Philosophy can get complicated. Figuring out what the great minds of history actually meant in the writings and lectures they left us is a daunting and often Herculean task.
When it comes to the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, it can seem like a downright impossible task.
He was complex, he was nuanced, he was confusing. That’s why we put together this simple beginner’s guide to at least start you in the right direction. Let’s begin!
1. He’s Most Associated With Existentialism
Although he did not come up with the philosophy himself, nor even write about it specifically, he’s most commonly associated with the existentialists. This philosophy basically holds that there is no one absolute law governing morality in the world. Nothing really matters, except what we do.
That might be a reductive take on an entire school of philosophy, but Nietzsche’s writings complicate things even further.
2. He Mostly Rejected Religion
Nietzsche often rejected Christianity and in some instances was even repulsed by the religion. His thoughts and ideas about the subject made many people refer to him as an anti-Christ while he was alive. But his main criticism of the religion was more nuanced. He held that Christians who claimed to believe in Jesus didn’t act as Jesus did. They ignored his real teachings and were hypocritical in their interpretations of what he taught.
3. He Was Not Successful When He Was Alive
Although he was teaching at universities by the age of 24, he was very unpopular when he was alive. He was forced into early retirement at the age of 35 and was often rejected by his colleagues. He suffered a mental breakdown after witnessing a horse getting beaten in the streets of Italy. This ultimately caused his demise and he ended up spending the last 11 years of his life in a psychiatric facility.
4. After Death, He Was Widely Misunderstood, And Some Thought He Was A Nazi
After he died, his sister took over his writings and philosophies and began exploiting them for her own misdeeds. She was a German nationalist who used his words to justify Nazi politics at the time. She used his work to spread these ideas, resulting in people connecting Nietzsche to Nazism, with many believing he himself was a Nazi. He actually rejected the idea of anti-semitism and criticized it greatly in his works.