Arthur Schopenhauer – The Philosophy of the Will

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ – (The World as Will and Representation) , in which he claimed that our world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction.
Influenced to some degree by Eastern thought, his faith in “transcendental ideality” led him to accept the possibility of atheism.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, ‘Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde’ – (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason), which examined the four distinct aspects of experience in the phenomenal world; consequently, he has been influential in the history of phenomenology.

Four classes of explanation fall under the principle’s rubric. Hence, four classes of objects occur always and already only in relation to a knowing subject, according to a correlative capacity within the subject. These classes are summarized as follows: becoming, knowing, being and willing.

Richard Wagner
Alfred Rosenberg

He has influenced a long list of individuals, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Otto Weininger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Mann, Adolf Hitler and Alfred Rosenberg.
Schopenhauer’s theory of music, along with his emphasis upon artistic genius and the world-as-suffering, was also influential among composers such as Johannes Brahms, Hans Pfitzner, Sergei Prokofiev, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakoff, and Richard Wagner.
Richard Wagner, writing in his autobiography, remembered his first impression that Schopenhauer left on him (when he read  ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’):
Schopenhauer’s book was never completely out of my mind, and by the following summer I had studied it from cover to cover four times. It had a radical influence on my whole life.’

‘Tristan und Isolde’

Wagner also commented that “serious mood, which was trying to find ecstatic expression” created by Schopenhauer inspired the conception of ‘Tristan und Isolde’.
Schopenhauer’s influence on ‘Tristan und Isolde’ is most evident in the second and third acts. The second act, in which the lovers meet, and the third act, during which Tristan longs for release from the passions that torment him, have often proved puzzling to opera-goers unfamiliar with Schopenhauer’s work.


The world-view of Schopenhauer dictates that the only way for man to achieve inner peace is to renounce his desires: a theme that Wagner explored fully in his last and greatest opera, ‘Parsifal’.
In fact Wagner even considered having the character of Parsifal meet Tristan during his sufferings in Act 3, but later rejected the idea.
Friedrich Nietzsche owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’, and admitted that he was one of the few philosophers that he respected, dedicating to him his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ one of his ‘Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen’ (Untimely Meditations).

Untimely Meditations (German: Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen), also translated as Unfashionable Observations[1] and Thoughts Out Of Season) consists of four works by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, started in 1873 and completed in 1876.

Jorge Luis Borges remarked that the reason he had never attempted to write a systematic account of his world view, despite his penchant for philosophy and metaphysics in particular, was because Schopenhauer had already written it for him.

Adolf Hitler and Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein

As a teenager, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was a school-fellow of Adolf Hitler, was strongly influenced by Schopenhauer’s epistemological idealism.

Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had a profound effect on Adolf Hitler when they were both pupils at the Realschule (lower secondary school) in Linz, Austria, in the early 1900s. Interestingly, a few days before the invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler personally granted Mischling status to the Wittgenstein siblings – which included Ludwig.

Schopenhauer’s 19th century historical profile is frequently obscured by the shadows of Kant, Hegel,  Mill, Darwin and Nietzsche, but more than is usually recognized, in his rejection of rationalistic conceptions of the world as early as 1818, he perceived the shape of things to come.

Adolf Hitler

As a consequence of his monistic philosophy, Schopenhauer, like Adolf Hitler, was very concerned about the welfare of animals.

For him, all individual animals, including humans, are essentially the same, being phenomenal manifestations of the one underlying Will.
The word “will” designated, for him, force, power, impulse, energy, and desire; it is the closest word we have that can signify both the real essence of all external things, and also our own direct, inner experience.
Since everything is basically Will, then humans and animals are fundamentally the same, and can recognize themselves in each other.
For this reason, he claimed that a good person would have sympathy for animals, who are our fellow sufferers. 
Schopenhauer was also one of the first philosophers since the days of Greek philosophy to address the subject of male homosexuality.
In the third, expanded edition of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (1859), Schopenhauer added an appendix to his chapter on the “Metaphysics of Sexual Love”.
He also wrote that homosexuality did have the benefit of preventing ill-begotten children.
Concerning this, he stated, “… the activity we are considering appears to work directly against the aims and ends of nature, and that in a matter that is all important and of the greatest concern to her, it must in fact serve these very aims, although only indirectly, as a means for preventing greater evils.”


Arthur Schopenhauer – a Brief Biography

Arthur Schopenhauer was born in the city of Danzig (Gdańsk), on Heiligegeistgasse, the son of Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy German Patrician families.
When the Königreich Preußen annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth city of Danzig in 1793, Schopenhauer’s family moved to Hamburg.

Königreich Preußen
Arthur Schopenhauer as a Boy

In 1805, Schopenhauer’s father may have committed suicide.

Shortly thereafter, Schopenhauer’s mother Johanna moved to Weimar, then the centre of German literature, to pursue her writing career.
After one year, Schopenhauer left the family business in Hamburg to join her.
He became a student at the University of Göttingen in 1809.
There he studied metaphysics and psychology.
There, he wrote his first book, ‘Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde’.

In Berlin, from 1811 to 1812, he had attended lectures by the prominent post-Kantian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.
In 1814, Schopenhauer began his seminal work ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’.
He finished it in 1818 and published it the following year.
In 1820, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of Berlin, however, only five students turned up to Schopenhauer’s lectures, and he dropped out of academia.
In 1821, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer, Caroline Richter (called Medon), and had a relationship with her for several years.
He discarded marriage plans, however, writing, “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties,” and “Marrying means to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find an eel amongst an assembly of snakes.

Arthur Schopenhauer as a Young Man

Schopenhauer had a strained relationship with his mother Johanna Schopenhauer.
After his father’s death, Arthur Schopenhauer endured two years of drudgery as a merchant, in honour of his dead father.
Then his mother retired to Weimar, and Arthur Schopenhauer dedicated himself wholly to studies in the gymnasium of Gotha.
Later he went to live with his mother, but by that time she had already opened her famous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with the ways of the salon.
Consequently, he attempted university life.

Arthur Schopenhauer in Old Age

In 1831, a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin and Schopenhauer left the city.
Schopenhauer settled permanently in Frankfurt in 1833, where he remained for the next twenty-seven years, living alone except for a succession of pet poodles named Atman and Butz.
The numerous notes that he made during these years, amongst others on ageing,  were published posthumously under the title ‘Senilia’.
Schopenhauer had a robust constitution, but in 1860 his health began to deteriorate.
He died of heart failure on 21 September 1860 while sitting at home on his couch with his cat. He was 72.


‘Honour means that a man is not exceptional; fame, that he is.
Fame is something which must be won; honour, only something which must not be lost.’

Arthur Schopenhauer

The Philosophy of the Will

A key focus of Schopenhauer was his investigation of individual motivation.
Before Schopenhauer, Hegel had popularized the concept of ‘Zeitgeist’.

The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time.
The German word Zeitgeist is often attributed to the philosopher Georg Hegel, but he never actually used the word. In his works such as ‘Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte’, he uses the phrase ‘der Geist seiner Zeit’ (the spirit of his time) – for example, “no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spiritOther philosophers who were associated with such ideas include Herder and Voltaire. Hegel believed that art reflected, by its very nature, the time of the culture in which it is created. Culture and art are inextricable because an individual artist is a product of his or her time and therefore brings that culture to any given work of art.

Emanuel Kant

Schopenhauer, a reader of both Kant and Hegel, criticized their logical optimism, and the belief that individual morality could be determined by society and reason.
Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated by only their own basic desires, or Wille zum Leben (“Will to Live”), which directed all of mankind.

For Schopenhauer, human desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world.
He wrote “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants“.
In this sense, he adhered to the Fichtean principle of idealism: “the world is for a subject“.


This idealism so presented, immediately commits it to an ethical attitude, unlike the purely epistemological concerns of Descartes and Berkeley.

To Schopenhauer, the Will is a malignant, metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena; an evil to be terminated via mankind’s duties: asceticism and chastity.
He is credited with one of the most famous opening lines of philosophy: “The world is my representation“.
Will, for Schopenhauer, is what Kant called the ‘Ding-an-sich‘ – (thing-in-itself).”
Nietzsche was greatly influenced by this idea of Will, while developing it in a different direction.

Art and Aesthetics

Arthur Schopenhauer’s aesthetics result from his doctrine of the primacy of the Will as the ‘thing in itself’, the ground of life and all being; and from his judgement that individuation of the Will is evil.
Schopenhauer held that art offers a way for people to temporarily escape the suffering that results from willing.
Basing his doctrine on the dual aspect of the world as will and the world as representation, he taught that if consciousness or attention is fully engrossed, absorbed, or occupied with the world as painless representations or images, then there is no consciousness of the world as painful willing.
Aesthetic pleasure results from being a spectator of “the world as representation” [mental image or idea] without any experience of “the world as will” [need, craving, urge].
Art, according to Schopenhauer, also provides essential knowledge of the world’s objects in a way that is more profound than science or everyday experience.
For Schopenhauer, the Will is an aimless desire to perpetuate itself, the basis of life.
Desire engendered by the Will is the source of all the sorrow in the world; each satisfied desire leaves us either with boredom, or with some new desire to take its place.
A world in thrall to Will is necessarily a world of suffering. Since the Will is the source of life, and our very bodies are stamped with its image and designed to serve its purpose, the human intellect is, in Schopenhauer’s simile, like a lame man who can see, but who rides on the shoulders of a blind giant.
Schopenhauer’s aesthetics is an attempt to break out of the pessimism that naturally comes from this world view.
Schopenhauer believed that what distinguished aesthetic experiences from other experiences is that contemplation of the object of aesthetic appreciation temporarily allowed the subject a respite from the strife of desire, and allowed the subject to enter a realm of purely mental enjoyment, the world purely as representation or mental image.
The more a person’s mind is concerned with the world as representation, the less it feels the suffering of the world as will.
Schopenhauer analysed art from its effects, both on the personality of the artist, and the personality of the viewer.
Schopenhauer believed that while all people were in thrall to the Will, the quality and intensity of their subjection differed:
Only through the pure contemplation . . . which becomes absorbed entirely in the object, are the Ideas comprehended; and the nature of genius consists precisely in the preëminent ability for such contemplation. . . . This demands a complete forgetting of our own person.
The aesthetic experience temporarily emancipates the subject from the Will’s domination and raises them to a level of pure perception.
On the occurrence of an aesthetic appreciation, the will thereby vanishes entirely from consciousness.”
Genuine art cannot be created by anyone who merely follows standard artistic rules.
A genius is required, that is, a person who creates original art without concern for rules.
The personality of the artist was also supposed to be less subject to Will than most: such a person was a Schopenhauerian genius, a person whose exceptional predominance of intellect over Will made them relatively aloof from earthly cares and concerns.
The poet living in a garret, the absent-minded professor, are (at least in the popular mind) examples of Schopenhauer’s geniuses: so fixed on their art that they neglect the “business of life” that in Schopenhauer’s mind meant only the domination of the evil and painful Will.
For Schopenhauer, the relative lack of competence of the artist and the thinker for practical pursuits was no mere stereotype: it was cause and effect.
Schopenhauer believed that what gives arts such as literature and sculpture their value was the extent to which they incorporated pure perceptions.
But, being concerned with human forms and human emotions, these art forms were inferior to music, which being a direct manifestation of will, was to Schopenhauer’s mind the highest form of art.

Richard Wagner

Schopenhauer’s philosophy of music was influential in the works of Richard Wagner.
Wagner was an enthusiastic reader of Schopenhauer, and recommended the reading of Schopenhauer to his friends.
His published works on music theory changed over time, and became more aligned with Schopenhauer’s thought, over the course of his life.
Schopenhauer had stated that music was more important than libretto in opera.
Music is, according to Schopenhauer, an immediate expression of will, the basic reality of the experienced world.
Libretto is merely a linguistic representation of transient phenomena.
Wagner emphasized music over libretto in his later works, after reading Schopenhauer’s aesthetic doctrine.
In proposing that art could offer deliverance from the Will, Schopenhauer elevated art from mere decoration, and held that art potentially offered temporary deliverance from the aimless strife of the Will in nature.
In effect, Schopenhauer turned art into a substitute religion by offering a doctrine of salvation through aesthetic experiences.
Artists were not merely skilled hands; they were the priests or prophets of this doctrine.
This teaching goes far to explain Schopenhauer’s appeal to members of the creative communities over the second half of the nineteenth century.
His doctrine of aesthetics justified artistic work as a matter of highest importance in human society.
Schopenhauer’s aesthetics remain influential today, and are one of the most lasting parts of his philosophy.
Their appeal to later generations of Romantics, and to all schools of bohemianism, is demonstrated.
Wagner sent Schopenhauer a note expressing deep gratitude for Schopenhauer’s discussion of music.

Thomas Mann

Schopenhauer’s philosophy in general left a deep impression on a number of important writers, especially Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust, Stéphane Mallarmé, Thomas Mann, and Ivan Turgenev.
Schopenhauer’s aesthetics were directly responsible for the rise of the ‘Symbolists’ and their allied movements, and to the general development of the concept of ‘art for art’s sake’.

Friedrich Nietzsche

It deeply influenced the aesthetics of Friedrich Nietzsche, although he ultimately rejected Schopenhauer’s conception of Will as evil, whose famous opposition of the Apollonian and Dionysian is a translation of Schopenhauer’s opposition of intellect against will in terms of Greek mythology.
Santayana praised Schopenhauer’s doctrine that tragedy benefited audiences because it helped them to deny the will–to–live and to turn away from life. “Schopenhauer thought tragedy beautiful because it detached us from a troubled world and did not think a troubled world good, as those unspeakable optimists did, because it made such a fine tragedy. It is pleasant to find that among all these philosophers one at least was a gentleman.”

In Retrospect

There is a danger in interpreting the text of some long gone author, let alone of some heavyweight philosopher, such as Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860).

The interpreter tends to look at parts of the author’s prose that may best suit his own conclusions, while avoiding parts that other critics may find more relevant, and which the interpreter may consider either incomprehensible or irrelevant.
This is true for Schopenhauer in so far as he deals in his multi-layered work with diverse subject matters, ranging from the theories of knowledge, to the role of women, sex, eugenics, religion, etc., while offering aphoristic formulas on how to live a more or less liveable life. 

Moreover, in his entire work Schopenhauer deals extensively with the perception of objective reality, our self-perception, and how our self-perception reflects itself in the perception of the Other, for instance in the mind of my political foe or friend.

Sigmund Freud

It’s no wonder that when Schopenhauer is read along with some post-modern authors, his work can retrospectively yield some ground-breaking insights, of which even he was not aware.

The devil is often in the details, but harping on the details alone may often overshadow the whole.
Just because Schopenhauer was critical of Jewish monotheism, or made some critical remarks about women, should not lead us to the conclusion that he was a standard-bearer of anti-Semitism or a hater of women.
The fact that Adolf Hitler was one of his avid readers should not overshadow the fact that the father of modern psychoanalysis, the Jewish-born Austrian Sigmund Freud, learned a great deal from him on the how irrational will is expressed in sexual drive.

An Apolitical Meta-Politician

Der Mensch kann tun was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will.’

(Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.)
Arthur Schopenhauer

How relevant is Arthur Schopenhauer ?
Friedrich Nietzsche

At first sight Schopenhauer’s prose may be dated for our understanding of the world today.
Schopenhauer can be catalogued as a thinker of the so-called intellectual conservative revolution in so far as many thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Vilfredo Pareto, Julius Evola and others, one hundred years later, were heavily influenced by his writings.

Neither can these authors be properly understood unless the reader becomes familiar with Schopenhauer’s writings first.
Secondly, Schopenhauer’s teachings about the primacy of the will spearheading our perception of reality can also be of help in grasping the political hype-rreality of the modern liberal system.
Schopenhauer’s name is usually associated with cultural pessimism.
Nevertheless, he is far from the caricature of a suicidal author harping ceaselessly on the culture of death, as was the case with many of his 20th-century successors, including the magisterial Emile Cioran.
In his aphorisms Schopenhauer provides some handy recipes as to how to minimize a life of pain and sorrow, and how to discard the dangerous illusion of happiness.
As a fine connoisseur of human psychology, Schopenhauer justly remarks that where there is a violent outburst of joy, a disaster looms just around the corner.
It is therefore with maximum efforts that we need to curb shifts in our mood: anxiety is just the other side of ecstasy.
One must not give vent to great jubilation or to great sorrow as the changeability of all things can transfigure those at any moment.
By contrast, one must enjoy the “here and now,” possibly in a cheerful manner — this is the wisdom of life. (Die Kunst glücklich zu sein. C.H. Beck 1999, p. 56).
Schopenhauer does not deal with political treatises in his work, nor does he discuss the political sociology of the rapidly industrializing Europe, or governmental institutions of his time.
The political changes he witnessed, however dramatic they were, such as the Napoleonic wars in Europe, the rise to power of America, and the post-Napoleonic era, were of no interest to him.
Quite consistent with his misanthropic views about human nature, he stayed above the political and historical fray to the point of total disinterestedness.
Schopenhauer refuses any formula for any ontological, political, or ethical system whatsoever. Instead, he demolishes all doctrines and all systems, be they religious or political.
He resented politics, and he can be justly depicted as an “anti–intellectual” in a modern sense of the word.
For Schopenhauer, the world is fundamentally absurd, and no political philosophy can alter its absurdity.
A French theoretician of post-modernity  the philosopher Clément Rosset, is probably one of the best authors who summarized the significance of Schopenhauer for our times.

“Man has forever been successful in passing off past events for new events.
He has been thought to be able to act within free and regenerating time.
In reality, though, he has been in the arms of the cadaver.
A retrospective horror extends to his past, in which he has lived ever since, although, just like his future, that time had lapsed for good.
This time-illness, a profound source of intuition about the absence of all finality, expresses itself in the obsessive theme of repetition.” (Clément Rosset, Schopenhauer, Philosophe de l’Absurde, 1967, p. 97).

In other words, however much we may yearn to affect the flow of time, or assign it some goal or purpose, its merciless cyclical nature always bring us to further delusions and the inevitable status quo.
Nowhere is this absurd repetitive will of living visible as in man’s sexual desire – which Schopenhauer describes in his famous chapter and essay “The Metaphysics of Sex.”
Once a sexual appetite is assuaged, the will continues to manifest itself again and again in ceaseless sameness of sexual desire.
It follows from this absurd repetitiveness that the entire history of the human species is the entanglement of re-enactments.
World affairs and political decision-making are manifestations of a self-inflicted desire for something new.
Based on such perceptions of repetitive reality, Schopenhauer shows no interest in history, noting that it is always the same people who take the world stage, with the same ideas, albeit framed in a different rhetoric.
In short, his target of criticism is the philosophy of optimism, and the idea of progress which lay embedded in the eighteenth century teaching of the Enlightenment.
For Schopenhauer there is nothing new under the sun, as with every fleeting second the new becomes the old and the old becomes the new; the wheel of time turns forever.
Time for Schopenhauer is devoid of historicity, therefore, a study of some historical event, or of some political drama, is totally irrelevant.
Schopenhauer advocates the abandoning of the illusory will to create a better world..
Despite his static philosophy that rejected human and political betterment, Schopenhauer ventures often in his lengthy work into interesting and well-founded analyses, such as his brief study on the importance of heredity.
But one must be careful not to extrapolate his scattered comments on race and heredity and assume that they make up the bulk of his work.
He believed in the hereditary improvement of mankind, and some of his remarks about biological betterment are highly relevant.
Irrespective of the fact that he does not delve much into the subject of heredity, one must agree that Schopenhauer could be easily used as a weapon by modern sociobiologists or race realists.

“If we could castrate all scoundrels, and shut up all stupid geese in monasteries and give persons of noble character a whole harem and provide men, and indeed complete men, for all maidens of mind and understanding, a generation would soon arise what would produce a better age than that of Pericles” (The World as Will and Idea, p. 331, “Heredity.”)

In another context, Schopenhauer reiterated his antidemocratic-eugenic thesis:

If you want Utopian plans, I would say: the only solution to the problem is the despotism of the wise and noble members of a genuine aristocracy, a genuine nobility, achieved by mating the most magnanimous men with the cleverest and most gifted women. This proposal constitutes my Utopia and my Platonic Republic“.

