Twilight of the Idols

by

Friedrich Nietzsche

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Friedrich Nietzsche Character Analysis

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote Twilight of the Idols in 1888 in response to his growing popularity across Europe. The book serves as an introduction to his work. In particular, Twilight of the Idols focuses on Nietzsche’s critique of traditional systems of morality and their negative effect on the modern world. Nietzsche’s philosophical writing is famous for its aphorism, irony, and other literary elements in place of a drier, academic style, and Twilight of the Idols is no exception. Nietzsche, at times, can be a somewhat abrasive and arrogant narrator. He spends much of the work attacking other philosophers and public intellectuals with whom he disagrees; indeed, at one point, he even claims to be incapable of finding another German with whom he is an intellectual equal. He also declares his earlier work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “the profoundest book [humankind] possesses.” Nietzsche, for his part, is well aware of the way his arguments, style, and tone might put off some readers—near the end of Twilight of the Idols, for instance, he readily admits that his taste “may be called the opposite of a tolerant taste.”

Friedrich Nietzsche Quotes in Twilight of the Idols

The Twilight of the Idols quotes below are all either spoken by Friedrich Nietzsche or refer to Friedrich Nietzsche. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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Foreword Quotes

Nothing succeeds in which high spirits play no part.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Another form of recovery, in certain cases even more suited to me, is to sound out idols. …There are more idols in the world than there are realities: that is my ‘evil eye’ for this world, that is also my ‘evil ear’. … For once to pose questions here with a hammer and perhaps to receive for answer that famous hollow sound which speaks of inflated bowels—what a delight for one who has ears behind his ears—for an old psychologist and pied piper like me, in presence of whom precisely that which would like to stay silent has to become audible

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Hammer
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Maxims and Arrows Quotes

31. When it is trodden on a worm will curl up. That is prudent. It thereby reduces the chance of being trodden on again. In the language of morals: humility.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Trodden Worm
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

39. The disappointed man speaks. – I sought great human beings, I never found anything but the apes of their ideal.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
The Problem of Socrates Quotes

In every age the wisest have passed the identical judgement on life: it is worthless. … Everywhere and always their mouths have uttered the same sound—a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness with life, full of opposition to life.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Judgements, value judgements concerning life, for or against, can in the last resort never be true: they possess value only as symptoms, they come into consideration only as symptoms—in themselves such judgements are stupidities. One must reach out and try to grasp this astonishing finesse, that the value of life cannot be estimated.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
“Reason” in Philosophy Quotes

All that philosophers have handled for millennia has been conceptual mummies; nothing actual has escaped from their hands alive.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

We possess scientific knowledge today to precisely the extent that we have decided to accept the evidence of the senses—to the extent that we have learned to sharpen and arm them and to think them through to their conclusions.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

To talk about ‘another’ world than this is quite pointless, provided that an instinct for slandering, disparaging and accusing life is not strong within us: in the latter case we revenge ourselves on life by means of the phantasmagoria of ‘another’, a ‘better’ life.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Plato, Socrates
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
How the “Real World” at last Became a Myth Quotes

6. We have abolished the real world: what world is left? the apparent world perhaps? … But no! with the real world we have also abolished the apparent world!

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Plato
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Morality as Anti-Nature Quotes

To exterminate the passions and desires merely in order to do away with their folly and its unpleasant consequences—this itself seems to us today merely an acute form of folly. We no longer admire dentists who pull out the teeth to stop them hurting.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

But to attack the passions at their roots means to attack life at its roots: the practice of the Church is hostile to life

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

All naturalism in morality, that is all healthy morality, is dominated by an instinct of life—some commandment of life is fulfilled through a certain canon of ‘shall’ and ‘shall not’, some hindrance and hostile element on life’s road is thereby removed. Anti-natural morality, that is virtually every morality that has hitherto been taught, reverenced and preached, turns on the contrary precisely against the instincts of life—it is a now secret, now loud and impudent condemnation of these instincts. By saying ‘God sees into the heart’ it denies the deepest and the highest desires of life and takes God for the enemy of life….The saint in whom God takes pleasure is the ideal castrate….Life is at an end where the ‘kingdom of God’ begins…

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:
The Four Great Errors Quotes

There is no more dangerous error than that of mistaking the consequence for the cause. I call it reason’s intrinsic form of corruption. None the less, this error is among the most ancient and most recent habits of mankind: it is even sanctified among us, it bears the names ‘religion’ and ‘morality’.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Luigi Cornaro
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

Everywhere accountability is sought, it is usually the instinct for punishing and judging which seeks it.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
The “Improvers” of Mankind Quotes

In physiological terms: in the struggle with the beast, making it sick can be the only means of making it weak. This the Church understood: it corrupted the human being, it weakened him—but it claimed to have ‘improved’ him…

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

Expressed in a formula one might say: every means hitherto employed with the intention of making mankind moral has been thoroughly immoral.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
What the Germans Lack Quotes

‘Are there any German philosophers? are there any German poets? are there any good German books?’—people ask me abroad. I blush; but with the courage which is mine even in desperate cases I answer: ‘Yes, Bismarck!

