Friedrich Nietzsche is a Crazy, Stupid, Idiot

Yes, Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher of “der Ubermensch,” the Superman, and the famous quote, “God is dead,” is not very smart. Of course, that’s probably because he’s been dead since 1900. It is a little difficult to think once you are no longer alive and your brain has turned to stinky muck in your coffin under the ground. And you cannot hope to defend your recorded intelligence in the written works you have left behind if you are totally dead and unaware of how people may be misinterpreting your ideas.

This is old crazy Fred with his pet hairy caterpillar which he always kept right under his nose his whole adult life.

Crazy Fred was born in 1844. He was multi-talented, being a philosopher, poet, musical composer, and a writer of fiction. He was something of a genius for a while. At the age of 24 he became the youngest person ever to hold the prestigious Chair of Classical Philology at theĀ University of Basel, His radical philosophy created a critique of truth that leaned in favor of perspectivism. And as he continued down paths of making ironic aphorisms and exercising his wits to wander into thinking that life is meaningless and the roots of nihilism, he more or less stumbled into the view of his philosophy that there was no hope for the future but the improvement of the self.

I think it could be argued that Crazy Fred did indeed become a monster with the abyss staring back at him. At the age of 44 he had a complete mental breakdown. After that, for the remaining 11 years of his life, he had to be cared for by his mother… until she died in 1897, and then by his sister Elizabeth until he died in 1900. If street stories are to be believed, he escaped from his home, found a horse being beaten by its owner, stepped in to save the horse from the beating, then turned to the horse, hugged its neck, and died.

This drawing by Hans Olde shows Crazy Fred during his insane years. It was used as a textbook illustration for dementia.

His writings were inherited by his sister Elizabeth. And she was an ultra-nationalist. Under her management, his writings were edited to fit her agenda for a new Germany, and so his ideas were credited with founding the Nazi movement and the quest for Aryan superiority… eugenics and genocide were to follow.

Ironically, Crazy Fred was radically opposed to anti-Semitism and most of the ideas that Hitler and the Nazis would give him credit for.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good things in Crazy Fred’s philosophical teachings that make him worth reading and studying. He identified two distinct forms of thought that operate in culture. He called them Apollonian and Dionysian styles of thinking. Apollonian is associated with the sun god Apollo, rationalism, logic, order, and clarity. Dionysian is associated with the god of wine and sensuality, Dionysius, emotionality, chaos, intuition, and obscurity. These cultural definitions are very useful for understanding human behavior.

But Crazy Fred is controversial to this day. I am not the only one that thinks he’s a coocoo bird and wrong about a lot of things. And, yet, his work led to very good things as well as the questionable. Much of the philosophy of the 1960’s owes its progress to him, from the Apollonian Bertrand Russel to the Dionysian Albert Camus.

Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.”

Clearly, I believe I myself am proof that Crazy Fred was wrong about that one. After six incurable diseases, surviving skin cancer, and making it most of the way through the Covid Pandemic alive, an awful lot of things didn’t kill me so far. By rights, if what Fred said is true, then I should be stronger than Superman. X-ray vision and the power of flight too. You can tell by the picture that if I am like Superman, then I have seen entirely too much Kryptonite up close.

7 Comments

Filed under humor, philosophy

7 responses to “Friedrich Nietzsche is a Crazy, Stupid, Idiot

  1. Nobody who would save a horse from being beaten and then hug it can be a complete monster. There is compassion in there when it is needed.

    Nietzsche would not be alone in having his philosophy rendered into something unrecognizable. I doubt very much if the Stoics or the Epicureans or the Confucians would be able to identify what passes for their ideas today.

    • You sure got that right. I am being ironic in the title and theme of this. As an existentialist myself, I hold many of Fred’s ideas in high esteem, and feel deep regret that he lost his mind so young. I am telling you this not because you haven’t already figured it out, but for angry Fred lovers who read comments looking for a fight.

      • Have you ever read anything by Viktor Frankl? I think you would like him. He’s a Jewish existentialist who survived the camps.

        https://www.google.com/books/edition/From_Death_Camp_to_Existentialism_A_Man/LMWmCQAAQBAJ

      • I have definitely read about him, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything by him. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the link.

      • If you look at that quote by Fred about “That which doesn’t destroy you…” you’ll realize it is almost a truism. Looked at a different way, “That which makes you stronger is that everything that *doesn’t* destroy you.”

        Rephrasing it in a different and less dramatic manner, “A stimulus that does not stress you beyond the point of repair will enhance your performance in the event you encounter it again.”

        Therein lies the rub. There are two factors here. One is that the stimulus has to stress you enough to need repair but not so much that it cannot be completely repaired or compensated for. You do some work and the next day your muscles are sore. You rest for a couple of days and if you were to measure it, you’d be a tiny bit stronger.

        Imagine that you did the same work and ended up in the hospital with a heart attack or maybe you just threw out your back and spent the next few days as a cripple. That *did* destroy you, therefor you didn’t get any stronger and maybe it left you considerably weaker.

        The other factor is the whole argument that the experience should have left you wiser in some way. Learn from your mistakes. Wisdom to not do stupid things again is a kind of strength. You might also triumph over your adversity through compensation. The person who can no longer lift concrete blocks redirects their energy into different ventures that don’t require physical capacity but rather intellectual or emotional strength. That’s how you can be both destroyed in one capacity but strengthened in another.

        People who can’t/won’t learn or compensate are victims. (Including those who are destroyed so totally nothing more is possible.) Those who are either able to compensate in other fields or gain wisdom from the experience are heroes. The rest of us muddle along in the middle somewhere.

      • This is an impressive treatise on the implications of Nietzsche’s philosophy of individual responsibility and the Ubermensch. Did you read some of his work? Or did you arrive at this by reasoning?

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