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14 Examples of Nietzsche's Philosophy

The ideas below belong to 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and do not reflect the opinions of Simplicable or its writers.
Friedrich Nietzsche was a 19th century philosopher who exerted a massive influence on the path of academic thought that arguably shaped the late-modern and postmodern eras. Nietzsche is unique in that he doesn't align to any philosophical tradition. His ideas are so foundational that it is common for his philosophy to be used as a basis for ideologies that couldn't be more different from each other. The following are examples of key ideas in Nietzsche's philosophy.

God is Dead

God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882
Nietzsche is very concerned with the decline of religious belief and what will replace it. He states this problem as vividly as possible in the quote above.

Will to Power

In the absence of religion, Nietzsche searches for a meaning to life and comes up with the idea of a will to power. In modern parlance, this could be described as the drive to achieve self-fulfillment. Nietzsche leaves this somewhat open-ended but also tends to portray this as a warrior-hero pursuit of what is good.


The ubermensch is Nietzsche's archetype for a meaningful life. The ubermensch is brave and transcends society in pursuit of the will to power.

Last Man

The last man is the antithesis of the ubermensch. This is portrayed as a cowardly embrace of mediocrity that is hostile to freedom. The term last man indicates a return to what Nietzsche deems an animal-like state of existence that only values comfort and safety.


What does not kill me, makes me stronger.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1888
Nietzsche appears to be influenced by stoicism and the idea that obstacles in life are nothing more than opportunities to demonstrate moral fortitude.


State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies; and this lie slips from its mouth: 'I, the state, am the people’.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 1885
Nietzsche's ideas are commonly misrepresented. This occurred in Nietzsche's lifetime with unauthorized changes by his editor. It escalated with his death with the misrepresentation of his work by his opportunistic sister Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche who edited his works to support her German nationalist views. To be clear, Nietzsche was critical of nationalism. In fact, he was critical of the very idea of governments in general.


... the great nausea, the will to nothingness, nihilism ...
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, 1887
Nihilism is the philosophy that life is meaningless. Nietzsche views this as a threat to humankind which he equates to a "will to nothingness" and compares with an animal-like state of being.


[on liberalism] they undermine the will to power; they level mountain and valley, and call that morality; they make men small, cowardly, and hedonistic — every time it is the herd animal that triumphs with them. Liberalism: in other words, herd-animalization.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1888
Nietzsche views freedom as the ability to pursue will to power. He views liberalism and the liberal state as a threat to freedom that forces people into a mediocre herd.


That every will must consider every other will its equal — would be a principle hostile to life, an agent of the dissolution and destruction of man, an attempt to assassinate the future of man, a sign of weariness, a secret path to nothingness.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, 1887
Nietzsche is completely hostile to the idea of equality as he views it as crushing freedom and the will to power.

Master Morality

Nietzsche argues that their are two types of morality: master and slave. Master morality values pride and power. This evaluates actions based on whether they are good or evil. Nietzsche views this as the morality of the strong-willed. In other words, he views this in a positive light.

Slave Morality

Slave morality values kindness, empathy and sympathy. Nietzsche views this as the morality of the weak designed to make them feel better about themselves. Slave mortality evaluates actions based on intentions such that an action is good if it has good intentions behind it. Nietzsche also portrays slave morality as confusing good with useful such that anything that makes life more convenient or comfortable is "good."

Apollo & Dionysus

In Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysus are sons of Zeus. Apollo is the god of the sun who represents logic, order, rational thought, purity and prudence. Dionysus is the god of wine and dance who represents irrationality, chaos, emotion and instincts. The ancient Greeks viewed these gods as intertwined such that they weren't opposites or in conflict. Nietzsche portrays these two sides as struggling for dominance both at the level of society and within each individual. This opinion may have had great influence on society as it is uncommon now to see these two forces as complementary.


No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life, no one but you yourself alone.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, 1876
Nietzsche put forward a concept known as perspectivism that suggests that morals and knowledge always originate with a point of view. He was an individualist who believed that people should think for themselves as opposed to deferring to the morals of institutions, cultures and societies. He also frequently expressed doubts regarding the human capacity to determine objective truth.

Eternal Return

This life, as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence — even this spider and this moonlight between the trees and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again—and you with it, speck of dust!
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882
Nietzsche speculates that if time and space are infinite that all things repeat infinite times. This is known as the eternal return. He also speculates that this may occur in infinite variety such that each possible variation of your life actually does occur in some alternate reality. He views this in tragic terms as a bleak possibility.
The ideas above belong to Friedrich Nietzsche and do not reflect the opinions of Simplicable or its writers.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about philosophy.
Amor Fati
Art For Art's Sake
Be Yourself
Epic Meaning
Free Will
Human Spirit
Last Man
Life Direction
Life Is Fair
Not Even Wrong
Objective Reality
Perfect Imperfection
Personal Philosophy
Scarcity Mindset
Real World
Selling Out
Wabi Sabi
Way Of Life
More ...
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Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The gay science: With a prelude in German rhymes and an appendix of songs. Vintage, 1974.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The twilight of the idols. Jovian Press, 2018.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus spoke Zarathustra: A book for everyone and nobody. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Nietzsche, Friedrich, Maudemarie Clark. On the genealogy of morality. Hackett Publishing, 1998.


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