Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

(October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900)  was a 19th-century German philosopher and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, using a distinctive German-language style and displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

Nietzsche’s influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism and postmodernism. His style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth have resulted in much commentary and interpretation, mostly in the continental tradition, and to a lesser extent in analytic philosophy.

His key ideas include the interpretation of tragedy as an affirmation of life, an eternal recurrence (which numerous commentators have re-interpreted), a rejection of Platonism and a repudiation of both Christianity and egalitarianism (especially in the form of democracy and socialism).

Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. At the age of 24 he was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel (the youngest individual ever to have held this position), but resigned in 1879 because of health problems, which would plague him for most of his life. In 1889 he exhibited symptoms of insanity, living out his remaining years in the care of his mother and sister until his death in 1900.

Born on October 15, 1844, Nietzsche grew up in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, in the Prussian Province of Saxony. He was named after King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who turned 49 on the day of Nietzsche’s birth. (Nietzsche later dropped his given middle name, “Wilhelm”.)[2] Nietzsche’s parents, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813–1849), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska Oehler (1826–1897), married in 1843, the year before their son’s birth, and had two other children: a daughter, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, born in 1846, and a second son, Ludwig Joseph, born in 1848. Nietzsche’s father died from a brain ailment in 1849; his younger brother died in 1850. The family then moved to Naumburg, where they lived with Nietzsche’s paternal grandmother and his father’s two unmarried sisters. After the death of Nietzsche’s grandmother in 1856, the family moved into their own house.

Nietzsche attended a boys’ school and then later a private school, where he became friends with Gustav Krug and Wilhelm Pinder, both of whom came from very respected families. In 1854, he began to attend the Domgymnasium in Naumburg, but after he showed particular talents in music and language, the internationally-recognised Schulpforta admitted him as a pupil, and there he continued his studies from 1858 to 1864. Here he became friends with Paul Deussen and Carl von Gersdorff. He also found time to work on poems and musical compositions. At Schulpforta, Nietzsche received an important introduction to literature, particularly that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and for the first time experienced a distance from his family life in a small-town Christian environment.

After graduation in 1864 Nietzsche commenced studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn. For a short time he and Deussen became members of the Burschenschaft Frankonia. After one semester (and to the anger of his mother) he stopped his theological studies and lost his faith.[3] This may have happened in part because of his reading around this time of David Strauss‘s Life of Jesus, which had a profound effect on the young Nietzsche,[3] though in an essay entitled Fate and History written in 1862, Nietzsche had already argued that historical research had discredited the central teachings of Christianity Nietzsche then concentrated on studying philology under Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, whom he followed to the University of Leipzig the next year. There he became close friends with fellow-student Erwin Rohde. Nietzsche’s first philological publications appeared soon after.

In 1865 Nietzsche thoroughly studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer. In 1866 he read Friedrich Albert Lange’s History of Materialism. Both thinkers proved influential. Schopenhauer was especially significant in the development of Nietzsche’s later thought. Lange’s descriptions of Kant’s anti-materialistic philosophy, the rise of European Materialism, Europe’s increased concern with science, Darwin’s theory, and the general rebellion against tradition and authority greatly intrigued Nietzsche. The cultural environment encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond philology and to continue his study of philosophy.

In 1867 Nietzsche signed up for one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. However, a bad riding accident in March 1868 left him unfit for service.[5] Consequently Nietzsche turned his attention to his studies again, completing them and first meeting with Richard Wagner later that year.

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