Analysts have suggested that Schopenhauer’s advocacy of anti-egalitarianism and eugenics influenced the neo-aristocratic philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who initially considered Schopenhauer his mentor.
Schopenhauer’s remarks on heredity are perfectly compatible with his teachings on the independence of the will.
Just as we can never change the predetermined nature of our genes and our genealogy, we cannot change the predetermined nature of the will:

“The only freedom that exists is of a metaphysical character. In the physical world freedom is an impossibility. .. The will itself, as something that lies beyond time, and so long as it exists at all, never changes…  Hence it is that every man achieves only that which is irrevocably established in his nature, or is born with him. (Free Will and Fatalism).

The Will vs. the Deceptive Reality

The main driving force of the entire university is the will.
Ideas, concepts and images are merely the objectification of our will at different levels of perception. 
The will is a blind force; it is subject neither to time nor to space, neither does it obey the principles of causality, nor is it subject to accidents.
In this sense Schopenhauer represents a big break with the teachings of rationalists and idealists of his time, who were enamoured with the principles of causality, and henceforth viewed necessity as a cornerstone of life on Earth.
Schopenhauer stood out as an oddity in his times which were imbued with the heritage of the Enlightenment.
The will is more important than the thought, however, at the conceptual level, as some scholars pointed out, one must carefully distinguish between the will and the instinct, as his later critical admirer and commentator, the National-Socialist Minister, Alfred Rosenberg, noted in his chapter “Will and Instinct” in his now famous book, ‘The Myth of the 20th Century’. 

“Will is always the opposite of instinct (“Trieb”), and not identical with it, as Schopenhauer seemed to teach.”

In other words contrary to Schopenhauer, Rosenberg objects that Schopenhauer uses the term “will” in an overly general manner.
Similar to Nietzsche and his followers, Rosenberg argues for the “implementation” of the free will for Promethean and political goals, while contrasting it to the primeval biological impulses which he calls the “instinct.” (Trieb).
Man is originally not a being of knowledge but a creature of instinct and will – a will that comes alive in cyclical time and in a non-linear way.
Will is the fundamental reality of the world, the ‘thing-in-itself’, and its objectification is what is visible in external phenomena, such as objects or political events that we witness daily.
In practical life the antagonism between the will and reason arises from the fact that the will is a metaphysical substance, whereas the reason is something accidental and secondary: an “appendage” to the will.
The will is an autonomous desire, that is to say, an irrational need to act or to do something.
The will is free in every single thought process and action, but it need not and generally does not follow the precepts of reason.
Unlike the majority of philosophers of his time, including Hegel, Schopenhauer does not hold reason in high regard.
Our illusions, based on self-serving perceptions, remain so entrenched despite the most sophisticated appeals to reason.
Therefore, Schopenhauer can be justly labelled as the greatest anti-rationalist philosopher of all time. Only the genius has some capacity for objectivity in so far as he can harness his will and become the pure knowing subject.
The absurdity of Schopenhauer’s “free” will is that man is enslaved by it without ever knowing its origin and reason.
Humans act but do not know why they act the way they do: apart from a few geniuses, their self perceptions are nothing more than illusions.
This leads us to a dreadful life, full of anguish on the one hand and ecstatic expectations on the other. 
The absurdity of our will is not how to reach the river and quench our thirst: the absurdity consists in the will for being thirsty !
The will has no cause and, given that it excludes causality, it does not have any necessity or purpose.
That the being is without any necessity is already a dreadful problem.
But that this very being is in addition unhappy and miserable only emphasizes the absence of a raison d’être. (Rosset, p. 16)
Schopenhauer’s theories of representation and perception can easily rank him today in the category of the founding fathers of post-modern theory of the Double and the Hyperreal.
Everything that we see is fleeting “representations” and not the actual physical phenomena.
We dream even when we are awake. 
Well, how then tell the difference between the real political truth and the fabricated political truth?
Schopenhauer is a crucial source in understanding the psychopathological impact of religions, myths and the systems of beliefs.
At times he labels them “allegories” whereas in other places he describes them as the “metaphysics of the masses” or “people’s metaphysics” (Volksmetaphysik).
Just as people have popular poetry and the popular wisdoms or proverbs, they also need popular metaphysics.
They need an interpretation of life; and this interpretation must be suited for their comprehension.
The great majority of humans have at best a weak faculty for weighing reasons and discriminating between the fact and the fiction.  Does this sound familiar?
No belief system, no ideology, no religion is immune from self-serving delusional tenets linked to false perceptions of reality, although, in due time, each of them will undergo the process of demythologization and eventually become a laughing stock for those who see the illusions underlying these delusional myths.
We can illustrate this changing masquerade of history repeating itself when observing the mindset of modern opinion makers.
People have always wished, by means of different allegories, to transcend their cursed reality and make frequent excursions into the spheres of the hyper-real  the unreal, or the surreal – in order to offset the absurdity of their existence.
It is natural that they resort to religious and ideological devices, however aberrant or criminal these allegorical devices may subsequently turn out to be.
Accordingly, the motor of religious mass mimicry, which Schopenhauer describes, is again our objectified will.
Consequently, the whole course of human life is patterned along the principle of imitation, where even the smallest thing in our perception is borrowed from that role model who is viewed now as a path-breaking innovator or a new messiah.
Mimicry is the powerful motor of the will, the theme which was later expanded by Schopenhauer’s disciples, such as Gustave Le Bon.
Intelligent individuals amidst our modern rootless masses realize that some beliefs are fraudulent and harmful, but for the sake of social conformity they accept them.
They will rather listen to others than trust their own head.
As Schopenhauer writes, the bad thing about all religions is that instead of being able to admit their allegorical nature, they conceal it.
Absurdities form an essential part of popular beliefs.
Schopenhauer’s teaching on religions, including his denunciation of the will to political power, was borrowed from the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.
He has good words for Catholicism though, which for him is a religion of pessimism (The World as Will and Idea, p. 372).
But it would be a serious error, based on a fragmentary reading of his work, to conclude that he was rejecting one religion at the expense of the other.
Although Schopenhauer may be described as an atheist or agnostic, his sense of spirituality was very strong.
Of all religions Judaism is the worst religion, notes Schopenhauer in his famous book ‘Parerga und Paralipomena’.

“The genuine religion of the Jews … is the crudest of all religions (die roheste aller Religionen.) The ongoing contempt for Jews, amidst their contemporary peoples, may have been to a large degree due to the squalid (armsälig) qualities of their religion. … In any case the essence of any religion consists, as such, in its persuasion that it provides for us, namely that our actual existence is not only limited to our life, but that it remains timeless. The appalling (erbärmlich) Jewish region does not fulfil this; indeed, it does not even try to. … Therefore, this is the crudest and the worst of all religions consisting only in an absurd and outrageous (empörend) theism. … While all other religions endeavour to explain to the people by symbols and parables the metaphysical significance of life, the religion of the Jews is entirely immanent and furnishes nothing but a mere war-cry (Kriegsgeschrei) in the struggle with other nations” (pp. 136–137).

Some of Schopenhauer’s words about the power of the blind will can easily be applied to our post-modern times – for example, how the will to believe in something has been hijacked by liberal political elites.

The Hyperreal: The Denial and its Double

We can now jump over to the 20th and 21st century and observe how Schopenhauer’s ideas provide a good fit to the mass illusions accompanying the rising tide of the democratic mystique.
How does the will objectify itself in the political arena today ?
Politicians are inclined to project their perception of the real world into its embellished Double. Example: None of us is entirely happy with his looks; no political theorist is happy with the world as it is.
We all strive to be someone else; we all wish to project either our physique or the present political order into its loftier, distant, and more romantic substitute.
As a result, the masses, but also our politicians, assess values and objective reality not as they are, but rather as they’d like to see them.
Our passionate need for a change, as a rule, results in inevitable disappointments and feelings of betrayal.
Following Schopenhauer’s logic, it is a serious error to assume that some contemporary politician is a liar or a crook just because we feel or think that we are being cheated or oppressed by him.
More likely, such wicked political leaders are themselves the victims of self-delusions.
Their manic desire for world improvement is based on honest and self-proclaimed “scientific”, “reasonable,” and “truthful” wishful thinking, which they benevolently wish to share with us or with their subjects or constituents.
To illustrate the will for self-delusion, one may observe contemporary leftists and antifascist militants within Schopenhauer’s framework of analysis.
What they say is already based on their prior self-persuasions, which are the reflections of the prevailing beliefs of their time.
Pareto, as a valiant disciple of Schopenhauer’s methods, notes that ”many people are not socialists because they have been persuaded by reasoning. Quite the contrary; these people acquiesce to such reasoning because they are (already) socialists.”
Their will, however aberrantly it may objectify itself in the ravings for some communistic mystique, defies any empirical argument.
Schopenhauer is of paramount importance in understanding our perception of postmodern reality, or our hyperreality, as some authors call it.
The surreal world of the liberal dogma – that is, the world in which we live – fits perfectly Schopenhauer’s teaching on the flawed perception of the real.
Moreover, Schopenhauer’s work is a useful tool for deciphering liberal mendacity, which has become today the cornerstone of the new world order.
The postmodern West is enveloped in the virtual reality of the electronic age (the “video sphere”) and media make-believe, which incessantly turn every real political event into a virtual image.
How does the liberal mystique or, to use Schopenhauer’s word, ‘allegory’, operate today ?
The process that started with the abstraction of the objective, as a result of the mass media, has ended now in integral reality, as the post-modern author Jean Baudrillard writes. “The virtual itself is “negationist,” or denial-prone. The virtual takes away the substance of the real. “We are living in a society of historical denial by virtue of its virtuality.”
Disbelief reigns everywhere, even if there are solid and empirical proofs of the opposite.
No longer is some historical or political event perceived as “real” or truthful.
For instance the memory of the ‘so-called’ Holocaust functions today as the largest civic religion of the West.
This idea of a Holocaust is a system of belief serving not only a commemorative goal; it is also a cognitive paradigm for interpreting all aspects of our contemporary society.
The issue, however, is no longer the body count of people who it is suggested had died; rather, the issue is the fact that the post-modern virtual world by definition minimizes or maximizes the hyperreal at the expense of the real.
This rule of the hyper-real or the double applies now to all grand narratives, especially those teeming with victimological themes.
Even honest historians or social theorists can no longer be taken as real.  Why ?
The big post-modern question will immediately start hovering over their heads: What if that person is telling the lies ? What if he does not tell the truth ?
Victimologies, and victim-hoods no longer sound persuasive as they have found their media hyper-substitutes, which either re-enact, or deactivate the real past crime.
Therefore, the modern media and politicians must make post-prophylactic political decisions in a desperate attempt to dismantle the previous real, i.e., the previous bad decision, the previous inaction by making it up to the real victim with an overkill of repenting rhetoric and post-prophylactic decision making (massive security checks at airports, always new mass commemorations, etc.).
If the lives of the masses of people who perished cannot be restored, let us restore their memory by the hyper-real media !
Why resuscitate the living, when the resuscitation of the dead is a far better business ?
One can analyse the post-modern wars, the so-called Gulf War in 1991 and the war in Bosnia in 1995 using the concepts of the hyper-real and the double.
When these wars were televised and commented on by talking heads on TV screens, their real and horrible reality was cancelled out.
Spectators were therefore much more likely to support these wars.
Neither can our history writing be a matter of academic discussion any more.
Historical narratives about real or surreal ‘fascist crimes’ or ‘White man crimes’ or the current mantra on ‘White man guilt’ have attained a grotesque level of psychological saturation, to the point that for politically conscious Whites they soon sink into oblivion – and laughter – as they are de-constructed. 
Even if some past mass crimes are empirically verifiable, the masses will start reconstructing its negative Double — after first deconstructing its Real antecedent.
The ‘Age of Post-modernity  is basically the age of deconstruction, where no single verity can hold sway for a long time.
Here is the vicious circle of the hyper-real.
If one is encouraged to de-construct the real world and denounce political beliefs as a passing allegory, as Schopenhauer did, why not de-construct new contemporary civic religions, such the monotheism of the capitalist market or the civic religion of victim-hood ?
Spectral Verities, Viral Lies

We all live the hyper-real  as the French philosopher Rosset writes; we all crave for the Double – be it in its negative or the positive form. 
We all wish to be something we are not; the duplicate of ourselves.  “In place of the world as it is, we invent a ‘duplicate’ or a ‘double,’ a parallel universe which functions as a phantom rival to the existing world.”
The disadvantage of living in the real world is that life in it is drab, frightening, or boring; the advantage of the “doubled” life lies not only in the fact that such life does not exist, but that such life doesn’t even have to exist in order for us to believe it to be true and real! In other words, this desire for a spectral world is not so much a desire for something different, as it is a desire to get rid of the real world.
Who are the new paradigms or role models of our hyper-real post-modernity ?
Once upon a time the role model for Western man was a rugged individual, a Prometheus unbound, a war hero, a conqueror.
Today the will for the hyper-real requires his double or his denial, or better yet the “doubled denial.” 
As a result, the new role models for the West are the degenerates, the retards, the ‘non-Whites’, the pederasts, the pathetic and the perverts.
Baudrillard: “The Courtier was the most remarkable figure of the aristocratic order. The Militant was the most remarkable figure of the social and revolutionary order. The Penitent is the most remarkable figure of our advanced post-modern democratic politicians.”
But these degenerate role models are in turn subject to deconstruction, especially by proud, psychologically healthy White people who are being victimized by the legitimization of these role models.
Granted, we are witnessing the end of the big narratives, such as ‘antifascist victimology’, however, the unresolved work of mourning the real (or hyper-real  victims of fascism or racism is in full swing.
In other words, the antifascist, anti-racist war (with all its political, media and legal prohibition) continues unabated.
Even if real racism and fascism are dead and gone, they need to be resurrected in a negative doubled manner in order to give the mourners an opportunity to repent for the failed duty to prevent it from happening. Never again, never again ! — this is a  new war cry of our hyperreal discourse.
This strategy of the hyper-real “never again”, is directed not only at preventing similar events from happening again in the future – as expressed in the forms of a myriad of  memorial centers commemorating the Holocaust.
It is also meant to be a tool of unravelling  in a vicarious and imaginary way, of the real past historical disaster that befell the Jews or the non-Whites.
Likewise, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are waged today as the post-prophylactic double; indeed, they are not just the wars for stopping the terror; they are the wars for removing the past sins of the political class, which led to the real terror of the dreadful 9/11 !
The goal is now to retroactively cancel out the inflicted national disgrace and humiliation of the ruling elites.
This is why the actual wars and our public discourse all over the West are “non-events”. Never again, never again!
And this is why the hyperreal or the double are pure illusions.
They cannot last.
The violent and the objective real is waiting in the wings and it will soon take the upper hand.
Is it for real ?


The Green Reich

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

“We recognize that separating humanity from nature, from the whole of life, leads to humankind’s own destruction and to the death of nations. Only through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. That is the fundamental point of the biological tasks of our age. Humankind alone is no longer the focus of thought, but rather life as a whole.

This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of National Socialist thought.”

Professor Ernst Lehmann

Germany is not only the birthplace of the science of ecology and the place where ecological politics’ rose to prominence; it has also been home to a peculiar synthesis of naturalism and nationalism forged under the influence of the Romantic tradition’s anti-Enlightenment philosophy.
Two nineteenth century figures exemplify this conjunction: Ernst Moritz Arndt and Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl

Ernst Moritz Arndt 

Ernst Moritz Arndt (26 December 1769 – 29 January 1860) was a German patriotic author and poet. Early in his life, he fought for the abolition of serfdom, later against Napoleonic dominance over Germany, and had to flee to Sweden for some time due to his anti-French positions. He is one of the main founders of German nationalism and the movement for German unification. After the Carlsbad Decrees, the forces of the restoration counted him as a demagogue and he was only rehabilitated in 1840.
Arndt played an important role for the early national and liberal Burschenschaft movement and for the unification movement, and his song “Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?” acted as an unofficial German national anthem.

Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl

Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl (6 May 1823 – 16 November 1897) was a German journalist, novelist and folklorist.
Riehl was born in Biebrich in the Duchy of Nassau and died in Munich.
Riehl’s writings became normative for a large body of Volkish thought. He constructed a more completely integrated Volkish view of man and society as they related to nature, history, and landscape. He was the writer of the famous ‘Land und Leute’ (Places and People), written in 1857-63, which discussed the organic nature of a Volk which he claimed could only be attained if it fused with the native landscape.
He rejected all artificiality and defined modernity as a nature contrived by man and thus devoid of that genuineness to which living nature alone gives meaning. Riehl pointed to the newly developing urban centres as the cause of social unrest. For many Volkish thinkers, only nature was genuine. He desired a hierarchical society that patterned after the medieval estates. In ‘Die bürgerliche Gesellschaft’ (Bourgeois Society) he accused those of Capitalist interest of disturbing ancient customs and thus destroying the historicity of the Volk. Animosity towards the city was an integral part of the rise of Volkish thought. At times it was expressed in the slogan “Berlin is the domain of the Jews” or in the remark by another writer that “cities are the tombs of Germanism” Such ideas secured a place for Riehl in the history of Volkish thought. 
Riehl, born into a settled middle-class background, was a professor at the University of Munich.

Sterbender Hirsch
Wilhelm Diefenbach

Riehl’s 1853 essay ‘Feld und Wald’ (Field and Forest) ended with a call to fight for “the rights of wilderness.” 

But even here nationalist pathos set the tone: “We must save the forest, not only so that our ovens do not become cold in winter, but also so that the pulse of life of the people continues to beat warm and joyfully, so that Germany remains German.”
Riehl was an implacable opponent of the rise of industrialism and urbanization; his overtly anti-semitic glorification of rural peasant values, and undifferentiated condemnation of modernity established him as the “founder of agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism.

‘Nature Mysticism’

These latter two fixations matured in the second half of the nineteenth century in the context of the völkisch movement, a powerful cultural disposition and social tendency which united ethnocentric populism with ‘nature mysticism‘.

At the heart of the völkisch weltanschauung was a negative response to modernity.
In the face of the very real dislocations brought on by the triumph of industrial capitalism and national unification, völkisch thinkers preached a return to the land, to the simplicity and wholeness of a life attuned to nature’s purity.
The movement aspired to reconstruct the society that was sanctioned by history, rooted in nature, and in communion with the cosmic life spirit.
The emergence of modern ecology forged the final link in the chain which bound together nationalism, mystically charged racism, and environmentalist predilections.
Ernst Haeckel 

In 1867 the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel coined the term ‘ecology’ and began to establish it as a scientific discipline dedicated to studying the interactions between organism and environment.

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (February 16, 1834 – August 9, 1919), was a German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many terms in biology, including anthropogeny, ecology, phylum, phylogeny, stem cell, and the kingdom Protista. Haeckel promoted and popularized Charles Darwin’s work in Germany and developed the controversial recapitulation theory (“ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny“) claiming that an individual organism’s biological development, or ontogeny, parallels and summarizes its species’ evolutionary development, or phylogeny.

The published artwork of Haeckel includes over 100 detailed, multi-colour illustrations of animals and sea creatures (Kunstformen der Natur, “Art Forms of Nature”). As a philosopher, Ernst Haeckel wrote ‘Die Welträtsel’ (1895–1899, in English, The Riddle of the Universe, 1901), the genesis for the term “world riddle” (Welträtsel); and ‘Freedom in Science and Teaching’ to support teaching evolution.

Haeckel developed a philosophy he called ‘monism.’
The ‘German Monist League’ he founded combined scientifically based ecological holism with völkisch social views.
Haeckel believed in nordic racial superiority, strenuously opposed race mixing and enthusiastically supported racial eugenics.
Bayerische Räterepublik – Munich

His nationalism became more fervent with the onset of World War I, and he fulminated in anti-semitic tones against the post-war Jewish/Soviet Republic in Bavaria.
In this way Haeckel contributed to that special variety of German thought which served as the seed bed for National Socialism.
The pioneer of scientific ecology, along with his disciples Willibald Hentschel, Wilhelm Bölsche and Bruno Wille, profoundly shaped the thinking of subsequent generations of environmentalists by embedding concern for the natural world in a tightly woven web of Völkisch social themes.
Thus, for the Monists, perhaps the most pernicious feature of European bourgeois civilization was the inflated importance which it attached to the idea of man in general, to his existence and to his talents.

