Questions and Answers about the Life and Works of Nietzsche

In 1869, Friedrich Nietzsche secured the position of professor of Classical philology at Basel University in Switzerland. This was in part thanks to the assistance of his friend and former tutor, German scholar Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl. This made him the youngest person to attain the feat.

However, this was only the beginning of the numerous things that the German philosopher Nietzsche accomplished in his very illustrious career as a thinker.

So, who was Nietzsche, and why is he revered as one of the greatest thinkers in modern history?

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Drawing by German painter Hans Olde from the photographic series The Ill Nietzsche, late 1899

What was his early life like?

Friedrich Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844, in Röcken, a small village in Prussia (now part of Germany). He grew up in a family of modest means, with his father being a Lutheran pastor. Nietzsche’s father passed away when he was just five years old, leaving him and his sister under the care of their mother, Franziska.

From a young age, Nietzsche showed exceptional academic abilities, and he excelled in his studies. He attended the prestigious Schulpforta boarding school, where he received a classical education that heavily influenced his later work in philology and philosophy.

The Nietzsche-Haus

The Nietzsche-Haus in Naumburg, Germany

During his time at Schulpforta, he developed a deep interest in literature, philosophy, and music. He became familiar with the works of ancient Greek and Roman authors, which would have a profound impact on his intellectual development.

In 1864, Nietzsche enrolled at the University of Bonn to study theology and classical philology, with the initial aim of becoming a minister. However, he soon shifted his focus primarily to philology, the study of language and literature. Nietzsche continued his studies at the University of Leipzig, where he became acquainted with influential scholars such as Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, who would later support his academic career.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s early life was marked by intellectual curiosity and a thirst for knowledge, setting the foundation for his later groundbreaking contributions to philosophy and cultural critique. Image: Young Nietzsche, 1861

At what age did Nietzsche become a professor?

Friedrich Nietzsche

At the age of 24, Friedrich Nietzsche achieved the remarkable feat of becoming the youngest individual to assume the prestigious Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869.

What are some of his most notable works?

Throughout his writings, Nietzsche challenged conventional beliefs and values, criticizing traditional morality and advocating for the reevaluation of societal norms. He is known for his concepts of the “will to power,” the “Ubermensch” (or “Superman”), and the “eternal recurrence.” Nietzsche’s ideas often delved into the exploration of individuality, self-overcoming, and the pursuit of personal excellence.

Nietzsche’s works include “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” “Beyond Good and Evil,” “On the Genealogy of Morality,” and “The Birth of Tragedy.” His writings continue to be widely studied and debated, and his ideas have had a significant impact on philosophy, literature, psychology, and other fields of study.

Why did Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth modify his works?

Following Friedrich Nietzsche’s passing, his sister Elisabeth assumed the role of curator and editor for his manuscripts. However, she took it upon herself to modify his unfinished writings to align with her own German ultranationalist ideology, which starkly contradicted Friedrich’s stated opinions and beliefs.

Regrettably, it is not uncommon for someone’s original message to be overshadowed and distorted by the views and actions of those who adopt them as a symbol. Consequently, the legacy of an individual becomes forever entangled with those who have misappropriated their ideas, often leading to a tainted perception of their true intentions.

Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Did Nietzsche hate Jews?

Contrary to any misconceptions, Friedrich Nietzsche’s body of work consistently opposed both antisemitism and nationalism. In fact, he expressed his strong disapproval of anti-Semites by boldly stating that he would gladly see them gathered together and eliminated. This demonstrates Nietzsche’s clear stance against such discriminatory ideologies.

Why did Richard Wagner criticize Nietzsche’s musical compositions?

In the early stages of 1858, Friedrich Nietzsche embarked on his journey as a composer, creating numerous works for voice, piano, and violin. It was during his time at Schulpforta in Naumburg that he began experimenting with musical compositions. However, his efforts were met with criticism from renowned composers like Richard Wagner and Hans von Bülow, who derided Nietzsche’s musical compositions as the most dreadful they had ever encountered.

Friedrich Nietzsche

What profession did Nietzsche initially want to pursue?

Upon completing his studies in September 1864, Friedrich Nietzsche pursued further education at the University of Bonn, where he delved into the fields of theology and classical philology. Interestingly, he nurtured ambitions of becoming a minister during this time, reflecting his initial aspirations and career path.

How many times did Nietzsche propose to Lou Salomé?

Friedrich Nietzsche made three unsuccessful attempts to propose to Lou Salomé, as she consistently declined his proposals. Salomé held the belief that engaging in sexual intercourse was restrictive and saw marriage as a form of infringement. Instead, she regarded Friedrich as a dear friend, thereby maintaining a platonic relationship with him.

Nietzsche and Lou Salomé

Nietzsche and Russian-born psychoanalyst Lou Salomé

Why did Nietzsche reject objective reality?

Friedrich Nietzsche vehemently dismissed the notion of an objective reality. Instead, he put forth the argument that knowledge is dependent and subject to varying perspectives and interests. According to Nietzsche, different viewpoints and shifting interests shape our understanding of the world. This philosophical stance, often referred to as perspectivism, challenges established rules and approaches in fields such as philosophy and scientific methodology.

