events.  We should study our organism in all its immorality—
            The animal functions are, as a matter of principle, a million times more important than all our beautiful moods and heights of consciousness: the latter are a surplus, except when they have to serve as tools of those animal functions.  The entire conscious life, the spirit along with the soul, the heart, goodness, and virtue—in whose service do they labor?  In the service of the greatest possible perfection of the means (means of nourishment, means of enhancement) of the basic animal functions: above all, the enhancement of life.
            What one used to call “body” and “flesh” is of such unspeakably greater importance: the remainder is a small accessory.  The task of spinning on the chain of life, and in such a way that the thread grows ever more powerful—that is the task.
            But consider how heart, soul, virtue, spirit practically conspire together to subvert this systematic task—as if they were the end in view!


     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

It must be shown to what extent everything conscious remains on the surface; how an action and the image of an action differ, how little one knows of what precedes an action; how fantastic are our feelings of “freedom of will,” “cause and effect”; how thoughts and images are, like words, only signs of thoughts; the inexplicability of every action; the superficiality of all praise and blame; how essential fiction and conceits are in which we dwell consciously; how all our words refer to fictions (our affects, too), and how the bond between man and man depends on the transmission and elaboration of these fictions; while fundamentally the real bond (through procreation) goes its unknown way.  Does this belief in common fictions really changemen?  Or is the entire realm of ideas and evaluations itself only an expression of unknown changes?  Are there really will, purposes, thoughts, values? Is the whole of conscious life perhaps only a reflected image?  And even when evaluation seems to determine the nature of a man, fundamentally something quite different is happening!  In short: supposing that purposiveness in the work of nature could be explained without the assumption of an ego that posits purposes: could ourpositing of purposes, our willing etc., not perhaps be also only a language of signs for something altogether different, namely something that does not will and is unconscious?  Only the faintest reflection of that natural expediency in the organic hut not different from it?
            Put briefly: perhaps the entire evolution of the spirit is a question of the body; it is the history of the development of a higher body that emerges into our sensibility.  The organic is rising to yet higher levels.  Our lust for knowledge of nature is a means through which the body desires to perfect itself.  Or rather: hundreds of thousands of experiments are made to change the nourishment, the mode of living and of dwelling of the body; consciousness and evaluations in the body, all kinds of pleasure and displeasure, are signs of these changes and experiments.  In the long run, it is not a question of man at all: he is to be overcome.  


     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Put in the crudest form: how could one sacrifice the development of mankind to help a higher species than man to come into existence?

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Every smallest step in the field of free thinking, and of the personally formed life, has ever been fought for at the cost of spiritual and physical tortures ... change has required its innumerable martyrs....  Nothing has been bought more dearly than that little bit of human reason and sense of freedom that is now the basis of our pride.

     Nietzsche, Walter Kaufman’s Nietzsche

Nihilism and Truth

It seems to me, however, that human transcendence is by nature negative. I lack the power of putting any object aboveme, whether to apprehend it or let it lacerate me, except for nothingness, which doesn’t exist.  

     Nietzsche, George Bataille’s On Nietzsche

…one does encounter those inverted sorcerers who, instead of creating the world out of nothing, create nothingness out of the world.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

Given these two insights, that becoming has no goal and that underneath all becoming there is no grand unity in which the individual could immerse himself completely as in an element of supreme value, an escape remains: to pass sentence on this whole world of becoming as a deception and to invent a world beyond it, a true world.  But as soon as man finds out how that world is fabricated solely from psychological needs, and how he has absolutely no right to it, the last form of nihilism comes into being: it includes disbelief in any metaphysical world and forbids itself any belief in a true world.  Having reached this standpoint, one grants the reality of becoming as the only reality, forbids oneself every kind of clandestine access to afterworlds and false divinities—butcannot endure this world though one does not want to deny it.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Existence has no goal or end;

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Briefly: the categories “aim,” “unity,” “being,” which we used to project some value into the world—we pull out again; so the world looks valueless.
            …Suppose we realize how the world may no longer be interpreted in terms of these three categories, and that the world begins to become valueless for us after this insight: then we have to ask about the sources of our faith in these three categories.
            …Conclusion: The faith in the categories of reason is the cause of nihilism.  We have measured the value of the world according to categories that refer to a purely fictitious world.