Raoul Francé

The biologist Raoul Francé, founding member of the ‘Monist League’, elaborated so-called ‘Lebensgesetze’, ‘laws of life’ through which the natural order determines the social order.
He opposed racial mixing, for example, as “unnatural.”
The chief vehicle for carrying this ideological constellation to prominence was the German youth.

The world’s first self-conscious “youth” movement sprang up in response to, and as a rejection of, urban life and the cold, impersonal mechanics of modernity.
It’s members wanted to reunite themselves with nature.
They went vegetarian, sometimes favoured nudism, hiked and even camped out in the wilderness, creating alternative societies to the mainstream.
It was a romantic, spiritual movement.
Many saw themselves as pagans, worshipping the sun, conceived of as an ancient Teutonic deity.
The young men sang songs and played guitars around campfires in a movement that was closely involved with Lebensreform (“life reform”).


Lebensreform (“life reform”) was a social movement in late 19th-century and early 20th-century Germany, Austria and Switzerland that propagated a back-to-nature lifestyle, emphasizing among others health food/raw food/organic food, nudism, sexual liberation, alternative medicine, and religious reform and at the same time abstention from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and vaccines.

‘Gebet zum Licht’
Fidus (Hugo Höppener)
Fidus (Hugo Höppener)

Important Lebensreform proponents were Sebastian Kneipp, Louis Kuhne, Rudolf Steiner, Karl Wilhelm 
Diefenbach, Fidus (Hugo Höppener), Gusto Graeser, and Adolf Just.
Hugo Höppener (1868-1948), who used the pseudonym Fidus was one of the most significant artists of the movement.
Depicting nude figures among the natural landscape, not sexualized, but in harmony with nature, and working in cooperation with each other, Fidus gained wide recognition.
Several of his works show a male-female couple embracing, not out of lust, but in a kind of Tantric reaching for Deity.
His most famous work (of which he made several versions), ‘Gebet zum Licht’ (Prayer to the Light), shows a man standing on a rock mound, with his arms outstretched to the sky.
In 1932, Fidus joined the NSDAP.. Fidus was probably impressed by the National Socialist’s environmentalism and romantic portrayals of the German people.

Ideology in Germany

The Lebensreform movement in Germany originally was a politically diverse movement.
There were hundreds of groups across Germany dedicated to some of all of the concepts associated with Lebensreform: ecology and organic farming, vegetarianism, naturalism (Nacktkultur), and abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.
Dozens of magazines, books, and pamphlets were published on these topics.
Some groups were made of socialists, some were apolitical, and some were right-wing and nationalist in outlook.
One outstanding prophet of Lebensreform was the painter Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1861-1913), pacifist and tolstoyan anarchist who founded the community Himmelhof near Vienna.

 Geige spielender Knabe
Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach
Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach

Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (February 21, 1851, Hadamar, Duchy of Nassau – December 15, 1913, Capri) was a German painter and social reformer.
Diefenbach was a pioneer of nudism and the peace movement. His country commune in Vienna (1897–1899) was one of the models for the reform settlement Monte Verità in Ascona. His ideas included life in harmony with nature and rejection of monogamy, turning away from any religion (although he was a follower of theosophy, and a vegetarian diet. One of his students was the artist Konstantinos Parthenis.
As a painter he was an independent representative of Art Nouveau and Symbolism.

Among his disciples were three painters: Fidus, Frantischek Kupka and Gusto Graeser.
In 1900 Graeser became the co-founder and inspiring pioneer of the community Monte Verità near Ascona, Switzerland. Monte Verità attracted lots of artists from all of Europe, during World War I conscientious objectors from Germany and France.

Hermann Hesse

Gusto Graeser, thinker and poet, greatly influenced the German Youth Movement, and such writers as Hermann Hesse and Gerhart Hauptmann.
He was the model for the master figures in the books of Hermann Hesse.
An important influence on Völkisch ideology was Ludwig Fahrenkrog (20 October 1867 – 27 October 1952) who was a German writer, playwright and artist.
He was born in Rendsburg, Prussia, in 1867.
He started his career as an artist in his youth, and attended the Berlin Royal Art Academy before being appointed a professor in 1913.
He taught at the School of Arts and Crafts in Bremen from 1898 to 1931.
He was also involved in the founding of a series of Völkisch groups in the early 20th century.
The first group started by Fahrenkrog was the ‘Deutscher Bund für Persönlichkeitskultur’ (German League for the Culture of the Personality), which also supported a publication called Mehr Licht! (“More Light!”, the famous last words of Goethe).

Ludwig Fahrenkrog
Ludwig Fahrenkrog – The Holy Hour (Die heilige Stunde), 1918

He was also involved with the ‘Deutsche Religionsgemeinschaft’ (German Religious Community [DRG]), which would later change its name several times, first in 1912 to Germanische-Deutsche Religionsgemeinschaft (Germanic-German Religious Community [GDRG]), then in 1915, following a split in the membership, to the Deutschgläubige Gemeinschaft (Association of the German Faithful [DGG]).

Earth and the Sun Heaven and Earth, Baldur and Gerda
(Erde und Sonne, Himmel und Erde, Baldur und Gerda), 1921
Ludwig Fahrenkrog

Other groups which emerged from völkisch Romanticism gradually became part of National Socialist ideology by the 1930s, known as ‘Blut und Boden’ (blood and soil).
As early as 1907, Richard Ungewitter published a pamphlet called ‘Nudity and Culture’ (which sold 100,000 copies), arguing that the practices he recommended would be:
the means by which the German race would regenerate itself and ultimately prevail over its neighbours and the diabolical Jews, who were intent on injecting putrefying agents into the nation’s blood and soil“.
The most significant of these Lebensreform movements was the Wandervogel.



Wandervogel is the name adopted by a popular movement of German youth groups from 1896 onward.
The name can be translated as rambling, hiking or wandering bird (differing in meaning from “Zugvogel” or migratory bird) and the ethos is to shake off the restrictions of society and get back to nature and freedom.
Soon the groups split and there originated ever more organisations, which still all called themselves Wandervogel, but were organisationally independent, nonetheless the feeling was still of being a common movement, but split into several branches.
The Wandervogel movement was officially established on 4 November 1901 by Herman Hoffmann Fölkersamb, who in 1895 had formed a study circle at the boys’ Berlin-Steglitz grammar school where he was teaching.

The Wandervogel soon became the pre-eminent German youth movement.
It was a back-to-nature youth organization emphasizing freedom, self-responsibility, and the spirit of adventure, and took a Völkish approach, stressing Germany’s mystical Teutonic roots.
After World War I, many of the leaders returned disillusioned from the war.
The same was true for leaders of German Scouting, so both movements started to influence each other heavily in Germany.


From the Wandervogel came a stronger culture of hiking, nacktkultur, (see below) – German naturism was part of the Lebensreform movement and the Wandervogel youth movement, which promoted ideas of fitness and vigour.
At the same time doctors of the Natural Healing Movement were using heliotherapy to treat diseases such as TB, rheumatism and scrofula with exposure to sunlight
During the National Socialist Gleichschaltung period, after Adolf Hitler came to power, nudism benefited from official recognition and sponsorship for its health benefits.
Nevertheless, all naturism clubs had to register with Kraft durch Freude.
The Wandervogel movement also encouraged adventure, Völkish mysticism, romanticism and a younger leadership structure.
Scouting brought uniforms, flags, more organization, more camps and a clearer ideology.
There was also an educationalist influence from Gustav Wyneken.
Together this led to the emergence of the Bündische Jugend.
The Wandervogel, German Scouting and the Bündische Jugend together are referred to as the German Youth Movement.

They had been around for more than a quarter of a century before National Socialists began to see an opportunity to adopt some methods and symbols of the German Youth Movement to use it in the Hitler-Jugend – (Hitler Youth).
This movement was very influential at that time.
Its members were romantic and prepared to sacrifice a lot for their ideals.
The philosopher Ludwig Klages profoundly influenced the youth movement, and particularly shaped their ecological consciousness.
He authored a tremendously important essay titled ‘Mensch und die Erde’ (Man and Earth) for the legendary Meissner gathering of the Wandervögel in 1913.
An extraordinarily poignant text and the best known of all Klages’ work, it is one of the very greatest manifestos of the radical ecology movement in Germany.
‘Mensch und die Erde’ anticipated just about all of the themes of the contemporary ecology movement.
It decried the accelerating extinction of species, disturbance of global ecosystemic balance, deforestation, destruction of wild habitats, urban sprawl, and the increasing alienation of people from nature.
In emphatic terms it disparaged Christianity, capitalism, economic utilitarianism, hyper-consumption and the ideology of ‘progress.’

Martin Heidegger

Another philosopher and stern critic of the ‘Enlightenment’, who helped bridge Völkisch ideology and environmentalism was Martin Heidegger.
A much more renowned thinker than Klages, Heidegger preached “authentic Being”, and harshly criticized modern technology, and is therefore often celebrated as a precursor of ecological thinking.
Heidegger’s critique of anthropocentric humanism, his call for humanity to learn to “let things be,” his notion that humanity is involved in a “play” or “dance” with earth, sky, and gods, his meditation on the possibility of an authentic mode of “dwelling” on the earth, his complaint that industrial technology is laying waste to the earth, his emphasis on the importance of local place and Heimat (homeland) his claim that humanity should guard and preserve things, instead of dominating them – all these aspects of Heidegger’s thought help to support the claim that he was a major ecological theorist.
Heidegger was an active member of the NSDAP party, and enthusiastically supported the Führer.
His mystical panegyrics to Heimat (homeland) were complemented by a deep anti-semitism, and his metaphysically phrased broadsides against technology and modernity converged neatly with populist thought.
Although he lived and taught for thirty years after the fall of the Third Reich, Heidegger never once publicly regretted, much less renounced, his involvement with National Socialism.

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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The nationalist youth movements, promoting right wing ideology, eventually became popular with the NSDAP and their supporters, including Heinrich Himmler, who belonged to the right-wing farming organization the ‘Artaman League’.

Artamanen Gesellschaft 

The Artamanen-Gesellschaft (Artaman League) was a German agrarian and völkisch movement dedicated to a ‘Blood and Soil’ inspired ruralism.
Active during the inter-war period, the League became closely linked to, and eventually absorbed by, the NSDAP
The term Artamanen had been coined before the First World War by Dr. Willibald Hentschel, a believer in racial purity, who had founded his own group, the ‘Mittgart Society’, in 1906.

Georg von Sluyterman Langeweyde

The term was a portmanteau word of art and manen, Middle High German words meaning ‘agriculture man’ and indicating Hentschell’s desire to see Germans retreat from the decadence of the city in order to return to an idyllic rural past.
The society itself was not formed until 1923, even though Willibald’s ideas were somewhat older.
The Artamans were part of the German Youth Movement, representing its more right-wing back-to-the-land elements.
Under the leadership of Georg Kenstler they advocated blood and soil policies with a strong undercurrent of Anti-Slavism.
This völkisch movement believed that the decline of the Aryan race could only be halted by encouraging people to abandon city life in favour of settling in the rural areas in the east.
Whilst members wished to perform agricultural labour as an alternative to military service they also saw it as part of their duty to violently oppose Slavs and to drive them out of Germany.

Adolf Wissel – Bauernfamilie

The concepts were combined in the figure of the Wehrbauer, or soldier-peasant.
As such the League sent German youth to work on the land in Saxony and East Prussia, in an attempt to prevent these areas being settled by Poles.
To this end 2000 settlers were sent to Saxony in 1924, to both work on farms and serve as an anti-Slav militia.
They also gave classes on importance of racial purity and the Nordic race, and the corrupting influence of city living and Jews.
Like many similar right-wing youth movements in Germany the Artaman League lost impetus as the NSDAP grew. By 1927, 80% of its membership had become National Socialists.
As such the League had disappeared by the early 1930s with most of its membership having switched to the NSDAP.
In the late 1920s, some of the Artamans were drawn deeper into politics, and engaged in a holy war against their enemies: liberals, democrats, Free-Masons and Jews.

Heinrich Himmler

Eventually many members of the Artaman League turned to National Socialism.
Heinrich Himmler was an early member and held the position of Gauführer in Bavaria.

 Richard Walther Darré 

Whilst a member of the League Himmler met Richard Walther Darré and the two struck up a close friendship, based largely on Darré’s highly developed ideological notions of ‘blood and soil’ to which Himmler was attracted.

Richard Walther Darré (born Ricardo Walther Oscar Darré; 14 July 1895 – 5 September 1953) was an SS-Obergruppenführer and one of the leading Nazi “blood and soil” (German: Blut und Boden) ideologists. He was appointed by Hitler as Reich Minister of Food and Agriculture. He served in that position from 1933 to 1942. Darré’s works were primarily concerned with the ancient and present Nordic peasantry (the ideology of ‘Blood and Soil’): within this context, he made an explicit attack against Christianity. In his two main works (Das Bauerntum als Lebensquell der Nordischen Rasse, Munich, 1927 and Neuadel aus Blut und Boden, Munich, 1930), Darré accused Christianity, with its “teaching of the equality of men before God,” of having “deprived the Teutonic nobility of its moral foundations”, the “innate sense of superiority over the nomadic tribes”.
Darré’s writings are an early example of “Green” or Conservationist thinking: he advocated more natural methods of land management, placing emphasis on the conservation of forests, and demanded more open-space and air in the raising of farm animals

Darré’s most important innovation was the introduction on a large scale of organic farming methods, significantly labeled “lebensgesetzliche Landbauweise” or farming according to the laws of life.
The impetus for these unprecedented measures came from Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy and its techniques of bio-dynamic cultivation.
The campaign to institutionalize organic farming encompassed tens of thousands of smallholdings and estates across Germany.
It was largely Darré’s influence in the Third Reich which yielded, in practice, a level of government support for ecologically sound farming methods and land use planning unmatched by any state before or since.
The Artaman vision would continue to have a profound effect on Himmler who, throughout his time as Reichsführer-SS, retained his early dreams of a racially pure peasantry.
The league was eventually dismantled, and incorporated into the Hitler Jugend in October 1934 as the Nationalist Socialist youth movement gained strength.

Later Developments

When other groups were being banned or disbanded due to political conflict during the 1930s, the nationalist ideology became connected with National Socialism.
The ‘German Life Reform League’ broke apart into political factions during this time.
The Nationalist physician Artur Fedor Fuchs began the ‘League for Free Body Culture ‘(FKK), giving public lectures on the healing powers of the sun in the “Nordic sky“, which “alone strengthened and healed the warrior nation“.
Ancient forest living, and habits presumed to have been followed by the ancient tribes of Germany, were beneficial to regenerating the Aryan people, according to Fuchs’ philosophy.
Han Sùren, a prominent former military officer, published ‘Man and the Sun’ (1924), which sold 240,000 copies; by 1941 it was reissued in 68 editions.
Sùren promoted the Aryan Master Race concept of physically strong, militarized men who would be the “salvation” of the German people.


In many parts of central Europe up until the 18th century, people bathed naked in rivers and lakes, although often separately by sex.
Beginning in the late 18th century, public nudity became increasingly taboo, though this never penetrated into sparsely-populated Scandinavia.
At the same time, Lord Monboddo (1714-1779) practiced and preached nude bathing as a revival of Ancient Greek attitudes toward nudity.
This found literary reference in Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s (1742-1799) book ‘Das Luftbad’.
In 1898 the first FKK club was founded in Essen.
In 1900 more and more Swedish baths arose in rooms in Berlin and on the North and Baltic seas.
A few years before there were mixed sex baths in many places, which, although requiring contemporary, modest bath clothes, were either forbidden or regarded as immoral.

Freikörperkultur – FKK

Behind the FKK movement lay an attitude towards life in which the naked body is not shameful. 
The nudity of FKK should not involve sexuality.
In this light, the need to be nude in the shower or sauna does not belong with Freikörperkultur, since it’s practically necessary.
In FKK, nudity has prior group consensus, and therefore demands no reserved zones, such as separate beaches or club areas.

Freikörperkultur – FKK

A while later, after the political liberalization, conservative circles tried to challenge the increasingly popular (especially among urban intellectuals) nude baths as a corruption of morality.
The first nude beach in Germany was established in 1920 on the island of Sylt.
In 1933 after the National Socialists came to power, nudist organizations were integrated into the NSDAP.
The first dissertation about the FKK movement was written in the 1930s.
Himmler and the SS supported Naturism.
The ‘Kampfring für völkische Freikörperkultur’, established in May 1933, was a National Socialist völkisch umbrella body for German Freikörperkultur nudist groups, which excluded Jews and communist nudist groups.

National Socialist Ecology

The National Socialist “religion of nature,” was a mixture of primeval teutonic nature mysticism, ecological ideology, anti-Enlightenment, and a philosophy of racial salvation through a return to the land.
Its predominant themes were ‘natural order,’ organicist holism and denigration of post industrial Humanism.
Throughout the writings, not only of Hitler, but of most Völkisch ideologues, one can discern a fundamental deprecation of humans vis-à-vis nature, and, as a logical corollary to this, an attack upon human efforts to over-master nature.
Many anthropocentric views in general had to be rejected.
They would be valid only ‘if it is assumed that nature has been created only for man. We decisively reject this attitude. According to our conception of nature, man is a link in the living chain of nature just as any other organism’.

Adolf Hitler

According to Hitler is was essential to ascertain “the eternal laws of nature’s processes” and organizing society to correspond to them.
In the National Socialist world view ecological themes were linked with traditional agrarian romanticism, and hostility to urban civilization, all revolving around the idea of rootedness in nature.
Hitler discussed, in detail, various renewable energy sources (including environmentally appropriate hydro-power and producing natural gas from sludge) as alternatives to coal, and declaring “water, winds and tides” as the energy path of the future.

Organisation Todt
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Fritz Todt

The two men principally responsible for sustaining this environmentalist commitment in the midst of intensive industrialization were Reichsminister Fritz Todt and his aide, the high-level planner and engineer Alwin Seifert, whom Todt had called a “fanatical ecologist.”
Todt was “one of the most influential National Socialists,” directly responsible for questions of technological and industrial policy.
At his death in 1942 he headed three different cabinet-level ministries in addition to the enormous quasi-official ‘Organisation Todt’, and had “gathered the major technical tasks of the Reich into his own hands.

Albert Speer

According to his successor, Albert Speer, Todt “loved Nature” and “repeatedly had serious run-ins with Bormann, protesting against his despoiling the landscape around Obersalzberg.” 
Another source calls him simply “an ecologist.”


This reputation is based chiefly on Todt’s efforts to make Autobahn construction – one of the largest building enterprises undertaken in this century – as environmentally sensitive as possible.
Todt demanded of the completed work of technology a harmony with Nature and with the landscape, thereby fulfilling modern ecological principles of engineering as well as the ‘organological’ principles of his own era along with their roots in völkisch ideology.


The ecological aspects of this approach to construction went well beyond an emphasis on harmonious adaptation to the natural surroundings for aesthetic reasons; Todt also established strict criteria for respecting wetlands, forests and ecologically sensitive areas.
But just as with Arndt, Riehl and Darré, these environmentalist concerns were inseparably bound to a völkisch-nationalist outlook.
Todt himself expressed this connection succinctly:
The fulfillment of mere transportation purposes is not the final aim of German highway construction. The German highway must be an expression of its surrounding landscape and an expression of the German essence.
Seifert, Todt’s aide, bore the official title of ‘Reich Fürsprecher für die Landschaft’.
The appellation was deserved; Seifert dreamed of a “total conversion from technology to nature,” and would often wax lyrical about the wonders of German nature, and the tragedy of “humankind’s” carelessness.
As early as 1934 he wrote to Heß demanding attention to water issues, and invoking “work methods that are more attuned to nature.”

Farming, ‘Independent of Capital’.

