Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche a German philosopher who was born in Röcken, the Prussian province of Saxony, on October 15th, 1844. His father died earlier when he was 5 years old, and his childhood was spent with his mother, sister and two maiden aunts. At fourteen, Nietzsche was given a scholarship to enter the preparatory school, Schulpforta, with the focusing on training for the clergy. He excelled in religious studies, German literature, and classical studies.

Nietzsche began to suffer from migraine headaches, an disease that made him suffering for most of his adult life. He graduated in 1864, and continued studies in theology and classical philology and the University of Bonn. However, he soon gave up theology and transferred to Leipzig, where he was introduced to the works of Kant, the composer Richard Wagner and Schopenhauer and his recent text, The World as Will and Idea.

It was in Basel that Nietzsche became a close friend of Richard Wagner, the second part of The Birth of Tragedy is devoted to Wagner's music. With the publication of The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music in 1872 Nietzsche returned to Basel to lecture. Upon Nietzsche's rise to celebrity, he sought to bring his friend along, and together, they managed to convince the government to fund the construction of the Bayreuth theatre, built to feature Wagner's work. The theatre was completed in 1876, and Wagner's self-proclaimed masterpiece, The Ring of the Nibelung, was performed for the Emperor. Much to his despair, Nietzsche found that he hated the work, and began to question not only Wagner's work, but Prussian culture in general. His friendship with Wagner ended in 1878, at the time Nietzsche discovered the French Enlightenment. Tensions between the two rose as Wagner disapproved of the French and Nietzsche refused the cult of Wagnerian ideals in Bayreuth, particularly the anti-Semitism it propagated.

Although Nietzsche served in the army in 1868 his appointment was cut short by illness. However, he was thought to be a brilliant student, and rather than return to the army, the University of Basel called him to the chair of classical philology at the age of 24, even though arrangements to award him a doctorate had to be made shortly thereafter. Then during the Franco-Prussian war, he served as a medical orderly for a brief period, returning this time to Basel in ill-health, and though he managed to teach there from 1869-79, he was again forced by his health to retire.

In 1889 he suffered a mental breakdown from which he never recovered to anything like full sanity. The critical breakdown occured in Turin where he collapsed with his arms about the neck of a horse that had just been cruelly whipped by a coachman.

Nietzsche encountered more adversities in his life, the rejection of Lou Andreas-Salomé to his proposal of marriage, along with his ongoing resistance to Prussian citizenship (which he had given up in 1869), provoked a withdrawal of Nietzsche. He remained stateless for the rest of his life, preferring the life of a tourist-scholar and spending his time writing in boarding houses -the summers in Switzerland and the winters in Italy. During this time he published nine books, between 1872 and 1888, while preparing four others for publication.


It happened however that, with Nietzsche being affected by his health problems, his "opinions" were often sought from his sister Elisabeth who, in response, tended to introduce a fair amount of her own ideas. It would seem that The Will to Power (1901) is in fact assembled from various sources amongst the her brother's writings - the selection being made by Elisabeth!

She also witheld his autobiographical work Ecce Homo (1889) from publication and published some of his letters after editing them in ways that altered their meaning.

Friedrich Nietzsche died in Weimar on August 25, 1900.