Friedrich Nietzsche was without a doubt one of the most influential thinkers of the 19th century. He was a man who ventured to question all of man's beliefs. He was out to seek the important questions in life, not always their answers. Some consider Nietzsche to be one of the first existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard. He was the inspiration for many philosophers, poets, sociologists, and psychologists including Sigmund Freud. His goal to seek explanations for society's commonly accepted values was an inspiration for Freud's psychoanalysis theory1. Nietzsche's life as well as his theories such as the will to power, the Übermensch, eternal recurrence, and his thoughts on religion all had a momentous affect on 19th and 20th century philosophy.
Friedrich (Wilhelm) Nietzsche was born October 15, 1844 in Röcken bei Lützen, Prussia. His name comes from the Prussian King, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, because he was born the same day of the King's 49th birthday. Looking back on Nietzsche's life, it is clear that his family set the stage for who he would become, but not in the way they would have liked to. Nietzsche's father, uncle, and grandfathers were all Lutheran ministers. Religion played a major role in Nietzsche's early life and the life of his family. However, being in the constant presence of religious though resulted in Nietzsche becoming very critical of religion. His harsh words for religion would go on to be published in many of his works during his career. When Nietzsche was five, his father died insane and the death of his two-year-old brother shortly followed. His father's death has led many to speculate that the cause for Nietzsche's future insanity was hereditary.
Later on in life in 1864 he went and studied theology and philology at the University of Bonn. His main focus was on the study of classical texts and philosophers such as Socrates who he highly regarded. He went on to the University of Leipzig in 1865 where he started to gain a reputation for his essays on 6th century poets. In May of 1869, Nietzsche was offered a position as a professor at the University of Basel although he met none of the formal qualifications usually required. He took the position and was named a university professor at the young age of 24, showing his astonishing brilliance and intelligence. At 25, he served as a hospital attendant during the Franco-Prussian War. It is thought that he may have contracted a syphilitic infection from the war.
His poor health throughout his life reached a climax in January 1889 when he collapsed in a street in Turin. After this collapse he entered a vegetated state where he suffered from strokes until finally he died on August 25, 1900. During Nietzsche's period of insanity he was taken care of by his sister Elisabeth. She is thought to have looked over Nietzsche's works closely and even tampered with them. After his death she even published a book from his notes called The Will to Power. Some do not...