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Creator / Friedrich Nietzsche

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Der Überschnurrbartmensch. Translation:  Despite the resemblance, not Jamie Hyneman.

"Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him."
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Aphorism 125 ("The Madman"), 1882 note 

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was an eccentric German author who wrote lots of books laden with extremely provocative and controversial ideas for his time (some of which are still controversial to this day), and they made him famous. Nowadays, he is often placed among the most influential philosophers of all time. It didn't end well for him back in his day, though, as he went nuts and soon died in his fifties.

What made his books so popular? Good question. Probably, his writing style. In any event, his aphorisms can be quoted often; whatever one thinks of his ideas, he is one of the unquestionable masters of the German Language. Nietzsche is one of the few philosophical writers one might conceivably read simply for the joy of reading his prose.

Interpretations of Nietzsche vary wildly. Even the foremost scholars on Nietzsche struggle to define what exactly he believed. Though his reputation has been largely salvaged from the stain of Nazism, even Walter Kaufmann, the man who did more than anyone in rehabilitating Nietzsche's image, said, "My disagreements with him are legion." Whatever else may be said, things like Compassion and Equality were not well regarded by Nietzsche. The fact that he went insane in his mid-40s may be a hint that at least some of it is just the ramblings of a madman. Or maybe not. One never knows with Nietzsche. See the Analysis tab for more.

Nietzsche's influence is hard to calculate, but is indisputably immense. He founded the modern philosophical position of Existentialism along with Søren Kierkegaard, laid the groundwork for the later philosophical position of phenomenology and genealogy and became a precursor for the philosophical position of Postmodernism. His criticism of Christianity had a profound influence on 20th-century theology, especially the work of Paul Tillich. He is also famous for predicting World War I (down to the decade, and while insane, no less), the destruction of the German Empire, and the role that antisemitism would have in its demise. After his death, his estate went to his sister, who later became a stout supporter of the National Socialists. The provocative tone and controversial subjects of his writing made it easy to subvert them for Nazi propaganda. Even today, many of his famous quotes lend themselves to be used for all kinds of extremist views and also their opposites.

He is also one of the mostly unsung heroes of psychology, along with the American William James. They contemporaneously (but separately) started treating the contents of the human mind with the nuance and seriousness we have come to expect, and in being the first to do so helped to make psychology a respectable and popular area of academic study that would later fully take off with Sigmund Freud, who particularly read Nietzsche as a student note , and his contemporaries.

Fittingly for his view that "all is art", he also wrote a fair amount of decent Romantic classical music.

Nietzsche was also christened a "Gnostic Saint" by occultist Aleister Crowley.

Lastly, his name is spelled with one T, one Z, one S, one C, and one H. It's pronounced roughly as "Neats-shuh," though the French (who tend to be bigger than average fans) monosyllabically pronounce it "Neache." "Nee-chee" and "Nee-chuh" are generally also acceptable pronunciations, which are often used by English speakers. Just, whatever you do, do not try to pronounce the "Z" and you should be all right ("Z" sounds like "ts" in German).

Books by Nietzsche:

Any discussion of Nietzsche's legacy tends to get really long (look no further than That Other Wiki's entries on it), as it wonderfully lends itself to wild theorizing and rabid interpretation, so please, please keep this list as brief as possible.

  • The Birth of Tragedy (1872): Nietzsche's first book, it deals with the philosophy of art and many other things. Nietzsche critiques Socrates for killing Greek Tragedy by demanding that the search for truth take primacy over art, resulting in a society that hates the creative and loves death, with the prospect of starting off a new Renaissance of tragedy through Opera, particularly Richard Wagner's. He presents as his solution the concept of a "music-making Socrates", who embraces art even as he philosophizes.
  • On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense (1873): The quote in Straw Nihilist comes from this one. Not actually a book (although it's as likely as any of his books to find its way into an anthology — I'm looking at you, Norton!) but a fragment that Nietzsche himself did not publish.
  • Untimely Meditations (1876): A collection of four essays, as follows:
    • "David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer" (1873)
    • "On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life" (1874). Also translated "On the Use and Abuse of History for Life." This one is fairly often published on its own, as it condenses into a single, fairly short essay (less than 80 pages) one of Nietzsche's fundamental concepts: the idea that while Hegel was right about the dialectic, he was wrong about the "absolute moment" at which humanity discovers the fundamental truth, because there is no fundamental truth other than constant change.
    • "Schopenhauer as Educator" (1874)
    • "Richard Wagner in Bayreuth" (1876): One of Nietzsche's earliest critiques of Wagner, even though he and Wagner were still friends at the time.
  • Human, All Too Human (1878): His first book written in an aphoristic style. A few years later, Nietzsche decided that it wasn't entirely complete, and added to it...
  • The Wanderer and His Shadow (1880): Unusual for Nietzsche, comes the closest to touching on matters of political philosophy, with meditations on armament and war (he doesn't like them, and thinks the first leads to the second), the state (it sucks), and economics (capitalism and socialism both dehumanize people).
  • Daybreak (1881): Also translated as The Dawn. One of Nietzsche's more neglected works, overshadowed as it was by the works before and after it. The subtitle, Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, provides the best idea of what it is about.
  • The Gay Science (1882): It's not about what you think. The title Die fröhliche Wissenschaft could also be given as The Happy Science and means poetics. The first work in which he explicitly says that God Is Dead. Appended with philosophic poems and songs, it is broadly a prose work touching on morality and the nature of power, among other things.
  • Also sprach Zarathustra (1883): Arguably his most popular work, despite being the most difficult to understand. Unusually for a post-Platonic Western philosophical work, this is actually a work of fiction; specifically, it is a novel, complete with plot (although you might not notice). It features as its main character Zarathustra, a former hermit philosopher who, despite having the same name as the prophet of ancient Zoroastrianism, is really an almost-but-not-quite Author Avatar for Nietzsche himself. Thus Spoke Zarathustra popularized the concept of the Übermensch. Sadly, it does not play epic music when opened.
  • Beyond Good and Evil (1886): The quote "He Who Fights Monsters" is from here, as does the concept of being Above Good and Evil. The game is not related. Nor the other game (although it was named after the book). As far as the actual work goes, it's his attempt to explain Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
  • On the Genealogy of Morality (1887): Finding that even his smarter friends found Beyond Good and Evil too difficult to understand, he wrote On the Genealogy of Morality as an explanation for Beyond Good and Evil, composed of three sections ("'Good and Evil', 'Good and Bad'," "'Guilt,' 'Bad Conscience,' and Related Matters," and "What do Ascetic Ideals Mean?"). It is one of Nietzsche's few mature works written in essay/treatise form (rather than as aphorisms). So essentially, it's the explanation of the explanation to Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
  • The Case of Wagner (1888): A polemic against Richard Wagner, or rather what Wagner stood for in the minds of Germans, both in Nietzsche's own lifetime and later.
  • Twilight of the Idols (1888): Starts with a collection of bare, pithy, one-line aphorisms, and then goes into more detail. Source of the quote "That which does not kill me makes me stronger." In the original German, the title is Götzen-Dämmerung, making the pun on Wagner's Götterdämmerung (meaning "Twilight of the Gods") that much more obvious.
  • The Anti-Christ (1888): Not The Antichrist itself, but an extended polemic against Christianity. The title can also be translated as The Antichristian, but that would overlook Nietzsche's desire to be as provocative as possible. Of course, even in The Bible non-Christians are described as the Antichrist, so Nietzsche could well have also been drawing from that.
  • Ecce Homo (1888): An autobiographical work, albeit a highly-stylized one (Rule of Literary?), in the manner of Plato's Apology of Socrates. Get your mind out of the gutter; the title means Behold the Man and is a reference to John 19:5.note 
  • Nietzsche contra Wagner (1888): A selection of passages from Nietzsche's earlier books, designed to show that The Case of Wagner was the culmination of ideas the author had ruminated upon for some time, rather than the product of a momentary malice.
  • The Will to Power: Again, not actually one of his books, but a collection of his notes; scholars to this day have serious debates whether he had intended to finish this work at all. Either way, the work covers Nietzsche's ideas about the history of nihilism in the West. The subtitle, An Attempt at the Revaluation of All Values, points at the middle part of the work, in which he begins to try to point the way for anyone who might become a proper Übermensch. Recent editions take pains to note that The Will to Power is not really a book, and certainly doesn't meet Nietsche's exacting standards; academic discussions of his work generally regard the book as too compromised to be used as a reliable source. See above, about his wacky sister, for details.