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
Expeditions of an Untimely Man Quotes

The most spiritual human beings, assuming they are the most courageous, also experience by far the most painful tragedies: but it is precisely for this reason that they honour life, because it brings against them its most formidable weapons.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

An ‘altruistic’ morality, a morality under which egoism languishes—is under all circumstances a bad sign. This applies to individuals, it applies especially to peoples. The best are lacking when egoism begins to be lacking. To choose what is harmful to oneself, to be attracted by ‘disinterested’ motives, almost constitutes the formula for décadence.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

For what is freedom? That one has the will to self-responsibility. That one preserves the distance which divides us. That one has become more indifferent to hardship, toil, privation, even to life. That one is ready to sacrifice men to one’s cause, oneself not excepted.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

The criminal type is the type of the strong human being under unfavourable conditions, a strong human being made sick. What he lacks is the wilderness, a certain freer and more perilous nature and form of existence in which all that is attack and deference in the instinct of the strong human being comes into its own. His virtues have been excommunicated by society; the liveliest drives within him forthwith blend with the depressive emotions, with suspicion, fear, dishonour.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
What I Owe to the Ancients Quotes

Ultimately my mistrust of Plato extends to the very bottom of him: I find him deviated so far from all the fundamental instincts of the Hellenes, so morally infected, so much an antecedent Christian—he already has the concept ‘good’ as the supreme concept—that I should prefer to describe the entire phenomenon ‘Plato’ by the harsh term ‘higher swindle’ or, if you prefer, ‘idealism’, than by any other.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker), Plato
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

Affirmation of life even in its strangest and sternest problems, the will to life rejoicing in its own inexhaustibility through the sacrifice of its highest types—that is what I called Dionysian, that is what I recognized as the bridge to the psychology of the tragic poet. Not so as to get rid of pity and terror, not so as to purify oneself of a dangerous emotion and through its vehement discharge—it was thus Aristotle understood it—: but, beyond pity and terror, to realize in oneself the eternal joy of becoming—that joy which also encompasses joy in destruction.

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
The Hammer Speaks Quotes

And if your hardness will not flash and cut and cut to pieces: how can you one day—create with me?

Related Characters: Friedrich Nietzsche (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Hammer
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:
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Friedrich Nietzsche Character Timeline in Twilight of the Idols

