Humanity has always tried to flourish and perfect their human capacities. That is why Aristotle said “the good is that at which all things aim.”(Qtd. in Mackinnon 99). Many people have tried to accomplish this feat. They understood that communicating their knowledge and ideas to the future generations plays a key role in the humanities efforts to perfect their human aptitudes. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century philosopher, whose writing on religion, philosophy, morality and science has reached the four corners of the world; it has created the same effect as a pebble falling into a silent lake. Some might say Nietzsche’s greatest contribution to philosophy was that he killed God.
When it comes to contributions to human culture many names come to mind. However, when it comes to new philosophical, or intellectual, ideas, people find themselves at a loss for names. The reason for this could be, because, philosophy is not about new ideas; philosophy is an analysis of concepts articulating fundamental beliefs of ones ‘self or group of people. Philosophers like Nietzsche have pushed the boundaries of human thinking and tried to introduce ideas that even to this day are considered heresy.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844, in the small German village of Röcken bei Lützen (Wilkerson, Par.5). There isn’t much known about Nietzsche’s childhood but the tragedy of his father’s death; Karl Ludwig Nietzsche, whom died of a brain ailment, on July 30, 1849, and the death of Nietzsche's two-year-old brother, Ludwig Joseph, traumatically followed six months later(Wicks, Par.4).
I believe that Nietzsche’s life concept was formed in his early years with tragic death of his father, and loss of his faith. In 1867, Nietzsche entered his required military service and was assigned to an equestrian field artillery regiment close to Naumburg (Wicks, Par. 8). Just one year after the military service, young Friedrich was being promoted as something of a “phenomenon” in classical scholarship. In 1869, Friedrich Nietzsche was only 24 years old, Ritschl, by esteem and praise, landed Nietzsche a position as Professor of Greek Language and Literature at the University of Basel in Switzerland, even though the candidate had not yet begun writing his doctoral dissertation. (Wilkerson, Par.7) Nietzsche expresses his loss of faith to his sister Elisabeth, who was deeply religious, with a letter ending with the following sentence:
“…Hence the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire...”
Since he no longer believed in religion, he began to investigate life, and its meanings. As a philologist he had the knowledge of ancient Greek philosophy and his early work was greatly influenced by their concepts. Many believe that Nietzsche’s philosophies, central theme is based on nihilism (which is defined as: a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless). Some of his works clearly show the idea of nihilism, the concept of blindly advancing forward despite the dangers that are lying ahead. However, some believe that without Nietzsche work, the world would have gone into an age of nihilism.
Nietzsche might have kept the human culture from entering an age of nihilism, with his writings. But he is better known for “death of God” a controversial message that the madman in The Gay Science brings to his fellow citizens of the modern world. God is dead because we have killed him:
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What…