Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, poet, composer, and Latin and Greek scholar. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor and irony. Nietzsche‘s name became associated with German militarism and Nazism, although later 20th-century scholars have counteracted this conception of his ideas.
Here’s a list of 7 things we are sure you didn’t know about him.
1) 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.
2) 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 saviour. Soon he degenerated, mindlessly staring and mumbling, and died 11 years later.
3) 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.
4) Nietzsche’s philosophy is based on two themes: God doesn’t exist and people are driven only by the desire to obtain power.
5) 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 realising the centrality of this will to power are doomed.
6) 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.
7) Though Nietzsche has been used as justification by totalitarians, he was also an inspiration to Sigmund Freud and Jean Paul Sartre. Nietzsche 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 Nietzsche’s idea that man becomes something as he acts.