Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
Often called the first existentialist philosopher and one of the most important nihilist philosophers, German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche focused his keen mind on earthly concerns of individuality and power. In the 19th century, Nietzsche was one of the most radical thinkers of his day about topics like free will and human creative power and potential. He began to emphasize the importance of emotion and creative energy over reason in cultural history, coming from his training as a philologist—a type of linguist specializing in the criticism of ancient Greek and Roman texts. Seeing connections between social actions, Nietzsche began to take a look at the importance of the actions of the individual and their impact on history.
Nietzsche believed in the highly-important lifelong project of cultivating a free spirit. It is easy to find great quotes from him because of his style of writing in aphorisms, which are common throughout several of his major works, including Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Human, All Too Human. Nietzsche also wrote in metaphor and long, fable-like stories. One famous section of The Gay Science, which is often summarized with the phrase “God is dead,” became a central cry for nihilist philosophers who reject religion and moral principles for the belief that life is meaningless.
After his death, Friedrich Nietzsche’s sister took possession of his notes, journals, and unpublished writings and reworked his public image with new versions of his ideas. Scholars continue to debate which sections of these later works are truly Nietzsche’s and which belong to his sister.
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