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Friedrich Nietzsche Ebooks:

Beyond Good and Evil
Thus Spake Zarathustra

Biography from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a German philosopher, whose critiques of contemporary culture, religion, and philosophy centered around a basic question regarding the foundation of values and morality. Beyond the unique themes dealt with in his works, Nietzsche's powerful style and subtle approach are distinguishing features of his writings. Although largely overlooked during his short working life, which ended with a mental collapse at the age of 44, Nietzsche received recognition during the second half of the 20th century as a highly significant figure in modern philosophy. His influence was particularly noted throughout the 20th century by many existentialist, phenomenological and postmodern philosophers.

Youth (1844–1869)

Friedrich Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844, in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, within what was then the Prussian province of Saxony. His name comes from King Frederick William IV of Prussia, on whose 49th birthday Nietzsche was born. Nietzsche's parents were Carl Ludwig (1813-1849), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska (1826-1897). His sister, Elisabeth, was born in 1846, followed by his brother Ludwig Joseph in 1848. After the death of their father in 1849 and the young brother in 1850, the family moved to Naumburg, where they lived with his maternal grandmother and his father's two unmarried sisters under the (formal) guardianship of a local magistrate, Bernhard Dächsel.

After the death of his grandmother in 1856, the family was able to afford their own house. During this time, the young Nietzsche attended a boys' school and later a private school, where he became friends with Gustav Krug and Wilhelm Pinder, both of whom came from respected families. In 1854, he began to attend the Domgymnasium in Naumburg, but after demonstrating particular talents in music and language, he was admitted to the internationally recognized Schulpforta, where he continued his studies from 1858 to 1864. Here he became friends with Paul Deussen and Carl von Gersdorff. He also found time to work on poems and musical compositions. At Schulpforta, Nietzsche received an important introduction to literature, particularly in regard to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and also first experienced a distance from his family life in a small-town Christian environment.

After graduation, in 1864, Nietzsche commenced his studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn. For a short time, with Deussen, he was a member of the Burschenschaft Frankonia. After one semester and to the anger of his mother, he stopped his studies in theology, and concentrated on philology, with Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, whom he followed to the University of Leipzig the next year. There, he became close friends with fellow student Erwin Rohde. Nietzsche's first philological publications appeared soon after.

In 1865, Nietzsche became acquainted with the work of Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Albert Lange's Geschichte des Materialismus in 1866. Both of these encounters were stimulating, encouraging him to no longer limit himself to philology and continue his schooling. In 1867, Nietzsche committed to one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. However, a bad riding accident in March 1868 left him unfit for service. Consequently Nietzsche returned his attention to his studies, completing them and first meeting with Richard Wagner later that year.

Professor at Basel (1869–1879)

Based on Ritschl's support, Nietzsche received an extraordinary offer to become professor of classical philology at the University of Basel before having completed his doctorate degree or certificate for teaching. Among his philological work there, he discovered that the ancient poetic meter related only to the length of syllables, different from the modern, accentuating meter.

After moving to Basel, Nietzsche renounced his Prussian citizenship, and was for the rest of his life, officially stateless. Nevertheless, he served on the Prussian side during the Franco-Prussian War as a medical orderly. His time in the military was short, but he experienced much, and witnessed the traumatic effects of battle. He also contracted diphtheria and dysentery.

On returning to Basel in 1870, Nietzsche observed the establishment of the German Empire and the following era of Otto von Bismarck as an outsider and with a degree of skepticism regarding its genuineness. At the University, he delivered his inaugural lecture, 'On Homer's Personality'. Also, Nietzsche met Franz Overbeck, a professor of theology, who remained his friend throughout his life. The other most influential colleague was historian Jacob Burckhardt, whose lectures Nietzsche frequently attended.

Already in 1868, Nietzsche had met Richard Wagner in Leipzig, and sometime later, his wife, Cosima. Nietzsche admired both greatly, and during his time at Basel was a frequent guest in Wagner's house in Tribschen. The Wagners brought Nietzsche into their closest circle, and enjoyed the attention he gave to the beginning of the Festival House in Bayreuth. In 1870, he gave Cosima Wagner the manuscript of 'The Genesis of the Tragic Idea' as a birthday gift.

In 1872, Nietzsche published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. However, the work, in which he forewent a precise philological method to employ a style of philosophical speculation, was not well received among his classical philological colleagues, including Ritschl. In a polemic, 'Future Philology', Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff dampened the book's reception and increased its notoriety. In response, Rohde, by now a professor in Kiel, and Wagner came to Nietzsche's defense. Nietzsche remarked freely about the isolation he felt within the philological community and attempted unsuccessfully to attain a position in philosophy at Basel.

