Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen) is a philosophical work written by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and published in four parts between 1883 - 1891. I think it's safe to say I've missed the boat with Nietzsche. I know people who have read it as teenagers or in their early twenties and adored this and other works by Nietzsche, but here I am in my mid-thirties and I was wondering why. It's not that I don't think Thus Spake Zarathustra is good; it is good and an impressive achievement, but it left me completely hollow and, dare I say, a little bored.

As in Russia during this period, Germany was concerned with the rise of nihilism and, as with all of Europe, Christianity appeared to be in decline as the influences of science and rational thought became ever more powerful. This influenced his philosophy and, in this case, Thus Spake Zarathustra greatly. In it, Nietzsche proclaims that religion as we know it has gone: "God," as he famously wrote in this work, "is dead". Instead of God, Nietzsche creates Zarathustra (whose name refers to Zoroaster or Zaraϑuštra in the Avestan language, who founded Zoroastrianism), who has emerged from living for ten years in solitude and, inspired, he determines to teach mankind about the Übermensch - a superman who is above all mankind, free from artificial rules and prejudices that mankind share. The meaning of life and the goal of mankind should be to strive to become at one with the Übermensch.

By writing these lessons and sermons Nietzsche is at once criticising and mimicking the New Testament. He writes on what he perceives as a Christian hatred of the mortal world and criticises mass movements and nationalism (making his association with Nazism unfortunate and rather ironic) as something weak people turn to. He also speaks of the concept of eternal recurrence, that is that everything that has happened will happen again on the basis that time and the universe is infinite, and also that the driving force of life is the 'will to power' (der Wille zur Macht) in which we strive to be free of constraints yet maintain our own power over others.

Thus Spake Zarathustra is undoubtedly an interesting work and it's style, mimicking as I say the New Testament and even some Plato dialogues is impressive. Yet, as I also said, it left me rather hollow: I was interested in the philosophy and how it was presented, however it was the technique of it that made it for me: the contents didn't inspire me at all as it might have done once. There was nothing exciting or novel about it, in short. All the same, given its reputation and some degree of influence, it is a worthy read to cross off one's list.

Comments

  1. brave of you to tackle this... the thing about infinity: if it means that everything repeats itself, then it must also mean that time is nonexistent and everything happens at once... N, imo, was a classic example of "a legend in his own mind"; i was never surprised that he ended up in the funny farm...

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    1. I didn't know that, but somehow I wasn't surprised. He's a funny one. As I say though I think I'm too old for him now :)

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