NIETZSCHE THE MAN AND HIS PHILOSOPHY
By R.J. Hollingdale.
Cambride, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999, revised edition
OUTLINE AND COMMENTS ON THE BOOK
See my review of this book
Jean-Paul Sartre claims that Existentialism is a philosophy for professional philosophers. Despite Sartre's undisputed authority as one of the key representatives of Existentialism this claim has been utterly ignored by nearly everyone. R. J. Hollingdale argues that Nietzsche, who was neither an Existentialist or professional philosopher was not the mad genius he is often portrayed as, who shortened his proto-existentialism in disconnected aphorisms.
Rather, Hollingdale give us a man of life-long consistent philosophical writing whose latter madness is not reflected in his earlier writings.
Part I: 1844-1869. Pp. 3-43.
- Chapter 1. The Child: 3-17.
- pp. 3-7. Family, genealogy. False views:
- Was he an unhappy rebellious child. No. From a long-line of
- Nietzsche was a rational thinker, thus no need of a
"psychological" hypothesis to defend insanity.
- No Polish roots.
- pp. 7-15. Hollingdale takes the position that Nietzsche's loss of his
father at a young age accounted for this "footlooseness."
He doesn't make a very strong case.
Central issue of this section is that Nietzsche's father was not insane and there is no reliable evidence that Nietzsche inherited mental illness from his father.
However, his father's death was a memorable even to the 4
year old Frederich.
Nietzsche's mental collapse in 1888 did not influence his works. From Human All Too Human (H) 1878 on his work was consistent.
1889 to HER death his was cared for my his mother.
- pp. 15-17. Earliest work and study:
He blends serious philosophy (and long-term consistency) with literary and aphoristic style. It must be seen as a whole.
- Chapter 2. The Schoolboy: pp. 18-27
- pp. 18-22. Nietzsche's teen days at Pforta Prep school focussed on
classical languages and literature.
- pp. 22-27.
Similarities between Holdering and Nietzsche:
- both classicists
- both attacked German culture
- both died after long period of mental illness.
Nietzsche wrote a lot even in the early Pforta years. Nothing
original, but clear elements of his style are already showing.
- Chapter 3. The Student: pp. 28-34.
- pp. 28-33. BONN
1864 moved to Bonn. Pforta had a strong reputation for philology.
p. 30. 1867: treated for syphilis. Later madness was syphilis related.
p. 32. Important quote on truth. Not necessarily
connected to happiness or goodness.
- pp. 33-41. 1865-1869: LEIPZIG YEARS
This is the end of Nietzsche's youth.
- discovery of Schopenhauer and Lange.
- friendship with Erwin Rohde.
- beginnings of association with Richard Wagner.
1865 he discovered Schopenhauer's THE WORLD
AND WILL AND IDEA. Key intellectual event.
He also loved Frederich Albert Lange's HISTORY OF
The two books are in full contradiction of one each other.
- pp. 41-43. Move to Basel. Chair of Philology, 1869.
Doctorate at Leipzig without exam. Published work. Actually
stateless. Gave up German citizenship, never did get
Swiss. 24 years old.
Part II: 1869-1879. Pp. 47-112.
- Chapter 4: The Professor. pp. 47-55.
Long friendship with Franz Overbeck. Cool relationship to
Jakob Burckhardt (historian).
Nietzsche sick from 1871 onward. Syphilis related migraines.
- Chapter 5: Wagner, Schopenhauer, Darwin and the Greeks. pp. 56 - 85.
- Wagner: pp. 56-64.
1869-1872. Key period of intimacy of Nietzsche to Wagner.
31 year difference. Hollingdale says despite worshipful Nietzsche, and language adoptions, Nietzsche always was a
bit skeptical of Wagner's doctrines.
Wagner: "But Error is the mother of Knowledge: and the
history of the birth of knowledge out of error is the history of
the human race." THE ART-WORK OF THE FUTURE.
Birth of Tragedy is deeply influenced by both Wagner and
The break from Wagner in (H) is a move from Wagnarian/
Schopenhauerian dualism to Nietzschean monism.
Wagner was a father figure:
- same aged men
- same Saxon dialect
- looked alike
- pp. 64-72. Schopenhauer.
The 1876 break from both Wagner and Schopenhauer is
significant in that it was from both at one time.
Schopenhauer does in 1860. Nietzsche read him in 1866.
Hollingdale claims 3 uses of Schopenhauer
- The World As Will and Idea is a dead end work, a single idea.
- He wrote German with great style of writing.
- He popularized Indian philosophy in Europe.
The style was the most important influence on Nietzsche.
He was also very attracted to Schopenhauer's personality.
Schopenhauer sees himself as Kantian.
- world as appearance
- primacy of practical philosophy
Core belief: My body and will are one.
Schopenhauer's World is what phenomenologists would
see as my subjective self.
