This February, the OUP Philosophy team honors Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) as their Philosopher of the Month. The son of a Lutheran minister who died when Nietzsche was four years old, Nietzsche’s philosophical work was largely ignored during his lifetime. When Walter Kaufmann’s 1950’s translations of Nietzsche’s key works gave the world a more accurate representation of his thought, Nietzsche became one of the most influential philosophers of the modern era.
Nietzsche was greatly concerned with basic problems in contemporary Western culture and society, which he believed were growing more acute, and for which he considered it imperative to try to find new solutions. His examination of unconscious drives found “will to power” to be a fundamental element of human nature, and metaphysically, in all of nature. The one who escapes all this, Nietzsche’s “Übermensch,” describes a person who has mastered passion, risen above irrational flux, and endowed her or his character with creative style. One of Nietzsche’s best-known ideas, “the death of God,” speaks to the unfeasibility of belief in God in late modernity, and the resulting consequences. The fundamental problem of how to overcome nihilism and affirm life without illusions was central to Nietzsche’s thought, and his skepticism of the notions of truth and fact anticipated many of the central tenets of postmodernism.
For more on Nietzsche’s life and work, browse our interactive timeline below.
Featured image: A monument to Nietzsche in the middle of Naumburg (Germany). Photo by Giorno2. CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.