In discharging his official duties Seifert stressed the importance of wilderness, and energetically opposed monoculture, wetlands drainage and chemicalized agriculture.
He also “called for an agricultural revolution towards ‘a more peasant-like, natural, simple’ method of farming, ‘independent of capital’.
With the Third Reich’s technological policy entrusted to figures such as these, even the National Socialists’ massive industrial build-up took on a distinctively ecological quality.
The prominence of Nature in the party’s philosophical background helped ensure that more radical initiatives often received a sympathetic hearing in the highest offices of the National Socialist state.
In the mid-thirties Todt and Seifert vigorously pushed for an all-encompassing Reich Law for the protection of ‘die Erde’ “in order to stem the steady loss of this irreplaceable basis of all life.” Seifert reports that all of the ministries were prepared to co-operate save one; only the minister of the economy opposed the bill because of its impact on mining.

Rudolf Heß

It was, however, Rudolf Heß provided the ecologists of the NSDAP with support from the very top of the party hierarchy.
Heß was not only the highest party leader and second in line (after Göring) to succeed Hitler; in addition, all legislation and every decree had to pass through his office before becoming law.
An inveterate nature lover as well as a devout Steinerite, Heß insisted on a strictly bio-dynamic diet – not even Hitler’s rigorous vegetarian standards were good enough for him – and accepted only homeopathic medicines.

Walter Darré

It was Heß who introduced Darré to Hitler, thus securing the ecologists its first power base, and he was an even more tenacious proponent of organic farming than Darré.
With Heß’s enthusiastic backing, the “green wing” was able to achieve its most notable successes.
As early as March 1933, a wide array of environmentalist legislation was approved and implemented at national, regional and local levels.
These measures included the creation of nature preserves, and championed sustainable forestry, ordered the protection of hedgerows and other wildlife habitats, and designed the autobahn highway network as a way of bringing Germans closer to nature.
Also in 1933, the concerns of the NSDAP were not only laid with the people, but with the animals native to Germany.
In 1934, a national hunting law was passed to regulate how many animals could be killed per year, and to establish proper ‘hunting seasons’.
These hunting laws have now been applied in most western countries
This law was known as ‘Das Reichsjagdgesetz’, (Reich Hunting Law).
The Reichstag also footed the bill for education on animal conservation at Primary, Secondary and College levels.
Additionally, in 1935, another law was passed, the Reichsnaturschutzgesetz (Reich Nature Protection Act).
This law placed several native species on a protection list including the wolf, and Eurasian lynx. Additions were added later as to afforestation and the humane slaughter of living fish
Without this law it is likely some species would have completely disappeared from Germany’s forests.

Beauty of Labour’
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Several nationwide programs were initiated to benefit the ordinary German worker.
The first, ‘Beauty of Labour’, was created in 1934 to enhance the concept of a comfortable and pleasant workspace for the German worker.
In the following year this ordinance was followed up by a ‘Reich Nature Protection Law’ to ensure the worker could walk through parks in complete safety.
Also, laws were enacted to control air pollution.
Nothing could be more wrong than to suppose that most of the leading National Socialist ideologues had cynically feigned an agrarian romanticism and hostility to urban culture, without any inner conviction, and for merely electoral and propaganda purposes, in order to hoodwink the public.
In reality, the majority of the leading National Socialist ideologists were without any doubt more or less inclined to agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism, and convinced of the need for a relative re-agrarianization.
The ecologists of the NSDAP was not a group of innocents, confused and manipulated idealists, or reformers from within; they were conscious promoters and executors of a program dedicated to the conservation of nature in accordance with the eternal laws of nature’s processes.
It is frequently pointed out, however, that the agrarian and romantic currents in National Socialist ideology and policy were in supposed constant tension with, if not in flat contradiction to, the technocratic-industrialist thrust of the Third Reich’s rapid modernization.
What is not often remarked (what is, again intentionally suppressed) is that even these modernizing tendencies had a significant ecological component.
Industry was brought into balance with ‘natural law’.

click below for a full discussion and more images
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Hitler and Green Politics

Anti Smoking Poster

Adolf Hitler was so opposed to smoking in his later life that he couldn’t stand someone lighting up in the same room, and often felt obligated to object to it as a waste of money.
Thus, he began one of the most expensive and effective anti-tobacco movements in history.
While during the 1930s and 1940s, other anti-tobacco movements failed fantastically in other countries, it was taken seriously in the Third Reich
Smoking was banned in restaurants and public transportation systems, citing public health, and the government severely regulated the advertising of smoking and cigarettes.
There was also a high tobacco tax, and the supplies of cigarettes to the Wehrmacht were rationed.
Several health organizations in Nazi Germany even began claiming that smoking heightened the risks of miscarriages by pregnant women, now a commonly known fact
The statistics of annual cigarette consumption per capita as of 1940 had Germany at only 749, while Americans smoked over 3,000.
In 1939, the Nazi Party outlawed smoking in all of its offices premises, and Heinrich Himmler, the then chief of the Schutzstaffel (SS), restricted police personnel and SS officers from smoking while they were on duty.
Smoking was also outlawed in schools.
Hitler was convinced that Germany itself was overpopulated, over-industrialized, and running out of space and food, all of which was destroying the biological substance of the German people.

It would therefore be essential to push East in order to resolve this existential biological-environmental crisis., and this meant that, since the laws of Nature demanded the survival of the fittest species, there would have to be a massive displacement and de-population program.
Racial species, like the Aryans, must be protected from extinction, just as much as any animal, and a green, vegetarian diet was going to play a future role in this natural process.

Hitler and Blondi

As Hitler himself pointed out:

as regards the animals, the dog, who is carnivorous, cannot compare in performance with the horse, which is vegetarian. In the same way, the lion shows sign of fatigue after covering only two or three kilometers, while the camel marches for six and seven days before his tongue even begins to hang out.” 
.Not surprisingly perhaps, vegetarians and environmentalists have largely downplayed the historical record of the ‘green policies’ of the Third Reich.
Some have been quick to point out that Hitler supposedly cheated on occasion with ham, sausage, and seafood dishes.
Hitler was also occasionally inconsistent with regard to environmental preservationist values and practices, largely because of the need to place Germany on an all out war footing throughout the 1930’s in a vast arms build-up.
Hitler was also a fond of grand building projects, and was planning on exploiting the natural resources in the East as much as possible to win the war
Hitler, of course, attributed his vegetarianism to the famous German opera composer Richard Wagner, who provided a musical icon for the Third Reich.
Why, one might ask ?
Because Wagner preached a racist socialism (national socialism), based on vegetarianism that would cleanse Germany from the Jews.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas (or, as some of his later works were later known, “music dramas”). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama, and which was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (The Ring of the Nibelung).

Richard Wagner
Fidus (Hugo Höppener)

Wagner was both a revolutionary, and an anti-Semite, who hated the Jews for commercializing art.
Wagner, like many intellectuals of his time, had been interested in the writings of Charles Darwin, whose books Wagner read during the 1870’s.
The underlying ideas of ‘Parsifal‘, Wagner’s last opera – and Hitler’s favourite opera,  were those of social Darwinism.

Parsifal’  is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, a 13th-century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Perceval, the Story of the Grail, by Chrétien de Troyes’ (12 с.).
Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but did not finish it until twenty-five years later. It was to be Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882. The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not as an opera, but as “ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” (“A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”).

In Parsifal, the embattled community of the Grail had been alarmed to observe natural selection working against its distinctive Aryanism … here was the decisive racial crisis that grew into an uncompromising struggle for power.


The distress of Monsalvat that emerges during act one — and which has deepened by act three — of Wagner’s drama is a racial crisis.
So Hitler saw Parsifal in terms of racial crisis, homoeroticism and vegetarianism. 

Arthur Schopenhauer
More importantly is that Wagner was also an ardent student of the great German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation), in which he stated that our world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, ‘On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason’, which examined the four distinct aspects of experience in the phenomenal world; consequently, he has been influential in the history of phenomenology. He has influenced a long list of thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, Otto Weininger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, and Thomas Mann.

Schopenhauer blamed the Jews for animal cruelty, since Genesis 1 unabashedly teaches that man was made in God’s image, and hence commissioned to rule over nature,
the fault lies with the Jewish view that regards animals as something manufactured for man’s use.” Schopenhauer, perhaps the original animal rights guru of Europe, was appalled by the fact that John the Baptist wore animal skins.
And Schopenhauer was also Hitler’s favourite philosopher – with Nietzsche coming a close second.

Richard Wagner
Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach
Ernst Haeckel

Wagner was also an avid reader of Ernst Haeckel’s Social Darwinian ecology that was extremely popular in Germany in the latter half of the 1800’s.

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (February 16, 1834 – August 9, 1919), was a German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many terms in biology, including anthropogeny, ecology, phylum, phylogeny, stem cell, and the kingdom Protista. Haeckel promoted and popularized Charles Darwin’s work in Germany and developed the controversial recapitulation theory (“ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”) claiming that an individual organism’s biological development, or ontogeny, parallels and summarizes its species’ evolutionary development, or phylogeny.

While Hitler eschewed some of Haeckel’s political views, his Germanic Social Darwinism would become the scientific foundation upon which National Socialist racial theory was built.

Dietrich Eckart
Moreover, Schopenhauer and Haeckel were also enthusiastically read by Hitler’s spiritual father, Dietrich Eckart.

Dietrich Eckart was a central figure in the early days of the Nazi Party. Eckart was a wealthy nationalistic poet who was frequently seen at the side of Adolf Hitler before his death in 1923. Hitler referred to Eckart as his “North Star” and that his value to the National Socialist cause was “inestimable”

Thus, Wagner’s strong interest in both of these avant-garde German scholars would all but guarantee that, in spite of Hitler’s occasional inconsistency on green socialist issues, environmental themes would still play an important role in National Socialism.
Hitler himself asserted that:
That the first noteworthy political accomplishment of National Socialism was the 1933 passage of an animal rights law should thus come as no surprise.
As a part of the law, Jewish ritual slaughter related to Passover was henceforth forbidden.
This was certainly the Romantic fruit of Schopenhauer’s prophetic thesis in the 1800’s that Europe owes: 

Shechita – שחיטה

the animals not mercy but justice, and the debt often remains unpaid in Europe, the continent that is permeated with the odor of the Jews … it is obviously high time in Europe that Jewish views on nature were brought to an end … the unconscionable treatment of the animal world must, on account of their immorality, be expelled from Europe !

And it is interesting to note how literally Hitler took this ‘prophecy’ to heart.

The Hebrew term shechita (שחיטה‎), also transliterated shehitah, shechitah, shehita, is the ritual slaughter of mammals and birds for food according to Jewish dietary laws (Deut. 12:21, Deut. 14:21, Num. 11:22) The animal must be killed by a shochet (שוחט‎, “ritual slaughterer”), a religious Jew. The act is performed by severing the trachea, esophagus, carotid arteries, jugular veins and vagus nerve in a swift action using an extremely sharp blade (“chalef”). This results in a rapid drop in blood pressure in the brain and loss of consciousness. According to Jewish religious sources, the animal is now insensible to pain and exsanguinates in a prompt and precise action. The animal can be in a number of positions; when the animal is lying on its back, this is referred to as shechita munachat; in a standing position it is known as shechita me’umedet. Before slaughtering, the animal must be healthy, uninjured, and viable.

‘Der ewige Jude’ – The Eternal Jew

In fact, in the documentary film “The Eternal Jew”, the Jewish ritual slaughter of cattle and sheep was graphically shown right at the climax of the film to heighten its effect.

Neither does it fail to mention that the Mosaic Law has “no love or respect for animals in the Germanic sense.
The documentary film then finally reveals Hitler for the first time, and lauds his efforts on the passage of Nazi animal rights legislation. 

‘Der ewige Jude’ The Eternal Jew (1940) is a German documentary film, presented. The film’s title is the German term for the character of the “Wandering Jew” in medieval folklore. The film was directed by Fritz Hippler. The screenplay is credited to Eberhard Taubert. The film consists of feature and documentary footage combined with materials filmed shortly after the Nazi occupation of Poland. The film was in production for over a year. Throughout the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, Goebbels devoted “constant attention” to the film.  The basic tenet of the film is that “the Jew is an oriental barbarian who has insinuated himself cleverly into European society, and now exploits it parasitically.
The public distribution and exhibition of the film is prohibited in Germany; the only exception is for use in college classrooms and other academic purposes; however, exhibitors must have formal education in “media science and the history of the Holocaust.” In addition, only a specially annotated version may be screened. Elsewhere, it is generally legal. It is free to view and download, and can be seen on YouTube in both subtitled and dubbed versions.

In this context it should be remembered that 
To many National Socialists, the great sin of modern international civilization, which was characterized as Jewish Bolshevism in the East and Jewish Capitalism in the West, was its incessant concern in trying to overcome nature according to Judeo-Christian values
The fact of the matter is that Völkisch ideologues adopted a literal reading of the concept of ‘Nature’.
More than a few of these ideologues characterized National Socialism as “politically applied biology.”
Since biology is a part of ecology, what the Völkisch ideologues meant with regard to ‘politically applied biology’ was that nature was to have primacy over politics and the economy.
Biology and ecology were thus everywhere applied socially and politically.
To many National Socialists, the great sin of modern international civilization, which was characterized as Jewish Bolshevism in the East and Jewish Capitalism in the West, was its incessant concern in trying to overcome nature according to Judeo-Christian values.
Such an endeavour Hitler called “Jewish nonsense.”
In the eyes of the National Socialists, this self defeating effort would finally come to an end through National Socialism.
Indeed, Germany’s eugenic survival depended upon the success of the indigenous Aryan instinct to ‘authentically’ counteract the Judeo-Christian international rebellion against Nature and her Social Darwinian laws.
The National Socialists were thus determined to usher in a new world order based on the literal application of Nature’s Social Darwinian laws to social and political life.

Richard Walther Darré
SS Runes

Hence, in a similar, but significantly more profound manner that the Marxists, who envisaged a secular eschaton of a socialistic utopia at the end of history based on the literal socio-economic conditions on the ground, so the National Socialists countered with the much heralded 1,000 year Reich based on literal biology and ecology, which Himmler’s SS especially took to heart with their doctrine of “Blood and Soil”, derived form Richard Walther Darré.

German blood and German soil were principles that according to Nature’s Social Darwinian laws of life, must be adhered to if the Third Reich was to achieve the eschaton.
While the Marxists, however, viewed the eschaton as more open ended, National Socialists viewed the 1,000 year Reich as the perfect means of denying the idea of the 1,000 year Judeo-Christian Millennium predicted in the book of Revelation.
Both the Marxists and National Socialists thus extracted from the Judeo-Christian world-view its apocalyptic view of history, yet discarded its sacred and supernatural framework for the latest political and social-scientific-evolutionary discoveries of the times.
In short, the Marxists believed that the eschaton would be realized through the socio-economic dialectical conflict between the capitalists and the proletariat. 

The Soviet Eschaton is the ‘withering away of the state’ – a concept of Marxism, coined by Friedrich Engels, and referring to the idea that the social institution of a state will eventually become obsolete and disappear, as the society will be able to govern itself without the state and its coercive enforcement of the law. Although Engels first introduced the idea of the withering of the state, he attributed the underlying concept to Karl Marx; other Marxist theorists – including Vladimir Lenin – would later expand on it. According to this concept a communist society will eventually require no coercion to force individuals to behave in a way that benefits the society. Such a society would occur after a temporary period of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This scenario depended on Marx’s view of coercive power as a tool of those who own the means of production, i.e. certain social classes (the bourgeoisie) and the capitalist state. In a communist society the social classes would disappear and the means of production would have no single owner; hence, such a stateless society will no longer require law, and stateless communism, a communist utopia, will develop.


The National Socialists believed that the Aryan Millenium would come about through the application of proper biological eugenics.
The process would take an immense period of time, as the Master Race would slowly be  created as the pinnacle of biological evolution precisely because it was most in tune with the laws of Nature.
But this would not be the final result.
Although Hitler never spoke about the final process in detail, he indicated that the ‘herrenvolk’ would form the grundlagen for the coming Übermensch.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

‘It is my ultimate aim to perform an act of creation, a divine operation,
the goal of a biological mutation which will result in an unprecedented exaltation of the human race and the appearance of a new race of heroes, demi-gods and god-men.
My party comrades have no conception of the dreams that haunt my mind, or of the grandiose edifice of which the foundations, (grundlagen) at least, will have been laid before I die. 
The world has reached a turning point, and will undergo an upheaval which the uninitiated cannot understand.’

Adolf Hitler

Nietzsche und die deutsche Politik

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
In the halls of orthodox academia, his reputation precedes him.
His name is Friedrich Nietzsche.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

Enraptured by his vitriolic hatred for Christianity and enshrinement of moral anarchism, academia has consistently defended Friedrich Nietzsche as one of history’s “misunderstood” philosophers.
Cribbing from the standard litany of apologetics, many argue that Adolf Hitler somehow “misrepresented” or “distorted” Nietzsche’s ideas.
Is this genuinely the case ?
Of course, during their migration from abstraction to tangible enactment, ideas can become contaminated by any number of factors.
To be sure, internal contention among adherents, the personal idiosyncrasies of individual analysts, and the manifestly unpredictable nature of reality itself makes an idea’s journey towards tangible enactment very problematic.
Yet, was Nietzscheism’s journey toward tangible enactment so bastardized by Hitler that it was virtually unrecognizable ?
Was National Socialism nothing like the concepts that Nietzsche had in the mind ?
Again, only an examination of the delicate segues between abstraction and tangible enactment can answer this question.

Hitler und Frau Förster-Nietzsche – Wiemar

In ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’, William Shirer recounts Hitler’s frequent visits to the Nietzsche Archive in Weimar, and his meetings with Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846 – November 8, 1935), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894. Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother.

Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche
Nietzsche-Archiv in Weimar

Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen. The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years. Friedrich Nietzsche’s mental collapse occurred in 1889 (he died in 1900), and upon Elisabeth’s return in 1893 she found him an invalid whose published writings were beginning to be read and discussed throughout Europe.

Nietzsche und seine Schwester

Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche took a leading role in promoting her brother, especially through the publication of a collection of Nietzsche’s writings under the title ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (The Will to Power). In 1930, Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche, became a member of the NSDAP. After Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nietzsche Archive received financial support and publicity from the government, in return for which Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche bestowed her brother’s considerable prestige on the régime.

Admittedly, Hitler was enthralled by the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer – to the extent that he carried a copy of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation) in his backpack throughout his sojurn in the trenches in the Great War – and undoubtedly Schopenhauer was a precursor to Nietzsche.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’. His faith in “transcendental ideality” led him to accept atheism.

Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung
‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ is the central work of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The first edition was published in December 1818, and the second expanded edition in 1844. In 1948, an abridged version was edited by Thomas Mann.
Schopenhauer used the word “will” as a human’s most familiar designation for the concept that can also be signified by other words such as “desire,” “striving,” “wanting,” “effort,” and “urging.” Schopenhauer’s philosophy holds that all nature, including man, is the expression of an insatiable will to life. It is through the will that mankind finds all their suffering. Desire for more is what causes this suffering.
For Nietzsche, the reading of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ aroused his interest in philosophy. Although he despised especially Schopenhauer’s ideas on compassion, Nietzsche would admit that Schopenhauer was one of the few thinkers that he respected, lauding him in his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ (Schopenhauer as Educator 1874), one of his ‘Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen’ (Untimely Meditations).
Commenting on Hitler’s veneration for Nietzsche, Shirer writes:
William Shirer

There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung.

Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman – and in the most telling aphorisms ?

William Lawrence Shirer (February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993) was an American journalist, war correspondent, and historian, who wrote ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’, a history of the Third Reich that has been read by many, and cited in scholarly works for more than 50 years.
‘Magnificent Blonde Brute’

Indeed, the commonalities are numerous.