This section is still under construction. If you've read any of the missing books on the list, please help us by writing a short summary!

Tropes named after Nietzsche

Nietzsche is a prolific Trope Namer:

What doesn't kill you makes you a troper:

  • Above Good and Evil: Not exactly. He did have a sense of right and wrong, though it was very unusual to say the least. He, however, personally calls Platonic/Christian Black-and-White Morality "Slave Morality" (i.e. the original Romans originally used "good" (bonus) and "bad" (mala) to imply what was useful or not, but Platonism encouraged the sabotage of these terms and making them metaphysical in order to appeal to slaves suffering in the real world).
    • Ethics (what is "moral") is pretty much his strong point in philosophy (his contributions on other fields like metaphysics are very inconsistent on the other hand).
    • He also accuses the Enlightenment of sabotaging the scientific method in order to rehash the same metaphysical (hence scientifically unprovable) version of good and evil in a secular society (e.g., Immanuel Kant's Categorial Imperative, and Utilitarianism), instead of facing the inherent amorality of the modern science-oriented world.
    • It should be noted that while Nietzsche focused most of his attention on "slave morality", his writings imply that he didn't think particularly highly of its inversion - e.g., "master morality" - either. His writing indicates that he intends the Overman to transcend traditional notions of right and wrong, and if the Overman were to represent a mere return to master morality, he wouldn't be a transcendent figure; he would simply be a reactionary. Blue-and-Orange Morality below presents a possible interpretation of Nietzsche's intended system of ethics - creation is good, and destruction or stagnation is evil - but Nietzsche seems to have intended to write a tetralogy on ethics, and because he never actually finished it, it's not fully clear what his intended meaning was; it has been the subject of debate among academics for centuries and will likely never be settled.
  • Ambition is Evil: Definitely not. He viewed the desire to accomplish goals, create new things and reach new heights in a worthy light, as a natural and healthy manifestation of the Will to Power - what for him was the defining nature of reality and existence. He admired both leaders in the form of Cesare Borgia and Frederick the Great, and artists like Beethoven and Goethe. His condemnation of those who preach "other-worldliness" stems from how they treat this trope as true, and in so doing, cheapen reality and what could be accomplished in it by making them seem illusory and immaterial in the face of the eternal beyond.
  • The Anti-Nihilist/Knight in Sour Armor: His philosophy can be seen as a hammier, Blue and Orange version of this.
  • Apathetic Citizens: He thinks humanity is becoming this ever since Plato, Christianity, and the concept of Fluffy Cloud Heaven became popular. According to him, these fantasies encouraged humans to escape and become apathetic citizens, allowing life to decay because there's always the unrealistic fantasy of forgiveness, and heaven is thought of as more real than life itself. He referred to this as "other-worldliness". However, he also thought that on the other side, modern science is making the Apathetic Citizens syndrome even worse. Science reveals that humans are animals and morality never existed outside of the human imagination, and this revelation encourages everyone to become The Hedonists While Rome Burns. He called such a citizen the "Last Man" - someone who believes in nothing, takes no risks and makes no sacrifices, but whose only goal is to have a safe and pleasurable life and then a painless death. Fellow existentialist Soren Kierkegaard had similar thoughts, contrasting the aesthetic slaves (hedonists) and the Knight of Infinite Resignation (the Heaven fantasizer), with the non-apathetic highly-creative Knight of Faith.
  • Appeal to Nature: He thought the overuse of this logical fallacy in almost all ethical arguments was the fault of both Christian culture and Enlightenment scientism. As a result, science's revelations that humans are animals and nature never cared about you will encourage nihilistic hedonism as a natural conclusion. On the other hand, he averts this as part of his Blue-and-Orange Morality, but got misinterpreted when certain people used his speeches to justify their Social Darwinism as "natural."
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The famous incident with the horse in Turin, where Nietzsche threw himself in front of a man who was flogging a horse, broke down crying and descended into madness, very likely never happened. The only source of the incident is Nietzsche's host in Turin, who once mentioned an incident where he had been found crying with his arms around a horse among many other examples of his increasingly erratic behaviour. The story has very likely emerged from mixing this story with Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment where the protagonist has a vivid dream about a man flogging a horse to death, just before he goes out and commits his crime.
  • Bedlam House: Which he said is an easy way to show that faith proves nothing.
  • Beige Prose: Manages to be both this and Purple Prose at the same time. His energetic, often caustic wit and colorful use of metaphor and imagery makes it easy to get lost in reading his works, but only Thus Spoke Zarathustra runs to the length of a full novel. Every other work with the exception of The Genealogy of Morals deposits his ideas in the form of aphorism or aphoristic prose, which can be read a piece at a time. In his own words, "It is my ambition to say in ten words what others say in a whole book."
  • Berserk Button: Yeah, don't insult the Jews around Nietzsche. Despite what his Misaimed Fandom would have you believe (and there are many) he'd rip German anti-Semites apart if they neglected the contributions of Jewish culture and philosophy to Europe. Well, rip them apart rhetorically anyway.
  • Be Yourself: A major theme in his philosophy.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: To put it simply, Nietzsche's values system replaced "good" with "that which creates new things" and "evil" with "that which stagnates".
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Nietzsche started his writing career as a big fan of Richard Wagner's music and the messages embedded in it, and praised it effusively. As time went on, however, Nietzsche became disillusioned with Wagner's bombast and lack of subtlety, and eventually broke with him on Wagner's growing antisemitism and German Nationalism. One of his later works is a deconstruction of Wagner's works, both their aesthetic and political qualities.
    • Perhaps not as sharp a break, but Nietzsche's views on Schopenhauer, who he looked on with some fondness early in his career, turned quite negative by Nietzsche's middle period.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: In Beyond Good and Evil:
    And it is only for your AFTERNOON, you, my written and painted thoughts, for which alone I have colours, many colours, perhaps, many variegated softenings, and fifty yellows and browns and greens and reds;—but nobody will divine thereby how ye looked in your morning, you sudden sparks and marvels of my solitude, you, my old, beloved—EVIL thoughts!
