Friedrich Nietzsche was a nineteenth century Germany Philosopher and classical philologist who disputed the early foundations of Christianity and conventional morality. He wrote very critical texts on the subjects of religion, philosophy, science, contemporary culture and morality using a unique style of German language incorporated with the use of irony, metaphor and aphorism.
He was a strong believer of creativity, health, life and other realities of life. The central focus of his philosophy is the concept of life affirmation. Life affirmation involves an open inquiry of all doctrines which drain the energies of life regardless of their social prevalence. The impact of his work remains significant both within and beyond the field of philosophy, particularly in postmodernism and existentialism. His unique style of writing and critical questioning on the objectivity and value of truth has led to so much commentary and analysis, mainly in the continental practices.
His fundamental ideas consisted of the analysis of misfortune as an affirmation of life, a dismissal of Platonism and a refutation of both egalitarianism and Christianity and the recurrence of eternity.His Early Life and EducationAccording to Baird (2008), Friedrich Nietzsche was born in a tiny village in the rural farmlands of Germany called Rocken bei Lutzen. He was born at approximately 10.00 am on the fifteenth of October, 1844. His date of birth coincided with the forty ninth birthday of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, the King of Prussia, after whom he was named. Nietzsche father died of a brain ailment when he was four years old.
Six months later, his two -year old brother called Joseph also died. Nietzsche’s family used to reside a few yards away from the church at Rocken in a house that was reserved for a pastor and when his father and brother died, he moved with the rest of his family members to a nearby village near Naumburg where he lived with Franziska who was his mother, his younger sister called Therese Elizabeth Alexandria, his grandmother and his two aunts.Nietzsche went through a prestigious boarding school known as Schulpforta between the age of fourteen and nineteen where he received his pre-university education. The educational environment in Schulpforta was characterized by its lengthy history as an ex-Cistercian monastery. A thirteenth century Gothic church and a twelfth century Romanesque chapel formed part of the school’s buildings. It is while he was in this school that he met Paul Deussen, who became his lifelong acquaintance.
Nietzsche used to lead a small literature and music club called Germania during the summers in Naumburg. He came to know about Richard Wagner’s music when this club subscribed to a concert called the ‘Zeitchrift fur muzik’. Nietzsche also liked reading German romantic literatures by people like Jean-Paul Richter and Friedrich Holderlin. He also developed an interest in reading a contentious and demythologizing book titled ‘Life of Jesus critically examined’ by David Strauss. After his graduation from Schulpforta, he joined the University of Bonn in the year 1864 to study philology and theology. After a short while, he became more interested in studying philology than theology.
Philology was by then a field of study that centered upon the analysis of biblical and classical texts. His lecturers included Otto Jahn who wrote the biography of Mozart and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl who was a classics scholar whose writings focused on a Roman comic poet called Plautus. Nietzsche was greatly inspired by the works of Ritschl and soon he started publishing essays about the lives of people like Theognis, Simonides and Aristotle.At the age of 21, Nietzsche accidentally discovered a book in a local bookstore titled ‘The World as Will and Representation’ by Arthur Schopenhauer which was talking about Schopenhauer’s turbulent and agnostic vision of the world. In this book, Schopenhauer also praised music as a form of art.
These ideas seized Nietzsche imagination to a very great extent. He read another article by Kant which criticized materialistic theories and when he integrated the ideas of Schopenhauer and Kant, his attention was attracted to the view that metaphysical hearsay is an articulation of poetic illusion.Nietzsche’s works and his famous accomplishmentsSeveral years later, Richard Wagner recommended Nietzsche for a career position in the faculty of classical philology at Basel University. At the age of twenty four, Nietzsche was given a professorial position at the University of Swiss where he began to teach in May 1869. Richard (2001) states that while he was at Basel University, Nietzsche’s contentment with his life among other philologists narrowed and he started building closer intellectual links with historians such as Jacob Burkhardt and Franz Overbeck, whose classes he attended.
Nietzsche coalesced his zeal for Schopenhauer, his motivation from Wagner, his pursue of classical philology and his dissatisfaction with the existing Germany culture in his first book titled ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ which was published in 1872 when he was twenty seven. The book was highly praised by Wagner but received a lot of criticism from scholars such as Ulrich von Wilamowitz who later on became one of Germany’s most celebrated philologists. In the year 1873, Nietzsche met Paul Ree with whom they wrote a book called ‘On the Origin of Moral Feelings’. At the same time, he also wrote four other books in succession about the contemporary German culture, which focused on the criticism of the history of religion and culture, issues related to the social worth of historiography and enthusiasm for new cultural structures. Just before the end of his university career, he completed a book called ‘Human, All-too-Human’ which marked the most defining moment of his philosophical style.Everdell (1998) asserts that Nietzsche was highly respected as a professor at the University of Basel even though most of his works were highly criticized by many scholars.
His health started deteriorating while he was still lecturing in this university and this forced him to resign in June, 1879, at the age of thirty four. The period between 1880 and 1889 marked the collapse of Nietzsche. During this time, he gave up his German citizenship and started wandering as a stateless person in various Swiss, French, Italy and German cities. These nomadic years became the period of his main works which include books like ‘The Gay Science’, ‘Day Break’, ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, ‘On the Genealogy of Morals’ and ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’. His ultimate active year saw him completing works such as ‘The Antichrist’, ‘The Case of Wagner’ and ‘Nietzsche Contra Wagner’.Nietzsche experienced a mental collapse in the year 1889 while he was in Turin which left him incapacitated for the rest of his life.
The precise cause of his mental collapse was never established though some people claim that he had an unusual sensitive nervous system which made him take a variety of medicines. Others claimed that he had inherited a mental disorder from his father while others claimed that he had a syphilis infection. Nietzsche himself declined of having a mental illness in a letter that he wrote in 1888.It is worth noting that during his years of creativity, Nietzsche fought so much to ensure that his works were printed. He never doubted that his writings would produce an enduring cultural effect.
Though he did not live to experience his influence on the history of the world, he had a short glimpse of his increasing intellectual significance when he discovered that he created the subject of the lectures that were given by Georg Brandes in 1888 at the University of Copenhagen. After being hospitalized for a short period in Basel in 1889, his mother returned him to Naumburg where she cared for her for the next seven years before she died. Nietzsche sister, Elizabeth, decided to try to promote the philosophy of his brother and so she rented for him a big house at the top of a hill in Weimer called ‘Villa Silberblick’, where she moved him and his collected manuscripts and this became his archive. Nietzsche finally died in this villa on the twenty fifth of August, 1900 at the age of fifty five. He is believed to have died of a combination of stroke and pneumonia.
In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that Friedrich Nietzsche is regarded as one of the founding fathers of existentialist philosophy. His stimulating philosophy has been a source of great inspiration for many prominent people in all spheres of cultural life such as psychologists, social revolutionaries, sociologists, philosophers, novelists, poets, dancers and painters. His ability to write so conscientiously and overwhelmingly for years even when he was experiencing physical pain and certain illnesses is an evidence of his willpower and mental capacities that continue to inspire many people.