Thus Spake Zarathustra

by Friedrich Nietzsche

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote his philosophical novel Thus Spake Zarathustra as a rambling tale following a version of the character Zarathustra of Zoroastrian tradition. His intent in this work was to espouse his moral philosophy and explain his ideas about religion (particularly, Godhood), humanity’s future, and much more. The historical and personal context of this story illuminates what lead it to describe hope for a better version of humanity and also, to an extent, to despair, decrying historical ideas of morality and God himself.

In the early 1800s, Germany and France were well known for their philosophy, with emerging philosophies challenging long-reigning ones, especially monotheistic, moralistic religion; one of these thinkers was Arthur Schopenhauer, who was influential on Nietzsche's concept of the Will. Nietzsche read many philosophers of his age and those preceding him because of his intense curiosity and concern with the existence and relevance of God. He found himself among numerous individuals who had denied their former faith and clung to more liberal ideas, which galvanized him to denounce the Christian faith and turn towards establishing his own moral philosophy.

Friedrich Nietzche at one point studied to become a minister (as many of his family members were), much like other famous scientists and philosophers (Charles Darwin comes to mind). His studies were tainted with personal conflict and intermingled with the writings of other men who had come to the conclusion that God is a product of humanity’s yearning. Nietzsche, who had lost his father at an early age and his younger brother soon thereafter, had major doubts about the goodness of God—or at least his power to utilize that goodness. It is possible that the hardships of his childhood influenced him in coming to the conclusion that God must be a product of humanity’s deepest yearning and desires, and declared him dead now that he was no longer needed. Zarathustra ran with that idea, developing an overarching story and set of ethics based on that principle.

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