     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

The most extreme form of nihilism would be the view that every belief, every considering-something-true, is necessarily false because there simply is no true world.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

A philosopher recuperates differently and with different means: he recuperates, e.g., with nihilism.  Belief that there is no truth at all, the nihilistic belief, is a great relaxation for one who, as a warrior of knowledge, is ceaselessly fighting ugly truths. For truth is ugly.  

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

...the strength of the spirit might be measured according to how much of the ‘truth’ he would be able to stand—more clearly, to what degree it would need to be watered down, shrouded, sweetened, blunted, and falsified.

     Nietzsche

...there remains no choice--'I will not deceive, not even myself': and with this we are on the ground of morality.

     Nietzsche

...if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire.

     Nietzsche

Do we understand Hamlet?  It is not doubt, it is certainty that brings on madness….But this requires depth.  To feel thus, one must be deep, an abyss, a philosopher….We are afraid of the truth…

     Nietzsche, quoted by Karl Jasper in Nietzsche

Only by forgetting this primitive world of metaphor can one live with any repose, security, and consistency: only by means of the petrification and coagulation of a mass of images which originally streamed from the primal faculty of human imagination like a fiery liquid, only in the invincible faith that this sun, this window, this table is a truth in itself, in short, only by forgetting that he himself is an artistically creating subject, does man live with any repose, security, and consistency.  If but for an instant he could escape from the prison walls of this faith, his “self consciousness” would be immediately destroyed. It is even a difficult thing for him to admit to himself that the insect or the bird perceives an entirely different world from the one that man does, and that the question of which of these perceptions of the world is the more correct one is quite meaningless, for this would have to have been decided previously in accordance with the criterion of the correct perception, which means, in accordance with a criterion which is not available.

     Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth

The drive toward the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive, which one cannot for a single instant dispense with in thought, for one would thereby dispense with man himself.

     Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth

Consequently, “will to truth” does not mean “I will not allow myself to be deceived” but—there is not alternative—“I will not deceive, not even myself”; and with that we stand on moral ground.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

That nothing formerly held is true—What was formerly despised as unholy, forbidden, contemptible, fateful—all these flowers grow today along the lovely paths of truth.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

The most strongly believed a priori “truths” are for me—provisional assumptions; e.g., the law of causality, a very well acquired habit of belief, so much a part of us that not to believe in it would destroy the race.  But are they for that reason truths?  What a conclusion!  As if the preservation of man were a proof of truth!

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

That a great deal of belief must be present; that judgments may be ventured; that doubt concerning all essential values is lacking—that is the precondition of every living thing and its life. Therefore, what is needed is that something must be held to be true—not that something is true.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Kant infers (1) there are assertions which are valid only under a certain condition; (2) this condition is that they derive, not from experience, but from pure reason.
            Therefore: the question is, whence do we derive our reasons for believing in the truth of such assertions?  No, how our belief is caused!  But the origin of a belief, of a strong conviction, is a psychological problem: and a very narrow and limited experience often produces such a belief!  It already presupposes that there is not “data a posteriori” but also data a priori, “preceding experence.”  Necessity and universal validity could never be given to us by experience: why does that mean that they are present without any experience at all?


     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

…punishment does not expiate, forgiveness does not extinguish, what is done is not undone.  That someone forgets something is certainly not evidence that something has ceased to exist.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

…it is more comfortable to obey than to examine; it is more flattering to think “I possess the truth” than to see only darkness around one…

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Knowledge and Science

The cause of the origin of a thing and its eventual utility, its actual employment and place in a system of purposes, lie worlds apart.

     Nietzsche, Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

What is originality?  To see something that has no name as yet and hence cannot be mentioned although it stares us all in the face.  The way men usually are, it takes a name to make something visible for them.  Those with originality have for the most part also assigned names.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

…the problem of science…cannot be recognized in the context of science.

     Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy

What is it that the common people take for knowledge?…Nothing more than this: Something strange is to be reduced to something familiar….Look, isn’t our need for knowledge precisely this need for the familiar, the will to uncover under everything strange, unusual, and questionable something that no longer disturbs us?  Is it not the instinct of fear that bids us to know?  And is the jubilation of those who attain knowledge not the jubilation over the restoration of a sense of security?

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

…by virtue of which every center of force—and not only man—construes all the rest of the world from its own viewpoint; that is, measures, touches, shapes, according to its own force.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Martin Heidegger in Nietzsche

Restless knowledge leads to bleakness and ugliness.  Let us be contentwith the aesthetic view of the world!

     Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth

Time, space, and causality are only metaphors of knowledge, with which we explain things to ourselves…This most universal of all feelings is already a metaphor.

     Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth

Using only the eye, we should never have arrived at the notion of time; using only the ear, we should never have arrived at the notion of space…
    From the very beginning, we see the visual images only within ourselves; we hear the sound only within ourselves.  It is a big step from this to the postulation of an external world.


     Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth

After all, what is a law of nature as such for us?  We are not acquainted with it in itself, but only with its effects, which means in its relation to other laws of nature—which, in turn, are known to us only as sums of relations.  Therefore all these relations always refer again to others and are thoroughly incomprehensible to us in their essence.  

     Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth

Everything which is knowable is illusion.

     Nietzsche, Philosophy and Truth

In some remote corner of the universe that is poured out in countless flickering solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the most arrogant and untruthful moment in “world history”—yet indeed only a moment.  After nature had taken a few breaths, the star froze over and the clever animals had to die.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Laurence Lampert in Nietzsche and Modern Times

One should not understand this compulsion to construct concepts, species, forms, purposes, laws (“a world of identical cases”) as if they enabled us to fix the real world; but as a compulsion to arrange a world for ourselves in which our existence is made possible:--we thereby create a world which is calculable, simplified, comprehensible, etc., for us.  

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

It is we who created the “thing,” the “identical thing,” subject, attribute, activity, object, substance, form, after we had long pursued the process of making identical, coarse and simple.  The world seems logical to us because we have made it logical.  

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

An artist cannot endure reality, he looks away from it, back: he seriously believes that the value of a thing resides in that shadowy residue one derives from colors, form, sound, ideas; he believes that the more subtilized, attenuated, transient a thing or a man is, the more valuable he becomes; the less real, the more valuable.  This is Platonism, which, however, involved yet another bold reversal: Plato measured the degree of reality by the degree of value and said: The more "Idea," the more being.  He reversed the concept "reality" and said: "What you take for real is an error, and the nearer we approach the 'Idea,' the nearer we approach 'truth.'" -- Is this understood?  It was the greatest of rebaptisms; and because it has been adopted by Christianity we do not recognize how astonishing it is.  Fundamentally, Plato, as the artist he was, preferred appearance to being! lie and invention to truth! the unreal to the actual!  But he was so convinced of the value of appearance that he gave it the attributes "being," "causality" and "goodness," and "truth," in short everything men value.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Science—this has been hitherto a way of putting an end to the complete confusion in which things exist, by hypotheses that “explain” everything—so it has come from the intellect’s dislike of chaos.  

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Thus: a man wants to arrange all events as events accessible to sight and touch, consequently as motions: he wants to find formulas so as to simplify the tremendous quantity of his experiences.  Reduction of all events to the level of the man of the senses and the mathematician.  It is a question of an inventory of human experiences—under the supposition that man, or rather the human eye and ability to form concepts, are the eternal witness of all things.  

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Our apparatus for acquiring knowledge is not designed for “knowledge.”

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

The world seems logical to us because we have made it logical.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

The concepts “individual” and “species” equally false and merely apparent. “Species” expresses only the fact that an abundance of similar creatures appear at the same time and that the tempo of their further growth and change is for a long time slowed down, so actual small continuations and increases are not very much noticed (--a phase of evolution in which the evolution is not visible, so an equilibrium seems to have been attained, making possible the false notion that a goal has been attained—and that evolution has a goal--).