  • Caustic Critic: He's very well known for severely criticizing anything that comes to his attention. He attacked Christianity, Platonism, Socrates, modern philosophy, modern science, Germany itself, and even his former best friend Richard Wagner. Ironic, since in real life he's a very introverted Nice Guy.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Averted. One of his most important contributions to what would later become psychology was the observation that introspection and self-analysis are extremely poor tools for figuring out what is actually going on in our heads. This was a complete break with the accumulated wisdom up to that point, and opened up space for Freud's idea of the unconscious mind.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: He certainly believed that the scientific Enlightenment had revealed that the universe has no morality as humans know it and never cared about us at all, while we're all Puny Earthlings going to suffer and die and there is nothing you can do about it. Hence the misconception about him as a Straw Nihilist. However, contrary to Lovecraft's apocalyptic narratives, he plays this trope rather positively: This does not mean you should degenerate into a bestial Hedonist; on the contrary, life in a Cosmic Horror Story universe means the freedom to improve yourself and be creative (although his conceptions of self-improvement might be strange). He hated Plato for making humans weak and dependent on hypothetical Cosmic Entities for decision making, and encouraging the concept that only through a totalitarian God can humans have any semblance of cultured behavior (for example, Plato argued in his Ring of Gyges tale that invisibility makes you evil), meaning that Platonic philosophy (which eventually became Christianity) is responsible for humanity's degeneration into bestial Apathetic Citizens once they find out that the cosmos-at-large does not adhere to morality.
  • Cultured Badass: The Übermensch, his "artist-tyrant" ideal of human character, inspired by the Ancient Greek hero. "Tyrant" to be taken into the ancient Greek meaning of the word, as in "leader" rather than "despot".
  • Dare to Be Badass: In a nutshell, this is his philosophy.
  • Darker and Edgier: Nietzsche is considered to be among the Darkest and Edgiest of philosophers, thus a popular way to advertise that your fiction is Dark and Edgy is to write gratuitous Nietzsche quotes and philosophy in them ("that which does not kill me, only makes me... stranger", "The Abyss Gazes Also", etc.), and people are prone to quoting Nietzsche and imitating his philosophical style to look appear Darker and Edgier (see also: Straw Nihilist). Subverted on the author's part, since while Nietzsche was a fatalist with a Crapsack Worldview, he still considered nihilism for losers.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Lampshaded. He predicted that he would be "born posthumously." He was right. While not overly popular during his lifetime, his works have become endemic to modern philosophy.
  • Democracy Is Bad: Because, according to him, it is a weapon used by the weak (Last Men) who band up against the strong (Ubermenschen).
  • Dumb Is Good: Made a comment or two on the subject, going so far as to note that the more a slave morality dominates, the more synonymous "good" and "dumb" become. As with many things, he takes his hammer to the subject, arguing that this trope is held true because slave moralists want things to be as peaceful and non frightening as possible, hence why stupidity would be valued over intelligence, as dumb people are considerably less threatening and subversive than intelligent people could be.
  • Either/Or Title: Twilight of the Idols, or, How One Philosophizes with a Hammer
  • Escapism: Deconstructed. He viewed Christianity and many similar faiths as inventing the idea of the Fluffy Cloud Heaven to soothe the downtrodden and weak in spirit, by denouncing their current state of existence - generally consisting of slavery, suffering, and forced servitude - in favor of a reality wherein their painful life would be made worthwhile, and their masters would suffer judgement in Hell. This obsession of another life would then infect their masters too - those who were previously content and better suited for reality, causing society to whither away due to everyone focusing on the eternal afterlife over ephemeral reality. Hence his tendency to refer to Christianity and alcohol as being similarly intoxicating and self destructive.
  • Evil Virtues: Nietzsche defined virtue in the original Latin virtus, meaning Excellence. He considered Pride, Ambition, Self-Improvement and Narcissism to be good in cultivating one's own love of life, while condemning altruism, kindness, pity, and utilitarianism to be "Slave Morals" and the path to suicide.
  • The Fatalist: His preaching of amor fati is one of the major reasons why he is bashed as a nihilist. Ordinary people psychologically react to a fatalistic life (such as inevitable suffering) by perceiving it as a Cosmic Horror Story, hence causing depression, apathy and/or rage. However, those extraordinary few should reject this suicidal perception, instead both accepting this fatalistic outlook, loving it and living it as if it was an art form (hence a possible wordplay on "Übermensch"). His thought experiment on Eternal Recurrence boils down to how confident people with strong enough willpower can accept the challenge of life over and over again, fully appreciating this And I Must Scream existence and making it joyfully worthwhile without any regrets. This also comes hand-in-hand with appreciating the Ancient Greeks' view on a fatalistic life (e.g., expressing it in the art form of Tragedy, which in contrast to our modern view of Tragedy as a Despair Event Horizon, was appreciated by Greeks as something very much like an Earn Your Happy Ending story. See also Aristotle's concept of Catharsis Factor).
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Nietzsche lived during the transition between the Kingdom of Prussia to Imperial Germany, and as such was witness to the development of the nation state and its culture: For the most part, he found both the state and the culture lacking, frequently mocking the culture in comparisons to those such as Poland, and especially France, being something of a Francophile. He also showed an appreciation for Jewish culture that was completely antithetical to the rampant anti-Semitism of the time. He also had something of an admiration for Islam, viewing it more positively than his native Christianity, even going so far as to condemn the destruction of Islamic Spain during the Crusades as robbing the world of the fruits of its culture. Near the end of his sanity, Nietzsche went so far as to consider himself Polish due to his utter disgust with German culture.