The timeline below shows where the character Friedrich Nietzsche appears in Twilight of the Idols. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Foreword
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Nietzsche bemoans the necessary struggle to remain happy in increasingly dismal times, saying, “Nothing succeeds in... (full context)
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Nietzsche promises to “pose questions here with a hammer,” and he hopes his questions will stimulate... (full context)
Maxims and Arrows
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...(short phrases that express a principle or general truth) that relate to the central themes Nietzsche will explore in his work. This guide includes a selection of these maxims, all of... (full context)
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...that if a person helps themself, then others will help them, too. In Maxim #10, Nietzsche urges people to stand behind their actions and have no remorse. Maxim #15 argues that... (full context)
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In Maxim #22, Nietzsche wonders how, if “‘bad men have no songs,” the Russians have songs. Maxim #23 boldly... (full context)
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“When it is trodden on a worm will curl up,” Nietzsche states in Maxim #31. He continues, explaining that this curled-up worm is what humans call... (full context)
The Problem of Socrates
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1. Throughout history, Nietzsche argues, the wisest people—even Socrates—have claimed that life is “worthless.” But what’s the point of... (full context)
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2. Nietzsche considers Socrates and Plato to be symbols of a fallen ancient Greece. In particular, Nietzsche... (full context)
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...criminologists state that criminals are often ugly, their ugly exteriors symptomatic of an ugly soul. Nietzsche describes criminals as “decadent.” Once, a foreigner who knew how to read faces passed by... (full context)
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4. It’s not just Socrates’s lustfulness that makes him decadent—it’s also his poor logic. Nietzsche strives to understand the origins of the Socratic equation “reason = virtue = happiness,” a... (full context)
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...Socrates brought dialectics—a method of intellectual investigation that draws on dialogue and discussion—to Greek philosophy. Nietzsche argues that this marks the end of “a nobler taste.” Before Socrates, society denounced dialectics... (full context)
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6. Nietzsche claims that dialectics are dubious and unconvincing, and that people only resort to them when... (full context)
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7. Nietzsche wonders whether Socrates used dialectics as an act of “revenge” against the aristocrats. Dialectics allow... (full context)
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...were in the air, and he knew that he could usher in a new age. Nietzsche recalls the story about Socrates and the face-reader from section three. In a time of... (full context)
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11. Nietzsche explains the error of Socrates’s commitment to extreme rationality. He thinks that philosophers and moralists... (full context)
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12. Had Socrates realized his self-deception? After all, he “handed himself the poison cup,” which Nietzsche takes as evidence that Socrates recognized his mistakes and wanted to die. (full context)
“Reason” in Philosophy
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1. Nietzsche discusses “the idiosyncrasies of philosophers.” One idiosyncrasy is their “Egyptianism.” Nietzsche claims that philosophers have... (full context)
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2. For Nietzsche, the philosopher Heraclitus is the worst of his (Heraclitus’s) contemporaries. Whereas other philosophers distrusted the... (full context)
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3. Nietzsche considers the senses, scoffing that no philosopher has ever considered the nose in any of... (full context)
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4. Another idiosyncrasy of philosophers is “mistaking the last for the first.” Nietzsche attacks foundational concepts of philosophy, such as the idea that “that which is, the unconditioned,... (full context)
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5. Before, Nietzsche relates, people saw “change, mutation, becoming” as evidence that something had “led [society] astray.” Now,... (full context)
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6. Nietzsche offers four propositions. The first states that the only reality that exists is that which... (full context)
How the “Real World” at last Became a Myth
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...world.”  Maxim #1 states that wise people exist in and are themselves the real world (Nietzsche cites Plato’s “I, Plato, am the truth” as an example of this idea). Maxim #2:... (full context)
Morality as Anti-Nature
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Nietzsche criticizes Christian morality, which calls for the elimination of all passions. He cites the Sermon... (full context)
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...moderation. The Church holds that people who can’t control their desires are “degenerate.” And yet, Nietzsche notes (citing as examples the moral views of pleasure held by priests, philosophers, and artists),... (full context)
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3. Nietzsche defines love as “the spiritualization of sensuality.” To Nietzsche, this formulation “is a great triumph... (full context)
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4. Nietzsche argues that “an instinct of life” propels “[a]ll naturalism in morality, that is all healthy... (full context)
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5. To Nietzsche, Christian morality’s hostility toward life is laughable. For in order to say anything about the... (full context)
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6. Nietzsche criticizes moralists’ insistence that people conform to a standardized mode of behavior that is unnatural... (full context)
The Four Great Errors
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 Nietzsche proposes four great errors philosophy has made throughout history. The first (and the most dangerous)... (full context)
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...does certain things and avoids doing other things, they’ll be happy—that happiness comes from virtue. Nietzsche proposes an alternative formula, one that does not mistake consequence for cause. In this alternative... (full context)
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...Similarly, we can no longer maintain that “motive” and the “ego” cause or explain behavior. Nietzsche thinks that humanity’s belief in the three “inner facts” of will, spirit, and ego have... (full context)
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The third great error is the “error of imaginary causes.” Nietzsche offers as an example somebody hearing the sound of a distant cannon shot and constructing... (full context)