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Christianity

In truth, nothing could be more opposed to the purely aesthetic interpretation and justification of the world which are taught in this book than the Christian teaching, which is, and wants to be, only moral and which relegates art, every art, to the realm of lies; with its absolute standards, beginning with the truthfulness of God, it negates, judges, and damns art.  Behind this mode of thought and valuation, which must be hostile to art if it is at all genuine, I never failed to sense ahostility to life--a furious, vengeful antipathy to life itself: for all of life is based on semblance, art, deception, points of view, and the necessity of perspectives and error.  Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life’s nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in “another” or “better” life.  Hatred of “the world,” condemnations of the passions, fear of beauty and sensuality, a beyond invented the better to slander this life, at bottom a craving for the nothing, for the end, for respite, for “the Sabbath of Sabbaths”--all this always struck me, no less than the unconditional will of Christianity to recognize onlymoral values, as the most dangerous and uncanny form of all possible forms of a “will to decline”--at the very least a sign of abysmal sickness, weariness, discouragement, exhaustion, and the impoverishment of life.  For, confronted with morality (especially Christian, or unconditional, morality), life must continually and inevitably be in the wrong, because life is something essentially amoral--and eventually, crushed by the weight of contempt and the eternal No, life must then be felt to be unworthy of desire and altogether worthless. Morality itself--how now? might not morality be “a will to negate life,” a secret instinct of annihilation, a principle of decay, diminution, and slander--the beginning of the end ? Hence, the danger of dangers?

     Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy

Man as poet, as thinker, as God, as love, as power: with what regal liberality he has lavished gifts upon things so as to impoverish himself and make himself feel wretched!  His most unselfish act hitherto has been to admire and worship and to know how to conceal from himself that it was he who created what he admired.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

What did Christ deny?  Everything that is today called Christian.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

The Christian way of life is no more a fantasy than the Buddhist way of life: it is a means to be being happy.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

This is the humor of the situation, a tragic humor: Paul re-erected on a grand scale precisely that which Christ had annulled through his way of living.  At last, when the church was complete, it sanctioned even the existence of the state.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

A systematic school of the means to seduction to a faith: contempt, on principle, for the spheres from which contradiction might come (--the spheres of reason, philosophy and wisdom, mistrust, caution); a shameless praising and glorification of the doctrine, with constant reference to the fact that it was God who gave it—that the apostle signifies nothing—that nothing here is to be criticized, but only believed, accepted; that it is the most extraordinary grace and favor to receive such a doctrine of redemption; that the deepest gratitude and humility is the condition in which to receive it—
            Theres sentiment which these lowly-placed persons feel toward everything held in honor is constantly gambled upon: that one represents this doctrine as a counterdoctrine in opposition to the wisdom of the world, to the power of the world, seduces them to it.  It convinces the outcast and underprivileged of all kinds; it promises blessedness, advantage, privilege to the most insignificant and humble; it fills poor little foolish heads with an insane conceit, as if they were the meaning and the salt of the earth—
            All this, I repeat, one cannot sufficiently despise.


     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Dionysus versus the “Crucified”: there you have the antithesis.  It is not a difference in regard to their martyrdom—it is a difference in the meaning of it.  Life itself, its eternal fruitfulness and recurrence, creates torment, destruction, the will to annihilation.  In the other case, suffering—the “Crucified as the innocent one” –counts as an objection to this life, as a formula for its condemnation.—One will see that the problem is that of the meaning of suffering: whether a Christian meaning or a tragic meaning.  In the former case, it is supposed to be the path to a holy existence; in the latter case, being is counted as holy enough to justify even a monstrous amount of suffering.  The tragic man affirms even the harshest suffering: he is sufficiently strong, rich, and capable of deifying to do so.  The Christian denies even the happiest lot on earth: he is sufficiently weak, poor, disinherited to suffer from life in whatever form he meets it.  The god on the cross is a curse on life, a signpost to seek redemption from life; Dionysus cut to pieces is a promise of life: it will be eternally reborn and return again from destruction.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Words of Wit

Christianity gave Eros poison to drink.  He did not die, but became vice.

