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Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (frēˈdrĭkh vĭlˈhĕlm nēˈchə) [key], 1844–1900, German philosopher, b. Röcken, Prussia. The son of a clergyman, Nietzsche studied Greek and Latin at Bonn and Leipzig and was appointed to the chair of classical philology at Basel in 1869. In his early years he was friendly with the composer Richard Wagner, although later he was to turn against him. Nervous disturbances and eye trouble forced Nietzsche to leave Basel in 1879; he moved from place to place in a vain effort to improve his health until 1889, when he became hopelessly insane. Nietzsche was not a systematic philosopher but rather a moralist who passionately rejected Western bourgeois civilization. He regarded Christian civilization as decadent, and in place of its "slave morality" he looked to the superman, the creator of a new heroic morality that would consciously affirm life and the life values. That superman would represent the highest passion and creativity and would live at a level of experience beyond the conventional standards of good and evil. His creative "will to power" would set him off from "the herd" of inferior humanity. Nietzsche's thought had widespread influence but was of particular importance in Germany. Apologists for Nazism seized on much of his writing as a philosophical justification for their doctrines, but most scholars regard this as a perversion of Nietzsche's thought. Among his most famous works are The Birth of Tragedy (1872, tr. 1910); Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883–91, tr. 1909, 1930), and Beyond Good and Evil (1886, tr. 1907).

See his selected letters ed. by C. Middleton (1969); biographies by C. K. Brinton (1941, repr. 1965), H. A. Reyburn (1948, repr. 1973), I. Frenzel (1967), R. Hayman (1980, repr. 1999), L. Chamberlain (1996), C. Cate (2005), and J. Young (2010); studies by H. L. Mencken (1913, repr. 1993), R. Pfefler (1972), R. C. Solomon, ed. (1973), W. A. Kaufmann (4th ed. 1974), J. T. Wilcox (1974), J. P. A. Stern (1979), R. Schacht (1983), G. Clive (1984), R. J. Hollingdale (1985), A. Nehamas (1985), J. Köhler (tr. 1998), R. C. Solomon and K. M. Higgins (2000), R. B. Pippin (2010), K. Michalski (tr. 2011), and J. Ratner-Rosenhagen (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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