But, my will points to WILL itself, the subjective force of all.
Individual will is evil and must be overcome. This is virtually
impossible since will is the will to live. We must each use
other's will, thus existence is universal conflict. The best
we can hope for is lesser suffering. Death is freedom.
Nietzsche's lasting influence was more Lange's History of
Materialism. Nietzsche changed Schopenhauer's will to
will to power, a materialistic force not metaphysical induction.
Lange, like Husserl, bites the bullet Kant can't. The noumena
is just one more empty idea.
Nietzsche's eternal occurrence and will to power are phenomena
though occasionally he forgets this.
Hollingdale holds that Nietzsche is not a pessimist. (p. 70)
But happiness cannot be had fully without suffering.
Hollingdale holds that ultimately Wagner and Schopenhauer
(theory not life) contribute nothing to Nietzsche's mature years
or to the Leipzig and Basil years. (71).
- 72-78. Darwin.
Hollingdale holds that Nietzsche was an answer to nihilism, not
Darwin provided to Nietzsche a mechanism of evolution rooted in
chance and accident. No metaphysics needed.
Darwin is really the ultimate source of meaninglessness.
Another great influence: Greece of Pre-Platonic world.
From Plato to Nietzsche were forced to meaninglessness.
Nietzsche's sense of Greek content seems closely related to
the essence of capitalism, except too bridled?
See chapter 13 of Kaufmann book for thesis of Nietzsche as
Socrates in Nietzsche's mind.
Darwin and the Greeks were the true beginning of Nietzsche's
philosophy, not Wagner and Schopenhauer.
- pp. 78-86.
Hollingdale believes The Birth of Tragedy is a bad book
save the Apollonian/Dionysian distinction.
Too much worshipful defense of Wagner.
Socrates is the overcoming of an end of the A/D split.
He is logic. Socrates is the usurpation of art by philosophy.
- Chapter 6: Basel and Bayreuth 86-106.
- pp. 86-98.
1872-73 strong beginnings of break with Wagner.
1873 enter the young Paul Ree. Eventually paralyzed
by nihilism. Not Nietzsche:
"…For Nietzsche, on the contrary it [nihilism] became the
ground of freedom." p. 91.
"what would there be to create if gods -- existed."
1874: the last private visit with Nietzsche.
Hardness of Nietzsche's life in 1875: "Yesterday, the first day of the year, I looked into the future and trembled. Life is dreadful and hazardous -- I envy everyone who is well and truly dead."
1975 Peter Gast came to Basel. Only 7 years younger than Nietzsche he was his "disciple" and every declared he was in love with Nietzsche.
Hollingdale believes Nietzsche was not only not opposed to marriage in principle, but really wanted a wife. He made two proposals.
Human, All Too Human was truly anti-Wagner and ended that phase of his life.
- pp. 98-106. 4 Untimely Meditations.
- Meditation 1: "David Strauss -- the confessor and the writer."
Christian morality requires God and Christianity. A new morality has a new base.
On Nietzsche's view Christianity cannot co-exist with Darwin. After meaninglessness Christian morals cannot exist.
- Meditation 2: "On the Use and Disadvantage of History for Life"
Important as the seed of the overman, anti-nihilism are here.
- Meditation 3: Schopenhauer as educator" 102-105.
Again it is not Schopenhauer's thought but his:
- independence of mind
- intellectual courage
3 images of man:
- Rousseau: revolutionary
- Goethe: contemplative
- -- Schopenhauer: "…voluntarily takes upon himself
the suffering involved in being truthful."
This is a leap toward the future; toward overman.
The artists, the philosophers and the saints do this.
- Meditation 4: Richard Wagner in Bayreuth 105-106.
Praises at a curious time. He later says it was about
himself or Zarathustra; he says you could substitute either name.
105. Hollingdale suggests that Nietzsche had to overcome the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy for his mature work.
- Chapter 7: Sorrento and an End in Basel. 107-124.
- pp. 107-110.
June 1879 he quit the university. He had terrible health and he
received a pension!!
- When Human was published Wagner thought Nietzsche was crazy.
Human says if Wagner could think that lesser men could too.
PART III: 1879 - 1889 Pp. 115 - 239
- Chapter 8: The Turning-Point. 115-124.
- pp. 115-119.
Nietzsche collapsed at Easter 1879.
Never healthy and not capable of a normal social life.
He developed his aphoristic style. Hollingdale things this style may well have developed from Nietzsche talking to himself.
He lived in solitude.
- pp. 119 - 124.
With art, religion and morality we are in the realm of ideas, not objects in the world itself.
p. 123 introduces good and bad in the sense that we honor the rich and famous, yet know that as good and evil they don't deserve it.
lower 123. Nietzsche deals with the egoist/altruism puzzle in Human.
Morality as custom; morality is what is good for community.