  • For Happiness: Averted. He came to believe that it was impossible to be happy without undergoing some suffering and hardship, and felt that as a motivation, the idea that people strive ultimately For Happiness did little to explain why people were willing to sacrifice or martyr themselves for causes, take extreme and dangerous risks to gain glory and fame, and why risky, incredibly dangerous virtues such as bravery would be held in high regard. Hence his idea of the Will to Power, wherein all life seeks to expand their influence, attain the highest possible strength, and engage in self-discipline to attain more power, which he felt did a lot more to explain human and animal behaviour than For Happiness, and figured heavily in his conception of reality and ethics. The fact that a society dedicated to comfort and pleasure would likely give up anything resembling self-discipline, improvement and similar goals likely influenced Nietzsche's feelings towards the concept.
  • The Gadfly: Nietzsche is often called a gadfly, apparently sometimes calling himself that (or something similar) at times. Nobody's really sure how many of his (ever-shifting) opinions and proclamations he really believed, and how many were intended to provoke his contemporaries. Some things he did absolutely were intended as provocations, like the title of The Antichrist. He certainly would appreciate the comparison to Socrates; although he despised Socratic philosophy, he regarded the man himself as a transformative figure and an intellectual match and liked to set himself up as a sort of anti-Socrates for the modern age. And he definitely seemed to find the reactions he provoked amusing, or at least energizing; if his writing is any indication, Nietzsche had a wicked sense of humor. He was not a Troll, however; his intent was to improve the West, not cruelly annoy it for no reason.
  • God Is Dead: The Trope Namer, describing the downfall of religious authority, replaced by dedication to political parties. Our trope, of course, skips over the symbolism and takes the phrase more literally.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: "The Madman" in The Gay Science who announces the death of God seems to have done this, although it's not altogether clear. This is also one of the more poetic ways to explain what happened to Nietzsche himself for the last eleven years of his life.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
    • Frequently Latin or sometimes Greek, as was common in most intellectual fields at that time, although he was just as likely to use Gratuitous French or Gratuitous English when quoting something. In fairness, it usually wasn't gratuitous; he almost always had some philosophical purpose in every instance, and being a trained philologist he liked to demonstrate that commonly used words were often derived from words in Greek or Latin that had significantly different meanings. Indeed, his purpose could, at times, be downright practical: his use of the French word ressentiment (resentment) in On the Genealogy of Morality and afterward was basically because German doesn't have a word that could really translate to "resentment." A large part of Genealogy is devoted to arguing that most of our words for "good", meaning morally good, are derived from words that meant "noble", i.e. belonging to the upper echelons of society, whereas most of our words for "evil" are derived from words that referred to the poor and those on the fringes of society.
    • Also, people citing Nietzsche are liable to use Gratuitous German; even this very wiki is not immune, by titling the article on the overman "Übermensch."
  • Hedonism Tropes: Subverted. He starts his career in philosophy with the description of the Apollonian (cerebral, classicist, logical, restrained) and Dionysian (wild, visceral, hammy, hotblooded, hedonistic) archetypes in the Birth of Tragedy (and recommending a Dionysian lifestyle). In the end, he denounced hedonism viciously ("why go back to the beasts instead of overcoming man"), mocked the English for their utilitarianism, and philosophized that scientific materialism and modern nihilistic culture is encouraging stupid hedonistic Bread and Circuses which will result in a dystopian idiocracy.
    Man does not strive for pleasure; only the Englishman does.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Trope Namer for that insistent pattern in revenge tragedies, and his reaction to Socrates.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: As noted above, his antisemitic sister and appropriation by the Nazis ruined his reputation for quite some time after World War II. Walter Kaufmann and other philosophers have rehabilitated him to a rather large extent by now, but not completely. It is also quite likely that Nietzsche continues to be misread due to the fact that he never got his chance to finish his planned tetralogy on ethics, of which The Antichrist was only the first part. Given that Christianity was by far the dominant religion of the day, it makes sense that he would focus on what he termed "slave morality" in his first part of the work; however, the assumption that he therefore would prefer "master morality" does not necessarily follow, and indeed, Kaufmann himself rejected this interpretation.
  • Insistent Terminology: Sort of. As he gradually grew disillusioned of German culture, he started emphasizing his (imagined) descent from Polish nobility; by the end of his (sane) life, he insisted that he was entirely Polish.
  • In the Style of: Some of his works were deliberately written in Biblical style, possibly for additional irony. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a particularly good example.
  • Iron Woobie: Invoked. Nietzsche was an admirer of people who not only suffered deeply, but took their pains uncomplaining, and even harnessed them to their advantage, in the case of profound art or effective life lessons.
  • Irony: He was fond of this, to the point that his works made no sense. Also forms the basis of He Who Fights Monsters.
  • Jerkass Gods: Nietzsche thought they were more natural and realistic, hence a part of his appreciation of Ancient Greek culture who, as part of amor fati virtue, survived through the Cosmic Horror Story of living under the gods' boot while still retaining their creativity. This is also the reason why he respected the Jewish Jehovah (contrary to the Nazis' beliefs, Nietzsche respected the Jews and considered them worthy opponents), because he was a better representation of nature compared to the Christian concept of God.
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: While he had little positive to say about Christianity, which he considered to be a pollution of Jesus' real teachings, Nietzsche had something of a begrudging respect for Jesus. Not that Nietzsche thought Jesus was above criticism (he thought he was too idealistic and downright unusual), but he still thought Jesus was a far more interesting and inspiring figure than any of his disciples: in The Antichrist, he wrote "in reality there has been only one Christian, and he died on the Cross."
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Or rather, we need to. One of the main themes of his work was that God is Dead and science has rendered conventional morality irrelevant, and we're simply afraid to let go of it and live in a world without inherent rules. But once we muster up the courage to do so, we'll be free to create our own rules and our own world, that works better.
  • Pet the Dog: In an age when antisemitism was commonplace in Germany, Nietzsche was outspoken in his defense of the Jewish people and their influence on German (and world) culture.
