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Reading between the lines: Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Often cited as a self indulgent nihilist, or the man who killed God, can be seen becoming the messiah of many teenagers making their first foray into the fields of philosophy. To someone looking at all of philosophical knowledge from an intrigue-driven reading standpoint, it might appear so. But as is with most philosophy, Nietzsche’s works have been grossly misunderstood for most of history. (Seriously, look at the Führer).

Nietzsche and his relationship with God: One of Nietzsche’s most infamous and debatable quotes comes from Thus Spoke Zarathustra where he writes about the death of God. To anyone reading from a surface level, it might look like an edgy rebellion against the existence of established religious beliefs and an argument attempted in favour of atheism. But in reality, Nietzsche tries to speak up against the vast misinterpreted preachings of the word of God by religious establishments back then, which he argues is the death of God.

To better understand this, we must understand the deep connection of Nietzsche and God that existed ever since his birth. Nietzsche was barely 5 when his father, a Lutheran pastor, and his young 2 year old brother died. It led the young philosopher to question God why one of his servants was given such a gruesome and untimely death. In his mind, the reimagination of the concept of God had already begun. To Nietzsche, God was no longer this unmovable entity that held undeniable and seemingly infinite control over the power order of the universe.

The roots of Nietzschean nihilism: Coming from an era when everything eventually pointed to religion and following of a higher order, (individualism wasn’t very looked up to back then), this flow of events can explain how Nietzsche’s descent into the philosophising of the meaninglessness of it all and how his arguments of nihilism truly started. Moreover, having read Schopenhauer, (who argued that the only thing that gives life meaning is death), at a fairly young age, Nietzsche’s exploration of the meaningless of everything further picked up pace, with most of his theories about nihilism solidifying during his university years when he started to read his work. Nietzsche however, denied the very staunch, completely hopeless, bleak nihilism of Schopenhauer. Amused by the art of the ancient Greeks, he believed that art might provide some greater meaning to the short-lived human life. He saw art as the key to create meaning in even the most meaningless of moments.

The misinterpretation of Nietzsche’s works: Nietzsche’s theories have throughout history, and especially recently have piqued the interest of many teenagers who hardly begin reading philosophy. Everything hard to describe is assumed as meaningless directly and ironically, Nietzsche would starkly deny such a generalisation, or the blind acceptance of his quotes as the truth without giving them a proper thought. His works like the slave-master morality and his denial of Christian

morality aren’t merely denial of existing world orders but a critique of herd mentality and he has always been against anything paralysing free, individual creative thinking. In a weirdly optimistic fashion, his very acknowledgement of the meaninglessness of human life drove him to accept the radical ideas of the flourishing individual thought. An incident in his life led him to prophesize one of his most optimistic theories ever, where he theorizes that one must live their life in a way that doesn’t feel like torture even if they were forced to live it exactly the same way for the rest of eternity, it wouldn’t be torture to them. His theories on the concept of “the last man” which stated that self indulgent humans would be the end of human evolution clearly show his regard for radical individual thinking.

Old age and Mental Instability: Nearing the end of his life, Nietzsche started to lose control over his own mentality. Eventually, he started losing control over his own mentality and struggled to keep up with his own logic, due to which he was put into a mental facility. This further questioned his theories and gave rise to multiple people interpreting his works for him, something that he had spent almost all of his life fighting. He spent his final days working on a book that was left unreleased and leaked by his own sister, which later on became the misinterpreted basis of the Nazi ideology, even though if he were alive to see that, he would’ve been the strongest opponent of the same. It is tough to exactly pinpoint what his theories mean because most of his work lies parallel in context to the life situations he was facing, changing their scope with the passage of time.(Questioning God shortly after his father and brother’s death, the death of God during one of his outbursts after his love interest left him)

The aftermath of Nietzsche’s death:

Nietzsche once stated his huge respect for Schopenhauer who he considered as one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Schopenhauer’s extremist ideologies about the meaningless of life paralleled his rebellion against the existing world orders and the importance he placed on individual thought was easily misunderstood as mindless acceptance without analysis which led to the rise of something much more severe and world-changing than anything else could have ever been. Nietzsche wasn’t always right in all his paradigms when he wrote them. Some of his introspective thought processes tend to either end up over-analyzing the concepts or become very subjective with his own perspective placed at the centre of the concept. Especially nearing the end of his life where he started losing control over himself, validating what he said during those phases becomes increasingly difficult, placing him in a very gray area of morality. But placing the man who denied the concepts of established morality into the same spectrum would be rather self-defeating.

In Conclusion: Nietzsche’s works, just like a lot of us, were evolving with him, and flawed in many aspects. One must understand subtext in philosophy before trying to accept them as the truth and making them a primary ideology. Be it Nietzsche’s or any other theory, reading between the lines is essential. With philosophy, it's better to rethink paradigms from time to time as well, and take them with a pinch of salt. In conclusion, it's kind of ironic to see people try to categorise Nietzsche into a binary construct of morality for someone who’s beyond good and evil.

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