Perhaps the most interesting of these was Nietzsche’s adoration for “the magnificent blonde brute, avidly rampant for spoil and victory“.
While Nietzsche also referred to the “masters” (i.e., noble men, rulers, etc.) as “blond beasts,” this “blond brute” was something different.
He was Nietzsche’s superman, the ‘Übermensch’.
Of course, many apologists for Nietzsche argue that the criterion for defining the ‘Übermensch‘ was neither racial nor hereditary, however, Nietzsche frequently espoused eugenic concepts, suggesting that he did invest significant value in race and hereditary.
For instance, consider the following social mandate set forth by Nietzsche:
Society as the trustee of life is responsible to life for every botched life that comes into existence; and as it has to atone for such lives, it ought consequently to make it impossible for them ever to see the light of day: it should in many cases actually prevent the act of procreation, and may, without any regard for rank, descent, or intellect, hold in readiness the most rigorous forms of compulsion and restriction, and, under certain circumstances, have recourse to castration … ‘Thou shalt do no murder,’ is a piece of ingenuous puerility compared with ‘Thou shalt not beget!!!’ … The unhealthy must at all costs be eliminated, lest the whole fall to pieces.”
Automatically, the astute reader will recognize the traditional themes of eugenics: Malthusian demands for the prohibition of procreation among certain populations.

Thomas Robert Malthus

Thomas Robert Malthus (13 February 1766 – 23 December 1834) was a British cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography. Malthus became widely known for his theories about change in population. His ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’ observed that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease. He wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible. He thought that the dangers of population growth precluded progress towards a utopian society: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man“.

Nietzsche asserts that eugenical regimentation should be implemented with no regard for “rank, descent, or intellect“, and he insists that there is an “unhealthy” population that “must at all costs be eliminated“.
Undoubtedly Nietzsche fear that such “dysgenics” would interbreed with those of healthier stock. Remember, Nietzsche’s remarks are made in conjunction with procreation, inferring that he believes in a definite connection between hereditary and the “unhealthy.”
Moreover, Nietzsche’s bestowal of primacy upon the social “whole” shows his collectivist, or völkisch concerns.
Hitler shared such ideas, as is evidenced by his virtual deification of the collective in ‘Mein Kampf‘:
The sacrifice of personal existence is necessary to secure the preservation of the species“.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

While Fascism and National Socialism are only superficially similar, Fascism is a derivation of the Italian word fascio, which is translated as “bundle” or “group.”

National Socialism (a racialist variant of fascism) is derivative, in some respects, of such ideas.
Nietzschean concept of the “human herd” therefore is a societal paradigm that subordinates the individual to the collective.
Nietzschean philosophy comprises an ideational continuum binding Hitler, Socialism and nationalism together.
It is, however, paradoxical that Nietzsche harshly criticized socialism.
Yet, his ideas harmonized well with Socialism, whether disseminated on the popular level, or in a more complex and rarefied level in völkisch ideology.

Benito Mussolini

Interestingly, Mussolini, who was responsible for Fascism in Italy, read Nietzsche extensively.

In 1938, Hitler bequeathed a copy of Nietzsche’s ‘Collected Works’ to Mussolini on the Brenner Pass. Although socialism clearly was not the apple of Nietzsche’s eye, its inherent collectivism synchronized very well with the doctrine of the “human herd.”
In addition to the continuity of political and social thought that pervaded völkisch socialism, Nietzsche also provided a religious component.
The infamous declaration, “God is dead,” is but a segue for the introduction of a ‘new god’.
This god has had numerous manifestations, as is evidenced by the following delineation by W. Warren Wagar:
‘Nineteenth-and early twentieth-century thought teems with time-bound emergent deities. Scores of thinkers preached some sort of faith in what is potential in time, in place of the traditional Christian and mystical faith in a power outside of time.
Hegel’s ‘Weltgeist’, Comte’s ‘Humanite’, Spencer’s ‘organismic humanity’ inevitably improving itself by the laws of evolution, Nietzsche’s doctrine of ‘superhumanity’, the conception of a finite God given currency by J.S. Mill, Hastings Rashdall, and William James, the ‘vitalism’ of Bergson and Shaw, the ’emergent evolutionism’ of Samuel Alexander and Lloyd Morgan, the theories of ‘divine immanence’ in the liberal movement in Protestant theology, – all are exhibits in evidence of the influence chiefly of evolutionary thinking, both before and after Darwin, in Western intellectual history.
The faith of progress itself – especially the idea of progress as built into the evolutionary scheme of things- is in every way the psychological equivalent of religion.’

Walter Warren Wagar 

Walter Warren Wagar (June 5, 1932 Baltimore, Maryland – November 16, 2004 Vestal, New York), better known as W. Warren Wagar, was an American historian and futures studies scholar.

Nietzsche’s Ubermensch was but one more link in this ideational chain.
The thematic continuity is a religious faith in humanity’s evolutionary ascent towards apotheosis.
This is by no means new.
This doctrine of transformationism dates back nearly 6,000 years, finding its crucible in Mesopotamia.
It was the religious doctrine promulgated by the ancient Babylonian, Egyptian and Hellenistic Mystery cults.
Masonic scholar W L Wilmshurst verifies this contention: “This – the evolution of man into superman – was always the purpose of the ancient Mysteries“.

Walter Leslie Wilmshurst

Walter Leslie Wilmshurst (22 June 1867 – 10 July 1939) was an English author and Freemason. He published four books on English Freemasonry and submitted articles to The Occult Review magazine.

It comes as little surprise that Nietzsche viewed the gods of the Bacchic and Dionysian Mysteries so favorably.
They embodied his religious faith in humanity’s emergent deity.
Likewise, Hitler adhered to the religion of ‘apotheosized man’.
Hermann Rauschning

In Hitler Speaks, Hermann Rauschning quotes Hitler as having declared:

In his coming kingdom of deified humanity, the Führer envisioned a system where the “god-man” justifiably ruled the “mass of lower humanity”.
This was in many ways derivative of Nietzsche’s racialist vision for the future.
In ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (The Will to Power), Nietzsche declares:
A daring and ruling race is building itself up… The aim should be to prepare a transvaluation of values for this new man, – most highly gifted in intellect and will. This man – and the elite around him will become the ‘lords of the earth‘”.
Again, Nietzsche is speaking about a specific ‘rasse’ race.
The racialist context is obvious and incontrovertible.
Of course, Nietzsche’s prophecy would become central to Hitler’s ultimate objectives.
Shirer writes:
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Such ideas from one of Germany’s most original minds must have struck a responsive chord in Hitler’s mind. At any rate he adopted them for his own. “Lords of the Earth” is a familiar expression in ‘Mein Kampf’.

Nietzsche’s apologists argue that the philosopher’s anti-nationalism was irreconcilable with National Socialism‘s fervent nationalist rhetoric.
Indeed, Nietzsche “even toyed with the idea of European union and world government“.
Yet, so did Hitler !
In fact, Hitler confessed that his ostensible nationalism was but the means to just such an end:
“I had to encourage ‘national’ feelings for reasons of expediency; but I was already aware that the ‘nation’ idea could only have a temporary value. The day will come when even here in Germany when what is known as ‘nationalism’ will practically have ceased to exist. What will take its place in the world will be a universal society of masters and overlords.”
So Adolf Hitler was, in actuality, an internationalist and a globalist.
Hitler was only taking Nietzsche’s philosophy to its logical conclusion: a world oligarchy governed by a supranational Aryan elite.
Nietzsche was an elitist and his aristocracy was the ‘Übermensch‘, which represented the pinnacle of evolution.
Gnostic Scrolls

At this evolutionary plateau, the ‘Übermensch’ would “overcome” his own humanity.

For both Nietzsche and Hitler, this post-human condition represented godhood.
Inherent in this belief are Nietzsche’s Gnostic tendencies.
The triumph of the ‘Übermensch‘ over humanity reiterates the Gnostic theme of man as a higher being fettered by a corporeal prison (i.e., the body).
Nietzsche’s own version of Gnosis (revelatory experience) is the “transvaluation of values,” and the enthronement of self as the final moral authority.
In a Gnostic context, Nietzsche’s concept of  self-deification is analogous to the transformation of man’s sensate being.
In a Nietzschean context, Gnosticism‘s ” immanentized eschaton” becomes the governance of the “lords of the earth.
Not surprisingly, Hitler shared Nietzsche’s Gnostic views

Das Kloster von Lambach
Lambach Hakenkreuz

No doubt, these inclinations were related to  Hitler’s attendance at Benedictine Abby in Lambach.

Adorned by the occult symbol of the swastika, the Abby was little more than a Gnostic Mystery school.
The average German who was not initiated into esoteric culture was incapable of recognizing the semiotic Gnosticism that pervaded the Abby.
Lanz von Liebenfels

In addition, of course, there is Hitler’s own reading of Liebenfel’s Ostara, and his involvement in the Thule Gesellschaft.

The Third Reich, therefore, represented an attempt to “immanentize the eschaton“, and tangibly enact Nietzsche’s own Gnostic realm of the Übermensch.
Shirer, like many scholars, claims that Nietzsche was never an anti-Semite.
Yet, Nietzsche considered Christianity as inextricably linked with Judaism, and derisively called the Jews a “nation of priests“.
Nietzsche’s hatred for the so-called “priestly caste” is well-known, – a historical fact evidenced by his own writings.

Nietzsche und Hitler
Thule Gesellschaft
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

This is highly suspicious, to say the least.

If Nietzsche were not an anti-Semite, he certainly did very little to prevent his work from being interpreted as such.
Replete with bitter rebukes and accusations leveled directly at the Jewish people, it would be extremely easy for an anti-Semite to find all the justification needed for his beliefs.
It is time for Nietzsche enthusiasts to acknowledge the parallels between their idol and the development of völkisch ideology.
For some, Nietzsche shall remain a “misunderstood” and “distorted” philosopher.
For those who recognize the ideational continuity between Nietzsche and Hitler, Nietzsche can be seen a significant and welcome precursor of the völkisch philosophy of the Third Reich.

click below for a full biography, more images and resumes of Nietzsche’s major works
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Deutsch Philosophie – German Philosophy

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

‘Die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug.’

(The owl of Minerva first begins her flight with the onset of dusk.)
German philosophy is undoubtedly the most influential of all philosophical traditions.
Immanuel Kant

In 1781, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) published his ‘Kritik der reinen Vernunft’ (Critique of Pure Reason), in which he attempted to determine what we can and cannot know through the use of reason independent of all experience.

Briefly, he came to the conclusion that we could come to know an external world through experience, but that what we could know about it was limited by the limited terms in which the mind can think: for example – if we can only comprehend things in terms of cause and effect, then we can only know causes and effects.
It follows from this that we can know the form of all possible experience independent of all experience, but nothing else, but we can never know the world from the “standpoint of nowhere” and therefore we can never know the world in its entirety, neither via reason nor experience.
Since the publication of his ‘Critique’, Immanuel Kant has been considered one of the greatest influences in all of western philosophy. In the late 18th and early 19th century, one direct line of influence from Kant is ‘Deutsch Idealismus’ (German Idealism).

Deutsch Idealismus

Friedrich Schelling
Johann Gottlieb Fichte

German idealism is a speculative philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

It reacted against Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and was closely linked with both ‘Romantik’ (Romanticism) and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment.
The best-known thinkers in the movement were Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, while Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Gottlob Ernst Schulze, Karl Leonhard Reinhold, and Friedrich Schleiermacher were also major contributors.

The word “idealism” has more than one meaning.
The philosophical meaning of idealism here is that the properties we discover in objects depend on the way that those objects appear to us as perceiving subjects, and not something they possess “in themselves“, apart from our experience of them.
The very notion of a ‘Ding an sich’ – (thing in itself) should be understood as an option of a set of functions for an operating mind, such that we consider something that appears without respect to the specific manner in which it appears.
The question of what properties a thing might have “independently of the mind” is thus incoherent for Idealism.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Kant’s work purported to bridge the two dominant philosophical schools in the 18th century: 1) rationalism, which held that knowledge could be attained by reason alone ‘a priori’ (prior to experience), and 2) empiricism, which held that knowledge could be arrived at only through the senses ‘a posteriori‘ (after experience).

Kant’s solution was to propose that while we could know particular facts about the world only via sensory experience, we could know the form they must take prior to any experience.

That is, we cannot know what objects we will encounter, but we can know how we will encounter them.

Kant called his mode of philosophising ‘kritischen Philosophie’ – (critical philosophy), in that it is less concerned with setting out positive doctrine than with critiquing the limits to the theories we can set out.

The conclusion he presented, as above, he called transzendentalen Idealismus’ – (transcendental idealism).

This distinguished it from earlier “idealism“, such as George Berkeley’s, which held that external objects have actual being or real existence only when they are perceived by an observer.
Kant said that there are ‘Dinge an sich selbst’ (things-in-themselves), – ‘noumena‘, – that is, things that exist other than being merely sensations and ideas in our minds.
Kant held in the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ that the world of appearances (phenomena) is empirically real and transcendentally ideal.
The mind plays a central role in influencing the way that the world is experienced: we perceive phenomena through time, space and the categories of the understanding.
It is this notion that was taken to heart by Kant’s philosophical successors.

Arthur Schopenhauer

At the other end of the movement, Arthur Schopenhauer, however, considered himself to be a ‘transzendentale Idealist’ (transcendental idealist).

In his major work ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation) he discusses his indebtedness to Kant, and the work includes Schopenhauer’s extensive analysis of the ‘Critique’.
The ‘Junghegelianer’ (Young Hegelians), a number of philosophers who developed Hegel’s work in various directions, were in some cases idealists.
Kant’s transcendental idealism consisted of taking a point of view outside of and above oneself (transcendentally), and understanding that the mind directly knows only phenomena or ideas. Whatever exists other than mental phenomena, or ideas that appear to the mind, is a ‘Ding an sich’ (thing-in-itself), and cannot be directly and immediately known.
Kant had criticized pure reason.
He wanted to restrict reasoning, judging, and speaking only to objects of possible experience. The main German Idealists reacted against Kant’s stringent limits.


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was undoubtedly one of the most influential of  German philosophers, and a major figure in German Idealism.
His historicist and idealist account of reality revolutionized German and European philosophy.
Hegel developed a comprehensive philosophical framework, or “system”, of Absolute Idealism to account in an integrated and developmental way for the relation of mind and nature, the subject and object of knowledge, psychology, the state, history, art, religion, and philosophy. In particular, he developed the concept that mind or spirit manifested itself in a set of contradictions and oppositions that it ultimately integrated and united, without eliminating either pole or reducing one to the other.
Examples of such contradictions include those between nature and freedom, and between immanence and transcendence.
Hegel influenced writers of widely varying positions, including both his admirers (Strauss, Bauer, Feuerbach, T. H. Green, Baur, F. H. Bradley, Croce) and his detractors (Schopenhauer, Herbart, Schelling,  Stirner and  Nietzsche).
His influential conceptions are of speculative logic or “dialectic“, “absolute idealism“, “Spirit“, negativity, sublation (Aufhebung in German), the “Master/Slave” dialectic, “ethical life” and the importance of history.


Hegel’s Birthplace

Hegel was born on August 27, 1770 in Stuttgart, in the Duchy Württemberg in southwestern Germany.

Christened Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, he was known as Wilhelm to his close family.
His father, Georg Ludwig, was Rentkammersekretär (secretary to the revenue office) at the court of Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg.
Hegel’s mother, Maria Magdalena Louisa (née Fromm), was the daughter of a lawyer at the High Court of Justice at the Württemberg court. 
She died of a “bilious fever” (Gallenfieber) when Hegel was thirteen.
Hegel and his father also caught the disease but narrowly survived.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock

Hegel had a sister, Christiane Luise (1773–1832), and a brother, Georg Ludwig (1776–1812), who was to perish as an officer in Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812.

At age three Hegel went to the “German School”.
When he entered the “Latin School” aged five, he already knew the first declension, having been taught it by his mother.
In 1776 Hegel entered Stuttgart’s Gymnasium Illustre.
During his adolescence Hegel read voraciously, copying lengthy extracts in his diary.
Authors he read include the poet Klopstock and writers associated with the Enlightenment such as Christian Garve and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.

Tübingen (1788-93)

Tübinger Stift
At the age of eighteen Hegel entered the Tübinger Stift (a Protestant seminary attached to the University of Tübingen), where two fellow students were to become vital to his development—his exact contemporary, the poet Friedrich Hölderlin, and the younger philosopher-to-be Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (27 January 1775 – 20 August 1854), later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German Idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor in his early years, and Hegel, his former university roommate, early friend, and later rival. Interpreting Schelling’s philosophy is regarded as difficult because of its apparently ever-changing nature.
Schelling’s thought in the large has been neglected, especially in the English-speaking world, as has been his later work on mythology and revelation, much of which remains untranslated. An important factor was the ascendancy of Hegel, whose mature works portray Schelling as a mere footnote in the development of idealism. Schelling’s ‘Naturphilosophie‘ also has been attacked by scientists for its analogizing tendency and lack of empirical orientation.

Sharing a dislike for what they regarded as the restrictive environment of the Seminary, the three became close friends and mutually influenced each other’s ideas.
They watched the unfolding of the French Revolution with shared enthusiasm.
Schelling and Hölderlin immersed themselves in theoretical debates on Kantian philosophy, from which Hegel remained aloof.
Hegel at this time envisaged his future as that of a Popularphilosoph, i.e., a “man of letters” who serves to make the abstruse ideas of philosophers accessible to a wider public; his own felt need to engage critically with the central ideas of Kantianism did not come until 1800.

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (20 March 1770 – 7 June 1843) was a major German lyric poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his seminary roommates and fellow Swabians Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.

The poetry of Hölderlin, widely recognized today as one of the highest points of German literature, was little known or understood during his lifetime, and slipped into obscurity shortly after his death; his illness and reclusion made him fade from his contemporaries’ consciousness – and, even though selections of his work were published by his friends during his lifetime, it was largely ignored for the rest of the 19th century.

‘Hyperions Schicksalslied’
Like Goethe and Schiller, his older contemporaries, Hölderlin was a fervent admirer of ancient Greek culture, but his understanding of it was very personal. Much later, Friedrich Nietzsche would recognize in him the poet who first acknowledged the Orphic and Dionysian Greece of the mysteries. For Hölderlin, the Greek gods were not the plaster figures of conventional classicism, but living, actual presences, wonderfully life-giving though, at the same time, terrifying. He understood and sympathized with the Greek idea of the tragic fall, which he expressed movingly in the last stanza of his “Hyperions Schicksalslied” (“Hyperion’s Song of Destiny“).
The emotional upheaval caused by the end of the impossible liaison had a detrimental effect on his health. In 1800, after his disillusionment with philosophy that led him to abandon any plans to find an academic position, he spent a year recovering in Switzerland and decided to devote the rest of his life to writing poetry. In 1802, his condition worsened although treatment enabled him to continue writing at intervals while working as a librarian in Homburg until 1807 when he became insane (though harmless). 

Bern (1793–96) and Frankfurt (1797–1801)

Having received his theological certificate (Konsistorialexamen) from the Tübingen Seminary, Hegel became Hofmeister (house tutor) to an aristocratic family in Bern (1793–96).
His relations with his employers becoming strained, Hegel accepted an offer mediated by Hölderlin to take up a similar position with a wine merchant’s family in Frankfurt, where he moved in 1797.
Here Hölderlin exerted an important influence on Hegel’s thought.
While in Frankfurt Hegel composed the essay “Fragments on Religion and Love”.

Jena, Bamberg and Nuremberg: 1801–1816

In 1801 Hegel came to Jena with the encouragement of his old friend Schelling, who held the position of Extraordinary Professor at the University there.
Hegel secured a position at the University as a Privatdozent (unsalaried lecturer) after submitting a Habilitationsschrift (dissertation) on the orbits of the planets.
Later in the year Hegel’s first book, ‘The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s Systems of Philosophy’, appeared.
He lectured on “Logic and Metaphysics” and, with Schelling, gave joint lectures on an “Introduction to the Idea and Limits of True Philosophy” and held a “Philosophical Disputorium”. In 1802 Schelling and Hegel founded a journal, the ‘Kritische Journal der Philosophie’ (“Critical Journal of Philosophy”) to which they each contributed pieces until the collaboration was ended by Schelling’s departure for Würzburg in 1803.
In 1805 the University promoted Hegel to the position of Extraordinary Professor (unsalaried), after Hegel wrote a letter to the poet and minister of culture Johann Wolfgang von Goethe protesting at the promotion of his philosophical adversary Jakob Friedrich Fries ahead of him.

