The Death of God and the Meaning of Life

By Julian Young | Go to book overview

4

Early Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was born in 1844, the son of a Lutheran pastor who died - probably of a degenerative brain disease - when Nietzsche was 5 years old. In 1869 he discovered Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation in a second-hand bookshop, a book he found to be written 'especially for me'. Mutual reverence for Schopenhauer - mutual conviction that Schopenhauer had courageously told the truth about life and the world - led to his close friendship with the composer Richard Wagner which began about three years later. Four years after that, however, claiming to have discovered them both to be 'sick', Nietzsche broke with both Schopenhauer and Wagner. Though an honoured and invited guest at the First Bayreuth Festival of Wagner's operas in 1876, he walked out, in disgust, half-way through.

In 1869, Nietzsche became professor of Greek at the Swiss university of Basle, where, in 1872, he published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy - the topic of this chapter. In 1879 he resigned the chair at Basle and took up the life of a wanderer, living in cheap boarding-houses in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. In 1882 he pronounced for the first time that 'God is dead' (in The Gay Science), and between 1883 and 1885 produced his most famous book, Thus Spake Zarathustra. In 1889 his rapidly deteriorating mental condition tipped clearly into madness. (In a letter to Jacob Burckhardt he claimed to be God, and to the patients in the sanatorium to which he was, for a time, confined he apologised for the bad weather they had been having, promising to 'prepare the loveliest weather for tomorrow'. Clearly he had forgotten, by this time, that God had 'died'.) The cause of his madness is uncertain. Many - keen to preserve his philosophy from any taint of madness - suggest it to have been syphilis. Others, however, among them his friend Franz Overbeck, think that the cause really is to be

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The Death of God and the Meaning of Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Before the Death of God 7
  • 1 - Plato 9
  • 2 - Kant and Christianity 21
  • 3 - Schopenhauer 29
  • 4 - Early Nietzsche 44
  • 5 - Hegel 57
  • 6 - Hegel (Continued), with a Postscript on Marx 71
  • Part II - After the Death of God 81
  • 7 - Later Nietzsche 83
  • 8 - Posthumous Nietzsche 97
  • 9 - Early Heidegger 107
  • 10 - Sartre 125
  • 11 - Sartre (Continued) 142
  • 12 - Camus 160
  • 13 - Foucault 173
  • 14 - Derrida 188
  • 15 - Later Heidegger 197
  • Further Reading 213
  • Notes 216
  • Index 233
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