Nietzsche’s outspoken philosophical views continue to rattle feathers over 100 years after his death, and his Genealogy of Morals is no exception. To Nietzsche, humans aren’t cut out for politeness: we like power, and we like to wield it over others. He thinks the Greeks and Romans—with their orgies and gladiators—did it better. Find out why in this step-by-step breakdown of Nietzsche’s infamous polemic against priests, scientists, philosophers, and everybody else who prefers the quiet life.
Study Guide for LitCharts
Friedrich Nietzsche was born in 1844. He grew troubled by increasingly nationalist politics after witnessing the formation of the German Empire in 1871. Nietzsche cautioned that German culture was in crisis, and he would likely not have been surprised that Germany was involved in two world wars shortly after his death. There was also a rising sentiment of anti-Semitism in Germany at the time, which greatly troubled Nietzsche. He fell out with his sister and most of his family over their anti-Semitic and religious beliefs. Though he had no idea at the time, Nietzsche’s anti-Semitic sister Elisabeth began rewriting and editing Nietzsche’s work after his mental decline and circulating it in rising Nazi circles after his death.
Nietzsche would have been horrified to learn that the doctored versions of his work had a strong influence on Adolf Hitler and the policies of the Nazi Party in 1930s Germany, which culminated in World War II. Around the same time, Nietzsche’s unedited writings gave rise to an intellectual movement known as the Frankfurt School, spearheaded by Marxist-Jewish scholars such as Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, who were critical of rising fascism in European politics. As such, Nietzsche’s writing was controversially used to both justify and condemn the horrors of World War II… read more