Here are 10 thought-provoking quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche was a German philosopher from the 1800s famous for his work on defining the philosophy of nihilism, a philosophy that many philosophers view as the natural ultimate conclusion of philosophy: that life has no inherent meaning but what is subjectively defined by individuals — typically, defining and pursuing their ‘purpose’ as living organisms.
Nietzsche, along with Carl Sagan and others, is one of the biggest influences on Digital Nihilism. He was the author of several impactful books, including Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good & Evil.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Nietzsche
Nietzsche was very focused on the value of individuality, self-actualization, autonomy and self-expression. In the face of nihilism, the realization that the universe has no inherent morality and does not have care or concern for its inhabitants, Nietzsche felt that the best way to find meaning in one’s own existence was to understand one’s purpose through self-actualization and to experience the full essence of life through expressing one’s true purpose and encountering meaningful moments in the world.
“Art raises its head where creeds relax.” – Nietzsche
Nietzsche felt that art was one of the few things that gave meaning to human existence; without art, it’s supposed, life is mechanical and pointless. Not only is producing art an act of self-expression, but encountering it and understanding it can deliver moments of meaningful existence. Thus, creation and absorption of art is considered to be paramount to finding a meaningful existence.
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” – Nietzsche
The meaning behind this beautiful quote is somewhat self-evident. That total order and control breeds stagnation; only through an element of chaos is change possible, either positive or negative. In order to create something new, one must not be blindly bound to existing orthodoxy.
“Without music, life would be a mistake.” – Nietzsche
Music speaks to the soul. In the looming face of existential dread, it is one of the few aspects of life, alongside beautiful and meaningful moments and encounters, that can activate the feeling of being alive.
“Art is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, placed alongside thereof for its conquest.” – Nietzsche
Humans are not apart from nature, but part of it. Encountering the beauty of the natural world, such as the wonder and majesty of a gigantic waterfall, activates the soul. So, too, do the creations made by humans add to the wonder of the natural world. Nietzsche defined life as suffering. Since suffering is bad, one of the few things which can be considered good is the cessation of suffering. Beautifying the world and reducing suffering, thus, in nihilism, is one of the few things that can be agreed upon among humans to be good.
“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.” – Nietzsche
Nietzsche, ever the romantic, believed in love.
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
Nietzsche, a staunch individualist, was wary of conformity. This is important to remember always, as human groupthink has contributed to atrocity throughout all of human history, and even today, groupthink is a significant problem facing society.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
We are all in danger of becoming that which we fear; no human is safe from succumbing to their darkest natures. And the threat is not always violence: it could be melancholy, blame, despair, revenge, or even existential anomie.
“Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.”
Today we exist in a world that is all too comfortable with casually robbing citizens of their time, whether through bureaucracy or pointless jobs which can increasingly be performed by robots. Nietzsche envisioned that in the framework of nihilism, a person should have the autonomy and resources necessary to understand and pursue their own self-actualization.
“Here the ways of men divide. If you wish to strive for peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire.”
Comfort is often a place of complacency, and comfort in the realm of ideas is no different. Blindly believing in dogmas, preconceived notions, traditions and the conclusions of groupthink may help a person “go along to get along”, but it often sacrifices truth for comfort. In order to move forward, we ought to keep in mind that the truth remains beyond our comprehension — and the search must continue.
That concludes the top 10 thought-provoking Nietzsche quotes. I really encourage you to take a few moments to really think about these Nietzsche quotes and let them sink in.
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