The will to power is what is good for the individual.
- Chapter 9. The Wander. pp.125-147.
- pp.125-132. 1880-1882
Despite great suffering he had great faith in the curative power of exercise.
Nietzsche spent two years in Italy in lots of solitude, sickly, now and again needing friends to care for him. Wrote two works:
- pp. 132-138
Morals grow out of :
- a desire for power
- fear of disobedience
Just as we gave objects gender "one day this (any moral value)
will have no more value than the belief in the masculinity or femininity
of the sun has today." (Daybreak) quoted at 133.
Animals and morality: p. 133: Great quote:
"The free man is immoral because he is 'determined' in everything
to depend upon himself and not upon some tradition…" (135)
Later Nietzsche sees fear as negative, the denial of the will to
power -- powerlessness.
Daybreak is a major clue to understanding the will to power.
- pp. 138-147. The Gay Science
The Gay Science is often seen by Nietzsche scholars as end of the Socratic period. It follows with Zarathustra beginning Nietzsche's
supposed irrationalism. Hollingdale attacks this position.
The madman scene of Gay is: God is dead. Message is too early.
The event is coming and leads to the next stage of evolution.
The lingering shadow of God is natural law theory.
Gay Science is strong treatment of early will to power theme.
Another general theme: the revaluation of values.
In Gay is also the theme: live dangerously (p. 145)
Eternal recurrence is written to solve two difficulties:
- explain the world
- accept it.
Of pleasure and pain Nietzsche asks: what if the greatest
pleasure in fact requires the greatest pain?
p. 147: another concept: amor fati.
The central notion of Zarathustra is the eternal recurrence.
p. 147. 1st mention of eternal recurrence is in Ecce Homo, 1881.
p. 147: famous "greatest burden" quite from Ecce Homo on eternal
- Chapter 10: Lou Salome. pp. 148-157.
- pp. 148-152.
Salome proposes a menage a trois in 1882 with Nietzsche and
Ree. Meantime Elizabeth Nietzsche decides Salome is morally
wicked and out for her brother. She "understood" Nietzsche's morality.
Salome was in fact not interested in Nietzsche as love and Ree and
Salome ditched him. He was hurt and outraged and went to Genoa.
- pp. 152-157. In a letter of summer 1993 Nietzsche raged (falsely) against
Ree accusing him of "speaks of me as a low character and common
egoist." Fascinating, as this raises a serious question about just how
egoistic was Nietzsche.
Nietzsche was devastated by Salome's rejection (she was 21, he
was 38) and it took nearly a year for him to recover. He never
met Ree or Salome again, but eventually blamed his sister for the
The eternal recurrence theme appears in part 3 of Zarathustra.
Part 4 is an inferior and weak work.
- Chapter 11: ZARATHUSTRA. pp. 158-168.
Self-overcoming -- rebelling against old self toward a new.
How much change is there is the will to power is understood as the
will to satisfaction? Camus, in A Happy Death, transforms it to a
will to happiness.
The hardest act of the will to power is the overcoming of the self.
- instead of God -- superman.
- instead of divide grace -- the will to power
- instead of eternal life -- the eternal recurrence.
Eternal recurrence was understood as how the only existing world --
the phenomenal world -- is the only world we can have. A "timeless world."
- Chapter 12: The Solitary. pp. 169-192
- pp. 169-180.
There is a style change. No aphorisms, but catchy sentences.
P. 173. Fascinating criticism of Rhode. Beware critics!
p. 174. Nietzsche's relationships with women were outwardly quite
"correct." None of the misogyny of his writings.
p. 175. After Lou Salome
- no known affairs
- abandonment of his notion of marrying.
1885 Elizabeth married a famous anti-Semite, Bernard Forster.
She went to Paraguay with him on a German utopian colonization
p. 176 ff. Hollingdale's treatment of Nietzsche's alleged anti-semiticism in relationship to Elizabeth and Bernhard Forster.
- what radical relativism allows (everything) -- no
- what Nietzsche held himself.
- pp. 180-192. Treatment of Beyond Good and Evil and Genealogy.
Both developments of Zarathustra.
p. 180. Paradox of will to power and truth.
p. 184: Nietzsche can distinguish between nihilism and the will to
power. Nihilism is a willing of weakness and destruction.
The will to power is willing life -- embracing, ascending morality.
Can this make sense within his subjectivism?
p. 186. Hollingdale attacks the view of Nietzsche as a racist or
defender of German master race. His view of conflict as
positive requires or at least encourages a mixing of races
Master morality vs. the self-glorification of slave morality (in
Christianity). Utility seeks ease.
Master morality has nobility; slave morality is plebian.
Slave revolt in morality is resentment: a NO to the other.
p. 191. Nietzsche's discourse on the value of suffering can be
matched by a discourse on greed.
p. 191. Last quote: his ideal aristocrat: toward the overman.