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Nietzsche defines a “psychological explanation” as a person’s efforts to assign a cause to something to... (full context)
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...We create reasons to assign “punishment” to things that morality tells us we shouldn’t do. Nietzsche derides Schopenhauer’s assertion that we in fact deserve every physical or mental discomfort we feel. (full context)
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The fourth great error is “the error of free will.” Nietzsche condemns free will as something theologians made up to make people “‘accountable’” for their immoral... (full context)
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Nietzsche argues that nobody “gives” us our qualities and behaviors: “not God, not society, not [our]... (full context)
The “Improvers” of Mankind
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1. Nietzsche thinks philosophers should be “beyond good and evil.” This is in keeping with a formula... (full context)
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...wanted to “improve” human behavior. But the notion of “improvement” often conceals more nefarious intentions. Nietzsche argues that “taming” or “breeding” are more suitable terms; if one referred to the act... (full context)
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...an animal is no different than what priests did to humans in the Middle Ages. Nietzsche relates how the Church hunted down the Teutons to improve them. When an improved Teuton... (full context)
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3. Nietzsche considers the second aspect of morality: “the breeding of a definite race and species.” The... (full context)
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...other religions’ texts, too, such as an ancient Hebrew text called the Law of Enoch. Nietzsche thinks that Christianity is a clear rejection of the caste system put forth in the... (full context)
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...person to have “the unconditional will to the contrary.” This idea represents the core of Nietzsche’s intellectual pursuits. Nietzsche considers the idea of “pia fraus,” or pious fraud, noting how many... (full context)
What the Germans Lack
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...Today’s German people not only have “spirit” but also “the presumption to possess it,” argues Nietzsche. They have inherited their ancestors’ skills, and though they are confident, industrious, and strong, their... (full context)
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2. Nietzsche mourns what the German spirit could be, were it not so absorbed in politics. He... (full context)
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3. Nietzsche bemoans what he sees as the “decline” of “German passion in spiritual things.” In short,... (full context)
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4. For Nietzsche, the cause of German culture’s decline is obvious: he blames Germany’s overinvestment in politics, economic... (full context)
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6. Nietzsche proposes three methods to restore Germany to its formerly noble culture: educators must “learn to... (full context)
Expeditions of an Untimely Man
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1. My impossibles. Nietzsche derides various philosophers, assigning them scathing and insulting titles. He calls Seneca “the toreador of... (full context)
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2. Renan. Nietzsche attacks the writer Renan, who gets more positive praise than he deserves. Renan aspires to... (full context)
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3. Saint-Beuve. Nietzsche calls Sainte-Beuve effeminate, a gossip, and accuses him of having no taste. He longs to... (full context)
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4. Nietzsche can’t stand The Imitatio Christi, which reeks of what he calls the “eternal feminine.” Its... (full context)
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5. G. Eliot. Nietzsche sees Eliot’s work as indicative of the English move to get rid of “the Christian... (full context)
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6. George Sand. Nietzsche criticizes George Sand. He’s read the first Lettres d’un voyageur and finds it just as... (full context)
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7. Moral code for psychologists. Nietzsche attacks psychology’s effort to “observe for the sake of observing,” which he claims leads to... (full context)
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8. Towards a psychology of the artist. Art can’t exist without intoxication, claims Nietzsche. Intoxication can be sexual, but it can also be an intoxication of other strong emotions—of... (full context)
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...anything new. As an example of this type of artist—of which there are many throughout history—Nietzsche points to Pascal, a Christian, arguing that one can’t be a Christian and an artist... (full context)
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10. Nietzsche considers Apollonian and Dionysian, opposing “forms of intoxication” he created and introduced in The Birth... (full context)
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11. Nietzsche lists actors, mimes, dancers, musicians, and lyric poets among artists whose crafts involve the instincts.... (full context)
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12. Nietzsche attacks Thomas Carlyle, referring to him as an “involuntary farce.” He claims that Carlyle was... (full context)
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13. Emerson. Nietzsche argues that Emerson is “happier” and “more refined” than Carlyle. He also has better taste,... (full context)
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14. Anti-Darwin. Nietzsche challenges the “struggle for life” Darwin outlines in his theory of evolution. Nietzsche argues that... (full context)
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15. Psychologist’s casuistry. Nietzsche compares psychologists to politicians—both desire leverage and power over their patients. This is true even... (full context)
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16. Nietzsche criticizes Germans’ “psychological taste.” He hates how they’ve wrongfully elevated the “backdoor philosophy” of Kant. (full context)
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17. Nietzsche asserts that “the most spiritual human beings” (who are also “the most courageous”) feel tragedy... (full context)
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18. On the subject of ‘intellectual conscience’. Nietzsche thinks that “genuine hypocrisy” is absent from today’s culture. He thinks that hypocrisy arises from... (full context)
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19. Beautiful and ugly. Nietzsche thinks that our attitudes toward beauty are “conditional.” There’s no such thing as “beautiful in... (full context)
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20. Nietzsche criticizes the aesthetic view that “only man” is beautiful. As well, aesthetics suggests that “nothing... (full context)
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21. Schopenhauer. Nietzsche identifies Schopenhauer as Germany’s most recent significant intellectual figure. Still, Nietzsche argues that Schopenhauer misinterpreted... (full context)