Between 1873 and 1876, Nietzsche published separately four long essays: David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer, On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, Schopenhauer as Educator, and Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. (These four were later collected and published under the title, Untimely Meditations.) The four shared the orientation of a cultural critique, challenging the developing German culture along lines suggested by Schopenhauer and Wagner. Starting in 1873, he also accumulated notes that were posthumously published as Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks.

During this time, in the circle of the Wagners, Nietzsche met Malwida von Meysenbug and Hans von Bülow, and also began a friendship with Paul Rée, who after 1876 influenced him in dismissing the pessimism in his early writings. However, his disappointment with the Bayreuth Festival of 1876, where he was repelled by the banality of the shows and the baseness of the public, caused him to finally distance himself from Wagner.

Most commentators agree that Nietzsche read Max Stirner, however they differ in respect to whether he was influenced by him. [1] At least one, philosopher Eduard von Hartmann, has accused him of plagiarizing Stirner.

With the publication of Human, All-Too-Human in 1878, a book of aphorisms on subjects ranging from metaphysics to morality and from religion to the sexes, Nietzsche's departure from the philosophy of Wagner and Schopenhauer became evident. Also, Nietzsche's friendship with Deussen and Rohde cooled. Nietzsche in this time attempted to find a wife to no avail.

In 1879, after a significant decline in health, he was forced to resign his position. Since his childhood, Nietzsche had been plagued by various disruptive illnesses -- moments of shortsightedness practically to the degree of blindness, migraine headaches, and violent stomach attacks. These persistent conditions were perhaps aggravated by his riding accident in 1868 and diseases in 1870, and continued to affect him through his years at Basel, forcing him to take longer and longer holidays until regular work was no longer practicable.

Free philosopher (1879–1889)

Driven by his illness to find more compatible climates, Nietzsche travelled frequently and lived until 1889 as a free author in different cities. He spent many summers in Sils Maria, near St. Moritz in Switzerland, and many winters in the Italian cities of Genoa, Rapallo, and Turin, and the French city of Nice. He occasionally returned to Naumburg to visit his family, and especially during this time, he and his sister had repeated periods of conflict and reconciliation. He lived on his pension from Basel, but also received aid from friends.

A past student of his, Peter Gast (born Heinrich Köselitz), became sort of a private secretary. To the end of his life, Gast and Overbeck were consistently faithful friends. Malwida von Meysenbug remained like a motherly patron even outside the Wagner circle. Soon Nietzsche made contact with the music critic Carl Fuchs.

Nietzsche was at the beginning of his most productive period. Beginning with Human, All-Too-Human in 1878, Nietzsche would publish one book (or major section of a book) each year until 1888, his last year of writing, during which he completed five. In 1879, Nietzsche published Mixed Opinions and Maxims, which followed the aphoristic form of Human, All-Too-Human. The following year, he published The Wanderer and His Shadow. Both were published as the second part of Human, All-Too-Human with the second edition of the latter.

In 1881, Nietzsche published Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudices, and in 1882, the first part of The Gay Science. That year he also met Lou Salomé through Malwida von Meysenbug and Paul Rée. Nietzsche and Salomé spent the summer together in Tautenburg, often with Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth as chaperone. However, Nietzsche's regard for Salomé was less as an equal partner than as a gifted student. He fell in love with her and pursued her despite their mutual friend Rée. When he asked to marry her, Salomé refused. Nietzsche's relationship with Rée and Salomé broke up in the winter of 1882-83, partially due to intrigues led by his sister Elisabeth. (Lou Salomé eventually came to correspond with Sigmund Freud, introducing him to Nietzsche's thought.) In the face of renewed fits of illness, in near isolation after a falling out with his mother and sister regarding Salomé, and plagued by suicidal thoughts, he fled to Rapallo, where in only ten days he wrote the first part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

After severing philosophical ties to Schopenhauer and social ties to Wagner, Nietzsche had few remaining friends. Now with the new style of Zarathustra, his work became even more alienating and was received only to the degree prescribed by politeness. Nietzsche recognized this and maintained his solitude, even though he often complained about it. He gave up his short-lived plan to become a poet in public, and was troubled by concerns about his publications. His books were as good as unsold. In 1885, he printed only 40 copies of the fourth part of Zarathustra, and only a fraction of these were distributed among close friends.

In 1886, he printed Beyond Good and Evil at his own expense. With this book and the appearance in 1886-87 of second editions of his earlier works (The Birth of Tragedy, Human, All-Too-Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science), he saw his work completed for the time and hoped that soon a readership would develop. In fact, the interest in Nietzsche did arise at this time, if also rather slowly and hardly perceived by him.