  • Philosophical Parable
  • The Philosopher King: The Ubermensch is basically the Blue and Orange version of this trope.
  • Plato Is a Moron: He hated Socrates and Jesus, the former for being a sign of Athenian decay and for developing logical reasoning as revenge for being made fun of for his ugliness and the latter, whom he called "seduction in its most sinister and irresistible form, seduction and the circuitous route to just those very Jewish values and innovative ideals'', i.e., slave morality.
  • Postmodernism: One of the great precursors for the movement.
  • Real Men Eat Meat: He very clearly believed that vegetarianism was bad for the human spirit (which of course did not just include men, but his philosophy definitely emphasized manliness); he specifically calls vegetarianism a cause of "physiological inhibition" in On the Genealogy of Morality.
  • Reconstruction: After nihilism had deconstructed the idealistic and rationalist philosophies of his time, he deconstructed the nihilistic lifestyle and created the Übermensch as a response.
  • Romanticism: Not exactly. While his poetic, hammy and caustic criticism of modernity heavily influenced Postmodernism, he did understand the importance of modern science, and the unquestionable truth of its discoveries, and definitely approved of its methods as superior to religious or philosophical ones for investigation of reality. However, he regarded scientists' and the Enlightenment's relentless obsession for objective truth-and in particular, the extension of the scientific method to the study of human beings, e.g. modern psychology, behaviorism and neuroscience-as a dangerous development that makes humans dependent on what science simply tells them, and obscures important elements of the human condition that cannot be quantified such as individuality, that which will eventually lead to a Dystopian future. A possible interpretation of his most famous phrase "God Is Dead, and we have killed him"; our science essentially killed the relevance of metaphysics, theology, ethics, philosophy and such in the modern world, replacing them instead with technology's materialistic Bread and Circuses.
  • Rule of Cool: Many points of his philosophy revolve around it. Anything that's cool and awesome is something that works. The rest is irrelevant.
  • Serial Numbers Filed Off: invoked Nietzsche accused many of his contemporary ethicists as doing this to Christianity, in that, for all their talk of abandoning Christianity and God, they still stuck stubbornly to the moral framework they had inherited from that faith, despite it no longer having a leg to stand on.
    "They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. That is an English consistency; we do not wish to hold it against little moralistic females à la Eliot. In England one must rehabilitate oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe-inspiring manner what a moral fanatic one is. That is the penance they pay there. We others hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one's hands."
  • Sliding Scale Of Free Will Versus Fate: Either Neither Free Will or Fate Exists or Because Destiny Says So. He was skeptical of the idea of free will for various reasons, viewing it as a self-contradiction and as an invention of slave morality to make their oppressors feel guilty and worthy of punishment. This was one of the few points he retained from Schopenhauer late in life, as the two were both variations of hard determinists.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The cynical part is obvious to everyone: he certainly believed that it's a meaningless Crapsack World and that Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!. However, he also did manage to strike both extreme sides of the Sliding Scale by also believing that Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers! and deconstructing the character archetype most associated with him. For Nietzsche, nihilists aren't so different from the "pathetic wide-eyed idealists" they're constantly debunking and bullying. Sure, the nihilists are smarter knowing that it's a Crapsack World, but they waste their philosophical intellect on fauxlosophic wangst, death-worship, and being assholes in general, instead of using their intellect to create something new and awesome.
  • The Snark Knight: For all of his jabs at others, he also said this:
    "To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both — a philosopher."
  • The Social Darwinist:
    • Whenever the terms "Übermensch," "Will-To-Power," or "Master-slave morality," or Nietzsche's rejection of egalitarianism/democracy and such come up, distinctions between Nietzsche and Social Darwinism are severely blurred, hence Nietzsche's frequent misassociation with notable Social Darwinists like Those Wacky Nazis and radical transhumanists. Note that Nietzsche wasn't really that much of a social Darwinist; his philosophy is rather different.
    • While he can be excused as going insane, he almost went overboard and took a stance to Kill the Poor when he wrote The Antichrist.
    "The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it."
    • He did try to criticize (evolutionary) Darwinism, although what he criticized was actually The Theme Park Version rather than Darwin's actual theory.
  • The Sociopath: Some people would assume this is what means to be an Übermensch, although only the most self-centered of them would fit the definition — and Nietzsche certainly didn't support sociopathy.
  • The Stateless: Renounced his Prussian citizenship in 1869 and remained stateless until his death. He felt so out of sympathy with German culture that he used to entertain the idea that his family was actually ethnically Polish. (It wasn't.)
  • Straw Nihilist: The most common Theme Park Version of his philosophy, to the point where the trope was originally named "Nietzsche Wannabe". Nothing could be further from the truth: Nietzsche was not a nihilist and hated nihilists with a passion. He talks about similar characters and calls them "Last Men" — people afraid to make changes and choose their own meaning of life. That said, it hasn't stopped readers from insisting that Nietzsche was a nihilist even though he vehemently opposed being considered one.
  • Take That!: Mostly aimed at what Christianity had become, but nearly every classical philosopher gets some.
  • Tempting Fate: In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche wrote about his fear that he would be pronounced holy by future readers, therefore he wanted to publish the book before anyone would make the mistake. Due to his mental breakdown, his book was published years after his death. You can guess what happened on the day of his funeral, and after.
  • Übermensch: While this character was originally his idea (and it's actually even more complex than what could be described in that trope page), it's subverted because Nietzsche never considered himself as this, even considering himself to be more of a Last Man, because in his original works the Ubermensch is supposed to be "healthy" and his sickliness rendered him incapable of doing anything truly Ubermensch-related. He did not even bother defining this character archetype well, thus the flame wars here on the internet and in the academic world.