What caused the fallout between Nietzsche and Paul Rée?

In 1882, Lou Salomé, Paul Rée, and Friedrich Nietzsche embarked on a journey through Italy with the intention of establishing an educational commune together. However, their friendship began to deteriorate towards the end of that year due to complications arising from Rée’s and Nietzsche’s shared romantic interest in Lou Andreas-Salomé. These complexities ultimately led to the dissolution of their friendship.

Lou Salomé, Paul Rée and Nietzsche

Lou Salomé, Paul Rée and Nietzsche travelled through Europe in the early 188os, planning to establish an educational commune.

Just how did Nietzsche dislike the core teachings of Christianity?

During the early years of his life, Nietzsche was a devout Christian, but by his teens, he began expressing contempt for the religion.

Nietzsche had the same disgust for Christianity and it core teachings as he did for alcohol. He saw both as things that enable human beings embrace suffering. Basically, the two, according to the philosopher, reduces our determination to overcome life problems.

What was the relationship between Nietzsche and German composer Richard Wagner?

Friedrich Nietzsche enjoyed a close friendship with the renowned composer Richard Wagner and his wife for an extended period. However, as Nietzsche’s later works unfolded, he increasingly focused on the transformative abilities of individuals to transcend societal, cultural, and moral frameworks in the pursuit of novel values and aesthetic well-being.

Did Nietzsche contract syphilis?

Yes. He contracted the disease at a brothel while he was still in college.

How did Nietzsche’s insanity begin?

After seeing a horse being whipped in the streets of Turin, Italy, Nietzsche had a mental breakdown that put him in an asylum for the remainder of his life. According to some of the letters he wrote during this period, he began to believe himself to be Jesus, Napoleon, Buddha and other historical figures.

Was Friedrich Nietzsche a misogynist?

As a result of various manipulations and misinterpretations of Friedrich Nietzsche’s works, he can be often unjustly perceived as a misogynist. The alterations and misrepresentations of his views have contributed to a distorted understanding of his philosophy, leading to the unfortunate labeling of Nietzsche as someone who harbored misogynistic beliefs.

Throughout his tenure as a professor at Basel University, Friedrich Nietzsche consistently advocated for equality between men and women, supporting initiatives that aimed to treat women with respect and dignity in the academia. One notable instance was his vote in favor of admitting women to the university, making him one of only four faculty members who supported the proposal.

In his personal life, Nietzsche held his sister Elisabeth in high esteem, actively encouraging her to cultivate critical thinking skills and the ability to form independent thoughts. These aspects of Nietzsche’s life and beliefs demonstrate his appreciation for women and his commitment to empowering them intellectually.

He had a very good relationship with Malwida von Meysenbug, a well-known feminist who fought for the emancipation of women. The two thinkers even made plans to establish a school for like-minded thinkers who were not willing to accept established views on philosopher and other disciplines.

Through Meysenbug, Nietzsche had the pleasure of meeting other feminists, suffragists, and free-thinkers, including Salis-Maschlins and Resa von Schirnhofer.

He was a big supporter of programs that educated women. The moment the restriction on women attending Basel University was reduced, he encouraged his sister Elisabeth and other female friends of his to attend university lectures.

And in 1887, his feminist friend Salis-Marschlins became the first woman to acquire a PhD from a Swiss university. Similarly, Schirnhofer acquired a PhD in philosopher.

Friedrich Nietzsche

How did he die?

Friedrich Nietzsche’s decline in health began in the early 1880s and worsened over time. In January 1889, while in Turin, Italy, he experienced a mental breakdown that would ultimately lead to his incapacitation and retirement from academic life. After this incident, Nietzsche lived the remaining years of his life under the care of his mother and sister.

Nietzsche’s specific cause of death is debated among scholars. It is widely believed that he suffered from a combination of physical and mental ailments, including severe headaches, vision problems, and mental instability. Some theories suggest that he may have had syphilis, although this remains uncertain.

On August 25, 1900, Friedrich Nietzsche passed away in Weimar, Germany, at the age of 55. The official cause of death was recorded as pneumonia. Nietzsche’s legacy as a philosopher and his provocative ideas have continued to influence intellectual discourse long after his death.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Quick Facts

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche – Life and Major Facts

Birth name: Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Born: October 15, 1844; Röcken, Province of Saxony, Prussia, German Confederation

Died: August 25, 1900; Weimar, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, German Empire

Aged: 55

Burial place: Röcken Churchyard

Father: Carl Ludwig Nietzsche

Mother: Franziska Nietzsche

Siblings: Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, Ludwig Joseph

Education: University of Bonn; Leipzig University

Best known for: his provocative and influential ideas on morality, human nature, religion, and culture

Thinkers that influenced him: Alexander the Great, Zoroaster, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Arthur Schopenhauer, Ludwig Feuerbach, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Wagner, Blaise Pascal, Friedrich Albert Lange, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Notable works: The Birth of Tragedy (1872), On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense (1873), The Gay Science (1882), Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883), Beyond Good and Evil (1886), The Antichrist (1888)

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *