Who was Friedrich Nietzsche? What Did Friedrich Nietzsche Do? Information on Friedrich Nietzsche biography and life story.
Friedrich Nietzsche; German philosopher: b. Röcken, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, Oct. 15, 1844; d. Weimar, Aug. 25, 1900.
The son of a Protestant minister, Nietzsche studied classical philology at the universities of Bonn and Leipzig, and became in 1869 a professor at the University of Basel, Switzerland. As a civil servant in the state educational system, he became a Swiss subject. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 he served briefly as a medical orderly with the Prussian army.
In 1872 he published his first book, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geist der Musik (The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music). He had become a close friend of Richard Wagner, the composer, who was then living in Switzerland, and the second part of the book deals extensively with Wagner’s music dramas and the prospects for a rebirth of tragedy. The earlier part, too, antagonized most classicists by being literary and unacademic; but in the 20th century, Francis M. Cornford, a leading British classicist, called it “a work of profound imaginative insight, which left the scholarship of a generation toiling in the rear.” Nietzsche emphasized the Dionysian cult, with its wild frenzy, and other aspects of Greek culture which had been widely ignored.
By the end of the decade, Nietzsche became more and more interested in the French enlightenment and broke with Wagner, who despised the French and the enlightenment. Even if neither man had changed much, their friendship could scarcely have endured. Wagner was exactly the age of Nietzsche’s father and treated the younger man as a useful apostle and factotum without sharing. Nietzsche’s own interests. Moreover, Wagner changed: he returned to Germany, making his peace with the young empire, which Nietzsche detested, and at Bayreuth created a Wagnerian cult of which anti-Semitism became an important part.
In 1879, Nietzsche resigned from the university. His health was very poor, and he lacked the energy to both teach and write. Henceforth he generally published a volume a year, while living very frugally—summers in Switzerland, winters in Italy. First he wrote several aphoristic works, full of interesting psychological observations but exceedingly unsystematic. Beautifully written, they are still widely read, although Nietzsche did not live to see any of his books appreciated. Then he made a major effort to present his world view in a truly original work, Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra). The first two parts were published separately in 1883, the third in 1884, but they received no attention whatever. The fourth part was privately printed, but Nietzsche distributed only seven copies. It was formally published in 1892. In time Zarathustra became Nietzsche’s most celebrated work.
Among his later books, the following are of the greatest interest: Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil, 1886), Zur Genealogie der Moral (Genealogy of Morals, 1887), Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols), Antichrist, and the immensely sarcastic self-interpretation, Ecce Homo. The last three were written in 1888 and published, respectively, in 1889, 1895, and 1908.
In January 1889, Nietzsche collapsed in the street in Turin, Italy. Insane, his intelligence entirely blacked out, he lived on, first in an asylum and then in his family’s care, until his death 11 years later. His insanity was probably due to an early syphilitic infection. Some surmise that he went to a brothel twice as a student; others, that he may have infected himself as a medical orderly during the Franco-Prussian War. During his adult life, he lived as an ascetic. His last works show an increasing lack of inhibition, but cannot be dismissed as the works of a madman. They abound in interesting ideas and are distinguished in style.