    He did, however, point out a few historical figures who were either Ubermenschen or very close; for the most part, in contrast to the popular misconception of Nietzsche advocating transhumanism (a literal take on "übermensch") or complete sociopathy (as with Those Wacky Nazis), the proto-übermenschen tend to be instead relatively benign philosophers and the founders of influential schools of thought.
    • Chief among them were Socrates and Jesus. He regarded them both as something of a mixed bag: the former started a trend in Western culture that Nietzsche did not like but on the other hand did have some good ideas; he regarded what he considered to be the original teaching of Christianity (which he understood to be rather like Buddhism) to be excellent for the poor, sheepish masses in a healthy society, but also considered Jesus an "idiot", and didn't like that Jesus' teaching was so easily twisted by the Apostle Paul and the Catholic Church (which he detested).
    • He also seemed to regard Gautama Buddha as one. He liked what he saw in Buddhism as a realist philosophy that actually tries to deal with real-world suffering instead of the vague word "sin", though he did disapprove of the nihilistic aspects, namely reduction of suffering as a means towards non-existence, and disliked its attention towards an otherworldly goal like nirvana.
    • The closest he came to having a hero among modern men was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who he regarded (with some justification) as having emancipated himself from the common prejudices of his time and place, and who he praised without reservation in Twilight of the Idols as "the last German before whom I feel reverence."
  • The Unfettered: He preached this, although it was not meant to be an end goal but merely a state where you can then reconstruct your sense of right and wrong.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: Subverted. He generally condemned altruism, humility and pity, along with other traditional virtues on the grounds that they stem from a sense of self loathing and self-abasement, helped the disadvantaged at the expense of the healthy, and made life more wearisome for those who followed them, as well as his belief that they were made into virtues specifically because the people who embodied them couldn't emulate the nobility's vitrues and values, but he didn't want people to become The Unfettered. He admired people who showed bravery, incredible self-discipline and perserverance, and honesty and integrity, preferring virtue in the Machiavellian sense over the moral sense.
  • War Is Glorious: Only in a metaphorical sense. As mentioned above he is critical of war in one sense, and especially for how it was used and abused by the state for petty reasons, but he regards conflict (in a general sense) as the great mover of history and ideas, and the fount of creativity. He also saw war as a way that a broken society might find renewed purpose, though he notes that a healthy society has no need for war. He admires numerous men who were soldiers and conquerors like Julius Caesar, Cesare Borgia, Napoléon Bonaparte and Alexander the Great, and frequently invoked war imagery in his writings especially when he was attacking someone (i.e. more often than not). It was commonly believed that he is strongly opposed to pacifism and after forming Übermensch he changed his mind about war, praising it. When he praises war, he almost always means the courageous struggle against individual suffering which fuels creativity, and Determinator tendencies overall. In one of his discourses, he commented that the Ubermensch would have to be more like Caesar, not Jesus, presumably praising individual courage over pity and moral lies. In his insane period he declared that Germany would fall shortly due to its war-making; he was dead on right.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Jesus and Socrates. He regarded both as Ubermenschen who changed the course of history, although he didn't like where they went with it, or even more sharply what other people did with it after they died. On the other hand, in The Antichrist he described St. Paul as a contemptible Straw Nihilist who encouraged Apathetic Citizens and Happiness in Slavery.
    • The Jews, despite the misconception. Though he does blame them for the creation of Slave Morality (which is the part Nazism retained), he does respect them as a race that suffered so much persecution, even exterminations by every civilization they were in, from Rome to the Middle Ages to modern Germany. And yet, they persisted as survivors, and even thrived, excelling in every field they were put in, including science, philosophy, economics and politics. In an ironic sense, the Jews, creators of Slave Morality, survive and live as one of the biggest examples of Master Morality.

References to Nietzsche in media

Nietzsche and his books are mostly used in media to convey metaphysical connotations where they could have easily been avoided, while most often butchering his actual philosophy.
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    Anime and Manga 
  • Rare non-symbolic reference to Nietzsche in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, where one of Caro's dragons is named Friedrich as part of their Theme Naming. Her other dragon is named Voltaire.
  • The second opening theme of Haruhi Suzumiya's anime adaptation contains the phrase "Gott ist tot." You may now take this in whichever way you want. Some people have pointed out that Haruhi going to all the clubs and then leaving when they're empty of what she wants happens to be almost exactly what The Madman does in Nietzsche's The Gay Science, which is where "Gott ist tot" comes from.
  • Arai Chie's name is a direct Nietzsche reference...for some reason. It's possible that it was suppose to foreshadow her personality (you can just feel faint traces of it, sort of) but the author never got around to it being a gag series and all.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, Seto Kaiba is seen reading Also Sprach Zarathustra in the very first scene we meet him in. This may be subtle Lampshade Hanging to his personality type.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion has a scene where a bunch of oddly dressed girls throw tomatoes while shouting "Gott ist tot!" It's implied the girls are throwing the tomatoes at a picture of Madoka in her goddess form. The girls are later revealed to be Homura's witch familiars. And at the end of the movie, Homura usurps Madoka...
  • In chapter 9 of Thou Shalt Not Die, Kuroi can be seen reading Ecce Homo and pondering to himself how a human such as the Übermensch can exist.

    Comic Books 
  • Nietzschean philosophy is flirted with all throughout Watchmen, but it's especially evident in the Rorschach-centric chapter, which is titled "The Abyss Gazes Also" and ends with the rest of the quote.
  • Alan Moore used the concept of the real 'superman' on one of his most famous (and darkest) works, his reinterpretation of Miracleman. At the end of the first chapter, on issue one, a chilling page which shows us a close up of Miracleman's face and eye, quotes "Behold... I teach you the superman! He is this lightning! He is this madness!".
  • Preacher has a lot of Nietzschean influenced ideas sprinkled around in it. This becomes most obvious at the end of the series, when the God Is Death philosophy is taken literally.
  • Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster named their character Superman after the Nietzschean term coined in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
    • This is toyed with in All-Star Superman, where Superman creates a miniature universe in his Fortress of Solitude, which is implied to be OUR universe. Throughout the chapter where this happens, various historical events are shown to transpire on the Earth of the miniature universe. Among them are Nietzsche coming up with the concept of the übermench and the publication of the first Superman comic.

  • In The Day After Tomorrow by Roland Emmerich, the people who were trapped in the New York Central Library start burning books in the fire pit (as New York is experiencing in an ice storm). Not long after an argument breaks loose whether to burn Nietzsche's collected works (who was, as one person argues, a chauvinist and an Incestier). They soon decide to burn the tax payers' rights registry instead.
  • In The Dark Knight, Joker uses the variation of "That which does not kill me can only make me stronger", by replacing "stronger" with "stranger", although the quote probably wasn't an intentional reference.
  • "That which does not kill you, makes you stronger" was also quoted at the beginning of the Conan the Barbarian (1982).
  • Otto, the Bombastic Jerkass Straw Nihilist American psychopath in A Fish Called Wanda. He does not really understand Nietzsche's, or anyone else's, philosophy.
    Wanda: But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
    Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.
    Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it.
  • Although Nietzsche himself wasn't a nihilist, that philosophy has been associated with him. The scene in The Big Lebowski where Walter misconstrues German nihilists as Nazis probably alludes to Nietzsche's undeserved reputation in that area.
  • In the Live Action Adaptation of Death Note Light Yagami reads Beyond Good and Evil in German.
  • The quote "Out of chaos, comes order" is included and cited in the film Blazing Saddles. Why? It's a Mel Brooks film.
    "Oh, blow it out your ass, Howard!"
  • The Turin Horse, by Hungarian director Béla Tarr, is actually based in real events witnessed by Nietzsche, such as the titular horse.
  • Dwayne in Little Miss Sunshine is obsessed with Nietzsche. He reads his books and vows to stay silent until he achieves his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot.
  • In The Doors, Jim Morrison's incoherent student film ends with Jim strolling across a rooftop reading out random bits from The Portable Nietzsche. The professor, played by the movie's actual director Oliver Stone, delivers the Armor-Piercing Response "Pretty pretentious, Jim," which annoys Morrison so much that he quits college, goes to sit on a beach and is subsequently invited by a duly impressed Ray Manzarek to form a band.

  • If you know what to look for, you can sometimes spot alterations of the book titles in Perry Rhodan novels. There's no philosophical and/or thematic connection, but apparently, at least one author is a Nietzsche fan.
  • Reversed by the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky: Nietzsche was a huge Dostoevsky fan (although they couldn't be more different on their views on Christianity), reading Dostoevsky's novels as soon as they came out in French or German (Nietzsche didn't speak Russian). The influence of Dostoevsky's ideas shows up in Nietzsche's work. To give you an idea how similarly they analyzed the problem of nihilism, Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov is remarkably like (though not identical to) the Nietzschean Übermensch...but Nietzsche hadn't read Crime and Punishment when he wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and Crime and Punishment predates Zarathustra by fifteen years.
    • Of course, one need only to reach the end of the works to realize that the two then came to very different conclusions. A little wild to think about.
  • Francis is a fan of Nietzsche in Felidae and Felidae on the Road.
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves Takes Charge, Bertie Wooster's fiancee attempts to improve his mind by ordering him to read Nietzsche, leading to his valet Jeeves' declaration that the writer is "fundamentally unsound."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda has a whole alien race named after him, the Nietzscheans, who wholeheartedly adhere to a particular vision of his beliefs. This is discussed, in that the main representation of this group laments that the Nietzscheans have fallen way short of the values they're supposed to uphold, being little more than arrogant space thugs instead of cultured Warrior Poets.
  • There is a quote at the beginning and the ending of every Criminal Minds episode. At least six of the quotes have been from Friedrich Nietzsche. The "He Who Fights Monsters" quote was used in the first episode and the one hundredth episode and is a central theme throughout the whole show. It was also referenced in the season four finale:
    Hotch: (final voiceover) ...And what about my team? How many more times will they be able to look into the abyss? How many more times before they won’t ever recover the pieces of themselves that this job takes?...
  • The Bruces from Monty Python's Flying Circus know "there's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya 'bout the raising of the wrist."

