Friedrich Nietzsche was born in Röcken in what is now Germany and grew up there and in Naumburg, Germany. He died of stroke, pneumonia and insanity in Weimar, Germany in 1900.
Nietzsche was originally quite religious. His father was a Lutheran minister and Friedrich studied theology at the University of Bonn. During his studies, however, he learned of the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer and became a staunch atheist.
That is the Nietzsche we are now familiar with, the creator of the now-famous quote:
God is dead… We have killed him.
Nietzsche was quite critical of religion–and Christianity in particular. According to Nietzsche, religion was a shield with which mankind protects itself from fear and anxiety over his mortality, insignificance and confusion. Influenced by Darwin, Nietzsche posited that a new kind of human will eventually emerge, far greater than any current manifestation. He called this new human the “Overman” or “Superman,” or in German, the “Übermensch.” He wrote:
All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the Overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment…
In place of Christian ethics, Nietzsche simply felt that people should do whatever makes them happy. However, as evolution and nature dictates, those stronger people (such as the Overman) can do what they want and the weaker folks have to deal with it. It was his “Master and Slave” philosophy.
There is not truth to Nietzsche, only subjectivity. There is no justice or equality, only power and weakness.
Nietzsche is often associated with the Nazi ideology. And, it is true that Hitler and his cronies were quite fond of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Think about it: A philosophical justification for the idea that one person (or race of people) is stronger, better, smarter and more powerful than others. And action, violent or otherwise, is completely sanctioned by the ethics of said philosophy. Nietzsche’s book, Will to Power, reads:
The possibility has been established for the production of international racial unions whose task will be to rear a master race, the future “masters of the earth”… a higher kind of man who, thanks to their superiority in will, knowledge, riches, and influence, employ democratic Europe as their most pliant and supple instrument for getting hold of the destinies of the earth, so as to work as artists upon “man” himself.
Sounds like the Nazi “Aryans,” doesn’t it? Needless to say, Nietzsche was not an advocate of Democracy. The good politicians, he said, “divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.”
Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the most interesting, controversial and possibly clearest thinkers in western history. His philosophy still attracts adherents and the curious to this day. He is considered one of the fathers of a still-popular philosophical movement called existentialismthat, at the end of the day, is an optimistic philosophy centered around the idea that people are free and in control of their own destiny. It is up to them to have the good life–and they are perfectly capable of doing it.