     Nietzsche

‘I have done that,’ says my memory.  ‘I could not have done that,’ says my pride and remains inexorable.  Finally, my memory yields.

     Nietzsche

…even in the wisest, reason is the exception: chaos and necessity and swirling stars—that is the rule.

     Nietzsche

Mankind has no goals other than great men and great works.

     Nietzsche

What alone can regenerate us?  Envisionment of what is perfect.

     Nietzsche

But why pursue such painful matters?  Assuming one does not have to.

     Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Do not forget! – The higher we soar, the smaller we seem to those who cannot fly.

     Nietzsche, Daybreak

     They hate the sun, find steep the grade,
     And love trees only for their shade.


          Nietzsche, The Gay Science

It is easier to cope with a bad conscience than to cope with a bad reputation.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings—always darker, emptier, and simpler.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

No victor believes in chance.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

…man would rather will nothingness than not will.

     Nietzsche, quoted by R. J. Hollingdale in Nietzsche

There is one thing one has to have: either a cheerful disposition by nature or a disposition made cheerfulby art and knowledge.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

The philosopher believes that the value of his philosophy lies in the whole, in the building: posterity discovers it in the bricks with which he built and which are then often used again for better building: in the fact, that is to say, that that building can be destroyed and nonetheless possess value as material.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

The public easily confuses him who fishes in troubled waters with him who plumbs the depths.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

This thinker needs no one to refute him: he does that for himself.  

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

One will seldom go wrong if one attributes extreme actions to vanity, moderate ones to habit and petty ones to fear.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

A brave army is a convincing argument for the cause for which it fights.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

Just as the bones, flesh, intestines and blood vessels are enclosed in a skin that makes the sight of a man endurable, so the agitations and passions of the soul are enveloped in vanity: it is the skin of the soul.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

Most people are much too much occupied with themselves to be wicked.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

As soon as a religion comes to dominate it has as its opponents all those who would have been its first disciples.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

Diverse sighs.  – Some men have sighed over the abduction of their wives, most however over the fact that no one wanted to abduct them.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

We enjoy being in the open countryside so much because it has no opinion concerning us.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

One is most in danger of being run over when one has just avoided a carriage.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

Shadows in the flame.  – The flame is not as bright to itself as it is to those it illumines: so too the sage.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

Through an excess of exertion they [the industrious] gain for themselves free time, and afterwards have no idea what to do with it except to count the hours until it has expired.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

Blessed are those who possess taste, even though it be bad taste!

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

History perfect and complete would be cosmic self-consciousness.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

It is rare to break one’s leg when in the course of life one is toiling upwards – it happens much more often when one starts to take things easy and to choose the easy paths.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

…for the child too regards play as his work and fairy tales as his truth.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

‘freedom of will’ really means nothing more than feeling no new chains.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

If a god created the world then he created men as the apes of god, so as always to have on hand something to cheer him up in his all-too-protracted eternities.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

‘I am not fond of myself’, someone said in explanation of his love of society. ‘Society’s stomach is stronger than mine, it can digest me.’

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

Men press towards the light, not so as to see better, but so as to shine better.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

The wheel and the brake have differing duties, but also one in common: to hurt one another.

     Nietzsche, Human, all too Human

Man would sooner have the void for his purpose than be void of purpose…

     Nietzsche, quoted by Bataille in On Nietzsche

You are not eagles…Not being birds, how do you propose to nest on an abyss?

     Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

…under the whirl of phenomena eternal life keeps flowing indestructibly.

     Nietzsche, Safranski’s Nietzsche

Consciousness is actually only a network to connect one person to another.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Rudiger Safranski in Nietzsche

Even one’s thoughts one cannot reproduce entirely in words.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

All ordered society puts the passions to sleep.

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

One would make a fit little boy stare if one asked him: “Would you like to become virtuous?” –but he will open his eyes wide if asked: “Would you like to become stronger than your friends?”