  • Anthrax's "Fueled" includes the line, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."
  • The Blind Guardian song "Punishment Divine" is about Nietzsche going insane.
  • Death featured the "He who fights monsters..." quote in the booklet of The Sound of Perseverance.
  • "Also sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss, of course.
  • The song What Doesn't Kill You(Stronger) by Kelly Clarkson, who ironically, is very Christian, with a tattoo of a cross on her wrist.
  • Kanye West has stated that the quote "that that don't kill me can only make me stronger" from "Stronger" is a direct reference to Nietzsche.
  • Skillet, a Christian band quotes "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" in the song "Not Gonna Die".
  • He is mentioned in the "Bruces Song", aka "Philosopher's Song" by Monty Python, a comedy song featured on The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief, the live album Monty Python Live at Drury Lane and in their Concert Film Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. As mentioned in the live-action TV folder above, he is said to be an expert on "the raising of the wrist" (i.e., drinking).
  • Metallica uses the variant "What don't kill you make you more strong" in Broken, Beat & Scarred" from Death Magnetic'' (2008).
  • Mayhem titled their second album Grand Declaration of War (2000) after a quote from Nietzsche describing Twilight of the Idols (Götzen-Dämmerung, 1888, which he referred to as „eine grosse Kriegserklärung“). Several phrases in the lyrics are direct quotes from Nietzsche's works.
  • Nietzsche is one of Ihsahn's favourite writers; as such, his fourth album Eremita (2012; Latin for Hermit) is titled in tribute to Nietzsche, and the title of his fifth album Das Seelenbrechen (2013, German meaning roughly "The Soul-Breaking") is taken directly from Nietzsche's writings.
  • Nile's EP Festivals of Atonement (1995) takes its title from the famous God Is Dead passage in The Gay Science.
  • An Italian Progressive Rock band named Museo Rosenbach, who made a concept album named Zarathustra (1973), which is obviously based around Nietzsche's work.

  • Henrik Ibsen, who actually met Nietzsche, wrote The Master Builder in 1892, with a main character that seems to be a mirror of the philosopher himself: "With great eyebrows and a bushy moustache". The said character is, of course, a Nietzsche Wannabe.

    Video Games 
  • Xenosaga just runneth over with Nietzsche symbolism. Not to mention every game in the series is named after one of his books (except Der Wille zur Macht - The Will to Power - which, as mentioned above, is a collection of unpublished scribblings from his notebooks).
  • Lucas Kane in Fahrenheit is especially fond of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a copy of which he keeps near his bed.
  • The original Baldur's Gate opens with the "He Who Fights Monsters" quote, hinting at the dangers of Bhaal's legacy (probably).
  • He Who Fights Monsters was used in the advertising for Too Human. Which, as you might have guessed, is also named after one of his books.
  • In The Nameless Mod, an insane AI running the player through an obstacle course (sounds familiar) refers to one room as "The Nietzsche Room" because "it makes you realize" that there is "no god". If the correct alliance and reasons choices are given, Kashue will use He Who Fights Monsters in the final level.
  • Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords provides us with a Cliff Notes version of some part of Nietzsche's philosophy every time she opens her mouth. Just replace 'God' with 'The Force' and 'Jedi/Sith' with 'priest', and Kreia basically becomes an Übermensch, or (even more likely) she fills the role of Nietzsche trying to mold the main character into one.
  • Far Cry 2: Big Bad The Jackal quotes from Beyond Good and Evil quite a bit in the game, from the first time you meet him and through his audio diaries.
  • The recent Persona games of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise - that is, Persona 3, Persona 4 and Persona 5 - seem to be based on Nietzschean philosophy... actual Nietzschean philosophy, and not the stuff people usually try to pin on him.
    • Persona 3 seems to ape quite a bit from Thus Spake Zarathustra' (particularly the idea of the Protagonist becoming a proper Ubermensch, unafraid to face death, and someone worthy of being an actual Messiah to humanity).
    • Persona 4 more or less cribs On Truth And Lies In A Nonmoral Sense wholesale; the entire concept of a "fog of pride and thinking you know something" is lifted from the book, and the game hammers home the idea that you must look beyond yourself to understand the objective nature of things (going so far as to attempt to trick you with several fake ending sequences, the second of which will actively attempt to dissuade you from the true ending to the game.) Nearly all of the playable characters also are forced to face down the fact that they've been lying to themselves about certain aspects of their psyches.
    • Persona 5 just oozes Nietzschean symbolism - the Personas in this game are essentially the Will to Power manifest, and it gets really blatant in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, where the heroes essentially fight through a massive prison full of Last Men to kill God.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri makes several references to Nietzsche, the most obvious of which are the technologies "Homo Superior" (which is essentially Latin for Übermensch) and "The Will to Power" (which is straight from Nietzsche). The blurbs read out upon acquiring these technologies are both from the prologue to Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The bit of Encyclopedia Exposita attached to them indicates that they involve creating and using Cyborgs who are both perfectly human and perfectly machine (and thus capable, potentially, of being actual Ubermenschen), and "The Will to Power" enables the Thought Control social choice.


    Web Original 
  • Several stories in the Darwin's Soldiers canon focus on the antagonists, and are summarily renamed Nietzsche's Soldiers.
  • Nietzsche is one of the Western Philosophers in Epic Rap Battles of History, along with Voltaire and Socrates. In the battle, he does present himself as "the flyest nihilist" (despite, as mentioned above, being the opposite in Real Life) and says others call him Ubermensch because he's so drivennote . His antipathy towards Socrates' philosophy, despite being on the same team, gets exploited by Sun Tzu (by casually implying that he and Voltaire are Socrates' pupils since Socrates is the father of Western philosophy) to get Team West to dissolve into squabbling.

    Western Animation 
  • Nietzsche himself appears in an episode of Histeria!, complaining that Warner Bros. stole his "copyright" to the name "Superman" (a translation of the German word Ubermensch). Keep in mind that this is a Warner Bros. cartoon.

Alternative Title(s): Nietzsche