Lecture 6: Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Biography and Introduction
Few philosophers have come to be as widely misunderstood. Fewer still have suffered the
indignity of having their views and writings bastardized by those that were trusted to do
, we have both .
.. coupled with the truth .
.. a man angry with his people,
his nation, and with society as a whole. Taken to its extreme, Nietzschean thought borders on the
... though Nietzsche was by no means a nihilist. Taken at face value, it cries out against
.. though Nietzsche did not harbor disdain for all faiths. A man often taken so very
.. and yet a man who could certainly laugh at himself.
was born in the small German town of Rocken bei Lutzen (Prussian province of
Saxony) on October 15th, 1844. His father was a town minister, and his grandfathers were
Lutheran ministers. His father died when Nietzsche was only five years old. He spent his
childhood days surrounded by his mother, his sister, and two maiden aunts. After attending a first
rate boarding school (
), Nietzsche entered the University of Bonn in 1864 as a
theology and philology student, but his interests gravitated more exclusively towards philology --
a discipline which then centered upon the interpretation of classical and biblical texts. Inspired
by Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, and following him to the University of Leipzig in 1865 -- an
institution located closer to Nietzsche's hometown of Naumburg --
his own academic reputation through his published essays on Aristotle, Theognis and Simonides.
In 1867, as he approached the age of 23,
entered his required military service and was
assigned to an equestrian field artillery regiment close to Naumburg, during which time he lived
at home with his mother. While attempting to leap-mount into the saddle upon a particularly
unruly horse, he suffered a serious chest injury and was put on sick leave after his chest wound
refused to heal.
In 1869, at 24 years of age, he earned a professorship in philology at Basel, which is where his
brilliance came to be more widely noticed.
taught at Basel from 1869 to 1879,
excluding a brief time in the military. During this time,
was the younger colleague of
the historians Jacob Burckhardt and Franz Overbeck whose lectures he attended. His relationship
with Overbeck solidified with the two becoming lifelong friends and associates. Never in
outstanding health, further complications arose from Nietzsche's August-October 1870 service as
a hospital attendant during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). He witnessed the traumatic
effects of battle, took close care of wounded soldiers, contracted diphtheria and dysentery, and
subsequently experienced a painful variety of health difficulties for the rest of his life.
On a visit to Rome in 1882,