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

…we consider nothing great unless it includes a great crime;

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

To disengage oneself, but without rancor: that presupposes, to be sure, an astonishingly mild and sweet humanity—saints— 

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

I hope that at this artificial inflation of a small species into the absolute measure of things one is still permitted to laugh?

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

All greatworks and deeds that have remained and have not been washed away by the waters of time—were they not all in the profoundest sense immoralities?

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

The value for life is ultimately decisive.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

…because nothing exists besides the whole—

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

What determines your rank is the quantum of power you are: the rest is cowardice.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

That one should like to do disagreeable things—that is the object of ideals.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

How does one become stronger?  By coming to decisions slowly; and by clinging tenaciously to what one has decided. Everything else follows.

     Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Nor are they clean enough for me: they all muddy their waters to make them appear deep.

     Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

And there is such a variety of well-invented things that the earth is like the breast of a woman: useful as well as pleasing.

     Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.

     Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

If one wants an end, one must also want the means: if one wants slaves, then one is a fool if one educates them to be masters.

     Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

…anything truly productive is offensive.

     Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

Luther himself once opined that the world existed only through a piece of forgetful negligence on God’s part: for if God had foreseen ‘heavy artillery’ he would not have created the world.

     Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

…he lives best who has no respect for existence.

     Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

…just as the most wretched little animal can prevent the mightiest oak-tree from coming into existence by eating the acorn.

     Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

Because so much is done for others, the world is so imperfect.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Walter Kaufman in Nietzsche

The right way of life does not want happiness, turns away from happiness—

     Nietzsche, Will to Power

…that the world is not an organism at all, but chaos;

     Nietzsche, Will to Power

Personal Favorites

Living cheaply. – The cheapest and most inoffensive way of living is that of the thinker: for, to get at once to the main point, the things he needs most are precisely those which others despise and throw away—.  Then: he is easily pleased and has no expensive pleasures; his work is not hard but as it were southerly; his days and nights are not spoiled by pangs of conscience; he moves about, eats, drinks and sleeps in proportion as his mind grows ever calmer, stronger and brighter; he rejoices in his body and has no reason to be afraid of it; he has no need of company, except now and then so as afterwards to embrace his solitude the more tenderly; as a substitute for the living he has the dead, and even for friends he has a substitute: namely the best who have ever lived.

     Nietzsche, Daybreak

But that is how I have always lived.  I had no wishes.  A man over forty-four who can say that he never strove for honors, for women, for money!

     Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

What does your conscience say?— ‘You should become who you are.’

     Nietzsche, The Gay Science

A voluntary obscurity perhaps; an avoidance of oneself; a dislike of noise, honor, newspapers, influence; a modest job, an everyday job, something that conceals rather than exposes one; an occasional association with harmless, cheerful beasts and birds whose sight is refreshing; mountains for company, but not dead ones, mountains with eyes (that is, with lakes); perhaps even a room in a full, utterly commonplace hotel, where one is certain to go unrecognized and can talk to anyone with impunity—that is what “desert” means here; oh, it is lonely enough, believe me!

     Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

When his work opens its mouth, the author has to shut his.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Finally, the forties: mysterious, like everything stationary; resembling a high, wide mountain plateau wafted by a fresh breeze; above it a clear, cloudless sky which gazes down all day and into the night with the same unchanging gentleness: the time of harvest and the heartiest cheerfulness – it is the autumn of life.

     Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

Existence and the world are eternally justified solely as an aesthetic phenomenon.

     Nietzsche, quoted by Rudiger Safranski in Nietzsche

For from the depths one loves only one’s child and work…

     Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

One never perishes through anybody but oneself.  But usually it is death under the most contemptible conditions, an unfree death, death not at the right time, a coward’s death.  From love of life, one should desire a different death: free, conscious, without accident, without ambush.

     Nietzsche, Twilgiht of the Idols

We are altogether unable to think anything at all just as it is—

     Nietzsche, Will to Power

Die at the right time.

     Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

 

 

 

What Nietzsche Means to Me

Anthony Wheeler

Humble Executive.  Literary Artist.  Altruistic Libertarian.