Interesting facts about Friedrich Nietzsche

September 13, 2010 | In: People facts

One day while walking on the streets, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche saw a man whipping a horse because it wouldn’t move. The beast was clearly unable to move, and Nietzsche threw himself between the horse and its tormentor — and fainted. When he awoke, he was never the same again.

Most people would applaud his kindness to the horse, but not Nietzsche. In his eyes he had betrayed his own principles by stooping to pity, a common emotion he believed the enlightened man should avoid.

He apparently understood at that moment that he was not the Superman he preached, and though he was temporarily more energetic and healthy than he had been his entire adult life, it was an energy mixed with insanity as he wrote letters to national leaders claiming to be the world’s savior. Soon he degenerated, mindlessly staring and mumbling, and died 11 years later.

Nietzsche was brilliant but often misunderstood because he used brief, pointed comments called aphorisms that were intended to jolt people and make them think. If taken at face value many of these aphorisms seem hard and cruel. Perhaps for this reason Nietzsche was a popular philosopher in Nazi Germany, where he was used to justify the Nazis’ actions.

One advantage of his aphoristic style, however, is that it is easy to read. Compared with the almost-incomprehensible works of some other philosophers, Nietzsche’s writing is direct, and often funny, especially in “Thus Spake Zarathustra” (1885), his most famous work.

Nietzsche’s philosophy is based on two themes: God doesn’t exist and people are driven only by the desire to obtain power.

Despite all the talk about morals, he argued, morals don’t exist and we shouldn’t pretend they do. Morals are just a facade to cover up people’s real motivation: the desire to control other people and prevent other people from controlling them. He called this the “Will to Power” and claimed that all attempts to construct societies without realizing the centrality of this will to power are doomed.

And since God didn’t exist, he argued, Christianity was just a ploy to keep power in the hands of the majority who resented the few who were more suited to rule.

Another of Nietzche’s concepts is that of the “Superman.” People, he argued, stop short of their potential by needing to be comfortable, or by feeling sorry for themselves. This is why he disliked democracy: it gave power to those who hadn’t proven themselves fit to govern. Man, he said, should become Superman by overcoming his fears, comforts and petty concerns.

Though Nietzche has been used as justification by totalitarians, he was also an inspiration to Sigmund Freud and Jean Paul Sartre. Nietzche argued that people’s expressed reasons for their actions are not their real motivation, and that people can make something of themselves by an act of the will. Freud picked up on the idea of real reasons behind stated reasons to develop psychoanalysis, and Sartre picked up on Nietzche’s idea that man becomes something as he acts.

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