Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most talked about but least understood thinkers in modern philosophy.
From angsty teenagers to literal Nazis, many have claimed ideas espoused by Nietzsche as their own.
Many of these readers are confused and, as a result, Nietzsche has been held responsible for doctrines that he would likely not agree with.
Today I will be attempting to give a concise overview of a portion of Nietzsche’s work. I will by no means try to cover everything and encourage any interested readers to further explore his works on their own.
One of Nietzsche’s core premises is that life is begun inherently without any meaning. Any societal, cultural, or even personal values are not absolute and to believe otherwise is to delude oneself.
Good and evil, he argues, are outdated ideas that are forced upon us our whole lives. There is no meaning to morality and it is certainly not a natural facet of the human being.
Nietzsche specifies that at one time, perhaps such values helped humans to survive but to continue to obey such “rules” today, which are set upon us by others, is to make ourselves slaves.
So how then are we to determine how to live our lives? Where can we find value in existence if not from that which already exists? Nietzsche’s answer is that value must be created by the individual.
Nietzsche does not think that just anyone can create value with ease. Most people, he claims, have a slave mentality and, much like sheep, can only follow the crowd. But there are a select few who can create meaning and value in their life.
These individuals are Übermensch, the “super/overman” (Nietzsche utilized gendered language more than many of his contemporaries).
The Übermensch must struggle against the meaninglessness of the world and inspire others with his (again, Nietzsche’s choice) strength and intelligence. Only such a figure could keep man’s faith in humanity and the world.
But the Übermensch is more than a simple paragon of Nietzschean virtue, he must possess a “will to power.”
The concept was not entirely defined by Nietzsche and is often left open to debate and interpretation, but the will to power can be understood as a form of ambition.
This is not necessarily for material gain but to achieve greatness of self and spirit in the accomplishment of self-made goals. This will to power is eternal and recurring being present in all parts of history though not accessed by all people.
There is a tremendous amount of debate about what Nietzsche’s work means and how it should be interpreted.
Each column I write is, by necessity, succinct, but in this case, I barely scratch the surface of the thinker and his work.
I once again encourage everyone to look into Nietzsche’s work or an introductory guide to his writings.