Friedrich Nietzsche belongs to the tradition of philosophers who wished to tell people how to live. His injunction is for one to become an individual and to follow one’s own desires—if necessary, through the destruction of others. Nietzsche is often inconsistent, sometimes contradictory, but he is almost always provocative. His criticisms of nineteenth century institutions remind the reader of those of his contemporaries, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and writer Fyodor Dostoevski.
There are three principal themes in Thus Spake Zarathustra: the will to power, the consequent revaluation of values, and the doctrine of eternal recurrence. Life is essentially a will to power, the feeling that one is in command of oneself and of the future. In controlling the future, one finds that the values that most people accept are inadequate and that one must adopt a new, in many cases opposite, set of values. However, neither power nor the new set of values is desirable for its consequences. If one were to use power to accomplish some final end, one would no longer need it; if one were to realize the new values, one would no longer need them. For Nietzsche, there are no final ends. Power and the revaluation of values are good in themselves; and consequently, there is no millennium, nothing but an eternal recurrence of people, things, and problems. These three themes are developed carefully in Thus Spake Zarathustra, in a manner of development that is both self-conscious and purposive.