During these years, Nietzsche's met Meta von Salis, Carl Spitteler, and also Gottfried Keller. In 1886, his sister Elisabeth married the anti-Semite Bernhard Förster and travelled to Paraguay to found a "Germanic" colony, a plan to which Nietzsche responded with laughter. Through correspondence, Nietzsche's relationship with Elisabeth continued on the path of conflict and reconciliation, but she would not see him again in person until after his collapse.

Nietzsche continued to have frequent and painful attacks of illness, which made prolonged work impossible. In 1887, Nietzsche quickly wrote the polemic On the Genealogy of Morals. He also exchanged letters with Hippolyte Taine, and then also with Georg Brandes, who at the beginning of 1888 delivered in Copenhagen the first lectures on Nietzsche's philosophy.

In the same year, Nietzsche wrote five books, based on his voluminous notes for the long-planned work, The Will to Power. His health seemed to be improving, and in the summer he was in high spirits. In the fall of 1888, his writings and letters began to reveal an overestimation of his status and 'fate'. He overestimated the increasing response to his writings, above all, for the recent polemic, The Case of Wagner.

On his 44th birthday, after completing The Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist, he decided to write the autobiography Ecce Homo, which presents itself to his readers in order that they, 'Hear me! For I am such and such a person. Above all, do not mistake me for someone else.' (Preface, sec. 1, tr. Walter Kaufmann)

In December, Nietzsche began correspondence with August Strindberg, and thought that, short of an international breakthrough, he would attempt to buy back his older writings from the publisher and have them translated into other European languages. Moreover, he planned the publication of the compilation Nietzsche Contra Wagner and the poems Dionysian Dithyrambs.

On 3 January 1889, Nietzsche had a mental collapse. That day he had been approached by two Turinese policemen after making some sort of public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened is not known. The often-repeated (and apocryphal) tale is that Nietzsche saw a horse being whipped at the other end of the Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around the horse’s neck to protect it, and collapsed to the ground. In the following few days, he sent short writings to a number of friends, including Cosima Wagner and Jacob Burckhardt, which showed signs of a breakdown.

To his former colleague Burckhardt he wrote: 'I have had Caiphas put in fetters. Also, last year I was crucified by the German doctors in a very drawn-out manner. Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all anti-Semites abolished.' (The Portable Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann)

Mental breakdown and death (1889–1900)

On January 6, 1889, Burckhardt showed the letter he received from Nietzsche to Overbeck. The following day Overbeck received a similarly revealing letter, and decided Nietzsche must be brought back to Basel. Overbeck traveled to Turin and brought Nietzsche to a psychiatric clinic in Basel.

By that time, Nietzsche was fully in the grip of insanity, and his mother Franziska decided to bring him to a clinic in Jena under the direction of Otto Binswanger. From November 1889 to February 1890, Julius Langbehn attempted to cure Nietzsche, claiming that the doctors' methods were ineffective to cure Nietzsche's condition. Langbehn assumed greater and greater control of Nietzsche until his secrecy discredited him. In March 1890, Franziska removed Nietzsche from the clinic, and in May 1890 to her home in Naumburg.

During this process, Overbeck and Gast contemplated what to do with Nietzsche's unpublished works. In January 1889 they proceeded with the planned release of The Twilight of the Idols, by that time already printed and bound. In February, they ordered a 50-copy private edition of Nietzsche Contra Wagner, but the publisher C. G. Naumann secretly printed 100. Overbeck and Gast decided to withhold publishing Antichrist and Ecce Homo due to their more radical content. Nietzsche's reception and recognition enjoyed their first surge.

In 1893, Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth returned from Paraguay after the suicide of her husband. She read and studied Nietzsche's works, and piece by piece took control of them and their publication. Overbeck was eventually dismissed, and Gast finally cooperated. After the death of Franziska in 1897, Nietzsche lived in Weimar, where he was cared for by Elisabeth, who allowed people to visit the uncommunicative Nietzsche.

On August 25, 1900, Nietzsche died after contracting pneumonia. At the wish of Elisabeth, he was buried beside his father at the church in Röcken.

The cause of Nietzsche's breakdown has been the subject of speculation and remains uncertain. An early and frequent diagnosis was a syphilitic infection; however, some of Nietzsche's symptoms were inconsistent with typical cases of syphilis. Another diagnosis was a form of brain cancer. Others suggest that Nietzsche experienced a mystical awakening, similar to ones studied by Meher Baba. While most commentators regard Nietzsche's breakdown as irrelevant to his philosophy, some, including Georges Bataille, argue that the breakdown must be considered.

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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
Bertrand Arthur William Russell