Such people did not yet exist.
- Chapter 13: The Year 1888. Pp. 193-216.
- pp. 193-198.
This begins his descent into insanity. From Euphoria to megalomania.
- last active year.
- first year of any celebrity status.
p. 194. footnote: Simply dismisses the Nazi charge.
- pp. 199 - 216.
6 short works that year:
- The Wagner Case
- Twilight of the Idols
- Nietzsche Contra Wagner
- Dithrambs of Dionysus
- Ecce Homo
In relation to earlier work:
- Nothing new, but nothing contradicted.
- No loss of organizing ability.
- Great style.
- Excessive, but not universal self alone.
Dionysus: man who is strong enough for freedom.
This is especially tied to his attack on Christianity
(see 204 ff).
p. 206. The sort of Christian theology Nietzsche rejects is rejected by
Liberation Theology as well (and other post Nietzschean, post-Kierkegaard theologies. Nonetheless, the "old" Christianity which
he attacks still seems to dominate.
He rejects the theology of Paul more than the life of Jesus.
Central two-fold criticism:
- Jesus as pacifist is contrary to competitive warring spirit
of human progress.
- Rejects Christian Church for miracle-salvation religion which
Jesus left behind. (?)
Long treatment of the anti-Wagner works.
- Chapter 14: The Revaluation pp. 217-227.
- pp. 217-220. A Revaluation of all values.
The revaluation materials were not chosen for publication by Nietzsche.
- Nietzsche's attitude toward it.
- question of publication
- quality of the material
He planned several works with the title: The Will To Power. Originally
sub-titled "Attempt at a revaluation of values."
Kept using the material in published works.
- pp. 220-222.
Elizabeth decided to publish materials in 1901 edited by Peter Gast
and Ernst and August Horneffer. Hollingdale calls this a terrible mistake.
It finally got published in a proper fashion in 1967 and 1978.
(WM 2) "What does nihilism mean? That the highest values disvalue
themselves. A goal is lacking. An answer is lacking to the question
p. 226. Best argument against Nachlass: Hollingdale doesn't trust
it since Nietzsche rejected it himself.
- Chapter 15: 228-236. The Poet
He never ceased writing poetry. Tended to express his more emotive thoughts.
- Chapter 16: The Collapse: 237-239.
Jan. 3, 1889. Collapsed holding a horse being beaten. He awoke as "the
Crucified" and as "Dionysus." Ended up short time later in clinic in Jena.
Part IV 1889 - 1900 pp. 243 - 254
- Chapter 17: Nietzsche's death. pp. 243-247.
- pp. 243-246.
It took 11 years for Nietzsche to die. These years gave rise to the view of the insane/genius/mystic/Pan-German thinker that Hollingdale is wanting to put to rest.
Elizabeth took over and engineered the ideological use of his thought.
March 24, 1889 he was released to his mother at Jena.
May 13th she took him back to Naumberg.
- pp. 247-252. Nachlass
- firm of Naumann
Set out to work in the Nachlass and feared Elizabeth who was all Nietzsche hated in Germanism. In June 1889 Forster committed suicide, but she stayed on in Paraguay until the end of 1890.
p. 250. Story of Nachlass and thrown away papers used in Elizabeth's version of the Will to Power.
End of 1895 Elizabeth took over ownership of papers.
- pp. 252-253:
Franziska Nietzsche died. April 20, 1897, 71 years old.
She had given her son 7 years of care.
Elizabeth kept him hidden away in Weimar and sort of a mystical
cult sprang up around him.
- pp. 253-254. Aug. 25, 1900 he died. 55 years old.
POSTSCRIPT: 1999. pp. 255-261.
- pp. 255-258.
Colli-Montinari editions of Nietzsche's work appeared in 1965.
- Full Nachlass in best order scholars can figure.
- Early writings (Juvenilia)
- Musical compositions.
- pp. 258-261.
p. 258. "The existentialist Nietzsche has been succeeded by the
deconstructionist Nietzsche, and the irrational, fascist Nietzsche -never more than a phantom -- by an acceptance of him as the pivotal philosophers in the transition to post-modernism.
Hollingdale's favorite Nietzsche scholars:
- Walter Kaufmann: makes Nietzsche too humanistic.
- Martin Heidegger -- Hollingdale's least favorite. Uses the name of
Nietzsche to do his own work in the four volume Nietzsche
Hollingdale says that only the view of the centrality of the will to power is really held of the essential Nietzsche. Hollingdale criticizes the central place Heidegger gives to the Nachlass, but even goes further to say the non-written Nietzsche is the real one.
Hollingdale argues Heidegger is more about Heidegger than
- pp. 260-261.
Nietzsche caught in plagiarism of Holderin essay while at Pforta, the
secondary school. Fascinating!!!