1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm

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4982311911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 19 — Nietzsche, Friedrich WilhelmFerdinand Canning Scott Schiller

NIETZSCHE, FRIEDRICH WILHELM (1844–1900), German philosopher, was the son of the pastor at Röcken, near Leipzig, where he was born on 15th October 1844. He was educated at Schulpforta, and studied the classics at the universities of Bonn and Leipzig. In 1869, while still an undergraduate, he was, on F. W. Ritschl’s recommendation, appointed to an extraordinary professorship of classical philology in the university of Basel, and rapidly promoted to an ordinary professorship. Here he almost immediately began a brilliant literary activity, which gradually assumed a more and more philosophical character. In 1876 eye (and brain) trouble caused him to obtain sick leave, and finally, in 1879, to be pensioned. For the next ten years he lived in various health resorts, in considerable suffering (he declares that the year contained for him 200 days of pure pain), but dashing off, at high pressure, the brilliant essays on which his fame rests. Towards the end of 1888, after recovering from an earlier attack, he was pronounced hopelessly insane, and in this condition he remained until he died on the 25th of August 1900. Nietzsche’s writings must be understood in their relation to these circumstances of his life, and as the outcome of a violent revolt against them on the part of an intensely emotional and nervous temperament. His philosophy, consequently, is neither systematic in itself nor expounded in systematic form. It is made up of a number of points of view which successively appeared acceptable to a personality whose self-appreciation verges more and more upon the insane, and exhibits neither consecutiveness nor consistency. Its natural form is the aphorism, and to this and to its epigrammatic brilliance, vigour, and uncompromising revolt against all conventions in science and conduct it owes its persuasiveness. Revolt against the whole civilized environment in which he was brought up is the keynote of Nietzsche’s literary career. His revolt against Christian faith and morals turns him into a proudly atheistic “free-thinker,” and preacher of a new “master” morality, which transposes the current valuations, deposes the “Christian virtues,” and incites the “over-man” ruthlessly to trample under foot the servile herd of the weak, degenerate and poor in spirit. His revolt against the theory of state supremacy turns him into an anarchist and individualist; his revolt against modern democracy into an aristocrat. His revolt against conventional culture leads him to attack D. F. Strauss as the typical “Philistine of culture”; his revolt against the fashion of pessimism to demand a new and more robust affirmation of life, not merely although, but because, it is painful. Indeed, his very love of life may itself be regarded as an indignant revolt against the toils that were inexorably closing in around him. He directs this spirit of revolt also against the sources of his own inspiration; he turns bitterly against Wagner, whose intimate friend and enthusiastic admirer he had been, and denounces him as the musician of decadent emotionalism; he rejects his “educator” Schopenhauer’s pessimism, and transforms his will to live into a “Will to Power.” Nevertheless his reaction does not in this case really carry him beyond the ground of Schopenhauerian philosophy, and his own may perhaps be most truly regarded as the paradoxical development of an inverted Schopenhauerism. Other influences which may be traced in his writings are those of modern naturalism and of a somewhat misinterpreted Darwinism (“strength” is generally interpreted as physical endowment, but it has sometimes to be reluctantly acknowledged that the physically feeble, by their combination and cunning, prove stronger than the “strong”). His writings in their chronological order are as follows: Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872); Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen (1873—1876) (Strauss—Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben—Schopenhauer als Erzieher—Richard Wagner in Bayreuth); Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (1876–1880); Morgenröte (1881); Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (1882); Also sprach Zarathustra (1883–1884); Jenseits von Gut und Böse (1886); Zur Genealogie der Moral (1887); Der Fall Wagner (1888); Götzendämmerung (1888); Nietzsche contra Wagner, Der Antichrist, and Poems first appeared in the complete edition of his works, which also contains the notes for Wille zur Macht, in which Nietzsche had intended to give a more systematic account of his doctrine (1895–1901).  (F. C. S. S.) 

An edition of Nietzsche’s complete works began to appear in 1895; there are also two popular editions, 1899 ff. (15 vols. have been published) and 1906 (10 vols.). In 1900 Nietzsche’s Briefe began to be published. An English translation in 18 vols., edited by Oskar Levy, reached the 13th vol. in 1910. His biography, by his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsches, 1895 ff.), reached its third volume in 1907. There are also lives by D. Halévy (1909) and M. A. Mügge (F. Nietzsche: his Life and Work, 1908), the latter of a somewhat popular character. G. Brandes first drew European attention to Nietzsche by his famous essay in 1889; since then an enormous literature has grown up round the subject. See especially L. Andreas Salomé, F. Nietzsche in seinen Werken (1894); A. Riehl, F. Nietzsche (1897; 3rd ed., 1901); F. Tönnies, Nietzsche-Kultus (1897); H. Ellis, F. Nietzsche (in Affirmations, 1898); H. Lichtenberger, La Philosophie de Nietzsche (1895; German trans., 1899); E. Horneffer, Vorträge über F. Nietzsche (1900); T. Ziegler, F. Nietzsche (1900); J. Zeitler, Nietzsches Ästhetik (1900); P. Deussen, Erinnerungen an F. Nietzsche (1901); R. Richter, F. Nietzsche, sein Leben und sein Werk (1903); G. Simmel, Schopenhauer und Nietzsche (1907). For an estimate of his moral theory see Ethics, ad fin.