Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844-August 25, 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, critic, poet, and composer. In 1868, at age 23, Nietzsche commenced a ten-year tenure as professor of classics at the University of Basel in Switzerland, the youngest ever to hold the position. After his health began to fail, he retired and dedicated himself to writing. His first book was The Birth of Tragedy (1872), where he explored his key ideas that conveyed the conflict between two fundamental human drives. He designated these two drives as the Apollonian and Dionysian. The Apollonian drive is represented in the urge to create clarity and order; on the other hand, the Dionysian drive is represented by the compulsion to rip apart illusions and reveal the reality that lies behind them. He was a severe critic of religion and in his Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885) he proclaimed, "God is dead." The belief that God was dead lead Nietzsche to call life "passive nihilism," whereby life turns away from itself and nothing of value can then be found in this world. Nietzsche continued to examine the moral systems of humankind in The Genealogy of Morals (1887). His most common theme in his articulation of psychological theory is his argument that all human behavior is driven by a "will to power." In 1889, he suffered a mental breakdown from which he never recovered. Even after his death, he continued to be one of the most influential philosophers of the 1900s.