Battle of Jena – 1806
Hegel attempted to enlist the help of the poet and translator Johann Heinrich Voß to obtain a post at the newly renascent University of Heidelberg, but failed; to his chagrin, Fries was later in the same year made Ordinary Professor (salaried) there.
His finances drying up quickly, Hegel was now under great pressure to deliver his book, the long-promised introduction to his System.
Hegel was putting the finishing touches to this book, the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’, as Napoleon engaged Prussian troops on October 14, 1806, in the Battle of Jena on a plateau outside the city.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Hegel and Napoleon – Jena 1806

On the day before the battle, Napoleon entered the city of Jena.

Hegel recounted his impressions in a letter to his friend Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer:
I saw the Emperor – this world-soul – riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it . . . this extraordinary man, whom it is impossible not to admire.’

Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter stages of the French Revolution and its associated wars in Europe.
As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815. His legal reform, the ‘Napoleonic Code’, has been a major influence on many civil law jurisdictions worldwide, but he is best remembered for his role in the wars led against France by a series of coalitions, the so-called ‘Napoleonic Wars’. He established hegemony over most of continental Europe and sought to spread the ideals of the French Revolution, while consolidating an imperial monarchy which restored aspects of the deposed ‘Ancien Régime’. Due to his success in these wars, often against numerically superior enemies, he is generally regarded as one of the greatest military commanders of all time, and his campaigns are studied at military academies worldwide.

Although Napoleon chose not to close down Jena as he had other universities, the city was devastated and students deserted the university in droves, making Hegel’s financial prospects even worse.
The following February Hegel’s landlady Christiana Burkhardt (who had been abandoned by her husband) gave birth to their son Georg Ludwig Friedrich Fischer (1807–31).
In March 1807, aged 37, Hegel moved to Bamberg, where Niethammer had declined and passed on to Hegel an offer to become editor of a newspaper, the ‘Bamberger Zeitung‘.
Hegel, unable to find more suitable employment, reluctantly accepted. Ludwig Fischer and his mother (whom Hegel may have offered to marry following the death of her husband) stayed behind in Jena.
He was then, in November 1808, again through Niethammer, appointed headmaster of a Gymnasium in Nuremberg, a post he held until 1816.
While in Nuremberg Hegel adapted his recently published ‘Phenomenology of Spirit‘ for use in the classroom.
Part of his remit being to teach a class called “Introduction to Knowledge of the Universal Coherence of the Sciences“, Hegel developed the idea of an encyclopedia of the philosophical sciences, falling into three parts (logic, philosophy of nature, and philosophy of spirit).
Hegel married Marie Helena Susanna von Tucher (1791–1855), the eldest daughter of a Senator, in 1811.
This period saw the publication of his second major work, the ‘Science of Logic’ (‘Wissenschaft der Logik’; 3 vols., 1812, 1813, 1816), and the birth of his two legitimate sons, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm (1813–1901) and Immanuel Thomas Christian (1814–1891).


Hegel’s thinking can be understood as a constructive development within the broad tradition that includes Plato and Kant.
To this list one could add Proclus, Meister Eckhart, Leibniz, Plotinus, Jakob Boehme, and Rousseau.
What all these thinkers share, which distinguishes them from materialists like Epicurus, the Stoics, and Thomas Hobbes, and from empiricists like David Hume, is that they regard freedom or self-determination both as real and as having important ontological implications, for soul or mind or divinity.


This focus on freedom is what generates Plato’s notion (in the ‘Phaedo’, ‘Republic’, and ‘Timaeus’) of the soul as having a higher or fuller kind of reality than inanimate objects possess.

Kant imports Plato’s high esteem of individual sovereignty to his considerations of moral and noumenal freedom, as well as to God. 
In his discussion of ‘Geist’ (Spirit) in his ‘Encyclopedia’, Hegel praises Aristotle’s ‘On the Soul’ as “by far the most admirable, perhaps even the sole, work of philosophical value on this topic“.
In his ‘Phänomenologie des Geistes‘,(Phenomenology of Spirit) and his ‘Wissenschaft der Logik‘, (Science of Logic), Hegel’s concern with Kantian topics such as freedom and morality, and with their ontological implications, is pervasive.

Emanuel Kant

Rather than simply rejecting Kant’s dualism of freedom versus nature, Hegel aims to subsume it within “true infinity”, the “Concept” (or “Notion”: Begriff), “Geist”, and “ethical life” in such a way that the Kantian duality is rendered intelligible, rather than remaining a brute “given.”

The reason why this subsumption takes place in a series of concepts is that Hegel’s method, in his ‘Wissenschaft der Logik‘ and his ‘Encyclopedia‘, is to begin with basic concepts like Being and Nothing, and to develop these through a long sequence of elaborations, including those already mentioned.
In this manner, a solution that is reached, in principle, in the account of “true infinity” in the Science of Logic’s chapter on “Quality“, is repeated in new guises at later stages, all the way to “Geist” and “ethical life“, in the third volume of the ‘Encyclopedia’.
In this way, Hegel intends to defend the germ of truth in Kantian dualism against reductive or eliminative programs like those of materialism and empiricism.
Like Plato, with his dualism of soul versus bodily appetites, Kant pursues the mind’s ability to question its felt inclinations, or appetites, and to come up with a standard of “duty” (or, in Plato’s case, “good“) which transcends bodily restrictiveness.
Hegel preserves this essential Platonic and Kantian concern in the form of infinity going beyond the finite (a process that Hegel in fact relates to “freedom” and the “ought“), the universal going beyond the particular (in the Concept), and Geist going beyond Nature.
And Hegel renders these dualities intelligible by (ultimately) his argument in the “Quality” chapter of the “Science of Logic.
The finite has to become infinite in order to achieve reality.
The idea of the absolute excludes multiplicity so the subjective and objective must achieve synthesis to become whole.
This is because, as Hegel suggests by his introduction of the concept of “reality“, what determines itself—rather than depending on its relations to other things for its essential character—is more fully “real” (following the Latin etymology of “real”: more “thing-like“) than what does not.
Finite things don’t determine themselves, because, as “finite” things, their essential character is determined by their boundaries, over against other finite things.
So, in order to become “real“, they must go beyond their finitude (“finitude is only as a transcending of itself“).
The result of this argument is that finite and infinite—and, by extension, particular and universal, nature and freedom—don’t face one another as two independent realities, but instead the latter (in each case) is the self-transcending of the former.
Rather than stress the distinct singularity of each factor that complements and conflicts with others—without explanation—the relationship between finite and infinite (and particular and universal, and nature and freedom) becomes intelligible as a progressively developing and self-perfecting whole.

‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’

‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’

‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’ (1807) is one of G.W.F. Hegel’s most important philosophical works.

It is translated as ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’.
The book’s working title, which also appeared in the first edition, was ‘Science of the Experience of Consciousness’.
On its initial publication, it was identified as Part One of a projected “System of Science”, of which the Science of Logic was the second part.
A smaller work, titled Philosophy of Spirit (also translated as “Philosophy of Mind”), appears in Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, and recounts in briefer and somewhat altered form the major themes of the original Phenomenology.
It formed the basis of Hegel’s later philosophy and marked a significant development in German idealism after Kant.
Focusing on topics in metaphysics, epistemology, physics, ethics, history, religion, perception, consciousness, and political philosophy, ‘The Phenomenology’ is where Hegel develops his concepts of dialectic (including the Master-slave dialectic), absolute idealism, ethical life, and Aufhebung.
The book had a profound effect in Western philosophy.
In ‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’ , Hegel takes the readers through the evolution of consciousness.
In the work, the mind experiences different stages of consciousness.
It begins with the lower levels of consciousness and concludes with the higher levels of consciousness.

The Preface

The Preface to the Phenomenology, all by itself, is considered one of Hegel’s major works, and a major text in the history of philosophy, because in it he sets out the core of his philosophical method, and what distinguishes it from that of any previous philosophy, especially that of his German Idealist predecessors (Kant, Fichte, and Schelling).
Hegel’s approach, referred to as the ‘Hegelian method‘, consists of actually ‘examining consciousness’ experience of both itself and of its objects, and eliciting the contradictions and dynamic movement that come to light in looking at this experience.
Hegel uses the phrase ‘reines Zusehen‘ (pure watching or perception) to describe this method.
If consciousness just pays attention to what is actually present in itself and its relation to its objects, it will see that what looks like stable and fixed forms dissolve into a dialectical movement.
René Descartes
Thus philosophy, according to Hegel, cannot just set out arguments based on a flow of deductive reasoning.
Rather, it must look at actual consciousness, as it really exists.
Hegel also argues strongly against the epistemological emphasis of modern philosophy from Descartes through Kant, which he describes as having to first establish the nature and criteria of knowledge prior to actually knowing anything, because this would imply an infinite regress, a foundationalism that Hegel maintains is self-contradictory and impossible.

René Descartes  Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; adjectival form: “Cartesian”; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’, and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. In particular, his ‘Meditations on First Philosophy’ continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes’ influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system — allowing reference to a point in space as a set of numbers, and allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes in a two-dimensional coordinate system (and conversely, shapes to be described as equations) — was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution and has been described as an example of genius

Epistemology – from Greek ἐπιστήμη – epistēmē, meaning “knowledge, understanding”, and λόγος – logos, meaning “study of”) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge.
It questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and the possible extent to which a given subject or entity can be known.
Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification.
The field is sometimes referred to as the theory of knowledge.

Rather, he maintains, we must examine actual knowing as it occurs in real knowledge processes.
This is why Hegel uses the term “phenomenology“.
Phenomenology” comes from the Greek word for “to appear“, and the phenomenology of mind is thus the study of how consciousness or mind appears to itself.
In Hegel’s dynamic system, it is the study of the successive appearances of the mind to itself, because on examination each one dissolves into a later, more comprehensive and integrated form or structure of mind.

Introduction to ‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’

Whereas the ‘Preface’ was written after Hegel completed the ‘Phenomenology’, the ‘Introduction’ was written beforehand. It covers much of the same ground, but from a somewhat different perspective.
In the ‘Introduction’, Hegel addresses the seeming paradox that we cannot evaluate our faculty of knowledge in terms of its ability to know the Absolute without first having a criterion for what the Absolute is, one that is superior to our knowledge of the Absolute.
Yet, we could only have such a criterion if we already had the improved knowledge that we seek.
To resolve this paradox, Hegel adopts a method whereby the knowing that is characteristic of a particular stage of consciousness is evaluated using the criterion presupposed by consciousness itself.
At each stage, consciousness knows something, and at the same time distinguishes the object of that knowledge as different from what it knows.
Hegel and his readers will simply “look on” while consciousness compares its actual knowledge of the object—what the object is “for consciousness“—with its criterion for what the object must be “in itself“.
One would expect that, when consciousness finds that its knowledge does not agree with its object, consciousness would adjust its knowledge to conform to its object, however, in a characteristic reversal, Hegel explains that under his method, the opposite occurs.
As just noted, consciousness’ criterion for what the object should be is not supplied externally, rather it is supplied by consciousness itself.
Therefore, like its knowledge, the “object” that consciousness distinguishes from its knowledge is really just the object “for consciousness” – it is the object as envisioned by that stage of consciousness.
Thus, in attempting to resolve the discord between knowledge and object, consciousness inevitably alters the object as well. In fact, the new “object” for consciousness is developed from consciousness’ inadequate knowledge of the previous “object.”
Thus, what consciousness really does is to modify its “object” to conform to its knowledge. Then the cycle begins anew as consciousness attempts to examine what it knows about this new “object“.
The reason for this reversal is that, for Hegel, the separation between consciousness and its object is no more real than consciousness’ inadequate knowledge of that object.
The knowledge is inadequate only because of that separation.
At the end of the process, when the object has been fully “spiritualized” by successive cycles of consciousness’ experience, consciousness will fully know the object and at the same time fully recognize that the object is none other than itself.
At each stage of development, Hegel, adds, “we” (Hegel and his readers) see this development of the new object out of the knowledge of the previous one, but the consciousness that we are observing does not.
As far as it is concerned, it experiences the dissolution of its knowledge in a mass of contradictions, and the emergence of a new object for knowledge, without understanding how that new object has been born.


Consciousness is divided into three chapters: “Sense-Certainty“, “Perception“, and “Force and the Understanding.


Self-Consciousness contains a preliminary discussion of ‘Life’ and ‘Desire’, followed by two subsections: “Independent and Dependent Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage” and “Freedom of Self-Consciousness: Stoicism, Skepticism, and the Unhappy Consciousness.” Notable is the presence of the discussion of the dialectic of the lord and bondsman.


Reason is divided into three chapters: “Observing Reason,” “Actualization of Self-Consciousness,” and “Individuality Real In and For Itself.”

Geist (Spirit)

Spirit is divided into three chapters: “The Ethical Order,” “Culture,” and “Morality.
Now, because the systematic statement of the mind’s experience embraces merely its ways of appearing, it may well seem that the advance from that to the science of ultimate truth in the form of truth is merely negative; and we might readily be content to dispense with the negative process as something altogether false, and might ask to be taken straight to the truth at once: why meddle with what is false at all?
The point formerly raised, that we should have begun with science at once, may be answered here by considering the character of negativity in general regarded as something false.
The usual ideas on this subject particularly obstruct the approach to the truth.
The consideration of this point will give us an opportunity to speak about mathematical knowledge, which non-philosophical knowledge looks upon as the ideal which philosophy ought to try to attain, but has so far striven in vain to reach.
Truth and falsehood as commonly understood belong to those sharply defined ideas which claim a completely fixed nature of their own, one standing in solid isolation on this side, the other on that, without any community between them.
Against that view it must be pointed out, that truth is not like stamped coin that is issued ready from the mint and so can be taken up and used.
Nor, again, is there something false, any more than there is something evil.
Evil and falsehood are indeed not so bad as the devil, for in the form of the devil they get the length of being particular subjects; qua false and evil they are merely universals, though they have a nature of their own with reference to one another.
Falsity (that is what we are dealing with here) would be otherness, the negative aspect of the substance, which [substance], qua content of knowledge, is truth.
But the substance is itself essentially the negative element, partly as involving distinction and determination of content, partly as being a process of distinguishing pure and simple, i.e. as being self and knowledge in general. Doubtless we can know in a way that is false.
To know something falsely means that knowledge is not adequate to, is not on equal terms with, its substance.
Yet this very dissimilarity is the process of distinction in general, the essential moment in knowing.
It is, in fact, out of this active distinction that its harmonious unity arises, and this identity, when arrived at, is truth.
But it is not truth in a sense which would involve the rejection of the discordance, the diversity, like dross from pure metal; nor, again, does truth remain detached from diversity, like a finished article from the instrument that shapes it.
Difference itself continues to be an immediate element within truth as such, in the form of the principle of negation, in the form of the activity of Self.

Geist‘ is a German word and depending on context it can be translated as the English words mind, spirit, or ghost, covering the semantic field of these three English nouns.
Some English translators resort to using “spirit/mind” or “spirit (mind)” to help convey the meaning of the term.
Analogous terms in other languages include the Greek word πνεύμα (pneuma), the Latin animus and anima, the French esprit, however, geist is a German word that can never be satisfactorily translated.
Geist is a central concept in Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit (Phänomenologie des Geistes).

According to Hegel, the Weltgeist (“World Spirit“) is not an actual thing one might come upon or a God-like thing beyond, but a means of philosophizing about history.
The Weltgeist is effected in history through the mediation of various Volksgeister (“Racial Spirits“), and the great men of history, such as Napoleon, are the “concrete universal“.
This has led some to claim that Hegel favored the ‘great man theory‘, although his philosophy of history, in particular concerning the role of the “universal state” (Universal Stand, which means as well “order” or “statute” than “state“), and of an “End of History” is much more complex.
For Hegel, the great hero is unwittingly utilized by Geist or Absolute Spirit, by a “ruse of Reason” as Hegel puts it, and is irrelevant to history once his historic mission is accomplished; he is thus submitted to the teleological principle of history, a principle which allows Hegel to re-read all the history of philosophy as culminating in his philosophy of history.
The Weltgeist, the ‘world spirit concept’, designates an idealistic principle of world explanation, which can be found from the beginnings of philosophy up to more recent time.
In the early philosophy of Greek antiquity, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all paid homage, amongst other things, to the concept of world spirit.
Hegel later based his philosophy of history on it.


Religion is divided into three chapters: “Natural Religion,” “Religion in the Form of Art,” and “The Revealed Religion.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer criticized ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ as being characteristic of the vacuous verbiage he 
(wrongly) attributed to Hegel.

Hegelian Dialectic

Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis.
Although this model is often named after Hegel, he himself never used that specific formulation. Hegel ascribed that terminology to Kant.
Carrying on Kant’s work, Fichte greatly elaborated on the synthesis model, and popularized it.
On the other hand, Hegel did use a three-valued logical model that is very similar to the antithesis model, but Hegel’s most usual terms were: Abstract-Negative-Concrete.
Hegel used this writing model as a backbone to accompany his points in many of his works.
The formula, thesis-antithesis-synthesis, does not explain why the thesis requires an Antithesis, however, the formula, abstract-negative-concrete, suggests a flaw, or perhaps an incomplete-ness, in any initial thesis—it is too abstract and lacks the negative of trial, error and experience.
For Hegel, the concrete, the synthesis, the absolute, must always pass through the phase of the negative, in the journey to completion, that is, mediation.
This is the actual essence of what is popularly called Hegelian Dialectics.
To describe the activity of overcoming the negative, Hegel also often used the term ‘Aufhebung’, variously translated into English as “sublation” or “overcoming,” to conceive of the working of the dialectic.
Roughly, the term indicates preserving the useful portion of an idea, thing, society, etc., while moving beyond its limitations.
In the ‘Logic‘, for instance, Hegel describes a dialectic of existence: first, existence must be posited as pure Being (Sein); but pure Being, upon examination, is found to be indistinguishable from Nothing (Nichts).
When it is realized that what is coming into being is, at the same time, also returning to nothing (in life, for example, one’s living is also a dying), both Being and Nothing are united as Becoming.
As in the Socratic dialectic, Hegel claimed to proceed by making implicit contradictions explicit: each stage of the process is the product of contradictions inherent or implicit in the preceding stage.
For Hegel, the whole of history is one tremendous dialectic, major stages of which chart a progression from self-alienation as slavery to self-unification and realization as the rational, constitutional state of free and equal citizens.
The Hegelian dialectic cannot be mechanically applied for any chosen thesis.
Critics argue that the selection of any antithesis, other than the logical negation of the thesis, is subjective.
Then, if the logical negation is used as the antithesis, there is no rigorous way to derive a synthesis.
In practice, when an antithesis is selected to suit the user’s subjective purpose, the resulting “contradictions” are rhetorical, not logical, and the resulting synthesis is not rigorously defensible against a multitude of other possible syntheses.
The problem with the Fichtean “Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis” model is that it implies that contradictions or negations come from outside of things.
Hegel’s point is that they are inherent in and internal to things.
This conception of dialectics derives ultimately from Heraclitus.
Hegel has outlined that the purpose of dialectics is “to study things in their own being and movement and thus to demonstrate the finitude of the partial categories of understanding
One important dialectical principle for Hegel is the transition from quantity to quality, which he terms the Measure.
The measure is the qualitative quantum, the quantum is the existence of quantity.
The identity between quantity and quality, which is found in Measure, is at first only implicit, and not yet explicitly realised. In other words, these two categories, which unite in Measure, each claim an independent authority. On the one hand, the quantitative features of existence may be altered, without affecting its quality. On the other hand, this increase and diminution, immaterial though it be, has its limit, by exceeding which the quality suffers change. But if the quantity present in measure exceeds a certain limit, the quality corresponding to it is also put in abeyance. This however is not a negation of quality altogether, but only of this definite quality, the place of which is at once occupied by another. This process of measure, which appears alternately as a mere change in quantity, and then as a sudden revulsion of quantity into quality, may be envisaged under the figure of a nodal (knotted) line”.
As an example, Hegel mentions the states of aggregation of water:
Thus the temperature of water is, in the first place, a point of no consequence in respect of its liquidity: still with the increase or diminution of the temperature of the liquid water, there comes a point where this state of cohesion suffers a qualitative change, and the water is converted into steam or ice“.
Another important principle for Hegel is the negation of the negation, which he also terms Aufhebung (sublation): Something is only what it is in its relation to another, but by the negation of the negation this something incorporates the other into itself.
The dialectical movement involves two moments that negate each other, something and its other.
As a result of the negation of the negation, “something becomes its other; this other is itself something; therefore it likewise becomes an other, and so on ad infinitum“.
Something in its passage into other only joins with itself, it is self-related.
In becoming there are two moments: coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be: by sublation, i.e., negation of the negation, being passes over into nothing, it ceases to be, but something new shows up, is coming to be.

