The Philosophy of Nietzsche - The Existentialist and the Iconoclast - Seeker's Thoughts

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The Philosophy of Nietzsche - The Existentialist and the Iconoclast

Nietzsche believed that living an ideal human life required self-realization as the key component. Additionally, his vision of eternity suggested events would repeat themselves over and over.

Heidegger and Sartre both draw extensively on Nietzsche's ideas, though many interpreters have taken a selective approach when approaching his work.


Nietzsche's philosophy is incredibly diverse, encompassing everything from natural history of morals to developing new kinds of moral psychology; issues surrounding human meaning and logocentrism; theories of language and communication, etc. As such, commentators have often tried to provide a coherent overview by focusing on particular elements.

Certain concepts, like eternal recurrence and value-creation, require careful philosophical examination. As a result, they have often attracted the scrutiny of commentators looking to develop rational reconstructions of philosophy.

Nietzsche's ideas also resonate with broader philosophical traditions that he draws upon, such as suggesting that subconscious motives of any particular issue might reflect historical origins; Abel (1984) provided a systematic and carefully argued account of this line of thinking while Muller-Lauter and Moore (1999a and 1999b) pursued intriguing connections between concepts such as Ubermensch with biological ideas from Leibniz.

Nietzsche's philosophy also centers around the existence of two types - higher and lower types. According to him, most people possess lower type characteristics that morality holds in low regard, while higher type individuals possessing characteristic strength and power can perform great deeds with profound creativity; but they are limited by moral values which appear as "goodness".

As a result, individuals can find themselves trapped in an incoherent moralism which strips away any power to combat dogmatism and restore dignity. Luckily, he believes there are ways for individuals to change their character so as to escape this trap; and as they pursue this goal a positive image of freedom begins to form out of its remnants.


Nietzsche began his academic life at Bonn working on classical philology and became acquainted with Lou Salome, an intellectually gifted young woman. Though their romantic interest initially blossomed into something deeper, eventually the relationship ended due to diverging ideas about what they should make of life together and Salome went on to write an influential biography of Nietzsche.

Nietzsche himself appears to have pursued a philosophical agenda that was less focused on producing systematic philosophy than on advocating a set of values he believed could provide encouragement and affirmation for individuals living in an inaccessible, often uncertain world. Nehamas asserts that Nietzsche's value system centered around individuality and artistry; his proposal being that new philosophers develop themselves into something distinctive and noteworthy by living their lives so as to affirm these ideals (Nehamas 1985: 234-5).

Nietzsche's writings address numerous central themes, such as will to power, eternal recurrence and perspectivism. Each idea poses a challenging question that warrants further exploration by scholars; nevertheless their potential consequences warrant consideration.

The Will to Power Doctrine holds that everything in the universe, including humans, rests fundamentally upon an interdependent web of "power-centers", each acting according to an inherent principle that drives their activities and interactions towards growth and development. Scholarly opinion differs on exactly what this implies (see Heidegger 1961, Jaspers 1965 and Richardson 1996 for some interpretations).

Will to Power Doctrine encompasses another important idea. This is that the psyche (soul) cannot be reduced to any preexisting psychological substance but instead arises through activity of subpersonal constituents such as drives and affects in its cultural setting, challenging traditional views which see it as fixed mental substance being formed by its environment (see Anderson 2012a).

Note that Nietzsche's iconoclastic nature and commitments to genealogical criticism and the revaluation of values complicate attempts at developing an accurate interpretation of any of his themes. He often used aphorisms or other strategies to deliberately obscure his meanings and did not outline details of his ideas directly, making rational reconstruction of them difficult; nevertheless, some general guidance may be found from clearer insights within his works.


Nietzsche's work is often misread as mere ideology, yet some interpreters of it attempt to understand its ramifications for theology. They contend that when an "I will" becomes transparent to itself it reveals metaphysical illusions and dogmas founded upon them, while also showing how beliefs must constantly adapt with human needs as time progresses.

According to this interpretation, Nietzsche can be seen as a theologian. His ideas regarding truth and morality had an immense influence on Christian theology as they postulated an eternally-recurring process of creation and destruction in which all values emerge as complex manifestations of drive and affect. Nietzsche understood this cosmic order through the lens that values are formed out of drive-affect relationships rooted in complex configurations of drive-effect relationships.

Nietzsche's theory of values enables him to defend his ideas about nihilism, natural history of morals and its eternal return as part of cosmological intuitions. Furthermore, this interpretation helps one better comprehend why he often rejected objective truth in favor of knowledge as more than mere accumulation.

Nietzsche's theory also helps explain his seemingly contradictory ideas regarding time's nature. According to him, no concept of time can really define any temporal limits in thought as "what lies beyond them never demonstrably ceases".

Other commentators, however, find theology less central to Nietzsche's philosophy. They argue that his concepts of truth and morality, while still heavily influenced by religion, are more directly connected with his biographical experiences than those of skeptics. Genealogy passages reveal this concern by showing it's core theme is survival in an environment with diminishing resources and unjust social hierarchies; his ideas about master-slave concepts as tools of self-affirmation as well as views about what constitutes morality are all reflections of his concerns regarding survival as reflected by his views about master-slave concepts being tools of self affirmation for self-affirmation while simultaneously reflecting these concerns in master-slave concepts used as self-affirmation tools; similarly his views on what constitutes morality can also reveal his true self.


Nietzsche spent much of the final phase of his career exploring various philosophical subjects, such as morality, truth, aesthetics, history, power, language and identity. One particularly contentious element of these ideas stems from Nietzsche's mysterious doctrine that the pursuit of power by "power-centers" was fundamental to reality; this theory claims all values and beliefs held by humanity are grounded on it - creating much scholarly debate on this theory.

Some interpreters have sought to limit the reach of Nietzsche's will-to-power doctrine by suggesting it never intended for it to encompass such an all encompassing cosmology. Instead, these critics suggest Nietzsche was making moral criticism with this assertion and that consistent grounds might exist for this claim if we read certain passages from his corpus in particular ways.

Nietzsche's will-to-power explanation can also be seen as an example of psychological explanation for human behavior through drives that direct individuals toward generalized patterns of reaction, with Nietzsche suggesting these drives represent both objective elements (like eating or the desire for power) as well as subjective states like love, fear and anger - ultimately showing us something about ourselves and the world we inhabit.

Critics have noted that many values affirmed both in traditional societies and modern ones are grounded in psychological explanations which are too simplistic. Nietzsche's analyses of various cultures emphasize this point by showing how quickly one may form conclusions regarding social and moral order by looking at values and beliefs of various societies.

Nietzsche's argument, however, is difficult to overlook and has often caused much discussion and contention. His frequent assertion that our own value judgments are correct while those of others may be false or even lie-filled has led some interpreters to interpret his work as a moralist version of Hegel's dialectical method, which seeks to establish a system of values which are both logically valid and morally sound.

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