Perhaps the original rock star of the philosophy world, Nietzsche shook up the way his century, and the one after, thought. A poet, pianist, philosopher and music composer, among other things, his work has influenced every sphere of art and thinking in the 20th century. Wrongly associated with the rise of Nazism due to a rather opportunistic sister who freely edited his work after his death in order to support her nationalistic ideas, Nietzsche’s popularity rose again in the 60s and 70s and now is a leading light for intellectual thought in the world.Given the voluminous work he left behind, combined with his love for aphorisms and verse, tackling the philosopher’s work is a daunting task. We bravely venture now to try condensing a life’s work to a few greatest hits.  

More Power to The Will

For Nietzsche, what mattered the most is the Will to Power, which provides a basis for understanding human behavior. All action is thus driven by the fulfillment of the Will (hello Schopenhauer!) – and the  consequence of a successful pursuit of one’s aims, of the overcoming of hurdles to one’s actions is the fulfillment. He elaborated this theory to include not just human behavior but also the material world around us. The physical world, one could then say, is an interplay of objects and forces – and these forces could be viewed as primitive manifestations of the Will. 

Non stick and Nihilistic 

According to Nietzsche, the greatest malady of our times is the absence of meaning – Nihilism (i.e. nothingness). This reign of the absurd, where the future loses all meaning and traditional values lose their hold, according to Nietzsche, is the result of the Death of God. Mankind had lost its faith in the existence of a Supreme being and hence this loss of all meaning. If such Nihilism continued, predicted Nietzsche, it would lead to the arrival of the Last Man- a creature unable to create or to love and slave to his programmed happiness. And all of humanity would stare at the abyss. 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 

Not that Nietzsche spared good old traditional morality either. For him, the concept of good and bad was created those who, unable to create anything positive,  used their feeling of bitterness and resentment to give birth to the idea of morality- i.e. the definition of good and evil.Suffering and resentment are the origins of morality and morality the product of slaves who unable to create something positive, built an edifice for that which is negative in their lives!

Dionysus and Apollo, By Jove!

The Will to Power as an affirmative force leads to creativity- especially Art. This Art, is a product of the life force which, in its quest for harmony produces forms and manifestations which are put forth purely for the joy and the pleasure of creating them. The Greek God Dionysus- the god of drink and good times- was to Nietzsche, the incarnation of the life force brimming over creativity.  He manifests the process of endless destruction and recreation. Meanwhile, Apollo, the god of light and measures for the Greeks, can only stand for clarity, limitation and distinction.

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s Ubermensch!

One of Nietzsche’s most popular ideas is that of the Superman- who by pushing all the nons and the nos aside, becomes one with the life force-a force of creativity that exceeds Man. This theory of the Superman is also linked to the Theory of Eternal Return– where everything in the Universe is bound to repeat itself in a self-similar form for an infinite number of times across infinite time or space. While for Man, this is the ultimate horror, for the Superman, the wish for the eternal return of all events would mark the ultimate affirmation of life. The universe is recurring over infinite time and space, but the different versions of events that have occurred in the past may at one point or another take place again, hence “all configurations that have previously existed on this earth must yet meet”. And with each version of events is hoping that some knowledge or awareness is gained to better the individual, hence says Nietzsche “And thus it will happen one day that a man will be born again, just like me and a woman will be born, just like Mary—only that it is hoped to be that the head of this man may contain a little less foolishness.””

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