The Grave of
Georg Hegel
What is sublated (aufgehoben) on the one hand ceases to be, and is put to an end, but on the other hand it is preserved and maintained.
In dialectics, a totality transforms itself; it is self-related, then self-forgetfulrelieving the original tension.

To summarise – Hegelian Dialectics is based upon four concepts:
Everything is transient and finite, existing in the medium of time.
Everything is composed of contradictions (opposing forces).
Gradual changes lead to crises, turning points when one force overcomes its opponent force (quantitative change leads to qualitative change).
Change is helical (spiral), not circular (negation of the negation).

The concept of dialectic existed in the philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus, who proposed that everything is in constant change, as a result of inner strife and opposition.
Hence, the history of the dialectical method is the history of philosophy.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation), in which he claimed that our world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, ‘On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason’, which examined the four distinct aspects of experience in the phenomenal world; consequently, he has been influential in the history of phenomenology.
He has influenced a long list of thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, (see below) Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, Thomas Mann, and , of course, Adolf Hitler, who carried a copy of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ with him throughout the First World War.

Brief Biography

Arthur Schopenhauer was born in the city of Danzig (Gdańsk), on Heiligegeistgasse (known in the present day as Św. Ducha 47), the son of Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy German Patrician families.
When the Kingdom of Prussia annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth city of Danzig in 1793, Schopenhauer’s family moved to Hamburg.
In 1805, Schopenhauer’s father may have committed suicide.
Shortly thereafter, Schopenhauer’s mother Johanna moved to Weimar, then the centre of German literature, to pursue her writing career.
After one year, Schopenhauer left the family business in Hamburg to join her.
As early as 1799, he started playing the flute.
He became a student at the University of Göttingen in 1809.
There he studied metaphysics and psychology under Gottlob Ernst Schulze, the author of Aenesidemus, who advised him to concentrate on Plato and Immanuel Kant.
In Berlin, from 1811 to 1812, he had attended lectures by the prominent post-Kantian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.
In 1814, Schopenhauer began his seminal work ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’.
He finished it in 1818 and published it the following year.
In 1820, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of Berlin.
He scheduled his lectures to coincide with those of the famous philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, whom Schopenhauer described as a “clumsy charlatan.”
However, only five students turned up to Schopenhauer’s lectures, and he dropped out of academia.
In 1821, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer, Caroline Richter (called Medon), and had a relationship with her for several years.
He discarded marriage plans, however, writing, “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties,” and “Marrying means to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find an eel amongst an assembly of snakes.”
When he was forty-three years old, seventeen-year old Flora Weiss recorded rejecting him in her diary.
Schopenhauer had a notably strained relationship with his mother Johanna Schopenhauer. After his father’s death, Arthur Schopenhauer endured two long years of drudgery as a merchant, in honor of his dead father.
Then his mother retired to Weimar, and Arthur Schopenhauer dedicated himself wholly to studies in the gymnasium of Gotha.
He left it in disgust after seeing one of the masters lampooned, and went to live with his mother. But by that time she had already opened her famous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with the vain, ceremonious ways of the salon.
He was also disgusted by the ease with which Johanna Schopenhauer had forgotten his father’s memory.
Consequently, he attempted university life.
There, he wrote his first book, ‘Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde’ (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason).
His mother informed him that the book was incomprehensible and it was unlikely that anyone would ever buy a copy. In a fit of temper Arthur Schopenhauer told her that his work would be read long after the “rubbish” she wrote would have been totally forgotten.
In 1831, a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin and Schopenhauer left the city.
Schopenhauer settled permanently in Frankfurt in 1833, where he remained for the next twenty-seven years, living alone except for a succession of pet poodles named Atman and Butz.
The numerous notes that he made during these years, amongst others on aging, were published posthumously under the title Senilia.

Schopenhauer had a robust constitution, but in 1860 his health began to deteriorate.
He died of heart failure on 21 September 1860, while sitting on his couch with his cat at home. He was 72.

Philosophy of the “Will”

A key focus of Schopenhauer was his investigation of individual motivation.
Before Schopenhauer, Hegel had popularized the concept of ‘Zeitgeist’, the idea that society consisted of a collective consciousness which moved in a distinct direction, dictating the actions of its members.
Schopenhauer, a reader of both Kant and Hegel, criticized their logical optimism and the belief that individual morality could be determined by society and reason. 
Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated by only their own basic desires, or Wille zum Leben (“Will to Live”), which directed all of mankind.
For Schopenhauer, human desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world.
He wrote “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants”. 
In this sense, he adhered to the Fichtean principle of idealism: “the world is for a subject”.
This idealism so presented, immediately commits it to an ethical attitude, unlike the purely epistemological concerns of Descartes and Berkeley.
To Schopenhauer, the Will is a metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena.
He is credited with one of the most famous opening lines of philosophy: “The world is my representation”. Will, for Schopenhauer, is what Kant called the ‘thing-in-itself.’ (see above). Nietzsche (see below) was greatly influenced by this idea of Will.

Friedrich Nietzsche

“Behind your thoughts and feelings there stands a mighty ruler, an unknown sage – whose name is Self. In your body he dwells. He is your body.”

                                                                                                                        Friedrich Nietzsche 

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist.

He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

Nietzsche’s influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism, nihilism, and postmodernism.
His style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth have resulted in much commentary and interpretation, mostly in the continental tradition.
His key ideas include the death of God, perspectivism, the Übermensch, the eternal recurrence, and the ‘will to power‘.
Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation”, which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be.

Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy.
At the age of 24 he was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel (the youngest individual to have held this position), but resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life.
In 1889 he became mentally ill, possibly due to atypical general paralysis attributed to tertiary syphilis.
He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897, then under the care of his sister until his death in 1900.

Röcken Lutherischen Kirche
Nietzsches Geburtshaus

Born on October 15, 1844, Nietzsche grew up in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, in the Prussian Province of Saxony.

He was named after King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who turned 49 on the day of Nietzsche’s birth. (Nietzsche later dropped his given middle name, “Wilhelm”.)

Röcken Dorf

Nietzsche’s parents, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813–1849), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska Oehler (1826–1897), married in 1843, the year before their son’s birth, and had two other children: a daughter, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, born in 1846, and a second son, Ludwig Joseph, born in 1848. Nietzsche’s father died from a brain ailment in 1849; his younger brother died in 1850.

The family then moved to Naumburg, where they lived with Nietzsche’s paternal grandmother and his father’s two unmarried sisters.
After the death of Nietzsche’s grandmother in 1856, the family moved into their own house.
Nietzsche attended a boys’ school and then later a private school, where he became friends with Gustav Krug, Rudolf Wagner and Wilhelm Pinder, all of whom came from very respected families.

Paul Deussen

In 1854, he began to attend Pforta in Naumburg, but after he showed particular talents in music and language, the internationally recognised Schulpforta admitted him as a pupil, and there he continued his studies from 1858 to 1864.

Here he became friends with Paul Deussen (see right) and Carl von Gersdorff.
He also found time to work on poems and musical compositions.


At Schulpforta (see left), Nietzsche received an important introduction to literature, particularly that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and for the first time experienced a distance from his family life in a small-town Christian environment.
After graduation in 1864 Nietzsche commenced studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn.

For a short time he and Deussen became members of the Burschenschaft Frankonia.
After one semester (and to the anger of his mother) he stopped his theological studies and lost his faith.
David Strauss
This may have happened in part because of his reading around this time of David Strauss’s (see right) ‘Life of Jesus’, which had a profound effect on the young Nietzsche, though in an essay entitled ‘Fate and History’ written in 1862, Nietzsche had already argued that historical research had discredited the central teachings of Christianity.
Nietzsche then concentrated on studying philology under Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, whom he followed to the University of Leipzig the next year.

There he became close friends with fellow-student Erwin Rohde. Nietzsche’s first philological publications appeared soon after.

In 1865 Nietzsche thoroughly studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).
He owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading his ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung‘ (The World as Will and Representation) and later admitted that he was one of the few thinkers that he respected, dedicating to him his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ (Schopenhauer as Educator), one of his ‘Untimely Meditations’.

In 1866 he read Friedrich Albert Lange’s (see left below) ‘History of Materialism’.

Schopenhauer and Lange influenced him. Schopenhauer was especially significant in the development of Nietzsche’s later thought.

Lange’s descriptions of Kant’s anti-materialistic philosophy, the rise of European Materialism, Europe’s increased concern with science, Darwin’s theory, and the general rebellion against tradition and authority greatly intrigued Nietzsche.
Richard Wagner

The cultural environment encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond philology and to continue his study of philosophy.
In 1867 Nietzsche signed up for one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. However, a riding accident in March 1868 left him unfit for service.
Consequently Nietzsche turned his attention to his studies again, completing them and first meeting with Richard Wagner (see right) later that year.
With the publication of ‘Menschliches, Allzumenschliches’ – (Human, All Too Human) – in 1878 (a book of aphorisms on subjects ranging from metaphysics to morality and from religion to the sexes) Nietzsche’s reaction against the pessimistic philosophy of Wagner and Schopenhauer became evident.
Nietzsche’s friendship with Deussen and Rohde cooled as well.
In 1879, after a significant decline in health, Nietzsche had to resign his position at Basel.

(Since his childhood, various disruptive illnesses had plagued him, including moments of short-sightedness that left him nearly blind, migraine headaches, and violent indigestion. The 1868 riding accident and diseases in 1870 may have aggravated these persistent conditions, which continued to affect him through his years at Basel, forcing him to take longer and longer holidays until regular work became impractical.)

Because his illness drove him to find climates more conducive to his health, Nietzsche traveled frequently, and lived until 1889 as an independent author in different cities.

Nietzsche the Man

Although Nietzsche is widely known as the ‘creator’ of the ‘Übermensch’ he was hardly the firm heroic ‘superman’ of his writings.

However, Nietzsche was capable of macho activity when it was required.
In 1867, as he approached the age of 23, Nietzsche entered his required military service and was assigned to an equestrian field artillery regiment close to Naumburg, during which time he lived at home with his mother (?).
While attempting to leap-mount into the saddle, he suffered a serious chest injury and was put on sick leave after his chest wound refused to heal.
While his military career was cut short, so was his academic career cut short, as a result of his later poor health.
Fortunately, however, for Nietzsche, he was provided with a more than adequate pension, although he always complained that he was short of money.
He was not poor, however, as he was well able to travel widely round Europe, living for most of the time in hotels and guest-houses.
In fact he spent most of his life ‘on holiday‘, apparently searching for the perfect climate for his health: filling his time with socializing, reading and writing.
As an indication that he was not poor, he had a nasty habit of releasing his writings, which for most of his life were ignored, in a series of short volumes, at ridiculously high prices, which had the effect of ensuring that only his most fervent followers were prepared to pay the exorbitant prices in order to discover the nature of Nietzsche’s latest insights..
He spent many summers in Sils Maria, near St. Moritz in Switzerland, and many winters in the Italian cities of Genoa, Rapallo and Turin and in the French city of Nice.
In 1881, when France occupied Tunisia, he planned to travel to Tunis to view Europe from the outside, but later abandoned that idea (probably for health reasons).
His favourite area in Europe was the Engadin.

The Engadin 

The Engadin or Engadine (German: Engadin, Italian: Engadina, Romansh: Engiadina; tr: garden of the Inn) is a long valley in the Swiss Alps located in the canton of Graubünden in southeast Switzerland. It follows the route of the Inn River from its headwaters at Maloja Pass running northeast until the Inn flows into Austria, one hundred kilometers downstream. The Engadin is protected by high mountains on all sides and is famous for its sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and outdoor activities.

Although he championed the ‘Übermensch’, who was often interpreted as a boisterous ‘yea sayer’, almost everyone who met Nietzsche was surprised by, and remarked upon his exquisite manners, his soft, gentle, well modulated voice, and his subtle sense of humour.

Nietzsche’s Health 

Nietzsche’s headaches began when he was 9 years old.
These headaches were usually very severe and had a major impact on his daily life and later on his professional activities.
They were almost always located on the right side, mostly frontal and above the right eye, but also at the right hemicranium, and were typically associated with gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
Because of these headaches, he sometimes also kept his eyes closed to lessen the discomfort experienced from external light, suggesting photophobia, and he avoided physical activities and went to bed.
The headaches usually persisted for several hours or even days.
Often Nietzsche would have symptoms two or three times a week, but such outbreaks were usually associated with the sort of problems which were of particular concern to Nietzsche.
Such problems included dull, cloudy or wet weather, Cold weather or hot weather, delays in contacts with his publishers and printers, and even problems relating to his frequent travelling arrangements, such as an inability to find a porter or carriage for his bags, or missing a train connection.

Nietzsche’s visual problems also started at young age.
He mentioned them for the first time in 1856, when he was 12 years old.
As a child Nietzsche often complained about “bad light”, “tiredness of the eyes” and “episodes of eye weakness with altered vision”.
Nietzsche underwent repeated examinations by different ophtalmologists.

In 1882, Nietzsche began to show depressive symptoms with suicidal ideas.
These symptoms recurred intermittently and in 1887 Nietzsche described his mood as a persistent depression.
This depressive mood had a clear impact on his social and professional life. 
On several occasions Nietzsche expressed bizarre ideas that reflected delusions.
In 1883, he labelled his own mental state for the first time as madness and in several letters he expressed his worries about suffering from madness.

Nietzsche occasionally returned to Naumburg to visit his family, and, especially during this time, he and his sister (see left – Elizabeth Nietzsche) had repeated periods of conflict and reconciliation.
He lived on his pension from Basel, but also received aid from friends.
A past student of his, Peter Gast (born Heinrich Köselitz – see right), became a sort of private secretary to Nietzsche.
To the end of his life, Gast and Overbeck remained consistently faithful friends.
Malwida von Meysenbug remained like a motherly patron even outside the Wagner circle.

‘Peter Gast’ – Johann Heinrich Köselitz (10 January 1854–15 August 1918) was a German author and composer. He is known for his long-time friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche, who gave him the pseudonym ‘Peter Gast’. Gast was born in Annaberg, Saxony to Gustav Hermann Köselitz (1822–1910), the vice mayor (Vizebürgermeister), and his wife Caroline (1819–1900), a native of Vienna. 
From 1872, Gast studied music with Ernst Friedrich Richter at the University of Leipzig. He transferred in 1875 to the University of Basel, where he attended the lectures of Jacob Burckhardt, Franz Overbeck, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In Basel, a friendship developed between Gast and Nietzsche. Gast read for Nietzsche during the latter’s intermittent spells of near blindness, and also took dictation. Gast was instrumental in the preparation of all of Nietzsche’s works after 1876, reviewing the printer’s manuscript and sometimes intervening to finalize the text formatting. Nietzsche’s break with Wagner and his search for a ‘southern’ aesthetic with which he could immunize himself from the gloomy German north led him to over-appreciate Gast as a musician. As an amanuensis, however, Gast was invaluable; writing apropos ‘Menschliches, Allzumenschliches’  Nietzsche claimed that Gast ‘wrote and also corrected: fundamentally, he was really the writer whereas I was merely the author‘. All the while, Köselitz worshipped his teacher, assisting him to the point of self-denial. Gast was financed by his father, and also intermittently supported by Nietzsche’s friend Paul Rée. In addition to being a musician and the editor of Nietzsche’s writings and letters, he worked as a writer under various pseudonyms, including: Ludwig Mürner, Peter Schlemihl, Petrus Eremitus.

Franz Camille Overbeck (16 November 1837 – 26 June 1905) was a German Protestant theologian. In Anglo-American discourse, he is perhaps best known in regard to his friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche; while in German theological circles, Overbeck remains discussed for his own contributions. Franz Overbeck was born in Saint Petersburg as a German citizen to Franz Heinrich Herrmann Overbeck, a German-British merchant, and his wife, Jeanne Camille Cerclet, who was born in Saint Petersburg to a French family. Consequently, his upbringing was European and humanistic: first taking place in Saint Petersburg, then in Paris from 1846 until the February Revolution of 1848, once again in Saint Petersburg, and after 1850 in Dresden. From 1856 until 1864, Overbeck studied theology in Leipzig, Göttingen, Berlin, and Jena. In 1859, he received his doctorate degree, after which he worked on his Habilitation on Hippolytus until 1864. After 1864, he taught as a Privatdozent in Jena. During his student time in Leipzig, he became close friends with Heinrich von Treitschke. After Nietzsche left Basel in 1879, he and Overbeck continued a personal friendship through regular correspondence. At the beginning of January 1889, Nietzsche sent letters to friends that exhibited symptoms of a mental collapse. After Overbeck received such a letter, he travelled to Turin the same day to retrieve the sick Nietzsche and his manuscripts. He continued to visit Nietzsche until the latter’s death in 1900.

Malwida von Meysenbug (28 October 1816 – 23 April 1903) was a German writer, who was a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Wagner. She also met the French writer Romain Rolland in Rome in 1890, and is the author of ‘Memories of an Idealist’. She published the first volume anonymously in 1869. Von Meysenbug was born at Kassel, Hesse. Her father Carl Rivalier descended from a family of French Huguenots, and received the title of Baron of Meysenbug from William I of Hesse-Kassel. The ninth of ten children, she broke with her family because of her political convictions. Von Meysenbug introduced Nietzsche to several of his friends, including Helene von Druskowitz. She invited Paul Rée and Nietzsche to Sorrento, a town which overlooks the bay of Naples, in the autumn of 1876. There, Rée wrote The Origins of Moral Sensations, and Nietzsche began Human, All Too Human.

Malwida von Meysenburg died in Rome in 1903 and is buried in the Protestant Cemetery in the city.

Soon Nietzsche made contact with the music-critic Carl Fuchs.

NIietzsche’s Writings

Nietzsche stood at the beginning of his most productive period.
Beginning with ‘Menschliches, Allzumenschliches’ in 1878, Nietzsche would publish one book (or major section of a book) each year until 1888, his last year of writing, during which he completed five.

In 1882 Nietzsche published the first part of ‘Die fröhliche Wissenschaft’ ** – (The Joyful Science).

Lou Andreas Salomé

That year he also met Lou Andreas Salomé, (see right) through Malwida von Meysenbug and Paul Rée.
Nietzsche and Salomé spent the summer together in Tautenburg in Thuringia, often with Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth as a chaperone.

Nietzsche, however, regarded Salomé less as an equal partner than as a gifted student.
Salomé reports that he asked her to marry him, and that she refused, though the reliability of her reports of events has come into question.
Nietzsche’s relationship with Rée and Salomé broke up in the winter of 1882/1883, partially because of intrigues conducted by Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth.
Amidst renewed bouts of illness, living in near isolation after a falling-out with his mother and sister regarding Salomé, Nietzsche fled to Rapallo.

Lou Andreas-Salomé (born Louise von Salomé or Luíza Gustavovna Salomé, Russian: Луиза Густавовна Саломе; 12 February 1861 – 5 January 1937) was a Russian-born psychoanalyst and author. Her diverse intellectual interests led to friendships with a broad array of distinguished western luminaries, including Nietzsche, Freud, and Rilke. Lou Salomé was born in St. Petersburg to an army general and his wife. Salomé was their only daughter; she had five brothers. Salomé’s mother took her to Rome, Italy when she was 21. At a literary salon in the city, Salomé became acquainted with Paul Rée, an author. After two months, the two became partners. On 13 May 1882, Rée’s friend Friedrich Nietzsche joined the duo. Salomé would later (1894) write a study, ‘Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken’, of Nietzsche’s personality and philosophy. The three travelled with Salomé’s mother through Italy. Arriving in Leipzig in October, Salomé and Rée separated from Nietzsche after a falling-out between Nietzsche and Salomé, in which Salomé believed that Nietzsche was desperately in love with her.  A fictional account of Salomé’s relationship with Nietzsche is described in Irvin Yalom’s novel, ‘When Nietzsche Wept’. A biography in Swedish on Lou Salomé, which also covers her relationship with Paul Rée, Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud was edited in 2008 on Mita bokförlag by the Swedish author Mirjam Tapper. The title of the book is “Den blonda besten hos Nietzsche – Lou Salomé”.

Here he wrote the first part of ‘Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen’ (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) *** in only ten days.

After severing his philosophical ties with Schopenhauer and his social ties with Wagner, Nietzsche had few remaining friends.

Now, with the new style of ‘Zarathustra’, his work became even more alienating and the market received it only to the degree required by politeness.

Nietzsche recognized this and maintained his solitude, though he often complained about it.
His books remained largely unsold.

In 1885 he printed only 40 copies of the fourth part of ‘Zarathustra’, and distributed only a fraction of these among close friends, including Helene von Druskowitz.
In 1883 he tried and failed to obtain a lecturing post at the University of Leipzig.
It was made clear to him that, in view of the attitude towards Christianity and the concept of God expressed in ‘Zarathustra’, he had become in effect unemployable at any German University.

The subsequent “feelings of revenge and resentment” embittered him. “And hence my rage since I have grasped in the broadest possible sense what wretched means (the depreciation of my good name, my character and my aims) suffice to take from me the trust of, and therewith the possibility of obtaining, pupils.”
In 1886 Nietzsche broke with his editor, Ernst Schmeitzner.

He then printed ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ at his own expense, and issued in 1886–1887 second editions of his earlier works (‘The Birth of Tragedy’, ‘Human, All Too Human’, ‘The Dawn’, and ‘The  Joyful Science), accompanied by new prefaces in which he reconsidered his earlier works. Thereafter, he saw his work as completed for a time and hoped that soon a readership would develop.
In fact, interest in Nietzsche’s thought did increase at this time, if rather slowly and in a way hardly perceived by him.

Bernhard Förster

During these years Nietzsche met Meta von Salis, Carl Spitteler, and also Gottfried Keller.
In 1886 his sister Elisabeth married Bernhard Förster (see left) and traveled to Paraguay to found Nueva Germania, a “Germanic” colony.
Through correspondence, Nietzsche’s relationship with Elisabeth continued on the path of conflict and reconciliation, but they would meet again only after his collapse.
He continued to have frequent and painful attacks of illness, which made prolonged work impossible. In 1887 Nietzsche wrote the polemic ‘On the Genealogy of Morals’.
During the same year Nietzsche encountered the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky, with whom he felt an immediate kinship.

He also exchanged letters with Hippolyte Taine, and then also with Georg Brandes.
Brandes, who had started to teach the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard in the 1870s, wrote to Nietzsche asking him to read Kierkegaard, to which Nietzsche replied that he would come to Copenhagen and read Kierkegaard with him.
However, before fulfilling this undertaking, he slipped too far into sickness.
In the beginning of 1888, in Copenhagen, Brandes delivered one of the first lectures on Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Although Nietzsche had in 1886 announced (at the end of ‘On The Genealogy of Morality’) a new work with the title ‘The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values’, he eventually seems to have abandoned this particular approach and instead used some of the draft passages to compose ‘Götzen-Dämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert’ (Twilight of the Idols) and ‘Der Antichrist’ (The Antichrist) – both written in 1888.
His health seemed to improve, and he spent the summer in high spirits.
In the fall of 1888 his writings and letters began to reveal a higher estimation of his own status and “fate.”
He overestimated the increasing response to his writings, especially to the recent polemic, ‘Der Fall Wagner’ – (The Case of Wagner).
On his 44th birthday, after completing  ‘Götzen-Dämmerung’  and  ‘Der Antichrist’, he decided to write the autobiography ‘Ecce Homo’.
In the preface to this work—which suggests Nietzsche was well aware of the interpretive difficulties his work would generate—he declares, “Hear me! For I am such and such a person. Above all, do not mistake me for someone else.”
In December, Nietzsche began a correspondence with August Strindberg, and thought that, short of an international breakthrough, he would attempt to buy back his older writings from the publisher and have them translated into other European languages.
Moreover, he planned the publication of the compilation ‘Nietzsche Contra Wagner’ and of the poems that composed his collection ‘Dionysian-Dithyrambs’.

Mental Collapse and Death

On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche suffered a mental collapse.
Two policemen approached him after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened remains unknown, but an often-repeated tale states that Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse at the other end of the Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around its neck to protect the horse, and then collapsed to the ground.

In the following few days, Nietzsche sent short writings—known as the ‘Wahnbriefe’ (Madness Letters)—to a number of friends (including Cosima Wagner and Jacob Burckhardt).
To his former colleague Burckhardt, Nietzsche wrote: “I have had Caiaphas put in fetters. Also, last year I was crucified by the German doctors in a very drawn-out manner. Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all anti-Semites abolished.”
Additionally, he commanded the German emperor to go to Rome to be shot, and summoned the European powers to take military action against Germany.
On January 6, 1889 Burckhardt showed the letter he had received from Nietzsche to Overbeck. The following day Overbeck received a similarly revealing letter, and decided that Nietzsche’s friends had to bring him back to Basel.
Overbeck traveled to Turin and brought Nietzsche to a psychiatric clinic in Basel.
By that time Nietzsche appeared fully in the grip of a serious mental illness, and his mother Franziska decided to transfer him to a clinic in Jena under the direction of Otto Binswanger. From November 1889 to February 1890 the art historian Julius Langbehn attempted to cure Nietzsche, claiming that the methods of the medical doctors were ineffective in treating Nietzsche’s condition.
Langbehn assumed progressively greater control of Nietzsche until his secretiveness discredited him.

In March 1890 Franziska removed Nietzsche from the clinic, and in May 1890 brought him to her home in Naumburg.

During this process Overbeck and Gast contemplated what to do with Nietzsche’s unpublished works.
In January 1889 they proceeded with the planned release of  ‘Götzen-Dämmerung’, by that time already printed and bound.
In February they ordered a fifty copy private edition of ‘Nietzsche contra Wagner’, but the publisher C. G. Naumann secretly printed one hundred.
Overbeck and Gast decided to withhold publishing ‘Der Antichrist’ and ‘Ecce Homo’ because of their more radical content.
Nietzsche’s reception and recognition enjoyed their first surge.

In 1893 Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth returned from Nueva Germania (in Paraguay) following the suicide of her husband.
She read and studied Nietzsche’s works, and piece by piece took control of them and of their publication.
Overbeck eventually suffered dismissal, and Gast finally cooperated.
After the death of Franziska in 1897 Nietzsche lived in Weimar, where Elisabeth cared for him and allowed people, including Rudolf Steiner (who in 1895 had written one of the first books praising Nietzsche – see right)) to visit her uncommunicative brother.
Elisabeth at one point went so far as to employ Steiner – at a time when he was still an ardent fighter against any mysticism – as a tutor to help her to understand her brother’s philosophy.
Nietzsche’s mental illness was originally diagnosed as tertiary syphilis, in accordance with a prevailing medical paradigm of the time.
Although most commentators regard his breakdown as unrelated to his philosophy Georges Bataille drops dark hints (“‘man incarnate’ must also go mad”) and René Girard’s postmortem psychoanalysis posits a worshipful rivalry with Richard Wagner.
The diagnosis of syphilis was challenged, and manic-depressive illness with periodic psychosis, followed by vascular dementia was put forward by Cybulska.
In 1898 and 1899 Nietzsche suffered at least two strokes, which partially paralysed him and left him unable to speak or walk.
After contracting pneumonia in mid-August 1900 he had another stroke during the night of August 24 / August 25, and died about noon on August 25.

Elisabeth had him buried beside his father at the church in Röcken bei Lützen.

His friend, Peter Gast (see right), gave his funeral oration, proclaiming: “Holy be your name to all future generations!

Nietzsche had written in ‘Ecce Homo’ (at the time of the funeral still unpublished) of his fear that one day his name would be regarded as “holy”.
Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche
Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846, Röcken, Prussia – November 8, 1935, Weimar, Germany), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894.
Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother.
Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen.
The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years.
There has been speculation that the relationship between Elizabeth and Fritz was so close that it was almost ‘incestuous’.
Nietzsche himself only ever had one romantic relationship with a woman – Lou Andreas Salomé, and it is significant that Elizabeth did everything in her power to bring the relationship to an end.
An early believer in the superiority of the Teutonic races, she married a Volkisch philosopher, Bernhard Förster.
In the 1880s they went to Paraguay and founded Nueva Germania, a  pure Aryan colony, but the enterprise failed, and Förster committed suicide.
She next served as Nietzsche’s guardian at Weimar after his mental breakdown in 1889.
On his death (1900) she secured the rights to his manuscripts and renamed her family home the ‘Nietzsche-Archiv’. 

Adolf Hitler and Elizabeth Förster Nietzsche
at the Nietzsche-Archiv
While Elisabeth gained a wide audience for her writings, in an effort to preserve her brother’s reputation, she withheld Nietzsche’s self-interpretation, ‘Ecce Homo’, until 1908.
Meanwhile, she collected many of his notes under the title ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (“The Will to Power”) and presented this work, first as part of her three-volume biography (1895–1904), then in a one-volume edition (1901), and finally in a two-volume edition (1906) that was widely considered Nietzsche’s magnum opus.
Elisabeth was a supporter of the NSDAP; her funeral in 1935 was attended by Adolf Hitler and other members of the Government of the Third Reich.
Nietzsche’s Work

Nietzsche’s works remain controversial, and there is widespread disagreement about their interpretation and significance.
Part of the difficulty in interpreting Nietzsche arises from the uniquely provocative style of his philosophical writing.
Nietzsche frequently delivered trenchant critiques of Christianity in the most offensive and blasphemous terms possible given the context of 19th century Europe.
These aspects of Nietzsche’s style run counter to traditional values in philosophical writing, and they alienated him from the academic establishment both in his time and, to a lesser extent, today.
A few of the themes that Nietzsche scholars have devoted the most attention to include Nietzsche’s views on morality, his view that “God is dead” (and along with it any sort of God’s-eye view on the world thus leading to perspectivism), his notions of the ‘will to power‘ and ‘Übermensch‘, and his suggestion of ‘eternal recurrence‘.

‘Der Wille zur Macht’

A basic element in Nietzsche’s philosophical outlook is ‘der Wille zur Macht’ – (the will to power), which provides a basis for understanding human behavior. In a wide sense of a term, the will to power is a more important element than pressure for adaptation or survival.
According to Nietzsche, only in limited situations is the drive for conservation precedent over the will to power.
The natural condition of life, according to him, is one of profusion.
In its later forms Nietzsche’s concept of the will to power applies to all living things, suggesting that adaptation and the struggle to survive is a secondary drive in the evolution of animals, less important than the desire to expand one’s power.
Nietzsche eventually took this concept further still, and speculated that it may apply to inorganic nature as well.
He transformed the idea of matter as centers of force into matter as centers of will to power. Nietzsche wanted to dispense with the atomistic theory of matter, a theory which he viewed as a relic of the metaphysics of substance.
One study of Nietzsche defines his fully developed concept of the will to power as “the element from which derive both the quantitative difference of related forces and the quality that devolves into each force in this relation” revealing the will to power as “the principle of the synthesis of forces.
Nietzsche’s notion of the will to power can also be viewed as a response to Schopenhauer’s “Will.”

Writing a generation before Nietzsche, Schopenhauer had regarded the entire universe and everything in it as driven by a primordial ‘Will’, thus resulting in all creatures’ desire to avoid death and to procreate.
Nietzsche, however, challenges Schopenhauer’s account and suggests that people and animals really want power; living in itself appears only as a subsidiary aim—something necessary to promote one’s power.
Defending his view, Nietzsche describes instances where people and animals willingly risk their lives to gain power—most notably in instances like competitive fighting and warfare.
Once again, Nietzsche seems to take part of his inspiration from the ancient Homeric Greek texts he knew well: Greek heroes and aristocrats or “masters” did not desire mere living (they often died quite young and risked their lives in battle) but wanted power, glory, and greatness.
In this regard he often mentions the common Greek theme of ‘agon’ or contest.
In addition to Schopenhauer’s psychological views, Nietzsche contrasts his notion of the will to power with many of the other most popular psychological views of his day, such as that of utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism—a philosophy mainly promoted, in Nietzsche’s days and before, by British thinkers such as Bentham and Stuart Mill—claims that all people fundamentally want to be happy. But this conception of happiness found in utilitarianism Nietzsche rejected as something limited to, and characteristic of, English society only.
Also Platonism and Christian neo-Platonism–which claim that people ultimately want to achieve unity with ‘The Good’ or with ‘God’ – are philosophies he criticizes.
In each case, Nietzsche argues that the “will to power” provides a more useful and general explanation of human behavior.


Another concept important to an understanding of Nietzsche’s thought is the Übermensch.
While interpretations of Nietzsche’s Übermensch vary wildly, here is one of his quotations from  ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ – (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) (Prologue, §§3–4):

“I teach you the superman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? … All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man?
What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to superman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape…. The superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the superman shall be the meaning of the earth…. Man is a rope, tied between beast and the superman—a rope over an abyss … what is great in man is that he is a bridge, and not an end.”

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Oswald Spengler   
‘Preußentum und Sozialismus’

Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936) was a German historian and philosopher of history whose interests included mathematics, science, and art.

He is best known for his book ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ – (The Decline of the West), published in 1918 and 1922, covering all of world history.
He proposed a new theory, according to which the lifespan of civilizations is limited and ultimately they decay.
He wrote extensively throughout World War I and the interwar period, and supported German hegemony in Europe.
As a precursor of National Socialism, in 1920 Spengler produced ‘Preußentum und Sozialismus’ (Prussia and Socialism), which argued for an organic, nationalist version of socialism and authoritarianism.

Oswald Spengler
(29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936)

Oswald Spengler was born in 1880 in Blankenburg the eldest of four children, and the only boy.
His family was conservative German of the petite bourgeoisie.

His father, originally a mining technician, who came from a long line of mine-workers, was a post office bureaucrat.
His childhood home was emotionally reserved, and the young Spengler turned to books and the great cultural personalities for succor.
He had imperfect health, and suffered throughout his life from migraine headaches and from an anxiety complex.
At the age of ten, his family moved to the university city of Halle.
Halle Marktplatz

Here Spengler received a classical education at the local Gymnasium (academically oriented secondary school), studying Greek, Latin, mathematics and sciences.

Here, too, he developed his affinity for the arts – especially poetry, drama, and music – and came under the influence of the ideas of Goethe and Nietzsche.

After his father’s death in 1901 Spengler attended several universities (Munich, Berlin, and Halle) as a private scholar, taking courses in a wide range of subjects. His private studies were undirected.
In 1904 he received his Ph.D.
He briefly served as a teacher in Saarbrücken and then in Düsseldorf.

Realgymnasium – Hamburg
From 1908 to 1911 he worked at a grammar school (Realgymnasium) in Hamburg, where he taught science, German history, and mathematics.
In 1911 he moved to Munich, where he would live until his death in 1936.
He lived as a cloistered scholar, supported by his modest inheritance.
He began work on the first volume of ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ intending at first to focus on Germany within Europe, but the Agadir Crisis affected him deeply, and he widened the scope of his study.
The book was completed in 1914, but publishing was delayed by World War I.
Due to a congenital heart problem, he was not called up for military service.

‘The Decline of the West’ is a two-volume work by Oswald Spengler, the first volume of which was published in the summer of 1918.
Spengler revised this volume in 1922 and published the second volume, subtitled ‘Perspektiven der Weltgeschichte’ – (Perspectives of World History), in 1923.
The book introduces itself as a “Copernican overturning”, and rejects the Euro-centric view of history, especially the division of history into the linear “ancient-medieval-modern” rubric.
According to Spengler, the meaningful units for history are not epochs but whole cultures which evolve as organisms.
He recognizes eight high cultures: Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican (Mayan/Aztec), Classical (Greek/Roman), Arabian, Western or “European-American.”
Cultures have a lifespan of about a thousand years.
The final stage of each culture is, in his word use, a ‘civilization’.
The book also presents the idea of Muslims, Jews and Christians, as well as their Persian and Semitic forebears, being Magian; Mediterranean cultures of the antiquity such as Ancient Greece and Rome being Apollonian; and the modern Westerners being Faustian.
According to the theory, the Western world is actually ending and we are witnessing the last season – ‘Winterzeit’ – (winter time) — of the Faustian civilization.
In Spengler’s depiction, Western Man is a proud but tragic figure because, while he strives and creates, he secretly knows the actual goal will never be reached.

General Context

Spengler relates that he conceived the book sometime in 1911 and spent three years in writing the first draft.
At the start of World War I he began revising it and completed the first volume in 1917.
It was published the following year when Spengler was 38, and was his first work, apart from his doctoral thesis on Heraclitus.

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος—Hērákleitos ho Ephésios; c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor.
Heraclitus is famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the famous saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”. He believed in the unity of opposites, stating that “the path up and down are one and the same”, all existing entities being characterized by pairs of contrary properties.

The second volume was published in 1922.
The first volume is subtitled ‘Form und Aktualität’ – (Form and Actuality), the second volume is ‘Perspektiven der Weltgeschichte’ – (Perspectives of World-history).
Spengler’s own view of the aims and intentions of the work are sketched in the Prefaces and occasionally at other places.

The book received unfavorable reviews from most interested scholars even before the release of the second volume.
Spengler’s veering toward right-wing views in the second volume confirmed this reception, and the stream of criticisms continued for decades.
Nevertheless in Germany the book enjoyed popular success: by 1926 some 100,000 copies were sold.
A 1928 ‘Time’ magazine review of the second volume of ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ described the immense influence and controversy Spengler’s ideas enjoyed in the 1920s:
When the first volume of The Decline of the West appeared in Germany a few years ago, thousands of copies were sold. Cultivated European discourse quickly became Spengler-saturated. Spenglerism spurted from the pens of countless disciples. It was imperative to read Spengler, to sympathize or revolt. It still remains so.”
Spengler presented a worldview that resonated with the post-WWI German mood  – a view of democracy as the type of government of the declining civilization.
He argued that democracy is driven by money-breeding, and therefore easily corruptible. Spengler supported the rise of a right wing, authoritarian government as the next phase after the failure of democracy.

Oswald Spengler – The Final years

When ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ was published in the summer of 1918 it became a wild success.

Treaty of Versailles 
Treaty of Versailles 

The perceived national humiliation of the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ (1919) and later the economic depression around 1923 fueled by hyperinflation seemed to prove Spengler right.
It comforted Germans because it seemingly rationalized their downfall as part of larger world-historical processes.
The book met with wide success outside of Germany as well, and by 1919 had been translated into several other languages.

Max Weber
Thomas Mann

Spengler rejected a subsequent offer to become Professor of Philosophy at the University of Göttingen, saying he needed time to focus on writing.
The book was widely discussed, even by those who had not read it.
Thomas Mann compared reading Spengler’s book to reading Schopenhauer for the first time. Academics gave it a mixed reception.
Max Weber described Spengler as a “very ingenious and learned dilettante”, while Karl Popper, not surprisingly, described the thesis as “pointless“.
In 1931, he published ‘Der Mensch und die Technik’ – (Man and Technics), which warned against the dangers of technology and industrialism to culture.
The principle idea in this work is that many of the Western world’s great achievements may soon become spectacles for our descendants to marvel at, as we do with the pyramids of Egypt or the baths of Rome.
In Spengler’s mind, our culture will be destroyed from within by materialism, and destroyed by others through economic competition and warfare.

Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg

He especially pointed to the tendency of Western technology to spread to hostile “Colored races” which would then use the weapons against the West.

This book contains the well-known Spengler quote ‘Optimismus ist Feigheit’ – (Optimism is cowardice).
Spengler voted for Hitler over Hindenburg in 1932, and met Hitler in 1933, and he became a member of the German Academy in the course of the year.
Spengler spent his final years in Munich, listening to Beethoven, reading Molière and Shakespeare, buying several thousand books, and collecting ancient Turkish, Persian and Hindu weapons.
He made occasional trips to the Harz mountains, and to Italy.
He died of a heart attack on May 8, 1936 in Munich, three weeks before his 56th birthday.

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