Frederick Nietzsche is perhaps the most controversial established philosopher to this day. Partly due to the misinterpretation of his work, and to his aberrant ideas, most of his philosophy isn’t accepted in conventional thinking.
I truly see this as a loss to humanity. In fact, I’m willing to argue that Nietzsche’s one of the most innovative thinkers of all time. And after this article, I’m willing to bet that you’ll agree with me.
So let’s start with his most controversial ideas: extreme fascism and nihilism.
As it would happen, Nietzsche wasn’t even a fascist. He absolutely despised anti-seminisim. All the “pro-hitler” controversy that surrounds Nietzsche stems from his Nazi sister, who altered his work to reflect the ideas of Hitler, and then published it.
Nietzsche wasn’t a nihlist either. He simply dared to defy the words of the Christian church, calling those who followed the religion “incapable of dealing with their own shortcomings”. He believed that everyone who lived for the sole purpose of guaranteeing a spot in a “higher” world was living a life of cowardice, afraid of going up against their own failure. As a result, people misinterpreted his beliefs for nihilism, the belief that [higher] life is meaningless.
With that out of the way, let’s take a deep dive into some of Nietzsche’s most innovative and influential works. I’d recommend you come into this with an open mind, because this absolutely flips modern thinking on its head.
When you hear the word envy, you’re probably filled with some objectively evil emotion. An emotion that compels us to harm others because of their success. An emotion that fully exposes our insecurity about what we wish we had.
Nietzsche argues that this is not something to be frowned upon, but instead commemorated. That act of actively envying somebody who possesses something we don’t is a good thing! When we compare ourselves to a fellow individual who has something that accounts for our own personal shortcomings, it creates an internal need to achieve that speacial something — to fix our shortcoming. This creates a positive loop of self-improvement, and in turn, aids us in our journey to become better people.
Nietzsche describes those who shun envy as unable to deal with their own failure. They’ve become complacent to their shortcomings, and are thus incapable of attaining self-actualization
2. Master and Slave Morality
Nietzsche believes there are 2 forms of morality: Master and Slave morality. The former values things like pride and power, while the latter values kindness, empathy and sympathy. Master morality judges actions as good or bad, whereas slave morality judges intention by good or evil.
The value or non-value of an action was derived from its consequences, but ultimately there are no moral phenomena at all, only moral interpretations of phenomena. — Fredrick Nietzsche
The noble type of man experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, “what is harmful to me is harmful in itself”; it knows itself to be that which first accords honour to things; it is value-creating.
Slave morality, on the other hand, is based off of re-sentiment — scrutinizing what the master values that the slave does not possess. Slave morality is a reaction to oppression, so it decides to vilify it’s oppressors. Nietzsche’s belief is that slave morality is created in response to master morality, and is hence based on values such as pessimism, cynicism and cowardice.
3. The cycle of happiness
Perhaps Nietzsche’s most controversial idea lies in the pursuit of happiness. One of — if not the — biggest questions philosophers have been trying to solve since the dawn of time is “How do we live the most happy lives?”. Everyone from Aristotle to Socrates has long pondered this question, but Nietzsche flips this question right on its head.
He asks “Should happiness even be pursued in the first place?”. You see Nietzsche believed that one cannot simply possess a “happy” life. He believed that happiness really just stems from the feeling of fulfillment. You can’t find happiness, you need to earn it. There actively needs to be that dissatisfies you in order to achieve a solution.
This means that if we attain some level of “ultimate” happiness where we’re unconditionally happy, we’ve given up. We’ve become complacent to our problems, unwilling to solve them. To Nietzsche this is one of the greatest failures one can experience. The moment you lose your hunger for self-actualization, you lose your master morality— becoming a weak, cowardly slave.
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