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22.  Nietzsche continues his tirade against Schopenhauer. He cites Schopenhauer’s “melancholy” take on beauty, which Schopenhauer sees... (full context)
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23. Nietzsche expands on Plato’s views on beauty. Plato argued that Platonic philosophy would not exist had... (full context)
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24. L’art pour l’art. Nietzsche equates the struggle to find purpose in art with the struggle against moralizing art. Furthermore,... (full context)
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25. Nietzsche argues that “keeping open house in one’s heart” is “liberal.” For even open houses “capable... (full context)
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27. Nietzsche quotes the opening line of Tamino’s aria in The Magic Flute: “This picture is enchanting... (full context)
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...floor. People have no trouble “being wise, patient, superior,” and sympathetic to the less fortunate. Nietzsche thinks we ought to redirect some of this energy toward the occasional “emotional vice,” since... (full context)
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29. From a doctorate exam. In a mock question-and-answer format, Nietzsche argues that the purpose of a higher education is to “turn a man into a... (full context)
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...“wild instincts lulled to sleep.” He likes to vacation at the seaside or Bayreuth. Today, Nietzsche argues (as, he suggests, Wagner knows) that “art has a right to pure folly—as a... (full context)
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...Another problem of diet. Julius Caesar used “tremendous marches” to protect himself against sickness. To Nietzsche, this is the most ingenious way to protect oneself against ruin.  (full context)
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35. A criticism of décadence morality. Nietzsche asserts that “altruistic” morality dampens the ego. To seek out “disinterested” motives is almost decadent.... (full context)
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36. A moral code for physicians. “The invalid is a parasite on society,” asserts Nietzsche. Physicians ought to be disgusted by patients who continue to live despite their lives no... (full context)
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Nietzsche thinks we need to determine what makes a death “natural” versus “unnatural.” We should also... (full context)
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...we have grown more moral. “Moral stupidity” (or just plain morality in Germany) has demonized Nietzsche’s concept of “beyond good and evil.” His critics accuse him of trying to eradicate “all... (full context)
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Our loss of “hostility” reflects an inner “decay of vitality.” To Nietzsche, everyone today is either an “invalid” or a “nurse.” What we today call “virtue,” men... (full context)
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...A thing’s value isn’t in what it gives us, but in what it costs us. Nietzsche argues that liberal institutions imperil freedom. They dampen “the will to power” by leveling the... (full context)
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...which implies that he feels dissatisfied with his current life. This is bad for society. Nietzsche argues that “if one wants slaves, one is a fool if one educates them to... (full context)
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41. “Freedom as I do not mean it,” begins section 41. Today, Nietzsche argues, one can no longer rely on one’s instincts, for the various instincts contradict and... (full context)
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...too intense, a stimulus sets it off and they release their genius into the world. Nietzsche argues that neither “circumstances,” nor “the Zeitgeist,” nor “public opinion” can stop this eruption. (full context)
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While the world needs great men, “the epoch” in which great men appear is arbitrary. Nietzsche cites Napoleon as an example of a great man. Revolutionary France, had it the choice,... (full context)
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...The English think greatness comes from democracy (like Buckle) or from religion (like Carlyle). But Nietzsche argues that society (mainly Christianity and moralists) misunderstand the sacrifices that great human beings make.... (full context)
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45. The criminal and what is related to him. Nietzsche defines the criminal as a “strong human being under unfavorable conditions, […] being made sick.”... (full context)
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46. Here is the prospect free.  Nietzsche lists a series of contradictions. For instance, sometimes a silent philosopher is evidence of an... (full context)
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...work for their good fortune—it’s not just given. “Good things are costly beyond measure,” argues Nietzsche. Maintaining beauty and goodness takes physical effort and involves the body. This is why German... (full context)
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48. Progress in my sense.  Nietzsche wants to “return to nature,” but his return is a “going-up” rather than a “going-back.”... (full context)
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49. Goethe. Nietzsche praises Goethe’s “grand attempt to overcome the eighteenth century through a return to nature[.]” Goethe... (full context)
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50. Nietzsche contends that 19th-century society has, to a degree, wanted some of the same things Goethe... (full context)
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51. In response to people who have asked Nietzsche why he writes in German if nobody reads him there anyway, Nietzsche jokes that nobody... (full context)
What I Owe to the Ancients
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1. Nietzsche hopes his new ideas will lead society to “the ancient world[.]” In his writing, readers... (full context)
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2. For Nietzsche, the Greeks simply can’t compete with the Romans. We can’t “learn from the Greeks,” for... (full context)
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3. Nietzsche sees Greek philosophy as consumed by the desire to protect the self from “the explosive... (full context)
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4. Nietzsche was the first person to suggest that Dionysus could explain “the older Hellenic instinct,” which... (full context)
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...Aristotle could not grasp. Unlike the Hellenes (as Schopenhauer sees them), who see tragedy pessimistically, Nietzsche sees all intense feeling (even suffering) as an affirmation of life. For Nietzsche, the Dionysian... (full context)
The Hammer Speaks
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...why it’s so soft—after all, diamonds and coal are closely related. Speaking as the hammer, Nietzsche asks his audience why they are “so soft.” Why have they abandoned faith and fallen... (full context)