Nietzsche, 'God is dead'

Friedrich Nietzsche - 1844-1900AD

"God is dead" 1

Nietzsche is often referred to as one of the first existentialist philosophers. He was opposed to Utilitarianism; he referred to Mill, the principal theoretician of Utilitarianism, as "the flathead". He had a brilliant intellect, gaining a professorship at the age of twenty-four. But after only ten years in the job he became mentally ill. He was forced to retire, and his illness plagued him until his death. He died in 1900 after suffering ten years of insanity.

Like Marx, Nietzsche disliked the Christian faith. Nietzsche believed that it was harmful to society because it allowed the weak to rule the strong. He believed that the will to power, the driving force of human character, was suppressed by religion.

"In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross."2

Perhaps Nietzsche's most important work was Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The central figure, Zarathustra, can be identified with the author. Nietzsche merely uses him for a mouthpiece. He argues that you should not idealize the poor as morally superior to the rich or idealize giving to them out of pity. He prophesizes the coming of the Overman (Superman), the new ideal at which to aim in order to overcome the now failing human. Zarathustra, after experiencing deep crises and changes of heart, in the end comes to a resolution that represents a meaningful possibility of human existence.

Another of Nietzsche's important works is Beyond Good and Evil, in which he gives his account of morality and re-states his belief that the will to power is the basis of the human character.


For Nietzsche, happiness in the form of pleasure is the highest goal. He describes our will to power as the fundmental desire or instinct for freedom. Once we have our freedom, we can find pleasure and, as Nietzsche sees it, through our pleasure we find happiness.

"Mankind does not strive for happiness; only the Englishman does that."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols, 1895

Some believe that Nietzsche's dislike of the Christian faith and his belief that the will to power is suppressed by religion, causing harm to society, is not born out by contemporary society in the western culture. The decline in the Christian faith evident in parts of the western world does not appear to have resulted in any great improvement in society's ills. As Nietzsche would see it, the weak still rule the strong, not through religion, but through democracy.

For more information about the great philosophers and their views on narcissism and happiness, read Finding Happiness.

1 Friedrich Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-85)
2 Friedrich Nietzsche, in Der Antichrist (1888)