Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1844-1900) German philosopher and psychologist; became Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Basel at age 26. Nietzsche's first book traced the birth of Greek tragedy to religious ritual, the combination of the ecstatic cult of the reborn Dionysios with the Apollonian emphasis on harmonious form. Frequently ill, he resigned in 1879 and wrote his main works on morality as an independent intellectual.

Nietzsche saw Christianity as a slave revolt in morals, fueled by ressentiment and the desire for priestly power, which effected a transvaluation of ancient noble values. Christianity helped create the "last man" of modernity, who values happiness, and also promoted nihilism, first by denying life and later by embracing all modern secular values. Nietzsche opposed "progress" with the eternal recurrence of all events, a Dionysian theodicy requiring the "overman," who creatively transcends repeated sufferings. Nietzsche collapsed into insanity in 1889, living another decade under the care of his mother and sister.

Donald A. Nielsen


R. J. Hollingdale, Nietzsche (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965)

W. Kaufmann, Nietzsche , 3rd ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968).

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